Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd August 1978.

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Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I met the Commissioner last Friday and have no immediate plans for another meeting.

Photo of Mr Michael Neubert Mr Michael Neubert , Romford

Can the Commissioner, however, count on the Home Secretary's support for his call for greater powers for the police to combat the rapid increase in crime? As last year more crimes were committed in London than in New York, is it not time that greater emphasis was given to the prime duty of protecting the safety and freedom of the ordinary citizen rather than compromising with wishy-washy progressive opinion, particularly on the right hon. Gentleman's own Back Benches?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The Commissioner can count on my support for what he does in the city. If, in the way he framed his question, the hon. Gentleman was attempting to say otherwise, I resent it.

As for the report, of which I have a copy here, most people who have commented upon it today have not read it. I suggest to the hon. Member that he reads the evidence, which is freely available from Scotland Yard and is evidence to a Royal Commission. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's great experience means that he could knock off something and send it to the Royal Commission so that when the report comes to the House we can consider what he proposes.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

As the Commissioner has specifically complained that the Act protecting badgers gives a right of search greater than the right of search where people are suspected of committing murder, will the Home Secretary discuss the matter urgently with the Commissioner? Since nearly 1,000 Metropolitan policemen have been injured in political disturbances on the streets of London in the last year, will he discuss with the Commissioner Lord Scarman's proposal for amendment of the Public Order Act 1936?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I have been discussing the amendment of the 1936 Act. There is one aspect of it with regard to incitement which should be looked at. I have consulted all the chiefs of police in the country, and the general consensus is to leave the Act as it is. The hon. Member referred to the question of badgers. His point shows partly why the Royal Commission was set up. The evidence should be put to the Commission and considered. There is a balance of judgment as between the rights of the individual and of society, but it was because the argument had been continuing for some years that the Commission was set up. The Commissioner has now put his views to the Royal Commission.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I have not had the opportunity of reading the evidence, but I have heard the news today. Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are somewhat disturbed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] In spite of the vigilantes on the Tory Benches, many of us feel that the law as it stands is reasonably sufficient, if correctly applied, to deal with crime. We are worried that the Commissioner wants further rights which, we feel, would be an infringement of civil liberties

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

It wa,s this sort of concern that caused the setting up of the Royal Commission on the whole prosecuting process. Of course, these matters are handled differently in Scotland. We had a discussion on this matter during the passage of the legislation in 1977. The Commissioner has put his views forward. This is a pretty thick report—[Laughter.] It is a large report. I think that the adjective "thick" applies to other things rather than the report. I suggest that my hon. Friend reads the report. There is interesting material in it. That is why the Commissioner gave evidence.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

Since the Edmund-Davies Committee made it so unmistakably clear that it believed that, if the police were to be enabled to do their job properly, the full awards it recommended should be paid on 1st September, though it acknowledged that the Government, for their reasons, might wish to phase them. why did the Home Secretary mislead the House on 17th July in denying that in an answer which fastidiously confined itself to personal abuse of me? Why has the Home Secretary persisted in this in correspondence with me?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The hon. and learned Gentleman is still wrong in what he says.