HC Deb 26 June 1986 vol 100 cc445-9
1. Mr. Frank Cook

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish in the Official Report a statement of the clear-up rate for all crimes in each police force district in England and Wales in 1978 and in 1985.

3. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish in the Official Report a statement of the number of crimes cleared up per police officer in each police force area in England and Wales in 1985.

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

Yes, Sir, but these figures do not take account of other important aspects of police work, such as crime prevention and public order, so they are of limited value as a measure of police effectiveness.

Mr. Cook

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his commitment to publish these figures. Nevertheless, will he concede that last year's clear-up figures show an appalling total of 2.3 million unsolved crimes? Does he accept that that figure represents an increase of 17 per cent. In unsolved crime over the 1978 figure, which was the last year for which figures were published for the Labour Government? Does he agree that the only solution to this predicament is to recruit policemen who are trained with a genuine caring attitude towards society and an understanding of the needs of the community, rather than the quick resort to the baton round, the not shield and the water cannon?

Mr. Hurd

The number of crimes cleared up by the police has been rising for some time. The number of cleared up crimes in 1985 was 1—2 million—an increase of 200,000 over the 1978 figure. However, as the hon. Member for Stockton, North suggested, the clear-up rate has been deteriorating for some time, but that deterioration started well before 1978. That is why I announced plans last month for a further increase in the police forces of England and Wales.

Mr. Pike

Does the Home Secretary accept that as the clear-up rate in the Metropolitan police force area is only 18 per cent. compared wth 40 per cent. in other areas, that shows that the Government do not have the solution to the problem? How can the Conservatives say that they are the party of law and order when people outside this House believe that the Government are not able to provide sufficient police to solve crimes?

Mr. Hurd

The public's confidence in the Government will be increased when they contemplate the alternatives. It is important to remember that the clear-up rate is much higher for offences of violence — about 73 per cent.—and lower for burglaries. That is why we place so much emphasis—I hope with the belated support of the Opposition—on crime prevention measures such as we discussed in the seminar at 10 Downing street on Monday.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a special team of police officers in Preston recently cleared up 500 crimes in three weeks and put 10 people in court as a result? Will he pay tribute to the great work done by the police force in Preston, not forgetting those who work on a day-to-day basis to contain the problems of crime, in addition to those in the special task force?

Mr. Hurd

The Lancashire police force is extremely effective, and I am sure that it is especially so in Preston. Across the country, police force by police force the police are experimenting with ways of preventing crime and of catching criminals and bringing them to justice.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Conservative party's strategy of promoting personal and family responsibility will ultimately be the best guarantor of law and order? Does he also agree that, notwithstanding the Labour party's newly avowed zeal for law and order, Socialist policies, of their very nature, tend to undermine its basis?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, I certainly agree with that. We look forward to developing that theme in the months and years ahead. My hon. Friend referred in particular to attitudes among Labour Members. The best contribution that they can make to law and order is to do something about those in their own party who ceaselessly undermine the activities of the police.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Home Secretary agree that a good crime clear-up rate depends on the wholehearted commitment of senior officers to detecting crime and that that commitment has been shown by Mr. John Stalker? Does he also agree that, unfortunately, one reason for Mr. Stalker's suspension is that, in showing that commitment, he recommended the prosecution of senior officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice? If he does not agree with those propositions, will he tell the House why Mr. Stalker has been suspended?

Mr. Hurd

I am surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman should get on to that tack, because he well knows, having served on the Standing Committee which considered the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill 1984, the care with which Parliament has established the procedures and responsibilities for investigating any allegations against the police, senior or less senior, and he will agree that such allegations should be seriously examined. He knows that Parliament has not given to me or to my colleagues in the Home Office any power to intervene in those procedures, until the point is reached when I have to decide, on appeal against any decision, that there has been a disciplinary offence. The hon. and learned Gentleman also knows that Parliament has establised the independent Police Complaints Authority to supervise police investigations of the kind to which he referred. I hope that in this case the procedures laid down by Parliament, with which the hon. and learned Gentleman is well acquainted, will be operated thoroughly and quickly so that the matter to which he referred will be cleared up.

Mr. Franks

Is my right hon. Friend aware that at this very moment the chief constable of West Yorkshire is meeting the Police Complaints Authority regarding the deputy chief constable of Manchester? Does he agree that in the interests of natural justice some statement should be made by the Police Complaints Authority later today?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend knows the exact position. In view of the responsibility which I might eventually have as the appellate authority, I had better simply repeat that I hope that the procedures laid down by Parliament will in this case be operated thoroughly and quickly.

