HL Deb 08 March 1978 vol 389 cc841-79

5.23 p.m.

Baroness PHILLIPS rose to call attention to the work of crime prevention, with particular reference to the work of crime prevention panels; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when I realised that a law and order debate had been tabled for the week before my own, despite the fact that mine had been on the agenda for a very long time, I felt that any discussion this afternoon might be in the nature of an anticlimax. Sadly, the interview which was given to the Press last weekend by the Assistant Commissioner of New Scotland Yard brought our debate today again sharply into focus. One is forced to the conclusion that crime is always topical.

What is crime? When I looked up the dictionary definition, as always one can do, I selected my own definition for this afternoon's debate. Crime, we learn is, a violation of the law. I would not suggest for one moment that your Lordships need reminding that there is crime, but I will simply repeat the figures given last weekend for the metropolitan police only. In 1977 there were 568,952 indictable crimes in the metropolitan area. For theft and auto-crime (which is now the rather delightful name given to those who steal cars) there was a greater percentage increase. There were 13,378 assaults as against 12,000 the year before, and there were 12,415 violent thefts—again an increase—and 174,000 auto-crimes. The police strength rose a matter of one. I am not certain whether that was a male or a female, but it seemed to go up one in a year.

I would ask your Lordships to consider why we should prevent crime. It is at least reassuring to realise that the majority of people never commit a crime. The very size of our police force suggests that. If everyone in their lifetime committed a crime of even a minor character, we should certainly need a much larger police force. But the well-behaved are constantly and increasingly having to suffer on account of those who break the law.

I will cite a very simple example. For example, if I were a supporter of Leeds United football team, which I am not, as I support Fulham—I shall probably be the only supporter eventually—I would find it distinctly unpleasant and irritating to have to look at my game of football throught an iron cage simply because of the behaviour of a certain number of violent hooligans. When I recently went to a large supermarket I saw, sadly, the turnstiles had returned. In the women's organisations we sought for may years to get the turnstiles removed from the lavatories. Turnstiles are inconvenient, often dangerous, and distinctly, I would say, a retrograde step, but who is to blame the shopkeepers? When one goes on an air trip these days one has to be searched and questioned. If you go into certain new estates no telephone kiosks are provided, and there are not even seats in railways stations any more. These are small examples of where the well-behaved and the law-abiding are constantly being put at risk and inconvenienced because of the actions of those who break the law.

Prevention is always better, and usually cheaper, than cure. The prisons are already bursting at the seams, and they cost £200 million a year. But prevention is equally very difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate. Who knows what one has prevented? How do we prevent crime? I would say, first, that it must be seen never to pay. I am afraid our newspapers are constantly filled with the life stories, or at any rate the highly imaginative accounts of what were the life stories, of various criminals, for which they receive very large sums of money. That is one way in which crime can certainly be seen to pay. I would say it must never be glorified. One sometimes feels that the Great Train Robbers were heroes when one reads accounts of their exploits, forgetting the unfortunate man who suffered paralysis and death as a result of their activities.

I think we must never sympathise with the perpetrator of a crime. For every crime there is a victim. I will again take a simple example. As magistrates we are constantly hearing the sad story of the boy who steals cars. "He only steals cars", they say. What about the boy, who is a working-class boy, who has saved up all his money and bought the car for his convenience? Is he not to be considered? Is he not to be thought about when we are talking about this kind of offence? Serious crime must always carry the certainty of detection. This is the section of police work to which more and more highly-sophisticated apparatus is being applied.

Prevention is everybody's business and society gets precisely the law and order it deserves. Even in our Prayers in your Lordships' House we say, "Prevent us, Oh Lord, in all our deeds", which is the "going before", the preventing of crime. While we seek to discover motivation, we must cease always explaining away the reasons for committing crimes.

Society is the cause of the crime, we are told. The mother particularly comes in for it—she either loved the boy too much or she did not love him enough, or was she frightened by a horse? I think Shakespeare put it succinctly when he said: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves …". The sooner we recognise—as most human beings recognise now—that we have free will, that we all experience temptations and difficulties, and that we should not always yield to them, the better.

Who tries to prevent crime? I suppose that, strictly speaking, one could include in this section anybody who cares about people: anybody who promotes leisure activities or who works for and with young people, anyone with youth facilities, all the societies—the wonderful ones like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children—and the Churches, and of course the Ten Cornmandmants are the best preventors of crime I have heard in a long time; if only we kept them we should have no problem at all.

The vast and increasing armies of privately employed security personnel—those dealing with espionage and all those preventing crime in industry whether it be on the retail front, with which I am concerned, or generally—are all part of prevention, although perhaps we should look carefully at this aspect. There are more people—I think double the number—employed in the private security industry than there are uniformed policemen. While I am not suggesting that we should not have private security, private armies bear some measure of responsibility and should be accountable to the community. There are groups like the one with which hare the privilege of working in the retail set-up to prevent thefts from shops, a vast crime, though a particular one. About £500 million-worth of goods were stolen from the shops in 1976, for which you and I, the honest people, have to pay.

Then we come to the most important section in the prevention of crime, the police force. I notice that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, in his very interesting contribution to last week's debate, quoted the eminent criminologist Sir Leon Radzinowicz. I quote him describing this section of the police force at work: How are the various functions of the police evaluated nowadays? The elite, in the eyes of both police and public, are the detective branches, the wide-ranging regional crime squads. The most advanced modern technology must be engaged to centralise, sift and transmit information to overtake the modern criminal … The crime detection rate of the police gains further weight from the fact that it appears, at least superficially, the easiest way to evaluate in objective terms … the work of our police force. Detection rates become the touchstone in judging police achievements, whether for forces or individuals. The role of the police "— and this is the important point— as public servants and peacekeepers has been the least researched, the least measured and the least regarded of their functions. Yet it accounts for many more calls for help, many more encounters between police and public and much more of the time of the ordinary policeman".

In this connection I would refer specifically to the crime prevention panels. I found it very interesting that, when I added this to my Motion, various noble Lords withdrew from the debate because they said they had not heard of them, but that seethes to me to strengthen the reason for this debate. These panels were set up ten years ago by the Home Office through a recommendation of the Standing Committee on Crime Prevention, on which I now have the honour to serve. There are now 140 panels in England and Wales and there are only six police forces without them.

What is their task? It is to persuade the public to help the police and to try to change people's attitudes and behaviour in relation to the prevention of crime. It sounds simple enough, but it could not be a more difficult or wide-ranging problem. Who are the members of the panels? Naturally they are headed by the policeman who is the crime prevention officer, and they always include—they may include some of your Lordships; I hope they do—those who are concerned with community problems; local councillors, voluntary social service representatives, head teachers, employers of labour, leaders of industry and commerce, representatives of organised labour and so on. Their finances come through the Police Fund and although most forces do not want central Government to control this, there is a feeling that more cash could be allocated through the authority.

What do the panels do? It would take a long time, longer than I want to spend this afternoon, to tell noble Lords all the things they do. To begin with, they have many imaginative projects for the young, with schools and youth groups, because juvenile crime is surely the most serious matter with which we must be concerned. They have campaigns which involve thousands of children, competitions, badges; in one area they organise a holiday camp and they have sponsored walks and sports. They warn smaller children of some of the hazards that may beset them. They establish street agencies to help the elderly, to warn and support them, and they watch over crime patterns at local level. They tackle various individual sections of the community; for example, they make motorists security conscious and back up retailers in their fight against the curse of thieves, who are of all ages, of both sexes and from all classes. These are the people who take "self-selection" rather literally and then plead temptation, marital frustration, physical indisposition, misunderstanding and numerous other reasons which I could elaborate—and that includes the lady who stole a salami sausage and pleaded that she took it for sentimental reasons because it made her think of Italy. There seem to be no end to the reasons advanced for theft.

