HL Deb 15 November 1983 vol 444 cc1169-251

4.16 p.m.

Debate resumed.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, it falls to me to return to the great debate which we have been having and which was so magnificently introduced by the most reverend Primate in a challenging and immensely constructive speech. We have been given the opportunity today of discussing the sombre subject of crimes of violence in our society, and we have already had a powerful preamble (if that is not dismissing it too lightly) in the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Whether I shall qualify under his celestial highway moral code remains for the future to tell.

We are particularly looking forward to the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice. His great office enables him to give guidance, as he frequently does, to all our courts. There is a Cornish proverb which says that everyone knows what to do with a kicking horse except the man who is in charge of it. I expect that proverb has come to his mind, as indeed to the mind of a former Home Secretary, when consideration has been given to this issue. We shall weigh carefully the guidance that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice gives us, if that is an encouragement to him.

We also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Kitchener, who has joined us for his maiden speech today. I apologise personally that, unfortunately, owing to a previous commitment, I cannot be here while the whole debate continues.

It may be useful in discussing violent crime to note the extent and pattern of it. This has been communicated to me in a useful document from the National Association of Probation Officers. I see from the latest criminal statistics—those for 1982—that under 5 per cent. of all offences recorded by the police were offences against the person. It should be noted that this is similar to previous years. That does not underestimate its sinister importance. In total numbers, those crimes were: violence against the person in 1982, 109,000; robbery, 23,000; sexual offences, 20,000—making a total of 152,000. Of the offences of violence against the person, the great majority (indeed, 102,000) were of a less serious kind; that is to say, broadly, offences of wounding and assault, not endangering life. That is the pattern and that is the extent.

We also now have available the British crime survey, the Home Office research study, which enables us to gauge the extent of the unrecorded crime, what has been known as the dark figure of crime, and its seriousness, and, importantly, people's reactions and attitudes. One of the things that emerges from that survey is that fear of crime is out of all proportion to the risks, and that the fear is becoming as great a problem as crime itself.

Those findings and conclusions, although they put matters in proportion, do not justify complacency, and we should not take too much comfort from the fact that the extent of violent crime in Britain, for example, compared with that in the United States, is far less. We should be considering in the course of this debate the problem of how violent crimes should be tackled. The law-and-order lobby, if I may say so, has provided none. There are no simple solutions or easy answers. The whole community, as we have been told in the two notable speeches earlier, has to involve itself in combating it—parents, families, schools, the Churches, the divers voluntary societies that play such a great part in holding our society together. Crime, indeed, is far too serious a matter to be left to the judges and police.

However, one illusion should, I think, at once be removed—that the courts of this country have been and are being soft on crime. The fact is that heavy sentences have increased from five years to seven years in the early 1960s to about 12 years now. In 1981, 184 men were imprisoned for over 10 years; in 1963, only 65 got such heavy sentences. Indeed, criminal justice in this country in its punitive aspect is more severe and imprisonment more likely to be used as a means of punishing crime than in most Western European countries. In proportion to the population, there are four times as many people in prison in Britain as in the Netherlands, twice as many as in Belgium, 60 per cent. more than in Italy and 25 per cent. more than in France.

Added to this, we must bear in mind the sombre fact that, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House said when in another place, many of our prisons, because of overcrowding and other factors, are an affront to a civilised society. The director general of the Prison Department has agreed. As the writer, Mr. David Downes, has put it, by comparison with most other western societies, imprisonment in Britain is nasty, brutish and long.

What has troubled us on these Benches is our apprehension that the Home Secretary's recent proposals for dealing with long-term prisoners sentenced for violence will do nothing to reduce violent crime and a great deal to produce more violent prisons. He has announced two main measures: first, the treatment of lifers. The Home Secretary has announced that certain categories of murderer will normally serve at least 20 years in prison; namely, murderers of police and prison officers, terrorist murderers, murderers who kill with firearms during robberies and those who commit sexual or sadistic murders of children—all appalling crimes that we of course deplore. Many prisoners in that category already serve very long sentences, some, indeed, of 20 years and, of course, some of life.

In our view, the proper course would be for the Home Secretary to consider each lifer's case for release individually and not to announce a blanket policy for whole categories in advance. Individual murderers in each category can, of course, change their attitude for reasons including maturity, ageing, genuine remorse, the influence of prison staff, the influence of families and friends. A policy which refuses to acknowledge that some offenders may repent and change, or that they may do so before 20 years have elapsed, is a policy of despair. Is it to be the case that no matter how deep and genuine the remorse an offender may feel, no matter how well he may behave in prison, no matter how glowing are the reports from within and outside the prison, if he falls within one of these categories he cannot be released for 20 years?

To keep in prison for 20 years lifers who, from the point of view of the community, could safely be released after 12 or 15 years will do nothing to protect the public. It will, however, as the Prison Officers' Association has forcibly pointed out, create severe problems in controlling prisons swollen with prisoners deprived of hope and with little to lose. It is hard to see why the Home Secretary, with all his record of being a humane person, has found it necessary to go down this dead-end road when trial judges already have the power to recommend in appropriate cases that a murderer shall serve a minimum period in prison. And such recommendations are very rarely overturned by the Home Office. Since 1965, judges have made over 130 such recommendations. In only three cases have prisoners been released earlier than the time recommended and, even then, only following consultation with the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge. Several lifers, of course, stay in prison for life.

Then we come to the second category that has been specially identified: those serving over five years. The Home Secretary has announced that a violent offender serving over five years will not normally be granted parole except possibly for just a few months immediately before the end of the sentence. If this policy had been in force last year, about 500 offenders who were granted parole in 1982 would not have received it. Virtually abandoning parole for these prisoners, we believe, means throwing away an important means of controlling released prisoners' future behaviour. There is now clear evidence from Home Office research, and the research of NACRO and other bodies, that release on parole, which combines supervision by a probation officer with the possibility of recall to prison for misbehaviour on licence, reduces offenders' chances of reconviction. This effect is particularly striking for those with sentences exceeding four years.

We believe that it is both tragic and foolish that, for reasons, it may be, of political expediency in the name of combating violent crime, the Home Secretary proposes to jettison one of the few penal measures which has proved successful in reducing serious crime. It is true that parole may still be available for these offenders for a short period just before the end of their sentences, but probation officers and many members of the Parole Board feel that there are many such cases where supervision, in order to operate successfully, needs to be for a longer rather than for a shorter period. Particularly where, for example, a violent offence has been alcohol related and where an entire family unit may need the guidance and support which parole offers, as well as its sanction of recall to prison, the chances of successful resettlement may otherwise be slim.

I hope that it is not too late for the Home Secretary to reconsider his proposals in this field. To concentrate and rely more on severe sentencing as a solution to the problems of crimes of violence is, as I think has been implied in the two previous speeches, to start at the wrong end of the story of crime. Courts come on the scene only when the crimes have been committed. The police come on the scene earlier; but, even by then, the damage to the victims has been done. In this connection, I echo the suggestion that have been made about the importance of seeking reparation from the offender and restitution to the victim, perhaps bringing home to the offender the consequences of his crime. Our system of criminal justice punishes the small proportion of criminals who are caught but, I fear, is of little use to the victim except, of course, for the contribution that it makes to the maintenance of order in our society generally.

There are various factors which need further consideration in the matter of crime prevention, and it may be that we shall hear some practical suggestions about these in the course of the debate. Reducing the opportunity for crime is a field where much more needs to be done. I am thinking particularly, in a violence and mugging context, of the design of some housing estates and areas around large blocks of flats, particularly high-rise flats, which provide fine opportunities for vandals and muggers, particularly if the areas are poorly lit. Measures which can be taken to make safer the housing estates where many of these mugging offences take place—after all, the biggest victims of crime are the poorer people, not the better off—include the use of entry phones, the provision of resident caretakers and, above all, improved lighting. All those are measures of importance, and I am happy to see that I get approval from the Front Bench opposite of those suggestions.

Another important situational factor—I do not like the phrase, but it is the best that is suggested—which NACRO offers in this field is the availability of firearms. Police spokesmen have called for stricter controls in the issue of shotgun certificates. At present, anyone who wants such a certificate simply applies to the police. There are no powers to ask why he wants one, how many he wants or where he will keep them. The holder of a certificate can acquire any number of shotguns without any record made on that certificate. It is then possible for him to pass one on to others, without being accountable for it. The police say that criminals are taking full advantage of this, by arranging for associates with no criminal record to obtain shotguns on their behalf.

The Police Superintendents' Association has asked the Home Secretary to change the law to bring the issuing of shotgun certificates into line with the stricter procedures for the issuance of certificates for handguns, and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply may, even though I may not have the privilege of hearing him, be able to refer to this matter.

I now come to a factor which is perhaps more important than anything I have up to now mentioned, perhaps more important than the influence of alcohol and more important even than the constant showing of violence on TV: that is, the growing evidence of a link between violence and unemployment. Some of that has been produced by the Home Office itself. It was well summarised, if he will permit me to say so, in a speech by the former Home Secretary, now to our satisfaction the Leader of the House, in the House of Commons on 27th February 1978, when he said: There has been a dramatic rise in unemployment among boys and girls … Let no one have any doubt about the danger that that has created in terms of crime of all sorts, violence and vandalism. If boys and girls do not obtain jobs when they leave school, they feel society has no need of them. If they feel that, they do not see any reason why they should take part in that society and comply with its rules. That is what is happening and, wherever we sit in this House, that is what we have to recognise."—[Official Report, Commons, 27/2/78; col. 40.] That was stated in his own forthright terms by the noble Viscount.

We on this side of the House believe that it is essential, in assessing the costs of alternative fiscal and economic policies, that the Government should also take full account of the social costs of unemployment, including its association with crime, with violence and with urban disorder, all of which—and I make no political point about this; at any rate, directly—have risen markedly since 1980. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, stated in his memorable report on the Brixton riots, the social conditions there do not provide an excuse for disorder. But he added: But the disorders cannot be fully understood unless they are seen in the context of complex political, social and economic factors which together create a predisposition towards violent protests. We neglect those factors at our peril and, unless steps are taken by the Government to deal with those factors soon, violence and urban disorder may well become more endemic in our society.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, whatever its intrinsic merits, I feel that this debate will prove to be important if, and only if, as a result of it there is a greater sense within our responsible citizenship of the deep underlying causes of the rise in crimes of violence; and I hope that we shall be able to use our influence to persuade responsible bodies and authorities to take the necessary steps to counteract many of the forces which are operating on our society today. The most reverend Primate, in his most impressive opening of this debate, said that this House is full of experts on this subject. I venture to think, though he was flattering to the House, that he was entirely wrong. There are no experts on this subject either in this House or in any other House. For far too long we have thought that there were so-called experts in this country, and we have subordinated our own instincts as parents and as responsible citizens. When we have seen things happening we have not taken the appropriate action; we have not reacted as our instincts would make us react. We have tended to leave it to the so-called experts, and we have been very wrong in so doing.

I am bound to say that when I first saw this Motion I was slightly dismayed. Judging by the speech which the most reverend Primate delivered today, there was clearly a misunderstanding on my part, because I thought that the reference to the refusal of the other House to reintroduce the death penalty implicitly suggested, in some way, that had that been done it would have had the possible effect of reducing crimes of violence. If that had been the proposition I would clearly have rejected it, but the most reverend Primate obviously had something totally different in mind.

I should like to say a few words about that crime of violence which excites most interest in our community and which certainly has more attention given to it in the media—the crime of murder. I have been involved over the years in many cases of murder, either for the prosecution or for the defence, and I am bound to say that the longer I live the more I believe that there are some people in this country and in this world who, however serious the crime of murder—and some such crimes are absolutely horrible—inflict far more grievous wounds on the community than even murderers. I think of those who, these days, organise in an international way the importation of drugs, the peddling of drugs, and so on, in our community, and who inflict incredible harm upon our young people. Normally, they never see the dock. In their lifestyle, and so on, they are indistinguishable from very affluent businessmen.

Today, there is a huge international crime wave organised by such people, and if there had to be a death penalty—and I have always been against it—I should prefer to see it introduced for them rather than for the crime of murder, because so many murders are committed in what may be called stressful domestic situations, and so on. It is a minority of murderers who graduate to murder through the gradations of crimes of violence. But, of course, there are some, such as psychiatric murderers—and I use that term broadly—who are virtually insane and whom juries rightly find guilty of murder under the law, who are a great menace to society and who must be kept in prison, probably for life, in order to protect society because there are some risks which society should not run.

Having referred to that, I want to come to the main thrust of this debate and say that in my humble opinion it is useless to look to the courts for new ways of reducing crimes of violence. It is a trite saying, obviously, that the courts are concerned with the mopping-up operation. The most the courts can do is to contain crime. But by the time a young man has resorted to a number of very serious crimes of violence and is, unfortunately, before the courts in his late 'teens or early twenties, it is too late for the courts to do anything about it. Though the public, so often encouraged by the media, press for more and more violent sentences, we must face the reality of the fact that the extent and degree of violence that we see today is a reflection of our own society. We live in a violent society and, unlike the society of our forefathers, which was also pretty violent at times, we live in an era of broadcast violence. Violence now comes into the sitting room of every cottage, bungalow and flat in this country through the medium of television.

We live in a society of relative values. I have visited other countries, and was greatly impressed on a visit some years ago to Russia to see how clean the cities were, and the absence of graffiti, and so on, on the underground. In a society with fairly absolute power, where values are more absolutely stated than they are in our own country, it is easy to get a more superficial appearance of respect for law and order than we have in a country like ours. One has it in Moslem countries. But we have in our age moved to a society of relative values. How many values do any of us express absolutely today? Of course, it is easy to say that it is more comfortable for a sophisticated society to live in this kind of way, with relative values. I certainly find it easier to do so. I am very much concerned, though, with the weaker brethren, as St. Paul referred to them. I am concerned with the effect that a society based on relative values has on them, whereas they would prefer to have greater certainty.

The development of crimes of violence and the incidence and nature of crimes of violence is an inevitable by-product of the society in which we live. I happen to live in a part of the country where there is very little crime and where there is still a very settled society. It has been settled for many years. It is a part of the country where there is a common, shared basis of values, where there is probably more religious observance than in most other parts of the country. Crime is still a comparative rarity. But this kind of society is so far removed from our inner cities of today that I wonder whether we are living in the same world. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who harked back to the 1920s and the 1930s, we shall never go back to the kind of society which accepted those values. Although it was a perfectly valid point that poverty in those days did not make people resort to crimes of violence, the people who lived in poverty in the 1920s and the 1930s in difficult environmental conditions did not have some of the environmental conditions of today which drive people, I believe, more to violence than they did in that age. Yet we live in a society which has brought us many benefits and blessings.

Surely the problem with which we are faced in our country is a question of balance. We live in a welfare state. We live in a far more humane country, with the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, than our parents and grandparents lived in during the 1920s and the 1930s. We are more caring for the mass of the population—and so we should be. At the same time, there is probably less personal commitment, less personal involvement in our society, than occurred in the era of our fathers and grandfathers. This is the problem. If we have a more open, more international, more questioning society, yet hark back and perhaps yearn for a more settled, a more homogeneous society, we have to draw the balance somewhere. I believe that we need to aim at a more liberal and responsible society rather than at a permissive and self-destructive society.

I want to put forward a few steps that we ought to take in this country. First, let me turn to the education system. In deprived areas—I do not need to rehearse the descriptions of deprived areas which we have already heard in this debate—surely the role of the school is very much more important than it is in many other communities. The school not only has to reinforce parental guidance: in many cases it has to be a complete substitute for it. It has to replace it. Of course, there are what might almost be called criminal enclaves in many parts of the country to which families who have always tended to indulge in crime gravitate—no doubt assisted, to a degree, by the housing authorities. Youngsters who have resorted to crime and have criminal records tend to be pushed into the same areas. In that kind of society, who is to provide a basis of morals? Who is to teach the difference between right and wrong? Yet these are the very areas of the country where there is the highest ratio of pupils to teacher and where the need is greatest.

I believe that there ought to be a major and discriminating effort in this country to try to repair the depredations in our inner cities in the educational sphere. We should aim at a ratio of something like one to ten in classes because the teacher is called upon to fulfil a role which should be fulfilled by parents but is not. We should be deluding ourselves if we thought that parents were going to fulfil a constructive role. But let me ask the question rhetorically: are this Government prepared to spend the money on the inner city areas, in the educational sphere, which they should?

I come to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, of the economic hopelessness of many of our youngsters today. This is a major contributory factor. It can be over-emphasised, but the speeches which are made that ignore this factor are ignoring a basic element in the increase in crimes of violence. Let me take, for example, the black youngster in some of our deprived city areas who has no hope of a job and no kind of home environment in which he can relax. His disillusionment with society must be enormous. He is faced not only with the glaring inequalities of society: there is also no apparent hope of changing it. He has no apparent hope of a job himself. Is it surprising that in those circumstances he will become anti-social, anti-establishment, anti-police? It is not. The truth is that we should recognise this as one of the (I emphasise "one of the") major contributory factors. Something really must be done about these inner city areas so far as the economic sphere is concerned.

Let us look at a few restrictive steps which we should take. I am sure that I am in a minority in your Lordships' House in that I was opposed to the introduction of independent television into this country. I tried to persuade my party to oppose it, but was accused of being very anti-Liberal and an illiberal fellow—which I do not think I am. But I really thought that once we had independent television we should have, on the one hand, the advertisements which raise expectations which cannot possibly be fulfilled. On the other hand, in the competition for audiences we would inevitably have to resort to the lowest common denominator. Generally speaking, taste dropped. I am not saying that ITV were any more guilty than the BBC in this respect, but in competing for audiences they went for the lowest common denominator and thereafter we had a diet of violence on television and have lived with it ever since.

I feel that a country such as ours should have used television much more for educational purposes in the broadest sense. However good the teacher may be and however influential the parents may be—and I am sure we have all experienced this—it is terribly difficult to compete with that important environmental factor in the corner of the sitting room. We need to take the greatest care with our television programmes even now. I am not sure to whom the television producer is eventually responsible, but I am not convinced that when he is really determined to get his way anyone can resist him.

I entirely agree with that which has been said about the production of video nasties. In his very distinguished Darwin Lecture recently, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, the Lord Chief Justice, dealt with that matter. All I would say from my humble position is that I am 100 per cent. in agreement with him.

I now wish to say a word or two about drink. I believe we all underestimate the influence that drink has on crime. I entirely take the point that most criminals—and this is so in my own experience—give as their reason for committing a crime the influence of drink. There is a subtle difference between drink and drugs in their relationship to crime. A man tends to commit a crime more easily if he is under the influence of drink. That is especially so of youngsters—they in particular will resort to violence. Drugs tend to affect crime in a totally different way. Hard drugs are now very expensive—although they have become cheaper in this country recently—and people are motivated to commit crimes of violence and to commit burglaries in order to get the money to buy drugs. There is a subtle difference between the two.

I, for my part, would like to see a total ban on the advertising of drinks on television—as I would like to see one on the advertising of tobacco. The Government could do a great deal more through advertising, if we are going in for advertising, to point out the connecting factor between drink and crime.

In conclusion, I want to point to some of the things we have done in our society over the past 20 years which in my view have created the kind of climate in which crimes of violence can flourish. I regret to say that, in my judgment, we shall see an increase in crimes of violence. We shall not contain it. We are not prepared to face up to the problem and take the measures which are necessary in order to contain it. But let us look at some of the things we have done.

I have referred to my own society, which is an extremely well-knit rural society, and I contrasted it with the inner city area. The truth is that we have destroyed the societies of the inner city areas; we have moved them out to concrete suburbs, and so on. To take the example of a city I know quite well, we have left in the middle of Liverpool a concrete jungle where obviously crime flourishes and where the old restrictions and social sanctions which used to apply—even in the little criminal enclaves at times—have been destroyed. Over the past 20 or 30 years, our policing has become more remote. Community policing is not new; it is new in its modern aspect. When I was a boy, certainly there was a great deal of community policing, and that was true of all the cities. It has been destroyed in the past 20 to 30 years, and now we must return to it.

We have centralised far too much; even in the courts. In my younger days when I sat as a recorder and as the chairman of quarter sessions, in the period between 1960 and 1972, the courts worked closely with the police and with the probation service. One knew who the probation officer was and one received periodic reports of those on probation. But now everything has become more centralised and every service seems to be remote from other services. The community has become less and less involved with the treatment of crime in all ways. We need to take many steps as a community before we can begin to think of achieving any success in arresting the growth of violence in our society.

We have a very violent society, the unacceptable face of which is reflected in our courts. But we have a much larger problem than many leaders of the community appreciate, although I am not so sure that the average citizen does not feel deep down, instinctively, that we have gone wrong in many ways over the past 20 to 30 years. I can only hope that this debate will start us on the road to repairing many fences.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Lane

My Lords, I rise with some diffidence for this reason: I appreciate that a judge's view may very well be distorted by the fact that he deals largely with the pathology of society. Speaking for myself—and I am neither a sociologist nor a criminologist and nor can I drive a horse whether it belongs to my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones or not, or whether it is kicking or not—I, too, was misled by the terms of this Motion. It seems to imply, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has indicated, that there is some connection between the rise in violent crime and the failure to reintroduce the death penalty, the suggestion being, as I understood it initially, that were hanging to be reintroduced there would be a sudden improvement in the violent crime figures. I was very glad to hear from the most reverend Primate that that, despite the appearance of the Motion, was not what it meant.

Unfortunately, there is no instant panacea. There is no magic wand. There is no magic noose that will solve this problem overnight. It will not be solved by long terms of imprisonment—certainly not on their own. It will not be solved by making compensation orders because the average violent criminal has no means with which to meet such orders. If one imposes a compensation order, it is quite clear that when the offender comes out of prison how he is going to equip himself with cash flow to satisfy the order.

It is just as well to remind ourselves—is it not?—of the problem with which we are trying to deal here today. We are not concerned—are we?—with the division 1 criminals: the so-called high-class armed robber and masked gunmen; cold, calculating villains who play for high stakes. Different considerations apply to them. We are concerned primarily with the teenage thug, the bully-boy. That is the area in which this horrible increase in violence has taken place. It is the teenager—sometimes an incredibly youthful person of 13, 14 or 15 years of age—who perpetrates crimes of such a horrendous nature that it ill-becomes me to describe them here.

His victims are not the security guards who are well able to look after themselves and who are paid for the risks they run. His victim is the elderly widow, usually living on her own, who is carefully "sussed out" by the young gentleman and his friend as probably supplying an easy source of money with a minimum amount of risk. His victim is the housewife carrying her shopping bag, or her handbag with money in it for the shopping, down to the supermarket. His victim is the woman, of whatever age it might be, whose body he desires to violate and frequently, regrettably, does. He very seldom kills; he seldom was a candidate for the hangman, and even if hanging were to be reintroduced—and, of, course, happily, it now never will be—it would make no sort of difference to him.

What causes this type of crime, what activates this sort of behaviour? There are a number of identifiable reasons and no doubt as many unidentifiable reasons in this highly complex matter. The causes we do know of, regrettably, admit of no miracle solution. They can perhaps, I suggest tentatively, be classed broadly under one heading, and that is a loss of respect for other human beings and an acceptance as normal of things which everyone ought to know are not normal.

