The number of burglaries recorded for the whole of England and Wales for the year to June 1995 shows a fall of 5 per cent. compared with the previous 12 months. The statistics for the Metropolitan police district, which were affected by significant changes to the recording criteria, indicate an increase of 6 per cent. over the same period.
I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. He has confirmed that, at a time when there was a welcome fall in the level of burglary throughout the country generally, there appears still to have been an increase in London. What proposals does he have to tackle the rise in burglary in London? Why is it that, despite the promises that there will be extra police officers, there are 400 fewer in London now than there were in 1992?
The rise in the figures is explained by the recording criteria, as I have said. I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman did not refer to the fact that, in the Forest Gate and Plaistow divisions of the Metropolitan police—both areas are in his constituency—recorded burglaries fell by nearly 8 per cent. in the 12 months to October 1995 compared with the previous 12-month period. Burglary clear-ups in those divisions rose by 28 per cent. There are now 21,600 constables in the Metropolitan police, more than ever before, and 5,000 more than in 1979.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend recognise that these much-improved figures are achieved at a price and that officers on the beat increasingly have to put their lives at risk? With four assaults on West Yorkshire officers in one recent weekend, the chief constable of West Yorkshire is keen to run a trial of CS incapacitants in the centre of Leeds at the Millgarth station. Will my right hon. and learned Friend agree, as a matter of some urgency, to a trial period for incapacitants and make their use appropriate for each force?
I made it clear some time ago that I was keen for the trials to commence. The relevant committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers is meeting today to discuss the matter, and I very much hope that it will agree to proceed with the trials.