§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, in introducing this interesting and topical Motion, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, delivered what she called a grass-hopping speech. Indeed, she hopped with her usual graciousness from point to point, as sometimes, if I may be allowed to say so, was the case with the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in areas not strictly covered by the Motion before the House. I want to restrict myself in the remarks I have to make on this topical subject to the increase in violent crime; what is the size of it; what are we to do about it; and what, if anything, can we do in order to assist the victims of violent crime.
But previous speakers saw fit to quote the shadow Home Secretary, Mr. Kaufman, and The Times, which reported him. The noble Baroness limited 1175 herself to the quotation that Labour was to take over from the Conservatives the issue of law and order. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, with all the authority that his voice conveys, sounded a note, and a highly moral one, to the House that this was a matter of national importance which should come out of the political arena.
I plead for one thing: just a little bit of sincerity in the political life of this country if observations of this kind are made. Who started putting this subject in the political arena? It was the cry of the 1979 election by the Tory Party: "Law and order. We are the party of law and order". The Conservatives would not let it go, and this was very irresponsible, even in the 1983 Tory manifesto, when the boast was made politically:Already street crime is being reduced, and public confidence improved, in some of the worst inner city areas".The facts are that since then, and since that boast, notifiable offences have increased by 62 per cent. in the police force areas that contain most of the inner cities. Having said that, I propose to take this out of the political arena, but let those who put it there accept courageously the burden that they take upon themselves and have the courage to admit that it was politically irresponsible, if not morally wrong, to put it in the arena in the first place.
Looking at it as a national problem, what are the facts? One of the tragic facts is that in 1984, 20 per cent. of mugging victims were school children. The noble and learned Lord referred to that in passing by saying that most victims were among the young—and I shall refer to that again in a moment, because there is a current popular misunderstanding—and that, by and large, it is youngsters attacking youngsters. Twenty per cent. of mugging victims in 1984 were school children. It is a commonly mistaken concept that the main victims of mugging are the aged, sympathetic though every one of us is to the cases which occur, and shameful they are, of old people being attacked.
I took the trouble to look at the interesting and informative Research Bulletin issued by the Home Office Research and Planning Unit. It is No. 20 of 1986. I am sure that your Lordships will forgive me if I quote the findings:Two findings have emerged consistently from the BCS—and from analysis of police statistics … young people are more at risk of violence than their elders, and men more than women. Table 1"—I shall not go through Table 1, if your Lordships will forgive me—shows that for all three categories of violence, the likelihood of victimisation falls sharply with age, and that for every age group men are more at risk than women, (with the exception of mugging where risks for the over-30s are equally small for men and women).There is another aspect where I believe there is some misunderstanding and where I have found myself helped by the same Research Bulletin. In the course of her interesting speech the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, properly referred to drugs. I believe that unless one makes a relevant comment on that subject in this debate the public might be misled. The Research Bulletin contains an article headed,Criminal convictions of persons first notified as narcotic drug addicts in 1979–81".1176 It is very informative. There are two conclusions. The first is that although half of the males and two thirds of the females notified as drug addictshad not been convicted before the age of 28 … Those notified as drug addicts were almost three times as likely to have been convicted … as those of a similar age in the general population".We can gather from that that those who were notified as drug addicts are much more likely to be convicted as criminals in regard to criminal charges.
One then finds, in regard to crimes of violence, the fourth conclusion on page 29 of the Bulletin:The proportion of their convictions for violent offences did not change over the period before and up to two years after notification and was lower than the equivalent figure for the general population".It is interesting that those who were registered as narcotics, though prone to general criminal charges, appear to have less proneness (if I may use that word) to crimes of violence.
Those are interesting observations. Even though statistics do not tell the whole story, in a debate such as this, that deals with the increase in various kinds of violence, we ought to concentrate on what the increase represents. We can then try to analyse it, try to find some reasons for what has happened and consider some of the things we ought to be doing nationally about it.
In relation to violence against the person, in national terms for England and Wales the figure in 1985 was 121,731, up 7 per cent. on the 1984 figure. I make no point of the fact that 1984 was a leap year and therefore one might have hoped that the figure for 1985 would have been a little less; but it was 7 per cent. up. What was the change in that category of violent crime against the person since 1979? It was up 40 per cent. The crime clock, as they call it, registered during that year one violent crime against the person every four minutes. We are told that the biggest deterrent to committing crime is the rate of crime detection. The clear-up rate for 1978 for violent crimes against the person was 77 per cent. In 1985 it was down 5 per cent. to 73 per cent.
What about damage to property? In 1985 there were 538,964 notifiable offences. Since 1984 the figure is up 8 per cent. It is up 76 per cent. since 1978 and the crime clock last year registered one offence for each minute of that clock. The clear-up rate in 1978 was 30 per cent. and in 1985 it was 23 per cent.—down 7 per cent.
What are the figures in the metropolitan area—of great concern to us all? In 1985 the figure for violence against the person was 20,242; up 7 per cent. since 1984. Since 1978 it is up 61 per cent. The crime clock registered one such offence every 26 minutes in the metropolitan area. The figure for vandalism and criminal damage was 113,094; the change since 1984, up 10 per cent., and the change since 1978, up 88 per cent. The crime clock registered one such offence every five minutes. Mixed up among these figures are those dreadful cases of rape and brutal killing of children that make every single one of us sick in our stomachs.
The object of this debate, I freely admit, is not just to register statistics, not just to claim credit or to cast discredit on any government. Governments should realise that their policies can help in this terrible 1177 national difficulty. No government have the monopoly over being able to cure. The nation is looking to see whether instead of making empty election boasts, as has been done in the past, we are realistically considering proper solutions to the problem, if we can find them.
I shall not touch on family matters or other points of that kind because my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies will deal with them in his speech. But I want to present some suggestions to your Lordships. I do not pretend that they are terribly original, but they ought to be introduced into this debate. The first is the need for real collaboration between the community, the police and the Government. Crime and all that breeds it has many causes and there is not the slightest doubt that part of the trouble, certainly in regard to our youth, can be found in poverty, bad housing, and unemployment as well as in other factors that my noble friend will deal with hereafter.
We have talked about partnership, but what ought the partnership to be doing? It ought to be thinking of practical matters at local authority level, as well as national level, and at voluntary community level, as well as in any Civil Service directives that may be issued. What about improved street lighting in regard to crimes of violence? What about more policemen on the beat? What about better community relations with the police?
What about entryphones and other improvements for the security of the home? What about a very good class of resident caretaker on estates; and what about grants by local authorities to low-income households to help them with home security? What about tighter control on the availability of guns, and what about a licensing system for shotguns? It might interest your Lordships if I were to say that the number of recorded offences involving firearms doubled over a period of 10 years. We ought to be looking at these matters, and we ought to be looking generally at the whole aspect of the community joining with the police and government, and government and local government being responsible for practical measures.
I have only a moment or two to deal with the other part of this Motion and I shall not be speaking for more than that. What about the innocent victims of crime? There ought to be, without any doubt at all—and this has been said in your Lordships' House whenever this matter has been dealt with—substantial financial help for local and national victim support schemes. There is no doubt at all that sympathy, trained sympathy and warm sympathy, for the victim just after an assault comes at a most critical time in a citizen's life and can make all the difference in the world. What about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board? We have debated that. We have debated the quantum of the awards; we have debated the personnel available and the question of time being taken by the board in regard to the compensation of victims.
I am not going to say any more. The noble Lord the Minister knows the views of the House and of many of us who are worried about these matters. I know that he is concerned about them. I have not wandered into whether our prisons are full or are not full. I have not wandered into other matters that the noble and 1178 learned Lord sought fit to include in his, as always, extremely profound speech. I have tried to confine myself to the Motion before us. I hope that our combined wisdom, irrespective of party, can get rid of one of the pernicious elements of our time, violence.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, I start with a sincere tribute to the noble Baroness. We over here regard her as practically our only friend on the other side where penal matters are concerned. This week I heard two Tory Whips saying "Well, her Ladyship never votes with the party". I would not mind if that were true, but that is not so. The truth is that she never votes with the party on penal affairs, and why? It is because the Government are always—I was about to say "wrong", but that is not correct—stonewalling. We are always pressing for action and they are always refusing. This is based on five generations at least at the Home Office. I have been dealing with the Home Office for over 30 years and it has not changed at all, yet the people are all entirely different. They are good, intelligent, ready to listen and ready to give you any information you want, yet nothing ever happens.
I should like to give three instances of this which are not wholly irrelevant in that I do not think that we can deal with violence as a thing by itself; we have to deal with the whole picture of crime. My noble friend, who first of all told me to speak and then told me what to say, also said that she wanted to keep the debate pretty wide, so I am helping her! On three occasions that I merely happen to remember—and I have looked up the dates—I, or a colleague from this side of the House, have put up a suggestion which has been adopted, in two cases entirely and in one case partially, after something like 10 years to 15 years.
The first was the Jellicoe Report, which we started from NACRO and which made one or two perfectly obvious recommendations that had to be accepted. I am glad to say that a week or two ago they had the main thing not as coming from Jellicoe but from a different inquiry. I shall not tell your Lordships what it was because we do not have time to go into all this. That is one instance. I, and other people also, over 15 years ago asked about censoring letters; about whether it was necessary for anyone except Category A prisoners to worry about letters at all. Could they not get access to telephones? Within the last two years or 18 months, this has begun to happen. The noble Lord will correct me if I am being unfair, which I have no intention to be. I do not mind if I am a little, because the point stands.
Thirdly, and thus most importantly, there is the question of executive release. In a debate on the May Report in 1982 I brought out a suggestion which had been made in the report that executive release of one kind or another could be a useful solution. Just before the Criminal Justice Act 1982, because there was a prison officers' strike threatened, the then Home Secretary took the right to use executive release in an emergency and then did not use it. But we succeeded in getting it into the 1982 Act in the permissive form. Now, with the prison officers again on the verge of a strike, the Home Secretary says that he may have to use it. It was not used earlier because it was always 1179 said—and this applies to each Home Secretary concerned—that it would be used only in an emergency. I suppose that they do not think that a rise in prison population from, I think, 42,000 to 47,000 during that period is a crisis. But I repeat what I have said in this House at least eight times: we do!
Those are three instances of where, however hard you press, it takes 10 or 15 years to adopt a constructive solution. Each of these suggestions is a constructive one. The censoring of letters has ruined the business of running prisons for years. It is high time it stopped. The use of telephones in a proper way, not for Category A prisoners, is right and I hope that it is being done. My point is that a situation which most of us here have been watching for a very long time (I, like the noble and learned Lord, certainly for over 30 years) has been getting absolutely, steadily worse in every single respect every year.
More people commit crimes. More people are recidivists. More people commit crimes of violence. No one has a clue about what to do. I certainly do not. That is why I found it depressing to prepare a speech for this debate, and partly why I have been talking about something slightly different.
I should now like to return to the subject of violence. First, it is a difficult subject, because violence is a result of what in old-fashioned terms I would describe as the aggressive instinct in man. I dare say that psychologists will say that there is not one, but I do not always believe what they tell me. Every nation begins by living by violence as being the only good. The fighting man is the ruler, and he is the only man who is respected. To some extent this applies in schools, as we see from the occasional film, such as that delightful film about a hawk (I cannot remember what it is called) where the boys fight and they are admired if they win. Early Wodehouse stories tell us the same thing. There is something real here. Young people, particularly boys, like the whole of this, and have no criticism of it.
I could give a sad case as an example. When I was in Northern Ireland a fine priest was running an approved school. He came to me almost with tears in his eyes. He asked me what he was to do. He said that boy after boy was brought in there for having helped the IRA and had been caught by the police. He said that his school was not secure and that he could not hold the boys, who went straight back to the men who are their ideals and are the ones whom they love. They thought of them as brave fighting men who were not frightened of throwing bombs at people, and all that sort of lovely thing. The boys were good boys who, if they could have been kept away, might have been diverted to something else. How do we deal with that? We cannot change human nature. We must accept it and deal only with one's little bit of it, such as one's family. That is all that we can do. No government can do anything except it be of a defensive nature.
I want to talk about one thing which is hopeful. Things are not nearly as bad as they were 100 to 150 years ago. At that time there was a horrifying level of state violence. People who offended were flogged. In the navy and the army the flogging was incessant and was boasted about by everyone. The treadmill was used as a punishment. We have moved a little way 1180 since then. Children do not hoot at hunchbacks in the road today. They do many other things, but they do not do that. Not everything is going backwards. That is the only good thing that I have to say.
I certainly grew up, and I think all young people grow up, reading books of adventure and, to some extent, horror. One of my favourite books was, A Gentleman of France by Stanley Wayman. We were told that the hero had killed 17 men in duels. We thought that was splendid and it made the book exciting to read. I remember to this day the crack of the back of the wrestler whom Beltane was supposed to have killed in front of the count, or whoever it was. The book was called Beltane the Smith. I cannot remember who wrote it. I have never struck a man in anger in my long life. The stories had no bad effect on me; they are probably not too bad. The point I am trying to make is that there is something innate with which we are trying to deal which becomes twisted and abused and leads us to where we are now.
At lunch only today I as talking to a member of an old family in this House who boasted that her ancestors had been pirates. I should not think that there is one really old family here of which something of that kind could not be said. There we are: this is not an easy problem to deal with. There are more people, and they are becoming worse.
The sad thing is that Christianity, or religion in general, seem to have almost no effect. It makes some people better and others worse. Look at Northern Ireland. I say no more. It is a deep and difficult subject.
Penologists not only differ from one another, they talk in statistics, but the problem is made up of a series of individual personal problems. I tried to do what the noble and learned Lord did much better, which was quickly to write down the categories of violence. The first, clearly, is terrorism, which he left out because he is going to speak about it somewhere else. I am not, and so I shall say a word about it now.
The point about terrorism is that one can do nothing except fight it or agree with it and let it go. There is no middle course. Wherever we have been in our empire we have always chosen to fight it. Sometimes terrorism has a good case and sometimes it has a bad one. The IRA has no case at all. If it won the whole of the rest of Ireland would be horrified, but that is by the way. It is no good trying to change terrorists; it is no good trying to deter them. However, they must be given maximum sentences.
I have always argued against long sentences, but I am in favour of long sentences for terrorists. The only deterrent effect that long sentences have—it is sometimes seen when they come out—is on the parents, who, having lost someone for 10 or 12 years, do not want to lose them again however much their friends may try to get them back. I think that is general in every form of terrorism, wherever it is.
The second category is that of the professional criminal. He is a different matter. He must be fought. He can be deterred. There is no doubt that a long sentence worries a professional criminal. I have often talked to men coming out of prison who say, "I am going to go carefully now because next time it will be a very long sentence, and I do not want that." There is 1181 a deterrent element in long sentences for the professional criminal.
I do not know whether anyone heard MacVicar on the wireless two or three days ago, but he had the last word on that subject. He said, "Of course, if you want to cure the professional criminal all you have to do is give him enough money." The professional criminal is working for cash. Clearly we cannot do what he suggested. Someone serving a six-year or seven-year sentence, in a well-run training prison, can probably be made to become interested in earning money in a different way in probably three out of 10 cases. Some of those people are skilled, and something like that could be done.
Thirdly, there is the crude robbery, the mugging, which is a new and most frightening crime. I think everyone in the country would agree that mugging to obtain money for drugs is a most difficult problem, and I think that most muggings nowadays are for drugs, as they are in America. All I can say is that we shall continue to press the Government all the time to do more and more about that. It is a frightfully difficult problem. The worst difficulty arises in inner city areas with groups of dissatisfied black people who are being sold drugs, and some of whom run drugs. The police must deal with the problem, and those people then begin to hate the police. The chances of bringing the people together with the police become fewer and fewer.
The next category consists of crimes of petty violence related to public-houses and drink. We want to deal with the drink laws. A good deal could be done which is not being done. The care of people arrested for drunkenness is still in its more primeval state. We have been pressing for reform for years, and it has still not been properly dealt with.
There are two issues on which I think there is still some hope and about which the noble Baroness asked me to speak. I shall not say much, because I have said it all before. It would bore the House; and, worse still, it would bore me. The first point is about Grendon. In so far as there is irrational violence which is not committed out of greed, lust or vengeance, Grendon has shown that it is possible to deal with it. First, such people can be contained there reasonably well without violence; and, secondly, it can go some way towards curing them.
I made a long speech about Grendon the other day, and the poor noble Lord the Minister who must reply should not have to hear it again. I shall not make that speech again. Something can be done there. I have made it clear that we do not think that the treatment is being carried out as fully as it could be.
