HC Deb 18 December 1986 vol 107 cc1342-3
9. Mr. Norman Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his Department has ever attempted to estimate the total economic cost of crime; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mellor

No, Sir. We know the cost of the criminal justice system and the value of goods stolen in the course of certain types of crimes, but an estimate of the total costs of crime could not readily be made.

Mr. Atkinson

Does the Minister agree that many authorities, and some in the Home Office, subscribe to the view that crime costs about £16 billion to £17 billion a year? That being the case, does the Minister agree that the majority of preventable crime takes place during the hours of darkness? If so, will he agree to the funding of a limited number of experimental control schemes using artificial lighting for the purpose of demonstrating that lighting engineers have part of the remedy for preventable crime during the hours of darkness?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. We are considering ways of tackling crime by trying to prevent it. He knows that a range of initiatives are going forward in different parts of the country, drawing on money under the urban programme, and on manpower from the MSC, which seek to engage many different groups. I shall certainly take the hon. Gentleman's point seriously.

Mr. Corbett

May I invite the Minister to think again about this issue, because, clearly, if some sort of sensible estimate could be made, it would bring home to all the importance of this matter? Will the Minister think about the cost of fear? As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) mentioned, the fear that keeps people locked in their homes influences jobs and revenue-generating activities. Will the Minister think again about that?

Mr. Mellor

If I may say so again, the points that the hon. Gentleman has made are important and do not need to be used as a prop to argue in favour of getting some sort of inevitable guesstimate. The points made about the fear of crime are particularly significant because, unquestionably, as the British crime survey discovered, the fear of crime is an evil in itself and needs to be tackled. As has been said, many people allow themselves to be locked up in their homes when there is no good reason for that. Part of the reason why we are returning so many police officers to the beat is to try to stimulate confidence in neighbourhoods where that is entirely appropriate.