Play Facilities (Leicester)
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : I am pleased to present a petition to the House on behalf of some 4,000 citizens of the city of Leicester, who, like me, complain that the play facilities for their children are totally inadequate, who blame the Government for not providing the resources whereby the city of Leicester can make proper provision for play and who call on the Government to provide such resources so that their children can grow up in an atmosphere and with an education of which the city and this country can be pround. The petition reads :
Wherefore your petitioners pray that your Honourable House will 1. Legislate to provide funds sufficient for local authorities to assist the voluntary sector to provide and maintain a full and adequate play service for children ;
2. Legislate to provide resources to enable Leicestershire Council Council and Leicester City Council to ensure that the large child population of Leicester receive adequate services, including improving existing services and developing new ones, with long term security to enable an effective service to be established and maintained throughout the City.
3. Establish a Minister for children with Cabinet rank, to ensure that the needs of children are given full consideration in all aspects of government activity.
To lie upon the Table.
City Hospital, Nottingham
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) : I should like to present a petition to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House from the people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, opposing the opting out of the City hospital in Nottingham. The massive petition has been signed by many thousands of people in Nottinghamshire who are concerned about the issue. I hope that it is seen as the first shot in getting the hospital back where it belongs--in the national health service.
Your Honourable House hold an inquiry into the opting out of hospitals and halts the opting out of the City hospital and the Queen's medical centre in Nottingham.
To lie upon the Table.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, you received a request from the shadow Leader of the House for a statement about television franchises. The Leader of the House was present and gave a non-committal answer. The ex-Prime Minister has now made it clear that she believes that it is a mistake, but this Government and all their Ministers took part in that vote. They have a duty to tell the British people that they made a mistake. A statement should be made today, and there is no better person to make it than Mr. Oil Slick himself--the Home Secretary.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Chapman.]
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : I am delighted to continue the habit of my immediate predecessors and to report to the House on the performance of the Metropolitan police service last year.
The Commissioner's annual report for 1990, which forms the focus for our debate, provides a comprehensive account of the real successes of the service in 1990 in beating crime in partnership with the public and in improving the quality of service that the Met offers and the public demands.
Let us be clear about the context in which that success has been achieved. The Met has a huge job to do. The Metropolitan police district covers 800 square miles. The Met provides a service for 7.5 million residents, a working population of 4 million and some 19 million tourists. There are 2.6 million cars registered in London. The force receives one 999 call every 30 seconds and deals with everything from lost cats to the ferocious assaults in Trafalgar square during the community charge riot last year.
We rely on the police, in a way that we do not rely on any other service, to protect and to serve us. We expect and need a dedicated service by all members of the service. We are rarely disappointed, even though they operate in the face of considerable difficulties. There were more than 4,000 assaults on police in 1990, including the tragic and senseless death of PC Lawrence Brown. Only last month, PCs Helen Kelly, Jennifer Lawson, Zara Kingdom and Sergeant John Davison were stabbed when attending an incident in Wood Green high road. But it is not simply a question of bravery ; we rely on the special and dedicated service of special constables, citizens using their own free time to serve the public. I join the Commissioner in paying tribute to the key role played by all civil and support staff, both on divisions and centrally.
The Government have provided the Met with the resources that it needs to manage this huge task. We found the Met 4,500 officers below establishment when we took office in 1979. It is now up to strength. The Met now has 6,000 more officers than it had then. It spends more than £1.4 billion a year--up 60 per cent. in real terms.
Column 539Civilianisation has produced more than 1,000 more operational officers in the past five years--real money, real officers, real commitment from this Government.
When I visit police stations and talk to police constables, I find that morale is high, and rightly so. They do a fine job and are entitled to feel proud. There are many confident young officers of the highest calibre, and thousands of high-quality applicants wanting to join.
Some Labour Members do their best on these occasions to paint a picture of gloom and despondency. It is a sad fact that recorded crime in the Metropolitan police district rose by 10 per cent. to 834,300 in 1990, a slightly slower rate of increase than the national average. But recorded crime is not a measure of police effectiveness. Burglaries rose by 16 per cent. in the last year in the MPD ; but in a quarter of all cases the burglar walked in without forcing entry. Much crime in London is opportunistic and can be prevented. That message must be given loud and clear.