The things which have degraded our standards should be obvious to everyone, and judging from the letters which I receive are obvious to most people. Among other things, of course, is the lack of jobs, the difficulty of the young man to find any gainful employment even before he goes to prison, and more particularly when he comes out of prison or custody. But on top of that there is a host of other reasons: easier divorce—soon to become easier still, I understand—with broken homes as a result, easy abortion, the Pill at the age of 11 and 12 with all that means by inference, a huge increase in the abuse of hard drugs and its importation; and alcohol of course plays its part in very many crimes. But what has increased in horror and filth more than anything else in recent years is the degrading film, the degrading television programme, the degrading magazines of all sorts, soft pornography and hard pornography, depicting scenes which, regrettably, we see in the courts acted out faithfully by youngsters.

The difficulty is—or so it seems to me—that some of the very organs of public information which should be vociferous in condemnation of these matters do not seem to raise their voices above a whisper, if indeed they raise their voices at all. There are those—notably some of the television authorities—as my noble and learned friend Lord Hooson has already indicated, who seem to be actively engaged in speeding up the easy descent to Avernus by presenting violence and obscenity as a form of entertainment. And if you do present violence and obscenity as a form of entertainment, very soon they become accepted by the weaker brethren as the norm; and it is the weaker brethren with whom we are concerned.

People who say—we hear it frequently, I am afraid—that videos must be kept away from children miss the point. These horror videos have much less effect upon children than they have upon the adult with the mind of the child—and it is the adult with the mind of a child who is the person with whom we are trying to cope. It seems, if I may say so, horrifying that it was really only when Scotland Yard put their made-up video, pieces of horror videos from various films, together, and showed it to Members of the other place that voices started to be raised. Does it really require live cannibalism to make people realise the effects of videos, and not necessarily horror videos?

So nothing happens. Despite hundreds of thousands of unheard voices in the country who deplore what they seegoing on around them, it is always someone else's problem, it is never our own problem, and it is sad to see this paralysed acquiescence by society over the loss of ordinary decency and humanity. The power of the porn lobby is great, because—needless to say—the profits are enormous. People do not like being called fuddy-duddy, prudish or narrow-minded, or any of the other expressions which are bandied about; and ridicule is easy. So things get worse and worse. It is deadly easy to corrupt and almost impossible to discorrupt.

I was sorry to hear my noble friend Lord Hooson say—though probably truthfully—that we shall never go back to the morality of the 1920s. I doubt, cynically, if anyone with power or influence will ever do anything about it. But there is no harm in trying. Who is going to reverse this trend? The answer lies, first of all, in this very building—does it not?—in this Chamber and the other Chamber. The answer lies in the schools, does it not? The answer lies in the homes, preferably not single-parent homes. And—dare I say it!—the answer lies in the Churches. We cannot reintroduce hanging. May I suggest that we might reintroduce conscience and reintroduce the devil.

5.8 p.m.

Earl Kitchener

My Lords, I am fortunate that my aspect of this subject, about the importance of which I know there may be two opinions, has not yet been aired. A possible cause of some crime is diet, either faulty in general, or wrong for the individual. Much of the evidence for this comes from the United States of America. This is not the place to go into details, but particular substances of which shortages seem to be connected with behaviour problems are iron, cobalt and vitamin B1; and among those of which an excess is suspect are lead, cadmium, highly refined foods, and even—when taken in very large quantities—milk. Another aspect of nutrition which has been seriously implicated in behaviour is abnormal concentrations of sugar in the blood. They may vary very rapidly, and seem to be associated with violent behaviour.

The International Journal of Bio-social Research is a leading periodical in this field. I will just mention one or two men of importance in this line: Dr. Alexander Schauss in Tacoma and Dr. Michael Colgan in San Diego, both of whom I have met and found very impressive, and in Scotland Dr. Ian Menzies in Dundee.

In this country we are fortunate to have the McCarrison Society, which is named after Sir Robert McCarrison, who was a doctor in the old Indian Army. The society, under its chairman Dr. Andrew Strigner, provides a focus for work on the effects of diet on physical and mental health. Its recent conference on nutrition and behaviour was reported in the New Scientist in October. The article provides a useful account of some current ideas. I know of the Government's interest in this matter because when Dr. Colgan was in this country earlier this year my noble friend Lord Elton suggested that I should arrange for him to meet the Director of Prison Medical Services, who showed his considerable interest in Dr. Colgan's work and theories.

In many ways prisoners are ideal subjects for experiments on diet. But I understand that, however clearly it is explained that participation is voluntary, the prisoners will not be convinced and they expect to get a black mark if they do not volunteer. That builds up a resentment against the whole idea of experiments. On the other hand, in addition to what might be learned the experiments would give them a much needed feeling of usefulness. It may be optimistic, but I believe that with the right leadership and encouragement from the governor, medical and other staff, the difficulties of conducting these experiments could be overcome.

I make a concrete suggestion to the Government. The Health Education Council recently published a discussion paper on nutrition education, written under the leadership of Professor James of the Rowatt Institute in Aberdeen. Many of its recommendations, which I think were quite independent of the other work on criminals—Professor James had nothing special to do with criminals' diet—are in the same direction as those found beneficial to behaviour. I hope that the Government will apply them, at least experimentally, to prisons and many other areas in which the Government have responsibility for diet.

On a separate subject, I offer a point to any coming speaker who might be dealing with the important question of work in prisons. I notice in the recent report of the Inspectors of Prisons in Scotland that in one prison the governor and staff were reported, without any explanation, as not being in favour of any working hours beyond 4½ a day. I feel they may have had some reason for that. That may be a point that noble Lords speaking later on this subject might find worth referring to.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Soper

My Lords, I am the first to be able to felicitate the noble Earl on his maiden speech and I do it sincerely. I found the substance of what he had to say both unexpected and nourishing. I believe that this is an aspect of the problem which will probably go further than is required for a debate of this nature, but I hope that the Government will take careful note both of what was said about the implications of diet on the possibilities of violence—both in the house and outside it—and of the possibility which, with the noble Earl, I hope will be resisted, of making experiments with prisoners as if that is an addition to their sentences. I believe that would be an arrogation at which we should look with great care and hesitation. But there is a possibility of voluntary submission to these experiments. People do this in regard to the ordinary cold, and if prisoners can believe that they are to some extent increasing the sum total of good in the community by such submission to experiments, then the noble Earl has said something of importance and significance and we are greatly extremely grateful to him for that. I hope he will bring other relish to our delight in future debates in your Lordships' House.

I wish to express for myself and for the Methodist Church, which in this respect I can to some extent represent, the gratitude we feel to the most reverend Primate, my most reverend friend, for the introduction of this debate and the magistral way in which he set about the task of covering the ground and encouraging those who follow to take the points which he raised and deal with them with the particularity which, in the time at his disposal, he could not provide. I am happy to take the suggestion which he made that there is in this particular context an approach which can be called the social approach and another which must be regarded as the spiritual one.

I found some little perturbation when I read the Order Paper. I do not think that much light is thrown on this problem when we reject the death penalty as being wholly unsuitable in a civilised society, but I was even more perturbed at the introduction of the word "new". I do not believe that we are so much in need of new ways of approaching the problems which confront your Lordships' House today as of recognising that, like Christianity, a great many of the perfectly worthwhile proposals have not been tried and found wanting, but have been found difficult and not tried. In that regard, I shall try to say something that is not about the particular ways in which the law can be improved, although in many ways it can. There are many more in your Lordships' House today whose competence in this field is much superior to mine and who will cover that ground more than adequately.

What I have to say is about the correlation between human nature and human behaviour. Without presumption, I take it that your Lordships will agree that human nature is very different in the way in which it expresses itself and in the way in which it carries out is implications. In many respects human nature is soluble in the acids or the waters of circumstance. We are confronted this afternoon with the ways in which this basic human nature is affected by the environment in which it is found. To begin with, we live in a world of unprecedented violence. That is not a question on which there is any debate. There can be none. How grateful I was to the most reverend Primate for what he said in Dresden recently. I believe he said that if one is thinking about violent crime, war is the supreme and final violent crime. In that context, the incidence of violence with which we are confronted day by day has become not only an unprecedented figure but an unprecedented menace.

I entirely share the views of those who have spoken this afternoon on the effect—the very dangerous effect—of violence. In my judgment and experience it has increased in television programmes. I wonder how many of your Lordships have seen any of the spaghetti westerns. I have endured one or two of them. They are replete with violence of an uncomplicated, simple and dreadful nature. I detest them, yet even in my old age I find an unfortunate attraction to violence which I hope I can resist. But I wonder whether those who are so much acclimatised to violence in their early youth will have the same resistance capacity.

In the second place, the proliferation of arms is also of an unprecedented nature. I suggest that no human being is fit to carry arms. They have now reached a dimension and capacity which is apocalyptic and have become more or less the accepted accompaniment of life, at least for the thinking, if not the practice, particularly of young people. Would it not be a good thing if your Lordships who shoot for pleasure were prepared to renounce that pleasure for the time being in order to present to the world a very much different attitude to the whole concept of what people do when, with a human nature which is not totally bad but in which there is a high ingredient of original sin, they are confronted with an incentive to violence which, once one possesses that particular implement, is likely to override one's better concepts of what one should do?

Heaven forbid that I should endeavour to preach to this congregation. I give only my own evidence: if I carried a gun I should be largely conditioned, if not determined, by that weapon. Therefore I will not carry one. I believe that those who argue for the retention of guns for what they regard as perfectly innocent purposes are themselves the victims of a smear and a smog of violence which adversely affects young people in particular. It accustoms them to the use of the gun as the expression of violence. In that regard it is a menace to their own welfare and an incentive to the commission of crime.

Another aspect of the matter also needs a great deal of attention. Occasionally this afternoon it has been given attention. I do not know whether human nature is worse or better than it was 200, 15 or 30 years ago. But a youngster living in this society of grab may be unemployed and have no prospect of employment. He has a sense that society is not a community at all but a rat race. At that very moment he may be stimulated by the presence, almost wherever he looks, of advertisements for those things which he is invited to believe he requires if he is to enjoy himself, or indeed to grow up, and he does not have the money.

Only a little while ago a group of doctors and others in Glasgow were concerned with this problem. They were particularly concerned with those who were addicted to, or susceptible of being addicted to, drugs, both hard and soft. They came to one alarming conclusion which I can hardly believe. I shall recite it to your Lordships and you can make up your minds. They had evidence for what they said, which was that many a youngster required for his satisfaction, both for hard and soft drugs, sums of money every week ranging from £10 to £200. I find that difficult to believe, but, even if it is only one quarter true, is it surprising that those who feel that imperative need for money to satisfy their desires are likely to be violent when they see the opportunity to mug an old lady to get hold of that money?

Nothing in what I have said militates against my total regard for morality as being infinitely desirable and evil as being infinitely to be regretted. I remind myself that sin is the second strongest thing in the universe. We should be prepared to take the proper precautions to set people who are weak and liable to crime within an environment which encourages decency. Only in that way are we likely to meet the real needs to which the most reverend Primate has invited our attention.

I turn briefly to the spiritual side. I find it extraordinary—perhaps it is not extraordinary—that time and time again, when it is considered what can be done, religion comes a bad third, if indeed it is regarded as important at all. A group calling itself the Christian Education Society has produced a pamphlet. It appeared only in the last few days. It conducted research among youngsters in 11 schools. The question most frequently asked by the youngsters was, "What do you mean by being religious?", as if religion was on the periphery of life. In many cases the youngsters had no practical or active knowledge of what it meant.

If in this debate your Lordships ignore the religious element—the conversion element; the evangelical element—you ignore what our fathers at least regarded as by far the most important element. My father in God, John Wesley, spent a great deal of his time ministering to the prisoners in Newgate Jail and with considerable results. He would turn in his grave—if indeed he were not elsewhere, as I am confidently assured he is—at the idea that religion has very little to do with this matter or that the appeal to a different kind of life is unimportant compared with the environmental and circumstantial processes to which I have adverted.

Not so long ago a group of Roman Catholic prelates deplored the fact that there were two elements in the contemporary religious situation which largely inhibited their evangelical efforts and the prospects in which they indulged. One was the breakdown of confession and the other was a disbelief in hell. I was much interested in the penultimate statement of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice and his endeavour to resuscitate the devil. I assure him that the devil still goes about like a roaring lion. There can be no doubt at all that the concept of evil is by no means dormant.

What is now almost non-existent is the prospect that if you do what is wrong, and continue so to do, sooner or later you will go to hell. I have been speaking in the open air for long enough now, and I cannot remember anybody at any time in that ministry—if I may so call it—who was prepared to recognise the prospect of hell and was in any way prevented from the performance of acts which he knew to be wrong by that prospect. I do not want to see a resuscitation of that kind of frightening prospect, but I want to see the other aspect—what is called confession, whether in the confessional or in the Methodist class meeting. Confession is the way in which we keep alive the difference between right and wrong. In many respects what is happening in our secular society today is that the dimension that separates right from wrong has almost entirely disappeared.

I am responsible to some extent for a boys' home. Many of the youngsters who come before us to see whether they are fit to re-enter society have no basic concept of right and wrong. In my judgment it is supremely the business of the Church to advocate, specify, nourish and determine the prospects that right is the only way in which life can be properly lived and that wrong is as clearly defined—although it may have various appearances—in the denial of what is sacred and the refusal of what is just.

Reference has been made in kindly fashion to the function of the Church. I suggest that carrying out large-scale evangelical jamborees, in which large numbers of people are invited to get converted after half an hour of various kinds of religious entertainment, is no substitute for the real function of the Church, which is apposite to the matter we are engaged in considering this afternoon. I want the Church to be the advance copy—the workshop—of the kingdom of God. We need enough people to come within the framework of the Church and see it beginning to carry out the concept of the kingdom of God as laid down by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Then the Church would not invite people to flee from the wrath to come or to believe in the first instance a number of propositions which are highly dubious. It would encourage them to live in a new kind of environment—a caring society in which they could believe in one another and in which they would be cherished and reproved. It is an environment in which I believe that, by God's grace, they could find their way to a nobler form of life and a better way of living in consort with their fellows.

I know that this is a piece of evangelism. I make no apology for that. I am sure that the most reverend Primate would concur: we cannot regard the Church as merely an ancillary in these matters. If it stands for the ultimate truth it is of the utmost importance. To seek first the kingdom of God is its prime and final duty.

5.29 p.m.

Lord Windlesham

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Soper. He speaks with a length of experience of offenders which very few people in this House can rival. I should like to echo what he said in tribute to my noble friend Lord Kitchener on his maiden speech. The noble Earl is the bearer of a famous name. He spoke today with a kind of special knowledge different from that of his illustrious predecessor, and he spoke with eloquence. We look forward to hearing him again in the future.

I welcome an opportunity to take part in the debate, and at the outset I declare a special interest, since I am chairman of the Parole Board. However, I speak today in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the board. Two of my predecessors are in the House at the moment and they know that it is not possible for anyone to claim to represent the views of such a large and diverse board. Nor would it be right for me this afternoon to debate those matters concerning the proposed changes in parole which are currently under discussion with the Home Secretary. I understand that it is the Home Secretary's intention when those discussions are complete to inform Parliament of the outcome, and no doubt he will do so at the earliest possible moment.

Instead I should like to concentrate my remarks on two topics: the sentencing of violent offenders by the courts; and, secondly, fear of crime which disfigures society—"corroding" it in the phrase used by the most reverend Primate in his speech—causing anxiety and disquiet on a widespread scale. Imprisonment imposed by the courts for the most serious offences naturally has an important part to play in countering crime—it always has done, and it always will do—but too much emphasis on imprisonment can be misleading. We have heard that this afternoon from no less an authority than the Lord Chief Justice.

There are several justifications for imprisonment: the expression of disapproval by society; the prevention of the offender from committing further crimes during the period while he is deprived of his liberty (referred to by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in his own speech at the start of the debate this afternoon); and, above all probably in most people's minds, to deter and discourage the potential offender from committing a crime due to the prospect of imprisonment if he is apprehended and brought to trial.

Yet for imprisonment to act as a deterrent it follows that there must be a deliberate intention, formed in advance, to commit the crime in the first place. Sometimes, as in the case of organised bank robberies or drug trafficking, this will be so. It may also be so in a majority of cases, though not all, of burglary and other property offences. A man may weigh up the chances of getting caught and the sentence of imprisonment that is likely to result if he is convicted; and one must hope that these considerations will amount to a powerful deterrent.

That said, however, it remains a fact that in many cases—indeed, in all probability a majority of cases—involving violence to the person these preconditions simply do not exist. The offender may be, and often is, a highly inadequate personality. He may be—and, as we have already heard this afternoon, often is—abusing alcohol or controlled drugs. He may be emotionally disturbed. He may be mentally disordered, to a greater or lesser extent.

Let us take as an example the most grave of all violent crimes: those incidents in which as a consequence the victim loses his life. Statistics indicate that approximately one-third of all killings are committed by people who are in an abnormal mental state, to adopt the description used by the Butler Committee. Some of them—as many as 40 last year—commit suicide before they are brought to trial. In a majority of homicide cases (over 70 per cent. in most years) the victim was already acquainted with the person who caused his death.

Perhaps the most significant statistic of all is that in nearly half of the cases—and I am still speaking of homicide cases—the victim was either a married partner or another member of the family; or a cohabitant, a lover or an ex-lover of the culprit. It is true to say that some of these killings within an existing relationship were callously planned and calculated in advance. But most of them were not.

It is part of my task to study the cases of considerable numbers of men who are serving sentences of life imprisonment. My noble friend the Leader of the House also saw some of these cases when he was Home Secretary. Noble Lords opposite who have been previous chairmen of the Parole Board have done the same. Having read the full details and noted the circumstances of these crimes, I am left with an overwhelming sense of the weaknesses and unpredictability of human nature, the arguments and the fights that take place in the home, the jealousies and the resentments and, above all, the outbursts of sheer frustration that can lead to such terrible loss of self-control, resulting in the extinction of another human life. And how often alcohol and drugs are noted as having played a part.

I refer to the background of these dreadful domestic crimes not to excuse the perpetrators, nor to minimise their culpability, but simply to illustrate the point that the deterrent effect of the sentence, irrespective of its length, will have little impact in circumstances of that kind. Moreover, the fact that life imprisonment is the mandatory penalty in all cases of murder has I believe come to undermine its effectiveness as the ultimate sanction. Although by no means all murders are as serious as one another, ranging from mercy killings at one end of the scale to organised terrorist murders at the other, the court cannot distinguish between them in the sentence that it awards. The mandatory sentence of life imprisonment leaves no room for account to be taken of either mitigating circumstances, or what might be called aggravating circumstances. Thus the period that is actually to be served in custody has to be determined later by the discretionary action of the Home Secretary, after he has consulted the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge (if he is available), and, in recent years, the Parole Board. It is here, very properly, that account is taken of the circumstances of the offence, as well as the prospects for the future if the offender is to be released on licence.

The misleading average often quoted—that is the average of ten and a half years' imprisonment served by lifers—conceals the fact that this statistic relates only to those released in the course of a year and not, by definition, to those who are retained in custody. Secondly, it includes a considerable number of domestic killings or other cases, a proportion of which, incidentally, are first offenders and where there have been mitigating circumstances. Would it not be better to reserve life imprisonment only for the most serious cases? This could be done in one of two ways. It could be done by making life imprisonment the maximum rather than the mandatory sentence for all murders. That was recommended by the Advisory Council on the Penal System, at the time under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, in 1978.

The alternative would be to make life imprisonment the penalty only for the most serious categories of murder with a range of determinate sentences available at the discretion of the court in other instances. This approach used to be thought inappropriate because of the inherent problems of classification that arise. But since the Home Secretary has now specified certain categories of particularly grave murders—five in all—where he would expect the offender to serve at least 20 years, presumably the administrative objections to categorisation no longer apply with the same force. I appreciate that legislation would be needed and so no immediate change can be envisaged, but I would welcome an indication of the Home Secretary's attitude from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he comes to reply.

I should like to repeat, before leaving this point, that the aim should be to mark the uniqueness of the life sentence as the penalty for the most serious crimes of all; that is, where the public would be entitled to expect that very long terms of imprisonment would actually be served. This leads me to my second point, which I shall develop briefly in view of the time and the number of speakers who are to follow. It is this. In a number of areas of the country today, mainly inner city areas, fear of crime is a deeply rooted, pervasive and growing social evil. It is well documented in the British Crime Survey, completed only last year, and further details are to be found in a particularly interesting article on Urban Crime, Fear and Stress written by the Head of the Research and Planning Unit in the Home Office Research Bulletin No. 15.

This is no longer a matter of subjective judgment and opinion; it is based upon thoroughly researched and substantiated facts. The research demonstrates the extent of the problem in a number of ways. Let us take only one or two. Among selected sub-groups of the urban elderly fully 75 per cent. indicated that they were afraid to walk in the streets at night. Women are afraid of being mugged or raped. Parents are afraid for their children's safety; householders are afraid that their homes will be broken into. Fear of crime has joined noise, overcrowding and pollution as a major source of stress for those who live in cities— often, it should be added, in the least privileged parts of the cities.

In some cases, those of nervous disposition have progressed from symptoms of stress to something close to clinical phobia as a result of their fear of crime. No Government can afford to overlook a situation of this gravity. It may help to explain that the risks of being assaulted by a stranger in the street are less than those of being knocked down by a motor vehicle, or suffering a heart attack. It may help to press for better street lighting and surveillance devices. It may help to develop more extensive crime prevention schemes and improved physical security in the home. All these things are being done; they are important, and priority must continue to be given to them. But they are not enough. The affected public are entitled to demand a positive response from Government. They want to see more police on the streets and more offenders brought to justice. They want to see evidence of a realistic grasp of the problem and the sheer misery that it is causing to people's lives. After all, the protection of the citizen is one of the foundations of any state that regards itself as stable and free.

It is not necessary, I submit, to agree with every item and every detail of the policies enunciated in recent months by the Home Secretary to be encouraged by the resolution and determination that he has shown in tackling this intractable and fundamental problem. Of course, not every proposal will meet with the support of everyone who has studied this critically serious situation. But we can agree, I hope, that increasing public confidence in the system of criminal justice is a worthy and, indeed, essential aim to which we should all give our efforts.

5.47 p.m.

Baroness Ryder of Warsaw

My Lords, as a social worker who has worked in prisons elsewhere since 1945, I have seen not only the consequences of crime on the criminal himself, including many under sentence of death, but also on the victims of the Nazi system, many of whom were victims of the crime of genocide and of unsurpassed brutality and hatred. We have heard, and will continue to hear, extremely interesting views on what is an immensely complex and difficult subject. There is no single identifiable cause of violent crime just as there is no single Utopian solution anywhere.

This problem begins at a person's very early upbringing. There are so many influences throughout the course of a person's life. We should not neglect to try to do all that we can now to counter bad influences at the very early stages and to provide incentives and real assistance where we can. If the home environment is inadequate and if the school too lacks discipline and good direction and religious and moral instruction, the child is already at risk and has no firm foundation on which to withstand the temptations which life will surely bring.

