§ 2.54 p.m.
§ The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What plans they have for the future of the Metropolitan Police Stolen Vehicle Squad.
My Lords, the commissioner will retain a centrally-based stolen vehicle squad to deal with major organised motor vehicle crime in London.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. Is he aware that at this time of proposed reorganisation of the police, many rumours are flying about and there is much anxiety on the part of organisations and groups which have an interest in vehicle crime? Bearing in mind the considerable successes which the Metropolitan Police Stolen Vehicle Squad has had with regard to all kinds of crime ranging from small cars to articulated lorries and earth-moving equipment, there is much concern that the funding and expertise of that squad should be maintained.
My Lords, I agree that when there is any form of uncertainty, rumours fly around. Usually such rumours are wrong. The whole purpose of any kind of reorganisation is to make the police even better than they are at present. At present there are 49 officers in the squad of whom 17 are vehicle examiners and 18 are civilians. The proposal is that four of the 17 examiners' posts will be civilianised. It is a matter for the commissioner how he disposes of his resources, but I assure the noble Viscount that there is no question of cutting out that particular squad.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that my car was stolen about three months ago? I received a form from the police which I filled in and I have heard nothing further. I have received the very strong impression that when cars are stolen, everybody gives up. It seems that nothing whatever can be done. It seems to have become a feature of our lives which we accept. I hope that I am wrong in my belief but that is the impression which I have gained from personal experience.
My Lords, I am sorry indeed to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, had his car stolen. I was not aware of it and he has my commiserations. I wonder whether he locked the car properly and ensured that the burglars could not get in. I believe that I am right in saying that something like 40 per cent. of all forms of burglary and so on result from the burglars being able to gain access through open doors and windows. I can see that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is about to rise to his feet. I have no doubt that he locked his car. I am sure that the police will do their best to find it for him.
§ Lord Strathcarron
My Lords, will the Minister agree that the stolen vehicle squad has had many successes? It caught a gang which was stealing a large number of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, particularly in the London area, and it also caught a gang which was stealing Peugeot GTis and exporting them to the West Indies. It would be a great shame if the squad was not allowed to continue with its extremely good work.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for pointing that out because it is exactly that kind of car crime with which the squad deals. A centrally-based stolen vehicles squad will be retained to deal with major organised motor vehicle crime in London and also to provide support and assistance to the divisions where necessary. The kind of vehicle crime to which my noble friend referred underlines the importance of the squad.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that there is one aspect of the stolen squad which commands our full support; namely, those who investigate abandoned vehicles which might contain bombs? The squad does splendid work and deserves our full support. Will the noble Earl assure the House that every assistance will be given to it in that difficult task?
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Molloy that we are dealing not with a stolen squad but with a stolen vehicle squad. Such a squad is concerned with any kind of stealing. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Molloy that the greatest attention is paid to the possibility of undesirable objects being placed in abandoned vehicles.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, is the Minister aware that for many of us the phrase "no plans" from a government Minister means that it will not be done immediately but will be done very soon afterwards? Will the Minister change his wording and say that the stolen vehicle squad will not be disbanded or its powers or abilities infringed in any way?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is the most curious of people because he tries to put words into my mouth that I have not said. I said that the Government have no plans. As far as I know, the commissioner has no plans, but I cannot tell the noble Lord what the commissioner's plans may be in a week, a year or five years' time. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, that four of the 9 examiner posts are to be staffed by civilians; and that is all. Of course, there are more people in the stolen vehicle squad.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the co-operation at Interpol will still continue, as has been the case?