HC Deb 26 June 1941 vol 372 cc1082-3
10. Captain Cunningham-Reid

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the fact that looting has become a serious menace and that during last year there were 4,584 cases of looting in London alone, and that the police cannot be expected to cope adequately with looters as well as carry out their many other duties, he will consider appointing a director of anti-looting measures?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

The number of reported cases of looting has decreased considerably during the present year. This is no doubt to be attributed in part to the energetic action taken by the police. I have no reason to suppose that the police are unable to cope with the situation.

Captain Cunningham-Reid

In view of the fact that the figures of looting have increased this year, especially as in many cases offenders are members of public services, would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter, as undoubtedly the police are not able adequately to cope with this very serious problem, and in the circumstances I do not think they should be asked to?

Mr. Buchanan

Considering the whole situation and its ramifications, is it not a fact that, taken as a whole, looting has been surprisingly small?

Mr. Morrison

It is not the case that it has increased during the present year. That is contrary to the facts. If a director of anti-looting measures were appointed, he would be dependent on the police in any case, and I cannot see the point of it. Looting, as the Commissioner of Police observes, is an offence varying widely in magnitude and in the class of person by whom it is committed. It is often exceedingly difficult to bring an offender to justice, but I am satisfied that the police are tackling the problem with an increasing measure of success.

Mr. Messer

In view of the fact that many cases described as looting are nothing more than petty pilfering, would it not be better if the police were advised as to the course they should pursue when it is really looting?

Mr. Morrison

That runs the argument dangerously too far in the opposite direction. It should be a sacred instinct with the citizen that in the case of enemy attack he should not touch other people's property.

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