The panels prevent vandalism and they have run some extraordinarily imaginative projects which have paid off handsomely. The panels mount massive publicity campaigns to try to bring home the fact that crime is an anti-social offence against the whole of the community. The Crime Prevention News is issued quarterly by the Home Office and it contains some very inspiring, examples of community crime prevention; in other words, these are the activities of the goodies as opposed to the rather horrifying activities of the baddies which we always seem to see in our newspapers and on our television screens. Working with crime prevention officers—I now have the privilege of doing this—are the police who make up the community relations sections where, again, they work particularly with young people as their prime concern.

I promised before this debate that I would not harass or blame the Home Office because, in my view, this is a subject which is the responsibility of us all. It is certainly not a matter of Party politics. However, I would plead—I am making only a small plea, my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich will be pleased to hear—for some more public service advertising about crime prevention. At present, the Health Council, which is funded by the Government, is enjoining us all to be healthy—not to eat too much, not to drink too much, to walk, even to jog, and certainly we all know what we should do about smoking. Of course it is a little ironic that these public service advertisements come in between rather colourful advertisements advising that if' you drink more you will have a great life, and if you eat more you will undoubtedly be the best kind of mum. Nevertheless, there is an attempt to make us healthy. We are told by public service advertising to save energy. I am never quite sure why the Government think we do not have to pay for it, and why we would not save it anyway. We are told to take fire precautions; we are told, when it suits the affairs of State, to save water.

But what about crime prevention? The Metropolitan Police are in the middle of a Beat Crime '78 campaign, but I would suggest that a call from the Government to the nation would be very impressive and would carry a great deal of weight. NACRO—the organisation for the resettlement of offenders—speaking about crime prevention said— It is essential to make crime less easy and less attractive but it is also essential to examine why people do certain things and try to think of ways to stop them doing it". No one would dispute that, but I would say that it must be possible for ordinary citizens to go about their business without hindrance, both by day and by night. It must be possible for property to be protected and for little children and the elderly to feel safe and secure. Matthew Arnold said: Nations are not truly great solely because the individuals are numerous, free and active but they are great because these numbers, this freedom and this activity are employed in the service of an ideal higher than that of an ordinary man taken by himself". It must be possible to balance the liberty of the subject against the rights of the community and this is our goal. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.42 p.m.

Viscount LONG

My Lords, first I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness on giving us a very fine rundown of the problems affecting our society and for placing this Motion before us this afternoon. I think she is extremely brave to take on her own Government and she skated extremely well so that there will be no problems with her noble friends going for her in any way at all. Of course after the debate of last week regarding law and order, instigated by my noble friend Lord O'Hagan, I would say that all of us must get down to the "nitty-gritty" of upholding law and order.

As it appears to us all, the criminal has really never had it so good. He is now on the increase, up to 15 per cent. The police are undermanned and fully stretched in all their activities. I believe that some 9,000 officers are short not only in the country; 4,000 are short in London. With all the different fraud cases and drug smuggling cases, surely they must be very stretched in their activities when they have to go to a big demonstration somewhere in London. Whichever way we look at it the subject of crime is moving at an ever-increasing rate and I believe that we are falling behind in our duty in not recognising the seriousness of affairs.

Perhaps for a moment your Lordships could cast your minds back to what I believe to be the grass roots of the problem. I believe that once a child leaves its parents and goes to school, with the problems which parents find with inflation and money, the over-excitement that the Welfare State is to take over, responsibility is allowed to pass from the parents of the child to the schools, to the education authorities. This is where it begins, because when the child comes home very often the parents are not at home but at work. Children no longer have the feeling of that love which they had just before they left the home. They hang around waiting for Mum and Dad to come home from work just for their tea or supper, and in that time mischief is afoot. I believe that crime today can only start at this end, at school. I do not believe it is fair to point a finger at the schoolteachers who have to administer the education and the discipline and when they ask for parents to come and have the character of their boy or girl explained to them the parents invariably are too busy because they are at work. There is also the lack of open space for children. At certain ages they are restless; hence if they have not got something to do, such as a football to kick, the first thing they will do is to pick up a stone and a few glass windows will go by the wayside. From there we lead on to mugging, and so it goes on.

I believe that somewhere within this bracket crime begins. Let us make it clear that today we have a very well-trained and sophisticated criminal. He comes from the Welfare State, trained at school if his parents are not about. He knows his machinery, he knows his whereabouts and he also knows that there are no police about on the beat. Crime has become very easy, and it is becoming easier. So how do we go about it? The problem is urgent. All of us are talking about it; the public talk about it and do not want to know about it. Where do we go from here? Crime prevention cannot be dealt with at the touch of a switch; that is an impossibility. What can happen is that by this debate and by encouraging others in the long term we can prevent a certain amount of crime, though not all of it. If we can do that over a period of years, we can achieve but a fraction.

I believe that education can play the major part in the start of a child's life. I believe that the meeting of parents and teachers and police in the schoolroom for lectures, even once a month, can do good. I believe that the schoolteacher can get at the child if politics leave the schoolteacher alone so that the schoolteacher can discipline that child. If the child has no discipline, he is on the way to crime. We all know that in one way or another. I am not against the cane. We heard last week of certain of our noble friends who had quite a number of doses of it, and they seemed to be quite well and quite disciplined in your Lordships' House. It never hurt them, but it brought them to their seats. I believe that education is your number one, with parents and police being called in, and the lectures that are already given must be kept up in every way.

We pass legislation in this House, in Parliament, and we hand it over very gently and cunningly to the police, whereupon the next moment we snipe at the police. We tell them that we do not like them because they put a parking ticket on our car. We are at them all the time. Therefore, I feel that it is time that Parliament boosted the morale of the police in every way. We should stop this sniping, and we should for once consider the job of the police. You and I, my Lords, pass legislation, and then the police have to carry it out. They have to deal with the criminal, whoever he or she is, and as I have already said, the criminal is now very sophisticated.

As I said in a recent debate, I believe very firmly that the police should be paid properly for the job they do. Their job is to uphold law and order, and to protect every man, woman and child, enabling them to go about their duties throughout this country at any time of day. I believe that the police should be paid properly. I want to ask the Government whether they know how many police officers have been injured this year or within the past year. It has been brought to my attention that certain police officers are injured at night without this being recorded, and it is time that we knew about these men, who are in a very dangerous front line, and who are generally beaten up by the younger generation.

I believe that it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who said that the system of the policemen on the beat was the best way to counteract crime. I firmly believe this; I always have done. Today, young policemen will not go on the beat, or for them to do so is regarded as being unproductive in one way or another. In the old days the policemen on the beat knew where crime was going to start, and sometimes he knew roughly what time it would start—


My Lords, if the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt, I should like to point out that surely the average young policeman in this country likes nothing better than being out on foot. The only difficulty is that there are not enough of them to allow them to be employed in that way. I should not like the impression to be given that policemen will not go out on foot.

Viscount LONG

My Lords, I apologise if I have given the wrong impression. I quite agree that the police are undermanned. I have probably used the wrong term regarding this. But I must say that when a young policeman, or any other young man, is asked to do a job he does not like night work as much as day work. That goes for society as a whole.

