I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, but I hesitate to do so after the contribution of the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), who I thought made an excellent speech and spoke with considerable compassion about the death of her constituent. I am sure that the Minister will want to respond in the most appropriate manner possible.
I seek to raise four issues on the Whitsun Adjournment. The first relates to the future of the custody suite at Harrow police station, which serves my constituency. I heard in April that the Metropolitan police were planning to close the custody suite in October. There are rumours this week that the decision has been put on hold and that a final decision on closing or saving it will be taken in the autumn. There certainly appears to be a considerable body of opinion within the higher levels of the Met in favour of closing the custody suite. That would leave Harrow with no custody suite, and one of only two London boroughs—both in the suburbs of London, as I understand the other is Richmond—without one. To date, there has been no proper explanation from the Metropolitan police of why they think Harrow’s custody suite, which has 13 cells, should close.
I raised this issue on the Floor of the House during Home Office questions, and—understandably—the Home Secretary replied that it was an operational matter for the Metropolitan police. At first glance, she is absolutely right, Nevertheless, I encourage Ministers to use their influence to ask the Metropolitan police to reconsider.
As I have said, Harrow’s custody suite consists of 13 cells. There are 5,000 “visits”, as they are called in the jargon, to those cells each year. Potentially, therefore, 5,000 prisoners would have to be held in other custody suites. I understand that the Metropolitan police want those who are arrested in Harrow to be housed at Kilburn and Wembley police stations. On one level, I am not concerned about where a prisoner from my constituency is housed. What concerns me and many of my constituents is that if prisoners have to be transported to those other custody suites for the purposes of an investigation into whether they have committed the crimes of which they are accused and preparation of paperwork for court appearances, substantial police officer time will be wasted. That would inevitably have an impact on the quality and number of investigations that can take place at Harrow.