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Column 1270Lay visitors are not informed of the outcome of complaints against police officers. That must be wrong, as they can then do nothing to rectify the problems. I hope that they will be notified of the outcome of such investigations in future.
The lay visitors complain about interpreting services for alleged illegal immigrants detained in cells. The visitors do not have interpreters and there is no legal requirement for the services of lay visitors to be extended to detainees of this sort. The Home Office response to this has been less than adequate--from a budget of £1 billion it will not provide the money for interpreters for lay visitors.
The debate so far has been largely devoid of statistics, which the House needs. The Prime Minister came to power pledged to restore law and order as a fact and as a concept, but her failure has been startling. Crime has undermined the standard of living of affluent Londoners. Overall, crime in London increased by 29 per cent. between 1979 and 1988 and violent offences rose by two thirds in the same period. Robberies almost trebled. There were 1,196 notified drug addicts in the capital in 1978 ; last year there were 3,230, and we know that the true number is between five and 10 times greater. I want to record reported notifiable offences in London. In 1979 there were 16,194 violent offences, and in 1988 there were 27,215--an increase of 68 per cent. In 1979, 2,751 sexual offences were notified and in 1988, 4,071--an increase of 48 per cent. The figure for burglaries went up from 119,366 to 143,721--an increase of 20 per cent. Furthermore, in my constituency the clear-up rate for burglary has fallen to about 10 per cent. and the figure across London is similar. The figure for robberies went up from 6,275 to 17,929--an increase of 186 per cent. The figure for theft went up from 321,047 to 375,602--an increase of 17 per cent. The figure for fraud and forgery went up from 26,361 to 30,279--an increase of 15 per cent. The figure for criminal damage went up from 71,651 to 121,505- -an increase of 70 per cent. The figure for other offences increased from 542 to 5,702--an increase of 952 per cent.
In total, the number of notifiable crimes went up from 564,187 in 1979 to 726,024 in 1988--an increase of 29 per cent. So much for restoring law and order as a fact and as a concept. The Government have a miserable criminal record, and we should get rid of them so that we can tackle crime in London and elsewhere.
Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) criticised Conservative Members because only a few of us are present, although we well outnumber the Labour Members who are present. One reason for absences is that if Labour Members make speeches of 41, 26, 24 and 25 minutes, Conservative Members do not get a chance to contribute. I hope that in future speeches will be shorter and more to the point.
Column 1271sides of the House have been lengthy. I hope that in future debates all hon. Members will have an opportunity to take part.
Like all other hon. Members who have spoken, I represent a London constituency, and my constituents look to the Metropolitan police for their protection. Apart from two isolated cases in the past year, the relationship between my constituents and the police has been happy. There can hardly be any closer or more harmonious relationship in a London borough than that in Richmond upon Thames, with regular co-operation on crime prevention and safety for the elderly, the education of children, the maintenance of traffic control and support, financial and spiritual, to the victims of crime.
I was pleased to work with my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler) on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which looked into the way in which society deals with the victims of crime. The victim support scheme movement largely grew from that. I pay great tribute to the victim support scheme in Richmond, which gave evidence to the Committee, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for his support of such schemes through the Home Office.
My knowledge of the Metropolitan police began when I was under four. I remember seeing my father, Jimmy Hanley, in a police uniform one evening. This was not because he had signed up but because he was making a well- known film, "The Blue Lamp", with the late Jack Warner, who was playing PC Dixon. Only twice in our history has somebody risen from the grave, and one of them was Jack Warner. He came back from the dead and was even promoted to sergeant in the television programme.
Many people ridicule the cosy, "Evening, all" attitude that the police were meant to have in those days, but that attitude showed how people trusted, liked and knew the local policeman and it is popular still today. Many people would like us to return to the times when the local bobby on the beat was a normal part of everyday life. I am pleased to note that Sir Peter Imbert's excellent report for this year shows that street duty increased by 9 per cent. in 1988. That happened largely in response to public demand. Street duty enables communities to see the police and to see that, far from being remote, they are friendly individuals whose sole purpose is to protect their local community. Street duty is good for the police and good for the public, and I hope that the increase will be repeated in years ahead. The courtesy, kindness and good humour of the local bobby on the beat are something that we want to see much more in future. We should get the police out of the Panda cars, which resemble armoured cars shooting through the streets of Londonderry. That approach may be necessary in some contexts, but in London the human relationships that go with local beat police are most important, especially in encouraging good race relations.
