HC Deb 04 December 1958 vol 596 cc1351-2
29. Captain Pilkington

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the progress of enrolling extra police to deal with the present crime wave in the Metropolitan area.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Although still much below establishment the strength of the Metropolitan Police is higher now than at any time since the war; and the Commissioner continues to recruit as many qualified men and women as he can.

Captain Pilkington

Does my right hon. Friend think that it might be desirable to have a slightly larger proportion of the police concerned in chasing thugs and burglars and a rather smaller proportion chasing comparatively innocent motorists?

Mr. Butler

We had this out in the debate on crime, when I tried to point out that a great many lives are lost in street accidents and traffic difficulties and a great deal of nuisance is caused. We have to try to strike a balance between the two. I realise the importance of having as many men as possible actively engaged in the pursuit of crime, as my hon. and gallant Friend desires.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Is not the real remedy to take more vigorous steps to bring the police force in the Metropolitan area up to establishment? It is much more important that the force is below establishment than that it is at a higher strength than in the past. Should not the Home Secretary be less complacent about this matter?

Mr. Butler

I am not complacent about anything, nor is the Commissioner. We are having considerable success with recruitment. It is somewhat below establishment, but it is a great deal better than it has been. Any impulsive encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman should help the Commissioner and me to improve the situation.

Mr. Shinwell

What is the use of increasing the number of police in the Metropolitan area when so many of them are engaged on traffic duties, especially at intersection points? Would it not be desirable to enrol an auxiliary force to undertake traffic duties and leave the ordinary police force to deal with crime, in view of the alarming increase in crimes of violence?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I would not like to divide up the Metropolitan Police force in the manner suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. It is probably the most efficient force of its type in the world, and it is able to do the two duties. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) is right. The nearer we get to our full establishment, the better we shall be pleased.