Before I answer this question I should like to convey apologies for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is detained in Brussels on urgent EEC business. He tenders his apologies.
Does my hon. Friend accept my great concern at the size of those figures, particularly those for London Buses? Will he also consider assaults on members of the public on the buses, the Underground and railways across London, particularly on pay nights? Is he aware that many people, particularly the elderly and parents of children, are afraid of travelling on public transport in London, especially late at night? Will every possible apparatus be brought to bear, in the form of more police, more surveillance equipment and everything else, to stamp out violence on London transport, and may we have some exemplary sentencing? Something must be done.
I share my hon. Friend's concern about the level of assaults on staff. I know that he has particularly noticed the figure of 880 assaults on bus staff, and I am glad to say that that is 200 down on the previous year and more than 400 down on 1985. I accept that it is still an unacceptable level.
We are taking vigorous steps. All London buses are fitted with assault klaxons, which blow the horn and show flashing indicators. Two-way radios are now fitted on every bus and video cameras are coming in on a number of routes. The increasing use of one-person-operated buses also reduces assaults on staff.
Is my hon. Friend aware that assaults on the Victoria line, which serves my constituency, are getting worse and worse? Will he take whatever measures are necessary to protect the travelling public, including the installation of video cameras on trains and platforms and the provision of more policemen on trains?
The proposal for more video apparatus for the Victoria line is one of a number of actions that are being taken, including improved radio equipment, video surveillance, increased police recruitment and staff surveillance. I hope that those actions will have a considerable impact.
Are not the violent incidents occurring as a direct consequence of the action being taken to reduce staff, particularly on the London Underground? What action is being taken to ensure that more staff are appointed, especially for nights and weekends? What is being done to ensure that the police who operate underground have radios that work there? I understand that the radios are often wholly ineffective once the police are underground attempting to deal with the violence that is taking place on an increasing scale.
The Government have made £15 million available to LRT over a three-year period for a crash programme against crime. The hon. Gentleman is right to identify the problem of underground radios. Normal radios will not work underground. Extensive investment in underground cable-laying is required to enable them to work.
Staff visibility is also being considered. The hon. Gentleman asked about recruitment. Recruitment to the British Transport police is now under way. Staffing levels have gone up from 280 to 314 in L division and are planned to go to 350 by October.