I turn now to the role of the public in this matter, and this is where I believe there has been another breakdown. The public do not want to know, unless it affects them. The tragedy is that where there has been an incident the public may read about it or hear about it, but very often they will not come forward to help the police. I believe that the public must be shown, through public relations, through the media, that their attitude to crime must be improved, and that they are needed as, perhaps, witnesses, and indeed to help keep down crime as a whole.

I now wish to refer to the panels mentioned by the noble Baroness. She said, I gather, that they were set up by the Home Office 10 or 11 years ago. Not many of us realise the work going on behind the scenes involving these panels. I note the great assembly of people involved here—trade unions, industry, and so on. I should like to feel that we will all hear a great deal more about these panels, because I do not think that any of us know as much as we ought to know about them.

I come now to the question of the punishment fitting the crime. Here we have the real "nitty gritty." Today the criminal has got it far too easy, and it is time that he was adequately punished for what he has done. Many criminals come out of prison extremely fit only to go back into crime and to do a better job than the last time. We should now support the argument which was put up last week for the "glasshouse". I believe that every prisoner upon entering prison should go into a special "severe" wing for a few months during which he would have no television, no luxuries and would have to use only cold water. After experiencing that, a prisoner would say that he did not want to be in that special wing again. At present I believe the deterrent is not there.

I have probably said enough. I could say that the cane is ideal for the children, and that it must not be abolished. I think that politics must be kept out of the schools, so as to allow the school-teacher to deal with the youngsters, many of whom are playing truant far too often. If we take action in this regard, we could stop crime advancing in the 16 to 17 age group. If parents, church leaders, and school-teachers could get together with the police, I believe that much more could be done, and we could stop the rot which is taking place at the moment'

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for appearing to speak out of turn. Somehow, my name failed to negotiate the usual channels. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Viscount when he says that the feeble members of the public are far too ready to pass by on the other side. We must be careful net to overlap too greatly the excellent debate we had last week, but like the noble Baroness, I could not help being reminded of a point made forcefully in that debate by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, when he said that the one thing which does not lead to crime prevention is swingeing sentences. This point was illustrated most graphically by Hugh Phillips in his very scholarly work entitled The Thames About 1740. in which he points out that when the thieves were being publicly executed at Tyburn, for stealing perhaps no more than a bunch of ribbons from a draper's store, pickpockets would for certain be at work in the crowd which had gathered to watch the executions.

The noble Baroness said that crime prevention is everybody's business. It certainly is, and I suppose that it begins where the swag is, whether it is in a house, a factory, an office, or a shop. Lord Chief Justice Goddard used to speak with great authority upon crime prevention, as would be expected from one who used to spend his weekends reading the papers for a long list of criminal appeals which came up every Monday morning in what was then called the Court of Criminal Appeal. Lord Goddard used to ask why people, when they went to bed or went away, did not lock the inside doors of their homes as well as the outside doors. If that were done, then with a bit of luck the intruder would be confined to the one room he had broken into. Furthermore, he would be compelled to leave by the window, which he does not enjoy; he much prefers to walk out nonchalantly through the front door.

There is one further refinement which is necessary. It is not sufficient merely to lock the door. Resourceful thieves have a little gadget which they can insert into a keyhole from the other side, grab hold of the end of the key, and turn the key in the lock. Therefore, the key should be either removed from the lock, or, at least, left loose in the lock, so that any attempts to grab hold of it with an instrument from the other side will merely push the key out of the keyhole on to the floor.

Our ancestors, who were not fools, used to provide their windows with stout wooden shutters on the inside, which had a twofold effect: they kept the warmth in and they kept the burglar out. I am bound to say that, in these days of grant-aided improvements, I should like to see an arrangement whereby anybody who sought to fit shutters to his windows was given a grant to do so of up to half the cost if he was prepared to meet the other half. I do not think there is much hope of that at the moment, because I understand that you cannot get an improvement grant for any kind of insulation except in very exceptional circumstances; but I have a suspicion that Government Departments tend to work in watertight compartments, and that if only the DOE and the Home Office could come together and consider the dual advantages of shutters inside windows then perhaps, between them, they would manage to persuade themselves that grants for this purpose really are worth while.

When it comes to mugging, what about the state of our street lights? I drive nightly through a new development area on the outskirts of one of our East Midland towns, and I would bet you anything you like that this evening I could take you to a point on one of those roads where there is splendid modern sodium street lighting but where a section of that lighting will not be working and there will be a pocket of total darkness. Of course, this is a heaven-sent state of affairs for the potential mugger. I have no doubt that, if an old lady is mugged there this evening, the lights will be working tomorrow; but one does not want to see tragedy happen in order to achieve that result.

The reason for this happening was all too evident this morning. When I drove through the same area at eleven o'clock this morning, there were two sets of sodium street lights shining brightly in broad daylight. The motorist who does not light up his car does not get very far before the police are down on him like a ton of bricks—and quite rightly so, too. But one wonders whether it is not time that the police were enabled to come down like a ton of bricks upon the local authority official whose job it is to see that the time-switches on the sodium street lighting are effective and working properly, because that contribution to road safety and to crime prevention is just as important as the motorist's contribution, which he is made to perform in no uncertain fashion.

Finally, shoplifting. I think there are two kinds of shoplifters. First, there is the lady who shoplifts a reel of cotton. She is a visitor to Britain; she turns out to be an African princess with £425 in her handbag; and one does not have much sympathy with her. But, secondly, there is the hard-pressed housewife, trying very hard to make both ends meet financially. She, I think, is entitled to say to the supermarket manager, "Lead us not into temptation". In this connection, I should like to mention the practice, which seems to be quite common in supermarkets, of erecting inside the entrance a great barrier of attractive goods on shelves from the floor to the ceiling, thus compelling customers to walk right to the back of the store and right round the store, past all the attractive goods, before being able to get to the checkout and out of the supermarket.

I should think there must be a good many cases of people who, having a shopping list, could, if they were free to move about in the store (as they are, of course, free to do in many supermarkets), just go to the shelves where they know they will find the things they need. In this way they would not be compelled to go past all these attractive goods. There must surely have been cases where shoplifting could have been avoided had that policy been adopted: perhaps somebody more authoritative than I could approach the supermarkets about this particular practice, which seems extremely undesirable. I must apologise for a very miscellaneous ragbag of suggestions, my Lords.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose that if, for 45 years, you have served a family company making locks and safes, and that company has been working for about 160 years, you have to declare an interest in a debate on crime prevention; and I am the first to admit that if everybody was honest I should be a very poor man. I have also been, recently, the chairman of the British Security Industry Association, and it is about that, in particular, that I wanted to speak this evening. It was indeed confusing to have the debate last week on law and order. There was a commentary on it in one of our industry magazines, which said, I thought rather wittily: Have we not a situation where society, having failed to protect the individual, recommends him to look after himself, so that honest men now live behind bars whilst many criminals go free? On this analysis of crime prevention, my thoughts might differ slightly from those of previous speakers but not very much. I think crime prevention can spring from the criminal legislation and its enforcement (and we have talked about that); it can spring from education and the country's traditions (and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has in particular mentioned the very valuable crime prevention panels); and it springs (nobody mentioned this in the debate last week, and it has been mentioned only peripherally tonight) from the various physical and electronic devices that exist in the security industry. There, we are talking about a huge range of products, from the simple lock on your gardener's shed to the sophisticated cash dispensers and cash-carrying trucks in the banks of this country.

