220 Chris Philp debates involving the Home Office

Licences and Licensing

Chris Philp Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 day, 9 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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I beg to move,

That the draft Licensing Act 2003 (UEFA European Football Championship Licensing Hours) Order 2024, which was laid before this House on 8 May, be approved.

It is a genuine pleasure to speak about this motion. It is certainly a much greater pleasure than answering the urgent question earlier this afternoon, but admittedly the bar was set fairly low.

This summer the Euro 2024 football championships will take place in Germany. I am delighted that both the England and the Scotland men’s national teams have qualified to take part, although I am sure the House will share my sorrow that the Northern Irish and Welsh teams did not on this occasion. Hopefully, they will be joining England and Scotland in 2028. This draft contingent order seeks to extend licensing hours for venues across England and Wales in the—I hope, extremely likely—event that England or Scotland reaches the semi-final or the final of the upcoming tournament. I am extremely confident that one or even both of those teams will make it to that stage. In fact, I confidently predict that it will be an England v. Scotland final when it comes around. That is probably about the only thing that it is safe to predict at the moment, given the fevered and febrile speculation that is currently under way in these parts.

If England or Scotland, or indeed both teams, reach those stages, the order will extend licensing hours in England and Wales from 11 pm until 1 am on the days of the semi-finals, which are due to take place on 9 and 10 July, and the final, which is scheduled to take place on 14 July. I have no idea whether any other significant events may be taking place around that time as well. People will want to watch those games in the pub, and if there is extra time or there are penalties—or, indeed, any recounts—they will want to be able to enjoy a drink while the penalties or, indeed, the recounts take place. My own experience of a recount in 2010, when I lost a parliamentary constituency by 42 votes, was a painful one that I am not looking to repeat anytime soon.

I know that pubs in my constituency will appreciate being able to stay open a bit longer—pubs such as the Wattenden Arms, the Pembroke in Coulsdon, the Tudor Rose and the Fox. I was just talking to my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), who said that pubs in his constituency would like to stay open too—although apparently some of them sometimes show rugby as well as football. He is a great champion of pubs in North Cornwall, and I know that all of us in this House want to support pubs in our respective constituencies.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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I am very pleased to see the motion before us today. I wonder whether the Minister shares my slight disappointment that the quarter-finals are not included in this order, given that the first quarter-finals are on Friday 5 July and there may be other things to celebrate on that day—possibly a new Government.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Well, we have to strike the right balance. These types of orders can be used only for events of exceptional significance, and we have chosen to draw the line at the semi-finals and the final. As for other events of significance that may be occurring around then, I am afraid I am as much in the dark as the hon. Gentleman is, but I know that he will join me in wishing pubs in his constituency well. Hopefully, they will be able to enjoy the Euros in a spirit of conviviality as the tournament unfolds. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood), a former chair of the all-party parliamentary group on beer, sends his good wishes to pubs in his constituency, and to those up and down the land.

As the House will be aware, under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Secretary of State can make an order relaxing licensing hours to mark occasions of “exceptional national significance”, which is the very high threshold to which I referred a moment ago. The decision to lay this draft order stems from a consultation that the Home Office conducted earlier this year. Over 80% of respondents were in favour of extending licensing hours for the semi-finals and final if one of the home nation teams reach those stages. Respondents agreed with the proposed duration of a potential extension, which, as I have set out, would extend licensing hours until 1 am the following morning, and they agreed that the order should apply to both England and Wales. Respondents also agreed that it should apply only to sales of alcohol for consumption on the premises, rather than off it.

This order will ensure that premises will be allowed to remain open until 1 am without having to notify the licensing authority—typically the local authority—via a temporary event notice, benefiting both businesses and local authorities. Businesses will save time and money by not having to give temporary event notices, while licensing authorities will save time and money by not having to process them. Of course, temporary event notices can be applied for, but it is a somewhat bureaucratic process. Later closing times will be a welcome boost for pubs and bars at a busy time should either England or Scotland be involved in the semi-finals or final. As I have said already, I fervently hope that both England and Scotland make the final, given that I am a passionate Unionist.

It is right that I acknowledge that the police have expressed some reservations about extending licensing hours—indeed, they say that they are not in favour of it—given the potential for increased crime and disorder. We have carefully considered those representations, and although police deployments and resourcing are operational matters for policing, we know that police forces will put in place plans that will minimise the risk, as they have done in the past. It is worth noting that there have been no significant large-scale disorder incidents linked to licensing extensions during previous tournaments, which is a testament to the fact that forces are well versed in managing these matters, and I am sure the House will join me in thanking police forces up and down the country for everything they do to maintain order and reduce the risk of crime.

I also emphasise that this is a limited two-hour extension to licensing hours, which is a proportionate approach marking these events, and that the contingent order we are considering only covers sales for consumption on the premises after 11 pm. It does not cover premises that sell alcohol only for consumption off the premises, such as off-licences and supermarkets.

Before I finish—normally the most popular words in any speech I give—I will make just two further points of clarification. The first is that if either England or Scotland is successful in reaching either the semi-final or the final, this extension will apply only to licensed venues in England and Wales. This is because licensing is a devolved matter, and it would be for the Scottish Government or the Northern Ireland Department of Justice to make arrangements for extending licensing hours in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which I would strongly encourage them to do. Hopefully they need very little encouragement to do that. Secondly, if neither England nor Scotland reaches the semi-final, normal licensing hours will apply on 9 and 10 July. If either or both teams reach the semi-final but neither team is in the final, normal licensing hours will apply on 14 July, the date of the final.

The House will be aware that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) is sponsoring a private Member’s Bill—which I think had its Report and Third Reading stages just last Friday, and which the Government fully support—to make orders such as this subject to the negative resolution procedure in the future. This would, of course, rob the House of the opportunity it is currently enjoying to hear my words on this topic, which I am sure would come as a sore disappointment. But if that private Member’s Bill completes its passage through the other place, debates such as these will not happen because we will be using the negative resolution. Obviously that law is not in force now, so we are debating this today in the normal way.

However, if, as we hope and expect, this order currently before the House commands universal support—perhaps even enthusiastic universal support, and we will find out in just a moment when the shadow Security Minister stands up and we are able to determine his level of support and enthusiasm—it will give weight to the point that the hon. Member for South Shields and others have made that debating these orders is not necessarily the best use of precious parliamentary time, given that they are pretty uncontentious and generally matters of unanimous assent, and sometimes even enthusiastic unanimous assent.

In conclusion, we have brought forward this order in recognition of the huge interest there will be in the Euro 2024 tournament, and in particular, the huge interest in the fortunes of England and Scotland, which I know are dear to the hearts of many Members and members of the public up and down the country. Like all England fans, I am hopeful that this will be the year that football finally comes home again, and I am sure that many Members will want to join me in expressing encouragement and support to Gareth Southgate and his team, and also of course to the Scottish team, who I hope also do very well in the tournament. With that thought, I commend this order to the House.

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Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I thank the shadow Minister for his support. I am not sure that it was enthusiastic support—

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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It was intended to be.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I certainly take that in the spirit in which it was intended. Who knows, perhaps this is the last time we will face each other over the Dispatch Box.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Yes, for a while. I know that Barnsley Central is close to the top of our target list. I am ever the optimist.

The shadow Minister asked one or two questions about the consultation and the hospitality trade, which was included in the consultation. We have studied it very carefully, and it was 80% in favour. I think much of that enthusiasm came from the hospitality industry itself, which saw this as an opportunity, but of course, hospitality venues need to ensure that they are responsible in the way they look after and serve football fans in their pubs and bars.

