HC Deb 21 November 1973 vol 864 cc1313-4
7 Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will sponsor a conference of chief constables, with a view to devising more effective measures to combat the problem of vandalism; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Chief constables already meet together regularly and are very much aware of this problem. In these circumstances, I do not consider that a special conference is necessary.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Minister aware of the appalling and costly destruction occurring to public services, such as underground passageways, schools, buildings and telephone installations, and even churches, because nothing is sacred to the vandal now? If the Minister meets chief constables, will he suggest that they should consider having more beat policemen and dog handlers, among other things, in order to tackle more effectively the war against vandals?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I certainly share the hon. Gentleman's concern about this matter. I am glad to say that I know that the chief constable in his area is very much aware of and worried about this problem. The most important thing, whether one is dealing with vandalism or other aspects of crime, is to have more policemen on the ground, as the hon. Gentleman indicated. Our review of the establishments of the police force in Scotland is enabling chief constables to recruit more policemen.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

If and when the Minister meets chief constables, will he urge them not to think that additional powers to search young people will make any significant contribution to this problem? Does the Minister admit the Government's failure to provide enough teachers, at a very difficult stage in the development of youngsters, and enough social workers, which is a direct responsibility of the Government? Will he explain this to the chief constables?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Powers of search are an entirely different question. We have debated it on the Floor of the House on previous ocasions. I entirely agree that the whole of this matter must be tackled on an extremely broad front. But I totally deny that the Government are failing to meet their responsibilities in relation to either teaching or the social work departments. At present, the co-operation between those different departments is better than it has ever been in the past.

Mr. John Smith

Is this one of the matters being considered by the Scottish Council on Crime? If it is not, will the Minister refer it to the council so that we can see whether the council is worth having in the light of the report that it makes?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

One of the precise things that the Scottish Council on Crime is seeking to bring about is greater co-operation between all the different services in the fight against crime generally. This is something that is already happening.