HC Deb 18 December 1986 vol 107 cc1339-40
5. Mr. Boyes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further proposals he has to reduce the incidence of crime.

Mr. Hurd

The latest figure for police strengths in England and Wales is a record of 121,841. Spending on the police in real terms has increased by about 50 per cent. since 1978–79. Further expansion is under way. Crime is best reduced by involving all those who can help in its prevention. At the standing conference on crime prevention last month we gave new impetus to our plans, which include, strengthening crime prevention as an element within the policies of all Government Departments, stimulating further practical local activities, such as the five local projects already in place, encouraging the private sector to join more fully in crime prevention, and developing measures to prevent crime among children and young people.

Mr. Boyes

Is the Home Secretary aware that businesses and householders in my constituency are becoming increasingly insecure because of the ever-growing incidence of theft and robbery? Because of the lack of Government action my constituents are becoming increasingly worried and frightened. If the Home Secretary does not understand that, I invite him to come to my constituency and meet representatives of the many groups who have been to see me over the past few weeks. My constituents think that the Government do not care.

Mr. Hurd

Obviously, there is anxiety about the growing crime figures, as there has been for many years. As people understand the depth and width of our policies and the greatly increased resources that we are providing, whether for crime prevention, victim support, the police or the criminal justice system, they will see that our record compares admirably with anything that has gone before.

Mr. Hind

During the course of his busy day, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to consider the reports about the case of Michael Hicks, an official of SOGAT '82, who was convicted at Southwark Crown court last week of an offence of actual bodily harm at the Wapping printing plant? Will my right hon. Friend also note that Mr. Hicks was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment? Yesterday, however, the national executive of the Labour party voted, unanimously, to call for his release. Will my right hon. Friend give us an undertaking that, during the course of his administration, those who commit offences of violence, whether for political or other reasons, will be treated in exactly the same way?

Mr. Hurd

I was amazed to see the report about the Labour party that my hon. Friend mentions, and I hope that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) will throw some light on it. Is it that the Labour party has evidence that suggests that this conviction of Mr. Hicks was unsafe, or is it that it believes that, as an office bearer in a trade union, he is entitled to assault police officers and get away with it?

Mr. Kaufman

With regard to the incidence of crime, is the Home Secretary aware—

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Crime? The hon. Gentleman does not condemn it.

Mr. Kaufman

Yes, crime which Conservative Members do not care about.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in Britain, in the week between now and Christmas there will be 640 robberies, 2,500 crimes of violence against the person, 2,700 frauds, 12,000 acts of criminal damage, 19,000 burglaries, 42,500 thefts and 80,000 crimes of all kinds. Is it surprising that 83 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Yes, the Government's criminal record is too long. Is it surprising that, in the latest opinion polls, 83 per cent. of the electorate say that the Government have broken their promises on law and order?

Mr. Hurd

Every opinion poll on this matter that I have seen gives the public verdict that our policies on this matter are, by a long stretch, more credible than those of the Labour party. This afternoon, we can understand why the right hon. Gentleman produces his familiar litany and why, as a spokesman of a party that claims to be interested in law and order, he has completely failed to comment on or repudiate the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind). Until he does so, he loses all credibility.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

Will my right hon. Friend not allow the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) to get away from the point about the NEC's condemnation of a judge and jury when they found guilty a man who had violently assaulted a member of the Metropolitan police? Will my right hon. Friend say how it helps in the fight against crime, which ought to concern all parties, when the Leader of the Opposition lends his name to an attack on a court of law because it has found guilty a man who violently attacked a police officer of the Metropolitan police?

Mr. Hurd

It is not a matter of letting the right hon. Gentleman to get away from the point; he has not got on to it yet, though it is absolutely relevant to his pretensions and to his questions on this matter. As my hon. Friend says, the pursuit and prevention of crime must be a matter for the whole community and all political parties. The Labour party cannot be allowed to pick and choose between offences it condemns and those from which it thinks its friends should be exempt.