§ 3.5 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
I must confess to some mixed feelings about the load of legislation which we in the Home Office have put upon ourselves in the coming Session. However, I have no mixed feelings about the subject for debate on the first day of the debate on the Gracious Speech. I welcome the chance to say something about how we see our work in the Home Office.
I shall comment briefly, if it seems sensible to the House, on the four Bills which appear in the Gracious Speech as the responsibility of the Home Office and then give the House a topical account of how I see one of the main jobs, or perhaps the main job, of my Department, which is its overview of policing in England and Wales.
Two of the Home Office Bills to which reference is made in the Gracious Speech relate to animal experiments and shops, and both have some points in common. They will both contain proposals for well-founded and well-researched reform. In both instances the present law is creaking badly and is becoming steadily more difficult to apply. In fact, the two statutes are worn out. In both instances there is genuine controversy and high feelings which have been, and certainly will be again, reflected in debates in Parliament.
If the Government were feeble and exhausted, we would have decided to leave these matters untouched. They would have come under the heading "Too difficult". In that event, the deterioration and the impracticability of the present law would have continued. Instead, we have decided that the time has come to grasp both subjects.
There have been some exchanges already this afternoon about Sunday trading, but I think that everyone, whatever his or her own view, accepts that the existing law is riddled with anomalies. It is widely disregarded and enforced patchily and without enthusiasm by local authorities. The Government sought advice from an independent committee, which concluded that the present law, the 1950 Act, was past patching. There will be plenty of opportunity to debate the issue fully. As the House knows, the Bill will be straight forward. It will be based on the recommendations of the Auld report, which the House has already debated.
I recognise that many are concerned sincerely that the measure could affect the Sunday, which provides a break 122 in the rhythm of weekday life. I see the Bill much more as being in harmony with our general views on freedom of choice. It seems rather important that we should not end up replacing an old muddle with a new one. The Government's scheme, as the House will see, is relatively simple. I hope that Parliament will find that to be one of its attractions.
We shall introduce a Bill on animal experiments, which will replace entirely the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. That Act has deserved a long life. The controls within it have turned out to be adaptable to the great changes and advances in science since its enactment, but the time has come to change it. The complexity and scale of experiments has increased enormously and a new system of control is necessary. There is much public interest and concern. We have published two White Papers on the matter, one in 1983 and one in 1985. We have consulted widely, and our proposals have been welcomed widely.
We want to enact new arrangements that will strike the right balance between, on the one hand, the need to minimise animal suffering and, on the other, the need to maintain the advance of science and medicine. I hope that our proposals will provide a firm structure for future control and the encouragement of alternatives to animal experiments. I hope that the Bill which, although it is complicated and will arouse feelings, will be supported by the House.
There are also two Home Office Bills that fall within the general rubric of law and order. I am glad that there has already been, from the Leader of the Opposition, from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and others, a general welcome for the principle of the Bill that provides for the confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking. There are important points here, which the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) illustrated in a speech in Oxford the other day—a speech that I read with care. These important points are embedded in the Bill, but it fits, and necessarily fits, into our general strategy on drugs.
As the House knows, much has already been done to reduce both the supply and demand for drugs. As a result of the measures that have been taken, the number of heroin seizures tripled between 1982–84 and in 1984 the quantity of heroin seized was 50 per cent. higher than in the preceding year—nearly as much as in the whole of the United States during the same period. The number of people convicted of drug trafficking last year was more than 4,000, which is an increase of 800 on 1983, and the number of adult drug offenders in prison in England and Wales rose by 600 from September 1984 until last June.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that one of the reasons for the increased statistics in respect of the amount of heroin seized is the dramatic increase in the amount of heroin that is coming into the country anyway but is not being seized? Is it not the same percentage volume seized of a much bigger inflow, and is that not true of the statistics about people arrested and imprisoned? Should not the Government make major resources available and do something on the international scene to prevent drugs coming into the country?
§ Mr. Hurd
We are doing that. We have to operate on three main points. They are the point of production—countries, mainly in the Third world, where the drugs are 123 produced—the point of entry and the point of sale and consumption. We have already appointed a minimum of 150 extra preventive customs staff for next year. A further £2.4 million is being provided to help to eradicate the opium poppy in Pakistan. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary was in that country the other day to help that plan forward. We are doing something similar with cocaine production in central America.
The confiscation Bill is the next and crucial step. It will create a new offence of handling the proceeds of drug trafficking. It will give new powers to obtain information about their movement or disposal. The courts will be empowered to freeze the assets of those accused of drug trafficking, and required to impose on those convicted a confiscatory fine equal to the full amount of their proceeds from trafficking. For this purpose there will be available a presumption that anybody convicted of drug trafficking had derived all his assets from trafficking save in so far as he showed the contrary. These provisions are necessary and will, I hope, be widely supported as a proper and vigorous response to a menace which has destroyed many young lives and families in all parts of the country.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
Has my right hon. Friend seen the action taken by the Malaysian Government in trying to deal with this problem—action that can be described as draconian but which has had a dramatic effect?
§ Mr. Hurd
From what I have heard and read of such measures, I am not sure that they would commend themselves entirely to the House. I shall look into the matter further.
The public order Bill, the fourth Home Office Bill, is the result of long thought and wide consultation. I see that it has absurdly been suggested that the Bill has been thrust forward at the last minute for some obscure political purpose. Whatever criticisms the Bill may attract, undue haste in its preparation is not one of them.
The review of the public order law was announced by my noble Friend Lord Whitelaw in June 1979. We published a Green Paper in June 1980. Also in 1980 the Select Committee on Home Affairs published a report on the law. In 1981 there was Lord Scarman's report on the Brixton riots. We have taken account of the lessons of later disorders, such as those during the miners' dispute. Finally—this is very important—we have had the benefit of the 1983 report of the Law Commission on the common law offences of riot, unlawful assembly and affray which we shall be largely following.
Our proposals were published in a White Paper last May. As we said then, we are in no doubt about the importance of the principles at issue. The rights of peaceful protest and assembly are among our most fundamental freedoms. When the House sees the Bill, I hope that it will agree that we have sought to provide a balanced, legal framework in which the police have the necessary powers to prevent and deal with disorder while these fundamental freedoms continue to be safeguarded.
There will be a new traditional requirement—already found in many local Acts—for the organisers of marches to give advance notice to the police, but with an exception for marches organised at short notice in response to an emergency event. The existing powers of the police 124 to impose conditions on marches to prevent serious public disorder will be widened to enable them to prevent marches which are likely to cause serious disruption to the life of the community or the coercion of individuals. Similar preventive powers will apply to static demonstrations and assemblies in the open air, but there will be no extension of the existing power to ban marches, nor any power to ban static demonstrations.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)
Can the right hon. Gentleman undertake that marches organised by the Salvation Army will be exempted?
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what kinds of events he has in mind? Do they include a group of workers who are suddenly dismissed by their employer and who are so annoyed that they decide to have a march in the vicinity?
§ Mr. Hurd
I have tried to explain that the kind of march which is already included is one which could bring about serious public disorder. We are talking about the power to impose conditions, not about the power to ban marches. We propose to widen those conditions to include marches which could cause serious disruption to the life of the community—for example, by blocking a crowded street or by the coercion of individuals through bullying or harassment.
In addition, there will be a new offence of disorderly conduct, punishable by a fine, to provide protection against acts of hooliganism which cause alarm, harassment or distress and with which the police cannot deal adequately at present. The House will want to look at the details of this new offence. However, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said in the House when the matter was first aired, we all know that there are vulnerable families, such as the elderly and ethnic minority families, whose lives can be made a misery by persistent harassment. The postbags of many hon. Members, as I know from the letters that they send me, clearly reflect this reality.
§ Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)
When dealing with static demonstrations, or happenings, will my right hon. Friend consider looking at the powers of local authorities over very large gatherings of people in the countryside, such as large pop festivals on agricultural land where they have never been held before, which might bring in 50,000 or 80,000 people?
§ Mr. Hurd
I know that that has traditionally been a problem at Stonehenge, I know from a letter that I received recently that it is a problem in Staffordshire and I know that it is a problem in my hon. Friend's county. It is a difficult issue, because it involves the law of trespass, which we are not proposing to tackle in the new Bill. However, I am trying to see whether we can do something about the problem, though at the moment I have no great expectation of success.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
The Home Secretary talks about provocation, but will he find time in his legislation to prevent chief constables from making 125 provocative, party-political statements, as the chief constable of Greater Manchester and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis do frequently? I am sure that the Home Secretary agrees that we do not allow senior civil servants or senior military figures to make the sort of political statements that unelected and unaccountable chief constables are prone to make these days.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
The Home Secretary will know that disorderly conduct is probably the most controversial of the offences that he proposes to include in the new Bill. Can he give the House a general assurance that we shall not have another offence like those that have caused enormous trouble to the courts and individuals because they are unspecific and ill-defined? Laws that give the police a discretion to choose who is in breach of them and who is not—because the offence is so badly defined—have given us terrible trouble and caused great feelings of injustice. We have just abolished the sus law and we need an assurance that we will not have another of the same sort, which courts will not be able to deal with.
§ Mr. Hurd
It is because I knew of that argument that I said that the House would want to look carefully at the way in which the clause was drawn. The hon. Gentleman, with his experience, will know that there are examples of causing harassment, alarm and distress to people that fall outside the 1936 Act and are not necessarily liable to cause a breach of the peace. There is a gap and the hon. Gentleman will want to look carefully at the clause to see whether we have filled the gap adequately.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
I have been listening to the questioning about the public order legislation. The right hon. Gentleman has explained that it started with a Green Paper and has come through a Law Commission report and a White Paper and there were the happenings of last year. The discussion could go on for ever. Will the Home Secretary have a word with the Leader of the House? Two or three proposals in the Bill lend themselves to a Select Committee-type procedure. We could take evidence from chief constables, lawyers and others. Before the Bill came to the Floor of the House we could have covered the five-year period during which people may have changed their mind. Would not that be a better way of proceeding?
§ Mr. Hurd
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will have heard the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion and, as it comes from someone with authority in these matters, no doubt my right hon. Friend will ponder it.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt yesterday, as some of his colleagues have before, with the figures of recorded crime and it is only right that I should deal with the matter. I shall try to do so—I may not succeed—in a way which the House will find to be fair. When we discuss this subject, we are talking about figures of recorded crime and there is some evidence from the British crime survey that the public may be more inclined now, possibly largely for insurance reasons, to report crimes such as burglary, than they used to be. [Interruption.] I mention that point 126 because statisticians think that it is important. I do not make too much of it, or rest my argument on it. 1 mention it for the sake of completeness.
The essential point, which I hope that the whole House will accept, is that the statistics for recorded crime show a steady rise since the 1950s. There have been ups and downs in particular years, but the annual average increase in that decade was 5 per cent., whereas from 1960 until now it has been between 6 per cent. and 7 per cent.
§ Mr. Hurd
I am not trying to diminish the facts. I am simply stating the figures. We are dealing with a trend that has gone on for 35 years through successive changes of Government, a trend which is deeply worrying precisely because it is so continuous. The figures that I gave earlier relating to drugs show that a new and quite big element of drug-related crime is beginning to affect totals both for the prison population and for recorded crime statistics.
The statistics for different countries are not comparable, but the trend that I have described is not confined to this country. It exists throughout Europe and the United States.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
None of us underestimates the difficulty of the job that the Home Secretary has taken on, but his party gave the public impression that it could reverse or at least substantially reduce that trend by measures such as the short sharp shock, its attitude to imprisonment, and so on. That has not happened.
§ Mr. Hurd
I intend to deal next with the measures that we have taken since 1979 and what we propose to do about them, because that is the next logical step in the argument. First, however, I should point out that the roots and causes of crime have always been and probably always will he a matter of argument. That point surfaced yesterday and will no doubt come up again today. I think that all the Opposition parties tend to put more emphasis than we Conservatives do on the link that they see between crime and unemployment, bad housing and other forms of social deprivation, whereas we put perhaps more emphasis than they on the decline and sometimes the collapse of family life, the relaxation of discipline and the disappearance of a spirit of community whether in the towns or in the countryside.
That argument emerged in the debate on the city riots and it will no doubt continue, but I hope that we can all agree, as the Leader of the Opposition did yesterday, that once crimes have been committed they must be dealt with firmly under the law and that the police and the courts, whose duty it is to do that, should have the full support of every law-abiding citizen and every democratic party. It would be a poor day if that statement became a matter of debate in the House or in council chambers.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a question not just of dealing with crime but of dealing with it relatively swiftly? At present it seems to take for ever for a case to come to court, by which time the evidence may be so rusty and fusty that convictions which perhaps should have been secured cannot be secured.
§ Mr. Hurd
Many of us are worried about the delays in bringing cases to court. My noble Friend the Lord 127 Chancellor has put new resources into accelerating the course of justice, and this month we have started field trials in several parts of the country to see whether we can move somewhat nearer to the Scottish system in which there is an absolute limit to delays in bringing offenders to trial.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I have said time and again in the House that if there were more provision for summary trial, cases would be tried more swiftly, but there is virtually no provision for a summary trial covering more than half a day. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there were provision for such trials to go on for two or three days, much of the problem might be solved?
§ Mr. Hurd
It is no secret that we are thinking in terms of introducing a Criminal Justice Bill in the next Session. If my hon. Friend would like to develop that argument between now and then, we will consider it.
We are not asking the Labour party—it would be silly to ask it—to relax its views on the Government's social and economic policies, but I ask Labour Members to see whether they can join us and the vast majority of our fellow citizens in supporting the police in debate in the House, in towns, schools and all the places where the police are trying their best to uphold the law and to protect our constituents.
We have put together a strategy of which the three main elements are strengthening police resources, crime prevention and the relationship between the police and the public. Since May 1979, police manpower—police officers and civilian staff—has increased by some 13,000. At the end of September, there were 120,500 police officers in England and Wales, supported by some 39,000 civilian staff. More than 800 police officers were recruited in September—the highest intake in one month for four years. In the past six years, approval has been given to increases of some 3,400 additional police posts in forces in England and Wales.
I have had discussions with Sir Kenneth Newman, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, and I have authorised him to recruit up to his full establishment of 27,145. I have also authorised an increase of nearly 50 in the civilian staff ceiling next year for further civilianisation. I have told him that I am prepared in principle to agree to an increase of 50 officers in the police establishment next year to strengthen his efforts against drug trafficking. He has told me that he expects that 200 officers will be brought back into operational use as a result of the force reorganisation that he has in hand.
§ Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)
What positive steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to recruit more police from the ethnic minorities? Does he agree that current figures are appallingly low?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman is quite right; the number is far too low. Numbers have improved substantially, but from a very low base. Every police force is aware of our wish that it should open its doors—obviously without lowering standards, as the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) said yesterday—and recruit as widely as possible in the black and Asian communities.
§ Mr. Hurd
We have to consider value for money in the police service as elsewhere. The police service understands that, and much is being done in forces throughout the country to improve management and the use of resources. I have set in hand work to assess whether further increases beyond the current Metropolitan police establishment are needed. I must not think only of London, however. I shall also be ready to consider applications from provincial police authorities for increases in police establishments on the basis of demonstrated need. I said recently that I was ready to approve increases of 200-plus nationally to help in the fight against drugs.
§ Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)
One of the worrying increases in crime concerns the variety to be found in the City of London—I refer to big City fraud, which is sophisticated and extremely difficult to detect. The undermanning of fraud squads in terms of numbers and expertise is an important factor in the increase of such crime. What steps is the Home Secretary taking to strengthen that arm of investigation?
§ Mr. Hurd
I agree about the importance of this matter. When the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the City of London police or police forces in other areas recognise the need to strengthen fraud squads, they will no doubt come to me and make their case. I will then consider it.
Under our law, the police must use no more than the minimum necessary force. The violence during the riot at the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham reached new levels of ferocity and I believe that the police must be properly equipped to deal with such violence. The commissioner is reviewing urgently the tactics and equipment necessary in such circumstances. I shall see that those requirements are met.
Therefore, the needs of the police change as the situation changes, and we have to respond to that. However, I emphasise, in view of some things that have been said and shown on television, that we do not want to alter, and the police do not want to alter, our strong, steady and well-established tradition of policing. I mentioned the law of minimum force. There will be no change in that. There should be no change in the reluctance to carry firearms except when they are absolutely necessary. There will be no change in the basic tradition of the policeman as a citizen in uniform drawing support and strength from the community that he serves.
§ Mr. Hurd
I apologise, but I shall not give way, as I must get on with my speech.
Certain policies flow from that. When things go wrong—every chief constable and any Home Secretary knows that they do sometimes—the mistakes must be properly investigated and the lessons learnt. The significance of the major change introduced from April this year, when the new independent Police Complaints Authority started work, is just beginning to sink in. The authority, led by Sir Cecil Clothier, the former ombudsman, supervises the processes of each investigation. That is what is new. The close involvement of a member of the Police Complaints Authority from the very start of the investigations into recent incidents of public concern, such as the tragic deaths of John Shorthouse and Mrs. Jarrett, and the 129 shooting of Mrs. Groce, provides a guarantee that the investigations will be full and rigorous. I understand that the papers on the Shorthouse case are now with the Director of Public Prosecutions. I hope that it will not be long before he can announce his decision.
It is to the credit of the police service that it recognises that it has everything to gain from the exposure of its procedures to scrutiny in that way. Police officers, the police service and society at large all benefit if there is public confidence in the way in which complaints are investigated.
It follows also that the police have to command respect and confidence in all parts of our communities and amomg every ethnic group. I welcome the strides that have been taken by the police in improving their training in community and race relations. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that tackling racial attacks is one of the priorities in the goal set for his force this year by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Several hon. Members on both sides of the House have drawn my attention in the short time that I have held this post to the importance of that subject, and I have found that both Sir Kenneth Newman and chief constables in the Association of Chief Police Officers are responding to it. A racial attack is an attack not only on an individual but on a community. The police are rightly doing more themselves and more to enlist the help of the community to prevent and detect those crimes.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Has the Home Secretary read the report by Sir Kenneth Newman on policing principles in the Metropolis, which was produced earlier this year? Has he noted the section—and Sir Kenneth's reservations—on the membership of freemasonry by British policemen? Is he concerned in the same way as Sir Kenneth is, and, if he is, does he not think that it might be advisable to issue guidance not instructing police officers to leave freemasonry but asking them at least to consider their position?
§ Mr. Hurd
I remember that report. Its birth was when I was at the Home Office before. However, I have not acquainted myself with the follow-up action. If the hon. Gentleman would like to hear from me on that subject, I shall gladly write to him.
Before I conclude, I should like to mention something which is regarded as humdrum, which has not had a great deal of energy and enthusiasm put into it until recently, but which is crucial—crime prevention. The scale of crime and the rate of increase, particularly of domestic burglaries, showed to my predecessor that a fresh approach was called for. He set up inside the Home Office the Crime Prevention Unit, producing new research and evaluating new techniques. We now need a major campaign to help the public help themselves, through better police liaison schemes, earlier warning and reporting of crime, better design and standards of protective equipment as well as of possessions that most of us have, such as motor cars, which are not always designed to resist crime, and sharper focus on sites and areas at risk. If, as we are beginning to do, we can mount such a campaign, it will give the police a better chance of detecting and catching the criminal, and, in many cases, preventing the crime before it happens. In two weeks we shall have a national crime prevention conference which will provide an opportunity to carry this forward.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Do not the police believe that they are handicapped in their efforts to prevent and deter crime because the abuse of the right to challenge the membership of juries means that they are distorted in favour of too many acquittals? Is this a matter of concern? What can be done?
§ Mr. Hurd
That is a matter of concern. I carefully read the speech yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel). Since then I have been in touch with the Law Officers, who have found that they do not have sufficient information for action. They believe that it would be right to gain fuller information, as my hon. Friend has said. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will be arranging for the new Crown prosecution service, when it is in place, to conduct such a survey so that we have a basis of fact upon which we can consider whether action is needed.
The more I learn of the work of my Department in these matters and the more I come to grips with my responsibilities, the more I realise the connection between areas of policy which, at first, seem distinct. At first, it seems to be a terrible tangle, but a pattern emerges, as older practitioners than I realised long ago. This will be the first of many debates on law and order in this Session, and I think that that is a safe prediction. Many debates will range more widely than the specific Bills to which I have referred, and I greatly welcome that.
Today I have been able to touch on only some of the important questions. We shall need the advice of the House, perhaps especially on its less partisan occasions. I think that the heart of the matter from which no one will dissent is that law and order is not just an abstract principle; it is vital to the quality of life of every person. Responsibility goes beyond Parliament, Government or the police. It is shared by all. It is a daunting task, but there is no point in just sitting back and being daunted by it. It is also a national task. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will help us to bring it to success.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
Yesterday the Prime Minister addressed the House for 31 minutes with a speech whose peroration concentrated on law and order. During the 31 minutes when the Prime Minister was standing at the Dispatch Box 207 serious criminal offences were being committed in England and Wales and another 28 were being committed in the "far north", as the right hon. Lady appears to have renamed Scotland. All that strident rhetoric and all those lavish promises might just have been acceptable in May 1979 at the time of the Government's first Queen's Speech, but this is the seventh Queen's Speech that the Prime Minister has ghost-written, and, after seven Queen's Speeches, a Government must be judged not on their promises but on their record.
This Government certainly have a record on law and order—a criminal record. This country, under this Prime Minister, is suffering from an all-time record crime wave, a mounting crime wave which even the best efforts of the police are increasingly powerless to stem. What we got yesterday from the right hon. Lady was a re-run of the final paragraphs of her speech to the Conservative party conference last month—words so hollow and artificial that they must inevitably have been written for her by Mr. Jeffrey Archer who, as the new deputy chairman of the Conservative party, has become second among unequals. 131 The Prime Minister offered an inspirational invitation to the electorate—Come with us, then, towards the next decade,she proclaimed.Let us together set our sights on a Britain where law-abiding men and women go their way in tranquility with their children knowing that their neighbourhood is safe.The problem is that this promised Britain of the next decade bears no resemblance whatever to the real Britain of the past six and a half years—Thatcher's Britain.
Thatcher's Britain is a Britain in which law-abiding men and women are able less and less to go on their way with tranquility. In Thatcher's Britain every family has one chance in four of being victims of a serious crime. As for their children, Tory propagandists are no doubt already designing an election poster prominently featuring them, but graphic artists, if they are honest, should depict them as battered and bruised, as in the metropolitan police area last year 20 per cent. of mugging victims were schoolchildren.
Thatcher's Britain is not a Britain in which, as the Prime Minister puts it,People know that their neighbourhood is safe.It is a Britain in which elderly men and especially elderly women are afraid to open their doors at night. It is a Britain in which a recent Home Office survey showed that 12 per cent. of inner city residents said that they never go out at night because of crime.
Thatcher's Britain is a Britain in which one crime of violence is committed every four and a half minutes; in which one act of criminal damage is committed every 61 seconds; in which one burglary is committed every 35 seconds; in which one case of theft or of handling stolen goods is committed every 17 seconds; in which one serious crime is committed every nine seconds. That is not the Prime Minister's promised land of the next decade; that is Thatcher's Britain now—today—in 1985.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I shall give way presently, but not at the moment.
Thatcher's Britain today is one in which under this Government serious offences have risen by 40 per cent.; theft by 25 per cent.; violence against the person by 31 per cent.; arson by 40 per cent.—
§ Mr. Kaufman
I undertake to give way to the hon. Gentleman presently.
Offences involving firearms are up 48 per cent.; burglaries are up 59 per cent.; criminal damage is up 63 per cent.
The Home Secretary said this afternoon that the crime wave is not confined to this country, but Thatcher's Britain is the most crime-riddencountry in Europe. What is more, far too many of the perpetrators of these crimes are getting away scot free. Not only are 1 million more serious crimes a year being committed, but also, because of the intolerable burden on the police, under this Government a decreasing proportion of those crimes is being solved. In Thatcher's Britain the number of crimes committed per police officer has risen from 24 to 29 a year.
In Thatcher's Britain the proportion of crimes cleared up has fallen from 42 per cent. to 35 per cent.; the number 132 of thefts from 40 per cent. to 35 per cent.; the number of burglaries from 32 per cent. to 28 per cent.; the number of cases of criminal damage from 30 per cent. to 23 per cent. In Thatcher's Britain nearly three burglars in every four get clean away with their loot. In Thatcher's Britain nearly four vandals in every five evade detection and punishment.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. If the Labour party is so concerned about lawlessness, why is it that up and down the country representatives of his party at every turn are seeking to undermine the police in their work, and nowhere more so than in the city of Manchester, which we both have the honour to represent?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The hon. Gentleman is not a Manchester Member of Parliament and should not give himself airs.
§ Mr. Kaufman
As for the undermining of the police, I shall be coming to that very matter in considerable detail before I have finished.
The Thatcher's Britain that I have described is the real, harsh, increasingly violent, increasingly lawless Britain over which the Prime Minister presides. However, no one could have guessed it from her complacent speech yesterday or from the Home Secretary's incompetent carbon copy speech this afternoon.
We are witnessing a monumental attempt at a massive confidence trick. It began at the last general election when after four years of rising crime the Tory manifesto claimed:Already street crime is being reduced and public confidence improved in some of the worst inner city areas.However, under this Government notifiable offences have increased by 62 per cent. in the police force areas which contain most of the inner cities.