Then there is the inner city area which I spoke about three or four months ago. I referred to Ted Watkins, who is a black trade unionist, and who was in Watts during the riots of 1961 and 1962. He formed groups of people to put the place right, he borrowed money and started an organisation. He has done an extraordinary job and is now employing 1,000 people there. The young people who hated the police, and who in fact rioted against the police, now have telephone links and use walkie-talkies with the police. They ring up the police if anything is going wrong.
1182 It is possible to change violence into something quite good. He has shown how to do it, and in fact has done it. The Government—I think it is the concern of the Department of the Environment—are starting groups in local areas with extra subsidised money from the inner cities and it is essential that they use the technique that was worked out there. What that chap said was, "If you give people the chance to put their home right, if you give them the money, the material and the training, they will not only do it but they will do it far cheaper than a contractor, and they will end up by loving their home and loving their country". Those are the two things which are hopeful today. Those are the two ways in this appallingly difficult problem which are worth trying. On that note, I hope that both of them will be pursued. Lastly, may I say that I think it is a very gloomy subject.
§ 4.52 p.m.
My Lords, we have listened to an entertaining speech from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. He showed us where he felt that hope lay, and I am bound to say that I was momentarily encouraged. But I did not really believe it and when the noble Lord finally sat down I did not think he did either. I thought he had momentarily and uncharacteristically distanced himself from this side of the House, when he said that my noble friend was the only friend that he had on this side, and then he recovered the position by saying: "on penal matters". The noble Lord has many friends on this side of the House. I was deeply impressed that my noble friend had instructed the noble Lord to speak and told him what to say. That shows she is very effective at lobbying. I was the recipient of neither such privilege, but maybe because my noble friend thought I was both beyond hope and beyond help.
But I should like to express my thanks to my noble friend for having introduced this debate on a matter which is of very considerable concern and importance, and in a speech which was astonishingly wide-ranging and knowledgeable. Looking at the list of speakers today, I realise that most people are experts on penal matters and on this subject. I claim no such expertise. I am merely one who stands on the sidelines and does not particularly like what he sees.
What I wish to say this afternoon will mostly centre around fear, because there is hardly a person who is not shocked or alarmed by the increase in crimes of mugging, rape and assault which are going on at present. It is literally terrifying—terrifying for those against whom the crimes are committed, and terrifying for those who think that they will be among the victims—and that category is far bigger than the former category.
It was always relatively safe to walk around the streets of London, save for a very few areas; but it is not so now, nor in other cities, nor even in the countryside. It is with horror that night after night, in the solitude of their own homes, people have projected into their sitting rooms by television scenes of the battered and scarred faces of those who have been beaten up—often defenceless old ladies—and the stories of how that has come about. It is almost too horrifying to believe that this happens here; yet it does, 1183 it goes on and it strikes fear into the hearts of the viewers.
Rape used to be a rare thing, something which few people came across, and yet it is now commonplace. Accounts of rapes appear every day in the newspapers, even of gang rapes, and of the terrifying ordeals and experiences which those unfortunate women, girls and children go through. Those experiences will never be erased from their minds. No wonder is it that many of them suffer from nervous tensions and even nervous breakdowns, and no wonder is it that their attitudes to life and to others take an irreversible twist.
Fear is contagious and it is incipient. The daily diet of rapes and muggings, which is related in detail on television and in the newspapers, terrifies countless hundreds and thousands of others who have not been, and who never will be, the victims but who fear that they might be. Television has a captive and often a lonely audience. It is a fertile ground for fear. Television companies will say that by reporting these incidents the perpetrators of the crimes are more likely to be caught and that people have a right to know what is going on. Sometimes, I think that people would rather not know.
But it goes further than that. The reporting of these events sows the seeds of ideas into the minds of others; it stimulates them to do things which otherwise they might not do; and the details which are given show them how to do it. Civilisation is a very thin veneer and the surface of it can easily be stripped away. The media have a responsibility to take the right balance between reporting and informing, and on the other hand inadvertently creating fear.
The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack told us that all crimes have increased. That is what most people feel. That is no cause for satisfaction. Society is uneasy because the simple values of humanity and respect for the other person seem to have gone. Robbery is not sufficient. It has to be accompanied by mugging, with the added inducement of fear to get your way. Rapes are not just the result of lust. They now extend to women of 70 and even to children of four. And we now have the pitiful increase in sexual and other attacks on children.
Twenty years ago, I did not know anyone who had been raped. I now know three people, daughters of three of my friends, who have been raped, one at five o'clock in the afternoon in her own house in a residential part of London. This kind of attitude towards innocent people cannot go on. Is it not surprising—and indeed is it not a shocking reflection on what we like to call our civilised society?—that people become scared stiff in their own homes?
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor acknowledged that fear exists, but said that it was not justified by the facts. That may be true, but fear does not respond to statistics. It disorientates people; it turns reason on its head, and the fact that it cannot be justified does not mean that it can be abated. I know a middle-aged intelligent lady who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of what she has seen on television and because she thinks that that is therefore bound to happen to her.
1184 She is not alone in this. She is merely one of many who feel this way. She is not a lady who lives on her own. She is a lady with a husband and she lives in the country, not in the town. The fact that she has a bouncing, aggressive Alsatian dog, who puts the fear of God up anyone who goes anywhere near her or the house, does little, curiously enough, to assuage her anxiety. Irrational it may be, but factual it is. These people are frightened; and if people like that are afraid, what about the old ladies living on their own in the big cities, in Glasgow and Leeds, and in parts of London such as Brixton? They have every reason to be frightened and they have every reason to look to Parliament for protection.
Fear is a foul weapon. It destabilises people. It destabilises society. It creates anxiety, anxiety which is lifelong where children are concerned as parents grieve over what they did wrong that allowed their children to become the victims of some of these practices. We have seen only too much recently of the viciousness of international terrorism. Some people, Americans in particular, now fear to travel. Governments have a duty to protect their people from a hostile enemy from without. Governments equally have a duty to protect their people from a hostile enemy from within. These people who rape and mug trade on fear to get their way. They use the knife, the cosh and the boot with as much rejection of humanity and with as much indifference to feeling and to morality as does the international terrorist. This form of internal terrorism, unco-ordinated and unorganised though it may be, has to be countered with equal severity. It is no use us saying, "How terrible it is, but it is not our fault. It is the times in which we live. It is happening everywhere".
It is our fault. As parents or teachers or Parliamentarians, in our different and varied respects we set the standards. We are responsible for the society in which we live. In some ways we reflect it. In some ways we mould it. In our compassionate way we sometimes say that these people are sick. Sometimes they are, my Lords, but sometimes they are plain evil. Unemployment, disenchantment, disaffection, drugs—none of these excuses personal responsibility for personal actions. None of these justifies the self-indulgence or self-gratification of one at the expense of the degradation and denigration of another.
For the hideous crimes of mugging and rape the punishment in my judgment is inadequate. A period of imprisonment or a fine is a pathetic condemnation for the defiling and destruction of the body, and sometimes the mind, of another. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said that the greatest deterrent is the fear of detection. So it may be but the type and quality of the punishment when detected frequently determines the worthwhileness of the risk involved in undertaking the criminal act. One man put the respect for his conviction and for his victim into true perspective. When he was fined £300 for raping a young woman, he said:Well, it was worth it".Here I know I shall part company with some of your Lordships but I have no hesitation in saying that, in my judgment, for that type of person who perpetrates that type of crime a sentence of corporal punishment ought to be available to the courts for use where 1185 appropriate. Fines have increased; prison sentences have been increased; prisons have been built and are now overflowing. They have not worked. Crime continues to increase. The severity of the punishment should reflect the severity of the crime and the system which we adopt at present is painfully and transparently inadequate. As a result, others suffer.
I do not believe that it is right for us in Parliament to wring our hands in horror at what is happening but to do nothing. Our first duty must be to protect law and order. Our highest priority must be to protect the innocent. So far we have failed, and the facts reflect that. I hope that as a result of this debate the Government will seriously consider new measures to protect our countrymen from this offensive and frankly uncharacteristic wave of terror which is affecting our country today.
§ 5.5 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln
My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness for introducing a debate into your Lordships' House which has enabled so many valuable, interesting and important things to be said and to be heard. I should not want in any way to minimise the importance and the seriousness of the present crime rate in this country but I should like to enter a caveat about the way the matter is sometimes presented, because I think it has important implications. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has already spoken about this.
The way that the crime statistics are presented can have a very important bearing on public attitudes to crime. The annually published crime statistics include only offences which are recorded by the police. This has already been said. The British Crime Survey that was conducted for the Government in 1982 and 1984 adds the considerable figures of unrecorded crimes. The survey certainly indicates that more crime occurs than is recorded and therefore more than is publicly recognised but it also presents some important facts about crime: that most law breaking is of a petty nature; that the vast majority of offences are against property and not against people.
It may sound frivolous, but these are not the words of some bright journalist but of the British Crime Survey. It has estimated that a statistically average adult can expect to be robbed once every five centuries, assaulted with injury once every century, have his car stolen once every 60 years and be burgled at home once every 40 years, and that the chances of robbery are less than the chances of being admitted to hospital as a psychiatric patient. Those points are made by the British Crime Survey. They serve a point in trying to get things into perspective which is very important for public opinion.
The media talk a great deal about a rising tide of crime but comparisons cannot actually be made because the survey of crime took place for the first time only in 1982. The so-called "rise in crime" is, the survey says, and as the noble and learned Lord has told us, probably the result of more people being concerned about crime and therefore reporting it and about the police being more efficient and therefore recording it.
1186 To say these things is in no way to deny that in this country we have a serious problem. This has been made clear by a number of noble Lords. It is to say that it is important to be as rational and accurate as possible about the facts of the situation if we are to develop a more just and more effective penal system. We are not served by the way the media often play on sensationalism with regard to this whole matter and the way sensationalism in turn plays upon our own inner unconscious feelings and reactions to crime, which very often give rise to insensitively punitive attitudes by all sorts of people and make them block off more informed approaches to penal issues.
I should like to say a word about the National Association of Victim Support Schemes, which has been mentioned in your Lordships' House today. I say it here not just because the pioneering work that it is doing deserves our thanks and our encouragement but because those involved say explicitly that they want to avoid publicity which will increase the fear of crime. They press other bodies involved in the field of crime to do the same. They are saying the same thing—that it is really important to try as hard as possible to get the facts straight and to be rational about this. The association works closely with the Home Office Crime Prevention Unit and currently works on various projects with it. They are concerned with the impact on the victim, which can be deeply disturbing and distressing, and also with the effect upon the community as a whole, in respect of the fear that is generated by that kind of situation. They urgently wish always to contact the victims of crime immediately. The police are now fully in support of the association but it needs all the voluntary help it can get. That is worth saying in your Lordships' House and it is important that it should be said.
I believe that the association's concern to avoid sensationalism is very important because sensationalism sends out powerful ripples that can affect people in general and greatly increase public fear. That can make for punitive and irrational attitudes which do not help to achieve the right kind of community awareness and the right kind of penal system. Rational and informed public opinion is most likely to be able to view straight and clearly the problems we are talking about.
I fully realise that the bishops are not in your Lordships' House in order to preach sermons—they have other places to do that—but I should like to try a little riposte to what was said just now by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, when he remarked that Christianity was not of any help in a situation where one was faced with problems that one did not know how to solve.
We live in a culture in which a whole lot of things have happened over the past few centuries that have made belief in any spiritual values very difficult for many people to hold. Those developments include the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation and two world wars. One could build up a whole list of things that have happened to Western society that have made it difficult for many people to hold spiritual values.
Some people look at the spiritual values that are on offer—Christianity among them—and come to the 1187 conclusion, with great intellectual integrity, that such values are not something to which they feel they can aspire. I highly respect that position of complete intellectual integrity, but there are many who turn away from Christianity particularly—and from other spiritual values, too, but let us say Christianity—because of the risks involved in turning to it and because it demands such a reversal of values and convenience.
If that touches the heart of anyone as I speak, it is worth thinking that that may be holding them back from making exactly the kind of contribution to the saner society that we have all been saying we need as the background to being able to do anything more about the problem we are debating.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, the point I was making was that religion was very much stronger in this country when flogging men around the fleet was considered a perfectly good thing to do. Christianity does not deal with the matter as it stands; of course it should. The fact that it does not is not really a criticism of Christianity—it is a criticism of us.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for bringing this subject to the House for debate today—and it is a most interesting subject. I note the first part of the Motion concerning the increase in crime, but I intend to speak about measures to protect innocent people.
The greatest protection would of course be the elimination of crime, but as a magistrate of many years' standing I am not at all confident that we are likely to see that happen. The best that we can do is to reduce the opportunity for crime and increase protection. Fear—an aspect that was discussed widely by my noble friend Lord Ferrers—is a very powerful emotion. Fear can also be a cause of violent crime. The criminal who did not set out to be violent, if interrupted during the course of a robbery or other crime, may in a moment of fear and panic turn to carrying out a most violent injury. That is another way in which fear may operate.
Fear is also a major factor in preventing crime and in protecting the innocent, as people who are afraid go to the trouble of doing what they can to protect themselves. The environment in which we live is very important. It can either be an environment that extends an invitation to crime or it can be one that is protective. There are architectural designs that have proved disastrous. I cite the Mozart Estate in north Westminster, which, just a few years ago, won all sorts of design awards. Today, no one is willing to accept housing on that estate because the crime statistics there are so high. The elevated walkways put there for the comfort and convenience of residents have proved instead to be rat-runs and a means of escape for all kinds of muggers and criminals. The tenants are delighted that the council is now taking action. I believe that something like £2 million is to be spent on removing the walkways, which are already coming down. That will change the whole atmosphere of the 1188 estate and give the people living there a feeling of security, that they will not be subject to surprise attack.
The location of tenants within a block of flats is also highly significant. It is difficult for a mother living on the tenth floor of a building to be certain that her child is safe and not liable to be attacked or kidnapped—as so many children have been recently—when that child is playing in a space 10 floors below and her mother can only watch from a kitchen window. Again, the design of modern council housing provides for small backyards and gardens—and very attractive they are, too. Such designs have only been developed through the experience and discovery of how disastrous some award-winning architectural designs have turned out to be.
In conservation areas, there is of course resistance to improved street lighting of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred. However, I am a great supporter of modern street lighting. In one street in which I lived, the council installed bright lighting. Those residents who liked the previous rather eerie, gaslit effect were up in arms because they felt that the new lighting destroyed that atmosphere. However, it has caused such a reduction in crime and in the risk to residents walking home at night that tenants and residents in Westminster are now welcoming bright street lighting. It certainly means that one no longer risks finding someone lurking in a dark corner.
In the same way, lighting should be arranged in porches and on stairs. In the case of local authority housing it is very important that broken light bulbs should be replaced. No matter how good may be the lighting plan, it is no use at all if it is not operational.
Secure doors and windows are also very important. Entryphones have been mentioned, and I came across many such devices during my canvassing days. I must say that I do not believe that they are as reliable as one might expect. There is always one tenant who has no idea of the risk involved in admitting strangers. I do not remember ever calling at a block of flats where, if one pressed enough buttons, someone did not press the remote entry button without querying who was there. I am told that the current ploy is to press the entryphone button and say, "Flowers", and then someone will let you in. We must become more aware of the need to check who is at the door.
That applies particularly to old people. I was interested when the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, mentioned that 20 per cent. of crimes of violence were against school children. He did not give a figure for crimes against the elderly. I do not believe that statistics tell the whole story. Today, the elderly live under a curfew, almost, and that is why the statistics for crimes against the elderly are much lower. The fear about which my noble friend Lord Ferrers spoke is so strong that the elderly tend to remain indoors from the time when it is dark until the next morning. Indeed, there are so many daytime muggings that it is difficult for the elderly to venture out in safety even then. There have been occasions when elderly ladies coming to my surgery for new sets of teeth have been knocked down in the street just for the 10p or 20p that they have in their handbags. Very often there is no thought of stealing a large amount of money because young muggers are after anything they can get.
1189 The elderly are gullible and vulnerable. They have a reputation for keeping a bundle of cash hidden away somewhere. Many people believe that the elderly do not trust banks and will keep something of value under their bed or in their stocking, and so they present themselves at the doors of the dwellings of the elderly. They say they are calling on behalf of the social services or the gas board. All sorts of excuses are produced. Often the elderly person makes no check as to who these people are. They let them in and, of course, all sorts of unfortunate results follow. Sometimes it is only a case of robbery, but in other cases very serious physical injuries are inflicted on them.