The hon. Member mentioned the disorder around the Euros finals three years ago, particularly around Wembley and in central London. Of course, we are talking about licensed premises rather than stadiums, so we are confident the police will be able to operationally manage the extension of licensing hours to 1 am should the extension be activated.

On the actual event itself, we are working very closely with the German police and have a good policing plan in place to ensure we deal with any English fans who we think may cause problems. There is also a good policing plan in place for the Champions League final, which will take place at Wembley in a couple of weeks between Dortmund and Real Madrid. The policing of those tournament football games is being very carefully attended to.

I am glad that we have unanimous consent, I believe, on this topic. It is a nice moment of harmony on which to conclude the debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Arrests and Prison Capacity

Chris Philp Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 day, 9 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on the impact on public safety of the request to chief constables to reduce arrests in response to the prison capacity crisis.

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk about public safety, about the record number of police officers in this country—3,000 more than under the last Labour Government—and about the fact that according to the crime survey there is less than half the crime today than there was under the last Labour Government. There were 620 homicides in the last year of the last Labour Government, compared with 577 in the last year. I am delighted to talk about all those excellent criminal justice results.

I believe this urgent question was prompted by a letter circulated about a week ago by Chief Constable Rob Nixon in his capacity as criminal justice lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, in which he referred to short-term prison place pressures over a period of eight days expiring tomorrow. I have spoken to Chief Constable Rob Nixon in the last half an hour and he has confirmed to me that the contingencies referred to in the letter were not required. He said the contingencies were not required because the prison place situation in practice did not merit it; he said there have been no delays to arrests that he is aware of; and he has said that while a small number of people were conveyed to court in police cars and there was a small number of delays to arrival at court, no one who should have got to court did not do so. I am delighted to confirm to the House that the contingencies referenced in the letter did not materialise, and that the short-term fluctuation referenced in the letter will be over tomorrow.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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I have to say that the Minister’s response is shocking: telling people they have never had it so good when faced with this crisis in the criminal justice system shows just how out of touch he is. The state of crisis in the criminal justice system after 14 years of Conservative Government is now so dire that police chiefs were asked to arrest fewer people because the system could not cope. At the Operation Safeguard silver update they were asked to consider pausing any planned operations where large numbers of arrests might take place to ease the pressure within the criminal justice system—because this Tory Government, in power for 14 years, had so catastrophically failed to manage the criminal justice system or build the basic prison places promised.

Last week alone there were 280 prisoners in police cells overnight; we have got early release, massively expanded, starting tomorrow, including for domestic abusers; and now this serious impact on public safety of Operation Early Dawn telling the prisoner escort service not to collect prisoners from police stations to take them to court because there are not enough places, with police forces having to pick up the pieces instead. The NPCC said in its letter in the strongest terms that that is unsustainable and that it risks public safety.

Will the Minister tell us what assessment he did when these letters went out, and when the crisis reached this point, of the scale of the challenge? Who, in these circumstances, does he think it is acceptable not to send to court because of his Government’s abject failure on law and order? Violent criminals? Domestic abusers? Repeat shoplifters? And which big operations involving lots of arrests does he think should be paused in these situations? Crackdowns on drugs rings or grooming gangs? Swoops on people smugglers? And when should they be paused until?

Where is the Government plan? Arrests have already halved since the Tories came to power, and charge rates have already dropped through the floor. The legacy of 14 years of Tory government on law and order is more criminals let off, more victims let down. Britain deserves better.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The right hon. Lady likes to pontificate in an animated fashion, but the fact is that, according to the crime survey, crime has halved since the Government of which she was a part left office. She feigns indignation about the early custody release scheme, but she forgot to mention that, under the last Labour Government, it ran for three years and saw 80,000 people released early.

The right hon. Lady referenced the letter from last week. I have a message here from Chief Constable Rob Nixon, sent to me about 45 minutes ago, updating me on the actual situation, so let me just read out to the House what it says. The National Police Chiefs’ Council criminal justice lead said: “There have been no delays to arrests.” He said there have been some minor delays in getting people to court, but everyone who needed to got there. A small number were conveyed by police, but there was limited operational impact. He says: “There has been no compromise to public safety, and the contingency of delaying arrests was not activated as it was not necessary.” That is from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, sent 45 minutes ago. Those are the facts, and I suggest the right hon. Lady sticks to them. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Sir Robert Neill, and I hope there will be more calm.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that this important debate, which touches upon not only public safety but the whole way in which our justice system operates, is best dealt with in a calm fashion? It is perfectly reasonable to adopt contingency measures, which we hope are often not needed, but the most important thing is to ensure that all parties in this House commit to a consistent and sustained investment in all aspects of the criminal justice system, because we cannot decouple policing from the courts, prisons and the whole of the process. That is the sensible debate that the country needs to have.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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My hon. and learned Friend, as always, puts it very well. He is quite right that investment is important. That is why there are record numbers of police officers. It is why 20,000 prison places are in the course of being constructed, 5,900 of which are currently operational and 10,000 of which will be operational by the end of next year. It is why more money is being put into the Crown Prosecution Service. It is why my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, who is here on the Front Bench, is ensuring that legal aid is properly resourced, as is the criminal Bar. Those are all extremely important initiatives to ensure that the public are protected. The ultimate measure of public protection, of course, is the overall level of criminality, which, as I have said once or twice before, has halved since the Labour party left office.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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Obviously, public safety is paramount in all of this, and I do want to say to the Minister that the fact that contingency plans were being drawn up is itself worrying. I accept what the Chair of the Justice Committee, the hon. and learned Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), says about this being a sensible step to take, but it is indeed very worrying that we have to have contingencies in place. If in the future these contingency plans are activated, what happens if the police decide not to prioritise an arrest and in the meantime that person goes on to harm someone? I am thinking of non-contact sexual offences and, in particular, retail crime, which the Home Affairs Committee has been looking at recently.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The right hon. Lady is right to say that arrests of offenders of the kinds she describes are extremely important, and at no point would I ever expect, even in the contingency outlined—in fact, it never came to pass, as I have set out—that offenders of the kinds she references would not continue to be arrested. That is critically important. The ECSL 70 measure—end of custody supervised licence for up to 70 days—which comes into effect tomorrow, is designed to ensure that such scenarios never come about, because as Policing Minister I want to make sure that we never see the situation she describes.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend accept that the action by the leader of the National Police Chiefs’ Council is against the separation of powers principles? We make the law in this House, and we expect it to be implemented and administered without fear or favour. What seems to be happening is that unelected chiefs, such as the NPCC leader, are interfering with the administration of justice. Does my right hon. Friend agree that things would be a lot better if the Criminal Justice Board had not failed to meet for two years, which is apparently what has happened? Will he accept that we need to start putting things right? The Times today describes it as a failure of administration.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I am happy to confirm that the Criminal Justice Board, chaired by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, meets very frequently. Indeed, I attended its most recent meeting just three or four weeks ago—with the Lord Chancellor, other Ministers, police leads, senior members of the judiciary and the Crown Prosecution Service, and many others—so I can categorically confirm that it does exist and it meets regularly.