The Prime Minister is trying to deceive the country, but one group that she is not deceiving—here I come to what the hon. Member for Davyhulme said—is the police. The Prime Minister makes lavish promises to them as well. At the Conservative party conference she proclaimed:The Government will continue steadfastly to back the police. If they need more men, more equipment, different equipment, they shall have them.The Prime Minister said in her speech yesterday:The Government have made it clear that the police will have the resources that they need in the fight against crime." [Official Report, 6 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 25.]But this year's public expenditure White Paper plans for a reduction in real terms in expenditure on the police. The Home Secretary rubbed those facts in at the police superintendents' conference at Torquay only six weeks ago when he admitted that increases to date in expenditure on the police
to a large extent … have been swallowed up by increased demands on the police.He confessed:
The amount of reported crime has risen sharply, and new legislation has created new duties … This is not the occasion for a lecture on economic policy, but I would simply say that I see no prospect of a general loosening of the purse strings which 133 would enable us to transform the difficulties which you mention by fresh spending … there will not be further substantial increases in resources.For months now there has been a torrent of complaints by police officers at all levels against the burdens on the police of Government policy and broken Government promises. The chief constable of Staffordshire warns:our manpower availability will be further depleted because of the extensive programme of training for all officers of the Force in preparation for the implementation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.The chief constable of Warwickshire joins in and says:My biggest fear is that we will not be able to complete this very necessary training before we are obliged to commence training of the whole Force on the changes in law and procedure resulting from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.The chief constable of Greater Manchester adds his voice and says:
The day of reckoning will surely come. The Government cannot possibly say they have not been warned.In his speech this afternoon the Home Secretary said that he was delighted that chief constables found their voices from time to time. I hope that he is listening to what they say as I quote them.
§ Mr. Hurd
I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have been prepared to modify his speech after hearing what I said. I specifically dealt with the concept of need. I said that in relation to both London and the provinces the test of a successful application by the police for extra resources was simply need.
§ Mr. Kaufman
That is what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon and what he said at Torquay, but that is not what the Prime Minister said at Blackpool last month.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Yesterday the Prime Minister said:The Government have made it clear that the police will have the resources that they need".—[Official Report, 6 November 1985; Vol. 86 c. 25.]
§ Mr. Kaufman
Good. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, then? Right. We shall come to the question of need now. I hope that the Home Secretary, who now says that the police will get what they need, is changing his policy this afternoon.
The Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis, Sir Kenneth Newman, said:
In seeking to operate responsibly within these limits we shall inevitably find ourselves less able to meet all of our commitments towards the general public in the way that we would wish. If we rise, for example, to a centrally counselled drive against drugs, which brings heavy demands on manpower through round-the-clock surveillance, then the existence of finite ceilings to manpower will dictate the removal of officers from other duties. The delicacy and sensitivity of the work requires the deployment of experienced officers, who are also in demand for other key areas of operational work-such as anti-robbery or anti-fraud duties.When spelling out his requirements, the commissioner said:There is, I am quite certain, only one way in which these demands and the problems can be tackled and that is to have more manpower.He said, "only one way", yet what did the Home Secretary do? The right hon. Gentleman is not giving the 134 commissioner what he has asked for, what he needs and what makes it possible to carry out the one way of dealing with crime in London. He has given him onlym a handout to avoid cuts and an aloof lecture about giving value for money.
§ Mr. Hurd
I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Gentleman again. He knows that the Metropolitan police force is 300 under strength. It will take a little time to recruit up to strength, but that is taking place. At the same time, we are studying the precise application made by Sir Kenneth on the basis of need.
§ Mr. Kaufman
But at the Conservative party conference the Prime Minister said that if the police needed more men or more equipment, they would have them. Sir Kenneth has asked for more men. A report in The Times headedPolice and Hurd in rift on recruitingstates:Sir Kenneth told Mr. Hurd that he wanted an extra 3,000 officers for the 27,000 strong force because riots, with terrorism, drug offences and other crime, were taking police off the beat.Sir Kenneth asked for an additional 3,000 men, but the right hon. Gentleman has not given him what he needs. He has given him only a few million pounds to avoid cuts. That is why the newspapers reported the matter and why the right hon. Gentleman had to make a demeaning statement denying a rift between him and Sir Kenneth.
Other people also asked for additional manpower. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will provide that. Sir Kenneth Newman's warning was repeated by chief superintendent John Keyt, the secretary of the Chief Superintendents Association, who said at his association's conference:There is a limit as to how far the police service can carry out the duties imposed upon them by new legislation and the changes brought about by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.The setting up of special departments to cope means that officers are being taken from the streets and they need to be replaced if contact with the public is to be maintained.The conference was told that the police required 13,000 new men—not to cope with crime, but simply to cope with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and other legislation put forward by the Government.
I note that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) is in his place. The Police Federation has warned that the extra bureaucratic work created by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is "a recipe for chaos."
Police constable Paul Middup, at that time the chairman of the constables section of the Police Federation, said that with other local government services, the police were forced to bear their share of spending cuts. He continued:Central government cannot duck the issue any longer. It is fast turning into a public scandal which is entirely of their making. They cannot blame the local authorities any longer.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman into my parlour. If he wants more information to assist his case that the police need more resources, I shall be delighted to provide it.
However, can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, when I put forward the figures that he is now quoting last week, he and his colleagues jeered? Why is it that when they were in office 8,000 police officers left the service because they were underpaid and under-regarded? Why is it that at the Labour party conference a number of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues cheered when a Labour delegate described the police as the enemy?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The hon. Gentleman knows well that the proportion of police to crimes committed under the Labour Government was much better than the proportion now.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The hon. Gentleman had better make up his mind whether he wishes to represent the Police Federation in this House or whether his loyalty is more to the Government in their attacks on the police—[Interruption.] Yes, Government attacks on the police.Central Government cannot duck the issue any longer. It is fast turning into a public scandal.That was said by the Police Federation spokesman at that organisation's conference earlier this year. Today, the Home Secretary unctuously asked Her Majesty's Opposition to support the police. We support the police. The problem is that the police do not support the Home Secretary. While the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary parrot their support for the police, at its conference this year the Police Federation passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the Government, and no doubt the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds was there to witness that.
Is there anything in the Queen's Speech that would cause the police to rescind their vote of no confidence in the Government? The proposals to penalise drug pushers and dealers will have our support, and we hope that the new Bill will have an impact on the terrible curse of drug addiction that is rotting away an ever-increasing number of victims. But before the new penalties can be imposed, the villains must be caught, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has pointed out strongly that if he is to do even an adequate job on drugs, the burdens caused by Government policy and financial cuts will compel him to weaken his other anti-crime teams, teams such a that contending with robbery, a crime that is often the consequence of addicts seeking to obtain money for their drugs.
If those drugs get into the country at all, one reason will be the massive weakening of the Customs service under the present Government, with 1,000 fewer Customs officials than six years ago and with some ports hardly manned. Indeed, some ports have "honour" boxes for people to declare whether they have drugs. From Cardiff to Dover, Felixstowe to Ullapool, Customs officers complain about their inability to deal with routine traffic, let alone make night boardings of ships coming from countries where drugs are grown or sold.
Yet this weakening of protection against drug smugglers comes at a time when drugs have become a greater bane than this country has ever known. Only in the past two years has drug trafficking had to be made a separate new statistic in the crime returns.
The number of registered addicts is only a fraction of the true problem, yet the total even of registered addicts has soared year by year, and those addicts are tragically young. The Home Office admits that since 1980 there has especially been an upward trend in addicts aged under 21. Three quarters of new addicts are under 30. About 70 per cent. of new addicts are males, but more and more women are becoming addicts, including women with children and pregnant women. An even greater tragedy is that not one Minister, from the Prime Minister downwards, has ever asked the crucial question: why?
136 Instead of helping the police to shoulder this latest urgent priority, added to all the other priorities jostling for their attention, the Government are now planning to make the task of the police even more difficult by adding a new collection of public order burdens to their already crippling workload.
The nation has, rightly, been horrified by the terrible manifestations of arson, looting, rape and murder, to which our people have been helpless and horrified witnesses in recent weeks, during the urban disturbances. Even though public order offences are no more than a tiny proportion of total crime, there is an understandable demand that stringent action should be taken to prevent riots and, where they break out, to deal with them firmly.
The Government's public order Bill will contain nothing to prevent riots and nothing that will assist the police who are allotted the dangerous task of coping with riots. On those matters the Bill will contain only two new offences which will entitle the police to make arrests during and after riots. The police are scarcely short, however, of offences under which they can make arrests in such circumstances. That is not their problem.
What is more, the new proposals restricting the right of peaceful marches and open air meetings will handicap the police. The monitoring of such events will eat even further into the limited time available to the police to cope with real crime.
The unprecedented new powers in the forthcoming Bill will force the police into making political decisions about the merits of particular marches and demonstrations, and it now turns out that they will even be required to make assessments about the peaceable intentions of the Salvation Army. Those are decisions that the police do not want to have to make, and that is why already they have compelled the Government to exclude single marches from the provisions of the Bill.
As the police are, unwillingly, being trapped in this political role—which they do not want because they know that it is completely alien to traditional and nonpartisan policing in Britain—so they will be forced into unnecessary and damaging confrontations with the organisers of open air meetings who find that the Englishman's, Welshman's or Scotsman's traditional right to speak freely is being restricted by the Government's fear of free speech. Thus, the doctrinaire obsessions of the Government will distract the police from their true job of fighting crime and will further damage relations between the police and public.The clearance of most routine crime depends on the help supplied to the police by the public, rather than from the efforts of the police.Those words were included in the results of a survey published by the Home Office. That finding was not surprising. The police now have so many other bureaucratic burdens that, for example, on Merseyside, they are able to spend only 6 per cent. of their time investigating crime.
By far the largest number of arrests, especially for burglary and theft, are made as the result of calls from or information supplied by the public. The Government seem determined to undermine the essential relationship between the police and the public—to erode confidence and provoke confrontation—and that will certainly be the effect of the public order Bill. Without information and co-operation from the public, the police have to fall back on methods that are less satisfactory and less successful.
137 We need to foster closer relationships between the police and the communities they serve. The police should be given the opportunity to become more responsive to the wishes and fears of the public. For example, on Merseyside there is a strong feeling that preventing sexual assaults on women should be one of the top priorities. The police there do not share that view. Where priorities differ, there should be more effective arrangements for the police to discuss with the public and elected representatives how best to combat crime in localities and neighbourhoods. Nothing in the Queen's Speech will help to nurture such sensible and constructive relationships, just as there is not a word about the crime wave itself or the dark places in society where crime is born and bred.
Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) asked the Prime Minister the simple question:why, during the past six years under the Conservative Government, there has been a 40 per cent. increase in reported crime?"—[Official Report, 6 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 20.]The Prime Minister shiftily dodged the question, claiming that she would come to it later in her speech. She never did come to it. She never has come to it. She never will come to it because the Prime Minister is not interested in the question, still less the answer. All the Prime Minister is interested in is cheap slogans, and yet that question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington is the key question, and the question to which, in their hearts, the people know the answer.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The answer was contained in a survey on law and order published only last week by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. It is a survey which demonstrates that there is a clear link between the high level of recorded crime and social deprivation. It also shows that the highest recorded crime rates are found in areas suffering from the worst overcrowding and high unemployment rates. The Home Secretary pooh-poohed those facts this afternoon, but if he and the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. Kaufman
—do not like what the national institute says, let the Prime Minister listen to her deputy, Lord Whitelaw, who said:If we can nip in the bud criminal tendencies in people then we would be going a long way towards easing the pressures on our police … Undoubtedly, economic mismanagement … where that leads to high levels of unemployment, especially amongst young people, also contributes considerably to increasing the number of those tempted into a criminal life.Lord Whitelaw went on to prove that he had a sense of humour by adding:The only real remedy for this situation is a vigorous pursuit of Conservative economic and social policies.
§ Mr. Kaufman
However, there is not a word in the Queen's Speech about combating unemployment.
Every authoritative survey demonstrates that bringing policemen back on to the beat not only has a significant effect in reducing crime but increases public confidence, and yet the public order proposals in the Queen's Speech will take police off the beat, not put them on to it.
Evidence from the Department of the Environment shows that crime can be reduced by employing more 138 caretaking staff and security patrols, but cuts in the rate support grant and arbitrary spending limits are forcing local councils to sack such staff and reduce such patrols
Evidence from the Department of the Environment also shows that crime can be reduced by improving estate lighting, by the installation of anti-vandal glass, by stronger front doors and frames and by closing walkways on deck flat complexes. However, after a half-hearted effort to obtain more money for housing and housing repairs, the Secretary of State for the Environment was forced in Cabinet today to settle for a derisory increase—[Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us now.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I think we know. We must take it that the Secretary of State for the Environment was forced to settle for what the BBC called this morning a significant compromise. He was forced to settle for a derisory increase in the pitiful sums that the Government allow to be spent on housing. They have reduced the housing programme to a record low and almost wiped out housing improvement grants.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The Government's claims on law and order are a cynical sham. Even more cynical is the Prime Minister's crude determination to try to ride to an election victory on the backs of the police—men and women whose dedication to combating crime is simultaneously being exploited and undermined by the policies contained in the Queen's Speech.
When he was Shadow Home Secretary Lord Whitelaw said:A Government that cannot protect its own citizens from attack in the streets of its towns and cities, that cannot protect property from damage, or homes from intrusion, has failed to live up to the basic duties of Government.Under this Prime Minister, more citizens are being attacked than ever before. Under this Prime Minister, more property is being damaged than ever before. Under this Prime Minister, more homes are suffering intrusion than ever before. The basic duties of Government, as listed by Lord Whitelaw, are being subordinated to the strident politics of confrontation. There is a growing divergence between what the police want to do and what the Government want them to do. The police want to keep order for the people. The Government want to keep the people in order.
The Government cannot conceal the facts, which is why the people of Britain will come to disdain and reject a Government who have failed to keep their promise and failed to keep the Queen's peace.
§ Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)
The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was characterised, as one might expect, by a cocktail of arrogance, impudence and personal attack. He has done himself a disservice by adopting such a personal attitude towards my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He significantly did not answer the question that I put to him about the extent to which Labour politicians up and down the country, day in and day out, have been undermining police forces and doing their best to deprive them of equipment and resources.
139 The right hon. Gentleman did not mention Mr. Bernie Grant and his grotesque statement that the policeman who was murdered was no doubt murdered by one of his colleagues. I believe that that man is putting up for candidature of the Labour party. If the right hon. Gentleman's party is so keen on upholding a policy of law and order, how does it tolerate people such as Mr. Bernie Grant within its ranks?
How does the right hon. Gentleman have the gall to attack the Government for the resources that they have provided to police forces when he is well aware that in the city we both have the honour to represent—the right hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but I have represented a constituency in greater Manchester for 15 years—we have a police committee which is ruled by the Labour party and which is constantly seeking to attack and harry our excellent chief constable, Mr. Anderton. Only this week, it is seeking to deprive him of the 500 rounds of baton charges or plastic bullets and the weapons required to launch them which he recently acquired.
I know that it would be my constituents' view that the chief constable of greater Manchester should be able to lay his hands on all the equipment that may be required to protect them, their shops, their houses and, in the last resort, their lives from any spillover of violence in our great city. Labour politicians say that he has no right to take such prudent precautions, and I therefore venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he has been addressing his remarks in the wrong direction. It is the Labour party that should be providing, through the police committees that it controls in so many of our inner cities, the proper equipment. It is not that the resources are not there. Mr. Anderton has the resources and has purchased the equipment. Labour politicians are seeking to take it from him.
I can well see that if there were a future Labour Administration—the way in which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are going on makes that most unlikely—they would nationally deprive the police of the weapons and means required to maintain public order.
The Government are right in the Gracious Speech to lay such heavy stress on the twin problems of law and order and the tackling of unemployment. There could be no higher priorities on the public agenda. The Government will rightly be judged by their performance in those two subjects.
The events of recent months in Brixton, Handsworth and Tottenham have brought terror to the local community, injury to the police, and have been a stark revelation to the nation at large of the critical situation in our inner cities, which have been allowed, over the past two or three decades, to become cesspits of deprivation, lawlessness and crime.
Representing an inner city area, I have been conscious that we have enormous problems which many of our citizens living in other parts of the country do not, and possibly cannot, appreciate. I fear that what we have seen in recent weeks may be only a foretaste of flames and bloodshed which could be much greater unless very positive steps are urgently taken to deal with the problem, which potentially poses a mortal threat to our liberal democracy, for where law ends, there tyranny begins.
140 It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the troubles of recent weeks in some of our inner city areas were, at least in part, the work of extremist activists. Who taught 14 and 15-year-old school children how to make petrol bombs? Who organised the mass production of some of those petrol bombs which have burnt shops and maimed policemen?
A new and horrifying dimension was seen in Tottenham, for the first time in modern times, with the use of firearms in such disorders. Not just one but an assortment of firearms were used against the police and the fire brigade. The courage of the police and the fire brigade in continuing in those circumstances commands the admiration of the entire country.
It comes ill from the Leader of the Opposition, let alone the right hon. Member for Gorton, to lecture the Prime Minister and this Government on not doing enough to uphold the law. We see Left-wing activists up and down the country at work, day in and day out, undermining the work of the police. In London, the instinctive reaction of the Labour leader of Haringey council was to blame the police for the rioting and not those who were responsible for it.
In many cases, Labour councils in inner city areas have discouraged or even forbidden the very co-operation that the right hon. Member was suggesting should be made more widespread—the involvement of the police in the schools and with youth clubs. Labour councils have forbidden it, yet neither the Leader of the Labour party nor his sidekick from Gorton has the courage to stand up to the petty tyrants in the town halls who seek to dictate to the police while the right hon. Gentlemen seek to accuse the Prime Minister of not doing enough to support the police.
The Government propose to introduce a new public order Bill. That is necessary and even overdue, but in itself it is not enough. How right was my right hon. Friend, in opening the debate yesterday on the Loyal Address, when she said:
The solution must ultimately lie in a strengthening of our traditional sources of discipline and authority—the family, the church, the school, responsible community and civic leadership and support for the police."—[Official Report, 6 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 25.]It is urgent that parents should be made more responsible for the actions of their children. Is it not time that they were made more financially accountable for the criminal acts of their children who are minors? Could there be any more effective way of requiring parents to supervise their children properly, and to ask where little Johnny is tonight, than the knowledge that they could see their colour television being taken out of the front door to pay compensation to the victims of their children's actions?
In considering the problems of the inner cities in a broader spectrum, it is difficult to deny that one of the most disturbing facts is the extent to which those coming on to the job market today are all too often without any skills to offer in a modern technological society such as we have today.
The problem goes far wider than the responsibility of the Home Department. The Secretary of State for Education and Science is seeking urgently to raise the standards of teaching, but there must be a special emphasis on the inner city areas. Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been channeled into the inner city areas, but 141 if we fail to build a cohesive society in the years ahead, and fail to improve the standards of education of those living in the most deprived areas, we shall rue it.
In the course of many visits, nothing has struck me more forcibly than the extent to which the standards of the blacks in American society have been raised over the past five to 10 years. They have been raised economically and educationally to a high degree. Blacks are forming their own businesses and playing prominent parts in local and national politics. They are playing prominent roles in industry and commerce. We must also try to achieve that goal. It should be the task of Government to make available the opportunities necessary to provide such a future for the young people in the most deprived areas.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South and Penarth)
I shall make a short speech because I know that many hon. Members wish to participate in it.
The hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) told us that what we have witnessed is a foretaste of what is to come. He called for a substantial increase in the resources devoted to our inner cities and a raising of the standards of those who live in them, many of whom are coloured, being black or brown. He was right to do so. That was one of the passages in his speech with which I agreed.
I have represented for a few years one of the oldest coloured communities in Britain. It is a long-settled community of people who were called Lascars. They came 70 years ago to settle in Cardiff to help us with our merchant navy in the first world war. There were riots in Cardiff in the early 1920s and since then the community has grown. We have seen the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who came to Cardiff 70 years ago. Originally, they were concentrated in Bute town—the nucleus of the community remains there—but they are now spread out much more widely throughout Cardiff.
Those who live in my constituency, especially in Bute town and similar areas, expect the same standard of quietness and tranquillity and the ability to lead their own lives as any wealthy white community or surburb. My constituents demand the same services from the police and the same behaviour from those who live in their midst as any other community. Relatively new areas have grown up in Cardiff in recent years and some of those who live in them are black, but we must never try to tar the majority of the black or coloured people who live in those areas with the activities of the minority who are to be seen on our television screens as rioters. The majority want to live quietly among us in our multiracial society. We shall misunderstand the problem if we do not accept that proposition. We must understand that the blacks or the coloureds expect the same standards as anyone else. They demand to be free from hooliganism like anyone else.
There is no doubt about the seriousness of the increase in crime, especially the crimes of violence, robbery and hooliganism which we have witnessed recently. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) wanted to know why the Prime Minister did not reply when he was asked why this has happened. She did not reply because she does not know the answer, and I am bound to say that I am not sure whether I do. One of the problems that the House must face is that there are no clear answers to the problem.
I could make a good case for saying how much better things were when I was Home Secretary than they are now 142 with the right hon. Member for Whitney (Mr. Hurd) as Home Secretary. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the traditions of the church, the family and the schools have all weakened and that they must be strengthened. It is true that there has been a general decline in morality in the community—and we should not exempt what happens in the City of London when we make that general accusation. There is a general standard of morality that we must all observe. That is one of the things which we must bear in mind when we introduce legislation and in the way in which we conduct our affairs and talk to one another.
There is no doubt that the police are over-strained. It is over 20 years since I had close contact with them, but I know from my experience that they want more help than they are getting. Of course the Home Secretary cannot give them all that they want. If the Prime Minister said that they could have everything they wanted, she was making a great mistake. The police will not get everything and the Home Secretary was right if he tried to put the correct gloss on that issue. However, the police need more assistance than they are getting now and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to give them that.
The handful of authorities that are denying the police access to schools are behaving in a short-sighted and foolish way. These authorities should permit the police to enter schools so that children may see them, understand the job that they are trying to do and understand their problems. The Labour authorities that are denying entry to the police—I do not know whether any Conservative authorities are doing so—should reverse their decision forthwith.
It is clear that Mr. Grant still has much to learn. Over the past few weeks he has received a roasting from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and from every leader writer, and I am sure that that has taught him a great deal. There is nothing like a good roasting for teaching us when we have gone wrong. If Mr. Grant is a man of intelligence, he will have learnt a great deal from his recent experience.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was correct when he painted the scene, in a speech which held the House. I do not expect to be a member of my right hon. Friend's Administration, but I am pleased to say that he is growing in stature with every speech he makes, and he made a splendid speech yesterday.
We must recognise that the police need help from us all, including everyone in this place. That brings me to the Home Secretary and the attitude of my party and that of the Government. I welcomed the Home Secretary' s tone this afternoon. He gave way continually to interventions and it could be said that he did so a little too often and allowed the interventions to interfere with the thread of his speech. One of my more cynical colleagues suggested that he did not have much of a speech to make, but I prefer to give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt.
The right hon. Gentleman adopted a good approach, but what will be the approach of Conservative Back Benchers? It appears from what I have read in the newspapers that they think that they have a trump card. They seem to think that if they can pretend that the Labour party is against law and order and the police, they will win the next general election for the Conservative party. That is what some Conservative Members are saying. They had better make up their minds on how seriously they regard the problem.
143 If the hon. Member for Davyhulme is correct to say that what we have seen is only a foretaste of what is to come unless tremendous changes are made, Conservative Back Benchers must ask themselves how responsible they will be in trying to pretend that one of the major parties is opposed to law and order as a means of establishing an electoral advantage. To what extent would they be subscribing to the national interest in taking that course?
Equally, the Labour party must not allow itself to appear constantly to be criticising the police and not supporting them. The police need the support of us all and they must have it. Our people will suffer as much as Conservative Members' constituents if law and order breaks down. A new approach is needed and the Home Secretary has provided an opportunity today for one to be taken. However, if he asks for our support, he must restrain the Prime Minister and Conservative Back Benchers when they try to pretend that the great mass of the Labour party and those who support and represent it are not as interested in preserving the things that we value as the Government are.
The initiative lies to a great extent with the Home Secretary, but we, the Opposition, must make a response when the time comes. It is in everyone's interest that the scenes which we have seen on our television screens in recent weeks and months should not be repeated. It is clear that that will be in the country's interests as well. Let us try to take the issue out of party politics as far as possible. The preservation of law and order with proper social conditions must be our objective. We shall all suffer if our efforts to achieve it are not sustained.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not take up directly the wise words of the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). I do not wish to concentrate, in what will be a short speech, upon the problems of law and order. I want to look beyond the Gracious Speech to some shifts in attitudes and policies within the Conservative Government which are to be welcomed, small though they might be.
The two events of the summer recess were clearly the Conservative party conference and the Government reshuffle. I went to the first but I played no part in the second. That might be because I do not measure up to the Prime Minister's criterion for promotion, which is that new Ministers must be "real good marketing men."
The theme of our party conference was that our policies were right but that our public relations were wrong. Surely that is not the case. Have we not enjoyed in the past all the marketing skills for which we are now looking? Has there really been a failure, in Conservative party terms, of public relations? Surely there has not. The truth has been told as Her Majesty's Government have wanted it, certainly in the past six years. Thatcherism, so called, has altered the face of our politics, which is proof of my assertion.
It might also be asserted that the Government have enjoyed a more favourable national press than any other Government for many years. The influence of Rupert Murdoch at the smart and low ends of Fleet street is proof of that. Where the Government have not been so fortunate 144 is in the attitudes adopted by the BBC and ITV. That may be one of the reasons for the Government's attempt to bully the BBC over the "Real Lives" programme.
Over the past few years, the Government have not lacked rainmakers and magicians. Members of the Conservative party owe it to our magicians and rainmakers to be fair. We must have a good word to say for Gordon Reece, a man who gave us not just one new Mrs. Thatcher but two. We must have a good word for the Saatchi brothers, who made us an offer we could not refuse. And we should not forget Lord Everett of Wembley. Are these magicians, following our party conference at Blackpool, to become non-persons, saddled with the blame for our failures? How cruel a fate.
