HC Deb 05 December 1985 vol 88 cc417-9
9. Mr. Fatchett

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the absolute and the percentage increase in the number of offences of criminal damage recorded by the police between 1979 and 1984.

11. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the absolute and the percentage increase in the number of notifiable offences recorded by the police between 1979 and 1984.

14. Dr. McDonald

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the absolute and the percentage increase in the number of violent offences recorded by the police between 1979 and 1984.

Mr. Mellor

Notifiable offences recorded by the police increased by 963,000, or 38 per cent., between 1979 and 1984. In the same period, recorded offences of violence against the person increased by just over 19,000, or 20 per cent., and of criminal damage by 177,000, or 55 per cent.

Mr. Fatchett

To what extent does the Minister see those shocking figures as representing the failure of Government policy?

Mr. Mellor

Plainly, it is disappointing that the increase during our period of office has been in line with the increase in the years since the last war, which has averaged about 6 per cent. in recorded offences. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Government policy is geared to ensure that more crimes are cleared up, and 200,000 more offences were cleared up last year than in 1979. Our policy is also geared to ensure that the criminal justice system has the necessary resources and that there is enhanced public confidence in the system. I believe that we have made considerable strides towards that aim, although we should all like to see a decrease in recorded crime figures.

Mrs. Clwyd

Does the Minister recall advertisements by Saatchi and Saatchi on behalf of the Conservative party in 1979 claiming that the Tory party would be more effective in combating crime than would the Labour party? If so, does he now agree that those claims were grossly untrue?

Mr. Mellor

Far from it. I suspect that any opinion poll that is taken—we know of some that have been—will show much greater confidence in the Conservative party on matters of law and order than in the Labour party. As long as the Labour party tolerates people such as Bernie Grant and Ted Knight, that will continue to be the case.

Dr. McDonald

Does the Minister agree that the figures that he has just announced to the House show that such confidence, if it does exist among the public, is totally misplaced? Should he not now, on behalf of the Government, accept responsibility for the vast increase in crime and recognise that it is at least in part due to high unemployment, cuts in housing expenditure and inner city deprivation?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Lady is railing against the facts. I have already given an account of our view on the relevance of the increase in recorded crime of our policies. I appreciate that it is frustrating for the hon. Lady that the public see the election of a Labour Government as likely to lead to a reduction in law and order in Britain, but I suspect that that will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Hickmet

Law and order in Britain is maintained by respect of the rule of law and of the police. The Labour party is clearly anti-police, as shown by its attitude on police committees controlled by the Labour party. It is also shown by its attitude to some of the inner city riots and responses by some Labour council leaders. What effect does my hon. Friend think that that example will have on the youth of the country and those who engage in crimes of violence?

Mr. Mellor

I agree with everything that my hon. Friend has said. The example is a very bad one.

Mr. Kaufman

Is it not a fact that the Government came to office on a pledge to fight and reduce crime, but that crime has risen massively under every heading? There are now 1 million more serious offences a year than there were when the Government came to office. Is it not a fact that, despite the attempts of the Home Secretary to mislead the House this afternoon, in real terms the Government are reducing the amount of money that is to be spent on policing? Is that not the effect of the public expenditure White Paper and the autumn statement? Why do the Government cut the money for policing when we have 1 million more serious offences a year under Thatcherism?

Mr. Mellor

I am sorry to have to correct the right hon. Gentleman, but if he compares what was scheduled to be spent and what is due to be spent next year, he will find that the increase that is budgeted for is 6 per cent. That is a 2 per cent. growth in resources for the police in real terms. No Government can undertake to abolish sin, and we have not sought to do so. We have said that under this Government the forces of law and order are much better able to respond than under Labour. If the right hon. Gentleman looks back to 1977, when police morale was at its lowest and there was even talk of police strikes, he will find that that is the case.