Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Wood.]
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard): Today's debate on the policing of London gives me an opportunity to give an account of the objectives and achievements of the Metropolitan police over the past 12 months. I shall account for my objectives and achievements as police authority for the Metropolitan police. The debate also gives me an opportunity to take a step back and to take a more general view of what policing in London means for the people of London and what it should mean in the future. Capital cities, particularly the larger ones, present special policing problems. Crime rates are always likely to be higher. Public order will always be a particular challenge. London is, however, a good deal safer than most other capital cities. International comparisons show that the chance of being violently attacked in Rome is three times higher than it is in London. One is 10 times more likely to be a homicide victim in Washington than in London. International statistical comparisons are notoriously difficult to make. Different countries classify crime differently. Statistics are not the only indicator. Just this week, the Evening Standard published the results of a poll which showed that London was voted the safest and cleanest city in Europe by a panel of 500 international executives.
The safety of London is to a very large measure to the credit of the Metropolitan police. The Met, so much larger than any other force in the country, is essentially organised in the same way as the smallest rural force. It does not have an elite core of specialised anti-riot troops. The men and women who are its constables do not return to a barracks where they are isolated from the world and become institutionalised into accepting some militaristic ethos. They go home at night to their families in ordinary communities. Successive Governments have thought it right to keep London's policing on the same fundamental basis set up by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. I agree, although I shall outline later one change that I intend to make to strengthen the arrangements.
In most of my speech, I shall be accounting for the recent work of the Metropolitan police. Before I do so, I want to place firmly on the record my vision for the London of the future. I want to see an even safer city, where safer streets improve the quality of life in London. I want to retain a visible, predominantly unarmed and approachable police service, providing a reassuring presence across London. I want to see more reductions in crime, not just in the petty burglaries that so besmirch ordinary people's lives, but in the drug-related crime that
Column 1438brings so much misery, and in street robberies, which make elderly people afraid to walk down the streets in which they have lived all their lives. That means establishing a clear view of the relative importance of policing tasks, responding to public concerns.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North): I very much welcome the sentence in which my right hon. and learned Friend said that he wished there to be a more visible police presence on the streets. In parts of Ealing, people are pressing for that strongly. They appreciate the good support that neighbourhood watch, for example, gets from the police. There is, however, a nervousness.
I have already had telephone calls this morning from elderly people. They fear that attacks on their homes, in the form of burglaries, will lead them to the reaction for which Mr. Ted Newbery was taken through the courts yesterday. He was fined for attacking someone who burgled him. Some of my constituents do not understand that. Can my right hon. and learned Friend marry the importance of getting our police on to the streets--
Mr. Howard: I understand, of course, the concerns that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) has expressed, speaking, as he characteristically does, for his constituents. Mr. Newbery was not fined; he was ordered to pay compensation by the High Court. My hon. Friend knows the constraints under which I have to operate in commenting on decisions by the High Court, especially when, as I understand it, it is at least possible that there may be an appeal. I understand the concerns that my hon. Friend has expressed on behalf of his constituents, and especially the importance that he and they attach to the visible presence of the police on the streets. That, I know, is something to which the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis also attaches great significance.
I want to see a city where there is an active partnership between the police and the public, one that really flourishes, and where individual members of London's public know that they can make a difference by volunteering to support their local police in whatever way best suits their local needs. I want all that. To achieve that, I want, above all, the mutual trust between Londoners and their police, the Metropolitan police, to continue and to deepen. That is the best way in which to attack crime and to force the criminal on to the defensive.
That is my vision for London. Let me refer now to my immediate vision for the Met. That is set out in the statement of priorities for 1994-95, which I announced to the House on 7 February. The priorities take full account of the Government's key objectives for policing. Those objectives form the core of the annual priorities document, which is part of the Metropolitan police corporate strategy. The corporate strategy is, effectively, the policing plan which, under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, must be produced for every force outside London. I approved the Met's document in February and sent a copy to every right hon. and hon. Member with a constituency interest.