No one should forget for a moment that crime causes trauma and misery to victims. It is a credit to the Met that 137,000 victims were referred to support schemes last year, 29,000 more than ever before.
Bald totals give a false view of crime. They also underplay police success in tackling crime. The cornerstone of the Met's response to crime is the partnership approach. It has produced and is producing success in tackling crime. That success includes the Milton Court estate in Lewisham, where we have focused, through the safer cities project, on the problems associated with drugs abuse and high crime. The police, Lewisham council, the Deptford task force and the London city action team have all been working together on that initiative.
Mr. Baker : Of course the residents were involved. It is a safer cities project. The Home Office funds that project and, as the right hon. Gentleman should know, local teams are involved. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would know about that. If he follows these matters, he will know that we involve residents. The right hon. Gentleman is just showing his ignorance of the way in which these projects operate.
Following a residents' survey, we have spent £265,000 on reducing crime and fear of crime by providing more and better lighting and fitting new security doors on more than 200 flats. A mobile crime prevention advice centre is now in use on the estate. Residential burglary has fallen by 16 per cent., street crime by 45 per cent. and serious crime by 66 per cent.
There has also been success with the No. 1 area street crime initiative, in Islington, Haringey and Enfield. Police, local authorities and the community worked together in partnership to reduce street crime, to discourage young peoples' involvement in it and to improve the quality of life of those living and working in the area. Suspects were targeted by dedicated police teams. More uniformed officers on the streets helped to reassure residents. The police established close links with the probation service, youth groups and schools to stop young people becoming involved in crime either through choice or peer group pressure. Young people previously tempted through boredom into petty crime were given other things to do
Column 540with the help of local businesses and voluntary groups. Positive role models for youngsters in the area were promoted. The initiative reduced street crime in the area as a whole by 14 per cent.--in Tottenham by one third. It has substantially reduced fear of crime in the community. The Commisioner rightly gives this initiative pride of place in his report.
There has also been success in the No. 1 area in dealing with burglary, through Operation Bumblebee. A survey in the area confirmed that fear of burglary was widespread. The deputy assistant commissioner in charge of the No. 1 area, Walter Boreham, responded to that by launching a concentrated and sustained attack on residential burglary, drawing heavily on the partnership approach. It started in June, and by 1 September had already led to 782 arrests and 1,382 offences cleared up. There has been a 7 per cent. reduction in the number of reported burglaries in the area. That imaginative initiative is helping to turn the tide against burglary. It is mobilising everyone in the community so that burglars will be caught. There are clear lessons of good practice here, which I know other areas in the Met are drawing on and other forces will be looking to. There has been success, too, in the borough of Brent, where the police, with the support of local residents and the local authority, have been working together to deal with the problems of the Chalk Hill estate, Wembley. Drug dealers were targeted and there were 28 arrests for crack dealing last November. There was an immediate 70 per cent. reduction in crime on the estate and, although that staggering level of reduction has not been sustained, success has been consolidated by stationing officers permanently on the estate in a mobile police office. A permanent police office is planned using local authority premises.
There has been success also in dealing with bogus callers, a particularly nasty crime where the victims are often old people cheated out of their money by con men who trick their way into homes posing as gas, water board or other officials. An initiative in north London, Operation Worker, which is still going on has led to a reduction in this crime of 19 per cent., a 44 per cent. higher clear-up rate, there have been 115 arrests and 1,276 crimes have been cleared up.
The Met has had success in harnessing new technology to improve the fight against crime. Last November, a young woman, only 22 years old, was murdered in her flat in Tottenham. Scientists applied their high-tech skills of DNA profiling and laser fingerprinting and enabled the police to arrest her murderer within 24 hours of the crime.
The partnership approach is not the latest fad, but builds on a rich tradition of community-oriented policing. The Tottenham division of the service among others, has realigned its community beats with electoral wards and developed a community unit to improve partnership with the community. External agencies, local authority departments and the police are now dealing together with licensing and alcohol-related crimes and pay parties.