What message should we send to our new rainmakers—Harvey Thomas and Jeffrey Archer, both of whom are kept under close security in Conservative central office? It must be "Shine on, Harvey Moon." Let us do the decent thing by our rainmakers. Since 1975, with a little help from the Prime Minister, they have changed the political agenda, and I can give a brief list of simple truths. This is the old agenda on which we fought two general elections. First, public spending is bad; second, civil servants idle; third, waste is rife; fourth, everyone must suffer; fifth, moaning minnies must get on their bikes; sixth, state benefits are far too high; seventh, there is no alternative to the economic policies; and eighth, we must all pull up our socks. No wonder we are unloved.
Our new rainmakers have concocted a new agenda. of which I shall also read out the items. First, public spending is good—all those hospitals; second, we have not suffered; third, the Government care; fourth, the Government will cut income tax—Nigel says so; fifth, we shall even cut unemployment—Nigel says so as well; sixth, the Government will give us new laws and, it is hoped, more order; seventh, Mrs. T. loves you after all; eighth, the Government will do away with rates. but not yet; and, ninth, the Government can perform the five-card trick.
We oversold the first agenda, but let us take great care not to undersell the new agenda. The new agenda is more liveable with than the old. In the past, the Prime Minister and the Government seemed to work on the basis of the old Spanish proverb—the greater the number of enemies, the greater the honour. Let us now start to make friends with the electorate.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I shall return to the subject of Home Office matters, which are the theme of today's debate. There is widespread anxiety in Britain today that the spread of violence, disorder and hooliganism speaks of a growing lawlessness and constitutes a menacing threat to law-abiding citizens and to the harmony of our communities. The sinister spread of drug-related offences has deepened public fear.
Therefore, it is not surprising that, in the year of Handsworth, Brixton and Tottenham, the Prime Minister should have thought to focus the debate on the Government's response to these threats to the tranquillity of the realm. Crime and public disorder are deeply serious problems, especially for those living in the deprived areas of our cities. The Prime Minister has ensured by her attitude to these problems that the effectiveness of the Government's response to this challenge is, and will continue to be, under the searchlight of public scrutiny.
145 I welcome the tone of the Home Secretary's speech, which sharply contrasts with that of the Prime Minister and with the partisan speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the official spokesman for the Labour party. Those two speeches also sharply contrast with the speech of a previous Home Secretary and Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) whose words should carry weight and carry it beyond the Chamber.
What is happening with crime and public disorder is not that we are experiencing new crimes but that the scale and increasing frequency of criminal behaviour is growing. Criminal behaviour, drug offences and mob violence have for some time challenged the assumption that this country is a uniquely happy one, wedded to the motto of live and let live.
There was a note of surprising complacency about the situation in the last Conservative manifesto in 1983, which made the surprising assertion:already street crime is being reduced and public confidence improved in some of the worst inner city areas".How hollow these words sound today. If such public confidence existed then, it has certainly evaporated now.
That pre-electoral optimism is out of tune not only with public opinion but with the hard fact of criminal statistics. Since 1979, there has been an increase in the number of notifiable offences from 2.3 million to 3.3 million. Offences involving violence against the person were up to 140,000 last year, a slight downturn in the rate but one offset by the 10 to 13 per cent. increase in the rate of notified crimes against property.
The Queen's Speech proposes measures to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking in drugs and to penalise the handling of such proceeds. These measures are plainly necessary and in principle enjoy the support of the alliance parties. However, the vile crimes perpetrated by drug pushers against some of our more vulnerable young people require measures on many fronts—international action, vigilant policing, additional medical provisions and care for addicts. The war on drugs requires a commitment of resources on a scale not hitherto contemplated by the Government. I acknowledge what has been done but it is not sufficient to tackle the corrosive effect of drugs, particularly in our inner cities.
Similarly, offences against public order did not begin with the arrival of this Conservative Government, although their incidence has greatly increased. It is more than six years since the then Home Secretary, Lord Whitelaw, announced the review of the Public Order Act 1936 and related legislation. After long gestation and considerably more experience of public disorder in this country, we have the proposals referred to yesterday in the Gracious Speech.
In the six years that have passed since the Government took office they have repeatedly proclaimed their commitment to tackle the inexorable rise in crime. Their approach was foreshadowed in their 1979 manifesto, in which they spoke of giving what they called "the right priority" to the fight against crime. But year by year the problem grows. Year by year the Government announce a new initiative, which is presented to the sound of trumpets as not merely of value in itself but as evidence of the Government's peculiar commitment to tackling the problem.
It is damaging when political parties claim particular competence or a unique determination to deal with crime. 146 The public expects its politicians to be united in this objective, and statistical evidence of past performance should induce a little more modesty in political leaders. None the less, the present Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, have made extravagant claims. They cannot be surprised if at the end of the day they are judged by the results of their attack on crime and not by their rhetoric. Every time that a policy has been advanced to tackle crime it has been with a flourish. Too much weight has been placed upon the importance of all these initiatives. Individually or cumulatively they may have been necessary and even desirable but, alas, it is only too clear how far they fall short of a solution.
The first step the Government took was to announce an increase in manpower for the police forces. That initiative, though welcome, appears largely to have run its course. Sir Kenneth Newman, despite the Prime Minister's promises, appears not to be furnished with the resources he has sought. The difference between the right hon. Member for Gorton and the Home Secretary can easily be reconciled. The question is, who perceives and judges what is to be the need for the establishments? I welcome the decision to increase the establishment in the Metropolitan area, but there has not been a proper review of it for 60 years.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
Does the hon. Gentleman applaud or decry the fact that during the last five and a half years the strength of the police force has risen by about 12,000?
§ Mr. Maclennan
Naturally I applaud it. I believe that it may be necessary, particularly in the metropolitan area, to go considerably further than the Government plan to go. The second initiative that the Government announced to tackle crime was contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1982. It was designed to increase the penalties for offences, particularly those committed by young offenders. Would that those changed sentencing procedures had wrought a reduction in juvenile crime. Extravagant claims were made which will not be realised.
The third step was to alter the rules for obtaining evidence to assist the police to secure convictions. It is too early to say what may be the result of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 on crime rates, but I hope that it is not thought to be soft on crime to express some doubt as to whether it will amount to as much as it has been cracked up to be.
The Gracious Speech indicates a fourth approach, the creation of new criminal offences. Much of what is proposed seems to me to be uncontroversial and welcome, particularly where it follows the recommendations of The Law Commission to modernise and codify the law of riot and affray. I believe that it would also be right to amend section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936 to make it an offence for any person in a public or private place to use threatening or abusive words or behaviour that is intended or likely to cause another to fear unlawful violence or to provoke the use of unlawful violence by another. This new law would apply to demonstrators, pickets, football hooligans or anyone else who crossed the line between peaceful assembly and infringement of the rights of others.
The Government's proposals to extend section 3 of the Public Order Act 1936 to cover static assemblies are, however, more controversial. A society that is committed to the rule of law must recognise that that law protects the 147 rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association with others, which rights are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The police have traditionally found little difficulty in controlling public meetings by the use of the ordinary criminal law. For the individual, there is always the civil law to protect his or her person or property against unlawful assemblies, though the Government did little to protect the rule of law when they sought to inhibit the use of the civil law against picketing miners during the miners' strike. Although the police did their duty uncomplainingly, I believe that they would have preferred not to have to carry on their shoulders the full weight of protecting the working miners. Once again I fear that the Government may be guilty of overselling their public order proposals.
It was the legal correspondent of the Financial Times who wrote recently:
The Home Secretary, in framing his proposals for reforming the present public order law, assumes too blandly that a tightening of police powers over demonstrations and meetings will reduce, if not eliminate, some of the public disorders which have disrupted public life in recent years, even supposing such powers did not infringe our civil liberties.The two alliance parties will support the legislation that is necessary and that is designed to combat public disorder in a constructive manner. They will review closely the provisions of the Bill when it is published. No business of Government is more important than the protection of individuals going about their lawful business from violence, intimidation and harassment.
The public is deeply concerned that public order should be upheld, but it will find it difficult to admire the image of the Prime Minister that is drawn by some of her acolytes in this morning's press. The contrast between the tone of the Prime Minister yesterday and the reportage of her performance and the cool, almost dispassionate detachment of the Home Secretary will not have been lost on any right hon. or hon. Member. The Home Secretary could afford to be dispassionate. The dirty work had already been done. One egregious commentator stated:The Prime Minister turned chief crime-buster last night.What has he been doing for the last six years? Why is he so unappreciative of her earlier efforts at crime-busting?
The Prime Minister's vainglorious image will not dazzle a rightly sceptical public. The fight against crime will be long and hard and will not end with a spectacular victory. It will require the support of every right hon. and hon. Member.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)
The 1981 Brixton riots took place before the 1983 redistribution of seats. They were therefore outside my Streatham constituency. Since the 1983 redistribution, part of Brixton—a rectangle running from Lambeth town hall—falls within my constituency. Immediately after redistribution, I became very much involved with the community police consultative group and, as much as possible, with the community in Brixton.
What happened at the end of September came almost as a personal shock and tragedy to me. One of my more ill-timed letters was written to the local press only two weeks before those events. In it, I supported and praised the community police consultative group and said that I 148 thought that there was little likelihood of the kind of troubles that we experienced in 1981 ever occurring again. The disorder came therefore as a great shock to many people, including myself.
Like many other people, I have asked why the trouble happened or why we think that it happened, but, as with any major event, there are many different strands. Everyone suggests different causes and no one knows the real ones. One cause was the very unfortunate death of Mrs. Groce. Obviously that was received with much understandable indignation. Another element is the youngsters who are in it for the looting. Perhaps the Opposition would say that a shortage of Government funds has led to inner-city deprivation, a poor environment and much unemployment.
Also, many ill-intentioned people were hanging about. On the previous weekend, the police advised market traders to pack up and go home early because they foresaw trouble. On the Friday before the weekend of the riots The Star—one of the local free sheets thrust through our doors—carried a front page interview with Councillor Ted Knight, the leader of Lambeth council, in which he said that he foresaw trouble shortly. I do not know whether he had some prophetic sight or whether he knew that it was coming. Nevertheless, there were signs that ill-intentioned people were looking for trouble.
I make the point constantly that in Lambeth there has been no shortage of cash. I will not weary the House by quoting the amounts of money allocated during the past few years. People either forget or prefer to ignore that the rate support grant provides 50 per cent. of Lambeth's £120 million or so spending. In addition to the rate support grant, Lambeth gets some £70 million, made up from the housing revenue account, the housing improvement programme allocation, the urban programme and the inner-city grant. What the council does with the additional money is quite another matter, to which I shall come later.
Many people ascribe what happened at the end of September to anti-police feeling. Certainly there was antipolice feeling when Mrs. Groce was, I trust accidentally, shot. As the right hon. Member Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) said, the people who rioted are a small minority. One can understand some anti-police feeling. There is an ethnic community in Brixton some of whom use drugs in the same way that we use tea or coffee. The police fulfil their duty and arrest them and they feel aggrieved at being arrested for smoking marijuana, for instance.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is not here, because I must disagree with him. Perhaps some Opposition Members agree with me that among the Left wing of the Labour party or perhaps outside the Labour party there are those with ill intentions towards the police. I heard on the radio the other day that teachers—presumably the Inner London Teachers Association—have endorsed the proposal that no London schools should open their doors to the police because of police "institutional racism". I do not know whether that is true, but many London schools do not allow the police to talk to the youngsters in class. I believe that that is awfully wrong.
The police are kept out, but that video made by the Greater London council is let in. Some hon. Members have seen the video, which is an absolute travesty of the facts. If the teachers allow youngesters to see the video they should at least allow the police to come in—which 149 I should much prefer. Pray heaven that in May the Conservatives will capture the Inner London education authority and do something about that.
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I continue to refer to the comments of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, but he made a very good speech except for a few references to the Leader of the Opposition with which I did not entirely agree. He said that we must all support the police. Surely that includes the teachers who have the care of our young.
As my constituency and Brixton fall within Lambeth, I must refer to Lambeth council and its attitude towards the police. I can guess that councillors have this attitude because they want local control of the police. Some Lambeth councillors may believe that the more that they can undermine the police, the sooner they will gain the local control that they so badly want. The vast majority of my constituents would be deeply alarmed if they saw that coming.
I want to discuss some small straws in the wind—nothing fundamental. For years, Lambeth allowed the police into the social services directorate to discuss cases of people in need of help or care and children who might be battered. A short while ago the police were barred from the social services directorate. Lambeth council, like other Left-wing Labour councils, has set up its own police committee in direct competition with the community police consultative group created as a result of the Scarman recommendations following the 1981 riots. The Lambeth council committee was set up at considerable cost to the ratepayers and is run by a local councillor. The police are not allowed to attend the meetings.
The committee members decide what they consider the police should do and they write to the police or hold undercover meetings with the police because they believe that it would be compromising to be seen talking openly. Whatever the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) may say, that attitude does not give the community confidence that they are in close liaison with the police.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) has just left the Opposition Front Bench. The community police consultative group automatically comprises all elected members from Lambeth—Members of Parliament, GLC members and councillors. The hon. Member for Vauxhall was a member for a short while, but he resigned. I have no idea whether he resigned under pressure from the caucus in his constituency or of his own free will. I have not had an opportunity to ask him.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts
Will the hon. Member tell the House whether that body had any power? Such a body was established in Merseyside, and having seen it function it seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) probably resigned because its recommendations or suggestions were not implemented. The body had no power to ensure that its recommendations were carried out. There is no point in going to meetings if no good comes of them.
§ Mr. Shelton
It is true that such a consultative group does not have any power; I take the hon. Member's point. However, the police commander Alex Marnoch—who is, unfortunately, moving on and will no doubt be replaced by another equally good commander—and three or four of his colleagues always attend when the group meets 150 every two weeks or once a month. Although the group has no power to make the police commander do any thing, I assure the House that it is very awkward—the hon. Member knows how these things work—for the police representative to say, "No, we will not do it." That committee has much power of persuasion but it has no constitutional power. Had I realised that the hon. Member for Vauxhall would not be present I would have sent him a note saying that I intended to refer to him.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) has been present at all for this part of the debate.
The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) should remember, when he refers in a rather derogatory fashion to some of the committees set up by the council, that in many areas—I cannot speak for all areas—there are Conservative members on those committees. There are Conservative members on the committee in Tottenham, for example. Is the hon. Member for Streatham condemning them as well?
Will the hon. Member for Streatham also consider the much wider issue of the problems in some inner-city areas? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) said, the relationship between the police and the public has become very bad. The hon. Member for Streatham should not just list all the baddies on one side and forget the other side as though he is one of the goodies. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that this is a two-way relationship and that good and bad exist on both sides. We must realise that before we can improve the situation.
§ Mr. Shelton
I do not know whether a Scarman community police consultative group exists in Tottenham. If such a group does not exist, it is right and proper that one sponsored by the council should exist. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) has missed my point. The police consultative groups were set up after 1981 on Lord Scarman's recommendations. The consultative group in Lambeth has done excellent work. It takes time to operate, but it has transformed the community. That is why I wrote that rather ill-judged letter to the local paper commending the group's good work and saying I could not foresee any problems. The riot in September might not have occurred in two years' time if the excellent work done by the consultative group in Lambeth had taken effect.
I am carping about the fact that a year ago Lambeth council set up a rival group. When I attended a meeting of the Scarman community consultative group last Tuesday we were told—to indrawn gasps of astonishment, horror and amazement—that Lambeth council had just advised us that it could no longer make available the office that it had provided for the last three years. The reason given by the council was that it is overcrowded and needs the office space for extra staff. That sits ill with the council's statements that because of rate capping it will have to fire between 1,500 and 2,000 staff.
As the Minister of State knows, the consultative group is an excellent one. It is funded through the Home Office and urgently needs £5,000 to £10,000 to install itself in new offices. I shall shortly be writing to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister of State about this matter.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to comment. He is correct in saying that the Lambeth consultative committee has been threatened with dispossession of its premises. I have met members of the Lambeth consultative committee and have assured them of our continuing support. I hope that, through the commissioner who has the authority for assisting these groups, we shall be able to help them in their present emergency. I remind my hon. Friend that the consultative committees are set up under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and I hope they will be set up throughout the metropolis in due course.
§ Mr. Shelton
I welcome the remarks of my hon. Friend, and I shall send copies of the appropriate columns of Hansard to all the members of the Lambeth consultative group.
I will not delay the House much longer, but I wish to make a small digression on the plight of small traders in Brixton, many of whom are Asian and have suffered as a consequence of these riots. Theirs is a peculiar and specific problem on which I do not feel capable of advising. They cannot get insurance for their properties. Brixton has become a no-go area for insurance. One small shopkeeper, whose insurance lapsed when he was paying £1,000 a year, is now being asked for £9,000 a year. I say, "Surely this is only because of the riot and the danger of being burnt down?" but he would reply, "No." His broker told him, for instance, that no one would be given comprehensive car cover insurance in Brixton. They would receive only third party insurance. Bridging loans are not available for small shopkeepers in Brixton. As an example of the present state of Brixton, a bus conductor in Brixton told me recently that people were still asking whether it was safe to get off at bus stops in Brixton.
Unless we find answers to these problems—not specifically of insurance, but of reassurance about Brixton—Brixton will decay and become a ghost town with increasing unemployment and prospects of trouble. What is the way forward? I do not pretend to know the answer to the question, but two things need to be done. First, we should support the community police consultative group which transformed the ethos in Brixton over two years ago until the end of September last. The goodies in Brixton became self-confident and stood up against the small minority of bullies and villains.
The main consultative community group consists of approximately 40 smaller community groups and the commander representing the police is always present. If we want good community and police relations in Brixton or anywhere else where such relations are required, a forum must exist. I cannot accept the Lambeth council police committee as a forum because it excludes the police. I urge everyone in Brixton and on Lambeth council strongly to support the community committee.
Environment has been given as a reason for some of the problems. There are estates in Brixton which are appallingly administered. Some of the property is in an awful condition. Repairs and transfers take not weeks or months but years. To some extent I blame the ideological rubbish propounded by Lambeth council which refuses to sell council houses until forced in desperation by the law. I am not sure whether this is deliberate, but the council also houses homeless families in blocks inhabited by elderly people, thus breaking up those blocks. It blames 152 what happens on the Government and on shortage of funds, but it has had £70 million in addition to the rate support grant this year. Lambeth council does not collect its rents and gives no hope or rights to its tenants. The council does not answer letters. I have difficulty in obtaining answers to my letters, but I do not suppose that that is deliberate. The councillors—not the officers—do not trust the people and prefer to keep them as dependent vote fodder.
I believe that if the Conservatives do not win the council elections in May, the only solution to the problems in inner cities will be to take the control of housing away from the elected councils and keep it politically neutral. A system of housing corporations should be instituted to run the large, awful estates in Brixton. I can see no other solution. I cannot envisage Labour-controlled Lambeth running them. If and when the Conservatives take control in May they will need eight years rather than four to put things right, and they may well not have eight years. Perhaps, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy once suggested, we should give council houses away, but at least we must take them away from political control and give them to a housing association.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to reflect on the fact that one of the problems with housing is that people feel that they have no control. To change from one form of authority to another is not the solution. Would he consider handing control to the people by devolving management and control to them rather than by replacing one landlord with another and leaving the people powerless over their own destiny?
§ Mr. Shelton
The hon. Member is prescient. He has obviously read my notes. I agree with him, but I do not think that Labour-controlled Lambeth will ever do that. That is why I should like control to be given to the housing association. The housing association should set up management co-operatives for people who cannot afford to buy houses, privatise run-down blocks, which were mentioned in the Gracious Speech, undertake homesteading, a good plan which the GLC used to do and which I have pressed on Lambeth unavailingly, ensure efficient transfers and repairs and promote the sales of houses and flats. In other words, it should do all the things that a good, non-profit making caring landlord should do to work itself out of business as, I understand, the Commission for New Towns is doing, trying to privatise the new towns. I am not entirely pessimistic. There is a way forward for Lambeth, but there is not much time. We must act quickly.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
I am surprised how often Conservative Members attack democratically elected local government and suggest that services should be taken away from them, especially if those councils are not controlled by the Conservative party. The answer seems to be to take away control of housing if they do not win the local government elections. That seems a strange way forward. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) and others criticise a democratically elected local authority for setting up police monitoring committees, or committees to deal with police liaison. That is the height of hypocrisy. It implies that the policing of areas has nothing to do with the elected representatives of the people. I remind hon. Members that there would be no 153 police forces if they had not been pioneered by local government. When Conservative Members glibly attack the idea of politics in policing, they are really saying that they do not want police policy to be accountable to democratically elected institutions, whether it be this Chamber or democratically elected local councils.
The Labour party argues, quite reasonably, that local councils—democratically elected watch committees as they used to be called—should not have the right or the power to interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the police but should have some say in terms of policy direction and the deployment of resources.
I have strong feelings about this because, in Bootle, there is a new game called spot the policeman. They are falling over them in Toxteth, we are told, where there is intensive policing, to which the community objects. However, in my constituency people come to my advice bureau, and ask me when I meet them in the street, "Why cannot we have the bobby back on the beat? Why cannot we have more policemen, not fewer? Why do they drive through our estates in panda cars but fail to stop when we flag them down? Why do the policemen in this area not understand and know the area but come from the Wirral and elsewhere?"
I remember Mrs. Margaret Simey saying that we take 22-year-old young men from the Wirral, give them hardly any training, put them into uniform and send them into Toxteth. Without any training, they are asking Pakistanis for their Christian names and things like that. We should be done for cruelty to children in view of the way we treat some of the young people who join the police force.
These are the issues that the Labour party is arguing for—training, deployment of resources and political input into the community. There is nothing sinister about it. We are concerned with the traditions of democratic accountability and of local government.
§ Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)
If the Labour party's plans to control the police came about in Tottenham, for example, would the hon. Gentleman be quite happy for Mr. Bernie Grant to have operational and political control over the police in that area?
§ Mr. Roberts
I would be happy for Mr. Bernie Grant or any other local politician to have operational control over the police. It would not harm the relationship between the community and the police if Bernie Grant was one of the elected representatives on an all-party committee that discussed the policing of the community of which he is a representative. One would expect that, on some of the police authorities or watch committees, there would be people of extreme views such as the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill). I would suffer for the sake of democracy such people sitting on watch committees if they had been directly elected. Such representation and control would improve the important relationship between the police and the communities that they police.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what he has in mind that the committees will do? Are they to be debating chambers or will they have an executive role to play? If so, what?
§ Mr. Roberts
It is not difficult to describe their terms of reference. They would do exactly what the watch committees used to do. In the city of Manchester we used to have a watch committee to which the police were 154 accountable. It bought police horses and interesting things like that. It had a trip to Ireland and bought three horses. One died on the way home and one was found to be blind. The other was all right until two months later, when the police band struck up in Albert square and the horse stood up on its hind legs because it was a circus horse.
Those are the kind of decisions that the old watch committees used to take. However, there was some accountability because, having made those mistakes, the then Tory council lost the election the following May. They were the kind of policing decisions that involve the community. People felt that they could go along to a councillor's advice bureau and ask, "Where's the policeman? The lights are out in our area." They would deal with the problem at once. There was some contact between the community and the police. There was nothing sinister about it.
When the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) was Home Secretary, he started the process, under a Labour Government, of amalgamating police forces and making them larger. Even then the joint Salford and Manchester police force had a committee of elected councillors with some responsibility for policing policy, not day-to-day administration or interference. There was nothing sinister or difficult about it.
§ Mr. Soley
What my hon. Friend has said about elected people is right. We accept that people are elected, whether they come from the Right or the Left. That is an important point of principle. I wish to return to the point that my hon. Friend left without explaining concerning training. In London, 80 per cent. of the police force come from outside the city and, as in Merseyside, they have only 20 weeks' training. Firearms training takes about 10 days and then one day every quarter as follow-up training. It is totally unfair on the police to ask them to police these areas with such inadequate training.
§ Mr. Roberts
I shall say more about police training when I talk about the drug problem, especially in relation to my constituency. I believe I am supporting the police when I say that the interface between them and the community through their elected representatives is a good thing.
The Conservative party, the so-called party of law and order, has made one of its bigger mistakes by believing its own electioneering propaganda. I believe that that is why crime has escalated dramatically in the past six years. The Conservatives believe that one needs only to make a loud noise about how evil criminals are and suggest that there should be severe punishment, even capital punishment or flogging, and the introduction of the short, sharp shock to solve the problem. They believe that the answer is more punishment and stricter penalties. That is their mistake because certainty of detection is a greater deterrent than severity of punishment. It does not matter what the punishment is: if the criminal thinks he will not get caught, he will take the risk.
The Conservative party misunderstands the need for expenditure on rehabilitation. People who are put in prison, unless they are to be kept there for ever, have to come out. If money is not spent on rehabilitation, they will reoffend. That point has been missed by the so-called party of law and order. The Conservatives say that to maintain law and order in our society people must be allowed to have a stake in the country. A further deterrent, as well as 155 certainty of detection, is the loss of self-respect, the possible loss of a job and the loss of dignity from having committed a crime and being found out. If people have no job, no stake in the country and no self-respect and they leave school with no hope of finding a job and queue up in an undignified way at the Department of Health and Social Security, there is no deterrent because they have nothing to lose. That is the society that is being created as a result of massive youth unemployment and no hope for the future. My community has to suffer cuts in services and live without youth clubs.
It is no good blaming Labour local authorities or saying that it is all the fault of the militants in Lambeth. The figures for unemployment, crime and drug pushing are higher in my constituency than anywhere in the country. I have to carry the burden not only of a Conservative Government, but of a Conservative council. If Derek Hatton is driving all the investors from Liverpool, I do not know who is driving them from Sefton, because the leader of the Conservative council in Sefton has been there for 10 years and the crime wave and unemployment are still soaring. One cannot make local government the scapegoat. One has to look at the real causes of the problem.