On my hon. Friend’s question about the police, the police are rightly operationally independent. It is not for Ministers to direct how they discharge their duties; they discharge their duties appropriately with their professional standards and professional judgment, and we support them in doing so. Operational independence for the police is important, as I am sure everyone on both sides of the House respects.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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It is obvious from the Minister’s demeanour that he does not like to be called to account, but he should reflect on the fact that the mere fact such a letter was written, and in the circumstances in which it was written, is a cause for concern, which he should be taking seriously. It is symptomatic of a wider malaise in the English and Welsh criminal justice system. Last year, 215,933 burglaries went unsolved across England and Wales—an average of 592 a day. Is that not something the Minister should be addressing, rather than getting a little bit worked up with the shadow Home Secretary?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I may have got worked up, because the allegations being made were, in my view, unfounded and unsupported by the facts. I was simply trying to put across the facts—both the numbers and also the quotes from the relevant policing lead—which flatly contradicted the dystopian picture that the shadow Home Secretary, characteristically, was seeking to paint. To answer the right hon. Gentleman’s question, we of course take such matters seriously. The Lord Chancellor is working night and day to increase prison capacity, both by building new prisons expeditiously and by pulling every lever at his disposal to build more capacity within the existing estate. The prisons are pretty full because the police have done a good job at identifying, catching and incarcerating dangerous criminals. A thoughtful approach, of the kind called for by the Chair of the Justice Committee, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), has been taken. That is why, with the implementation of the end of custody supervised licence tomorrow, the issues and contingencies provided for in the letter of last week will no longer be required. It was an eight-day period and, thankfully, those contingencies were not in fact required.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
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It is reassuring to hear from the Minister that the contingencies were not required, but also interesting to see that the letter was actually issued. Given his reactions here today to that, what process has he put in place to ensure that he is consulted before any such instructions or suggestions are issued?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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As a former Home Office Minister, my hon. Friend has a great deal of experience in this area. The police are operationally independent, but we liaise closely with them and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. I have regular discussions with Gavin Stephens, who chairs the NPCC, and, in relation to this matter, with Chief Constable Rob Nixon, who is the criminal justice lead, and with Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp of Surrey, who is the lead for custody. I will take this opportunity to place on the record my thanks to police up and down the country for their careful management over the past seven days, which has ensured that our fellow citizens have been kept safe.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
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North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire police have just arrested 62 people in a county lines operation. They seized swords, a machete and a crossbow, and took 3 kg of cannabis, crack cocaine and heroin off the streets, alongside the misery and violence that characterises county lines gangs. I am so grateful to them for that work, but are the Government suggesting that they should have allowed it to continue until further notice under these contingency plans, all because the Government have so mismanaged the criminal justice system and the collapse in prison places?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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First, prison places have not collapsed; I think there are more prison places now than in the recent past. I congratulate North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire police on that operation, which the hon. Lady said led to 62 arrests of dangerous criminals. As I have said, none of the contingencies referenced were activated, and there was never any question of dangerous criminals of that kind not being arrested. That is exactly the kind of operation we like to see. I am speaking from memory, but I think we have closed down something like 6,000 county lines in the past four years. I am delighted to see such operations successfully putting dangerous criminals where they belong: behind bars.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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I am glad to hear that the contingency contained in the letter was not required. We can tell how tough this Government are being on crime and criminals by the very heavy population in our prison estate. The long-term solution is to build more prisons. Can the Minister update us on when he estimates the prison building programme will catch up with the prison population?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The Justice Secretary and the Prisons Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), who is also here, are building prison capacity rapidly. By the end of next year they will have added 10,000 prison places, including at sites such as HMP Millsike, which will be open shortly. We are embarking on a huge prison construction programme, which is on top of the fact that we already have record numbers of prison places. The fact that we have filled those up with criminals, serving typically longer sentences, is testament to the successful approach to law and order that this Government have taken.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
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Last Friday I attended a community meeting in my constituency with a group of residents, our local safer neighbourhood team and some of our elected councillors. It was in response to a fatal shooting of a young 26-year-old. The residents spoke about having the reassurance of knowing that the suspect had already been arrested, thanks to the work of the local police. What is the Minister’s message to my constituents, and many others across the country, where suspects will now not be arrested as a result of this guidance?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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First, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s local police for the work they have done. I gently refer her to my previous answers: there have been no arrests that ought to have taken place but did not as a result of this contingency. The way she framed her question completely ignored the answers I have previously given. The contingencies referred to in the letter were not in fact required, so her constituents and everybody else’s can be assured that the police are continuing to do their job of arresting dangerous criminals.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for the update to the House. In London we have the challenge of the Metropolitan police failing to meet their recruitment targets. The police are under incredible pressure at weekends, policing hate marches and other demonstrations in central London. Police are being drawn in from outside London to carry that out. Now that the mayoral election is over, what action is my right hon. Friend taking with the Mayor of London to ensure that the Met police meet their recruitment targets, and that the police are trained properly and can get on with the job of catching criminals?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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My hon. Friend is right to raise the question of police numbers in London. Whereas across England and Wales as a whole we have record police numbers and 42 of the 43 police forces met their recruitment target, there was one that did not: the Metropolitan police under Sadiq Khan. In fact, its numbers unfortunately have shrunk in the past year, rather than grown. I therefore attended the police performance oversight group, which is the special measures group chaired by the chief inspector, just a few days ago, attended by the commissioner and the deputy Mayor, Sophie Linden. Unfortunately, Sadiq Khan did not see fit to show up to that meeting. One of the points I made forcefully was the importance of growing police numbers in London. It is the only force in the country to miss its target, and that must be turned around.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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Let me get this right: the Government are boasting that they appointed 20,000 extra policemen and women to prevent crime and protect the public; criminals create and undertake crime; and an instruction is given to the police not to arrest them because the prisons are full. The Government’s defence is, “It’s all right; the instruction was never acted upon.” Can the public have any confidence, if it is possible for the police to give instructions today, and maybe again next week, not to arrest criminals? Can we really believe that crime is being taken seriously in this country?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Crime is taken very seriously, which why it has fallen by 6% in the past year and 55% since 2010. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a period of just eight days when a contingency was considered but not used. The Lord Chancellor, rightly and in a thoughtful and measured manner, has taken steps that will take effect tomorrow to ensure that such a contingency is not required in future. That is a responsible way of handling the situation.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)
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The Minister has stood in front of us today and said, “It would never be any of the kind of crimes you’re talking about.” The Prime Minister said last week at Prime Minister’s questions:

“No one would be put on the scheme”—

the early release scheme—

“if they were deemed a threat to public safety.”—[Official Report, 15 May 2024; Vol. 750, c. 249.]

The Minister is basically saying the same today, yet my inbox is full of cases of where perpetrators of domestic violence, rape, sexual violence and child abuse against multiple victims are being released early from prison. Does he think that someone who has raped someone, gone to prison, come out and done it again is not deemed a threat to the public?

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Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I can answer the hon. Lady’s question specifically: the early release scheme that the Lord Chancellor established expressly excludes serious violence and sexual offenders, including rapists. There is an additional safeguard, which did not exist in the previous Labour Government’s equivalent scheme: a governor’s veto of early release if they believe there is a threat to public safety.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
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I am glad that the Minister has brought the Lord Chancellor and the Prisons Minister with him, as they can explain how 70-day early release—Operation Early Dawn—means that criminals either will not be locked up or are being let out early. Is the truth not that he is presiding over operational failures in policing, the courts and the prison system, and is responding to them with ad hoc panic measures?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The police are successfully reducing crime, for which I thank them. In the last calendar year—the most recent year for which figures are available—there were 30,000 more successful outcomes, which typically means a prosecution, than the previous year. The courts and prisons systems in England and Wales—as in Scotland and around the world—are under pressure, candidly speaking, largely as a result of the post-covid environment and delays that built up in the system during covid, which have not yet cleared. That is not unique to this jurisdiction. Those people released according to the criteria that I mentioned are closely supervised under licence, and subject to recall should they breach that licence.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
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My constituent Johnny Wood’s sister Jackie was tragically killed by four men driving a stolen lorry in 2018. They were convicted of dangerous driving, but one of them has been released from prison, having served only half his sentence—just five years. He is reported to have broken his banning order from the local area while under supervision from the Probation Service. Johnny and his family have been let down by every part of the system over the last six years. What is the Minister’s message to Johnny, and what specifically can he do to help in this case?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I have every sympathy for victims such as the hon. Lady’s constituent, and the truly tragic case that she outlines. If she would like me to look into particular policing aspects of that case, I would be happy to help. If it is a prisons, probation or sentencing-related issue, my right hon. Friends from the Ministry of Justice stand ready to help her and her constituent.

