HC Deb 01 December 1983 vol 49 cc977-8
7. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the change between the number of burglaries recorded in the first half of 1983 and the corresponding figure for 1979.

Mr. Brittan

Between the first half of 1979 and the first half of 1983 the number of offences of burglary recorded by the police in England and Wales increased by about half.

Mr. Alton

Is the Home Secretary aware that in the first six months of the year one burglary was committed, on average, every one to one and a half minutes? The crime of burglary is costing about £127 per second. Would it not be better to use these resources to provide more intruder alarms for the elderly, to put more policemen on the beat and to extend the home watch scheme? Do not the figures that I have quoted give the lie to the Prime Minister's oft-repeated remark that there is no relationship between massive unemployment and the massive increase in the number of burglaries?

Mr. Brittan

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I support crime prevention measures. One of my first actions at the Home Office was to establish a crime prevention unit, thereby forwarding these matters.

There is no established link between rates of unemployment and increased crime. Will the hon. Gentleman examine research bulletin No. 14, which is published by the Home Office and reviews the research evidence? If he does not wish to examine that document, if he cares to read the Social Science Research Council paper by Professor Stern — who is professor of economics at Warwick university — and Dr. R. Carr-Hill, he will find corroboration for that opinion.

Mr. Hanley

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take this opportunity to congratulate the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on the successful take-up of both the home beat scheme and the neighbourhood watch scheme throughout the metropolis?

Mr. Brittan

I welcome the opportunity to do that, and do so readily.

Mr. Corbett

Does the Home Secretary accept that the best way to put a damper on the crime explosion that has occurred since the Government have been in office is for them to take measures to get people back to work?

Mr. Brittan

It is important that unemployment should be reduced as rapidly as possible. Unemployment is a scourge on our society and a social evil, but it is not the cause of crime. I also believe that the best long-term prospect for sustaining employment is for the Government to complete the work of putting right the economy.

Mr. Kaufman

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted that the number of burglaries has increased by 50 per cent. under his Government. As he said recently that it would take time to curb crime, will he now say precisely how long it will take to reduce the number of burglaries to their level under the Labour Government?

Mr. Brittan

The right hon. Gentleman knows that making such a political distinction does not add anything to his case. If he is nimble in his arithmetic, he might appreciate that whereas the increase in burglary offences between the first half of 1979 and the first half of 1983 was indeed 50 per cent., the total for the first six months of 1983 was only 3 per cent. higher than in the corresponding period last year.