HC Deb 22 July 1982 vol 28 cc522-4
10. Mr. Penhaligon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the increase in robberies involving violence in the period 1972 to 1982.

Mr. Mayhew

In 1981 about 20,000 offences of robbery, which entails either the use or the threat of violence, were recorded by the police in England and Wales. This is about 11,000 offences more than were recorded in 1972 and is equivalent to an average annual recorded increase over this period of about 10 per cent.

Mr. Penhaligon

May I press the Minister further on his views on intruder alarms? Does he agree that Government financial assistance for local authorities who wish to provide these systems for the elderly in high crime areas is justified and reasonable and that it will do much to increase security?

Mr. Mayhew

This is a matter for individual local authorities to consider. Their expenditure is grant-aided. The best single deterrent to a potential robber is having plenty of policemen on the beat. There are now 8,800 more police officers in the service in England and Wales since my right hon. Friend became Home Secretary. That is a substantial contribution.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will my hon. and learned Friend concede that many of the crimes included in the shocking statistics given to the House are committed by young people? Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that parents and schoolteachers should tell young people to have respect for people and also private and public property? Does my hon. and learned Friend further agree that if that were done in homes and schools there would be a much reduced increase in violent crime?

Mr. Mayhew

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. We cannot succeed in the fight against crime until the standards of ordinary people are enlisted to point out how cruel, unfair, and dangerous robbery, for example, is. It is wicked for teachers and their unions in Hackney and, I believe, Lambeth to instruct their members to withdraw co-operation with the police in their schools.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Is the Minister aware that I, and many others, deplore the advice that is being proffered by some irresponsible elements in Hackney? Does he agree that effective liaison with the police is necessary so that suspicions can be eliminated, and that the best course towards that objective is to ensure that the closest relationship and co-operation are enjoyed with the police? Does the Minister recognise that the local commander has given a significant lead in that respect?

Mr. Mayhew

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I expected nothing less from him. It would be valuable if condemnation from higher quarters in his party was expressed for what has happened. Anything that serves to encourage young people to believe that the police are not their friends, but are their enemies, is extremely dangerous.

Mr. Farr

To what extent does my hon. and learned Friend think that an increase in crime is due to the fact that the courts often seem to be unaware of, or are unwilling to implement, the full range of penalties laid down by Parliament?

Mr. Mayhew

The maximum sentence for robbery with violence is life, but it is for the courts to determine where in the range of sentences the proper line is to be drawn. The courts do sentence to life imprisonment those convicted of robbery with violence, but I should not be inclined to say that the courts should do so on more occasions. That is a matter for the courts, and it is a very important distinction.

Mr. Snape

As the Conservative Party regularly professes concern about law and order, will the Minister of State tell the House why crimes of violence have increased so dramatically and why, since 1979, detection rates for such crimes have plunged equally dramatically?

Mr. Mayhew

One of the handicaps for the police is that people are much more mobile today. Communications are much better and people are more sophisticated. That makes it harder to detect a crime. It would be very much easier for the police if support for them in their difficulties came from both sides of the House instead of disproportionate criticism, which adds to their lot.