HC Deb 31 January 1973 vol 849 cc1353-4
20. Mr. John Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the work of the Scottish Council on Crime.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

In consultation with my right hon. Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate the council has carried out an initial review, mainly of measures for the prevention of crime. This review has identified subjects for more detailed study.

Mr. Smith

Is not the hon. Gentleman telling us that so far there have been no practical results from the setting up of the Scottish Council on Crime? Is he aware that the only way in which he will dispel the widespread scepticism that this was a piece of Tory Party window-dressing is for people to see practical results in the near future which can be said to emanate from the council?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

First, the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the purpose of the council. Second, he is very unjust to those eminent people who are members of it. The purpose of the council is to carry out this review. It has identified certain subjects which it will go into in depth. I believe that it is going about its job in the right way and that it will achieve success.

Mr. Edward Taylor

When did the council first meet, and how many meetings has it had?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

It first met in April last year, only nine months ago. It has had five meetings since then.

Mr. William Hannan

Is one of the aspects being considered by the council the admitted relationship of the excess consumption of alcohol with the commission of crimes of violence?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman's interest in this subject. It is one of those being studied in a number of research projects in Scotland. It is not a specific topic which has been identified by the council for further study. But one of the topics being studied is the prevention of acts of violence.

Mr. Russell Johnston

How shall we be able to measure the achievement of the council? Will it ever produce a report? If so, when? The Minister used the phrase "only nine months", suggesting that that was a short time. In my view it is a rather long time. When shall we know whether the council has achieved anything?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

One of the main purposes of the council is to co-ordinate the efforts and work of people in the different services in Scotland involved in the prevention of and the fight against crime. The present stage of reviewing the whole subject is not one which is appropriate for a report. However, the second stage, on the studies undertaken by the council, is a matter which the council might consider as the subject for a report.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

What are the subjects which have been identified as being worthy of further study?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have referred already to the prevention of acts of violence. Then there is the reduction of the opportunity for acquisitive crime. The third relates to the enforcement of fines.

Mr. Lawson

Will the hon. Gentleman look at the current edition of the Government's publication "Social Trends" which throws grave doubts on the validity of many of the figures relating to crime, especially as regards their meaningfulness and the possibility of comparing like with like? Is not the hon. Gentleman greatly dissatisfied with the crime statistics that we have at the moment?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The council has been looking at the statistics. In general they are not unsatisfactory. But if the hon. Gentleman cares to draw my attention to a specific aspect of them, I shall be pleased to hear from him.

Forward to