Chief Superintendent Geoffrey Bredemear at Tottenham and Chief Superintendent Trevor Harvey at Hornsey, who are involved in a process mirrored right across the Metropolitan police district, hold meetings each quarter with local authorities, chief executives and directors of education and social services in their areas to co-ordinate the approach to crime prevention. Further meetings are planned with housing, engineering and planning departments. The issues discussed include joint
Column 541training in child abuse work, schoolsafe projects, truancy campaigns, juvenile liaison panels aiming to divert juveniles from appearances in court, juvenile crime prevention and reduction initiatives, traffic management and crime prevention design advice. It is not just a question of dealing with problems after the event. The examples that I have given reflect the fact that a vigorous, determined police force is dealing with the problems of crime in our inner cities. The Metropolitan police have crime prevention design advisers, who are experienced crime prevention officers and who specialise in how the environment can affect crime. They try to influence decision makers to make improvements at the design stages to design out crime. They are involved with most London boroughs in estate refurbishment work. They are helping to reclaim estates for those who live there by breaking up the anonymous tracts of public space which nobody owns or feels a part of.
On the Leaview estate in Hackney residents now have gardens of their own. Basement car parks on the Stockwell Park estate in Brixton have been broken up to provide private and individual carparking spaces. On the same estate, a lake has been restored and now provides valuable recreation facilities. A concierge system has been introduced into the Chalk Hill estate in Wembley. Public walkways have been reduced.
Alice Coleman is, of course, one of the leading lights on ideas for designing out crime, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is looking closely at her ideas. She was one of the pioneers who argued strongly against walkways between tower blocks, which was a fad of the 1960s and which affected one of the estates--Lisson Grove- -in Marylebone, which I used to represent. I remember starting a campaign to do away with walkways, and in those days that was a bizarre and eccentric thing to do. However, it has now become absolutely necessary, because walkways provide an opportunity for crime.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Far be it from me to call the Home Secretary a bizarre and eccentric person. Clearly we welcome improvements to estates--better lighting, the removal of walkways and other improvements cut crime and make people feel safer. However, one of the problems in my borough and in other boroughs is that the Department of the Environment will not agree to the continuation of refurbishment projects. Often, three or four blocks on an estate have been refurbished but another has been left untouched. Will he ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to continue the post-1948 programme to complete the refurbishment of all estates? That will make people feel safer, reduce crime and provide a better standard of life.
Mr. Baker : I shall certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning. The hon. Gentleman was in the House the other day when we dealt with squatting, and when I reminded the House of the Government's substantial programme to provide hostel accommodation in London and accommodation for the homeless in London and, indeed, of the programme to expand development of capital in London, not only for local authority estates but for housing association estates. Substantial sums of money are being provided--£100 million for hostel accommodation over the next three
Column 542years, £300 million for the homeless initiative and about £2 million for the refurbishment of housing association properties. One crime that I particularly want to tackle is the evil of racial attacks. I share the Commissioner's abhorrence of these vicious acts. There are far too many such attacks in London--during 1990, 2,908 incidents were reported, a rise of nearly 8 per cent. on the previous year. There were 291 arrests in 1990, a clear-up rate of about 30 per cent. --some success but with much room for improvement.
At local level, a number of divisions, some with specialist units to deal with racial incidents, have joined local authorities in groups to tackle racial attacks. The Met published a five-part document--"Working Together for Racial Harmony"--in December containing new directions for reporting such incidents, and since the beginning of the year all are now documented on crime sheets, which should ensure as comprehensive a recording system as possible. They have also produced a video called "Harassment and Racial Menace" for local communities in seven languages : English, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and Gujerati to encourage victims to report incidents to the police.
The partnership approach has also led to the formulation of a draft joint police/local authority strategy for dealing with racial incidents in the borough of Greenwich, where already the clear-up rate for racial incidents is higher than the average at 44.8 per cent. It is not merely a question of catching the criminals : they must be properly dealt with by the courts. I am sure that hon. Members are aware of the life sentence given in a case earlier this year as a result of a black youth being stabbed.
The bread and butter of partnership work is close relations with police community consultative groups. Forty-one consultative groups now operate in the Metropolitan police district and cover all boroughs. Real progress is being made. For example, in July my noble Friend the Minister of State attended the launch of the Harrow police and community consultative group sub-committee on racial harassment ; the Metropolitan police have just produced a document providing good practice suggestions for groups ; and local councillors have now become fully involved in the Brent, Ealing and Haringey groups. That leaves just two boroughs, Hackney and Lambeth, where the council is not fully involved in the consultative process. It is a mystery to me why some left-wing councils persist in seeing the police as a threat, when all around them is clear and growing evidence of what can be achieved through partnership. I am told that there is now an attempt to improve co-operation in those two boroughs, and I welcome that. I urge them to participate fully. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) will say the same.