An organisation on Merseyside called the Merseyside drugs education training unit has been doing research into the drug problem on Merseyside. It is funded by Merseyside county council. It does not know where its funding will come from at the end of the year, but I hope that it comes from somewhere and that the Government assist. The researcher from that organisation said of Bootle:From my research, and informal conversations in the field, Bootle appears to be one of the main centres for the distribution of heroin on Merseyside, with users from Birkenhead, Southport and other outlying areas travelling to one estate to score. As I outlined in the introduction to this report, everyone that was interviewed agreed that the use and availability of heroin had escalated in the past two years.The person being interviewed said:'This dealer we used to buy off, he used to supply Bootle, Formby, Waterloo and Litherland, that's how many junkies there were. There was, at the very most, 25 junkies when we started 3½ years agoHe was asked how many he thought there were now.'25 million. I've never, ever, gone down to Bootle and come away empty handed. Smack. It's all smack. Like on that Bootle estate'"—he is referring to the Church street estate—'there's about ten dealers. If one hasn't got it, next door will have it. It's odd, this is just over a year ago and I wasn't aware there was smack everywhere, easy to be had. It's so easy, if you know the general area, you've just got to walk around for a while and you soon find where it is. For a start, people aren't careful what they say. You find people shouting across the road "Has so-and-so got any gear?" You just see kids openly smoking the stuff. I've seen kids smoking on trains, at stations, and generally just talking about it and not being in the least bit discreet. It's more widespread. We know loads of places in Bootle, Walton, Toxteth, Croxteth—everyone's using it. Every place is the same as everywhere else. You know everyone that's using it … That's another thing, there's lads coming from Southport, Birkenhead and that, coming to Bootle to score, and they get mugged as well.'That is the picture painted of things that are happening in my constituency.
The residents of the Church street estate in my constituency came to see me to describe what they said was becoming a no-go area. It is a place where drug 156 pushers are moving into empty flats or being allocated flats and putting double iron doors behind the front door so that if there is a police raid they have time to put the drugs down the toilet; it is a place where people are coming in the night, during the day, on buses, or the train and in taxis from Southport and other areas to buy heroin, and where youngsters are going from door to door selling stolen goods to maintain their heroin habit. The residents told me that they wanted to go to the police, but were threatened that they would have their legs blown off if they interfered. They also told me that they felt there were always tip-offs to some of the pushers before raids took place and that that frightened them.
I wrote to the chief constable of Merseyside, Ken Oxford, asking him what was happening and he wrote back:I acknowledge that Bootle has become the worst area within the County of Merseyside for drug offences, but if I simply quote one figure, which is that no less than 247 persons have been arrested within one mile of the Strand precinct this year, you will appreciate that strenuous police efforts are being made to combat the problem. Of that number, no less than 141 were in the Church Street and Jersey Street estates.The Strand precinct referred to is the centre of Bootle town, in my constituency. The chief constable admits that Bootle has become the drug trading centre of Merseyside. That figure of 247 is the tip of the iceberg. They are the easy arrests, the kids who have been picked up for possessing not necessarily heroin but marijuana, which is not as dangerous or damaging and is not the main source of the problem. In my constituency the hard drug, heroin, is the main problem. The people who are not reflected in that figure of 247 are the big pushers and the suppliers. They are not small individuals, because many of the pushers are drug takers who have been forced to push by the suppliers to maintain the habit. Often they have been hooked on the drug as schoolchildren outside the school gates in my constituency. The problem of getting the pushers and suppliers has to be addressed by the police, especially on Merseyside.
The resources that the police have on Merseyside are totally inadequate. There are only 28 officers in the drug squad for the whole of Merseyside. Now and then, I am told that six are deployed in the local authority area of Sefton. There are constant complaints about the lack of training for the ordinary policeman in the panda car or on the beat about what is happening on the drug scene and how to liaise with drug squad officers to deal with this massive drug problem. I hope that not only Home Office Ministers but, even more importantly, the DHSS and the Government generally will begin to look at this problem seriously and to arrange meetings with chief constables to discuss necessary training. Many people who are active in voluntary organisations or who work for local authorities could assist in training and achieve the co-operation that is needed between the police and those in the community who are trying to solve this problem in our schools and areas.
According to the Home Office, it takes about £1,000 a week to look after a heroin addict in community and support facilities. The Home Office estimates that about 5 per cent. of drug addicts are registered and that, to cater for them alone, expenditure of £70 million would be needed. Yet the Government have made only £2 million available to deal with this problem. More resources are needed.
157 There must be life after drugs. It is no good just taking a drug addict to a medically supervised hospital, rehabilitation centre or maintenance clinic for detoxification or providing counselling. Merseyside is developing acupuncture methods to relieve drug addiction, and I hope that the Government will investigate whether services can be made available for that programme. That electro-acupuncture service must be paid for. Its use should be considered in terms of the NHS. I would be happy to send the Minister details of the service that is being developed by a group of acupuncturists.
It is no good taking the addict out of his environment to a clinic, rehabilitation centre or hospital, taking him off drugs and then returning him to the same environment unless there is the back-up in the community to ensure that his life will not be the same again. People take drugs to escape and, if they return to the circumstances from which they wanted to escape, they will start taking drugs again. Those circumstances include a return to unemployment, which is a major problem.
I have highlighted the seriousness of the drug problem in my constituency and Merseyside. The metropolitan borough of Sefton—it is not my best friend as it has a Right-wing Conservative council, but it does do some good—has put in a submission to DHSS concerning seven drug counsellors and two day-care centres to deal specifically with the drug problem. One of those centres would be in Southport and the other would be in my constituency. We are still waiting for the DHSS to come up with the goods and provide the necessary funds or to say whether Sefton council will eventually receive those resources. The submission was made in February in conjunction with the area health authority. I am sure that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton) and the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) will join me in hoping that the Minister will take those messages to the DHSS. People from my constituency or from Southport, which is a part of Lancashire, have to travel considerable distances to treatment centres or clinics for counselling and assistance.
The so-called party of law and order has much to answer for. The young people in my constituency—I have seen this problem develop during the past three years—will be nicknamed the Thatcher generation or the lost generation. They are killing themselves by taking drugs because they have no hope, no jobs and no stake in the future. I can be as non-party political over a political problem as the next Member of Parliament, but I shall not be. This is a very political issue. It is about public expenditure, action on jobs and saving this generation of young people. If the Government do not save those young people, it will be on their consciences, not ours.
§ Mr. Patrick Ground (Feltham and Heston)
When I heard the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) describe Conservative literature on crime prevention before 1979 I began to wonder whether he had read it as fully or as accurately as he had thought. My recollection is that the importance of detection and conviction was always stressed. That was one of the main reasons why so much emphasis was placed on increased manpower in the police force.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts
I have fought elections against Conservative opponents who put out white cards with 158 black edges. Those cards did not mention the word "Conservative" but said, "I am the only candidate in this election who is in favour of reintroducing the rope." I have seen the filthiest law and order tactics used by Conservative candidates. If the Government claim that law and order has nothing to do with them and that the prevention of crime is not their responsibility, why does Conservative candidate after Conservative candidate fight elections on that issue?
§ Mr. Ground
As I understand it, it has always been fundamental to Conservative policy that detection and conviction are more important than any other matter. Whatever the hon. Gentleman has seen on election slogans, that belief has always been the gist of Conservative policy.
I welcome the statement in the Queen's Speech about the British Airports Authority and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's reference to British Airways, both of which measures will cause considerable changes in my constituency. I hope that BAA and BA employees will be given as good an opportunity to buy shares as was enjoyed by British Telecom employees. I hope also that a means of giving travel concessions to BA shareholders will be found. That will help to fill the empty seats in British Airways aeroplanes.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in relation to Sunday tradingit is absolutely right to give people the choice."—[Official Report, 6 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 24.]The Government plainly attach importance to giving people the option whether to shop on Sundays. It is right to give people the choice whether to work on Sundays without risking their jobs in the retail trade and without facing the risk when going for an interview that they will not get the job. That right of choice is as important as the right of choice to shop on Sundays.
I welcome the statements in the Gracious Speech about control of Government expenditure. It is not enough to control the amount—it is necessary to review the purpose and objective of expenditure and to ensure within individual programmes that the money is sensibly spent. That applies to many Government programmes, but it is particularly pertinent to the urban programme, which has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members. The time has come to ask what are the objectives of this programme, whether they are being achieved and whether they could be better achieved by other policies. I understand that the employment creating aspects of the urban programme are already the subject of Government review, and l look forward to seeing the result.
I shall therefore concentrate on the remainder of the urban programme. As I understand it, the criteria for designating an area as a receiving authority for urban aid are principally the number of heads of households born in the new Commonwealth; the number of one-parent families; and factors relating to overcrowding, lack of housing amenities and loss of population. For first generation immigrants to this country, the need for English teaching, for example, is a special need towards which central Government can legitimately give additional funds in order to further such teaching. Similarly, extra expenditure may be incurred by local authorities with large ethnic communities to ensure that services are geared to the needs of the whole community.
If that be the object of Government policy, should not such help be available to all local authorities with large 159 ethnic minorities? Should not the help that is given be specifically aimed at solving that problem? In any event, is it justifiable simply to regard the number of heads of households born in new Commonwealth countries as a sign of deprivation?
In my view, the number of one-parent families is not a sign of deprivation. It may well be that to some extent they need services different from those required by the rest of the population, but it is an insult to one-parent families—who in many cases shoulder their difficulties well and tackle the problem of bringing up children in a wholly admirable way—to treat their presence as a sign of urban deprivation. When the Government are reviewing this policy, I would specifically ask that whole areas are not labelled "deprived" merely because of the presence of ethnic minorities or one-parent families. Instead, the Government should consider whether particular services are appropriate to those communities and whether central Government should give assistance towards them. Those two factors should certainly not be the cause of putting vast amounts of public money into particular areas for other purposes.
The trend in overcrowding, housing amenities and loss of population over the past 20 or 30 years shows that these problems are subsiding, and it is doubtful whether any special policies are appropriate to deal with those problems. It is clear from statistics in the inner city areas over the past 20, 30 or even 10 years that there have been striking improvements in the condition of the housing stock, the number of houses with bathrooms and indoor lavatories and the problem of overcrowding. The balance between housing stock and households has constantly improved and is continuing to improve. Is it therefore necessary to have special Government policies to assist in areas where the trends are already improving?
Loss of population should not in itself be a means of receiving Government assistance. The loss of population in inner cities has enabled overcrowding to be alleviated, and in most parts of inner London the housing stock is now less fully occupied than it was. There has been a loss of population, but that has presented the opportunity to improve amenities and the quality of life for those who remain.
The voluntary organisations play a part in the urban programme. In the review that is taking place, I particularly ask the Government to look at the content of the work of the voluntary organisations. They must ask whether these are genuinely voluntary organisations or merely facades for professional workers with no substantial voluntary participation. I suggest that the assistance given to voluntary organisations should be geared to the genuinely voluntary content of their work.
It may well be that in inner city areas other policies can do more for the inhabitants than special measures through the urban programme. I welcome the fact that the Gracious Speech refers specifically to the sale of public sector flats to tenants and to wider private sector involvement in the ownership and management of council housing. It is by no means clear to me how this will be achieved, but it is very desirable in many areas because for many people the council is at present the only option available. One of the benefits for such areas will be a genuine choice between public and private housing both to rent and to buy.
160 I should like to have seen a provision in the Gracious Speech to allow vacant property to be left free of rent control and even the letting of vacant property at less than two thirds of rateable value. That was always one of the exemptions from Rent Act control before the last war and for some years afterwards, and that would at least provide a small option for a number of people. I do not think that would offend Opposition Members if it led to the letting of houses at less than two thirds of their rateable value. That would hardly be politically controversial if it meant the letting of properties that would not otherwise be let.
In many cases, the provision of some property for owner-occupation in inner city areas has been the signal for young, enterprising people to refurbish derelict property and in the long run to make quite substantial profits both for themselves and their families.
Some houses in Fulham not far from where I live were condemned in the early 1960s and proposed for acquisition at site value by the local authority. Compulsory purchase orders were eventually cancelled and the houses are now selling for between £150,000 and £200,000. That is what can happen when enterprising people move into derelict property. They benefit financially and the housing stock is improved.
If the Government wish to help people in the inner cities or people who live in areas suffering from urban problems, I suggest that they provide money for open space and playing facilities for children. In my area people living in tower blocks would like to have a three-bedroomed house with a garden. If they cannot have that they want better play facilities and parks locally. I am sure that that is the experience of all hon. Members.
In our debate on inner city riots a few weeks ago a number of hon. Members referred to concrete jungles and urban deserts. One of the ways to deal with the problems to the satisfaction of the local people is to provide more public amenity land such as play space and gardens, as was intended after the war. I regret that neither central Government nor local government has insisted upon meeting that intention. Central Government could deal with urban deprivation in that way.
Whatever happens, I hope that the Government will examine the programme analytically and ensure that help is directed towards problems of national importance. Government help must be directed in ways that are seen to be acceptable and welcome by the people who are expected to benefit.
§ 6.3 pm
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
The majority of people in Scotland will draw no comfort from the Gracious Speech. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) talked about unemployment and educational problems in south London. Unemployment is at a scandalously high level in many Scottish areas. In Greenock and Port Glasgow male unemployment is about 26 per cent.
Few people in Scotland believe that the current teachers' dispute will be resolved in the near future. In the absence of an independent pay review teachers should receive a fair and reasonable pay award. If that met with agreement in the teaching unions, they would be prepared to discuss sensibly new terms and conditions of service. The dispute must be settled soon in the interests both of the children and the teachers.
161 As to crime and law and order, it seems that the Government's chief concern in Scotland is to pursue and punish salmon poachers. Salmon fishery regulations take up a half of the one paragraph in the Queen's Speech devoted to Scotland. I should like the Government to pursue drug traffickers in the way that they intend to pursue salmon poachers, not that I have any sympathy for salmon poachers.
Law and order is not a party political issue and should not be commandeered as such by a party which, while in office, has presided over a huge increase in crime of all kinds. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said in a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee more than two years ago thatthere has been an arrogant assumption on the part of Conservative Members of Parliament that they have a monopoly of concern about crime figures and the growth of crime."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 25 May 1982; c. 28.]That criticism holds today. That arrogant assumption is seen by some Government Members as a way of staving off defeat at the next general election.
Law and order is of urgent concern to all our constituents. Fortunately, in Scotland good relations exist between the public and the police. There was some anxiety during the coal industry dispute and some allegations about heavy-handed policing but it can be said with confidence that generally the police are assisted by good relations. I do not expect the Secretary of State to disagree with that.
Scotland has had community policing for many years. We do not experience the ugly disputes that sometimes arise in some English areas between some chief constables and their police authorities. If law and order is a risky subject for politicians, politics is a dangerous activity for chief constables.
A dreadful increase in recorded crimes has occurred over recent years in Scotland. In 1978 crimes recorded numbered 334,957. In 1984 that had risen to 474,913, an increase of 41.8 per cent. The clear-up rate has remained remarkably and dismally consistent. In 1978 it was 30 per cent. and in 1984 it was 31 per cent. The clear-up rate for housebreaking was 19 per cent. in 1978 and 18 per cent. in 1984. That consistency remained despite a 6.7 increase in the number of police officers between 1978 and 1984.
Another deeply worrying increase has occurred—in the number of criminal offences involving the alleged use of firearms. In 1978 the number of such offences was 492 and 1984 it was 1,336. These are depressing statistics.
Scotland has experienced shock increases in drug crimes and drug seizures. The number of drug crimes rose from 1,500 in 1978 to 4,404 in 1984. The seizures of controlled drugs in the same period has risen from 1,275 to 2,955.
Many of those involved in drug addiction and drug-related offences are young people. The Guardian today stated:
More than half of unemployed boys in the Edinburgh region, and more than a third of out-of-work girls, have used illegal drugs such as cannabis, LSD, cocaine, and heroin, researchers said yesterday. A survey of 1,036 school-leavers carried out by Dr. Martin Plant and a team from Edinburgh University shows strong links between drugs and the dole. Drug use among those who were students or had jobs was much lower.Although it is difficult to show a close relationship between unemployment and crime, I believe that there is 162 clear evidence of a strong link between unemployment, drug addiction and certain types of criminal offence. The Glasgow Herald recently stated:
Senior police officials and drug squad officers have claimed that an increasing proportion of crime, particularly theft and housebreaking, has been attributable to increased criminality by illicit drug users supporting their habit.Youngsters who become addicted to drugs will, in many cases, steal first from their parents, aunts and uncles. Then, I regret, they will indulge in housebreaking and other crimes. Many of those young people face an utterly hopeless future. In areas of Glasgow and other towns and cities in Scotland large numbers of young people live in decaying houses on bleak, ugly estates. For many of them there is no hope of a job or of transferring to a decent home in a high amenity area. There is no hope of positive change in their lives. For those deprived young people, the Gracious Speech could as well have been written in Latin or Greek.
The problem of drug abuse among the young is not one for the police alone. That was emphasised in the last annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, who said that other agencies have become involved in the task of dealing with drug addiction and drug offences. Numerous other agencies must be given the resources to tackle the problem in an effective manner. A start could be made by increasing the number of front-line Customs officers. The present force does a splendid job, but it is desperately over-stretched. It requires many more resources and increased manpower.
We need a more humane and compassionate approach to the problems of unemployment and inadequate, decaying housing. This Government display no compassion or concern for the unemployed—
§ Dr. Godman
The Minister might shout "Rubbish", but I speak the truth for many thousands of people in my constituency.
I want finally to deal with alcohol abuse and alcohol-related crime. I am especially concerned about public drunkenness. We should seek to decriminalise alcohol-induced behaviour throughout Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom. We should set up a network of what is known in England as detoxification centres—we call them designated places. They would offer a more consistent policy towards public drunkards, which would encourage them to view their behaviour in a social and personal, rather than a criminal, context. Such a system would also reduce the amount of police and court time wasted in repeated dealings with habitual offenders, and would significantly reduce the prison population.
Under such a system, an individual would come within reach of helping agencies more frequently, and therefore have more opportunity to take advantage of the services available. One of the main aims of designated places should thus be to decriminalise the habitual drunken offender by accepting police referral of those arrested before they are charged. Emphasis should be placed on the sickness rather than the criminal element of drunken behaviour.
A number of researchers have estimated that each person brought to a designated centre or detoxification unit results in a saving of up to 12 hours of police time, and court time is also saved. The Magistrates' Association has 163 estimated that it costs £115 to process through the courts someone accused of a drink-related offence. If we add police time of £20 an hour and the cost of imprisonment which is not less than £120 a week, it means that every arrest resulting in two weeks imprisonment costs the nation up to £600.
The savings in police, court and prison time are considerable, but human and social benefits should also be considered. For the homeless offender, repeated processing through the criminal justice system has been shown to be both demoralising and ineffectual. The real needs and problems of such people are never met; indeed, they are seldom examined in any sensible manner. The self-perpetuating cycle of drink, court appearance and prison must be broken if the individual and society are to benefit.
For those with roots in the community, a home and a job, the stigma and disruption of arrest, court appearance and fines can destroy relationships and reputations without providing any benefit to the individual or the community.
There are a few principal dimensions of the problems on which action is necessary and to which resources must be committed. First, those who exhibit drunken behaviour in public must be dealt with in an effective and humane manner without recourse to prison. Secondly, the particular needs of the individual must be taken into account. Thirdly, we should replace penal sanctions with social provision.
§ Dr. Godman
I have not finished. I promise that I will not speak for as long as some Conservative Members. I shall finish in a few minutes. Conservative Members have been jumping up and down like the proverbial Jack-in-the-box.
The major concern of the overwhelming majority of people in the United Kingdom is to live in a peaceful, law-abiding and tolerable community. To that end, politicians at local and national levels, the Government, the public and the police must work together within the rule of law to deal with crime more effectively than hitherto. I do not believe that there is much hope for such unity of will and purpose while the present Government are in office.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
Opposition Members have sought to present the emphasis on law and order in the Gracious Speech as a smokescreen for the real problem, which is unemployment. However, it is interesting to note that virtually the whole debate has concentrated on law and order.
I wish to raise some other Home Office issues that arise out of the Queen's Speech but it would be a discourtesy to my constituents if, at the outset, I did not mention a subject of great concern to them.
It did not surprise me to hear the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), readily condemn those Labour authorities who have sought to prevent the police from giving educational classes in schools. It would not have surprised me on an earlier occasion, when he was Home Secretary or leader of his party, to have heard him condemn leaders of Labour 164 authorities who condemned the police. Nor would it surprise me to hear the right hon. Gentleman condemn those who cause trouble on the picket lines.
Had the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) been as courteous in giving way to Conservative Members as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was in giving way to Opposition Members, he might have been asked, for example, how much police time and money was wasted on the picket lines and why it took so long for himself and the Leader of the Opposition to condemn those who condemned the police.
My constituents are genuinely concerned about law and order and will welcome that portion of the Gracious Speech that shows that the Government intend to strengthen the powers of the police in combating disorder. They will also welcome, as residents of a coastal constituency and Channel port area, the powers that the Government intend to introduce to make sure that those who at present profit from trafficking in drugs are no longer so readily able to do so. My constituents will understand what the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) said about the horrors of drug abuse and will wish any penalty to be inflicted on those who traffic in that sort of misery.
At the end of the Gracious Speech we are told:Other measures will be laid before you.The Home Office will not have responsibility for the fixed link arguments. However, it has responsibility for immigration and I believe that it is responsible for the control of rabies. I hope that Home Office Ministers will be ready to answer the flood of letters that even now my constituents are preparing to send the Government and that they will pass down the line the message that the prospect of a fixed link of any kind is viewed with dismay in east Kent. It will do, so far as we can see, no good and could cause great harm to a beautiful area of England. I warn the Government that opposition to the fixed link from that corner of England is likely to be vigorous indeed.
I welcome the provisions in the Gracious Speech for the enhancement of animal welfare. The new provision for the protection of animals used for experimental purposes will be supported in spirit, if not entirely to the letter, by the British Veterinary Association, the committee for the reform of animal experimentation and the fund for the replacement of animals in medical experiments, of which all-party group I am the chairman.
While we do not accept that all the provisions in the White Paper are perfect, our view is that the proposed legislation will be a major step forward, and I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, on the amount of courageous work that he has done, at tremendous personal cost, in preparing this legislation.
It saddened me to receive this morning from an organisation known as Mobilisation a paper stating that it would becontinuing opposition to the Government's intention to introduce new legislation on animal experimentation based on the supplementary White Paper".The majority of people in Britain, never mind in Parliament, appreciate that a unilateral approach to animal welfare, which is what the Mobilisation team proposes, would not only be unworkable but would be immoral. To ban experimentation overnight in this country and simply 165 drive the problem overseas, and pretend that we had solved it worldwide, would be a nonsense and achieve nothing for the animals that that body claims it wishes to protect.
I am pleased to say that on that proposed measure, which appears to be only one of a few on the Home Office slate, I shall be in the Aye Lobby supporting the Government.
The Home Office also has responsibility for broadcasting. I regret that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, has temporarily left the Chamber because when we debate the televising of the House it may fall to him to explain how, if this brave new experiment goes ahead, it will be paid for. He seems already to have enough problems in financing the BBC without funding from this House 24 hours of television which nobody will watch.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) said that that debate should take place in full floodlight so that we could experience the heat that we were likely to witness when the television cameras came in. You, Mr. Speaker, and many hon. Members experienced that heat at the State Opening, and the lighting bars are still on view. That was a foretaste of what we shall be in for if hon. Members are foolish enough to concede to what they believe to be an innovation.
We have available to us already the microphones that are hanging before our eyes. I suggest, as a former television producer, that those who wish to see democracy enhanced should look to the microphones, to the broadcasting of the House, rather than to the televising of our proceedings.
We are in danger, on occasion, of pursuing change for the sake of change, and in that respect I come to the proposed alterations to the shop trading hours. The Prime Minister said that the legislation would be in line with the main recommendations of the Auld committee. I hope that that is not so because I do not wish to see wages councils perpetuated, and that was one Auld recommendation.
I accept that there is need for change and that the present Sunday trading laws have fallen into disrepute. But that does not necessarily mean having a free-for-all, which is the message that I am getting from my constituents. All my churches are opposed to a free-for-all on Sunday trading. While I do not normally wear my religion on my sleeve and I do not think that I am regarded as a "churchy" person, I do not mind admitting publicly that I am a member of the Church of England.
I respect the views of the Church, and you, Mr. Speaker, earlier in the day, in St. Margaret's, Westminster, read a lesson from Romans XII and told us that we shouldbe transformed by the renewing of your mind.For most people in Britain, Sunday is a day, perhaps the day, on which the mind can be renewed, in church, walking the dog, in some public hostelry or wherever. You also read to us that we shouldcleave to that which is good.I believe—again, I am getting this message from my constituents—that at present, Sunday, warts and all, is pretty good. It would be sad if we were to implement change simply for the sake of change.
The Leader of the House said some months ago that there were two kinds of Member of Parliament, bishops and bookmakers. Were I a betting man or a bookmaker, 166 I would lay hefty odds that when it came to the crunch, the majority of people in this country would sooner have Sundays left largely alone.
On the economic argument, there are five chambers of commerce in my constituency, and each is opposed to a free-for-all on Sunday trading. Add to that the weight of the view of USDAW, and we begin to see what the people really want. Let us not forget that about 5 million trade unionists voted Conservative at the last election. I do not doubt that many of them are members of the shopworkers' union. It is wrong for Conservatives to say that that is just a union point of view and should be dismissed. We should not dismiss it.
It was suggested earlier that people should really have the right to choose. I shall support the legislation when we have built into it the right of every man and woman not to work on Sunday if they choose not to do so, for all time—present employees and those who may be employed in the future.
I shall support the legislation only if we introduce measures to preserve the quality of Sunday. I received another paper this morning—it was a good post—from the National Consumer Council. It contained the result of some work carried out by Market Behaviour Ltd. It said:The chance to shop on Sunday would give the kiss of life to a day that for many is the dullest and most lonely of the week.I believe that it would give the kiss of death to a day that for many is the most enriching, relaxing, refreshing and fulfilling of the week.