Although your Lordships will be surprised by what I am going to say, I feel it is worth mentioning that the Poles—if I may use them as an example—with whom I have been privileged to serve and work for well over 40 years, have very close family ties. There continues to be an extremely strong and, indeed, unsurpassed religious faith in Poland which is responsible for high standards of personal morality combined with very strict parental discipline both at home and in the schools. These factors are quite apart from the authoritarian discipline imposed upon their lives by the state.

The heart of the matter is the fact that violent crime is a direct reflection of the customs and morals of society. There is very little hope of improving this without first improving the quality of society. So where—may we ask ourselves—are the areas where we may try to exert a good influence on children and young people? I may seem to over-simplify. First, there are the schools which can bring God back and explain who He is. Secondly, there is the media. The unrestrained use of violence and horror is bound to have, and has had over so many years, a frightful effect; also there are the advertisements enticing material greed. Thirdly, there is the personal example of people in the public eye. I mention in passing the permissive society among some pop singers whose behaviour exerts an enormous influence upon young people. Fourthly, unemployment is a serious contributory factor. The Devil makes work for idle hands. Here we should remember that only a small minority of the unemployed really wish to remain idle.

Almost every week in the course of my work, especially in the big cities in Britain, I meet those who say, "What is there left in life?" I realise that the reintroduction of national service or something on similar lines has constantly been under review. But let us please pause for a moment and remember that there were positive factors with the scheme: first, the development of self-discipline; secondly, physical training; and thirdly, the bringing together of people from all walks of life for a common purpose. I do indeed, however, understand that I am touching upon another sensitive and complex subject. But is not such a scheme better than leaving youngsters to roam the streets or to sit within four walls watching the telly, with probably a mum who is fed up and a dad who may himself have lost his job or have other unfortunate problems or preoccupations?

It is a sad fact that approved schools were abolished in January 1971 because the success rate there was 65 per cent. In my humble opinion it was a grave mistake to do away with them. The present services are unable to cope.

In summing up, let me repeat my firm belief that the problem lies with a lack of moral standards in our society. To cure the one it is necessary first to improve the other. All of us are responsible and all of us must shoulder the responsibility which, in a free society, rests firmly on the shoulders of each of its citizens.

5.56 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I should like to begin by expressing my own gratitude and I am sure that of many other Members of your Lordships' House to the most reverend Primate for having introduced the debate today. In my view, it has been regrettable that this House has not had the opportunity of discussing the question of capital punishment either in this Parliament or in the last Parliament when the Government invited another place to make a decision on the matter. Nevertheless, we have had this opportunity today, and for that I am sure we are all grateful to the most reverend Primate.

I hope that the argument about capital punishment has, so far as Parliament is concerned, been finally determined, and on this matter I very much agree with what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said at the beginning of the debate. If a Parliament with such a very substantial Conservative majority in another place has rejected capital punishment by such decisive majorities, it is in my view highly doubtful whether a majority will ever be secured in another place for the reintroduction of capital punishment.

However, those of us who, like the most reverend Primate and many others, are strongly opposed to the reintroduction of capital punishment have to recognise one unpalatable fact: that almost certainly a substantial number of our fellow citizens, almost certainly the majority, take the view that we are mistaken. There is in this country—and we have to recognise it, and indeed the debate is taking place in the context of this situation—a widespread fear of crime throughout the land and it has in my view grown immeasurably over the last decade. I believe that nothing is more damaging to public confidence in our parliamentary institutions than if we appear to be indifferent to the concerns of our fellow citizens and if from time to time we appear to be so obsessed by the problems of dangerous offenders and apparently indifferent to the victims of violent offenders.

In the context of this situation the problem facing any Home Secretary is very considerable indeed. His resources are, as we know, limited; the bulk of his stock of prison buildings is deteriorating rapidly; the overcrowding is still getting worse; and the life sentence population, containing as it does a very significant number of particularly dangerous offenders, is continuing to rise. But in some respects there has been progress. There has been progress since the general election, thanks, to a considerable degree, to what the present Home Secretary has done.

There has been progress as far as getting people out of police cells is concerned. That is an important development. It has in my view been deeply objectionable that hundreds of men, unconvicted, have been kept in deplorable conditions in police stations for nearly a year and a half—in conditions which those of us who have had the opportunity of examining them have regarded as highly reprehensible. The Home Secretary has indicated that he will get them out of the police cells by the end of this year. That is to be welcomed, as is his decision to reduce the parole threshold to six months. I believe that that should have been done at least a year ago. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is aware, it could have been done at least a year ago. Nevertheless, it is now being done and I think that we should all welcome it.

On both these matters I think that the Home Secretary has been entirely right; but I fear that in other respects his response to the debate on capital punishment in another place has been profoundly mistaken. I think that his speech at the Conservative Party conference was mistaken on two of the central issues he raised there. I very much agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, on these particular issues, and I propose to take them at some length because I think that they are absolutely central to some of the issues involved in this debate today.

First, the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary discussed the length of sentences that some convicted of murder could expect to serve. He indicated that anyone convicted of the murder of a police or prison officer, or of a child in sadistic circumstances, or anyone who used a firearm during the course of a robbery, could expect to serve at least 20 years. Of course, in a number of cases that may well be entirely appropriate. Of course it may. Indeed, I have examined—as I am sure have the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and my noble friend Lord Hunt—cases where it is in fact clear, or appears to be clear on the evidence put before us, that the risks involved in releasing an offender into the community are so considerable that it may well be that no parole board will ever recommend the release of the person concerned.

However, speaking on the basis of my experience as chairman of the Parole Board, I am deeply sceptical about the desirability of attempting to put murders into sharply defined categories—to create a rigid tariff. Certainly an unarmed police force must be protected. But those who murder police officers already know perfectly well that they will be kept in custody for a very long period indeed—and quite right, too. But the House should know that no one who has killed a police officer has in fact been released on licence since 1965, which in itself is 18 years ago and which happens to be the year in which capital punishment was abolished.

However, and in any event, I repeat that it is an error to lay down rigid definitions as to who will serve 20 years and who will not. Let me give an example. Let us take the cases of two life-sentence prisoners. One was the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery during which an innocent passer-by was shot dead. In most cases, of course, the driver of that vehicle is just as guilty as the man who in fact pulled the trigger and caused the death. Having studied the Home Secretary's speech carefully, it appears to me that he will be covered by the 20–year minimum rule. Let us now look at the second case, which is of a burglar who beat to death an elderly person, or, indeed, even an elderly couple, during a robbery at their home. But this time, of course, a firearm was not used, so it appears that the 20–year minimum rule does not apply in his particular case.

I should be very interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, at the end of this debate why one offence is demonstrably more wicked than the other. Why should one be covered by a 20–year minimum and the other not? If the noble Lord suggests, as indeed the Home Secretary did at the Conservative Party conference, that this is simply a response to public feeling, I am bound to say that I would find it very surprising were such an attitude to be reflected by public opinion in this country.

In any event, what the House must recognise is that no one holding the office of Home Secretary can lay down permanent guidelines of this character unless he intends to amend the law of this country and to create two or three degrees of murder, each with the minimum period to be served in custody. I very much hope that we shall have the opportunity to receive explicit answers to these questions, because at the moment there is a great deal of doubt in the country and in the prison service. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as to what, indeed, are the intentions of the Home Secretary. Is this what his right honourable friend the Home Secretary has in mind—that we should in fact have two or three degrees of murder, each with a particular minimum sentence to be served in custody? If, indeed, that is the position of the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary, I very much hope that he and his advisers will not require to be reminded of the need to look at the experience of the Homicide Act (and I suspect that they will not), because by attempting to draw distinctions between capital and non-capital murder that Act was eventually seen to be a near absurdity; and, indeed, the passage of the Homicide Act in itself made a major contribution to Parliament's deciding to abolish capital punishment in 1965. It would be strange indeed were the Home Secretary to decide to invite Parliament to repeat these serious errors of the past yet again.

However, and in any event, as someone who, as chairman of the Parole Board, had responsibility in his time for looking at the cases of over 600 people who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, I find it surprising that there is a belief that in some manner or other it is possible to place murderers in a number of neat categories, some serious and some demonstrably less so.

To take another example, I think it is quite wrong to believe that there is an easily defined category of domestic murderers—people who in most respects are regarded as perfectly decent fellows who just happen to murder their wives. Some domestic murderers did, indeed, simply lose control of themselves, and are deeply and genuinely remorseful for their conduct. But other cases of so-called domestic murders were among the worst that I examined as chairman of the Parole Board, when cold, calculating men butchered their wives in conditions of almost unbelievable savagery.

I accept at once, of course, that successive Home Secretaries and Lord Chief Justices have applied a number of informal rules when considering how long a person convicted of murder should remain in custody. For instance, it is already true that anyone who murders a security guard or a shop manager during the course of a robbery can expect to serve a sentence that is substantially longer than the average. But if we are to retain the indeterminate sentence —and whether or not we do so is, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said a few moments ago, certainly a matter for consideration—it is surely highly desirable that we do not attempt to imprison ourselves in rigid, publicly-defined categories of the kind upon which the Home Secretary embarked at the Conservative Party conference.

While commenting briefly on that point, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Elton, whether or not the rules defined at the Conservative Party conference also apply to Scotland. I think that a number of us would be interested to hear whether, indeed, that is so.

I come now to my second point of concern, and it touches the cases of both life-sentence prisoners and those serving determinate sentences of over five years. In this latter category the Home Secretary announced that in future there will be two separate categories of offenders: those convicted of violence or drug trafficking and another quite separate category of those convicted of other offences. Certainly on drug trafficking I am as alarmed as the Home Secretary and the Lord Chief Justice about the growth of this offence; and I shall come to that issue in a few moments. But first I must make it plain that in principle I am opposed to creating two separate categories of offenders, one of which will be considered seriously for parole and the other, to quote the Home Secretary in his speech, who "should not get it".

Let me give another example of the sort of problem that will lie ahead if we proceed down this particular path. In one case a man is sentenced to 5½ years' imprisonment for a serious robbery—an assault on a bank messenger with a blunt instrument. In the other, a man receives 7½years' imprisonment, possibly from the same judge, possibly on the same day, for a series of frauds on elderly people who have as a result lost their entire life savings.

I have read, as I am sure many others have, including the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and my noble friend Lord Hunt, the many tragic cases of this particular character. The long-term consequences to the victims of cases of theft by trickery of all their life savings as happens to many old people can be far more damaging than a single assault, however serious. It can in reality destroy the lives of many of the elderly people concerned. Yet, the Parole Board will know that the Home Secretary will almost certainly agree to parole in that case but will refuse to give parole in the other case. I find such a view entirely unjust. I believe that such a policy, if carried through, will undermine confidence in the fairness of the parole system. If these proposals of the Home Secretary are proceeded with, I am afraid that many will come to the conclusion that it would be far better not to have a parole system of any kind in this country.

That brings me to the point which links these cases with those of life-sentence prisoners, and that is the general security situation in our prisons at the moment. As the Home Secretary said at the Conservative Party conference, the measures he outlined would "increase the number of violent criminals in custody and dim their prospects for release". I would make one qualification to that. I do not believe that the Parole Board, either at the time I was there or indeed at the moment, when the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is chairman, would recommend the release on parole or life-sentence licence of anyone they believed would be likely to return to violent crime. If they were to do so, Ministers have the power to decline to accept that recommendation.

However, the Home Secretary was entirely right in suggesting that many prisoners now feel that their prospects for parole have worsened dramatically—some, indeed, possibly mistakenly. He went on in his speech to pay a warm tribute to the prison service. I welcome that, and his praise was entirely justified. However, if he recognised the implications of his own decision so clearly in terms of what was going to happen in the prisons, why did he make no effort—none at all—to consult either the professional association representing the governors or the Prison Officers' Association on a serious basis? He did neither.

Many of the most dangerous men in custody are in our dispersal prisons. At several, the staff believed, with good cause, that there were risks of serious and immediate disturbances following the Home Secretary's speech. Those risks remain. Speaking in this House, one is in every sense of the word a great distance from the wings at Gartree, Wakefield, Hull, Wormwood Scrubs, Long Lartin, Albany and Parkhurst. At all, there is a constant risk of serious violence and of hostage-taking incidents. At one of these prisons that I have mentioned alone there have been three such incidents this year, in which human life could have been lost.

Our dispersal prisons contain many dedicated terrorists and other offenders who know that they have little hope of release for 15 or 20 years or more, whether the Home Secretary's new policy is complied with or not. Many work constantly to forge alliances with other long-sentence prisoners, also men with little hope: sometimes, of course, they succeed.

In the last few years, we have had serious disturbances at Parkhurst, Albany, Hull, Wormwood Scrubs and Gartree. To increase needlessly the tension in these prisons was a serious error of judgment by the Home Secretary, and to do so without proper consultation with the staff whose own safety was involved made it even worse.

I turn lastly to the question raised by the most reverend Primate in his speech, and many others: how do we reduce the number of crimes of violence in our society? I do not want to discuss the issue in general terms, but I should like to put two particular proposals to the House and to the Government. There are two areas which deserve priority, and they have both been touched on in the course of the debate this afternoon: firearms and drugs.

First, firearms. The number of armed robberies increased by 400 per cent. in the decade between 1971 and 1981. A high proportion of these offences were carried out by criminals who carried shotguns. Many senior police officers now believe that there is an urgent need to re-examine our system of control over shotguns. I agree strongly with them.

Until the Criminal Justice Act 1967, there were no controls whatever over shotguns in this country. Now a chief officer of police can decline to issue a licence, but the grounds on which he can make that decision are extremely limited. Anyone is able to buy as much ammunition as he likes without even having to show that he possesses a shotgun certificate. One certificate enables a person to hold as many shotguns as he chooses, and to do so without any obligation whatever to keep them in safe custody. With controls as slack as these, it is hardly surprising that criminals find it so easy to acquire shotguns. I hope that we shall hear tonight from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that he intends to review these arrangements as swiftly as possible.

Now I turn to drugs. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, in his Darwin lecture, drew attention to the fact that prominent criminals have increasingly been turning their attention to the trade in hard drugs. If anyone is inclined to be sceptical about this, he should examine the statistics of hard drugs seized by the Customs and Excise. The quantities of heroin and cocaine seized from 1st January to 31st October in each year since 1979 are instructive. In 1979, 61 kilogrammes were seized; 1980, 73 kilogrammes; 1981, 100 kilogrammes; 1982, 195 kilogrammes; and this year 202 kilogrammes. In other words, seizures have risen by well over 300 per cent. in a period of only four years.

Despite the excellent work carried out by the Customs and Excise, there is no reason to believe that they are being spectacularly more successful than they were in 1979. What has happened is that drugs have become a multi-million pound business in which a number of sophisticated criminals are becoming extremely rich. The criminals' only problem at the moment seems to be that with so much heroin and cocaine available, the street value of hard drugs is now declining, as the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, confirmed in a Written Answer he gave to me on 3rd November.

Anyone with any knowledge of the damage done by hard drugs in the United States must be disturbed by the degree of complacency that exists in this country about this problem. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice said: These drugs destroy, and destroy in the most appalling way". Quite apart from the grievous damage done to the victims' families and the terrible deaths of many of the young people who experiment with these drugs, the House should be in no doubt about the relationship between drug abuse and violent crime. I have been told, by both prison authorities and police officers in the United States, that the overwhelming majority of cases of violent crime committed in the United States are drug related, normally by addicts desperate to obtain money to satisfy their craving for drugs.

There is no doubt whatever that the true numbers of addicts in this country is many times greater than is known to the authorities, and that our resources to deal with the problem are woefully inadequate. What is needed, I believe, is, first, an early statement by Ministers. They have to define the scale of the problem. Secondly, I think they have to indicate what steps they propose to take with the law enforcement agencies both in this country and those of our partners in the European Community and the United States to improve international collaboration to stem this tide of death. In the meantime the Government should at once reverse their policy of cutting the uniformed strength of the Customs and Excise, who are our first line of defence at our airports and seaports. It is quite extraordinary that, in a situation of the kind we are considering, the Government have cut the number of uniformed customs officers by 20 per cent.—over 900—since coming into office, to a present total of only 3,746 officers. We are told that 10 per cent. of even that small number of officers are engaged exclusively on office messenger and security duties.

When on the Parole Board I read the cases of people caught at airports bringing in really substantial quantities of hard drugs, I wondered how many more had walked effortlessly through the green channels because of the limited number of customs officers on duty. I hope that this unwise and dangerous policy will be put into reverse at once. But, as I have indicated, this will not be enough in itself. The Government simply have to awaken the country to the gravity of the drugs situation which we are now confronting.

I hope that the debate today will have done something to alert our fellow citizens to the grave difficulties on this issue which confront this country. Again I would express my own gratitude to the most reverend Primate for having introduced it.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, by tabling this Motion which raises a matter of deep common concern for debate in your Lordships' House, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has done us a timely service on a moral plane which transcends creed, race, politics or any other potentially divisive consideration, other than the means of resolution. As to these means of resolution to contain or, if one looks at the wording of the Motion, to reduce the problem of violence, I do not share, if the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, will forgive me, his pessimism. It is proposed to advance a tentative proposal for your Lordships' consideration for immediate implementation with short-term effect. This in no way ignores the suggestions made by several noble Lords that the roots of the long-term problem lie buried in the various crevices which have ruptured the foundations of our social, and indeed moral, fabric; education, housing, inner city problems, the influence of press and media, home influences, unemployment, want of religious belief, want of social discipline, video nasties, drink, drugs, want of community spirit, or, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice put it, loss of respect, which, in a sense, says it all.

The opening speech of the most reverend Primate sought to impose its own discipline, a discipline which it is proposed to seek to observe. First, it ordains an order of general debate stripped of legal confusion, even if the means of resolution, as is stated by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, are to be reflected in amendments to the law.

Secondly, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, was swift to recognise, it precludes anodyne complacency. It enjoins stringent examination and it envisages innovation—innovation which, when it comes, as it is bound to come, shall lie within the province of Parliament, as was recognised by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice in his, certainly for me, wonderfully moving and constructive speech; and innovation, as it will come, unfettered by preconception, tradition or the hamstrings of practice. Lastly, the opening speech opens the door to consultation in a constructive spirit of realism and compassion where the interests of the victim are put in proper perspective.

But in all this, surely the priority which takes pride of precedence is that, without conferring any special privilege whatever, we should examine new ways to seek to reduce crimes of violence against our unarmed police in uniform in the execution of their duty. For, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor truly asserts, the key to the resolution of the general problem of violence is detection. Here we are not so much concerned with the class one criminals, to which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice referred, or the categories of murder, to which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has just referred, but with the protection of the 75 per cent. of the urban elderly referred to by my noble friend Lord Windlesham.

If we wish to see positive results, to which my noble friend referred, is it not axiomatic, following albeit the reasoning of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that the introduction of further measures of protection, such as might be accommodated within the framework of existing law, could not possibly warrant the attention of your Lordships' House?—because within the framework of existing law the police now are left unfairly exposed to an unacceptable degree of violence and an unacceptable risk of injury. Hence this cause of common concern which commands the attention of your Lordships today and demands the consideration of Parliament in future.

The wording of the Motion seems to have imported some measure of slight confusion. But as I read it, I hope I am right, the wording envisages the introduction of some new deterrent to crimes of violence other than murder. The wording also appears to acknowledge that the offence charged often tends to reflect the result of violence as distinct from the intent to do violence—a matter of hazard according to circumstance.

There are two tentative proposals which I seek to advance for your Lordships' critical consideration. In doing so there is no hint whatever of disrespect to the judiciary. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn- Jones, observed, this is far too serious a matter to be left to judges and the police. As the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, truly said, there are no experts on this subject in this House.

The two tentative proposals are these. The first is to strengthen the structure of substantive law, and the second is to introduce the new sentencing principles but this only in context of crimes of violence against the police in uniform in the execution of their duty. The first proposal is that where an unarmed police officer in uniform in the execution of this duty is injured less than seriously, the structure of the law should be strengthened to ensure that all such cases are tried on indictment with certain sentencing consequences. In this context, we are concerned with the teenage thug and bully-boy described by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice; the adult with the mind of a child, also so described; and the vast majority (if I may use shorthand) which was referred to cogently and in great detail in the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones. It is that type of category with which we are really concerned, not with the serious crimes of violence, because there the structure of the law can reflect the distinction between intent and result. It is in the lesser categories that this difficulty arises.

The proposal as to sentencing is that as regards all categories of violence other than murder a modified type of minimum sentence according to category should obtain. The modifications are designed to ensure that the judge retains total sentencing discretion if a plea of guilty is tendered on arraignment or if the accused is under the age of 21 and a first offender in this type of offence, or if wholly exceptional circumstances obtain such as medical considerations. As regards murder, the current proposals for mandatory minimum sentences (which, of course, are applicable in the case of unarmed police officers, with which my speech is concerned) recognise that, contrary to the submission made by my noble friend the Minister on another occasion, with respect, available maximum sentences, however tough, afford no substitute for the known minimum sentence in terms of deterrence. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me as time runs on if I do not deal in any detail with the proposals which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones.

This debate must serve (must it not?) as a prelude to consultations with my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, with the Law Officers and with the Home Office. In such consultations, no doubt the merits of this set of proposals which have been put forward this evening, which include dropping parole in certain cases and the provision of the facilities of the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, to reaffirm correct sentencing principles, will be canvassed. But, sound and welcome as these proposals may be, is it not much to be doubted, on any showing, whether these could afford any sufficient or any timely means of resolution of the problems to which I speak? In conclusion, my hope is that in advancing these tentative proposals for your Lordships' examination I have not already jammed the radar system of communication in your Lordships' House with some sort of tinfoil scatter of legal chaff. Such was not my intention. If the debt we owe to protect those who protect us claims precedence and priority, the question is: how shall this debt be discharged? In the spirit of this debate, no doubt some answers shall be found.

6.35 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I know that the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow closely his interesting proposals. Indeed. I can do no more than touch on this series of exceptionally expert speeches, beginning with the deeply impressive addresses of the most reverend Primate, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my own Leader here.

I was addressing myself to some students the other day in a university town, and I put them this poser in order to stretch their imagination. Would they put themselves, in the first place, in the position of a Home Secretary about to address a Conservative Party conference, bearing in mind that one of the most admired men in the country (who is not with us at the moment but who is our Leader now) had a very rough passage when he adumbrated some progressive ideas at that same conference two years ago. That would be something, I thought, that the young men could bite on. Then, on the other hand, not necessarily in conflict but not in obvious harmony with that feat of imagination, I suggested that they put themselves in the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury about to address the House of Lords and about to offer that moral guidance for which we look to him—and never look in vain.

Well, my Lords, we have now heard the speech from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was really a miracle of compression. It was only about 20 minutes long. When I think of the speeches that I have made and what I have taken 20 minutes to say, I think it was amazing. But one will have to think very carefully on what he said before one can evaluate it. The speech of the Home Secretary at the Conservative Party conference was referred to scathingly by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I do not always agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris—in this House, anyway—but I must say that I thought that he talked extraordinarily good sense today, and perhaps in future we shall agree a little more. But that speech by the Home Secretary was ripped to pieces mercilessly, in a way that I would hardly have tried to render in like capacity, by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. But there are points about that speech, bearing in mind all the circumstances and making all the allowances that should be made. His general idea is to reduce the total number in prison. So far as his proposals bring about that result, I welcome them. When he approaches the matter of serious criminals who have been convicted of violent crime, there, I am afraid, I regard him as very unenlightened.

