HC Deb 11 February 1993 vol 218 cc1103-5
11. Mr. Nigel Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures are being taken to reduce car crime.

Mr. Jack

The themes of Car Crime Prevention Year continue to play a significant part, in all police force areas, in encouraging action to combat car crime. In addition, we are actively promoting the secured car parks initiative and I have formed an advisory group further to inform policy development in combating car crime.

Mr. Evans

I welcome the Government's initiatives, but is the Minister aware of the growing frustration—he will also have heard it today—about the low deterrence and low punishment that some of these young offenders are receiving? Age is no barrier to the misery that they bring to society, and age should be no barrier to the sort of sentence meted out to deter these people. May we have an assurance from the Minister that he is looking at this problem and that those young offenders will be left in no doubt that society has had enough?

Mr. Jack

First, I commiserate with my hon. Friend. I know that he has been a victim of car crime and speaks with great feeling on the matter [Interruption.] If that is the Opposition's attitude to the victims of crime, let it be marked in this place. My hon. Friend will have acknowledged the line that I have taken this afternoon on the subject of persistent juvenile offenders, many of whom are involved in car crime. I also draw his attention to the terms of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which put special responsibility on parents of young people who may be involved in crime. It bears down heavily on that as well and I hope that it will contribute to providing a solution to the central issue of my hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Mandelson

Are the Minister and the Home Secretary aware of the shameful incident which took place in my constituency yesterday, and which was shown to the nation on ITN's "News at Ten" last night, in which an 11-year-old boy stole, rode, and crashed a car and then swaggered with his mates in front of the television cameras because all that the police could do was to release him, reported but uncharged? That incident is not typical of Hartlepool, but it is illustrative of what is happening in all constituencies right across the nation. Will the Minister tell the House what he intends to do to crack down on persistent young offenders and explain to my constituents why the Government have failed to provide the secure accommodation in Cleveland that is needed to detain these young offenders?

Mr. Jack

The Home Office and the Department of Health, who are in the lead in providing the necessary resourcing for secure accommodation, are working hard to secure our objectives. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman said that he supported the action that we shall be taking on persistent juvenile offenders. We have at least put that to the top of the agenda and are working hard on that policy. I am grateful for his support.

Mr. Ottaway

Is my hon. Friend aware of the car crime wave which swept through Croydon and south London last year? Does he agree that one of the best ways of combating this is to encourage the admittedly growing use of car security devices by encouraging insurers to charge lower premiums if such devices are used?

Mr. Jack

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comment. I have already seen the Association of British Insurers on that point. It has recently introduced what it calls the Thatcham report, which is a way of assessing the effectiveness of car security devices. At the launch of that in London recently, I again called for a tangible demonstration of premium reduction in respect of properly installed car security devices.

Mr. Maclennan

Bearing in mind that it is only two years since the Government sought to introduce new principles of sentencing which were supposed to be definitive, why have the Government felt it necessary to embark on this review? What evidence is there that they got it so wrong two years ago?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Member might look at some of the evidence on juvenile crime that has gone to the Home Affairs Select Committee. He would then see that the overall incidence of juvenile crime has fallen, but this small group, which the whole House has identified, of persistent juvenile offenders has fallen through the net—juvenile offenders who have not responded to any of the regimes in place. It is quite clear that the public and the House want us to take action.

Mr. Bellingham

Is the Minister aware that the borough council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, in conjunction with the Norfolk constabularly, have brought out a closed circuit television scheme for all their public places and car parks and that since its introduction car crime has gone right down? Is he aware that this is the first scheme of its kind in the country, and will he encourage other authorities to bring in similar schemes?

Mr. Jack

I am grateful to my hon. Friend; where Norfolk goes today, others will follow—as, indeed, they have in Bradford. I can cite an example there where the safer cities programme has helped to fund an inner-city CCTV scheme which has reduced car crime by 60 per cent. Interesting Home Office research on this subject will be published very shortly.