asked the Home Secretary how many cases in the Metropolitan Police area there have been per week this year of footpads in London causing grievous bodily harm to citizens; how many persons have been taken to hospital as a consequence; and what steps he is taking to combat this growing menace?
In the first six months of this year the total number of cases of robbery or of assaults with intent to rob in all parts of the extensive Metropolitan Police District was 85, as compared with 75 in the corresponding period of last year, and these figures include minor assaults which do not involve grievous bodily harm. Figures of the number of persons taken to hospital are not at the moment available, but they shall be communicated to my hon. Friend as soon as possible. The Commissioner of Police, with whom I have been in consultation, is satisfied that there is no ground for the apprehension that there is a growing menace. There is no evidence of organised activities involving robbery with violence and no ground for thinking that the streets of the Metropolis are less safe than they were before the war.
In view of the fact that there are cases known to me personally—in one case the victim was in hospital three weeks—will the right hon. Gentleman take powers to ensure that very severe punishment is inflicted on these highway robbers? [HON. MEMBERS: "And shoot them."] Yes, and shoot them.
That question is hardly one for my Department. On the point raised by the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Sir W. Smithers), while I am speaking from memory my impression is that the possible punishments are fairly severe. It is, of course, a matter for the courts. I cannot continually bring in new penalties and new punishments; otherwise I should be doing the work of the courts of law.
Is it not a fact that in spite of the black-out and in spite of the fact that we are at war, London compares very favourably with peace-time conditions in its respect for law and order?
As a matter of fact, my own opinion is that the figures which I have given are a remarkable tribute to the character of the people of London. It is only an increase from 75 to 85, which may be temporary. In view of all the circumstances to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has drawn attention, I do not think there is anything about which to get panicky.