HC Deb 21 January 1982 vol 16 cc407-8
13. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether street crime has increased in Brixton since the ending of the riots; and if so, by what extent.

Mr. Whitelaw

I understand from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that it is not possible separately to identify those recorded crimes which occurred in the street. Figures are available, however, for incidents of stealing involving offences of the type that are most likely to occur in the street. The total number of such offences recorded in the Brixton police division was about one-fifth higher in the first six months following the April disturbances than in the corresponding period in 1980.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to reassure the public in Brixton and other parts of the country that the law will be applied with equal vigour and force and the citizens protected with equal vigour and force in all parts of the country, whatever the social sensitivities, whatever the cultural backgrounds and whatever the racial backgrounds that exist? Does he agree that if that were not the case nothing could be more damaging to the prospects of good race relations?

Mr. Whitelaw

I entirely agree with that, and I should like to add only that the purpose of closer collaboration between local communities, local councils and the police must be to protect citizens and, therefore, to assist the proper policing of those areas. That is the purpose of the discussions and it should be understood to be so.

As the police authority for London, I had a meeting last week with many representatives from the Brixton area and I shall be having another meeting in a fortnight. We are proceeding on the basis of close collaboration between all concerned. I found at the meeting a widespread determination by locally elected representatives and many others to work together to help the police protect citizens in the area. That is the purpose of such discussions all over the country and this is an important moment to make clear that that is what is needed and that that is what we shall seek to do.

Mr. Tilley

As one who was at the meeting mentioned by the Home Secretary, may I pay tribute to the efforts that he has made to get effective police-community liaison in Lambeth? May I assure him that the Opposition are deeply concerned about street crime, but add that we do not go along with the implication of the remarks of the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) to the effect that for the police to seek better liaison with local communities is an alternative to dealing with crime? To us it is an essential part of an effective crime prevention policy.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about the meeting and to him and his colleagues from the area for the help that they have given to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and myself in arranging the meeting. I confirm that it is the purpose of all such meetings and contacts between the police and the community to ensure that we afford proper protection to our citizens. That must mean proper policing of the area.

Mr. Christopher Price

In relation to Brixton and Lord Scarman's report, will the Home Secretary repudiate the words of Mr. James Jardine yesterday to the effect that the police will refuse to operate the central recommendation of the Scarman report that racist behaviour should normally be a ground for dismissal?

Mr. Whitelaw

It is not part of my job to go round repudiating this person or that. I regard my job as being to press forward with the various improvements that Lord Scarman proposed, as I have done in discussions with the community and in many other ways. I wish to take advantage of Lord Scarman's report to improve relations between the police and the community, always bearing in mind the need to protect our citizens.