HL Deb 21 October 1985 vol 467 cc847-59

4.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the recent serious disorders. In the past six weeks there have been three serious riots; in the Lozells Road area of Birmingham, in Brixton, and at the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham. Four people have died, one a police constable who was savagely killed. There have also been disorders in Liverpool, Leicester and Peckham in South London. Many police officers and others were injured. There were appalling attacks on the police with petrol bombs and other missiles, and particularly in Birmingham and Brixton there was extensive looting and attacks on shops and cars.

"My Speaker, all responsible members of our society will condemn the disgraceful criminal behaviour which has occurred. All responsible members of our society will applaud the courage and dedication of the police in doing their job of maintaining and restoring order in the streets and on the housing estates of our major cities. Public order is essential for the maintenance of a civilised way of Ufe and for the safety of individual citizens. On that there can be no compromise. So far 700 people have been charged with offences arising from these disorders.

"The riot in Brixton was triggered by the tragic shooting of Mrs. Groce, and the riot in Tottenham followed the death of Mrs. Jarrett after a search had been made at her home. These police operations are being investigated by senior officers from other police forces under the supervision of the independent Police Complaints Authority. These arrangements will ensure that they are fully investigated and that any necessary action is taken as a result. In the case of the Lozells Road riot, the Chief Constable of the West Midlands is preparing a report which will be published. Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary is being associated closely with the preparation of this report.

"So far as police operations are concerned, though the other disorders were serious enough, the riot at Tottenham stands out for the problems it presented to the police. In that riot a police officer was killed, firearms were used and the police had to face a ferocious barrage of petrol bombs and other missiles. The design of housing estates like that at Tottenham poses particular difficulties in such circumstances. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner is urgently reviewing the tactics of the force on such occasions. There must be no "no go" areas in any of our cities.

"The riot at Tottenham was the first occasion in Great Britain when the chief officer of police gave authority for plastic baton rounds to be used if necessary, though in fact they were not used. Plastic baton rounds and CS gas were made available to the police in Great Britain for public order use following the riots in 1981. They may be used only in the last resort, where conventional methods of policing have been tried and failed, or must from the nature of the circumstances be unlikely to succeed if tried, and where the chief officer judges such action necessary because of the risk of loss of life, or serious injury, or widespread destruction of property. That threshold was reached at Tottenham. The commissioner had my full support in making it clear that such weapons would be deployed if similar circumstances arose in the future.

"Other matters need to be looked at in the light of police experience in these disorders. The defensive equipment introduced in recent years—helmets, shields and protective overalls—proved its worth. Without it there would have been more serious casualties. The Metropolitan Police are acquiring more shields and other defensive equipment. It is also right to consider whether any further equipment is required, and this is being done. Similarly, there may be lessons to be learned in relation to police training and deployment. The commissioner is pursuing these matters and I am in close touch with him. I shall ensure that any lessons learned are disseminated nationally.

"This Government have done more to meet the needs of the police than any in recent history. Since 1979 the Metropolitan Police has increased in strength by nearly 4,500 officers; other forces in England and Wales are stronger by a similar number. Including civilians, strength has increased by some 12,000. These figures speak for themselves. Even after a recent welcome intake of recruits the Metropolitan Police still has scope to increase strength by about 300 within its present establishment of 27,165. I support the commissioner in his efforts to make good this shortfall as quickly as possible.

"The force's reorganisation should, in addition, release 200 officers for operational duties; and I have authorised an increase of nearly 50 in the civil staff ceiling next year for further civilianisation. Following my predecessor's announcement in July on drugs, I have told the commissioner that I am prepared in principle to agree to an increase of 50 officers in the establishment next year, specifically to strengthen his efforts against drug trafficking.

"Taken together, these steps mean that there will be a substantial strengthening of theMetropolitan Police in the months ahead. Beyond that I have set urgent work in hand to assess where there are specific needs for further increases in the Metropolitan Police establishment. I shall consider applications from provincial police authorities on the same basis; namely, that the police should have what they need in the fight against crime.

"In recent years a great deal of effort has been put into establishing good liaison and consultation between the police and the community in inner city areas, particularly, for example, in Brixton and Handsworth. These disorders must be deeply depressing for those community leaders and police officers who have put so much effort into establishing a better understanding. But it would be wrong to assume that these efforts were misplaced. On the contrary, they must be continued and redoubled if the police are to protect and serve the community efficiently.