Column 1439I want to spend a little time reporting progress on the main objectives. I start with the final objective on the list of priorities in the Met's annual document:
"to improve policing performance and quality of service by restructuring the Metropolitan Police".
That is in many ways the most important of them all. The past year has been a time of great change and great progress for the Metropolitan police, as for other police forces. The police reforms being introduced elsewhere under the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act are being applied in the Met as well.
The Commissioner, with my full support, has undertaken a thorough review of the Met's structure and organisation. The whole purpose of the exercise is to improve performance and quality of service. The aim is to achieve the most efficient and effective use of resources, to improve communication and decision making, and to remove unnecessary links in the chain. Through a reduction in the number of headquarters and central support posts, resources can be freed for operational duties at the front line. A number of important changes have already been made. The eight force areas have been reduced to five, each headed by an assistant commissioner. The rank of deputy assistant commissioner is being phased out and middle management slimmed down, with an expected saving of 450 posts at inspecting and superintending level through voluntary early retirement.
The Commissioner's restructuring review includes both headquarters functions and specialist units. Those units carry the Met's special national and international responsibilities. Naturally, there was concern about the future of some of those and I received many representations from right hon. and hon. Members about the future of the obscene publications branch. I am expecting the Commissioner's detailed proposals very shortly, but he has already assured me that the branch will continue much in its present form, and will continue to co-ordinate work against paedophiles at a national level. The restructuring review has been intensive and far reaching. Inevitably, it has involved some uncomfortable questions and difficult decisions. It has presented the Met's officers with a considerable challenge. They are rising to that challenge and I am sure that benefits flowing from the exercise, which is now nearing completion, will be rapidly seen and widely acknowledged. The first objective in the Met's priority list for 1994-95 was to deliver the standards defined in the Metropolitan police charter. The charter was launched in September 1993. It makes firm and public commitments to certain performance standards and targets for the force. Up to the year ending October 1994, all the targets had been achieved and, in several instances, exceeded.
The Met was able to reach the scene of more than 90 per cent. of all urgent incidents within 12 minutes, exceeding the charter standard. It answered 84 per cent. of 999 calls within 15 seconds, exceeding the charter standard. It attended immediately or very promptly to 83 per cent. of people calling at police stations, exceeding the charter standard, and it answered 89 per cent. of letters within 10 working days, exceeding the charter standard. Surveys of people requiring the services of the Met showed that 92 per cent. of crime victims and 94 per cent. of traffic accident victims were pleased with the service
Column 1440received, and 83 per cent. of people calling at police stations were pleased with the service that they received there.
Important as it is, public satisfaction cannot be the only yardstick to measure whether the police are doing their job. That is why two objectives, the second and third priorities in the Met's document, set specific and tough targets for dealing with crime, particularly burglary. Those are
"to increase the number of notifiable offences solved from around 150,000 to 190,000",
"to increase the detection rate for burglary to 15 per cent." I am pleased to be able to report to the House that the Met looks set to meet both targets. Compared with the previous year, in 1993-94, reported crime fell by 5 per cent., to 895,894 recorded crimes, and the number of crimes solved increased by 6 per cent., to 159,993. The number solved in the half year from April to the end of September 1994 is 88,859--pretty much on target.
The Met's most notable success has been in tackling burglary. Operation Bumblebee, which had been successfully launched in north London in 1991, was extended across the whole of the Metropolitan police district in June 1993. Burglary is a priority because of its prevalence and because of the impact that it has on the lives of victims, the family and business. The figures for the first year of Operation Bumblebee are impressive. In the year to June 1994, burglaries fell by 14 per cent., and residential burglaries by 17 per cent., compared with the previous year. That means that there were 25,000 fewer victims of burglary in London last year than the year before. I regard that as a major contribution to the fight against crime.
