HC Deb 14 July 1982 vol 27 cc392-4W
Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since his reply to the hon. Member for Melton on 2 July 1981, Official Report, c. 443.

Mr. Whitelaw

We have taken further steps to strengthen the police service and enhance public support for it. The strength of the police service in England and Wales has grown by 1,771 in the past 12 months, and now stands at 120,321. The strength of the Metropolitan Police is now 25,765.

To assist in tackling disorder, and in avoiding injuries to police officers, the service now has available a range of new protective equipment, including 20,000 helmets and 6,000 flameproof overalls. Training and tactics have also been improved. In the light of Lord Scarman's recommendations, a wider review of police training is being conducted under the auspices of the Police Training Council.

After a period of intensive consultation, I issued guidance on the purposes and practice of local consultation arrangements between the community and the police on 16 June. As these arrangements develop, they should enable full discussion of issues of local concern, and strengthen community action, in support of the police, in tackling crime.

We are preparing proposals to modernise and clarify the powers available to the police for the investigation of crime, strengthening those powers where needed but at the same time providing new safeguards for the citizen. We have undertaken to bring forward as soon as possible proposals to improve procedures for dealing with complaints against the police in the light, amongst other things, of the recent report of the Home Affairs Committee.

Our proposals to give the courts stronger and more flexible sentencing powers, particularly in regard to young offenders, are being implemented in the Criminal Justice Bill. The Transport Bill, by improving and extending the fixed penalty system, gives effect to our commitment to relieve the burden of traffic offences on the courts and police.

We have continued to make progress with the programme of activity within the prison service which I described in my reply of 2 July 1981, reviewing the operational pattern of the service and examining methods of improving operational efficiency and the use and management of resources. Overall, the momentum in building new prisons and improving existing ones is being maintained. A start has been made on improving prisoners' access at night to sanitary facilities in two establishments.

We have continued to maintain and develop non-custodial measures for dealing with offenders. The number of probation officers in field posts has increased from 4,960 on 31 March 1981 to 5,037 on 31 March this year. We have opened eight new senior attendance centres and two new junior centres.

We have continued our efforts to promote good community relations and to create a society in which individuals can share equal opportunities, rights and responsibilities. We have responded positively to reports from the Home Affairs Committee on racial disadvantage and on the Commission for Racial Equality. We have vigorously followed up our own report on racial attacks and the Scarman report on the Brixton disorders.

The British Nationality Act received Royal Assent in October 1981. I hope to bring it into operation on 1 January 1983.

In March I announced the Government's decision, in principle, to make an early start with direct broadcasting by satellite—DBS—with the aim of having a service in operation in 1986.

In April following publication of a report on cable systems by the Prime Minister's information technology advisory panel, I set up an inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt of Tanworth, to consider the broadcasting aspects of the expansion of cable. The inquiry has been asked to report by the end of September, so as to enable the Government to take decisions on the future lines of development by about the end of this year.

A legalised citizens band service was introduced on 2 November 1981. I have established an independent review of the radio spectrum from 30–960 MHz.

In April I published a White Paper setting out the Government's proposals for legislation on data protection.

We are continuing to strengthen our civil defence arrangements. For example, the capability of the United Kingdom warning and monitoring organisation, which has moved to a new headquarters, is being improved; and we have expanded the Home Defence College.

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