HL Deb 26 February 1986 vol 471 cc1061-88

3.46 p.m.

Debate resumed.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, if we may now return to this important debate, this is an issue that worries people in London and, I would guess, in the country, almost more than any other at present. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, in his constructive speech, drew attention rightly to the vicious circle that is insufficiently appreciated by the public and indeed by politicians generally—the vicious circle that exists in narcotic-related crime. It is widely believed that the prevalence of the use of narcotics is linked to idleness, either enforced idleness in the case of those who are unemployed, or idleness in some instances by choice, certainly in regard to those who use cocaine. Once people are using narcotics they tend to become addicted. And once they become addicted, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out, they need money, a great deal of money. An average of £150 a week is often cited. Once they need money, the only way, very often, that they can get it is by resorting to crime. We then see the enormous increase in robbery, burglary and attacks on ticket collectors and that sort of thing. It is a vicious circle. It is no use thinking that one agency alone can tackle the problem.

I subscribe entirely to the views put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, in his speech. I should like, however, to broaden the consideration of the matter and to refer to the great need for international action to deal with the enormous question of narcotics. The increased use is most noticeable in the West. The producing areas are mostly the developing countries. There is need for much greater international co-operation. I recognise that we have achieved some, but draconian measures need to be taken against the growers of these materials in some developing countries. This can only be achieved by the West providing financial resources. It is therefore an area where more public resources should be spent.

However, my main reason for intervening in the debate is to underline a point touched upon by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. I refer to the schools. The most effective safeguard, it seems to me, that we can have against increased use of narcotics is education in all its aspects. This includes education in schools, the use of films, as seen on both BBC and ITV, and the greater use of videos, advertising programmes and press publicity. Unfortunately, the publicity is often of the worst kind. There was a man called Thomas Comerford who was recently sent to a very long period of imprisonment in London. He was the main trafficker in drugs on Merseyside. When he was convicted and sentenced most of the media concentrated on the very desirable, luxurious lifestyle that he lived, all as a result of his trading in narcotics, whereas the true publicity ought to have been given to those many victims of his activities who had suffered great illness, a living death, and no doubt sometimes death itself.

It troubles me that, as has been pointed out, the police cannot go into certain schools. The police ought to be going into schools. There ought to be the utmost co-operation between the important profession of the police, and the equally important profession of the teacher. I am extremely disturbed at the fact that the teaching profession at the moment is in such a demoralised state. We ought to think in much broader terms than merely the question of the police attitude and support. The police equally need the support of the teaching profession; and the children and parents certainly need it. We cannot afford to allow a great profession like the teaching profession to remain in its present demoralised state if we are going to ask them for the utmost co-operation with the police.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has rendered a great public service in drawing our attention to this important matter and concentrating our minds upon it this afternoon. He is echoing a fear and concern that is felt throughout the land.

3.52 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, once again this very important matter has been brought to your Lordships' House and I for one am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for doing so. However, the question that he has put before us this afternoon is couched in such broad terms that when I sat down to look at it my thoughts amounted almost to a five-hour speech, like that of our friend Mr. Gorbachev yesterday. But I felt that your Lordships would not want to hear more than the maximum of 10 minutes from me.

Everybody, not only in your Lordships' Chamber but outside, recognises that crime has unfortunately increased throughout the country. But in the middle of the Motion we are asked this afternoon to talk about trafficking in narcotics especially within the Metropolitan area. Trafficking is evil, and done in my view by evil men. It is difficult to catch traffickers. They are not always even based in this country. The money that they get from trafficking is very often rapidly salted abroad. We are not only worried about the traffickers but also about the end of the line: those people who take narcotics, the young people who can lose their lives, who can have brain damage, and who can lead an unhappy and squalid way of life. We do not have to look far in our great city to see some of those whom I have mentioned.

There is an excellent committee being chaired by the right honourable Member, Mr. David Mellor, which is a ministerial committee looking into this problem nationwide. We wish them luck. They want to reduce supplies from abroad, to strengthen deterrents, to have better preventive measures and especially to treat and rehabilitate those who have taken and become addicted to narcotics. They are also looking into the education of the young people, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has just said.

To that end, they have spent £3.4 million in Pakistan to try to eradicate the opium crops there. There is a national campaign which is costing the Government £8 million annually by posters, advertising and the media generally to try to warn people about the evil of narcotics. A further million pounds—above the amount already given—has been given this year by the Government to the health authorities, again to try and help those who are addicted. In the schools the teachers are encouraged to be more aware and to look out for the problems that some of their pupils might be suffering, by a video film which the Government have just made, and by another film and many measures which the Government are taking throughout schools.

In 1984 25,000 people were found guilty or cautioned by the courts for drug offences. Four thousand one hundred people were found guilty of trafficking offences. That was an increase of 25 per cent. over 1983. I had the honour of serving under the noble Lord, Lord Harris, when he was chairman of the parole board. To me one of our major problems was what to do with those traffickers who had been caught and who were imprisoned. I, for one, and many of my colleagues also, took a very, very hard line. There was no way that they would come out of prison on one-third, or even two-thirds release. One wanted them to stay to the end of their time in prison because we all knew that directly they were out they would start trafficking again and would reopen the communications that they had throughout the world for trafficking in these dangerous and very harmful substances.

As I have said, serious crime has increased but to me it is horrifying when I see the statistics that the majority of crimes in this country are now committed by 15 year-old boys and 14 year-old girls. It is very difficult for anybody, certainly for me—I cannot speak for the Members of your Lordships' House—to realise that the youth of our country, who are not even yet, as we would have thought, adolescent, are committing more crimes than any other age group in our country.

I contacted Y-Division with whom I used to be a magistrate. They said that at holidays and half terms in the schools in Y-Division the police had to be more on the alert for the children and what they were doing than at any other time or for any other person in Y-Division because the youths were getting into trouble not only by vandalism but petty crimes as well. I would say that fear of detection is one of our best hopes for the future. I feel that that would do more to reduce crime than anything else we can do. The metropolitan police resources are greater than ever but crime goes up at a greater rate than ever.

In the 1986–87 budget the metropolitan police had £851.8 million; last year the sum was £771 million. It is now only 1.1 per cent. below establishment, whereas in 1977 it was 16 per cent. below establishment. However, in the division of which I have spoken, they say that the establishment is not enough to deal with that area. Perhaps when I tell your Lordships that the Broadwater Farm Estate is also within that area it will help you to understand that Y-Division has a very big and difficult area to cope with.

Since 1979 the strength of the police in the metropolitan area has risen by 4,500 and the number of civilian staff—the people who do not have to be trained, the shorthand typists, etc.—has risen by 1,250. So in that respect there has been an increase. The Government hope that full strength will be reached by this year—that is, the summer of 1986. Indeed, 50 extra officers have been trained specially to combat drug abuse. There is also the new intelligence unit at Scotland Yard. Therefore, I submit that no one can say that the Government are not doing anything; they are putting the best brains of the metropolitan police and of the Government to bear upon the problems facing us in this country. Therefore, a great deal is being done.

As one noble Lord has already said, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said in public that the escalation of help to the police in this country will go on. However, it is up to us—not only you, me and the media, who I cannot stress enough, but also everyone else in this country—to turn this alarming tide of crime backwards.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

My Lords, as is his wont, my noble friend Lord Harris has raised a highly topical and wide-ranging subject for debate. I only wish to concentrate on crime prevention. When we debate law and order, whether regarding the police, the courts, the prisons or the probation service, what we are really discussing in each case is an aspect of crime prevention. Those of us who have consistently questioned the efficacy of long sentences; huge prison building schemes; short, sharp, shocks and so on, have often been labelled as "wets" or "do-gooders" by many members of the party opposite. However, I believe that there is now a very general recognition that that approach to crime is founded upon a hardheaded policy based on experience which emphasises crime prevention rather than the simplistic and blunt instrument (and I say this with great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips) of crime punishment.

