HL Deb 15 March 1989 vol 505 cc234-302

2.57 p.m.

Lord Reay rose to call attention to the incidence of crimes of violence and the case for a full range of methods for dealing with them and for protecting the public, including support for an effective police force; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the national crime statistics recently started to show some encouraging signs of improvement. In particular, the number of burglaries committed in the 12 months to September, 1988, fell by some 8 per cent., having also fallen in 1987. Burglary, although classified as a crime against property rather than a violent crime, is a much feared crime. One must sincerely hope that the development reveals a true change of trend.

Some other crimes against property also showed falls. However, violent crime, which accounts for 5 per cent. of all crime, rose during that period by 13 per cent. and by 12 per cent. in 1987. In the Metropolitan District violent crime rose in the three decades since 1957 by 100 per cent., 100 per cent. and 70 per cent. respectively. Whether the rate of increase continues to slow, the fact that it rises at all and the absolute levels that it has reached are surely unacceptable.

I should like to enter a caveat. The figures that everyone uses are those for recorded crimes. Actual crime rates can be considerably lower due to under reporting—

Noble Lords

Higher, higher!

Lord Reay

Under reporting may take place for many reasons. The authors of the analysis of the 1984 Home Office British crime survey took the view that during the 1970s, when the statistics of recorded crime showed an increase in burglary of 100 per cent., there had been an increase of only 20 per cent., the discrepancy being accounted for by an enormous increase in the reporting of burglaries. That was attributed to the rapid spread during that period of both the telephone and insurance of household goods, the former making reporting easier and the latter encouraging the expectation of some measure of redress.

It is also possible that the reporting of violent crime may have increased, especially domestic violence and rape, since a more sympathetic response has come to be expected from the police and the courts. The next British crime survey is due to be published by the Home Office in a few months' time and it will be interesting to see what commentary it gives both on the improved figures for property crime and on the continuing poor figures for crimes of violence.

However, caution is in order when it comes to reading trends from a few statistics of recorded crime. One of the most significant developments in the field of the administration of criminal justice in recent years has been the increase in sentences for serious crime, both as a result of increased maximum sentences set by Parliament and the increased use of longer sentences by the courts. In the past four years sentences for crimes of violence against the person have risen by 20 per cent., for rape by over 60 per cent. and in the past two years for robbery by over 25 per cent. That trend goes back further to 1979 and the change of government in that year. Previous to that, the public was cold-shouldered as regards penal policies. The ideology ruled that crime was the fault of society. Today the public position has been largely restored—and not all will welcome that. However, it seems to me that the tide of public confidence could not be allowed to go on ebbing away from penal policy and that a reversal of policy was unavoidable.

That change of sentencing policy has resulted in a rising prison population for which the Government have had to cater with a massive £1 billion prison building programme. That is probably the largest prison building programme since imprisonment replaced transportation in the middle of the last century as the principal means of removing criminals from circulation in society.

Prison serves the essential purpose of excluding dangerous criminals from society, but to what extent sentences will act as a deterrent to others we shall probably never know precisely. In any event, imprisonment is by far the most expensive method of dealing with offenders and all too often prisons are places where minor criminals graduate into more important ones. As an indication of the expense of imprisonment, noble Lords may like to reflect on the fact that the ratio of prisoners to prison officers, even for our expanded prison population, is 2.5 per officer.

I am sure that the way forward for sentencing policy is the direction laid down in the Home Office's enlightened Green Paper entitled Custody, Care and the Community with the further development of the custom and practice of punishment in the community. Ideally, prisons should be reserved for those who commit the most serious crimes, perhaps for those who commit violent crimes. However, we are far from that point at present. Only 20 per cent. of the prison population are violent offenders. One of the major problems is what to do with the persistent offender. Today, such offenders are sent to prison in large numbers as much in despair as to what to do with them as for any better reason.

I warmly welcome what the Government have done to put more emphasis on the plight of victims. Too often in the past all "thinking of the victim" meant was increasing the term of imprisonment for the offender. Today some attention is paid to victims' real needs. In recent years the Home Office has tripled its funding of the National Association of Victim Support Schemes, which now has over 300 local schemes affiliated to it. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board paid out £45 million in 1987–88 and received 30,000 applications. In addition, courts are now required to give reasons if they do not award compensation to be paid by the offender in all cases where injury, damage or loss has occurred. Where the courts have hold of them, awards can be made from the proceeds of crime. Courts are now more sensitive to the needs of child abuse victims and the victims of rape. I am sure that greater consideration could be extended to the victms of other crimes.

I also approve of the general strategy of the Government in seeking to involve other agencies and groups in a feeling of responsibility for reducing the level of crime in society, whether by neighbours in Neighbourhood Watch, radio taxi drivers in Taxi Watch, licensees and brewers in the sale of alcohol, or business and ethnic leaders in the inner cities. I believe that the Government are right, as far as possible in modern conditions, to try to encourage where they can the development of a sense of community.

The Government have taken other initiatives, many of which will be fresh in noble Lords' minds: restrictions of knives and firearms, confiscation of drug traffickers' assets and restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol in public places. All those measures were introduced by the Government with the aim of containing violent crime and all are too recent for their effect yet to be measured.

If I could single out one for comment, perhaps I may say that everything possible must be done to see that the prohibition on the carrying of knives without good reason should succeed. It is, above all, the fear of the use of knives which is terrifying and demoralising for those who come up against it, whether as directly targeted victims or as helpless bystanders who are only too often castigated for not intervening. The habit of carrying knives is a form of street terrorism and should be stamped out. It may well be that the maximum penalty of £400, which the offender is more than likely not able to pay, is inappropriate for this offence.

Above all, the Government have distinguished themselves by their support of the police. Since 1979 there has been an increase in real terms in spending on the police of over 50 per cent., more than for any other public service. Police manpower has been increased in the same period by 13,000 officers and 7,000 civilians. In addition, 1,100 more officers will be added this year. Ways are also being constantly found of making more officers available for duty; for example, by the recent decision to privatise escort duty. That is a proposal which I favour, although I believe that in due course we should scrutinise carefully the regulation of the burgeoning private security industry. That is a great contrast with the state of demoralisation which pertained when the Government first came to power in 1979. The police are our front line against crime. They do a magnificent job and deserve all the support they can get.

I welcome the participation of all noble Lords in this debate but none more than that of my noble friend Lord Elton. Following the publication this week of his committee's report on discipline in schools, it will be particularly interesting now that his tongue is untied to hear what he may have to say on that crucial subject. I do not intend to say anything about it nor do I intend to say anything about the responsibilities of parents. However, I hope that other noble Lords will do so. Instead, I want to devote the remainder of my speech to describing the consequences of some research I made in London—I emphasise that it was restricted to London—and to some reflections prompted by it.

Robbery on the Underground in the past four years has caused much concern. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, introduced a debate on the subject not very long ago. Accordingly, I arranged to visit the headquarters as well as one of the two sub-divisional stations of British Transport Police who, with the help now of officers from the Metropolitan Police, are responsible for policing the Underground. A very impressive closed circuit television system is being introduced. Whatever happens at any one of the points covered by the operational cameras at Underground stations, and whatever in the recent past has happened there, can be summoned immediately on to the screens at headquarters. The eventual aim is to cover the majority of British Transport's 250 stations, some of them with up to 15 or 20 cameras. This rather Orwellian system will, it is to be hoped, provide a substantial deterrent for a crime which is deeply damaging to London's reputation.

I also visited the police in Brixton—an out standing force in a heavily policed division which has one of the highest crime rates in London. I went out with their 23-man robbery squad which has had a considerable measure of success in reducing and containing street and off-street crime. Incidentally, a few days previously one of the squad's members, Constable Peter Lowton, had been grievously injured after being pushed under a bus while attempting to make an arrest, which indicates the danger of the squad's daily job.

The pursuit of these two lines of inquiry confronted me with the nature and the volume of violent crime which prevails in our inner cities and which threatens to seep out from there to poison life in the rest of the capital. It saddens me to have to say so, but it appears to be the case that the large majority of robberies committed in these areas is committed by black youths. By "black" I mean the West Indian African or Afro-Caribbean population, as it is variously called. Such is the volume of that crime—in 1987, 11,000 out of the total of 18,000 robberies of all kinds committed in London were street robberies—that even the total for all forms of robbery in London now gives the appearance of becoming black dominated.

Let me give some statistics. In figures released last week by the Home Office (the reference is Statistical Bulletin, issue 5/89 table 5) covering the Metropolitan Police District—where, let it be remembered, 60 per cent. of all robberies in the country take place—of those arrested for street robbery in 1987, 61 per cent. were black and 34 per cent. were white. Another table, table B, shows that 85 per cent. of the blacks arrested were aged under 21. Table 5 also gives the figures for all robberies in the Metropolitan Police District.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. In quoting these statistics, can he also relate them to levels of unemployment and poverty in the areas of which he is speaking?

Lord Reay

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is down to speak later and he will have an opportunity to make the point. If he gives me a hearing I assure him that I shall give him one when he makes the point that he wishes to make.

Table 5 of the Statistical Bulletin also gives the figures for all robberies in the Metropolitan Police District. The ethnic breakdown for those arrested is as follows. In 1985, 50 per cent. black; 45 per cent. white. In 1986, 49 per cent. black; 43 per cent. white. In 1987, 54 per cent. black; 41 per cent. white. In all these cases a small minority only were committed by other races.

As regards Underground robbery. figures were made available to me by British Transport Police which show that of reported robberies, the ethnic breakdown of offenders as described by the victim (leaving out the small number of cases where this is not known) is as follows. In 1987, while 10 per cent., black 80 per cent., mixed (in mixed-race gangs) 8 per cent. In 1988, white, 10 per cent.; black 70 per cent.; mixed 19 per cent.

Street robbery has been concentrated, until now at least, in the inner cities. Ten or 20 times more street robberies are committed in a year in boroughs like Hackney, Harlesden or Brixton than in outer London boroughs or in police divisions within Westminster or Chelsea. Brixton is the worst division with 1,000 cases a year and half as many again of the technically non-violent crime of snatch theft—snatching handbags, and so on. That is a very substantial contribution to the total for robbery in London—indeed to the total for the country as a whole—for an area barely three square miles in extent.

For the most part, street robbery is committed locally with periodic forays into the Underground or to prey upon crowds at pop concerts or other events further a field. It is the product of a street-orientated criminal sub-culture whose members have no other employment but crime. They have their own drugs, their own weapons, their own language; and this reservoir is constantly being fed from the bottom with youngsters of 12 and 13. Such an environment, if permitted to flourish, breeds worse crimes.

The recent Home Office Research Study 106, Concerns About Rape, in a rare excursion into the subject of the ethnicity of offenders, analysed the result of two surveys into rape in the two London boroughs of Islington and Lambeth, which were chosen because they have high levels of recorded rape. In Lambeth, with a black population of 14 per cent. of the total population, 72 per cent. of rape offenders were reported as black. In Islington, with a black population of 6 per cent., 43 per cent. of the offenders were reported as black.

Perhaps the figures I have given will help put to rest the corrosive myth that "over-representation", as it has come to be called, of an ethnic minority in the prison population is solely or principally due to racial prejudice in the administration of criminal justice and bears little or no relation to the actual commission of crimes. The Home Office study quite properly concludes with the observation that the figures involved in the studies on rape were small and that too much should not be read into them. It recommends that further study should be undertaken.

The Home Office, as we have seen, does not entirely suppress figures on crime in relation to race. In fact, I think the prevailing tendency is probably towards more open discussion. Nevertheless, these figures are hardly common currency. They are not published in the newspapers. It has been a forbidden subject. I found that the Metropolitan Police—I do not know if my contacts were typical—were immensely reluctant to discuss crime in terms of race. I respect and admire them for that. I completely accept the tremendous importance of promoting good relations between the police and the ethnic minorities. My visit to Brixton confirmed my view that the police have made great strides in this direction.

Nevertheless, I believe that the taboo should be broken. The discussion of race and crime should not have to be conducted either in a whisper or with Nazi slogans, with nothing in between; for to continue to cloak the subject with silence for political reasons is, for one thing, to confer a sense of immunity on the perpetrators of these violent crimes. To do that is monstrously unfair to those others who share those areas where crime is endemic, who have to live in bandit country, who cannot leave and who largely provide the prey for the criminals. It is also to fail in our duty to the vast law-abiding majority of the black population whose members have that much harder a task in setting their children on a lawful career.

I would not want discussions on the subject to be recriminatory. The ethnic minorities are here to stay. They are British. Forty per cent. have been born here. Young blacks in the inner cities must be protected from enrolment into the criminal sub-culture around them. They must be brought up to have lawful aspirations. We must ensure that it is realistic for them to have lawful aspirations. We must offer them a proper place in society; and they must be willing to take it. It will no doubt take generations and the dedication of many good men and women in many different professions in both communities. But it is an urgent task. It cannot start too soon. It requires all hands. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.20 p.m.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for enabling us to discuss today a problem causing great concern and even creating a sense of fear in our community; namely, the high incidence of crime and particularly of crimes of violence. From certain passages in the noble Lord's speech one would have thought that the advent of a Conservative Government had reduced that volume and more or less resolved it. That is caricaturing it a little, but that is the picture. Sadly, that is not the factual situation.

Some comfort was derived recently from the fact that there had been a 3 per cent. decline in the number of crimes that had taken place in the past 12 months. But one gets little comfort from that 3 per cent. when the number of crimes recorded by the police in the year ended September 1988 was 3,786,000. That is the size and dimension of the problem now. It is 3 per cent. less than the figure for the previous year but in those terms, alas, very little by way of comfort can be derived.

That is especially the case when, as I believe the noble Lord indicated, that comparatively minute diminution has to be weighed against a substantial increase in most serious crime, particularly of crimes against the person. I shall give a few examples. I am only giving the years because of some of the observations of the noble Lord. In 1979 there were 629 homicides and in 1987 there were 688. The number of woundings and assaults almost doubled between 1974 and 1984. In 1979 there were 158 attempted murders and in 1987 there were 291. In 1979 there were 1,170 cases of wounding and in 1987 there were 2,471. I am not attributing the increase to the existence of a Conservative Government, but I am entitled to rebut the opposite doctrine put forward by the noble Lord.

Of the more serious offences against the person—namely, those endangering life—together with other more serious crimes in the field of personal violence, in 1984 10,700 cases were recorded. Worse has been happening since. I believe that the whole House agreed with the noble Lord when he indicated that the amount of officially-recorded crime is considerably less than the true whole picture of crime. Much violent crime is unreported. A British crime survey carried out in 1983 by Hough and Mayhew suggested that only about a quarter of wounding offences and sexual assaults is reported and little more than one-tenth of the robberies. So the situation is a serious one.

How has this crime been dealt with in the courts? It is as well to recognise at the very outset that the courts, the police, the probation service and the prisons—all that machinery of justice—comes into the picture only when the crimes have been committed. The Motion before the House does not embark on an analysis of the causes of crime. But the noble Lord gave his own views as regards some of the causes. Among other things he referred to the conditions in the inner cities which give rise to crime. The Prince of Wales said a year or so ago: the desperate plight of the Inner City areas is well known with the cycle of economic decline leading to physical deterioration and countless social problems. It is only when you visit these areas …that you begin to wonder how it is possible that people are able to live in such inhuman conditions". That is the background to a great deal of inner city crime. In America in 1968, it is true, there was an examination by President Johnson of crime and civil disorder. He stated: The only genuine, long-range solution for what has happened lies in an attack—mounted at every level— upon the conditions that breed despair and violence. All of us know what those conditions are—ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs. We should attack these conditions because there is simply no other way to achieve a decent and orderly society in America…". The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, agreeing with those conclusions, in his report on the Bristol riots, said that the words of President Johnson are: as true of Britain today as they have been proved by subsequent events to be true of America". Therefore, looking at the causes of crime one has to recognise the harsh facts that have been reported on. I shall not go any further at this stage of the debate into the causes of crime, although it is vital that that should be ever present in consideration of these matters. In dealing with the crimes that have been committed, it has been pointed out by the noble Lord that over the past decade we have sharply increased our readiness to imprison offenders. That is undoubtedly so. In turn that has had serious consequences, one of which has been the soaring prison population, plus appalling overcrowding and low morale in the prison service. I believe that in this field we have something to learn from the European experience in countries not dissimilar to ours in the character of the crimes and the problems that those countries have to meet.

It is interesting that, whereas in West Germany the prison population has fallen by almost 20 per cent. since 1983, that of England and Wales has risen by 12 per cent. Yet West Germany, which is a country not dissimilar to ours, has shown that the prison population can be dramatically reduced and without risk to the public. Our levels of imprisonment are currently the highest in the EC. We have the most punitive courts in the EC. Therefore any suggestion or explanation for the increase in crime in this society that we have been soft on criminals is very wide of the mark. Indeed we head the prison population league table with 95.8 prisoners per 100,000 of our population. France has 88.9 prisoners per 100,000 of population. As a proportion of our population, we in the United Kingdom have more people in prison than any other European country. It is not therefore a lack of severity of treatment and use of imprisonment that is at the root of our problems. We face the fact that the number of prisoners continues still to rise. That tendency has been marked in the course of the past decade.

The statistics of NACRO show that the average length of a prison sentence imposed on an adult male rose from 10.9 months in 1983 to 15.1 months in 1987. This is why the prisons are becoming more and more full. I am not for the moment talking about violent offenders. They present a special and dangerous challenge to our society which must be addressed with due severity for that reason. However, far less than a quarter of those in prison have committed crimes of violence, robbery or sex. Three-quarters of our prisoners are free from the taint of violence. The matter has been dealt with in our courts by that severity of outcome. Curiously little attention seems to have been given to the exhortation of the Lord Chief Justice in 1980 in the case of Upton. He exhorted the lower courts to be sparing in the use of custody, saying that, the time has come to appreciate that non-violent petty offenders should not be allowed to take up what has become valuable space in prison". I give the Government due credit for recently making clear in their Green Paper Punishment, Custody and the Community that the time has come for society to try to deal with more offenders in the community rather than in prison. That has been declared but we still await the pursuit of that line of approach. For non-violent offenders there are already available in our penal system many constructive and hopeful alternatives to prison. I refer to greater use of community service orders, probation, day centres, intensive supervision for young offenders, and so on. Those alternatives to prison are now available.