There is a compromise that members of all religions on both sides of the House could support. We should carefully study American laws. Massachusetts has solved the problem. That state has come up with answers that I believe most Members of the House could realistically support. I should take no pride in being a Member of a Parliament that destroyed the British Sunday
We are contemplating taking measures to allow shops to open on Sundays, but we shall still shut all our public houses on a hot Saturday afternoon. It saddens me that, in this welter of legislation, we still have no measure designed to reform our antiquated licensing laws. I understand the pressures on the Home Office and the demand for legislative time. That is not a criticism of my right hon. Friend and his team, but if one of my right hon. or hon. Friends or I were fortunate enough to be lucky in the ballot for private Members' Bills, and if we were to select some reform of the licensing laws in England and Wales, I hope that the Home Office would allow not a free-for-all but a little greater licence.
§ Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)
I hope that the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) will accept my apologies if I do not follow the precise argument that he has put to the House. I gather from what he has said that we shall be seeing him frequently in the Opposition Lobby. We may have the opportunity to debate at some other time the points that he mentioned.
I should like to comment briefly on the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground). He said that detection and conviction were central to the Government's approach to law and order. I understand that the Government do not especially wish to debate or consider the causes of crime. They adopt a different approach and talk about detection and conviction. They cannot have it both ways. If the 167 Government wish to argue the case of detection and conviction, they must offer some explanation to the House and to the public for the 40 per cent. increase in crime in the period of their rule since 1979.
If the solution to that crime wave can be found in greater police activity, more detection and a greater number of convictions, the Government have failed. We have had additional policing but we still have a record crime level.
The Home Secretary said that he understood that the Opposition wished to concentrate more on the causes of crime. He referred to the problem of community decline. I hope that Conservative Members understand why we wish to study the causes of crime. I had a conversation last weekend with the police chief superintendent in my constituency. He said that the police could deal with the crime wave and the mindless vandalism, clear up all the cases of larceny, and crack down on hooligans, but it would mean a level of policing which would be unacceptable to any civilised society. It would mean policing with such a heavy hand that neither the Government nor the public would be prepared to accept it. If that attitude is shared by the Government, they must share with us an examination of the root causes of crime.
I do not apologise for saying that the Queen's Speech contained nothing of relevance to my constituency. I make no apology for detaining the House, just for a moment, with some of the economic statistics of my constituency. Wales has about 200,000 unemployed people. That is the highest level of unemployment since 1936. The unemployment rate is twice that of areas represented by Conservative Members in the south-east of England. If they have an unemployment problem in their constituency, they should imagine what the problem would be like if the numbers were doubled. Can they imagine what it is like to have the national average of one in five of the male population permanently out of work?
Wales has seen the greatest fall in the percentage of the population employed in manufacturing. Only 22.6 per cent. of our population is now engaged in manufacturing. That is the lowest figure of any of the standard planning regions in the United Kingdom with the exception of the south-east. Special circumstances apply there.
Mid-Glamorgan has seen the percentage of unemployment rise from 4.2 per cent. in 1974 to 19.7 per cent. in September 1985. Since September 1979, Mid-Glamorgan has had the highest percentage loss of jobs in England and Wales. An employment exchange in the centre of my constituency has an unemployment rate of 25 per cent. In the Rhymney valley, represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), there is an unemployment rate of 44 per cent. at the Pontlottyn employment exchange. Of that figure, 50 per cent. is long-term unemployment.
Looking at overall wealth, with the United Kingdom index of 100 in November 1984, Wales at 83.8 per cent. was the poorest of all standard planning regions in the United Kingdom. The sole exception was Northern Ireland. In Wales, 18 per cent. of all households depend upon social security benefits. Wales is second only to the south-west in having 9.1 per cent. of male full-time employees earning less than £100 a week.
In the local authority area which I partly represent, a housing survey conducted last month showed a staggering 168 figure of 78 per cent. of council tenants eligible for housing benefit—about 12,000 houses. In the private sector the figure was 31 per cent. Is that the brave new world that the Government offer us? Does the Queen's Speech contain anything to ameliorate those conditions?
We are told by the Secretary of State for Employment that we have the youth training scheme—a marvellous range of opportunities for young people. All that they have to do is put their foot on the ladder; they then have the opportunity to climb to prosperity. Mid-Glamorgan has the lowest retention rate from the YTS in the United Kingdom. The figure for Wales is 43 per cent. Mid-Glamorgan has the lowest county average, with 37.7 per cent. In my constituency, only 33.7 per cent. of the young people on YTS schemes go into employment. If that figure does not worry Conservative Members, perhaps the figure of 1,431 registered job seekers in my constituency will. At the last count last week, the careers service had one job to offer. There were 1,431 young people seeking one vacancy.
Is it surprising, then, that we talk in Wales about the breakdown of our communities? Is it surprising that we say there must be some correlation between the growth of poverty and the growth of lawlessness? In a community where people have been thrown out of work and are dependent upon state benefits, there must be some correlation between their poverty and the increasing rate of housebreaking. There are thousands of young people with nothing to do and with no prospect of work. As the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, they become involved in crime for kicks. Surely it can be no surprise when our young people and people of all ages react in that way, so that society begins to break down.
The Government say that they have certain solutions, and that they will give more licence to employers in the hope that that will provide more job opportunities. People in my constituency have seen the results of licence for employers. They have seen what the National Coal Board and its forerunners have done to our communities.
Transient employment has been stripped away by Government action, and we have seen what has happened to our environment. Employers have had the opportunity of providing employment on a short-term basis. They have taken advantage of the licence given to them by Government. They have taken advantage of the financial incentives to come to our communities. But at the first whiff of recession they pull up their roots and disappear, leaving us with a legacy of unemployment and a legacy of a despoiled environment.
The Government say that our workers must work for low wages. At a surgery in my constituency a fortnight ago, I met a man of 38 who had been made redundant for the fourth time. He was a married man with three children. His take-home pay was £74 a week. He was working for 41 hours a week and getting £10 less than he would have received on state benefits. He said, "I do it because I want to work. I know that if I were to accept redundancy, go on the dole and claim all the benefits that I am entitled to, I would be better off."
People have pride. They have belief in themselves. They have traditions, values, hope and courage. The people of the valleys in south Wales want the opportunity to use those resources. That is why people are working for poverty wages. That is why the Government's message that people must work for lower wages is unacceptable.
169 We are now offered the prospect of Sunday trading. It will not do a geat deal to provide extra employment in the Rhymney valley. The only difference is that people will be able to be unemployed for seven days a week instead of six. The measure will cause great offence and it will bring no benefit, yet that is the Government's approach to economic regeneration. We are told that our salvation will lie in additional opportunities for Sunday trading.
If Conservative Members cannot understand why we draw a correlation between unemployment and crime, I suggest that they look at the policies followed by the Government. They should examine the tensions which arise in our communities.
The Prime Minister says that crime results from original sin; that it comes from some innate evil in our population. I find that attitude offensive, patronising and incredible, because it means that the Prime Minister and the Government have no understanding of what life is like in Britain in 1985 outside the south-east of England and the favoured areas visited by the Prime Minister, when she deigns to go to the far north, or when she next deigns to visit Wales.
I have talked to senior police officers about the problems of vandalism in our communities. Our streets are not alight, people are not shooting at policemen, and we do not have riots, but we have increasing vandalism and housebreaking. We are all concerned about mindless, wanton vandalism. I assure Conservative Members that we will take second place to no one in our determination to create a peaceful, just and ordered society. They have no monopoly in their attitude to law and order. We take second place to no one.
When we discuss community policing with community leaders and senior policemen who are responsible for community policing, we have agreement. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) talked of the advantages of community policing. We are all in favour of policemen getting involved in our communities. We are all in favour of policemen organising educational and sporting activities. We are all in favour of them when they are able to open the local swimming pool on a Sunday afternoon for young people. We are all in favour of their involvement in youth clubs. But if those efforts offer the possibility of ameliorating social conditions, why is it that the Government, by their policy, close down our swimming pools and youth centres and deny financial assistance to voluntary groups? Why do the Government cut the expenditure of local authorities on such amenities? How can it be suggested that those expenditure cuts do not have any detrimental effect? Cannot the Government and Conservative Members see that contradiction? If there is validity in community policing and involvement, and if there is benefit in all those co-operative forms of community action, the Government must realise the damage that is being done to our communities by the economic, social and local government policies which they are following.
I accept that other factors may give rise to the crime wave, and I am not crediting the Government with the monopoly of responsibility for crime. My contention is that the elements of lawlessness and the breakdown of law and order are made inevitable by the tensions caused in our society as a result of the Government's economic policies. If there is one single condemnation of the Queen's Speech, 170 it is that it has nothing to offer our depressed industrial communities and does not address the real problems which Britain is facing.
§ Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)
I do not question arid never have questioned the sincerity with which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) puts forward his arguments in the Chamber, in the Welsh Grand Committee and in the other debates that we have concerning Wales, but he was very selective with his statistics.
We had the simplistic socialist argument about the correlation between unemployment and crime. At the end of his speech he said that there may be other factors linked with the increase of crime, but his central argument was simplistic, connecting it with unemployment. Is the hon. Member really telling us—I have asked him this question in the Welsh Grand Committee—that simply by the creation of more jobs the crime rate will come down? Is that his thesis? [Interruption.] I thought that it was the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who was interrupting. If it had been, I would have said that he should not give himself airs because he is not a Welsh Member. Is the hon. Member for Caerphilly really saying that by the kind of massive reflation that the Labour party favours more jobs can be created and the crime rate reduced? That kind of massive reflation will be inflationary in its effect and will destroy jobs in the longer term. If there is one factor that is likely to relate unemployment to a rise in crime, it is raising people's hopes unfairly and unrealistically, only to dash them by the creation of jobs that will not last.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
I see no prospect at all of restoring any sense of vitality to our communities unless we can create employment, nor do I see any prospect of creating communities that are worth while, and in which people are happy, content and serene, unless we can increase public expenditure to solve the problems of lack of housing, lack of recreational facilities, and a poor environment. I see no solution to the problem of crime and no prospect of ameliorating the problems that we are facing in Welsh constituencies until we start to tackle some of the basic difficulties.
§ Mr. Raffan
The hon. Gentleman has fallen into the old trap that catches all Labour Members. I refer him to an article written by a former Labour Member who represented Birmingham, Ladywood, Mr. Brian Walden, who has now gone on to higher things. I always assume he left the Labour party in frustration because Labour Members refused to listen to his arguments of moderation and common sense. In an article that appeared in The London Standard earlier this week, he asked, in effect, how can we expect common sense in a political debate when all we hear at a time of increasing public expenditure is talk of cuts, cuts and more cuts?
The hon. Member for Caerphilly must produce a more realistic and sensible analysis. The assessment he has presented to us can be described only as simplistic. However, I do not want to disagree with him too much because he was a strong supporter of the Bill that I piloted through the House during the previous Session, to which I am about to refer.
We heard earlier the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) describe graphically the horrific drug problem in 171 his constituency. It is not only urban areas that are affected by the drug problem; the problem stretches into the rural areas. I represent a Welsh constituency, which is a mix of rural and urban areas and there is a severe drug problem, even in the villages.
The hon. Member for Bootle said that it is the large suppliers whom we must pursue, and that is right. When the private Member's Bill that I introduced was considered in Committee—it is now the Controlled Drugs (Penalties) Act—I said that it was limited in its scope as it covered only one aspect of deterrence, which, in itself, is only one part of prevention.
I welcome the measures that are proposed in the Gracious Speechto provide courts in England and Wales with the power to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking and to penalise the handling of such proceeds.I note that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is occupying the Treasury Front Bench. When he replies, I hope that he will be able to tell us that the proposed measures for England and Wales will be extended to Scotland. The provisions in the Bill I introduced did cover the entire United Kingdom and I hope that the Government's measure will do so, also. The proposed Bill will provide the courts with another welcome weapon to deter drug trafficking and should increase our ability to prevent the spread of drug misuse. It is a badly needed weapon. Lord Lane is reported as saying in another place:Let me take even the lowest figure of 10,000 addicts in the country. It requires, at the lowest, £20 a day per addict to feed their addiction. That is £7,000 a year per addict. If one multiplies that by 10,000, that totals £70 million. Those figures can probably be multiplied by four.But whether it is £70 million or £280 million, that money has to come from crime".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 January 1985; Vol. 459, c. 660–61.]In addition, the money is going to criminals. It is not surprising that the Metropolitan police estimate that 23 per cent. of their targeted criminals are now involved in drug trafficking. Ten years ago, those men would have been involved in armed robbery and would have confined themselves to that. They have turned now to hard drugs, which they find infinitely more lucrative. It has been shown that some profit by as much as seven-figure sums over a limited period through the importation of drugs. It is clear that they will continue to do so unless they are deterred by the toughest possible system of penalties.
The Bill I introduced during the previous Session was supported by 11 sponsors, including the hon. Member for Caerphilly. They represented between them all the political groupings in the House and every shade and faction within them, from the bone-dry to saturated wets within the Tory party and—how can I put it tactfully?—from militant moderates to immoderate militants in the Labour party. I hope that we shall see continuing harmony in support of the measures that the Government propose.
When my Bill was read a Third time, the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), who was then an Opposition spokesman on home affairs, raised some doubts on that. I am aware that the shadow Home Secretary has given a general welcome to the Government's proposals but I hope that the remarks of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North will be repudiated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) 172 when he winds up from the Opposition Front Bench. Anticipating the Government's proposed Bill. the hon. Member for Knowsley, North said:presumably it will shift the onus of proof to the alleged drug offender to show that his assets were not obtained during the course of his trafficking in drugs, and I am not sure that that will receive the support of the Opposition … it may be useful to point out now that the Minister should not assume that such a fundamental change in our criminal justice system and in the principle of an individual being innocent until proved guilty will obtain the support of the Opposition."—[Official Report, 19 April 1985; Vol. 77, c. 567.]That was torpedoed neatly at the time by one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), who pointed out that we already have the concept of the reversal of the burden of proof in taxation matters. There is no distinction between convicted drug dealers and those convicted of burglary or fraud; all gain financially from criminal activity. Neither the burglar nor the person convicted of fraud is allowed to keep the proceeds of his crime. Why should a drug trafficker be allowed to do so?
If a second torpedo is required to destroy the argument of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North, it was supplied by Lord Denning in another place when my Bill was being considered in Committee. He referred to a case that was heard in the Court of Appeal in 1983 that is known as the Chief Constable of Kent v. V. and Another. In that case a man was reasonably believed to have stolen cheques and goods but had not been charged. He was suspected of realising the moneys, putting them into one bank and then transferring them to another bank account. The chief constable successfully brought proceedings for an injunction before the man was convicted to freeze the moneys before they could be withdrawn from the bank and laundered further. The reversal of the burden of proof is not novel. It has already been established in English law.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
I remind the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in opening the debate on the Gracious Speech, said:The proposals to combat the awful rise in drug selling, drug taking and drug-related crimes will gain support in principle and, depending upon the precise proposals, I suspect support in practice during their process through the House."—[Official Report, 6 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 13.]
§ Mr. Raffan
I am aware of that. I do not have to be reminded of what the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday. He spoke of agreement in principle and I am talking about a basic detail of the Bill, which is the reversal of the burden of proof, about which there has been some dispute. I should like the hon. Member for Garscadden to clear up the issue. I thought that it would be helpful to give him the opportunity to do so later this evening. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) would have helped the House more if he had intervened to repudiate unequivocally the comments of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North.
Just as Parliament should ensure that the efforts of law enforcement agencies are supported by making available to the courts penalties that act as real and effective deterrents to drug traffickers so we should ensure also that the efforts of both Customs and Excise and the police are supported by making available to them the resources that they require—in money and manpower—to catch drug traffickers in the first place. The legislaton that the Government propose will be of no effect and have no value 173 unless drug traffickers can first be produced in the courts. During the Akamah case the Lord Chief Justice remarked that few of the big fish among suppliers have been caught.
I welcome the Government's announcement that further Customs officers are to be posted abroad, to the Indian subcontinent, parts of Europe, the Caribbean and South America. I welcome, too, the announcement earlier in the year of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that 150 more Customs officers are to be appointed who will specialise in drugs. I hope that my hon. Friend will not hesitate to recommend a further increase in these numbers, as he promised in Committee when my Bill was proceeding through the House, if he feels that that is necessary.
I welcome the announcement that the Home Office made in July on the formation of the national drugs intelligence unit at Scotland Yard, which should help to improve co-ordination between Customs and Excise and the police. Welcome too was the simultaneous announcement, referred to this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that there is to be a 20 per cent. increase—an additional 200 men—in the strength of the regional crime squads so that each can have its own drugs wing. However, I am concerned as to whether this increase is enough. Two hundred men to be shared between 43 forces means less than three men more for each area.
Mr. David Owen, the chief constable of north Wales, an area that includes my constituency, recently said that because his force is 60 officers under strength, he cannot contemplate any increase in his drug squad. In north Wales drug offences have increased dramatically in the past few years. In 1978, there were 292 drug offences, none involving heroin. By the end of the first eight months of last year, 826 drug offences, half involving heroin, had been recorded.
It is clear that in north Wales we have an escalating and extremely serious drug problem. The need for extra police officers to concentrate on this problem is indisputable. I hope that, in view of the words of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary this afternoon, there will be a prompt response by the Home Office to north Wales' indisputable and obvious need.
I welcome and wholeheartedly support the measures against drug traffickers in the Queen's Speech, but if such legislation, once enacted, is to be effective, we must provide even greater manpower support to the police so that they can catch the drug traffickers in the first place.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I draw attention to the fact that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. If they follow the good example of the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), all will be called.
§ 7.1 pm
§ Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)
I shall be the first to try to put that advice into operation.
Various interesting things have been said in the debate and one of the most interesting came from the hon. and learned Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) who said that in law and order we need some fundamental analysis to try to discern the basic causes of the problems, so that we can fight those problems and deal with the symptoms.
174 It is sad that such a high political profile has been put on law and order matters. I note that, in the newspapers, law and order comes second only to unemployment as a political issue. Therefore, the ordinary members of the public will conclude that, because there are votes in it, it has assumed a high political profile. That is a pity because it is potentially a lethal problem and anybody who has seep any society in which law and order has broken down will know that there is no freedom in such a society.
I have been in the Lebanon a good many times, and over the years I have seen law and order disintegrate there. That has led to total chaos. Any party that claims to be a party of radical change needs law and order more than a party that claims to be one of the status quo. It is self-evident that law and order has a worse record in inner city areas where unemployment and social deprivation are worse. The depressing thing about that is that it was true 150 years ago. Anybody going to one of the recesses of the House and taking from the shelves some of the blue books analysing the problem, particularly that resulting from the visit that the commissioners made to the Welsh valleys in the 1880s, will see that that proposition was true then. We have not made much progress in improving conditions in the inner-city areas.
Many people in this country still have a stereotyped image of the criminal. What is a criminal? Who are these people who break the law? I noticed in another part of the Gracious Speech the sentence:Measures will be introduced to establish a new regulatory framework for the financial services sector".That sentence reveals much more than the debate has so far implied. Many people see criminals as part of the Bi11 Sykes syndrome—a man who wears a striped jersey and a mask and carries a sack over his shoulder with "swag" on it and breaks into jewellers or houses.
Unfortunately, the really big money crime is fraud, and big-time fraud in particular, which is permitted in high places. It is created not by ignorant men but by people who have had expensive educations, who know their way around the world and through balance sheets and who are sharp when it comes to criminal opportunities. It is disturbing that big financial crime is on the increase, and I would guess that much of it goes without detection simply because the police and the authorities do not have the manning, expertise and a good many other advantages to keep abreast of it. All this crime is committed in a highly sophisticated way. Two sentences in the Financial Times sum up the problem:
One of the biggest headaches facing banking and securities regulators as the City revolution gathers pace is what to do about the growing incidence of business fraud. Public awareness of the problem has been raised by a series of scandals in the City.Such crime is becoming more acute with the emergence of sophisticated information transfer technology. There is now a whole new species of computer crime, which is becoming increasingly difficult to detect. The age of the computer criminal, with great and highly technical expertise, is very much with us, and the misdemeanours that he commits are becoming more and more difficult to detect. Secondly, the Government desire to scrap regulations and the complex of rules and control systems in favour of more laissez-faire and the free enterprise approach makes a more favourable environment for such criminals. Making a bonfire of regulations and controls is likely to lead to an increase in such crime.
Another disturbing thought is that some business managements in the City, I am told, will often try to hush 175 up such crime for the sake of the good name of the business. Much of it goes undetected; it never reaches the light because of "reputation". I pay tribute to the police fraud squad, which very often consists of a group of ordinary people with no specialised education, facing massive technical problems of crime and misdemeanour. They do very well to achieve such a record.
All of us should pay tribute to the police fraud squad for carrying out a difficult job against heavy odds. They have to contend not only with the criminal but also with those who try to cover up for the sake of the commercial reputation of the enterprise. Unless something is done, commercial crime in the City will get worse. A great deal of it is undetected and it is likely to remain undetected.
This type of crime has certain social characteristics. Much of today's debate has divided the causes of criminality into two parts. The first argument relates to original sin: that it is in the nature of man to carry out nefarious acts and that one must therefore impose barriers to circumscribe those tendencies. The second argument is that crime is generated by social conditions: that it is a matter of environment more than anything else. I suspect that the truth lies in a combination of the two. There is a definite social characteristic to the type of crime that I am describing. Far from being rough hooligans, those who get away with the large financial crimes in this country have often had an expensive independent education. They act with ease in the best restaurants. They are not the great unwashed. Indeed, they are the jacuzzi-bathed bourgeoisie.
§ Mr. Maclean
I am loth to stand up after the hon. Gentleman's description of these criminals, but I do not count myself as one of them. I agree with him that this type of fraud is a major problem and that what we know about it is only the tip of the iceberg. Does he agree that in the case of this type of crime there can be no correlation with unemployment? Many Opposition Members have today said that the root cause of crime lies in unemployment. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that unemployment has nothing at all to do with the criminality of the public school bourgeoisie. Why, therefore, are they criminals?
§ Mr. Weetch
I began my speech by saying that I thought that in certain circumstances unemployment and social deprivation lead to an increase in crime, but this is not the only cause. Some of those to whom I have referred are motivated by the principle of getting rich quick by speculation, fraud and social deception. Speculation and the get-rich-quick principle is to be seen in the City from time to time, but since I am not a City man I speak not from the inside but from the outside.
In a careful analysis on 6 June 1984, The Economist said that not only is this type of fraud and commercial crime on the increase but that the criminals consistently seem to be winning. It said:Only the dumb, the naive or the unlucky will land in the dock.The clever criminals will launder the money. They will have bank accounts in Switzerland or Lichtenstein and they will operate through a string of offshore companies. Often the crime is discovered only years later when somebody accidentally notices something in the accounts or finds that receipts and invoices have been falsified.
176 This is the big financial crime in our society. I am not referring to the down-and-out who gets caught for pinching half a sack of coal in south Wales from the National Coal Board. I am referring to those who are defrauding the country, and business, of millions of pounds. By the time the criminals are apprehended, if ever, they will be basking in the sun doing very nicely, thank you.
§ Mr. Ashby
The hon. Gentleman makes a great deal of sense, but is not part of the problem the fact that for police officers this is a less glamorous crime and they are not very keen to investigate it? It is also a crime that is very difficult to understand. Juries often do not convict because they do not understand the facts that have been presented to them. The result is that there is less incentive for police officers to investigate because they will not achieve a satisfactory result. Should we not therefore consider the introduction of a selective jury system so that those who understand finance can consider these cases?
§ Mr. Weetch
I do not know. I have found some of the fraud cases which have been extensively reported very difficult to understand. I do not know how the ordinary man in the street can understand their tortuous complexities. It would take a technical expert of great experience to understand the labyrinthine crime of fraud and other related matters. I have an open mind about how to deal with it. I should be willing to consider any suggestion that brought more justice to bear on such cases.
Is the Secretary of State planning to try to eradicate the big financial crime which is difficult to detect and for which it is difficult to secure a conviction? May I refer him to what his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston said a few minutes ago: what analysis has the Secretary of State made of this aspect of the problem, and could he advise the House as to what is a good way forward?
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
First I apologise to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) for not dealing directly with the points he raised. I do not doubt his sincerity and I accept much of what he had to say. However, I wish to direct attention to 13 words in the Gracious Speech. They are of short, sharp, uncompromising simplicity:A Bill will be introduced to remove statutory restrictions on shop opening hours.Some right hon. and hon. Members heard my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House say earlier this afternoon that those who have misgivings about this can expect a visitation of the instant charm of the Patronage Secretary. I await that experience with eager anticipation. I am one of those Conservative Members who have profound and growing apprehension about the course upon which the Government seem to be embarking.
Nearly two years ago I submitted evidence to the Auld committee. Among other things, I argued against the complete liberalisation of shop opening hours. On 20 May the House turned its attention to the recommendations of the Auld committee, and I was one of about 20 Conservative Members who voted against the acceptance of those recommendations.
The intervening five and a half months have increased rather than decreased my apprehension. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) summed up 177 simply the common ground among all hon. Members when he said that the Shops Act 1950 was totally unacceptable. We do not dispute that there is a manifest need for change. There are anomalies bordering on the farcical in the Act. Shopping trends, demands and needs have changed radically since the 1950s.
However, I fear that we may be moving from something that is silly and unacceptable to something that is positively dangerous. I shall refer to various effects of total liberalisation that could harm society, but the point to bear in mind is that the 1950 Act is essentially harmless. The Act is illogical and stupid, it may inconvenience and irritate, but it harms nobody. Total liberalisation would take us into uncharted waters and I fear that there are potential dangers. The proposed legislation may contain safeguards, but I have doubts about how safeguards can be included which would be consistent with the declaration that there should be no statutory restrictions on shop opening hours.
