Home affairs

25 Mar 2009 13:33:15

Chris Grayling: people can't be trained to deal with terrorism in three hours

Chris Grayling MP The Home Secretary made a statement to the House of Commons yesterday on international terrorism. She explained:

"As we set out in our Contest strategy today, the greatest security threat that we face comes from al-Qaeda and related groups and individuals. Our aim is to reduce the risk to the UK and our interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. We know that the threat is severe and that an attack is highly likely and could happen without warning at any time. We know that this new form of terrorism is different in scale and nature from the terrorist threats that we have had to deal with in recent decades. This new form of terrorism is rooted in conflicts overseas and the fragility of some states and grounded in an extremist ideology that uses violence to further its ends. It exploits the opportunities created by modern technologies and seeks to radicalise young people into violent extremism.


Thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of people, to whom I pay tribute, we have had considerable success in stopping terrorists in their tracks and bringing those responsible to justice. We have disrupted more than a dozen attempted terrorist plots in the UK and, since 2001, almost 200 people have been convicted of terrorist-related offences."

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling replied for the Conservatives:

"May I thank the Home Secretary for providing an advance copy of her statement? Once again, however, may I express my annoyance on behalf of the House at the fact that the documents, which are published today, were released and distributed through the media long before they were released to MPs? That is completely unacceptable and goes against numerous rulings by you, Mr. Speaker. The Home Secretary should be ashamed of herself.

I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to the police and all the security services, both overseas and at home, for their work in protecting us against the terrorist threat, but we should do more than recognise that hard work—we should also recognise their personal courage in looking after us. We all share the same goal in respect of the issues we are discussing today. We want to do everything we can to combat terror, and we will be constructive critics of what the Government do as a result.

Furthermore, we face new kinds of threat. The events in Mumbai in November were truly shocking. Innocent people were gunned down in their hotel rooms or shot at random on a busy railway station. Armed men roaming the streets of cities looking for people to shoot indiscriminately is a new experience in the battle against terror. That is why we back the Government’s aim of broadening knowledge of the terrorist threat to thousands of people who work in public places.

However, the Government have to do the job properly. It is depressing to discover that the programme described in last weekend’s newspapers by the Prime Minister does not appear to be what we were promised. He described the programme as follows:

    “Tens of thousands of men and women...from security guards to store managers...have now been trained and equipped to deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business”.

Will the Home Secretary confirm that the training programme described by the Prime Minister amounts to no more than a voluntary three-hour seminar, and that includes the coffee break? I do not see how we can train people properly to deal with terrorism in less than half the time allocated to a cycling proficiency course.

Continue reading "Chris Grayling: people can't be trained to deal with terrorism in three hours" »

24 Mar 2009 10:08:06

Why shouldn't the Government hold DNA samples?

DNA 2 Home Office questions came around yesterday.  

The most interesting questions were about the holding of DNA samples. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith outlined the Government's position:

"The national DNA database plays a key role in catching criminals, including many years after they might think that they have got away with their crime, eliminating the innocent from investigations, and focusing the direction of inquiries. In 2007-08, 17,614 crimes were detected in which a DNA match was available. Those included 83 homicides and 184 rapes. In addition, there were a further 15,420 detections resulting from the original case involving the DNA match. Those occur when, for example, a suspect, on being presented with DNA evidence linking him to one offence, confesses to further offences.


The specific ruling [by the European Court of Human Rights] was on a blanket policy of retention of the fingerprints and DNA of those who had been arrested but not convicted, or against whom no further action was being taken. The Court also indicated that it agreed with the Government that the retention of fingerprint and DNA data

    “pursues the legitimate purpose of the detection, and therefore, prevention of crime”.

We are, however, looking at the key point in the judgment, and drawing up proposals that will remove the blanket retention policy. We will bring forward those proposals for consultation soon.


I announced in December our intention to remove all those aged under 10 from the database. That has now been carried out. When we bring forward proposals to change the blanket approach to retention, we will give particular consideration to those aged under 18, and to how the protection of the public can be balanced with fairness to the individual."

Wells MP David Heathcoat-Amory posed a question on civil liberties:

"What does the Secretary of State say to Mr. Daniel Baker, a constituent of mine who was a victim of mistaken identity? He was never charged with any crime and is entirely innocent, but the police are retaining his DNA against his wishes. When will the Secretary of State start recognising the liberties of the individual, and stop regarding everyone in the country as a suspect?

