HC Deb 18 March 1982 vol 20 cc472-3
14. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce new measures to combat the rising level of violent crime.

Mr. Whitelaw

The Government have already increased the strength of the police service to a record level. The full benefit of this will be felt as new officers are trained and become fully effective. But police effectiveness also depends upon the active support and cooperation of the local communities. I am taking steps to encourage and develop this.

Mr. Marlow

At a time when one of our citizens falls victim to a violent crime every five minutes of the day and night, the public are massively reassured that my right hon. Friend is spearheading the campaign against these appalling crimes. Does he agree that, instinctively, people up and down the country believe that we should be considering new and further measures to abate this appalling increase in crime? Will he reassure the public that he will bring these measures forward if he feels they are necessary, whatever institutions outside the country may consider?

Mr. Whitelaw

I accept what my hon. Friend has said about the great concern of the country, and I understand that. At the same time, it is fair to point out what the Government are doing, with the wide range of penalties available to the judges and magistrates in the Criminal Justice Bill, and what we are doing about prison building and maintenance to ensure that all those whom the judges and magistrates decide to imprison should have places there. That is crucial to the criminal justice system. There are a wide range of penalties available. The Criminal Justice Bill is widely supported in the party as carrying out our manifesto commitment, is another step in the right direction, and is therefore the right thing for us to do.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Does the Home Secretary accept that all of us are opposed to the rise in crime and that all of us seek to diminish it by effective policing? The dispute is about what is the nature of effective policing. Where community policing has been tried, as it has in Handsworth, it has cut the crime rate on the streets. That is why so many of us are supporting community policing, not because it is soft but because it is effective.

Mr. Whitelaw

I find that the constant remarks about community policing are becoming something that seems to be bedevilling our policing system. What we want to see is effective policing, which means harnessing the support, encouragement and help of the local community from which any police service springs.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

While no one has done more than my right hon. Friend to improve the numbers and the morale of the police service, may I ask what he is doing further to help in respect of the greater powers recommended by the Royal Commission, the longer training recommended by Lord Scarman and the greater standardisation of equipment, particularly radio equipment, which in too many cases is incompatible between one force and another?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said at the beginning of his supplementary question. As for the other measures, I hope to be able to bring forward proposals that will implement some part of the plans of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure dealing with police powers. I note his other points. We are making progress on training in all forces and encouraging the provision of the right equipment.

Mr. Snape

Is the Home Secretary satisfied with the deployment and tactics of police forces, particularly in inner cities? Does he agree that if police authorities had the right to discuss such matters with chief constables in places such as Greater Manchester, that in turn would lead to a more visible police force on the street, which would be a far greater deterrent to crime than the unhealthy blood lust shown by some of his more eccentric supporters?

Mr. Whitelaw

I certainly believe in the police having the help and advice of the community they serve, through discussions with their police authorities. That is part of the business of the Police Act 1964. If that is to be successful that is what must be done, and I am encouraging it in all police forces.