It cannot be a complete coincidence that burglaries have fallen by 5 per cent. this year and the clear-up rate for residential burglaries has risen by 12 per cent. Even street robbery is down by 10 per cent. The presence of beat police must be partly responsible for that figure, with co-operation by local residents--which is further encouraged by good relationships with the police--also playing its part.
I fully accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) said about parking, and I
Column 1272agree with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). We need more wardens to police the streets of outer London and if they could keep a share of their resources, they would have a further incentive and people would be more readily deterred from parking in antisocial and dangerous places in the streets of outer London.
Sir Peter said in his report that there hardly has to be an incident in Amritsar or Teheran or an election in El Salvador for thousands of people to take to the streets of London. Freedom of speech and the right to protest are part of our tradition, but demonstrations clog traffic and threaten--sometimes violently--innocent citizens going about their business. They can cause great disturbance and damage and they are extremely costly. I would ask those considering demonstrations to exercise self-control and to remember that their demonstration is likely to have little effect. I also ask for self-control from the media, which often attract attention to such events and make them grow in size.
In the previous Parliament I served on the Select Committee on Home Affairs and its race relations and immigration sub-committee. I attended many police courses and visited police stations to see how the police try to teach policemen at all levels awareness of the different races and cultures in our community. I addressed a conference in Manchester attended by senior police officers and I was most impressed by the care that they were taking in this matter. The racial minorities must understand what their civil rights are. It does not help matters if they believe that the police are automatically against them. Often, it is not so much the police who are responsible but the fact that the racial minorities have not been trained, as they should be, to realise what their civil and criminal rights are, or the duties of the police and the restrictions on them in dealing with civil matters. We should all help to inform the racial minorities of their rights. The police are now recognising their responsibilities in this regard, and the dramatic increase in the clear-up rate for racial crimes shows their determination. I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) about the London Transport police. Their independence of the Metropolitan police is an anachronism. Time dictates that I cannot expand on this matter, although I feel very strongly about it.
I pay tribute to the 1,143 specials in London, who give up much of their time. Last year, they underwent nearly 50,000 hours of training and put in nearly 250,000 hours of duty, with good humour and patience. I hope that the force will grow and that younger people will join as special cadets.
The police are being most unfairly criticised for deaths following car chases. No policeman in a car chases another car merely for fun or because the police started the chase. The chase starts because somebody has stolen a car or is suspected of having committed a criminal act. The public must support the police, who are properly trained and can avoid accidents better than the person who is trying to sprint ahead in the car in front. We should properly criticise those who cause the car chases and support the police in their efforts to protect us from individuals who have committed crimes. We should all support the police a great deal more. In the past year, there were 5,294 complaints against the Metropolitan police, which is a reduction of 8 per cent.
Column 1273Some might think that appreciation was not readily expressed, but there were 6,278 letters of appreciation last year, an increase of 11 per cent. I am pleased that that has occurred under the stewardship of Sir Peter Imbert, to whom I could not pay greater tribute. I hope that we shall see continued good progress in the Metropolitan police and a continued excellent relationship with the people of London. 2.5 pm
Mr. Sheerman : By leave of the House, I shall have a second bite of the cherry and reflect quickly on the debate. We have had an interesting and constructive debate. Labour Members have framed their remarks in a constructive spirit. However frustrating, this is our one opportunity to call the Home Secretary to account in his role as the person responsible for the Metropolitan police. As many of my hon. Friends have said, it is a weak weapon of scrutiny. When we have a Labour Government after the next election, we shall move to a properly democratically accountable police authority for London. The Home Secretary trailed many red herrings today. I remind him that we do not propose a body that would interfere with the day- to-day operational aspects of police work, as he knows well. We have made some strong suggestions about what we want to see happen and there have been some positive comments from Members of various parties. Looking to the future, I see two problems that have been expressed today only in a minor voice ; I am surprised that hon. Members have not stressed those problems more.