Jacqui Smith: I think that the case study that I cited a minute ago identified some of the important benefits of DNA retention. There are real-life cases in which people have been made safer by the retention of DNA post-arrest. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent can apply to the police force, in exceptional circumstances. That is why— [Interruption.] That is why I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will look closely at our proposals for a more proportionate way of dealing with the retention policy."

The Home Secretary had described a case where a man arrrested for violent disorder was released without charge. However, a DNA sample was taken. Several months later a rape occured. Skin taken from below the victim's fingernails was matched to this man's sample, and he is now in prison.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling went with the same issue:

"This is a very straightforward and simple issue. It is, right now, illegal to store the DNA of innocent people over long periods on the DNA database, but as of today, the Government are still doing that. Why?

Jacqui Smith: I have made it very clear to the hon. Gentleman that we have looked in detail at the judgment in the case of S and Marper and we will bring forward proposals very soon—and when we do so, I hope that Opposition Members will engage with them with slightly more sophistication than they have done today.

Chris Grayling: But this is illegal now, today. Furthermore, it is a principle in our society that people are innocent until proven guilty. This Government have a habit of throwing away many principles in this society, but that is one that should be sacrosanct. In the case of the DNA database, however, they appear happy to abandon the principle. They are also happy to store the data of babies and children. Their actions are clearly morally and legally wrong. Why will they not just stop keeping this data illegally, right now, today? Why will they not stop now?

Jacqui Smith: As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a period of time during which, quite rightly and reasonably—not least given that the Government’s approach to the retention of data was upheld in the UK courts—there is consideration and proposals are brought forward. That is what the Government are doing, and he obviously was not listening when I said that no DNA of children under the age of 10 is kept on DNA databases now."

The Government has proven itself utterly inept at holding people's personal details, but I don't have any other objections to them holding DNA samples for individuals. Indeed it would seem to have lots of advantages. I suppose one other worry is that most of us are not in a position to question the authority of scientists who assure us that DNA samples match - something I always think of when someone says they are in favour of the death penalty "when there's no doubt".

Continue reading "Why shouldn't the Government hold DNA samples?" »

10 Feb 2009 14:28:15

Chris Grayling worried about illegal immigrants

Chris_graylingYesterday the Commons hosted questions to the Home Office. The new Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling (right), had a chance to shine.

Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes asked about drug prevention:

"Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Last month, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse published figures that reveal that nearly 25,000 young people aged under 18 are in treatment for drug and alcohol problems. Is that not an indictment of the fact that the Government did not do more earlier on drug prevention, and the fact that just 12 per cent. of the drugs budget was spent on prevention? There is no evaluation at all of many of the activities.

Jacqui Smith: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the progress made by those working in the drugs field over the past 10 or 11 years. Overall drug use and class A drug use among young people are now at their lowest levels ever, as measured by the British crime survey. Among school pupils, overall drug use has fallen. The rate of frequent drug use among pupils has also fallen. The people involved in that work should be congratulated, unlike the hon. Gentleman’s party, which proposes cuts to the Home Office budget; that would certainly impact on our ability to counter the harms caused by drugs. I hope that he will back up his words with words advising his Front-Bench team to put back that money."

Maria Miller, Shadow Minister for the Family, received a similar answer to her question, which answer again poured scorn on the Conservatives' spending plans:

"The Basingstoke rape and sexual abuse centre, along with many other rape crisis centres, does an excellent job to support victims. Why do the Government not do one thing that would really help those centres and adopt a three-year funding cycle, as suggested by colleagues on the Opposition Benches, to try and put an end to the financial uncertainty that so many of those crisis centres still face?

Mr. Campbell: The Government provided £1 million extra this year to rape crisis centres, and I am informed that no rape crisis centre has closed since that period. We value the work of rape crisis centres and are working with local partners to see how best they can be funded, but coming from a party that will cut investment, suggesting a commitment to a three-year period is asking a lot."

Let us take a deep breath and patiently say this once again: when a budget is large and complex it is possible to make overall savings whilst increasing or maintaining spending on specific areas!

