HC Deb 14 February 1992 vol 203 cc663-5W
Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many offences of(a) taking a vehicle without the owner's consent and (b) theft of a motor vehicle were reported to the police for the years 1980 to 1991.

Mr. John Patten

Notifiable offences of theft of a motor vehicle include taking a vehicle without the owner's consent. Figures for 1980–89 are published in table 2.12 of "Criminal statistics, England and Wales, 1989" and figures for 1990 are published in Home Office statistical bulletin 13/91; copies of both publications are available in the Library. Figures for 1991 are not yet available.

Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list his proposals to reduce the incidence of car crimes.

Mr. John Patten

The Government are proposing a six-point action plan to tackle car crime.

First, the prevention of car crime will be the central feature of our crime prevention campaign in 1992, which we have designated 'Car Crime Prevention Year'. The campaign, which was launched by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 11 February, seeks to engage the whole community in a co-ordinated effort to tackle car crime. It comprises a broad programme of national and regional activities and is supported by an extensive Home Office funded advertising and promotional campaign that aims to increase public awareness of the cost of crime, the importance of individual and community action in combating this crime and the steps that should be taken to reduce vehicle risk.

Secondly, the motor vehicle manufacturers have a most important role to play in reducing the opportunities for car crime. My right hon. Friend and I met the manufacturers three times last year to stress the importance of improved vehicle security. The progress being made is encouraging, but much more could be done. In particular, we have stressed the need for the general introduction of effective and safe vehicle immobilisation systems, dead locks, and visible vehicle identification numbers. We are to meet again with the manufacturers next month for a report on progress.

Thirdly, it is also important that motorists should be encouraged to take vehicle security seriously, and rewarded when they do so—not just being penalised when they do not. My right hon. Friend has therefore asked the Association of British Insurers to consider further providing incentives, including reduced premiums, for owners who improve the security of their cars, and take care of them.

Fourthly, we are active on the European front. Trevi, the body which represents EC Ministers responsible for policing, has accepted our suggestion that car theft should be added to its agenda. Experts from across the Community are to meet in London on 25 February to discuss cross-border aspects of car crime. We are also pressing for the British Standard on vehicle security to be adopted as a compulsory EC directive.

Fifthly, the Government have already taken swift action to tackle the criminals who take cars. The Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Bill, which is being considered by the House of Lords, shows our determination to deal with the menace of those who take cars and cause damage, injury or death.

Finally, the police have the Government's full support in their fight against car crime. Provision has been agreed for up to a further 1,000 police posts in 1992–93. The police cannot, however, be expected to take on the task of detecting criminals, maintaining order and protecting the public on their own. They need the full support of the whole community.

Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has received from chief officers of police for an extension of the vehicle watch scheme as pioneered in Newport, Gwent, to other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. John Patten

There are now more than 20 vehicle watch schemes in operation in England and Wales. Some cover whole force areas, while others are limited to police divisions or sub-divisions.

The chief officers of the Welsh forces agreed last year to extend the Gwent scheme, which had been operating for one year, to cover the whole of Wales; this was launched on 11 September 1991.

My right hon. Friend has received no representations about the further extension of vehicle watch. That is a matter for chief officers to decide. Arrangements are, however, in train for vehicle watch to be evaluated during this year, with a view to it being encouraged throughout England, if it is shown to be succesful in reducing vehicle theft.