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 understand what the hon. Gentleman has said and I am grateful for his acceptance that on other issues I have given a measure of reassurance. The reorganisation is by no means the only strand in the Commissioner's efforts to improve efficiency and economy in the force. As police authority, I naturally take a close personal interest in this part of the strategy. There are a number of areas to which I have asked the Commissioner to pay special attention.

As manpower absorbs nearly 80 per cent. of the force's resources, the handling of it must be the prime object of the Commissioner's efforts. The aim is simply to free as many officers as possible for operational deployment. There are two specific areas on which I have asked him to concentrate. First, the force reorganisation will enable him to move police officers from administrative jobs at headquarters to operational jobs on the ground. I have asked the Commissioner to maximise the number redeployed in that way. I have said that I wish a minimum of 200 officers to be redeployed by the time that the reorganisation is completed. The second area is civilianisation. I have already mentioned that nearly 150 posts were civilianised last year. I have told the Commissioner that the search for further posts must continue. I shall agree with him targets for further substantial civilianisation when we discuss his strategy for next year; and I shall expect to see them reflected in his strategy report. To help in this, I have just agreed to an increase of over 40 in the civil staff specifically for civilianisation, on top of the increase of 132 posts that I announced last October for this year.

Equipment too is a major area of expenditure, especially vehicles. The Metropolitan police has a fleet of over 4,000 vehicles, which costs about £20 million a year. A joint review of the fleet is being carried out by the Home Office and the Metropolitan police to ensure that it meets the needs of the force as economically, efficiently and effectively as possible. The Home Office has engaged a consultant to advise the review body. As well as looking at the size of the fleet, the review will examine how the fleet is managed and the scope for contracting out. Pending the completion of the review, I have placed an upper ceiling on the total size of the Metropolitan police vehicle fleet of 4,150 vehicles.

At my request, the Commissioner and the receiver are also examining whether it would be more economical and efficient to contract out a variety of functions presently performed in house. Cleaning services have been contracted out in over 200 buildings. Further studies are in progress—for instance, on vehicle removals, wheel clamping and car pounds. My officials will be examining carefully the findings of those studies. I shall expect the Commissioner in his next strategy report to give an account of the results achieved, and to set out a programme of further studies.

The fourth element of the force goal is to develop corporate and personal professionalism. The main initiative here has been the new handbook of policing principles and guidance for professional behaviour. It is divided into two parts. The first—the policing principles of the Metropolitan police—is the first attempt to set down comprehensively the duties of the Metropolitan police since that made by Sir Richard Mayne, one of the first Commissioners, in 1829. The second part — the guidance for professional behaviour — gives individual officers the guidance they need in carrying out their duties from day to day. It devotes considerable attention to the concept—crucial to police work — of discretion. In a very practical, down-to-earth way, using a wealth of helpful examples, it analyses the problems which officers face and points the way towards sensible solutions.

I warmly endorse the aims of the handbook. I am sure that it will have great declaratory value, but it will have practical value as well. Discussions about the handbook will be held at every level of the force. The aim is to encourage officers to come to grips with, and to reflect in their behaviour, the high standards of professionalism that it enjoins. Although directed primarily at the younger officer, it should challenge and stimulate also the most senior and experienced.

The handbook assumes all the more importance in the light of the findings of the Policy Studies Institute report. The report made a number of serious criticisms of the behaviour and professionalism of the Metropolitan police. The Commissioner was candid in his acceptance of many of those criticisms, and has been energetic in taking remedial action. For instance, he set up a working party to look at racism in the force, which has come up with many practical recommendations. Much more remains to be done. The handbook underpins those efforts.

There is one consistent theme in all the many changes that the force is undergoing—the effort by the Commissioner to make his force more purposive. The ability, energy and devotion to duty of Metropolitan police officers have never been open to doubt, but greater efforts are now being made to direct those energies effectively. Priorities are being laid down. Targets are being set. Systems are in place to review the priorities and to see whether the targets are being met. That helps the Commissioner to ensure that the force is being used to best effect, and it enables me to see whether the Commissioner has achieved the agreed goals set out in his strategy report.

All that implies a greater need than ever for the views of the public about policing to be expressed. Before drawing up his strategy, the Commissioner needs and wants to know what concerns Londoners most, but he and I also need to know the views of this House. That is why this debate is so important for the policing of London.