HL Deb 30 March 1983 vol 440 cc1558-9

2.58 p.m.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the cost of repairing the damage done by vandals on school premises during the last period for which figures are available.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, this is not collected centrally.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that answer, which is unfortunately not very informative. May I ask him whether Her Majesty's Government would consider an investment in encouraging the media to pay a tribute to the many orderly schools that are very successful throughout this country, and not to create a false impression by publishing a few lurid events?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I think that the vandalism is really the responsibility of the individual local education authorities. I should have thought that at the present time they would be rather loath to part with any of their money in order to sponsor anything in the local media. But I thoroughly agree with my noble friend that any good publicity about things that are going right is very worth while.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, in view of his reference to the local education authorities, will the noble Earl the Minister agree with me that a number of the acts of vandalism to school buildings and other property are not perpetrated by pupils or former pupils of the schools in question? Will he accept that there is a direct relationship between such acts of vandalism and unemployment among young people? Finally, can he give the House some assurance that such schemes as community policing, and other community-based projects for providing socially acceptable activities for young people, are having a beneficial effect on this very serious problem?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has hit one very good point on the head, in that the figures referred to in the Question are not collected nationally because it is very difficult to establish, first, what is, and what is not, vandalism, and, secondly, who is responsible. I can draw your Lordships' attention to a very useful document entitled, Vandalism in Schools and Colleges, which is Broadsheet No. 12, issued by the Department of Education and Science, and the Welsh Office, and which is available in your Lordships' House. It contains many very interesting points about involving the local community. I should like to quote just one of the points: Would local meetings with parents and other representatives from the community assist in devising and providing activities and supervision for young people out of school hours".

Lord Molloy

My Lords, would the noble Earl the Minister not accept that the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, is indeed vital, in so far as all parts of the media seem to concentrate on the deleterious effects of school activities? The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also raised a very important point—and here I speak with considerable experience, having started such a scheme in the London Borough of Ealing, involving young policemen becoming associated with as many schools as possible in the borough. This had a beneficial effect on the students, and it acted as a deterrent to those who were trying to damage schools.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I think it is rather sad that I have to wait until the last day before the Recess before I can say that I agree wholeheartedly with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, says in one of his supplementary questions.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, may I ask my noble kinsman the Minister whether guard dogs are ever used to prevent vandalism? Is he aware that in the last few years many millions of pounds have been wasted by acts of arson on schools in the Doncaster area?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am afraid that I have not the least idea of the answer to the supplementary question of my noble kinsman; nor can I give any undertaking to write to her, because, as I said in my original reply, these facts and figures are not centrally collected.