In relation to automatic release on to licence, under the last Labour Government all offenders ended up getting automatically released at the halfway point. This Government have substantially reduced that, including for offences such as rape. I recall in a Bill Committee a couple of years ago that Labour MPs voted against a measure to keep rapists in prison for longer.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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Over the weekend I was almost in tears reading a letter from a local primary school of an account of one of their young mums who felt so intimidated by antisocial behaviour on her estate that she was unable to walk her young son to school in the morning. The school tried to provide a social worker to escort her, but they also felt intimidated. What message does it send to the school, the mum and her child about the safety of our streets when chief constables feel it necessary to deprioritise arrests on the Minister’s watch?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Cases of the kind that the hon. Lady describes would not have been in the scope of the contingency outlined in the letter of a week ago. The antisocial behaviour that she described is completely unacceptable. I am sure that many Members are parents and would want their own children to go to and from school safely. The Government have launched an antisocial action plan, one of the elements of which is a funded scheme for antisocial behaviour hotspot patrols. That started just a few weeks ago, so I would urge the hon. Lady to speak to her local police and crime commissioner—I think a newly elected one in Northumbria, if memory serves me correctly—and to ask that one of the funded hotspot patrols be set up in the vicinity of that school to try to tackle the issue that she described, because no parent should have to face that.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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Figures published last month showed that Bedfordshire police has the slowest response time to 999 calls, because of understaffing. Does the Minister realise how ridiculous it sounds to ask the police not to police and to arrest fewer people, because his Government have broken the justice system and are allowing criminals to get away scot-free?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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That is a completely inaccurate characterisation of the situation. The eight-day period provided for a contingency that was not required. I have read to the House an assurance from the relevant National Police Chiefs’ Council lead that arrests were not forgone or cancelled as a result of the contingency. More widely, as I have said, we have record police numbers and lower crime than 14 years ago, and I would have thought that we would all welcome that.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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The issue with prison capacity is partly a crisis of reoffending. Dartmoor prison was subject to an inspection last year, and was awarded only one out of four because of inadequate education and work opportunities. HMP Dartmoor holds a large number of people convicted of sexual offences, but the report says that there were no accredited programmes for rehabilitation. Sexual offences in Devon and Cornwall rose by 19% in the year to 2023. Does the Minister accept that the prison capacity crisis is partly about reoffending, and what is he doing about it?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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The Justice Secretary has assured me that Dartmoor is a well-run and well-regarded prison. One of the reasons why my colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, here on the Benches, are presiding over such a large increase in prison capacity is to ensure that prisoners are better rehabilitated in the prison estate. The hon. Gentleman rightly mentioned reoffending: preventing reoffending is critical. Much offending is connected with drug addiction—some estimates suggest nearly half—so getting more people into treatment is important, both in the courts system and in the prison estate. It is critical that, as people leave prison and re-enter the community, the drug treatment they received in prison continues in the community. We call it continuity of care, and it has increased quite dramatically recently—I would like it increase even more. That is one of the ways that we will reduce reoffending, which, as he said, is an important policy objective.

Jess Phillips Portrait Jess Phillips (Birmingham, Yardley) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, I wonder if you could help me to get some answers. The Minister said during the urgent question that certain criminals who are a risk to the public would not be released, unlike Charlie Taylor, the inspector of prisons, who said that high-risk prisoners are being released under the scheme.

I have heard of a case where it took the court 29 months to hold a sentencing hearing on actual bodily harm against two different people as part of a domestic abuse situation. The prisoner was sentenced to four years, and was deemed to be such a risk because of previous sexual violence convictions that he was put on remand. On the day of the sentencing hearing, he was released immediately because he had been identified as suitable for early release. Yet the Minister told me today that no one with a history of sexual offending, who was a risk to the public or who had committed domestic abuse would be released. That is just one of many cases. I wonder whether the Prime Minister or the Minister has misled the House. Could you advise me how I could take that up?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. I am sure she meant to say that she was indicating that any misleading of the House would be inadvertent. I am not responsible, obviously, for responses from Ministers, but the Minister, who is still here, will have heard her comments, as will have those on the Treasury Bench. Does the Minister wish to speak further to that point of order?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady raises an individual case and I am sure the Lord Chancellor would be happy to look at an individual case for her. She mentioned someone released on sentencing. Of course, the court or the probation service will look at time served on remand already, so a prisoner may have been on remand for quite a long time at the point that they come to a sentencing hearing.

To repeat the more general rules, which are Ministry of Justice policy: the release under licence up to 70 days prior to the ordinary release point does not apply to any prisoner serving a sentence of more than four years; it does not apply to any prisoner serving a sentence for serious sexual or violent offences; and the prison governor can veto the release of a prisoner considered to be a danger. Those are the safeguards, but if the hon. Lady wants to debate the matter in more detail, I am sure my colleague the Lord Chancellor would be very happy to do that.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I thank the Minister for stating his position. I suggest that perhaps the offer of a further discussion with the Lord Chancellor would be appropriate. I am sure the hon. Lady will come back after that if she feels there are further points she wishes to make. She is very experienced in knowing how to make her views known in the House, so I am sure that that is probably the best way forward for now.

Forensic Information Databases Strategy Board: Annual Report 2022-23

Chris Philp Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 day, 9 hours ago)

Written Statements
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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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I am pleased to announce that I am today publishing the annual report of the forensic information databases strategy board for 2022-23. This report covers the national DNA database and the national fingerprints database.

The strategy board chair, DCC Ben Snuggs, has presented the annual report to the Home Secretary under section 63AB(7) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Publication of the report is a statutory requirement under section 63AB(8) of the 1984 Act, as inserted by section 24 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

The report highlights the continued value of fingerprints and DNA in solving crimes and the part these biometrics play in bringing offenders to justice, keeping the public safe and preventing harm to potential future victims. I am grateful to the strategy board for its commitment to fulfilling its statutory functions.

The report has been laid before the House and copies will be available from the Vote Office. It will also be available on gov.uk.

[HCWS496]

Knife Crime Awareness Week

Chris Philp Excerpts
Tuesday 21st May 2024

(2 days, 9 hours ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Vaz. I thank and congratulate the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson) for securing this debate and the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sarah Edwards) for managing to make her contribution as well.

This is an incredibly important topic; any of us who have attended the funeral of a young person who has been the victim of knife crime will know that. I very painfully recall attending the funeral of 15-year-old Elianne Andam, who was murdered in Croydon on 27 September 2023 at 8.30 am. Seeing the grief of her family, her parents Michael and Dorcas and her little brother Kobi is something I will never forget. All of us need to keep in mind the tragic stories of young people who have lost their lives and the importance, therefore, of the work we are doing in making sure that we protect as many as we possibly can.

It is worth setting out some of the facts. When we see reports on social media about knife crime and individual tragic incidents, it sometimes creates the impression that homicides caused by knife crime are more prevalent than they are. We need to keep in mind where we are with progress made. In the year running to March 2010, there were 620 homicides across England and Wales. Last year, there were 577—a reduction in the number of homicides over that period, even though the population of the country has grown.