First, there should be more emphasis on dealing with the young. I know that I tend to go on about this, but we must achieve the right responses to young offenders, not only in terms of catching them, although that is part of the process, but in deterring them in the first place and in giving them creative alternatives, which largely do not seem to exist in London at present.
The second issue that will dominate police work in the next few years, to which we shall come back more strongly this year and next, is the vulnerability of women in London and every other urban centre. Although we agree that the burglary figures and those for other crimes against property look a bit better than they did for the previous year, the figures for crimes of violence, crimes of violence against women and sexual violence against women are horrific. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North- West (Mr. Banks) said, there has been a 9 per cent. increase in the most recent year. It is a disgrace that 50 per cent. of women in this city believe that they should not go out after dark. That comment is not based on only one piece of evidence. One piece of evidence after another shows that women feel unsafe walking down badly lit streets, and on London buses and the Underground at night. If women are afraid to go about their legitimate business to such an extent, the Metropolitan police, with the Government's backing, must protect women in a way that they do not protect them at present.
We have not talked much about the causes of crime, because we have tried not to be too party political today, but I must conclude by saying that policing is difficult enough in a society with a strong community that backs the police and in which people treat society as a priority.
Column 1274However, in a selfish, individualistic society which has had the imprint of the Prime Minister for several years-- it is a fact that the Prime Minister admires such a society--there is a breakdown in community feeling. In a society from which community spirit has disappeared, the role of the police and their job become impossible. If we are to make the Met work as we want it to work--it is a good police force and we are trying to make it better--it will need the backing of the community. We believe that that must be a democratic relationship, but it must also be the basis for co-operation and exchange.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : We have had an interesting and important debatethe tone of which suggests that there is an ever-increasing recognition among hon. Members and people outside the House that the Metropolitan police are becoming yet more effective in carrying out their policing functions within the capital. That is a correct analysis. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has mentioned some of the key crime figures. They bear repeating because they demonstrate the reasons for modest optimism.
The commissioner's report for 1988 shows that overall crime figures fell by about 2 per cent. and the figures for the 12 months ending March this year show an overall fall of 4 per cent. In a two-year period there has been a welcome reduction in recorded crime of 6 per cent. The reductions have been most acute in burglary. In the 12 months ending March this year there has been a fall of nearly 6 per cent., or 25,000, in recorded cases of burglary. I must inform the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) that there has been a significant improvement in the clear-up rate of burglaries. The improvement in the Metropolitan police area was 7 per cent. Those reductions in the volume of committed crime have the effect of freeing officers for more operational time on the streets.
I accept that the crime statistics reflect the anxiety about violent crime. However, there are signs of modest encouragement. For example, the number of homicides fell by 46--23 per cent.--and figures for street robbery in the 12 months to the end of March this year show a 3 per cent. reduction. There are also encouraging improvements in clear-up rates. In 1988 the clear-up rate for robbery rose by 7 per cent. and for violence against the person the clear-up rate rose by 27 per cent. Those are significant improvements which are due to a variety of factors. They arise from better deployment of resources, more effective police practices and, undoubtedly, crime prevention--to which I attach very high importance--and from a substantial improvement in the resources dedicated to police work in London as a result of Government policy. We should recognise that since 1979 expenditure in the Metropolitan police area has risen by almost 60 per cent. in real terms.
The Metropolitan force is now at its record strength. Its strength is up by 5,400 and the establishment has improved by 1,826. The House will know that in April my right hon. Friend approved a further 300 police officers and 150 civilians, together with a further 100 civilians, the purpose of whom was to speed up the process of civilianisation. For Opposition Members-- most notably the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks)--to pretend that a Labour Government would have increased the resources
Column 1275over and above that which the Conservative Government have provided is frankly ludicrous. The truth is that they probably would have cut the resources. In no sense would they have matched the increase that our good management has allowed.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West mentioned the Underground, so I shall make a specific reference to it.