I wonder whether your Lordships would accept from me three axioms. The first is that all security costs money, because in a perfect world there is no need for it. The second is that all security is proportionately better if built in at the time the building, the shop or the prison is put up, rather than added to it at a later date—and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, referred to that point. The third is that all security means inconvenience, without any exception at all. You cannot have a secure front-door lock without the inconvenience of having to get out your key, put it in and use it. So why do the public buy any form of security? Usually, of course, it is a matter of bolting after the horse has gone. We reckon that three out of every four safes in this country are 30 years old; and if it is your safe, or possibly your neighbour's, that is successfully attacked, then you think about buying another one.

Secondly, you might be influenced by the insurance company. This is so today much more than it was when I was a young man, when in a very rich house I once found a woman's pearl necklace kept in a bathroom cupboard—but it was insured. That was all that was necessary: it was insured. The insurance companies have become very aware of some of these problems, and I have no doubt have perhaps inconvenienced some noble Lords if they have had a multiplicity of valuables in their homes. But I think the insurance companies must move further downstream and apply to the house of the average man in the street some of the recommendations in the way of security. Thirdly, of course, the public buys security on the recommendations of the police, and particularly the crime prevention panels of which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has been talking.

Supposing, then, you have decided that you are going to buy something, how do you know what to buy? How do you know what is a good safe or a bad safe, a good alarm system or a bad one? The answer to that, curiously enough, is also 10 years old. The British Security Industry Association was set up just then. We have 63 members, covering 90 per cent., by volume, of the turnover of the industry. We have 32,000 employees in the marketing and servicing side. I am not counting anything on the manufacturing side.

In this industry there are four sections; and the one which I think may be of interest to your Lordships more than any other concerns alarms. This industry has grown dramatically. So much so, that in the last three years 20,000 new alarms have been put in in each of those years. In fact, there are about 350 alarm companies but—and this is the but—of those, only 100 are what are called approved installers. Some six years ago there was set up an association called the National Supervisory Council for Intruder Alarms. No influence is applied to this by the security industry. It was set up by the insurance companies with the consent of the Home Office and other interested bodies. That council is the body which approves installations. They have the power to go in at any time, with the owner's consent, to inspect these alarms.

My Lords, you end up with 100 approved installers and 53 of these happen to be in the security industry association that I was telling you about. There is no need for me to tell your Lordships that there are two different kinds of alarm. There is the audible alarm, the one that goes off to the neighbours' annoyance if it is not properly set up; and there is the secret alarm which goes back either to the police force or to the central station. Again, this causes great annoyance if it is not efficient. There are two points there. The first is the question of key-holding. It is absolutely essential in the interests of crime prevention and in the interests of the public that there should be a proper key-holding system for that alarm or that building. In the case of a company, that means that you probably do it using a warden system and, in the case of a private individual, you trust a co-operative neighbour. The second point is that anyone can invent an alarm system; it is the easiest thing in the world. The difficulty is to make it go off when you want it to go off and not to allow it to go off when you do not want it to go off. And that costs money. Unless there is some quid pro quo from the insurance company in relation to that extra expense involved in getting a good alarm system, you will have the problems of the false alarms which have been referred to.

An analysis of this was made by Loughborough College some four or five years ago in the Birmingham area. There were four causes of false alarms and they were equal in number, 25 per cent., roughly speaking, equal. First, the wrong type of system had been put into a place; second, there had been bad servicing. My industry would have to accept responsibility for both. Third, the user had made a mistake which set the alarm off—and that is common. Fourth—and perhaps it is not as prevalent today as it was then—was a Post Office line fault running from the alarm system to the central station.

We have mentioned the question of wardens in connection with alarms. These are two other sections of the same industry. One is the guard and patrol angle, hiring a warden to guard and patrol and prevent crime; the other is the transport of cash. In these days, very few companies would put at risk their own employees to get cash from the bank if the figures involved were of great consequence. The other advantage of wardens is that not only can they prevent crime but they can also detect fire because—and I do not know whether your Lordships know this—the best fire detector is the human nose. If you have a warden on the premises, he can spot that quicker than any form of fire detection. I should add on the transport side—and you read about it so often in the papers—the great work that is done by the cash carrying companies. Is it not extraordinary that only about 20 years ago if £20,000 was lost in a cash-carrying episode, that would have made headlines? Nowadays, a small paragraph covers a quarter of a million pounds taken from a badly-run cash transport organisation.

The fourth section—and I do not want to devote any great time to this today— is that of safes and locks. The difficulty is that you never know what you have bought until the safe or lock has been attacked. It is a curiosity of this industry throughout the world that most of the safe-making companies are over 100 years old. I do not know quite what the explanation is. Maybe it is because they are honest and trusted. What you are doing if you are selling locks and safes—and I should love to have the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on my staff; for he is an excellent lock salesman—is just to push the burglar next door. It is an anti-social device. So long as you get the right lock or right safe in your place, what happens next door, many people say, is not your responsibility.

Running through this whole industry is the question of employees and the probity of employees, the private armies that the noble Baroness referred to. That is a big issue. I make two points there. First, it is very rare for these employees to run foul of the police because, obviously, they are the first to be suspected. Of course, each company in the association that I have been talking about takes great care in choosing the people who work for them. The other point—and it has not been mentioned recently in this country—is whether there should be a form of licensing either for the industry or for the individuals. It so happens that the Home Office is not very keen about it and, certainly, the industry is not keen about it. It would be clumsy and there would be a number of loopholes. It has been done and is now in force in New Zealand but the issues are so much smaller there than here. I should like the Home Office and other bodies to think about a charter for the British Security Industry Association and to make sure that it becomes a professional body, with its acknowledged standards and ethics improved, to look after this aspect of the business.

I just note, on the matter of the police, that our industry's relationship with them is excellent. Like other speakers, I have the greatest admiration for the work they do, not only in their ordinary work of detection and in a preventative role; but — and this is the point which has been touched on but without quite the emphasis I am putting on it—more and more police are now finding that they have got to concentrate their limited resources on public order duties and the investigation of serious crime. This is due to the diminution of numbers which has been already referred to; but you can get an instance of what I mean from a recent article in the Financial Times saying that the police are no longer in a position to give insurance companies particulars of a burglary loss. They have not enough police to get around; and so from them it falls on to other bodies to prevent crime in the context in which I am talking. I think that that comes from a much closer alliance between the industry and the insurance companies.

The director general of this association says that no one wants to pay for crime prevention until they are forced to do so; but a financial advantage or an inducement can work wonders. I feel that the real backing of insurance companies for companies and individuals who buy the right kind of security, whether alarms, safes, locks or cash carrying—and not just an alarm but approved alarm, and not just the physical product but the right one for the job—is that if the insurance company sees that the company or the householder has done that, then they should give to the company or individual an adequate rebate on the premium for the insurance for playing their proper part in crime prevention. If there is anything in the three points I have made: a charter for the association, closer links with the insurance company in really making them insist on good physical and electronic devices; and, thirdly, giving adequate rebates on the premium, then I think three things would happen: we will be raising the standards throughout the whole industry—and, if you are worried about that phrase "private armies" then so be it, we must raise those standards—we also will bring a realism into the insurance world, with happier results for them; and, above all, we would be lightening the load on the police and bringing peace of mind to the public who take these matters so much more to heart.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot give you as many tips on the anti-burglar front as the noble Lord who has just sat down. But I can say that I had reason to buy a small safe over the past year; it happens to have his family firm's name on it and it has not been broken yet! I should, however, like to add one thing to the various protective devices that the noble Lord mentioned, and it is the cheapest of them all. That is putting a floodlight on the front of your house, my Lords, and maybe one on the rear, especially if there are easy approaches for any malefactors.

