Policing (London)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:13 pm on 28th June 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 1:13 pm, 28th June 1985

I should like to continue my speech. I think that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to speak later. I can only speak from my own experience.

The only way to cure the social and soccer violence which has so worried the country recently must be to improve religious and moral education in schools. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) seemed to do a double take at that statement, but I am serious. No society can be controlled by force. In the end, people must control themselves. That can come only if people accept a reasonable moral code, which, for me, is based on religious principles, but which may be more broadly based. Such acceptance must come from teaching in schools. However, there is no religious or moral education in our comprehensive schools after the third year. A recent report said that in two thirds of all primary schools those teaching religious education are confused and do not know what they are doing. If they do not know what they are doing, how much chance have the children of grasping the difference between right and wrong and the fact that society must be based on the principle of love thy neighbour rather than on the ability to punch harder than the next man? I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will use all of his influence to press those who are responsible to improve religious education, including proper acts of worship at morning assemblies.

Police visits are an essential part of the police relationship with the community and of helping children to understand what the police do and their role in society. There is nothing like a friendly talk from a policeman to encourage children not to talk to strangers and to learn how to cross the road properly and safely. Such matters are fundamental to the safety of children. It is disgraceful that the police are excluded from some schools in the metropolis. That is wicked, damaging and unfair to children and their parents. Policemen should not be strangers to children. Children should not be alienated from them by vicious films such as the GLC video, which we have already discussed today.

Schools have a responsibility to keep their curriculums interesting and dynamic and to keep children interested in attending school. High truancy rates in some parts of London present serious problems for the police. In some areas, 30 to 40 per cent. of children are out of school on any one day. If they are out of school, they are running about the streets and getting up to terrible mischief. A few months ago I met a 12-year-old boy who was appearing before the courts for taking and driving away a motor vehicle. He admitted to me that he had taken a Jaguar in the Lewisham area and driven it right across London to visit a friend and then back again. The mind boggles. He also told me that he had been truanting for a long time. He was a nice little boy and obviously had a lot of initiative, but he must be kept in school working and learning, preparing himself for life. That is the true outlet for such initiative, character and determination. He should not be pinching Jaguars, or any other cars, and driving them all over the place.

A terrible term-pigs-is often applied to the police. A substantial number of people, including members of the GLC and the Labour party, refer to the police as pigs. It would be bad enough to do so in a clandestine way, but to refer to the police in such a derogatory fashion is not only grossly insulting to a dedicated and fine body of men and women, but also damages their standing with the public. We know that that is the intention of those who so describe the police, but the term should be repudiated every time they say it or write it.

I welcome the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is trying to bring some sense into the policing of demonstrations. All those who want to hold demonstrations in London should not be allowed to do so freely every week, at enormous expense to the ratepayers and taxpayers. Demonstrations become a way of life. When I lived in Oxford House, Bethnal Green, a few years ago, a girl who was living in the settlement at the same time went on a different demonstration every week. For most of the time she did not know what she was going to demonstrate about. I asked her, "What is the demonstration tomorrow, Deborah?" and she replied, "I don't know what it is, but we are meeting at such and such a place."

If large numbers of people are demonstrating for sport, we do not want to deny them their sport, but one has to take some account of the huge cost of demonstrations to the people of London. Some kind of control must be exercised over the number of demonstrations that can be mounted by a particular group of people.