HC Deb 29 June 1972 vol 839 cc1649-50
16. Mr. Woodhouse

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to amend the Police Act, 1964, to give him powers to direct chief constables and police authorities not to use public funds to purchase equipment manufactured abroad when equivalent British products are available.

Mr. Carlisle

No, Sir: it would not be right to limit the discretion of police authorities in that way.

Mr. Woodhouse

While I appreciate my hon. and learned Friend's reluctance to assume new powers, may I ask whether he has not at least some informal means of communicating with police authorities such as Thames Valley and advising them on the unwisdom of using public funds to buy foreign motor cars when, in the case of the Thames Valley police, it is on the doorstep of a major section of the British motor industry?

Mr. Carlisle

I am sure my hon. Friend will realise that the question of whether to buy and what type of vehicle to buy must be left to the discretion of the police authority. I am sure that foreign equipment is bought only in those cases when the police authority concerned considers that it will carry out the purpose for which it is required better than the British equivalent. The vast majority of cars being used by the police are British and I am sure that what my hon. Friend has said will be noted.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman realise that for those of us representing car manufacturing constituencies it is rather daunting to see the police driving around in Volvos and Volkswagens? If the police want to promote better public understanding and better public relations, surely there are better ways of doing it than this.

Mr. Carlisle

We must keep this in proportion. The best advice I can be given is that out of 19,000 vehicles being used by the police forces in this country it is believed there may be 100 foreign cars. I am sure that those responsible for purchasing will take note of the comments that have been made.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

If my hon. and learned Friend were to give advice to the police authorities after 1st January next year, which clause in the Treaty of Rome would be infringed?

Mr. Carlisle

That is not a matter for me.