HC Deb 31 March 1983 vol 40 cc449-50
4. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the latest statistics for serious crime; and what further steps he intends to take to deal with the problem.

Mr. Whitelaw

The continued rise in the number of notifiable offences recorded by the police is of course a matter for great concern. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) on 29 March, we are seeking to counter crime through our continued positive support for the agencies of law and order. In particular, chief constables are being encouraged to concentrate their resources more effectively on specific crime problems. We are also giving a lead in encouraging and developing initiatives aimed at reducing crime which involve all sectors of the community, particularly at a local level.

Mr. Hamilton

Despite all those activities, does the Home Secretary recall the speeches that he and others in the Government made just before the last election blaming the crime statistics on the Labour Government? Crime has increased substantially since then. Is the Home Secretary not thoroughly ashamed of those speeches? Does he now believe that because of the manifest failure of his policies and his kidology of the electorate that the Conservatives could solve the problem, he should resign?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not accept any of those points.

Mr. William Hamilton

The right hon. Gentleman should read his speeches.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Why does the Home Secretary think that serious crime has risen to a record level of 3 million during the past year?

Mr. Whitelaw

I believe that there are a great many factors. Crime all over the world is one.

Mr. Snape

Any excuse.

Mr. Whitelaw

It is no use the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) arguing that. Our position is a great deal better than that of many other countries. Secondly, there are many problems to do with education, the family and the home and I accept at once that social conditions are another factor. Taken together, those are all the reasons.

Sir Edward Gardner

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the enforcement of civil order and the fight against serious crime require that the police be given sufficient and clear powers to enable them to fulfil their duty? Does he agree that the powers of search and arrest contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill are basic and essential to the proper discharge by the police of their duties?

Mr. Whitelaw

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. The Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which gives these powers, is, of course, balanced between giving the police the powers that they need to prosecute crime successfully and the rights of the individual. I regret that a great many people who have not read the Bill persist in saying that the safeguards are inadequate. We shall seek to reassure everyone that what is being done is fair and that some of their fears are misguided.

Mr. Hattersley

I urge the Home Secretary to take the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) seriously. He has confused his apologies. The world economic position is the apology for the economy, not for police failures, for which he is responsible. Will he read again what the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis said yesterday, which is that the improvement in crime detection and prevention, which we all want, will come about only when police and people work together? Why does the Home Secretary persist in piloting through the House of Commons a Bill that will divide the police from the people even more than they are divided now?

Mr. Whitelaw

On the first point, I have not confused them at all. On the second point, it is surprising that the right hon. Gentleman, of all people, should say that a Bill that lays down the idea of consultative committees to bring the police and the public closer is something that will do harm. I do not accept that it will, for the reasons that I have given.