Thursday 9 June 2011

Thieves hit Parliament

A couple of weeks back someone wondered into the office of the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, and nicked a laptop and an iPad.

Now the House of Commons Commission has revealed more details of all thefts on the parliamentary estate over the last few years.

Vaz’s incident was part of a spate of crimes in April and May this year in which there were 25 thefts reported on the estate – almost as much as there were over the entire previous 12 months.

In the past four years odd items that have been nabbed include a bunch of flowers, an orchid, a bottle of whiskey, a set of golf clubs and a “charm” – whatever that is.

More shockingly is that there have been 25 laptops taken in 2011 so far.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Crucial crime fighting services may "drop into the ether"...

Chief constables are fretting over the introduction of the National Crime Agency (NCA) which Theresa May announces today.

The problem is that as well as replacing the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the NCA will also replace the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which provides services including managing several national crime databases – one of which was used by police to bring about the arrest of a man for the murder of 25-year-old Jia Ashton earlier this year.

However, while ministers will abolish the NPIA in 2012, the NCA will not be up and running till 2013 – leaving crucial functions unsupervised for a year.

The NPIA manages the Dangerous Persons Database, the National DNA Database, the UK’s Fingerprint Database and the Missing Person’s Bureau.

Meanwhile it also trains serving police officers in everything from mobile phone forensics to ‘strategic firearms command’.

The agency then provides operational support to the UK’s 43 forces – accrediting financial experts, for example, to help forces arrange what to do with the proceeds of crime they confiscate.

Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police Mick Creedon told a select committee a couple of weeks back: “We face an issue that there are critical services provided by the NPIA, absolutely critical services, that at the minute have a date which is going to drop off, with nowhere to go.”

He said the NPIA’s services could simply “drop into the ether”.

The Government is yet to formalise plans for what organisation will take on the agency’s functions in the intervening period.

We won’t hear much talk of that bit today from the ministers of course.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Will there be a Tory backlash to boundary equalisation?

Coverage of the Democratic Audit report on constituency boundary equalisation yesterday focussed on how Lib Dems will be hit. Apart from a passing mention of Priti Patel, there was little on other Tory MPs who might suffer.

I haven’t had a chance to look at the complete data set but so far there seem to be a whole bunch of the new Tory intake that will be adversely affected.

Some are those who won constituencies formed at the last election like Pauline Latham in Mid Derbyshire. But others are MPs who fought hard battles to win key seats from Labour.

These include the likes of Anna Soubry in Broxtowe, Karen Bradley in Staffordshire Moorlands (pictured), Mark Spencer in Sherwood, Nigel Mills in Amber Valley, Nicky Morgan in Loughborough and Andrew Bridgen in North West Leicestershire.

If the review pans out in the way Democratic Audit suggests, all of these will either have their seat effectively scrapped or face a much tougher Labour challenge as a result.

“If” is the operative word of course, given the speculative nature of yesterday’s report. But I wonder if Cameron and co have factored any sort of backlash into their plans?