HC Deb 01 December 1983 vol 49 cc974-5
3. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information he has as to the total cost to civilian police of policing in relation to military bases where nuclear weapons are located or planned to be located.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Leon Brittan)

For good security reasons, successive Governments have not confirmed or denied the presence of nuclear warheads at particular bases, but if asked to do so I would readily provide information about the cost of policing any particular base in England and Wales.

Mr. Canavan

If the Government are so obsessed with cutting public expenditure, why is the cost of policing Greenham common now more than £1.5 million per year, on the Government's own estimation? If, as the Government claim, the American weapons of death are here to defend the people, what justification is there for forcing the people to spend more than £1.5 million of their own money defending those weapons against the people?

Mr. Brittan

If the hon. Gentleman is as concerned about public expenditure as he purports to be, perhaps he will persuade some of his friends not to turn up at Greenham common, so that more money is available for more constructive purposes than policing that base.

Mr. Jackson

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that although letting police costs fall where they lie may be a sound principle in general, it cannot be applied with equity in situations requiring exceptional measures to be taken by the police on a continuing basis?

Mr. Brittan

All police forces must sometimes meet demands that can be characterised as of national as well as local significance. The Government meet more than 60 per cent. of the cost of policing Greenham common. Nevertheless, in view of the exceptional burden on the Thames Valley police, we are considering whether there is some means by which the Government can help.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Home Secretary agree that it is unjust to place upon local ratepayers the responsibility of paying anything, let alone 40 per cent., towards the cost of policing Greenham common or, for that matter, the kind of organised public disorder that has taken place in Warrington?

Mr. Brittan

I should not go as far the hon. Gentleman. I hope that the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend's supplementary question shows the sympathy that I have for the ratepayers who are currently having to meet a proportion of the cost of policing Greenham common.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, in addition to the cost that falls upon the ratepayers because of the need to deploy police officers to defend the Queen's peace, another cost is that paid in the neighbourhoods from which the police presence has been withdrawn to police such major demonstrations? The consequent cost to many people of burglaries and vandalism, which arise because the police are removed, is great.

Mr. Brittan

I agree with my hon. Friend.