HC Deb 13 April 1976 vol 909 cc1142-3
Q7. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if he will recommend the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider the increase in crime.

The Prime Minister

No. The Government recognise and share the widespread concern about crime, but the development of effective counter-measures is a better answer than an investigation by a Royal Commission.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Prime Minister—a former Home Secretary—agree that the absence of alternative effective counter-measures and the dramatic upsurge in the number of crimes of violence more than justify a reappraisal of policy? If the Prime Minister is not prepared to agree to the appointment of a Royal Commission, will he invite the Home Secretary to initiate a study into vandalism, which appears to be becoming a major social disease?

The Prime Minister

The only reason I cannot agree to the appointment of a Royal Commission is that it would be more likely to examine causes than entirely new remedies that are unknown to all of us. It is useful that the police service has been increased substantially during the past 12 months, both in Scotland and in England and Wales. Many other factors are being studied. I agree that the increase in the number of crimes of violence is a disturbing commentary on our society, but I am not sure that a Royal Commission would remove those causes. They lie much deeper in our society—namely, in the attitudes in individual families. I should like to see a greater sense of responsibility in that regard, to enable us to deal more effectively, in the home and at the beginning, with our children. It may be lack of responsibility in that direction that causes violence and vandalism.

Mr. Whitehead

Without embarking on anything as grandiose as a Royal Commission, does my right hon. Friend agree that we need a modest committee inquiry to look at the law on identification in view of apprehension about some alleged criminals in recent trials?

The Prime Minister

I know to what my hon. Friend is referring, but I should be grateful if he would table a Question on the matter to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I have not gone into the matter.

Mr. Whitelaw

Does the Prime Minister agree that in dealing with the worrying feature of juvenile crime the Government's attitude to the future working of the Children and Young Persons Act is of crucial importance? If he agrees with that view, will he ensure that the Government reply urgently to the Report of the Select Committee on Expenditure, which the Government so far have not done? Does he not agree that there has already been an overlong delay in making a reply?

The Prime Minister

I shall look into that matter. I am not informed about it. I was responsible for that Act. I think that the weakness in the Act is that successive Governments have not been able to devote to that measure the resources that were promised when it went through the House. I believe that the principles of the Bill are still right. I shall look into the point.