§ 11. Mr. Meacher
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the arming of the police.
§ Mr. R. Carr
The Home Office has received 55 letters on this subject in the last two years. Of these, 21 supported present practice, 12 favoured general arming of the police, and 12 were against the police being armed, or expressed concern at increasing police use of firearms. The remaining 10 were concerned with points of detail.
§ Mr. Meacher
Is the Secretary of State aware that according to official information guns were issued to qualified police marksmen last year at an average rate of six times a day? Can he confirm that two new guns which can penetrate light screening and still hit and kill will be available in London police stations and will be carried by policemen on protective duties within six months or a year, even though the Home Office circular makes it clear that police forces have up to 10 years to make these changes?
§ Mr. Carr
I cannot make a statement at the moment about types of guns, beyond saying that if the police are to be armed they should have proper weapons which fire with the greatest accuracy, and so forth. It is true that there has been this increase in the number of occasions on which police have been issued with arms. It is also true that in the past three calendar years police have used guns on only three occasions. I assure the House —because this is important—that I have asked the Inspectorate to pay special attention to the question of the issue of guns in its annual inspection of each police force.
§ Sir Gilbert Longden
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the absence of the sanction of capital punishment it must inevitably follow, as night follows day, 1515 that the police will end up by being armed?
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the basis upon which the police are issued with arms is the same as it has traditionally always been and, secondly, that the issue of arms is to individuals and not for each incident? Will he point out to his hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Sir Gilbert Longden) that in 1971 160 police officers were killed in the United States, where the police are armed, compared with two in this country—a United States figure 80 times as great as the United Kingdom one?
§ Mr. Carr
I confirm that there has been no change of any kind in the policy or the procedure relating to the issue of arms. They are issued only to individual officers for particular purposes, and there has been no change or relaxation of any kind. But, as I have said, in view of the increase— which is due to the increased number of occasions which justify it—I felt it advisable to ask the Inspectorate to pay special attention to this matter in its annual inspections.