"More broadly, the Government will continue their strong commitment to urban regeneration. The Urban Programme has more than tripled, from £93 million in 1978–79 to £338 million in 1985–86, and there has been substantial expenditure in all the riot areas. The Department of Employment and the Manpower Services Commission are spending more than £ 100 million in the Partnership areas, and my department plans to spend some £90 million in 1985–86 through Section 11 grants. We must ensure that the very substantial sums that now go, and will continue to go, to inner city areas are spent to the best advantage and directed to the real needs of the people who live there. The city action teams have been set up to improve the co-ordination and targeting of Government programmes in the Partnership areas. We shall do everything possible to ensure that our objectives in the inner city areas are achieved.

"These disorders are shocking events. It is of paramount interest to us all, young and old, people of all ethnic backgrounds, that public order should be maintained. I acknowledge the social problems which exist in these areas, but it is no solution to loot and burn shops which serve the area, or to attack the police. Mob violence must be dealt with firmly and effectively and criminal acts punished according to the criminal law. The police should have the support of all of us in striving to maintain order and uphold the law. It is their first priority. It is the Government's also".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.24 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the Minister for repeating a very serious Statement on very serious matters which was made by his right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place. There are three matters which I want at once to emphasise are matters in common between these two Front Benches and I imagine are shared in common in all quarters of your Lordships' House. The first is to express sympathy for the victims of these disorders, whether they be police or whether they be civilians. The second is to condemn, as I do in a forthright, unequivocal manner from this Front Bench, murder, violence, arson, riot, and looting. The third thing is general support for the police and other services in their unenviable task in facing an unwelcome new chapter in the history of our inner city areas

Having said that, there must be equal condemnation, or at least equal concern, if there be any attempt to turn our great police force into a quasi-military force. I noted in the Statement a reference to certain matters. I shall only say, briefly, let us go a little carefully before assenting to plastic baton rounds and CS gas, and other measures, even when they are stated to be weapons of last resort.

When talking of the police force I must say that I am a little confused. I read—as possibly some Members of your Lordships' House heard—the statement made by the Prime Minister to great applause at the Conservative Party conference. She offered a blank cheque to the Metropolitan Police Force in manpower and equipment. The new Secretary of State hastily got hold of that cheque and filled in the figures before he himself saw the Metropolitan Commissioner. He asked for greater manpower immediately. The Home Secretary did not issue that blank cheque; as I said, he had already filled in some figures, and those are the figures which occur in the Statement but with which the commissioner, as I understand it, is certainly not himself content.

There is great concern, and I believe there is no point in any of us trying to hide the fact, at what would appear to be—I underline the word "appear" on purpose—tragic and expensive blunders of the police immediately prior to the disastrous events which occurred at Brixton and Tottenham. I mention this matter only because the Statement again refers to the internal inquiry which is being made by various chief constables of different areas and under the aegis of the complaints authority.

I say deliberately from these Benches that if anything ever called out for a judicial inquiry it is the events chronicled in the Statement made to your Lordships this afternoon. Those who are very much interested in race relations want it, require it, and are entitled to it. I believe that all of us are interested in seeing that if mistakes are made by us nationally they are seen to be frankly faced so that we can avoid them in the future. From this Front Bench I call for that judicial inquiry to be made.

Lastly, may I briefly talk about causes—not causes which justify (I repeat that) riots, violence, murder, arson, looting, but causes which have to be looked at if one is taking into account some of the black youths and white youths who were engaged in these riots, some of us may think, misguidedly. The Home Secretary first saw fit to blame the whole of these matters on what he described as criminality. Then, and I pay him due credit for this, he thought again. In a speech last Friday in speaking about these disaffected young blacks he referred to them as the "tinder which caught fire in the recent incidents". One cannot leave tinder lying about in inflammable areas. It is the duty of Government to see to that. There are issues of unemployment, housing, racial discrimination and decayed inner city areas. We all know about them.