In London the attitude of the metropolitan police is all important on this topic. The central document in that regard, which I have in my hand, is the report for the last year of the Commissioner of Police to the Secretary of State. Speaking for myself, I find the report a remarkable piece of work. I find it radical and very encouraging. I should like to pay a tribute to Sir Kenneth Newman as regards its contents. His aim is to harness public co-operation, to lead a police force which he describes as "turning outwards towards the public". He wants community policing, neighbourhood policing, consultative committees and crime prevention panels. He approves of the lay-visitors scheme to police stations. He encourages victim support schemes and he even highlights in his report the community awareness workshop in the Borough of Newham and the New Addington befriending scheme in Croydon. He has issued a code of professional conduct for the officers of his force.

In praising the commissioner and applauding the manner in which he has so rapidly reacted to the Scarman Report, I must nonetheless say this to him: you will only succeed in your admirable aims if your officers win the admiration, the respect and the trust of the public, and that, in two vital areas of crime prevention in the metropolis—the young and the ethnic minorities—you have not, I would suggest, so far succeeded in doing.

There are in my view two continuing obstacles to this success and we must face up to them. One of them is the question of corruption and the other is the question of behaviour. I fear that there is a tradition of corruption in some parts of the metropolitan police and if, as I have, you spend all your working life either appearing for the prosecution or for the defence of criminals and offenders in London, you meet hundreds of police officers, offenders and solicitors of all different types and kinds.

Your Lordships must appreciate that corruption persists—for example, the magical disappearance of objections to bail; the wife against whom charges are suddenly withdrawn; the absence from the note book of the alleged admission; the absence of one-third of the recovered stolen property; and, alas, the planting or the threat of planting of incriminating evidence.

Only in the last few months—and I know that this is only anecdotal evidence but it is the type of matter which keeps arising—I was contacted by the parents of a young man who had been in some establishment in the West End when the police entered it. A number of his friends had already left and he refused to give the names and addresses of the people who had been at the table he was at. He was taken into the passage and there it was said to him, "Hello, hello, what's that on the floor?" It was a piece of cannabis which he had allegedly dropped on the floor. He was taken off to the police station, kept there for five hours and ultimately charged with being in possession.

His parents contacted me and asked for advice. My advice was that if in the morning he pleaded guilty to possessing so small an amount of cannabis he would be fined a small sum and that would be the end of it. However, if it were true that it had been planted on him and his parents were satisfied that that was true, then, I said, "You must go to the very best possible legal representation and you must fight the case—and it will be extremely difficult to succeed". In fact, they took that advice and fought the case and in 10 minutes that young man was acquitted before a jury. At the moment the inspector in charge of the group of officers concerned is serving a term of imprisonment and five other cases have been dropped.

It is no good shutting one's eyes to that situation which, alas, apparently still persists. Sir Robert Mark, when he was commissioner, tried to root it out and, as your Lordships know, over 200 officers in the CID resigned, were prosecuted or left of their own accord. However, it made very little difference. Sir Kenneth says in his report: There is endless opportunity and temptation to blur the distinctions between ends and means—working in the twilight areas of criminality". He cites that as a reason for his code of conduct to officers. However, I say to Sir Kenneth, "You must do more than a code of conduct. You must somehow instil into your new officers the dangers that lie ahead and publicise them and give these young men and women a clear, confidential path for lodging a complaint if they see corruption or are asked to participate in it". Because, my Lords, we must have whistle blowers in the metropolitan police just as we must have them in the Civil Service.

As regards behaviour, there is too much anecdotal evidence of simply bad, arrogant, or rude behaviour towards the public among a number of police officers in the force. Those of us who have children or grandchildren know very much about this. People do not mind being stopped. They do not mind having their cars or boots searched if the police are entirely polite about it and tell why it is being done. But harsh or arrogant behaviour towards a young person in those circumstances can make the police an enemy of that young person for the rest of his life.

The same applies to racism, which is a serious matter in the metropolitan police and is something that again one has to face up to. I am sitting on a committee at the moment which has that as one of the matters being looked into. We had a distinguished commander come and speak to us the other day who said, "You must remember that we reflect in the police force the widespread intolerance of the community at large". That surely is not the proper approach. The metropolitan police must be a force apart in that sense, they must have higher standards, and they must understand better than the ordinary person does about their own prejudices.

The last thing I wish to say is this. The commissioner is keen on helping crime prevention measures in the community. The outstanding example of that is the Crime Prevention Unit of NACRO, and I think that my noble friend Lord Donaldson will say more about that in a moment. What I should like to ask the Minister is, how is it that the Home Office find it impossible to fund crime prevention measures and units?

The money for NACRO's crime prevention unit—and I think over 40 local authorities now have these units of one sort or another—comes from the DoE and from the urban fund, but no money comes from the Home Office. I ask the Minister why the Government would not agree that crime prevention schemes really go to the grass roots of crime, and that it is there that you can deter the young criminal and build up confidence in the police among the public. So far as the battle against crime is concerned, it is at the crime prevention level that the battle might begin to be won.

4.13 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, my speech is going to be rather short. Due to some mental aberration it was only when I arrived in your Lordships' House that I realised that the speech I had prepared was on the Sex Discrimination Bill, which is to be considered tomorrow. My noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich gave us some interesting facts and figures, which is just as well because for obvious reasons I do not have any facts or any figures. However, those like myself and other noble Lords here interested in the subject of drugs do not actually need to spend many hours sitting down trying to write a speech. You may not know the facts and figures, but you know basically what you want to say.

The last time we in your Lordships' House debated drugs was some while ago. It was when the television cameras were fairly new here, and as a result many noble Lords wanted to speak. We were therefore restricted to five minutes each, which is not long enough to cover such an important subject. In my speech I suggested that the drug barons, if found guilty, should suffer sequestration, and later the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, also subscribed to the same view.

A short time ago the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, in a speech on rape suggested that convicted rapists should be castrated. I am not sure whether she was really serious on that. It is rather permanent, is it not? But on that basis, and with exactly the same view, I would suggest that if you have a drug baron who is found guilty, why should the taxpayer support him in prison? Why not "mainline" him with heroin and give him a taste of the living death that he had been pushing, and then put him out on the street and let him die a degrading and filthy death? Because in the newspapers one reads the same story over and over again of young kids explaining how they got on to heroin. They say, "I know it is killing me, I know that I stand a good chance of catching Aids. But I cannot stop". That is the awful thing.

On some housing estates nearly every single child is on drugs of one kind or another; because once a sufficient number of young people are on drugs, then if any of them do not go on to drugs too they are out of it. They think, "Well, it is not really harmful. Everyone is doing it" Then they are caught, and they are addicts.

Previous speakers referred to the numbers of kilos of heroin intercepted. What they are really saying is that if we had more money for the Customs and Excise and police we could intercept more drugs and take them off the streets. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. At the moment, comparatively speaking, heroin is cheap because there is a plentiful supply. If you intercept a lot of heroin it will come to be in short supply, which means that the pushers will cut it down so that it will be weak. Therefore, the addicts will have to take more in order to get the same effects.

Then if a large consignment gets through it will become plentiful again, and therefore it will be cut less. But the addicts do not know this and become used to taking a large amount; they suddenly find they are taking a large amount of high concentration heroin, and they unknowingly kill themselves. This is not supposition. This is what we were told in the select sub-committee by the experts. It is not just a case of intercepting the drugs.