Experience seems increasingly to show that such measures to deal with non-violent offenders of the run-of-the-mill kind would be likely to protect the public more effectively from crime than what I submit is the present excessive use of custody. A saddening feature of the present position is that the degree of recidivism among prisoners should be so high. Overall, more than half the males and one-third of the females in prison are recommitted to be tried for fresh crimes within two years of their release from prison.

Sadly, the rate is even higher for teenage offenders, two-thirds of whom reoffend within two years. The highest rate of all is for 15 and 16 year-old boys leaving youth custody centres. That is a sad image and picture. It would appear that harsh punishments, in particular the widespread use of custody for juvenile offenders, has little deterrent effect on those subjected to them. Indeed, 70 or 80 per cent. of juveniles leaving young offender institutions are reconvicted within two years. There are no easy solutions to the problems that we face.

What of violent offenders? Clearly, they must be dealt with with due severity to mark the seriousness of what they have done. A term of imprisonment is normally necessary in such cases if only to put the offenders out of circulation for a while and for the protection of the public. However, once that has been done and they are in prison, what is then needed for them as much as for any other prisoner is the provision of better facilities in our prisons for work training and for education. Unhappily, the overcrowding of the prisons means that the opportunities for hard-worked prison officers to engage in rehabilitation are very limited indeed.

Efforts are made and there have been many cases where, as a result of the remedial proceedings that are available within limits, once-violent criminals have been through the training and have been greatly helped. Even now some emerge able to play an honest and continuing part in our society. However, as the Carlisle Report says—and I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, is to address us—much more should be done in our prisons to prepare inmates for their eventual release. I hope that we shall hear from the noble Lord on that and similar topics.

The conditions in our prisions make remote the possibility of rehabilitation. The report to which I have referred quotes the observations of Sir Alexander Patterson and describes him as, the most influential prison commissioner of the inter-war years". He says that people are sent to prison as punishment and not for punishment. I hope that we shall not lose sight of that basic guidance. The report asks, and does not answer, whether the Pattersonian dictums are still valid. Perhaps when the noble Earl comes to reply to the debate he will answer that question.

The problems that we face in this area are serious ones. The Motion refers to the need for support for an effective police force. That need will, I am sure, be generally accepted in the House. I expect that there will be general support too for regular community policing. A police constable on his own beat builds up links and gets to know the area; and the area gets to know him. That is a well-known and well-established benefit. I ask the noble Earl whether there are enough police constables to make a reality of local community policing. A report of the GLC panel of inquiry in 1984 said: A police presence in uniforms being around, showing that the police do really care what happens on the estate, has had a salutary effect". I suspect that that statement will be generally agreed in the House. The police can also contribute to crime prevention through the assistance of crime prevention officers and advisers on security of dwellings. Indeed, I know that we who reside in Brighton have found them to be extremely co-operative and their help extremely valuable.

When we come to the end of the story, the truth is that the challenge of crime is something which faces every individual and every family in the community. Therefore it is up to all of us to play our part, perhaps, without being too pompous about it, in our own personal family and school behaviour and also in a general sense. It is not a problem which can be left to the police and the courts; it is a problem that the people of this country must face. Indeed, we have faced graver dangers in the past, and we can also face this one.

3.40 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, perhaps I may begin with an apology because I am afraid that I cannot be here at the end of the debate. I apologise to the House for that. All that I can say in my own defence is that this is the first time that I have had to use that form of words since I have been in the House. However, so far as I am concerned, it is unavoidable.

I certainly join with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for having raised an issue of the highest public importance. I think that we all recognise that crimes of violence have risen in a most alarming fashion over the past decade. Indeed, the number of robberies has risen during that period by 150 per cent; the number of cases of rape has also risen by 150 per cent; and the overall number of cases of violence against the person has risen by somewhere in the region of 80 per cent.

On the London Underground, to which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, referred, robberies have doubled in a period of only two years. Moreover, there has been a menacing increase in the number of cases of sexual assault. Therefore it is little wonder that in such a situation a public opinion survey has indicated that more than half the women who use the London Underground feel concern, and sometimes alarm, when they do so.

I do not propose to go over the ground covered in our recent debate on the position of the London Underground. All I shall say is this. I do not think that it is any longer sensible to have two separate police forces doing basically the same job: one, a force of 28,000 working above ground; the other a very small force of 400 working below ground. It seems to me that within the next few years we shall have to look very seriously at that question and consider whether it would be sensible to absorb the police on the London Underground into the Metropolitan police, in the same way as has been done at London Airport.

I believe that the rising level of public concern about crime is entirely justified. I think that the public deserves a calm, rational analysis of the situation; not the foolish pretence that any one political party has simple answers to the situation. I must say, with the utmost of respect to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, that it really does not help us at all when we talk about demoralisation of the police—or whatever it was—in 1979. That rhetoric is appropriate to weekend speeches, but it is not necessary in this House.

We must recognise that governments have the greatest difficulty in managing the economy—over which they do have some control. The idea that they can control the level of crime when very few people agree about what causes it is, in my view, absurd. I propose to divide what I wish to say into three parts: first, the disturbing drug situation in the United Kingdom, which has a significant effect on the level of crime; secondly, the relationship between the police and the private security industry—to which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, again referred—which also has implications in the fight against violent crime; and lastly the question of police resources.

I turn first to the drugs situation in the United Kingdom. As I have indicated, this has the most direct relationship with the level of violent crime; for, in order to satisfy their craving for drugs, many of the young users become involved in street robberies and burglaries in order to raise money to purchase either heroin or cocaine. The severity of our problem can hardly be exaggerated. In 1979, 43 kilograms of herion were seized by Customs and Excise and 21 kilograms of cocaine. However, in 1987, the last year for which we have final figures, herion seizures had risen to 180 kilograms. That is an increase of just about 400 per cent. compared with 1979. In the case of cocaine, seizures rose from the 21 kilograms in 1979 to 346 kilograms—that is a rise of 1,500 per cent.

Let us assume for a moment that our customs authorities are as skilled as are their colleagues in the United States, where they are able to intercept somewhere around 10 per cent. of the drugs destined for the American market. One can then begin to make some calculation about the profits which are being earned by the illicit drugs industry in this country. In 1987, calculating on the basis of the estimated street value, the heroin industry in Britain had a turnover of somewhere in the region of £420 million, and the cocaine industry had a turnover of around £850 million. What we are discussing here is an industry which can be compared in size to some of the largest public companies in this country.

I believe that a great deal has been done in an attempt to check the activities of the criminals involved in trafficking in narcotics. Indeed it is now one of the highest priorities in the police service. Regional crime squads have developed strong drugs branches and there has been an improvement in collaboration between the police and Customs and Excise, although it is only fair to say that a great deal remains to be done.

I believe that the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, with its provisions enabling the courts to seize the assets of drug smugglers, will, in the longer term, be of considerable benefit. But, in my view, we should not underestimate the difficulties here. In order to track down the assets of the leaders of the illicit drugs industry, prolonged investigations are often required. The people with whom we are dealing are often protected by batteries of lawyers and accountants who are highly skilled in disguising the trail which leads to the bank accounts of those involved. Such investigations are often manpower intensive, so far as concerns the police, and, as we all know, police resources are limited.

I turn now to the relationship between the police and the private security industry. This is clearly relevant to the serious problem of armed robberies directed against security vehicles, the guarding of offices and now, I think for the first time, some residential areas as well. New firms are opening up throughout the country and it may well be that their responsibilities will grow. Indeed, it has already been pointed out that they may be involved in a number of contracts with government agencies, including the Home Office, and therefore it is right for us to take the matter extremely seriously.

Clearly a well-organised and professional private security industry can play a useful role in this country. However, I am increasingly concerned about evidence which shows that parts of the industry employ people with substantial criminal records; that many such people have been convicted of crime while in their present occupations; that many associate with known criminals; and that a substantial number of people in the industry appear to be entirely unqualified.

If professional criminals have associates in the industry, they can be provided with highly sensitive information. They can be told of the timings of the deliveries of cash and of the security precautions of client firms. When guarding buildings they can identify the place where money and valuable property is held.

Only last year, the Association of Chief Police Officers carried out a survey of its members which reinforced public concern. The report showed that in over 320 cases the employer or the employee had criminal records, and substantial numbers of others had been convicted of crime while being employed by the security companies or were believed to be involved in criminal contact.

Since then, we have had dramatic new evidence of the risks that we run as a result of having an entirely unregulated private security industry.

Just as anyone can establish a private security firm without any recognised qualifications or inquiry as to whether they are people with a good reputation, so anyone else can open a private safe deposit centre. Only a few months ago we saw the result of that in the case of Regina v Viccei and others at the Central Criminal Court.

In that case, a bogus robbery was staged at a private safety deposit centre in London. It is still not known how much was stolen because many of those robbed did not complain to the police. That was hardly surprising because a number or them were drug smugglers, money launderers and thieves. Large quantities of cocaine had been stored in the safe deposit boxes at that centre together with substantial sums of cash which was waiting to be laundered. It could be that as much as £15 million to £20 million was involved.

I found the Government's response to that matter rather surprising. I had assumed that following the enactment of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act they would be eager to close that massive loophole whereby sophisticated criminals were able to store their loot in absolute safety. But I proved to be wrong. All I received from the Minister on 13th February when I raised the matter in the House was a brief statement about the merits of self-regulation. I find it exceptionally difficult to see how, in the situation that I have described, self-regulation by itself makes any sense whatever. I have already given the House clear evidence about the involvement of numbers of criminals in the private security industry. The Knightsbridge safe deposit centre raid, with the involvement of international narcotic traffickers, makes unanswerable the case for some form of public regulatory system. I hope that the Government's doctrinaire enthusiasm for self-regulation will not prevent them from taking these steps that are clearly necessary to deal with what I and many others consider to be a serious problem.

I come now to the issue of police resources. I do not for a moment believe that every police force in England, Wales and Scotland requires an immediate increase in manpower. That would be going altogether too far; but a number of forces, including the Metropolitan police, still have establishments which are considerably short of being realistic.

In London, there is an ever present threat of renewed IRA and Middle Eastern terrorism. That requires a strengthened Special Branch. There are major surveillance operations against target criminals which absorb the attention of scores of experienced detectives. There is the continuing problem of jury nobbling at the Central Criminal Court and elsewhere. Each time a jury has to be protected, 72 police officers have to be attached to it to ensure that the jurors are not approached by professional criminals. That is a serious problem. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, was well aware of that problem when he was Lord Chancellor. I regret to say that the situation seems to be as unsatisfactory as ever. In addition to those pressures on Metropolitan police manpower, there is the constant and understandable demand for more police officers on the streets. There is a need to build up the strength of the Fraud Squad where, as the Metropolitan police Commissioner said in his last annual report: Demand consistently exceeds investigative resources". There is little point in us belabouring the European Commission and our partners about their response to the fraud problem within the Community when cases involving over £4.7 billion were being investigated in London alone during 1987 and when the police do not have adequate resources to enable them to respond adequately. If we do not deal with this problem of serious fraud, some of it being drug-related we may end up by doing serious damage to our country.

I recognise of course that there never have been enough policemen and there probably never will be. Demands will always outstrip resources. That is why we must re-examine our approach to the Special Constabulary, an issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, in a parliamentary Question only a few weeks ago. As I said then—noble Lords opposite said the same thing—I find it a little odd that the Government have allowed the strength of the Special Constabulary to decline during their period of office. The Minister will recall that he had a rather uncomfortable time in the House when he attempted to justify that situation in the exchanges which then took place.

As the House will recall, the already low figure in 1978, when there were 16,952 special constables in England and Wales, fell to 16,209 at the end of February 1987. In Scotland, the situation was far worse. There was a fall from 3,134 to 1,747. The Minister tried to push the responsibility for recruitment onto the shoulders of chief constables. I am bound to say that he missed the real issue which is that the Home Office and the Scottish Office have a clear interest in stimulating recruitment to the Special Constabulary. That could relieve the burden, which is at present substantial, which faces the regular police service.

We need an imaginative national campaign designed to encourage our fellow citizens to come forward to offer their services to the community. What conceivable argument is there against doing that? The Minister has, as we all know, direct ministerial responsibility for the police. I hope that on this occasion he will respond to what I believe was the overwhelming view of the House when the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, spoke to his Question on 20th February.

In conclusion, perhaps I may say that I believe that, although the general crime situation remains fairly sombre, there have been some signs of hope. There have, for instance, been notable reductions in street crime in some areas of London where it has been dangerously prevalent. But we must face the fact that many in our society remain haunted by the fear of violent crime. We have elderly people who are too fearful to answer their doors and young mothers who barricade themselves in their flats in high-rise buildings. An increasing number of women are not prepared to walk the streets at night. I believe that the whole quality of life for many people in our country is being damaged by anxieties of that kind. That is why we require the whole-hearted collaboration of the entire community in our struggle against serious crime.

4 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I think that we are agreed on all sides of the House on three points in this debate. First, we give a warm welcome to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has raised this important issue for us. Secondly, violent crime has been rising and statistics are incontrovertible on that point. Thirdly, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones said, there are no easy solutions. We are discussing very complex and difficult subjects this afternoon.

I agree with the last speaker that the quality of life in Britain is being seriously damaged at present and the situation seems to be getting worse. Young women have the right to walk the streets of our towns and cities in safety after dark. People have the right to travel on public transport late at night without the fear of being mugged. When those kinds of fears abound then the situation is critical.

I wish to divide what I have to say into two parts. One is perhaps best termed "short-term" in the field of crime prevention. The second is the longer term issues and the deeper currents in society of which we should be aware.

On the short-term front, we are all agreed that the maximum number of police who can be effectively deployed in any area or on special tasks is a policy which we support, although there are always limits on finance in any field. There are also the endeavours now going into research on security, both personal security in homes and security in public buildings and such matters. Then there is the easy availability of the substances which lead to such crimes. Drugs have already been dealt with in the speech by my predecessor in the debate.

I am very conscious that when I look across from my house in Salford I can see the steeple of my own parish church still shrouded in scaffolding, 18 months after the church was broken into by some groups of drug-affected or glue-sniffing youngsters. They quite deliberately set the place on fire and burned it down. Sadly, this is only one of a number of fires in churches which have taken place in my diocese. In years gone by there were certain religious restraints or convention restraints preventing people from carrying out those crimes. I am afraid that those days are in the past.

As regards alcohol, I am bound to say that I was sorry to note in the recent Budget that there was no price increase on alcoholic liquor. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the usual opportunity to do something in that field which would help to reduce consumption of alcohol. Without a doubt, many crimes are alcohol-related. The availability of firearms and offensive weapons is something of which we must always be aware. We can be thankful that we are not in the same situation as in the United States; I find it almost impossible to understand the influence of the gun lobby over there.

Relief for victims also comes under the heading of prevention in the field of crime and there is the ambulance work related to serious crimes which have taken place. I am glad, as I think many of us in the churches are, that much more attention is being paid to victims than was the case in times gone by. I am President of the North Manchester Victim Support Scheme and I believe that such schemes do valuable work.

Perhaps I may say a word about penal policy to which reference has already been made. Surely sentencing must always have two main aims in a modern democratic society, especially one which has been influenced by Christian values. The first is the protection of society. That must be a foremost consideration. The other is the reformation of offenders, however that may take place. It is a matter of very deep concern to many of us that because of over-crowding in our prisons due to the strains on the prison service, far from prisons being places where people are reformed they can so easily be schools for crime, especially for young offenders. We need hardly remind ourselves how easy is the transition from the less serious crimes in a community, such as minor theft or vandalism, to more serious crimes involving offences against the person.

In that connection the role of chaplains of all denominations in prisons is absolutely vital at present. Many examples have been given to me by our own chaplains of men and women—men in particular—who have been turned away from a life of crime to become much more useful members of society. They did so in spite of the enormous pressures facing them when they went out into a society in which unemployment is high and where there is much poverty and temptations of every kind. I believe that our chaplains are able to preach the vital quality, or help people to understand the vital quality, of forgiveness which should be exercised both in personal life and in society as a whole.

I turn now to the longer term aims of combating violent crime in society. It seems to me that that is infinitely complex and affords an admirable subject for debate and discussion. Why do people turn to violent crime? Perhaps in this century there have been two great philosophical approaches to the subject. Both have contained important elements of truth but if taken and swallowed whole, so to speak, they can be very misleading.

One is the belief that people turn to violent crime primarily because of inherited characteristics. We could call this the psychological explanation after the school of Freud and other psychologists. There has been some very disturbing genetic research into how inherited characteristics can have a powerful effect on the reasons why people turn to crime. If we take that line of thought, what is needed for the treatment of criminals or potential criminals is essentially psychological—the use of drugs and similar remedies.

The other great philosophical school is the one to which reference has already been made, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Reay in his opening speech. It is the school of those who would argue that all crime comes from social factors. In other words, bad housing, unemployment, poverty, broken homes and other factors inevitably lead to serious crime. Again, I believe that there is a great deal of truth in that. I shall make reference to it again in a moment.

It cannot be the whole truth. However important these various explanations are, something is missing. That is surely the element of personal responsibility in the way in which people turn to crime, including violent crime. Inevitably this would bring anyone wearing a dog-collar to use the good old-fashioned word which is now falling out of fashion—sin. It seems to me that we cannot escape from that in any consideration of penal policy. There must be that element of personal responsibility which must be addressed. I know that the Churches have been under some criticism these days for not standing firm on moral teachings and for neglecting the element of sin. I do not believe that that is so. What has been happening is that many people in the Churches—and that not only includes clergy but lay people too—have rightly been giving more attention to the other factors which I have mentioned, particularly social factors. But it must not be at the expense of the element of personal responsibility.

The gibe which has been directed against social workers and the clergy in the parody of the Good Samaritan would not apply. Noble Lords will remember that it is said that when a social worker saw what had happened when the man who was wounded had fallen among thieves, the immediate reaction was, "The men who have done this must indeed be in need of urgent help. We must find them". I do not think that that gibe is entirely justified.

I now turn to personal responsibility and to where the Churches stand on moral values. I shall quote from scripture. One finds the essence of this in St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians which discusses the influence of the Spirit. The desires of the flesh against the Spirit are listed by St. Paul as being immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. It appears to me that all of those vices would lead all too easily to violent crime. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. St. Paul states that against such qualities there is no law.

