HC Deb 12 April 1984 vol 58 cc510-2
2. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about the level of recorded crime.

7. Mrs. Roe

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, when he next meets the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis he will discuss the level of recorded crime in London.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Leon Brittan)

The number of notifiable offences recorded by the police in 1983 was 1 per cent. less than in 1982. In London, notifiable offences recorded were 4 per cent. down. We should not make too much of a single year's figures, but I am encouraged by them. I discuss these matters with the Commissioner when we meet, and his strategy for tackling crime in London has my full support.

Mr. Taylor

I agree that it would be wrong to draw a general conclusion from the movement that has occurred. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree, however, that it is encouraging to have had a 1 per cent. fall after 10 per cent. increases in recent years? Will this encourge him to persist with his policy of stronger deterrents against serious crime, thereby giving greater protection to the law-abiding public?

Mr. Brittan

The change in the long-term trend is encouraging, even making all the allowances and qualifications that one must, and I welcome my hon. Friend's support for the measures of deterrence and effective policing that the Government are pursuing.

Mrs. Roe

When my right hon. and learned Friend next meets the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, will he congratulate him on the success of the neighbourhood watch schemes, which were launched in London last September? It has recently been reported that in one London area there has been a 60 per cent. drop in the number of burglaries. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that neighbourhood schemes highlight the important role that public awareness has in police work?

Mr. Brittan

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is significant that the concept of the neighbourhood watch scheme has been followed, sometimes under different names, in many other parts of the country. It is not just a London or even an urban phenomenon; it has been popular and found to be helpful wherever it has been followed.

Ms. Clare Short

Is the Home Secretary aware that, despite all the Government's rhetoric and the money that they have thrown at law and order, they have failed significantly to make our society a safer place in which to live? Will they now change direction and look for methods of preventing crime and making areas, particularly inner city areas, safe for people to live in?

Mr. Brittan

The dangers of rhetoric are well illustrated by that supplementary question. I agree, however, with the hon. Lady about crime prevention. One of the major thrusts of our strategy has been to give increased attention to crime prevention, and the neighbourhood watch scheme is such a development. I have set up a crime prevention unit at the Home Office. We are giving increasing attention to crime prevention, and to that extent I agree with the hon. Lady.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Is the Home Secretary aware that the change from specialised squads in west Yorkshire to the movement towards involvement with the community has led to a significant improvement in the rates of recorded crime and detection? Will he encourage the police to be more involved in the whole process of the inhibition of crime by involvement with the community?

Mr. Brittan

I agree that involvement with the community is important, and that is why the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, currently going through the House, provides a statutory basis for consultation between the police and the community. It is designed to achieve precisely the objective that the hon. Gentleman has identified, and I hope that the Bill will now commend itself to the whole House.

Sir Hugh Rossi

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and the police on the improvement in the serious crime figures. Is my right hon. and learned Friend nevertheless aware of reports of a serious deterioration in respect of drug abuse? Will he take steps to ensure that this evil trade, which leads to an expectation of life of five years in its victims, is brought under control very rapidly indeed?

Mr. Brittan

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that drug abuse is an extremely worrying phenomenon. The gravity with which it is regarded is reflected, for example, in the fact that drug traffickers are among the categories whom I have identified as being people who should not normally get parole if they are sentenced to terms of imprisonment of more than five years.

Mr. Kaufman

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that in 1979 he campaigned on the legend that crime under the Labour party was too high and that his party would reduce it? Is it not a fact that the rate of serious crime is now 30 per cent. higher than it was five years ago, with the number of burglaries 50 per cent. up? When will he bring the level of serious crime and burglary down to the levels which five years ago he said were intolerably high?

Mr. Brittan

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that trends can be reversed quickly—

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said it.

Mr. Brittan

—he must be quite ignorant of the matters on which he purports to speak. He knows perfectly well that the increase in police manning levels and the changes in the handling of the matters that we are discussing take time to have their effect. I am glad that there are some signs that the trends that existed when the right hon. Gentleman's Government were in power are now coming under control. As I have said, it is wrong to regard one year's figures as the determining factor.