I regret that so many of my hon. Friends should have been kept here so late to listen to me, and also that the Under-Secretary has to stay, although he can no doubt derive comfort from the fact that he will be returning at two-hourly intervals throughout this long night's journey into the next day.
This is a serious subject, which one cannot discuss without long and deep concern. It is simply that law and order in Scotland is gravely imperilled. I will divide my speech into four main parts—the reasons for the concern, the factors behind the violence not only in Scotland but in the United Kingdom as a whole, the fact that the Government have been slow in a whole series of ways, and some positive proposals of my own. It is said that it is the task of Governments to govern, but there is occasionally value in suggestions from the Opposition about how they could govern better.
First, the facts. Last year, 1967, was the worst year in recorded history for crime in Scotland, especially for crimes of violence. This was particularly so in the last six months, and, if the trend continues, the incidence of murder and violence will soar to unprecedented heights. I am sure that I do not need to remind the Under-Secretary of the murders committed last year and of the rate of increase—12 in 1957, 15 in 1960. 16 in 1963, 27 in 1964, 32 in 1965, 30 in 1966, 41 in 1967. Also, he will notice that, in 1956, before the death penalty for all murders was abolished, one person stood trial for murder.
In 1964, the year before the complete abolition of hanging, 13 persons stood trial for murder. In 1965, the first year of complete abolition, 33 stood trial for murder, 28 of them in Glasgow. In 1966, 50 stood trial, 35 in Glasgow, and in 1967, 43 stool trial, 25 in Glasgow. This might appear a slight fall, but we must bear in mind that in the last six months of last year, 30 persons were indicited in 25 trials, and that in the last 15 months there have been 71 murders.
While I agree that these are sombre figures, is the hon. Gentleman aware that an analysis of the murders committed since the abolition of capital punishment shows that the increase in the number of murders has occurred among murders which would have been non-capital?
I am simply showing that it is hard on this evidence to justify a continuation of the total ban on the use of capital punishment over the whole sphere of criminal activity in both Scotland and England. I will return to this subject later.
I am establishing, first, the scale of murder in Scotland and now I shall establish the extent of criminal offences in Scotland. The figures are again daunting. They rose in 1966 to 182,831, of which 34,731 were committed by young people—on the whole, by young men—between the ages of 17 and 21; in other words, 19·1 per cent. of all criminal offences were committed by people within that age range. Crimes of violence reported to the police have doubled in the last five years. In 1962 there were 1,829 such crimes. In 1967 the number had risen to 3,536. In Glasgow, the number of crimes of violence in 1967 was 1,465, which constituted over 40 per cent. of all crimes of violence in Scotland. I emphasise the meaning of this; that nearly half the crimes of violence committed in Scotland took place within 10 miles of Sauchiehall Street. We must find a new way of describing this "green place" of the 13th century—the "no mean city" or "the second city" of a later incarnation. In 1967 it was a city of 15 murders, 24 attempted murders, nine culpable homicides and 1,282 assaults. We must face the fact that these are some of the most frightening figures in recent history in the United Kingdom.
I wish to probe the characteristics of this violence because patently it is not a motivation which can be described simply as being due to a quest for money, although occasionally it includes robbery. Sex is not the motivation—perhaps it would be more glamorous if it were. It is hard to say how far it is motivated by drink. The disturbing thing is that there is evidence of sheer brutality for the sake of brutality, of violence without meaning. How else does one explain the murder, only a fortnight ago in Cardonald, of two old-age pensioners in their own homes? How else does one explain savage attacks on tiny children in prams in the street or attacks on 57-year-old and 77-year-old widows?
There is a new note in the violence which worries us all. What are the Government doing about it, or not doing about it, and what can be done? In the last two or two-and-a-half years we have had three or four promises from the Government. One was the setting up of a Scottish regional crime squad. What has happened to that? We were promised that there would be five schemes of amalgamation of police forces. These were proposed by the Secretary of State in July, 1966. Only two are operational at the moment. I would be trespassing beyond the bounds of this debate if I probed the reasons why the Government are being cautious and indifferent to the whole issue of giving the police powers of search, but I quote from a reply by the Secretary of State to a Question put by me on 31st January.
