HC Deb 29 January 1996 vol 270 cc628-9
2. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how often each Cabinet Committee which he chairs meets. [9979]

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

When Government business demands it.

Mr. Griffiths

We can hardly call that an illuminating reply. Let us see if the Deputy Prime Minister can have a stab at this question: as the Minister responsible for the presentation of Government business—he chairs the Committee on the Co-ordination and Presentation of Government Policy—what would the Prime Minister—

Mr. MacShane

Not yet.

Mr. Griffiths

I was a couple of months ahead of myself. What would the Deputy Prime Minister have to say to a group of politicians who promised to cut taxes year on year and then raised them by the largest amount in peacetime history?

The Deputy Prime Minister

I would tell them that we had protected those least able to protect themselves in the aftermath of one of the worst recessions since the war and that, as we had done that and created one of the most successful economies in western Europe, we are now back on a tax-cutting agenda. If they wanted to watch taxes go up, they should just put a Labour Government in power.

Mr. Yeo

When my right hon. Friend next chairs the relevant Cabinet Committee, will he say whether he agrees that a political party that opposed the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Public Order Act 1986, successive Criminal Justice Acts, the Prison Security Act 1992 and even the modest measure that banned joy-riding is soft on crime and the causes of crime, and merely sheds its crocodile tears for the victims of crime to conceal its real sympathy for the criminals?

The Deputy Prime Minister

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary pointed out most eloquently this morning, people who are now in prison for crimes that they committed would not be in prison had the Labour party had its way in resisting our changes.

Mr. Prescott

Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that he is responsible for the presentation of Government policies on crime and that, since 1979, burglary has increased by 160 per cent., theft from vehicles by nearly 200 per cent. and violent crime by 400 per cent? That is the real Tory record. Is that not why he resorted to abuse, innuendo and slurs over the weekend, to hide the real truth about crime? Will he now take this opportunity to apologise to the Opposition for the untruths that he told yesterday, and to the British public for his Government's record on crime?

The Deputy Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is fully aware that spending on law and order has more than doubled in real terms since 1978–79, police manpower has increased by 32,000, or 22 per cent., and recorded crime has shown the largest fall over a two-year period. That is in contrast with what the Labour party voted against: raising the maximum sentences for serious crime, giving the Attorney-General the right of appeal against lenient sentences, strengthening police powers to stop and search criminals, giving the police more powers to deal with disorder on the streets and making parents more responsible for their children's actions. It is another classic example of Labour saying one thing and doing another. It is a classic example of hypocrisy in this critical field.

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