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Commissioner Of Police Of The Metropolis (Report)

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what specific steps he proposes to take in the light of the report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the year 1979.

The report is an account of the policing of the Metropolis in 1979, and as such is not the occasion of specific action, but many of the matters on which the Commissioner touches are already the subject of discussion within this House and within my Department. The report is a valuable contribution to that discussion.

Will my right hon. Friend pay particular attention to the Commissioner's comments on the working of the Bail Act? Is it not extremely disturbing that almost one quarter of those arrested for robbery in London last year were on bail? Is not the repeated granting of bail to persistent and professional criminals demoralising for the police and dangerous for the public?

It is a serious matter, and the House would be wise to pay attention to what the Commissioner has said. However, the Bail Act, which was passed by this House, clearly set out the considerations that the courts have to take into account before granting bail. They include the nature and seriousness of the alleged offence and the defendant's character background. The statutory framework affords ample opportunity for courts to withhold bail in appropriate cases. It must be a matter for the courts. If the House believes that the Bail Act is not working properly, we have a perfect right to re-examine it, although we passed that Act only recently.

Will the Home Secretary confirm that remand in custody is not preventive detention? Will he also confirm that a good many of the offences for which those people were on bail were fairly minor, such as theft and burglary, compared with, for instance, the robberies that they later committed? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that in those circumstances it would be wholly wrong to draw conclusions from that narrow sample? When will the Home Office produce national statistics on the effects of the Bail Act?

We shall consider what the hon. Gentleman says. It is right to keep a sense of proportion. We should pay close attention to what the Commissioner says but also bear in mind the overall effects of the Bail Act.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Metropolitan Police is still sadly under strength? Is there a possibility of introducing a pay differential in favour of the Metropolitan Police in order, in due course, to encourage its full establishment?

As my hon. Friend knows, throughout the country police re- cruiting has been extremely good over the past year—and that includes the Metropolitan Police—although it still has a considerable deficiency. Police pay is settled under the Edmund-Davies formula. It would be wrong to change that formula or change the position of the Metropolitan Police compared with other police forces, bearing in mind that most other police forces are virtually up to establishment.

As the Metropolitan Police district covers 92 constituencies and part of a constituency in Hertfordshire, and the Home Secretary is quite properly the police authority for the district, should we not have a debate on the report? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that without that the report will merely end up in the Library, we shall say that the police are accountable to the House, and that is the last that we shall hear until the report is published the following year?

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than a debate on the actions of the Metropolitan Police and the Commissioner, which in the past year have been a remarkable success and a great credit to the country. Alas, debates are not a matter for me. I sometimes wish that they were.