Over the same period, the Crime Survey for England and Wales—according to the independent Office for National Statistics, the most reliable source of data on offending—reported that violent crime was down by 44%. Hospital admissions following injury by a knife is another measure used to get to the heart of how much knife crime there is. Since 2019, that has reduced by 26% for people under 25.

As those figures show, quite considerable progress has been made, with reductions in homicides since 2010, reductions in violence since 2010 and a reduction in hospital admissions following a knife injury in the five years that we have been tracking those, since 2019. Despite all that progress and all those improvements, more needs to be done because every single death and every single injury is a tragedy. That is why the Government are determined to do everything possible to end the scourge of knife crime up and down the country. Of course, part of that is ensuring that the police have adequate resources. We now have record police officer numbers across England and Wales. In March 2023, we hit 149,566 officers. That is more than we have ever had at any time before. The police funding settlement this year is at a record level. The frontline budget spent by police and crime commissioners went up by £922 million this financial year compared with the last one. The resources are being made available to the police, but we need to do more than that.

We heard reference to banning different kinds of knives. We have been progressively widening the scope of knife bans. Far more knives are banned today than was the case in 2010. The most recent tranche of bans will come into force on 24 September, which will ensure that all zombie-style knives and certain kinds of machetes will rightly be banned. Curved swords have of course been banned since 2008. Wherever we see evidence that a particular kind of knife needs to be banned, we will take action to do that, but I remind the House that possession of any kind of knife, even a kitchen knife, in a public place without reasonable excuse is itself a criminal offence punishable by up to four years in prison.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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I must say how encouraged I am by the Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson). I mentioned in my intervention buckle knives, which the Police Service of Northern Ireland has indicated are something new that is coming through. The Minister is right that the law will encompass all those issues, but is it possible to contact some of the regional police forces to ascertain some of the issues they face? That would help in bringing forward better legislation.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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We are always open to consulting with police forces around the country, including Police Scotland and, of course, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to ensure that we are quickly picking up those trends, as the hon. Member says.

We heard some discussions around the online sale of knives. The Online Safety Act 2023 passed through Parliament last October. When it is fully commenced—Ofcom is currently consulting on the codes of practice to implement that—it will impose obligations for the first time on social media platforms and online marketplaces, such as Facebook Marketplace, to ensure that they are applying the law to take proactive steps to ensure that, for example, under-18s cannot buy knives online. The Criminal Justice Bill, currently going through Parliament, will increase the penalty for selling a knife to an under-18 to up to two years. The Online Safety Act, which I worked on with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) when he was Security Minister, will do a great deal to prevent the sale of knives online.

We heard some discussion around prevention, which is critical. That is why the 20 violence reduction units up and down the country are receiving about £55 million of funding a year. Next year we will increase that by 50%, and that 50% increase in funding will ensure that those preventative interventions are made. It will fund things like mentoring schemes, cognitive behavioural therapy, diversionary sporting activity and so on to ensure that young people at risk of getting on to the wrong path can be helped. We are doing that in partnership with the Youth Endowment Fund, which has £200 million to invest. The fund researches which interventions actually work, because some interventions sound like they might work but in fact have no impact. I was discussing those interventions with the fund’s chief executive Jon Yates just a few hours ago.

A new initiative that we will be pioneering with the Youth Endowment Fund this autumn is a piece of work starting off in four local authorities, but I hope it will be expanded to all local authorities, to identify in each area the 100 young people at risk of getting into serious violence. That is not youngsters who are already involved in serious violence, who are being supported already, but younger people, maybe in their early teens, who are at risk of getting into serious violence and where we can make an early intervention to stop them ending up on that path. If the pilots in the four local authorities are successful, as I think they will be, part of the extra violence reduction unit funding that I mentioned could support its roll-out nationally, which I would certainly like to see.

The prevention, the bans, the Online Safety Act 2023 and the violence reduction units are all preventive measures, but we also need proper enforcement action. That includes the use of stop and search, which I have not heard mentioned so far this afternoon. Stop and search is important. In London it used to take 400 knives a month off the street, but in London the use of stop and search has gone down by 44% over the last two years, whereas in the rest of the country it has been maintained. It might be no coincidence that knife offences in London have gone up at the same time as stop and search has gone down, which bucks the national trend.

I was very pleased that the commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said that he would increase the use of stop and search—done, of course, lawfully and respectfully— because it does take knives off the streets and save lives. Victims’ families have said to me, “I wish the person that killed my child”—typically a young man—“had been stopped and searched before my son was murdered.” So stop and search is an important tool that needs to be used.

To support that, we are developing new technology. It is not ready to deploy yet, but I hope it will be ready to deploy experimentally by the end of this year. It is technology that allows police officers to scan someone at a distance of, say, 10 or 20 feet—perhaps the distance that we are standing apart now—and detect a knife in a crowded street, enabling officers to identify and remove knives from the people carrying them. We are investing about £3.5 million to expedite the development of that technology. I saw it demonstrated last week. It is not quite ready to deploy, but it is very close. As soon as it is ready, I want it to be trialled. I will certainly volunteer Croydon, the borough that I represent—

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
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I think Wandsworth would like to volunteer.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Wandsworth might want to volunteer, and perhaps Tamworth also, and get those knives off our streets.

Also when it comes to technology, the use of both retrospective and live facial recognition is helping us to catch the perpetrators of knife crime and other crimes who would otherwise not be caught. We debated this a lot in the Criminal Justice Bill Committee. The technology is getting more powerful every day and is enabling the police to catch criminals who would otherwise not get caught. Facial recognition, obviously within guidelines and respecting privacy and so on, will help us take more dangerous people off our streets.

The other thing we are pushing is hotspot patrolling. In areas where there is antisocial behaviour and serious violence, all the evidence shows that hotspot patrolling helps stop criminal offences, so we have given police and crime commissioners additional money for the current financial year, over and above their regular budget. It totals about £66 million, of which London is getting about £9 million. That is to fund hotspot patrolling in areas where the police have identified a particular problem. The evidence from pilots last year shows that intensive hotspot patrolling reduces antisocial behaviour and serious violence. I expect that money to fund, in the current financial year, about 1 million hours of extra hotspot patrolling to keep our streets safer.

In summary, it is good that violence and homicide are lower now than they were in 2010, but there is more to do. Every single death is a tragedy and it behoves all of us to do everything we can. I have set out our plans in the preventive and law enforcement arenas. I am sure all of us would want to work with police forces in our constituencies to make sure they have the support that they need to catch perpetrators and keep the public safe.

Question put and agreed to.

Hajj Fraud

Chris Philp Excerpts
Friday 17th May 2024

(6 days, 9 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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Let me start by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) and congratulating her on securing this afternoon’s Adjournment debate. I think she first raised the topic in business questions on 18 April, and here we are just a few weeks later debating it. She is right to raise the issue, particularly given that it is just a few weeks until Muslims from all over the world will travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. That will of course include thousands of British Muslims. For many, their pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

My hon. Friend set out clearly the way that Hajj fraud operates. Exploitative criminals prey on hard-working families to dupe them out of their money, sometimes using fake websites and other means to persuade people to pay for goods or services that are not forthcoming. I echo the advice that my hon. Friend gave people to make sure that they book visas only via the properly authorised route. When booking travel via a travel agent, it is essential to make sure that the travel agency or tour operator is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents, to carefully check online reviews, to make sure that the travel company is ATOL-protected by the Civil Aviation Authority, and to make sure that the flight details and Hajj visa are valid. Those are all steps that people can and should take to protect themselves and make sure the counterparty they are dealing with is a legitimate organisation. We also strongly advise people never to pay by cash or by direct bank transfer into someone’s personal bank account.