Alarms in old people's dwellings are very important, not only for the security of the old people in terms of illness but also if they have cause to need urgent help. Again, Westminster Council has an excellent arrangement linked to the telephone system. Old people do not need to get to the telephone. They carry a small gadget and, by pressing it, activate an alarm call. There is a man on 24–hour duty in the council house attached to the system who can respond instantly, knowing that someone needs help. That is a good system because it is extremely important that any alarm or protection system for the elderly does not, as it were, put a notice in the window saying, "I am elderly and at risk". That is just inviting the attention that is not wanted.
Therefore, as we have heard from the statistics, the old and the young are in a very vulnerable position as regards violent crime. There is a very fine line to be drawn between fear and alarm and caution. One must try to give people a sense of caution without creating alarm, and that is not easy. There is this requirement to be aware of the need for the protection of oneself and of others. I noticed from the paper this week that personal alarms have just been issued to nurses in Bristol; and the women students at Essex University have been given personal alarms.
Perhaps the statistics which have been quoted showing that men are more at risk arise because men consider themselves more brave, and perhaps are not so keen on having personal alarms as are women. However, women certainly welcome something of that nature which will emit a loud screech if they are attacked and which can be carried with them. I know that there are many different devices which are illegal in this country. In other countries people carry aerosols, but I have had experience in court of people who have come to this country with such items, which are perfectly legal as self-protection in their own country but which are not legal here.
Burglaries form a large part of the crime figures. As I said earlier, the risk is where a burglar is interrupted when committing a crime. The statistics, which show that 70 per cent. of drivers in London leave valuables in their cars which are visible, explain the very high number of broken car windows that can be seen. What we must do is change the climate of public opinion in such a way that people no longer accept that crime is inevitable and ever-increasing, and so that they work together to support one another and the community.
Reference has been made to violence in the family. Much is being done on that front. Assistance centres 1190 have been established. There is the Chiswick shelter for women who have been attacked, where violent crime was involved and who have left home. This is a very good movement in this country, and it is growing all the time. However, I was alarmed to see a report this week in the medical press of a doctor who was mugged in his local building society, with many of his patients standing watching outside the window He recognised these patients and wondered why none of them went in to help him. He said that there was only one man in the building society with him, and when he was attacked by the two men that man was seen to sidle out of the building society. That was an extraordinary incident.
More alarming, and certainly something we should consider now that the Government have just issued a blue discussion paper on primary health care, is the fact that in London some areas are becoming "no-go" areas for visits by doctors at night. This applies particularly in South London. Doctors call in a deputising service because they cannot go as a single doctor into those areas at night. That situation has existed for some time. It is prevalent in South London, but not just in the poorer parts. The situation has now got a degree worse. The answer service, which normally sends a doctor and a driver with radio-communication, now finds that if the doctor goes to the door on his own he is mugged, and if the driver remains in the car on his own he is mugged. The latest suggestion is that they might have to take guard dogs with them. It is certainly a matter of serious concern. People who call for a doctor at night desperately need that doctor and it is essential to have the doctor's visit.
The medical press says that doctors in such areas should always be accompanied by a police officer. However, I should not think there are enough police officers available to accompany every doctor who is called out at night, so I do not think that is a practical answer to the problem. The days of the rent collector who went round collecting cash payments in bags of money have gone. It was abolished in the Greater London Council area largely because of the murder of a young rent collector.
However, there are still people from the London Electricity Board and the gas boards who call to empty coin meters, and it is important that those people should be protected while they are working, f am pleased to be able to tell the House that in the electricity world new types of payments for the prepayment meters are being introduced. Coin meters will become a thing of the past. Small meters are being developed where one has a key which can be electronically recharged at the electricity board and will be prepaid. The key will be usable only in your own meter so there will be no incentive for anyone to steal it. That will be a great protection and will mean that much less money is carried about. We all know about telephone boxes and how the card-operated telephones are gradually being installed because the old money-operated boxes were being broken into and were such a source of crime.
The London Electricity Board also suffers from violent customers. Yesterday we were considering the plan of a new showrooms and offices which is being set up in one part of London. The board is having to make special provision to receive customers who might 1191 become violent. The board is getting an increasing number of people who are attempting violent actions against the staff. Separate interview rooms are to be designed to deal with that problem. I have suggested that they install closed-circuit television in the interview rooms. In New York there are closed-circuit television cameras in most lifts. In that way an observer is able to watch that no one gets mugged or attacked in a lift. One man is always watching.
In London, transport is the big problem. The amount of violent crime against conductors and drivers is increasing all the time. Although the bus crews now have two-way radios, that has not eliminated the problem. In the constituency I represented, there was an establishment known as The Pink Elephant. All attempts to have a late night music and dancing licence were refused by the Greater London Council. Eventually, and fortunately, the place was closed, more or less because the licensing courts so restricted the hours when alcohol could be served that it became unprofitable. I understand that it is now to be demolished. Bus loads of local residents had complained and opposed the granting of that licence, year after year.
Then the police had to be called in because Southgate Station was regularly closed by London Transport as it was not prepared to cope with the frightening number of uncontrollable people who arrived at the station. When the police were called there were thrown down on the station the large number of sharpened sawblades, sharpened into the most lethal-looking hooked knives, and deadly weapons, it was quited disturbing to see. Therefore, these are ways in which we can help, and I believe that local councils will help because they will now have more control over the licensing of such establishments.
There are the young and the disturbed. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, mentioned that there are fewer registered drug addicts involved in crime than other people; but I think that it is the unregistered drug addicts about whom we must also think. Many people have told me that their children who are drug addicts will not register or attend any clinics because they are not prepared to be subjected to even that degree of discipline which is involved in receiving a supply of drugs. Registered addicts receive a regular supply of drugs. They are not the ones who are desperate to obtain drugs and who go out and attack people to get money in any way they can.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will forgive me for intervening, but the point I made was a comparison with the percentage of registered drug addicts concerned in ordinary crime which was three times that of the general population, whereas in regard to crimes of violence it was less. There seems to be something to be deduced from that statistic, though I take the noble Baroness's point.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I think the difficulty with all statistice is that we cannot assess what is not there. The point has been made by other speakers that the degree of frustration felt by young people can be quite a worrying aspect of this problem. In London, however, 1192 there is no shortage of jobs. I have a job to offer someone at the moment. I know many people in London who have found that on telephoning the careers service they receive the answer, "We are sorry but we have no young people available at all for jobs". So there are jobs available in London.
It is often said that, although there was tremendous unemployment in the 1930s, there was no real degree of violent crime. I believe there has been a change in the standards of behaviour over these past years. There has been a change in standards of morality and in addition there has been the influence of TV images. Above all perhaps I must lay the blame in London at the door of the education system. There is something wrong with our education system if it is not giving a sense of purpose to young people. It is not creating interest or giving any incentive in life. I am sorry to say that in London at the moment this is a real problem. I hope that after May, when we have a directly elected ILEA, we shall see an improvement, because London has not always had that failure of education. It has had it recently, and it has it now.
I think that there is a need for change in the attitudes of society. There is a need for less selfishness and for more consideration of others. There is a need for a community which cares enough to support and protect its members. It has been said that it is foolhardy to try to help others in the moment of crime. Of course it is, when one is just one individual against a group or in a situation in which one is greatly outnumbered. It may be very brave but it is very foolhardy.
Yet recently I have seen the effect produced by ordinary people in the Philippines when they stood around tanks and actually stopped the might of those tanks. It can be done. If people are really willing to work together to stand against criminals and against attacks—not by exposing one single individual against the criminal, but by the community caring and working together and doing their best to support one another, to keep watch and ensure protection of themselves and their neighbours—then I believe that we shall see a decrease in violent crime.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, we must remember that this great crime wave about which we are so worried is worldwide. It has occurred in third world countries and in Communist countries. It happens in all political systems, and so we must not think that we are alone in this situation.
There are many reasons for it. According to some statistics which I have seen, drug-related crimes seem to predominate, but lack of home discipline and bad environmental conditions for youngsters can also lead to crime in the future. In the big cities like Manchester and London I believe that no less than 35 per cent. of all children born are illegitimate. It is slightly less, something like 20 per cent., in the smaller towns. Obviously it varies. Where there is such a high number of illegitimate children, there are often one-parent families and mothers who are teenagers. The chances that the children have of growing up normally are surely very small. Of course some of these children grow up normally and some make a great success of life, but they are on a hiding to nothing in doing it and it is very difficult.
1193 In places like Liverpool, and indeed in all the big towns, there are many children who do not know the name of their father and many who do not know their mother either, because the young mother has handed the child over completely to her parents or to someone else. What chance does the child have in that situation?
These children probably lack parental discipline from day one. I do not know much about bringing up children, but possibly, perhaps, for example, they do not get a bottle regularly or receive the kind of discipline which gives them a good start in life. They may later get discipline in the wrong way, in the form of baby-battering or whatever. In this respect the NSPCC and local authorities are making an enormous contribution and perhaps they may save at least a certain number of the children. I wonder whether matters can be improved by training young mothers before the baby is born and whether pre-natal training could cover not only the time up to the birth of the child but also the bringing up of the child in its early stages.
When the child goes to school it must be subject to school discipline. The type of discipline depends very much on the teachers, their competence and their ability to control and influence the children without necessarily shouting at them and using undue verbal force. Undoubtedly, however, a few children are uncontrollable. They are probably truant and nothing can be done about them.
The other day in my part of the world certain parents appeared in court because they were not sending their child to school. They came up and explained that the child had been pushed back to school over and over again. They had taken the child to school and they had done everything that they could, but as soon as they left him he ran away. There was nothing the teachers could do about it apart from expelling the child and sending him to another school, from which he ran away again.
I believe that to deal with that sort of thing and with violence against teachers, which is now prevalent, there ought to be corporal punishment administered in schools. It does not do much good, but I believe its deterrent value has an effect when everything else has been tried and failed. There are teachers who say that they despair of some of these children because they have no sanctions which they can apply.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull talked about intermediate treatment. This is extremely good and has been very successful. With this intermediate treatment it is the first time that these children have had fair dealings from anybody. When they go to a detention centre it may be the first time that they have had regular, square meals. Intermediate treatment and some detention type systems for youngsters can be effective and can do some good for the child.
But featuring large in what is wrong in our society at the moment are the media—television and the films. Explicit sex is seen on television. Is it necessary? We continually see violence, violence against women and sadism, and we do not have to go far to buy a pornographic paper; you can even buy one on a Sunday. This may not affect most people, but if these things are so widely available I believe that youngsters 1194 particularly and even older people with weaker intellects may well be affected. There is no doubt about it; people re-enact the crimes which they see on television. Those responsible for television programmes say that these crimes do not influence people and that what people see on television has no influence. If, on that basis, advertising does not influence people, it is extraordinary that channels can exist entirely on advertising.
Crime on television poisons people's minds. It bends not only their minds but also their characters. When this happens early in a child's life, it tends to desensitise the child, who becomes more accustomed to crime and thinks nothing about violence. There was a case recently, again in my part of the world, that resulted in a policeman receiving the Queen's gallantry medal. He was on duty when two other officers were attacked by a man who was known to be a burglar, armed with a shotgun. They approached the man, who fired at them. Luckily, one of the policemen ducked, but even so his hat was blown off his head The policeman who gained the award disarmed the man. Later, the man said that he had seen on television a chap with a sawn-off shot gun who had gone out and done a job and that he had thought it would be a good idea to do the same.
One hears this sort of story over and over again. I believe that the liberals—I mean liberals with a small "I"—of the 1960s have much to answer for. They have damaged society in their efforts to be liberal. It is not, I believe, practical to legislate now against television violence. We have seen over and over again how legislation has failed in the courts. But this is possibly a matter where public clamour can be aroused. When sufficient people begin to say that all this violence on television is wrong, public demand will perhaps have effect.
Some criminals, particularly those who repeat crimes and who are also mature, wish to change. It was, I believe, the Cambridge rapist who said that he hated himself, that he was disgusted with himself, that he did not want to do it again, but that then some influence, probably pornography, took over, and he did it again.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, the Cambridge rapist wanted to change his sex. Was that in the noble Lord's mind?
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, I am sorry I missed what the noble Earl said. Did it relate to a change of sex?
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, I do not quite see the relevance. If, therefore, some of these people want to change, are they able to do so? I would ask your Lordships whether we are able to change ourselves. Some of us do not regard ourselves as perfect. We know our faults and we should like to change. Is that possible? How many people can stop smoking? Some can but many of us here probably have not the willpower to do so. If it is difficult for us to overcome faults that we know we have, how can we expect some criminal, quite likely of lesser intellect, to overcome his natural instincts?
1195 There are, in addition, such things as Y chromosomes. I hope that there is no doctor in the House able to argue with me, because I shall not be able to take him on. I understand, however, that Y chromosomes exist within the body, that they distort the character and that they can leave someone with less control over himself. While criminals have to go to prison for the protection of the public, it is bad luck if they are built in such a way that they cannot help themselves. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister whether any medical work is taking place in this field.
It is known, for instance, that if people who are aggressive receive female hormones they lose some of that aggression. It is, however, a clumsy way of going about things because of the great number of side effects that are totally undesirable. Yet one wonders whether in 50 years' time work may not have been done that will help those people who are physically unable to bring themselves within the law. Is any research taking place to target medicine towards helping criminals? If people could be cured or helped in that way, it would certainly be cheaper than sending them to prison.
One hears often in the House the inference that magistrates and judges send people to prison at the slightest provocation. This is absolutely untrue. Magistrates go to enormous lengths not to send people to prison. One is amazed sometimes to find that people with a long record of offences have never been to prison. Often, they have had to do community service. That is an effective scheme. About 70 per cent. of those undertaking community service do not offend again during the period of the order. Most are unwilling workers who do not carry out their duties very well. Yet, in some cases, where the community service involves work at schools or homes for the handicapped, the offenders realise that there are people worse off than themselves. Up to 3 per cent. wish to go on working at those places and so become reasonable citizens within the community.
All your Lordships agree, I think, that prison is a pretty hopeless place. It gets the burglar out of the community and out of people's hair, but it does not achieve anything else. Too frequently there is no work in prison and the prisoners do nothing while they are there. They go to prison without a trade. They are unemployable and able only to thieve. And they come out without a trade, still unemployable, and able only to go back to crime. This seems an extraordinary state of affairs. I wonder what plans exist to increase attempts to rehabilitate prisoners before they leave. There should perhaps be the option for prisoners to undertake some weeks of training before they leave prison. At least they would then be employable. This would be especially useful for youngsters and enable them to have the chance of employment.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I agree very much with the last words that fell from the noble Lord who has just spoken. I thought that I would agree with him earlier in respect of pornography. Suddenly, however, he swerved away and said that in that regard he did not believe in legislation. I hope that he will not adopt that 1196 attitude when Mr. Churchill's Bill comes to this House. I disagree totally with the noble Lord and also with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, about corporal punishment. There has been a good discussion of that subject in this House lately, and I shall not embark upon it again. As both the noble Earl and the noble Lord are aware, it has been investigated again and again by various inquiries here and elsewhere, and all informed opinion is against it. This does not mean that I do not agree with all speakers about the gravity of the situation. It was brought home most vividly perhaps by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner. But the noble Baroness, I am glad to say, did not then go on to adopt the extreme remedies suggested by some noble Lords. She has, however, made your Lordships very aware of the awful situation.
Like others, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for the manner in which she opened the debate. I have ventured before now to call her a humanitarian mole sitting behind the Minister, well situated to do him down, so to speak. I think of her now as a kind of Sword of Damocles resting above the head of Mr. Tebbit. I am glad for his sake that Mr. Tebbit, the chairman of the Conservative Party, was not sitting there. He might have found it a discouraging experience. His views in recent years have been quite appalling—totally unlike those of the noble Baroness. All of us must give credit to the Conservative Party in these latter days for choosing the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, as its spokesman on crime and punishment. It is the most sensible action that the party has taken since I left it about 50 years ago. I shall not, however, proceed with further reminiscences. There are all sorts of aspects that cannot be pursued today.
Most of us on these Benches—and, I know, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—believe that alternative remedies ought to be made much more use of. My leader today, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, would be the first to denounce the policies of the present Government and the effect of those policies in producing unemployment. I go along with anything that is said in criticism of the social policies of the Thatcherite Government.