That, it appears to me, is the great charter of the Christian Churches. I am not suggesting for one moment that many other religions do not subscribe similarly to high moral values in this matter. The Churches are not soft on sin, and should not be soft on sin and personal responsibility. But we have to admit our own weakness which is that we are no longer in touch with substantial sections of society, including those young males who especially turn towards the kind of violent crime of which we have been speaking.

I come back to the point about society as a whole because I think that is fundamental. It is not enough simply to talk in terms of personal responsibility. If a society is constantly stimulated by high pressure advertising of all kinds and gives people the idea that that is what constitutes the good life, and if substantial sections of that society are held back from participating in various ways, some of the most intelligent and able among those people will undoubtedly go to take what others assume as their natural right. They will do that all the more when they see the kind of fraud which takes place at higher levels in society, to which reference has just been made.

I wish to say a few brief words to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, on the racist issue. I was grateful to the noble Lord for giving way so graciously at that point. All I wanted to say to him was that I think one should be extremely sensitive and careful when using statistics related to race. It is simply not right to use those statistics without at the same time pointing to the fact that among young blacks, for example, in many places in this country, the unemployment rate runs far higher than in other sections of society. I was grateful to the noble Lord to hear him say towards the end of that part of his speech that we must offer those people a proper place in society. That is the essential note with which I believe the noble Lord should have started his speech, before he gave us his catalogue of statistics.

We need to understand the conditions in such areas and the reasons people turn to crime. That does not mean that we should condone them. We need to take seriously also racial attacks which are a terrible blot on British society in these days. Too little attention has been paid to those attacks. But I return to what I believe is an essential moral issue which lies behind this debate. This must surely be a challenge to all of us in this House and elsewhere. It is a question of how we can build up an understanding of the right values in society and how we can communicate those values widely throughout society. It is my fear that some things which are taking place at the present time, and some of the directions in which we are moving, may be weakening those moral values rather than strengthening them.

In our minds at the present time is the broadcasting White Paper and the great danger of erosion of standards of public service broadcasting, which are vitally concerned with this matter. I leave the thought in the minds of your Lordships that a central issue behind this debate is where a society gets its moral values from and how these can be sustained. Violent crime is closely related to that.

4.14 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Reay for introducing this debate today. It is a matter of very considerable importance. It was quite clear from my noble friend's speech that he had carried out much work and much research on the subject. His speech was indeed full of interest and fact.

Violent crime is something which concerns us all because it interferes with what people in civilised society prize as a fundamental right—the right to go about their business and their lives in peace and tranquility. That is why it is right and proper that your Lordships should discuss this matter today.

All too frequently we read in the newspapers, and see on the television, stories of lives which are ruined by violent crime. We ask ourselves what the world is coming to. We feel sympathy for the victims, anger at the perpetrators, and perhaps anxiety for the safety of our families and ourselves. These are real and compelling anxieties to which any government must respond. I was glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said there were no easy solutions; nor are there.

No one should underestimate the effect which crime has on those against whom it is perpetrated. It can be horrifying. It can be an experience from which, in some cases, people never recover. Nor should we underestimate the fear of crime. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to that at the end of his speech, as did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones. I was glad of that. Perhaps only 1 or 2 per cent. of the population suffer from serious crime in their lives; but the other 98 per cent. wonder whether they are going to be part of the 2 per cent. The fear of crime therefore affects many more people than does crime itself. In my view that is an offensive assault upon the way of life of the ordinary citizen.

Fear is a force for evil. It is intrusive; it is debilitating; it is destabilising and it is very real. For all that, fear is often out of all proportion to the actual and statistical risk of becoming a victim. The fear of crime is in fact much worse than the risk of crime. But it is difficult to get that notion across without people feeling that a Government are being either dismissive or insensitive. We do not underestimate the power, and the fact, of fear. Fear of crime is a problem in its own right. It can have the gravest consequences, so that many people—particularly the elderly—feel that they cannot venture safely out of doors after dark.

A lot of fear—and perhaps some crime too—can be dispelled by proper lighting of houses and property at night. Burglars do not like to be seen, and householders take comfort when they can see. There is a strong argument for local authorities and others to ensure that the estates and flats for which they are responsible are adequately and better lit at night.

It is incumbent upon all of us—government, police and individuals—to do all that we can to reduce not only crime, but also the fear of crime, and to try to reassure people when the danger is less than that which they imagine.

It is for that reason that my right honorable friend the Home Secretary is setting up a working group of the Home Office Standing Conference on Crime Prevention under the chairmanship of Mr. Michael Grade to consider what can be done. I am delighted that the chairman is such a distinguished member of the media, who knows how the media operate. He also knows what the pressures of reporting are, and the virtues and the effects of the different methods of portraying facts.

The working group will have difficult issues to consider. It may wish to consider, among other things, the role of the media. The transmission of the details of crime— often gruesome and frightening— is part of the bread and butter, some would say even the duty, of the media. So also, let us remember, is the reporting of success and achievement.

One of the best antidotes to fear is the sight of a policeman on the street walking quietly without apparent concern, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ellyn-Jones, mentioned. It is one of the most reassuring sights which the citizen can have, and it is a positive contribution to reducing fear.

My noble friend Lord Reay rightly referred to an area of increasing concern in the violence which appears on trains and in the Underground. Gangs of steamers going through carriages, terrifying the occupants and denuding them of their wallets and their valuables, is a quite unacceptable hazard of modern travel.

The nature of the Underground is such that the thief has a captive quarry. People who have been walking freely in the streets enter the Underground and immediately become cocooned within its labyrinth of tunnels and tubes. It is an excellent hunting ground for the wicked, and a convenient melee of people into which the perpetrators of crime can easily and quickly get lost—and then go undetected and unapprehended.

We feel a particular concern about the Underground as that may well prove to be an area into which crime could tend to move, and in which the fear of crime could therefore rise in a greater ratio. London Transport have recognised that danger and are recruiting and training 80 additional police officers for the Underground. Until they are in post the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police have loaned 80 uniformed officers for use on the Underground. They became operational on 6th February. The Government have made £15 million available to London Underground Ltd. for the programme of passenger security measures to which my noble friend Lord Reay referred and which was recommended in the Department of Transport's report Crime on the Underground.

It is not surprising that people take their own steps to minimise fear, and we have recently seen the appearance of a group of people called the Guardian Angels. One is entitled to ask, in the words of 1066 And All That, "Are they a Good Thing?" Our view is that it is wrong for private citizens to adopt a policing role themselves. If they wish to do that they should become special constables, but we are all in favour of people acting as the eyes and ears of the police—being alert, helping others, being responsible. There is a great deal of public spirit around, and this is another manifestation of it. Our concern is to see that the efforts are properly channelled.

The police are in the front line against crime, especially violent crime. They give a high priority to preventing crimes of violence and to detecting those which have been committed. It is encouraging to see that the recorded figures for crime are down. Bad though those figures may be, we must keep in perspective that 94 per cent. of crime is against property—car thefts, vandalism, burglaries and so forth. Much of it is preventable. The typical crook is an opportunist teenager, who will take his chance with an open window or an unlocked car. The average citizen can do more himself to prevent the crime of which he complains, and which he fears.

Only 6 per cent. of all crime is violent crime. That may be too much, but about one crime in 20 is a violent crime. It is interesting that the figures for 1987 show that about 70 per cent. of the victims of wounding and assault were men aged between 16 and 39, and that only 1 per cent. of all the victims of wounding and assault were aged 60 or over. Therefore, despite all that we read, statistically the elderly are not a prime target.

The figures also show that 97 per cent. of all homicides and attempted murders are detected and cleared up. Seventy-six per cent. of woundings endangering life are cleared up, and 71 per cent. of rapes are cleared up. I suggest that those are impressive figures and that the police's ability to deal with that kind of crime is excellent.

We are anxious to maintain that record by giving the police the resources which they require. That is why we have ensured that over the past decade police manpower has increased by 13,000 officers. One thousand one hundred additional posts have been allocated for this year, with further substantial increases to follow. Since 1985 civilianisation has, in addition, released nearly 4,000 expensively trained policemen to return to operational duties. Expenditure on the police over the past 10 years has risen from £1,100 million to £3,700 million—an increase in real terms of 52 per cent.

The demands are of course limitless—and the pit is not bottomless—whether of people, of expertise or of finance. We must avoid moving towards the somewhat bizarre scenario where 50 per cent. of the population are in the police force and the other 50 per cent. are in gaol. As in all things, there is a balance to be maintained. Life has to be lived despite crime.

The final words of Lord Reay's speech were impressive. He said that all hands are required. That phrase has been repeated by inference by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and also by the right reverend Prelate. It is incumbent on all of us—government and people—to give the police our full support. We should give them credit for their achievement in tackling violent crime—often, let us remember, at great personal risk to themselves.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Reay commended the police for their work with the ethnic minorities. I know that the commissioner gives a high priority to working with ethnic minority communities. The police have frequent meetings with political, religious and social groups representing ethnic minorities.

We expect a lot of the police. We expect courtesy, efficiency, coolness, integrity; and we expect them to be on hand whenever there is trouble. We expect them to know the law, to know how to treat prisoners in accordance with the statutes, to know when to be understanding and when to be firm, and at all times never to put a foot wrong. We expect them to rub shoulders with the underworld and not to be affected by it and, if I may say so, to rub shoulders with your Lordships and not to be affected by that either.

If any officer crosses that narrow band which separates right from wrong, enthusiasm from prudence or admonition from courtesy, the public's reaction, quite understandably, like litmus paper turns against them. It is a difficult row to hoe.

We sometimes forget that the police on occasion have to put up with fear, crime, personal assault, missiles, abuse and even spitting. Yet they are only men and women with the same emotions as the rest of us. Nevertheless, we sometimes expect them to have a super-human coolness and a case-hardened reaction which we might not necessarily find in ourselves if we were placed in the same position.

It is up to the police—both the managers of the police force and each individual officer—to ensure that the integrity of himself and of the force remains at all times high. Only then will the police receive the respect which they deserve, and only then will the nation have the respected force which it seeks and which it requires. It is two-way traffic, in which we are all involved. We have the best police force in the world. It is up to the police to keep it that way. But it is up to us—the general public—too to realise that, to value that, and not to subject the relationship to unreasonable stress.

Strengthening the police is important, but it is essential that the penalties for violent offenders should adequately reflect society's revulsion against crime. The right reverend Prelate referred to that subject and said that the purpose of sentencing was both protection and reformation. We have raised the maximum penalty for the most serious violent offences—including attempted rape and carrying a firearm in the course of crime—to life imprisonment.

The courts are punishing offenders more severely. Over the last three years the average sentence for using firearms to resist arrest has nearly doubled. Now 80 per cent. of convicted rapists receive a sentence of five years or more in prison—compared with under 50 per cent. in 1985.

It is one thing to catch offenders. It is another to see that they are given adequate sentences. But it is a third to try to prevent the crime in the first place. And that we can all do.

My noble friend Lord Reay and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester referred to the particular problem of crime in our inner cities. However, whatever one may think there is no clear link between crime and unemployment. It is easy to imagine but statistics do not prove it.

Statistics do show that the peak age for offenders is 15 years, before the school-leaving age.

Nevertheless, we recognise the particular problems of the inner cities. That is why last year the safer cities programme was established. The programme, which is part of the Government's Action for Cities, will consist of 20 local projects. They will be set up over a three-year period in inner-city areas which are badly affected by crime. The object is to contribute towards the social and economic regeneration of these areas by reducing crime and the fear of crime.

The projects are run by committees which bring together local agencies such as the police, local authority and probation services, local firms and active citizens. The safer cities programme tries to generate a community response to crime—the sort of spirit which has resulted in the successful Neighbourhood Watch schemes, which have proliferated all over the country. They have proved to be successful in enabling neighbours and the police to co-operate together. They are an impressive illustration of how the public can come together to support the police. They need to be nurtured, and this is one of the objectives of the new crime prevention organisation called Crime Concern, which was launched last year with government support.

The Government can provide encouragement, advice and a certain amount of money; but the real effort and the real effectiveness come from the public and from the police. The Neighbourhood Watch schemes got off in a flurry of enthusiasm. It is another thing to ensure that they continue, and with the same enthusiasm. We cannot expect the police to deal with all crime on the basis that dealing with crime and preventing it is the police's business. It is the business of all of us. We must all, as individuals, be involved in commonsense behaviour and prevention, and that is why it is good when we see members of the public becoming involved.

It is necessary for sensible advice to be given to the public on how to protect themselves and their property. The Home Office has produced a handbook called Practical Ways to Crack Crime, and over 2 million copies of it have been distributed. It is not concerned just about home security—locks and bolts and mundane pieces of hardware— but it recommends simple precautions which people can take when they are out of doors, especially at night, in order to minimise the risk of assault.

Many women are terrified of the prospect of sexual assault, and especially rape. Sometimes one may be entitled to think that this form of crime is on the increase: but maybe it is because it is more frequently reported in the media than it used to be. Maybe it is because people are more prepared to come forward to report it to the police. Whatever the reasons, the facts show that most rapes are not committed, as is commonly supposed, by strangers in nasty dark alleys. Research suggests that most rapes are committed indoors and that, in most cases, the attacker is already known to the victim.

We call ourselves a caring society. But I sometimes wonder whether we are. If our standard of life is so high (which it is)and if as a nation we are more affluent (which we are) what makes /society/ violent —more violent, as it sometimes appears—than it used to be? There are many reasons, no doubt, for this but research suggests that the crime figures do not tell the whole story and that the apparent rise in the statistics of violent crime is partly the result of a greater willingness to report certain offences to the police.

Rape and domestic violence are examples. Child abuse is another. If this is so, it is an encouraging development, for it is only when crimes are reported that the offenders can be brought to trial and the victims given the support which they need. And it is encouraging that the last two years have seen a substantial growth in the victim support movement. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Reay approved of that. Four-fifths of the country is now served by victim support schemes affiliated to the national body called Victim Support. These schemes, which are run largely by dedicated volunteers, last year gave comfort, help and advice to a third of a million people. It is a mark of the Government's confidence in them that we are providing over £2.5 million this year to enable some 200 victim support schemes to employ a paid co-ordinator.

The level of violent crime is unacceptably high, whatever comparisons may be drawn with the past. And one asks: what accounts for it? In the long term I think it must be attitudes. Attitudes are affected and moulded by experience and environment. Experience and environment are affected, at the start of life, by the homes and the schools in which the children are brought up. That does not mean that homes and schools are responsible for crime but it does mean that homes and schools have a heavy responsibility to bring the children up in a way in which they are not injected into crime, but in a way in which they reject crime.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred to some unattractive buildings in our inner cities, and he was right to do so. Homes are sometimes in vast high-rise concrete buildings which have little sympathy either for people or for beauty. Too often there is a soullessness about them. Dirt, darkness, graffiti, lack of love and care, whether of buildings or of people, are often the surroundings in which children are obliged to grow up, in which parents try to live and make a home and in which the elderly stay in fear. It is not surprising that crime flourishes, and that fear does too. These conditions need altering if we wish to alter the pattern of crime.

The Department of the Environment's estate action programme gives local authorities additional resources with which to improve the quality of life on run-down estates. The budget for 1989–90 will be £190 million. About a quarter of this is likely to be spent on a range of environmental improvements, such as landscaping, and about a fifth on measures to combat crime and vandalism, such as the introduction of concierge facilities.

The possibility of a link between television and behaviour has been the subject of extensive study and I am sure that that academic debate will continue for some time. But television is a very powerful medium in encouraging people to do that which they would not otherwise do. If it was not, why would advertisers spend nearly £2,000 million a year on doing just that? We have always taken the view that broadcasters should exercise caution and that they should assume that their programmes may influence behaviour. I think that responsible broadcasters do.

It was in direct response to a growing public concern that the Government recently set up the Broadcasting Standards Council. The council is still in its early days but it has already published a draft code on the portrayal of sex and violence which will apply to all forms of broadcasting. It will monitor programmes. It will look into complaints, and it will be able to initiate research on how attitudes and behaviour are affected by the portrayal of violence on the screen.

Nothing in the sphere of human behaviour can have a simple answer, but what creates attitudes in children has an important part to play. A lot of violent crime is the result of heavy and stupid drinking— the macho image. This is nothing new in some respects. People always did get drunk and fights always did take place, but what has become known as the lager lout manifestation is new. Many young people now have more money to spend, and they spend more of it on drink. There are more pubs and clubs which cater specifically for young people, whose behaviour may be less restrained if there are fewer older people around. The Government are anxious to encourage sensible drinking. To this end we have advised the courts, the police and other agencies on the effective enforcement of the licensing laws, and on how to deal with alcohol misuse.

Each generation tends to think that its own conditions are worse than those of any previous generation. But I doubt if they are in reality. Our conditions are certainly different. Technology is different. Attitudes are different. The way of life is different. But the basic goodness in people is present in folk today, just as much as it ever was. But crime also is here, just as it ever was. Its methods, its manifestations and its practice twist and weave between the new opportunities which are open to it, whether by technique or technology, and the new constraints which the law seeks to place upon it.

Our task, in our day, is to try to ensure that crime is not glorified, to acknowledge that it is the responsibility of all of us—whether in its prevention or in its detection—and to ensure that the rule of law is always one step ahead of the ingenuity of the criminal. That is why the discussion of this topic today is so important.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, my first task on behalf of the House is to thank the noble Earl, .Lord Ferrers, for his masterly and thorough coverage of this important subject. I wish to add one point on a matter dealt with by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester whom I observe leaving the Chamber. I shall however raise it for the sake of the record. The right reverend Prelate expressed grave anxiety about lower broadcasting standards. I remind the right reverend Prelate, as did the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that a regulatory authority has been set up. The extra channels surely afford the Christian Church a wonderful opportunity—one which should not be missed—of passing on the message of Christianity far more widely than is possible through existing terrestrial and satellite channels. I hope that the Church will not miss that opportunity; I hope that it will not always be looking backwards instead of forwards.

I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Reay for his initiative in opening the debate. I am glad that the Conservative Party selected it. It was three years ago, on 23rd April 1986, that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, opened a debate on a similar subject. It is appropriate that after three years, with the growth of anxiety about street muggings and such like, we should reconsider the position and see what progress has been made.