Continue reading "Chris Grayling worried about illegal immigrants" »

10 Feb 2009 12:04:59

The cost of anti-Israel protests

The following Parliamentary Question was tabled by Michael Fabricant and has just been answered:

Police: Demonstrations

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department for each of the demonstrations about Gaza and Israel held since 1 January 2009, how many police were injured; what damage to police vehicles took place; and what the cost of policing was; and if she will make a statement. [248609]

Mr. Coaker (Home Office Minister): Information provided by the Metropolitan Police Service is that to date police officers have reported 55 assaults by protestors and nine police vehicles have been damaged. The Metropolitan Police Service estimates that the total cost of the policing operation, between 29 December 2008 and 24 January 2009, is £2.7 million.

Needless to say, there were no assaults or damage arising from the pro-Israel demonstrations.  You have to wonder what sort of nervous political correctness has ensured that the damage done by anti-Israel and extremist Islamic protesters has previously been hidden from the press.

Tim Montgomerie

29 Jan 2009 16:32:21

MP of the day - John Hayes for standing up to anti-Semitism

John_hayes_3The estimable John Hayes (Shadow Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education) spoke yesterday to a lobby group from the Union of Jewish Students, who were in Parliament to express their concern about anti-Semitism.

Mr Hayes has made his (outstanding) speech available to ConservativeHome, and I have decided to publish it in full.

"University campuses are where the future is made.

The space where ideas take ground, flourish and are subjected to the rigour of academic scrutiny

Many of the people who will go on to shape society form their views and identities at University

Indeed, higher education is where the very nature of that society is questioned: where changes for the better are devised and refined.

Universities are the crucible of learning, fed by the power of ideas.

But not all ideas are good ideas, however seductive they seem.

It is the poisonous inheritance of moral relativism that we have lost our appreciation of absolutes.

So, often, we fail to recognise and speak out against ideas that are absolutely wicked.

We must face the fact that, as the Social Affairs Unit recently revealed, University campuses are "increasingly - if inadvertently - playing host to extremist groups"

These groups spring from across the political spectrum.

Disparate zealots from Hizb-ut-Tahrir to the BNP are united by common hatreds,

In particular a virulently expressed anti-Semitism - hardened by reaction to events in Gaza - disgusts me

Let me be unequivocal about this. There can be no compromise with these forms of wickedness and absolutely no excuses.

Continue reading "MP of the day - John Hayes for standing up to anti-Semitism" »

27 Jan 2009 13:40:24

Government can't say how much "Big Brother" database will cost

Big_brotherThe Interception Modernisation Programme is a plan for a database (condemned by critics as a "Big Brother" database) of every phone call, email, text and web browsing session. Conservatives have been unable to extract from ministers an estimate of how much it will cost, although a figure of £12 billion has been cited in the media.

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Francis Maude has recently received a written answer on the matter:

"To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the estimated (a) set-up and (b) running costs of the interception modernisation programme are. [250530]

Mr. Coaker: The Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) will require a substantial level of investment which will need to tie in with the Government's three year CSR periods. The scale of overall economic investment is very difficult to calculate because of the complexity of the programme and wide ranging implementation solutions currently being considered.

Given the commercial and national security sensitivities, the precise costs of the programme cannot be disclosed. Further detail on budgetary estimates for the IMP will however become available once the public consultation process (announced by the Home Secretary on 15 October 2008) commences."

This is a subject on which ConservativeHome will want to keep its own eye.

5 Dec 2008 14:44:29

Debate continues on the Queen's Speech

Dominic_grieveNick_herbertYesterday saw the second day of debate on the Gracious Speech. The Home Secretary was in action again straight after fielding questions about Damian Green.

Unfortunately, very few MPs were present for much of what went on.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve, who is on fire at the moment, spoke very persuasively.

"On the substance of what the Home Secretary had to say, although I can welcome some aspects of her speech, there are many others that I cannot, because the Government’s record on home affairs and justice is not a happy one and is at variance with the aspirations set out in the Queen’s Speech.

The Government have presided over the virtual doubling of violent crime since they were elected, while their incessant red tape and regulation have tied the hands of the police. Indeed, some announcements that are now being made on the subject are merely rolling back red tape and bureaucracy that the Government previously introduced.


The thirst for headlines and the inflation of ineffective bureaucracy and legislative hyperactivity distract the Government and successive Home Secretaries from the real job at hand: getting more police on the street with the single imperative of cutting crime, and a dedicated border police force to reverse our current vulnerability, which has seen the street value of cocaine and heroin slashed by almost half, while estimates show that the numbers of young women and girls trafficked into prostitution have quadrupled."