I shall try to confine myself to slightly different matters.
The noble Earl really must not accuse me of doing things that I did not do. I kept my mouth tight shut. I think that it was my noble friend who sits next to me.
§ The Earl of Longford
As it was not the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I really do apologise, my Lords. It is the only thing about which I am going to apologise to the noble Earl, because I thought that his speech was so dreadful that I will not apologise for making that comment.
To come back to the main issue, in these few remarks I am going to concentrate on sentencing. It is the recollection of many of us here that a few years ago 1197 the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw—I gave him rather belated notice that I was going to say that, but it will not be the first time that I have said it, and it does not really require an answer—when he was Home Secretary began in the most enlightened way by expressing the hope that the judges and everyone else concerned would reduce sentences. Then the noble Viscount, in spite of the fact that he was and is perhaps the most popular member of the Conservative Party, went to the Conservative Conference in 1981 and got the bird in a very painful way, so he then abandoned any idea—this is history—of trying to reduce sentences.
His successor, Mr. Brittan, at that time at least was more canny; later his canniness deserted him, but he was at that time very prudent. Therefore, when he went to the Conservative Conference, he took a very different line and recommended the increase of sentences—in other words, exactly the opposite policy, which no doubt was popular for the time. That policy was adopted—namely, heavier sentences particularly for the violent criminals about whom, after all, we are speaking today. Those policies of Mr. Brittan, which I am afraid have been carried on up to now by the present enlightened Home Secretary, have been denounced by many people, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, when we discussed these matters at the end of 1983, and by many others. Again I will not pursue that issue.
If we are talking about sentencing, we must realise that sentences in relation to violent criminals, with the abuse of the parole system, have been much increased in practice by the present Government. They are already the heaviest sentences known to anyone in Europe today. That is what the Government have done. It is no good anybody saying that this is not a party question. It is a question on which the Government are facing criticism by anyone, whether their own supporters or the Opposition. On this point, they are very much to be criticised.
I want to bring in here a little evidence which your Lordships will not regard as conclusive but which will, I think, be of some interest. I was going to suggest that it conflicted with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, but, anticipating that, he has, I think, fled. Therefore, I cannot say that this conflicts with his views without his being able to reply.
With regard to the effect of sentences on violent criminals—and I know that there are a lot of different kinds of violent criminals, as has been well explained to us by various speakers—let us take criminals who have committed some of the most violent crimes over a period of years. Very few of us in this House, my Lords, can put ourselves in the minds of those violent criminals. I have often heard noble Lords talking as though they perfectly understood the mind of a violent criminal. After many years' contact with them, I do not pretend to understand those minds but at least one can ask them for their point of view.
In the last day or two I have spoken to two of the most famous or notorious violent criminals. One served 18 years and the other served 19 years, and they are now both out of prison. One is prospering in legitimate business and the other is running a large club for young black people in East London. They are 1198 both in that sense making good, having been many years in prison.
I asked them for their views on the question we are discussing today, the causes of violent crime. Surely it is not a bad idea to ask some of the most violent criminals what they think is the cause of violent crime—at least they know more about it first hand than most of us. I asked one of them who had spent 18 years in prison—if I mentioned his name, your Lordships would all know who I was talking about but the name might be emotive so it is better not to mention it—what he would feel was the reason for the big increase in violent crime in recent years. This is an intelligent man who is doing well in business, as I said. He replied, "It goes back to 1964 and the irain robbers." I say this with proper respect for an old friend of mine who might have had some involvement in that particular matter. At any rate, as I have said, he said, "It goes back to 1964 and the train robbers. The 30 year sentences became a criterion and sentences lost their value after that. Prisoners began saying to themselves, 'If I go back to prison it will be for very many years, even for a minor offence', so to resist arrest they carry guns or knives."
That is a perfectly dispassionate opinion. This man had absolutely no axe to grind and nothing to get out of giving that opinion. That is an honest opinion given to me in the course of a long discussion in the last two days.
I spoke to the other man. He is helping to run a very successful club for young black people, where, I am glad to say, I am assured there is no violence whatever. He is a friend of the first man so they might be supposed to have similar views, but he did not know that I had put the question or what answer I had received. I put the same question to the second man, who has been out of prison for about a year, having spent 19 years in prison and having been in prison before that. I said, "Why do you think there has been this big increase in violent crime?". He replied, in just the same way as his friend, "Because of the tremendous increase in sentences". He developed the point at some length and he said to me, rather crudely perhaps, "If I were going to mug you and knew that I would get a sentence of many years in prison, I would knock you out to make sure that you would never recognise me".
That is an absolutely honest opinion which is the attitude of a man who has been involved in many violent crimes. My Lords, we have to pool our knowledge with other people bringing forward information from other quarters. I am laying before the House some up-to-date information on the attitudes among some of the most violent criminals to the increase in violent crimes, and they are both men, as I say, who are doing well now.
My Lords, these two men undoubtedly had a very difficult start in life. I agree, therefore, with everything that has been said about the need to provide a much better life for young people. I know that has been a special interest, among her many interests of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. When I was doing an inquiry for the Nuffield Foundation into the cases of crime 30 years ago, it was agreed by the experts—and they agreed about one point only—that the biggest single 1199 factor was the broken home. That was 30 years ago. Everyone is aware that in the last 30 years the proportion of broken homes has increased greatly, partly through legislation and partly maybe through a weakening of public morals. At any rate, there has been a great increase in broken homes, although in fact they cannot be held responsible for the lives of the two men whom I have quoted. But they are still the biggest single factor.
I shall finish in a moment, but that point brings me back to the position where I thought that I was going to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough. I think that philosophically I do, but his practical ideas did not seem to me satisfactory. When we are talking of any decline in morals we cannot ignore the effect of television. When I was involved in the pornography inquiry 15 years ago there was a good deal of resistance because people liked the idea of freedom of sex. But now, when there is freedom of violence, the public is a good deal more ready to smash it, to level a real war on pornography. I hope that the noble Lord will agree with this. I welcome the initiatives taken, for example, by Mr. Churchill and Ms. Clare Short. I welcome any other initiatives taken in that direction. In the long run those initiatives will bear fruit. At the moment we must deal with a great many detailed questions. For that and many other reasons I once again salute the noble Baroness. I do not know what we would do without her.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, it is not the first time that I have had the privilege of succeeding the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and I must confess that I find it difficult. He has a way of couching his wisdom in so entertaining a form that anything I say is likely to be humdrum. I hope that the noble Earl will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow too closely—but there it is, that is showbusiness.
I am reminded instead of something that happened a long time ago. In 1969 we had a debate on this subject on the dangers of violence in contemporary society. In the course of that debate, Lord Stonham, answering at that time for the Government said:We should be thankful that, compared with the United States, we are at present a safe and orderly society; and we must keep it that way."—[Official Report, 12/2/69; col. 453.]That was 16 years ago but perhaps it bears thinking about now.
I remember that particularly because it was I who inaugurated that debate. In doing so I became thoroughly aware of that great jigsaw puzzle that my noble friend Lady Faithfull has had to go through, researching into all manner of things, to produce the ramifications and the wide-ranging debate that she laid so expertly before us this afternoon. I use the words "jigsaw puzzle". Preparing for any debate I suppose is a jigsaw puzzle but this seems to be subject to the proviso that a jigsaw puzzle cannot be put together in the air. One has to lay it on a table. It needs a background of some kind.
The background to the jigsaw puzzle of contemporary violent crime, I suggest, is the spiritual climate of the age. That is something that among all 1200 the wealth of statistics that are deployed before us, and the measures that are suggested for dealing with them to reduce crime, and to protect the innocent person, tends to be forgotten. We have not heard much about it this afternoon. To my relief we had one allusion which came from the right place—that is the Benches of the Lords Spiritual on my left—when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln touched upon spiritual matters. He slightly spoiled the effect—this is a slightly frivolous remark, I confess—by saying that it is not the province of Bishops to make sermons in the House of Lords. I am not altogether sure about that. I would probably be among the first to complain if it happened, but nonetheless I think that it does not happen often enough. Selected Bishops might well address a sermon to us from time to time. This is a complaint that I have to make against the Church, but I make it in a friendly way and I hope that both right reverend Prelates representing the Bishops will understand.
I shall not refer to statistics in what I shall say. I simply take it for granted that violent crime is on the increase and is very worrying and frightening. If that is not true —if in some respects it is decreasing—that makes no difference. I am absolutely certain that there is a great deal too much of it. I ask myself—and I should like to ask others for an opinion—as to how it came about. I am now referring again to the spiritual climate of the age in which we live. Spiritual matters are not my concern; but as nobody else seems to talk about them except for a glancing blow from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, perhaps I might be allowed to have a thought. I am not in any way preaching a sermon but it is an inquiry.
I should like to go back a little in history to the Second World War. That war left a legacy of the most appalling violence that the world had experienced—deliberate violence, deliberate cruelty. There is no need to rehearse those facts again now. Then it stopped. It is my personal belief—I do not know whether anybody shares it or not—that there was a spiritual legacy left in the atmosphere of the world when that war came to an end from which we are suffering today. I shall not enlarge on that because I might well be told that metaphysics is not a fit topic for discussion in the House of Lords.
To continue, I spent four years abroad in that war. When I returned home, one of the things that struck me was a breakdown in manners. People were short tempered and "chippy" in Great Britain, in a way that was quite unfamiliar to me having been away for some time. I say that in no spirit of criticism. I did not feel critical about it at the time. It was perfectly obvious that it was a symptom of long drawn out privation, suffering and, perhaps above all, fatigue.
Time went on and we continued to have real deprivations in the form of shortages of rations. The rationing reached its lowest level, or highest intensity—according to which term one likes to use—two years after the war was over when we had potato and bread rationing. That may be difficult to believe now. However, that is when rationing was at its worst. Children were being brought up then, presumably by their parents, in an atmosphere of the black market and of fiddling under the counter. I remember this very well. I was not a child by a long 1201 way then. I was therefore able to observe other people's children and noticed how almost invariably they were subjected to the experience of hearing their parents talk about fiddling something—whether cigarettes, potatoes, petrol, clothing coupons, or whatever it might be. All over the country, at all levels of society I suspect, there was an atmosphere of petty dishonesty, pilfering, and getting the better of the establishment in one way or another. This is not a healthy atmosphere for children to grow up in.
And so it went on. Other more important factors came in about that time or soon after. We had a breakdown of family responsibility. Everybody complains sooner or later about the lack of parental responsibility for children. I suspect that this arose at about that time. Various factors may have contributed to it. I dare say that the coming emancipation of women may have done. Women insisted on their own womanliness and went to work in larger numbers and their houses became less closely attended.
Then in the 1960s we had what my noble friend Lord Gisborough has referred to as the liberals and the permissive society. There is no need to describe what is meant by that now. It is known well enough to everybody. This was probably the culmination of disaster. This saw the real breakdown of what up to that moment had been considered proper moral standards by which people should live. I suspect that the delay in seeing the result, the pay-off, of that collapse in moral standards has come right the way through the works as we are seeing them now. Forty years after the end of the war we have probably reached our lowest point.
Over all this there was superimposed the welfare state. We are greatly and justly proud of the welfare state. From time to time we tell ourselves that it is the envy of the world. I am not totally convinced of that; it may or it may not be. However, I am convinced that there is a price to pay for it. It is almost similar to the dilemma facing Germany in the days before the war, which Field Marshall Goering neatly summed up by saying that there was a choice between guns and butter, and he personally chose guns. There is plenty of butter in the welfare state because that is what it is for, but the price is a heavy one to pay.
The price stems from the fact that from the very beginning of life everyone is brought up to think that he or she has a right—I repeat the word "right"—to be looked after by other people. There we have a breakdown in responsibility—responsibility for one's individual self. Parental responsibility has broken down; personal responsibility to a great extent is flying out of the window after it. When Beveridge initiated the welfare state and the National Health Service I do not think that he envisaged a situation in which young people, coming down from school, college or university, should be cast upon the world without a job, and be paid for doing nothing. That was not his idea; he resisted it, but he was overruled. It is now possible for young people, finding themselves unemployed, to remain unemployed by choice. That is a great corruption of the spirit.
Somewhere along the lines we had something which was entirely new in our social system; it was an idea, 1202 hatched up I know not where, which manifested itself in the upper reaches of the trade union movement. It became accepted that every trade unionist had a right to an increase in pay every year. It had nothing to do with inflation or personal merit, but it was simply that a year had passed and therefore his pay ought to go up. It was known and is still known as the annual pay round. It was new and unjustified, and was a manifestation of what we had, and still have—the selfish society.
It is all very well to talk like this, whether or not anyone agrees with me, but we are supposed to be talking about how we should protect innocent citizens. Basically, we must do this by discovering the truth behind what I have been saying—the causes of all these things. It is all very well to think about methods of penal reform, longer sentences and all kinds of things. Hundreds of excellent ideas have been suggested in the speeches this afternoon. However, will they do any good, beyond being mere palliatives, or do we not have to discover the root causes, as I have been suggesting, and see what we can do about them?
Someone ought to speak up and say what has not been said in my hearing for a very long time, except by my noble friend Lady Faithfull this afternoon when, in her opening speech, she said that crime is wrong. How often do we hear anyone stand up and say that anything is wrong, except perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Soper? Surely it is a function of the Church to say that something is wrong, whatever it may be—not necessarily crime. Recently in conversation with me someone (he was not a Member of this House or another place) complained that he hears parsons and bishops say that they are saddened by this or that manifestation of society as it now is, that they grieve for situations of this kind, whatever they may be; but never do they say, "This is wrong". There must be people to stand up and say, "This is wrong". Who are they to be? It used to be the Church. By "Church" in this country, with its Church established by law, one has to mean the Church of England. Sadly, for various reasons I am afraid that the Church has lost a very great deal of its authority. I suspect that one reason for this is that from time to time it tends to throw up an odd prominent figure, a bishop, who thinks aloud. It is not a good idea for bishops to think aloud. They may talk aloud, but they should not think aloud. If they do some thinking and they have great doubts about dogma, about faith, or about the truth of their religion or their obedience, that would be a proper topic of conversation on the Bishops' Bench or perhaps in the smoking room of the Athenaeum. However, it is not a good topic for conversation in books, newspapers or on the wireless because invariably the result will be to destroy the faith of and to perplex large numbers of innocent people who look to such persons for their spiritual guidance and who find that they are actually being damaged. That is sad and, following my own precept of a moment ago and pretending to be a bishop, I will say that it is wrong.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl who he means by the "Church"? He said that the Church should stand up and say this, that and the other. He is a member of the Church; the Church comprises the laity as well as the clergy and 1203 bishops, and I think that that needs to be borne in mind.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, that is a very reasonable criticism. I did say that the Church necessarily meant the Church of England. As to how this voice should be expressed is another matter, with which I shall deal in a minute. I will probably not deal with it in a satisfactory way, but I will deal with it in some way. I know that it is difficult to personify the Church and give it a voice, but I have hinted that I was thinking in terms of the House of Bishops at this moment. If the bishops speak with an uncertain voice, it is difficult to see who should arm himself for the battle.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive me, is there any doubt throughout the United Kingdom, whatever the state of our citizenship, whatever our multiracial content, that crime is wrong? Who has to say this and to whom?
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, if the noble Lord will be kind enough to let me get on with my speech, I shall tell him; at least I shall put forward an idea to that purpose. I am only eliminating one body, which I do with sadness, which I do not think is particularly well-fitted for this. I do not think that the World Council of Churches is well fitted for it either, because it is known to subscribe money to people who actually practise terrorism in Africa. I should like to see people, leaders of all kinds—and I am thinking particularly of religious leaders of all faiths and all obediences—not speaking for the Holy Catholic Church, the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church or for any particular group of persons, but speaking as enormously authoritative bishops or enormously authoritative and respected rabbis or chief rabbis. I do not particularly want to know who they are or what they belong to; I want them to speak as individual voices, in harmony and unison.
I do not know how this could come about. I see no reason why it should not come about. I want to see all faiths—Hebraic, Islamic, Hindu, anything you like—not using any label, but speaking with the voice of the spirit. It should be possible and I believe it must be possible. Perhaps some people who might be qualified to join in such a chorus would bear that in mind. I hope that that goes some way to answering the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.
