HL Deb 27 November 1990 vol 523 cc895-8

2.44 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to increase recruitment into the Metropolitan Police.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, recruitment to the Metropolitan Police is on target for the year. The strength on 31st October 1990 was only 185 posts short of the establishment of 28,565; 111 new recruits started their initial training at Hendon on 29th October 1990. The strength of the Metropolitan Police is 6,100 higher than it was in 1979.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. Is he aware that as we now have the highest rise in crime since the war, chief constables and commissioners feel that the permitted limit should be increased? Is he further aware that there is an additional problem for police forces in outer London where parking problems are immense and where burglaries and break-ins are increasing? Police officers have to be used to control parking. Can consideration be given to permitting traffic wardens to assist the outer boroughs and thus help their police colleagues?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, certainly crime has increased and that is regrettable. However, I remind the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, that the strength of the Metropolitan Police increased from 22,528 to 28,380 between 1979 and 1990. Whereas £300 million was spent on the Metropolitan Police in 1978–79, the figure has now risen to £1,265 million. Seven hundred additional officers have been allocated to the police service as a whole in 1990–91. A decision as to the allocation between forces will be made before the end of the year.

The Metropolitan Police employ traffic wardens; there is a shortage and they are difficult to recruit. The Metropolitan Police are examining how to improve matters; there was a special pay rise this year in order to encourage recruitment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that no police force in the world can, on its own, prevent the commission of crime? What is necessary for the production of a law abiding society is a society which believes in abiding by the law. Does he therefore believe that the programmes for involving the community developed by the Metropolitan Police are the most fruitful way forward? Does he also consider that generally there is a great deal more work to be done to persuade people of the rule of fair play in observing the law?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend; I agree entirely with what he says. For the police to operate properly they must receive the constructive help of the locality. Much has been done, for example, with neighbourhood watch schemes in order to encourage people to take part in the protection of their locality and to help the police.

My noble friend is quite right. If we wish for a law-abiding society it is up to individuals. Some of the treatment which is meted out to police on certain occasions by the members of the public is quite shocking.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, can the noble Earl say how many of the new recruits to the Metropolitan Police have been women and how many members of the ethnic minorities?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, 462 members of the ethnic minorities were members of the Metropolitan Police on 31st October this year. During the year 42 officers were recruited from the ethnic minority communities. I cannot tell the noble Baroness how many were women, either of those or of the non-ethnic minority recruits.

The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether one of the reasons for the wastage in the Metropolitan Police is that until recently overtime was greatly limited? Is that still the case today?