The Government are committed to tackling both Hajj fraud and fraud more widely. I am pleased to report that overall, fraud is falling, with the latest data from the crime survey for England and Wales showing a 16% reduction year on year. But I am afraid to say that fraud remains the most common crime type, accounting for about 37% of all crime. That means that one in every 18 adults was a victim of fraud in the last year. That is why we must clamp down on all forms of fraud, including Hajj fraud.

That is encapsulated in our fraud strategy, published almost exactly a year ago, which entails investing about £100 million to improve law enforcement capabilities and launching a new national fraud squad, with 400 specialist investigators in post. It also includes steps to replace the Action Fraud service this year, which has been the subject of some criticism, to ensure victims of fraud have the confidence to come forward knowing their case will be dealt with properly.

We are also cracking down on fraudsters online. We know that many cases of Hajj fraud have an online element, which requires particular vigilance. When the Online Safety Act 2023 is fully enacted, it will help the regulator Ofcom to hold to account online social media platforms if they allow fraud to proliferate. That will take time to come into force fully, so to protect people even sooner, we have agreed the online fraud charter with 12 of the largest tech companies, including Amazon, eBay, Meta and Google. That was entered into last November and includes a series of voluntary actions that they will take. When the 2023 Act comes fully into force, it will compel large social media platforms to take proactive steps to combat fraud, including Hajj fraud.

As my hon. Friend said, public awareness is critical, as is people taking steps to protect themselves. That is why the “Stop! Think Fraud” national behaviour change campaign is so important. It encourages the public to always stop and think before they make a payment, and ask themselves, “Is it possible I am being defrauded? Is the counterparty legitimate? What can I do to check their credentials before making that payment?” Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, often now using artificial intelligence to generate images or even videos designed to trick people into paying money. The public’s vigilance is therefore extremely important, alongside the law enforcement response through the fraud strategy and the actions we are taking to compel large online platforms to be more proactive in stopping fraud proliferating online.

In conclusion, I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue on behalf of her Muslim communities in the Cities of London and Westminster. My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr Lord) raised the issue on behalf of the Muslim communities in his constituency. In my own constituency of Croydon South, there is a significant Muslim community too. I know that other Members with Muslim communities will echo the call made by my two hon. Friends for our constituents to be vigilant and to report immediately any suspicious activity. Hajj fraud is a disgraceful example of criminals exploiting a religious pilgrimage for their own personal gain. I am sure all of us condemn that wholeheartedly and will do everything we possibly can to stop it.

Question put and agreed to.

Licensing Hours Extensions Bill

Chris Philp Excerpts
Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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I start by congratulating the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck) on bringing forward this private Member’s Bill, and for the charm and expertise with which she has piloted it through the House. This is probably the shortest Bill I have ever been involved with as a Minister; I think the longest one was the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which ran to about 220 clauses and several hundred pages. This Bill is a model of pith and conciseness —if only every Bill were as simple.

I congratulate the hon. Lady on marshalling both sides of the House behind her Bill, and I thank the Members who have spoken today. I thank the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Enfield North (Feryal Clark), for her support; my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) for talking about the pubs in her constituency, here in the heart of London, and for bringing to bear her expertise as a former chair of licensing at Westminster City Council; and, of course, my right hon. Friend the incomparable Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), who brought to bear her very extensive experience in this area that she has diligently amassed over many years, across the length and breadth of the kingdom. There are few colleagues with greater or deeper expertise than my right hon. Friend when it comes to visiting pubs, which I intend as a profound compliment.

As we have heard, this Bill amends section 172 of the Licensing Act, which already makes provision for the Secretary of State to make orders relaxing licensing hours in England and Wales on occasions of exceptional international, national, or even local significance.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Under that definition —international, national and local significance—tomorrow is the play-off final at Wembley between Oxford United and Bolton Wanderers. Would that qualify under the changes in the Bill, and since the play-off is tomorrow, can the Minister make sure that all parts of the Bill have completed their passage by that time?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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My hon. Friend will have noticed that the second and final clause of the Bill states that the Act will come into force on the day on which it is passed, but of course it has to complete its passage through the other place first, so unfortunately, I do not think that play-off final will benefit from these provisions. Whether a play-off final between such auspicious teams as Bolton Wanderers and Oxford United would qualify as an event under this Bill would be for the Home Secretary of the day to determine. In all seriousness, although the parliamentary mechanism is being changed from the affirmative resolution procedure to the negative resolution procedure, the underlying criteria are not changing; I do not think we would want to usher in a wholesale change of licensing hours through this mechanism. The threshold is quite high and it is used fairly rarely, so I would like to temper expectations. We do not expect the provisions to be used indiscriminately, although that in no way detracts from the importance of the game taking place at Wembley—obviously I wish both teams the best of luck.

These orders will benefit businesses, as we have heard, allowing them to stay open for longer when important events are taking place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster said, it is much easier to use blanket licensing extensions than to require pubs to go through the onerous, expensive and tedious process of applying for a temporary event notice from their local authority. This approach is much better.

To give a flavour of the kind of events that might qualify for these provisions, they might include things such as His Majesty the King’s coronation last year, Her late Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday and her platinum jubilee, the royal weddings in 2018 and 2011, and the Euros final in 2020. If anyone is wondering whether the Bill will apply to future England appearances in finals, let me say that, while that might be more in hope than expectation, we should none the less legislate in hope.

We have already heard Members set out the reasons why we should make this change, which has commanded widespread support. We have heard that such games can often arise at relatively short notice—for example, England reaching the final, which has been referred to. When Parliament is not sitting, it is obviously not possible to use the affirmative resolution procedure, although let me be clear: even with the negative resolution procedure, scrutiny is possible. Where necessary, it is possible to pray against resolutions made under the negative procedure, so if a Member feels strongly, they can obviously pray against the instrument in the normal way.

As Minister for crime and policing, I am obviously aware of how important it is to consult the police regularly and make sure that they are happy that, where we extend licensing hours, that will not cause any undue problems with public order. It is important that the Home Secretary of the day consults the police appropriately to make sure that risk is considered, but I am sure that will not stop the power being used when appropriate. As I have said, the power in section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003 has been used relatively sparingly, and that approach is not going to change. The test is an event of exceptional significance, which imposes quite a high bar.

To make just one final point, for the avoidance of doubt, this instrument applies only in England and Wales, because it amends the Licensing Act 2003, which applies only to England and Wales. Licensing is devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which I assume explains why there are no Members from either Scotland or Northern Ireland joining us this morning to hear about all the pubs in the constituencies of the various Members who have spoken—in which context, I should commend the pubs in Croydon South, such as The Fox in Coulsdon and the Wattenden Arms up by Kenley airfield. [Interruption.] Of course, there is a Member from Scotland sitting right behind me, who I did not notice.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is making an excellent speech. I, too, give my wholehearted support to the Bill, on behalf of pubs across Scotland and in my constituency. It might not have a direct impact there, but we recognise its importance right across the United Kingdom and the important message it sends, so I thank the Minister —and remind him that I am still from Scotland.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - -

I offer my abject and heartfelt apologies for overlooking my hon. Friend, who is sitting right behind me. She is Scotland’s only voice in Parliament today, and Scotland is all the better off for her presence here—particularly on this side of the House, where she belongs, and where she is very welcome and held in high regard and great affection.

There are many Bills to get through today, and I do not wish to test the patience of the House or colleagues by speaking for too long. I fear that the most popular words in any speech I give are the words “and finally,” so—and finally I thank once again the hon. Member for South Shields, who has piloted the Bill through Commons, and those who have spoken in support of it and served on the Bill Committee. This straightforward and simple measure will free up valuable parliamentary time, as we heard earlier, and allow the Government to respond in an agile way in what I hope is the likely event that teams from the home nations make progress in various international sporting events, meriting an extension to the licensing hours of this nation’s fine pubs. I commend the Bill to the House.

