§ Sir Dudley Smith
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the level of violence in town centres of England and Wales, other than large inner city areas, and what steps are being taken to counteract such violence.
§ Mr. John Patten
My right hon. Friend has referred in a number of recent speeches, including that to the Police Federation last month, to our concern at this serious problem. We have also received the report of the survey into the extent of the problem recently carried out by the Association of Chief Police Officers in consultation with the Home Office. Officials and representatives of the association are now examining together the problems faced by the police in tackling this sort of disorder and how best to overcome them.
We have already taken a number of steps to increase police powers and capacity to tackle violent crime and disorder. We have strengthened the powers available to the police to deal with public disorder and have brought before Parliament proposals to prohibit the sale of 190W specified offensive weapons and to make it an offence to be in possession of a knife in a public place without good reason.
Since 1979 we have approved 4,327 additional posts for provincial forces, and police strength in these forces has increased by 6,808. The link between misuse of alcohol and this type of disorder is clear, and that is one reason why in the Licensing Act 1988 the law against under-age drinking has been strengthened.