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Nick Herbert wound up for the Tories, and also spoke with great verve.

"Yesterday we saw the Lord Chancellor, in all his finery, skilfully walking backwards, which he did most expertly. That was entirely appropriate, because retreat has been the story of the Prime Minister’s programme on constitutional renewal.

Back in July last year, when the new Prime Minister made his first statement to the House, he promised a

    “national debate...founded on the conviction that the best answer to disengagement from our democracy is to strengthen our democracy.”—[ Official Report, 3 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 819.]

Constitutional change was not peripheral to the Government’s agenda; it was central to their programme—“founded on...conviction”. That conviction cannot have been very profound, because just 18 months later, the constitutional agenda has all but disappeared. It has become clear that the Prime Minister had no great vision of a new settlement, just the immediate political challenge of dissociating himself from his predecessor."

Good stuff from the Conservatives - but why were so few MPs present?

5 Dec 2008 11:57:35

Tory MPs slam Jacqui Smith over Damian Green arrest

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith came before the House of Commons yesterday to make a statement on the Damian Green arrest. She was very much on the defensive:

"As the statement issued by Sir David Normington on 28 November made clear, he was informed by the police at about 1.45 pm on 27 November that a search was about to be conducted of the home and offices of a member of the Opposition Front Bench. Sir David was subsequently told that an arrest had been made. This was the first time that anybody in the Home Office was informed that a Member of this House was the subject of the police investigation. I have made it clear that neither I nor any other Government Minister knew until after the arrest of the hon. Member that he—or any other hon. Member—was the subject of a police investigation or was to be arrested. I hope that those who have asserted the contrary will now withdraw their claims.

Let me be clear that even if I had been informed, I believe it would have been wholly inappropriate for me to seek to intervene in the operational decisions being taken by the police. I will not do that and I should not do that."

As Quentin Letts writes in the Daily Mail, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve was ruthlessly efficient. This page has already carried his statement. One point that the Home Secretary made in response does need highlighting:

"The hon. and learned Gentleman asserted several times that “there is not the slightest evidence”. He does not know what evidence the police have. I do not know what evidence the police have—but I do know that it is wholly appropriate that the police should use their professional judgment to follow the evidence during the course of a police investigation without fear or favour."

Unfortunately for the Government, no-one is going to give them the benefit of the doubt. If no breach of national security is uncovered, they will look very foolish.

Other Tory MPs were furious too.

Continue reading "Tory MPs slam Jacqui Smith over Damian Green arrest" »

24 Nov 2008 11:40:00

Dominic Grieve asks about the deportation of terror suspects

Dominic_grieveShadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve asked an important written question recently:

"Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons suspected of terrorism offences the Government has been unable to deport owing to (a) legal challenges and (b) an assessment that the individual concerned will be tortured if deported to the country of nationality in each year since 2001. [233979]

Jacqui Smith [holding answer 6 November 2008]: Foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism are considered for deportation action. However, deportation action cannot be taken where it is concluded that removal would be contrary to our international obligations, in particular under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The way in which individual immigration decisions are recorded and the timescales involved means it is not possible to provide a comprehensive reply of breakdown cases by year. However:

    16 individuals were certified under part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 as suspected international terrorists and were detained on the basis that their removal was prevented by a point of law which related wholly or partly to an international agreement. One other person was also certified under part 4 but was detained under other powers. Those detained had the right to leave the UK at any time, two did so. Six have since been deported.

    Since 2005, there have been 19 cases where deportation action on national security grounds was commenced, but was later discontinued because it was concluded that it would not be possible to demonstrate that removal would be in conformity with the UK's international obligations, including our obligations under article 3 ECHR. These cases are kept under review.

    There are currently 11 cases where we are seeking to deport individuals on grounds of national security because of their suspected involvement in terrorism. These are at various stages in the appeals process. In a twelfth case, the appeal against the decision to deport was allowed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission as it was not satisfied that the case for deportation on national security grounds had been made out."

You don't have to be a headbanger to be worried about this. And you don't have to be a right wing firebrand to say that you shouldn't expect a country that you want to destroy to be overly concerned about your welfare.

It is also important to ask whether deporting people who pose a threat to our country is the right approach, even when we are able to do it. If someone is truly dangerous - and might go away and make plans for an attack - should not they be tried here and, if found guilty, incarcerated?

