HC Deb 22 July 1976 vol 915 cc1989-91
7. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he remains satisfied with the present measures to combat the increase in the crime of vandalism by those under the age of 17 years.

Mr. John

We fully share the widespread concern about offences of this kind. We are satisfied that the police and the courts have adequate powers to enable them to deal with juveniles who commit offences of criminal damage. However, these offences present the police with special problems of prevention and detection. Responsible parental concern and control, and the watchfulness of the local community, have a vital part to play.

Mr. Morrison

Does the Minister of State agree that one way of reducing vandalism is to make parents pay in every case for the repair of the damage done by their children?

Mr. John

No. I think that blanket solutions are highly dangerous [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If hon. Members would only listen, instead of talking from a sedentary position, they might find out why. We are concerned with giving magistrates adequate power to carry out their duties, and the way in which they discharge their duties must be for them. Conservatives would be very concerned if there was dictation or political interference with the freedom of the courts.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does my hon. Friend agree that a relatively inexpensive, efficient and reformative response to the problem of vandalism would be the extension of community service orders to those under 16, so that they could make some retribution to society for the damage they cause?

Mr. John

We are considering a possible extension, but we are more concerned with the fulfilment of the original ideas of the scheme.

Mr. Graham Page

Why should we not bring back the birch for the young vandals?

Hon. Members


Mr. John

Because we have moved out of the antediluvian state which the right hon. Member still seems to be in.

Mr. Corbett

May I press my hon. Friend concerning community service orders? In this matter of vandalism, surely the emphasis should be placed on enabling those who have engaged in such activities and who have been convicted to be shown that they have a useful rôle to play in the community. Does my hon. Friend agree with the impression I have gained that he is being neutral about the positive aspects of community service orders?

Mr. John

The impression which my hon. Friend has gained must be his own. I assure him that I am neither neutral nor negative. Community service orders have a useful purpose, but there are financial constraints and no alternative measure is without public expenditure.

Mr. Lawrence

Does not the Minister agree that one of the substantial steps that the Government might take to check the increase of juvenile crime is to implement speedily the proposals of the Select Committee which considered the working of the Children and Young Persons Act? Can he give a likely date for the implementation of those proposals?

Mr. John

The Government's response and their project for action have been published already. Such measures as call for Government action are being considered, and consultations are being pursued.