London Boroughs — Metropolitan Police (Liaison)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham 12:00 am, 5th February 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied withthe current liaison arrangements between the London borough councils and the Metropolitan Police Authority; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The Commissioner is anxious to maintain and develop arrangements for liaison between district commanders and local authorities. In this he has my full support.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham

Does that mean that the Home Secretary is moving towards agreeing to set up watch committees in London, similar to those elsewhere in the country? Will he reconsider his attitude to what he calls democratic liaison between London Members of Parliament and the Metropolitan Police Authority, who at the moment is Lord Belstead, who is in another place, who is not answerable to this House and who is certainly not elected?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I am sorry to have to disabuse the hon. Gentleman. The police authority is standing here, is answerable to the House, has been elected, whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, and is always ready to answer questions from London Members—and they greatly gain thereby.

Photo of Mr William Shelton Mr William Shelton , Lambeth Streatham

Has my right hon. Friend seen the wretched report on police and community relations in Lambeth, instigated by Lambeth council, most of the malicious allegations in which are anonymous? Will he accept that in the part of Lambeth that I represent the police are highly regarded and welcomed on the streets and the only regret is that there are not more of them on the streets?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making clear that large numbers of people of all parties—and he mentions particularly his constituency—give great support to the police and are grateful for the way in which they carry out their extremely difficult task, although I do not wish to pretend for one moment that everything is perfect. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis attaches the highest importance to achieving good relations between the police and the community, and, as the House knows well, so do I. It is important to have more police on the streets and the Commissioner has done a great deal to that end. That, in turn, raises problems over effective contact between local police and the communities concerned. There is great need on both sides for more communication and determination to work together. I agree with my hon. Friend. I cannot believe that any good is done to that necessary co-operation by publishing a series of anonymous statements under headings like "Army of Occupation".

Photo of Mr John Tilley Mr John Tilley , Lambeth Central

Can the Home Secretary confirm the news reports to the effect that he has decided to ask police throughout the country to monitor and investigate racialist attacks? Will he accept, if that is so, that we welcome his decision? Does he agree that if the investigation is to be a success in the Metropolitan Police there is need for greater liaison with the boroughs, community relations councils and the groups of black people who are suffering the attacks?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I met representatives of the Joint Committee Against Racial Discrimination yesterday, who put to me their concern about attacks on minority communities—for example, Asian and Jewish communities. I agreed to look into the activities of those who may be responsible. I also undertook to get in touch with chief constables and to consider a suggestion made by the committee to the effect that special units might be set up in police forces to investigate and deal with such problems. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and chief constables are already doing a great deal in that regard. They deserve every encouragement from this House. I should like to add that co-operation is a form of two-way traffic. It applies equally to the police—and they are aware of the fact—the leaders of ethnic minority groups and everyone in the community. Co-operation with the police can be achieved only with the will to co-operate. Attacks such as those in the pamphlet are not a wise way to proceed.