HC Deb 25 January 1979 vol 961 cc660-1
8. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied that there is sufficient legislation to protect properly the lives of police officers while in execution of their duties.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Shepherd

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that shortly before Christmas there were two especially ugly incidents when police officers were confronted with sawn-off shotguns? Is it not apparent that heavy fines and sentences up to and including life imprisonment are not sufficient? Is there not a case for the reintroduction of capital punishment for such offences as a deterrent? What representations is he receiving from the police force on the subject?

Mr. Rees

I cannot recall receiving any such representations recently, but I have no doubt that it is the view of the force that the penalty of capital punishment should be brought back. I shall not call in aid the figures. If one policeman were killed, that would be one too many. Under controlled circumstances police are now armed. I offer that as a fact. That is happening under very controlled circumstances and it is a factor.

Mr. Emery

Has the right hon. Gentleman discussed with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis the fact that he is having to mount guards in a number of places around central London—police officers wearing flak jackets and being armed—to cope with the possibility of problems arising of an international nature? Surely there is something wrong when we have to have police around the capital wearing flak jackets and being armed. That is the type of action that we have never had in the United Kingdom. We want to protect the police, but we do not want the type of action to which I have referred.

Mr. Rees

I am not sure on what basis the hon. Gentleman makes that statement. There are people in the metropolis who are protected by armed guards. There are occasions when selected policemen, who are trained properly and wear flak jackets, are put in certain areas. Given the international situation, it is right that that should be so. We cannot opt out, and I support what the commissioner does.