HC Deb 18 February 1988 vol 127 cc1142-3
11. Mr. Thurnam

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about the effects of the operation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act on the fight against crime; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd

I have received a letter from the Conservative Association in my hon. Friend's constituency suggesting that the Act has been a handicap to police efforts to deter crime. I am not persuaded that that has been the case, but I have recently set in hand a review of the codes of practice made under the Act and I shall be consulting a wide range of interested bodies, including the police.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Act is helping to streamline court procedures by eliminating vexatious claims that the police have not been following proper procedures?

Mr. Hurd

It is certainly bringing down substantially the amount of vexatious argument about what happened in a police station. If, as we plan, tape recording can be implemented effectively throughout England and Wales by 1991, it will be an enormous step forward in the direction that my hon. Friend wants.

Mr. Hayes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the suggestions made by the Labour party that the Act was unworkable and unfair have proved completely groundless? Will he be encouraged by the fact that, according to a report published today, juvenile crime has decreased by 23.3 per cent. over the past 10 years? Will he continue to encourage the police in the practice of cautioning?

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend is quite right in his latter point and I agree entirely with him. If we had listened to the proposals and accepted the amendments of the Labour party, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act would have been infinitely more cumbersome and paper-ridden.

Mr. Worthington

Has the Secretary of State learnt anything from the visit of the Minister of State to France? Is he aware that that country has demonstrated that it is possible to turn down the crime rate if one acknowledges that crime rates are altered not by the number of police but by the conditions under which people live? His constant denials of the link between unemployment, living conditions and crime have been shown to be untrue in France.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. Friend came back from France with some useful ideas about French crime prevention proposals. We have plenty of initiatives for crime prevention up our sleeves for the spring, and as they unfold I hope that they will have the hon. Gentleman's support.

Mr. Cash

Will my right hon. Friend note the letter that I sent to him recently from the chief constable of Staffordshire in the wake of the Bingley Hall riots? Will he consider whether the code of practice — which is currently associated with the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and designed to ensure that organised violence can be sought out and eliminated before it takes place—should be incorporated in the Act?

Mr. Hurd

I shall certainly take Staffordshire's suggestion into account when we look at the code of practice, but I have no plans to amend the Act at present. Staffordshire has taken notable initiatives, through the Staffordshire police, to try to keep young people in particular out of crime during the summer holidays.