HC Deb 23 January 1992 vol 202 cc473-4
1. Mr. Hardy

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his estimate of the number of crimes committed in 1991.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)

A total of 5.1 million notifiable offences were recorded by the police in the 12 months to the end of September 1991, the latest period for which firm figures are available.

Mr. Hardy

Does not that answer confirm that the increase in crime in the past 12 years has been greater both in proportion and in number than the increase in crime over the previous 12 centuries? Will not the millions of victims of crime feel that the 1979 Conservative law and order policies are humbug? Do not the upholders of law have daily experience of the fact that the greedy society so desired by Conservative Members must inevitably be a bad one?

Mr. Patten

The Home Office research and statistics department is excellent and produces very good figures, but unfortunately we do not have on record the figures for 12 centuries ago. However, I advise the hon. Gentleman that crime has increased throughout the western world during the past half century. The hon. Gentleman should first reflect on the fact that, in his own area of South Yorkshire, the figures to which I have referred show that the incidence of sexual and violent crimes has been going down, not up. He should further refer to and reflect upon the continuous Labour search for excuses for crime rather than for the introduction of any sensible policies to deal with crime. In the end, it is down to a person's individual choice whether to be bad and to commit crime. That cannot be blamed on social factors.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

Would my right hon. Friend care to estimate what percentage of those interesting crime figures are the result of members of the Labour party asking people to break the law?

Mr. Patten

I referred earlier to the excellence of the Home Office research and statistics department when I explained that we do not keep crime figures for the past 12 centuries. My hon. Friend has raised an interesting thought; perhaps I should ask the Department to look into it.

Mr. Hattersley

Why has crime in this country risen by an average of 6 per cent. per year since the war, but by 18 per cent.—three times the usual average—in the past two years?

Mr. Patten

Being assaulted by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on such issues is rather like being attacked by a bread and butter pudding. It looks very substantial on the surface, but when one looks below the surface, one finds nothing of any substance. The right hon. Gentleman's question contains its own answer. If the right hon. Gentleman would only himself address the causes of crime, he would realise that they would certainly not be solved by the suggestion made at the Labour party press conference this morning—that we should empty our prisons to pay for more police. That is what was said by the Labour party which in 1979 left the police forces of this country 8,000 under strength.

Mr. Graham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will not take a point of order. However, as we shall have to live with each other for the next few months in an electioneering atmosphere, I refer hon. Members to "Erskine May" on moderation in language.