Alcohol Licensing Consultation

Chris Philp Excerpts
Thursday 16th May 2024

(1 week ago)

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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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The Government are today launching a consultation on measures that would make it easier for licensed premises to sell alcohol for consumption in an adjacent licensed pavement area. This consultation aligns with the Government’s commitment to support businesses and our broader work on smarter regulation.

The Licensing Act 2003 allows premises licence holders to sell alcohol for consumption on site (“on-sales”), off site (“off-sales”) or both. The holder of an on-sales only licence can subsequently apply to their licensing authority for a variation if they wish to add off-sales to their licence.

To provide vital support to businesses during the covid-19 pandemic, temporary provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020 enabled on-sales-only premises licence holders to automatically also do off-sales without any need to amend their licence, thus saving these businesses time and money.

The 2020 Act also introduced changes to the process for obtaining pavement licences, which are licences granted by the local authority that allow the licence holder to place removable furniture over certain highways adjacent to the premises. The 2020 Act streamlined the process to allow businesses to secure pavement licences quickly.

The measures in the 2020 Act were designed to support businesses and the specific provisions referenced above, when taken together, meant that pubs and restaurants were able to serve alcohol outside in the area covered by any pavement licence that they held.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 has made permanent the provisions set out in the 2020 Act relating to pavement licensing, but the future of the off- sales element has not yet been decided and the provision is due to lapse in March 2025.

The Government remain committed to supporting the hospitality sector whilst it faces ongoing financial challenges. In September 2023, we made it clear that the Government’s ultimate goal is to create a unified consent regime that includes licensing consent for the consumption and sale of alcohol in the outside pavement area before the provision lapses next year. As such, we have identified three options to consult on that would enable premises to continue to sell alcohol for consumption in a licensed pavement area with ease, whilst ensuring that licensing authorities and local residents continue to have a say about what happens in their area.

Alongside new options that would make it easier for business to do off-sales, we have also included the option of making the 2020 Act off-sales easement permanent. All three options would require an amendment to legislation. As these would represent deregulatory measures, we believe that a Legislative Reform Order—made under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006—would be a suitable vehicle for making such an amendment.

The consultation will run for eight weeks and the Government will publish our response afterwards. A copy of the consultation and related impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and published on www.gov.uk.

[HCWS472]

Crime: Birmingham, Edgbaston

Chris Philp Excerpts
Tuesday 14th May 2024

(1 week, 2 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) on securing this evening’s debate. Let me start by providing some national context before answering some of her questions. She mentioned a number of crime figures in her speech, and it is important to put on record that two sets of crime statistics are published: there is police recorded crime, which are the figures she is quoting, and then there is the crime survey for England and Wales produced by the Office for National Statistics. The police recorded crime figures depend on the propensity of the public to report and how good a job the police do in recording those crimes. Over the last five or seven years, the police have become a lot better at recording all the crimes reported to them, and that is why those numbers have gone up.

However, the Office for National Statistics tells us that the most reliable set of figures for long-term crime trends are not the police reported crimes figures for the reasons I have set out—they depend on the public’s propensity to report and the police’s ability to record them—but the crime survey. Let me give the hon. Lady some of the crime survey figures since 2010, which she mentioned as a reference period. On a like-for-like basis, all crime has come down by 54% since 2010, according to the independent Office for National Statistics, while violence is down by 46%, theft by 47%, domestic burglary by 55%, and vehicle theft by 39%. There is a lot more to do, particularly on shoplifting, vehicle crime and knife crime, which I will come to in a moment, but the overall crime trends are down.

On resources, which the hon. Lady mentioned a few times, across England and Wales as a whole, we now have record numbers of police officers. On 31 March last year, we reached 149,566 police officers. That is more than we have ever had before, and it surpasses the previous peak, which was in March 2010, by about 3,500 officers. So we have record police numbers, and those have broadly speaking been maintained since that record was reached in March last year.

On West Midlands police specifically, its budget this year was £790 million, which is an increase of £51 million year on year, or about 6.4%—considerably higher than the current rate of inflation. I think many of the questions the hon. Lady is asking are questions she should be addressing to Simon Foster, the police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, who somehow managed to get re-elected a couple of weeks ago, because he has those financial resources. Whereas other police areas around the country have hit record numbers, as has the total, that has not happened in the West Midlands. That is a question I would strongly encourage her to ask Mr Foster, now that he has somehow got himself re-elected.

The hon. Lady asked several questions about specific crime types. She went through quite a long list, so I will quickly go through some of the more important of them. She mentioned, for example, knife crime, which is a concern. The number of people getting admitted to hospital with an injury by a knife has come down by 26% in the last five years, but there is further to go. London is conspicuously much worse than the rest of the country. In the rest of the country, a lot more progress is being made, but there is an exception in London.

We are doing quite a lot to combat this. First, we are encouraging a greater use of stop and search—done respectfully, of course. That takes knives off the streets, and we would welcome cross-party support for the police to lawfully use stop and search more to get dangerous knives off the street. Secondly, we are investing in various forms of technology. In fact, just this lunch time I was with a company—an American company—that is developing a new technology that can scan somebody walking down a street to see whether they are carrying a knife, and it can distinguish a knife from a mobile phone or something else. It is not quite ready to deploy yet, but I think it will be ready to deploy experimentally this year. I think that could revolutionise our ability to look at a crowd and detect who in that crowd is carrying a knife, and then make sure they are stopped, the knife is taken off them and they are arrested.

We are also doing quite a lot of work on prevention, and the hon. Lady mentioned youth services. Notoriously, Birmingham City Council went bankrupt, but the Home Office is directly funding violence reduction units, to the tune of more than £50 million a year across the country, which are designed to work with young people—whether it is with mentoring, work experience, cognitive behavioural therapy or youth activities, sometimes in partnership with football clubs—to help get them on to a better path.

The Youth Endowment Fund does lots of work here—it has £200 million—and I commend the work of Jon Yates, the chief executive. From next year, there is going to be a £75 million increase in violence reduction unit funding over three years, which is about a 50% increase because, as the hon. Lady says, supporting those young people is so important. This autumn, we will also be piloting, with the Youth Endowment Fund, a new initiative to try to identify the 50 or so of young people or early teenagers who are most at risk of getting into serious violence and serious crime. That includes looking at a range of indicators, such as mental health, education, housing or having an older sibling who is involved in a gang—indicators that go beyond criminal justice, so that interventions can be made to stop a vulnerable or at-risk 12 or 13-year-old becoming a violent 17 or 18-year-old. That initiative has the potential to make a real difference.

The hon. Lady talked about car crime, and crime more widely, which is a concern. I recently met the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover to discuss exactly this point. We are stepping up work on car crime, and are working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead, Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims of the Merseyside force. Stolen cars are often sold and rapidly exported in containers to countries including the United Arab Emirates and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We will do more work to stop that export at the border. We will also increase the amount of intelligence work done, so that we can spot patterns and identify the organised criminal gangs who are often stealing these cars.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
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The testimonies that I shared were so powerful because they are people’s experience of being victims of crime. Those people say that given that the West Midlands police are still 800 police officers short, the resource is just not there, so they are given a crime reference number, and that is it. That does not make people feel safe. The Minister is talking about youth crime and various initiatives, but youth services have been decimated. There is nowhere for young people to go, and there are no opportunities for good jobs or training, so they get exploited. Those are the kinds of things that young people need. They need hope and aspiration.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Youth unemployment is of course a great deal lower today than it was under the last Labour Government. On resources and police numbers in the west midlands, as I mentioned, the police and crime commissioner in the west midlands has £51 million more this year than last year, so the hon. Lady ought to ask him, ideally publicly, what he is spending that money on, and why he is not addressing the issues that she raises.