I do not know where St. George lived or was believed to have lived.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
Romania, my Lords? I thought it was somewhere in Asia Minor. Perhaps it is the same thing. It is wonderful what geographic facts one can learn from one's noble friends. Wherever it was, there was a terrifying dragon laying waste to, I think, a village. It was a dragon of violence and no doubt evil. In response to prayer, St. George (who I suppose was not a saint at that time) returned, posthumously in fact, and despatched the dragon. Today is St. George's day, who will speak for St. George?
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, my comments today may be brief but my feelings on this vital subject are immensely strong. I, for one, feel drained of compassion when I think of what parents, families and friends must suffer when little, innocent children disappear and then are found murdered, having been sexually abused. Coming from Yorkshire, as I do, I found something particularly tragic about the little girl from Morley who went down her street to fetch a loaf of bread and did not return. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the last message that she performed for her mother that has made the police forces come together. It seems a pity that they have not been working in closer co-operation before this. May I ask the Minister the question: why has it taken so long? Was this not the criticism which ran through the television films of Operation Julie, the drugs operation, which showed the difficulty of getting the police to work together?
With modern-day transport it does not take long to travel hundreds of miles, especially with the network of motorways. Crime travels fast these days. I, for one, do not think that the police can solve these terrible crimes without full public participation. But far more important is to stop them happening in the first place. Could the public not be more on the alert for suspicious characters and keep a watchful eye over the young and innocent?
Society has fallen very low when even members of the Church abuse children. Therefore, men might be held on suspicion if they are seen to be taking an interest in a vulnerable child, even if they are trying to protect it. Perhaps it will have to be the women who take a strong lead in protecting the little innocents of society.
A serious situation is developing. At this year's President's Conference of the British Red Cross Society I heard that there was a fall off of Red Cross cadets attending classes. Many of the classes are held in the evenings as this is the time the instructors are free. The drop in cadets is due to fear of abduction when returning home.
First aid and nursing skills are so important to encourage responsible basic health care, and this is one of the reasons why at the Committee stage of the Education Bill I moved an amendment to provide more health education in schools. With the growing expense of health care education is important on many aspects of health provision and particularly on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Both these contribute to a more violent society. Education seems to be our greatest hope for the future. If we can reduce the demand, there will be less point in the evil marketing, which is still increasing.
Drunkenness is a large contributory factor to child abuse within the family. I have spoken with many young people from Borstal—now youth custody—over the years. Some fathers have told me that when they come in from the pub at night and hear the baby cry their reaction is to pick up the baby and shake it, which is a very dangerous thing to do. These at-risk fathers need training so that they understand that children may be hungry, cold, or wet and need changing. They need educating, and they do respond. 1205 But the violence and impatience which stems from drinking puts many babies at great risk.
May I ask the Minister whether the worrying problem of incest is on the increase, or is it being more talked about? Are the numbers of cases held nationally? This week I was told of a case in Devon of a father who had had incest with his six-months old baby. This is something no animal would do. Is it not time that there was a committed think tank to try to resolve some of these dastardly happenings? How much research is done on these matters? It really must be done.
Locking these criminals away in prison for 23 hours a day in a cell and then letting them out will not solve these problems. They may be much worse on discharge. Do they not need intense group therapy so that they may be able to put themselves right when they have looked at where they have gone wrong? May I ask the Minister whether some of the new prisons that the Government are now building are going to have systems like those at Grendon, which tackles some of these difficult problems?
I support schemes in the community, such as the tracking scheme which seems to be working, but today's Motion deals with violent crime. Closing prison workshops is one of the most depressing aspects of the prison problem at the moment. Should we not make the people who commit crimes pay back at least something to society?
Prison officers tell me that homosexuality is rife in many prisons and that the spread of the HTLV III virus is inevitable.The frustrated prisoner with AIDS may try to cut himself and spray blood into the mouths of prison officers.This I consider would be a violent act. Will the Minister, who is so fit and keen, not take this matter under his wing with some urgency and see that all members of the prison staff who so wish are instructed in what to do and in what protection is needed, so that panic and fear are eliminated?
Some months ago I asked the Minister, Lord Glenarthur, whether he thought that castration would be a deterrent against rape. As he is in the prime of life with a splendid zest and enthusiasm for living, he is the ideal person to answer this question. After that question I received hundreds of letters in support of the need for such a deterrent. Of course I would not want anyone to be castrated, but equally I do not want anyone to be raped. There would be a choice: to rape and take the consequences, or just not to consider it.
What makes me think that strong deterrents for the prevention of crime are necessary arises from being told by prisoners, when I was taking a discussion group in a prison, that they would go on committing crime as long as it paid. I argued with them that they were shut away in prison in cramped conditions away from their friends and freedom, but still they did not think that this was a strong deterrent.
Having sat through a showing of the horrors of the so-called nasty videos, I am certain in my mind that they have contributed to some of the violent crime, as I am sure have some of the violent scenes on television. May I ask the Minister whether these dastardly videos have been removed from the shops and whether they are no longer being made? What is happening to all 1206 those videos which have been around for years and may still be corrupting young people in their homes?
I have recently been shown round the Black Museum at Scotland Yard. There are many offensive weapons, which seem to be increasing, in the form of razor-sharp plastic knives, terrible round spiked objects on chains—all made to maim and harm. Should we not toughen up the laws to include knuckle dusters and many other horrible things?
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for instigating this debate on a subject which is of such concern to so many people from all walks of life and of all ages. We should be aiming at prevention so that tiny children are safe in their cots, old-age pensioners do not fear that they will be beaten and robbed and young women can once more walk in safety without the fear that they will be jumped on from behind, robbed and raped. To sum up, I feel we need more education and more effective deterrents in society if it is to be better protected.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, with regard to her earlier remarks perhaps I should tell the noble Baroness that, concerning the most unfortunate cases of maltreatment within the family, the NSPCC (with which I have the privilege of being associated) is building up its facilities for studying this all the time. In certain areas it is working jointly with the local authority. There is a tremendous amount of work going on to identify the problems about which she spoke.
We must all thank my noble friend Lady Faithfull for introducing this debate and for so cleverly ordering the right people to take part so that they balance their speeches one with another. I propose to base my speech mainly on my experiences in the Isle of Wight, which will perhaps give a slightly different flavour from the inner cities (for instance, in the contribution of my noble friend Lady Gardner), and because hitherto it has been one of the more tranquil counties in the country. I shall not speak about its prisons, of which we have three, two of which are major ones, as I wish to talk about the problems raised by this debate; the serious increase in violent crime in my country.
Crime generally in the Isle of Wight has increased by a third in just the last two years, 1984 and 1985, which is a great deal more than the national average given by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. The particular concerns of the police are violent crime—especially involving aggressive young men, usually well under 25—and drugs. Regarding the violent crime, in earlier years the island has always had problems in the summer months, with gangs coming from the mainland on holiday and having fun beating people up, mainly in the holiday resorts. Now, out of season there is a disturbing growth in violence of the same sort by local lads.
Drug-taking is also on the increase at all ages. I heard only yesterday from a man who was driving me of a girl of about 12 years old, who he had difficulty in avoiding and who was sniffing a cloth soaked in lighter fuel and wandering all over the road, just like a drunkard. She was a drunkard, a girl of only 12. Your Lordships will know of many such examples. That is 1207 an example of simple drug consumption, but, and perhaps because of it, hard drug-taking is also on the increase. Though drugs are not specifically the subject of this debate—and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has told us that they do not have the effect (if I understood him correctly) on violent crime that perhaps one might at first think—they are a contribution to violent crime in certain cases. It is therefore relevant to talk briefly about them, though I shall concentrate mainly on the other subject.
Drugs are increasingly available, so I am told, and at ever cheaper prices. With some success the police are endeavouring to identify and catch the pushers, but with the small drugs squad that a small island with a small police force naturally has, this is an uphill struggle because of the quantities of drugs in the market and the readiness of people to be pushers, which is a sad reflection on our community. I suppose it all comes down to money.
The police are also co-ordinating with the schools to put across to the young the very serious consequences of all types of drug-taking. One hopes that this may achieve results in the future, though it is early days and these things take time to work through. In the meantime, the example of those around them may delay the effect of the good messages being conveyed when the children are younger. It is difficult to see how the problem can be solved quickly.
There are many causes of violence, and varying points of view have been put to me from various sources. One of the causes of the violence of the young men about whom I was talking earlier is that they are following the example of the visiting gangs in the summer. That is straightforward. Another cause is seriously thought to be—and other noble Lords have mentioned this—that they are seeking the macho image of young men on television, both in soap operas and in real life at "demos".
It is significant to note this when one sees a demonstration on the television. I shall not have a go at television, for other noble Lords have done that, but I have been thinking about this matter. Pictures of demonstrations on television generally show the police charging with their batons to a much greater extent than they show the young men charging at the police and misbehaving. One can understand why this may be so; one has to protect the television cameramen. They are probably safer, and the police probably tell them that they are safer, behind the police lines than they would be if they were behind the demonstrators. This is a definite problem for which one cannot blame the television people entirely, but it is something that they should perhaps take into account.
My other point is that my advice would be that we do not particularly want the young demonstrators televised, because they have the macho image and they will be copied by other young men who will behave badly locally; they will follow them rather than copy the police. It is a complicated story, but it needs thinking out by the television people, because they have a responsibility, which I am not always sure they realise. However, that is a diversion.
My next point has been touched on previously, though I shall run over it quickly. It is the lack of 1208 parental discipline. However, both the police and the education people to whom I have spoken point out that imposed discipline and self-discipline have decreased throughout the community over many years. My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery referred to this with great eloquence. It is partly due to increasing lack of respect for any sort of superiors. I suggest that this, in part, is brought about by the bad behaviour from time to time of some of those so-called superiors, some of whom have even on occasions sat in your Lordships' House. When they behave badly much publicity is given to that.
There has also been a slackening in personal discipline and high standards of honesty by many parents of all sorts. In some ways, although my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery put this back to the immediate post-war period, I think that it has become rather worse and slacker recently, now that people have so much. Everybody has a television set on which to see what everybody else has, and they want the same. Expectations are higher and somehow honesty slips.
I suggest, however, that there are indications that this trend of parents is beginnning to reverse. My experience, gazing at a fairly wide section of the community, is that the young new parents in their mid-20s now have a better sense of responsibility than parents of their age had 15 years ago. That is a movement in the right direction. We have to hope for that, because the effects will be some time a-coming.
The schools, it is agreed, also make a contribution and there is no doubt that the national lack of self-discipline reflects itself among school teachers as among anyone else. The industrial action by school teachers has also unquestionably added to the tendency of children to lose respect for authority and for the rights of others to lead an unmolested life.
Outside the control of the schools there has been the lack of certainty of a job for the young school-leaver in recent years. This engenders a lack of hope and also makes it more difficult to teach uninterested teenagers of both sexes. Teachers in the past could encourage attention in class, especially during the last two years at school, by showing that the children could get better jobs if they were even partially educated. The lack of hope, without certainty of a job, which is more marked in the Isle of Wight than in the rest of South East England because of the exceptionally high unemployment, is a definite contribution to the lawlessness of some of the young.
Briefly, because we have heard from my noble and learned friend and we shall hear more from my noble friend the Minister of some of the things that have been done by the Government which could contribute to curbing violent crime, I pick out the many initiatives of my noble friend Lord Young of Graffham, especially YTS, which in its new form can bridge the gap between leaving school, finding a preference for a job and getting a stable one thereafter. That may help to deal with this problem of the lack of hope. There is no doubt that the school authorities think that there is a good chance of that, and that is hopeful.
We have heard from my noble and learned friend of the many initiatives that he has taken. I should like to 1209 suggest to your Lordships that he has taken them over two Parliaments in a steady progress of improving the structure of the law in a whole range of different ways. I presume to say that I think he should be congratulated on having done so consistently over the period in which he has sat on the Woolsack.
I shall not keep your Lordships long. The other two things that I should like to mention are the neighbourhood watch and the community consultative groups. The neighbourhood watch is just starting in the Isle of Wight and only in a couple of areas. The police tell me that they do not do anything unless the local community exercises its own initiative, which seems to me to be sensible. But it will grow.
The community consultative groups, on the other hand, are now the law and the police have been surprised even in our county at the warmth with which they have been accepted by other people of all walks of life who sit upon the groups. That is hopeful for the future, but there seems to be a gap at the moment, although it is early days, between what they and the parents can do and what the lawless young people do.
There is thus some hope that in communities like mine the rise in violent crime may be abated in the future. But that can happen only if, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said towards the end of his speech—and I may say that I did not agree with the early part of it but I did with the end—the spirit of community responsibility is regarded as important. He gave us some excellent examples of community responsibility. I entirely agree with him, and if that can be encouraged and built upon, not only in our county where I hope that it is already, this spirit should spread through to the inner-city areas. My noble friend Lady Gardner gave us many examples in Westminster of where that is happening; where the local authority is working to do its bit to cure the problems. I hope that all is not hopeless and that the trend may reverse itself, but I cannot see it doing so quickly, and that is sad.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lady Faithfull for introducing this debate and, as forecast by her, I should like to confine my remarks to what happens to a violent man after he has been arrested; for, as a prison officer said to me only last week, "Just because you lock up a violent man, you don't lock out his violence".
As I understand it, there are three periods of incarceration for a criminal which would be, first, the remand in custody awaiting trial; secondly, the period in a local prison after conviction awaiting transfer to what I think is now called a training prison; and, thirdly, the serving of the remainder of his sentence in that training prison. During each of these three periods, a violent prisoner can easily become more violent. This is because in the local prisons he is likely, as many noble Lords will know, to be "banged up" for 23 hours out of the 24 in very crowded conditions and he can also be, as they say, banged up in the training prison as training prisons suffer from staff shortage. But what I find puzzling is this. Just after the war, the inmate-to-prison officer ratio was 7:1. Now, it is only 2:1. How, therefore, can one explain the staff shortage with the vast increase in numbers of prison 1210 officers—that is, I think, from about 2,000 in 1947 up to 19,000 today?
If I may, I should like to look at each of the three periods of imprisonment, in turn, to ask questions and to make suggestions. The first period is waiting in prison to be tried. It is, of course, too long; it may be two years. It was therefore very heartening to read the speech made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to the Prison Reform Trust on 10th April to which my noble friend Lady Faithfull has already referred. It was an extremely good speech. In it he mentioned the introduction of time limits in four pilot areas: Birmingham, Bristol, Maidstone and Southwark. The limits last for 182 days between arrest and arraignment. Should the limit be exceeded, it will trigger (as he puts it) the termination of proceedings; in other words, the accused goes free. I think that is promising but I must ask my noble friend on the Front Bench why the period is so long and why it is only on a trial basis in a few areas, since the formula is already well tried in another country—Scotland—where they have the 110-day rule, which I gather has been working very well for many years.
The second period of detention is when a man is locked up in a local prison after conviction awaiting transfer. That can also last for more than a year. Once again, staff shortages make it likely that the offender will be confined to his cell. However, once again I am encouraged by another part of the Home Secretary's speech when he mentions the commissioning of an efficiency scrutiny to see whether escorting could be run more efficiently. It is a wasteful process to use prison officers for court duties. That point was made by my noble friend Lady Faithfull. We should perhaps examine the possibility of using another body of men for that task.
I suggest to my noble friend that prison officers are overqualified merely to sit beside the accused in the dock for eight hours a day. The only qualifications such a man needs are those required to prevent an escape and for that all he needs to be is strong, muscular and honest. I do not mean to be flippant but all we need is an honest nightclub bouncer.
One prison officer told me that he needed to be in court to gain information about the nature and extent of the crime, to listen to speeches by the prosecution and defence counsel, statements from witnesses and so forth. He said that he needed to relay those details back to his superiors. That argument does not hold much water with me. Do the prison authorities really need to know the details of the evidence? Could it not be that "GBH—10 years" is all they need to know? Even if that is not enough, surely all trial evidence is transcribed and if the authorities need to know the minutiae they can read them.
I understand that 40 per cent. of local prison officers are involved in court duties. If they can be released for normal duties, the "banging up" obviously lessens, workshops open, free association becomes possible and, it is to be hoped, a violent man becomes less angry and more manageable.
I come now to the third period of incarceration, which is the training prison. The reduction of violence there seems to be hardest nut to crack. It is good news that we are building 18 new prisons and refurbishing 1211 many more old ones, but their architecture seems to be wrong. My noble friend will surely agree with me about the old Holloway C1 Unit. It is odd that both prison officers and the Prison Reform Trust prefer the Victorian radial gallery prison to any of the modern, more humane ones. I can see their point because an officer standing in the centre of Strangeways Prison, for example, can see every gallery and bank of cell doors in that prison. If we close in the galleries and put corners in the passages it takes double the number of officers to supervise the same number of prisoners. That is perhaps why there are staff shortages in the new training prisons. It seems to be a design fault that makes those prisons so violent.
