HC Deb 13 December 1990 vol 182 cc1099-101
7. Mr. Maclennan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will obtain for the library of his Department a copy of the speech delivered at the London conference on crime and policing on 28 November by Chief Constable John Newing of Derbyshire.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Copies of Mr. Newing's speech have been obtained and placed in the Home Office library. The Government are continuing to support police efforts to ensure public confidence through the delivery of an efficient and effective service. I fully endorse the work of all police officers to improve the quality of service and increase the confidence of the public in the police.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the Home Secretary share the concern expressed by Chief Constable Newing that there is a crisis of confidence and morale in the police force at all ranks and, in particular, that there is discrimination against women and black serving officers? Does he accept the recommendation—or will he consider it—that after 30 years the time is ripe for a new royal commission on the police?

Mr. Baker

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion and I do not accept the argument that there is a fundamental lack of confidence in the police. I appreciate the fact that some recent events—I do not wish to underestimate them if they involve a miscarriage of justice —have attracted a great deal of attention, but it is important to remember that a small number of officers was involved in those cases and it would be wrong to condemn the entire police service on account of that. Over 125,000 uniformed police officers work day in and day out on the streets of our cities dealing with law and order and they deserve our support.

Mr. Lawrence

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Derbyshire policemen are as able and dedicated as any police officers in the country and that the low performance of the Derbyshire police is an appalling reflection on the political control exercised upon them by Labour-controlled Derbyshire county council? It is a warning of what would happen were Labour to win the next election.

Mr. Baker

My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. The chief inspector of police has issued a report on the state of Derbyshire constabulary. It is one of the most worrying reports that has ever been issued. It is not a reflection on the chief constable or the police officers in Derbyshire, but a condemnation of Derbyshire county council and Derbyshire police authority which, for the past eight years, have starved the police of resources. The last major capital building programme of a police station in Derbyshire ended in 1981. There has been no increase in police numbers in Derbyshire since 1987, which shows Labour's priorities when it is in office.

Mr. Janner

Does not the speech of the chief constable of Derbyshire show that police resources and morale throughout the east midlands are crumbling? Is the Secretary of State aware that, because of a series of serious murder inquiries and other stresses on resources, Leicestershire police has a deficit of £1.5 million and last week announced cuts in staff, in policing and in the protection that citizens are entitled to expect? Will he be kind enough to look into the problem of the Leicestershire police deficit and provide us with some help?

Mr. Baker

Since we have been in office, there has been an increase in police strength of more than 26,000 men and women and next year there will be a further 700. Derbyshire was offered an increase in police officers last year but it turned it down, preferring to spend the money on other priorities.

Mr. Shersby

Is my right hon. Friend aware that by failing to provide the necessary support, Derbyshire county council is failing in its duty under section 4 of the Police Act 1964? What action will he take as Home Secretary to make sure that it abides by that Act to ensure adequate policing for the people of Derbyshire?

Mr. Baker

I am, of course, concerned about that point and have asked the chief inspector to take particular interest in what is happening in Derbyshire. His report showed, for example, that its fingerprint bureau was on the brink of collapse, that its casualty bureau could not withstand any realistic pressure and that many of its police stations were in a disgraceful condition. I ask the Labour party to appreciate that that is what happens when a Labour authority has been in power and places policing right at the bottom of its list for eight years.

Mr. Hattersley

The speech to which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred in his question did not concern, as the Home Secretary chose to interpret it, a collapse of confidence in the police, but the collapse in police morale throughout the United Kingdom. When the Home Secretary begins to talk to policemen, he will discover that that collapse in morale is widespread and desperately dangerous. Knowing as he must, or as he soon will, that one of the main causes of the collapse in police morale is the Government's refusal to implement Edmund-Davies as far as it applied to the police housing allowance, is he prepared to look at that again?

Mr. Baker

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the collapse of police morale, but he should note that the chief constable said that the collapse of morale in Derbyshire was because of the fact that Derbyshire county council has put the police at the bottom of its list for eight years. When the right hon. Gentleman talks of his commitment to law and order and the way in which the Labour party is concerned about law and order, I shall say to him, "Derbyshire", which shows what Labour is like in office.

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