Before coming on to that, may I just say a word about the victims? For many years people, when they got rather tired of somebody like me talking about prisoners, their rights and their treatment, would say, "What about the victims?" In fact, there have been four debates on victims in this House in the last 20 years, and they were all started by me. People do not believe that, so there is no use my saying it here again. But it is true that I am the only person to have introduced a Bill to try to help the victim. So when people say, "What about the victims?", I ask them to look at the evidence. I hasten to exonerate my noble friend Lord Mishcon from this, because he and I fought shoulder to shoulder in this House on behalf of the victims.

However, coming back to the Home Secretary's speech at the Conservative Party conference, he drew a sharp distinction between what he called the safety of the public and the interests of the individual criminal in the more serious cases. The safety of the public must always prevail in the eyes of the Home Secretary over the interests of the criminal. The distinction here is much too crude. It has led the Home Secretary to offer as a solution that those convicted of serious violent crimes should be kept in prison a good deal longer than they are kept in prison now. That is clearly the outcome of his proposals.

Yet, he must be aware—he has not been very long in office, but there are others who have been concerned with these matters for years, and he himself was a Home Office Minister before—that research at the Home Office points to the conclusion that long sentences do not act as more of a deterrent than short ones. I think that the Lord Chief Justice would bear out that Home Office conclusion. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the heavier penalties which the Home Secretary wishes to impose will have absolutely no deterrent effect on criminals. They are a bogus populist solution for an all too real problem.

It may be said that at least they would keep a number of dangerous men out of circulation for a longer period than is the case at present. In the short run, that may be so, though even in the short run the impact on relations between the staff and the prisoners could be very deleterious and damaging, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who speaks with a good deal of authority, brought home to us just now. But in the long run, and even if the Home Secretary was in power for 20 years—at which I am sure he does not aim—and was carrying out those policies, all, or nearly all, of those dangerous people would be released.

The Home Secretary thinks that, possibly, just a few will be retained in prison for ever, which has never happened up to now in Britain, except by accident. People have died in prison, but they have never been deliberately kept in prison for ever in recent years. So we can take it that, in the end, all these people will come out of prison and they will be far more embittered and dangerous than they are now. In the long run, the level of crime will have increased rather than diminished.

Such opinions, whether offered by me or by wiser people, are speculative. No one can really prove what the long-term consequences will be. But there is something which is manifest already. Long-term prisoners are already treated with a harshness which bears little relationship to the ideals of a Christian society. An additional dose of severity would represent the introduction of downright cruelty.

Over the years, like other noble Lords—and I can speak only for myself—I have come to know a considerable number of prisoners serving long sentences, sometimes for horrific crimes, including murder. I have time to quote only one instance this afternoon. I am thinking of a man whom I visited and who has been in prison for 18 years. I have visited him for 15 years. This man has twice been examined, once about 12 years ago and once, much more recently, by Home Office psychiatrists and in each case it was recommended that he should be transferred to a special hospital.

In the first case, the move was blocked by the Minister of Health at the time, but in the second case I have been shown a very full report based on a two-year examination, and that report reached the same conclusion which I understand was reached a good many years ago. Yet that man still languishes in prison and "languishes" is not an overstatement. His weight has come down in the last year from 13 stone to 8½ stone, yet he is not on hunger strike. His weight is apparently still dropping. He looks like a skeleton. Recently, in sheer frustration, he broke his right hand by smashing it against a wall.

I am no doctor, but you do not have to be medically qualified to be aware that there is a very sick man. But he is retained in prison against the advice of the Home Office psychiatrists who have fully examined him. I am not saying a word against the authorities at any level in that prison where he is, admittedly, now in the hospital. But the rules in a prison like that—and they may be widespread—are pettifogging beyond belief. I say this so that people will realise what being in prison for many years is like. It is not fun and games, as is sometimes suggested.

I was recently asked by an official of the prison to take that prisoner, who had been in prison for 18 years, some fruit and chocolates. He has never asked me for anything before, but he is now so weak that he felt he needed some fruit and chocolate to give him the energy to cope with a longish visit from me. I obtained the fruit and chocolate from a shop in the town, under the auspices of one of the prison officials, so that I could not have inserted anything which could be in the slightest degree dangerous. But when I arrived at the prison, I was told that it was impossible for him to have the fruit—there were only a few apples and oranges—and a little bit of chocolate. I was told that it was not permitted. It was never quite clear what the actual rule was, but I was not allowed to supply him with that stuff which had been asked for.

When the governor was informed that I had obtained the fruit and chocolate at the suggestion of a prison official, he waived the rule and allowed a special dispensation. So the prisoner was allowed the fruit and chocolate, but not till after the visit was over, so that it did not meet its purpose of giving him energy. That is the kind of thing that happens in prisons—not because the governor or prison officials are brutal, but because those are the rules that are applied in a large number of prisons. So when we talk about toughening them up and making things a bit harsher, we are talking about toughening a system that is already brutal enough.

What are we to think of a Minister, or anyone in a position of authority, who seriously intends to make the conditions of men in these prisons worse and more distressing than they are now, in order to satisfy what is thought to be public opinion? When we talk of public opinion, let us not forget the evil part played by certain very popular newspapers which stir up this hatred and make it very hard to know what public opinion would be if it were not for these unpleasant influences. There can be only one excuse. If someone really wanted to make conditions worse, that would be through invincible ignorance. But invincible ignorance should not be accepted as an alibi for very much longer in the case of anyone who holds a great position of state.

Today, we are primarily concerned with the reduction of crime and not with the more humane treatment of prisoners or criminals, which we have often discussed before and to which we shall no doubt return. I have down an Unstarred Question on parole, which I believe will be taken on 14th December. I do not believe that there is any obvious way—and none has been suggested today—of reducing the amount of crime in this country by making sentences longer or shorter, or more or less severe. I do not think that that will bring about any immediate reduction in crime, such as we must all agree the Government are quite right to seek rather desperately.

So far as the young people are concerned—and, quite naturally, there have been some references to them—you can reduce the crime of the future by treating them in a much more enlightened way. One way would be to provide alternative remedies instead of sending them to institutions. That would involve many more probation officers, but there would be a net economic saving in the end and, on the spiritual side, a much bigger saving still.

Also—this accords with what was said so forcefully by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones—unemployment undoubtedly has a big effect on their minds. I have spoken to a lady who runs, under Government finance, two factories where young people who have been in prison are employed—60 of them in London, 60 in the country. I asked her about these young delinquents, many of whom have been convicted of violent crime, what she thinks is the common factor. She believes that it is frustration—that young people who go in for violent crime are frustrated. Many of these young people are blacks. This frustration is greatly exacerbated, she believes, by unemployment. Behind it lies an inadequate educational system. Anybody who tampers with it or tries to reduce the educational facilities in this country is taking on himself a terrible responsibility.

The Lord Chief Justice, who I am sorry has had to leave, delivered recently an address of the first significance, which I have studied very carefully. Today he has given us a rather shorter version of that address. I am not going to tie myself to all the conclusions of his main address but, in the light of what the Lord Chief Justice said the other day, and said rather more briefly today, I should like to offer three propositions which bear very much on the subject.

I should like to argue, first, that the eruption of all crime, especially violent crime, is the result of a moral decline in the last 30 years. It is impossible to weigh these matters in the scales, but we have to accept that this increase in violence in the last 30 years is the expression of a moral decline. Secondly, the permissive society in most of its aspects—I cannot go into that in detail now, although I have supported some aspects of it in this House, including the Wolfenden reforms—has played a large part in the decline of morals. I do not think that the Lord Chief Justice put it quite so clearly today but the other day he said that the permissive society was the immoral society. He left us in no doubt about his opinion. Finally—the Lord Chief Justice did speak about this today—there is no doubt that the development of pornography has gone forward hand in hand with the development of the permissive society. It is difficult to say which is cause and which is effect, but they have gone hand in hand together and they have both gone along with a moral decline and a growth in crime.

Thirteen years ago I opened a debate in this House in which I submitted the propositions that pornography had increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished. I said that most of us disliked pornography but that we also disliked censorship. It would be a matter of legitimate controversy at all times as to how the balance should be struck between them. I do not feel that the word "censorship" is the most appropriate. I am talking about the need to strengthen the laws against obscenity. From that time onwards the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, who I am so glad is to speak next in our debate, and other members of your Lordships' House, have given a very strong lead in the direction of Christian decency. And outside this House, long before I became involved in these matters, Mary Whitehouse was fighting the fight. She has fought it much harder than any of us since then.

At the same time, since we had those debates in 1971 and 1972, the advance of technology and remorseless commercial interests have had plenty of evil success. I am certainly not going to claim that we achieved anything very noticeable, except in the sense that I am quite sure things would have been a great deal worse if we had not tried to act. The public today does at least seem to be aroused. A Bill to control video nasties has just had its Second Reading. And now we have the Lord Chief Justice, in that address the other day and again today, making it quite plain that he regards pornography as a cancer so evil that it must be eradicated without too much arguing and messing about with possible refinements. Those are my words, not his. But if anybody reads that address he will see that the Lord Chief Justice considers that pornography must at all costs be stamped out.

I do not, therefore, end on a note of special depression. Our debate today has been encouraging, in particular the religious lead which was given us so strongly at the beginning of our debate, and now we are beginning, with the help of the Lord Chief Justice and others, to isolate and identify the wickedness with which we are trying to cope. There seems to be some chance that we shall succeed in triumphing over it. I cannot find any words of my own which can rival the eloquence of the most reverend Primate or the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, so I shall quote some words, very much in the spirit of their speeches, which were used in my hearing a good many years ago by one of the most reverend Primate's predecessors, Archbishop Temple: Only religious faith can make the world safe for freedom. Only religious faith can make freedom safe for the world".

6.56 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I am very happy to follow the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I warmly agree with the second part of his speech. I congratulate him upon the tremendous campaign which he has carried out over a decade or two to try to check the flood of pornography which still increases and threatens to overwhelm us. But I must begin by thanking the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate with a most interesting and comprehensive speech, with which I find myself in almost complete agreement, and upon one or two points in which I should like to touch.

First, I agree with the most reverend Primate and several other noble Lords that the penal code and prison system, however it may be improved—I recognise the great thought that has been given to it—cannot alone check the increasing flood of violent crime. The impulse to commit crime starts in family circumstances and national background. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor said, crime is an extension of the mores of society. That is profoundly true. But what they meet today and what they have been meeting since childhood is something very different from what they met in 1930, to which my noble and learned friend referred.

The fact is that crime, prosecution and sentence are the tragic end product of a series of adverse circumstances. A brief word I wish to apply to them. I reckon that the Government now have a responsibility to check this worsening trend. The problem, of course, is that violence is part of human nature. It is part of all of us, but most of us were fortunate enough to be brought up in family circumstances where we had responsible and loving parents who proceeded to civilise us, more or less. They struggled with it. It was more difficult for some of us than for others. And if Christianity was in the home as well, how lucky we were, because it was planted in us. Gradually over the years it has continued to grow and we have become a shade more civilised in the process.

But unhappily today—this again is a very major difference, I would say to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, from the 1925 to 1930 period—the number of broken families is legion. Here is where the trouble comes. These children, far from having parental guidance and any sign of Christianity, get no parental guidance at all. The children with the second wife who is not interested in them just run wild. They are vulnerable to all the dangers of the modern environment, which have been referred to so vividly in speeches today: drink, drugs, pornography, violence. They are the potential delinquents of the future. A great deal is being done to help these youngsters in school, in social services, in youth clubs, but the fact is that it still is not enough. More help is needed.

I have just two suggestions to make on schools and youth clubs before turning to my main point. On schools, I notice that the Council of Europe has just published a report on A Cultural and Educational Approach to the Problems of Violence. The study group visited 15 countries, and perhaps it is of interest and some little consolation that ours is not the only country suffering from this awful problem of' violence in our lives today. The report makes a number of useful suggestions, and I will mention just one; which is that for teaching non-violent solutions to problems of personal stress and conflict in children. This matter is set out pretty convincingly in the report.

In this country, we are blessed with at least one advantage; that religious education is taught in our schools. In fact, it is the only statutorily required subject to be taught in our schools—sometimes not terribly well, it is true. Nevertheless, it is taught and if that could be combined with the thought that comes with this report from the Council of Europe it might be of help to some violent youngsters who obviously cannot control themselves.

Secondly, in schools and youth clubs there is an ever present need for more sports facilities. Nothing is more helpful to a vigorous youngster than to play a game or have a swim. There is a striking deficiency still, with all the money that we spend, in public sector schooling compared with private sector schooling. Is it possible that the Government could grant aid to local authorities to acquire some more land and get together a volunteer group of unemployed youngsters, who might join in with the task of preparing such land for playing fields or the like? If that could be done, the creation of more playing fields or sports centres would be something of value to youngsters in a particular area.

No speech on this subject is complete without a reference to jobs. It is one of the dire consequences of today's huge army of unemployed that it is so difficult for youngsters to get a job at all. But my noble friends in Government are to be congratulated on the youth opportunities programme which has, after all, taken hundreds of thousands of youngsters into the beginnings of employment. I think it is an admirable scheme and I hope that my noble friend will build on it.

Such measures in schools and youth clubs will help the unstable youngster but, in my judgment, more is needed. The increasing element of violence in the media is creating an atmosphere damaging to all of us but which is downright dangerous to these youths. It really is time for the Government to take a hand to check this trend. Here I have a point to make to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. We are in a very different age today from that of 1925 or 1930. Communication is the major revolution of this age and of the twentieth century. Speed of development is so fast today that there is a real danger that it will become our master rather than our servant.

Television is by far the most powerful agent, soon to be greatly extended by cable television. Already its influence is critically important. Let us take note of a recent study to which I referred in a recent Question in the House, which showed that school-children in the five-to-14–year age range watch television for no fewer than 23 hours per week—23 hours! Think how that influences their young minds.

Unhappily, throughout that time the showing of violence has steadily increased both in degree and in amount. The BBC to their credit have just published a new guidance note on violence in television programmes; it is for the guidance of their staff. Substantially, it is a revision of the 1979 guide. I will quote just one sentence from it: The British public has become used to more intensive factual images of violence on the screen in their own homes than ever before". That is a matter of fact.

The report goes on to discuss problems facing editors and producers—and they are real problems. The difficulty is that violence is dramatic; the audience like it up to a point. All the same considerations apply to obscenity, which I may say is not discussed in this report.

We must recognise that the BBC and ITV—as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, rightly said—are in a competitive relationship; they are looking at audience figures all the time. The inevitable upshot is that the trend of pictures shown in news and drama goes slowly but inexorably down; in drama, accompanied by a similar element of obscenity and coarse language.

Among the national newspapers, the great ones make a splendid effort to maintain standards but on the whole they are tending to drift downwards too. The pornographic press produces a volume of material of violence and obscenity of an extreme kind. More recently, the video tape to which reference has been made has arrived with a further element of programmes of unbelievable violence and obscenity. We hope for legislative control shortly. I may say that I have arranged for the police film to be shown in this House next week on Tuesday morning, for noble Lords who may be interested to see just how appalling some of the worst of this material is. I have said enough to show that the unstable youngster is exposed today to a stream of violent scenes which can but inflame and encourage him to go out and try some of that for himself.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, made a splendidly forthright speech today, in which he had no doubt about the influence of the pornographic and violent scenes that children see—mainly on television but to an increasing extent on video tape. All common sense causes us to believe that there is a direct relationship between them. My conclusion is that Her Majesty's Government really do have a responsibility for these young criminals which goes beyond bringing them to court and imposing custodial sentences—a responsibility to check this deteriorating trend which is seriously influencing the mentality of our weakest citizens to commit violent crime.

It is not enough for us to refer to the 1973 Act to check ITV nor to the Normanbrook letter to check the BBC's programmes from this dangerous trend in violence and obscenity. It continues to go downwards in a competitive situation where the free market in media has led to increased sensationalism, and with the parasite pornographer exploiting the worst aspects of this sleazy trade with his unpleasant wares.

I quite realise that to do anything in this field impinges into the most difficult area of the liberty of the subject. All Governments tread here, rightly, with the greatest of care. It is impossible to check corrupting influences without some movement into that area, but I recognise that no movement can be made without the consensus of the nation to support such movement. Heaven knows that there has been quite a consensus here today, and I am sure that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has taken it very much to heart.

I should like to suggest that it is now time to consider, and time for the Government to consider, setting up a committee of inquiry—if they like, a Royal Commission—to examine this matter right across the board. It is not just one subject for the Home Secretary, and it is not just one subject for even my noble and learned friend. It is a subject also for the Secretary of State for Education and Science, for the Secretary of State for the Environment—right across the board. The time has come to look at this matter to define precisely where the problems are and what the solution should be, and to gather a consensus which might give the Government the power to check that which is so dangerous to our national life.

7.9 p.m.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

My Lords, this debate opened with a marvellously constructed speech by the most reverend Primate; but I must say that the contributions made by the other two holders of great Offices of State—the noble and learned Lord the Lords Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice—filled me with a degree of disappointment. Although I hold both of them in the greatest possible respect and affection, if I may say so their contributions seemed to me to be very strong on condemnation but both of them were weak on the essence of thisdebate—which is, after all, the search for new procedures and new remedies.

It was to me a grave disappointment to have the privilege of hearing the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice without hearing really anything at all about the approach of the judiciary, the impact upon the judiciary of this appallingly difficult problem which we are discussing here this evening. I cannot help feeling, that the suppression of video nasties is not really going to have a very profound effect on the whole question which is before us in this debate.

We are debating one important area of crime, the category of the crimes of violence, but it would be a mistake to think that this is the most important, the most pressing, the most heinous area of crime. After all, it is the facts which are the basis of any discussion of this problem, and not emotion. Let us look quickly at some further facts. The first fact is that the crimes of violence are a very small proportion of the total number of serious crimes committed in this country. There are three and a quarter million reported offences, that is offences which used to be grouped under the heading of indictable offences. Of those offences 94 per cent. are crimes against property, theft, handling, burglary, criminal damage, and. in addition, fraud, and 2.3 per cent. of those offences involve violence against the person, 0.7 per cent. robbery, and 0.6 per cent. offences of sex. Of that 3.3 per cent. 94 per cent., or 54,000 of those offences, are categorised as the less serious woundings and assaults, and of these, as has already been mentioned, about 45 per cent. are perpetrated by persons under 21. So we are asked this evening to look at our ideas for a further reduction of those figures in the light of the decision not to reinstate capital punishment.

I presume—and something has been said about this already—that the mention of capital punishment brought into this debate can only have been brought in in relation to homicide and therefore only perhaps in relation to the treatment of persons serving life imprisonment. On the question of homicide, to bring that into a sense of proportion, in 1982, as your Lordships probably know, there were 182 convictions, and those, as we have heard analysed by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, are really perhaps not the most significant part of this debate.

Violent crime, of course, must be regarded with alarm and the utmost seriousness, and I am by no means complacent about it. But, unfortunately, it is the one category of crime which is grist to the media and indeed to the politician; of course, the protection of the old, the protection of the helpless, the protection of women must by description be an outstanding vote catcher at all times.

But, of course, it is of no comfort to inform the public that of the victims of violent crime the old, the helpless, form in fact only a tiny proportion. It will bring little satisfaction to those whose job it is to maximise the circulation of newspapers. Though, of course, condemning violent crime, we none of us should be surprised that violence does in fact involve about 4 per cent. of the totality of crime. This is not in fact new; this is not in fact unique, and indeed the population of this country still remains one of the least violent in the world.

I suppose one can say that the concept of civilisation has much to do with the social control of man's most powerful appetites—greed, lust, violence, envy—and in this country we have made a great contribution in that control with the support of the institution of the family, education, religion, the arts, and the whole concept of justice under the law. The criminal law is deeply concerned with man's appetites, and greed and sex and violence are, I suppose, the main motivation behind practically all serious crime.

We shall never eradicate those things, and, as has been said by my noble friend Lord Hooson, all we can do is to contain them. Our task surely is to contain them in the most civilised manner which is shown to be most effective. And to decide how to contain them we have, first, to identify the offenders, secondly, to identify the causes, and, thirdly, to select the penalties.

Your offender—as we have heard, and I agree—is mainly the young offender; his acts are committed on the whole in the explosion of adolescence upon victims, as the British Crime Survey has pointed out to us all, who are mainly young too. The offender comes, of course, mainly from the inner cities and urban areas and mainly from difficult and broken homes. Other causes are overcrowding, television, alcohol, unemployment, and the zeitgeist, or, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said, the mores of society at the time. It is really in those two first areas that there must be political action: there must be a social policy.

Referring to that, the All-Party Penal Affairs Group in their pamphlet The Prevention of Crime among Young People has already identified six practical, sensible areas for action. NACRO, of which I am proud to be a council member, is in fact fighting this battle on the ground. Its crime prevention unit is now operating on 31 housing estates; its safe neighbourhood unit is operating in London, financed by the GLC, and already covers no fewer than 5,000 households; its juvenile crime unit, funded by the DHSS, is now working in nine local authority areas, bringing together, as your Lordships probably know, the police, magistrates, social workers and other agencies. On the housing front that organisation has no fewer than 89 projects, with 800 staff, providing last year 6,000 places for offenders and disadvantaged people. At the same time it is conducting an onslaught on the young homeless situation with a special group directed to that purpose.

We who support this direct positive action on this problem are designated by supporters of this Government in another place as woolly libertarians. It is easy enough for those who are reared in homes where there is room to live and room to breathe, in schools with space to learn and to play, for those who have been to university with tutors, libraries, theatres, art classes and sports fields, for those who may perhaps go on the the tranquillity of the Temple, to lay down harsher, and call for harder, sentences and treatment for people who commit violent crimes. But no serious research has yet shown any positive connection between severer sentences and the reduction in any category of crime. No serious research has shown that cramming offenders of this kind into conditions in prisons where they find the same situations as those which lead them to violent crime—overcrowding, unemployment, degrading conditions, the destruction of self-respect and self-reliance—has ever been a cure for violent criminality. Moreover, I say with a certain degree of trepidation that no serious research has yet shown that a judiciary that is honest, humane, intelligent and professional, as is our judiciary, but utterly lacking in any knowledge of, training in. or experience of, conditions in prisons or custodial establishments, can ever bring about the necessary reforms in sentencing policy.

Turning to penalties, what was the Home Secretary's first action? We know already, and I do not wish to rehearse the ground, that his immediate reaction was to specify—to use his words—minimum sentences for certain categories of violent offence. Twenty years, he says, are to be served in 10 different categories of crime, whatever view the court of trial may take. I agree entirely with every word that my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich said about the hopelessness of trying to categorise offences in this way. We have seen it all in the Homicide Act. Every offence and every situation is different from every other. However much one tries to categorise types of violence, one will find that, if one locks oneself into definite and unchangeable sentences of', for example, 20 years, one will be flooded with exceptions and injustices. I echo what my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich said, and I sincerely hope that the Home Secretary will not go too far down that road.