I quote an extract from a report on Holloway C1 by my honourable friends Charles Irving and Janet Fookes. They write:There has been a break with prison design and a move towards a hospital model. In our view the result has been disastrous. There is a very low level of daylight in the cells. There is no daylight to corridors and protuberances preclude observation by staff of inmate behaviour. There are drab colours: low ceilings, and little natural light giving a strongly depressing and claustrophobic atmosphere. Significant areas of the cell are not visible from the observation posts in the door. Washing facilities are made of delft and easily broken. Fittings such as lights, radiators etc. have sharp edges and are easily broken or used in self-mutilation"—and then the clincher—The ratio of disciplinary staff to prison inmates is as high as 1–1. However court appearances take up so much time that confinement to cells is greater than anyone would like".Holloway is for women and it is both a local and a training prison, but I refer also to Frankland, Wymott and Wayland. It seems that some of those modern training prisons are the most violent of the lot.
I do not believe that architectural mistakes cause the whole problem. In the speech which I referred to earlier, the Home Secretary is rather critical of the way in which the work of prison officers is broken up into separate tasks which discourage flexibility. He said:We are still too dependent on high levels of voluntary overtime workingand this hinders effective management and planning.In addition, the 1984 Control Review Committee recommended a system of small units for long-term prisoners who present such serious control problems that they cannot safely be contained in the training prisons. It is heartening to know that the first of those has already been opened at Parkhurst, as my noble friend Lord Mottistone will know, and that another four or five are planned. I hope that their architecture will be satisfactory.
That apart, I have one other ray of light to shed on our Front Bench. Only yesterday the governor of Holloway Prison said to me:Since Lord Glenarthur got his paddle in the water a couple of months ago, things are really shifting".I can only ask my noble friend to go to it, not just at Holloway but throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those of other noble Lords for the manner in which the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, introduced this interesting and important subject. I should like to concentrate on the police and make one or two 1212 suggestions as to where there could be minor improvements. Matters certainly should be explored. I should like to thank those who at short notice have given me a great deal of information and have taken a great deal of trouble to provide me with facts and figures.
After 1974, the Labour Government were rather reluctant adequately to remunerate the police to keep the good men in the force. It was sad that between 1974 and 1979 we lost between 8,000 and 9,000 officers. They tended to be the brightest and the best of the sons of the morning, because they were offered jobs and they decided to vote with their feet and leave the force. I am glad to say that we were elected in 1979 on the promise that we would improve police remuneration and pay a good deal of attention to law and order. We have done that since 1979 and 1983.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, was submitted to and implemented by the present Government's predecessors?
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I am delighted to hear that. I do not know who implemented it. It was in our manifesto. The report was to hand. We were in a position to put it into action straightaway, as we did. I think that we took the right course and we did it on the platform upon which we had been elected. The point that I am making is that we lost some valuable people, and 10 years later the police are, to some extent, missing the middle management that those people would now have provided. I think that is sad.
People probably do not realise—I learned this as a result of my own inquiries—that a young policeman of about 22 years in London would now receive a basic salary of £9,075 per year, and overtime is often added to that. That is not a bad starting salary by any standards. It is a good and valuable career. I hope that in the future more good and true young men will be attracted to a career in the police.
I learned from the Sunday newspapers, as has been mentioned, that the Labour Party has now decided to make law and order one of the platforms of its policy. I am delighted about that. I think that the more that people are agreed about the need to strengthen and improve our police force and its organisation, the better. The more parties that can agree to that, the better.
I would remind the Labour Party that in its 1983 election manifesto—I looked this up—and as late as its party conference in 1985, it re-established its policy that, in future, police authorities will have to be elected. Those police authorities will lay down policing policies in their areas. In view of the Labour Party's enlightened approach I hope that it will drop that proposal, because it is a recipe that in some areas the Left-wing have used much to the disadvantage of the police.
I noticed in the party political broadcast last night that the punchline right at the end was a small, attractive young child of about five or six. She was going along and a rather sinister man started to follow her, so she ran up to a policeman and got a pat on the 1213 head. So already we are beginning to see the new Labour approach in their party political broadcasts.
I think that some of us did not realise—I certainly did not realise—that the strength of our police force in England alone is 120,000. The police force is now bigger than the army, the navy, or the air force in this country. There are one or two small but major differences compared with the armed forces. First, the police have no cadet college; and, secondly, they have too few reservists. I should like briefly to cover those two points. I feel some sentiment about the Hendon Police College because it was in my constituency, and I recently reread the history of it. It was extremely successful. It was founded by Lord Trenchard in 1934, and for five years it set a fine example. Two hundred cadets went through there, and your Lordships have only to look at the honours that they received in World War II to realise what a wonderful job was done in both selection and training; and there was only 15 months' training.
Of those 200, 184 earned honours, 40 of them Orders of St. Michael and St. George, with KBEs down to MBEs. Nine also had awards. Eleven of them received DFCs and four had George Medals in World War II. That is a fairly high figure from a moderately small intake. Unfortunately the Labour Government, and I think the police at the time, agreed not to set it up again in the same form after the war. I wonder whether, if our armed forces had abolished Sandhurst, Dartmouth and Cranwell, we would now be seeing leaders emerge with the intellect, drive, imagination and leadership qualities which those colleges achieve. I also wonder whether we ought to see if something like the old Hendon ought to be set up again.
I concede that the police pick and train their future leadership by accelerated promotion, which starts at about the age of 27, and they then go through Hendon or Bramshill. They have six months in the training school and one-and-a-half years as cadets. I wonder whether in that respect, with the need for people with good, trained minds, the degree of accelerated promotion might be extended and perhaps started rather earlier—young men are much more mature now—at the age of say, 25, rather than 27. That ought to be examined. I am not suggesting that we abolish what is already good, but I am asking whether the two could run in parallel. After all, half the officers in the navy come from the lower deck, and go through the ranks in the other services, so the two are not in contradiction. You could run the two in harness, and the services show what can be achieved with that sort of set up.
I have been looking at the latest figures, and I still believe that the police are not attracting graduates in sufficient numbers. The 1984 figures show that the metropolitan police attracted 122 in an officer force of 1,200, and that is not very large. Perhaps more cadets, or a different sort of cadet, would be attracted if we re-established a cadet college on the pre-war pattern.
I now turn to the reserves. It is very interesting that we have increasingly found that the territorials in the army do a wonderful job. I am not thinking just in terms of cost, but when exercises take place the reports generally say that the territorials showed a wonderful sense of responsibility, knowledge and enthusiasm; 1214 and you get eight territorials for the price of one regular. So you could increase the manpower quite considerably without increasing expenditure if there were more reserves of special constables in support of our police force.
The global figures are that there are 16,000 special constables in England out of a total force of 120,000, so there is approximately one reserve for every eight regular police. In London there are 1,600 specials in a force of 27,000, which is only one in 17. These reservists could be attracted and used. We see tremendous and good advertisements in our newspapers for territorials, but (perhaps I have overlooked them) I have never seen equal advertisements for specials to support our police.
There are various reasons why we should possibly increase the number of our specials. First, they could help to build bridges of understanding between local communities and the police force. If they are living and working locally, it is an extra method of trying to construct those bridges of understanding. After all, the need for that was underlined in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman.
In fact, it is now a statutory duty to set up proper consultative arrangements with representatives of local communities. The specials could help in that process.
They could also be used—obviously, they have less experience than the regulars—in a situation like Brixton or Tottenham, where the regulars were on duty all through the night. The next day, the authorities contacted all the reservists and all the normal policing duties for that day were done by specials. Again, in the exercise last autumn the army territorials and the reservists were called up, and that is another example of the use to which people can be put.
The army treat their reservists with tremendous attention. They give them challenging jobs to do, they train them well, they keep their enthusiasm high and they put in charge a very senior regular officer. I am trying to be constructive. The police do not do this, and I wonder whether a regular senior police officer could be put in charge of the specials. I know that there are 43 independent police forces, but he might set the pace from the centre and encourage progress to make sure that reservists were being recruited, trained and given challenging opportunities all over the country.
I now come to an area which may arise during discussion of the Education Bill. We must try increasingly to make sure that policemen, and, perhaps even more importantly, policewomen, are allowed into our schools to spread the gospel, to encourage crime prevention and, incidentally, to teach road discipline in order to reduce road accidents. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, nodding, because it cannot be right to keep the police out of our schools. That is where the community bridges should be built; and I particularly stress the need for women.
When you are trying to warn young girls of some of the dangers which I am afraid exist, there is no better person to do that than a woman. She can sympathetically explain the difficulties, whereas a man would be more inhibited in dealing with these problems. So there is a job to be done of rebuilding the 1215 community relationship with the police. When we discuss this aspect on the Education Bill I hope there will be support from all parts of the House so that, at least, we shall write into the Bill the need to allow our policemen to get into the schools and do the job, which can only improve the relationship and, in the long run, improve the morale of our police and the efficiency with which they act.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, perhaps I may say at the outset that, despite the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, and I may differ about the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, and its timing, I agreed very much with what he said. We were discussing these issues only the other day on the Education Bill, and it is absolutely essential that they are dealt with, because young children are at risk of violent crime. It is vital that every possible step should be taken to safeguard them—certainly by means of policemen going to schools. I find it deplorable that in a limited number of schools in London, and now elsewhere, that has been made impossible as a result of the action of some members of the teaching staffs. I very much hope that the House will agree with that view when we come to discuss this matter again on the Report stage of the Education Bill. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, that that is fundamental.
I come now to the initial speech in the debate from the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. It was particularly helpful that she raised this issue today from that side of the House because inevitably a number of us have become almost weary at the sound of our own voices when talking about criminal justice issues. Indeed when one is talking about this subject, this range of issues, one is slightly alarmed at the prospect that one may be repeating almost precisely the words that one used in an equally admirable speech only three, four or five weeks before. So it was helpful that the noble Baroness raised the issue. It has been a constructive debate and what has been particularly constructive is that a number of Members of the House who are not old criminal justice recidivists like some of us have participated in the debate and made some very interesting speeches. I refer particularly to the speech we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. I found myself very much in agreement with a great deal of what he said about the structure of the police service.
There cannot be much doubt that violent crime probably creates more anxiety in our society than almost any other issue, with perhaps the single exception of the problem of unemployment. But hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are oppressed with the fear of being victims of violent crime. Politicians as a class tend to discover this when they are canvassing during by-elections because they find that elderly people in particular are very concerned even at answering their own doors after about half-past six or seven o'clock in the evening. That is a new problem. I do not believe that 15 or 20 years ago there was anything approaching the same level of concern. But it is now growing at a rapid rate 1216 and I think that we all have to recognise it and take action to deal with it.
I do not propose to discuss all the proposals which have been made by noble Lords in various parts of the House as to how we should deal with this. But perhaps I may refer to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. He will not perhaps be astonished to learn that I did not wholly agree with his solution to the problem—that of corporal punishment. I shall give two reasons for that. First, it would of course—and the noble Earl may not regard this as a decisive argument—be inconsistent with our obligations as a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. There has been a decision in the European Court of Human Rights on precisely this issue—the issue of birching on the Isle of Man. We are a signatory and the present Government—in my view, rightly—have extended our relationship with that convention. They did so within the past 12 months for another period of five years. Therefore it would be impossible for us to reintroduce corporal punishment unless we were to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. I should have thought that the number of people favouring such a course of action would be very limited.
The second reason is that every form of independent inquiry that has ever taken place on this issue has demonstrated that corporal punishment is not a solution to the issue of violent crime. There was for instance, the Cadogan report—I suspect that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may remember it because I think it came out at just about the time he was Conservative candidate in the Oxford City by-election in 1938. That Report, of a committee set up during the period of the Premiership of Mr. Neville Chamberlain, demonstrated quite conclusively that this was not the way of dealing with the issue of violent crime. That general approach was incorporated in the Labour Government's Criminal Justice Act of 1948.
I understand the sincerity of the noble Earl's views on this matter and the very alarming cases that he cited of the victims of violent sexual attack. It is a terrifying problem. It scars the victims for life. But, with great respect to him, I do not believe that that is the way in which to solve the problem.
When we started the debate we had the good fortune to hear the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I found myself very substantially in agreement with him. The noble and learned Lord and I sat on opposite sides of the House for a period of five years when he was in Opposition and I was a Home Office Minister. We disagreed quite substantially on a number of occasions but during those five years he never made a trivial party point on the issues. I very much welcome that type of approach. On no set of issues is routine party point scoring less appropriate. One of the great advantages of this debate is that we have risen above that. There appears to be an immense gap between the kind of debate we have had in this House today and any similar debate taking place just down the corridor. From that point of view, there has been a useful and worthwhile discussion on a matter of great public importance.
I come now to one part of the analysis of a number of noble Lords opposite which in some respects would be shared by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who, 1217 unhappily, is not with us for the moment. I refer to the view, shared by Mr. Tebbit, that some of the problems which we are now experiencing—the tensions in our inner cities and the increasing level of violent crime which we have been debating today—are in some way the responsibility of the "permissive society", as it is described, which was introduced in the 1960s. This formed a part of the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough. With great respect, I do not agree.
Let me say what should happen if indeed it is the view that the permissive society is the explanation for all our current ills. First, if that is indeed the reason, one has to explain why violent crime is rising in so many other countries which did not experience this permissiveness. Why has violent crime risen, as it has risen, in France, Germany and Italy? Each of those countries has experienced almost precisely the same set of difficulties as we have experienced in this country. But, quite apart from that, if it is the view that what happened in the 1960s explains what we are now experiencing in this country, let us look at what happened.
First, there was theatre censorship. Are we really going to suggest that, as a result of breaking the relationship between the Lord Chamberlain, who at that stage had some control over what was allowed to be shown on the stage in London, and the theatre, there has been some form of impact on the crime statistics?
Let us turn to a more controversial issue—abortion. Who actually wants to repeal the Abortion Act which went through in the late 1960s? Certainly there is argument—legitimate argument—about what the appropriate guidelines should be for medical practitioners. But there was abortion before that Bill went on to the statute book. Of course there was. If you had money there was no problem. The difficulty arose before the passage of that Act if you did not have money. What happened, as we know, was a whole series of destroyed lives of young girls who were victims of backroom abortionists who did the job with knitting needles. I do not want to go back to those days and I doubt very much whether even a significant minority in this House wants to do so either.
There is then the point of whether we should reopen the whole question of whether homosexual behaviour between consenting adults should or should not be a criminal offence. The recommendation of the Wolfenden Committee appointed by a Conservative Government and adopted by Parliament made a change that has, in my view, improved the quality of life in this country.
Lastly, there is the question of capital punishment. The question of capital punishment has been debated in another place on many occasions. In the present Parliament, with a Conservative majority of more than 160, the return of capital punishment has been rejected by an overwhelming majority.
Those were the central issues involved in the introduction of the so-called permissive society. I do not believe that there has been any significant move in either House of Parliament to turn back the clock. I do not believe that there is a simple relationship between what happened in those years and what has happened 1218 in the past few years in terms of the rapidly-escalating level of serious crime.
Nor do I believe the comfortable alternative theory, which is that everything is the fault of unemployment. I do not believe that for a whole series of reasons. First, there was a substantial increase in crime in the last quarter of 1973 and throughout the whole of 1974 and 1975—when there was a relatively high level of employment in this country. It would be impossible to say that the reason why crime was rising at that stage—and in one year it rose by no less than 17 per cent.—was because of unemployment.
On the other hand, it would be equally foolish to say that there is no relationship whatsoever. Of course there must be some relationship between crime and the hopeless lives that many young people have in some of our crowded inner-city areas, where they are experiencing a high level of unemployment. In Brixton, it is between 70 and 80 per cent. among some black school-leavers. In one ward in Liverpool the figure is 90 per cent. Of course there must be some relationship between that appalling situation and the level of crime. However, as I have indicated, this does not provide a simple explanation for the set of problems we have been discussing today.
Having said that, I turn now to the role of the police, which it is important to discuss, the matter having been raised, as it was a few moments ago, by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. It is common ground that the police can operate effectively only if they can work in a climate of co-operation with the community. We have to accept the fact that in recent years the police have been dragged into the political debate. The House will recognise that, particularly at a time when the role of the police is so relevant to dealing with the problems of serious crime in this country, that has shaken the morale of the police service very substantially. The police do not wish to be seen either to be supporters or opponents of any government. Their job is to uphold the law and, by and large, I believe that they do that job with considerable efficiency and still with the support of the overwhelming majority of the country.