A previous speaker said that we have to get to those countries, mostly in the East, which are growing the drugs; those countries—and I believe that the Netherlands is one of the worst offenders—where they refine the drugs and where they are readily available, and we have to hit them. If we are going to stop heroin addiction—and I think we are basically talking about heroin addiction—then it is not just the growers who have to be stopped, but the refiners and everyone along the line. And we have to stop not 10 per cent., 20 per cent. or 50 per cent. of the drug traffic; we have to stop as near as we can 100 per cent.

The last time I spoke in your Lordships' House on drugs I had never tried any drugs, apart from cigarettes. I admitted then that I smoked cigarettes. A few weeks ago on holiday with a convivial party someone passed round what I believe is called a joint. I suddenly realised that I was on what I think is called "a high". I hated this. I sat there and fought it. It is one thing having too much alcohol, but to go on hallucinatory drugs terrified me. I sat and fought it and beat it. I brought myself off that high, possibly because I said to myself, "Be stubborn". My wife considers me to be bloody-minded. I was not going to let that drug have its effect on me. But I might have enjoyed that sensation. Many young children do, so they try it again and after a bit someone says, "You get a far better high on something else". Before you know it, they are on heroin and on the road which only ends one way: in degradation and in the grave.

My noble friend Lord Hooson mentioned the police and police corruption. I agreed with much of what he said. I have a young friend who is a punk. He is a very gentle, nice boy but the police take one look at him, stop him and arrest him. He has been fitted up, just as many of his friends have been fitted up, not with drugs; but that could happen. It is no good the police having rules of conduct, because they just put them in their pockets and forget them. This boy's father told me yesterday that there are now books in schools where there is an item on contact with the police. The basic rule is. "Don't. Keep out of the way of the police. If you see them coming, turn round and go away. If you are stopped by the police you stand to attention and say 'Yes, sir; no, sir; three bags full, sir'. But whatever they do, you stand to attention". These are recommendations to young children. This is not a book written by Left-Wing loonies, but a serious book. If we come to that in this country we must do something quickly; otherwise we shall alienate a whole generation from the police. However, we must consider that only a few of the police are bad apples.

I thought I wanted to make a short speech. I have spoken for 10 minutes. I shall sit down.

4.24 p.m.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Earl did not go on a little longer to tell us who are the author and publisher of this remarkable book. Perhaps he will do so in private afterwards.

Everybody who has spoken up until now has had special knowledge or experience. I have neither, at least not recent knowledge or experience. I speak merely as a consumer of police services. Recently my neighbourhood formed a Neighbourhood Watch, rather different from that described by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. He described someone patrolling on watch. With ours, it is simply neighbours keeping a sharp eye for somebody behaving in a suspicious way. The other night there was a man prowling up and down the avenue looking up garden paths. Two people telephoned and within seconds the police arrived to question him. It proved to be my next-door neighbour, who had lost his dog. Happily, the dog was restored the next day from Battersea.

Nevertheless, before this Neighbourhood Watch a few months ago this would not have happened. People would not have been alerted to telephone the police. The Neighbourhood Watch, even in its modest minimum form as we have it, will be a good thing.

We see and hear much about the police nowadays. We see them on television, locked in struggle with pickets, coping with rioters or football hooligans. We read of them when they used firearms nervously or clumsily or when they have been engaged in some form of corruption. We read about their problems in coping with the young and especially the black young. But we read less often about the problems they have to face—an argument so well deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I am thankful to him for initiating this debate. He is right to have confined his debate to London. Some people in the provinces may wonder what on earth we are talking about because their experience of the police is entirely different from the experience in the metropolis. Policing problems are different in every town. I remember as a young reporter discovering police methods in Blackpool and entirely different police methods when I went to the dockside city of Salford, only 40 miles away.

Law and order are not the exclusive concern of the party of government, but of us all. The police are not there simply to protect the property-owning minority from the mob. We are all at risk from burglary, mugging and assault. This applies as much or even more to the old and poor living in our inner city districts. It applies to our children and grandchildren who face the same dangers from the drug peddlers, no matter to what social class they belong or in what district they live. Girls and women are afraid to go out at night alone and some coloured families live in terror.

A number of us must have watched "Panorama" on Monday. We saw what is happening in Islington, the problems the police have there in dealing with so many crimes. We saw, too, how in the neighbouring borough of Holloway the road to improvement in the quality of policing might be found by using modern organisational methods and by the use of computers to record and classify crime so that the force may be most efficiently deployed. The case for a vast improvement in the quality of police organisation and methods certainly exists. Although a great deal has been done in the reorganisation and creation of special forces, nevertheless there is a long way to go.

What about the quantity of the police? Is it enough even with the recent increases? As journalists, we were taught never to write about the "police" and "civilians"—not to have that type of dichotomy, for our English police are civilians. However, it is a convenient term. I notice that the police are using it and I now propose to employ it myself for convenience. As long as I can remember, it has been suggested that the police should be relieved of some of their functions which could be better and perhaps more cheaply performed or as well performed by civilians, or there could be a separate force dealing with road transport and the motor car.

Some progress has been made in the recruiting of non-police help, but not enough. I suppose chief constables want to control as large an organisation as the public are willing to provide, because in the last resort on the day when the revolution threatens every police filing clerk may have to open his drawer marked "T" and draw out his truncheon to defend the established order. But that of course is over-insuring. It may be that in the large cosmopolitan cities innovations are required which are not needed in rural districts and in small market towns. Surely, somebody should even now be looking at the range of the problems, not just at specific ones, but at the large range, because some of the new difficulties represent a change in the dimensions of the old problems of muggings, of drugs, drug pushers, hooligans, gangs, burglars and crimes due to racial tensions, to say nothing of the new danger of the terrorists.

Obviously, the problem of the prevention of crime, as well as its detection, should be under constant review. However, if I am mugged, if I have my house burgled and my sentimental possessions turned over, it would be just a bit of consolation if the offender were discovered and sent to prison. But, frankly, I should rather not be mugged or burgled at all. Prevention is the word. Surely the presence of police on the beat, police who are seen by the public regularly and frequently, is still the best deterrent. The police in the past year or two have begun to climb out of their cars and one sees them, but not very often. Surely, one item of public expenditure that nobody will begrudge is the money required for a larger police presence.

Let nobody say that this means a police state. The term has quite another meaning; it means a state where the police themselves operate outside the law. Finally, the reason that people no longer go about in London saying, "Our police are wonderful" is that they are not always so. But could it be that some, a proportion, perhaps even only a small fraction, of the reported cases of wrong behaviour have some connection with the frustration and fatigue of the police with more duties put upon them than they can possibly perform?

4.32 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I want to deal with one particular end, the distribution end, of the drug problem which is where ultimately the money comes from. This has not been dealt with very much today. The international side is very important and needs as many police as can be found. But quantities of police are not going to solve the problem of the distribution end. I want to support my noble friend Lord Harris in his request for a significant increase in the establishment of the metropolitan police and for the provision of additional resources to support local crime-prevention schemes. I wish to point out that it would not be much good to have the first lot if you did not first have the second lot. What is needed in these difficult inner city areas where drug pushing is particularly rife is for the police to be more effective and not necessarily more numerous.

Indeed, in very hostile communities too much police presence may be counter-productive. This does not apply to the importing side to which I have referred already. On this end of the business, I speak with some knowledge as president of Nacro whose reports I receive regularly and read with close attention. We have 60 crime prevention units now working within 40 local authority areas. The oldest was set up in 1976 in the Cunningham Road Estate at Widnes in Cheshire and it and its 50-odd successors have been carefully monitored. They have been extraordinarily successful as the following two examples show.