I am very glad that the noble Baroness raised this question again. Of the different branches of policing, preventive policing is the Cinderella, but I believe that it is coming into its own now—and not before time. For most of us, preventive policing implies public co-operation—that is, co-operation in the task of helping in the "probability of detection". I think that those were the words which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, used in our last debate. And is a very appropriate day for us to be debating this subject because last Friday in Cardiff the Prime Minister referred to this when he opened a police station, and I am glad to quote some of the things he said and to support them. There were some other sour things he said over the week-end about which I am not so enthusiastic, but when he was opening this police station he said: But I want to emphasise that the police cannot do the job of protecting us on their own. They need active help from parents, teachers, community leaders, social workers—every member of the community has a part to play if the tide of crime is to be rolled back. I know that the police rely on this kind of support in their work and I am sure that it will be forthcoming". Those are very good words at this time and I am particularly pleased to have read them to you because I tried to say the same thing in our debate last Wednesday.

If anything is obvious about policing today it is this need for right minded people to help the professionals so far as they are able. Much police work is so skilled and so exacting that it is beyond any but the professionals; but much is not so exacting. It needs some training but that is not beyond most of us; even people of our age who are reasonably fit, and those who are younger, too. It needs common sense and experience of handling people. If such people volunteer to help the police, they must be given a welcome.

I hope that the police will feel that our recent debates here have been of help in enlightening the public about some of their problems because the public know all too little about the difficulties the police are facing today. The police are amusingly and curiously suspicious about all and everything they lump together and call "politicians", and that covers nearly everyone in the public service who does not wear a blue uniform. As I say, their job is not well understood by the majority of our people and the two pages which appeared in the Daily Mail last Monday, must have been an eye opener for most of the readers of that paper. How bare the cupboard is when it comes to finding PCs and WPCs available for patrol duties at night! That story is not peculiar to that area, which I think was Vine Street. It could be repeated almost anywhere in any large town on many nights.

In conversation the other day, a friend living in the Clapham neighbourhood was speaking to me about the number of petty thefts in the neighbourhood, which are unfortunately going up, and not only during the school holidays but even on half holidays, and there are worse crimes such as breaking and entering. He was saying, too, how unhappy and unpleasant it was to notice the growing reluctance of people to come forward and tell the police what they had seen because in many cases they were frightened. The area in which this is happening is spreading across London. My friend said, "Why cannot we be given a lead as to how we can help the police?" He said that there would be many people who would respond if only the appeal were skilfully made. That was the situation reported to me in Clapham. I doubt if it was exaggerated and I am sure that something similar could be found in many other areas and not just in London.

Following up, I should like to say how glad I am that the Home Office appears to be giving such a good lead in this field. I wonder whether they have yet produced a good booklet, not just telling you how to lock a bicycle or secure the boot of a car, but saying what men and women of some capacity can do to help. In the counties, I hope that the police authorities will be given a rôle and given some encouragement by the Home Office because they can be a useful bridge between the police forces and the general public.

France is taking this very seriously at the present time. They have had a high level committee of inquiry set up by the Minister of Justice which has covered this whole field. I will only quote two points from the summary. First, they stress the importance of small police stations and not just concentrating their police in large stations spaced widely apart. They want not only crime prevention panels locally but—and this may be the way that the French mind works—they recommend a central organisation which is prepared to give a lead and impetus to the movement, both at the force, or area, level and at the county level, and smaller. They are particularly anxious too that there representatives of the Bar and the local Press should be associated with these panels.

The alternative may be the continuing growth of private firms specialising in security work. When I say that, I do not mean electronic devices, safes and so on, but men employed by different firms who carry out semi-police work. Some may be very good, but I suspect that they do not all attain the same standard. I would deplore the growth of this movement if it were to continue. I would much prefer to see all of it come under the police, with those people who are taking part in it given something that they feel is really worth doing. Otherwise, they will drop away and we shall have made no progress. But we must make progress, and that means calling for the aid of men and women of goodwill, as was said more than once in our debate last week. Then, having achieved that response, we must give them something to do which they feel is really worth doing.

6.27 p.m.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to take part in a debate in which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, speaks; it is a special pleasure when she leads the debate. There is always some kind of gaiety in her treatment of any subject, however solemn. I noticed among her gaieties her use of the expression: Prevent us, oh Lord, in all our deeds. That expression at prayer was one which my father found a great obstacle to any prayer of petition when he was at school. He said: "It clearly means, Oh Lord, please throw a spanner into our works and prevent us achieving our aim'". Yet again the word "prevent" has not meant exactly what the noble Baroness tried to make us believe it does, any more than it did for my father.

I sympathise also with the noble Baroness that she had her subject down for debate in a clear field with debates on crime a long way behind. Then along comes a major debate labelled "Authority and the Law". Nobody speaks about authority, but everybody speaks about crime. Yet again, there is a slight deception in this debate because it started off as a debate on crime prevention and then the words were added a little later, with particular reference the work of crime prevention panels", too late to stop me going a little wider, and the noble Baroness is agreeable that I should do so.

I should like to focus the major part of what I say on a part of the speech in last week's debate of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. I should also like to ask the Government whether they can answer questions on it, even if not today and if not by producing papers, at any rate in some form. The noble and learned Lord said that after almost a lifelong consideration of the problem of crime he had reached the conclusion that our best bet was to ensure that somebody thinks when he has done a job that he will be caught and punished—because that is the best deterrent of the lot. The noble and learned Lord quoted Sir Leon Radzinowicz as his authority, but he did not get that particular thought from Sir Leon's book, although he quoted the book, because he himself was saying the same thing rather more than a dozen years ago.

The noble and learned Lord gave certain particulars and, in this connection, my first question would be: do the Government agree that this is the best bet in a field where nobody has any certainty of any kind? To move on from that, I should also like to ask whether the Government agree with the figures given for expectation of being caught in col. 494 of the report of the debate that we had in this House on 1st March, 1978. The expectation in former times which was referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, as "satisfactory" was of a more than 50 per cent. chance of being caught. The chances now, according to the examples which he gave us, varied between 8 per cent. and 33 per cent. Do the Government agree that these are the present percentages and that unless those figures are drastically changed we cannot expect crime to diminish?

The noble and learned Lord went on directly to relate the detection of crime to the size of the police force. He made a direct link between the two, and so I would ask: do the Government agree with the figures that he gave in col. 494 where he said, I think, that, over about 14 years: crime has increased 400 per cent.; the police have increased 15 per cent.". Is that true? Does it represent what I would imagine would be the full productivity of a smaller force, using this, that or the other device and not so many policemen? It is a tremendous reduction in the relationship between police numbers and crime, if the figures given are true and valid ones.

The noble and learned Lord welcomed the pledges made by Mr. Whitelaw, and possibly others, to increase the police force. Of course, we are all hesitant about what people promise to do when they are in Opposition, and he made quite fair in pointing out that, in many years of Government, the Party now in Opposition have not done what they say they are going to do next time. Therefore, I wait with the same apprehension as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, hoping that something more important will be found than paying more for the police. I have a fear that no Government will do it.

I think they will try to explain how other methods should work. One of the constantly recurring factors is that crime is somehow connected with poverty. During the 14 years of this rise in crime, I suggest that not only has crime risen by 400 per cent.—if that is a true figure—but that wealth has also risen by 400 per cent. and that crime today is a product of a wealthy society and not of a poor society. If we go on harping on poverty, we shall make very little progress. I have been in some of the poorest communities in the world, as I have said before, and there is practically no crime at all in them. Crime is a product of the wealthy society: that is what we have to cope with. We have to deal with wealth and not with poverty.