Mr. Hogg : My hon. Friend has made an extremely important point. Crime was rising fast, and the most striking thing about 1979 was the wholesale demoralisation of the police force. Most notable was the fact that experienced police officers, especially around sergeant level, were leaving in droves, partly because they were grossly underpaid and partly because they did not like seeing, for example, Labour Cabinet Ministers standing on picket lines supporting those who rioted and abused the police force. Let us make that entirely plain, because I am now coming to the question of accountability.
The sight of Labour Cabinet Ministers standing on picket lines is profoundly unsatisfactory. That happened not only at Grunwick. We also saw the support of the Labour Front Bench on the miners' picket lines. That is the kind of party with which we are dealing.
Hon. Members will appreciate why I approach this matter with a degree of scepticism.
Mr. Corbyn : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to describe Labour Cabinet Ministers in the last Government as being involved in a riot when he knows that that is not true? He has not stated which picket line they were on or admitted that none was arrested or charged with any offence. Is it in order for the Minister to mislead the House about Labour Cabinet Ministers?
Mr. Corbyn : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister has claimed that what he said was not inaccurate. In that case, he must state which Cabinet Ministers, which picket line, when, who was arrested and with what offence they were charged--otherwise, he is impugning the honour of former and current Members of the House.
Mr. Corbyn : Further to my earlier point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In replying, the Minister has impugned the honour of Members of the House concerning events that happened during the lifetime of the last Labour Government. He has clearly claimed that Labour Cabinet Ministers were on a picket line and were arrested. Unless he can substantiate--
Mr. Corbyn : I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. They were involved in a riot. I suggest that he is impugning the honour of former Cabinet Ministers and he is not prepared to substantiate his allegation. As he is not prepared to substantiate it, because he knows it not to be true, I suggest that he be invited to withdraw his comments.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : General criticisms made by one side of the House about the other are usual in here, and while discourteous and distasteful, they are not out of order. It is when hon. Members identify other particular hon. Members and reflect on their honour and integrity that it becomes a matter for the Chair. I do not believe that we have quite reached that point.
Mr. Sheerman : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We were having a constructive debate until the junior Minister got to his feet and he has reduced it to his customary level. With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Minister said that Privy Councillors were involved in a riot and he specifically mentioned one incident and one strike. He must withdraw--
Column 1277as to identify a particular individual Member of the House. When he does so, I shall feel an obligation to reproach him.
Mr. Corbyn : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a serious matter. The Minister has alleged that Cabinet Ministers of the Labour Government were involved in a riot. One of his hon. Friends was overheard to say that it was at Grunwick. The Minister clearly made that statement, but he cannot substantiate it because he knows it not to be true. Surely he must withdraw his remarks. Otherwise, if he is allowed to make statements impugning the integrity of--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I thought that I had made a clear statement on this matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not persist, as I have ruled on this matter. I have already said that until the Minister identifies a particular Member of the House and reflects adversely on that Member's honour and integrity, then, no matter how discourteous, he is not out of order.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I rather hope that we can get away from this matter, which is leading us in the direction of disorder. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) seems intent on going down a different road. I would not advise him or the House to go in that direction. I hope that we can now get on.
Mr. Hogg : I must tell the House that I find the approach of the Labour party on the question of accountability profoundly unattractive. First, we must look at what is in place. The commissioner is accountable to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is the police authority. My right hon. Friend is accountable to Parliament. The commissioner submits his statutory statement to the Home Secretary for approval. The annual report containing a full statement of the year's activities is also submitted to the Home Secretary, who presents it to Parliament. We have the annual parliamentary debate, now taking place. Citizens living in the Metropolitian police districts can question Ministers in Parliament or through correspondence. The Metropolitan police fund, annual accounts and estimates are presented to Parliament as a White Paper. Metropolitan police expenditure is scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee and their affairs may be scrutinised by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
What I have described represents a high measure of specific control. The question is whether one should go further than that. A number of hon. Members have suggested that there should be a police authority separate from that which we have been discussing. I do not commend that course of action to the House. The question
Column 1278that must be asked is what responsibility the Labour party is seeking to give that police authority, but we have heard a variety of explanations.