Partnership is also about people doing more to protect themselves, their families and each other from crime. The introduction of neighbourhood watch to Hampstead garden suburb has been followed by a drop in burglaries of 10 per cent. About 80 per cent. of the suburb is now covered by an active neighbourhood watch and 40 per cent. of homes have their property marked. Neighbourhood watch was joined in 1990 by more pubwatch schemes and the launch of business watch and schoolsafe, further ways for the police and the community to act together to beat crime.
Column 543If the partnership approach is the cornerstone of the Metropolitan police's activity, the PLUS--professionally led united
service--programme is the foundation on which it stands.
Mr. Baker : I have answered that question many times, but I am happy to answer it again. Since 1945, crime has increased by an average of 6 per cent. a year. At the moment, we are suffering an increase in crime largely related to the motor car--28 per cent. of all recorded crime involves cars, which is why we have introduced measures to allow the police to arrest young offenders who steal or break into cars, and why we are also working with motor manufacturers and insurers.
This week, I attended the motor show at Earl's Court to launch a new insurance scheme suggested by the Association of British Insurers. The scheme would, for the first time, impose an obligation on the person who loses something from his car to make a contribution to the loss of about £100, and would introduce discounts on insurance premiums if security devices are built into the car.
Six months ago, the insurance industry was reluctant to take such steps because, at that time, losses from car crime were running at about £300 million a year. Now they are running at more than £700 million. To reduce crime requires a multiple approach, involving different industries and agencies. For example, the car industry is being encouraged to build in more security devices, especially an immobilising device, which is the single most important way to reduce crime. If someone broke into a car, it would not be possible to move it. Such devices are available, and I have asked motor manufacturers to consider introducing them into their cars.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I am not sure that the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) will think that his question has been answered. Does the Home Secretary accept that statistics since the war show that the higher the unemployment rate, the more crime increases--especially juvenile crime? It has decreased since the early 1980s when unemployment decreased, but it is now increasing as unemployment rises. I presume that the Home Secretary will accept that that is a cause of increasing crime.
Mr. Baker : The attempts to relate incidents of different types of crime to such factors are statistically imperfect. I have studied the figures for this country in relation to those of other countries, and there are many causes of crime.
Mr. Baker : I do not necessarily accept that. Much crime is committed by people with jobs, and many people who are unemployed do not commit crime. It is not possible to make such a simplistic connection between the two factors. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) will agree that, whatever the level of crime, one must marshal all one's
Column 544forces--not only the police--to deal with it. The most important point in my speech has been the importance of partnership in dealing with crime.
Mr. Baker : If the hon. Gentleman studies the latest crime statistics, he will see that crimes of violence have not increased in some parts of the country and that sexual crimes have not increased in some parts during the past year. So there is a pattern. The foundation of the success of the policies of the Metropolitan police is the PLUS programme. The key to PLUS is the adoption by the whole service, the police and civilian staff alike, of the statement of common purposes and values set out fully at the beginning of the Commissioner's report. It is a simple way in which to set them out and they are described simply and clearly. It is an
easy-to-understand mission statement of what the police are in business to do and what values inform them in doing so. Each man and woman in the Metropolitan police service is attending a seminar to work through what the statement means. This will be reinforced by team-based discussions at the workplace. The aim is for the men and women of the service to think through for themselves how they can do better and thus offer a better service to Londoners.
The concepts of leadership and quality of service are central to PLUS, but concepts are useful only if they achieve results. The Met is distributing a booklet on leadership to every member of staff with supervising responsibilities and intends eventually to send it to everyone. For the first time, the booklet sets out in clear, concise and practical terms exactly what is expected from those who are responsible for leading others within the service. It will provide a benchmark against which leaders will be measured.
A booklet on quality of service, again setting clear specifications for what can and should be achieved, will be distributed at the end of the year. The Commissioner has set a target that all 999 calls should be answered within 30 seconds. In No. 5 area, the south-west of London, targets have also been set for answering letters and routine telephone calls more quickly.