Quite apart from evasion of the issue of giving the police powers of search, to which no doubt my hon. Friend the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) will wish to return, the right hon. Gentleman said that a meeting between the Joint Under-Secretary of State and representatives of Glasgow Corporation on 8th December,
went on to a fruitful discussion on other possible action to reduce crime and disorderly behaviour, particularly by young people. The Corporation welcomed a proposal by my hon. Friend that the police, in co-operation with the Scottish Information Office, should undertake a police publicity campaign this year.
I concede that a dome containing some curious objects exists as testimony to this publicity in George Square, Glasgow—an exhibition which was opened on 15th March. The reply went on to say:
The meeting also discussed the provision of community facilities and the development of community activities in the new housing areas and agreed to set up a working party of Corporation and Departmental officials to examine how progress might be made in this field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 304.]
These are simply evasive phrases and words. The same sort of evasion crept into a reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) in a reference to social measures. What sort of social measures are the Government taking to preserve law and order on the streets of Glasgow and other cities of Scotland? I will not press the point about powers of search, but they are important in themselves. They are a token indication by the Government of concern with the basic security of life. As to w hat should be done I want to make some constructive suggestions because this is a fundamental and important subject. I make 10 suggestions. The police should have powers of search of people who they believe are carrying offensive weapons.
I will leave that point. Secondly, police numbers must be increased immediately. There are 984 short in Scotland and 460 short in Glasgow. There seems no alternative to giving police better pay. They are asking for an all-round increase of £5 a week. An increase in police pay is overwhelmingly important, more important than the claims of any other group of people in the country.
Thirdly, on a scale far greater than is done at present, they should be replaced by traffic wardens and by civilian clerks in their offices. Far too many are brought off the beat, brought back from leave or from holiday to give evidence in trials, often merely corroborative evidence which is a waste of their time and talents. And urgent attention should be paid to the pensions of police. There should be far more evidence in Scotland of what is now taking place in England, that is, recruitment of graduates into the police as a profession.
We are not making the progress we ought to make with the unit beat system. The Civil Estimates published today show the curious contrast between a sum of £83,000 allotted in Scotland for the unit beat policing system in the year 1967–68 and only £1,000 allotted for the year 1968–69. It seems that the £83,000 was in respect of repayment for vehicles and equipment purchased centrally for unit beat policing. Is one to assume that no more equipment is being bought or provided? Are there the radio controls and contacts and the cars available on which police and public can rely in a crisis?
I should like further to see an extension of the experiments being made in Liverpool, for instance, with police officers working as liaison officers with young people. Thus far, we have totally ignored this development in the West of Scotland.
I said at the outset that one problem here was the nature of violence itself. We do not know what motivates people between 17 and 21 to behave as they do. We have some evidence from Professor Radzinowicz of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge of work being done in England which is beginning to probe the characteristics of violence itself, and I know that this is a subject in which the Under-Secretary himself takes a considerable interest. We need a matching study of the characteristics of Scottish violence. Why does it happen among young people? Is it drink and drugs? Is it "perpendicular" drinking? Is it the frustration and dullness of life? What is it that produces this wave of violence which is now, I believe, the most serious problem facing the country?
There are other proposals which can usefully be made. I am much concerned about the situation in young offenders institutions. We have three, set up under the plans made in 1959. This is far too few, and two of the three, in Edinburgh and Barlinnie, are inside prisons. They are in no sense reformative institutions. I have here several reports—I shall not weary the House by quoting from them—which are highly critical of the situation in those three young offenders institutions. In passing, I mention only the Scots Law Times of 26th January this year. Investigations carried out by Mrs. Baird Smith of Glasgow show that conditions in Barlinnie are quite horrifying. It is not just that we need more of these institutions. We need them in a setting which is utterly distinct from the normal prison in which adults are housed.
One way in which we make plain to people that they have committed a crime is by asking them to pay damages for the harm and violence they have done. Those convicted should pay damages for their crimes. There should be much more active work on roads and in forestry in the Highlands and Islands than is remotely considered at present; and this work if carried out by young people would give them a self-respect which they will never get in Barlinnie, Dumfries or Edinburgh.
I go further. As I implied at the outset, whatever may be one's views on capital punishment it seems quite clear that we owe it as a matter of simple security to the prison service, to the police, and through them, to ourselves, to restore the death penalty for the murder of policemen and prison officers and for second murders.