Secondly, the Home Secretary said he is to increase, in this situation in which we find ourselves, the maximum penalties for the offence of carrying firearms, even beyond 14 years. Further, he intends to interfere in the parole system by making it impossible for the Parole Board, whatever view it may take, to release another long category of perpetrators of offences—a whole range—and laying down that they cannot expect any form of early release. One would be interested to know whether there is a single governor of a prison in this country, or a single prison officer, who has let the Home Secretary know that he or she thinks that that will assist them in their almost impossible task of running the overcrowded prisons in this country.

That was the immediate reaction of the Home Secretary to crimes of violence. I suggest that that is not the route to the reduction of violent crime. That is not a new way. The sentencing of young offenders is an extremely sensitive and difficult operation. I have taken part in it myself only over a period of 10 to 12 years as a Recorder in minor courts, but dealing with young violent offenders requires patience, knowledge, experience, and a great understanding of the whole sphere of alternative punishment. Of all penalties for such people, the short, sharp shock is the most hopelessly useless route to follow. If the person who is to suffer the short, sharp shock is sufficiently tough, he comes out of it proud to have gone through the experience and is tougher and more violent than before. Those who are not suited and not fit for such penalties simply fall by the wayside and learn nothing from their incarceration.

The judiciary in this country, and indeed many responsible politicians, are very apt to reflect, or say that they reflect, what the public want. I suggest that in fact what the public want is leadership and information. That is what they want from those holding high judicial office and those holding important positions in the state. At the last election, the Labour Party took the view that the population of this country put down its troubles to the Common Market. The Labour Party took the view that the population wanted to get rid of the Americans from these shores. In fact, as they showed through the ballot box, when the public listened to the arguments and were informed of the facts those two beliefs were found to be profoundly untrue.

What I suggest to your Lordships tonight is that, when one is dealing with violent crime—as, indeed, the study we have heard about tonight indicated—when the population hears about the treatment, about the persons who perpetrate these offences, about the ways and means of improving the situation, it is not out for retribution. One of the most interesting things about that inquiry was that fact which came to light. It only reflects what one perhaps has always believed. In a mature democracy such as ours, it is not for those in powerful positions to reflect what they think the population wants, or what they see suggested in the newpapers is what the population wants: they must come to an informed view of the situation themselves. Having done that, they should then lead those they lead towards a constructive method of dealing with this problem, which is a problem of the greatest possible seriousness.

Despite the remarkable opening speech and what was said, the debate, although full of interest and ideas, has been short of constructive suggestions to deal with the problem. I sincerely hope that those who speak hereafter will contribute constructive ideas so that those in charge of our affairs can go forward in a new way to deal with those persons who reflect—I agree with many other speakers—what we see about us in the world. They need to deal with these people in a civilised and constructive manner.

7.31 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I feel that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is doing the country a great service in instigating this important debate in your Lordships' House. There can be nothing more important than to try to find successful ways to reduce crimes of violence. I was most hesitant to put my name down to speak in this debate with such erudite and distinguished speakers: but the reason why I felt I should contribute is on behalf of women, who are so often the recipients of violent crime.

In Yorkshire, women have been frightened beyond words by the murders by "the Ripper" and by other recent terrible murderers, and by attempted murders. One example is the Leeds nurse who was bundled into a car in a hospital car park, raped, tied up, thrown into the river and left to die. Luckily she managed to struggle free. Last year two helpless elderly ladies, one of whom lived near York and the other in Bradford, were beaten and robbed. Both had to have hundreds of stitches. Their condition shocked many people. They were two of many such people who are living in fear and alone throughout the country.

A few days ago a young New Zealand girl who was nursing at the Marsden Hospital had just left the hospital when two black youths snatched her bag. They then returned, took her watch and pulled her gold chain from her neck. The girl was terrified and screamed for help. She thought she was going to he raped. People opened their windows, but nobody came to her rescue. How sad it is that this is the memory that this girl takes back to New Zealand from London. People just do not want to get involved. They are frightened of being stabbed. I ask the Minister whether compensation is given to people or their families if death or serious injury occur when they go to the help of others in distress. I think that more people might be ready to help if compensation were paid in these circumstances, and if that were made clear to the public.

The week before last I went to the showing by the police of the so-called video nasties to Members of another place and Members of your Lordships' House. I found that I was the only woman among many men. I feel very strongly that more women ought to know just how violent and terrible these obscene films are. It is quite possible that many mothers do not realise what their children and young people may be watching. It is difficult to understand why these evil, horrific and vile videos have not been outlawed before now. The police told us that some of these videos have been in the country since 1975. I cannot see any reason at all for letting them pollute our society. They could he just as damaging to an unstable adult as to a young person. Could I ask the Minister what facilities Scotland Yard and other police forces have for researching the effect of such violent viewing on people who have committed serious crimes?

I know that great concern has been expressed by heads of schools, including primary schools. I wonder whether the Department of Education and Science has shown any concern over this serious matter, and whether children who have seen violent videos show signs of disturbed behaviour? This might take years to present itself, and perhaps the devastating effects will lie hidden for a long time. I am pleased that Mr. Bright's Bill has been given a Second Reading in another place. Perhaps Members of your Lordships' House, with such a wealth of experience, will he able to improve the Bill when it comes to this House.

There is no doubt that many people are disturbed by so much shooting and violence coming into our homes on television. I, for one, feel myself getting frustrated. I have to leave the room if my noble kinsman watches an American gangster movie on our television set. If I am allergic to anything, I think it is to cheap American films with a great deal of shooting. There is concern that more such material will be on the screen when cable television arrives. I think this has been mentioned by several noble Lords this evening.

I am president of our British Spinal Injuries Association. We have a few cases each year of stab and gunshot wounds which have paralysed the victim by damaging the spinal cord. In the United States of America, at least half the people who become traumatic paraplegics each year do so as a result of injuries from such violence. We must not let this terrible state of affairs spread over here. Should we not tighten our laws on the possession and carrying of offensive weapons?

One of the reasons for this terrible violence on the streets and in society as a whole in the United States is no doubt that the drug craze has been with them for longer than it has polluted our community. However, terrible crimes of violence are committed to procure money to buy drugs in Britain. I, for one, have had my car window broken and things taken out of my car. I was lucky, and I was grateful to two CID officers who searched a man on suspicion in the underground station at Piccadilly. I got some of my things back. The man was a drug addict. I feel that unless the police can search in suspicious circumstances, their job is virtually impossible. I cannot see why people worry about this if they have nothing to hide. But I think that it should be carried out tactfully by the police.

A recent film on television showed how, in Dublin, in three years heroin has spread to epidemic proportions. It showed how a community living in flats had organised rotas of their people to police the flats. They had combated the immediate drug problem, but it had moved elsewhere. The film showed how inadequate are the Customs facilities in Eire. It made me think: could this not be a route for heroin trafficking into Britain? No doubt heroin is coming in by many and various routes, by air and sea. When I have come through Customs from various parts of the world I have never seen dogs sniffing people or luggage. I have seen splendid dogs in your Lordships' House. If there is a shortage of dogs for detecting drugs, I for one should be very pleased to breed Labradors, or any breed of dog, for this purpose, and give them to the country.

We must get on top of this evil invasion, which causes so much tragedy to so many vulnerable people. There is tragedy when the drug addict becomes hooked and slowly kills himself or herself. There is tragedy to addicts' families, who are helpless; and tragedy to the unexpected, innocent person who becomes the victim of violence by those who will go to all ends to procure the drugs. A growing number of babies are being born as heroin addicts. They suffer the terrible withdrawal symptoms as adults, and need treatment to wean them off the drug. These are just more problems for the over-stretched National Health Service.

Last year I met a doctor who worked at the Pakistan Embassy here in London. He told me of the terrible plight of the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He said that there are now well over 3 million, maybe 4 million, refugees. They are in need of medicines, vitamins and vaccine, as well as warm clothes for the very cold winters. They have epidemics of measles and other diseases, and very often they are hungry. British Customs officials have said that last year the Indian sub-continent, and in particular Pakistan, accounted for 84 per cent. of the heroin seized. If there are desperate people, half starved and in need of products vital for life, is it not possible that heroin is being sold here and elsewhere in Europe to help fund the desperate need of over 3 million homeless people in a poor country?

After speaking to the doctor from the embassy, I discussed the needs of the refugees with an eminent Member of your Lordships' House. I thought that we might be able to have an appeal to get some necessary help, such as medicines and vitamins. There must he thousands of drug samples and unused medicines which could help the people in the camps. The problem is very serious. Everything ought to be done to stop heroin coming on to our streets.

Can the noble Lord the Minister tell the House about the drug amyl nitrate, which is said to be able to kill? Am I correct in saying that it is sold for £5 for a small bottle in pubs and nightclubs, and is very dangerous? It is sold under the name of "poppers", "golden fluid" or "golden liquid". Is this drug banned in Britain? If not, are the Government going to make it restricted? I believe that it is banned in the United States of America.

Why is it that this generation of young people like their pop music so loud that it is medically dangerous to them? Are they trying to drown and forget the difficulties in modern society which they do not, or cannot, face up to? Are they hiding beneath the blaring throb which goes all night, so that they can sleep most of the day?

I ask the Minister: what has gone wrong with the sentencing of young people since the Criminal Justice Act was passed? There seem to be more 15 and 16 year-olds being sent into youth custody, with detention centres half empty. I have a Question down on this subject for Wednesday of next week, and so I hope for a satisfactory answer. During the Committee stage of the Bill in you Lordships' House I moved an amendment suggesting that school children should be separated in a school environment, rather than be part of the youth custody system. There is great concern in the probation service that these young people should not be residing in adult prisons waiting for sentence while on remand.

I am told that in Birmingham there are many 15 and 16 year-olds locked up for 23 hours a day in Winson Green Prison. How many more are there throughout the country? Does not the Minister (who is also a teacher) think that they would be better doing a full day's school work and being treated by people who understand the difficult problems of puberty, rather than lying on their beds most of the day in an adult prison, thinking that they are grown-up criminals?

These youngsters are mainly the casualties of broken homes, within which there has very often been a great deal of family violence. Could the Government turn some of the half-empty detention centres into juvenile remand centres and combine juvenile youth custody with full-time education? I should like to see people re-educated in good child care and taught to be good parents, so that the cycle of deprivation is not continued.

I used to take a discussion group for young prisoners in a prison. They used to tell me, "We will go on committing crimes as long as it pays". The danger is that where there is little to lose, crime must seem to be an outlet and a challenge to many. Today many young people are not patient, nor tolerant, nor Christian. They want to get rich quickly. If they can take a short cut, they do. Perhaps they should be taught in nursery school that life will be a long, difficult ladder that needs climbing at a steady pace, and that there will be, one hopes, a better life after death if they try to reach the top.

7.47 p.m.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I must resist the temptation to go further into the viewing of the noble Baroness and her relations. I think that instead I ought to stick to the advice of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop. His speech was so wide-ranging and so helpful that at this time of the evening it is probably better if I speak very briefly about one topic that he raised—and only one. It is the role of the police, which has been mentioned only very few times during the debate.

The most reverend Primate gave two quotations which I thought were so apposite. First, he referred to a quotation—I am not sure where it came from—stating that it was too late for many young criminals to fall into the hands of the police. He gave a second quotation, which was that the police alone cannot make an impact on much of the crime that we have in this country.

I should like to make two comments on this question. First, we should all pay much more attention to the police and not just take them for granted as all too many people do. Secondly, we should recognise the gap between the police and the people, which has probably widened over our own lifetime. We should do all that we can to narrow the gap. New ways of reducing crimes of violence are not easy to find, but all can contribute. It is so important that we should all do what we can.

I should like to suggest that the police are probably the most vital of all the agencies that have been referred to. They have a wide range of problems to face. It is certainly wrong of us to assume that the problems in heavy industrial areas are the same as those in country areas; or that the problems are the same in the different countries in the West. The police must have great imagination and be very flexible in their duties and in the way in which they plan for the future.

In all countries, and certainly in ours, the police should command the respect of everyone. Further, there should be an element of fear of the police for the criminal. It is especially important that the criminal should have some fear of detection. The police cannot do everything that is required on their own. Too often the police and also, I think, sometimes the Home Office fall back on the party cry, "More men and more powers". I should like to give one figure to show the immense cost of the police today. To employ one man with his back-up equipment costs £20,000 a year. Even the smallest increase in the establishment of a force represents a substantial sum that is generally divided between the county and the Exchequer.

I should like to see not just more men and more powers but better men who are better trained. I am sure that the most reverend Primate, if he casts his mind back to his days as an infantry officer, will agree that in a good battalion it is possible to value men at different stages of training.

We want to see more police in uniform, especially in areas where many people are fearful, but we cannot afford large numbers of men walking because of the high expense.

We must follow up much of what was stated in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. We must see that his recommendations for consultation are not allowed to fall back. I feel sometimes that, except in one or two places—I believe Brixton to be one exception—progress on consultation is extremely slow. This may apply over the whole country and not just to London south of the river.

We must help the police as far as we can. When they feel hurt they react and they withdraw, as the Scarman report stated, into "fortresses". They close their ranks. That is a bad sign. We want them to be much more open because we have to close the gap between people and the police.

Our police grew from representatives of local communities, unlike in France where the police have been built up as a regiment, organised centrally. But our young constables today are given less training than young constables in police forces of other Western countries. An effort is being made, I believe, to extend the training period but it will take some time before the period of three months, the basic time a year or more ago, can be extended to the six months, which was recommended by Lord Scarman. We want these young men to have better skills and more confidence. This has been missing from many areas of their training.

Here is another approach to the search for new ways. We could well review our special constabulary with its long history. There have been two recent working parties, rather half-hearted, and various recommendations have been accepted by the Government. But comparatively little has resulted. We still wait, so far as I know, for a chief constable to come out into the open and say that the special constabulary can take a full part in the fight against crime on the streets, instead of simply using them as back-up in more simple police tasks when many men would be capable of doing more. I suspect that chief constables are careful because they do not want to rub up the Police Federation the wrong way. The federation has never been enthusiastic about the special constabulary.

There must have been 250 noble Lords present in the Chamber earlier today. I wonder how many have ever served as special constables or gone out of their way to try to learn about police duties. Have they been out on foot with men on duty, or out in cars? Are they familiar with the duties carried out on the streets and in police stations? There will be some who have done so, but they will be a minority. I wish it was the other way round. I recommend that they should learn from their local police about the duties that they perform.

Some forces would be friendly if noble Lords visited their local police station and asked to be shown the duties that they perform. Some noble Lords might be rebuffed. Some senior police officers dislike Parliament and politicians most of all and they never make much effort to conceal that dislike. Even if they receive a rebuff, I can assure noble Lords that they will find it worth while to continue their efforts and to persist in their search. They will learn a great many useful things that they did not previously know.

The task of the police today is to work closely with the many people who want to work with them. This is a two-way traffic, but there will always be a gap and something of a bitter-sweet relationship between the public and the police. But if the professionals, the amateurs and the general public would only work together, we could achieve much in the fight against crime.

7.56 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I should like to join all the speakers who have thanked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this debate and for presenting his speech in his characteristically lucid and humane fashion. Secondly, I should like to apologise for having a very nasty cold. I can only surmise that I caught it from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington during the National Health Service debate.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am sorry I did not hear what the noble Baroness said.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

I was apologising for having your cold. I wish to concentrate on the part of this debate concerning the search for new ways of reducing crimes of violence. After all, the young offenders of today can tragically turn into the violent criminals of tomorrow. I should like to concentrate on the work being done by the voluntary organisations and the youth movement to halt the movement of delinquency towards criminality. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, has mentioned this aspect but there has perhaps been insufficient reference to the important work carried out by youth, social and voluntary organisations in the field of crime prevention. I should like to focus especially on a community-based scheme called Intermediate Treatment which, in my view, has been highly successful in the prevention of crime among young people.

One should perhaps recall how the present system is getting on in dealing with young offenders. The first sobering statistic is well known. We have more young people in custody than any other Western European country. I understand that at present there are more young people in custody than at any time since 1912. It is revealing to note that, while the number of juveniles committed to detention and youth custody centres has risen by 150 per cent. in the last decade, only one-fifth of that increase can be accounted for by an increase in young people coming before the courts. So the only justification for the rise in custodial sentences must come from a belief in punishment which not many people, I notice, admit to holding. However, when taking into account the proven failure of custody as a remedy for delinquency—surely, the reconviction figures are unequivocal proof—then the only explanation for sending so many young offenders to penal establishments must be a wish to punish them.

But another and, in my view, heartening fact is that 95 per cent. of all youthful offenders commit crimes against property rather than against people. This goes to show that, in the first instance at any rate, there are very few young violent offenders. It would indeed seem to prove that children from every kind of family background can go through a stage of delinquency as part of the process of growing up. If it is dealt with properly then they will come out at the other end of that stage as law-abiding citizens. So it must be critically important to decide on what remedial treatment will dissuade young culprits without pushing them further into crime.

I happen to believe that children and young people respond very definitely to the way in which they are treated. I am convinced that if you treat an unstable, confused 15 or 16 year-old from an unstable background and with little hope of a job, as a criminal after he has committed some petty theft or vandalism, then there is every chance that he will become one. In view of the high rate of reconvictions for young offenders, I do not think it really is going too far to describe our penal institutions for young people as "universities of crime". They go in to learn; they are treated as criminals and they come out, in very many instances, as criminals.

It is for that reason that I should like to comment briefly on the importance of the work being done with young offenders by the voluntary and community organisations, especially through intermediate treatment. Since the term "intermediate treatment" first made its appearance in the 1968 White Paper entitled Children in Trouble the notion has grown that allowing these difficult people to remain in their own homes while bringing them also into contact with a different environment is more successful in deterring delinquents than custodial care. Many of the intermediate projects serve to involve the wider community in supervising difficult young people—indeed, it is as if the extended family, which so many of these children lack, is thereby recreated.

I should like to give one or two examples of the type of work going on. The first example is in Belfast, where the danger of delinquency among children is enormously strengthened by their higher poverty factor, the greater shortage of jobs for school leavers and the existence of violence, and where, consequently, there is in fact so much enlightened thinking as to ways of preventing crime among the young. One such scheme, supported by the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust—a voluntary organisation in which I am involved—is called the West Belfast Auto Project. That project is aimed at combating the heartbreaking and serious problem of joyriding, in which a young boy of 15 or 16 steals a car, puts his girl friend inside it and then drives through police and army checkpoints. Fairly naturally, he will be fired on and this will bring danger to himself and disrepute to the police and the army. So, instead of putting these children into detention, a project was devised whereby they were brought to a makeshift garage and taught how to look after old beat-up motor cars which were brought in for that purpose. Every Friday, having mended the cars, they were allowed to race them around a track in Belfast. So although the project is primarily a preventive one, it also provides an alternative to custody for those young people referred by the courts as a condition of a probation or supervision order. The success rate of this particular project is indeed very high.

Another successful scheme is run by a small voluntary organisation in West Yorkshire. This was a truly pioneering venture set up in 1963 and in close co-operation with schools. The organisation provides weekend schemes involving problem children and their families. They believe that it is essential to treat those who might become violent in a non-violent way, and they try to restore to those young offenders not only some self-respect, but also a respect for the people in the community who surround them.

Finally, there are numerous schemes implementing intermediate treatment in London. There is one near to where I live in Chelsea. It has a very high success rate. During the five years it has been functioning only two of the problem children with whom it has dealt in daytime classes and evening sessions have ended up in custody. These young people include delinquent boys between the ages of 14 and 17, girls between the ages of 14 and 16 with family problems, and a whole host of other very disturbed children.

All the projects that I have mentioned are financed through consortiums of different funding agencies. But, matched against the low re-offending rates of the intermediate schemes which have been monitored, the funding really is ridiculously small. For instance, in 1981 it was assessed that the re-offending rate of four monitored schemes in Maidstone, Birmingham, Pontefract and Harringay was 25 per cent. to 35 per cent. Yet in 1982–83 local authorities in England and Wales spent only £12 million on intermediate treatment and £197 million on community homes and observation and assessment centres. These, as we know, have an extremely high record of reconviction.

Central Government have committed themselves to make £15 million available for intermediate treatment in the next three years—a tiny fraction, I am sure your Lordships will agree, compared to what central Government will be spending on detention and youth custody centres in that period. I should like to impresson the Minister that it should be imperative to establish permanent funding for intermediate treatment, because otherwise at the end of those three years the funding of this highly successful system will be left to the vagaries of the particular local authority concerned. Surely from both the human and the practical viewpoint it must be recognised that this particular system has worked and should be placed fairly and squarely as a strong alternative to custodial care within our juvenile system. If we really want to stop today's young delinquents from turning into tomorrow's violent criminals, surely there must be more support for those committed and dedicated workers in the social, voluntary and youth services upon which there is such a very great responsibility. It is their influence over our young people which has proved to be so much more effective than the repressive and often brutalising methods of the custodial establishments.

8.8 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, the most reverend Primate in his wise and moving speech developed this debate on a wide canvas, and for that we are grateful. I seek to develop one aspect only of his speech. I seek to make the case to your Lordships' House that, with some exceptions, violence in adults has its roots in disruptive experiences in childhood. I make this statement based on personal experience of children in trouble and in need, and through contact with those in prison. My personal experience is reinforced by research at both Oxford and Cambridge Institutes of Criminology, Lancaster University, the Dartington Research Unit and other notable centres of research.

I would particularly refer to the work of the late Dr. Kellmer Pringle, the first director of the National Children's Bureau. In 1973 she gave a paper to the Association of Police Officers and others entitled, The Roots of Violence and Vandalism. In her paper, based on research, she cited four basic needs of children which, if unfulfilled, engender fight or flight, attack or withdrawal. What are these needs? First, the need of a relationship of love which is secure, continuing and consistent; on this love depends the healthy development of personality and the ability to form satisfying happy relationships through childhood into adult life; secondly, the opportunity for mental and physical development; thirdly, the need to be valued; and, lastly, the need for responsibility.

Research has found that the development of a child's personality lies, in the first instance, within the confines of the family, the extended family and the neighbourhood in which the family lives. I believe that it is on the family that we must build. Conversely, children who are battered, who witness violence and vandalism in their homes or outside, and who do not receive warm, loving and consistent care are, in the main, although not exclusively, those who may turn to violence in adult life through frustration, loneliness and a sense of emptiness.

I should like to mention a few instances where our social and education policies could perhaps better support children and their families. There is the unresolved dilemma of mothers who need to work or who feel within themselves that they must do so. Unless carefully handled, the emotional needs of children will suffer. If married women with young children need to work, then fathers need to play a greater role in the home. Furthermore, it is cause for concern that no Government in this country have yet created a policy, nor a climate of opinion, which seeks to meet the needs of children under five years of age. Our EC partners have been more sensitive in this sphere. Could it be that the people of the EC countries recognise the emotional needs of children more than do we, or do they just love their children more than do we in this country?

In our schools—and I pay a tribute to our teachers—should there not be a policy throughout the country of involvement, as between parents and schools, particularly in schools where there are children from families with a different culture?

