HC Deb 21 January 2004 vol 416 cc1305-7
1. Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab)

What discussions he has had with the Home Office on crime statistics in the Vale of Glamorgan. [148349]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with colleagues about matters affecting Wales. Recorded crime in the Vale of Glamorgan between April and December 2003 was 3.4 per cent. lower than the same period in 2002.

Mr. Smith

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to Superintendent Josh Jones and the officers of the Vale of Glamorgan division for yet another record-breaking year in tackling crime? Domestic burglary is down 20 per cent.; car crime down almost 20 per cent.; and the force has the highest detection rate in south Wales.

However, is my hon. Friend aware of the growing public concern in my constituency about the road traffic police investigation into the death of Stuart Cunningham-Jones in a tragic school bus accident in December 2002? The shortcomings of the investigation were highlighted in this week's coroner's inquest. In the interest of restoring public confidence, will he call on the Crown Prosecution Service to re-evaluate the case and the evidence to see if there are grounds for proceedings? Will he also do anything he can—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his ration.

Mr. Touhig

I endorse my hon. Friend's comments about the officers serving in his police division. As to the second matter that he raised, I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing once again our condolences to the family of Stuart Cunningham-Jones. I know that Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham-Jones requested a review of the decision not to prosecute anyone in connection with the death of their son, Stuart. Given that prosecution decisions are a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the rights and wrongs of the issue. However, I take my hon. Friend's remarks very seriously and I will ensure that I am kept fully informed of all developments.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con)

In south Wales, including Glamorgan. crime has risen by 6.3 per cent., which is very good in comparison with north Wales, where it is up by 48.5 per cent. Why does the Minister believe that crime is rising so rapidly in some parts of Wales? Could it be because the police are bringing fewer criminals to justice? Last year 190,000 crimes went unsolved—an increase of 50,000 from 1998–99.

Mr. Touhig

We all recognise that fighting crime is a major issue and the Government are putting in the resources and carrying through the legislation to fight crime. The hon. Gentleman's party is committed, of course, to a 20 per cent. cut in public expenditure. What would that do for the resources that we need to fight crime? Indeed, his party continues to oppose the legislation introduced by the Government to make our communities safer, so we need no lessons from him about fighting crime.

Mr. Wiggin

Unfortunately, that is absolute nonsense. The Minister well knows that we are already pledged to increase the number of police officers in Wales by 2,199. He should be thinking about why the number of special constables has fallen by half and why violent crime has also increased in south Wales, including the vale, by 29 per cent. No doubt the Minister will be proud of that in comparison with north Wales, where violent crime is up by 137 per cent. Why is violent crime rising twice as fast in Wales as it is in Greater Manchester or London?

Mr. Touhig

This gets better. When the hon. Gentleman's party was in government, crime doubled. When his leader, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), was Home Secretary, police officer numbers fell by 1,000. We have invested more money in putting more bobbies on the beat in Wales and under the Labour Government police numbers in Wales have risen 12 per cent. since 1997. There are now 7,354 police officers on duty in Wales. What the police service wants is support, investment and reform. The Government are delivering that; Conservative Members will not.

Mr. Wiggin

That is most surprising, given that we have made a pledge to increase police numbers by 31 per cent. Why does the Minister believe that the number of robberies has also rocketed? Surely he would agree that that crime is a particularly unpleasant violation of people's homes, so why is expenditure in the Welsh Office now £10,609,486,000 when nothing is happening to cut the huge rise in robberies? In south Wales, robberies are up by 53.4 per cent., which is better than north Wales, where the figure is 77.2 per cent. Is that not another example of Labour taxing, spending and failing?

Mr. Touhig

We would take the hon. Gentleman's remarks more seriously if he could get his facts right. The Welsh Office no longer exists; it is the Wales Office. More than that, we do not have a £10 billion budget; that is the National Assembly's budget. If the hon. Gentleman would get his facts right, I would pay more attention to his question.