HC Deb 03 May 1973 vol 855 cc1447-9
11. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reductions occurred in the size of the Metropolitan Police Force between 31st December 1971 and 31st December 1972 and 18th March 1973.

Mr. R. Carr

Fifty during the calendar year 1972, and 84 between 1st January and 18th March 1973.

Mr. Fraser

Is not the right hon. Gentleman extremely worried by those figures? At a time when crime has been increasing in London and the London police force has considerable additional security duties, is he not worried to find himself presiding over a reduction in the size of the Metropolitan Police Force? Will he please institute an urgent review into the numbers being recruited, the pay and conditions of the force, and incentives that can be given to retain experienced officers in the force? Even these figures disguise the loss of experienced police officers after several years service but before they have reached retirement age.

Mr. Carr

Whereas the police position over the country as a whole gives me cause for encouragement, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the strength in the metropolitan area gives cause for great worry. There is a recruiting campaign this year, under which no less than £100,000 is being spent on recruiting publicity. It should also be remembered— I do not say this in any way to belittle the seriousness of the situation—that during the past year the Metropolitan Police increased its civilian staff by 500 and traffic warden strength by 100. That means that more policemen are being diverted to the sort of duties that only policemen can do and are being saved from doing other work. We must look at the overall position, but I am still very worried.

Mr. Tebbit

What has happened to the Special Constabulary? In my experience, the morale of many of its members is very low and in my part of Essex there have been many resignations.

Mr. Carr

It was only last summer, I think, that I sent a circular to all chief constables throughout the country, asking for a new recruiting drive for the Special Constabulary. It is true that there has been a decline—with many resignations— among the Special Constabulary, partly, I think, because over the years it has become an ageing force. We had to go through the point where many of the older members retired. A recruiting drive is going on throughout the country, on which I am receiving regular progress reports. This, too, is being supported for the first time with some national recruiting publicity.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Does the Secretary of State agree that in many parts of London the crying need is for more policemen on the beat, to stop muggings and people's fear of walking in some areas at night? Is not the police force in London still 5,000 under what is already a tight establishment? Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to review the London allowance and the undermanning allowance, to see whether greater incentives should now be given to policemen serving in London?

Mr. Carr

I agree with the hon. Lady about the need for more policemen in London. I am worried about the present situation. I am glad to say that in the last three years we have managed to improve police pay and conditions, relative to the population at large, by a substantial amount. A differentia] for London is a difficult matter, not only in incomes policy terms but in Police Federation terms.