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Violence (London)

Volume 115: debated on Thursday 7 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to deal with the rise in acts of violence against the person in the Metropolitan police area.

The number of recorded crimes of violence against the person in the Metropolitan police area in 1986 was about the same as in 1985. Operational decisions about the investigation of specific offences are a matter for the commissioner; but I strongly support his decision, recorded in his strategy statement for 1987, to place particular emphasis upon the safety of the citizen.

Have not crimes of violence against the person in the Metropolitan area risen by 43 per cent. since the Government came to office, and is there not one such crime every 26 minutes in our capital city? Is not the best way of preventing crimes of violence against the person to make sure that our streets are better lit and that there are no dark corners offering ample scope for lurking muggers? Why, then, have the Government reduced rate support grant, imposed penalties on local authorities, rate-capped London boroughs, and taken away from them, by so doing, the means with which to light our streets better?

Crimes of violence generally have risen more slowly under this Government than under the Labour Government, although I do not make a great point of that. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right about street lighting, but wrong in supposing that the way to improvement is merely to shell out more money to local authorities.I visited the constituency of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, and the Labour wards in the Roehampton part of that constituency the other day. A great deal is being done there by the Wandsworth borough council to improve the street lighting, precisely with a view to crime prevention, and it has managed to keep the rates at a steady, reasonable level as compared to its neighbours.

Will my right hon. friend join me in welcoming the Government's present initiative in putting a large amount of money into improving street lighting in London boroughs, and advise boroughs such as Islington, which do not know about that, to find out about it? Does my right hon. Friend agree that Labour boroughs such as Ealing, which are financing expensive campaigns to ask people to complain against the police, would be better advised to put the money used for that into extra policing to overcome the violence of which they complain?

It is certainly true — even in London, where the boroughs have no police responsibility whatever — as the example of Wandsworth bears out, that a borough that is well disposed to working with the police to improve the security of its citizens can give a lead and manage to contrive ample ingenious schemes of crime prevention without new expenditure.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that dealing with crimes of violence against the person is regarded as the highest possible priority of the Government's law and order policy, and of the commissioner and his senior officers in the Metropolitan police? In that context, will he give his support to further measures of encouraging more police on to the beat and more crime prevention techniques?

Yes, indeed. As far as London is concerned, last month I further increased the establishment limits of the Metropolitan police. It is now for them to recruit up to those limits, and the commissioner's reorganisation, as my hon. Friend knows, has, by itself, put over 218 more officers on the beat.

Why does the Home Secretary say that no London boroughs have responsibility for policing? Does he not know that the City of London, which is one of London's boroughs, is a police authority? Is that not an anachronism that should be ended? When will the Home Secretary come forward with proposals for elected police authorities in London such as those that exist elsewhere in the country?

I am not going to come forward with proposals that would put the priorities for the policing of London under the control of people such as Mr. Bernie Grant.

Does my right hon. Friend think that efforts to reduce violent crime would be helped or hindered, by Opposition policies to extend political control over police tactics and operational strategy?

That would be lunatic. I do not know what candidates the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is supporting today, but if he is supporting candidates of the Manchester city council Labour party, they are precisely the same type of leaders as those in the half dozen or more boroughs in London in which Labour leaders such as Bernie Grant—unlike Miss Atkin, who was got rid of overnight—continue in full favour with the Labour leadership—despite the fact that the things that Mr. Grant said were much more offensive to the British people than what Miss Atkin said.