HL Deb 02 March 1994 vol 552 cc983-4

2.56 p.m.

Lord Erroll of Hale asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the estimated cost of the British Crime Survey recently commissioned by the Home Office; the number of interviews to be carried out; the definition of "crime" to be used; and whether the findings of the survey will be published.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, the costs of the 1994 British Crime Survey will be £ 690,000. The 1994 survey will cover a nationally representative sample of 15,000 adults, and a further sample of 2,500 from ethnic minorities. The crimes which are covered by the survey are those against householders and their property. The findings of the survey will be published. First results will be available in the autumn.

Lord Erroll of Hale

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his reply. What steps are being taken to include certain excluded classes whose views and representations would be well worth having such as members of the armed forces, university students and young couples living, for example, in rented accommodation?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, as I have indicated, there will be a survey across some 15,000 people. If the noble Lord feels those particular groups he has mentioned might be included, I shall certainly pass that suggestion on to those who are responsible for establishing the basis on which this survey is undertaken. It is indeed intended to give as accurate a representation of crime levels in Britain as is possible. We certainly would not want any particular group to be excluded.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, will the Minister accept my assurance as a former chairman of the Market Research Society that the British Crime Survey is held in great esteem by survey researchers and criminologists alike? Does the Minister agree that the current design of the new British Crime Survey gives an opportunity for government to assess the extent of racial attacks? That information is not available from recorded crime statistics as the Home Secretary refuses to recognise racial crime as a particular category within the statistics.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the approval he has given to the British Crime Survey. He will become aware in the autumn—if he is not aware already—that the techniques to be used in the survey this year will be even more sophisticated than in the past. I am happy to confirm that part of this survey will seek to secure the views of some 2,500 people from ethnic minorities. As the survey is meant to consider specifically crimes against householders and their properties, I hope that just the information which the noble Lord considers to be desirable will be revealed.

Lord Renton

My Lords, can my noble and learned friend say whether the large number of undetected crimes will enter into the consideration of those holding the crime survey?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, one of the purposes of the British Crime Survey is to discover to what extent the level of crime is not reflected by crimes which are recorded by the police. Some trends emerged from the surveys in the 1980s. One is that police statistics on crime increases have tended to overstate the figure; but generally speaking the level of crime is higher than that recorded by the police.

Lord Wigoder

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord assure us that the Home Secretary will demonstrate his complete consistency in these matters by seeing to it that the results of the survey are totally ignored?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, the Home Secretary will show the same consistency as that displayed by previous Home Secretaries. The figures in the British Crime Survey will all be published; and much of the detail will be further elaborated on in other survey papers and, as has been the case in the past, in academic journals.

Lord Merlyn-Rees

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord referred to previous Home Secretaries. Will the crime survey explain that great conundrum—why it is that crime in every respect has gone up and up since there was last a Labour Home Secretary?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, in a number of respects crime figures have not risen as much as the noble Lord wishes to indicate. The British Crime Survey reveals that in one area of crime—vandalism—the figures have remained more or less constant, which is surprising. However, I am afraid that so far as concerns acquisitive crime, there has been a sharp rise. It may however be of some reassurance to the noble Lord that crimes of violence have not increased as sharply as recorded crime would indicate.