In conclusion, I merely ask a question that is based upon an article that I read in today's Times headed Hurd devising new strategy for inner city action In the course of that article an interesting comment is made by the political correspondent of The Times: A meeting of ministers last week concluded that the present system of co-ordination, a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Lord Young, needed to be revamped to give particular emphasis to the difficulties faced by disaffected young blacks". The article continued later: Mr. Hurd is to draft a minute for Mrs. Margaret Thatcher in which he will suggest that the Home Office, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Social Security need stronger representation". I ask the question: is that true?

4.32 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we from these Benches wish also to thank the Minister for repeating this lamentable Statement. Of course, we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in extending our sympathy to those who have been injured, whoever they may be, and in deploring totally and absolutely violence, arson and rioting, as has been said already. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, one must also make it absolutely clear where we stand in relation to violence. I ask the noble Lord the Minister to make clear that the inquiry which is being made into what has happened from the point of view of the police will be an inquiry which will be thorough and that there will be no conceivable cover up, and that it will be made absolutely clear to the country as a whole that there is no cover up.

We have to face the fact that in these communities the relations between the police and the local community has deteriorated to a lamentable point. Whoever is to blame for this, whatever the reason, that fact is a fact of cardinal importance. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, pointed out the importance of these relationships when he made his inquiry into the Brixton riots in 1981. We can only say on the evidence that, despite the genuine efforts that have been made by the police—and we applaud them—they have not been successful. Therefore, it is essential to fall over backwards to reassure local communities that are already disaffected, and those who may easily sympathise with them although at present they do not go along with them, that the actions of the police are open to investigation as is the action of any other person in this country.

I should like to say a little more about causes. Of course, it is right that in this Statement the emphasis has been put on the damage, the violence and the position of the police and the need for support for the police. But it is also surely clear that these issues are symptoms of problems which we have not solved. This rioting was not only by young blacks; there was rioting by young whites as well. That points to a wider and even more difficult problem than the problem of the young blacks. It is a problem of the failure of the youngsters to respond to the school system. This is a huge question in itself. They have contracted out of what the education system is able to offer. Why? We do not know the answer. Of course, it is a problem of unemployment. Surely this emphasises again and again that now is the time to put money into the inner cities in a way which creates jobs for these youngsters. The unemployment rate among the under-25s all over the country is appalling, and it is particularly appalling in inner city areas. This must be a matter of the very highest priority.

While the unemployment of the young whites is deplorable, the unemployment among the young blacks is a total disaster. Again we have not conquered that problem and, despite determined efforts on the part of a great many people, including those on the Government Benches, we have not even begun to tackle it.

There are one or two particular points. We know that in the youth training scheme, not as a result of intention on anybody's part, the extent of participation among young blacks is less than it should be. As a matter of urgency can we not try to understand why this is so and, if we cannot, try to raise greatly the participation of young blacks in that scheme for youngsters from 16 to 18? After all, that is the crucial age group in the troubles in these centres.

Similarly it has been said that the Government are considering contract compliance. If this is true, in my view it is a positive step that might help greatly with the unemployment problem as it affects young blacks. But these recent events must underline the fact that our present policies are not working and that in the inner city centres something far more determined, far more drastic, is needed if these riots are not to be repeated.

4.38 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am grateful both to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for their expressions of sympathy both to the police and to the victims in these terrible circumstances. I am also grateful for their round condemnation of the kind of action which has been taken by those who employ violence such as we have seen.

Perhaps I can deal first with some points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who was concerned that we were marching towards a quasi-military force in the police. There is no question of his fears being realised. There is no question of the police becoming a permanently armed force. There are considerable objections to arming the police as a matter of course. The main objection is the belief that if it were known that the police always carried firearms and were prepared to use them, the ordinary criminal would be more likely to arm himself. The result might be the shooting of more policemen and perhaps other innocent people and a general escalation in armed crime and violence. That is something we certainly do not want to see.

The Government believe that the advantage lies in seeking to preserve law and order as far as possible by traditional methods of policing. This is a view which the noble Lord will know is shared by all chief officers of police. The noble Lord urges caution in the use, for example, of plastic baton rounds. Yes, of course, but then they have the reassurance which my right honourable friend has given that they will have the protection they need to carry out their difficult tasks. That is something which cannot be denied them.