Then we are told that unemployment is a factor. I deplore unemployment as much as anybody else, but I look back on the property that I have administered during my little span in Somerset, and I think about the monuments that are to be seen to the greater unemployment and poverty of the recent past. People put up enormous walls because in winter they were unemployed on the farms. For food, they would gather stones from the fields and make these great monuments on Exmoor—the tremendous fences which everybody now admires. They are like the Pyramids in their representation of dire poverty and unemployment. If people did not build those things, they could do nothing.

Surely, now, things are very different. The right to work is recognised and if men or women do not get work they can be given compensation in lieu. Not long ago I was interested to see that The Times had picked out of somebody's portfolio a number of families in dire need. Those families were visited and it was found that things were by no means calamitous: there may have been four or five children, but they were well dressed and all at school. Of course, that is not an ideal situation, but let us look at the past and at the progress which has been made. The right to work has been recognised and compensation is given in lieu if work is not available. There were some dreadful times in the past and I have spoken to people who lived through them—for example, there was a contractor who planted trees for one of my forbears, and when there was a frost lasting ten weeks he did not have anything and he did not get anything from anywhere else: he could not work. That is the type of poverty and unemployment from which we have sprung, and it is not all so dreadfully bad today. Even unemployment is not so bad.

I turn now to another matter which is constantly brought to our notice: that is, the question of housing. I spent some time—and it was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life—helping to run a boys' club in Bermondsey; and at that time people talked of the dreadful slums. Everybody spoke of slum clearance and the housing director talked of new plans to provide more air and more space. More air and more space have arrived, with the assistance of Hitler, the doodle-bugs and other forms of destruction. Thanks to those things, the slums disappeared and beautiful buildings have taken their place. We have wonderful schools and there is a great deal more air and space; but people do not like the high-rise flats. The people who live in them are afraid, and they are afraid of their neighbours: they do not know them. There was a community feeling among those terraced slums. People knew everybody else and, from the point of view of protection, the terrace is a great obstacle to crime. The higgledy-piggledy council house estate is an absolute pleasure-ground for the thief and, as Bacon said about 400 years ago, Opportunity makes the thief". There are some things on which I should have liked to dwell, which were said by others in this debate. I liked what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, said, about leading us not into temptation. It is true that unguarded property is a provocation to theft, and it is not always that one can get co-operation. If I have mentioned this before, I apologise. But there was a certain friar, who had charge of schoolboys, and he asked, I think, Marks and Spencer or Woolworth—I should hate to label anybody in particular—whether they would kindly leave watches, which were just inside the porch, further in and out of the way, because his scholars were stealing them. But they said "No". They did not like that. They held to the argument that what somebody can hold is already half sold. Some little jingle of that kind was their maxim, but it is not right.

On the other hand, there are other forms of argument in this line, and here I know that the noble Baroness agrees with me. When a judge says that a pretty girl who has been raped is largely responsible for being pretty and wearing a pretty dress, that is an absolutely intolerable argument and is totally unacceptable. So that one has to be careful. I never prepare a speech. I just go on talking for a certain time and then I see that it is time to turn off the tap, so I am turning it off.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the House for rising without giving notice of my desire to speak, but there are occasions when a little spontaniety in our debates is justified. It is what one hears that may prompt some remarks which can be a more or less useful contribution to a debate. I regret that I was not in the House when my noble friend Lady Phillips opened the debate, but I have listened to the whole of the debate since. In the circumstances, I must be very brief.

I sometimes wish that we would not lump all crime together, and discuss it as if it were one kind of thing. It is many kinds of things, and I sometimes think that we ought to distinguish between one form of crime and another. I take, first, the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Long, who referred to discipline, education and so on. Like many noble Lords, I have lived long enough to see three generations of young people swept up in war. This is only the second generation of young people in my lifetime not swept up in war. I was in the Army at 17, and I came out at 22. That took care of my dispositions to delinquency.

I was subject, as were many noble Lords of my generation, to the disciplines, hardships and dangers of war. I was subject, as many noble Lords have been, to the discipline of a rigorous non-conformist home, with chapel twice on Sundays, Sunday school twice on Sundays, strict discipline in the home and no newspapers allowed in the house on Sundays. It was a God-fearing household. When you had been through that, you were then sent to the war to be slain, and people wondered what kind of life, what kind of country and what kind of beliefs they were inheriting, if that was how the world treated its young people.

I should also like to refer to what I often describe as the crime of protest. There are many crimes committed in forms of protest. Are hunt saboteurs criminals? Are animal liberation movements criminal? They are deeply moved by what they feel to be a corrupt society, and they will protest against it. What about Grunwick and the disorders, the violence, the attacks on the police and the breaches of the law? But that was organised by responsible trade union leaders and the Trades Union Congress. What are young people to think, when that kind of demonstration can be organised day after day by responsible grown-up people, although if young people did it they would be accused of disorder and crime.

Let me now come to drugs. This afternoon we have read of very severe sentences being imposed on people who have been convicted of manufacturing cannabis. This is not the law of God. This is the law of society. Society has decided that cannabis is a dangerous thing, and that it is a discreditable occupation to manufacture or possess it. The tobacco trade is killing more people than drugs, but that is a socially acceptable trade. It is associated with sparkling streams, seductive women and strong-armed men of the Marlboro country. Smoking is the symbol of manhood, but 55,000 people clutter up our hospitals every year, dying in anguish from lung cancer. Nobody says that that is a crime.

In my boyhood, the brewing industry committed the biggest crime against a poverty-striken community of any element in society in our history. Yet the brewers are respectable people. They are allowed to offer their seductive opportunities to indulge in alcohol, and the media are used to indicate what a pleasurable occupation it is to drink your beer, encouraging more young people to be addicts to one form of drug or another. But if it is cannabis, then you must be sent down for 22 years.

Are these things rational? Have we got them rationalised, or are we just prattling along in the same old middle-class conventional attitudes to crime? What is crime, except misbehaviour; a refusal to comply with ordered society? Was my father a criminal, when he refused to pay the Conservative education rate in the early part of this century, because he was nonconformist and would not subsidise Anglican education? Was he a criminal when, in my boyhood, he went to prison for a fortnight every year, rather than pay? I regarded him as a hero. I have inherited some of my non-conformist tendencies from him. If I ever go to prison, it will be for the crime of protest. I am not in favour of law and order in the conventional sense that you must behave, even though society fails to respond to what you want it to do.

How many young people think that Parliament is irrelevant? It cannot keep pace with the changes that are being imposed on young people, and the violent adjustments that are necessary in a changing society. Many people do not know where they are. They are bewildered and looking around for signs of good behaviour, of good citizenship. But many young people believe that they are living in a corrupt society, and a corrupt society corrupts other people, and so it goes on. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, will not interrupt, because I am in full spate and will sit down in two minutes. I feel so strongly about this, and when I listened to this debate I felt that your Lordships were missing the point of what it is about. Therefore, I would urge your Lordships not to go on with this kind of conventional debate on law and order and crime, but try to sort it out and examine those elements in our society which are giving rise to so much discontent, and to a disposition to protest, to refuse and to reject the society in which people find themselves. My Lords, I have said enough.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, I should have hated to interrupt the noble Lord's magnificent peroration, but I think I can say before the noble Lord sits down—


I have sat down.