We are told that that police authority would set the order of priority. I am not sure what that means, but, so far as I understand it to mean anything, it means telling police officers what to do. I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is back in the Chamber as he was good enough to make his views wholly plain. When talking about the relationship between the police and the police authority what he had in mind, he said :
"These are things that you must do."
It is plain that the Labour party wishes to give a police authority the power not merely to determine the police's order of priorities but to instruct them on their operational duties, or at least come close to doing so. I do not commend that course of action to the House.
Mr. Simon Hughes : I shall not defend the Labour party, but given that all police forces in England fall under the authority of the Home Secretary, why, uniquely, do elected local representatives in London have no say in how their police forces are run? Why are London citizens uniquely disadvantaged?
Mr. Hogg : I do not wish to do the hon. Gentleman an injustice, but I do not think that he was present when I went through the special methods of accountability. If he was, I apologise. The procedures that I outlined provide a different but higher degree of control than that available to most police authorities. There are consultative groups throughout the Metropolitan police district. Regrettably, a number of Labour councils-- Lambeth, Ealing, Brent, Hackney and Haringey--refuse to be involved in those consultative groups. It is unattractive for people to say that they are deprived of direct input into the way in which the police conduct their affairs, yet to refrain from participating in consultative groups, who work only to their advantage. I therefore find their approach profoundly unattractive.
The points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler) were of singular importance. The Select Committee on Home Affairs visited the United States. Indeed, it followed the paths that I had trodden three or four weeks previously. I entirely agree that demand reduction is the chief priority, and we are taking a variety of measures to achieve that. First, we are trying to improve the quality of demand-reduction messages in the education system. Secondly, and different but no less important, we are trying to determine an effective method of delivering demand-reduction messages in local communities. My hon. Friend believes, as I do, that demand reduction lies at the core of our policy.
Although demand reduction lies at the core of our policy, it is not our only policy ; enforcement is equally important. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North will be aware of the fact--I am sure that he will welcome it--that the central drugs squad has been given an additional 22 officers. He will know that the Metropolitan police have set up a team with the task of identifying and seizing the profits of drug trafficking.
The important issue of firearms was rightly raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart). The figures are quite encouraging. In an intervention, I said that firearms had been discharged only twice in 1988. We are experiencing a diminution in the number of firearms-trained officers--officers are therefore
Column 1279more specialised--together with a reduction in the number of times that firearms are issued. In 1988, firearms were issued to Metropolitan police officers for 1,320 operations. In 1983--I use that as an idle figure for reference--firearms were issued for 2,230 operations. The number of times that firearms were issued for operational duties has been reduced substantially. There has been a substantial reduction in the numbers of authorised firearms officers. In 1988, there were 2,568--in 1983, there were 4,786. We are getting a smaller cadre of more highly trained officers who are more experienced in the use of firearms. That provides for greater public safety and more effective policing.
The hon. Member for Leyton referred to police cells. This has been a considerable worry to us all. We have introduced--
It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point relates to the debate for five hours--a perfectly normal debate--on policing in London. The Minister did not have an opportunity to finish what he needed to say to reply to the debate. That enhances the argument that the accountability of the police force--
Mr. Hughes : The point of order for the Chair is that the issue, the policing of London, cannot be dealt with adequately in a debate of this length. I ask you to deliberate with the other authorities so that in future we may have--
Queen's Recommendation having been signified--
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Parking Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to that Act in the sums payable out of such money under any other Act.-- [Mr. Portillo.]
(i) the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House have power to give directions and perform other duties in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution of the House of 12th June ; and
(ii) this Order, the temporary Standing Order made on 29th March 1988 and the Order made on 26th May relating to the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House be Standing Orders of the House until the end of the next Session of Parliament.-- [Mr. Garel-Jones.]