HC Deb 28 October 1971 vol 823 cc2046-9
2. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the number of persons found guilty of violence against the person, and of burglary and robbery, in the first six months of 1971 and in the corresponding period of 1970.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

These figures will be available in a few weeks' time.

Mr. Marks

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much of this increasing crime is concentrated in the large cities, and that some of them, such as Manchester, show a significantly bigger increase than others? Has he received any results from the research into the problem by the universities of Manchester and Oxford, research established by his predecessor? Is there any evidence that severity of sentence is a significant factor?

Mr. Maudling

Those are very broad questions. I always look forward to receiving the results of research, but I cannot think of any specific results that I have received recently. There is evidence that on particular occasions, such as the Notting Hill case some years ago, severe sentences have checked a new and unpleasant development at an early stage.

Sir G. Nabarro

My right hon. Friend has referred on many occasions recently to sterner measures being taken against those found guilty of crimes of violence against the person. When does he propose to publish precise details of his sterner measures? Does he intend to legislate in the forthcoming Session?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Is the Secretary of State aware of the growing concern in the Greater Manchester area about the statistics for crimes involving the use of violence there? Is he aware of the representations made by my Parliamentary colleagues from Manchester and me during 1970 on the issue? Will he make an early statement indicating what action he proposes to take about this alarming development?

Mr. Maudling

There are disturbing developments in violent crime in more than one city of this country, though we must not generalise too much. Basically the answer from society must be to strengthen the police, which I am trying to do, and I think succeeding, and, second, to strengthen the power of the courts, which I intend to do.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

What can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House about variations in the regional pattern, in so far as the incidence of certain types of crime is higher in some areas than in others? How far is that indicative of greater police efficiency or of criminogenic tendencies?

Mr. Maudling

I think that I can fairly ask for notice of that penetrating question.

18. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the statements made toThe Timesnewspaper by two senior officers of the Metropolitan Police on 23rd August relating to the causes of the increase in violent crime and to deficiencies in the administration of the criminal law were made with his authority; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

My authority was neither sought nor required.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

With reference to the subject-matter of the interview, is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep and increasing public concern on the whole subject? In his consideration of future legislation will he particularly bear in mind the advice given by these distinguished police officers about the undesirability of granting parole to prisoners serving sentences for violent crime?

Mr. Maudling

I hope that before long we shall have an opportunity of discuss- ing all these important matters at greater length. I am very much concerned at the growth of violent crime and I have certain proposals to make about it. As to the particular interview, all I would say is that I cannot accept that the thesis put forward is necessarily supported by the facts.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Is the Home Secretary aware that far from this being an off-the-record Press conference, these statements were responsible for initiating something of a great national debate on crime and punishment? Does he not feel that if we are to have a debate on crime and punishment, it ought to be in this honourable House and not within the ranks of the Metropolitan Police Force?

Mr. Maudling

The wider the debate on the problem the better.

Mr. Farr

Is my right hon. Friend aware how courts are ignoring existing penalties laid down in the Firearms Act, 1968, in that in about 7,000 successful prosecutions courts have imposed sentences averaging only 4 per cent. of the maximum Parliament laid down two or three years ago?

Mr. Maudling

This is an important point. It is for Parliament to prescribe the maximum penalty, but it must surely be for the court alone in an individual case to decide which penalty is appropriate.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it is rather inconsistent with the traditions of a disciplined force for a statement of this nature to be made by two senior police officers? Are there not more appropriate channels for such representations?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think I should comment on that. It is a matter for the Commissioner.

19. Mr. Kenneth Baker

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the increase in crimes of violence in the first six months of 1971 in the London metropolitan area; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

The total number of crimes of violence was 1 per cent. higher than in the corresponding period in 1970.

Mr. Baker

Will my right hon. Friend take it that the great majority of Londoners have only praise for the way in which the Metropolitan Police are coping with crimes of violence, but will he realise that there is a growing use of firearms in these crimes and that, although it is still safe in London to walk in any street at night, the security of Londoners, including my constituents, would be greatly improved if there were less erratic and fewer inadequate sentences imposed for firearm crimes?

Mr. Maudling

One must not make too much of just one figure, but it is most encouraging that the 1 per cent. increase here is much less than the increase in the previous year, and, as my hon. Friend rightly says, this reflects great credit on the Metropolitan Police. On the question of firearms and the penalties for their carrying and use, I hope to have an opportunity subsequently to make proposals to the House.

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