HC Deb 05 June 1980 vol 985 cc1666-8
14. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of the Metropolitan Police have been victims of violence in each of the last three years; and how many so far during the current year.

Mr. Whitelaw

The only figures readily available are those for officers assaulted on duty given in the annual reports of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. The figures for 1977–79 were 4,030, 3,955 and 4,185 respectively. The equivalent figure for 1980 up to 21 April was 997.

Mr. Townsend

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures are disturbingly high? Is he convinced that the courts have sufficient penalties at their disposal for those who assault police officers on duty? Is new protective equipment part of the answer and what new action will the Home Office take in this context?

Mr. Whitelaw

These are certainly worrying figures. They represent the high cost to police officers—and often the high cost in money terms—of coping with disorders and violence with our traditional community police methods. Nevertheless, I believe that these methods are absolutely right and we must persist with them. I hope that we can persuade—in our review of public order and in what action this House takes afterwards—those who wish to conduct demonstrations that it is in their interest and the interests of everybody, to do so without violence. That is something on which this House should give a strong lead.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will the Secretary of State join with the whole House in sending good wishes to Stephen Hickling, the 19-year old policeman whose hand was blown off at Catford police station a few weeks ago? Does he agree that when policemen are injured in that way it should be possible for the Metropolitan Police to find ways of continuing to employ them.

Mr. Whitelaw

I gladly respond to what the hon. Gentleman has so generously said. I am sure that the House will wish to join me in that. It is important to point out also that the response to that incident showed the high esteem in which the police are held in that area and throughout the country. There was a magnificent response in money and in many other ways to the plight of this unfortunate police officer. The Commissioner has made it clear that he hopes that it will be possible—as we all hope that it will be—for this police officer to continue in some employment. That must be a matter for the future. The response at the time showed significant support for the police.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if 4,000 or more Metropolitan Police officers are injured by violence every year inevitably they will insist upon more and more protective uniforms and devices? Does he accept that that would be most unfortunate since it would separate the police from the public? Would it not be much better to decry in every way assaults on the police, because otherwise we are bound to go in the direction of paramilitary policing?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have already made it clear that it would be a retrograde step for the country if we went down the road of paramilitary policing. After all, we have a system of community policing which is the envy of the world. We should keep it that way. We should be sad if we had to depart from it. However, the House must give a lead to all people who take part in marches and demonstration and tell them that violence can never be justified on such occasions.

Mr. Skinner

In view of all the wonderful things that have been said about our police force, will the Home Secretary give a guarantee that in their next pay award they will be awarded not less than 22 per cent.—the current rate of inflation?

Mr. Whitelaw

Police pay negotiations are conducted under the Edmund-Davies formula. They will be conducted under that formula in future.