Viscount AMORY

—that he seemed to me to be saying that crime is misbehaviour. Surely that is not so. Crime is breaches of the law.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, I think that I should hurriedly intervene. This debate began as an interesting discussion of crime panels and in its dying moments it has engaged the attention of a former Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer who asked some rather deep philosophical questions which go beyond the narrow confines of my noble friend's Motion. I am quite sure that the two noble Lords who have just spoken will agree with me that we are very much indebted to my noble friend for having given us the opportunity to have this debate today. My noble friend's Motion has enabled us to concentrate on what can be done outside the criminal justice system to deal with the problem of crime. Much has certainly been done to strengthen the police and to make sure that the law gives suitable powers to the courts to deal with offenders, but here we are concerned with the problem of preventing the occurrence of offences which is an altogether different question.

Rising crime inevitably is a serious problem. There is no panacea for it and it is a cruel deception to pretend that there is. This brings me to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Long, who, as always, spoke with moderation. However, the noble Viscount raised a number of questions which went outside the narrow terms of my noble friend's Motion. Some of those questions were raised during the debate we had last week on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and I should like to deal with one or two of them now.

The noble Viscount raised the question of the shortage of police. There is a shortage of police although, incidentally, not quite so serious a shortage as when the noble Viscount's friends were in Office in 1974. Both Governments have confronted this major difficulty. There are now about 7,500 more policemen than there were in March 1974, and in the Metropolitan Police district there are about 1,200 more. I say this not in any way to understate the problem. I agree with the noble Viscount that this is a real difficulty. By no means is it a nationwide difficulty. Quite substantial numbers of police forces are pretty well up to their establishments. This is a problem which affects big cities, and one or two county forces also suffer difficulties.

The noble Viscount made one other point with which I very much agree: that it is necessary for all of us to give support to the police. I agree with my noble friend, who mentioned the Grunwick picket lines and the large amount of comment in the newspapers about the need to support the police who are doing a difficult and dangerous job on behalf of the entire community. But there are other occasions when noble Lords can make a fairly direct contribution. May I give an illustration of what I mean by this. Last year we spent a great deal of time on the Criminal Law Act 1977. During the course of the proceedings, a new clause was inserted at the instance of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. We spent a great deal of time on what is now Section 48 of the Act, a clause which gives power to make rules as to the furnishing of information by the prosecutor in criminal proceedings. One might perfectly naturally say, "What has that got to do with the police? I will tell the House exactly what I mean by it. When we had our discussion on this new clause, I pointed out that very substantial police resources would be involved if the House insisted upon writing this clause into the Bill. I resisted it on behalf of the Government because of the public expenditure implications. I am bound to say that I was a very lonely figure when I made these comments because all of the pressure in the House—quite reasonable pressure for reasons which I wholly understand—was in favour of writing into the Bill a provision which was going to have the most profound implications on police force resources.

A few days later I went to a large county police force outside London. They had been reading in the newspapers about this new clause and, quite bluntly, they were astonished to find that in a responsible House of Parliament their difficulties had, apparently, in no way been taken account of by anyone who had participated in that debate. May I emphasise once again that I say this not because I wish to underestimate in any way the value of a provision of this kind. However, I think it is right to emphasise to the House that there is at times—the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, touched on this point in his speech—a degree of incomprehension in the police force about the demands which are made in both Houses of Parliament for additional statutory responsibilities to be laid on the police at a time when, as the noble Viscount rightly said, there is heavy pressure on their resources because of the increased level of crime. When I was told this, I assured the police that I would report their views, and I must tell the House that it is a widespread view in the Police Service that this is so.

May I turn very briefly to another point which the noble Viscount made, and I am bound to say that here I part company very substantially from him. It relates to the new view that the way out of our problem of increased crime in our society is to reintroduce the glasshouse in one form or another. I am particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, has now joined us. I must say quite bluntly to the noble Viscount that this policy was rejected by two successive Conservative Home Secretaries: namely, by Mr. Maudling and the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley. A conscious decision was taken by them when they were at the Home Office that in the 1970s there was no advantage in persisting with a régime of this kind. It simply did not work. That is why they rejected it. May I say very seriously to the noble Viscount and his friends that they should pause long before they believe that this is a way to deal with the problem of some of these young delinquents.

I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has left us. I know that—given the fact that he, like me, has had responsibility for prison administration as a Home Office Minister—he would agree with me that the idea that there is some form of luxury régime in prisons, whereby prisoners spend all their time watching television and having a rather nice time, is very far from the truth. I have referred on a number of occasions in the past to the fact that there can be three men in a small cell in a rotting Victorian prison that is situated in one of our city centres. It is a sad sight and it is a very long way from the description applied by the noble Viscount, Lord Long, in his speech. I must repeat that we have one of the largest prison populations in Western Europe. Indeed, so far as I can recall, there is no country in Western Europe that has a larger prison population than our own. I do not believe that to return to some form of "glasshouse" régime, a régime which has been rejected by the Armed Forces, would be a way out of this problem.

A number of other points have been made in our debate today. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked me whether I took the view that certainty of detection was likely to be a far more substantial deterrent than anything else. I agree with the noble Earl. I, like him, heard my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner say this in the debate which we had last week. The noble Earl asked me about the size of the Metropolitan Police Force. I should like to write to him, if I may. One point which is sometimes left out of account when discussing the situation in London is the very substantial number of civilians who now work for the police service and who were not so employed in the 1930s and earlier. I believe that a question on this subject was put down about a year or so ago by a noble Lord.

I am now in a position to give the figures. They represent a quite striking indication of the situation. In 1947, the number of civilian employees in the police force was 2,977. This number had risen to nearly 10,000 in 1957 and to nearly 20,000 in 1967. The number was over 34,000 in 1977. May I repeat that this does not in any way minimise the serious and significant manpower problem in the Metropolitan Police. It is just to give, I hope, a rather more balanced account than is sometimes given when there is discussion of these problems.

In addition to the speech of the noble Earl, we have had a number of other interesting speeches in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, made a number of suggestions that I should very much like to consider. As he would realise, they go rather outside the confines of my own Departmental responsibility, but I should certainly like to study what he said and will indeed do so. The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, spoke with his great expertise of the security industry in this country and I think his was a very valuable speech indeed.

My Lords, I would now come, if I may, to the introductory speech made by my noble friend Lady Phillips. Certainly I should like to join with her in the tribute she paid to the work of the crime prevention panels. I think they do important and valuable work on behalf of the entire community and it is right that on an occasion such as this we should pay tribute to that work. As my noble friend said, there are about 150 of these panels in England and Wales. They undoubtedly have an important continuing role to play as a means by which local communities can help the police to deal with local crime problems.

The emphasis of their work is on helping people, at home and at work to take sensible precautions to avoid becoming the victims of crime. The ways in which they have gone about this, I believe, demonstrate the imagination which one so often finds among volunteers with enthusiasm and commitment. They include publicity of different kinds, much of it as leaflets to householders, stickers on cars, competitions of one sort and another, with an emphasis on making school children aware of the need for crime prevention.

The targets of their activity have also been varied. To prevent burglary, advice has been given not only about the security of dwellings and the risks of leaving premises unoccupied, but also the precautions which can be taken against bogus callers, which is a substantial problem in many of our cities. The prevention of theft of and from cars has been another target of the crime prevention panels. This is especially important since stolen cars are often, inevitably, used for criminal purposes. There have been a number of schemes to prevent shoplifting, and "early warning systems" to safeguard against repeated cheque frauds, which again is a rapidly expanding area of criminal activity.