Then, again, I would make an urgent appeal to the Secretaries of State of both the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Security, to develop and pursue a policy of keeping children out of the penal system. Encouraged by Lancaster University, various local authorities—such as Northamptonshire, Hillingdon, Liverpool and some in South Wales—are working towards this policy through a juvenile bureau which includes teachers, social workers, probation officers, youth leaders, police and the voluntary sector. This bureau provides a co-ordinated service to parents and children and young persons who are experiencing difficulties, including non-school attendance and vandalism. They are offered counsel and the provision of activities, such as was stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, on a voluntary basis, thus preventing a court appearance. It is known as the "diversionary policy".

However sound is our penal system for young people—and let us pay tribute to those who deal with young people in the penal stream—nevertheless, as has already been stated, those who get in to the penal stream in many cases graduate to prison and, even if they do not, in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others, they are labelled as being part of the delinquent stream. I contend that one of the greatest things we could do would be to keep children out of the penal system.

It would be unrealistic not to face the fact that there are children and young persons whose early lives have been disrupted and who have little sense of right and wrong, who must come before the juvenile courts. If they are sensitively and wisely handled, I believe—and, in fact, I have experienced the fact—they can be rehabilitated.

However, has the time not come to think and rethink the juvenile court system? I am chairman of a committee entitled New Approaches to Juvenile Crime. This committee invited Mrs. McCabe, a criminologist, and her colleague, Mrs. Treitline, to review the juvenile court procedures in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Their report is just about to be printed. They consider that the present juvenile court system has outgrown its usefulness. Their recommendation for the reform of juvenile courts is based on the penal system of Scotland, although not exclusively.

Time does not allow of a description of that system which was introduced in Scotland in 1973 and which has reduced the number of children in the penal system. Suffice it to say that, under the Scottish system, parents are involved and helped to experience a sense of responsibility for their children, which is not generally the case in England and Wales. Dare I hope that when the report is published it will be taken seriously by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, the Home Office and the Department of Health.

On another issue, may I say to my noble friend the Minister how disturbing is the Interdepartmental Report on Conciliation in Divorce Cases. I dare to hope that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will not rely on that report when considering the needs of children in divorce cases.

I want to mention two last points. I would suggest that no education or social policies, however good, will provide a service to parents and children unless those offering the service are themselves people with skills, emotional balance and a deep sense of feeling and commitment, and who in one form or another experience spiritual values which take precedence over party politics.

My noble and learned friend in his speech made reference to the fact that we should be quite clear on what is right and what is wrong and not to seek to excuse people. For fear it should be thought that I condone wrongdoing of children who have had a disruptive and unhappy childhood, I would say that teaching and helping them to uphold what is right and true, and condemning what is wrong, is not incompatible with understanding.

I should like to cite one instance of a boy of about 16 or 17 years old who stole a Balliol tie and a Balliol suit, who went to the Randolph in Oxford and lived there for a week. In a lordly fashion he marched out and asked for the bill to be sent to me, and the bill came. It was astronomical. The description of the boy was such that I knew who he was and I saw him. He said to me, "Ah yes, miss, but you see. I've had a very unhappy background. I am a psychiatric case, and therefore there is nothing you can do". I said to him "John, you have had a psychiatric background, you have had difficulties in your past, which were more than most people could bear. But what you have done is wrong and you can choose. Either I take you to court or you get a job and pay me back the money which you owe me". He paid me back the money right down to the last penny. That was 20 years ago and only last Sunday he rang me up, and so bears no grudge. I mention this, because it is possible to have understanding of a background, to care and have deep commitment and yet to adhere to a distinction between what is right and what is wrong. I would submit that if we do not do this, and if we do not demand of a person, whoever they may be, the very highest we can, we diminish that person's personality.

Finally, I would say that the emotional education and social needs of children and their families must surely be met by the churches of all denominations whose spiritual beliefs should illumine our policies, and should provide guidelines with each and every child. I end as I began by saying that I believe that violence would be greatly diminished if, as a country, we had a policy for the family, and in particular if we had sensitive and more positive regard for the known and established needs of our children.

8.21 p.m.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, will appreciate why I do not at this late hour—I should love to be able to do so, although I would not do so as effectively as she has done—follow her into some of the fields she has explored. What emerges clearly at this stage is that there is no dispute about the need to call the attention of the Government, and indeed Parliament, to finding new ways of dealing with violent crime. It is probably sensible to separate violent crime from the other fields of crime in this way, because it is a special variety calling for special treatment and special care, and a special and in some ways expert approach, provided that it does not blind us to the fact that the non-violent crimes include a wide range of crime whose effects are often profoundly evil for the victim—sometimes just as evil in their own way as are the crimes of violence. However, there it is: it is crimes of violence that we are considering tonight.

I was diverted by the circumstance that both the Lord Chief Justice and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, misunderstood the reference to capital punishment in the most reverend Primate's Motion. I should never have thought that the latter would be so unwise as to regret the passing of capital punishment. I must confess that this never occurred to me, and I am a much more obtuse person, I am sure, than either the Lord Chief Justice or the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. Anyway, I thought he was simply saying "Now we have got rid of this irrelevance, let us get down, all of us together, to the problem of trying to solve this particular aspect of the criminal field". I should have thought that that was a wise, sensible and well-timed decision.

The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said something else which interested me. He said that there were no experts in this House, and of course nor there are, I have some doubts as to the experts outside. I well remember that, when I started sitting on the Bench, the Secretary of State's advisory committee—and this is many years ago: more years than I like to think—was advising us that there was no point in sentencing people to imprisonment unless it was a long sentence. We went around visiting prisons from time to time, and this was the preaching which was sent to us. It is a terrible confession to make, but I suppose any consequences are prescribed after nearly thirty years.

I was simple and naïve and I took the experts' advice and fell over backward to avoid sending people to prison, but if I sent them to prison, I sent them to prison. Fortunately, my powers of sentence were restricted in those days so no dreadful consequences would have followed. But I shudder to think what consequences there might have been if I had really had unrestricted powers of imprisonment. Now of course the experts tell us that this will not do, and one wonders why. Well, so much for the experts.

I thought that my noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington made a wise speech, although I did not agree with everything he said. He seemed to throw out a challenge to us, and I was a bit concerned about it, when he hoped that there would be some constructive suggestions in the rest of the debate. Our whole thinking on this problem has to take a new form; our whole approach. The time is ripe, if not overripe, for a new approach.

People talk about it being all the fault of the permissive society. This, to me, shows a sort of confusion in thinking. It does not recognise that, just as great inventions bringing in beneficial effects to people are often ambivalent in their effects, so also reforms bringing great benefits to society are similarly ambivalent. The simple illustration is the printing press, which gave us the possibility eventually of works of great literary merit and even just good boys' and girls' stories that were worth reading, but also brought us the Sun newspaper. Similarly with the permissive society.

It is a more civilised society. Of course we are more civilised than we once were, and in this field of the administration of criminal justice and dealing with crime and the criminal we are much more civilised than we once were. We certainly do not want to return to the Victorian age so far as that is concerned. If we come to terms with that, we can go forward with our thinking as to how to deal with these side effects which have arisen as a result of the great liberation which has taken place.

I think that my noble friend Lord Hutchinson agrees with the Observer editorial, but I found it profoundly depressing when it said: Youth criminality has little to do with the permissive society. It almost certainly has little to do with pornography or video nasties". I cannot understand that as a sensible judgment at all. Surely the video nasties must blunt the sensibility of people to violence. Such research as there has been—and I have made no profound study of it; I do not pretend to have done—surely establishes that, as one would expect in common sense, sensitivity and horror of violence, particularly among the young, is blunted by these things. Therefore they ought to be brought under control.

I have a special interest to declare in this connection because we have just had a video shop come to the village where I live, 10 miles west of Stirling. There is a proliferation of them in the small Scottish town of Stirling, and I have been making a special study of them and watching the kids looking at the windows and saying, "Coo, I'd love to get that one, you know". I find it profoundly depressing. They turned up in this village where I live. There in the window was a splendid display not 50 to 100 yards from the parish church. The centrepiece of the display was a skull in glorious technicolor, dripping blood. It was advertising a film called "I Drink Your Blood". I went in and had a look round. They had "Murder on the Orient Express" and one of Mr. Henry Fonda's famous films—perfectly legitimate, but, judging by the covers on the cassettes or whatever they are called, the range was from the offensive to the obscene if the covers properly represented them. I cannot believe that that sort of thing does anything but harm. When one comes close to it like this near to one's own home it concentrates the mind on the problem. It is like being mugged, because that, too, concentrates the mind. Something must be done about video nasties. I think they have a connection with our troubles, though they do not explain them all.

I have spoken as long as I ought and I have not given my noble friend any constructive suggestions. What about the politicians? When the noble Lord, Lord Soper, was speaking—and I am thinking also of the peroration of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—I wondered about the contribution of we politicians, we who participate in politics. Is there not a time when we, searching for votes, appeal to all that is worst in men, to some extent aided and abetted by the advertising men whom we employ? Some of us appeal to fear, do we not? Some of us appeal to greed and envy and so on. After it is all over and we have the votes or not, we appeal to St. Francis of Assisi.

Is this the right way? Should we not look in on ourselves as politicians? What is the good of appealing to all that is worst in people for three weeks and then, when we are faced with the problems of government, we have to appeal to the best in people? We should not be surprised then if they do not respond but laugh cynically.

8.32 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, we are grateful to the most reverend Primate for giving us an opportunity to debate this important subject. The constraints of time necessitate concentration upon one or two aspects only of this complex problem. I therefore intend to concentrate on the appropriate punishments for crimes of violence.

I do not despise popular opinion and, like most people in this country, I believe that such punishments ought, by and large, to be more severe than they are at present. But to counter-balance this—notwithstanding what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside has just said—I would favour less severe punishments for crimes that do not involve injury, pain or suffering, be it physical or mental, to individuals. In this connection perhaps the admirable innovation of partly suspended sentences could play an increasingly important role. Again I would think that less severe sentences for non-violent crimes would accord with the public mood. I was very pleased to hear the Shadow Home Secretary, Mr. Gerald Kaufman, take much the same line on the radio a few days ago.

Crimes of' violence naturally cover an extremely wide spectrum. For example, a drunken driver who knocks down and kills a child or an elderly lady on a pedestrian crossing is, in my book, guilty of a crime of violence. At the very least the law should be changed so that his licence is suspended for a minimum of five years instead of the present twelve months' minimum. Having got that off my chest, I want to concentrate upon the crime of murder and this brings us naturally to the issue of capital punishment.

I have always believed capital punishment to be entirely justified morally for the most heinous types of murder, but, at the same time, I can appreciate the force of the undoubted aesthetic and practical arguments against capital punishment. On balance, and with certain provisos, I would say the House of Commons took the right decision earlier this year. However, this leaves public opinion almost totally at loggerheads with Parliament, which must be an unhappy and undesirable state of affairs. Can the gap between the public and Parliament be narrowed? I think it can.

What the opinion polls are really telling us is that over 80 per cent. of the population want more severe punishment for the worst types of murder—which excludes obviously most murders within the family—and that, faute de mieux, capital punishment is what springs to their mind. If a suitably rigorous alternative were suggested and subsequently adopted, I think public demand for the restoration of capital punishment would largely fade away.

The status quo is clearly unsatisfactory. What then are the possible alternatives? First, I cannot agree with those people—some of them decidedly of a liberal persuasion, incidentally—who say that life imprisonment must mean life. There must always be the possibility, surely, of some remission of sentence as an incentive to good behaviour and to protect the lives of prison officers. Another reason for disagreeing is that I suspect the very concept of a life sentence of having outlived its usefulness. Everybody in Britain knows that nobody will spend the rest of his life in prison, unless, for example, he has an unexpected heart attack. Armed with the knowledge that the average "lifer" spends only nine or 10 years in prison, the man in the street regards the whole thing as a farce.

This farcical aspect was compounded by the extraordinary ineptitude and lack of any instinctive sense of psychology or public relations on the part of those responsible—which I suppose must mean Parliament—when it was decided to allow judges to recommend the minimum periods of actual imprisonment to be served by certain convicted murderers. Up until that point all sentences had been expressed in gross terms; that is, gross of remission. Yet the minimum periods to be served under the new rules were to be expressed in net terms, net of remission, thereby totally confusing the public.

The sentence to which all other lengthy sentences are instinctively compared by the man in the street is the 30–year sentence awarded to the Great Train Robbers. So, when the newspapers the other day carried the banner headline "Nilson gets 25 years", because no newspaper was prepared to become a laughing stock by announcing dramatically "Nilson gets life", the man and woman in the street automatically assumed that the "soft" establishment had done it yet again, and was treating a man who had murdered 16 people much more leniently than they had treated the train robbers who, after all, had murdered nobody.

Would it not have been generally beneficial, not least to restore public confidence in Parliament, to adopt some variation of the American system whereby for the crime of murder a flexible sentence is imposed within determinate limits? Sentencing for murder, always at the discretion of the judge, might then work out something like this: the average domestic murder or crime passionel would normally be treated as a third degree murder, although one would not need to use that term, for which an appropriate sentence might be 10 to 30 years. The convicted person would be eligible for both remission and parole and could, accordingly, be released in as little as three years and four months.

In quite a different category comes the type of murder in which an elderly sub-postmistress is blasted in the face with a sawn-off shotgun, or where a policeman is shot in the back. I wonder whether your Lordships realise that 181 policemen and women have been murdered in Northern Ireland over the past 13 years. This is equivalent to the systematic murder of 6,575 policemen and women in England, Scotland and Wales over the same period. The appropriate sentences for these types of murder might be in the region of 30 to 60 years, subject to remission but not to parole. This would mean a minimum of 20 years in prison. I am delighted that the Home Secretary effectively seeks much the same objective, albeit by a different route; although his policy would not allow judicial discretion as mine would. I, too, should like to know whether the Home Secretary's writ in this matter extends to Scotland and to Northern Ireland as well as to England and Wales.

Quite the worst types of murders are multiple murders, especially the cowardly and contemptible bomb outrages like those in Hyde Park, Regent's Park and in numerous parts of Belfast: for example, the Belfast bus station bomb, in which, I think, 13 people died, including several women. For these, the appropriate sentence could hardly be less than 45 years to 75 years, entailing a stay of at least 30 years in prison.

The maximum period of imprisonment stipulated in each of these cases would very rarely be served, but would effectively mark the gravity and the public detestation of the crime. These maxima would also provide a useful longstop if an unexpected manifestation of homicidal tendencies by the prisoner in question made an earlier release undesirable. I think that the general public would be greatly heartened by some development of this nature.

However, all this presupposes that, in the absence of capital punishment, the only alternative that can be contemplated is a very lengthy period of imprisonment in a conventional prison. But is this really the only alternative that can be contemplated? All punishment, ideally, ought to be short, sharp and should follow quickly upon the crime. This, after all, is the rationale for capital punishment. But there is something not quite right about stringing out a punishment over a quarter of a century, during which time the prisoner may well have altered totally in personality as well as physically, to the extent that he is really not the same person who committed the original crime in anything but the most technical sense. In this respect, if not on others, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones.

Is there some way, therefore, short of capital punishment, in which those found guilty of unusually heinous killings could be severely punished for a limited period immediately following their conviction and subsequently sent to conventional prisons, thereby enabling them to spend a shorter time overall in detention than would otherwise be the case? Britain has no equivalent of Devil's Island and I do not think that the American chain gang would suit us; but we used to have penal servitude with hard labour and the army "glasshouse" system as it was called, used to be particularly tough and rigorous. Might these not be revived? We are, after all, talking about only a relatively small number of evil people, who would spend no more than two or three years in such an institution before being transferred to a conventional prison.

More radical steps could be considered. In the United States, young offenders are frequently required to read the Bible from cover to cover and then to answer questions on it to the judge's satisfaction before before being released. I once suggested in your Lordships' House that terrorist murderers should be treated like exceptionally wicked schoolboys and made to write out the Sixth Commandment several hundred thousand times as a precondition to their release. The aim would be to deglamourise these individuals and to make them objects of amused pity rather than objects of veneration and respect in their communities. Alternatively, the evil man who plants bombs in crowded places, killing and maiming scores of men, women and children, might be given a constant visual reminder throughout his waking hours of the true horror of what he had done, at least until he showed signs of remorse and repentance. Modern techniques of colour photography and photographic enlargement and reproduction on to durable surfaces make this entirely feasible.

Perhaps the European Court, which I sometimes think is mentally stuck in the innocent and optimistic 1950s, would raise its collective hands in horror and cry, "Cruel and unusual punishment!" But all punishments are unusual until a few dozen people have experienced them: to ban what is unusual is to rule out innovation of any sort. As to cruelty, well, one man's cruelty is another man's soft option. Many convicted murderers would find it far less cruel to face three years rigorous imprisonment followed by, say, 10 or 12 years of conventional imprisonment than to have to look forward to 20 years or 30 years of conventional imprisonment. What is more, such an arrangement would be far less cruel to the taxpayers' pocket.

Leaving murder aside, other innovations in sentencing policy could be tried. For example, those convicted of robbery with violence could be sentenced to x years for the robbery plus y years for using violence in the course of that robbery, these to run consecutively and not concurrently. The second sentence, that for using violence, would relate directly to the degree of injury caused to the victim. The object of this would be to induce those engaging in such robberies to avoid injuring their victims at all costs.

No doubt there will be plenty of objections to what I have suggested, both niggling objections and objections of substance. To these, I can only reply that, as current methods do not seem to be working all that well, might it not be wise to revive some of the old methods, or to try some new ones?

8.47 p.m.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate on crime. I respect him for doing so. I suspect that my speech will cover points entirely different from those mentioned by many other speakers in this debate. I want to say something about freedom, about the principles that must support freedom and about leadership. I believe strongly that if we returned to past principles life would be made far more difficult for the criminal. The views that we express give an idea of what we have experienced. I once lost my freedom in circumstances of extreme hardship. I know what kept many alive when, by the nature of what happened, they should not have lived at all. It was only a belief in this country, in its beliefs, its principles, its leadership and, above all, the way it governed its everyday life. This was simply the issue: that the struggle to hang on to life was worthwhile. That was our strength.

Today, it is my belief that it is necessary to regain some of this strength that has weakened. As I see it, this means returning to some of the principles that formerly sustained us. What seems to me to have happened in the ensuing years is a tendency either to forget past principles or to allow attacks to be made on these principles by learned individuals who should know better and who have been completely unable to propose anything better to replace them. There is, therefore, a void, an empty space, and leadership is weakened.

I am no expert on crime. I leave that to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. But I say that, when leadership is weak, I see no reason for criminals in our midst not to misbehave as they do. Leadership is weak when it fails to speak out loud and clear on issues affecting our authority and when it fails to act, as it ought. With respect, I maintain that leadership has been weak on this score. There is another failure of leadership. After the war, in 1945, we failed to articulate to our people, as far as I can make out, the benefits that were about to be bestowed upon them as a result of their efforts in sustaining the Second World War. I presume that this was considered to be a reward for the efforts they had made on this occasion.

In 1983, the cost that the British taxpayer has to pay in support of the National Health Service runs into billions of pounds. In 1983, I have nowhere heard of any gratitude from our peoples for the fact that we have the National Health Service. I have heard only assertions that they have it by right. Still less do I hear any appreciation from those who have benefited from the establishment of our educational service; or from the grants that are available for those who desire to continue their studies at university. On the contrary, all I have heard from those (and, admittedly, it is only a minority) who, but for the policies which have been brought into being, would never have been able to go to university, is a challenge to the principles on which our freedoms are dependent in this country. Yet so far they have been quite unable, by the arguments that they have propounded, to suggest any better principles.

This has spread to teachers in our schools. Discipline went by the board and, when London schools were affected, it became necessary for the Inner London Education Authority to insure their teachers against the results of violence from their pupils. Then militants from outside became active on this score. Here we have, indeed, reached the depths—no discipline, no respect for authority and the very principles of our society discouraged, which is fertile ground for the criminal outside.

Seemingly, leadership is powerless to act to safeguard our youth and our posterity. As a people, we are probably more free and have less government than the peoples of any other nation. But the privileges that we enjoy can be safeguarded only if we act with responsibility towards those principles, and this implies a duty on leadership to lead and to speak out about them.

I now turn to the media. What can give more encouragement to someone to break the law than to show on television a disparagement of authority, in either Government or industry, which has responsibility for our affairs? Is it not true to say that when a person is interviewed the questions are hostile, at least to begin with, suggesting impropriety or inefficiency on the part of a person or a department, turning the whole process of the interview into an inquisition? I know that it is a defence for the media to say, as they do in reply to such a charge, that in their questions they are only attempting to bring out explanations which they think the public ought to know; in other words, they reserve to themselves the right to be the judges on that. I cannot accept that as any justification for a hostile question. Authority ought to be protected and in no way disparaged. Authority is necessary in the management of our day-to-day affairs. If authority is weakened, it does not help stability; it helps the criminal outside.

In this Motion by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury we have been invited to consider new ways of reducing crime in our country. I have suggested that in reducing crime we should not overlook or forget those principles which have sustained us in the past, and that leadership should be more articulate about them. I believe that many of our people would be glad if that were done. I believe that our people are not slow to follow what they want to hear, and if leadership is shown in the way that I have suggested life will be far more difficult for the criminal.

8.55 p.m.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, after so many distinguished and expert speakers, I rise with the greatest diffidence. First, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Kitchener, on his remarks. He made constructive suggestions about diet and its effect on behaviour, which I, too, have read about with very great interest, and I hope that his suggestions will be tried. Perhaps we should start here in this House and see whether our behaviour improves.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, said that the Church should resurrect the devil. I think that it should resurrect the Ten Commandments, which it has allowed to fall into disuse to such an extent that, in many places, they no longer seem to be taught even to confirmation candidates. I should also like to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who stressed that it is for the Government to maintain law and order, not for the public to use more and more expensive, sophisticated and inconvenient devices to protect itself from criminals. Finally, I agree with every noble Lord who has blamed television, video and the entertainment world in general for increasing violence.

For more than a generation Governments, psychiatrists and educationists have been undermining parental control, which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said he would like to see brought back and reinforced. The police did not want the public to help them; they wanted to do it by themselves. Now, suddenly, they want help again, but it will be very much more difficult to restore parental authority and co-operation between the police and the public than it was to destroy them. To destroy is usually easier than to create. It will be very difficult, and will take a long time, so the sooner we get started the better. My father used to say that it' children went wrong it was almost always the parents' fault. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, wants to keep children out of the penal system, and I entirely agree with her, but in very many cases I would put the parents on the mat instead.

Ordinary people, whose views are not coloured by expertise or fashionable theories and attitudes, tend to feel that the punishment for any given crime must be adequate not only as a deterrent but because, however wrong and unchristian it may be, the desire for revenge is a very basic human reaction; for example, where a loved one, perhaps a child, a mother or a grandmother, has been brutally murdered or injured. If the punishment is adequate, this desire in civilised people usually dies a natural death. But if the penalty is felt to be grossly inadequate, it may persist and lead to members of the public taking the law into their own hands, which will not do at all.