The noble Lord expressed concern because he felt that there was disparity between what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had said and what had been said by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I think that when I repeated the Statement, I made clear that the application for provincial authorities in the same way as the metropolitan authority would be considered on the same basis; namely that, the police should have what they need in their fight against crime". It is true that the commissioner expressed a view that an establishment increase of the order of 3,500 is needed in the median term and my right honourable friend has stated that we shall be examining the case for an increase in the coming months while the force is recruiting up to its present authorised establishment. Of course it is important that the issue is fully examined and that is what is now being done.

On the question of a judicial inquiry, I do not share the noble Lord's view, although I understand the force of his arguments. A judicial inquiry would cut across the investigations which are already in train. It could prejudice any criminal or disciplinary proceedings which might flow from the investigations being conducted under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority. The wider aspects of police community relations have already been well explored and it is difficult to see how an inquiry would really carry matters further forward. Police equipment and tactics are matters which need to be looked at by those with operational experience and expertise rather than by a judicial inquiry. That is why we do not see that any useful purpose would be served by an inquiry in the form that the noble Lord suggests.

On the question of the inquiries that are being conducted, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that the investigations are indeed being carried out by police investigators. In the cases of Mrs. Groce and Mrs. Jarrett, they are being carried out by assistant chief constables from provincial forces but under the supervision of members of the Police Complaints Authority. Authority members are of course wholly independent of the police: by law, no person who has even been a police officer may be a member of the authority. They have the power to approve or disapprove the appointment of the investigating officer and to give directions during the course of the inquiry.

In regard to both Mrs. Groce and Mrs. Jarrett, a member of the authority has been closely involved within a few hours of the events occurring and has been in close contact with the investigating officer ever since. They are there to ensure that there can be the public confidence for which the noble Lord is asking in the ways that these important cases are investigated but they will not, by their presence, inhibit subsequent proceedings if they should be appropriate. The Birmingham report will be published, and the Police Complaints Authority will be publishing a report in due course.

On the question of the article in today's Times, to which the noble Lord referred, of course the causes of disturbances such as these are complex. It is essential that we ensure that we get full value and benefit from the money which we are spending in the inner cities—and we spend a great deal of it—and that we see that it is properly aimed at the real, underlying problems which concern both the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord opposite. It may be that the existing arrangements for doing this are capable of further improvement. This is being actively considered, although I do not think it would be proper for me to go into the exact mechanism in the speculative way in which the newspapers have suggested it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, did not want to see any cover up in the inquiries. Of course there will be no cover up. That is why the publishing of both the report of the Police Complaints Authority and the other report to which I referred will take place. The noble Baroness expressed the view that of course whites as well as black people were involved in the riots, particularly in Handsworth and Brixton. She is quite right in saying that. Twenty nine per cent.—in fact, nearly 30 per cent.—of those charged in connection with Handsworth were white, and nearly 35 per cent. at Brixton, which I think adds weight to the remarks that the noble Baroness made.

While again understanding the complexity of the social issues, education, employment and so on. which the noble Baroness put forward, I simply cannot believe, and neither do I think would any of my noble friends, that they provide any excuse for the terrible violence which has besieged various parts of this country in the course of the past few weeks. No amount of social difficulty can provide an excuse for that kind of occurrence.

The noble Baroness asked about the YTS. She suggested that more money ought to be put into the inner cities to create jobs and that in connection with the YTS the participation of younger blacks is lower than it should be. Perhaps I may simply tell her that the Government are extending the YTS to two years and are doubling the number of places offered under the communities programme. I know that my noble friend Lord Young is conscious of the need to ensure that these programmes are well targeted in the inner cities and that that problem of low take-up among certain groups is redressed and overcome. Thus the matter is certainly being looked at.

On the question of contract compliance, perhaps I may simply emphasise two points. First, the Government are firmly committed to equality of opportunity in employment and totally opposed to racial discrimination. Secondly, we believe that individuals should be employed or promoted on their merits and not because of their racial or ethnic origins. I think that I have covered most of the points raised by those on the Benches opposite. I shall study their remarks with care and reply to any others that I have not answered.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, for a period of six years I served as a representative of the Handsworth area on the Birmingham City Council. I know the area particularly well. During the period that I have been away from that area, which is now about 15 years, one has seen the whole area sliding down a very slippery slope. One is amazed because the Birmingham City Council has been putting a great deal of money into the Handsworth area. It has also set up its own inquiry as a city council under the eminent barrister Julius Silverman, an ex-Member of the other place.

