HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1483-4
32. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he has taken to reduce the crime rate.

Mr. Maudling

Amongst other measures, those taken by the Government to strengthen the police have produced a net gain in numbers of nearly 3,100 in 1971 and the Criminal Justice Bill which enlarges in various ways the powers of the courts to deal with those convicted of crime.

Mr. Meacher

Since unequal opportunity to achieve socially-approved goals is widely recognised as a major source of crime, will not the Home Secretary acknowledge that the Conservative Government's policies of making society considerably more unequal are bound to increase the crime rate? What representation is he making to stop this trend?

Mr. Maudling

I found the preamble to the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question rather abstruse. The causes of crime obviously are deep and difficult to analyse. It is my responsibility to ensure that the police force increases and is made more efficient. I am doing this.

Mr. Farr

What is the point of increasing the maximum penalty under the Criminal Justice Bill when the courts, as we heard earlier, are imposing only 4 per cent. of maximum penalties in the case of successful convictions.

Mr. Maudling

That figure of 4 per cent. referred only to a limited range of criminal offences. We must be clear that it must be for the courts in any individual case to decide the penalty. But I believe that an increase in the maximum laid down by this House will be taken note of by the courts as indicating the view of Parliament as to the gravity of offences.