We sometimes miss the point that it is not just in this country and Western Europe but all over the world that crime is increasing. There is some evidence that the annual figures may turn down. The worrisome element is that studies suggest that only one quarter of the total number of crimes are reported. However, the tendency to report crimes is increasing, and it is healthy that they should be reported to the police. We must not take too much comfort from slight rises or falls in the figures when currently only one quarter may be reported.

I want to concentrate on the police and support of the police. It would not be inappropriate to say a word about the police who look after the Palace of Westminster. We do not often have the opportunity to praise them. I do not know a more courteous, efficient or nicer lot of people. They have an amazing ability to recognise not only us but also our wives and our friends although some of us are not here as often as others. This is part of their training in thoroughness. We are very grateful to them for their services and their help in keeping order and decorum in the Palace of Westminster.

It is clear that criminals are becoming cleverer, more thorough in planning and more professional. The police have to out-match their performance in professionalism. I want to ask some questions. Is the police recruiting policy attracting enough high calibre people? Are enough graduates being recruited? Are we training and retraining the graduates to match the tasks of the future? Are we deploying them and all the police to the best advantage? Is the accelerated promotion scheme with the challenges presented adequate to match the quicker thinking, better trained, more adroit young people who may want to join the force? Is Britain providing the right leaders to become the chief constables of the future? What we want to ensure is that when senior policemen and chief constables appear on our television screens, they influence parents to say to one another that that is the sort of service that they would like their son or daughter to join, the sort of profession that they should take up to help the nation.

The strength of the police has increased immensely in recent years. In England, Wales and Scotland, it is around 140,000, comparable, we need to remind ourselves, to the strength of the army and very much greater than the strength of the air force or the Royal Navy. Given the considerable discipline, achievement and traditions of all four uniformed forces, I wonder whether there are not lessons to be learnt one from the other.

The Government rightly, with all-party support, have given a high priority to the police with commensurate salaries. Earnings are considerable. The total inclusive annual cost of a Metropolitan police officer today is £30,000; outside London, it is £26,000. I have not been able to obtain the comparative figures for the army. But the figures for the police seem above what the army pays. It is of supreme importance that we use these highly trained, professional policemen in the best possible way.

I should like to ask first whether we are recruiting the right leaders for the future. For 20 years I served as the Member of Parliament for North Hendon. Within my diocese, to borrow a term from the right reverend Prelate, was Hendon police college which was founded by the first Lord Trenchard and abandoned shortly after the war by the Labour Government. I wonder whether that was a wise decision in the light of present experience. I acknowledge that Bramshill fulfils some of the functions very satisfactorily. I believe it is right to say that the Police Federation and others do not want to resurrect the cadet college. The three uniformed services are led by people of calibre, some of whom are promoted to serve in this House. I am sure that they would not be led by people of such calibre if we had abolished Sandhurst, Dartmouth and Cranwell. I ask my noble friend to consider again whether the equivalent of Hendon police college should not be established or, indeed, the college itself re-established to recruit the best people for the future.

I have obtained a copy of an admirable publication entitled A Career for Graduates in the Police Service. It is beautifully prepared. However, I gather from figures that I have been able to obtain that some results are not as good as one would hope. I am afraid that statistics are always out of date. It is strange that, as computers work faster and faster, statistics are slower and slower to emerge. All the statistics that I have date back to 1987. Under the standard entry schemes for graduates in England and Wales, 1,400 applied of whom just over 500 were accepted. Therefore, one in three was accepted. In the Metropolitan Police 274 applied and 116—a rate of one in two-and-a-half—were accepted. Those are pretty good figures.

The graduate entry scheme figures are disturbing. For England and Wales 950 graduates under the age of 30 applied to join the police, of whom only 17 were accepted. Of the 244 who applied to join the Metropolitan Police, only four—one in 60—were accepted. Either we are aiming the advertisements, such as they are, at the wrong people, or very much the wrong people are applying. Something is wrong with the figures. I ask my noble friend to examine the situation. In 1987 there were 6,863 graduates in a police force of 130,000. I wonder whether that is sufficient today. The police force is backed up now by over 40,000 civilians. That is a good tendency. I wonder whether that is sufficient today. I wonder, however, whether 6,863 graduates are sufficient in a force of that strength.

I turn now to recruiting for general entry. Here the figures are amazing. Of the 56,000 who applied in 1987, only one in 10—just over 5,600—was accepted. In the Metropolitan area, 10,000 applied and 2,000 were accepted. Again, I wonder whether standards are being set too high. Or are we attracting the wrong people?

There is some good news. There used to be a delay of eight months between a person applying and being notified whether he had been accepted or not. That led to some criticism in this House. On checking this morning, I was glad to find that a notice is now sent out within four months—the time is almost halved—to the person who has applied, notifying him whether or not he has been accepted. However, one cannot get on to the first training course for several months ahead. I asked what would happen if I were the right age and applied today. The answer was that I could not be taken on a training course after examinations until July.

We have stepped up the training courses from an intake of 160 every five weeks to 210. Again, that is good. The rewards are also good. A policeman aged 22 starts at £10,500 a year, including £2,000 extra in London for weighting and other allowances. It is not a bad way to start, and it is a very considerable career.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, mentioned building bridges of understanding and co-operation between the police and the public all over the country. This is absolutely vital. The Neighbourhood Watch scheme started well, although I have the feeling from information that I receive that it is less successful than might have been hoped. It should be prodded, encouraged and stimulated. It seems a wholly healthy idea.

I turn again, as I did in February, to the question of the Specials. Here the position is very alarming. As has been said, in 1987 there were 16,000 in England and Wales. That is a substantial fall. Where once there were 17,000 men, the figure is now down to 11,000. I am glad to say that the figures for women have gone in the other direction. There were 2,000 women 10 years ago; there are now 5,000. But the fall away of figures for men is significant. I wonder whether it ought to be looked at and whether we ought to have a publicity campaign, as the noble Lord suggested. I asked questions. I was told that information was passed on by word of mouth and that it was not felt necessary to launch a campaign. In this day and age one cannot sell anything without a campaign. One needs a campaign to encourage the Specials. Once in the force, I hope that they will be given challenging jobs and not asked to mind telephone exchanges over the weekend.

One notices two policemen together on community patrol. On many occasions why should not one of those be a Special? I wonder too whether we cannot make more use of Specials in a host of other jobs. Should they not be called out in a crisis, as the Territorials are? Are exercises being undertaken to enable them to show that they are worthwhile and part of the police force? Should they not help in dealing with football crowds? I read recently that the bill for policing the Chelsea football ground—which is in Fulham and therefore the bill falls on the ratepayers of Fulham, I am personally glad to say—was £1 million last year. Could not the Specials be used there? They are local. They know the form. They probably watch football when they are not on parade. Surely they could be used to alleviate the position?

I hear talk—I am sure that it is untrue—that overtime is so rewarding that many policemen would resent it if Specials took their place. I hope that that is untrue. I hope that it will be generally acknowledged that more use could be made of Specials and that a recruiting drive should be undertaken.

Could not traffic wardens pick up more of the humdrum activities the police have to undertake? I refer to the checking of road fund licences. Why should that not be done perfectly correctly by traffic wardens? Again, I wonder whether we ought not to make more use of mobile radios. Over a million people now have mobile radios in their cars. Surely, they are a natural eyes and ears of the police. My noble friend used that expression in his speech; it is right. Why not use the goodwill of the public. If one is stuck in a traffic jam and one sees something happen—a robbery or a grab—one is quickly able to report it. My car is not equipped with a mobile radio. But why should not numbers be given so that one can dial the equivalent of 999 and connect with a central police point so enabling the local police to be contacted.

Should we not also equip traffic wardens so that they could be eyes and ears of the police? There are many things to be done. I hope that we shall not forget, and the police will not forget—I know it is being emphasised—the importance of the police visiting schools. Under ILEA I am afraid there were some nasty rules forbidding the schools to allow the police in. I hope that the Labour Party will use all the strength it can to persuade the hard Left, which was in ILEA, to allow the police into the schools. We must build bridges of understanding, in particular with the young.

Our police force is a great one with a high reputation in all parts of the world. It is worthy of the best and most imaginative leadership and support. I have asked these many quest ions only in an effort to make it even better.

4.57 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, we have listened to a series of very well informed speeches, including that of the noble Lord who has just sat down. Naturally I prefer the wise words of my acting Leader my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones. However, I must at least join in the gratitude expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for his eloquent and thought-provoking speech. I disagree with him totally in what I think is his main point of view but this is a House of disagreements. It would be a very boring House if it were not. Later I shall explain myself more fully.

I am glad that the right reverend Prelate was able to put his remarks about the blacks in a certain perspective. I realise that he has done a lot of research with the help of the police. He has put that side of the argument. His material comes from them.

For many years, since its foundation, I have been patron of the Melting Pot, an organisation in Brixton for young black people—well thought of, it would seem, by the Home Office. I ask the noble Lord when he replies to tell me whether he is prepared to meet the leaders of these people. I believe that an exchange of views—it would be a rather frank exchange—could be valuable both to the noble Lord and to the blacks.

Some noble Lords may remember an old fable about the fox and the hedgehog. Your Lordships may remember that the fox knew many very little things and the hedgehog knew one big thing. I shall be more like the hedgehog than the fox. I shall submit two or three general propositions. But I am bound to express pleasure at certain items in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I shall reply to the general point of view later. However, he indicated certain steps that were being taken that were of a helpful nature. Naturally I am glad that if anything can be done for victims it is done. Some years ago I introduced into this House a Private Member's Bill to help victims. Mrs. Thatcher's party had just been elected. The Bill received a Second Reading, but the Government gave it no encouragement at that time. However, to use the phrase of Sir Winston Churchill, the Government seemed to have "trained on" in their attitude to victims, and I welcome it.

The first general proposition that I submit is one that will hardly be acceptable to anyone who replies for the Government. I put it this way. I am convinced that the penal policy of the present Government is fundamentally flawed. In case I have not made that plain I repeat it. I consider that the penal policy of the Government is fundamentally flawed whether it is expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, or by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I realise that he has "trained on" in certain respects because in his speech today he was not advocating the treatment for criminals that he enunciated on an earlier occasion when he was a free man. What he said was far removed from the point of view of penal reformers.

When I criticise the fundamental policy of the Government, I am not criticising the fundamental policy of the Conservative Party. There have been great Home Secretaries in the Conservative Party. Sir Winston Churchill, though he was a Liberal at the time—it may be remembered that he ratted and then he re-ratted—became a Conservative so he may count as a great Conservative Home Secretary. There was Sir Samuel Hoare, later Lord Templewood, who became President of the Howard League; and of course there was Mr. R. A. Butler, who showed a very progressive attitude in all such matters, and he had an attitude completely different from anything that we have had from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, or the noble Lord, Lord Reay.

Mr. Whitelaw, as he then was, as Home Secretary began very well. I have felt bound to mention before now, and others have mentioned it, that in 1981 he got into trouble. He was trying to persuade the judiciary at that time to reduce sentences. That is in the recollection of anybody who follows public affairs. It has been referred to many times since then. I told the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, that I would mention this matter. He tried to persuade the judiciary to reduce sentences and was given the "bird" in a very big way at the Conservative conference, despite his personal popularity. That was the end of him as a penal reformer and also the end of a progressive Conservative penal policy.

We have been told today with a certain pride by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that sentences have been increased. In other words, that is the complete opposite of the policy which the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, when he was Home Secretary, tried to implement just a few years ago. That can hardly be said to spring from any profound Conservative philosophy. It was in deference to the howling at the Conservative Party Conference.

Noble Lords will hardly have come across this, but they might have done because the Daily Mail features it with a certain glee. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, who is not here, will remember it well. A certain Home Office official produced information for the Select Committee inquiring into murder and life imprisonment last November. The information produced astonished the noble Lord, Lord Harris, or so we are told in the record. This evidence was given by the official last November and I quote from the report: From 1st April until September 30th, in 63 out of 106 murder cases, the Home Secretary through the Junior Minister set a higher tariff [that means a longer sentence] than that privately indicated to him by the trial judge. The Home Secretary, through his Under-Secretary, was stepping up the sentences passed by the judiciary: In 34 out of the 106 cases the Home Secretary accepted the judicial view"— and in nine cases he reduced it. We must be clear in our minds—I make no apology for labouring a point of view different from that expressed by the fine array of Conservative orators—that this is the precise opposite of the policy for which Conservative leaders were agitating a few years earlier.

I wish to add one other quotation in this connection. This comes from an official Home Office research study, No. 89, on personal violence published in 1986. It states: The use by the courts of higher levels of incarceration"— that is the policy recommended with glee by the noble Lord Lord Reay— sits uneasily with such objectives as economy, effectiveness and value for money. Perhaps however the infliction of just punishment and the marking of society's strong disapproval are seen as ends in themselves, not to be judged in terms of such worldly objectives as value for money and effectiveness in reducing crime". I stress that last expression "effectiveness in reducing crime". I take that sentence to be purely ironical. The Home Office research body has before now demonstrated very carefully that higher penalties do not reduce crime. I believe we can take it that the report is indulging in as much sarcasm as is permitted to officials at the expense of the Government.

Punishment means the infliction of pain on somebody. Punishment intrinsically means that. If it is necessary pain then it is part of justice. But if it is unnecessary pain, it is undiluted cruelty. These are necessary penalties to be inflicted. I am thinking particularly of the heavier penalties which to my mind are just mental cruelty. I should be ashamed to be associated with penalties of that kind.

I have expressed before now my sympathy with the good Mr. Hurd, the Home Secretary, struggling gallantly against the emotions of a party conference, and, it would seem, the Prime Minister who would like to see the restoration of capital punishment. Mr. Hurd has resisted that and I give him much credit for that, but I am afraid that he has had to give way all along the line in other respects.

I should like to speak a little more constructively. For many years I have known violent criminals personally through 50 years of prison visiting. Most of them have eventually renounced violent crime, but one of these violent criminals, whom I would call a friend—he is not the only one I would describe in that way—knows about this matter from the angle of people who have committed violent crime. He was sentenced in his time to several spells of imprisonment, having made use at some time of both a gun and a knife. He has not been in trouble for the last five years. He is a reclaimed man and I hope that he will always remain so. This man who has served all these sentences for violence is the kind of person we are talking about this afternoon. I asked him what he considered was the cause of violent crime. His answers were not very different from those supplied by my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, the right reverend Prelate and possibly the noble Lord Lord Reay. He began by asking a question. Having been educated at Eton and Oxford, I should hesitate to put the question in this way: Why is it that the working classes … commit nearly all the violent crime? This man, brought up in a very tough mining district put that question to me. His own answer was: Because of their poverty, their insecurity, their profound sense of frustration and their lack of education". In one way or another most of us would agree that that is one considerable element in crime, particularly violent crime. But such an analysis does not explain one large question before us. It does not explain why violent crime should be increasing when on the whole poverty has been diminishing for some time since the establishment of the welfare state. This man provided an answer which I believe fits in with the views of many people who themselves are not violent criminals. He said that it can essentially be blamed on television. Young people now are subjected to greater temptations than he was, though his temptations were plenty and he gave way to them while he was growing up. Television has introduced a new element and has made it much harder for young people growing up in rough neighbourhoods to resist crime. He used rather a good phrase about it—it may have occurred to others but I had not heard it before. He thinks that meeting violent crime so constantly as entertainment and even comedy reduces the gravity of the crime. He believes that nowadays young people do not take the matter as seriously as he did, and he was engaged in many violent crimes.

Almost everyone will agree that some part of the responsibility for the increase in violent crimes, as in other crimes, must be put down to television. I supported the appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I supported him as a man suitable for the job and I supported the idea of such an appointment. Certainly I shall not now go back on that decision. However, I am not as impressed as I should wish to be by the committee's first report. It is a huge document which I believe fails to make clear the difference between what is offensive to the public and what is corrupting. I know that it is difficult to keep the two issues separate. In my opinion, we shall never raise the moral standards which are applied by the television authorities unless we can improve the moral standards of the tabloid newspapers. I have said more than once in this House that, in my view, they have done more harm than has television in recent years.

We are left with the question: what is to be done about the tabloids? I have also said on previous occasions that I should like to see a figure analogous to the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, dealing with the tabloid newspapers in an advisory way. That is unlikely to happen but we are told that the Press Council will be much stronger and have more teeth. I have great confidence in its chairman.

I should like to end with the recognition that this is a mysterious subject. Thirty years ago I conducted an inquiry into the causes of crime for the Nuffield Foundation. Our verdict was inconclusive and it remains so. In doing so I received psychiatric, sociological and legal advice and the inquiry then found that in the long run the broken home was the largest single factor in crime. Since then there has been huge increases in the number of broken homes and in crime. I do not believe that the two can be separated, although I do not say that broken homes are the only cause for the increase.

Some people will say that it is due to the decline in religion. I hope that I carry the right reverend Prelate with me when I say that that suggestion has not been proved. I do not believe that religion can be said to have declined but is is arguable. However, it is certain that the Churches are coming together in a way which would have been inconceivable 50 years ago. There is much hope for the future and in the end it will spill over into the moral standards of this country and into a reduction in crime, violent or otherwise.

5.13 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, for almost the first time in my life I can happily agree with something said by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. It was the remark made in his concluding sentences. I agree that the Churches are coming together and that it has ceased to be the case that one church regards it as a merit or virtue to criticise another. That will strengthen the hold of the Christian religion on the public and undoubtedly it will help in the matter now before your Lordships. I am afraid that I cannot agree with much more that the noble Earl said.

The Earl of Longford

I did not expect that.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am obliged. I have always noticed that the noble Earl is enormously thoughtful and considerate towards the needs and well-being of the criminal. However, I have noticed much less concern expressed on his part about the effect on the victim. He has always concentrated on the well-being of those who have committed crimes—many of them serious crimes. That is an admirable aspect of his views. But I have rarely heard him express concern for the innocent victim.

The Earl of Longford

Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

It is the innocent victim with whom your Lordships are mainly concerned. Yes, I shall give way.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I promise that this will be my only interruption, but I must make it. Obviously the noble Lord was rightly meditating upon his own speech and was not listening to mine. I said that 10 years ago I introduced a Bill in this House in favour of the victim. I forget when the noble Lord joined us. Was he a Member 10 years ago?

