Policing (London)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:36 am on 28th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks) 9:36 am, 28th June 1985

I am very pleased that the House today has the opportunity for a full debate on the policing of London. This is the third successive year that the House has had such a debate, and this is a welcome development. The policing of the metropolis is always difficult, frequently sensitive and sometimes controversial. The magnitude of the task, and the professionalism with which the police tackle it, have been particularly vividly illustrated by the events of the past few days. It is right, therefore, that the House as a whole should have the opportunity to debate the policing of London, but that I should precede that debate by once again paying a warm tribute to the special work of the Metropolitan police in combating IRA terrorism.

This debate is important, however, as part of a cycle of events, following the publication of the Commissioner's strategy report, which underlines both the accountability of the Commissioner to me as police authority for the metropolis, and my accountability to Parliament for the way in which I discharge that duty. Following discussion with me, the Commissioner published his strategy report last January. The report reviewed how far the goals set for 1984 had been achieved, and set a new force goal for 1985. I sent copies of the report to all right hon. and hon. Members for constituencies in the Metropolitan police district, and subsequently met many of them to discuss it.

I promised to take up personally with the Commissioner a number of the points raised at those meetings, and I met him for this purpose at the end of March. I was then able to write last month giving the Commissioner's detailed and constructive response to the comments made. To complete this round of discussions, I hope shortly, together with the Commissioner and his policy committee, to meet the local authority associations.

I rehearse this sequence of events to underline how real the lines of accountability now are. Compare this process of rational consultation and discussion with some of the antics of the GLC police committee. How can a body which produces a disgraceful piece of propaganda like its recent video expect to be taken seriously as a commentator on police affairs? The so-called police monitoring groups, most of them funded by the GLC, are even worse. They trade in rumour, smear and innuendo. They do not care about improving the policing of London. All they want to do is to drive a wedge between the community and the police.

Before looking at the Commissioner's plans for 1985, I shall review briefly the record of 1984.