I value very much the dialogue that I have established in recent months with my local branch of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. I readily confess that I had no previous contact with the union. I hope that it would agree that we have established a worthwhile dialogue. I have learnt something about the conditions of employment of many people who work in shops. For almost the majority, the hours are long and the pay is low and their collective bargaining position is weak. I fear that the total liberalising of Sunday trading would result in the exploitation of shop workers.
When we debated Sunday trading in May, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan), the then Home Secretary, said that it was the Government's intention to include safeguards for "established workers". The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) intervened to seek clarification and the Home Secretary agreed that "established workers" meant those currently working in shops and that protection would not necessarily apply to those not yet working in shops, that those who did so in future would not be protected.
I have heard anecdotal evidence—the accuracy of which I cannot guarantee—suggesting that bad employers, who are a minority, are beginning to make threats amounting to exploitation of existing workers. That is a matter for grave concern. I fear that the Bill may not contain adequate safeguards for people currently working in shops and for those so employed in the future.
§ Mrs. Anna McCurley (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
Is my hon. Friend aware of the Scottish experience? There is no exploitation of workers. Financially, they are better off if they work on Sundays. The uptake of Sunday employment in shops is surprisingly low.
§ Mr. Hunter
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her intervention. I am increasingly aware of the Scottish experience and I am delighted that Sunday trading in Scotland has not resulted in exploitation. Nevertheless, I am worried that the proposed legislation may not contain adequate safeguards for shop workers in England and Wales.
My second area of concern comes under the general heading of environmental factors. Many out-of-town or edge-of-town shopping centres are growing up, often 178 dominated by supermarkets. They are often located in or near residential areas and attract a great deal of traffic. There is a worry that a free-for-all on Sundays will result in environmentally unacceptable developments in many areas.
I make that point with some personal feeling, because that fear led to shop hours becoming an emotive and controversial issue in Basingstoke and also led to the borough council enforcing the 1950 Act. I wonder whether the Bill that we are awaiting will contain any safeguards to guarantee the peace and quiet to which people are entitled on Sundays.
I stress most my third area of concern. This is the impact of the total liberalisation of shop hours on small shops—those on estates, arcades or precincts, the traditional corner shops and village shops. Some small shops are struggling to survive. They make ends meet, to a great extent, by enjoying a captive part of the market. They often stay open late in the evenings and open on Sundays more often than their major rivals.
Some argue that if shops cannot compete they should not survive. I reject that argument. Commercial interests and market forces should be our servants and not our masters. Small shops play a vital part in the lives of many towns and villages. They provide a community service as well as a commercial service. Community identity is important. As a number of hon. Members have said, it is declining in many towns. I fear that an important, albeit small, feature of our community life will disappear through the liberalisation of Sunday trading.
All my comments have been made without reference to what we refer to as the traditional feature of Sunday as the day of Christian worship. In the past few weeks, an increasing number of constituents have written to me saying that on religious grounds they oppose a free-for-all on Sundays. I am not ashamed to say that I wholly accept and endorse those arguments.
The secularisation of Sundays started a long time ago and will no doubt continue. But it will not continue with the aid of my vote, nor, I believe, with the votes of many of my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)
Before turning to the main subject of the debate, I wish to refer to some other matters in the Queen's Speech.
Labour Members will oppose with all their power the gas privatisation Bill. It is unnecessary. We should keep this important energy supply industry under public ownership.
In the not too distant future we shall have to introduce a substitute for natural gas as we prepare for the running out of North sea and Irish sea reserves, and only public enterprise can guarantee a supply in the years ahead by properly planning an all-purpose energy policy.
I also view with great worry the proposal to review the social security system. That subject will be debated vigorously in the coming year. The proposed measure will affect many of the poorer sections of the community and will hit the most deprived people. That must be wrong.
I support any measures that will make it easier for people to claim. The present system is complex, but we must ensure that the public are not misled by the Government being allowed to get away with pretending to 179 make the system easier when their purpose is to save public expenditure. Many people will lose benefits and be made worse off by the review.
The Queen's Speech states that the Government willrequire larger local authority airports to be formed into companies, and to regulate certain airport activities.I am worried about the long-term implications of that policy. Coming from the north-west, I have a very high regard for Manchester airport, which was set up through the foresight of the Manchester city council and has been developed by the city council and the Greater Manchester council. The airport has been a tremendous success without Government assistance, but I have fears for its future in view of the long-term implications of the policy.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) referred to Sunday trading and made many of the points that I would have made. I share his anxiety about the proposals outlined in the Queen's Speech. The present law contains many anomalies and there needs to be changes, but that does not mean that we should scrap all regulations governing shop trading hours. We must be extremely careful if we tread that path.
At present it is possible to find one local authority turning a blind eye to the law and not applying it, while other authorities try to apply it as sensibly as possible. While the present law exists the Government should attempt to make all local authorities apply it equally.
There will be inflationary implications once the proposed measure goes through because no extra spending capacity will be created by trading on seven days instead of six. If shop workers are paid extra for working on Sundays, as they should be, costs will increase. I fear the implications of increased costs for small traders. I always worry on a Friday evening when I see the news about the week's job losses and gains. When it is reported that a superstore has opened creating, say, 400 jobs, the report never says how many people in smaller shops will go out of business or operation as a result. I accept that there is a need for some superstores, but the proposed policy has serious implications for many people in the industry. While many traders involved with Sunday opening have said that they will man their businesses with volunteers, once the policy is under way workers will soon be told that if they do not want to work on Sunday they cannot work at all. There must be adequate safeguards for them.
I sympathise with the difficulties of people who work on Sundays because I worked in an industry which had to work on Sundays. We manufactured glass and it is impossible to turn a furnace off at weekends. I very much value Sundays as I only got six Sundays off per year in the 10 years prior to becoming an hon. Member. I believe that many people in this country will regret losing their Sundays off.
In the long run it will not simply be the people who work in shops who will suffer. As other traders gradually open on Sundays there will be a need to open car parks. If that happens, car parks will not be provided free of charge on Sunday when payment is requested on other days. As public demand for these car parks increases so the councils and other operators will start to charge and more people will have to work. More public transport will be needed—if there is any public transport left after the 180 Government's Transport Act takes effect. I have serious worries about the implications of the Government's proposals and I shall examine the legislation carefully.
I have always said, on all platforms and at all times, that the Labour party believes in law and order. The contrary view is a fallacy built up by the media and by the Conservatives and is entirely untrue and unrealistic. Any sensible political party must want people to be able to live their lives in peace and quiet without fear of robbery, violence or other crime. The Labour party is and always will be in favour of law and order.
That does not mean, however, that we cannot criticise the police from time to time. No one in this country is above criticism. Members of Parliament and the press can be criticised and I see no reason why we should accept that the police must always be right in all their decisions. I believe that there should be more political input and I hope that the next Labour Government will move towards regional government with responsibility for police, water, hospitals and other matters. I am not convinced that the old style watch committees were the perfect solution, particularly in small boroughs. I certainly had strong reservations about the watch committee that used to operate in Burnley. That does not mean, however, that we do not need some body to which the police are ultimately responsible for overall guidelines on policy and direction. The police, of course, would continue to have power to determine day-to-day running. No Labour Member has ever suggested that they should be told exactly how to carry out every aspect of their job.
Under the present Government, since 1979, in England robbery has increased by 99 per cent., violence against the person by 20 per cent., criminal damage by 55 per cent., and burglary in a dwelling by 89 per cent. Those figures have been given before but they bear repeating to emphasise exactly what is happening. I do not accept the Prime Minister's inference yesterday that people are born to sin and that certain people are bound to go that way. We must look beyond that attitude to discover why the crime rate is rising. We also need to give the police better training and better facilities. We need more community policemen. More policemen need to be released from paperwork at police stations to go out into the streets on foot so that they can talk to the people whom they are there to protect.
Whether people like it or not, it is not a political comment to say that people in this country have less confidence in the police now than at any time this century. That is a regrettable trend. There are a number of reasons for that decline in public confidence in the police, but one welcome movement has been getting the police back on community beats. That is the right way to build a better relationship and it should be encouraged.
I am also worried by the use of the expression, "inner city problem". I accept that there are problems in the inner cities, but there are also problems in other areas. The borough that I represent cannot possibly be called an inner city area. It is designated under the urban aid programme because of the deprivation in the area, but the constituency includes large rural areas. We have problems and, in proportion to the area of the town, they are just as important as those of the inner-city areas and they cause similar results. We have to accept, irrespective of whether the Government agree, that housing and unemployment contribute to present circumstances. The Government must do something to get people back to work. They must 181 recognise the problems, especially for the long-term unemployed who have no hope of a job and who know that, as long as this Government remain in office, they will have no opportunity of one.
It is an appalling fact that, in 1985, a man of 40 who is made redundant can be told that he might as well consider himself retired. I certainly would not have wished to consider myself retired at 40. Young people leaving school have no prospect of a real job. We must do something to give people that prospect.
The Government must deal with the housing problem. It is no good their pretending that there is no problem and putting a little more money in, because housing needs a lot more money. The Government will be building up a major slum problem for the next decade if they do not act now—indeed, take long-term action—to deal with the housing crisis in the public and private sectors.
I see the problems of old terraced housing in my constituency. People cannot apply for a repair or an improvement grant because the council does not have sufficient money even to meet mandatory grants, such as intermediate grants. One house becomes derelict and, before long, the whole terrace will have to be pulled down. There are council estates where the council cannot improve, modernise and repair the houses because of an insufficient HIP allocation. Nevertheless, the Government force up rents and fail to recognise the relative cost of living in different areas. In my constituency incomes are lower than those in London. The Government fail to recognise that council houses in my constituency may be sold for only £6,000 to the sitting tenant if the full discount applies. People can buy a modernised terraced house for £10,000 or £11,000 in the Burnley area. Earlier, the hon. and learned Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) spoke of houses being sold for between £100,000 and £150,000. One could buy a whole terrace of houses in my constituency for that.
More money is needed for recreational facilities. People are working shorter hours and they need something to do in their leisure time. A greater variety of recreational facilities must be provided to suit people's needs. It is important that the Government enable local authorities to meet those requirements.
I welcome the steps that the Government are taking to try to stop drug trafficking, but it is important that even more is done. Although additional Customs officers have been appointed, a great many more will be needed if we are to stop drugs coming in. I accept that there should be heavy penalties for drug trafficking—we need such a deterrent because the people who push drugs are guilty ultimately of murder because drug taking can lead to death.
We must also recognise that more facilities are needed to deal with addicts who are trying to get off drugs. There is no point spending a lot of money to get a person drug-free and then to put him back in exactly the same block of flats or back on the dole because, after a few months, without the proper back-up, he will go back to drug-taking. From talking to Dr. John Strang, who is head of the regional drug dependancy unit in the north-west, I know that the available resources are inadequate to deal with the medical side of the problem, and there are others. We need people who can ensure that people with drug problems are helped with other difficulties. People on drugs have major problems that can cause family friction. We must ensure that families get all the necessary 182 assistance. The drug problem affects the whole of the country. It is not confined to inner-city areas. Indeed, it is quite prevalent in towns such as Burnley and in the whole of the Lancashire area. We must ensure that we put aside sufficient resources to deal with the problem.
Everybody has a right to live in peace in their own homes and to walk out safely on the streets, in parks and in town centres. We must ensure a return to such circumstances. The police must be trained and given adequate resources, and they must not come down with a heavy hand. The Government must face up to a host of issues which go much wider than policing.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
All I have to say about Sunday trading is that I gave up the traditional Sunday and started trading the day that I was elected to this House.
I warmly welcome the proposal to privatise airports and look forward to the privatisation of the East Midlands airport and the advantages to that airport of being able to attract venture capital. If we are to attract such capital to municipal airports, we must be able to show that we shall be able to do that if the majority shareholding of a privatised airport remains with councillors with no knowledge of business practices. More than 50 per cent. of the share capital should be put on the market so that the public can participate and outside directors with the requisite expertise can be brought in. That would give investors confidence.
We have had a White Paper on public order legislation. Today's debate has got better and better, although it got off to a bad start. The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) gave no solutions. Rather he gave us a tirade about what has happened in the past six years. Combating disorder and crime is not made easier by Opposition Members siding with rioters. It does not help when they advocate the breaking of laws or when they take part in organised marches which stretch the freedoms of lawful assembly to the limits.
I wonder how people can expect justice from the Opposition when it is viewed in a one-sided way. We have had a year of talks about the right to picket. Every time anyone talked about the right to work, we had jeers from the Opposition. I am not surprised that they are trying to belittle and ridicule the Conservative party's achievements because they know that the electorate consider that it is the party that gives them the greatest hope.
Last year, during the miners' strike, we saw violence and intimidation on the picket lines, and it was never denounced at the time. That intimidation and violence is continuing. Two miners in my constituency have moved from south Wales. The stories they tell of what happened during the strike and what was happening until a few months ago are horrifying. The hatred, unchristian thinking and lawlessness that persist in south Wales towards those who exercised their right to work are astounding. One person is still begging for a transfer to Leicestershire because he was one of the working miners and he is still subject to intimidation. I remember undertakings being given in the House, but I want to see them turned into something concrete in the case of that miner. He is the only person left; his family is subject to violence and intimidation and his life is absolute hell.
Some people who have moved from south Wales to Leicestershire cannot sell their homes. The local miners 183 will not let people buy them. They are ensuring that those homes remain unsold. That is an example of intimidation and violence that must be dealt with. I should like to hear that denounced by the Opposition; if they really believe in law and order, they will denounce that behaviour and not just shrug their shoulders and say, "That is what happens when passions are aroused."
If the Labour party believes in the rights of those who want to work and truly denounces violence, perhaps it will side with the new union that consist of miners who worked during the strike, and recognise its members who are seeking peaceful solutions within the law. Perhaps that is another issue that has been fudged by the Opposition.
The Opposition have cried time and again about a 40 per cent. rise in crime. We hear the same old story from the Opposition, who exploit unemployment. They have looked at the undeniable rise in crime, especially crimes of violence, and have tried to relate unemployment to that rise. Unemployment is a major problem and we are deeply concerned about it, but I do not think that there is any real evidence of a relationship between unemployment and the rise in crime. The Opposition exploit unemployment, inner-city deprivation and decay when they try to explain that rise in crime, but I think there are other reasons.
§ Mr. Soley
The hon. Gentleman should make sure that his brain is in gear before he engages his mouth. Several things that he said are misleading the House—unintentionally, I am sure. For a start, when I asked my private notice question today, the Home Secretary and his junior Minister were before the House because they had broken the law. The hon. Gentleman did not say anything about that. I should like to hear his views. Secondly, and more important, no one in the Opposition has said that crime and unemployment are directly linked. We are saying that there is a complex set of issues that include long-term youth unemployment and deprivation. That is not just our view, but has been shown by Home Office research. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Home Secretary is wrong?
§ Mr. Ashby
Member after Member has spoken about that link, including the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who said that he blamed crime on unemployment, deprivation, division and decay. To say that there is such a relationship is wrong. It is exploiting the facts and trying to fit them together. It is a gross exploitation of people who are suffering from the effects of unemployment. As the Prime Minister said, to suggest that the unemployed are dishonest is entirely wrong.
§ Mr. Ashby
No, I shall not give way.
I have found that there is a direct relationship between crime and broken homes. Young people can understand the death of a member of the family, but they cannot understand divorce. Often broken homes give rise to juvenile crime. There has been a tremendous rise in the incidence of divorce.
Another reason for violence is sometimes to be found in bad education, particularly illiteracy. We have problems in education, particularly in the inner cities, and there is high illiteracy. Because people cannot express themselves well, that gives rise to violence.
184 Another interesting point is that there is a direct relationship between food additives in food and violence. A study at the Great Ormond street hospital shows a direct relationship between behaviour and food additives or the type of food eaten. Several eminent doctors say that fast food, which more people are eating, has been a major cause of the rise in some violence. We should take that into account.
§ Mr. Hunter
I should like to place on record the work that has been done in Basingstoke during the past two years on that subject. A clinic has devoted a great deal of time and attention to exploring the link between food and behaviour.
§ Mr. Ashby
I am aware of that research, which has shown that there is a link.
The rise in crime, especially the rise in crimes of violence, is well worth further research. I hope that the Home Office believes that that research should be conducted. It could be profitable.
It has been said that lack of money is the cause of crime, but I have come across few cases in which people said that they committed the crime because they did not have food or were terribly short of money. Those few cases mainly involved shoplifting, especially by elderly people whose pensions had not stretched to buy a tin of salmon or similar item. Perhaps the people involved in those sad cases should not have been charged.
Most of the major crimes of dishonesty are committed not by the unemployed or those who lack money but by those who are greedy or out to make a fast buck. There is therefore no relationship between such crimes and unemployment, inner-city decay and similar problems. Criminals often come from criminal families. If the father has been a criminal, there is often a tendency for the son to be a criminal. The reason may be lack of leadership and parental guidance.
During the miners' strike there was much violence—cars were turned over, houses were burnt down and people were injured. Many of those involved in the riots in Brixton or, closer to my constituency, in Leicester were arrested, tried and acquitted. There are certain fundamental liberties that we must not erode—the jury system, the burden of proof and the standard of proof, which is that no person is guilty until he is proved beyond doubt to be so. It is clear in all those cases that the problem was not the law or the charge but the evidence. The evidential difficulties are obvious in cases involving hundreds of people milling around—some of them throwing missiles, some attacking police officers and others just pushed along with the crowd, committing no offence. This is a fundamental point and it is where all the new legislation that we shall enact goes wrong. Not one of the Bills deals with the evidential difficulty which repeatedly confronts us.
People who broke laws concerning affray and riotous assembly would have been convicted if there had been evidence, but it was not available. It was clear that the only evidence involved a police officer saying, "I saw a man in a red shirt, whom I later identified as Mr. X, breaking a car window with a stick. I then saw a man in a blue shirt, whom I later identified as Mr. Y, turn the car over." At the trial, pictures were produced showing 10 to 15 people in red shirts and 10 or 15 people in blue shirts. The evidence had no value and the cases failed. That happens 185 repeatedly. There must be certainty of evidence; that is why so many cases have resulted in acquittals. It is not right to convict a person on suspicion. These points are fundamental and sacred and must be protected.
We have to deal with laws that get around the evidential difficulty. In many cases, the only way to get around the evidential difficulty is to make their mere presence there after a time an offence. We need a substantial debate along those lines to provide a law that makes it an offence for a person to be present after a certain time at an incident that is unlawful and riotous. That would get over the evidential difficulty of ascertaining who was doing what at a given time. Unless we enact such legislation, we shall merely be playing around with the problem and not getting down to the fundamental point.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that we must have swift justice. It is essential that these offences should be tried swiftly. There should be an offence of participating in either a major riot or a minor riot and people should accordingly be tried either summarily or in the Crown court. We should provide finance to provide for more summary courts. Most of the money that we spend on law and order goes on Crown courts.
People are increasingly going to the Crown courts because people who go to the magistrates courts are remanded on one day; the magistrates then look at their lists and remand the accused for six or nine months; the lawyers beg the magistrates to set a day to hear the case; in four or five months the case is heard; and the hearing is then postponed for another three months. Magistrates courts cannot deal adequately with defended cases.
These problems are caused because successive Lord Chancellors and Governments have given so little thought to them. They have always looked to the Crown courts for the solution and have said, "We shall appoint more Crown court judges", instead of asking why people have gone to the Crown courts.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
What about the intolerable delays in the Crown courts, which are the fault of prosecution and defence alike?
§ Mr. Ashby
Of course, there are delays in the Crown courts, but there are problems because many cases could be tried summarily. It is inconvenient to everyone involved—defendant and lawyers—to try a case in a summary court because one cannot say that a case will start on a given day, will take three days and will then be concluded. That is the problem, and I believe that there would be much less use of the Crown courts if there was more summary jurisdiction.
As to drug offences, I am very concerned at the great proliferation of policing authorities. I am convinced that we would be much more efficient in dealing with drug traffickers and drug importers if we did not have such a proliferation of investigating authorities. As I have said several times before, I have never understood why we have the Metropolitan police, other area police forces, Customs and Excise, railway police, transport police and so on. There are dozens of investigating authorities, many of them belonging to Government Departments.
I believe that there is a case for a national police force—for one police force undertaking all investigations, including the investigation of Customs and Excise matters and so on. I can think of nothing more efficient. I can think 186 of numerous examples where different investigative authorities have been in conflict, have failed to agree, have striven for the same objective, but have competed in a way that did not achieve their aims. I have seen that more than once, and that in itself speaks highly for having one coordinated force.
During the last few days there was a television programme on "Operation Julie". Today, Mr. Lee, the investigating police officer, spoke most eloquently for a national drugs squad, but it will be hard to have such a squad without a national police force. The more I think of it, the more I fail to understand why we do not have a national drugssquad—[Interruption.] I look forward to hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) tell us the very good reasons why we should not. I can think of some reasons for not having such large squads, but the success that could be achieved might outweigh such disadvantages.
I hope that we shall give careful consideration to the evidential side of the problem; we solve absolutely nothing by simply playing around and changing laws.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
I have only one comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby). His last point is the only dangerous point that has been made throughout this entire debate. The thing that the country wants least of all is a national police force, and both the police and civilians would, I believe, take that view. 1 am glad to hear that the Government have not contemplated that at all, even at the height of last year's miners' strike.
The Home Secretary talked of four Bills dealing with animal welfare, drugs, public order and Sunday trading. Most of my comments will be made as spokesman for the Liberal party, but I wish to make one comment about one Bill on behalf of myself. The alliance parties—and I hope the Labour and Conservative parties—will give their members a free vote on the Sunday trading Bill because in large measure it is a matter of conscience.
The Gracious Speech states thatA Bill will be introduced to remove statutory restrictions on shop opening hours",but the Government ought to be aware of the grave risks they run by proceeding all the way down that road. I was a member of the outgoing General Synod of the Church of England which voted by about 390 to one to oppose such legislation. For the Church of England, such near unanimity is a rare phenomenon, and is one of the reasons why I hope that the Government will think again about the consequences of removing all statutory restrictions on shop opening hours. From the beginning it was not the case that all seven days were ordained to be the same, say those of us with our particular Christian belief. In any event, the cycle of rest and work requires rest on one. I therefore hope that the Government will take heed of the many warnings that they have received in the debate.
I hope that the animal welfare Bill will not be minimalist. Much needs to be done, particularly after 100 years, and I hope that the Bill will not just contain the minimum that is required. Liberals have argued for years that there should be reform of animal welfare legislation, not least the setting up of a standing commission to report regularly on what is required to keep up with scientific and technological changes. I hope that the Government will consider that.
187 We welcome and will support the drugs Bill. We shall also support—I believe that I speak for all the lawyers in the alliance—the change in the burden of proof. In this case the problem is so large that it is right that the burden of proof should be on the convicted individual to prove that the moneys that he or she possesses have not come from the sale of drugs.
I believe that one of the reasons why the Government and Parliament are now responding is that in the past individuals have, often at danger to themselves, been willing to speak out about the danger of drugs. Last year a group of parents on the Old Kent road in my constituency allowed themselves to be filmed for a programme called "The Skag Kids" produced by London Weekend Television. That was one of the breaks in the conspiracy of silence that have now led to a rapid Government reaction. We look forward to that Bill. Those who for profit exploit the helpless should be dealt with most severely.
The best preface to the public order legislation is a very good article in The Guardian on Monday by Hugo Young. He entitled it "The ill-gotten gains from law and disorder". Many of the figures he used are fact and are clearly agreed. He said:Since 1979, government spending on the police has increased in real terms by 40 per cent. They are the greatest beneficiaries of the priorities of Thatcherite policies. Police pay, police clothing, police weaponry, police vehicles and police numbers have all received the Home Office's most faithful attention. Police manpower is larger by 10,400 than it was six years ago.No one disputes that that should have occurred, and there is certainly a case for having many more police than present resources allow. That article continued:This is not a trend wholly peculiar to the Eighties. The increase in spending and manpower has been going on for decades. But it has accelerated under the present government, and has been backed by new laws to increase police powers. This has all been done in obeisance to the central belief of Conservatism, as exemplified by Mrs. Thatcher's attitude to unemployment: that crime is not a problem created by social conditions, but a manifestation of human degeneracy, individual or collective, which can best be met by a simple police response.It is possible that the Tories are right about this. The causes of crime are indeed multiple and mysterious. All one can say is that, after six years of this hugely accelerated spending, the evidence is not persuasive.For in parallel with the 40 per cent. increase in police resources since 1979 has come, as it happens, a 40 per cent. rise in the rate of reported crime. Crimes of violence are up by nearly 20 per cent., robberies have doubled and burglaries nearly doubled. The trend seems inexorable. Taking 1984, robbery was up by 13 per cent. in the year, burglary by 10 per cent., violence against the person by 6 per cent. (including murder up by 13 per cent.). Overall, serious crime rose by eight per cent. last year.Despite the massive increase in manpower, the clear-up rate has fallen: in 1974, 40 per cent. of cases were cleared up, in 1984 it was only 35 per cent. This is a deplorable and rather frightening record. Quite palpably the policy has failed.Then comes the important statement:
It may not be obvious what other policies would be better. But in other fields the experience of such failure, at such immense cost, would induce a certain humility … No such humility is observable in the government. It remains as wedded to the 'police first' strategy as it is to the conviction that unemployment has nothing to do with the problem: two beliefs which are equally distinguished by the shortage of facts to support them.Until this afternoon I would have accepted that analysis. It was exemplified again by the Prime Minister yesterday. But I welcome what the Home Secretary said 188 today because he did display some humility and, I hope, the promise of some energy. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), I hope that that is a good sign.
The Home Secretary said that there were different causes of crime and the increase in lawlessness and disorder. He talked about the breakdown of family life, communities, unemployment and housing. I hope this means that the Government now believe that social causes must be counted and dealt with. If that change in attitude has taken place with the change in office holder as Home Secretary, I am grateful.