I know that there has been some criticism of Operation Bumblebee. It has been suggested, for example, that it takes resources away from other crime problems. However, it was precisely because of complaints that the police were not giving enough priority to investigating burglary that Bumblebee was seen to be necessary. No one can seriously doubt that people want the police to act effectively against burglars, nor, indeed, does the evidence from independent research, commissioned from the London School of Economics and due to be published shortly, give any comfort to the armchair critics of the police who suggest that there has been some "displacement" of crime. The armchair critics also say that Bumblebee is almost as much a media operation as a policing operation. To say that is to miss the point. The Met must publicise what it is doing in order to let burglars know that they will not be allowed to offend with impunity. The very substantial fall in the number of burglaries suggests that burglars are getting that message.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey): Everybody welcomes the improvements in clearing up burglaries and in that part of the police's work. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that this year the Metropolitan police said that, to do its job properly, it needed 150 more officers. Does the Home Secretary accept that the Met needs 150 more officers and, if he does, why was he not able to approve that request?
Column 1441in common with other chief constables under the new arrangements that we are putting in place for the police service across the country, will have the freedom to decide for himself how he can use most effectively the resources that are made available to him. The settlement that I announced yesterday, together with certain other changes of which the Metropolitan police is able to take advantage, will ensure that the Commissioner, if he so chooses, will be able at least to maintain the number of police officers in London at its present level. It is for him to decide how he disposes of his resources. He has, of course, to satisfy a number of demands as well as those which can be identified simply by the number of police officers. However, it is for him to decide how to use those resources most effectively.
Mr. Howard: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am, of course, coming to the question of resources in somewhat more detail later in my remarks. I was just responding to the intervention by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).
I am not impressed by the criticism that the so-called secondary clear-ups- -offenders owning up to other offences--should not count. Why not? After all, that is precisely the outcome one would expect from operations that target--and catch--professional burglars.
A further important objective for 1994-95, No. 5 in the Met's priorities document, was to improve performance against the criminal use of firearms. We cannot disregard the increase in the use of firearms against police officers. A firearm in the hand of a criminal is still relatively rare, but even one case is one case too many. Action against criminal use of firearms is a priority because of the potential harm to individuals and the impact on the safety of Londoners.
The Commissioner has responded in two ways. First, he launched a major publicity campaign, targeting the illegal possession and supply of weapons. Secondly, he increased the number of armed response vehicles from four to 12. I have also approved his request that their crews should be permitted to carry their sidearms openly and I have agreed that royalty and diplomatic protection officers on static duty may also do so when in shirt- sleeve order.
Those measures represent a balanced response to the firearms threat in London. They do not constitute, or even approach, routine arming of ordinary police officers. It is a fact that at the beginning of this year there were 631 fewer officers authorised for firearms than in 1991. The drop in the number of police officers in the Met qualified to carry firearms reflects the Commissioner's view that firearms capacity should be concentrated on a few specialist officers.
I referred earlier to my determination to make London an even safer city. I am equally determined to ensure, as far as I can, the safety of police officers as they face violence and threats. I do not think that anyone who holds my office could fail to be impressed by the dedication of police officers in placing their duty to uphold law and order above considerations of personal safety. That is a
Column 1442fact of their lives and a routine part of the job whether they patrol the streets or go to investigate a reported crime. In the past year, I have had the melancholy duty of attending the funerals of two very brave officers who gave their lives in the battle against crime. Police Constable Patrick Dunne was shot dead after responding to a call to a domestic incident at a house in Clapham on 20 October 1993. Sergeant Derek Robertson was stabbed to death at the scene of a robbery at a sub-post office in Croydon on 9 February this year. No words are adequate to describe the debt of gratitude that we--all of us--owe them.
Sergeant Robertson and PC Dunne were far from being the only officers in the Metropolitan police to suffer from criminal violence this year. In 1993 -94, 3,902 officers were injured as a result of being assaulted while on duty. That represents an increase of 15.8 per cent. over 1992-93. Firearms were involved in 41 assaults on police officers, compared with six in 1992- 93, and in 23 of those assaults, firearms were actually discharged. Knives or other sharp instruments were used on 45 occasions compared with 49 in 1992-93. The police officers who suffered those attacks were prepared to put their own safety second to that of others. That makes it all the more important that everything possible should be done to protect them from the risks that they face.