20 Nov 2008 11:48:52

Why are so many babies being born in prison?

The Parliament page on ConservativeHome usually focuses on activity from Conservatives, for obvious reasons. But a written question from Labour MP Sandra Osborne has prompted a noteworthy answer:

"Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many women have given birth while serving a prison sentence in England in each of the last five years. [235686]

Mr. Hanson: The numbers of prisoners who have given birth while serving their custodial sentence since April 2005, when the Prison Service began collecting figures centrally, are as follows:


April 2008-October 2008


April 2007-March 2008


April 2006-March 2007


April 2005-March 2006


The Government are seeking to encourage greater use of community sentences for women offenders where possible. Where a custodial sentence has been given, specific provision is made for those women who are pregnant or have babies with them in prison."

These figures seem rather on the high side. Women and their unborn children must be treated humanely, and an alternative to a custodial sentence should almost always be the norm. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the offences for which the women who gave birth were committed. Maybe a Conservative MP could pose that question.

18 Nov 2008 12:35:38

David Ruffley asks about the use of headcams to reduce crime

David_ruffleyShadow Home Office minister David Ruffley has posed an interesting written question:

"Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the (a) reliability and (b) usefulness of headcam technology in tackling crime; if she will make resources available to make this technology more widely available to the police; and if she will make a statement. [234473]

Mr. Alan Campbell: A pilot programme for body worn video (which includes head cameras) ran in Plymouth from September 2006 to April 2007. During the pilot the following key points were identified:

    Violent crime was reduced by 8 per cent in the pilot sectors (1 per cent. elsewhere);

    More serious violence was reduced by 18 per cent. (no change elsewhere);

    An increase of 85 per cent. in violent incidents resulting in an arrest;

    An increase of 40 per cent. in the number of violent crimes detected.

A number of providers supply body worn video devices. Individual police forces negotiate the best device to fit their needs. Kent police have demonstrated some excellent work in developing a bespoke device with a commercial provider.

The Home Office made a fund of £3 million available specifically to enable police forces across the country to widen their use of body worn video devices. This announcement was made on 12 July 2007, when guidance on the use of this equipment was published by PCSD, which was compiled with NPIA and the support of ACPO."

Politicians are right to look at the use of modern technology in tackling crime. Increasing the number of handheld weapons scanners was a key pledge of Boris Johnson's Mayoral campaign. CCTV - whilst controversial - is a feature of our town and city centres. Automatic Number Plate Recognition can be employed by the police to read a car's registration plate and then compare it with a database. This can be particularly helpful in anti-terrorism operations.

The London Mayor has also implemented New York-style crime mapping, where crime levels are indicated on an electronic map. This may be a useful tool for officers, but the idea is also that it will enable the public to hold the police to account more effectively, by making the public better informed.

But what technology can never do is take the place of effective beat policing. The number one priority should be to scrap red tape (without then failing to keep essential records) so that police officers can be a visible presence on the streets and nick criminals.

Declaration of interest: Tom Greeves was Boris Johnson's crime adviser during the London Mayoral campaign.

11 Nov 2008 10:57:44

Douglas Carswell's bill for Justice Commissioners

Douglas_carswellDouglas Carswell, MP for Harwich and Clacton, is introducing another Ten Minute Rule Bill in the Commons today.

The Police (Justice Commissioners) Bill would create a directly elected Justice Commissioner for every county and large town in England and Wales.  Justice Commissioners would determine local policing priorities. Mr Carswell comments:

'The public are losing confidence in the criminal justice system - even the government's own advisers now recognise that people no longer feel the criminal justice system is on their side. 

There's been no shortage of Home Secretaries, and other Westminster politicians, talking about the need to "get tough" on crime.  But it always just talk.

Imagine if local people, not remote Home Office officials, determined the priorities of the police where you live.  Imagine if you could hold your local police chiefs to account for fighting crime.  Then we'd see a "get tough" approach for real.   

My Bill seeks to replace failing Police Authorities with properly accountable Justice Commissioners.  Each local Justice Commissioner would be held directly accountable by local people - and would have to take responsibility.

Home Office targets would be scrapped, and it would be up to each Justice Commissioner to set the priorities for their own area. 