We must consider four elements of the law and order issue. We must consider the individual, and the fact that each individual belongs to a community, lives in a village, a town or a city and is part of the nation. At a national level if the money given to the police to deal with law and order is reduced in real terms we are asking for trouble, particularly in a time such as this. That is the reality. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was correct to say that expenditure in real terms on such problems has been reduced under this Government. It is about time that that was changed. Increasing resources will not provide a solution when, in real terms, the amount spent on law and order relative to the whole of the Government's budget has been reduced.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
I am something of a shop steward in these matters and while I always want to obtain more for the police—I make no apology for that—the hon. Gentleman must get his facts right. When this Government came to office expenditure on law and order services was about £2.25 billion. Today it is about £4 billion. There has been an increase in real terms in expenditure on law and order services.
§ Mr. Hughes
If one examines public expenditure and compares the proportion that was spent on law and order in 1979 to the proportion spent today, one can see that this expenditure has been reduced, whereas expenditure on other services has been increased. That is in spite of increases in police pay and improved conditions.
At a personal level, individuals, too, are to blame for our problems. There will always be sin and individual crime. A disquieting opinion poll just published shows that more and more individuals believe dishonesty of various types to be acceptable. That is a worrying trend.
Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft) talked about the problems in the urban areas, although not there alone. One of our problems might be explained by the fact that the Government are not well represented in the inner cities. Let us examine the larger cities, taking inner London as the core here, and thinking of Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Manchester. Only in Edinburgh do the Government hold a majority of parliamentary seats. A breakdown of parliamentary representation in our largest cities reveals 55 Opposition Members to 25 Government Members. This results in a lack of comprehension by Government Members and may explain the lack of importance attached to the noises from the inner cities of disquiet and dissatisfaction. I am talking not about the rioters alone, but about the old and those who are vulnerable in the places where being vulnerable is most dangerous.
If one cannot be heard one shouts. That is a practice followed by children and often by young people who have 189 been let down by their families—as the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West said—and who have not been listened to, loved or cared for. Communities often feel that they have not been heard as well. I endorse entirely what the former Prime Minister and Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), said when he stated clearly that all communities are entitled to the same standards of commitment in law and order terms.
One of the tragedies of the recent unscheduled reorganisation of the Metropolitan police, about which all political parties and many London Members protested, is that the new division into eight areas makes it appear that the voice of the inner city communities with the biggest problems will be heard less clearly.
I do not need to remind anyone that it is often in the inner cities and urban areas that the problems of crime and clear-up rates are greatest. Unemployment and a lack of vacancies are greatest in the same areas. I checked the clear-up figures for the Southwark area last year. Mercifully the figure for offences against the person was almost the best, although under 50 per cent. The only other clear-up rate of more than 50 per cent. was for fraud or forgery. The clear-up rate for criminal damage was 13 per cent. and for theft or the handling of stolen goods, 16 per cent.; for thefts in the street it was 6 per cent. and for pickpocketing 9 per cent. For other offences such as burglary, other thefts and offences against property the figures are low. We are not winning the battle against crime.
The Liberal party has always been strong on law and strong on justice. Both the alliance parties have asserted throughout their conjoined existence that they believe that we need strong law for order—but with strong justice at the same time. That may make us different from other parties, but it means that we do not give total, uncritical support to everything that the police do. Eighty per cent. or more of the police are very good, but some make mistakes and overstep the mark. Sometimes Labour Members complain and protest about the police, but they refuse to meet or speak to police representatives. This is a totally unhelpful attitude to dialogue and working with those who operate at the front line, although I accept that such an attitude was not struck today in our debate. We do not want to escalate either the language or the activities of violence and confrontation. However, we equally do not want the silence of standing by when disorder occurs, particularly if the people standing by are leaders in their communities.
The media must take their share of the blame. Violence on television and its glorification does not help. The advancing of the acquisitive society through advertising which pretends that the quantity of consumer goods rather than the quality of life is most important leads youngsters with vulnerable minds to do things that they might not otherwise do.
We hope that the public order Bill, on which we cannot comment in detail as it has not been published, will put some matters right. Of course, there should be notice of most marches because that is reasonable and acceptable. When people plan to gather together to exercise their right to assemble, it is right that that should be managed in an orderly manner. It is right that there should be prevention of disruption and coercion. It is also right that individual marches should not be banned.
190 I hope that we hear more of what the Government have signalled, but not mentioned today—of the need to deal with the racialist problems that are increasing in our inner cities. We must ensure that the law is equally tough on those who incite racial violence and hatred and prepare literature in language that inflames an already delicate situation. When I intervened in the Home Secretary's speech, I warned that offences related to disorderly conduct should not be drafted in such a way that they would be open to enormous discretion and become horrendously difficult to enforce.
I wish to pay tribute to the fire service, as no one has yet done so in this debate. It often has as difficult a job as the police, but is less frequently congratulated. The fire service is often ignored in public plaudits, yet without it our communities would be far less safe.
I wish finally to deal with crime and punishment. It is not true that it is only in the inner cities that criminality and disorder have increased. I have researched four police authority areas—the Metropolitan police, the west midlands, Cumbria and the rural area of Dyfed and Powys. The increase in offences per 100,000 population during the past five years—and this is not a party political point—has been 30 per cent. in the Metropolitan police area, 55 per cent. in the west midlands, 27 per cent. in Cumbria and 32 per cent. in rural Dyfed and Powys. That must mean that we must look widely at the structures that we organise to deal with problems in our society.
I hope that the Government realise that structures of government must be altered. For example, in London there is no provision for community or parish councils. It is vital that London has them and that people organise the management of their own communities.
It is vital that there is a reorganisation of the structures of police in certain areas, and that we do not follow the road which, I regret, the Metropolitan police commissioner is taking—without prior consultation. However desirable the commissioner feels it may be to have larger rather than smaller police areas, that can create dangers. Therefore, I hope that the commissioner will modify his proposed changes.
I hope that we shall no longer experience the dialogue of the deaf on our police consultative committees. The Home Office introduced guidelines under previous legislation, and then brought forward the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Having negotiated some committee structures with local authorities, the rules were changed. I hope that the police and councils, for example in Southwark, will none the less agree a formula. There are lessons to be learned on both sides. The police must accept that sometimes an enormous, purely consultative body is far from ideal for dialogue; councils must accept that a small political body seeking to control the police is also not acceptable.
We need improvement in police personnel, manpower and training. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) referred to this point—to officers who could hardly type spending a great deal of time typing charge sheets in the middle of the night. That is not what we pay them to do, and I hope that that practice will end. I have witnessed that practice recently, and it is a great waste of resources intended for other things.
We need to ensure that there is not discrimination in behaviour. It is surprising that the lead article in this week's edition of The Listener describes how people with no convictions have found that, on occasion, the police 191 have gone over the top. I have sent the Home Secretary a complaint from one of my constituents about police overreaction in Tower Hamlets. It is clear that the stop and search powers have, on occasion, been abused.
Today's article in The London Standard suggests that the courts may also discriminate in their sentences on racial grounds. If that is true, I hope that the Home Office will take seriously that evidence, which has been submitted to the Commission for Racial Equality, and ensure that our courts uphold the principle, by which we all stand, of non-discrimination between races.
When we deal with firearms offences and increased penalties, I hope that we shall also consider whether it is now appropriate to ensure that when police are issued with firearms they seek permission for a warrant from a magistrate, as they must in certain cases when they seek permission to search or seize. That may provide some of the controls lacking until now.
We need a society in which the strengths of our resources, our communities and our people are put to work together. That will give hope to our inner cities. The Home Secretary indicated that the Government were beginning to respond to the problems. They need to move quickly if the cycle of despair and disadvantage is not to continue to produce a further cycle of crime and violence. As a society, that is something that we can ill afford.
§ Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)
I shall not take up all the arguments and quotations of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) other than to disagree with his statistic that only 80 per cent. of our police are good and 20 per cent. bad. If that is the opinion of the Liberal party, it will not advance our debate or help to solve the problems.
I welcome most of the Home Office legislation outlined in the Gracious Speech, although I have reservations about Sunday trading. I very much welcome the tough action that we will take against the evil drug traffickers.
I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), who has endured a great deal during the past year in bringing forward proposals to reform the law on animal experiments. I hope that both sides of the House will feel that there should be a degree of unanimity on that matter. We must back my hon. Friend, because during the next nine months we will all suffer a great deal of hostile mail from those whose belief in the need for such experiments is not as admirable as it should be.
I heed the exhortations of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), who said that law and order should not become a two-party political matter. He said that the Labour party believed in law and order and that Conservative Back Benchers should not claim that they formed the only party that believed in law and order.
If we are to heed the right hon. Gentleman's exhortations, Conservative Members want certain conditions to be met. We accept that the majority of Labour party members are as keen on law and order as any Conservative party member. I meet ordinary Labour party members in my constituency, in business affairs and when many of them spend money in the Conservative club. 192 Unfortunately, they are the unsung majority of the old-fashioned Labour party, about which we do not hear a great deal these days. They have no time for some of the modern trendies who now speak for the Labour party.
I regret that many Labour Members who have spoken today have claimed that it is only since 1979 that there has been an increase in crime and an increase in unemployment, and have drawn the conclusion that the crime rate that we suffer today began when the Government took office and that its causes are solely related to unemployment.
If Opposition Members seek to pursue that argument, we will not achieve all-party unanimity on how to tackle the problems of crime. Indeed, Opposition Members will not be believed in the country. They claim that unemployment is one of the major causes of crime, but that is not proved by history. Although there was record unemployment in the 1930s, that did not result in the rising crime rate that we suffer today. If the argument of Opposition Members is true, surely there would have been a greater crime rate in the 1930s. Not simply in the inner cities but in areas such as Surrey and Sussex, where there is low unemployment, we still find the same levels of crime. In other words, Opposition Members should not try to make too strong a correlation between unemployment and crime.
While I accept that the majority of ordinary Labour supporters are appalled by the rising crime rates, I hope that they will not allow within their ranks to speak as Labour party candidates those who are not simply critical of the police, as the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) suggested, but those who undermine the credibility of the police at every stage. It is no secret that I refer to Mr. Bernie Grant. Indeed, after the next election we could find sitting on the Opposition Benches a Labour Member who gloated at the fact that the police "got a bloody good hiding."
Unless such people are rooted out of the party, my hon. Friends and I will be bound to say that the Labour party is not the party of law and order, and the public will see it to be true. For the hon. Member for Bootle to claim that having someone like Bernie Grant in the party is somehow good for democracy is turning reality on its head.
Much has been said today about the causes of crime, and, as I said, many Opposition Members have short memories, believing that most of the causes date back only to 1979. I have a much longer memory. A major starting point for the criminal activity today was the 1960s, when the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) said that a permissive society was a civilised society. At that trendy time the rot set in and we began to hear about the opt-out society.
I went up to university in the early 1970s. We found then that we had so many liberties, without concomitant duties and responsibilities being imposed on us, that we began to feel that authority no longer mattered. In those days, in the 1960s and early 1970s, parents began to take the view that if their children were caned at school the school was to blame, and they were prepared to back the children against the teachers. This House did not help in many ways because we undermined the authority of teachers in schools. That was a small part of it.
Local authorities throughout the country were undermining the authority of the police in every way. When, in one part of the country, children who scrawl graffiti on a wall find that the local authority backs them 193 rather than the teachers, it is no wonder that other youngsters adopt the attitude that if those kids can get away with it, it must be right.
In the 1960s and early 1970s we began to change our attitude about what was right and wrong, and too many of us started to make excuses. The Church began to lose some of its authority. Indeed, it began to fudge what was morally right and wrong.
We recall a deplorable example in this House some time ago when the leader of the SDP tried to speak from the Opposition Dispatch Box. We recall what was done to prevent him from reaching the Box. Whether or not he was right to attempt to speak from the Opposition Dispatch Box, the assault on his person and the activity that went on about him from a small minority of Labour Members received extensive newspaper coverage. If Members of Parliament give the impression that law and order and conventions of what is right and wrong in the Chamber are disregarded, it is no wonder that the green light is given for the breakdown of civilised conventions in the rest of society.
The media must bear some responsibility, although I do not put all the blame in that quarter. I enjoy that marvellous television programme, "Minder," though perhaps it is dangerous to comment on a television programme; I may be misreported as having said that the root of all our evils lies in "Minder". However, in that one instance—in what I acknowledge to be a good programme—we glorify in some ways the con man or the person who puts one over on the police.
Many programmes and films could be seen on our screens in the 1960s and early 1970s when the baddies won in the end. It became fashionable in, say, westerns for the goodies not to win. That put in motion something of the attitude that criminality paid and that wrong was sometimes better than right.
What action we should now take to combat crime is a more difficult matter to determine. I welcome the Home Secretary's assurance that, where there is a declared need, we shall find the resources and more police to meet that need. I hope that, if the chief constable of Cumbria makes a case, we shall be successful in proving it, and I should like to see more policemen on the beat in Cumbria and elsewhere.
I hope that when the powers of the police are increased in the Bill that is to be introduced, we shall have learned some lessons from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I voted for most of that measure because I found it acceptable, but certain aspects of it were faulty. We started from the premise that most of the measure was concerned with the inner cities and London. Britain does not consist only of those areas. Too much of that legislation was designed to placate minority interests in London in relation to the abuse of police powers. That resulted in the police being surrounded with a massive bureaucracy in that measure, and that was unnecessary.
It was ironic to hear the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) talking today about the danger of creating too much bureaucracy. At every stage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, when my hon. Friends and I said, "We can trust the police. We need not foist all these forms on them", Opposition Members insisted on them filling in forms at every stage, even, for example, when stopping and searching people. The police were obliged to fill in the equivalent of an HORT 1 form every time they suspected somebody on the street. 194 Opposition Members insisted that we surround the police with rigmarole and bureaucracy. Their pockets were bulging with books, papers and forms. Let us start from the premise that we can trust the police and need not shroud them in more bureaucracy simply because we are giving them additional powers.
I welcome the Home Secretary's desire to put more resources into crime prevention, a sphere that has been an unsung hero in recent years. I hope that the Home Office will issue guidance, for example, to the building industry on the standards required for locks and windows. One can walk into almost any new home built in Britain and find that the main locks on the front door are of a lesser standard then are the small locks that hon. Members have on their lockers in the Library corridor. Alternatively, if doors have decent locks, they are often made of flimsy pine and plain glass.
Simple guidelines to the building industry would result in homes having sturdier doors, and locks with more than two or three levers. I recently spent a considerable time fitting window latches and locks to new windows. They had not been made with such simple devices. No wonder so many con men can be found in the shadier fringes of the security industry selling unnecessary alarm systems to householders, when all they need are good locks.
I do not like the House to create unnecessary legislation. However, when we had a major problem over health and safety at work and felt that we were far below acceptable standards, we passed the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 containing a system of improvement and prohibition notices. I suggest that the principle of those notices could be adopted in crime prevention. Many police officers become extremely frustrated when they go to domestic or industrial properties and find appalling standards, yet have no power to take action. They can make recommendations, but they can be ignored. The insurance can be a more active force in getting action taken. We could have a system similar to improvement notices which the police could serve on industries, employers and householders whose buildings fall below an acceptable crime prevention standard to such an extent that they invite crime. It might be one way out of our present problem.
We shall no doubt have a great deal of activity in the House during the next nine months as we debate the various proposed measures. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Home Office work load. If we are to address ourselves to the crime problem, I see no alternative but for everyone to acknowledge that its causes lie beyond the inner-city areas, poverty or unemployment. They lie with our fundamental attitude to law and order, the conventions and the civilised society as we have known it during the past few years.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
Some Conservative Members implied that Labour Members do not have a good relationship with the police forces. The relationship that Labour Members of Parliament have with the police in Strathclyde is second to none. I served on a local authority, and we had an excellent relationship with Sir David McNee and Sir Patrick Hamill and no doubt will have with Mr. Sloan.
After I leave my surgery on a Saturday morning, I am met by a community police man who asks me whether there have been any complaints that he can help with. I do 195 not receive anti-police complaints on many occasions. I receive complaints that there are not enough policemen on the beat and in the community. Labour Members of Parliament do not have the attitude claimed by Conservative Members.
I live in my community. If young people do not have a job, they will hang about street corners and the entrances and corridors of multi-storey flats long after midnight. They have nothing to do. The type of crime that they commit is vandalism, which causes a great deal of distress.
I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland is present. Springburn has an unemployment problem and now we have the threatened redundancies at British Rail Engineering Ltd. The right hon. Gentleman has a responsibility to study communities such as mine and do something about unemployment. He cannot get away with saying that he is a member of the party that wishes to ensure that we have law and order in our communities and then do nothing about the only major employer we have left. When the local authority asked, on behalf of the BREL work force, for permission to put a group of consultants into the engineering work shops to discover whether they were viable, they were turned away by BREL in Derby. I hope that the Secretary of State will make representations to BREL in Derby to allow the local authority to do the job that he is not prepared to do
My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) mentioned a point which I believe is worth talking about. We do not pay sufficient attention to the fact that the homes thrown up in the 1960s and 1970s by local authorities with the encouragement of central Government—corridor-type housing and multi-storey flats—need security different from that required by the semi-detached and four-in-a-block houses with gardens on the older local authority estates. People who live in houses with gardens can take some security precautions. That is not so easy in a multi-storey flat. There are 22-storey flats in Balgray Hill and anyone can walk in there at any time. People can go into the lifts and vandalise them. Week after week, my constituents have to walk to the top floor because of lift breakdowns.
The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) spoke about locks. He said that some doors do not have good locks. I should like to take him to some of the multi-storey flats in my constituency. At least one tenant has put in a double security door. That tenant is a drug-pusher. People are being pestered at four o'clock in the morning by drug addicts who go to the wrong door looking for drugs. I have been told by the local housing manager that unless that person is charged by the police there is nothing that the local authority can do.
The Secretary of State introduced tenants' rights legislation. He should come to the multi-storey flats in Springburn and do something to protect the rights of people in that community because they are living in deplorable conditions. The irony is that people often say that the multi-storey flats are terrible places in which to live, but the people who live in those flats came from streets in Springburn which were due to be demolished. They had lived beside one another for many years, and their fathers and mothers before them, and they all moved into those multi-storey flats. They were excellent places to live in, and those people still want to live there, but they do not want to put up with the deplorable conditions that 196 exist at the moment because of the drugs problem. The Government must do something about that. It is not good enough to say that we will send in the police. Those of us who watched "Operation Julie" know that when we are fighting the drug menace it sometimes takes many years to track down those people and arrest them. It is unreasonable for council tenants to have to live in such conditions.
Security has been mentioned. I go to privately owned flats in London where there are porters on the premises 24 hours a day. No one can get by the main door. In my constituency there are 22 and 32-storey flats—the biggest multi-storey flats in Europe—and anyone can walk in.
The Secretary of State will tell us that there is no money, but there is money available for urban aid projects, and some of them are crazy projects.
I have asked questions on the Floor of the House about some organisations which, over three years, have picked up about £300,000 and put on a puppet show in the main street. They have even misplaced some of the funds, and have not paid taxes and national insurance contributions. No one in the community can remember saying that they were wanted. They came on a recommendation from people in community education and social work, who are building an empire in areas such as mine. Yet, in spite of the youth training scheme and urban aid, we are unable to put people on the doors of premises to enable residents to live in peace and quiet. It is nonsensical that money is being wasted when we cannot do the very things that people want us to do.
When we have serious problems such as vandalism and drug addiction, I wish that the experts, both local authority and national, would ask the people what they want. I wish that they would say, "If there is money to spare, what do you want it spent on?" I repeat that in the past two or three years £300,000 has been spent in my community, with nothing to show for it, yet in parts of the area people have been campaigning for 16 years for a community hall. They are asking only for four walls, a door and a few windows. They will run the hall, provided that the local authority, the Government, urban aid or MSC will build it, but they cannot get it. Yet there are advertisements in the newspapers for community workers and for various types of people that we have never heard of and do not need. It is time that the Secretary of State and other Ministers and officials started to ask the people in the community what they want. If people were given what they need for their protection, the crime figures would come down. It is nonsense that young people should have to sit around seven days a week because we are not prepared to build them a small swimming pool or sports facility. That is madness. It causes many problems, and will do so in the future.
I heard the Prime Minister say on the radio that she will give more resources to the police to deal with riots. She also said that she will give more resources to the Customs service. I hope that she does so. Then we shall not have people wanting to leave housing estates because of the drug pushers. But are the National Health Service and other services to be deprived because extra resources are put into other Departments? While I welcome the provision of those extra resources, I do not want them to be at the expense of the Health Service.
Drug addiction is causing serious strains on local health services. There is not one hospital in Scotland that 197 specialises in the care and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Drug addicts are being admitted to general hospitals because of the abuse they are giving their bodies, and doctors and nurses are not trained to care for them. I have not been able to check the report, but I have been told that one drug addict in a general ward in Stobhill hospital in my constituency is costing £1,000 a week for antibiotics needed for the treatment of problems caused by his addiction. It would be deplorable if money were to be taken from the NHS to pay for extra Customs officers. If extra resources are to be provided, it should not be at the expense of the Health Service.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)
I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) will forgive me if I do not follow the thread of his argument or respond to it. because time is now very short.
I should like to remind the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that the police in Britain maintain the Queen's peace by consent. We maintain it by respect for the police and by respect for the rule of law. Once that respect and consent goes, it follows that the maintenance of the Queen's peace breaks down. I listened to the right hon. Member for Gorton with amazement. I was astonished by the bare effrontery of his statement that the Labour party supports the police and that the rising crime wave is due to Thatcher's Britain. The Labour party, Her Majesty's loyal Opposition, is antipolice. Its record in that respect is appalling at both national and local levels. In recent months no opportunity has been lost by leading Labour politicians to undermine the police.
§ Mr. Hickmet
Yes, I shall do so. Labour politicians have taken every opportunity open to them to attack, criticise and therefore undermine the rule of law.
During the miners' strike, we witnessed appalling scenes of violence. There were 10,000 pickets at Orgreave and we all remember the violence that took place. During that period Labour politicians took the opportunity day after day to criticise the police in the House. The police were criticised from the Opposition Front Bench and by Labour Back Benchers. What example is that for leading politicians to set the people?
The Labour party endorsed Scargill's claim that the police were an army of occupation and that we lived in a police state. They supported his contention that the police were beating up miners' wives and tapping miners' telephones. The type of violence that we saw during the miners' dispute is condoned and excused by Labour politicians. What effect does that have on the rule of law, respect for the police and maintenance of the Queen's peace? The Labour party has much to answer for.
I remind the right hon. Member for Gorton that at the Labour party conference delegates described the Metropolitan police as an enemy and were cheered by Labour Members. For almost one year during 1981 the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) mounted a campaign that the police were responsible for the deaths of several men who had been taken into police custody. In a letter dated 9 May 1984 I asked the Leader of the Opposition whether he agreed with Mr. Arthur Scargill 198 that there was only one law in industrial relations and industrial disputes, which was that picket lines were not to be crossed. I have received no reply to my letter to date.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) is an Opposition spokesman on employment. A few days ago he wrote in a journal:
In local authority situations, do you obey the law or not obey the law? We don't have any kind of firm principles in the party of how we might deal with this problem.The Opposition have voted three times against the renewal of the prevention of terrorism legislation. Throughout the country, police committees under Labour control hamstring the police. They attack them for attempting to carry out certain police functions. In the past week we have witnessed the antics of the Labour-controlled Manchester police committee in its relations with the chief constable and his efforts to police that city properly.
I remind Labour Members that the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) has been forced to give up his post as an Opposition Front Bench spokesman on home affairs because of, to use his words,the intimidation, chicanery, lying and cheating by Militant Tendency supporters.It is necessary only to be a member of a local authority which is under Labour control or Militant Tendency control to understand the sort of attack that one can come under for opposing the controlling party's policies.
The violence—[Interruption.] The most unpleasant Member in the House, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, has entered the Chamber to barrack as usual. He is about five minutes late.
At the next general election, the Labour party candidate for the Tottenham seat will be Mr. Bernie Grant. He is a Labour candidate who said about the riots in Tottenham that the youth took on the police andgave them a bloody good hiding.Labour Members, including the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, should know that if they wish to maintain law and order, they, like all other politicians, must set a good example. It will not do if Labour politicians choose every opportunity to attack the police. It is little wonder that, following the scenes of the past 12 months, some of those tactics have been imported into the inner cities.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)
I have listened to the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) making an unpleasant, inaccurate and irrelevant speech. I shall say nothing more about it.
In the past few days, there has been a remarkable manipulation, almost an orchestration, of the newspapers, which have been persuaded on flimsy evidence that we are about to see a war on crime, a tough relentless campaign spearheaded by the Prime Minister herself. That is puzzling because of the extraordinary gap between the rhetoric on the front pages and the substance of the proposals in the Queen's Speech. That has a great deal to do with the Government's cynical judgment about poll ratings and their discretionary tactics to try to divert attention from what has really been happening. This is a damaging and disreputable exercise, which is made the more unpleasant by being complied with by the rather sanctimonious pretence that only on the Government Benches is there any genuine concern about law and order.
199 As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, that assertion is nothing more than pretence. We are committed to effective policing. We want tough but fair sentencing in the courts, and an adequate level of protection for every citizen. The Solicitor-General for Scotland looks astonished, but that is because he must be blinded by his own prejudices and assumptions. I have made a fair statement of the point of view consistently put forward in Scottish debates and, I believe, in United Kingdom debates in the past year or two.
Law and order should never be reduced to what is effectively a campaign gimmick and there should not be the public parade of concern that comes at times, when they are at their worst, from certain Conservative Members. Such a parade of concern is no more than a way of hiding the truth and deceiving the electorate about what is happening.
I accept that there is every reason for giving an emphasis to law and order, because the unpalatable and stark facts are in the Scottish figures. I listened to what the Home Secretary said, and I accept that the numbers game has its dangers and that there are many complexities but, at the end of the day, we have the recorded crime figures, which are spectacular in Scotland.
