HC Deb 24 July 1986 vol 102 cc576-7
1. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to seek to reduce the incidence of criminal damage.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The Home Office crime prevention unit has issued guidance to local authority chief executives and chief officers of police on local crime prevention practice, including environmental improvements and an ti-vandalism campaigns. The Department of the Environment is taking a number of initiatives to reduce the incidence of crime on estates; community programme resources are being used for cleaning up graffiti and criminal damage; and the Department of Education and Science has commissioned research on the nature and extent of wilful damage to educational buildings and property and on cost-effective and practical solutions.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Home Secretary confirm that since 1979 and 1983, when enormous promises were made, crime rates have soared and the incidence of criminal damage offences has risen dreadfully so that today, in Conservative Britain, one such offence is committed, on average, every minute? Will he at least ensure that local authorities are given adequate capacity to respond to arid clear up after such offences without delay?

Mr. Hurd

In the hon. Gentleman's area of South Yorkshire there has been a reduction in such incidents over the past six months, so the pattern varies. The hon. Gentleman is too fair a debater to fall into the trap of trying to argue that these evils were invented in 1979. Of course they were not. I agree that we need the multi-agency approach which I outlined in my reply, and which certainly involves the local authorities in putting things right.

Mr. Colvin

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the damage, admittedly not all of it criminal, done by hippie convoys? What action will his Department take following the Prime Minister's initiative in the working group of Ministers to liaise with the Department of the Environment about providing additional powers for both police and planning authorities so that they can take immediate action on trespass, thereby preventing what could result in considerable damage to property?

Mr. Hurd

We have been in close concert, not only with the Department of the Environment, but with hon. Members and their constituents. This morning my hon. Friend the Minister of State met a delegation which included my hon. Friend's constituents. As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said in another place, we are close to being able to reveal the proposal which we intend to add to the Public Order Bill and which will come to the House for consideration.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the incidence of criminal damage is only part of a greater pattern of lawlessness? Does he also agree that protestations from Opposition Members about such matters would carry a great deal more weight if prospective Labour parliamentary candidates and councillors did not use every opportunity to attack the police?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is right. In practice they ran down the police when they were in office, and many of the Labour party's candidates and local government leaders run down the police at every opportunity even now.

Mr. Kaufman

How does the Home Secretary reconcile the statement in the 1983 Conservative election manifesto, that already street crime was being reduced and public confidence improved in some of the worst inner city areas, with the 73 per cent. increase in criminal damage since this Government came to office?

Mr Hurd

There is no doubt about the continued increase in crime, including criminal damage, which has now been going on for 30 years. The distinction between the two main parties is that we have a coherent policy for dealing with all aspects of this problem, whereas some, though not all, members of the Labour party, which is far from having a coherent policy, do their best to undermine what is being achieved.