The link between police and public has eroded in recent years as police forces have begun to answer to Home Office targets - rather than the communities they are meant to serve.  Quango culture ensures that the priorities of certain police chiefs are not the same as the local people.

I'm fed up listening to politicians just promising to cut crime - but never delivering.  It's time for change.  It's time to trust local people to decide how their own local communities ought to be policed.  If we made the criminal justice system answer directly to local people we'd soon get the sort of criminal justice system we need.' 

The Bill is being sponsored by Conservative and Labour MPs. It is one of the proposals described in Mr Carswell's book The Plan: 12 months to renew Britain.      

5 Nov 2008 13:44:31

Government defeated on DNA

Dna_2Baroness Hanham's amendment to the Counter Terrorism Bill, reported on yesterday, was successful by a vote of 161 - 150.

The Government will now have to set out national guidelines for DNA and if there is a refusal to destroy DNA samples or fingerprint records, a written explanation will be required.

4 Nov 2008 13:16:16

Baroness Hanham on the DNA database

Baroness_hanham_2The House of Lords debates the Counter Terrorism Bill today. Baroness Hanham (a Shadow Home Office Minister) is introducing an amendment on the DNA database.

The Conservatives want clear procedures for requesting a statement on information held about an individual, and on how to make a case for requesting the removal of data from the database.

The amendment looks like this:

'Insert the following new Clause—

“National guidelines on the fingerprint and sample database

(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations publish national guidelines for governmental agencies establishing—

(a)   a procedure by which a person can request a statement of what information relating to fingerprints and samples is held on them or on a dependent;

(b)   a procedure by which a person can request that such information held on them or a dependent is destroyed;

(c)    the circumstances in which a request under paragraph (b) may be refused.

(2) If a request made under paragraph (1)(b) is refused under paragraph (1)(c), the relevant agency shall write to the person setting out why such information will not be destroyed and when such circumstances as prevent it being destroyed may no longer apply.

(3) In drawing up guidelines under subsection (1), the Secretary or State shall consult such bodies as he thinks appropriate.

(4) Regulations under subsection (1) shall not be made until a draft copy is laid before, and approved by resolution of, both Houses of Parliament.”'

On 9th October Lady Hanham told the House of Lords:

"The current database for DNA, in particular, is incoherent, incomplete and completely illogical. Not everyone who has been found guilty of an offence is on it; while some who are completely innocent are. There is widespread ignorance and confusion about the use of the information and the rights that individuals have to get themselves removed from a database once they are on it."

28 Oct 2008 14:53:03

Will the Government free the police from red tape?

Police_helmetDavid Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West, raised the urgent issue of the effect of red tape on the police during yesterday's oral questions to the Home Office.

"Mr. Jones: A recent survey of members of the North Wales Police Federation found that more than 50 per cent. of the officers questioned reported levels of morale at the lower end of the scale. When they were asked what measures could be put in place to enable them significantly to improve their performance, the top three answers were that there should be more police officers, that bureaucracy should be reduced and that there should be fewer targets. Does the Minister consider that the low morale found in north Wales is representative of the police in general? What is the Home Office doing to address the bureaucratic, target-driven culture that is clearly contributing to it?

Mr. Coaker: The hon. Gentleman will know that police officer numbers are at historically high levels. He will also know of the measures that we are taking to reduce bureaucracy, not least the appointment of Jan Berry as the reducing bureaucracy champion. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman will know of the confidence measures that we are taking to reduce the number of targets and to have a single force area target. No doubt all those measures will be welcomed in north Wales, as they have been across the rest of the country.

I know about the survey that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but should point out that resignations in north Wales fell between 2006-07 and 2007-08. As well as talking about the problems, we can point out the successes of the police in order to raise police morale. Not least of those successes has been the huge reduction in crime in north Wales and across the rest of the country."

It is to be deprecated that the minister, Vernon Coaker, did not address the issue of excessive bureaucracy. Every time a police officer stops someone, they have to fill in a foot-long form. The Conservatives have proposed scrapping the form. Labour are reluctant to follow suit.

During the London Mayoral election Boris Johnson also proposed scrapping the form that police officers have to fill in when they search someone. He suggested that instead officers should be able to radio the details to someone at the station, where a record would be made. Anyone who was searched would be allowed to go to the station to see the record.

It is high time that the Government made adequate efforts to enable police officers to spend more time on the streets. That's what they want, and the public want it too.