HC Deb 09 February 1995 vol 254 cc447-9
8. Mr. Booth

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of current trends in the figures for recorded crime; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

For the 12 months to June 1994, the number of crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales decreased by 5.5 per cent. compared with the previous 12 months. This is the largest fall over 12 months for 40 years. This decrease in recorded crime is a welcome step in the right direction, but we must continue to do all we can to help the police make further progress in the fight against crime.

Mr. Booth

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept congratulations from Conservative Members on the fact that the figures represent a marked improvement on past figures? Can we also welcome a reduction in the number of recorded burglary offences? Will my right hon. and learned Friend challenge Labour Members to join Conservative Members in being tough on crime? Will he also challenge them to take a vow to stop the scaremongering about recorded crime statistics which so worries the elderly?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but his congratulations should be directed towards the police whose effective operations have been responsible for the fall in the recorded crime figures. I believe that we are seeing much more effective action by the police, and the credit for the fall in figures is theirs. So far as the Labour party is concerned, I am not prepared to wait as long as it would take to accept its co-operation on these matters.

Mr. Llwyd

When will the Government acknowledge that drug-related crimes are a direct threat to the fabric of society? Is the Secretary of State aware, for example, that, in some south Wales valleys, some vile and unspeakable people are giving heroin free to primary schoolchildren? What will he do about that?

Mr. Howard

Drugs-related crime is undoubtedly a very serious cause for concern. We have made that plain for a considerable period. We are taking effective action to deal with it. The hon. Gentleman will, I hope, be aware of the co-ordinated strategy that was announced towards the end of last year. We must take effective action to deal with what I entirely agree is a dreadful menace, not only in the south Wales valleys but elsewhere in this country.

Mr. Alexander

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the figure that he gave just now will be widely welcomed? But is he further aware that much of the crime is committed in rural areas and that many people who live in rural areas see a policeman only when a crime is committed and he comes to see what happened? Will my right hon. and learned Friend do something to ensure a greater police presence in our villages, our rural areas, the residents of which are deeply worried about the continuing crime figures?

Mr. Howard

We have taken a number of initiatives to help to deal with rural crime. I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in reminding people in villages that there is much that they can do to help themselves, for example, through parish constables, neighbourhood constables and a number of other initiatives, which are having a considerable impact on the crime figures in many communities throughout the country.

Mr. Straw

Is the Secretary of State aware that his self-congratulation and complacency will go down very badly with the British public, and that although any reduction in crime is welcome, the British public know that, over the past 15 years, crime has doubled, that violent crime continues to. rise and that robbery has gone up almost fourfold? Against a background of repeated election promises from the Government that they would act to cut crime, the public know the truth: the Tories can no more be trusted on law and order than on tax.

Mr. Howard

It would help if the hon. Gentleman was prepared just for once to listen to the answer that I have given. Far from self-congratulation, I specifically directed my hon. Friend's congratulations to the police, to whom the credit for the fall in the crime figures rightly belongs. We are prepared to give them that credit; the Labour party would deny them it.

Mr. John Greenway

Will my right hon. and learned Friend concede that the measures to deal with bail bandits and to lock up persistent offenders for longer are also having a big impact on the crime figures, and that if one locks up persistent offenders one keeps them out of people's homes and cars? That is what the Labour party will never accept.

Mr. Howard

There is, indeed, much in what my hon. Friend says and he is entirely right to say that that is a truth that the Labour party has consistently denied. That is why it tried to wreck and undermine the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. That is why it fought and obstructed every measure that we have taken to deal effectively with crime. That is why it will never have the confidence of the British people on those matters.