I have only one further point to make. It seems that a life sentence of 15 years, which in practice is often only 12 years, is quite inadequate, bearing in mind that some people serving the sentence have committed not only one murder, but two. I wish to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to the curious work of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board which was set up in 1964 and which last year paid out £191,000 in Scotland. That means that one-fifth of its total United Kingdom expenditure was in Scotland and one-tenth of its total United Kingdom expenditure was in Glasgow.
There is no doubt that this is a commendable Board. But, as things are working out, a number of payments are made to criminals who have been attacked by other criminals. There is one notorious family in Glasgow, which has been engaged in a number of criminal attacks, which last year got £1,400 from the Board. It should be noted that there are few awards over £400. One man who was slashed and will be scarred for life got the noble sum of £515. My point is that the Board has been abused and it is not adequate. But I notice from the Civil Estimates published this afternoon that the money to be dispensed by it next year is four times the amount spent in the past.
I have raised a subject that is depressing but alarming. A measure of responsibility rests firmly with the Government. We ought to investigate the causes of crime and the causes of violence, but there are steps which can be taken in the meantime. The basis of law and order in our society is a reliance on justice and a reliance that the justice will be firm, clear, understood and quick. It is in this spirit that I raise this subject tonight.
I would like to start by congratulating my hon. Friend on the way lie initiated the debate, not only on the clear way in which he has spelled out the problems, but on the constructive ideas which he has put forward. I am sure that they are worthy of the attention of the Under-Secretary who is interested in the problem.
The problem extends far beyond the statistics which my hon. Friend has quoted. The concern among the public is something which the Government so far have not fully recognised. All hon. Members have read statements by judges in the Scottish courts. We have read statements by doctors, for example, in Glasgow about the burdens laid on hospital casualty departments at the weekends in terms of the demand for blood. These demands are laid on the hospital service as a result of the increase in crimes of violence. Therefore, the whole problem extends much wider than the Government have shown they recognise.
The problem is not peculiar to Glasgow, though my hon. Friend naturally used figures chiefly referring to that city. Crime extends to the other areas of Scotland, and unfortunately it is common on a rising scale to every major city in Scotland at present. In 1965 there were 48 assaults in Edinburgh, and last year there were 111. I had a discussion with police officers in Dundee, who are desperately concerned about the increase in crimes of violence there. Aberdeen—and I am glad to see the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) present—has had the biggest proportional increase in crimes of violence of any city in Scotland. Whilst the problem is not so great in absolute terms in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen as it is in Glasgow, the proportional increase in crimes of violence in recent years has been even greater than that in Glasgow. Therefore, we have the germ of the problem there, and unless we can tackle it we may see repeated in other cities of Scotland many of the problems my hon. Friend mentioned. That is particularly true of areas in the west around Glasgow. The hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) has drawn attention to it in the House many times in recent months.
Last year Dunbartonshire was one of the counties in Scotland which showed a decrease in the total number of crimes, which is unusual, yet the number of crimes against the person increased from 171 in 1965 to 255 in 1967. The problem extends to the country areas. There has been an increase recently in attacks on lonely farmhouses and isolated cottages. There is concern in the country areas at the growth of that type of offence.
The other problem which I have discussed with chief constables from rural areas is that of parties coming by bus from industrial areas in the west and descending on a village dance hall, for example, and creating trouble. In my discussions with the Chief Constables' Association I have been interested to learn that concern about the problem is not confined to the chief constables in our cities and the police forces in the urban areas but is shared by those in the rural areas suffering from the problem in a different way.
I appreciate the need for the long-term solution my hon. Friend mentioned, and there are many lines of thought in that direction, but we must look at the short-term solutions as well. In relation to the longer-term, I welcome the Social Work (Scotland) Bill, which I hope will strike at some of the roots of the problem. There is also great scope for improvements in schools to deal with the roots of character. If we can solve the teacher shortage problem and reduce the size of classes, so that the teacher can also educate the children in a wider sense and have much more human contact with them that can do nothing but good and help to strike at the roots of this gave social problem.
It is significant that it is in Glasgow that the teacher shortage is most acute, where children are on part-time educa tion. In social terms, this is one of the best and most radical ways in which this situation can be tackled.
Another way it can be tackled is through more Government help for the voluntary youth organisations in Scotland. I have been directly involved in youth work in Scotland for 14 years, and I know the tremendous amount of voluntary work which is done weekly by people giving up their free time. This is of enormous assistance in trying to deal with crime problems.
