§ 14. Mr. Bowden
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next intends to meet Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I meet Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary frequently but have no immediate arrangement to do so.
§ Mr. Bowden
Is it not a scandal that many of my elderly constituents should be genuinely afraid to go out at night? Does the Home Secretary agree—[Interruption.] This is not a laughing matter. Does the Home Secretary agree that the only way to check violence on the streets is to increase the numbers of policemen on beat patrol?
§ Mr. Rees
The Labour Government are, in real terms, spending £250 million 683 more than the Conservative Administration spent. There is another £50 million in the pipeline now. There are now 7,474 more policemen than under the Conservative Administration. I have here a recruitment figure for 1976 of about 1,000 more for the Metropolitan Police. We are doing very well, and very much better than the Conservative Government did.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
Nevertheless, will the Home Secretary discuss with the Chief Inspector of Constabulary the deep anxieties of every senior police officer in the land not merely at the decline in the numbers of male recruits to the force and the difficulty of retaining experienced police officers but at the filling up of establishments with women police officers who, though admirable and efficient in every other way, are a cause of anxiety when they have to be sent out on patrol in high-risk areas?
§ Mr. Rees
There are more policewomen now. It is idle to pretend that there are not problems in certain areas. I discussed this matter yesterday with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. We need to wait and see the result of Lord Edmund-Davies's Committee. I take full account of the proper needs of law and order. There are certain jobs that women cannot do and we would be foolish to ignore that fact, but in the modern world women who can do the jobs that men do ought to be able to get those jobs irrespective of their sex.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have asked for and got extra police on patrol in Walton, but at the same time constituents have complained that their children have been harassed because of those extra police? Will he try to explain to Conservative Members that it is not a simple matter to deal with this situation?
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Will the Home Secretary think again about the extraordinarily complacent statement that he made about things getting better?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not necessary for an hon. Member to declare an interest every Question Time when it has already been declared.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I declare and am proud to proclaim my interest in this matter. Will the Home Secretary think again about the extraordinarily complacent statement that he made, namely, that matters of law and order are getting better? Does he not recognise that there is vastly more crime and violence and that considerably more policemen are leaving the service? There is a national problem. Will he stop being complacent, and try to deal with it?
§ Mr. Tapsell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time I think I heard you say that it was the convention in the House not to declare an interest during Question Time if it had been declared previously. I may be quite wrong, but it has always been my impression that the convention was not to declare an interest during Question Time. The addition of the words "if it has been declared before" seems very important. Perhaps now or on a subsequent occasion you could give us your guidance as to the exact position.