The Widnes unit, when it was first set up in 1976, revealed vandalism to one in every three houses. By the 1979 survey, this was reduced to one in every eight. In 1976, 70 per cent. of the residents reported a burglary against 8 per cent. in 1979. Police and survey workers both reported good progress in reducing crime. Later monitoring has confirmed these results. To take another example, this time in the London area, in the nine months to June 1985, compared with a similar period to June 1984, on a Lewisham estate burglaries had dropped by 54 per cent., car crime by 60 per cent. and street crime by 48 per cent. These are just two instances; but I am talking about something which is not difficult to do, not expensive to do, and is working.

The Home Office and Sir Kenneth Newman have both publicly acknowledged the value of this work. Last year in his Howard League address Sir Kenneth said: The resources provided by Narco are used to build effective multi-agency initiatives against crime, involving police, social services and housing departments. These initiatives are beginning to show results on some of the most difficult housing estates in London in reducing crime". The system is worth describing in a few sentences. Nacro sends in a team of two or three experienced workers. They call on and arrange meetings with local authorities and other statutory and voluntary agencies concerned in the area. They bring together senior representatives from them to form a steering committee. A team is appointed which goes round and consults the residents to discuss problems and possible solutions; it reports back with a report of recommended improvements and with a draft action scheme on behalf of the residents to the steering committee which considers and perhaps amends it. The team then relays the agreed action plan back to the residents for endorsement.

The important thing now is that the steering committee then has the continuing task of overseeing progress, and in particular the involvement of the residents. We have found that success depends on first the involvement of the residents; and secondly in getting one or two of the recommendations quickly and visibly implemented to maintain everybody's morale. Obviously, this sort of thing can be well or badly done. We have had enough experience to see that it is well done.

Now I come to the question of narcotics. These under-privileged—indeed, disadvantaged—communities are specially vulnerable to criminal activity. The 1984 British Crime Survey showed that the poorest estates had burlgary rates five times as high as the national average. The young people, mostly unemployed, are obviously an easy target for the drug pushers who come in and push their drugs without much danger of being caught because their customers protect them. But the parents of the young are as horrified as any other parents at what is happening to their children and they want above all things more effective policing. If the system involving the residents that we have been talking about is thoroughly set up, these parents will be of the greatest possible assistance to the police in every possible way.

Community policing can never be successful until the community is wholly behind the police and regards them as friends and protectors. This cannot be achieved overnight and is inevitably easier in predominantly white areas than in mainly black areas. Particularly among the latter there is a fear and hatred of the police—based on past behaviour, alas! undeniable and inexcusable—but which Sir Kenneth Newman is making the most strenuous efforts to correct as is shown clearly in the paragraphs to which my noble friend referred in his recent report. I think he is making real progress. I also think we can help him. We have found, where our teams have commenced, that we can bring the police in with the residents in a way which is reassuring to both sides and which begins to change the attitude of suspicion into one which noble Lords in this House have naturally: that the police are on our side and will protect us.

The parents, whether black or white, need to be persuaded to ask the police to come in and help. If the police come in, as of course they are obliged to in pursuit of crime, without this familiarisation through discussion which we have been talking about, they may easily, by stopping or sometimes even arresting youngsters who are in fact innocent, add to the reputation they already have of picking on blacks and lose the confidence of the parents who should be their main supporters.

They have a real difficulty here in that it is hard to pick up the pushers without interfering with a good many youngsters, not all of whom are customers but most of whom will protect a colleague against the police. The only way to get round this is to persuade the community as a whole that their children's lives are being ruined and that the police must come in and help them. Thus, though I think that more police may well be needed to deal with the dreadful scourge of drugs I should like to see priority given to the forming of crime prevention units on every housing estate in the country, and particularly in the metropolitan area. This would enormously add to the effectiveness of policing.

If the system gives good results, as we in NACRO and others can demonstrate that it does, there should be no hesitation in multiplying the use of the method without the usual government delay in setting up pilot schemes, running them for three years and then waiting a year for a monitoring report. We can show people at least 60 pilot schemes, so let us get on with it. I hope at least that the Secretary of State will see that this is done, and done properly in each of his five trial inner-city areas.

4.41 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, we all start, I think, from the common ground that we are in the throes of a drug epidemic which is fuelled and spread by the ready availability of illegal narcotics and a vulnerable population. Both supply and demand factors are abundantly present. On the law enforcement side, the Government made some very foolish cuts in the Customs and Excise service prior to 1984, which may have been partly, but only partly, repaired. That is important because, although seizures by the police account for more than three-quarters of the total numbers of seizures, the Customs account for 90 per cent. of the volume seized, which is of course the more significant measurement.

However, even with the recent improvements in the Customs success rate, SCODA (that is, the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse), estimate that no more than 15 per cent. of the drugs destined for the United Kingdom are intercepted on entry into the country. I think that my noble friend Lord Harris gave a lower estimate of 10 per cent. so the scope for increased police effectiveness once the drugs are inside the country is very considerable. And of course this is particularly so in London, Despite the spread of the epidemic all over the country, London remains the drug capital of the United Kingdom. In 1984 there were 12,489 drug misusers known to the Home Office, but according to SCODA it is reasonable to estimate that the real figure is closer to 60,000 of whom as many as 20,000 may be found in the London area.

There are two questions I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, here. If, as my noble friend Lord Harris suggests, there is to be a further increase in the strength of the metropolitan police, will the Government ensure that it is sufficient to allow an increase in the staff of the Central Drug Squad from its present strength of 57 to its target strength of about 200? That does seem to be a very serious shortfall from the number the force believes it needs to combat the drug menace effectively.

Next, do the Government agree that there is a need for police officers to receive more training about drug use, and do they support the increased use of cautioning (which does of course involve a criminal record) for cases involving canabis, in order that more police time can be concentrated on suppliers and those committing the very serious offence of trafficking in class A drugs? It really does seem important that we should get our priorities right here.

I now want to switch briefly to the Government's media campaign against drug abuse, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod. This has so far taken the form of leaflets for parents, public information from the Central Office of Information transmitted by the BBC, commercial TV advertisements, advertisements and articles in the youth and professional press and public posters. The total cost for the period from October 1984 to March 1986, but mostly incurred since May 1985, was, according to the Social Services Committee of another place, £1,792,000, of which £1,220,000 was specifically directed at young people.

Unfortunately, I understand that once the figures are finalised there is likely to have been a 25 per cent. increase in the notification of new addicts during 1985. This may of course be due to improved notification procedures or to factors unrelated to the campaign, and it is perhaps early days for any positive results. All the same, it seems to me that this interim, or provisional, result (if I may call it that) should give the Government food for thought.

It is the view of SCODA and of the citizens' advice bureaux that, though the take-up—however that is measured—has been encouraging, the campaign has been largely ineffective because it was targeted at a middle-class audience. Certainly the problem affects all income groups but there are obviously a larger number of abusers in the larger socio-economic groups. It therefore seems that this campaign has not been properly designed or targeted. Can the Government tell us what their plans are now in this respect? Will they drop this means of persuasion or attempt to refocus it?

I should add that before this idea was put into effect there were knowledgeable people who warned that it would be ineffective and even counter-productive. I accept that the sum of money involved is not large by today's standards, but it is considerable in relation to the Government's £10 million central fund, and I believe that the cost-effectiveness of this type of approach to the problem should be scrutinised very carefully indeed.

I want finally to turn to wider considerations. We are in the grip of an epidemic, but our response has been slow, fragmented and lacking in co-ordination. As I have already said, both the supply and demand sides are booming in a sinister symbiosis. The police and the Customs operate on the supply side, and must be enabled to do so more effectively, as my noble friend's Motion urges. The demand side is more complicated because it is stimulated by poor social conditions, by boredom and by despair.