The old-fashioned police truncheon has given good service; but with the greater risks that officers now face, we need to be sure that they have the best available equipment with which to defend themselves against attacks by criminals.
Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the police and the House will be grateful to him for the changes that he has made to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which now enable the police to search for knives in certain very limited and specific circumstances? That is a very substantial improvement and I hope that it will reduce the figure of 45 to which my right hon. and learned Friend has just referred.
Mr. Howard: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The new power provided by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is important to protect the police in the context that we are discussing. It is also important to protect the public in a very real sense. The powers that the police previously had to search for knives and other weapons were inadequate and I know that they welcome the additional powers provided by the 1994 Act.
At the Commissioner's request, I have approved the use of a range of longer --22 in, 24 in and 26 in--batons. Scientific tests have shown that those batons have no more potential to cause injury than the traditional truncheon.
One absolutely vital piece of protective equipment on which a police officer relies is his personal radio. Because of the great importance that officers rightly attach to rapid and reliable communications, I have accepted the Commissioner's proposal that a new, more advanced UHF "trunked" radio system should be introduced. The new system will have many advantages over the old one, including better geographical coverage and greater adaptability and reliability. The contract for the new system was signed earlier this year, and it is expected to be fully operational across the Metropolitan police district by 1998.
Column 1443So far, I have concentrated on the Met's objectives and its performance in the light of those objectives. Before I come to the important core functions of maintaining the Queen's peace and working in partnership, I want to say something about resources, in particular the level of central Government funding for the Metropolitan police.
For 1995-96, the Met will receive more money than it did the previous year. Over the period 1979 to 1994, expenditure on the Met increased by 60 per cent. in real terms. Next year, its allocation under the formula, plus the special provision which the Government judge necessary because of the Metropolitan police's unique national and capital city functions, will total £1,628.56 million, compared with £1,616.89 million in 1994- 95.
I am also revising the existing system of Home Office controls on Metropolitan police expenditure as part of my programme of police reform. The Commissioner sought financial flexibilities to match those available to forces outside London. I welcomed his proposals. They are eminently sensible and I have acted on them by arranging for the Met to hold cash reserves--which means that there can be more funds available for policing London in 1995-96, on top of the existing £1.6 billion that it is getting under the settlement. The quantum of the settlement, with those extra flexibilities and savings from the contracting out of court escort duties and from restructuring, will enable the Commissioner at least to maintain present numbers of police officers in London. I have not yet received his proposals on how he plans to spend his allocation, but I am confident that he will ensure that the level and quality of policing in the capital will remain the highest in the land. That is the challenge which the Commissioner faces. I am sure that he will rise to it.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford): I attended the Operation Bumblebee roadshow the other day, which the police took to my constituency. Several police officers told me that they would like a permanent site, which could then be manned by civilians. That would release police officers for duty as the operation is extremely expensive in terms of manpower and resources. Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider that as part of the possibilities for improving resources in London?
Mr. Howard: I am sure that the Commissioner will want to consider that suggestion seriously. It is entirely an operational matter for him and it comes well within his remit to decide on the most effective disposition of his resources. It is certainly an interesting suggestion and I am sure that he will want to consider it.
Mr. Straw: The Secretary of State was good enough yesterday to send me details of the police grant for next year. However, he will accept that there were no comparisons with previous years. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman clarify for me whether, in practice, additional real resources will go to the Metropolitan police against the background of two points? The first is an admission by the Home Office in a press notice on Budget day that there would be an overall 3 per cent. decline in real resources for all Home Office expenditure. The second point relates to an analysis prepared by statisticians in the Library, which confirms the figure that the Secretary of State has just given of
Column 1444£1,628 million of total funding for next year. However, it says that net expenditure for this year would be £32 million higher rather than lower. On every comparison--standard spending assessments, police grant and net spending--it looks as if there will be a real terms reduction in funding. Is that because it is impossible to compare the new system with the old one, or will there be a reduction?
