HC Deb 28 April 1982 vol 22 cc838-9
8. Mr. Maxton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the increase in serious crime in the Strathclyde region in 1981.

Mr. Allan Stewart

Crimes recorded by the police in the Strathclyde region increased by 24,859 to 223,685 in 1981. These figures do not include motor vehicles and miscellaneous offences.

Mr. Maxton

Does the Minister agree that these alarming crime figures in Strathclyde show that the measures taken by the Government to "improve" law and order—increasing the number of police and introducing the Criminal Justice Act—have not solved the problem? Is he aware that the Government must solve the problem of crime by tackling the social problems that cause it?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Strathclyde regional council, as the police authority, last year decided to operate the police force at about 150 below authorised establishment. That was the police authority's decision. However, as a Strathclyde Member of Parliament, I know that many of my constituents are very anxious about that decision.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that police manning levels in Strathclyde, linked to the problems in the area, which are caused by many factors, not least the modern trendy attitude towards standards and values, have much to do with the crime rate in the area?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The causes of crime are complex and not at all simple.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Minister accept that, although we agree that there is no simple correlation between deprivation, high unemployment and the crime rate, there is a correlation, as he implicitly accepted? Does he further accept that a great deal of bitterness and frustration will be reflected in the crime figures if the present economic policies are pursued? Is he aware that in 1978 crime in Strathclyde fell by 12 per cent. and that in 1981 it rose by 12 per cent.? Does that not give the lie to the irresponsible campaign on law and order that is being conducted in the regional elections by Conservative politicians who are suggesting that there are easy solutions, thus abusing the trust of the electorate?

Mr. Stewart

We do not suggest that there are easy solutions. We are worried about the level of crime. That is why we are giving priority to measures that will maintain law and order. The Government's policy on employment is based on creating permanent jobs in a healthy economy. That policy is increasingly succeeding.

Mr. McQuarrie

I accept that the figures given to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) are disturbing, but does my hon. Friend accept that one way to ensure a reduction in crime is to place more policemen on the beat and to have many more community police so that the community is aware that the police are there to prevent crime?

Mr. Stewart

I agree that policemen on the beat have an important role to play. I know that that is a priority of the police authorities in Strathclyde.

Mr. James Hamilton

As a Strathclyde Member of Parliament, I ask the Minister again to recognise that there is a growing awareness that the Government's policies on all aspects of social welfare and employment are disastrous? Will he recognise, once and for all, that those policies are the main contributory factor to the increased crime rate? Does he accept that there has been an upsurge in the use of solvents in Strathclyde because youngsters leaving school have nothing to do but kick their heels in idleness?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend has already referred to the solvent abuse. The unemployment level could be a factor in the crime rate, but it is wrong to suggest that there is any simple analysis or solution. The Government's economic policies are increasingly succeeding.