HC Deb 18 February 1982 vol 18 cc386-7
2. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to enable the police to catch more criminals.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

The measures already taken by the Government to increase the strength and improve the pay and morale of the police service are vital in the fight against crime. But police effectiveness also depends on the full co-operation and understanding of the community. Our policy is to sustain both these essential aspects.

Mr. Fraser

Is the Secretary of State aware that over the past decade the clear-up rate of every category of serious crime has deteriorated and that there is a widespread view that in cities burglaries and street robberies can be committed with impunity? Has he any other plans to increase the certainty of detection and conviction?

Mr. Whitelaw

I accept that the level of crime, particularly burglaries, in many of our cities is extremely serious. The problem has to be tackled by increasing the effectiveness of the police. There are two ways in which to proceed. The first is to increase police numbers, as the Government have done. The second is to ensure that the police have the full support of the whole of the community, who will be prepared to work with them and to encourage them in their tasks. Following Lord Scarman's report, I am determined to seek to achieve these aims. I believe that all hon. Members will wish to support my efforts to increase the effectiveness of the police through the achievement of the full support of the community that they serve.

Mr. Alton

I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. Is he, nevertheless, aware that, in the city of Liverpool, one crime is committed every four minutes and one car stolen every 20 minutes? Is he further aware that only one-third of those crimes are detected? Will he say how the reduction of £500,000 in the police budget will improve the effectiveness of the police?

Mr. Whitelaw

There is no place where the full support of the community for the police is more needed than in Liverpool. I hope that this support will be provided by all sections of the community. It is an essential factor.

Overall, I believe that the money provided from the centre for the police is exactly right for the task that they have to perform. It meets the issue of police pay and everything else. It is for local authorities to decide how they will distribute the money. The Government believe that the amount is right for the task. We believe it can be done.

Mr. Philip Holland

What consideration is my right hon. Friend giving to the possibility of reducing the number of violent criminals by the reintroduction of corporal punishment for those convicted of muggings in the street?

Mr. Whitelaw

Corporal punishment was abandoned in 1948. An advisory council in 1960 was convinced that its reintroduction would not help. It would also be contrary to our international obligations. We have no plans to reintroduce it.

Mr. Dubs

What specific steps does the Home Secretary intend to adopt, if he has not already taken them, to ensure, especially in the Metropolitan area, better relationships between the police and local communities and to ensure that local communities have more influence on the policing policies pursued in their areas?

Mr. Whitelaw

I wish to encourage local liaison committees, involving full consultation between local communities and the police service. As the hon. Members for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) will know, I have had some consultations towards that end in Lambeth. My officials have sent letters on my behalf to police authorities throughout the country and to the London boroughs to urge that these consultations should be developed. The purpose is to enlist the support of all members of the community in making the police more effective in dealing with crime and to enable them to pursue criminals with more vigour.