Mr. Howard: I have not seen the statistical exercise to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but let me see whether I can help him. Overall funding for the police will increase over the country as a whole by 3 per cent. next year. That is in excess of the net additional pay bill that results from the pay settlement for next year. There can be no question, over the country as a whole, but that enough money will be made available to the service at least to maintain the existing number of police officers.
As for London, I gave the figures on a strictly comparable basis just a couple of moments ago. Those are the figures for the budget. In order properly to assess the financial position of the Metropolitan police for next year, we must take into account some additional factors. First, as I said, court escort duties will no longer be the responsibility of the Metropolitan police; they are being contracted out. The £7 million cost of court escort duties is not being removed from the Metropolitan police; it will remain in the budget for the Metropolitan police to use as the Commissioner thinks fit. That must be added in order properly to appreciate the increase in the budget to which I referred a moment ago. That is the first important qualification and extra factor to be taken into account. Secondly, there is the ability to carry over reserves from one financial year to the next, which the Commissioner has asked for and which I have happily been able to agree to. Last year, there was an underspend on the budget of £11 million, and that had to be surrendered because flexibility did not exist. In future, up to 2 per cent.--that is, up to £35 million--a year will be kept. The Metropolitan police will have power to keep it and to use it for spending in the following year. That is a significant additional resource which will be available to the Metropolitan police. Thirdly, there are the consequences and the savings of the substantial restructuring exercise that the Commissioner has undertaken. I have referred to the saving of 450 middle-ranking posts. That frees up substantial resources. They are not being removed from the budget; they will be available for the Commissioner to use as he thinks best. All those factors must be taken into account in making a reasonable, proper and fair assessment of the financial position of the Metropolitan police next year.
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington): I apologise for not being present at the beginning of my right hon. and learned Friend's speech. Will he bear in mind the costs to the police of policing demonstrations on the streets of London and of the recent nonsense of motorway demonstrators trying to prevent lawful people from going about their business? Will my right hon. and learned Friend take action and introduce legislation to stop or reduce such occurrences and therefore save valuable police resources, so that they can be spent on matters that
Column 1445they should be spent on, such as fighting crime and protecting innocent people, and not be wasted on policing demonstrations?
Mr. Howard: I shall refer to public order in a moment or two, so I hope that my hon. Friend will bear with me. He will know that, in respect of demonstrations that take place in association with trespass, the new offence of aggravated trespass, which the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 introduced, gives the police significant additional powers.
The extra money for the Metropolitan police, to which I have just referred, and indeed for the whole of the police service in England and Wales, shows yet again the Government's staunch commitment to supporting the police and to maintaining the Queen's peace. Of course, maintaining the Queen's peace is a core function of the police. For the Met, more than any other force, that includes policing planned events in public places, including ceremonial and other high-risk occasions, and preparing contingency plans to deal with spontaneous disorder and major civil emergencies--precisely the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) makes.
The Met has had to face a number of public order challenges this year. In 1993, serious public disorder occurred on two occasions in Welling during protests against the presence there of the British National party's bookshop. On 8 May, 42 police officers and 13 members of the public were injured. On 16 October, 21 police officers and 42 members of the public were injured.
There were also demonstrations in opposition to the new Criminal Justice and Public Order Act while it was making its progress through this House and another place. On 24 July this year, the police succeeded in keeping the peace during a march from Hyde park to Trafalgar square. Despite a large crowd and some ugly scenes outside Downing street, on the whole the march was peaceful. Unfortunately, that was not the case with the march from the Embankment to Hyde park on 9 October. About 2,000 of the marchers refused to disperse at the end of the march and, disgracefully, attacked the police. At one stage, about 100 of that group broke away and attacked shops in Oxford street. There was further disorder on 20 October in the area around the House, when the police made 35 arrests, mostly for drunkenness and public order offences.