Though one cannot prove a causal connection, there is a distinct correlation between drug abuse and unemployment. The annual level of drug offences and of registered addicts varied little between 1974 and 1978 when unemployment did not, at its maximum, rise much above 5 per cent.; but when unemployment took off between 1979 and 1984 drug offences doubled in that period, as did notifications. Common sense would seem to indicate a link between unemployment and drug abuse, and it certainly seems to be there.

Then again there is the question of the interrelation between alcohol and drugs. Does expensive legal alcohol enhance the appeal of illegal drugs? With stable or falling street prices, that may well be the case. We do not know because it is unusual to discuss alcohol and drug problems together; but the fact is that the real price of alcohol has gone up since 1979 while the street price of heroin has halved.

Next there is the question of the media campaign I have already referred to. Are such campaigns effective or are they counter-productive? There is also the international angle which has also been mentioned in this debate. More is being done to mobilise international action, and this appears to have had some effect on the amount of cocaine entering the country, but not on heroin.

There is also the question of education and of the approach adopted in schools. Only yesterday the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, was telling us about video films being issued to schools, and the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, also referred to that. All these are aspects of the drug problem, without touching on treatment and the role of the GP, the community health team and social workers or on the pressing need for more research. I will not continue on this tack. My only purpose is to show that the drug problem is linked to other social factors, is multi-faceted and involves all sorts of bodies and agencies, some statutory and some not.

I am not saying that this pluralist approach is wrong; but the plain truth is that we do not have a national strategy, we do not have enough funds and it is my belief that it is high time we brought together the medical, scientific, social and criminal evidence and looked at the problem in the round. Because it is not going to go away and it will be with us, in greater or lesser volume, in the year 2000 and probably well beyond.

So how should we go about this? I want to ask the Government tonight to look at the idea of a standing royal commission. I know that these distinguished bodies have not been held in much esteem by the present Government, but there is one active and highly effective example still in business: the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, set up in 1970. It has produced no less than 11 effective and influential reports on all aspects of pollution, whether of rivers, the sea, the air or the city environment. As a result of its work we have built up an invaluable picture of the threats to our environment and of the possible remedies. Of course, royal commissions cannot make policy but they can provide the essential background against which decisions can be taken.

I think that a commission of this sort would be of great advantage to the drug scene. It could explore the role of the police, of doctors, of psychiatrists; the findings of research; the relationship with other addictions; the results of campaigns; the efforts of schools. All these strands could be brought together in the same clearing house. Everything of relevance could be sifted and evaluated by an objective body not tied to the interests or theories of any one profession or agency. Given the existing sense of national emergency, I am sure there are outstanding people who would be willing to serve.

I have, incidentally, checked on the cost. It would be tiny compared to the sums already pledged. The Supply Estimates for 1985–86 show the total budgeted cost of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution at £148,000—barely more than the sum spent last year by the Government on leaflets for their campaign. No objection can be raised on grounds of cost and I venture to suggest that the creation of such a body would be no more than the proper and explicit recognition of the scale of a problem that is almost certain to persist well into the next century, though one would hope on a diminishing scale if effective prevention and remedies can be devised.

I realise that the noble Lord cannot hand me a royal commission across the Dispatch Box this evening, but I want to get his undertaking to discuss the matter seriously within Government circles and possibly to write to me about it. This suggestion is aimed at a better appreciation of the drug scourge and more effective action in the medium- and long-term. It is in no way intended to detract from the urgency of my noble friend's case for an immediate increase in the strength of the metropolitan police. The front line response is the first priority. But we must have a strategy. Otherwise, we shall go on winning the occasional skirmish and making the occasional spectacular seizure; but we shall not be winning the war.

4.52 p.m.

Lord Wigoder

My Lords, the opinions expressed in your Lordships' House this afternoon have really been all one way, and that perhaps makes it easier than it might otherwise have been for me to wind-up this short debate on behalf of the Alliance. We look forward with the greatest interest to what the noble Lord the Minister will say in his reply. If the leak in the morning press was an authorised one—and it may well be that it was—he is going to indicate to us that the increased resources for which we are asking are in fact about to be provided. I resist the temptation to say—if he does indicate that—that that demonstrates the power of the Alliance. What I do say is that it certainly appears to indicate that there is a great deal of influence to be obtained by your Lordships' House in having a well-timed debate, because I strongly suspect, if this concession is made this afternoon by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government, that it is a statement that perhaps would not have been made had this debate not taken place today. It would have been postponed, no doubt, to some time in the future.

That the case has been made out for the increased resources for which we are asking is perfectly clear. We know that the Government have as one of their main platforms their belief in law and order. I think the record shows, certainly in the metropolitan police area—the one with which we are primarily concerned this afternoon—that the promise has not quite lived up to what was anticipated. I know that looking at the number of notifiable offences is not a very accurate indication of the amount of crime that is committed, but it is a reasonably accurate indication of the amount of crime that the police are called on to investigate.

The figures really are quite startling—an increase in notifiable offences of some 75 per cent. over the last 10 years, and an increase in the metropolitan police area alone from 1979 to 1984 of from 557,000 serious crimes to some 716,000. That is a very substantial increase and, during the time that that increase has been taking place, one is entitled to look to see what the Government have provided by way of increased forces to deal with it.

The facts, as your Lordships now know from what has been said by my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, are that metropolitan police numbers have risen from some 22,800 in 1979 to some 26,800 in 1984—a total increase of 4,000 officers and a percentage increase of rather less than the amount by which crime has increased. But one then has to take into account the figures repeatedly stated by the commissioner and referred to by my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich.

Without repeating the figures in detail, it is clear, is it not?—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, will agree with this—that when one looks at those officers who had to be diverted to the royalty and diplomatic protection corps, at those officers who had to be diverted to Heathrow airport, at those officers who had to be diverted to the district support units, and then when one takes into account also the reduction in the effective strength caused by the reduction in overtime, which, in turn, has been partly caused by a Government imposed reduction in the cash limits, one reaches an overall figure which shows for all practical purposes no increase whatever in the number of police officers in the metropolitan area available in the last five years to fight this great increase in crime.

Those officers are desperately needed. I do not need to repeat what has been said this afternoon by so many noble Lords about the crime figures in the metropolis, nor, in particular, about the figures for the increase in drugs traffic which was particularly referred to by my noble friends Lord Harris and Lord Kilmarnock. Those increased numbers of officers are needed primarily to go on the beat, partly to deter the commission of offences, partly to catch offenders and partly because that is the only way by which community policing by consent can be made effective.

The desperate need for that has been made clear recently. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, who mentioned the "Panorama" programme which showed that, certainly in one area of London, the number of young people who were willing to support and co-operate with the police was very small and the number of young black people was almost entirely negligible. That is a serious matter. The neighbourhood crime watch programmes, about which we have heard, can exist only with the active support of the public. From the "Panorama" programme it rather looked as though such members of the public as were willing to participate in those neighbourhood crime watch programmes were almost entirely elderly or middle-class and white. That is no way in which those programmes will be made effective, and there is therefore a desperate need to promote active co-operation between the police and the community.

This does not involve overlooking—of course it does not—the occasional misdemeanour by some member of the police force. It is quite right that that should not be glossed over. It is quite right for example, that the incident in Holloway should receive the treatment that it has done. I do not want to refer to that matter because it is, I suppose, so far as those who have been arrested are concerned sub judice. But I might mention one matter to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur.