I welcome the assistance which the Government give by capital grants to youth organisations, but a lot more can be done through local authorities and the appointment of Youth Service officers to assist the voluntary organisations to work more efficiently and to help the many thousands who work in these organisations to make their work more effective.
My hon. Friend mentioned the work of the police south of the Border, through juvenile liaison officers. I would commend the work done in Stirlingshire by Chief Constable Gray by the co-operation of his officers with youth workers. This is valuable and we would wish to see it extended to other parts of Scotland.
I know that the Under-Secretary has the long-term problems in mind, but we should not become obsessed with the long-term solution but should also be concerned with the short-term. We have had the Canute-like attitude of the Secretary of State for Scotland in face of the rising tide of crime in Scotland. It is the responsibility of the Government to maintain the law, and many of us have gained the impression that the Government are more concerned about the welfare of the criminal than about the safety of the public.
Will the hon. Gentleman wait a moment? I said that I appreciate the Government's concern with the long-term solution, but this is the impression being given.
If the hon. Gentleman were more in touch with opinion in North-East Scotland he would know. I have been impressed by the views and by the letters which I have had. If the hon. Member were more in touch he would not have made that remark.
The Government have to recognise and to do something about the difficulty of the job of the policeman and particularly of the job of the ordinary policeman on the beat. It is their job to back the police, as it is ours as politicians and Members of this House. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary to make an examination of these problems, not just to find out what is going on, but to take action as a result. I would like him to look more closely, not just at the background, but to analyse precisely why there has been this increase in these crimes of violence.
I suggest four main problems which deserve investigation. The first is the problem of the police in relation to the extremely wide range of offensive weapons. Like many hon. Members, I have seen some of these weapons. They range from what I would call the old fashioned bayonet and knuckleduster to more sophisticated weapons. One of those I saw was what looked like a biro pen. But a police officer who examined it found that it was actually a cover for a six-inch steel needle sharpened to razor point.
The second problem concerns the number of people, particularly young people, carrying weapons. It is a frightening number. Undoubtedly, however, a certain number of people carry them for self-defence. An increase in crimes of violence leads to an increase in the number of those carrying weapons to use in the event of attacks upon themselves. Another contributory factor is prestige. Particularly among young people, there is great temptation, when they are in groups, to carry weapons if others are carrying them.
The third problem is the great increase in the number of assaults which seem unpremeditated and without motive. This is shown in some of the recent murder cases, where there has been no previous connection between the victim and the person committing the assault. Indeed, it seems to have been sufficient to be jostled in a crowd for a weapon to be produced, very often with fatal and horrible results. Worth investigation more than anything else is why there should be this increase. There have been cases in Dundee of people slashed on a bus with no provocation.
The fourth problem which is particularly difficult for the police is when a weapon is slipped from one person to another. This situation has been quoted in Glasgow several times, and I have heard it in Dundee as well. The police arrive at a scene where there has been trouble and try to apprehend those causing it, only to find that the weapons have been slipped to girl friends or others who were apparently only bystanders. It is extremely difficult for the police to act in this situation.
In all these types of situation, the police operate under extreme difficulty. A young and inexperienced policeman finds it hard to know how to deal with a situation like that. The objective of Government policy in all this must be, above all, to break the habit of carrying offensive weapons, since this causes many more serious crimes, very often with fatal results. If the police were given the powers of search for which they are asking, they would be able to act earlier and more effectively in events which could lead to crime.
Such powers have been given in relation to many other offences, such as the carrying of firearms and drug-taking. The Metropolitan Police have had such powers for many years and only a year ago the House gave them in relation to the protection of birds. If it was thought necessary to give these powers in relation to these other offences, I cannot see the objection of the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary to giving them in respect of carrying offensive weapons. I accept that there are powers of arrest, but in the circumstances that I have described I do not believe that these alone are adequate. What I believe is that given the powers of search, the police—
I appreciate that and leave the point, remarking that if the Secretary of State will act along the lines that I have suggested it will be a means by which we can not only prevent more serious crimes being committed, but it would also be a means of deterring potential criminals from carrying offensive weapons. It is time that the Government took a stand on this and declared on which side they are. I certainly feel that they are bending over backwards with sympathy for the criminal. I appreciate their desire to help the criminal and rehabilitate him, but at the same time they are not looking after the safety of the public, nor are they supporting the police.
