HC Deb 20 March 1997 vol 292 cc1060-1
3. Ms Hodge

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on police strength in the Metropolitan police in (a) 1996 and (b) 1992. [19784]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard)

I hope that you, Madam Speaker, will permit me to say how pleased I am sure the whole House is to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) in his place on the Conservative Benches this afternoon.

In answer to the hon. Lady's question, between March 1992 and March 1996, a like-for-like comparison shows that about 800 extra uniformed constables were made available to Metropolitan police divisions for operational duties—an increase of 6 per cent. On average, uniformed divisional constables now spend some 10 per cent more time on patrol than in 1992.

Ms Hodge

In the dying moments of the Conservative Government, will the Home Secretary break his right to silence and confess that the figures that are in Hansard of 28 February—column 431—demonstrate that, year on year, police strength in the capital has gone down; confess that, this year, Londoners are paying more for their police service but are getting less; and confess that this is yet another in a long string of broken promises that Londoners have had to bear from a discredited Government?

Mr. Howard

I have given the hon. Lady the accurate figures and am astonished that she should prattle on in that way when she knows perfectly well that her party's shadow Chancellor has said that not a penny more will be committed to the Metropolitan police. There will be no more money for the police, according to the shadow Chancellor, so the hon. Lady's question is absolutely inexplicable. I should have thought that she would have wanted instead to draw attention to the fact that, in the Dagenham division, which corresponds to her constituency, since 1992, notifiable offences have fallen by 10 per cent., recorded residential burglaries by nearly 30 per cent., recorded sexual offences by nearly 30 per cent., theft of motor vehicles by nearly 25 per cent.; that the clear-up rate for total notifiable offences has risen from 15 per cent. to 22 per cent., for robbery from 12 per cent. to more than 22 per cent. and for domestic burglary from 11.5 per cent. to 29 per cent. That is good news for the hon. Lady's constituents.

Mr. Jessel

While all sensible people accept that to save lives extra police are needed in central London to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, which may mean slightly fewer police officers in outer London, I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that people in outer London remain very concerned about crime and hope that at some time in future, and before very long, additional police officers can be found for outer London.

Mr. Howard

I well understand my hon. Friend's concerns on behalf of his constituents. I know how energetic he has been in drawing them to my attention and that of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis who I know will want to do everything he can to respond to my hon. Friend's concerns in the future.