Policing (London)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 28th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton 12:30 pm, 28th June 1985

Of course I do not believe that that is satisfactory. Indeed, at the beginning of my remarks on this section I said that 17 per cent. was not satisfactory. It is right for hon. Members to look at the more successful side of the operations of the Metropolitan police and not to harp on constantly about the less successful figures. That carping by Labour Members dismays Conservative Members.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, the Government have considerably increased resources for the Metropolitan police The budget of £763 million represents a 5 per cent. increase this year. As I understand it, the Government intend to continue putting resources into the Metropolitan police force. Much has been made of one reference in the Commissioner's report to cash limits, about which he is apparently unhappy. I draw the attention of Opposition Members to an article by the Commissioner in the Metropolitan police newspaper Job, which is headlined "Living within our means". He starts by saying: The Met now has a fixed income, called a cash limit. Like any family on fixed income, we have to live within our means. He concludes the article by saying: I am confident that the Met will respond to the challenge of living within our means. This is no more than you and I have to do in our private lives. As an organisation we can do it too. That shows the Commissioner's confidence in himself and his men that they can meet the challenge which the Government have rightly set the force, in the same way as the Government have set a challenge to local authorities, health authorities and other national bodies.

We must take careful note of the fact that since 1979, when the Conservative Government came to office, 4,500 more policemen have been recruited, which, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, is as many as there are in the Merseyside police force. Greater emphasis has been placed on efficiency monitoring in all areas of the work. More of the tasks that can be conducted by civilians are being conducted by them. The civilian strength of the Metropolitan police has increased by 1,250.

There is greater scope for such measures. We could consider putting out to tender ancillary services and operations not directly concerned with policing. Obviously, vehicles should be maintained in that way, and services within the Scotland Yard building and other police premises could be dealt with similarly. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has said that that is being studied, and I wish him well in that. There is no doubt that where that has happened in health authorities and in various local authorities in London, including Wandsworth, which is now a historic borough in terms of local government, everyone except a few head-in-the-sand Socialists knows that the ratepayers and the borough enjoy greater efficiency.

Evidence of that in the Metropolitan police would be of great assistance in meeting some of the demands made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman). He seemed to suggest that we should constantly plough more money into employing more and more policemen, but every extra policeman costs about £25,000 or £26,000. Clearly, the Commissioner and those who run the Metropolitan police must strive for the greatest possible efficiency, and that is what is happening now.

In my local borough, the Royal borough of Kingston upon Thames, the police are having great success. Of crimes reported to the police, the burglary rate has been reduced by 20·4 per cent., and serious assaults, robberies, fraud and indecency have been reduced by 11·7 per cent. during the past year. On-beat crimes reported to the police have fallen by 2·8 per cent. Only in motor vehicle crime, which so greatly inflates the statistics for the Metropolitan police record, has there been an increase of 4·7 per cent.

We are tackling these matters in the Royal borough of Kingston upon Thames. We have a consultative committee known as the "Police and Community Forum" and I pay tribute to the Labour chairman of that extremely hard-working committee, which brings in various strands from all parts of the community—the schools, the churches, the youth clubs, and so on—and gives useful thought to the best way of policing the borough.

Stemming from the deliberations of that committee we now have more than 50 neighbourhood watch schemes out of 1,200 or so in the metropolis as a whole. These schemes have attracted great support from people in the borough, and the reduction of 20·4 per cent. in the number of burglaries reported shows the effectiveness of the schemes. In my mind, and in the minds of people living in the borough, there is no doubt about that and we are pressing on to form even more neighbourhood watch schemes to achieve greater success and to ensure the co-operation between the public and the police that is vital to the policing of the borough, rather than leaving everything to the uniformed police.

The attitude of people in my borough and in so many Greater London boroughs, with the exception of eight Labour boroughs, which seem to refuse to co-operate with the police in that way, contrasts with the attitude of the GLC, which happily will not be with us for many more months. That council chooses to spend £1 million per year on a so-called police committee and on setting up police support groups and other bodies which I fear are no more than anti-police propaganda units.

The GLC also chooses to produce newsheets entitled "Policing London" written in a fashion aimed to detract from the good work of the Metropolitan police, and to spend £35,000 on producing a "Policing London" video, which has already been mentioned in the debate. I was most disappointed that the right hon. Member for Gorton could not find it in himself to repudiate the suggestion in that video that communities must rebel. [HON. MEMBERS: "Has the hon. Gentleman seen it?"] Certainly, I have seen it. I believe that there was an open invitation to all hon. Members to see it some months ago, when we were sent a folder and a poster telling us of A 30-minute dramatised introduction to the GLC's policy on the Metropolitan Police". We have heard today that children in inner London schools are being invited to see this scurrilous stuff which invites communities to rebel. What greater charge can be laid against a council than that it has produced a video which ends with those words? We actually see on the screen a man mouthing the words "Communities must rebel." It is the Greater London council underwriting that advice to children in inner London schools. Why is the chairman of the Greater London council, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, not here to repudiate that?