If the Under-Secretary does not believe that he should get around and talk to policemen in the country. They do not feel that they are getting the support from the Government which they deserve.
The reason why I ejaculated "incredible" was because of the contrast between this public statement from the hon. Member and the private statements he gave me when he assured me how conscious he was of our concern in this respect.
I am extremely conscious of the hon. Gentleman's concern, but merely because of that I am not prevented from expressing my criticism of what is happening and what the police are feeling. I believe that he is out of touch with what the police are feeling and thinking. Unless the Secretary of State acts and unless the Under-Secretary shows more concern there is a great risk, not only of a loss of confidence among the public but also of doing a great disservice to police morale.
May I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) for the very reasonable and moderate way in which he introduced this important subject. It makes quite a difference to some of the debates to which we have listened in the House and at Question Time in recent months. I hope that no one will take it amiss when I say that the high standard set has fallen away in the last few minutes. It is unfortunate and regrettable that the suggestion should be made that Scottish Ministers and the Government generally are not wholeheartedly behind the police in their efforts to fight crime, or that they are too keen on helping the criminal and not keen enough in enforcing the law.
Crime is always news. The harsh facts and the Parliamentary agitation founded upon them make good copy which no newspaper can resist. I am not denying that there is a very real problem here. The statistics were well rehearsed by the hon. Member for Pollok. The danger now is not complacency. This has been well and truly swept away. Any lingering complacency has been obliterated by the figures. The real danger now is panic, the idea that something must be done—anything, irrespective of whether it is useful or whether it helps and represents a real break-through. There is now a danger that rational arguments will be so distorted that the need for a sense of proportion will ultimately be forgotten.
We should not forget when listening to these highly coloured accounts that we get about crime in the streets—and I acknowledge again that it is a real problem—that Scotland is still an extremely safe country in which to live. This has been drawn vividly to my attention through a recent visit that I paid to the United States. In New York, any kind of innocent abroad is routinely reminded by his hostess that he should not walk home through central New York because it is too dangerous. We are a long way from that kind of unpleasant and unfortunate situation.
Crime in the streets of New York is one of the most dominating issues and has become so despite the very real and dramatic escalation in police technique and powers over the last few years. Have these helped? It is extremely difficult to quantify or evaluate, in statistical terms the results of any such moves or measures. Would the crime increase have been faster if the New York police had taken a less tough line, or is it possible to argue that they have driven the marginal cases into open rebellion against the law? It is difficult to make up one's mind.
I am prepared to concede that there has been a real rise in crime in Scotland, but I suggest that one should be careful about merely using the crude criteria of unanalysed figures and taking them as absolute proof of what is happening. To use a brief analogy, divorce figures in this country have been rising for a long time now. If the Divorce Reform Bill, which is before the House, had been on the Statute Book four or five years ago, people would say "See what happens. If you take a soft line, you open the floodgates." In fact, the availability of legal aid is a much more important factor in this connection. Reform and "do good-ism" is always a useful scapegoat. In 1948 we abolished corporal punishment. The only crimes for which corporal punishment had been an allowable penalty before 1948 was one specific category of crimes of violence. This very type of crime declined after 1948, and it was not until well into the 1950s that such crimes reached their 1948 level. That of course does not prove anything, but it does point to the danger of taking figures as gospel truth without analysis. Crimes are recorded more efficiently nowadays. People are more conscious of crimes. There are all sorts of distorting factors which begin to creep into the analysis.
The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) very properly redressed the balance when he spoke of the rest of Scotland and got away from the problems of Glasgow. He was right to do so. In a Written Answer on 6th March the Secretary of State told me that between 1963 and 1967 crimes made known to the police had increased in Glasgow by 5·7 per cent. In Aberdeen they went up by 48·8 per cent. If I had the will, I could take a large number of statistics like that and make a hair-raising speech about the problem in Aberdeen, but it would not necessarily be true. One must consider the base on which one is working. One has to consider the social environment and compare the present circumstances with circumstances in the past before one can make a mature judgment.
In passing, I might add that in view of what the hon. Member for Pollok, said about the importance of social analysis, it is interesting that there should be this dramatic rise in crime in Aberdeen, which is not associated with bad housing conditions or any of the social mores among juveniles which are pointed to too easily as the root cause of the crime wave.
I believe the hon. Member is right to within a few hundred.
