Inner Cities (Policing)

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:29 am on 17th July 1987.

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Photo of Mrs Rosie Barnes Mrs Rosie Barnes , Greenwich 10:29 am, 17th July 1987

I will have to carry on, or I will never get to the end of my speech.

The alliance has suggested some specific provisions to alleviate some of the problems, and I draw them to the attention of the Home Secretary. Our manifesto discussed what we called crime crisis areas, which should be defined by the police community liaison committees and the police authorities working with chief constables. Any chief constable could pinpoint the crisis areas with which he must deal. Several measures could be enacted to improve matters in those areas. Local police stations which have been closed should be reopened, or police posts could be made available where one or two policemen would always be stationed. As with many other aspects of life, police stations have become more centralised and the smaller local stations have closed. That is a mistake. People do not know where their police stations are. Stations are sometimes a long way from people's homes and people think that they can go there only to report a serious matter. They cannot pop in to discuss problems which could be nipped in the bud.

Many practical and fairly simple measures, including the provision of entryphones and security locks and better street lighting, could make life much easier for those who live in crime areas. Every local authority should be obliged to set up a crime prevention unit to advise people on the security of their homes and their general safety. Many Labour authorities could fund these by diverting money from their anti-police monitoring units. Money is available to fund police monitoring. Authorities should put that money into prevention, where it will have a positive purpose.

Another suggestion was to place a legal responsibility on British Telecom to maintain telephones in better working order than they are now. I hope that work is being done in this area. In areas of severe crime, where people are poor and do not have their own telephones, it is extremely important that they can get to a telephone when they need it and not, as happens now, go to the nearest four telephones and find them all out of order.

Hon. Members have also mentioned violent crime. In south-east London there has been a growing use of weapons, many of which are sold in martial arts shops. I have a list of them here, and I have never heard of some of these weapons. They include battle knives, knuckledusters, spike shoe straps and catapults. They are widely available. They have macho connotations and youngsters can pick up these weapons very easily. The temptation to use them then presents itself. Recently in south-east London there were two incidents of armed robbers being killed. They were examples of the serious intent to go out as armed robbers, but at the lower level those weapons are widely available. We must try to curb the use and sale of such weapons.

In one area, there is a direct correlation between unemployment and crime. It has been shown clearly that dependence on drugs or alcohol is far more prevalent among the unemployed, and the link between drug dependencey or alcoholism and crime is undisputed. We must consider the underlying causes and then the subsequent events. We are in a catch 22 situation: unless we tackle the underlying causes, our attempts to tackle the symptoms will be irrelevant.

I welcome the Government's commitment to inner-city regeneration and I hope that there will be serious changes. But their promises will be hollw without resources behind them. Anyone who spends any time examining the inner cities will know that good will, good intentions and the right words will not do. Housing is appalling and there has been a great deterioration in the fabric of the streets, lighting and pavements. Money must be spent on them. There is no sign as yet that the Government will back their claims on inner-city regeneration with the appropriate funds. Inner-city talk without inner-city money will mean nothing.

Conservative Members would be extremely disappointed if an alliance Member did not mention proportional representation. We are here only because the Home Secretary fulfils the role of police authority for the metropolis. There would be no need for anxiety about handing control of the policing of the metropolis to a properly elected police authority if it was elected by proportional representation, because any fear of extremism would be elminated.