Then there is another consideration. Where people have no particular religion and have no acquaintance with the Ten Commandments, the yardstick by which they tend to judge the heinousness of a crime is the severity or otherwise of the punishment which the criminal is likely to receive if he is caught. I know that not everybody agrees with me about that, but I believe it is true. I hope that the Government will bear these points in mind when framing any future legislation.

8.59 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, the numbers of cases of personal violence and of robbery have doubled since 1972. Since then, those cases involving firearms have gone up by 16 per cent. annually; and it is an interesting fact that of those firearms used no less than two-thirds were air guns. The causes of violent crime are, of course, very varied, and many of these have already been covered by a number of speakers. Obviously, environment is the first one, and high-rise flats with no play areas must surely account for a great deal of the crime in younger people. They have nowhere to play, and inevitably the only thing they can do is to cause damage and write graffiti in those buildings. Such buildings are the first step towards anti-social behaviour.

Blocks of flats split up communities. Community feeling is lost in the streets where houses are pulled down. In those streets there is a great neighbourly feeling and a great community spirit. People look after each other. But once they are scattered among people they do not know that community spirit is lost. When crimes are committed in passages, all that people do is to look the other way.

It is interesting to note that in Hong Kong's high rise buildings single room flats are provided. When a village—perhaps even a village made of tin sheets—is relocated into a block of flats, not only is the whole village put on the one floor but, so far as possible, each person is put next door to his neighbour so that the community continues in that block of flats.

The breakdown of family units, whether it is a question of one-parent families or both parents going out to work, is a great factor in people getting into bad habits at an early age. Lack of parental guidance inevitably results. Once children start to roam the streets they are heading downhill. I wonder seriously whether equality for women is all that it is jacked up to be. If women go out to full-time work, how can their children be properly looked after? One day I feel that the wheel will turn full circle: that women will be encouraged to stay at home and bring up a healthy family rather than go out to work.

A child's early environment, which includes parental love and discipline and the inculcation of good values affects that child, as we all know, for life. Furthermore, if a child at an early age sees his mother being hit, it is very likely that he himself will grow up to be a wife-beater. If children, again through lack of parental care, have few possessions, they are the most likely to disregard property which belongs to others and to tread the road towards vandalism.

Unemployment is obviously another factor. And lack of money, coupled with increased leisure time, must be a large factor. Everybody has to occupy themselves in some way. If there is no way in which to occupy themselves, people get into trouble, in spite of all the facilities for people which are laid on nowadays by councils.

The youth training scheme is excellent. I understand that yesterday the Prime Minister said that by Christmas there will be an opportunity for every 16–year-old to join the youth training scheme. Some people who are in a position to do so—and how lucky they are—are able, when young, to go to Australia to work on a farm in the outback. Whatever it may be—the youth training scheme or the ability to make their way round the world, and it is remarkable how many people are doing so—young people must do something.

The one thing which we are all agreed about is that idleness at a young age is fatal. To have some occupation is absolutely essential. Young people should not be allowed to say that they do not wish to join the youth training scheme or that they do not wish to do anything. I believe that serious consideration should be given to giving no social security whatever to anybody aged 16 or 17 unless they have been a member of the youth training scheme. They should not be allowed to prefer to do nothing, as some of them inevitably do. It would be marvellous if National Service could be reintroduced, but it will never, I regret, be seen again. It got people away from home, gave them confidence and instilled a little bit of discipline at a time when it was most important to do so.

Other points are stress, caused by boredom and sometimes anger. Crimes are often committed as a result perhaps of losing a girl friend. Group influence can also be good or bad. It is very often the case that a decent boy will have to commit a crime in order to remain a member of his group.

Many speakers have mentioned video nasties. If you stub your toe often enough against a brick wall you get a bruised toe. If you deprave your mind often enough with video nasties, surely you must bruise your mind. I do not believe that we can continue to allow video nasties to be sold. They must encourage crime and demonstrate methods of committing crime to those in particular who have a low mentality and who are the most likely to be unemployed and influenced.

Drink, drugs and solvents contribute to the problem. In particular, there is the problem of after-hours fights outside pubs. We must be much stricter on publicans. One so often hears a boy say that he had not really been drinking, that he had only had eight pints and that that did not count as drinking. Where a fight takes place outside a pub, the publican should feel that he may lose his licence. The magistrates should be more strict. The suggestion has been made that in certain circumstances plastic glasses ought to be provided, which would be most unfortunate for the publican but which would deny the likelihood of weapons. That would virtually kill the publican's trade. Football hooliganism is now, I gather, spreading to cricket.

Many most important speeches have been made on the efforts being made to help young people. That is where most of the effort must lie. It is the first duty of this country to stop crimes happening rather than to punish them.

Violence for gain is increasing as society is becoming more violent, and criminals are increasingly prepared to resort to violence. Burglars are more prepared when disturbed to attack the householder rather than try to escape. A lot can be done about this. An increasing amount of money is changing hands by cheques in the form of wages, thus reducing the amount of money that has to be in transit. Security of business premises is increasing, and the monitoring of schools, which are so often burnt down or vandalised, can be done by television cameras. More and more houses have security systems. I personally would favour identity cards. I see no reason why they should not be introduced. After all, your Lordships all have identity cards and are not ashamed to have them. I cannot see why identity cards of some kind cannot be introduced, although I know it would be extremely unpopular and probably impossible.

So far as further prevention is concerned, there must be further foot patrols in towns. On the motorways one sees the motorway police, and one tends to slow down should one possibly be going faster than 70 miles per hour. The very fact that the motorway police might be around keeps one's speed down. So too would foot patrols reduce the opportunity open to criminals. They would increase the likelihood of a quick discovery that a crime had been committed and would make the criminal a little unsure as to where the man on the beat actually is at the moment. Also, the patrol policeman gets to know all the faces in his area and can soon identify strangers.

The police already receive great help from the community, but they can only enjoy that help by earning the respect of the community. The police must be known locally and must contribute to the work that goes on in community committees and organisations. And the police must be trusted. The police must be known to be honest, reputable and of good character. It takes only one bad policeman out of 100 in a police force to give those people who are anti-police the opportunity to give the police a bad name.

There is a trend towards increased punishments. We have heard a lot about keeping people out of circulation in prison. But if it is to be that there will be no chance of release for prisoners, then we must accept a greater prospect of violence in prisons. Prisons seldom do any good. They seldom reform anybody, and they are extremely expensive. I seriously question whether prison sentences are not far too long and whether shorter sentences with, perhaps, long periods of probation or reporting would not be just as effective. I do not believe that when a criminal goes to commit a crime he is fearful because it might mean a 25–year sentence, a 20–year sentence or a 15–year sentence. I believe he is fearful of being caught. Therefore, the relative length of the sentence is more important than the total length.

Surely there is also a difference between punishment, on the one hand, and keeping someone out of circulation because they are going to go on committing crimes, on the other hand. These should not be confused. When somebody is put out of circulation, there is no great merit in putting him into bad conditions. On the other hand, when somebody requires more punishment than simply being kept out of circulation, then I feel the opposite; that there is no need to provide him with good conditions.

There are too few effective alternatives to prison. Community service need not be heard at all. There is also restitution. We know all the various punishments and they have their parts to play. The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, rightly mentioned the benefits of intermediate treatment. But where one gets the real nasty who has beaten up an old woman or slashed a baby, then a very much sharper punishment is required. But the short sharp shock treatments have usually been watered down within months or years of their being introduced.

When I visited a detention centre the boys were playing games all afternoon. They had single rooms in a very nice block and they had their own keys to their rooms. They had a beautiful gymnasium. And unlike being at home, they had regular and well-cooked meals. I believe that detention centre was for many of them very much better than being at home, except of course that they had lost their liberty. One hut was empty and it was described as a terrible hut and quite uninhabitable, but it was very much better than I had when I joined the army. When I joined the army, along with my noble friend Lord Denham and my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock, we had cold water to wash in, we were on a concrete floor, and we survived; and that was not even punishment.

I believe that for these real nasties there ought to be a sort of glasshouse system, perhaps measured in weeks or months, where fellows would have to run all day with full packs, drill, get fit, undertake assault courses, education; let them gain confidence as well, let them learn self-management; but make it a punishment and one that they would not want to go back to, something they feared, but finite, lasting weeks or months.

One punishment which has been suggested is solitary confinement, and that should play its part for certain people. Again in Hong Kong there is a very successful method of detention centres, and as it is so successful I believe it should be looked at and emulated, even if it does not tally with some of the methods we use at the moment. Most of these methods of good detention centres require extremely well paid and very highly trained warders, and that is expensive but perhaps cheaper than keeping people in prison. Perhaps some of these methods could be used to reduce the need for prison sentences while satisfying the demand for tougher sentences. Most importantly there must be more education against anti-social behaviour, and parents must be made to be more responsible, made to pay fines and damages for their children in many cases. We must remove the video nasties and encourage the residents somehow that it would be more appropriate to be more co-operative with the police.

Violence is part of nature. Children are brought up with violence; they have toys with guns and battle games. They learn to box, they fight, even if they fight their own friends. Research has shown that many terrorists have joined terrorist groups not because they believe in the politics but simply because they want to go and fight and they do not really mind who they fight for. If they want to fight, let us try and channel their aggressive instincts into good areas. I very much liked the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, about the boys being allowed to race their motors.

I believe the country is gradually turning the corner; as employment is just starting to get better, prosperity will return, and with it I believe crime will reduce. I think this has been a very valuable debate and I hope some of the ideas will be helpful in the future.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask if he has ever spent any time in solitary confinement?

Lord Gisborough

No, my Lords, and I would not like to think it went on for long; but I think the idea of having a long prison sentence would be equally unpleasant.

9.18 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, has made a lot of points, some of which I agree with but more of which, I think, I do not agree with. It is too late to go into detailed argument across the Floor, and so the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail. I did notice that he examined the speakers' list very closely before he said anything about women's equality; he saw that there was no noble Baroness to follow and so he took the risk. I will not follow him in that, either.

I rejoiced when I saw that the most reverend Primate was opening this debate. We have had many debates on this subject, and we have had much assistance from clergy outside and from Bishops inside this House, but this has been the first time the Leader of the Church has stood up in this House and started something of this kind. We are deeply grateful. I thought, if I might say so without being impertinent, that he did it most frightfully well. I was particularly impressed by the fact that he referred to nearly all the suggestions which can be of the slightest use—and most of them are not—in dealing with the problem.

As an example, he talked about dealing with the family. Nobody else has talked of dealing with the family. It is the only thing that can do any good at all. I am going to talk about it, because before the war I worked for a good many years at the Pioneer Health Centre at Peckham, which was a family club. It was frightfully good, and if we had done it everywhere half these problems would not have arisen. The most reverend Primate was right. That is the first thing.

Most of the matters noble Lords have spoken about today have been subsequent. The most reverend Primate did it himself, about Peper Harow. Peper Harow is a wonderful place, but it is only dealing with people who have already gone so far wrong that no-one can help except the specialist. He also spoke about Grendon Underwood, of which I was the first chairman for ten years. I admire it and think it is a wonderful place; but it is for people who have been selected as already wrong. So my own feeling is that my noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington was a bit hard on the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice. Nobody else has made any constructive suggestions, and I do not see why he should expect them to do so.

However, turning to more serious matters, the Motion was so phrased that it left us with two questions to consider. The first is: can society do anything to halt the rise in violent crime? That I have already discussed here. I think that with the exception of one of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, concerning the efforts to help the young—the sort of thing that NACRO is doing with people who have already gone slightly wrong, and the whole strength and movement of the social service throughout the country, which is much criticised and, although often not frightfully good, is often very good indeed—there is nothing else anyone can do. I do not believe that the direct approach of, for example, my noble friend Lord Soper will deal with society. It will deal with individuals, and the Church can deal with individuals, but not with society. So I think that as to the first part of the Motion of the most reverend Primate my own attitude is one of considerable scepticism, but we can do very much more than we are doing now, and I think we should.

Secondly, how are we to treat the increasing number of violent offenders who must have long sentences for the protection of the public now that their removal by hanging is, happily, no longer available? In spite of what has been said in the debate, I do not think much can be achieved on the first point, so I shall pay attention chiefly to the second. It is important to stress—and this is not fully realised—that long term imprisonment is a terrible sanction. It is acceptable in a civilised society only if it is administered with scrupulous care. Conditions should not be noticeably worse than those of ordinary under-privileged citizens. Hope must be kept alive. We must regard violent crime as an additional category to the crimes committed by the ordinary petty criminals who now overcrowd our gaols. In Northern Ireland we used to distinguish them from the terrorists by calling them ODCs—ordinary decent criminals.

The crisis in the prisons is not caused by violent crime. The proportion of convictions for violent crime is only one in five. My noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington gave the proportion of violent crimes to the total number of crimes. The proportion of, not convictions but sentences of imprisonment, is only one in five. The proportion rises up to 30 per cent. within prison because the violent men get longer sentences. What is now accepted by nearly everyone is that prison rarely does any good to the prisoner and invariably does some harm, if only to family relationships and the ability to earn. So it must be used sparingly and only for offenders who are a danger to society.

I know very well that the category of "danger to society" is not easy to define, but we do not need to do that tonight because it is perfectly clear that it includes people to whom this debate refers. There may be marginal areas but, generally speaking, we are talking about people whom we would all agree are a danger to society. So I want to make it clear at the beginning that penal reformers, who are often thought of as soft, have with scarce exception unequivocally agreed that prison is a suitable and inevitable response to violence. I think that everybody who has spoken agrees with that. It is sometimes thought that those of us who work on the prisoner's side from time to time do not agree with it, but we do. We are quite clear about that.

Ideally we should like to see prison used only for such people. If those who need not be there were not there, there would be room in time to pay proper attention to those who have to be there. But this is a long way off. Some progress has been made. My noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington praised the work of NACRO, which I am very pleased about. I am its president, so it would hardly be for me to do so, but I think that progress has been made and NACRO has played its part.

There are different categories of violence. I want to talk first about one in particular—terrorism. The only noble Lords who have referred in the debate to the terrorist were the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Lord, Lord Monson. Terrorists must surely be in a category by themselves. Some hangers-on are no more than gangsters, but the dedicated and sincere terrorist is a man who acts from conviction and not for gain, and so is doubly dangerous. They believe themselves to be at war in a just cause and feel that they have a right—perhaps a duty—to kill and maim, and to risk their lives in doing so, just as we (those of us who are not pacifists) feel justified in doing so in a declared war. Only political solutions can alter this attitude. They can do so quickly, as we have seen in Kenya, but such solutions are outside the scope of this debate.

I cannot see that any preventive action is possible here. In Northern Ireland, for example, religion has tried—so me think not hard enough, it is fair to say—on both sides to dissuade its flocks from violence, but with little success. The difficulty is that terrorism has a moral basis—as I think that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said about violence—however misguided and in spite of being based on hatred. This makes it particularly hard to counteract.

My view is simple: we should fight it ruthlessly and with all the weight of the law and not limit the effectiveness of the police or troops who protect us by insisting that they look over their shoulders the whole time to satisfy every single demand for the preservation of civil liberties, which is fair enough in peace but is inevitably subject to some adjustment in a war situation. Field Marshal Montgomery told his troops—and I was one who heard him do so—that they must learn to hate the Germans. There are directions of a different kind from the Christian religion, but I have succeeded in hating the terrorists. I say that without shame, though no doubt I shall suffer for it hereafter.

Terrorists who are guilty of the most serious crimes must be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment and must be kept in maximum security. Here I speak only for myself, but I personally favour the Mountbatten plan of a fortress-type prison, as near as possible impregnable to escape from within or attack from without. But if people are to be imprisoned for long periods they must be given decent conditions. This is possible only within a secure perimeter.

I was going to describe other categories but I think that life is too short at this time of night. I thought that there were about three categories, the second being the professionals and the third those who commit violence not for gain but for jealousy, rage, wounded vanity, and so on. A certain amount can be done about this. The situational solutions which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred to, by which real efforts are made to make things difficult for people to commit crimes, can work particularly for the casual youngster who is stealing about the place. If things are properly locked up and housing estates are properly designed, less of this happens. But, in relation to the people who use violence in a social setting for rage or jealousy, I do not think that there is much that you can do. Violence springing from the passions of human nature has always been with us and I fear that it always will be. I remember the much respected and loved head of the family in Aksakov's A Russian Gentleman, who, if argued with by his wife, pulled her around the room by her hair and pulled a lot of it out. He was a confirmed and pious churchman and his admirers were awed rather than shocked by such behaviour. Times have changed since then, and, thanks in no small way to women's lib, heads of families have to behave a little better than that. But human nature remains fairly ungovernable, and I see no prospect of making much change.

These various categories—one of which I have mentioned at length, and two of which I have referred to—all involve a prison sentence, though very different ones in different cases. I think that the public have a very wrong idea of a severe sentence. Seven years is a very severe sentence indeed. It is longer than many of us in this House have to look forward to at all—at least the noble Lord and myself. I have been told by more than one prisoner that they cannot visualise more than two years, and any increase over that adds nothing to their determination not to be caught. What they are determined to avoid is being caught at all.

Incidentally, here I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to confirm—not tonight, but later—whether I am right in thinking that the crime clear-up rate on the part of the police has deteriorated very badly, since in a way this is almost the most important point of the whole question. The more likely offenders are to be caught, the less likely they are to do it.

I do not think that sentences for violent crime are too long, though I think that the public are wrong to want them longer. I am happy to leave this to the judges, and to the Parole Board to modify their judgment if time justifies it. It is seriously misguided to alter the parole regulations in the way at present proposed, but my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones and my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich have said so much about this so powerfully that I shall say no more, except perhaps that an element of hope is an administrative necessity in long-term imprisonment.

We are faced with the problem of a large number of men with very long sentences, and I think that that is unavoidable. We cannot look after them properly without putting right what is wrong in our prisons. Staff are working under conditions which have been intolerable for several years. Prisoners will not be properly looked after until staff conditions are improved. The two things which must be put right—and which have been referred to by most noble Lords today—are prison overcrowding and the long periods of waiting before sentence, which the noble and learned Lord told us he is doing as much as he can about. He has always done a lot about it, but according to the last return 1,400 people have been waiting for over 110 days. So there is a long way to go there.

If those two evils could be dealt with, the prison service would have a chance to make our prisons something that we could be proud of, rather than ashamed of, and we could express society's condemnation of violent crime by severity, tempered with the recognition that long-term prisoners are human and must be treated with humanity within the perimeter of their confinement. This means regular visits and easy correspondence, books, adult education, access to games and outside exercise, wireless and television—in fact conditions not much worse than those of an ordinary citizen, except the ability to go free. And for all—"lifers" as well, and especially the young—the hope of early release subject to recall should always be kept alive. These changes are within our capacity at this very moment, given administrative determination. They would certainly have some effect on the incidence of violent crime, and at least we could feel that we were treating our offending brothers with decency.

9.34 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, in the waning hours of the evening and of your Lordships' patience it is my duty on behalf of those sitting on these Benches to try to wind up a debate which I believe has been both interesting and useful. It deals with a very vital matter in our national life, and who better to initiate it than the most worthy Primate (if I may say so) who this evening has led us along a spiritual as well as a practical path. We are most grateful to him.

It was a delight to hear the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Kitchener, his maiden speech. I loved the remark of Lady Saltoun which likened his guidance to us on nutrition in regard to this subject to the guidance that he might give us in this House. I must say that I saw in my mind's eye a poster behind him saying, "Your colleagues need you". Those of us who remember a poster so worthily associated with his noble ancestor will understand what I mean. I nominate him at once for the refreshment committee of your Lordships' House.

This has been a very worthwhile debate on a very urgent matter. We dealt, in the course of the debate, with homicide. I wonder if your Lordships noted that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, gave us a most interesting figure of more than one third of those who were convicted suffering from mental instability. I missed—I do not know whether your Lordships did—a doctor in this debate. Not one of the notable medical Members of this House participated.

Lord Stone

They are hard to find, My Lords.

Lord Mishcon

Not even the noble Lord, Lord Stone, was made to get to his feet. He merely murmured a comment to me from his seated position. It was a shame.

It is extraordinary that if more than one third of those convicted of murder or attempted murder are mentally unstable, we heard nothing in the course of the debate which mentioned how their mental instability is being dealt with. Some of us remember the recent Nilsen case. As a proud member of the legal profession, it was no great tribute to that profession or, indeed, to the state of the law in relation to the mental responsibility of those charged with murder. Ten days were spent on the evidence of psychiatrists called on behalf of the prosecution on one side and on behalf of the defence on the other. The jury were left with a conundrum at the end as to which of the psychiatrists they ought to believe. Whose word should they accept before they came to a most difficult decision?

The question that arose was whether he should go to hospital or to prison. Is this the best way of dealing with a man who was convicted of one murder but confessed to 16? In circumstances which would make any ordinary individual, not necessarily a lawyer following a technical regulation, say that this man must be the maddest of the mad and that there was no alternative, he was sent to prison. It may be right, as the noble and learned Lord said, in a loud whisper from the Woolsack, that he was sent to prison. Maybe that is the only answer that we have got as a civilised society. But is there not greater room for some sort of medical care for the many convicted of violence who are suffering from some form of mental derangement?

Can the noble Lord the Minister, who always deals with questions that are put to him with such courtesy and tolerance, possibly, in his answering speech, give us some information as to whether that medical service is being improved, whether more money is being spent on research, or whether, in unfortunate companionship with the National Health Service, there are cuts even in that sort of medical care?

Much has been said about youth and violence. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whose speeches to this House are always erudite and so very welcome, challenged the mores of the day and compared them with the days of his distinguished youth. They are very different days, and they are very different days for some cogent reasons.

We live in an age of violence. This is the first generation when young students—not juvenile delinquents—face a situation of violence in the world which may end the world and civilisation as we know it. We face the violence of the terrorist, to whom reference has been made in the course of this debate. There are such people and organisations all over the world. As the noble Lord who preceded me said, they may have ideals at the back of their terrorism, but what a shameful state it is that their ideals can only be given expression and only receive publicity in the media. Maybe the cause of it, the origin of it, the inspiration of it, comes when bombs burst and explode and people are killed.

We face violence in other directions in our everyday life. As other contributors to the debate have said—and I shall not repeat it—there is violence on television, violence on videos and violence in films. Therefore, it is no wonder that violence is part of the life of the juvenile delinquent languishing on the streets, often in terrible housing, often living in the hopelessness of a society that does not want him and does not need him. There is no work for him.

Passing reference was made—and it is a difficult subject—to the question of racial minorities in this country and their participation, too, in not only other aspects of our national life but unfortunately also in juvenile delinquency. I wonder whether from the comfort of our Benches we can imagine what it must be like from the point of view of mental reaction, from the point of view of respect for the rules of society—and we have used the word "respect" often in our debate—for so many of those youngsters who know that they suffer from disabilities when applying for employment which is all too scarce for white youngsters. They also find themselves living in ghettos. There is a notice in a window saying that there is a room to let. They knock on the door and ask, "Have you got a room to let?" and still too often when a coloured family applies they find that the room has already been let five minutes ago. It is not difficult to understand the distortion of mind that occurs in that connection.