There are of course some policemen who behave improperly. Certainly there are some racialists in the police service, just as there are some racialists among journalists, among politicians, and among social workers. It is not a problem that is unique to the police service in any way. Unfortunately—and this point was touched upon in our recent debate on the crime problem of inner London—we now have a group of publicly-financed so-called police monitoring groups whose central objective in many cases is to destabilise the police service. By doing so, they will make an already grave situation a great deal worse.
Some substantial improvements have been made, both during the lifetime of this Government and during the lifetime of their predecessors, as I as trying to say to the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. The Government have undoubtedly provided more resources to the police, just as their predecessors did. Thanks to unemployment and, undoubtedly, to a substantial increase in pay, which was largely implemented by the present Government's predecessors, there is no particular difficulty in 1219 recruiting policemen. In fact, quite the reverse; there is a long queue outside the recruiting office door.
However, there are some substantial problems for the Government to answer. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will touch upon one of them tonight: given the fact that it is now possible to recruit policemen far more easily than in the past, what does he propose to say now, following the debate we had two months ago, about the very substantial cuts in overtime that have been enforced upon the Metropolitan Police by the present Government?
As I indicated in that previous debate, there are serious problems facing the Metropolitan Police. Crime is rising at a very substantial rate, with 75 per cent. of all armed robberies taking place in their district. We deserve some indication as to whether we shall have an early answer from the Home Secretary to the request made by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for substantially improved resources to deal with the serious problem of crime in London.
I hope that the Minister will deal also with the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, as to what will be done about shotgun control. Shotguns are being used in more and more robberies, and yet there is no indication that the Government propose to strengthen firearm controls so far as shotguns are concerned. What do I mean by improved controls? First, I mean that there should be some form of control over shotgun ammunition. At the moment there is none. Secondly, there should be some obligation on the owner of a shotgun to look after it and, if it is stolen, he should be required to give a very satisfactory explanation as to why that has happened. Finally, I find it quite extraordinary that we are still subsidising the shotgun licence owner, because the Government has cheerfully agreed that the fees should not represent the cost of administering the service. It is the only major area of administration of license fees, as far as the Government are concerned (and I shall be interested to know if the noble Lord is in a position to contradict me), where a subsidy element has been tolerated not for one year, not for two years, but for four years. We deserve some explanation as to why that has been allowed to take place.
Finally, I come to an issue that has been raised by Members on both sides of the House, and that is the situation in prisons. At the moment, prison numbers are only just below 47,000, and certified normal accommodation is about 40,800. Unless there is a substantial change of policy we shall soon be passing a figure of 50,000 inmates. I believe that could happen, and that it would substantially wipe out such advantages as we are able to derive from the increased prison building programme.
That is a menacing prospect. I have indicated on a number of occasions in the past, although certainly a number of noble Lords on this side of the House do not share my view, that I am in favour of that prison building programme. There is a fundamental inconsistency if one says on one occasion that conditions in the prisons are intolerable, as indeed they are, and at the same time opposes a prison building programme that can make them better. For instances, the building of 1220 the new remand prison at Woolwich is of crucial importance in improving the position of unsentenced male offenders in London. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has on a number of occasions pointed out the appalling situation when men who have not been convicted of any criminal offence are held in conditions that are as deplorable as they currently are. I therefore very much welcome the fact that we are to have a new remand prison in Woolwich. I believe that to be right.
One should also recognise the immense pressure not only on inmates but particularly on the staff of the prisons under present conditions. That, no doubt, is one of the reasons, although not the only one, for the present dispute between the Prison Officers' Association and the Home Office. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, will be in a position tonight to give any indication about what is happening. I understand that there have been further negotiations which have taken place today according to the tape outside. I recognise, as I think Members in all parts of the House do, the admirable and devoted work done by many members of the Prison Officers' Association. They are working, as I have indicated, in thoroughly bad conditions. They have to face the awful problem of "slopping out" and the consequence of being present on those occasions when at 7.30 a.m. on a hot summer morning the chamber pots are brought out by hundreds of prisoners in our overcrowded remand prisons. I think that creates tremendous tensions as far as main-grade prison officers are concerned.
I very much hope that this dispute between the union and the Home Office will be resolved. However, I should say this. I very much hope that if there is a dispute there will be some form of restraint by the POA. The threats which have appeared in the press that in some cases they are going to stop visits by wives and children to men held in custody and the threat which is held out that lawyers are not going to be allowed to visit their clients, do not in my view enhance the reputation of the prison servicer. I hope those threats will be dropped and that there will be a satisfactory resolution to this problem.
Everything that has been said in this debate indicates the urgency of this problem. What I have said shows the need for a substantial further increase in the resources available for our criminal justice services. I understand, of course, the pressures on public expenditure. I also understand the view of the Government that one of the central priorities should be a further reduction in the standard rate of income tax. But when we have to make a choice between these crucially important areas in our criminal justice system, it would seem to me a very strange order of priorities were we to say that further cuts in income tax come before what is in fact the safety of the public.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I should like to thank, as the whole House has been doing, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, not only for having initiated the debate but also for the steering, or direction, which she gave in her opening speech. The noble Baroness is a distinguished social worker and is in constant touch with agencies, organisations and people who matter in 1221 this area of responsibility. The Government will no doubt pay due regard to the constructive proposals which she has advanced.
We had the privilege of listening to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor's detailed analysis of the recent statistics and placing them in their historical perspective. I also enjoyed the occasional statement of his underlying beliefs.
I do not propose to introduce any statistics. I think the essential facts have been rehearsed and referred to in many speeches. However, to summarise, I believe that we are faced with two main factors. First, the police force is almost up to its established strength: it is about only 2,000 short of the established figure. Of course we accept that the police have conducted themselves in a way which commands the respect and confidence of the public. We are grateful for that commitment. We therefore accept that it is imperative that they should be given the resources that they require.
The second factor is a worrying or baffling factor. It is this. After giving due allowances for changes in the reporting and recording practices, and indeed imperfect recording, crime and violent crime continue to increase. I think that except for the occasional year such as 1963, 1976 or 1979 it has been on an upward curve since the end of the Second World War. There is no hint that we are approaching the hoped for plateau. Indeed, the sad comment of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was that we have not seen the improvement that we had hoped for.
It is no consolation to be told that violent crime has also been increasing in the Republic of Germany, France and some of the other EC countries, or to be told that we are holding more men in prison than is the case with the EC countries. Neither is it a consolation to know that, notwithstanding the increased lawlessness, we in the United Kingdom—except, sadly, for parts of Northern Ireland—are still living in a pretty humane society.
I go back to the first factor which I mentioned; namely, that the police are almost up to their establishment strength. I do not know how the authorised establishment figure for the police is calculated. Perhaps the Minister will confirm whether he takes fully into account all the relevant developments of the past 15 or 20 years. During the past 15 years terrorism has been imported into this country. How many policemen have to be employed to combat one terrorist? Is it one, 10, 100, or more? Again, we are only too aware of the racial tension and the racially motivated harassment in the inner-city areas which also impose an additional burden on the police. Moreover, the police—and we support them in this—are engaged in the development of crime prevention measures. Here again, this imposes additional demands on manpower and resources. For those reasons therefore we are entitled to ask whether there are good reasons for increasing the strength of the police.
Let me bring together the two main factors as I see them. On the one hand, the police are almost up to establishment strength; but, on the other hand, crime is increasing. Therefore, from that we may conclude 1222 that the police on their own cannot solve the problem of the increasing crime rate. We cannot ask the police on their own to cure that particular sickness in our society. Your Lordships will recall that that was the message that the Lord Chief Justice brought to the House about four years ago. Indeed, I believe it is the message that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor delivered to the House earlier today.
In the course of the debate there have been many references to the numerous possible causes of the increased rate of crime. I think we all agree that they are many and are often complex; there is unlikely to be a single cause. I have had handed to me a long list of at least 62 specific measures which, it is said, could assist in tackling the problem. I shall not trouble the House with the 62 measures; I shall leave it to the Home Office officials to work them out.
I was gratified that the noble Baroness, lady Faithfull, after reading the report of Mr. Kaufman's important speech in The Times of 21st April, acknowledged that, though the emphasis differs and varies, nevertheless there is much common ground. At least that is my interpretation of her interpretation of Mr. Kaufman's speech.
There have been references by a number of noble Lords to unemployment—and not just unemployment itself, but unemployment which in turn leads to poverty, hardship and stress. I have no wish to generalise or to sloganise about the connection or the interrelationship between the highest-ever level of recorded crime and the highest-ever recorded level of unemployment which coincides with it. We may not have a full understanding of the connection, but we believe that there is a relationship. The Government should not be at all surprised that many people, whether or not they feel safe on the streets, believe that there is a connection between the two.
Perhaps I should mention another factor which has been referred to by a number of your Lordships this afternoon and which was not so obvious 15 years ago. I refer to violence on the television screen and to the video nasties. We are gratified that the existing guidelines laid down for producers and editors are currently being reviewed by the BBC and the television companies. We trust that they will take fully into account the fact that almost 50 per cent. of those cautioned or convicted for violent crimes are under the age of 21.
There is a feeling—or possibly that is too weak a word; a growing conviction—that the weakening of the family unit, which after all is the oldest of our institutions and has served us throughout the centuries, may have something, or indeed a great deal, to do with increased crime. Of course we all know that there can be a great deal of discord within the family unit from time to time. Nevertheless, it is our conviction that the family probably offers the best chance for people to develop secure relationships, a sense of love and security, a sense of identity, a sense of belonging and a sense of responsibility. These are the very qualities that we want to support and strengthen us in the fight against crime.
But of course that begs the question: why is the family unit disintegrating? It is a very important question and one which is very difficult to answer. 1223 What steps can the government of the day take to strengthen family cohesion? What measures are available to the government of our day? Is there a case for appointing a Minister for the family whose task would be to ensure that central and local government policies which could strengthen the family were not pursuing conflicting ends? Is that a possibility?
It must also be recognised that it is very difficult for members of a family to stay together and care properly for each other if they are unemployed, poor and badly housed. These are the very factors which can lead to family breakdown; and if many families are breaking down, that leads to a community breakdown.
We agree that schools obviously have an important role to play. Education on drug abuse should be a part of the school curriculum. We also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and with other noble Lords that there is a need for greater support for all agencies which are fighting drug and alcohol abuse. I noted with much interest and sympathy the recommendation of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, that care and treatment orders should be issued in respect of drug addicts and glue sniffers. Thus the offenders—or patients—would receive care and compassion in secure accommodation.
Many of your Lordships have referred to the prison service. We agree wholeheartedly that there is a need to "de-overcrowd" our prisons and to improve facilities for work and education in the prisons, with better preparation for release and rehabilitation.
However, I return to the central theme of the debate, which is that the police on their own cannot deal with crime and that crime prevention needs the co-operation of all agencies and all people. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, argued the need for a joint framework for social policies at central government level, as recommended 10 or 12 years ago. Can the Minister tell the House how many of the ideas set out in the joint framework statement have been implemented? I shall also be grateful if the Minister can tell the House whether the Government have given, or will be giving, consideration to the appointment of a Minister with special responsibility for the family.
The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, also argued the case for a justice and order council to be set up for every district, to work in common harness with the police. Again we agree that it is imperative that there should be a partnership. But I should have thought that there may be differences between our side of the House and Lady Faithfull. I believe that on these Benches we see the local authority playing the lead role in the partnership among the police, local authority and other agencies.
I turn to one of the matters referred to in the speech of my noble friend Lord Mishcon: namely, the award of compensation to the victims of violence. We must not neglect the victims of violence. If the offender can afford to pay the full amount of the compensation to his victim, he should be ordered by the court to do so. That would be one sure way of bringing home to the offender the consequences of his conduct. Can the Minister assure the House that the courts are making full use of the compensation powers contained in the 1224 Criminal Justice Act 1982? In conclusion, I would invite the Government to examine as a matter of urgency all the proposals and suggestions that have been advanced in the debate and to consider whether and to what extent they are acceptable to them.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)
My Lords, we have almost reached the end of a long and interesting debate, one that has been full of feeling and concern. It has been wide ranging, too, with many different sides of a seemingly intractable and frightening problem given an airing. Some diverse and interesting views have been expressed on how to lessen what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor described as the social evil of violent crime and how we might deal with those who offend in such an intolerable way. I agree that my noble friend Lady Faithfull has done all of us a service by giving us the opportunity to debate the subject at a time when it is so regularly drawn to our attention by the media. I am grateful to my noble friend for giving me notice of some of the points likely to be raised in the debate. I hope that it means that I shall be able to answer some of them more comprehensively than might otherwise have been the case. But a great many points have been raised.
The Motion echoes the Government's concern about violent crime and our determination to enhance the protection of the public. I shall return to this important theme from time to time throughout my reply. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor referred to the broad scope of the Government's strategy against crime. He stressed that we must take steps to prevent crime of every kind taking place, that we must enhance its investigation and detection, and that, when offenders have been caught, they must be dealt with in a fair and effective manner. Two elements of that strategy are particularly relevant to today's debate. They have at their heart the interplay between the criminal justice system—the police and the courts—and the community with the aim of giving real stimulation where and when it is needed on a local basis.
The first area that I should like to mention is crime prevention and the wider role of the police in the community. I shall come later to the support of those who have been the victims of crime. Crime prevention must be a key element in any government's strategy. We have made important strides. In 1983, we set up a special crime prevention unit within the Home Office to develop and co-ordinate crime prevention initiatives and to create public awareness of steps that can be taken to prevent opportunist crime. And so much violent crime is opportunist. Support and advice have been given to many local initiatives generated through the work of police crime prevention officers, crime prevention panels and other local groups—the sort of initiatives to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, pointed.
Another indication of growing public awareness is the expansion in the number of neighbourhood watch schemes, mentioned, with particular reference to the Isle of Wight, by my noble friend Lord Mottistone. These now number over 9,000. They involve neighbourly supervision by householders and they 1225 represent, in that way, the grass roots of crime prevention. An evaluation of a scheme in Bristol showed a drop in overall crime of 22 per cent., not an insignificant figure. Such measures will also be likely to help prevent violent crime in the neighbourhood. Other crime prevention initiatives are being directed at specific types of violent crime, including attacks on bus staff, crime on the London Underground, violence associated with licensed premises, violence to staff in the workplace and commercial robbery.
Crime prevention, and its relevance to crimes of violence, also has a high profile nationally, stimulated by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's seminar on the subject in January. Her purpose in holding the seminar was to mobilise the support of people outside the police and the Government to develop a range of initiatives aimed at reducing the opportunities for crime. The discussions by representatives of national and local organisations, industry, commerce, the trade unions, the police and the Government, of a variety of themes resulted in a number of firm objectives. We are determined to pursue these and to monitor them through the new ministerial group on crime prevention chaired by my honourable friend in another place, Mr. Giles Shaw. Like my noble friend Lady Faithfull, I hope that the group will serve its purpose. I am sure that my honourable friend will note the views that my noble friend Lady Faithfull has expressed about its expansion to cover other areas.
Two other crime prevention initiatives deserve a mention today. We believe firmly that the community itself has the ability and the desire to help in the fight against crime. So, with the support of the Manpower Services Commission, the Home Office crime prevention unit is actively promoting the use of resources under the community programme to fund local crime prevention projects in which the long-term unemployed will be involved.
Another important new initiative to harness local action against crime is the group of five local crime prevention projects announced by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary last October which will aim to involve a wide variety of local agencies, businesses and residents. I am sure this approach is right. We must encourage local people to identify their local crime problems, whether violent or otherwise, and develop suitable local measures to tackle them. My noble friend Lady Faithfull's idea for local justice and order councils is an imaginative proposal for channelling local concern about crime into practical action for preventing and dealing with it. Her suggestion would appear to have quite a lot in common with the approach adopted by NACRO's juvenile crime unit in tackling juvenile crime in 10 different parts of the country. The NACRO project has been financially supported by the Government and we are following it closely and with a great deal of interest.