Lord Hooson

Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I am sorry, but I cannot answer two noble Lords simultaneously. I am afraid that I lack the dialectical gifts to do so. The noble Earl is right. I remember his Bill. With respect, it was not an effective measure nor one which had the slightest chance of becoming law, as he knew perfectly well. I repeat that his manifest concern is often expressed for people who have committed atrocious crimes and it is well known in this House. It appears to me to detract from the balance of his remarks when dealing with this subject. If the noble Lord wishes to intervene I shall give way if he does not mind taking second place.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, not at all. I am sure that on reflection the noble Lord will agree that he was unfair to the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I recollect that in 1960–61 I was a member of a committee before I was a member of the other place. It dealt with the question of compensation for victims of crimes of violence and its chairman was the noble Earl.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am obliged. That does not alter in the slightest the fact that over the years—it is 28 years since then—the noble Earl has distinguished himself by continually raising the question of the convicted criminal. He did so this afternoon when he stated that the Government's penal policy was flawed because it suggested longer sentences. I shall deal with that matter in a moment because I believe that his reasoning on it is also flawed.

The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, pointed out that over the past 28 years the noble Earl has spared a thought for the victims. However, I believe noble Lords know perfectly well that that does not alter the fact that the noble Earl has been a devoted supporter of the needs and well-being of the convicted criminal. I can respect that attitude and I understand his point of view, although I believe it to be wrong as a matter of emphasis. However, I am afraid that it is a fact.

The House is greatly indebted to my noble friend Lord Reay for raising a matter which is fundamental to all governments. Government was created in order that the individual should be protected by them and by laws enforced by them. If one goes back to the beginnings of civilisation one will find that that is the reason for the beginning of government. Therefore we are dealing with the fundamental question of the protection of the individual. The great concern which now exists in this country is not whether a limited number of violent criminals are treated in a way most conducive to their health and well-being. It is whether the public can be protected from violence and attack.

When I was young and in London I walked the streets without a thought that there might be danger to anyone. Your Lordships know that nowadays the threat of violence exists in the streets and in the Underground. That applies not only to London but to other great cities. The purpose for which government was set up—that is, the maintenance of order and protection for the ordinary citizen—is no longer being fully discharged. There has been a major change in the position of the individual. One used to believe that there were certain countries in the world which one despised because one might be in danger of attack on the streets. Unhappily, we now face that situation in this country.

What are we doing about it? Historically, whenever there has been a serious increase in crime, the powers that be, if they have been responsible and active, have increased the penalties. It has been the normal and, on the whole, experienced response to crime that those who commit crimes which are becoming more and more prevalent shall suffer even more severe penalties than they used to. There has been a move that way in most countries in the world and has been for centuries. It is still so in many countries. One small example which comes to mind is the very well run republic of Singapore which, when there was an outbreak of drug smuggling and trading on a large scale, the government of that country imposed capital punishment on drug smugglers and dealers and that had a dramatic effect in reducing the trade. Therefore, the traditional experience of the civilised world over the centuries is borne out by that example that the proper response to a growth in one sort of crime or another is to increase the severity of the penalty.

My noble friend Lord Ferrers took some credit—and was rebuked by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for it—for sentences having been increased in respect of certain very unpleasant and frequently committed offences. However, the difficulty of that argument is that what the sentence may be is one matter, but the sentence actually served is another. I do not wish to weary your Lordships at any length but the abolition of capital punishment for murder undoubtedly weakened the structure of severe penalties for severe offences not merely for murder but down the scale. When capital punishment was abolished, we were told, "Well, imprisonment for life is just as severe a penalty and is just as good a deterrent". That was an arguable view. To an imaginative person it may be just as bad to be locked up for the term of one's natural life as it may be to face an executioner in a few weeks' time. That is very much a matter of individual feeling. However, there is hardly such a thing now as imprisonment for life. Judges say with great solemnity, "You have committed a series of terrible crimes. You should go back to prison for life."

How many people actually serve life sentences? The other day I asked a Question covering the past 10 years of the noble Earl, which, with his usual courtesy, he answered. From that it appears that over the past 10 years in no year have as many as 10 prisoners on life sentences died in prison, whereas in every year but one in the past 10 years over 100 have been released. Taking the latest year for which statistics were given in my noble friend's Answer, seven life sentence prisoners served the life sentence inasmuch as they died in prison, whereas 100 were released. Therefore, it is beginning to be known and realised that the terror of a life sentence, the deterrent effect and threat of it is not a reality. Sooner or later those sentenced formally by a judge to imprisonment for life will be released.

The same applies to other severe sentences. Judges don their most formidable aspect and say to the man in the dock that he has done a terrible thing or a series of terrible things and that he will serve 10, 14 or 20 years. However, the experienced criminal knows perfectly well that he will not serve anything of the sort and that in considerably less time he will be released. That is a factor in the growth of serious crime.

Starting again with capital punishment, your Lordships may have observed the fairly recent case in which armed robbers kidnapped a bank manager and his wife and daughter. They threatened to kill the wife and daughter unless the manager produced the keys of the bank and opened it. When the robbers were arrested, one of them said, "Yes, we certainly would have killed them. It would only have meant another five years on the sentence". That is very revealing as to the effect, among serious criminals, of the abolition of capital punishment and the weakening of the sentences imposed.

I say to the Minister that although it sounds very good to say that one has increased the possible sentence which can be imposed for a number of serious offences, that does not establish the real deterrent effect or give the public the protection from future misdoings if it is known that the sentence will not be carried out.

Perhaps I may give an example. My noble friend will remember, because I asked him a Question about it the other day, the case of Mr. John Hope Taylor who, having killed one woman, was imprisoned for seven years. He was released shortly after four years and proceeded to kill another woman within a matter of months thereafter. When I asked my noble friend why this known violent man had been released while his sentence still had some two and a half years' currency to run, and why the public and that particular woman, who he subsequently murdered, had not been protected from him, my noble friend said: Well, there are regulations under the earlier Act that because he had not actually bashed a prison warder when he was in prison, he was entitled to a certain amount of remission."

I suggest to my noble friend that faced with the very serious growth in violent crime, It is necessary to look at the question as to whether sentences should not be made to mean what they say. I know the problem of the Home Office. I know it is anxious to release people from prison because the prisons are overcrowded. With great respect to my noble friend—and I do not say this to him but to his predecessors in the Home Office—that is a situation which is largely due to the failure of the Home Office over the past years, faced with the situation in which it knew crime was rising, to provide additional prison accommodation. The record of the Home Office on that is not good and I know that now efforts are being made particularly by my noble friend, to restore that. I hope for that reason he will not allow the natural concern of the Home Office, the worry about the strain on the warders and the conditions of prisons because of overcrowding, to cause people who have been sentenced after a fair trial by an experienced judge to be released automatically before the sentence has expired. If the learned judge knows his business—and with great respect the majority of them do although there are so many now that there may be exceptions—then surely the sentence which he imposed should in general, and I do not say always, be implemented.

As I have tried to say a few minutes ago, given that we are faced with this growth in violent crime and given the normal reaction throughout history of societies to the growth of violent crime, then we require not only a paper increase by way of legislation in the nominal sentence which can be imposed but we also require the reality—and the reality to be appreciated by the criminal community—that the sentences mean what they say.

I hope that we may become rid of this idea—whether it is a question of parole on which my noble friend behind me will speak or whether it is a question of regulations to which the Minister referred—on the whole people should serve the sentence imposed on them. I believe that in that way there will be the deterrent effect and it will be made abundantly clear that crime does not pay. When we have criminals such as the one I quoted saying, "Well, even if I commit murder it is only five years on the sentence", one realises that one is dealing with a sophisticated, educated criminal class of people who can see through the farce of an apparently severe sentence which they know they will never have to serve.

I have just a few words to add on another subject —the police. I very much agree with what my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said about our admirable police force. It is probably the best in the world. The courage which individual unarmed policemen show when tackling armed criminals can only be enormously admired, whether one is in the armed forces or elsewhere. I also support what he said about the desirability of reviving some kind of system for police cadets, like the Hendon cadet college which turned out so many admirable policemen. I do not know why it was abolished. There is every reason for restoring it.

I want to add something which I am sure some of your Lordships will not agree with. Some thought will have to be given to moving towards a national police force. Is there really in this day and age, on this small island, a case for having separate police forces? Whenever there is a serious crime or serious trouble Scotland Yard has to be brought in, in whatever part of the country the trouble occurs. Frankly, I doubt whether for serious matters of policing, at any rate, local authorities have very much to contribute. After all, we do not have a localised army, though we have regiments which have happy local connections. With a centralised police force the police units could have happy and proper local quasi-regimental connections. I wonder whether we would not have a police force even better fitted to deal with the problem of major crime today if the force were to be unified, very nearly as large as the army, larger than the navy and the Royal Air Force, with a centralised machinery.

We are being driven towards that possibility. There is a Bill coming to your Lordships about a central police establishment which, as I understand it, derives from the fact that it is necessary to have at least one police force that is not dependent on any individual force, whether metropolitan or localised. I know that there would be considerable understandable, sentimental and emotional regret in the provinces if we were to (if I may use the word) nationalise the police force. However, in view of the enthusiasm of noble Lords opposite for nationalisation, perhaps they will support such a proposal.

5.33 p.m.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow

My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter will forgive me if I do not follow him in his argument about the abolition of capital punishment. However, I should like to follow much of what he said about the gap that has arisen between the sentences passed by the courts and the actual sentences served. Indeed, I have a great deal of sympathy with his argument that that gap has now become too great and that steps should be taken to restore some meaning to the whole of the sentences passed by the courts.

Perhaps I may express, as other noble Lords have done, concern at the amount of serious crime and the growing rate of violent crime in this country. As the right reverend Prelate said, people have a right to go about their lives without fear for their own safety. We have a responsibility to ensure that that is possible. Obviously one welcomes the overall reduction in crime referred to by my noble friend Lord Ferrers, and particularly the reduction in the number of burglaries. It is often forgotten that although burglary may not be classed as a crime of violence it is a crime that gives great concern to people in this country.

Undoubtedly much burglary is opportunist, and because it is opportunist effective methods of crime prevention can reduce the incidence of burglary. I believe we are seeing—and I congratulate the Minister—the beginning of a reduction in opportunist crime as a result of the real efforts that the Government have put into crime prevention.

However, the fact is, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers agreed, that while crime may happily be showing overall signs of reduction, serious crime and crimes of violence continue to increase. Although they may only be 6 per cent. of the overall volume of crime they undoubtedly are of major concern. Perhaps I may say to my noble friend Lord Reay that if one wishes to see the effect of the increase in crimes of violence one need only look at the speed of the increase in applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Regrettably, the facts that he gave are one or two years out of date. The rate at which applications are received by the board is steadily increasing and they are substantially more than the figures he mentioned.

As has been said by, I believe, all those who have taken part in this debate, the causes of crime are extremely complex and diverse. Clearly they go far outside the remit of the Home Office as such. I merely make three comments. First, as regards the comments of my noble friend Lord Reay, the real issue is that crime is related to age. The alarming facts about the figures he gave for inner city crime are how much of it is committed by very young people and that the majority of crimes in this country are now committed by 15 year-olds.

Secondly, I am bound to say that I believe the excessive portrayal of violence inevitably leads to an increase in the incidence of violence, if for no other reason than that it reduces the sensitivity of people to the effects of violence, therefore inuring them to it and leading to acceptance of violence as a way of life. My third point takes up what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said about the alarming effect of drugs on the volume of crime. From time to time I sit, as does the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, as a recorder in the criminal courts. The most significant fact is the vast increase in the proportion of normal, run of the mill cases coming before the criminal Crown Courts today which are in some way related to drugs—crimes carried out for the purpose of obtaining money to feed the dependence on or desire for drugs, or crimes committed by people when they are under the influence of drugs.

I turn to the more narrow issue of Home Office sentencing policy. I believe it is accepted that in general terms only 3 per cent., or at the most 7 per cent., of people who commit crimes actually come before the courts to be sentenced. In some way, therefore, the influence of sentencing is small. Clearly the more serious the crime the higher the clear-up rate and the higher is the proportion of people who appear before the courts and who therefore have the likelihood, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said, of being deterred by what the courts do. I believe it is relevant that there has been a significant increase in the average length of sentences, in particular that there has been a substantial increase in sentences of over five years. I believe the cause is that the courts are accurately reflecting both the increase in the volume of serious crime that we are facing and the concern of the people at that volume of crime.

It follows that not only must those who involve themselves in violent and serious crime expect condign punishment, but inevitably that the Government have a duty to provide a prison building programme so that those sentences can be served. I accept what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said and believe that the prison building programme being undertaken by the Government at the moment is essential however tolerant and humanitarian one's views may be on matters of penal policy as a whole.

In the last few minutes perhaps I may take up what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said about the length of sentence that people actually serve in prison. With respect, I remind him and the House that other than those who are sentenced for murder or certain other indeterminate sentences, everyone who goes to prison for a determinate length of sentence, unless he is to die in prison, some day will come back to society. If one is to achieve the protection of society, surely the real issue is to ask what is the best method of returning that person to society that is likely to reduce the possibility of him committing further crime.

As the noble Lord mentioned, I have recently chaired a committee looking at the parole system. We recommended substantial changes in the system. Some of the Press reaction to the report was to suggest that we were in fact proposing that parole should exist for criminals who have committed serious crimes where it does not exist at the moment. The implication was that we were proposing eligibility for parole for those who at the moment were ineligible. Nothing could be further from the point. The eligibility for parole has existed in this country since the introduction of the Parole Act 1969. If one goes further back the eligibility for early conditional release has existed since the time of transportation. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter may be interested to know that at that time anybody sentenced to life imprisonment was automatically released after eight years and given a ticket of leave within Australia. That is a substantially shorter period of time served towards a life sentence than is being served at the moment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt for a moment. Does it not follow from that that though their freedom may not be of benefit to Australia, it caused no harm at all to their fellow subjects in England?

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow

My Lords, to a certain extent the noble Lord is right. The interesting fact is that when transportation ended and people were dealt with under penal servitude in this country, the same concerns began to be expressed as regards prisoners being released at a substantially earlier period than the sentence passed by the court, in exactly the same way as the noble Lord indicated in his speech. The whole matter was looked at by a Select Committee of the other place in I believe the 1860s or the 1890s.

The point I wish to make to the noble Lord—and I support him in what he is saying—is that for many years the sentences passed by the courts and the sentence a person serves actually may mean two different things. In the system of today, any sentence of imprisonment over 12 months means that the person is eligible for parole after a third of the sentence has been completed. Provided that he behaves himself he comes out automatically at the two-thirds' point with the whole of the rest of the sentence remitted. So in fact a sentence of six years means in practice that even if a person does not get parole the sentence continues for only four years.

It is true that when Sir Leon Brittan was Home Secretary he said of the parole system that for those serving more than five years for drug trafficking, sex, arson or violence, he would only give parole either for a few months at the end of the sentence or in exceptional circumstances. That did not remove eligibility for parole. The fact remains that today all people are eligible for parole after a third of their sentence. Of those in the restricted categories 51 per cent. are still getting parole at some stage in their sentences and all of them come out without any control at all, even if they do not get parole, after two-thirds of their sentence.

It is that problem that we tried to address and suggested that instead it would be of greater advantage for the protection of the public that all people serving long terms of imprisonment, whenever they come out and whether they have obtained parole or not, should have some form of supervision on release from prison. The sentence should be given some meaning in that for 100 per cent. of the time of the sentence imposed by the court, even if the person was released at an earlier stage from imprisonment, he stood at risk of being returned to prison to serve the remaining and outstanding period should be commit any offence during that period. What we have said and what I suggest to the noble Lord in fact enhances the protection of the public from serious crime. It is that, rather than have a system where people may be released after serving one-third of the sentence—I concede in practice that no one is released, but it means that an immense amount of work is being done carrying out nugatory reviews in these cases—they are bound to be released after serving two-thirds of the sentence. On being released the worst cases get no supervision at all. A system we recommended was where parole eligibility should continue but not start until 50 per cent. of the sentence had been served, and supervision of those who got parole should go to 75 per cent. rather than 66 per cent. Those who came out at the two-thirds point, if they did not get parole, should still be on supervision for 75 per cent. of the sentence. All should be at risk if they re-offend to 100 per cent. That is a system that gives greater protection to the public.

We said, and we repeat it, that we believed that the principle as it worked at the moment was flawed in practice. We believe that the only serious test for parole when the case was reviewed at 50 per cent., should be whether the person continued to be a risk for committing further serious offences if released. I say to my noble friend that I believe there is concern about the gap that has grown up between the length of sentence passed and what in fact it means in practice. I believe that part of our proposals would help to restore a greater degree of reality to the sentence as a whole.

Finally, I believe that I have been drawn further into talking about the report on parole by the comments made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter who spoke directly ahead of me. I understand it is possible that there may still be a debate on the whole general issue of this matter at another stage. I believe that we are right to express our concern over the issue of serious crime. I suggest to your Lordships' House that, while recognising that those who commit serious offences are bound to go to prison for long periods of time, thought must be given to see how they can most appropriately be released.

5.48 p.m.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Reay for initiating this debate this afternoon, for the enormous amount of research that he has done and for having given us the benefit of it with the up-to-date figures on crime of all kinds in our country. I also wish to thank my noble friend Lord Ferrers for telling us of some of the research that the Home Office has been doing and what it has found. I believe that some of the figures he has given have been worrying and perhaps eye-opening to most of us here in your Lordships' Chamber.

I shall not go over the figures again because several noble Lords have already done so. However, we must realise that the number of crimes of violence is increasing despite all that we are trying to do. On the other hand, the number of crimes against property is falling. Fewer shops are broken into, fewer people lose their cars—perhaps drivers are behaving more carefully at long last—and there are fewer burglaries. What worries me, and the point on which I should like to concentrate on this afternoon, is the fact that the peak age for all crimes of violence committed by both males and females is only 15.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester asked why the age should be 15. He thought that such behaviour might be inherited. That thought had not occurred to me, but obviously that factor is an important one. He also thought that the way young people were brought up might have a bearing on this issue. I suggest that the disadvantages caused by a child being brought up by one parent instead two has a real bearing on the crime rate among young people. I doubt whether noble Lords realise, as I have had to do from various experiences, how much influence a father has on his children. Male guidance and male authority are extremely important. I suggest in the presence of my noble friend Lord Elton that more male teachers should be encouraged to go into schools, even into the pre-preparatory schools. So many children are brought up with no male influence. The on-going problems of children who are deprived of a father whether through divorce or because the mother is unmarried, are incalculable. A mother who brings up one or more children alone has a mammoth task. I do not know whether up-to-date figures would show that children who are brought up without a male figure are more prone to crime in their teenage years, but I suspect that such figures would show that they are.