I do not justify the crime; I do not justify the delinquent. But we are trying to analyse the causes of it. One therefore has to look at oneself and ask, "Are we in society somewhat to blame as well for producing the conditions of unfairness, of prejudice, which in turn produce the revolt against the society we ourselves have created?" When one is dealing with crimes of violence and with burglary generally there is no doubt that the statistics show that young people under the age of 21 and also under the age of 17 present the most perplexing problem in that they represent a completely, one might almost say unimagined, percentage of those who are in fact convicted of violence and of the crime of burglary.

Therefore, in the course of this debate—and rightly so—we have tended to concentrate on young people. There is one aspect of young people and the way in which society ought to deal with them that has not been touched upon in the debate. I say this proudly from this Dispatch Box, representing as I do at this hour the views of my noble friends; I am second to none in believing that the police of this country constitute a force of which the nation should be proud. They face difficulties, they face violence of a completely unparalleled kind, and they deserve our admiration.

Having said that, we have a duty as friends and admirers of the police when we discuss them and when we discuss their attitude to youngsters, which may lead to a difference in the life of those youngsters. Certainly the first time they are caught we have the right to ask the police to be very careful indeed of their conduct. I am not saying that myself; I am quoting from a most interesting, frank, honest and very useful document, the British Crime Survey Research Study No. 76 for 1981, which was produced by the Home Office. At this moment I am looking at the noble Viscount who leads this House and of whom we have already become so fond, who as Home Secretary brought a great deal of enlightenment to that office. We all hope that his successor will live in his shadow in that respect.

A representative sample of 11,000 people in England and Wales took part in that survey and the document says: A high proportion (almost one in five) of young men complained of misconduct on the part of the police". Later in the recommendations that are made—and I turn to the summary and implications, which are mentioned in the report—it is said: The findings suggest the need for greater care on the part of the police, especially in urban areas, in their dealings with young men. These often view themselves, rightly or wrongly, as treated aggressively and insensitively by the police. This may jeopardise whatever co-operation they presently afford the police". I continue with my praise for a gallant force, and I believe that it is the duty of people taking part in a debate upon this subject to quote these words and to hope that the quotation will do some good, because the relationship between the police and our young people is of vital importance. It is certainly of vital importance in seeing that young men and young women who are first taken into custody by the police, or who are seen to be doing some wrong, feel that they are dealing with a force that they can respect.

The hour is late, and I would just deal with one other aspect of respect which has been dealt with already but which, again, must not be forgotten. If we are to have respect by our young people and those who have fallen foul of the law in the hope that they may indeed become useful citizens again, there are two things that are necessary. The first is that society itself, in its treatment of them, shows that it is better than the offender.

The prisons of this country, to which reference has been made so much in this debate that it is not necessary for me to prolong the discussion, have been called "dustbins", and the term was used by a distinguished governor of one of our prisons. What respect for society can there be, what hope for recovery is there, if the conditions in our prisons remain as they are? I know that the Home Office is doing what it can in regard to the building of ten new prisons. That will take a long time. What we must do in the meantime is to find more measures for seeing that sentences are shorter where they can be, and that those who are convicted of crimes other than those which make it essential for there to be a prison sentence do not in fact receive a prison sentence.

I close, I promise your Lordships, with this thought. There must also be respect by us for the judges.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Mishcon

I am so glad that noble Lords opposite approve of that remark. If there is to be true respect for the judges, I would wish that some of the media, for example, did not take remarks made by judges out of context, and give their rulings and do their moralising on sentences without even knowing what the facts are—leading, indeed, in some cases where there is a sensitive judge to his early demise, as I know happened, quite frankly, in one particular case. Some of us in the law know the case to which I refer.

We must also have respect for the judges and not think that we, as legislators, can determine what sentences must be. In those circumstances I say to noble Lords, that when recommendations come forward that there must be a minimum sentence we in this House should oppose those recommendations and say, "Leave this to the judges, who will see what the facts are, have the defendant before them, and decide what the proper sentence ought to be". I hope, too, that the judges will meet more often in order to co-ordinate their policy on what punishment ought to be meted out, so that there is a little more uniformity in regard to sentencing. Your Lordships have been more than patient after a long debate, and I am most grateful to noble Lords for having listened to me as they have.

9.54 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, it is a rare thing for your Lordships to debate a Motion tabled by a most reverend Primate. This is only the fifth time that any Parliamentary business has been initiated by an Archbishop of Canterbury in the 38 years since the end of the war in 1945. I therefore feel it an added honour to assist on this occasion.

It is by any standards an impressive field that has been pursuing the truth in his wake this afternoon. I can assure every noble Lord who has spoken that a close study will be made of every word that has been said, but that study will last a number of days and my own reply, which can be the produce of but the briefest reflection and has to toil over ground made heavy by all the flying hooves that have gone before, must be brief. I must compress many large issues and many fine answers into a small span of time. If I spent only two minutes on each of your Lordships' speeches, I should not sit down for 50 minutes and your Lordships would not forgive me. Brevity of mention must not, therefore, be taken as lack either of courtesy to a noble Lord or of due weight attached to his opinions. I will make reparations of omissions in correspondence.

Let there be no mistaking the importance of this issue or the Government's determination to deal with it. Crime is a poisonous growth and we must hack at it at root and at fruit. The most prolific fruit of crime is fear. It is, as my noble and learned friend has pointed out, as much an evil as violent crime itself and it is as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, have emphasized, greater than the volume of crime itself would warrant. My noble friend Lord Windlesham made this very clear from recent research published by the Home Office.

Fear is a deadly and a debilitating thing. It breeds rumour and feeds on it. It diminishes social contact. It causes neighbour to bolt door against neighbour. It widens the gap between communities and narrows their perception of each other, until all of us begin to see not individuals but stereotypes. It thus puts a distance between people that is at odds with the health of a community, not just in the civil sense, which is the concern of Government, but in the spiritual sense, which is the concern of the Church. It is true that "Perfect love driveth out fear". Love is the weapon that saints turn against fear. But most of us are not saints and for us the converse is also often true: "Great fear quenches love". Crimes of violence therefore strike at the fabric of society. I should tell the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, that those who go to the aid of victims do qualify for the criminal injuries compensation scheme, when they seek to defend those being attacked.

The Government share the concern which the most reverend Primate and many other noble Lords have expressed for the victims of violent crime. Indeed the Government have done a good deal to give practical help. Victims can obtain financial compensation from the criminal injuries compensation scheme. Over 20,000 awards were made in 1982–83 totalling over £29 million. The powers of the courts to order offenders to pay compensation to their victims was strengthened in last year's Criminal Justice Act. Victims also need personal support, and the development of local victim support schemes seeks to meet this need. There are already over 150 schemes in operation under the auspices of the National Association of Victim Support Schemes. The association receives financial aid from the Government.

I very much welcome what the most reverend Primate said about the research by Dr. Shapland of Oxford University. This important work was done for the Home Office and we are studying its findings as she would have us do.

The most reverend Primate draws our attention to the need to examine new ways of reducing crimes of violence following the latest decision against capital punishment taken in another place. While I quite understand this concern to find something new with which to fight criminality, he will, I am sure, forgive me if I reflect a little on old ways as well. The fact is that we have done quite a lot lately to make those old ways more effective than they have been before and in some respects they are bringing demonstrable results of the sort all of us are looking for.

One of the most important spheres in which we have introduced a new style in the established methods is the police. In our view, they are, I should say to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, already well protected by legislation. I cannot expand on that now, but I will write to him later. We have already increased the size of our police forces by 9,600 since 1979 and my noble friend Lord Inglewood will appreciate the importance of that. We are also in the process of making them more efficient. Management by objectives is being introduced into an increasing number of forces. Her Majesty's Inspectorate is increasingly promoting the best practices of different forces into the daily routines of others, and police manpower is being increasingly effectively deployed as well. In the metropolitan area alone, apart from introducing extra police to the tune of 4,400 since 1979, some 1,000 policemen have been released from administrative duties following a review in 1981 and deployed on street duties where they can be seen by the public. Since the present commissioner took office a further 650 police officers have been put on to street duties as well, where, my noble friend Lord Windlesham pointed out, the public want to see them and where my noble friend Lord Gisborough said they can do most to diminish the level of crime.

In this matter public perceptions of the police are as important as the public perception of crime. In this I am on common ground with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I was happy to find myself quite frequently on common ground with him this evening. Policing must never be seen as something imposed on the community or something done to it. Proper policing is an expression of the community's own desire to live in a just and orderly society. Therefore, we place enormous importance on the developing theory and practice of community policing, to which my noble friend Lord Inglewood eloquently referred.

My noble friend the Leader of the House started the ball rolling by taking the bobby out of the panda car and putting him on the beat. Since then, we have gone much further and with striking results. In Brixton the awful breakdown of law and order in 1981 led to a most perceptive and influential report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and the policy took shape and has accelerated. The most reverend Primate has quoted the metropolitan commissioner's own exposition of the central thesis that the police must be at one with the community. In Brixton itself a community police consultative committee was set up on the personal initiative of my noble friend the Lord President. Law enforcement was done with increasing sensitivity and the more accurate targeting of criminals, which the commissioner has encouraged, has led to a marked drop in the number of robberies.

In London as a whole the first eight months of this year has seen a reduction of 5 per cent. in robberies and violent thefts. Robberies by gangs of armed criminals are down by no less than one-third. That is the first part of my answer to the most reverend Primate. The long increase in recorded violence in places is actually beginning to be reversed as a result of police forces that are both stronger and more efficient than when we came to office. That is a new departure and it is reducing crimes of violence.

There are other less publicised crime prevention activities by the police. There are over 500 crime prevention officers in England and Wales doing much excellent work in schools. We have recently released three crime prevention films for use in schools; a teaching plan for secondary schools is being published commercially next spring on crime, law and society. This was developed by the Home Office and Schools Council with advice from police and teachers. These are new applications of old methods.

If the most reverend Primate wants a more innovatory and general approach, we have that, too. My noble friend Lord Whitelaw when he was Home Secretary decided that crime reduction must be based on the efforts of more than one department. He therefore met his ministerial colleagues to consider inter-departmentally how to stimulate the policies and services that might together help to reduce crime. As a result, an inter-departmental group of senior officials was set up to carry the work forward. Chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, it was attended by the Departments of Environment, Education and Science, Health and Social Security and Employment as well as the Scottish and Welsh Office.

There followed the Bramshill seminar on crime reduction and the development of an inter-agency co-operative strategy at local levels. This is resulting in those responsible for the planning of streets and public housing being aware of the need for building an environment that will not encourage people to commit crimes or predispose people to criminality. I have more to say on predisposing factors later. I do not think—and I will say at this moment that I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—that the terms of the Motion make it proper for me to pursue the question of what we are doing for offenders with mental difficulties when they are in prison. That is not to say that it is not an important matter which has my close attention. Perhaps he would like to raise it on another occasion.

A more recent and dramatic innovation than that to which I have just referred has, of course, been embodied in the recent announcement by my right honourable and learned friend the Home Secretary about his policy on parole. That has attracted a good deal of attention during your Lordships' debate. May I first say that it is quite wrong to refer to it, as it often is referred to loosely in the media, as a sentencing policy. In all but two respects, it is a parole policy. The two exceptions are the proposal to legislate to increase the maximum sentence for carrying firearms in furtherance of crime from 14 years to life, and the proposal to enable the Attorney-General to refer sentences which appear to him to be unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal, not for revision but for comment. I should add that the Home Secretary's writ does not run in Scotland—it never has. "Home" for the purposes of this evening is England and Wales. The Secretary of State for Scotland takes his own decisions and he is, in fact, at present considering whether similar steps would be appropriate north of the Border.

In respect of life-sentence prisoners, my right honourable and learned friend the Home Secretary announced that a minimum period of 20 years will normally be served by those who murder police and prison officers, terrorist murderers, sexual or sadistic murderers of children and those who murder by firearms in the course of robbery. Some murderers in these categories will justify yet longer periods of detention. There will be other murders not readily categorised, where the heinousness of the offence requires no less punishment than murders in the specified categories.

I think I ought to make it clear, in a condensed reply to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that the package (if I may so describe it) sets out the categories with the treatment that they can expect, but outside the categories there will he stiffer treatment for the worst offenders than for those who are not so bad. I shall return to that.

My right honourable and learned friend is working out detailed arrangements with the Parole Board and will be making a full Statement shortly. Therefore, I think I should not respond to the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, ahead of that, though I shall of course draw his comments to the attention of my right honourable and learned friend.

My right honourable and learned friend also announced his intention to restrict the granting of parole to offenders sentenced to more than five years' imprisonment for offences of violence and drug trafficking. The offences that he has in mind are those set out in Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice Act 1982 as excluded offences, where the Secretary of State may not order the early release of prisoners under Section 32 of the Act. I take sympathetic note of the abhorrence which many noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, accord to dealers in drugs, who, in my view, deal out murder by proxy, and murder of a slow squalid and degrading kind at that.

The intention of my right honourable and learned friend is that offenders in the categories listed in the schedule should he released on parole licence only if a few months' supervision at the end of a sentence will reduce the long-term risk to the public, or in circumstances that are genuinely exceptional. Release on parole licence has always ultimately been at the discretion of the Executive, but the Home Secretary is consulting the Parole Board on the implementation of his intention. These consultations are not yet complete, and he will be making a full Statement shortly.

There was, I think, a tendency among some noble Lords opposite to consider only that part of my right honourable and learned friend's Blackpool speech which contained those proposals of which they disapproved. They would, I presume, approve of his stated overall aim, which formed the context of the package: which, as well as being the protection of society, was to lower the prison population. Nor would they object, I think, to his undertaking to look at weekend imprisonment, or to much else of what he said but to which they did not refer. My right honourable and learned friend is a humane as well as an intelligent and determined man, and he deserves better treatment than that.

I think the intention to end overcrowding within the decade will bring particular pleasure not only to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, but also to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who displayed a humane understanding of the real implications of being enclosed in prison, as indeed, in another context did the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Too often, we simply look at a number and say "not enough" without considering what the implications of that number of years may be.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, suggested that this package will have a serious effect on prison morale. In view of that, and of the pronouncements of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, on the subject, accounts of which will doubtless be read with close attention by the prisoners concerned, I think that I should put the package into perspective.

First, life sentence prisoners who already have provisional release dates and determinate sentence prisoners who have a date for release on licence on parole are not affected. Second, the extent of parole needs to be clearly understood. The average length of parole licence in 1982 was 263 days, just under nine months. In 1982, only two prisoners were paroled on a licence of five years or longer, and 24 for three years but less than five. Of the 5,180 paroled altogether, 3,851 were on licence for less than one year. Third, the effect on prisoners needs to be understood.

We estimate that in 1982 about 1,000 prisoners serving sentences of over five years in the categories mentioned by the Home Secretary were considered for parole. Of these, only about 360 were recommended for release on licence by the Parole Board, and about 120 of these recommendations were at the prisoners' final review. Those would almost certainly have been successful under the Home Secretary's proposals. To those successes would be added those qualifying for earlier parole for very exceptional reasons.

These proposals are stern but they are not draconian. They reflect the very anxiety, common among the people of this country, which prompted the most reverend Primate to table his Motion. They do not include the proposal put forward by my noble friend Lord Windlesham on mandatory life sentences, described, I think, although I may be doing him an injustice, by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, as different degrees of murder. If I may refer briefly to my note, I would say, first, that, as the chairman and past chairman of the Parole Board, the views of my noble friend and of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, command close attention. But the idea which Lord Windlesham put forward has been under discussion for a number of years. The question is whether it is right that life imprisonment should be the mandatory penalty for murder and not a discretionary maximum as it is, for example, for manslaughter. There are arguments on both sides.

The most recent review was by the Criminal Law Revision Committee. The committee was divided and could make no recommendations for changing the present position. My noble friend will not be surprised, therefore, that I cannot give him a definite answer at this stage, but I shall draw the attention of my right honourable and learned friend to the comments of both noble Lords.

The aim of my right honourable and learned friend's proposals is to give general but not absolutely inflexible rules for heinous categories of murder like child murder, leaving it to practice to cover heinous instances within the category covering a wider range of murders. Similar considerations apply to the parole proposals. In both cases, overall consistency according to the seriousness of offence and the conditions of the offender will continue to be relevant. General rules about categories of murder does not mean creating different degrees of murder in the sense of inflexible definitions which bedevilled the Homicide Act to which the noble Lord referred us.

Violent crime is a plant that we must tackle at the roots. Its roots do not, surprisingly, flourish especially in any particular economic or employment conditions. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has made that clear. Surprisingly but clearly, there is no correlation between the unemployment figures and the figures for crime from at least the beginning of the present century. The roots of crime feed on subtler and sourer ground than that. It feeds not merely on ingratitude, as my noble friend Lord Gridley suggested. It feeds on childhood without love or firm guidance, as my noble friend Lady Faithfull said. It feeds on schools without clear authority or discipline; upon the switch of public sympathy from hero to anti-hero; on producers and editors who treat excess as admirable and moderation as contemptible; on the elevation of material goals; on ignorance of emotional and spiritual needs; on failure to master self-discipline; on the constant surrender to self-interest. Empty churches and chapels and unread Bibles also have something to do with it. My noble friend Lady Faithfull has pointed out the importance of keeping young people out of prison; incarceration is one of the predisposing factors to crime.

I will only summarise that which is left. The Department of Health and Social Security, the Home Office, and the Department of Education and Science are supporting and participating in a national conference organised by Northamptonshire County Council and Lancaster University. I am happy to remind my noble friend that she is supporting it too. I should add that the Home Office has co-operated with the New Approaches study of juvenile justice systems in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and we look forward without commitment to considering the findings.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred to racial prejudice as a predisposing factor. My honourable friend David Waddington made quite clear that the Government are bitterly opposed to racial prejudices and it was a good occasion to make clear the soundness of fellow members of his party on this as well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, was concerned about how sentences are being given out to young people under the new legislation. Only preliminary information is so far available on the use which the courts are making of their new sentencing powers for young offenders. Early indications are that the fears of those who believed that the courts would make excessive use of detention sentences have not been borne out. The courts seem to be making substantial use of the new youth custody sentence. It must be borne in mind, however, that youth custody is available for cases in which the courts could previously have imposed sentences of imprisonment as well as borstal and detention centres.

There is a lot to say about rundown housing estates and I will merely refer the most reverend Primate and the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw, to the Tulse Hill priority estate scheme as an example of the ways in which the Government are now trying to co-ordinate all forms of aid to depressed communities. The noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, referred in his context to the work of NACRO in deprived areas. I give a warm welcome to the valuable work in which NACRO is engaged with so many young people at risk of offending. It is to developments of this kind that we must look for the prevention of crime. The new Home Office Crime Prevention Unit will have the task of encouraging such developments.

I cannot leave the Dispatch Box without referring to obscenity because I would be alone among your Lordships if I did. I shall not list all those noble Lords who put their names to that grisly subject, although I will mention that the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Soper, alone among your Lordships pointed out that obscenity could be addictive; and my noble friend Lord Gisborough gave a striking image of people getting bruised minds from it.

If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice felt that he was a lonely voice in this concern, then he was mistaken. He has the Government as well with him. A great deal of progress has been made over the past two or three years in tightening up the law on obscenity. The Government—notably assisted by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford—introduced powers in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to deal with sex establishments—and a great deal of trouble my noble friend gave me, too, I can recall. And we have lent support to Bills brought forward in another place by Members on indecent displays and bogus cinema clubs—both of which are on the statute book and make important contributions to law on obscenity.

Noble Lords will also know of the help and support that the Government are giving the Bill on video recordings introduced by my honourable friend Graham Bright in another place and will welcome it, I do not doubt, when it reaches us from there.

I could go on speaking for some time about schools, having taught in them for many years. I can only say that I am well aware, as are the Government, of the importance of that which is being done there. I will refer your Lordships to the White Paper on teaching quality of March 1983 in which the Secretary of State for Education has set out his intention to issue criteria against which all initial teacher training courses will be assessed in future. He is considering recommendations from his advisory committee on the supply and education of teachers (ACSET) on what these criteria might be, and the committee has recommended that all courses would take account of a variety of possible approaches to class management and control. When I was teaching history in a college of education I found that my students were much more interested in how to keep control of the children when they met them than how to teach them history. So I think there will be a certain sympathy for what is proposed

I think at this time reluctantly I must abandon my attempts to satisfy the rest of your Lordships other than in writing, and indeed to satisfy myself, but for one final and important matter. We are talking about new initiatives. Earlier I described the social ground in which crime is rooted, but it has roots in the person as well as in society. No child who is starved of the understanding care of an adult, let alone of love, is properly equipped to live a decent life. And here, too, is a way of reducing crime that is new. Indeed it is still experimental and I was very glad to encourage that experiment when I was at the Department of Health and Social Security. I have watched it with intense interest since. It is called intermediate treatment. The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, has already given it deserved praise. It involves dedicated adult volunteers becoming closely involved with young people who have committed crimes in structured, challenging and disciplined work. It channels youthful energy away from destruction and into construction.

For many young people this is the first time in their lives that they have had this sort of close and sympathetic guidance and the effect can be dramatically beneficial. For this purpose we have made available some £15 million over three years, channelled to locally-based bodies putting forward viable proposals on top of the extra expenditure of the local authorities themselves. The concept is imaginative and the prospects are promising. They may even result in benefits in the next generation. If children who have not known love and adult care in youth can be given it, they may pass it on and may prevent offending in the next generation.

I return to the most reverend Primate. I apologise to all your Lordships for taking so long. I will say that I hope that he has learnt as much as I, and through me the Government, have from what has been said this evening. I hope your Lordships will have noted that the Government do have a strategy to reduce violent offending. It is in strong and competent hands and I believe it will succeed. As the most reverend Primate himself has reminded us, only limited good can be done by Acts of Parliament, important as they are, and there is a limit also to what Government can achieve by other means with whatever vigour pursued. The extent of our success therefore depends on the efforts of society itself to support us, and that, may I say, with the deepest respect and no little optimism, for I know the most reverend Primate of old, depends in the ultimate on the success that he and such as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, have in alerting that society to its proper response to good and evil in the world in which we live, in awakening our national conscience, and, in his own words, in restoring parental nerve. I think that he and your Lordships have begun that valuable work already today.

10.23 p.m.

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury

My Lords, at this late hour you will expect me to be brief, and I would simply like to express my gratitude to all who have taken part in this debate. Your Lordships have been most generous in your response to my introduction of this subject, and I only wish that I were able to be here more often, not so much to speak as to listen.

I do not propose to comment on the many important points that have been made. The noble Lord the Minister has given us very good value in information about particular questions raised in the debate. I apologise for an element of obscurity in the Motion, but I am glad that as usual your Lordships have not been inhibited from saying what you wished to say, for what I hoped for was a wide-ranging debate. We owe a great debt to those who have from personal experience or knowledge of research reported on many good initiatives. We need to build on these, to publicise them and to encourage a sense that progress can be made.

I appreciated very much the distinguished contributions from the judiciary, and particularly those of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice. I also thank those who have had long experience in the work of the social services, such as my noble friend Lady Faithfull. In addition, I should simply like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Kitchener, for a most original and admirably succinct maiden speech. I should like to follow his example at this point, and, knowing that the House has a further debate in front of it tonight, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.