PLUS is studying how staff can be better managed. This is a key issue in an organisation of nearly 28,500 police and about 17,000 civil staff, where there were more than 6,000 applications to join the service as police officers last year and there were more than 1, 400 recruits. Robust equal opportunity policies are a priority for the Commissioner. He knows that providing a fair and
non-discriminatory service to the people of London requires a similar approach throughout his own organisation.
More support is being given to working parents in the Met. A four-week summer holiday play scheme has successfully taken place, in co-operation with Surrey county council. An information pack for all officers starting maternity leave has been produced. Career breaks have been introduced, so any officer can take an extended unpaid break of between one and five years without having to resign from the service. This is the first such scheme in the country. Some 90 officers have already benefited from it. The Met is one of six forces to take part in a pilot scheme to introduce part-time working.
Column 545A wide range of measures is being taken to improve the retention and recruitment of ethnic minority officers, including a review of the grievance procedure, improved support networks for new officers and better training to challenge insensitive behaviour. I dare say that many hon. Members will have seen the television advertisements that were put out by the Met. They are very good and have won prizes. They have also appeared in the cinema. They tackle the issue of racial prejudice head on, while making clear the very real challenges that police officers have to meet.
Initial results are encouraging. Applications to join the Met from members of ethnic minority communities have increased
significantly--928 this year alone--and now form a greater proportion of all applications. There are now 545 ethnic minority officers and about 10 per cent. of each new intake of recruits are of ethnic minority origin.
The Met is clearly at the centre of positive equal opportunities developments in the service and has played a central part in the planning of a major European conference next May, which I shall open. I look forward to many other forces following their clear lead. The PLUS programme is also improving communication. A local free police newspaper is available for the public in Enfield, Camden and Holborn, containing useful information about not only where the local police are and how they can help with a number of problems, but what other services and help are available in the area. Some divisions, such as Lewisham, have put pay phones and maps of the local area in their reception area to improve the service to callers. Others, such as Streatham, have put internal phones in their reception areas to provide a direct link with special units, such as the unit dealing with domestic violence.
Performance indicators are being developed to monitor improvements in quality of service. Customer satisfaction surveys are being conducted on two out of the eight areas. Initial results are encouraging, with over 80 per cent. of respondents finding the service good or very good. If they are successful, they will be extended to a further two areas as part of a rolling programme. This summary makes clear the scale of the PLUS programme and the target it has set itself, which is how the Met can improve to provide a better service to Londoners. The PLUS programme is especially associated with the Commissioner, Sir Peter Imbert, to whom I pay tribute.
PLUS is already delivering the goods. A key development, which will gather pace over the next two years, is the introduction of sector policing throughout the Metropolitan police district. This policy has my full support.
The public will see more clearly than ever the Met's commitment to policing tailored to the community's needs. Small teams of police will be responsible for policing particular geographical areas within the division. Manpower will be deployed according to when and where it is most needed.
Sector policing gives front-line officers the opportunity to concentrate on policing an area smaller than a whole division, and encourages them to build a relationship with the local community. In this way, officers build up a thorough knowledge of local matters and identify local concerns quickly. The public get to know and identify with their officers and especially their local chiefs. I would expect to see their local chiefs serving for a longer time in those areas.
Column 546Londoners are already getting a real taste of this. In Bexleyheath, for example--only one example among a great many-- Chief Superintendent David Mellish has been reaching out to his local community through the local press and, through meetings, finding out what the people in the area want and what their priorities are. I am sure that it is no accident that Mr. Mellish has recently been promoted to assistant chief constable in another area.
I am in the happy position to report to this House on the many real successes of the Metropolitan police in 1990--successes forged in partnership with the people of London. The Metropolitan police are making more arrests and solving more crimes than ever before. Each year, they clear up 150,000 crimes. But neither I nor the Commissioner is content to rest on this record. We are determined that, through the PLUS programme, the service will deliver an even better service to the public and even better value for money. The foundations on which the Commissioner is building for the 1990s are strong indeed.
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : Somewhere at the beginning of his speech, the Home Secretary announced that the Opposition's intention would be to spread gloom and doom during the morning. Nothing could be further from the truth ; the Home Secretary was diametrically wrong. It reminds me of the days when he used to tour the country predicting success for the Conservative party in by-elections.
