§ 12. Mr. Teddy Taylor
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many crimes of violence were made known to the police in the most recent annual period for which figures are available; and by what percentage this total differs from the comparable total five years previously.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The number of offences of violence against the person recorded by the police in England and Wales in 1980 was 97, 000–37 per cent. more than the corresponding figure in 1975. For the more serious offences, those of wounding or other act endangering life, the number recorded in 1980 was about the same as in 1975.
§ Mr. Taylor
In view of the worrying increase in violent crime and the need to impose adequate penalties, may we have a clear assurance that the Minister will not seek to 407 use the six-month amnesty powers in the Criminal Justice Bill to provide for the early release of people convicted of violent crime? Does he agree that there is not much point in urging courts to send rapists and others to prison if the Criminal Justice Bill is to be used to let them out?
§ Mr. Mayhew
Yes. I say that without any equivocation. Clause 26 of the Criminal Justice Bill provides fallback powers in the event of the prison population, for one reason or another, becoming unmanageable. Such powers could be exercised only with the approval of Parliament and under the close control of Parliament. My right hon. Friend has no intention of using the powers for the release of violent prisoners.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Can the Minister explain what he means by a crime of violence? Does it include mugging? Does it include the case reported on the radio this morning of a young married mother in Toxteth who was set about by a gang of thugs—vicious brutes—who held a knife over her baby and threatened to slash the baby's face unless she handed over her money? Is that a crime of violence?
§ Mr. Stokes
If Her Majesty's Government do not intend to introduce either capital punishment or corporal punishment for crimes of violence, which most people in the country want, how can they convince the public that their lesser measures are successful, in the light of the figures that we have just been given?
§ Mr. Mayhew
The question of capital punishment is one for the House and it pronounced upon it in 1979. The opportunity for the House to do that was promised in our manifesto. The Government are deeply concerned about the rise in crime, as is the country. The rise in violent crime in particular causes us anxiety. We must all consider how best to proceed to provide protection for our citizens.
Two committees have considered corporal punishment. The view expressed was that corporal punishment did not provide a particularly effective deterrent when it was part of our law, and it was abolished in 1948.