§ 9. Mr. Mikardo
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when his Department expects to publish the crime figures for 1986.
§ 12. Mr. Lofthouse
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for reports from chief constables on the change in the number of burglaries and thefts in the most recent 12 months for which figures are available compared with the totals in the 12 months ended March 1979; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Hurd
The main crime figures for the first three quarters of 1986 have already been published. Those for the fourth quarter should be published in March These include the number of burglaries and thefts recorded by police forces. Sixty-six per cent. more burglaries and 40 per cent. more thefts were recorded in the 12 months ending in September 1986 than in the 12 months before March 1979.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Does the Minister not find it strange that the effects of the policies of his Government, who claim to 1133 be better at law and order than anyone else, are first, an ever-increasing rise in crime, and secondly, a pathetically poor performance in clear-up rate?
§ Mr. Hurd
Certainly I would not claim that we have solved the crime problem. We can say that we have strengthened the police. There are 10,000 more police officers than there were. We have improved their equipment and their co-operation with the community, as the 18,000 neighbourhood watch schemes show. We have given them necessary powers over terrorism. All this would be undermined and perhaps destroyed if the police forces were subject to what, according to The Times, is the original and authentic wording of Labour party proposals and put under the supervision of local councils.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
The Home Secretary will have heard his hon. Friend the Minister of State, in answer to an earlier question today, talk about the improvement in policemen's pay under this Government. Will the Home Secretary, as the person responsible for law and order and crime in Britain, tell the House why he believes that there has been an increase in the crime rate and a decrease in the detection rate during the lifetime of this Government?
§ Mr. Hurd
Because during the lifetime of this Government, as during the lifetime of the previous Government, the rate of recorded crime in Britain has continued to rise steadily. As regards the crimes which are perhaps of most concern to people—offences of violence against the person—although the figures have continued to rise, they have risen at half the rate at which they rose during the lifetime of the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Wheeler
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Metropolitan police and police forces generally have a very good and improving clear-up rate for serious crime? Does he further agree that the great problem is with the 95 per cent. of property crime, which is now being addressed by crime prevention work? Does he agree that that is at last beginning to prove successful?
§ Mr. Hurd
I entirely agree. I have given the figure for the neighbourhood watch schemes, 18,000, which is a record. I would point out — my hon. Freind already knows this — that, in relation to burglaries, which the second question covered, one quarter of burglaries in Britain do not involve forced entry. Either a widow or a door has been left unsecured. That shows the enormous scope for crime prevention, and we are concentrating on it.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
Does the Home Secretary agree that this Government have made major cuts in real crime prevention work, such as work to improve housing which is down by two thirds, and on work to light our streets better, where rate support grant to local authorities has been cut? Are not those the main reasons why crime has increased in this country?
§ Mr. Hurd
One thing on which I would have thought everyone who studies the Audit Commission report would agree is that simply putting money into traditional local authority schemes is not the right way in which to achieve greater security. The hon. Gentleman is right, not in saying that there should be more local government spending, but in saying that we should target our spending more effectively on street lighting, caretakers on housing estates and on the proper design of housing. That is exactly what we are doing.
§ Mr. Dorrell
Is it not essential, if we are to maintain the efficiency of the police, that chief constables maintain full responsibility for the operational control of men under their command? Is it not impossible to square that necessity with any concept of democratic supervision? Does my right hon. Friend agree with the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that the Labour party must choose between an effective police force and its commitment to democratic supervision?
§ Mr. Hurd
There has obviously been some embarrassed shuffling in the Labour party about the wording of its proposals on this because of the difficulty to which my hon. Friend draws attention. The Times did a useful job of exposing that on its front page yesterday. I recommend the text that was published to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Is the Home Secretary aware how delighted we are that the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Dorrell) totally agrees with the Labour party that there should be no control over police operations by local police authorities and that there should be no supervision of the police by local police authorities? Neither is Labour party policy, and we repudiate both. That being so, will the right hon. Gentleman now explain why crime has risen to record levels under the Conservative Government, when the Prime Minister personally promised that she would reduce it? Is it that the Prime Minister made that promise knowing that she could not keep it, or has she tried to keep it and failed?
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Gentleman is dodging the question. As I understand it, the story in The Times bears it out. The Labour party believes that, while operational matters, as it fails to define them, should continue to be under the control of the police, police priorities should be under the supervision of local authorities.