On all those occasions, the disorder was the work of a despicable minority intent on causing trouble and riding roughshod over the rights of everyone else, including those who came along to demonstrate peacefully. Their actions show more eloquently than words the wisdom of the House in supplying the police with the effective powers to which I referred in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington.
Column 1446the police after those events. Indeed, I hope that he will take this opportunity to apologise for the remarks that he made then.
Mr. Corbyn: I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. I am surprised that it took him six weeks to get his underlings to reply to my letter asking for a public inquiry into the events surrounding the demonstration on 9 October and in which I told him that those who organised the march and rally were more than happy to co-operate with any inquiry. We had no wish to see any violence at the end of it. What I questioned--I still do, and I shall raise it if I am called to speak--are the policing tactics that were used at the end of the demonstration, the lack of co- operation with the organisers of the demonstration who wished to avoid trouble, why Park lane was closed to all through traffic at the time, thus exacerbating the problem, and why there was no co-operation to ensure that the crowd were able to leave Hyde park by other exits to reduce the pressure of numbers in the area.
I get the feeling that the Home Secretary is glorying in this matter and is refusing to consider all the problems and the tactics that were later used by the police. The earlier policing tactics-- [Interruption.]
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have had occasion to say before that long interventions are not appropriate. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will seek to catch my eye, and he will be able to expand on his points if he so wishes, but not now.
Mr. Howard: One thing has emerged clearly in the past couple of minutes: any attempt by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) to suggest that the hon. Member for Islington, North is alone when he attacks the police for those events would be entirely wide of the mark. Almost every Labour Member on the Opposition Back Benches supported what the hon. Member for Islington, North said in his intervention. That is the authentic voice of the Labour party when it comes to policing matters. There is absolutely no need for any inquiry.
Mr. Howard: The only issues that arise in the context of those demonstrations are whether individuals broke the law. Those issues are determined by the courts of this land. No other issues arise. It is perfectly clear from some of the leaflets we have seen that there were those who came to the demonstration that afternoon determined to inflict violence upon the police. That is the essential truth of what happened that day, and the Labour party should face up to it.
Column 1447non-partisan approach in his speech. Does he not realise that there is a difference--I know about the matters that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) raised--between "attack", which is the word that the right hon. and learned Gentleman used, and a comment on tactics, which is always a useful exercise to engage in after the event?
Mr. Howard: When I used that word, I was referring to leaflets which had been prepared and distributed before the event and which clearly demonstrated that people came to that event determined to attack the police. That is the truth of the matter. [Interruption.] I did not accuse the hon. Member for Islington, North of physically attacking the police-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Howard: The truth is very simple: there were those who came to the event planning to inflict violence on the police--to attack the police physically. There were also those, such as the hon. Member for Islington, North, who attacked the police after the event--not with physical violence- -over their handling of the event. The hon. Gentleman has attacked the police over their handling of the event. He nods in assent when I put that proposition to the House again, and it is clear that he has widespread support in his attacks from the Back Benches of the Labour party.
Mr. Corbyn: Will the Home Secretary understand once and for all that the organisers of the demonstration wanted a peaceful demonstration, and indeed were complimented by the police officers present on the organisation of the march and rally? We were critical of the policing tactics used after the rally had ended and of the absolute refusal of the senior police officers present to co-operate with the organisers, whom they had just complimented, by reducing the pressure of numbers around the Park lane area in order to avoid the very unfortunate and tragic scenes that followed the demonstration and march.
Mr. Howard: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's points. He used considerably more extreme language at the time. There is absolutely no need for a public inquiry into the events. What matters is whether people broke the law, and the courts have the power to deal with that issue.
The Metropolitan police were able to deal effectively with all those challenges to public order, and they deserve our thanks. I pay particular tribute to them for the way in which they policed another event: the Notting Hill carnival. The carnival is the largest outdoor public event in Europe. In 1993, more than 2 million people attended it over two days. The Commissioner deployed 8,300 officers to police the event and there were only 53 arrests, mainly for drunkenness. With an event of that size, I
Column 1448believe that that is a great tribute to the skill and commitment of the Metropolitan police, working in close co- operation with the organisers.
