HC Deb 31 March 1983 vol 40 cc447-8
2. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if any estimate has been made of police man hours spent on controlling demonstrations in the Metropolitan police area in the last year.

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

The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has estimated that in 1982 some 776,000 man hours were involved in policing demonstrations which required the presence of 100 or more police officers.

Mr. Chapman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those figures will surprise and dismay many Londoners? Does he agree that when hundreds of policemen have to be transferred from the outer London areas into central London for such demonstrations, that not only disrupts the police plan to fight crime but is unfair to Londoners, because their streets are riot being policed properly, and is an increasing burden on their rates?

Mr. Whitelaw

All those points are undoubtedly well founded. The problem is that in a free society people have the right to demonstrate. If that right is abused, these are the results of abusing it, but it is a freedom that we have kept in this country.

Mr. Pitt

Will the Home Secretary tell the House when he intends to increase the establishment of the Metropolitan police to a significant extent to enable it to deal adequately with the issue of public order and to put more policemen on the streets?

Mr. Whitelaw

Those who seek to demonstrate should realise the cost involved. The Commissioner estimates the cost of overtime payments to be §740,000. That has to be taken into account.

I have made a small increase in the Metropolitan police establishment and now that, for the first time in its history, it has reached its full establishment the Commissioner will study how to make the police as effective as possible in London. When he has done that he will decide what the establishment should be, and we shall consider that figure.

Mr. Greenway

May I have my right hon. Friend's assurance that the projected visit of the mayor of Moscow and other placemen from that city, following the GLC's invitation, will not involve undue time and cost in policing? The visit, which Londoners do not want, will cost hundreds of pounds in rates. It is related to a spurious cause—peace—in regard to which the GLC has no honest remit.

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot give my hon. Friend the assurance for which he asks. It is extremely awkward and could not possibly be undertaken without considerable policing activity.

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