I was for many years a juvenile court magistrate. I believe that there are enough methods of dealing with young offenders. However, making the punishment fit the crime and the offender is much more difficult. Magistrates should deal severely with habitual young criminals, although—and I have put this on the record before—for a first offence, and if loss of liberty is decided upon by the Bench, I would give a very short sentence indeed. I was especially interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing had to say about the police. I agree with him that we owe a great deal to the police force in this country.

I wish that the Hendon cadet college, which produced so many admirable policemen and encouraged young people in this country, could be re-opened, whether at Hendon or somewhere else. I shall not give the figures because my noble friend has already given them; but I should like to emphasise the fact that police in uniform are special people. They are regarded not with fear, as used to be the case in my young days, but as figures to whom people can go for advice and assistance.

Many crimes are committed by people in possession of offensive weapons. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 covers a wide range of implements which if carried are illegal. I hope that the police will use their powers to stop and search because only by this means will criminals be too frightened to go out in possession of offensive weapons.

The noble Lord, Lord Reay, took the trouble to visit Underground stations and police stations. I reiterate what he said about far too few police officers being on view to the public in the Underground system. I hope that many more people will be asked to come forward and join the force as special constables. People of good will would like, if invited, to come forward and give of their services.

There are reasons why people become criminals. I should like to put one idea before your Lordships. Young people do not become criminals through boredom; but I believe that they are not given enough responsibility by society, by their parents if they have them, by their schools or by the environment in which they live. The other day I heard about a borough estate in London which had been especially clever in dealing with young vandals. It brought the young people together and gave them responsibility for a piece of ground in front of the estate buildings —their homes—or for a piece of the wall near which their homes were built. It was their responsibility to look after that piece of ground or that piece of wall. It became so precious to them that almost overnight the problem of vandalism ceased and a sense of responsibility grew up throughout the estate.

Many London boroughs have empty housing. Those boroughs also have homeless young people, many of whom are unemployed. I should like to suggest that those boroughs bring together the homeless unemployed and give each person a room. They should ask them to decorate the room under supervision and make it habitable. At the end of the day when they have learnt how to hang paper, paint walls and so on, the boroughs should give them those rooms at a low rent. That would encourage responsibility; and I believe very sincerely that that is what young people need. However, whether it will stop violent crime, only the future will tell.

I feel that I must conclude at this point, but there is just one thing I should like to say. The debate so far has been about violence and I have talked only about young offenders. However, I should like to pay a very warm tribute to the thousands of young people who respect the rule of law, who give help and service to the community and who help thereby to make our country a happier place in which to live.

6 p.m.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for initiating the debate. I am especially grateful for the way in which he chose to word the Motion. In the context of the "full range of methods" for dealing with crimes of violence, I should like to draw attention to just one area of research to which I alluded briefly in the debate on food quality and safety on 1st March. I believe that the Home Office is aware of this kind of research and I should be most interested to hear the Minister's view upon it when he speaks at the end of the debate.

Your Lordships may wonder what food quality can have to do with criminal behaviour. The answer apears to be: "more than anyone would have thought likely 15 or 20 years ago". If I start with an obvious example of substances taken into our bodies, there is no difficulty in understanding the effect that drugs can have on behaviour, whether bought from a pusher or prescribed by a doctor. Alcohol can similarly affect conduct.

The phenomenon of hyperactivity in children is now quite well recognised and seems to be on the increase. In this case the child reacts strongly, often violently, to substances in food and drink. Artificial additives are prime culprits but ordinary foods are implicated as well. In an extreme case known to me personally—a lad of 20 years of age who lives just down the road—any contact with wheat, milk or sugar will drive him literally berserk: he beats up his mother, steals and smashes cars, or starts fires. That produces a nightmare situation for the family, where the chances of avoiding prison each time depend upon the magistrates acceptance of the link between diet and criminal behaviour. Fortunately, the connection is usually accepted by the court.

What is interesting about recent research is the link that keeps coming up with the refined, highly processed diet which is so common nowadays in Western society. It is a complicated field, in which it would be wrong to draw hasty conclusions as to whether refined sugar, excessive milk consumption, additives or other dietary factors bear the chief blame. The overall picture seems to show a lack of nutrients in terms of the vitamins and minerals needed for proper brain function; and that is made more serious by the increased absorption of toxic substances from a polluted environment, which is the other side of the coin so far as concerns mental functioning.

In the early days, the quality of the evidence for this effect was not very strong. But since the late 1970s there have been many good studies, mostly in the United States, which have shown a dramatic decline in violent behaviour among prison inmates when given a more natural diet. A 45 per cent. reduction in antisocial behaviour was recorded among prisoners in Alabama on a whole-food regime, while similar trials in Los Angeles produced a 44 per cent. decrease and a city-wide ban on highly processed foods in all juvenile institutions. The most serious offenders showed the most improvement.

A US Department of Justice study showed a significant drop in bad behaviour and recidivism, simply on the removal of dairy products and refined sugar. One particularly interesting study involved 800,000 children in the schools of New York. They were looked at over a four-year period. In the first year, the added sugar in their school meals was greatly reduced; that is, in cereals, jams, ice-cream, and so on. In the second year the synthetic food colourings and flavourings were removed. In the third year there were no changes, and in the final year certain preservatives were removed. Improvements in academic achievement scores accompanied each of the dietary changes, while in the remaining year the scores stayed virtually the same. That was a study which looked at academic performance, but it is all of a piece with the evidence on behaviour. Both involve the action of nutrients and toxins on the brain.

The anecdotal evidence is that behaviour in the New York schools improved as well: also, incidentally, less food was wasted, more childen wanted meals and the healthier diet cost less to produce. All that has momentous implications, if it is substantiated, for food policy, medical research and the administration of justice. Perhaps for that reason the conclusions are being opposed in some quarters with rather more than the usual resistance to new ways of thinking. Besides, I dare say that many of us—if we are honest—feel a little lukewarm towards good advice, especially when it involves eating habits.

It is perfectly true that some of the research in this area has not been well conducted, and that really sound studies are difficult to carry out. But it is equally true that by now a lot of good research is pointing in the same direction and that the case has not been disproved. However, there has been a fair amount of what one can only call debunking research of a pretty poor standard, with accusations of over enthusiasm and extravagant claims which I do not believe stand up against the essentially sober approach of the better workers in the field who have no axe to grind and who, in many cases, started out as thoroughgoing sceptics.

Curiously, the ethics of this approach to criminality have been questioned. It is all right to put people in prison, but it is not all right to change their diet when they are there. That charge has been levelled at the one major study being conducted in this country with a group of severely disturbed 12 year-old to 18 year-old young people in the north of the country. The study is being done with the subjects' agreement, has been vetted by the relevant ethical committees and involves a change to a diet along agreed guidelines for healthy eating, with some extra vitamins thrown in. One wonders what can possibly be the objection to a proposal that cannot do other than benefit those who are taking part, whatever the precise findings about violent behaviour that come out if it.

I shall take up no more time with what is only one aspect of the approach to criminal behaviour. It is interesting—I put it no higher—that the rise in violent crime, as also the rise in degenerative disease, has matched the rise in environmental pollution and the change towards an ever more unnatural diet. As Dr. Schauss, a leading American researcher, puts it: In recognising too much the psychological and socio-economic factors of criminal behaviour, is it possible that we have ignored the possibility that poor health or inadequate nutrition can be significant factors influencing antisocial behaviour? I look forward to hearing from the Minister what views his department holds on the evidence to which I have referred, and I should also like to know the source of his professional advice in such matters. If he is not yet convinced—that is fair enough—what steps would he like to see promoted, perhaps in conjunction with other departments, towards the verification or otherwise of what has been observed in studies so far? It is clear that if what we eat can often affect how we behave, we have at our disposal a means to get at some of the causes, instead of always reacting to symptoms, of disorder in society. It is a means that is cheap and conducive to the general health of the population. That, even if not the whole story, must be a desirable goal.

6.10 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lady Faithfull for allowing me to change places with her. I must apologise to the House for the fact that I shall have to leave before the end of the debate because I have a long-standing engagement.

I especially want to speak in the debate because I want to put forward the problem of women who are often the victims of violent crime, which has dramatic social implications for them. It gives us great cause for concern and creates enormous fear for the women themselves.

Some years ago I was asked to speak to the City Women's Network, an interesting organisation of bright young, mostly executive women, many of whom were in the legal profession. I there met Janice Weston who became a good friend. It was upsetting when I picked up the newspaper and discovered that she had been murdered on the M 1. I am sure that your Lordships remember the case. She pulled up to change the tyre on her motor car, and her body was found there. More recently we have all read about the pregnant woman who went to call for emergency help on the telephone. In that instant, unlike in Janice's case, the criminal has been arrested. No one has yet been arrested for murdering Janice.

It is hard for women to comprehend such circumstances. One always thinks that it is someone one does not know and will never know. When instead one finds that a friend is involved, that is shattering. It is an experience that everyone has at some stage. One comes across someone who has been the victim of a violent crime.

For many older women the fear of violent crime is so great that they have self-imposed curfews. They shut themselves in at night and would not dream of going out. A recent television programme showed that many women, of all ages, will not go out alone at night because their fear is so great. Those are important examples. They have implications for the whole of our society. Many people have turned their homes, be they flats or houses, into small fortresses. We have recently had two terrible deaths. The people could not be saved because the fire brigade could not get in to rescue them. What are people to do? They want to feel secure in their homes and yet they are afraid that a fire may break out. There is a need to develop some type of barrier that a fireman can get through quickly in an emergency but which will still allow people to feel protected in their homes.

The frail elderly are advised never to display a notice in the window saying that they are frail or might be in need of help. That could, in itself, attract the undersirable person who might attack them. In London I have seen home beat police officers, who know where the elderly live, check to see that they are all right. That is reassuring. It provides real help to elderly people who live on their own. There are more elderly single women than men because there is a large proportion of elderly widows.

I heard a case yesterday in an industrial tribunal where a member of the London Transport staff had been attacked. He had defended himself. The case dealt with the extent to which one can defend oneself. The case was interesting. The man was attacked by someone who said that he was a karate expert. He said, "You are dead, man. You are dead." The ticket collector reached for the nearest thing to hand, which happened to be a piece of iron conduit. He did the assailant some damage and lost his job as a result. What is the answer? We were told that in that case the answer was for London Transport—the same presumably applies to other authorities—to give their staff more training on how to deal with that type of aggressive, frightening assailant.

When I was a GLC member, Southgate station was regularly closed because there was such violence and fear for the staff. When the police were called a lot of saw blades, which were sharpened into the most horrible knives that one could ever imagine, were thrown down onto the platform. Those are examples of the problems that people face all the time.

A great deal has been done by the installation of two-way radios on the buses and because the doors can be closed to prevent the bad person getting away. That has been a deterrent. If one can catch a criminal, the next one is deterred.

I had an interesting case in the magistrates' court last week. There was a queue of people waiting for a bus. When the first woman went to get on there was a delay. Whatever she was saying to the bus driver took a long time, and the queue became restless. In the end the woman got on and sat down. Another small, interesting little woman, followed her and sat down at the other end of the same seat. The bus did not go. The driver came back and spoke to the first woman. She refused to answer any questions. The bus driver went away to call on his two-way radio. The second woman said, "Why don't you pay your fare, love, so that we can all get going?" The first woman turned around and clawed the little woman's face to such an extent that she still has the scar. She literally ripped her face open. Of course the case was found proved.

We realised that we should have to ask for social inquiry reports, but the woman's counsel had come already prepared for them. That woman was suffering from paranoia. She believed that everyone on the bus was persecuting her. What sentence could we pass? She had a history of committing repeated violent attacks on other people. Imagine if one happened to be the second little lady in the bus queue and thought one was being helpful, but found one was being attacked in that way. We had a difficult decision to make when considering how to sentence. The psychiatric report recommended no sentence. It said that the woman should be put on probation. However, she had not responded to probation previously. She had not responded to anything. Almost everything had been tried. In the end we gave her a conditional discharge because we felt that we felt that it would be hanging over her head for the following 12 months. If there was a further incident within that 12 months, the two matters could be dealt with together.

People who sit in magistrates' court constantly have to make difficult decisions. What are they to do with the cases that come before them? It is not easy to decide. We need a greater mix of magistrates. My Bench would like a greater representation from the ethnic minorities. It is very difficult to persuade them to apply. If there were more people it would be a help because it would be quite clear that there is a very well-balanced Bench.

The police presence and the home beat officer are also extremely valuable. Many of the cases of violence against women are not external but internal violence in their own families, their own homes and from people whom they know and even love.

I do not intend to comment on the merits of the case which we have all read about in the last couple of days which was of great concern to us. It was of the woman who said that she was afraid to give evidence because she had been threatened with further violence. My experience as a magistrate is that people are very often frightened to give evidence through fear of what will happen afterwards. That is a cause for concern.

The greatest help in dealing with crimes of violence is prevention and we should look at prevention above all else. We heard of the young people to whom my noble friend Lady Macleod referred. How much more are they stimulated and encouraged by the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme or the Operation Raleigh scheme. Any of these and similar schemes using and enthusing the young are much better than any scheme that gives no hope.

There is a real problem for all doctors although it applies more particularly to women doctors in London. There are no-go areas where doctors are frightened to be called out at night and they have to be accompanied by a large dog or a driver and a large dog or they have a two-way radio or anything they can possibly lay their hands on. I speak as a past president of Women in Dentistry. Women dentists are concerned that under the new terms of service they may be obliged to go out at night to treat an emergency case. They are not worried about turning out for the genuine emergency case but it is a hazard that it might be someone with evil intent who calls them out at night. Then when they go to the surgery which is isolated there is no one there and they might face a real problem. There are instances of that which should be looked into in order to find out how to deal with or prevent them.

Too many cases in the magistrates' court at the moment have to be thrown out on the grounds that there is no case to answer. That is because the prosecution has been badly brought: it sometimes does not tie in with the crime of the person accused. I do not know whether it is a temporary blip but that is not good. It is important that if a crime is committed and a case is brought to court it should not be lost due to a mere technicality.

The only remaining point I wish to make is that in the London Metropolitan police there is a most interesting woman police officer whom I have met. She goes into the schools and to the women's groups and similar places to discuss self-help with women. I am not talking about self-help in terms of judo. We all know that one can learn such arts if one happens to have the right abilities, the time and the muscular skills—

Lord Elwyn-Jones


Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, strength perhaps. She is teaching people to stop and think. The girl who was murdered on the train that came into Victoria station was murdered because she got into a carriage that was a closed dog box, as we used to call them. The carriage next door was open style with other people in it and with an escape route. The policewoman explains to women, "Don't pick the bad carriage. Just think a moment and go to the safer one. Don't walk down the badly lit, nasty back alley, go along the bright road with strong lights". Lighting is most important and gives people a great feeling of confidence.

I believe that we should all be alert. As regards the lady whom I described on the bus, one of our questions was, "Did any of the other passengers help you?" The answer was, "No". On a bus full of people no one stopped to help that little woman whose face was being ripped apart. That is something we must become more willing to do. I know that people who have intervened have been killed for doing so but if enough members of the public were prepared to stand up strongly and support the one person being attacked then it would be effective.

We must think about where we go, not taking unnecessary risks, having well lit streets, looking after our own homes and taking precautions to ensure against the casual intruder. I believe that we should be considering these methods of prevention as much as methods of punishing crime.

6.25 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Hadfield, for allowing me to speak, I had exchanged places with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.

Last week in the Library I read about the history of the police. What did I find? That in the 12th century every parish had three constables; they always went around together and there was a curfew two hours after sunset. Everyone had to be inside two hours after sunset and the three constables went round with their lanterns, singing so that everyone could get out of their way. Then the constables would not have to arrest them or do anything about them. I also noticed that every city had great gates; I come from Oxford and every college there has its great gates. They were to protect people from the beggars coming into the town. Violent crime has been around for a long time.

Before making the speech I had intended to give I wish to take up two points with my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Carlisle of Bucklow. Those of us who have had to work in prisons have found that a prisoner under a life sentence with no hope of ever getting out behaves extremely badly. He has no hope. What is the good of behaving well and co-operating? Even if he has a long sentence there is always the hope that a prisoner may be allowed out. I think that if my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter were to speak to many prison officers he would find that they were worried about having to look after men with long prison sentences and no hope of ever getting out.

I agee with my noble friend Lord Carlisle that if prisoners are allowed out it should be under certain conditions. I believe that the best way is to ask one of the many organisations such as the Salvation Army to run hostels where the men may live and to which they must return. If they do not return the sanction is that they will go back to prison.

In my experience, violent crimes fall into three categories. They are: gang warfare; violent crimes committed on the streets or on the Underground, crimes on entering buildings and in the corridors of high rise flats; lastly, by far the greatest number are the violent crimes committed within the circle of the family—domestic crimes.

With regard to gang warfare, yesterday I was speaking to Mr. Dear, the chief constable of the West Midlands police force. He was paying tribute to the police who infiltrate gangs—a very dangerous activity that takes great courage. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, that it takes not only courage but intelligence and I wish to pay tribute to the police who do that work. Gang warfare is very difficult to understand because perfectly respectable people by day may join a gang in the evenings and at weekends. Many of us wonder why that is. Then there are the violent crimes committed in the streets, the Underground and in the corridors of high-rise flats. Those crimes have been mentioned by many noble Lords.

When I was young I lived in the worst part of Birmingham. Strangely enough, the road where I lived was called Summer Lane, although it was anything but summery in its aspect and it certainly was not a lane. The police never went about in ones or twos; they went about only in threes. The police who were on duty in the evenings or at night went about in threes. I only mention that because the atmosphere the police are able to create, even when they are doing nothing but strolling around is quite incredible.

On the matter of domestic crimes, I want to ask my noble friend the Minister—I must apologise for not having given him notice of this matter—about the splendid research unit of the Home Office. The graphs and figures produced by that unit are quite outstanding. But does the research unit ever analyse the people who are found guilty of violent crime, whether it be violent crime caused by gangs, crime in the corridors of flats or crime in domestic circles? Is it possible to analyse the case history of the various different crimes committed so that one could develop knowledge and research data as to the type of people who commit crimes: We could then work out ways to deal with them.