Mr. Stephen: In addition to the incidents of public disorder that the Home Secretary listed, is it not also the case that his residence was attacked by so-called "demonstrators"? Is not that a fundamental attack not only on one of the Queen's Ministers, but upon our democracy? Should it not merit the strongest condemnation from every one of us, including the relevant Opposition Front-Bench spokesman when he addresses the House today?
Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham): On the subject of policing public events, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the policing of football matches that occur regularly at scheduled times on a weekly or bi- weekly basis? The cost of policing inside the grounds is currently paid for by the football clubs, but the cost of policing outside the grounds, which can be very substantial indeed, is not defrayed in any way. Could the cost of that use of police resources, which can be considerable in central London, be met in some way by the financially successful clubs?
Mr. Howard: My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, which has wider implications than those confined to the policing of football matches. I have no doubt that it will be considered carefully. The second of the Met's core functions that I want to deal with--
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton): Before the Home Secretary leaves the issue of public order, will he tell the House the cost of the operation that took place this week in my constituency at Claremont road, in relation to the M11 link road? The Department of Transport is to blame for that situation. Will he also explain why riot police officers have been present at that protest, as they have been present at other demonstrations in London, without numbers on their police uniforms? That seems to be a habit among the riot police. Will the Home Secretary do something about it?
Mr. Howard: What an astonishing intervention from the hon. Gentleman. Is he not prepared to condemn those who are breaking the law by trespassing on land and obstructing its lawful use? Does he not accept that any democratically elected Government have the right to decide, in accordance with proper procedures, whether a road should be built and that, when a decision has been
Column 1449taken with all the authority of the law, no one has the right to thwart that expression of the will of the people? Those are the actions which the hon. Gentleman ought to condemn. It is astonishing that he should rise and not condemn the activities which have led to that police action.
Mr. Cohen: I have discussed the matter with local police and even they recognise the people's right to demonstrate and protest, peacefully and legally, and resist the scheme every step of the way. It is their right to do so. The Home Secretary does not seem to understand that civil liberties are at stake. That is no surprise, because Mr. John Maples, vice- chairman of the Conservative party, gave the game away in a leaked memorandum in which he said, "Civil liberties don't matter; let's get rid of a few civil liberties to test whether Tony Blair will accept them in the House." That is how much the Tories care about civil liberties.
Mr. Howard: The cause of civil liberty is not advanced by the deliberate obfuscation of the clear difference between peaceful protest, which is the democratic right of people in this country with which we do not interfere, and the obstruction of lawful activities on other people's land. No civilised, democratic society should be asked to tolerate it. That is the key distinction which the hon. Gentleman totally fails to face.
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South): Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the activities of those who seek to persuade others to commit acts of public disorder, both by making racist speeches in universities, as HUT does, and by the spread of racist and anti-Semitic literature, which is a particular problem in north London?
Mr. Howard: I understand my hon. Friend's concerns, and of course I share them. He knows that the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act gives the police a number of additional powers and, in particular, for the first time makes distributing racist literature an arrestable offence.
One of the great problems that the police have always had in dealing with that particular mischief is the inadequacy of their powers to get at the people who are responsible. One of the deficiencies in the former arrangements was that the police did not have the power to arrest people who were engaged in the act of distributing the literature. That is cured by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. I hope that it will prove to be of significant assistance to the police as they deal, I hope, more effectively than they were able to do in the past with such despicable activities.
With reference to the two demonstrations in Welling about which my right hon. and learned Friend spoke earlier and to the Anti Racist Alliance meeting in Trafalgar square to protest against racism, does he agree that it would be helpful if the media spent as much time covering non-violent demonstrations as a constructive protest against racism, as they did covering the violence that we saw at Welling? Will my right hon. and learned Friend encourage the media--I know that there cannot be a law on this--to make clear in advance of demonstrations organised by the Anti Nazi League or Youth Against Racism in Europe