He and I have crossed swords across this House on several occasions about Section 11 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which makes it an offence to withhold information. I ask him to consider whether, if police officers who are themselves innocent of any offence know perfectly well that an offence has been committed and agree together not to disclose it, they are not in fact committing a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. I do not want to go on about that. I think one ought to take—as I hope one can take—the sort of balanced approach to the occasional case in which the police misbehave that was taken by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, which I so much admired when he spoke a little earlier this afternoon.

There must be criticism where it is due but it must be balanced, it must be constructive, and it must recognise that those in the police force who do offend are a small minority. There must be no place in our society for the sort of criticism sometimes uttered, particularly, I am afraid, by local authorities and largely—inevitably perhaps—by Labour-controlled local authorities, in which every police misdemeanour is seized upon with glee as an opportunity to try to expand and exaggerate the differences that might appear between the police and the public.

With a balanced approach, with an increased force which can be used constructively to cement relations with the public, it ought to be possible, given the increased resources about which I hope to hear in a few minutes' time, to provide a police force in the metropolitan area which at last will make a really successful attempt to tackle the problems of increasing crime.

5.1 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, in thanking from these Benches the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for introducing this important subject, I would say, as I believe has been implied in this debate, that if the nation at this moment were asked what were the main issues worrying it, the reply would come from a very large majority: the unacceptable limits now to be endured of unemployment and the unacceptable limits, presumably now to be endured, of the increase in serious crime. If parents were asked to state their main worry these days in regard to their children, I should have said the answer would be the temptation of narcotics. We are dealing with a matter which is very important for the nation as a whole even though this debate is limited to our capital city.

One is tempted to ask, "What is the cause of this increase in narcotics"—the figures have been dealt with—"and in crime?"—the figures have been dealt with. Is it the figure of unemployment? It must play a serious part, especially when one is dealing, as the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, did, with the age group which concerns us terribly as regards the serious increase in both cases—crime and drugs. I refer to young people. It must have some sort of influence.

The lack of discipline in the home and in schools must have some sort of influence. The dropping in the values of family life must have some sort of influence. Depriving youngsters of the roots that our generation had, whether it was in religious faith or whether it was in the security we felt we had and they do not have, must have some sort of influence. But whatever may be the causes—and obviously, in so far as we can remedy them, we would want to—there are matters that have to be looked at of a practical and immediate nature.

Narcotics have formed as they should do a very serious part of our debate this afternoon. The figures show that the biggest increase is in those under 21—again, a matter that was referred to obliquely, although she dealt mostly with crime, by the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod. Of course this is a matter with which we should love to deal by way of decisions reached this afternoon. What we can do is pose to the Minister some questions. The question of dealing with this problem internationally was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. There is of course a good deal of international co-operation. Perhaps I may pose this question, as it has been posed, I have noticed, in some journals that I have read.

The main source of the heroin that we are particularly worried about, apart from cocaine, is in the poppy fields of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The peasants who pick that crop get a very small sum for their labours. Ought international funding be put towards ensuring that there are alternative crops out of which those peasants can earn their livelihood? Bearing in mind this cancer which enters Western countries, Western populations and Western youngsters, is it just a fantastic idea or complete lunacy to think in terms of funds being employed (if there can be no alternative crops) to the purchase of the crops and their destruction before they ever reach the markets that we have been decrying this afternoon? It is worth a thought.

Again, when we deal with narcotics we are dealing with legislation. It is right that Parliament should do that. Our legislation has consisted of turning a previously fairly severe sentence into a maximum sentence of life imprisonment when the big dealers are caught, when the big people trafficking in this evil trade are apprehended. We are to consider soon in Parliament a Bill which will try to take the profits from those who have these ill-gotten gains. Before we ever reach that stage the big people have to be caught. I turn to the Minister and I ask him this question. Is it a fact that police efforts and resources—I shall deal with the question of further recruitment in a moment—are being taken away from the catching of the big people because of the worries that so many of us have in various areas towards the little supplier and the taker of the drugs?

I am not saying that there ought to be a decrease in vigilance in order to try to deal with those people; but I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether there is Home Office guidance. The Home Office is, after all, the authority looking after the metropolitan police. Are there guidelines laid down for the police? Are there consultations with the police about the drive and the resources that must be employed in order to catch the big people? It is the big people who are responsible for this trade, not the people who for £1,000 or £2,000 carry these evil substances in aircraft or in ships or wherever it may be. The people we are talking about are making billions of pounds out of this wretched trade.

I turn quickly to the question of crime. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, had listened more carefully to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris. The noble Lord. Lord Harris, started off with his usual eloquence and said he regretted so much that anybody should try to make political capital out of a matter of this kind. The noble Lord decried the way in which, presumably, the two other parties were doing it. It is a little regrettable, as I said, that that guidance was not followed more closely, otherwise we would have been spared the lashes which were so undeserved in regard to certain political matters that the noble Lord mentioned. Indeed, he even tried to get for the benefit of the Alliance Party the fact that there was a headline in The Times this morning: Bigger police force for London urged by Home Office". If the noble Lord had read that article with a little more precision, he would have seen that the review was started last October. What happened—and we are all very glad about it—was, so the press say, that there was a recommendation made in an internal Home Office inquiry. The report says that a substantial increase has been recommended. Furthermore, The Times states that an announcement is to be made of that increase. Here is an opportunity for the noble Lord the Minister. He has been pressed from these Benches and from the Alliance Benches—and now the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, will see the generosity of treatment, politically, that we accord—and the Minister has a wonderful opportunity now to announce to the nation today that there has been that recommendation and that it will be implemented.

There is no point in recruiting a police force unless the quality of that police force is that which the metropolitan police has proudly held over many years. There must be quality as well as quantity. There must be a proper intake. I know that the views of the Minister are favourable, and those of the Secretary of State and the Government, are favourable in this respect; that we must see to it that there is a bigger intake into the police force of the ethnic minorities.

Steps are being taken in that direction in other parts of the United Kingdom. I was reading that there is funding of some £60,000 in one part of the kingdom, in order to see to it that there is a door-to-door approach in regard to areas that are occupied very largely by the ethnic minorities, to tell those minorities how much the police would like people from their communities to be recruited into the police force. One would like to see that being done very definitely in the Metropolitan Police Force.

There has been reference made to some of the sinister reports that have reached us, where police from the Metropolitan Police Force have been concerned. I want to say from these Benches on behalf of the Opposition—and it has been said by others wiser than I—that we hold the Metropolitan Police Force and the whole of the police forces of this kingdom in high regard. We look upon them as courageous people who are fighting the battle of justice, and not just of law and order, with honour, with distinction, and with integrity. The police forces lament as much as we do the miscreants in their midst, who are a minority. However, we must see to it that those miscreants are weeded out of the forces.

I pay my tribute—and it is not often in your Lordships' House that we do so—to the media, who were not content with an announcement that was made by the very worthy police complaints authority after much consultation with New Scotland Yard some little time ago that it was impossible to identify who the miscreants were. It appeared in that dreadful Holloway case—and the matter has not been tried yet—that it was impossible to find out who were the people concerned because the facts were being hidden. The media were responsible for seeing to it that the matter did not end there. Investigations have obviously continued, and rightly so, in order to protect the name of the police. I shall say no more because it would not be proper for me to say more.

As I said before this debate has been useful in dealing with a matter that is of such great concern to the citizens of London, and indeed to the nation at large.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, we will all be grateful to the noble Lord. Lord Harris of Greenwich, for having initiated a debate on such an important subject. The debate has been wide-ranging and interesting, and there have been many thoughtful contributions. I have a lot of ground to cover in winding up the debate. I shall do my best to deal with the points that have been raised but first I should like to say a word or two about how the Government see the way ahead on the three major issues to which the noble Lord has directed our attention: the rise in serious crime, especially drug trafficking; crime prevention; and the manpower needs of the Metropolitan Police Force.