In a debate on 23rd April 1986, the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, reported that there was a shortfall of 2,000 police and that it was intended to spend £2 million to remedy that. We should pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government that that has now been achieved, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, revealed.

Inevitably, I must turn to the question of children and young persons. A child is considered to be a child up to the 16th birthday. He is considered to be a young person from the age of 17 to 18. Young persons who come before a court and receive a sentence are sent to a place which now has a most horrible name—it is called a young offenders institution. Such places used to be called youth custody centres. Those centres provide a minimum three-week sentence and a maximum one-year sentence. The institutions are provided for boys aged 14 to 20 and for girls aged 15 to 20.

My next point has already been mentioned in this debate. However, I must repeat that the peak age of crime for young people is 15 years. However, it is important to note that that crime does not refer to violent crime. The age of 15 is the peak age for general crime. After discharge from a youth custody centre, young people show no benefit from their stay in the centre. No less than 80 per cent. of them commit a further crime within two years of discharge. So I must ask whether we are really spending our money in the right way. Is this method of detention cost effective?

In the debate three years ago, we were told by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who was the Minister at the time, that a unit was set up at the Home Office which involved, I believe, 12 other departments. That unit was set up to discuss mutual policy across the board in order to see how every department could contribute to a diminution of crime.

At the moment an extraordinary thing is happening. As a result of rate-capping and the fall in expenditure of local authorities, the child and young person service provided by local authorities has been diminished. Local authorities have reported to them by schools children who are giving a great deal of trouble in school. Under the education legislation and under the recommendations of the Warnock Committee, children with special difficulties, whether physical or mental, are supposed to be kept, if possible, in their own homes and in their own communities. However, some children really need specialised help from specialised staff in specialised places.

The position now, as a result of rate-capping and lack of money on the part of local authorities, is that local education authorities are not sending those children and young persons to the specialised places where they need to go. Most of those places are in voluntary homes. Very good voluntary homes exist where the numbers of occupants are falling. Children who need a particular skilled kind of help are not receiving it and are getting into trouble. They provide particularly difficult trouble in schools. They then come before the courts and get sent to a youth custody centre.

How is it that the unit at the Home Office, consisting of 12 different departments, has not discovered that one department is, so to speak, offering a service while another department is not taking the benefit of that? However, it would be only fair to mention a specific case. There is at Benson near Wallingford in Oxfordshire a place called Turners Court. That place has a farm, engineering rooms, art rooms and music rooms. However, the numbers attending that institution have fallen so gravely that a change of use is now being considered or a possible closure. Meanwhile, Huntercombe youth custody centre up the road from Turners Court is so full that it is overflowing. The boys at Huntercombe do not enjoy the benefits offered by Turners Court. The boys at Huntercombe are receiving a training, but it is a short one and it is not the same type of training as can be offered at Turners Court. Of the children who leave Huntercombe 80 per cent. reoffend within two years.

Is it not possible for the departments to get together so there is an overall policy for all young people? As has been said, the peak age for general crime among young people is 15. Turners Court is a magnificent place and offers a service which cannot be given because the local authority is not willing to pay for it. Therefore boys are being sent to Huntercombe. Further, a survey has been carried out of the boys at Huntercombe which revealed that 30 of them could be dealt with in another way. The Children Bill is before the House of Lords. I hope that that Bill will help in this regard. Nevertheless, I think we should take an overall look through all the departments to see how we are looking after our young people.

Last week I was invited by the West Yorkshire police to a conference at the police training centre near Preston. The conference concerned the police and education. The conference was extremely interesting. It concerned the ways in which the police could best help the school liaison service by going into schools. The police are developing very great skills in going into schools. They are also developing that fine balance of friendliness with children but also authority over them. The children welcome them and are pleased to see them. I believe it is important that the police who go into the schools should get to know the parents and that the parents should come and meet the police. In that way children develop a feeling of security, trust and belief in the police. But here again we are up against the problem of resources. If there are to be more resources for the police, I plead that they should go to the police liaison education service.

We spend an enormous amount of money on our prisons and on dealing with adult crime. I believe that if we invested more money, more care, more thought and more planning in our child care services and young people, we would do the country an inestimable good.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Hadfield

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Reay for his hard work and research in preparing an excellent opening address and for raising this very important subject. In the 13 speeches we have so far heard we have been advised that much good is being done and that it is very important that violence and the spread of evil should be resisted and cured. I do not want to repeat those points. Instead I should like to put a new idea to the House.

It was thought impossible to put men on the moon. Through brains, initiative and research the Americans succeeded in putting men on the moon. I suggest that our Government should approach the American Government and that the two governments should then invite the good countries of the world to form a working party to find a solution. I am sure that that could be achieved using the same principles which enabled men to go to the moon. My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said that violence and the spread of evil are just as bad in other parts of the world as they are here and that in many parts they are worse. I hope that this new idea can be given consideration and taken on board.

6.42 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, at so late a stage in such a fascinating debate I almost hesitate to contribute because so much of merit has been said that there is little new to say. However, I have a particular perspective and I think it worth spending a moment to focus on my principal interest in the debate, which concerns young people.

My interest is not accidental. Apart from having been a teacher and a Minister responsible for young offenders and for the prison service, I recently chaired an inquiry into discipline in schools—not into violence, or violence outside schools. All those experiences have emphasised for me one or two simple matters. I think that it is worth reminding your Lordships of them. They will not have the dramatic results of the initiative proposed by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Hadfield of some great international psychological conference but I believe that they lie at the root of the problem.

The whole of my experience, in a life which has on the whole recognised and made use of a firm framework of discipline as a necessary part of human endeavour, has emphasised for me the importance of the other side of that equation. The equation should be not just firmness, but firmness and affection. A great deal of the problem which your Lordships are considering this evening has its origins not five minutes before it happens, nor five months or even five years before it happens, but at the beginning of life. We have discussed what is done in terms of the deployment of skill and resources to protect citizens against crime in the place and at the time it happens, and I genuinely congratulate my noble friend the Minister on all that he has contributed on behalf of the Government. How much more effective would be a policy which was able to have its effect in the place and at the time when the person concerned began to be a criminal.

It is very clear to me, in part as a result of my inquiry, that a framework of rules is a necessary part of life at all stages and a most necessary part of life at its beginnings. A child needs a framework of reference in which to establish its own standards of conduct and the standards by which it judges and perceives the whole of life as it moves through it. That framework needs to be predictable and understood and it needs to be predictably and understandably enforced, in the nursery as well as in the classroom. I echo my noble friend Lady Macleod's concern with those matters. If a child does not receive understanding, patience and affection as well as discipline in the earliest days of its life it will bring into the education system a handicap which will also be a handicap to its school.

It is not easy to say how this could be established thoughout a whole community, but I believe that my noble friend was right to tell the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester that there is no correlation between unemployment and criminality. I looked with diligence for such a correlation when I was doing my noble friend's job. I can endorse the fact that it does not exist. However, I think that one could find a correlation between the level of stable marriages or other arrangements in the communities where most offenders are to be found and the number of offenders. The startling figures which my noble friend Lord Reay produced at the beginning of the debate would be susceptible of such an analysis. Therefore there is a social dimension, which I cannot now address but which falls into the province of the right reverend Prelate as much as into the province of other noble Lords. That social dimension relates to the moral aspects of criminality and—as my noble friend Lord Ferrers put it—the attitudes which form round criminality and determine whether a community supports or resists it.

I shall not dilate on my report—which I hope will be in the Printed Paper Office tomorrow although it should have been today—but shall ask what ought to happen when things have gone wrong and crime has not been prevented in childhood but has been embarked on in youth.

I pause in that journey to point out the very alarming correlation that can be made between the figures given by my noble friend Lord Reay and those referred to by my noble friend Lord Carlisle. In a community in which a very large proportion of the people are offenders and in which there is an age band which includes a very large percentage of criminals, a stream of young people will go through a formative experience in which criminality is the norm and lawful behaviour is eccentric. The larger the proportion of that population becomes, the more dangerous is the threat posed to the stability of society as a whole. If criminality becomes the law and lawfulness becomes eccentricity, black and white are turned upside down in terms of morality and social behaviour and chaos results. That is a real problem which needs urgent attention.

What do we do with the individual cases? We throw them into institutions. If I am right, as I believe I am, in thinking that behind a great many of those cases lies a deprivation in youth which amounts to having been denied the experience of the affectionate concern of an adult in authority while engaged in organised activity with rules, that lack is not remedied by sending the individual to the kind of institution such offenders are normally sent to.

I therefore revert now to a theme with which your Lordships have been wearied by me before, and will be again. It chimes in with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said about recidivism: that it is far better to divert people from custody than it is to put them into custody, because once they are in custody they are far more likely to reoffend then they are if you can treat them in some other way, if it is appropriate.

I can assure my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter that I am not saying nobody should go to prison; nor am I saying that no one should serve a long sentence. What I am saying is that by sending someone to prison early in their life you are making it exceedingly likely that they will go back there quite soon and that somebody else will suffer as a consequence. Therefore I would urge on my noble friend the Minister once more the virtues of intermediate treatment, which means the engagement of young people under contract to the court—and the contract results in imprisonment if it is broken—to carry out some constructive operation under adult supervision in a caring situation. The result of that is a lower rate of recidivism and a greater rate of reclaim at far less expense. That must call upon my noble friend's official ear as I know the rest of what I say falls on his humanitarian ear.

There is always an administrative aspect to questions like this. I hope that my noble friend will address the problem which I saw in my time as a Minister: that is, that if things have not changed, the money which pays for intermediate treatment which in turn keeps people out of prison comes through a different department from the source which pays for the prisons. That department is relieved of clients by the use of intermediate treatment. In other words, there is no financial incentive that I can see for the Home Office to promote intermediate treatment, because that is paid for by somebody else's Vote. I hope that my noble friend will address that.

I think the greatest merit of a speech at this time of night is brevity. I therefore conclude by saying once more that I believe we must have a balance. I am by nature a fairly fierce disciplinarian and I do not believe that discipline works unless it is fairly operated by people who have the interests of the subject of the discipline close at heart. I therefore commend to your Lordships what I hope is the interesting report of my committee, which has this at its heart. But, much more, it even looks at the question which the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches put before us about diet. I am afraid we were not as enthusiastic as he was and we were not persuaded; but we were persuaded sufficiently to recommend the Government to monitor the scientific research to which he referred. I am now in danger of riding a hobby-horse. I have said what I want to say, and I shall sit down.

6.53 p.m.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, it gives me a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and indeed to reflect on the statistics presented to us by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, earlier, that the ratio of prisoners to prison officers was 2.6. I think I have recollected that correctly. As he was speaking I wondered what the ratio was in some of those schools in the inner cities where we have these great problems with 15 year-olds in the classrooms and the teachers. It would be very much higher there than in the prisons. I therefore wondered, as I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, whether we are spending our money at the wrong end.

On the other hand, we all know, through the statistics which have been presented to us in this wide-ranging debate, that we have an enormous problem at the present time. We all know about the rise in the incidence of crimes of violence and the nature of that violence—for example, how it is gravitating these days to the Underground railway system and so on. All these things show us that we have an immense problem on our hands at the present time. What is more, I think it is going to become infinitely worse. I say with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who thought that with their skill and knowledge the Americans could devise a system that would provide a panacea to cure these ills immediately, that they do not seem to have done so in their own country. The incidence of crime there is very much higher and the incidence of violence is also much higher. If there is fear of violence here—and there certainly is—then the fear of violence in the United States, from which I returned a week ago, is infinitely higher. We are following them in so many respects that it seems to me inevitable that we are going to have more and more violence on our hands.

What are we to do about it? I have attended debates of this kind, as have the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, together with many other noble Lords, not only in your Lordships' House but in the other place over many years; and one could have repeated some of the speeches we have heard today. Violence has always been a great problem, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, rightly said: it was so in the 13th century. But today it has reached an unacceptable level for our society. The great problem with debates of this kind today, when we rehearse various different views and so on, is that we do not succeed in bringing them together. For example, the diversity of view between the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is enormous. Obviously they both sincerely have an attitude and an approach to this subject which differ to a vast degree.

However, I think that today the problem has become so great and the theories about it are so numerous. For example, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle—and here I may differ from many members of my party for all I know—that the influence of the television set and the amount of violence shown on it is bound to have a devastating effect. We all agree that environment is an important influence on us today, and today the most important environmental factor in many homes, regrettably, is the television set. What it does is to lower the threshold. It makes people acquainted with violence and it makes it become accepted as normality. In good homes there is of course a countervailing influence, as there is in good schools; but if that countervailing influence is not there then the influence of the violence shown on television is pretty enormous.

That is a view which I happen to share with the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, but I would go on to suggest that at this juncture there must be a great deal to be said for a Royal Commission to look at this. I know it is very often said that a Royal Commission delays the question; it shelves it for three or four years, and of course these are problems which cannot be shelved. It seems to me that with the lowering of the age to 15 as the prime age now of committing crime—for crimes of violence I think it is much more likely to be something like 19—the problem is becoming increasingly urgent.

The noble Lord, Lord Reay, in his speech referred specifically to a sub-culture, and he may be right about that to a degree. I was recently in the West Indies and discussed some of the problems they had there in regard to crime. I have discussed the same question with youths in this country who have a West Indian background and with the parents. Their parents have said to me that we have here a much freer society and a more permissive society than they were used to at home. They said that their children sometimes reacted against their own parents within the West Indian community. If they are unemployed—and unemployment, plus the lack of educational facilities, is a factor in these matters—such things ought to be explored. We have often heard in this House that education is expensive. We should be reflecting today on the cost of ignorance, because so many of these people who resort to crimes of violence are incredibly ignorant, in my general experience of them. There are of course differences in that there are those who enter into calculated violence and there is the violence that goes over the top in a domestic situation. I do not want to comment on the red herring introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, but I could disagree with him. He suggested that, whatever the sentence, it should be served. Recently to my astonishment I was prosecuting in a murder case where a very bright young man pleaded guilty to murder. He was taking a realistic and responsible view of what he had done. I took the view that he might have had a run on provocation. I do not know what the eventual recommendation would be in that man's case, but it seems miles away from the murder that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, had in mind. It is therefore dangerous to generalise about these matters.

I suggest that we have reached the stage when a Royal Commission should look at the whole problem. What are the increased causes of crime among young people in the country? What is the influence of television? What, for example, are the effects of the different ethnic backgrounds and the reaction against them? I think that it is the reaction against them that the noble Lord, Lord Reay, had particularly in mind. What is the relationship of unemployment to crime, not only in inner London but in other cities where the ethnic minorities are very much smaller?

A great deal of research has been done. We should be careful before we enter upon a programme of fatalistic acceptance and simply spend more money on the police and on prisons. One of the greatest faults in the country today is that when a youngster is matriculating in crime we send him to a university of crime so that he can graduate there, because that is what many prisons have become. We should bear in mind the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and wonder whether we are spending most of the money at the right end.

I have seen a great deal of crime in my life. I come from an area where there is very little crime. I was brought up and have always lived in a rural area. Except for the odd sheep stealing there is virtually no crime because everyone is part of the community and discipline is imposed, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, would have it, with affection.

I should have thought that at the root of crimes of violence and the increase in them are young people who feel dissociated from society. They do not feel an affection for it, they do not feel assimilated by it and they are all affected by it in this way. I have lived too long to think that I know the simple answer to this. I do not. There is surely a strong case now for a broad Royal Commission to look anew at the whole problem and to co-ordinate and correlate what is known so far and bring forward recommendations which Parliament can consider.

7.3 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, although it seems a long time since the noble Lord, Lord Reay, introduced the debate, may I say how interesting I found his speech and the statistics that he gave. Although the statistics about the rate of crime among the ethnic minorities were correct, I regret that he did not underline the importance of integrating these communities within our community by way of greater job opportunities, better housing and so on. However, I was happy that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester did so in his speech.

We on this side were very encouraged by the content and indeed the tone of the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, which showed a large measure of goodwill and genuine concern about the problems. If I may say so, I think that he avoided the unequivocal truth that nothing has happened in recent years to improve the situation in crime in general; in fact, rather the reverse has happened. The most significant statistics and the only ones I wish to quote are those showing on the one hand that the number of crimes against the person rose from 95,000 in 1979 to the quite alarming level of 153,500 in September 1988, and, on the other hand, a substantial increase in the length of prison sentences in the last five or six years.

My noble friend Lord Longford has drawn attention to the fact that the Home Secretary has intervened to set higher tariffs than those recommended by the trial judge in no fewer than 63 cases out of 106 murder cases. Although this may come as something of a relief to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, it caused a shock to members of the Select Committee on Murder and Life Imprisonment on which I have the privilege to serve. When one puts the two sets of figures—those of increased crime and those of higher sentences—one against the other, the only logical conclusion to draw is that longer sentences do not deter. The Minister of State at the Home Office in another place can only be disappointed in the hope he expressed last year that increasingly savage sentences would act as a yellow card for anyone tempted to commit a violent crime. I fear that this is not the case. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, made an important point about the difficulty of dealing with life prisoners in prison if they have no possible hope in front of them.

International comparisons are also significant. They show first, as is well known, that we imprison people for longer than any other EC country. Secondly, we have more community service orders. Thirdly, the recorded level of crime involving personal violence in England and Wales is slightly lower than that of most of our European neighbours. My noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones gave a good example of how Germany is managing to decrease the number of offenders and has halted prison building. That is much to be admired.

I wish to say a few words about some of the different forms that violence takes. I was very struck by Home Office research study No. 89, which showed that as many as half the offences of homicide are committed during quarrels and bouts of temper. That is a high proportion, and it is an area in which more preventive action could be employed. As a start, it is a fact that excessive drinking plays a big part in violent crimes. Knowing this, I can only agree with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said. It seems unwise of the Chancellor not to have increased duty on alcohol which in itself would have made government concern about excessive drinking clear. I know that many organisations concerned with alcohol are very upset that this did not happen.