Panels have discussed with architects and local authorities the crime prevention aspects of design. Much quite interesting pioneering work in this respect has been carried out by the Westinghouse Corporation in the United States. Some of this I saw when I was in America. I think probably we still have something to learn in the area of constructing buildings in such a way that they are, to some degree at least, proof against some forms of vandalism. At least 90 panels have reviewed the problem of vandalism in their areas to see what preventive measures can be taken. Crime prevention panels have extensive contacts in the communities in which they work, but they also depend considerably and inevitably on the support which they receive from the police. The police can help to identify the problems in which the services of a panel may be used. And they can contribute expertise and resources to help carry out the action which may be necessary.

There are also, obviously, ways in which central Government can and do help. It was the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention, of which my noble friend is a member, which, some 10 years ago, recommended the setting up of crime prevention panels. In the relatively short period of its existence the Standing Committee has made an important contribution to crime prevention. The fitting of anti-theft devices in cars, for example, owes a great deal to the efforts of this committee. Another useful suggestion was that of a security liaison office in particular industries. These enable an industry to co-ordinate its security efforts, and it has been shown that losses can be very substantially reduced in this way. The committee has produced a number of useful reports, one of which, called Protection against Vandalism, has made an important contribution to current thinking. More recently over 100,000 copies of a booklet giving examples of how security can reduce losses in commerce and industry were distributed to senior managers, who were encouraged to review the precautions which they were taking.

The Home Office also has a contribution to make in other ways. Over the last five years about £300,000 a year has been spent on crime prevention publicity. The most recent campaign encouraged people to protect their cars by locking them up; anti-theft devices are manifestly not a great deal of use if they do not. Two films on vandalism are being shown in the Granada television area in a pilot scheme which we are monitoring. The Home Office also gives support to publicity mounted by the crime prevention panels and by the police. An increasing proportion of the Home Office research effort is being allocated to projects designed to give lessons on crime prevention. The effect of car security devices has been reported on, and the effect of a publicity campaign is being evaluated.

I think there is a further way in which the Home Office can help; that is, by co-ordinating and disseminating information. This is done in a variety of ways. The activities of crime prevention panels, and other related developments, are circulated to panel members in a quarterly newsletter. For example, the Department of Education and Science has recently issued a leaflet suggesting possible ways of reducing damage caused by vandalism in schools and colleges. Ministers have held meetings with those who have the task of controlling the ugly phenomenon of football hooliganism. In April last year my right honourable friend the Home Secretary called a conference of a large number of organisations concerned with vandalism, so that views and information could be exchanged.

I think this illustrates the support which the Government give to those in the community who are taking initiatives aimed at reducing crime. There are signs of increasing interest in crime prevention in the community as a whole, which cannot simply look to outside forces to control the level of crime in society. There are widespread voluntary efforts; for example, the work done by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, and I know that there are a substantial number of other schemes where involvement of the community appears to some extent to have reduced the crime problem. Indeed, the Government's inner cities programme has a hearing on this problem.

There is obviously more to crime than is to be judged from statistics. Paradoxically, crime prevention efforts can sometimes lead to increases in recorded crime, by encouraging individuals to take the problem seriously and to report crime to the police. This is why, to some extent at least, one has to be a little cautious about crime statistics in themselves—also, if I may say so, clear-up rates by the police; they are a valuable guide but no more than that. Too much significance should not be attached to them, because inevitably there is a great deal of scepticism among not all, but many police officers about the assumption by many people outside the Police Service that one has to have absolute acceptance of these figures. They are not so regarded by everybody in the Police Service. They give a general indication of the dimensions of the problem but no more than that.

Prevention was, of course, one of the first objectives of the early police forces. There is now considerable debate both within and outside the Police Service about that role. The work of the police in schools, with young people and on the development of good community relations—in addition to the free advisory service offered by police crime prevention officers—is all related to crime prevention in this broader sense. The police are clearly in a unique position, with their experience of local crime problems, and the contact which they can establish with the community, to make a valuable contribution. I know from my visits to police forces and police training institutions that these aspects of policing are increasingly being emphasised and discussed in police training. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, alluded to that matter in his speech.

The Government will continue to give priority to maintaining the strength of the system for dealing with offenders. The police, the courts and other law and order services must be strong enough to meet the demands which we place upon them. We also have to recognise that the preventive effect of these services is, at best, uncertain, and that we all have to do what we can in other ways to reduce the demands upon them. Law enforcement is there when all else has failed. The burden on the system, and perhaps particularly on the police, is a consequence of society's own failures. When we next debate—as we are bound to do—the subject of crime, I hope that we shall remember how much effort is now being devoted to crime prevention and how this makes a real contribution to the welfare of society. If this debate has had that effect, it will have been well worth while.


My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I should like to say that he made tremendous play of the astonishment of the police at not having been consulted about the Amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Wigoder, which was a very acceptable Amendment designed to secure that accused people should be given full information about the case that they would have to meet. Surely, when an Amendment is put down, a copy goes straight to the Home Office which has the opportunity to consult the police about the effect of the Amendment upon them and to state the view of the police, if necessary, when the Amendment is debated. Is not that the way in which the system is supposed to work?


My Lords, if the Home Office were to try to consult the police about every Amendment put down to every Bill when it passes through Parliament I must tell the noble Lord quite bluntly that the system would be a little overloaded. I thought it right to point out to the House—and I would be sorry if the noble Lord did not like this—that it is perhaps desirable, when there are loud cheers from all round the House when a noble Lord rightly, in my view, says that we must all support the police, to indicate that on some occasions they believe that many people in both Houses of Parliament, at a tune when there is increased pressure on their resources, do not pay as much attention to the views of the Police Service as some police officers believe they should. That was the point that I was trying to make which does not, in my view, appear to be unreasonable.

7.14 p.m.


My Lords, I set out to draw attention to the work of crime prevention as opposed to the constant reiteration we have about punishment. I want to prevent people actually becoming criminals and I want potential victims not to become actual victims. I believe that I have achieved the object. I should like to thank my noble friend the Minister for his very splendid contribution in which he underlined the work of crime prevention. I repeat that I hope that the Home Office will spend more money on public advertising, because I believe that a national lead would be very useful. I should like to thank all the noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Lytton who always comes in so splendidly on this subject with his usual very pungent and forceful comments.

I express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, who I understand specially delayed an engagement in order to take part in this debate. I hope that he did not think I was in any way criticising the security industries when I referred to them as "private armies". I have great respect for them especially now that I am working with the noble Lord. I was recently attending a conference at Aston University. I wanted to go into a room to sleep but the door had slipped and it took two men an hour to saw a panel out of the door in order for me to obtain entry. It seems to me that there must be some way to keep out thieves, even if it is simply by fixing modern doors which are obviously rather defective.

Today we have had something unique. We do not stress enough in society that people are actually working on the "positive". For every negative there is a positive. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, who again, as always, has been indefatigable in his support for our marvellous police force. I am extremely grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Long, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. I see a picture of the house of the future, with the floodlights playing on the shutters and the people inside busy checking the double locks and wondering whether anybody is actually going to approach them. How their friends would ever get in is a matter of interest.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, did not actually hear what I said, because I really did not say anything that I felt he would have contradicted. Of course, I know precisely what a criminal is—I have not been a magistrate for the length of time I have without being able to establish that the type of person he refers to is hardly ever referred to as a criminal. It always seems to me that perhaps I oversimplify this matter, but I would say to those who talk about our penal system—and I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is not present—that there is a very easy way to keep out of prison; that is, in fact, not to commit a crime.

It seems that in our society we have a very reasonable code of behaviour, but I should like to stress that it is about time that we spoke up with the ordinary people—"the goodies"—who luckily represent a much greater group of the community than the "badies". I gather that I had better withdraw the Motion or a large man will come tomorrow not to take me away but to deliver Papers! My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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