§ 2.35 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government how many crimes of violence, in which a gun or other offensive weapon was used, were committed during the four months between 1st November, 1964, and 1st March, 1965, and during the corresponding periods for the previous three years.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, I regret that the information is not available in the categories of crime specified in the question. Figures which are available show that in the Metropolitan Police District for the three-month periods beginning 1st November in the years 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964 firearms were used in 27, 28, 10 and 52 cases respectively, of robberies or attempted robberies known to the police. In the whole of England and Wales the number of indictable offences (including crimes other than crimes of violence) known to the police in which firearms were involved in the years 1961 to 1964 inclusive were 552, 588, 578 and 731 respectively.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving that reply and for such full figures. Would he not agree that the figures which he has given indicate that this type of vicious crime is very much on the increase and the penalties which are at the moment in force for this type of crime are totally inadequate to afford a reasonable protection of public safety?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I would agree with the noble Lord that the figures give cause for concern, but I would urge your Lordships not to draw too sharp or certain conclusions from such a small sample. For example, if we had looked at the figure I have given for London for the preceding year, 10 only, there would then have been justification for thinking this crime was on the decline and no measures were necessary. But Her Majesty's Government are aware of the position and have shown awareness and concern by introducing the Firearms Bill, which will have its Third Reading in another place this week and which greatly increases the penalties for these crimes and the powers of the police to deal with this type of criminal.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I think the noble Lord was giving figures for the Metropolitan Police area only. Can he say whether, roughly speaking, that trend is reflected in the rest of the country as well?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, as I tried to indicate in my first Answer, it is impossible to give strictly comparable figures, and in the rest of the country apart from London I can give figures only for indictable offences (which include crimes other than crimes of violence) involving the use of firearms. But certainly an increase from 578 in 1963 to 731 in 1964 does show a general increase there.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, the figures the noble Lord has given were figures of offences known to the police. Could he give corresponding figures of the cases which resulted in prosecution?