HL Deb 01 March 1983 vol 439 cc1031-3
Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what has been the increase in the strength of the Metropolitan Police since 1979.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, between 1st January 1979 and 31st December 1982 the strength of the Metropolitan Police increased by 4,310, or almost 20 per cent., to 26,271. The force is expected to reach its establishment of 26,615 by the end of this month.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his very satisfactory Answer. Could he please confirm that the police have been making very strenuous efforts to enrol members of the ethnic minorities but without the success they hoped for? Could my noble friend also tell me how many graduates have joined the police in this period?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, on 31st December 1982 there were 183 members of the ethnic minorities in the Metropolitan Police. Of these, 65 were recruited in 1982. I can assure my noble friend that every effort is being made to recruit members from the ethnic minorities, but I must agree with her that it has not always been possible to recruit as many as we should like. So far as graduates are concerned, the number recruited to the Metropolitan Police in 1982 was 162. This represents rather more than one-fifth of the national total which was 621.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, would the Minister agree that what matters to the public is not the numbers of police officers but the detection rate of crime? Measured by this standard, the performance of the Metropolitan Police has deteriorated since the beginning of 1979. Would the noble Lord agree not that the Home Office should investigate very carefully the reasons why, during a period when the numbers of police have increased, their effectiveness has gone down?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, a thorough review of police manpower is currently in progress. This will be pursued in the light of the priorities and objectives set by the commissioner in his recent report to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, could my noble friend say whether the increase in staff is all at the recruit grade or whether some of it is due to the recall of senior officers who had left the force in earlier years because of poor pay? If the former, could my noble friend say whether the police force is becoming bottom heavy with recruits, without sufficient people in the senior ranks?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, pay has been hugely improved during the Government's tenure of office. I am afraid I do not know the answer to the specific point raised by my noble friend, but I shall find out and let him know.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether it is proposed to increase the strength of the fraud squad? Is the noble Lord aware that the fraud squad is grossly understaffed and quite incapable of dealing with commercial crime, which, unfortunately, is very much on the increase and which has been on the increase during the past two or three years?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the primary aim of the commissioner is to reduce crime levels, with the help of the community. The emphasis is on crime prevention measures, the deployment of more officers on street duties, improving the detection rates by focusing on known criminals and the need to use existing resources to the maximum effect to meet the new priorities. So far as fraud is concerned, I do not have a specific answer, but I shall make sure that the commissioner is made aware of the noble Lord's views.

Lord Plant

My Lords, in view of my noble friend Lord Avebury's question, has Sir Kenneth Newman made any approach to the Government to the effect that the authorised complement of the Metropolitan Police should be increased?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, as I believe I said in my original Answer, the authorised establishment is 26,615. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has indicated to the commissioner that he will be able to count on building up Metropolitan Police manpower by the end of the financial year 1983–84 to a total establishment of nearly 27,000—about another 400. As I have said, however, a major manpower review is in hand and my right honourable friend welcomes the commissioner's decision to review the deployment of the force.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, would the Minister agree that the most important single need in containing crime in London is to get more officers—men and women—on the beat? Would the Minister also agree that this postulates the justified increase which he indicated in his Answer to the original Question? Is not probably the most important point to contain crime; and does he not agree that Sir Kenneth Newman's plans in this regard are warmly to be commended?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I do agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It has been the policy of successive commissioners to increase the number of police officers on the beat. In recent years, as a result of the review of the force structure, almost 1,000 officers have been redeployed to street duties; and the commissioner has indicated in his report that he proposes to make available, by savings in other areas of operation, an additional 650 officers for this purpose.