Earl Ferrets

My Lords, there is a constraint on overtime. However, one of the main problems is that once Metropolitan Police officers have been recruited and have undergone training they often find it more convenient and cheaper to move out to a police authority in the country. That is a constant cause of the loss of manpower, and there is little one can do about it.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, it seems now to be a ritual practice to compare present expenditure with that of 1979. When the noble Earl gives figures, will he indicate whether they are at constant prices or whether we should make a big discount in present figures for purposes of comparison due to the enormous inflation from which we suffer?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that was an astonishingly barbed question in a number of ways. I gave the figures for 1979 because I thought that would be helpful and that was the period for which the present Government were responsible. I did not draw attention particularly to the rate which then operated. The figures I gave were in money terms, but there has been a 55 per cent. increase in real terms in the money spent on the police.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware of the anxieties that have been expressed by people who understand the statistics? They believe that the Metropolitan Police are top heavy. There are far too many chiefs and not enough indians. There are far too many people in offices and not enough on the ground. Many people do not think that we are obtaining value for money from the way in which the existing finances are used and the existing personnel is deployed. Will the Minister consider conducting a review of that situation?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is perfectly true that nowadays policing tends to involve a lot of office work. Consequently the Metropolitan Police have been authorised to employ 13,900 staff in order to release on to the streets those officers who are necessarily employed on work inside buildings. They are authorised to employ 13,900 staff but the civilian strength is 13,400. However, the general point that the noble Lord makes about the structure of policing is always a matter for concern. It is constantly under review.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, how many neighbourhood watch schemes now exist within the Metropolitan Police area?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I cannot give that information without notice.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, in view of the figures that the noble Earl has given as regards the increased funds available and the increase in the number of officers recruited, and the avowed intention of the Government to combat crime—they have stated this in all their manifestos—is it not clear that the present system has completely failed and that perhaps the time has come for a Royal Commission to investigate the whole question of the police and crime?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I believe that the experience of most people as regards Royal Commissions is that they sit for a long time and they digest for a long time. That may not be the best way to produce a solution to a matter that is of relative immediate importance. The structure of policing is of course an important matter and it is being considered at present. However, I do not believe that a Royal Commission is the right way to tackle that matter.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I hope I may revert to one of the points that the noble Earl made. It is perfectly true, as the noble Earl will know, that last year 42 people from ethnic minorities were recruited. However, is the noble Earl also aware that of those 42 people 26 have now left the force? Does the noble Earl recognise that the number of applications from ethnic minorities decreased from 624 in 1988 to 577 in 1989? Is the noble Earl further aware that the Metropolitan Police force itself has admitted that this wastage is partly caused by the attitude of white officers towards their black colleagues? Does the Minister recognise that this is an extraordinarily serious matter? Will he tell us what the Government intend to do about it?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if there is any racial prejudice within the Metropolitan Police—obviously from time to time there will be cases of racism—it is a specific offence under the police discipline code and it is punishable with punishments ranging from caution to dismissal from the force. Certainly a number of officers from ethnic minorities were recruited. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, is right to say that some 27 of them left. The commissioner is committed to establishing a workforce which is more representative of the population of London. In order to facilitate this process, various steps have been taken such as the abolition of the minimum height requirement. I am sure that will please the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. There is a pre-employment course for those promising candidates who nevertheless fail the police initial recruitment test. A special research study is being conducted into why members of ethnic minorities do not join the police force. The result of that study has been used to enhance the present media advertising campaign which is aimed at ethnic minority groups.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that additional information. The Minister said that certain sanctions are available to the Metropolitan Police against officers who are convicted of racial prejudice. However, can the Minister tell us how many officers have been convicted of that offence and what the penalties have been?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I cannot tell the noble Lord how many officers have been affected by the sanctions as there are various disciplinary charges which cover racially discriminatory behaviour, such as discreditable conduct. However, those offences do not require proof of racial motivation and therefore it is difficult to give an answer in terms of the number of people who have been convicted of offences which are racially motivated as such offences come under another heading.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, I wish to get the position absolutely clear. Is it right to say that the vast majority of jobs carried out, for example, in the secretarial sector of the Metropolitan Police are carried out by civilians and not by the police at all?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is perfectly true and that is why I said that the civilian quota allowed for over 13,000 people. It is important that those jobs which can be done by people other than highly trained policemen should be done by civilians.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, the remarks made by the noble Earl about my stature remind me of the incident when a Tory mayor said that Lloyd George was a very small man. Lloyd George, being a Welshman, told the mayor not to worry as in Wales people measure a man from the chin up! Is the Minister aware of the report of the Association of Chief Police Officers who are somewhat concerned that not enough recruits are coming forward who are of the calibre to become, ultimately, medium grade officers? Will the Minister look at that matter as it is causing some concern?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I referred to the lowering of the height requirement because I believed it was of interest as some members of the ethnic minorities are smaller than some English men. However, if the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, had wished to enter the Metropolitan Police force I can assure him that he would have had to surmount other hurdles too. I say with the greatest respect to the noble Lord that those other hurdles might not have been quite so easy to overcome. As regards those who are capable of achieving the middle and higher ranks of the police force, I should say that there is a higher proportion of graduates in the police force now than ever before. I believe I am correct in saying that there are more graduates in the police force than in the army, the navy, and the air force combined.

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