HC Deb 16 January 1964 vol 687 cc394-5
26. Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated cost of the investigations by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan Police into the train robbery case in Buckinghamshire; and if he will make a special grant to the Buckinghamshire County Council to cover the costs of their investigations into this case.

Mr. Brooke

It is not possiblewithout unduly laborious research to estimate the cost of these investigations, which are continuing, but it is undoubtedly considerable. It ranks for 50 per cent. Exchequer grant, but I have no authority to make a special grant, over and above that, to the county council. In accordance with the usual arrangements, the substantial help given by the Metropolitan Police to the Buckinghamshire Constabulary has been provided free of charge.

Mr. Hall

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that there is need for a reform in the present system which requires a local authority not only to meet the police costs but also the very considerable legal costs of such an investigation when, through a sheer geographical accident, a crime happens within the boundaries of theauthority? In the case of the train robbery, which is a national crime of tremendous importance, is it fair that the county should be expected to bear the very high costs?

Mr. Brooke

It would be extremely difficult to make any allocation in these matters. Generally speaking, in this country the cost of combating crime has been regarded as a local responsibility with, of course, assistance by Exchequer grants. In this case additional expense has been caused to quite a considerable number of police authorities and not only to Buckinghamshire and to the Metropolitan Police. I do not believe that it would be possible to work out a fair and equitable scheme by which each such case could be the subject of a special grant. I have great sympathy with Buckinghamshire in this case, but I would point out that it is not only in Buckinghamshire that crimes of a national character are committed.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

Is the Minister aware that in this case some of the cost arises from the fact that the whole of the money recovered—such as it is—has to be taken to the magistrates'court and back, and now to the assizes and back on every single day of the court hearing, and that this money has to be heavily insured against theft? The cost is considerable.

Mr. Brooke

I am aware that there are these complications. My special concern, if the people guilty of this theft have been caught, is that they should be properly dealt with.

Mr. Fletcher

Does the Home Secretary think it sensible or fair that where there is a crime of this magnitude which is on a national scale, the cost should fall on a particular local authority in the area in which—through a pure accident—it occurred? Does not the Home Secretary think it possible to devise some machinery for spreading the cost equitably?

Mr. Brooke

I have answered that question. The difficulty is to decide which should be regarded as national crimes and which as local crimes. There would be even more argument about where the demarcation line should be drawn.