§ 5. Mr. Evennett
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he last met the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis; and what was discussed.
§ Mr. Evennett
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. When he next meets the commissioner, will he congratulate him on the progress being made by the police in London in the fight against crime? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in certain parts of London such as Brixton, for example, there was a considerable fall in the total number of notifiable offences in 1988?
§ Mr. Hurd
Yes, there has been a fall in that area, which comes within the Lambeth district. There has been a fall in total recorded crime across London. Lambeth area, which has been particularly difficult in the past, also registered a 1.5 per cent. fall, year-on-year. That is welcome, although my hon. Friend will agree that there is a great deal more to be done.
This fall reflects the considerable efforts being made by the police and the community in the whole range of activities that come under the heading of crime prevention and neighbourhood watch.
§ Mr. Cohen
When the Home Secretary next meets the commissioner, will he ask him about the leaflets on racial harassment that the police were sending out via Saatchi and Saatchi but which got lost? Will he ensure that there is an investigation and that the criminals—presumably Saatchi and Saatchi—are brought to court?
§ Mr. Hurd
I shall certainly look into that. The progress that has been made in dealing with racial attacks by the Metropolitan police has been welcomed by the hon. Gentleman himself, and we hope to publish the latest report of the working group, with a check list of the initiatives being taken, during next week.
§ Mr. Trotter
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the police welcome the new powers that they will have from 1 July to refuse to grant shotgun licences and, for the first time, to require these weapons to be kept in safe custody? Will he undertake that the advice that the Home Office must give the police in the near future ensures that there shall be strict regulation over the safe keeping of these deadly weapons? Does he accept that the police and public are right in their belief, in the light of the incident in Monkseaton, that there should be a requirement that those keeping shotguns shall be responsible for ensuring that they do not fall into the wrong hands, and that, whatever the inconveniences involved, they shall be required to keep them safely in custody?
§ Mr. Hurd
My hon. Friend has a natural interest in this because of the tragedy at Monkseaton in his constituency. He is perfectly right: from 1 July as a result of the decisions that Parliament has taken, a statutory safekeeping condition will be imposed on shotgun certificate holders. 987 Guidance to the police will recommend that all shotguns kept on domestic premises be stored in a locked gun cabinet or similarly secured container.
§ Mr. Maclennan
Does the Home Secretary endorse the remarks made yesterday by Sir Peter Imbert about the importance of partnership in policing in the Metropolis? In particular, can he say whether he has discussed the importance of introducing more members of ethnic minorities into the police force?
§ Mr. Hurd
Indeed I have. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have discussed it with the commissioner often. Although he and I would like to see a speedier improvement, the hon. Gentleman will have noticed not just in the Metropolitan police but countrywide a steady build-up in the total of police officers recruited from ethnic minorities. I do not have the exact figure but I believe that it is in the neighbourhood of 1,200, which is a considerable increase on two or three years ago.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
What action does the commissioner intend to take to rid central London of the illegal street traders and their lookouts, who defraud Londoners and the vast number of tourists who come to the capital by the sale of fake goods, and also the hot food stalls which sell food that may be contaminated?
§ Mr. Corbett
Did the Home Secretary and the commissioner discuss who might become the new director of public affairs in the Metropolitan police? Will it be one of the placemen suggested by the deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Ingham, or someone of more professional independence?