HC Deb 16 December 1982 vol 34 cc472-3
12. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the total number of Metropolitan Police officers; and how this figure compares with April 1979.

Mr. Whitelaw

On 31 October 1982 the strength was 26,158. This was 3,933 more than on 30 April 1979.

Mr. Chapman

I welcome that significant increase in the number of police officers in the metropolis. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that policy decisions and that increase in strength have led to a substantial increase in the number of bobbies on the beat? Does he agree that if the police patrol the streets of our capital city, that is the best and most effective deterrent to crime?

Mr. Whitelaw

I entirely agree. It is the new Commissioner's policy that that should be increased. He has promised to give me a report on what he believes to be the most important factors in his task and the most effective way of using his existing manpower. I hope to have that report early in the new year and I shall report back to the House as soon as he has given it to me.

Mr. Snape

Would the Home Secretary also like to publish the number of serious crimes reported in the Metropolitan Police area in 1982 compared with April 1979? While he is about it, will he also publish the detection rates for those two years?

Mr. Whitelaw

Those figures will be published in due course in the various publications.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Despite that welcome increase in the number of bobbies on the beat, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the figure for serious crime this year will almost certainly go over the 3 million mark for the first time in the post-war years? What further action does he intend to take to stop the continuing rise in serious crime?

Mr. Whitelaw

The hon. Gentleman really is a tiger for punishment. I have given him one go, and I am going to give him another.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] He cannot get away from the fact that he is a member of a party whose leader believed that it was right to take the police off the streets and put them into panda cars. That has been proved to be wrong. Thank goodness, we are reversing the process. It will take a long time to repair the damage that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) caused, but we are doing so.

Mr. Forman

I welcome the increase in police pay and the number of officers in the Metropolitan Police area, but can my right hon. Friend say whether it is proposed to take any action to relieve police, especially in suburban parts of London, of the burden of having to look after public demonstrations, which often take police manpower away from more needed tasks such as dealing with burglary and street crime?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is undoubtedly true. Many people in those areas who have been subjected to burglaries feel strongly about the matter. The problem is that in our free society those who feel that they must demonstrate have the right to do so. If they demonstrate, the police must look after the demonstrations. That is one of the problems of policing the capital city. That is one reason why the Home Secretary must be the right person—he is answerable to the House—to deal with those problems.