HC Deb 05 December 1996 vol 286 cc1195-7
10. Mr. Pope

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate his Department has made of the percentage of crimes which ended in a conviction in (a) 1993 and (b) 1995. [6157]

Mr. Maclean

About 6 per cent., but the percentage for more serious offences was very much higher. Many of those convicted will have been responsible for other crimes.

Mr. Pope

According to the British crime survey, the number of offences went up by 400,000 and the number of convictions went down by 13,000. Does it not take a special kind of incompetence to reduce convictions at a time of soaring crime?

Mr. Maclean

No, but it takes a certain kind of hypocrisy for a party to complain about those things and then vote against all the measures that we have put forward to deal with them.

Sir Patrick Cormack

How many of the crimes involved the use of legally owned handguns?

Mr. Maclean

Offhand, I cannot give my hon. Friend that figure, but I shall happily do so and, if necessary, lay the answer before the House. I speculate that the figure is very small indeed.

Mr. Michael

Can we now have some honesty on crime figures from the Minister? Last month, the Home Secretary said that 6 per cent. of crimes ended up in punishment by a court. That would be bad enough; but, since then, the Government have had to admit to the House that only 2 per cent. of crimes ended in a conviction in 1993, and suddenly it is too expensive to work out the figures for last year. Will the Minister now accept the truth? The Government's British crime survey shows that crime is up, although fewer crimes are reported. The right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary replies show that convictions are down. No longer does one in 50 crimes end in punishment; now—as confirmed to me by the House of Commons Library analysis today—only one in 54 crimes ends in punishment by a court. Will the Minister face up to his responsibility for that harsh reality?

Mr. Maclean

More bluster to hide the voting record. The conviction rate depends on two crucial things. The first is the rules of law under which the courts have to operate; every time we have tried to change the balance more in favour of the victim, such as by removing the right to silence, the Opposition vote against it.

The conviction rate also depends on the police catching criminals. When the Labour party left office, we were 8,500 officers under strength. We have had to recruit those 8,500 officers and 7,000 more. I can tell the House that we now have 2,000 more constables than we did at the time of the general election. We are recruiting more police officers, because that is one of the best ways to improve our conviction rate in future.

Mr. Day

Will my right hon. Friend refuse to listen to the siren voices of Opposition Members and the judiciary who, between them, have let down the people of this country by ensuring that criminals who commit major crimes that threaten people's everyday lives do not spend sufficient time in prison and are not, in the public's eyes, punished? Although rehabilitation is important, the public know that rapists cannot rape, muggers cannot mug and robbers cannot rob when they are in gaol.

Mr. Maclean

My hon. Friend is right. Siren voices can be rather attractive, but the Opposition's voices are not siren but rather shifty. They are shifty, because they are saying one thing now but do another when they go through the Lobbies. The Labour party voted against the Criminal Justice Act 1991, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, reforming the right of silence, imposing longer community sentences and imposing curfew orders. With that criminal record to its name, the Labour party has no credibility today in claiming that it is tough on crime or tough on the causes of crime.