We believe that the services for people with alcoholic problems should be increased. These services are given by Alcohol Concern, the Broadway Foundation and many others. We believe that preventive measures should be increased in respect of city centre violence when pubs and clubs close—a time when there is a great deal of violence and also violence that occurs on public transport and as well as football hooliganism. In that regard we should like to see improved co-operation between police, local authorities and the licensees of public houses to co-ordinate crime prevention measures rather than responding to individual instances on a one-off basis, as now happens. We see a need for increasing police supervision of premises and public houses at closing time. In some instances we feel that if conditions are imposed on premises that have a record of disorder their licences should be removed. There is another very important point. The big brewers are doing very well out of the lager lout. It is also true to say that teenagers have become the targets for advertising and that advertising rules are very often flouted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, spoke about violence on public transport. I was going to do so. I shall only stress the need for improved protection for drivers—which is what she was urging—for improved staff training in dealing with difficulties on public transport, and for an increased number of transport police.

To move to the serious question of racial attacks, there is growing evidence that racially motivated attacks take place frequently and that the number is increasing. Housing estates are a particular focus for such attacks. Many Asian families living on such estates are in a state of constant fear. Reports by NACRO's race issues advisory committee recommend that police should encourage the reporting of racial attacks and thereby increase the racial minority's confidence that some action will be taken. At the present time I do not think that they have such confidence.

I believe also that local authorities, as the bodies responsible for council estates, have a major responsibility for preventing racial attacks. For example, they could include a clause in tenancy agreements making racial harassment a ground for eviction. They would ensure that this was enforced. They could be prepared to rehouse families who have suffered racial harassment.

The noble Baroness spoke of the safety of women. This is a particularly important point: it is women who suffer most from violent attacks. I agree that self-defence classes are of great importance to women and that advice and support facilities for women known to be in deteriorating domestic circumstances should be provided by local authorities.

In general we believe very strongly that policies should be directed towards putting much more money into the environmental aspects of crime prevention, such as better street lighting, better public transport and a greater role far local authorities. Not only would sch steps prevent the devastating and lasting effect that violent attacks have on the individual but they would also provide better value for money and be much more effective in reducing crime.

The cause of crime has been frequently touched upon. I have stressed the effect that drink has on crime. I can point to two causes, or perhaps irritants, stemming from government policies. First, the social security changes reduce the benefit entitlement of teenagers. Then there are the cuts in social security payments to hostel residents which I fear can only push young people towards the temptation of theft and crime.

I reaffirm that the responsibility, not only of the television services but of the tabloid press, in providing motivation for violence is most important. It is all very well to set up an independent inquiry under Mr. Michael Grade into fear of crime. This is to be welcomed. On the other hand it is a great pity that the Daily Mail and other tabloids do so much to promote fear through sensationalised reporting. I am glad that the noble Earl in his speech said as much.

I agree strongly with the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, does not. I took an interest in research regarding diet that leads to crime. I was very convinced. Unfortunately I was also convinced that the sugar industry was not quite as keen as I was on the research continuing.

We all start from the same premise with regard to the overriding need of protecting the community. This is where the necessity of bringing down the reconviction rate which, as my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones said, is just under 60 per cent. in the first two years of liberation, is so important.

Perhaps I may put forward one idea for improving regimes. It is regarding prisoners' pay. Has the Minister read the interesting report from the Prison Reform Trust which presents the case for increasing prisoners' pay which now stands as low as an average of £2.38 per week? That is lower than any of our neighbouring countries. The Prison Reform Trust argues that if it were raised to, say, £8.25—which is a personal expense element in income support—this would fulfil some important objectives. First, such an increase would remove a major source of discontent within prisons. Secondly, it would enable prisoners to contribute better towards victims' compensation. Thirdly, the experience of working would enable them to cope better on release from prison. I believe that the idea is worthy of consideration by the Government.

Lastly, perhaps I may comment on the reference in the Motion support for an effective police force. I believe that the Government have already put emphasis on the police in their law and order budget. Indeed, this budget spirals upwards almost at the same rate as the crime rate. The Minister said that in the last decade the increase has been 52 per cent. Surely the support that the police now need is through investment in crime prevention, as I have described, and in methods which are instrumental in providing evidence to make convictions of criminals possible. I should like to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient resources for the Home Office forensic science service. These resources, I understand, are thought at the moment to be inadequate. Also, the fingerprint service is said by the Audit Commission to be underfunded. Surely these two vital instruments for identifying the criminal should never be ignored.

I hope that the Government will take note of the important points that have been made during the debate. Many speakers have made it clear that the Government's penal policies should take a slightly different direction. There is need to adopt a more imaginative approach so that crime is put in the perspective of policies as a whole and the causes of crime tackled rather than just the symptoms. Most importantly, the Government should consider more seriously the probability that civilisation would be better protected by an approach which is less dependent on lengthy prison incarcerations.

7.19 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, as I thought would be the case, we have had a most interesting debate. Your Lordships have endeavoured to contribute your views on a subject which concerns us all. When the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that he did not know the answer, with his experience of the criminal law, I can understand that very few of us think that we know the answer. He suggested that a Royal Commission might provide the answer. I rather fear that the Royal Commission may find the same problems as most other people have. I do not believe that there is a simple answer to this. We have to try constantly to seek a solution to it in what is after all a changing scene.

I was glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, said that the police need support. They do. Thoughout the debate this afternoon there has been the feeling that the police need support. The noble Baroness referred specifically to the forensic science service and asked whether it had been given adequate support. A great deal of thought has been given to it, including an enhanced programme, and more staff are on the way.

Almost all noble Lords have said that violent crime is something which concerns us all and that sense of personal involvement has been very much to the fore in all the speeches. Some noble Lords have spoken about what might be called the roots of criminality—what is it that induces some people to behave in a way that seems anti-social to the rest of us, malicious or just plain evil? Some of your Lordships have concentrated on more strictly practical matters and some people have been concerned about what we do with the criminals when they have been apprehended, and asked whether it was right to keep them in prison. All the speeches this afternoon raise a multitude of questions. The best thing I can do is to try to respond to some of them. Inevitably that will not be true for all of them.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, was concerned about the high prison population. He wondered whether the sentencing policy was too harsh. There is a wide range of factors which influence a violent offender and lead him to decide whether or not to commit crimes on his release from prison. The prison system can only make a limited contribution to reducing crime, but this does not mean that nothing can be done during a prison sentence. For example, specialist help and guidance is available from medical people, such as psychological help, and education and chaplaincy services are all available. But it is important that life inside the prison should be purposeful and should do all that is possible, given the facts of custody, to prepare the prisoner for life outside. I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Carlisle of Bucklow who said that one thing is certain: unless a prisoner dies in prison he has to come out again into life. Therefore what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester said was very true, that a prison sentence must be both reformative and curtailing. It is a difficult balance to reach and many of your Lordships think that it should be different from what happens at present.

The report of my noble friend Lord Carlisle has indicated some alterations in that direction which could be made. We are in the process of considering his report and shall give our considered response to it later. The statement on the purpose of the prison service which has been issued by the prison service management to all staff is one of the means by which the approach is being carried forward. It states that it is the duty of the prison service to look after prisoners with humanity and to help them to lead law abiding and useful lives.

It is difficult. Those who commit serious violent offences have to go to prison and many will stay there for a long time. The courts are punishing crime more severely. That upset the noble Earl, Lord Longford. He did not think that it was a good thing. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said, I think in a moment of aberration, that I took credit for that. The Government do not take the credit and I did not wish to infer it. Whether sentencing policy results in higher sentences is a matter for the courts and not for the Government. My noble friend knows that very well. My noble friend referred to the subject of his Question the other day about somebody who had been allowed out of prison and committed another horrific offence. I must reiterate to him and I am sure he realises this, that it is a fact of legal life that a person in prison is entitled to a remission. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter did not like that. But the fact is that if a person does not offend in such a way as to lose his remission, he is entitled to that remission and there is nothing that the Government or the prison service can do to avoid that person having his remission.

My noble friend may think that that ought to be different, but that is how the law stands at present. If no remission were ever given, if that were the scenario, what hope is there for an individual in prison? What encouragement is there for him to behave in anything other than an evil and a bad way? There must be a carrot.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, my noble friend recalls the case when, as the result of what he described as the effect of the regulations, a man was released who under the judge's sentence would have been in prison for another two and three-quarter years. As a result of that a married woman was murdered and her husband widowed. All I suggested on that occasion and I still suggest is that regulations which can have that effect in the case of someone who was then known to be a very dangerous man should at least merit reconsideration.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I see my noble friend's point, but as I tried to tell him at the time he put the Question down, his criticism is not so much over the regulations but the fact that in his view the sentence should have been longer. He who gave the sentence knew perfectly well that the length of sentence given would include a certain period of time for remission. My noble friend is perfectly entitled to believe that if he had been the judge he might have given a different sentence.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, my noble friend really cannot get away with that. The point I put to him the other day and put to him again was that what operated and caused this release and therefore the death of an innocent woman were certain regulations made by the Government under a previous Act. All that I asked was that after that illustration of the effect of those regulations and in those circumstances the Government should at least reconsider the regulations.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend has made his point. I shall not pursue it any further, otherwise your Lordships will be denied the disagreeable experience of having me answer some more of your questions, but I shall do my best.

My noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Carlisle made many interesting points about the length of sentences served. At present we are considering the report of my noble friend Lord Carlisle's committee and, as I have said, we shall be giving a response to that in due course.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, was concerned about violent crime, as were many of your Lordships. The tougher maximum penalties for violent offences is not the Government's only response to violent crime. Other measures include increases in police manpower, the targeting of high crime areas by the police, measures to deal with alcohol-related disorders, research and crime prevention and the crime prevention publicity campaign and its accompanying booklet providing advice on precautions to take. There are a number of ways in which the Government are trying to ensure that violent crime is dealt with.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to drugs and the problems associated with drugs. Violent crime associated with drug trafficking seems to be unusual and nothing like on the same scale as appears to be the case in the United States. There is likewise little evidence of actual violence occurring as a result of drug trafficking. But a number of research studies have nevertheless identified links between the misuse of drugs and certain types of acquisitive crime. Most of this drug-related crime appears to be non-violent, being in the main burglary or petty theft, such as shoplifting, designed to fund the purchase of illicit drugs. That does not mean to say that I underestimate one little bit the problem of drugs and the likelihood that they might become an increased problem.

In order to deter would-be drug traffickers the maximum penalty for dealing in drugs such as heroin and cocaine has been increased from 14 years to life imprisonment. I dare say that that will disturb the noble Earl, Lord Longford, but perhaps it will encourage my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Since the Drug Trafficking Offences Act came into force in January 1987 over £10 million in assets has been frozen and £2.5 million has been confiscated, including £450,000 in one case earlier this year. We are now making reciprocal agreements with other countries to make the powers of the Act even more effective. The first such agreement wilt the United State; was signed in February.

Although in this country there is no evidence of the so-called "designer drugs" which have caused concern in the United States, we have already extended the controls of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to the substances which pose the main threat. Their manufacture or trafficking now attract the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, who told me that he was unable to stay in the House this evening, referred to the figures for armed robbery. During the 12 months to the end of September, 1988, the incidence of robbery fell by almost 1 per cent. I commend to the noble Lord and others the crime figures for 1988 which are due to be published tomorrow. I do not propose to spoil your Lordships' enjoyment of reading them by divulging their contents now.

My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes said that witnesses are frightened to give evidence, particularly women, and that one must think carefully about where one goes. She is right in saying that many people feel frightened and in doing so she emphasised an important point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, referred to racial attacks. The Government particularly deplore racially motivated violence which causes distress not only to the victim but to the whole community. Racially motivated attacks and harassment are intolerable in any civilised society and the Government and the police are committed to rooting it out.

My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing referred to the recruitment of graduates. The standards applied to graduate entry into the police are deliberately high and that accounts for the small number of successful candidates as compared with applicants. It is open to unsuccessful applicants for the graduate entry scheme to apply under the standard scheme and many do so. If they are bright enough to pass the sergeant's examination before the age of .30, they will be eligible for consideration for the special course at Bramshill which is designed for officers destined for early promotion to senior rank.

A number of noble Lords referred to special constables, including my noble friends Lord Orr-Ewing and Lady Macleod and the noble Lord, Lord Harris. There is no national advertising campaign for the recruitment of special constables because experience has shown that local recruitment campaigns are more efficient. Forces can capitalise on local events and personal contacts and use of the local media is more cost-effective. However, the Crime Prevention Handbook, which I mentioned earlier this afternoon and which has a wide distribution, contains brief advice on how members of the public can apply to join the special constabulary.

I wish to make clear the fact that we should like to see an increase in the number of special constables. Recently the noble Lord, Lord Harris, gave me a roasting—and he did so again today—because he believes that the Government are vacillating over the issue. It is not a question of vacillating; we wish to see the number of special constables increased. However, as I recently explained, one cannot force a person to become a volunteer, especially when he is unpaid. One of the reasons why people enter the police force is that they are paid. There is a difficulty but I hope that, after reading in Hansard what I have said, the noble Lord will digest the thought in a way in which he has not yet done.

My noble friend, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred to a national police force. His was a thought-provoking idea and he gave reasons for believing that it would be good. However, bigger is not normally best. There are difficulties because criminals can now move about the country so quickly. Drug trafficking is both a national and international crime and people can quickly fly from one end of the country to the other or use the motorways. Criminals cross the boundaries of different police forces. I understand my noble friend's remark that it appears to be unnecessary to have 40 police forces. However, I ask him to bear in mind that the basis of our police force is that it is part of the local community. The tripartite arrangement, whereby policing is carried out with the chief officer of police, the local authority and the Government financing it, is inherent in the way in which the police structure is drawn up. To alter that and introduce a national police force would be likely to break the tendons which hold the police forces to their localities. I accept that there are matters of substance raised by my noble friend and others which need constant care and investigation.

My noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Orr-Ewing referred to the advantage of establishing a special officer cadre as there used to be at Hendon. That suggestion was tried but, for various reason, was found to be unsuccessful. Both my noble friends know that the suggestion does not find favour with the police force. Therefore, if the Government made those enormous alterations—that is, introduce a national police force and a new special officer cadre at Hendon—they would be upheaving the whole of the police system as it now exists. It may be necessary and desirable but at a time when we are going through many difficulties there is something to be said for having a certain amount of stability. In saying that I do not deny the advantages put forward by my noble friends in trying to obtain a force of senior police officers as highly and efficiently equipped as possible in order to undertake the problems of policing now and in the future.

The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, made a most interesting speech on diet. He said that what we eat affects what we do. It struck a chord with me because I once tabled a Motion for debate which was described as being "to call attention to the effect of chemicals on the human environment". I had done an enormous amount of preparation but was then sucked back into Government and the debate on my Motion never took place. When the noble Earl raised the issue I found it most interesting.

People are worried about the chemicals which they ingest and it is curious that we should often find ourselves more affected by the food which we ingest. People's reactions are different to various types of food. What is acceptable to one person may have an adverse affect on another. The subject introduced by the noble Earl taps on the fringe of science and knowledge about which many people are sceptical. I believe that a great deal more research must be carried out and I have an idea that it will produce interesting results. I can tell the noble Earl that I understand it is proposed to test the hypothesis regarding reducing the marginal malnutrition by means of a low sucrose diet and/or vitamin or mineral supplements. A controlled trial is to be conducted at Aycliffe community school under the supervision of the school's principal, who is an experienced research worker. We shall look forward to that with interest.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull asked whether the research unit at the Home Office evaluates people who commit crime, and their history. A great deal of research is done in that area of crime, although not necessarily on that precise subject. I shall read my noble friend's speech again and if there is a point of substance on research to which she referred and which I can answer, I shall contact her. If, on the other hand, she feels that there is a specific answer which she would like, perhaps she will contact me.

She was concerned that Ministries should get together and provide a place for young people. The departments work together in many ways to help young people. I know that this is an area about which my noble friend is very concerned and I shall be happy to look at any particular problems which she has in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that if we can land a man on the moon, we can beat crime. I am not quite sure that I go along with that, but clearly there must be a great deal of international co-operation and we have that.

My noble friend Lord Elton said, in a most thought provoking speech, that crime starts at the beginning of life and that family life is at the foundation of society. I sometimes think that people say to children and, indeed, to themselves, "It is my life. I can do what I like with it". However, what people do with their lives affects others. It affects children, friends and families. Sometimes people forget that. My noble friend said that if criminality becomes the norm and lawfulness becomes eccentricity, black becomes white and you turn your values upside down. I thought that was a graphic description and one which is very true, because once one's values are turned upside down one's sensitivities become capsized and dulled and nobody knows what is right or wrong.

I recall listening to a sermon 20 years ago given by a parson who was not particularly gifted in the pulpit. He said that what will destroy this world is not the atom bomb or the hydrogen bomb but the inability to discern between right and wrong. I believe that that may have quite an effect on a number of people who eventually find their way into crime.

This has been a rewarding debate on a highly important subject and many of your Lordships have made contributions which I know that my department and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will consider with interest. I should like to conclude with the thought left in our minds by my noble friend Lady Macleod when she said that she would like to pay tribute to the many thousands of young people who contribute to society by helping people and looking after them. That is an aspect which we sometimes forget when we think about crime and what goes wrong. There are many more people who are doing good things. If that is so for young people, it is so for the older ones too.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I should like to thank everyone who has taken part in this debate. Nobody wishes to introduce a major debate without a respectable number of speakers, and there has certainly been that. The second need which anyone has in introducing a debate on a controversial subject or a subject with controversial aspects like penal policy is sufficient support from one's own side, and I have been lucky enough to enjoy that in the greatest measure in contributions of the highest quality. I am immensely grateful to my noble friends for the efforts they have made.

The Minister made a very forceful opening speech which I thought was fired throughout by his own passionate interest in the subject, as indeed were his closing remarks. In particular, his opening speech showed his understanding of the lot of the policeman, which he described admirably, and the lot of those who live in fear. I am grateful to noble Lords who reacted to my speech. I refer to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, who was willing to take up some of the issues which I raised in my opening speech and to carry them further. I should also like to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, for their contributions from the Front Bench opposite.

I believe that we have had an interesting and immensely wide-ranging debate with plenty of controversy, both party and otherwise, and some vivid, compelling and disturbing accounts of the consequences of the excessive prevelance of violent crime in our society. I am thinking in particular of the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. I am sure that we have all been given much food for thought by each other's speeches. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Forward to