HC Deb 01 May 1980 vol 983 cc1603-5
9. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set up a working party into hooliganism and vandalism on the London underground.

Mr. Brittan

My right hon. Friend will be holding, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, a working conference on violence on public transport next Tuesday. I am sure that hooliganism on the London underground will be among the problems discussed.

Mr. Shersby

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, welcome though his announcement is, a conference is not, in the judgment of many Londoners, sufficient? Is he further aware that the acts of hooliganism and vandalism which took place at Neasden and at Finsbury Park seriously shook public confidence in the ability of people to travel safely on the London underground? Will my hon. and learned Friend address his mind specifically to the problems—first, of getting the Metropolitan Police more actively involved in policing the London underground and, secondly, of reviewing the range of penalties which are available to deal with these Tube thugs? We simply cannot go on with the present situation much longer.

Mr. Brittan

I appreciate, understand and completely share the public anxiety articulated by my hon. Friend. Of course, the conference that is to be held next Tuesday is not enough. However, I think that it is more likely than a working party to reveal to Government and the other organisations involved—whether local authorities or transport bodies—pointers to constructive action for the future.

The Metropolitan Police already assists the British Transport police where necessary. Any recommendations for greater co-operation may well emerge from the conference. The House will be aware that the Government are reviewing the scope and content of the criminal law to seek ways in which it can be strengthened where appropriate.

Mr. Bagier

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the railway men are extremely concerned about what is happening? Does he accept that there should be urgent co-operation between the British Transport police and the Metropolitan Police to ensure that the known danger spots are policed properly at times when vandalism and hooliganism take place? Is he aware that the fervent opinion of those who work on the system is that it is their job to work for the railways and not to fight for them and that they should be afforded protection when they are doing their jobs?

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that I would disagree with a single word that the hon. Gentleman has uttered.

Mr. Grieve

Will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there might be long-term solutions to the problem but that short-term remedies are urgently needed? Does he agree that it is not only a question of hooliganism but that people are anxious because of the extreme violence on the underground and on public transport? Will he do his best to urge that the Metropolitan Police cooperate with the transport police to ensure that urgent measures are taken to meet the grave crisis?

Mr. Brittan

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that there is no need to urge the Metropolitan Police to co-operate. They are ready and anxious to do so. It is a question of the best way in which they can co-operate. I hope that the conference next week will produce constructive, short and long-term suggestions.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is there not another solution? Could we not fill London Transport carriages with passengers rather than vandals if we reduced the scandalously high cost of fares?

Mr. Brittan

I do not believe that that would help in any significant way.