HC Deb 18 December 1986 vol 107 cc1333-5
1. Mr. Chris Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he last met the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis; and what was discussed.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

I met the Commissioner yesterday, when we discussed his strategy for next year.

Mr. Smith

Did the Home Secretary take the opportunity to commend the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on his commitment to include the issue of domestic violence—assault against women in their own homes—as one of the principal force goals for 1987? However, at the same time, did he take the opportunity to express his disappointment at the apparent lack of urgency that the Metropolitan police seem to have in following up the recommendations of their own working party on this issue, particularly the pilot project to establish police prosecutions as a third party in an area such as Hounslow? If not, will he do so and stress the urgency and importance of this issue?

Mr. Hurd

We discussed this issue. I welcome what the Commissioner has done to insert this in his strategy. It is a difficult matter for the police, as the hon. Gentleman will recognise. That is why, sometimes in the past, police forces have been hesitant about getting involved in it. We all understand the need for the police to be sensitive and active in dealing with this matter. When we discuss the strategy, and when the hon. Gentleman as a London Member discusses it, he can press home his points.

Mr. Wheeler

Does my right hon. Friend support the Commissioner in his 1987 theme of safety and the citizen? In thinking about that theme, does he congratulate the Commissioner on his determination to reduce racial attacks in London, to improve the prevention and detection of burglary, particularly through the neighbourhood watch schemes, and to concentrate on reducing the number of robberies in certain parts of London, where the problem is of great concern to the citizen?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend on all those points. I hope that the Metropolitan police will be able successfully to recruit up to the increased establishments that I have given them so that they can meet those tasks. My hon. Friend will have noticed the increased emphasis that the Metropolitan police are giving to dealing with the problem of racial attacks, as I saw for myself in Tower Hamlets last week.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is the Home Secretary aware that the great majority of Londoners want to see the police dealing more effectively with street crime, with the theft of vehicles, with house burglary, with enforcing bus lanes—

Mr. Robert Atkins

Stealing silver.

Mr. Banks

The hon. Gentleman should watch what he is saying. He has a very loose tongue and a wild and silly mind.

Will the Home Secretary realise that such matters as the enforcement of bus lanes and illegal parking on yellow lines are of great concern to Londoners? They would much rather see the police looking after those aspects of law enforcement than being out at Wapping, making sure that scabs get through picket lines and that Murdoch's filthy newspapers get on to the streets of London.

Mr. Hurd

I am not sure about bus lanes, but the hon. Gentleman's point about the futility of tying down so many police at Wapping is right, as I saw for myself last week. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will use their influence to ensure that, whatever course this dispute between Mr. Murdoch and his employees takes, it does not continue to force the deployment of so many hundreds of policemen at Wapping.

Mr. Dykes

Will my right hon. Friend during those discussions with the Commissioner talk also about the growing menace of violence in shops?

Mr. Hurd

Yes. That is important. It is one of the themes of our standing conference on crime prevention and one on which I keep in close touch with Baroness Phillips and all those concerned.

Mr. Dubs

Is the Home Secretary aware that the annual crime rate in London is now 200,000 above the 1978 rate when Labour was in office, that that represents an increase of 35 per cent., and that, on average, two London families in five will have among their numbers a victim of crime during the present year? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise, therefore, that Londoners are contemptuous of the Government's claims that they are doing something about law and order in the capital?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends make no mileage with that kind of point, and I shall tell them why. They try occasionally to clamber aboard our policies—for example, on crime prevention and victim support—but, on the whole, people in London associate them with those boroughs in London the Labour leaders of which concentrate on undermining and abusing the police.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Will my right hon. Friend consider with the Commissioner the policing of Waltham Abbey, where regular fights between youthful gangs now aflict that formerly peaceful town? Is it not the case that there are no more police on the streets now than there were in the 1920s? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the strength and the establishment of the Metropolitan police?

Mr. Hurd

I am not satisfied with the Metropolitan police strength, because they are 600 below the establishment which I have authorised. One of their main tasks in the coming year is to recruit and keep the officers necessary to reach the increased establishment which I have set. They are going all out to do that. The more the Metropolitan police can do that, the more police officers there will be, particularly in the outer London boroughs, which I readily recognise suffer from the inevitable, and right, concentration which the Commissioner has decided to deal with some other problems in the more acute areas.