My purpose this morning is basically to congratulate the Metropolitan police on the year's work which is now under review, and to suggest some ways in which the Home Secretary and the Government might co-operate with them in producing an even better result in the year that we shall debate when Parliament next has the opportunity. As you know well, Madam Deputy Speaker, today's debate is based on two constitutional fallacies. The first is that the Home Secretary is the policy authority for London. That is no criticism of him, because he could not be the police authority in any practical meaning of the term. Although he carries that title, he is clearly incapable of discharging that job because it is beyond the capability of a single Minister. He has neither the time nor the opportunity to exercise even the degree of responsibility which is accepted by a provincial police committee.
The second fallacy is the myth that today's discussion--five hours on a Friday once a year--makes the London police authority and the Metropolitan police accountable to Parliament. In reality, the debate has always been an unhappy compromise between a seminar and a public relations exercise. The constitutional importance of the occasion can best be demonstrated by the simple fact that, if the Home Secretary had had any influence with the Prime Minister, the debate would not have been held during the current parliamentary year. It should have been held in the summer, but, because of mismanagement of the Government's business, it was postponed until the autumn. As the House knows, the Home Secretary became briefly infamous in his own party by publicly demanding a November election. If the Prime Minister had taken his advice, we would have gone through a whole parliamentary year without a debate on the Metropolitan police. Its accountability would have been negligible. The whole
Column 547myth that the House is somehow in control of its operations would have been exploded. The idea that the Metropolitan police are in practice accountable to anyone is clearly absurd.
In our view, successful policy requires a genuine partnership between Government, police and people. Certainly the Home Secretary used the word "partnership" many times today--but by his deeds shall we know him. The important thing is not to talk about partnership but to forge a partnership which the people whom the police serve understand. I have no doubt that such a partnership requires an elected police authority to express people's judgment on the performance and policy of their own police service--an elected police authority not to control police operations but to ensure that the police are sensitive to the will and wishes of the men and women whom they serve.
Mr. Kenneth Baker : The right hon. Gentleman has reaffirmed the Labour party's commitment to a democratically elected authority to run the police in London. Perhaps he could spell out how he envisages that such democracy would operate. Would it operate in the same way as the Labour party in Hemsworth last night, where the wishes of the local people were set aside? It is no good the right hon. Gentleman asserting from the Dispatch Box that he believes in democracy. When he operates the internal workings of the Labour party, they represent not democracy but autocracy. For him to talk of a belief in democratically elected authorities is sheer humbug.
Mr. Hattersley : The right hon. Gentleman speaks with the gravitas of a true Home Secretary. As for the will of the people of Hemsworth, no doubt that will be expressed on 7 November, as will that of the people of Langbaurgh on the same day, with the same result. I shall turn away from the Home Secretary's trivialities to the real subject of the debate. I understand why he wants a diversion from the point that I propose to make.
It is to the credit of the Metropolitan police that they increasingly share the view that an elected police authority for London is desirable. As the Home Secretary knows, discussions have already taken place among senior officers, and between them and the Association of London Authorities about the establishment of an elected authority. The Evening Standard reports that most senior officers now favour an elected authority. Certainly, when I was at Bramshill college last week, every senior Metropolitan officer who took part in the discussion was in favour of the elected authority that gave reality to the concept of partnership. Today I make it clear that the Labour Government will establish an elected police authority for London.
Despite its limitations, today's debate affords us an opportunity to discharge some necessary duties, and, indeed, to perform some pleasant tasks. One of those is to welcome back to duty the Commissioner, Sir Peter Imbert, who is back in office and back to work after five month's
Column 548absence with a serious heart attack. I am sure that it was no more than an oversight that the Home Secretary did not make the same point, and I am sure that he would wish to be associated with that sentiment now.
The annual report also provides an opportunity to comment on the general policy of the police and their general working during the year. Once again, it reflects the commitment of the Met and, I believe, the Commissioner's personal commitment, to a service sensitive to public needs.
The public's greatest need is for a reduction in crime. As the Home Secretary said, recorded crime in London rose in 1990--the year under review--by about 10 per cent. That is, it rose to a total of 834,000 reported incidents. Regrettably, the latest quarterly figure shows a greater increase of 11.3 per cent. On a yearly basis, that would mean about 881,000 offences--an appalling acceleration.