Mr. Dubs

How can the Home Secretary say that the figures for the clear-up rate of crime have only a limited value when up and down the country they are of major concern to people who are suffering from the present crime wave? Is not the truth that, with two thirds of all crimes committed not being cleared up, the Government have a 65 per cent. failure rate? When will the Government get back to the rates pertaining in 1978?

Mr. Hurd

The Labour Front Bench continually tries to promote the fallacy and persuade the country that crime was invented in 1979. The figures of recorded crime and the clear-up rates have been deteriorating for a much longer period than that. What distinguishes the two sides of the House is that we have put resources into the problem, that we have a coherent policy for dealing with it, and that we do not include within our ranks a minority of influential people who undermine the efforts of the police and respect for law and order.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

Following the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), does my right hon. Friend agree that, while clearly any allegation against a senior officer must be taken seriously and investigated by the Police Complaints Authority, nevertheless, to an outsider in this matter, there appears to be a degree of character assassination? Is it not essential that, if disciplinary charges are to be brought, they should be formulated rapidly and the necessary procedures take place, or, alternatively, that Mr. Stalker should rapidly be restored to his position?

Mr. Hurd

As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, the investigation was set in hand by a decision of the Greater Manchester police authority and it has been placed under the supervision of the independent Police Complaints Authority. That authority, and now the chief constable of West Yorkshire, to whom it entrusted the investigation, has responsibility under the law for the investigation. For the reasons that my right hon. and learned Friend has given, and for other reasons, I agree that the sooner this matter can he cleared up under the procedures laid down by Parliament, the better for all concerned.

Following are the figures.

Clear-up rates for notifiable offences recorded by the police by police force area in 1978 and 1985 (excluding offences of criminal damage of value £20 or under)
England and Wales
Police Force Area 1978 per cent 1985 per cent
Avon and Somerset 42 36
Bedfordshire 46 37
Cambridgeshire 55 40
Cheshire 59 46
Cleveland 55 37
Cumbria 54 49
Derbyshire 45 55
Devon and Cornwall 46 46
Dorset 47 40
Durham 51 45
Essex 44 44
Gloucestershire 51 35
Greater Manchester 46 32
Hampshire 46 37
Hertfordshire 51 52
Humberside 45 40
Kent 40 39
Lancashire 55 47
Leicestershire 57 45
Lincolnshire 57 42
London, City of 23 17
Merseyside 43 35
Metropolitan Police District 21 18
Norfolk 49 41
Northamptonshire 50 39
Northumbria 51 46
North Yorkshire 52 31
Nottinghamshire 49 35
South Yorkshire 53 48
Staffordshire 55 52
Suffolk 55 46
Surrey 49 34
Sussex 56 36
Thames Valley 43 40
Warwickshire 46 38
West Mercia 48 45
West Midlands 34 30
West Yorkshire 49 42
Wiltshire 44 39
Dyfed-Powys 64 55
Clear-up rales for notifiable offences recorded by the police by police force area in 1978 and 1985 (excluding offences of criminal damage of value £20 or under)
England and Wales
Police Force Area 1978 per cent 1985 per cent
Gwent 59 56
North Wales 58 45
South Wales 46 44
England & Wales 42 35
Notifiable offences cleared up per police officer England and Wales 1985
Police Force Area Number of offences cleared up per officer
Avon and Somerset 9
Bedfordshire 13
Cambridgeshire 11
Cheshire 11
Cleveland 12
Cumbria 11
Derbyshire 13
Devon and Cornwall 11
Dorset 11
Durham 13
Essex 10
Gloucestershire 8
Greater Manchester 12
Hampshire 10
Hertfordshire 12
Humberside 14
Kent 9
Lancashire 10
Leicestershire 12
Lincolnshire 10
London, City of 1
Merseyside 11
Metropolitan Police District 5
Norfolk 11
Northamptonshire 13
Northumbria 21
North Yorkshire 8
Nottinghamshire 14
South Yorkshire 13
Staffordshire 12
Suffolk 10
Surrey 6
Sussex 8
Thames Valley 13
Warwickshire 8
West Mercia 11
West Midlands 10
West Yorkshire 13
Wiltshire 10
Dyfed-Powys 9
Gwent 15
North Wales 11
South Wales 13
England & Wales 10