HC Deb 07 February 1991 vol 185 cc397-8
Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated Metropolitan police manpower in 1991–92; and what were actual numbers employed in 1978–79.

The Parliamentary Under–Secretary of State for the Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd)

The strength of the Metropolitan police on 30 April 1979 was 22,225. The planned average strength of the Metropolitan police in 1991–92 is 28,465, giving the force over 6,000 more officers than when the Government took office.

Mr. Marshall

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which shows an increase of 30 per cent. in Metropolitan police manpower. Although that is welcome, does my hon. Friend agree that the clear–up rate of crime in the Metropolitan police area is still depressingly low? Does he believe that that is because the police spend too much time dealing with minor motoring offences?

Mr. Lloyd

I hope that my hon. Friend has noticed that the clear–up rate for the serious crime of violence against the person has increased substantially and that the incidence of street violence, because of the campaign by the Met, has decreased. However, the Met is not happy with its present clear–up rate and has begun a crime investigation project, involving more manpower for the CID, improved training, better supervision and, importantly, more information and support for victims. That is a practical response to my hon. Friend's justified worry.

Mr. Malins

Does my hon. Friend agree that what gives the public confidence is not so much the number of police, but the number they see on the street? Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that he is constantly encouraging the police force in London to put more officers on the streets meeting the public?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is right. The presence of police officers is encouraging to law–abiding citizens and discouraging to those who want to break the law. The Met understand that point, which we frequently make to them. There are other ways in which the police force can be effectively deployed, one of which, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), is to clear up crimes.

Mr. Sheerman

Is not the Minister dodging and weaving here? Is not it a fact that the information that we have from the Met is that, even with the 30 per cent. increase in police manpower, there are fewer policemen and women on the beat now compared with 1979? Is not that a disgrace when crime rates have been soaring and, as has been said, the best sort of crime prevention is the visibility of the police on the street? When will the Government introduce those policies in the Met, put police officers on the street and give them the backing to protect the ordinary citizen?

Mr. Lloyd

The Met certainly has the Government's backing, as can be seen by the increase in the numbers. The day–to–day deployment of forces is a matter for the Commissioner of Police. I am satisfied that he understands the necessity of having policemen on the beat. I believe that, with the increased numbers that we have provided, the number of policemen out on the streets is greater than when the Labour Government left office.