Saturday, February 10, 2007
Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): May we have a full debate in Government time about the Government’s record on crime, so that we can again expose, in the public interest, the ludicrous position of the Liberal Democrats, which was so clearly exposed last night?
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Reoffending rates are at an unprecedented high level: 66 per cent. of all offenders who go to prison reoffend within two years, and 92 per cent. of all male offenders who serve short-term prison sentences of three months or less reoffend.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I am listening to the hon. Gentleman’s Jeremiahs about increasing crime, but if that is the case, why did the Sheffield and Rotherham Star, which covers his constituency and mine, state in its headline of last Monday that crime in South Yorkshire has fallen?
Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. If he is so concerned about antisocial behaviour, can he explain how his party’s policy of allowing alcohol to be sold to 16-year-olds will improve the situation? People in my constituency would like to know how that would assist them.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I will ignore that, if I may. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Lady seriously think that an arcane debate about what the precise drinking age limit should be would provide the simple catch-all solution to antisocial behaviour?
Culture spokesman Don Foster said the problem of binge drinking must be controlled before any liberalisation of licensing laws or risk escalating the problem of disorder.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): The hon. Gentleman mentioned effective policies that work and he also mentioned gun crime. Given that 58 per cent. of all firearms offences in Scotland involve air weapons, why did his colleagues on the Committee considering the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 refuse to support measures for a purchaser licensing scheme and instead back the weaker vendor licensing scheme?
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, of all hon. Members, would not wish me to short circuit an issue that is clearly a devolved matter—
Stewart Hosie: No, it is not. It is reserved. That is why I mentioned it.
Mr. Clegg: In that case, I shall get back to the hon. Gentleman when I have researched the matter a little more.
Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) that prison is a complete and utter waste of time? Can he guarantee that that will be in the next Liberal Democrat manifesto?
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): No, I do not agree and it will not be in the next manifesto.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman say which offenders he would not send to prison? Does he support the probation service and probation hostels? If he thinks that people should be held in psychiatric hospitals instead of prisons, will he support the Mental Health Bill? That Bill will make it possible to hold people in such hospitals more easily.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): That is just a diversion.
Julia Goldsworthy (Falmouth and Camborne) (LD): Does the Minister agree with the statistic that gun crime has doubled under the Government, while seizures of illegal firearms have halved? Is his Department undertaking any links with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to try to ensure that the number of seizures increases rather decreases, given the fact that gun crime is rising so rapidly?
The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): The hon. Lady will know that, last year, gun crime was down some 14 per cent.
And Round 7:
Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): I am greatly concerned about the Government’s never-ending attack on, and demonising of, young people.
He suggested the government were more concerned with "youth popularity" than tackling binge drinking.
Nick Clegg's researcher emails over data from Newcastle Council itself, which shows that violent crime in the city fell by 6.4 per cent between 2004-06 but the East End of Newcastle - a notorious crime hot spot - showed a 12 per cent drop.
But still no sign of the 54 per cent rise that Clegg referred to...
..."We got it wrong. It must have been a slip of the pen," says a Liberal Democrat researcher.
The second Liberal Democrat researcher blames the education policy of Labour for the maths mistake...