I share to a great extent the concern of my noble friend Lady Faithfull about children. In developing what I am going to say now about the responsibility of parents, I include so much of what was said generally about the whole structure of the family. There can be little doubt that the single most important responsibility for ensuring that children grow up to 1226 respect the law and to behave as responsible members of society rests with parents. I agree with my noble friend Lord Gisborough that it is they who can best ensure respect for them, leading to self-respect for the child and hence for other individuals and society as a whole. In children's earliest years, parents' attitudes are a crucial influence upon the way that their children develop. Later, as children grow into the difficult years of their early teens when they are most at risk of offending, by encouraging love and respect and a clear knowledge of what is right and wrong with their children, built on the foundation of the first five years, parents play an essential part in helping them avoid that risk. Of course, broken homes, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, described them, play a part in so many of the tragedies that later unfold.
My noble friend Lady Faithfull referred to a particular initiative so far as parents are concerned The Government are of course anxious to bring home to parents the extent of their responsibilities. That is why, in the Criminal Justice Act 1982, we strengthened the powers of the courts to make parents responsible for paying the fines and other financial penalties imposed on their juvenile children. As the criminal justice White Paper explains, we are also considering whether courts, in imposing supervision orders on juvenile offenders, should be able to impose certain requirements on the juveniles' parents. As my noble friends Lady Faithfull, Lady Gardner of Parkes, Lord Mottistone and others have said, schools have a vital role in helping children develop as responsible law-abiding citizens and helping them steer clear of delinquency. They represent children's first experience of institutional authority and the need for standards, discipline and respect for others to provide the essential self-discipline to steer them through their lives. We are anxious to enhance the contribution that schools make. The Education Bill now before your Lordships goes some considerable way to help put things right.
All these strands—community co-operation and involvement, parental responsibility for their children's proper development and the role of schools in encouraging good citizenship—are most important to deal with the harmful effects of what my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery has referred to, and is widely known, as the permissive society. Whatever name one gives it, the past 30 years have seen a breaking up of community, a reduction in standards of parental care and control and a devaluation in the good influence of schools. We have seen the growth of individual freedom without a corresponding development of personal and collective responsibility. Now is the time for many traditional values to be re-established, and the Government will continue to take a lead in their encouragement.
I turn now to the police. Improved arrangements for inter-police force co-operation in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, wished it to be have been in place for serious crimes since the Yorkshire Ripper murders. The police well understand the need for a partnership with the people they serve. They are increasingly seeking to work with others in the community to tackle the criminal and social problems they come up against.
1227 Other local agencies, both statutory and voluntary, have a responsibility to support the police in this work. The police themselves have done a great deal in recent years to forge effective links with all sections of the community in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, would want them to. At the inter-agency level the police have in some areas helped to set up multi-agency panels involving people from local authority services such as housing, education and social services, as well as voluntary organisations, to combat the evil of racial attacks. In London the Metropolitan Police has set up five such racial attack panels.
Under Section 106 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 police community consultative committees are being established in all areas of the country. Such committees should become the focal point for liaison between the police and the community, and I very much hope that these consultative committees will become an important part of communication on policing issues of local concern. Local crime prevention initiatives, as well as involving ordinary citizens in the fight against crime, have brought the police into close contact with the public. This is a role that they have taken to willingly and with considerable imagination.
But, above all, we place in the hands of the police the responsibility for solving crime. It is a task with which they struggle to cope, so great are the other demands upon them. We hear many disparaging remarks about the decline in recent years in the rate of offences cleared up by the police. What is often overlooked is that the number of offences cleared up steadily rises—over 1 million in 1985—and that the great majority of violent and sexual offences, on which the police concentrate their resources, are cleared up. Seventy three per cent. of violent offences were resolved in 1984 and 72 per cent. of sexual offences.
I am sure that these figures could not have been achieved in the face of rising crime without the enormous additional resources which have been made available to the police since 1979, more manpower, more and better equipment, more and better training. As my noble friend Lady Faithfull said, the total manpower available to the police has increased by well over 13,000. We have encouraged police forces to use their resources more efficiently to get the most from them; for example, by employing more civil staff so that experienced uniformed police officers and others are available on the beat and for other operational work. To pick up a little of the theme that the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, was developing, we are examining how to ensure that adequate resources continue to be available to enable the police service to discharge its inceasing commitments along the lines that the noble Lord was developing.
My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing drew attention to the valuable role of the special constabulary and the part that it can play. Let me assure him that the Government entirely share his view. We see an essential role for special constables in the police service both as a trained body of reserves to assist the regular police at times of unusual pressure and as a practical link between the police and the public they serve. It is for chief constables to decide how many specials they 1228 need, but we encourage them to recruit as many as they can usefully train and deploy. I am glad to say that after 10 years of continuous decline we have had modest but encouraging increases in the total numbers of specials in England and Wales in each of the last four years, and we shall continue to do what we can to sustain this healthy trend.
For some years the police service has been anxious to recruit more graduates. A total of 648 graduates was recruited last year, and 65 per cent. of recruits have educational qualifications of five O-levels or better. At the end of December there were 5,376 graduates in the police service, compared with 1,277 in 1978. There are opportunities for accelerated promotions, as my noble friend will recognise, through the special course at the Police Staff College at Bramshill. I note the point that my noble friend made about his desire for a cadet college.
In 1984 we issued guidance to chief officers of police reminding them of the need when they recruit to take account of the long-term needs of the service. They need to recruit people who can cope with the complex and changing problems that the police service will be facing in the next 10 years and who will become its leaders in the 21st century. My right honourable friend's police advisory board is looking at ways of improving arrangements for career development in the police service.
I turn now to victims.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, as he may recall, whether there was any possibility of his telling us the decision of the Home Secretary on the application made by the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis for increased resources. In our last debate two months ago, the noble Lord said that it was on the Home Secretary's table. What is the situation now?
§ Lord Glenarthur
It is under active consideration by my right honourable friend, as I think the noble Lord will expect me to say. Indeed, I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Harris, himself who said that, if there was to be good news, he did not imagine that my right honourable friend would allow me to give it. I can only say that it is still under the careful consideration which the noble Lord would want it to be.
In the past it has often seemed that the victim of crime, the innocent party, has been ignored by the state, yet resources have been poured into dealing with the offender. But times have changed. We recognise that, if confidence is to be maintained in the criminal justice system, the victim's interests must be taken into account. The Government have been anxious to do all they can for the benefit of victims of violent crime. They certainly deserve the sympathy which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said they should have.
First of all, financial compensation is available to the victims of violent crime under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. In the year 1984–85 over £35 million was paid out to nearly 20,000 applicants from this source. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary recently announced in the White Paper—this may be of particular interest to the noble Earl, Lord Longford—the proposal that the 1229 scheme be put on a statutory basis, which will further strengthen the position of applicants who will have a legal right to receive compensation and which will provide specific parliamentary authority for expenditure.
In addition, the criminal courts may order convicted offenders to pay compensation to their victims, and we are actively seeking ways to encourage the courts to make greater use of this power. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 allowed compensation orders to stand as a sentence in their own right and to take precedence over fines. The recent White Paper announced the Home Secretary's proposal that the court should in all cases be required to give reasons for not awarding compensation to victims. But no amount of financial compensation can ever make up for the emotional and physical scars suffered by the victims of crime, particularly violent crime and such crimes as residential burglary. Many people feel vulnerable in every respect of their lives after the security of their home has been breached, however much or little has been taken.
That is why the Government have welcomed and encouraged the development of victim support schemes and have substantially increased the funding provided to local schemes and in recent years to their national association, which was particularly mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln. Although not every town or district has a support scheme, there are now 282 spread widely over the country, and we hope that they will continue to flourish.
A special kind of victim to whose needs we have given particular attention is the victim of rape, an offence which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has rightly called uniquely barbaric. Police forces have made great strides in the sympathetic treatment of rape victims, which I have mentioned from time to time from this Box.
I should like now to pick up some of the points which have been raised today. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, mentioned in particular crimes towards children. I certainly share, as we all do, her concern for horrible abductions of young children. They are particularly vulnerable, and parents naturally have the main responsibility—a difficult one to discharge—for their protection. Parents should always know where their children are, of course. They should teach their children to say "No" to strangers. The Home Office has a range of publicity material aimed at parents and children, including recent Peter Pan material, issued by arrangement with the Abbey National Building Society.
My noble friend Lord Gisborough and others referred to violence on television. It would seem surprising, with such a powerful and, some would say, even intrusive media, if there were no links between television violence and the behaviour of some of those who watch it. Until research is able to prove the issue one way or the other it would be right to err on the side of caution. This is precisely why the broadcasters are required to draw up guidelines on the portrayal of violence, and to be particularly careful when large numbers of children may be expected to be watching; and why the public clamour, to which my noble friend 1230 referred, is called for. No doubt that feature will be noted by the broadcasting authorities.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord which way his idea of caution works? As far as research is concerned, that will never prove anything conclusively in this field. But does caution mean caution about the violence displayed, or caution about interfering with the violence?
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, the noble Earl may well be right in saying that it may be difficult for research to lead in some conclusive direction. The important thing is that the broadcasting authorities must be aware through the public clamour that was directed at them, because they have to draw up the guidelines to deal with this matter. They have the most enormous responsibility on their shoulders, and one which I am quite sure they will continue to take seriously.
The matter of prisons was raised by many of your Lordships. It is, of course, true that we have a large and increasing prison population. The fact that it is increasing in other parts of the developed world is also a concern. There are obvious limits on the action which can be taken by the Government to reduce the prison population. The courts must remain free to deal with the offenders who come before them in a manner which they deem appropriate. The Government have a duty to provide the powers and resources to enable the courts to perform their role. But we are seriously concerned about the size and cost of the prison population, and we have taken a number of measures which go towards ensuring that prison is reserved as the ultimate sanction when no lesser sentence is adequate. We have encouraged the use of police cautioning. We are developing a range of non-custodial options, and are encouraging that.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, raised the question of the POA dispute. I note what the noble Lord has said. I hope he will understand if I do not comment on it because I can tell him that talks have been going on this afternoon and I do not know what stage they have reached.
On the question of court escorts raised by my noble friend Lord Mersey, yes, court escorting is a matter which seriously drains prison officer resources. This is a matter which is being looked at in a scrutiny at the present time.
So far as training for youngsters is concerned, I can assure my noble friend Lord Gisborough that training takes place within youth custody centres in a variety of different forms. People are able to take City and Guilds qualifications in such things as welding, bricklaying and so on. The sad aspect is that despite the major efforts made it does not always have the effect on youth recidivism that we all wish it to have.
The noble Baroness raised the question of AIDS. I certainly share her concern about that. However, there is a great deal of incorrect information about which must be put right. We do all we can to educate all those concerned in prisons about the question of AIDS.
I am not quite sure about the context of the introduction of the remarks by the noble Baroness about castration. I have to say to the noble Baroness that I am told it does not have the effect of removing 1231 the violent element in this sort of attack. But I can also say that my honourable friend Mr. Mellor is shortly going to write to the noble Baroness about it.
My noble friend Lord Mersey asked me about time limits. I can say that they are being used in test areas. The time limits reflect the average length of time that cases take to come to trial in those areas. The intention is to eliminate the most serious delays when the accused is remanded in custody and to encourage a general tightening up by setting realistic time limits.
The matter of drug offenders is a serious concern. I sympathise with the view expressed by many, including my noble friend Lady Faithfull, that those who cannot help themselves to kick the drug habit should receive help to do so. I am bound to say that there are serious moral difficulties about locking up any person, even with care and compassion, where no breach of the criminal law is concerned. At present this can only take place if the stringent conditions of the Mental Health Act are met. However, many of the features recommended by my noble friend are present within the scope of a probation order. The court may, when dealing with a drug offender, as most addicts are, make a probation order with a condition of attendance at a day centre or clinic which can help with the addiction. Such orders are administered with compassion and are not a punishment. For that reason the court may not make an order unless the offender is willing to comply with it.
My noble friend advocated use of the Scottish model so far as the juvenile justice system is concerned. The Government are following with interest the current debate about the juvenile justice system and the various suggestions for reform which have been mooted. These include proposals for transferring all or some of the present functions of the juvenile courts to a new family court. The Government established the interdepartmental working party to examine the idea of a family court. They hope to publish before very long—within the next couple of months—a consultation document which will make an important contribution to the discussion about these important questions.
The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked about incest. There were 277 cases reported in 1985, and 88 per cent. were cleared up. About the same number of cases have arisen in each of the last four years, so the figures are much the same.
Vandalism, and the fact that that can develop into serious crime, was raised by my noble friend Lady Gardner. That is an important area. The Department of the Environment's priority estates programme has shown that crime and vandalism on the most neglected estates can be significantly reduced by better management—for example, by increased caretaking and cleaning—and, as my noble friend said, better designs of new estates could also alleviate that problem.
I must also mention the elderly. We are concerned about the needs of the elderly, and much of the activity of local police crime prevention departments is directed at advising and assisting them. There are of course things that the elderly can do to reduce their 1232 susceptibility to crime, with which things my noble friend will be familiar.
The wide-ranging nature of today's debate bears witness to the complexity of the problem presented by violent crime and the measures required to deal with it. All the positive matters mentioned today have an important place in the strategy against crime. But they do not compromise the overriding concern of this Government—which is a feature of the Motion by my noble friend Lady Faithfull—that we must protect innocent people from the growing evil of violence in our society; or, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, a fear of it.
Our actions since we came to office are evidence of a determined stand against those who terrorise the innocent in the way that my noble friend Lord Ferrers so vividly described—and how much I agree with a lot of what he said! Many of the steps have already been mentioned today. The police are stronger in numbers, and training and equipment are deployed more effectively. Once the violent offenders have been caught we have sought to ensure that the courts have adequate powers to deal with them, which, in the case of the most serious violent crimes, means a sentence of life imprisonment. In the exercise of the Home Secretary's descretion to authorise the release of life-sentence prisoners the overriding factor has always been the protection of the public. In the very worst cases of murder that factor was given formal recognition in 1983 so that release in these cases is not considered for a very long time. After life-sentence prisoners are released they are carefully supervised so that public protection is always properly considered.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers suggested that available punishment for the most vile crimes is not adequate, and he went on to suggest corporal punishment for those who defile the body and mind. I am quite certain that many people in this country will strongly agree with what he says, but the issue raises all sorts of difficulties and I fear that quite often his views will be agreed with more out of emotion than out of rational consideration. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, much research has gone into this, and in many reports that have come forward it has not been shown to be effective in the past.
My noble and learned friend spoke earlier of the severe punishment which prison represents, and there should be no doubt of the tough measures now available for dealing with violent offenders, nor of the Government's commitment to protecting the public by catching and punishing the criminal. But we must recognise that the police, the courts and the prisons cannot solve the problem of violent crime. As my noble friend Lady Faithfull said, by the time it reaches them it is too late. The remedy must be found at an earlier stage and it is for this reason that we attach so much importance to crime prevention, to engaging the support of the community in the fight against crime, and to the fundamental importance of family life as a basis to a law-abiding society. Only by pursuing these long-term goals can we create the kind of society in which we and our children can live in greater security.
I have grossly over-shot my time, but I fear that it has been impossible to cover every point that has been raised today. I shall study the Official Report with great care. This debate has provided the opportunity for two 1233 important themes to be developed. The first is that there is no quick or magical solution to the problems that we face. They have developed over time for many of the reasons spoken of today. No government can turn that trend round overnight, or in one, two or even three Parliaments. The sociological reasons for the trend are argued long and hard by the experts. However, common sense tells us all that lowering of standards, including the spiritual standard referred to by my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery, and a less ordered sense of responsibility have in one way or another contributed towards the pernicious and remorseless increase in crime, of which crimes of violence form a small but serious and frightening proportion.
The second theme is that the Government are fully alive to what has taken place. They have encouraged research into it; they have taken and are taking positive steps to counter it; they encourage new ideas. In essence they have helped to create and develop the contemporary framework in which the community at large and individuals in particular can play their part to help bring about the change to the kind of values and social order which we all so earnestly desire. It is a major responsibility and an awesome burden for us all. The Government cannot achieve it alone, but what is in our gift we will not shrink from.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, the time is late. I should have liked to make many comments, but I shall not detain your Lordships' House, particularly as another debate is pending. First, perhaps I may say how privileged we have been to have my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor speaking in this debate today and spending so much time on the Woolsack. We are most grateful to him.
I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for speaking on behalf of the Labour Party at the beginning of the debate and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, for winding up on their behalf. I am also most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. I nearly missed him yesterday and I was delighted to see that he was to speak on behalf of the Alliance. I should like to thank all other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has been a wide-ranging one. I have noted 18 points on which recommendations have been made—not 63, but perhaps I have missed some. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.