The Home Secretary described the increase as "slightly slower" than that in the rest of the country. I suppose one could describe as slightly slower an increase taking place at half the speed of that in the rest of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to describe that difference as slight, who am I to argue with him? After all, the difference is no more than 100 per cent. Although the increase is slower than that in the rest of the country, it is still an enormous increase. None the less, it is barely half the rise in the figure for the rest of the country, so I offer my ungrudging congratulations to the Met on what is for it and for us a comparatively good result. The fact that congratulations are appropriate on an increase in crime of no more than 10 per cent. shows us how dismally the Government have failed throughout the nation to redeem their 1979 promise to reduce crime in Great Britain.
When discussing the increase in crime within its area, the Met approaches the subject in a more intelligent fashion than the Home Secretary did today. When the figures were published, the Met officers who discussed them at the press conference and explained them on the television went out of their way to relate the increases to social conditions in the capital. They spoke specifically of unemployment and deprivation, and explicitly about the need for a social programme to combat crime and to give young unemployed men and women things to do. They referred explicitly to greater co-operation with local authorities in order to combat crime. The Home Secretary does himself and his reputation no good by refusing categorically to face the issues that sensible senior policemen gladly face and understand.
When we talk, as we will continue to talk, and as did the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), about the relation between crime and unemployment, we know that the two graphs are exactly correlated. When unemployment goes up, crime goes up ; When unemployment comes down, crime comes down. The correlation is absolute. The Home Secretary must know that, because a working party in his Department pointed out the absolute correlation between the two sets of statistics. When we draw his attention to that cause of crime, we do not for a moment suggest that the attack on the symptoms should be held back. One of the most foolish approaches to this matter is to talk as though we must choose between a tough policy towards those who commit crime and removing that which causes it in the first place. The two methods have to go hand in hand. Today, once again, the Home Secretary showed little understanding of that obvious fact. We all say that
Column 549criminals must be caught, convicted and punished. But the causes of crime also need to be tackled and overcome. The right hon. Gentleman's failure is due, I fear, to dogma and the bone-headed prejudices still to be found on the Conservative Back Benches. The only derisive laughter that I have heard in relation to the Metropolitan police this morning came from behind the right hon. Gentleman, when he was discussing some of the management techniques now being employed by the police.
The related subject of crime prevention is dealt with on page 10 of the Commissioner's annual report. The Commissioner insists that it requires a policy and programme in which the police operate with the help of and in close consultation with other agencies. The report talks specifically about the creation of an environment that discourages crime, and of what it describes as "careful" lighting. Lighting has been described by previous Home Secretaries as one of the trivial remedies for crime. As the Home Secretary referred to lighting this morning--he is now counting the Opposition Members in the Chamber, but perhaps he will concentrate on my question instead--will the Under-Secretary of State give the Government view on the subject later? We hold the view, as do many authorities, that improved lighting is a great deterrent to some sorts of crime.The Home Office has produced a working paper--coincidentally, it was sent to me shortly before a conference on the subject run by local authorities and lighting companies--in which some scepticism was expressed about whether money invested in lighting would bring benefits. I think that that working paper was wrong and that the Home Secretary was right today. I hope that the Under-Secretary will emphasise and confirm that point in his reply.
The Commissioner talked explicitly about the creation of crime-free environments and careful lighting. All those measures, which we have advocated time and again, were examined by the Home Office, in a crime prevention document that has come to be called the Morgan report. That report, made to the Home Secretary by his own officials, made suggestions exactly in line with many aspects of the Commissioner's report. Yet the Government publicly criticised it. At best, they were half-hearted about it and, in many instances, they totally failed to implement its proposals.
The report referred to eight Government failures, although I shall mention only two of them today. One was the failure to confer a statutory duty on local authorities to fulfil a designated crime prevention function. Another was the failure to allocate adequate resources to crime prevention. I want to examine those two ideas in direct relationship to what the Home Secretary now says.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Hackney and Lambeth. I understand that Hackney is now co-operating in the way in which he and I would expect it to, but, whether or not that is so, I have no doubt at all that both Hackney and Lambeth should be co-operating in the many initiatives in which it is possible for them to take part. I believe in a partnership--between local and national government, the people and the police--and I expect all local authorities to take part in it.
The Home Secretary talked in passing about some of the ideas in the report for the first time today. Lighting is one example, as are the fencing in of open spaces and the bricking up, boarding up or demolition of derelict buildings. If the right hon. Gentleman is to promote those