HC Deb 05 March 1981 vol 1000 cc403-4
4. Mr. Trippier

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further proposals he has for measures to strengthen law and order.

Mr. Whitelaw

The strength of the police service is at its highest ever and I expect a further increase in London. We shall be giving particular attention to achieving the most effective use of police resources. As soon as possible, I shall announce the Government's conclusions following our review of the law on public order. The Royal Commission on criminal procedure made a number of important proposals covering the investigation and prosecution of offences and its report is under careful consideration.

Mr. Trippier

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that we are honouring our manifesto commitment to strengthen law and order in view of the rising number of crimes of violence and vandalism?

Mr. Whitelaw

No one can be satisfied in a world where crime and violent crime of all sorts is greatly on the increase and is encouraged internationally. That is something that every nation must deal with. We have responded by efforts which have ensured a strong police service with a high morale and more bobbies on the beat. We intend to back that with other measures which will do everything possible to protect our citizens.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his decision to ban Saturday's proposed march by the National Front in Lewisham is a welcome decision which everyone in the borough of Lewisham feels has relieved the borough of the sort of destruction that took place on the last occasion? However is he really satisfied with the decision of the Commissioner to put in charge of the investigation of the New Cross fire—which was the cause of the previous march—the policeman who investigated the Confait case and took down confessions which turned out to have absolutely no foundation in fact? Will the right hon. Gentleman discuss that matter with the Commissioner, and, if necessary, ask him to reverse his decision?

Mr. Whitelaw

I regret the necessity for the ban onmarches in the Metropolitan Police area for three weeks until the end of this month. There are difficulties in the banning of marches, as everyone here knows very well. However, there are times when such bans are in the best interests of preventing serious public disorder. When that is the case, it is one's duty to support the police in carrying them through.

I shall certainly discuss these matters with the Commissioner, in whom I have every confidence. But I think that I am entitled to say on his behalf, and on behalf of the police, that they are conducting the investigation into this very unhappy incident with the utmost vigour and determination. There are no fewer than 50 officers working on the inquiry. No one can say that that is not a very strong effort. In addition, over 600 statements have been taken. No one can complain about that. I hope that all those who are upset by the incident—and I fully understand why—will appreciate that the police are doing their very best to find out the cause and, indeed, to bring to justice anyone who may be responsible for it.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the largest growth areas of crime over the last five years has been in burglary and housebreaking, and that, unfortunately, the detection rate here is rather lower than it is in some other areas of serious crime? In view of the great and growing public anxiety, in the Midlands and elsewhere on this issue, will he pay special attention to it and hold consultations with police chiefs?

Mr. Whitelaw

Certainly. I agree with my hon. Friend that the increase in burglaries is extremely serious. Part of the remedy lies in the work of the police and the successful deterrence which comes from catching those who are at fault. At the same time, we have a great deal of responsibility for going forward with measures of crime prevention. We are backward in that respect. I am seeking to put money into research—from the Home Office point of view—into crime prevention. These have a very important part to play.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the Home Secretary consider strengthening law and order by reviewing the circumstances surrounding the case of Mrs. Jan Martin, where erroneous information held on police files appears to have been improperly disclosed to a third party?

Mr. Whitelaw

I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. Mistakes were made in this case and the Metropolitan Police have acknowledged that. I would wish to discuss the matter further with the Commissioner and other chief officers of police. I regard the mistake as having been a serious matter.