There can be no doubt that there has been a rise in serious crime in London. The facts are stark and daunting. In 1984 the number of notifiable offences recorded in the metropolitan police district was 717,00. In 1974 it was 414,000. The rise in crimes of violence is particularly disturbing. The number of recorded offences involving firearms rose from just over 1,000 to more than 2,000 in 1984. The number involving knives and other sharp instruments increased from under 3,000 in 1975 to nearly 6,000 in 1984.

The number of recorded burglaries roughly doubled over the same period, although there have been some recent welcome improvements. The number of burglaries in dwellings recorded in the first nine months of 1985 was 13 per cent. lower than in the equivalent period the year before.

I ought to make two further points about those figures. First, and to expand upon a point made by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, those figures relate to recorded crime. They exclude offences that were not reported to the police. There is some evidence from the British crime survey that people may be rather more inclined now than they used to be to report offences such as burglary; perhaps for insurance reasons, or perhaps even because more people have telephones today and can report such crimes more easily.

There is no dispute that the amount of crime has increased, but the rise may be rather less than the statistics of recorded offences suggest. Secondly, there is nothing new about that increase in the crime figures. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, himself pointed to that fact. The national statistics for recorded crime show a steady rise since the 1950s. In making those points, I am not in any way trying to play down the problem; that would be foolish. I am simply underlining the point that the phenomenon of rising crime is both complex and long-standing.

Equally complex are the reasons for crime in the first place. It would be impossible to find any simple explanations for the increase in crime or to establish links between the rise in crime and changes in other factors in society. Unemployment levels, for example, have varied greatly throughout the century while the incidence of crime has steadily increased. Equally, while the crime rate is higher in relatively deprived areas, it is also high in some relatively affluent districts. There is no evidence to suggest that poor housing and other types of deprivation in themselves contribute to greater criminality.

The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, raised some important points. I share her view of the serious matter of violence against staff in the workplace. The Government are well aware of the problems and are supporting a number of working groups to identify how best to tackle and disseminate advice. The Health and Safety Executive is examining, in a working group across the range of interested government departments, violence to staff generally. It is seeking to exchange experience gained by different departments in tackling their problems and will issue initial guidance by the summer. The Department of Transport has two working groups; one on attacks on bus staff that will be reporting very shortly with recommendations for future action, and another in prevention of violence on the London Underground that will report by mid-summer.

The Home Office is supporting a working group on violence associated with licensed premises. Violence caused by people who have, to differing extents, lost self-control because of too much drink is a very real problem for the police, and the group should produce helpful advice on the way forward.

I think that the noble Baroness will know from her own attendance at the No. 10 seminar that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister commended the manual on security in hospitals produced by the National Association of Health Authorities; and the Home Office Crime Prevention Unit is supplementing that valuable and practical advice by a research study based on the experience of a provincial hospital on crime in hospitals.

As for sentencing and the question of violence being treated severely, of course sentencing is a matter for the courts but offences of grievous bodily harm carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and assault occasioning actual bodily harm carries a sentence of five years.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has made some telling points about drug trafficking. Indeed, other noble Lords have also done so. In preparing for this debate I refreshed my memory of the debate on drug trafficking which the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Mayhew, initiated just over a year ago. It is with no small sense of progress since then that I now turn to the vigorous steps which the Government have taken over the last 12 months to tackle the growing menace of drug abuse.

My noble friend Lady Macleod drew attention to the work of my honourable friend in another place, Mr. Mellor, and his chairing of a ministerial group to consider this very serious matter. I think that to some extent the existence of that group is the answer for which the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, was looking when he suggested that perhaps a standing Royal Commission might be able to look at it as well. That group is a very important means of bringing together the different parts of the Government and different parts of public life which have an input to make toward dealing with the problem.

It is not of course on action aimed at the drug trafficker alone that the Government have based their strategy; action has to be aimed at all stages of the chain from production to supply to treatment of misusers. Nor is the problem confined to London. Nonetheless, given the terms of this Motion and the restrictions of time, I shall confine my comments to initiatives in respect of police and Customs action against traffickers in London. I shall return later to the establishment needs generally of the metropolitan police, which include that of resources to tackle drugs. But we must remember that in Heathrow we have a significant point of entry for drugs into London and that Customs too have a crucial role to play; indeed, it is there that they have had some of their most notable successes. In one week alone last year Customs seized 45kg. of heroin at Heathrow. I gather that to a major trafficker that has a street value of £1,125,000 or thereabouts.

Returning to the role of the police in drug matters, the commissioner is continuing to give priority to action against drug misuse. As in 1985, so in 1986; action against drug misuse continues to be one of the force's main goals. The central drug squad has been particularly active against drug traffickers. During 1985 it removed 40 major drug trafficking organisations in the London area which were dealing in heroin, cocaine and the production of amphetamines. Moreover, the squad has produced an information folder and a set of slides about drugs and methods for their use which have been given to every police community liaison officer in the force, in order that knowledge about drug misuse is disseminated as widely as possible.

Your Lordships will also recall that my right honourable friend the then Home Secretary announced in July last year a number of initiatives to enhance the police response to drugs. These initiatives relate to the country as a whole, and all forces, including the metropolitan police, will benefit greatly from the appointment of Mr. Colin Hewett, previously in charge of the metropolitan police anti-terrorist squad, as National Drugs Intelligence Co-ordinator, to head the enhanced National Drugs Intelligence Unit—to which my noble friend Lady Macleod referred—and co-ordinate and develop police action and liaison with Customs to a high degree which fully takes into account the increasing sophistication of these criminals.

The noble Lords, Lord Hooson and Lord Mishcon, asked about international collaboration. At government level the United Kingdom is an active member of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs and is supporting fully the United Nations proposals for a new convention which will cover a range of practical means of enhancing collaboration arrangements. The United Kingdom is also in the chair of the European Co-operation Group on Drugs which is known as the Pompidou Group and is also supporting the involvement of the European Community in collaboration with the Pompidou Group.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, may I be permitted to ask the Minister a simple question, which is this: is there intended to be collaboration with foreign countries not just through the metropolitan police but through other forces in this country, or is it to be done through London?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I cannot explain the mechanism to my noble friend in a moment or two, but I shall certainly let him know what it is.

I described the Pompidou Group and the importance of collaboration internationally, which of course we realise is a very important feature. One only has to recall the initiative of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister last year at the Bonn economic summit and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in the Bahamas. But collaboration is a practical exercise too by police and Customs—which in part may answer my noble friend. These two services are full participants in international organisations which provide channels of practical co-operation. Interpol and the Customs Co-operation Council are the two well-known examples. Both services build bilateral links too and these direct links are being developed by our increasing international network of United Kingdom drug liaison officers.

As for the point of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, about international funding of alternative crops (and I have to say that this is a valid point), through the United Nations fund for drug abuse control considerable funding is made available for crop substitution, but this is of benefit only provided that enforcement in those countries is able to secure that peasants do not revert to poppy cultivation. Through the United Nations we are therefore giving funding, training and support for the enforcement agencies in those countries.

