HC Deb 19 January 1984 vol 52 cc435-6
8. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the progress made by the Metropolitan police in antiterrorist activity during the Christmas recess.

Mr. Brittan

During the recess the Metropolitan police continued their inquiries following the series of explosions which took place in London during the pre-Christmas period. The main thrust of the investigation is directed towards following up the very large number of statements made following the Harrods explosion and the forensic analysis of the evidence collected at the scene.

Mr. Latham

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the whole House and the country support the police in this dangerous and difficult work? Can he say whether the strong measures that he announced to the House just before Christmas, including extra police deployed in counter-terrorism activity, are still in force?

Mr. Brittan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his expression of support for the police. The Metropolitan police are continuing with the measures introduced after the Harrods attack, including the availability of bomb threat vehicles on 24-hour patrol and increased CID and Special Branch officers.

Mr. Alexander

One of the sick and nasty aspects of the terrorist activity must have been the number of bomb hoaxers at the time. Will my right hon. and learned Friend commend the vigilance of the telephone authorities and the police in apprehending those perpetrators and, of course, the stiff sentences that were handed out? Is he in a position to say how many hoaxers there were, and how many of them were apprehended?

Mr. Brittan

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the really wildly anti-social behaviour, to put it very mildly, of people who engage in hoaxes. It is difficult to assess the total number, because it is not always possible to distinguish between people who are making a report which they know to be false and those reporting something which they believe to be genuine but turns out not to be. The burden on the police is absolutely enormous, and it interferes with the work in a way in which the whole House would condemn when people make a hoax call.

Mr. Dubs

Does the Home Secretary recall that when he made his statement to the House on 19 December and was asked about the possibility of car parking bans he said that, on the advice of the Commissioner, he thought that such bans would not be helpful, yet it appears that since then there have been bans on Harrods and other possible target buildings? I wonder whether the policy has changed and whether the Home Secretary could give the House some more information about it, as it seems to put the terrorists in a position of not knowing where they can park vehicles, which is surely helpful?

Mr. Brittan

No, the general policy has not changed. The position, as I indicated to the House, is that I consulted the Commissioner, who told me that the possibility of a general ban, as opposed to any particular prevention of parking on a limited basis for a particular time, had been carefully considered but that he did not think it would materially asssist in reducing the risk of terrorist bomb incidents in London. In considering this the House will, of course, bear in mind the very considerable experience which the Commissioner had in handling matters of this kind when he was Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.