I agree that car crime and other crimes affect the victim terribly. That is why police across the whole country, including of course in the west midlands, have committed to always following reasonable lines of inquiry where they exist, including in relation to car crime. A big technological change that we are already exploiting is retrospective facial recognition. If the victim has an image of an offender—a Ring doorbell image, a mobile phone photograph of someone taking a car, closed circuit television footage from a shop where shoplifting has occurred—even if the image is blurred or partially obscured, it can be run through the police national database for a match. The facial recognition algorithm is now extremely accurate. That is a way in which we are already catching a lot more criminals, including some involved in car crime.

I encourage victims who have a picture of a suspect to please give it to the police, because they have committed to always—not sometimes—running it through the facial recognition database; and they have committed to always—again, not sometimes—following up reasonable lines of inquiry where they exist. That is for all crimes, even crimes that some people would historically have considered minor. That commitment was made last September, and it is vital that the police deliver on it and support victims, for the reasons the hon. Lady set out.

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill
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Will the Minister give an example of where that technology has been used, because I have never known that to happen? When residents send images that seem to be blurred, the police are very clear that they cannot do anything with them. Can the Minister tell me how many forces are using the technology, and when there has been a conviction?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I wonder how much longer I have, but the technology is being used across the whole country. This year, over 100,000—

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. To answer the Minister’s question, he has until 7.30 pm, which is some 57 minutes away. How long his speech takes is of course a matter for his discretion; I am putting no pressure on him.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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I am tempted to use all 57 minutes, and I am sure the hon. Lady has interventions that would take up a fair chunk of that, but I will be a lot briefer, which I am sure will be popular with colleagues.

Retrospective facial recognition is being used thousands of times every month, and there are all kinds of examples of it being used successfully. For example, a murder was committed in a Coventry nightclub a couple of years ago, and the only piece of evidence was a photograph of the suspect taken in the nightclub. Running that through the police national database got a match, and the police went to the suspect’s address and found the suspect there, with clothes covered in the victim’s blood, and he has now been convicted. There are hundreds of examples just from the past few months of retrospective facial recognition being used. A photo that is blurred or dark can often be matched. Obviously there needs to be some sort of image that the police can look at, but it is remarkable to see the images that can now be matched, using that algorithm. I strongly encourage everybody to send images to the police. If the police do not run them through the facial recognition database, people should ask why and push the police to do so, because they have committed to doing that.

We now deploy live facial recognition in a way that allows suspects who are wandering around a high street or a train station to be identified and arrested. I have also mentioned technology such as knife scanning. Facial recognition has the potential, in the coming years and months—this is not a long way off; it is being used now—to transform how we catch criminals, so that we do a better job for victims.

The hon. Lady also asked about scrap metal. Interestingly enough, I had a meeting today with the all-party parliamentary group on metal, stone and heritage crime, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous). Lord Birt, who is a member of the APPG from the Lords, also attended. We discussed what more we can do. Scrap metal theft is estimated at about £500 million a year. When the Scrap Metal Dealers Act was passed in 2013—it was a private Member’s Bill from my predecessor Sir Richard Ottaway—the figure was about £800 million a year, so the value has come down by more than a third since 2013, but we would like to go further.

The hon. Lady mentioned the NPCC group on metal theft; it is my intention to invite myself to that group and attend its next meeting, which I think is on 11 June, to press for more action in this area. The theft of catalytic converters and lead are the areas of most pressing concern.

The hon. Lady briefly mentioned shoplifting, which is a matter of extreme concern. The police have a national retail crime action plan, which includes a plan to target prolific shoplifters, and to follow reasonable lines of inquiry, including by always running the pictures from CCTV through the facial recognition database. The Government published our additional action plan just a couple of weeks ago, which includes a plan to meet the calls from Members of this House, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and others to create a stand-alone offence of assaulting a retail worker. That has been widely welcomed.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be relieved to hear that I am not taking up all 57 minutes. I have set out the actions that are being taken and, more importantly, the results that are being delivered. There are some disappointing trends in the west midlands, but I know the hon. Lady will take those up with the police and crime commissioner, Simon Foster, and will ask him what he is doing with the £51 million extra he has got this year. I will work constructively with her and other colleagues to make sure that our communities are kept safe.

Question put and agreed to.

UEFA 2024: Licensing Hours Extension

Chris Philp Excerpts
Wednesday 8th May 2024

(2 weeks, 1 day ago)

Written Statements
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Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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The Government have consulted on, and will be proceeding with, the proposal to make a contingent licensing hours order under section 172 of the Licensing Act 2003. This order will relax licensing hours in England and Wales for the 2024 UEFA European championship, subject to any of the competing home nation teams (England and Scotland) reaching the semi-final or final of the tournament.

The order will apply to premises already licensed until 11 pm for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises in England and Wales. The order will extend the licensing hours for such premises from 11 pm to 1 am the following day on the days of the semi-final (9 and/or 10 July) and final (14 July) of the tournament should the criteria of the contingent order be met.

The Government consider the semi-final and final of the tournament to be an occasion of exceptional national significance and an extension to licensing hours will enable communities to come together at their local licensed premises to support any of the home nation teams if they reach the later stages of the tournament and celebrate any subsequent success. This will also provide support to the hospitality sector by enabling businesses to extend their trading hours if they so wish.

The results of the consultation will be published on gov.uk. The Government are grateful to everyone who responded to the consultation. The order will be laid in Parliament in due course and an economic note will be published alongside it on legislation.gov.uk.

[HCWS443]

Unauthorised Entry to Football Matches Bill

Chris Philp Excerpts
Chris Philp Portrait The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire (Chris Philp)
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It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cardiff West on bringing forward this private Member’s Bill and for piloting it through its parliamentary stages with such aplomb and elan. His speech earlier describing the Bill and his amendment to it was comprehensive and accurate, so hon. Members will be relieved to hear that I do not think there is a great deal that I can usefully add to what he said.

All of us, on both sides of the Committee, share deep concern about what happened, particularly around the Euro 2020 finals, but that sort of practice did not just happen there; it is a more widespread problem. The measures in the Bill command the support of the police, the Football Association and the Premier League, so they will be welcomed by all those organisations and by football fans around the country. When football games are disrupted, it spoils the event for law-abiding members of the public going to see their team play, whether it is at Wembley, in Cardiff or anywhere else.

Given that the hon. Member for Cardiff West did such a good job explaining the provisions in the Bill, I do not want to test the Committee’s patience or indulgence by repeating what has already been said with such eloquence and flair. The Government fully support the Bill and are grateful to the hon. Member for his work. We look forward to seeing the Bill on the statute book and helping football fans across England and Wales to enjoy the fantastic national game.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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I thank the Minister for his support and his brevity in it, which I am sure is welcomed by everyone on the Committee. It is often said that everything has been said but not everyone has said it yet. However, the Minister broke that rule, which is welcome. I thank all my hon. Friends—they are my hon. Friends, from both sides of the House—for their contributions, and all other members of the Committee for being here. There is nothing else for me to add at this point.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Title

Amendment made: 1, in Title, line 1, leave out from “football matches” to “for which” in line 2.—(Kevin Brennan.)

This amendment would update the long title to reflect the fact that express provision is not required to enable a football banning order to be imposed following conviction of the new offence.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.