HC Deb 20 February 1986 vol 92 cc466-8
5. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further initiatives he intends to take to combat the continuing escalation in the crime rate.

8. Mr. Yeo

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on progress in reducing violent crime.

Mr. Hurd

Recorded crime has been steadily increasing for 30 years. Our strategy for fighting crime is practical and realistic. Despite the misguided indignation of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), we shall pursue vigorously the proposals arising from the Prime Minister's crime prevention seminar. A major initiative to deploy the unemployed on crime prevention work in the community programme is to be undertaken. We shall continue to provide the police with the resources and powers to help them in their task, and the courts with adequate powers to deal with offenders.

Mr. Hamilton

As violent crime has increased by more than 60 per cent. since the Government took power in 1979, does the Secretary of State not regret the way in which the Conservative party deceived the electorate at the 1979 and 1983 elections by pretending that these problems have simple solutions? Does he accept with more importance than hitherto that the social causes of crime are real? The deprivation caused by a crumbling housing stock and the massive increase in unemployment are important factors. Does he recognise that unless and until the Government realise those hard facts the figures will continue to escalate?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are no simple answers to crime. We alone among the parties in the House have a practical and realistic strategy for dealing with it. The hon. Gentleman knows that there is endless argument and debate about the root causes of crime. We in the Home Office must deal with the impact of crime by strengthening the police and ensuring that they have the right powers. I agree that at the same time we need to tackle social problems, especially in our inner cities, and we are doing that.

Mr. Yeo

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever theoretical research may purport to show, common sense suggests that people are influenced by what they see on television? If young people in particular are subjected to a constant diet of violent television programmes, there is likely to be an increase in the amount of violent behaviour.

Mr. Hurd

I agree with my hon. Friend. Common sense points us in that direction, and that is why I am anxious that the broadcasting authorities should exert themselves at all times to ensure that the guidelines, which exist and which are known and admirable, are fully respected.

Mr. Dixon

Does the Secretary of State recall that I wrote to him last September about a 15-year-old constituent of mine who went into a shop and bought a lethal crossbow? His hon. Friend the Minister of State answered the letter saying that it was an important matter that they would keep under review. Has anything been done about that incident? Do the Government intend to introduce legislation to prohibit the sale of crossbows or at least to extend licensing, bearing in mind recent incidents?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman knows from the letter that he received from my hon. Friend the difficulties in this matter. He is right about the public concern. We are considering the matter carefully and urgently to see whether anything sensible can be done.

Mr. Conway

Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to increasing the establishment for special constables? Is he aware of their important contributon at no charge to the community, in giving their time to patrolling areas in Shrewsbury to great effect and doing a great deal to support the regular police force?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend has made a good point. The number of special constables is increasing. I am in touch with the chief constables and the commission about the matter.

Mr. Dubs

Will the Home Secretary confirm that last year the number of crimes was 3.5 million—an increase of 1 million since the Government took office—and that last year 2.5 million of those crimes were not cleared up? Is it true that the Government do not have a strategy for catching criminals or for preventing crime?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman, who is a fair debater, does himself no credit with the implication that crime started to rise in 1979. That is an absurd proposition. Crime has been rising at a steady rate for 30 years.

Forward to