The difficulties are confounded in as much as that in the area, there is the metropolitan council as well as the Birmingham city council. While the metropolitan authority is dealing with the police inquiry, the city itself feels that it ought to have its own inquiry, which is now taking place and which of course will be published.

However, this afternoon we have heard about the difficult role of the police. That role will continue to be difficult unless we do something to prevent further riots of this nature. I think one must face up to this. If noble Lords in this House were to visit the Lozells area, they would say immediately, without any discussion at all, that something must be done there; some more money must be put into that area.

The Government say that they are doing this and that for urban redevelopment, inner city partnerships. I become a little worried that while they are doing that, they are also rate capping the City of Birmingham. What they are giving with one hand, they are taking away with the other. They are taking away more in the rate capping than they are giving in urban redevelopment. How does one solve problems if the Government are trying to tackle problems in that way? We understand from the Government that it is all a case of presentation. However, presentation will not prevent riots and it will not prevent the bad feelings that arise. If noble Lords were to see the areas, they would see what I am talking about.

One out of every two males living in the particular area in Birmingham where this happened is unemployed. In view of the very large number of young people in that area with nothing to do, it is very difficult for a lot of these young people even to get on the YTS courses. The most advantage they get is in relation to the community programmes. There is a particular difficulty in that area because Handsworth has its own probation service which is run exclusively there. Practically all the community service jobs, more often than not, are taken up by the young people who are placed on probation. They are in a difficult area, and all I would say to the Government is this: make quite sure that when you are making all the inquiries you look at the amount of money you are putting into the inner cities.

There is another small point I should like to mention in conclusion. Many of the traders who lost their businesses in the Lozells area were small traders. They are in a very difficult situation regarding compensation. Here again they are asking that the Government come forward quickly with the necessary money, because the small businesses that were running there are really the mainstay of the local community. So may I urge the Minister to look at that particular point about paying compensation very quickly?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the noble Baroness points to what she believes to be the difficulties caused by constraints on local authority spending preventing action to tackle the sort of problems she is concerned about. However, I am sure the noble Baroness will be aware that the Government give Birmingham substantial support under the Urban Programme. They allocate £25 million per annum to the Partnership and high priority is given to Handsworth, where some £20 million has been spent in the last five years.

The noble Baroness referred to the question of rate capping, but the basic block grant distribution arrangements produce a substantial redistribution of resources in favour of areas where needs are high, such as the inner cities—Handsworth being part of that—and where rateable capacity is low. I think that is a fact which is all too easily lost sight of in the perennial arguments about just how relative needs should be assessed, which affect the position only at the margin. It is the inner city authorities themselves who are opting to throw away some of this benefit by spending at levels which they know will reduce their grant entitlement and impose extra burdens on local people and businesses. Of course, the noble Baroness expresses concern, and she knows the area well, but unless the national economy thrives the inner cities certainly will never thrive. That is why it is necessary to secure a sustained national economic recovery, and that is what is being secured at the moment.

So far as the speeding up of payments under the Riot (Damages) Act is concerned, it is certainly right that those responsible for the compensation arrangements should not allow public money to be paid out without rigorous scrutiny of the claims. I am sure the noble Baroness would agree with that, but I know that those who are involved and who are dealing with the claims recognise the need to get the money to genuine claimants as quickly as possible. The receiver, who is the compensation authority in the Metropolitan Police District—that may not be part of Birmingham but certainly it is part of areas where other troubles have taken place—is making payments to applicants on their claims.

The point about the YTS which the noble Baroness raised was, I think, dealt with in the answer which I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. However, I will examine what the noble Baroness has said and if I can follow it up in writing I will do so.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, before we leave this subject, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware how deeply public opinion is on his side and that of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in regarding this as a national issue in which the police are our barrier for our parliamentary democracy? If the police were not there the bully boys would indeed take over. But there appear to be people stirring up black people, because they have a vested interest in trying to get power there. This is one new feature of our life in these islands where we rejoice in one of the most tolerant societies in the world. It is a comfort, I believe, for the British people that from both sides of the House today we have had a recognition that the police are public servants who deserve our support and our deepest gratitude.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am very grateful indeed to the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, for his remarks in support of the police. Of course, they deserve every word of what he said. The noble Viscount referred to those among certain parts of society who foment trouble. Extremists will seek to make political capital out of disorders of this kind. Their presence does not help, but there is no evidence that the disorders were organised in advance by external agitators. All the indications are that the disorders were local, that they were criminal and hooligan, rather than political and externally organised. With that, I can simply share entirely the noble Viscount's sentiments and agree with every word he said in support of the police.

Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that experience has shown that pouring very large sums of Government money into inner city areas is a very costly way of creating not very many jobs and that one of the reasons why there are not enough jobs in some of these areas is that left-wing local authorities, by the size of their industrial rate bills, have driven out of their areas the firms which used to provide employment and have deterred any fresh ones from coming in? And if the level of industrial rates is not enough to deter new firms from coming in, rioting and looting certainly is.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I think my noble friend is quite right. Certainly pouring money into areas such as this is by no means the only solution. That is why the problem has to be tackled on a much wider front, in much the same way as I suggested in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that it was being tackled. So far as local authorities' rates bills are concerned, it is true that they do lead, or can help to lead, towards the sort of difficulties that we face. I think that my noble friend is quite right to put his finger on it.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister has made the point of the Government's commitment to equality of opportunity regardless of race in matters of employment; but some of us would value an assurance that the kind of surveys we have been seeing recently about discrimination over jobs are being taken seriously by Government, together with the enormous problems which are being faced by young blacks, in particular in inner urban areas, in obtaining employment.

There has been a general unanimity in what has been said in the debate today about the enormous pressures on the police, about the value of the police and the need to support them. But we would like also to be assured that there is a recognition of the very great pressures facing young people, in particular in these areas. While in no sense can the kind of behaviour which we have seen be in any way condoned, and it must be condemned from the point of view of the Christian Churches—these are sins as well as crimes—it would be very foolish for any of those who hold responsibility not to recognise that what has been happening in British cities is a sign of these very great pressures on young people in particular. I, for one, would like to be assured that there is an awareness on the part of Government that these problems must be set in their wider context and that they are prepared to review policies in general over a whole range of issues, of which unemployment is one and housing policy another.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate puts his finger on one area which came out in the report on the earlier riots on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, reported. May I say to him in relation to employment here that training and special programmes have been reviewed in the light of that report. Many relevant initiatives have been taken. Small businesses have been encouraged, there are local enterprise agencies, enterprise allowances and an expansion of the small firms service. Training has been reviewed; I referred to the new two-year YTS. There has been a vast expansion of the community programme, with £2 billion spent annually on special measures, and special consideration is given to the schemes and projects which he no doubt desires to see in inner cities. Recreation and leisure schemes are also supported under the urban programme. I think that that action indicates that we have concern in the way that he desires.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one last question? Am I right in thinking that there is a strong connection in each of the inner city areas with drug traffic, and that for unemployed people wanting to earn easy money it is a great temptation to take some money for distributing drugs? This means that the very big and powerful drug barons who are in no sense black, but are of all colours and all nations, are to some extent behind this? If the police are to make a special effort, as they are now doing, will this make the relationship with the people in the area even more difficult? Is this the true picture or an exaggerated one?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, it is certainly the case that the sort of things we have witnessed may be, to some extent, involved with drugs; but I think that a lot of it has to await the further inquiries which are taking place. Certainly I from this Dispatch Box, and many of my noble friends in the past and others in another place, have condemned in every way the drug barons to whom the noble Lord referred. He further knows that, all being well, it will be possible before long to introduce legislation to remove the proceeds from those who benefit from drugs. But I do not think there is any conspiracy of drug traffickers to encourage rioting as such. Riots may simply be symptoms of something else which is occurring in those areas.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, only for the purpose of the record, I am sure the noble Lord will readily acknowledge that the policy in regard to drug traffickers is a universal policy of both Houses of Parliament and is not just the prerogative of one party.

Lord Glenarthur

Absolutely, my Lords. I hope that I had not indicated to the contrary.

Lord Marley

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether any consideration has ever been given to consulting the French police, who appear to me to be very efficient at handling these matters?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I must confess that I do not know whether or not any particular liaison has been made with the French, but I shall certainly ask and will let my noble friend know.