Regarding the noble Lord's suggestion that the police might be diverted from dealing with the really big people in this sort of crime because of resources, I must say that that is not the case. The whole thrust of the commissioner's plans with drug trafficking as well as other types of major crime is to tackle organised crime; that is, he is aiming for the major criminals and not the small fry. This was made clear in the lead which the commissioner has given his force for the year ahead with the agreement of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

But enforcement is not in itself sufficient. Your Lordships will also be aware of the Bill which was referred to earlier to deprive offenders of their drug trafficking assets, which was given its First Reading in your Lordships' House on 20th February. The Drug Trafficking Offences Bill provides wide-ranging new powers for tracing, freezing and confiscating the proceeds of drug trafficking. It will require the courts to impose on a convicted offender a confiscation order which is equal to the full proceeds of the offender's drug trafficking activities. It will introduce provision whereby any of the offender's assets will be liable to confiscation if he has salted his trafficking proceeds outside the jurisdiction or spent them; it provides important new offences directed at those who assist the trafficker by laundering proceeds or alerting him that his affairs are under investigation; and it provides the necessary powers to put these provisions into effect and for reciprocal arrangements for enforcement to be agreed with other countries.

These are stern measures, and intentionally so. They constitute an important element in the Government's strategy for combating the scourge of drug misuse to which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred with some emotion. We are confident that this Bill, which your Lordships will shortly have the opportunity to consider in detail, will provide police, Customs and the courts with the strong and effective powers which are necessary to cope with the threat posed by this evil and sophisticated form of crime.

The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and my noble friend Lady Macleod referred to the question of education and prevention. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services announced on 13th January, the initial evaluation results of our major £2 million national education and information campaign are encouraging. They suggest that the campaign has hardened young people's attitudes to heroin and other drugs, with increased awareness of their harmful effects without encouraging experimentation, and that is a particularly important point. He has therefore decided to make a further £2 million available for work on the campaign in 1986–87.

Again we talked earlier about the video training package for professionals released on 16th December. On 13th January we launched "Double Take", a two-part video for young people for use in schools and elsewhere. As announced on 30th December, all 96 English local education authorities have been allocated a share of the £2 million to be allocated next year through the education support grants programme. I could go on, but in the interests of time I shall have to cut down what I proposed to say.

As to the question of drugs and unemployment which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, raised, I do not doubt that young people who are bored seek relief through drugs, but I cannot accept a causal link. One has only to see press reports of young people in different walks of life who have been found in possession of cocaine, cannabis and heroin to realise that drug misuse is a menace that goes much more widely through our society than perhaps he suggested. I shall turn in a moment to the question of NACRO and funding for crime prevention units.

I come now to crime prevention and the Government's efforts to do all that they can and to encourage others also to do all that they can to reduce opportunities for crime. Much activity is now in hand, especially at local level, and those efforts were given fresh impetus by the seminar of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 8th January. The action points agreed at that seminar covered auto-crime, residential burglary, violent crime and crime in the workplace; and the different but complementary responsibilities of industry, the CBI, the TUC, voluntary organisations, nationalised industries and central and local government in carrying forward the agreed programme of work were recognised, as was the need to sustain momentum if results are to be achieved.

Activity on the ground includes Neighbourhood Watch schemes. There are now some 3,770 schemes in the Metropolitan Police District. There is also the crime prevention initiative under the expanded community programme through which useful crime prevention projects can be carried out by people currently unemployed. Your Lordships may also be aware of five local demonstration projects. The object here is for a local steering committee comprising a range of statutory and voluntary organisations to identify local projects designed to respond to local needs. The Home Office is funding a local co-ordinator for each of those projects, and we are also providing publicity and research back-up.

The important point in all that activity is to convince the community by demonstration that it is not helpless in the face of crime and that by collective effort, organisation and determination it can be reduced significantly. I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, had to say about that in the example that he gave. My noble friend Lord Inglewood mentioned the fact that the people who take part in Neighbourhood Watch schemes were not policemen and so had rather more constraints on them; but the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, made brought out the importance of the part that the public at large have to play.

As for the question of NACRO and the crime prevention projects, I am sure that my noble friend will realise that the Home Office funds NACRO under Section 51 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973. That section empowers the Secretary of State to fund NACRO for the purpose of rehabilitation of offenders but not for crime prevention, so it is not open to the Home Office to fund the NACRO crime prevention projects in the way that he and the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, suggest, although we regard highly the projects to which he referred.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

My Lords, the point that I was trying to raise was why the Home Office does not fund crime prevention when it spends such a lot of money on dealing with crime.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, unfortunately in the time allowed I cannot cover that point as fully as I should like, but I shall write to the noble Lord.

Concern about rising crime inevitably raises the question of police manpower. It is the duty of every government to form a judgment about the amount of manpower that the police need to deal with crime and then to see that they have it. Before outlining the way forward for metropolitan police manpower, as we see it. I should say a word or two about the present and about the immediate past, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, forecast that I would. He gave some numbers and I need not repeat them. He described how by the end of 1983 we had reached a figure about 4,500 more than in May 1979. That growth in size is roughly equivalent to the size of the Merseyside police force, which is one of the largest provincial forces. The strength of the civilian staff, most of whom work in direct support of police officers, has also grown. The force embarked upon a period of consolidation. Although there have been further increases in strength, the accent has been on making more effective use of existing resources. I am sure your Lordships will agree that that is right.

The commissioner has been energetic in pursuing measures to secure the better use of manpower and other resources. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, seemed to accept that. The commissioner's recent report to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary outlining his strategy for 1986 contains a full account of those measures. I could give much more information, but in the interests of time I fear that I shall have to cut out much of what I was going to say. I should like to have referred to the importance of special constables.

But let me say this. As the force nears the establishment figure, we have been considering whether it should be increased. Some increases have already been given. An increase of 43 in civil staff from 1st April has been approved in order to help with further civilianisation. On 21st October my right honourable friend announced in another place that he had agreed in principle to an increase of 50 in the police establishment from the same date to strengthen the commissioner's efforts against drug trafficking.

Beyond that we set in hand urgent work last October to assess where there were specific needs for further increases in the establishment. A major review, as has been indicated, has been undertaken by the metropolitan police and the Home Office. The review, which looks ahead, as my noble friend Lord Inglewood hoped that it would, has been completed and its report is on the desk of my right honourable friend. He is giving it careful consideration. I expect that your Lordships will understand that, despite the desire of so many noble Lords for me to be in a position to say something today, I cannot do so. However, I agree with all that has been said by those who say that the police deserve our full support. I share their distaste for those who hinder them in their work.

In my haste to finish I have lost my place and I shall try to find it. We are determined to do all that we can to bring crime in the many ways that have been described to a sensible level. The debate has provided an opportunity for many useful views to be expressed and for me to demonstrate in rather too much haste but certainly without complacency the Government's commitment. The fact that the problem persists despite our efforts must not be allowed to dispirit us or to induce fatalism or despair; rather, it should fire us all with renewed determination to get to grips with it.

5.38 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, first I thank all who have participated in the debate. I hope that it has been useful; I believe that it has. I should have been mildly surprised had the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, announced the Home Secretary's decision on metropolitan police manpower in a debate such as this, and he was not in a position to do so. But he will realise from what has been said in this House the expectation on all sides that there must be a substantial increase in its manpower.

As he rightly said, the size of the force has gone up by over 4,000, but he did not deal with the point which I raised and which was repeated by others. The overtime restrictions imposed by the Government have led to a reduction in its effective strength by over 3,200 officers, which seems to be the central issue in the debate. We very much hope that as a result of the discussions which no doubt the Home Secretary will now have with the Chancellor, who is the central figure in the argument, we shall soon hear an announcement of a substantial increase in the size of the force.

I agree with what the Minister said in his last few words. There is a clear need to recreate a sense of national unity when we are talking about relations between the police and the public. As I said, and as my noble friend Lord Wigoder repeated, there has been a damaging growth of publicly financed, anti-police bodies in London and elsewhere. They have poisoned the atmosphere. Those concerned have a heavy burden of personal responsibility for what has happened. General support for the police is admirable. What would be even better would be if some of those who have greater political responsibility used occasions such as this to denounce those who have conducted themselves in such a fashion. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.