Between 1978 and 1984, as my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) said, the number of crimes recorded went up from 334,000 to 474,000, and up again in the first quarter of 1985—an overall increase of 41.8 per cent. There were 112,000 recorded instances of housebreaking over the same period—an increase of over 48 per cent.
That should be a cause for concern and we are entitled, and have a duty, to draw attention to those figures if only because we remember the ruthless way in which the same standard was applied by Conservative politicians in the past and the ferocity of the attack, based on such figures, launched again and again on previous Labour Governments.
There has been an enormous growth in crime figures. We have all seen it and we are all concerned about it. However, I object because an attempt is being made to suggest that the Conservatives have a uniquely impressive record on fighting crime.
Let us take another statistic, on which we must correct an impression that has been falsely given, that of police and police manpower. In 1979, the number of policemen in post was 13,214. In September 1985, after six years of dedication to improving policing in this country, the number of policemen in post was 13,273, an increase of 59. In 1978 alone—it is not without significance in the context of this debate and the charges which have been bandied about the House that this was the last year of a Labour Government—the number of policemen in post increased by 800. That figure has to be compared with an increase of 59 after six years of a Conservative Government. If one looks at the establishment, one sees that between 1979 and 1984 the increase in establishment was well under 1 per cent. There is no sign of anything, in practice, which reflects the heated rhetoric on law and order from Conservative politicians in Scotland.
If one compares the number of police officers per 1,000 of population in 1980 and 1984, one finds that in 1984 it was marginally down, from 2.58 to 2.56. That information 200 is contained in a written answer to a parliamentary question on 8 June 1984 which I found when preparing for this debate. There is no justification, therefore, for the sometimes irresponsible claims that are made by Conservative politicians.
The third criterion is the increase in the number of offences. The picture is depressing. There is, for instance, no more traumatic experience for the householder than housebreaking, This is not a middle-class disease. It is prevalent in the area that I represent. In 1979, 20 per cent. of all the housebreaking cases that were reported were cleared up. That percentage has dropped marginally, but significantly, to 18 per cent. Furthermore, in 1973 the percentage of cases cleared up was not 18 or 20 per cent. but 27 per cent. Therefore, I am entitled to say, when asking people to judge the claims made about law and order by politicians, that the growth in crime is depressing and frightening. As for the Government's record concerning police cover on the ground, it is unimaginative and poor. Under this Government there has been a deterioration in the clear-up rate. This must be a legitimate cause for anxiety among the electorate.
When one looks at the solutions that are offered in the Gracious Speech, one feels dispirited and depressed. Almost no solution is offered for Scotland. A trickle of odds and ends has been gathered up by a conscientious, civil servant who did not like a void and felt that he had to produce something under the heading "Scotland". It is a collection of bric-á-brac and debris. It will contribute almost nothing. It is not so much an anti-climax as a nonevent. In no way will it measure up to the kind of statistics to which we have referred.
The few measures which have dominated today's debate are geared almost entirely to England and Wales. May I ask the Secretary of State to say a few words about the Public Order Act 1936 and clarify the position in Scotland. If the refugee now in Wales—the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan)—had read with attention the Committee stage debates on the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 he would know that in part V we legislated for the notification and control of processions. To that extent the Secretary of State is entitled to say that for Scotland no further action needs to be taken. However, he will remember that during the debates on the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 there was a great deal of discussion about the future of section 3 of the Public Order Act 1936 which still applies to Scotland. This leaves Scotland in a slightly uncomfortable position.
In my view, the Civic Government (Scotland) Act was right to put the main onus upon the local authority to make a judgment on the course to be adopted, after advice from the chief constable. The local authority is the initiating body and the ultimate decision lies with it. However, rather uneasily but in parallel with it is section 3 of the Public Order Act 1936 under which the initiating authority is the chief constable. In Committee I argued that section 3 of the 1936 Act should be withdrawn from Scotland and that we should depend on the new machinery of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, which seemed to be adequate. The Solicitor-General for Scotland replied that that could not be done because consultations and discussions were going on about public order legislation relating to Scotland. Perhaps the Secretary of State could say whether he will look more sympathetically at the point.
201 I wish to clarify a point about drugs. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) joined me in harrying—a fair description—the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. MacKay), and the Solicitor-General for Scotland in Committee on this year's Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill. Mysteriously, we were given a confused concept of a fine to be added once the courts had decided what the offence was worth under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. On top of a sentence of six or seven years, there would be a substantial penalty which would almost certainly amount to a further term of imprisonment. There is much confusion among Ministers about the criteria that would be used by the courts. How do we interpret the phrase in the miscellaneous provisions Actprofits likely to have been made from the charge"?The Secretary of State knows that we considered the possibility of forfeiture as a simplification and a way out of the morass. We were told that nothing could be done because forfeiture was being considered by the Scottish Law Commission. That may still be the position. I suspect that legislation on forfeiture in England and Wales will result in a much tidier and more logical solution, compared with the morass in which Ministers found themselves when they tried to explain the criteria for the fine to be applied under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act. We should consider again forfeiture in Scottish terms. Perhaps the Secretary of State will say a few words on that matter.
My final point refers to proposed Scottish legislation that was included in the Gracious Speech—the new legal aid Bill.
§ Mr. Raffan
I thank the hon. Member for giving way. I did not realise that he was moving on from the drugs issue. If he had listened to my speech, the hon. Member would realise that I did not say anything about the public order measures. I asked for a clarification of the Labour party's position on the burden of proof, which lies at the heart of the proposed legislation on drugs.
§ Mr. Dewar
I owe the hon. Member an apology. I transposed him. The hon. Member referred to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act and not the Civic Government (Scotland) Act. I am sure that the hon. Member has fast reading skills from his days with the Daily Express and an ability to simplify complicated issues. If he reads the report of the Committee stage, he will find the answer to his query.
I am prepared to concede that the legal aid Bill is an important piece of legislation. My colleagues and I do not object to an independent body to administer legal aid in Scotland. The Law Society has done a good job, but there is a possibility, even if it is not a reality, of a clash of interests. I believe that no one would object to that reform as long as the new body is genuinely independent. We would not wish it to become a victim of Treasury cheese-paring, because a threat to the right to representation could arise. We will have to consider the small print of the Bill. The main tests will be whether it infringes the right to representation, whether there is a danger of a proper defence being inhibited and whether a defendant will be able to put his case before the court. If there were any doubts on those tests, we should oppose the measure strongly. I give Ministers the benefit of the doubt—perhaps credit is a better word—because I do not believe that we will have a problem agreeing on that issue.
202 However, some of the speeches made by the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), and some of the suggestions in the consultative document have left traces of doubt in our mind. For example, it was suggested that one criterion that might properly be considered in criminal legal aid was whether legal aid had been granted in the past and whether the defendant had previous convictions. I do not say that that was a positive proposal, but it should never even have been suggested.
It was suggested that we should ask the legal aid committee to put itself in the improper position of not only anticipating the verdict, but deciding the likely sentence and then making a value judgement about whether it was likely to be serious enough to justify the expenditure of public funds on a defence. That was a serious suggestion in the consultative document and I hope that it has died a death. The confusion was compounded by the Under-Secretary, who referred in a Scottish Grand Committee to legal aid as a social service. He said:Its benefits have to be considered in relation to its cost. Like others, it is demand led. I think again that there would be general agreement that that does not mean that the demands should be met indiscriminately."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 2 July 1985; c. 124]The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the need to define the interests of justice and to define in legislative terms "reasonableness" and a number of other words such as "moderate". If we are to get into that ball game, we shall want to look very carefully at the Government's formulation. We say simply that we should not impose a cash limit on justice. We must never prejudice a proper defence.
Over the past year or two, there has been a tendency towards gimmickry in the Government"s general attitude. A number of attempts have been made to be seen to be doing something. It is uncharacteristic of the Secretary of State, but there has been a tendency to look for a macho image in law and order. For example, "breach of the peace" was suddenly rechristened "vandalism" and we were all expected to sleep safer in our beds. Young offenders were to receive the short, sharp shock treatment. We told Ministers that that was liable to the law of diminishing returns and they have had to change the system to make sure that people are not put through the machine two or three times, with bad results for the machine.
I say to the Secretary of State, in passing, that we shall be looking closely at the way in which the Chiswick report on the Glenochil centre is implemented and that we are still not reconciled to his claim that there is no need for a wider look at the operation of detention centres.
I have considerable sympathy—which is probably wise of me—for Ministers who have to wrestle with the problem of rising crime. I am the first to say that there are no simple solutions, but at least I hope that most of us would try to avoid simplistic claims that simple solutions have been found and are about to transform the situation.
I know that people such as the Solicitor-General for Scotland who occasionally lapse into moderation and reasonableness are at their most vulnerable at Tory party conferences, but at the Perth conference in 1982 the hon. and learned Gentleman was boasting—that is the right word—that the housebreaker who had committed an 203 offence on bail would be charged not only with housebreaking, but with an offence under the Bail Act. He said that thatcould have dramatic effects, particularly in reducing the most disturbing housebreaking figures.What has happened to those disturbing figures? They have gone up substantially and we have not seen the dramatic impact that was cheerfully promised to eager journalists from The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald.
There will always be arguments about cause and effect in this area, and I accept that it is not easy to see one's way through. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the Home Secretary said about that.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton will not object when I say that he was a little hard on the Home Secretary whom he accused of being a pale carbon copy of the Prime Minister. I believe that there is a sharp distinction between the Prime Minister's position and that adopted by the Home Secretary today. He was sheepish, defensive, ill at ease and almost honourably embarrassed about the task that he was facing and the record that he was having to defend. I see none of those human qualities in the Prime Minister.
No one takes satisfaction from rising crime figures, inner city tensions, alienation or disaffection in our society. No one would pretend that there is a simple correlation between social deprivation, unemployment and the crime rate. That has been said again and again during this debate. The Home Secretary came close to saying this afternoon that, although he would place a different emphasis on the causal effects that he could enumerate, he did not deny that the cause that we were discussing could be taken into account and ought to be considered. I welcome that, because there is a danger in Parliament—Opposition Members are as guilty as others in this respect—of seeing the dawn of history in 1979 and excising from memory everything that happened before, scrapping it as certainly as the Tories have scrapped their earlier "Labour isn't working" speeches on the unemployment issue.
Prior to 1979, there were Tories who were prepared to say that there was a correlation or at least a connection between unemployment and the crime rate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton quoted Lord Whitelaw on that issue. I therefore object to being lectured by the Prime Minister and told that any such suggestion is in bad taste. I also object to the Solicitor-General for Scotland in the Scottish Grand Committee referring to such a proposition as a grotesque slur and the Secretary of State for Scotland describing it asa slander on the unemployed."—[Official Report, Scottish Grand Committee, 24 May 1982; c. 3.]It is not a slander. The Opposition are not saying that unemployment is a form of moral depravity. We are saying that it is a misfortune, partially resulting from Government policy, which increases pressures, creates a sense of hopelessness and alienation, puts people at risk in our cities and therefore has an impact on the crime rate.
Testimony from direct experience has been given by my hon. Friends the Members for Greenock and Port Glasgow, for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) and for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). If one goes into our areas and talks and lives with the people, one can see exactly where that connection exists. In 204 Scotland there are 350,000 people in the dole queues, more than 140,000 of them 25 years of age or under. Thousands of Scots have never had a job since leaving school and are drawing benefit. It is ludicrous to say that that is irrelevant or that it is bad taste and an insult to raise the issue. I concede that it would be wrong to say that that was the only cause of crime, but the absolutism that suggests that it has no relevance takes my breath away. We ought to reject that idea comprehensively during the course of this and every debate on the issue.
The pressures are there and, although I would be the first to accept that we cannot have an exclusive spotlight on that issue, we must have a comprehensive look at how the courts operate. We must ensure that there are adequate powers both for the judiciary and for the police and that we do not erode civil liberties, but we must have the necessary, proper and balanced weapons to proceed with the fight against crime. The Opposition accept that and we ask the Government to accept it also. The Government must also recognise that, if we are to get at the root causes of the problem, the Government must have a change of heart and recognise the damage that their general policies are doing to the people.
I seek a touch of humility from the Government and I perceived a sense of that in the Home Secretary's speech today—a touch of humility and realism which has been sadly lacking all too often in the past and is certainly lacking in the apology for a programme in the Queen's Speech which in no sense measures up to the needs of the nation.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)
We are all grateful to the Opposition for suggesting that it was a good idea to spend one day's debate on the Gracious Speech talking about law and order. We have had a long debate and many Members on both sides have contributed. I shall do my best, first, to comment on the points raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), especially those relating to Scotland. I shall then answer as many as possible of the points raised by other hon. Members.
After all the noise and fury of the past few minutes, the final comments of the hon. Member for Garscadden suggested that we had at last reached some agreement on the vexed question of the responsibility or otherwise of unemployment for creating crime. Having set up a marvellous Guy Fawkes to set alight and then knock down, the hon. Gentleman returned to the very position that Conservatives have taken all along—that unemployment is not the only cause but is clearly one of many causes which make problems such as crime more difficult. The fact that the hon. Gentleman can now say that and get away with it is welcome evidence of the happy fact that he has been reselected. We are all pleased about that.
§ Mr. Dewar
In reply to that piece of light wit, I suggest that the Secretary of State should be worrying about his own reselection rather than about the fate of individual Labour Members. I was protesting about the attitude of Conservative Members, including the Secretary of State, that anyone who suggested a link between crime and unemployment was somehow insulting the population of this country and was totally out of court. The right hon. Gentleman himself said in the Scottish Grand Committee that the suggestion of any such link was a slander on the unemployed. Is he now retreating from that position?
§ Mr. Younger
No. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that it is perfectly fair to say that unemployed people are more likely to commit crimes because they are unemployed, I think that that is a dreadful thing to say and I should not be party to it in any sense. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree with that.
The hon. Member for Garscadden referred to the legal aid measure for Scotland outlined in the Gracious Speech. The detailed proposals will be set out when the Bill is published. As the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, the aim is to bring most aspects of the administration of legal aid under the control of one body. That body will take over the responsibilities of the Law Society of Scotland and its various committees and also the assessment of financial eligibility for civil legal aid currently carried out by the Scottish Office. It will take over from the courts responsibility for criminal legal aid in summary cases.
The principal objective is to achieve greater efficiency and to meet the criticisms of conflict of interest and inconsistency which have been made by many people, including the hon. Member for Garscadden, the Law Commission and other bodies. The new body will be appointed by the Secretary of State, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that it will be independent in reaching its decisions on individual applications. The concentration of these functions in one body should in due course improve the administration of legal aid with better monitoring and increased accountability. The changes are not primarily designed to reduce the cost of administration of the legal aid arrangements, although I hope that that will be the result.
I stress that the Bill will not be concerned with altering the criteria for financial elegibility for civil legal aid, which will continue to be uprated in the usual way on a Great Britain basis. I think that that provides one of the main assurances that the hon. Gentleman sought. The provision of legal aid is not cash limited. It is a demand-determined service. Therefore, in the future, as now, those who qualify for legal aid will continue to receive it as in the past with, one hopes, rather better administration, and perhaps somewhat cheaper, if the proposed change produces the desired results. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman, as it is important that people who think that they may need legal aid should not be afraid that it will be denied them as a result of the changes.
The hon. Member for Garscadden asked me to comment on the effects in Scotland of the Public Order Acts. As he recognised, much of the subject has been covered in extenso in recent Scottish legislation. The abolition of the existing public order offences of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray and their replacement by a codified structure including the introduction of a new offence of disorderly conduct will not apply in Scotland. There are two reasons for this.
First, the Scottish Law Commission is considering the law of lobbying and rioting and it is proposed to await its recommendations as this is something on which we should get the best possible advice before making such a fundamental change. Secondly, the behaviour which the new offence of disorderly conduct is designed to deal with is already satisfactorily covered in Scotland by the common law offence of breach of the peace. I hope this will satisfy the hon. Gentleman.
Many hon. Members have asked about the Shops Act 1950. The experience in Scotland is extremely relevant. The legislation which the Government are to introduce in 206 this Session to remove all statutory restrictions on retail trading hours has been covered in the Gracious Speech. It has long been recognised that the present legislation is an unsatisfactory anomaly, impossible to enforce fairly and consistently and does not reflect the needs and Wishes of the people. The 1950 Act is purely a consolidation of previous legislation, much of which has been criticised. It contains provisions on general closing hours, the conditions of employment of shop workers in England, Wales and Scotland and a general prohibition of Sunday trading in England and Wales.
Most people believe that shop opening hours should not be regulated by law. I appreciate that this is a matter of opinion. Opinion polls, for what they are worth, have consistently shown that about two thirds of the population feel that the law should be changed so that shops may legally open on Sundays. Many people have questioned change, but many social changes have taken place since the law was formulated. People's domestic lives are quite different from those of an earlier age and they now want to be able to organise their shopping differently.
In Scotland, we have had freedom in shop opening hours on Sundays for many years. Although, from time to time, there may be objections about an individual place, the general experience has been quite satisfactory. There has not been a large volume of complaints. I recommend that this legislation be considered sympathetically as our experience in Scotland shows that the change has been welcome and valued.
§ Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)
Hon. Members from England are constantly asked whether the change in the law will radically alter the character of Sunday. Has Sunday, or the Sabbath, as Scottish people enjoy it. been significantly affected by Sunday trading?
§ Mr. Younger
This is a central question and I would not presume, even in answer to my hon. Friend, to give a firm view as to the possible effect in England. The experience in Scotland has not resulted in all shops being open on Sundays—it is rather the exception to find shops open, although I think their number is increasing. However, it has certainly not altered many Scottish people's habit of spending Sunday mornings, at least, going to church.
It is difficult to come to any conclusions because many other factors have been at work during that time to change shopping and churchgoing habits. I am sure, however, that if the law was generally unacceptable, I and my colleagues would have been inundated with complaints and with requests to change that law. We have not been inundated, and it might be of some value to English Members to learn of our experience.
Many hon. Members have mentioned the proposals concerning drugs. I am grateful to those who have welcomed what we have announced in the Gracious Speech. Anxiety has been expressed about the absence of provision for Scotland similar to that proposed for England. We have already so provided in the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1985, which became law only a few weeks ago. It is another case of the law south of the border following Scotland.
We are continuing to strengthen Customs efforts against drug smuggling. In July, we announced that a further 50 specialist investigators would be appointed. That means that the number of key investigative and 207 intelligence officers working in Customs on drugs inquiries has more than doubled in the past five years from 121 in 1979 to 262 by the end of this financial year. In October, we announced that a minimum of 150 additional preventive posts will be provided next year, bringing to 310 the number of such posts created since 1984 specificially to combat drug smuggling. The charge that nothing has been done simply will not stick.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) said that he was worried about the Home Secretary's proposals on Sunday trading—a subject of which Scotland has longer experience. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be reassured to learn that, when it is published, the Bill will include a clause protecting existing retail employees from having to work on Sundays and giving continuing protection to young workers over working hours, meal breaks and overtime. Further details will be discussed in debates on the Bill.
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) mentioned fraud—an important crime which does not get as much attention as it should. A committee chaired by Lord Roskill was appointed last year to consider what changes in law and procedure are necessary to improve fraud trials. The committee's report will be considered carefully. The Government are as anxious as the hon. Gentleman that those who are guilty of serious financial crimes should be prosecuted successfully.
The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) mentioned the treatment of alcohol-related crime and pleaded for the decriminalisation of drunkenness. Some offences must be treated as crime irrespective of whether alcohol is involved, but the Government accept that habitual drunkenness is a medical problem. Such thinking was reflected in section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 which empowers police constables to take a drunk and disorderly person to a designated place instead of making an arrest.
As for England and Wales, we are encouraged by the development of police cautioning schemes under which offenders are arrested, kept in police cells until they have sobered up and then cautioned rather than prosecuted. It is for chief officers of police to decide whether to adopt such cautioning schemes. The police have considerable potential for diverting drunkenness offenders from the courts. The Government remain committed to treating drunkenness in that way.
§ Mr. Younger
I am not sure what the precise number is. It is very few. I shall give the hon. Gentleman the precise figure. The point is that the principle is recognised and legislation on it has been passed in the House.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) referred to the force's reorganisation. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will undoubtedly bring the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. It is worth bearing in mind, as my right hon. Friend said in his speech, that the reorganisation will enable the commissioner to redeploy 200 officers on operational duties. I think that that meets the spirit of much of what the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey said.
208 Trial time limits were mentioned by two hon. Members, and that is something in which hon. Members south of the border have shown some interest. As hon. Members will know, in solemn proceedings in Scotland, the accused has a historical right to have his case brought to trial within 110 days of the start of criminal proceedings, if he is held in custody, or 12 months if he is not. The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 introduced a 40-day limit for those remanded in custody charged with summary offences. Those limits may be extended by the court if the delay in the proceedings is not the fault of the prosecutor, although such extensions are rare. The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 introduced statutory time limits for England and Wales as part of the Home Secretary's strategy for reducing delay in bringing cases to trial.
I shall leave drugs and further measures on drugs for the present, as I have covered the principal questions that were asked.
I was asked about detention centres and prison sentences in them. The hon. Member for Garscadden referred to the Chiswick report. He will be aware that the report by Dr. Chiswick's working group on suicide precautions at Glenochil young offenders' institution and detention centre was published on 24 July and was the subject of an oral statement to Parliament. The Government's initial response to the report was laid with the report in the Library of both Houses. I recognised at the time the importance of the report on a subject that has generated a great deal of understandable public interest and concern.
The majority of the report's 63 recommendations were accepted and many are now in operation at the institution, thanks to the commendable efforts and positive approach of the governor and his staff. All the recommendations cannot be implemented overnight, but I can assure the House that no effort has been spared in following them up.
There have been calls, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Garscadden, for a public inquiry to be set up in the light of deaths at Glenochil. It has been argued that a public inquiry is needed to allay public concern about the deaths.
§ Mr. Dewar
I know that the right hon. Gentleman takes the matter seriously and that is why I want to put the record straight. We were interested not so much in a public inquiry into the deaths—there have been fatal accident inquiries into the specific circumstances—as in a wider-ranging inquiry into the regime and its effectiveness in dealing with young offenders in that age group, particularly as it is the only recourse for the courts.
§ Mr. Younger
I appreciate those points, although I do not agree with them all. It is not the only recourse, and that is a very important point to make. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern, and the fact that he does not necessarily mean a full public inquiry in the sense that I meant earlier. It has been argued by some that a public inquiry is essential to allay public concern and to ensure that full and open consideration is given to the wider issues such as the policy on the sentencing and custody of young offenders.
I believe that further inquiries or investigations at Glenochil would now seem inappropriate given the findings of the Chiswick report and the determinations of recent fatal accident inquiries. They gave a clean bill of 209 health to the Glenochil complex. That demonstrates that there is no evidence that there is anything in the regimes or in the actions of staff at either of the two institutions to which any of the deaths could have been attributed. Any reservations that have been expressed have concerned the detailed working procedures in the institutions, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that they are being actively pursued.
§ Mr. Dewar
I am sure that the Secretary of State would not want inadvertently to give the impression that our call for an inquiry into the regime was an implied criticism—or, even worse, a witch hunt—of the people working there at present, or that they have some responsibility for those sad deaths. That was never implied; in fact it was specifically ruled out by my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), who has a constituency interest, and by myself, from the Front Bench. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is a little eccentric to say that there is no need for such an inquiry in view of Dr. Chiswick's findings, when one of his findings was that there should be such an inquiry?
§ Mr. Younger
That is not precisely what the recommendations said. In one part of the report, it was said that a further inquiry could be made into some aspects. I do not think that Dr. Chiswick would say that he had suggested either a public inquiry or a wide-ranging inquiry. He and the fatal accident inquiries have given us one thing that is satisfactory, although we must not be complacent about it—that the tragic deaths, which we all deplore, were not directly attributable to the institutions, the regime or any of the staff. That is the important thing that we should hang on to.
I hope that I have answered several of the questions asked by hon. Members. The debate was on an important subject, and hon. Members brought their own flavours to it. The show was stolen by the right hon. Member for Cardiff. South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), who has explained to me that he has another engagement, so he cannot be here for the winding-up speeches. He struck exactly the right note when dealing with this complex matter. He valued and liked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's approach to the problem in his excellent opening speech, and I agree. With respect, the right hon. 210 Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) did not match up to his right hon. Friend's high standard. He might think that it was a bit much to ask that he should.
The right hon. Member for Gorton came to the debate rather rattled by the fact that the provisions in the Queen's Speech had been generally well received. He was determined somehow to throw a spanner in the works. He came armed with about three statistics, and cleverly repackaged them four times in different ways to make a string of different figures. That was the right hon. Gentleman's technique—rather the same as a destroyer captain who is told, when he gets into trouble, to make smoke and call for full revs of the engine.
The hon. Member for Garscadden had a different technique. He was rather like a depressed dachshund in a cage, and decided that the best thing to do was bark as loudly and as long as he could in the hope that no one would have a look at his story. The hon. Gentleman made much of the figures. He produced a whole lot of crime figures to demonstrate what we all know, that there has been a great increase in crime. Unfortunately, he ran out of time for his preparation. It happens to all of us. I expect that he was called to the telephone or something. He forgot to tell us the only important statistic for Scotland, that the increase in numbers to bring the police up to full establishment has been prevented by one factor, and only one—that the Labour-controlled Strathclyde regional council has refused and still refuses to do so. The council has chosen to do so in the part of Scotland where the vast majority of crime takes place.
The hon. Gentleman is not only responsible for that, but he is a Member of Parliament in that region, as I am. To produce those statistics without telling us that was misleading and not worthy of the hon. Gentleman. He cannot deny with all the figures he likes to produce that, during the past six years, there has been a large and steady increase in the resources and money that have been devoted to fighting crime.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.