The point I am trying to emphasise is that it is easy to play with figures to prove that the situation is much worse than it really is. I accept that there is a serious position and one with which we must all be concerned. The important question which arises is how we should tackle it. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns talked about the distinction between long-term and short-term solutions, and that is a valid distinction to make. A number of suggestions have been made about technical changes in the law and juggling with police powers, which have been represented as helpful moves. What worries me is not the merit of these suggestions but the way in which they have been put forward. It seems to me that hon. Members to some extent, the Press certainly, and the public—with this encouragement—almost certainly, have got this matter out of all proportion and are attaching disproportionate importance to what may be minor technical reforms.
The basic trouble is that people like me, who might have been converted to the cause and might have agreed, ultimately, that there were reasonable alterations, are alienated by the sound and fury of the campaign and are finally forced to take up a position opposite to that which they might otherwise have adopted. The General Election campaign run in the West of Scotland by Conservative candidates when in the middle of the campaign, they made the question of capital punishment and the crime figures a major issue, did enormous harm to the cause of penal reform. People like myself were so—and I use the word in cold blood—disgusted by this determined effort to capitalise on public fear that ever since we have approached with suspicion any recommendations from those sources. That is sad but true.
There is currently the same sort of campaign in the case of the Prevention of Crime Act, 1953, when we constantly have the feeling that we are being put in the dock. If we do not support this proposal we are condemned as complacent, soft-hearted, fuzzy-minded do-gooders and as friends of the criminal. The public gets the impression that the Scottish Office is not interested and that its back bench supporters are lackeys laying down and paying no attention to the problem.
Will the hon. Member bear in mind that it was as long ago as last September since the Glasgow magistrates first made an approach to the Secretary of State? Many of us have been anxious to keep this matter in its proper proportion, but the successive months that have gone by without any proper action having been taken has made us despair of anything being done by this Government.
The issue was first raised in December, I think. But in any case it is a highly technical matter, and should be discussed dispassionately. If we get into a great deal of ferment and excitement, and if we whip up public interest on this small, localised matter, our actions are counter-productive and we produce a kind of self-generating public alarm which is far from helpful in its effect.
I wish to congratulate the Scottish Office not on its withholding of support in this matter—because I hope that it is still under active consideration—but on its determination not to be rushed into an ill-considered judgment and decision merely because it would be popular to do so. I do not think that this matter should be elevated in the way the hon. Member has elevated it, by trying to make the touchstone of the Government's conscience in this matter the evidence and token of their concern.
If we try to solve these problems by considering the police powers we get bogged down quickly in minor technicalities and abstruse generalisations concerning the powers of arrest and what constitutes an arrest, and what is the common law right o search between the time of arrest and the time of charging. In the Tea Room I took a poll of some legal Members whose opinions I respect, and the answer I got was that these things had never been defined and that they were technical points and theoretical points that never arose in a court of law.
If we are considering these technical adjustments the only proper question to ask is what will the effect be, and will a continuing and useful power be added to the armoury of the police when they try to enforce the law? Would it be helpful to encourage the police to carry through the reform and to allow searches in the street for offensive weapons? Would it not be fairer to argue that if we are to allow public frisking we are putting ourselves into a position of conflict, in which we are creating the possibility of further violence and so jeopardising public order and the position of the police?
The hon. Member is dealing with a most important point. I am not aware of any responsible body or person having suggested that the police should have powers of random search.
I think that possibly the hon. Member would agree that we are in difficulty here because we cannot now go into this in any great detail because of the rules of order of the House. If we consider the present law on this point of offensive weapons, and the proposals from various quarters, I think the only practical result of them would be a development in the law and practise as I have described. I would argue that this would not be a helpful change and it might involve considerable dangers, and infringement of the rights of the individual. I would not like to see such infringements resulting from the search for a quick answer to this specific problem. It is all very well for the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns to talk about firearms, but they are a very distinct category of objects, which an "offensive weapon" certainly is not. I would be very unwilling to see the general rule breached that a citizen cannot be detained without being formally arrested; I would hate to see that jettisoned in any way lightly.
It seems to me that the only answer must be patient and long investigation on the lines which the hon. Member for Pollok was discussing earlier. He is absolutely right, we ought to be involved in terms of police recruiting, in terms of police conditions and pay, in terms of a detailed psychological survey, to ensure that our penal system is measuring up to the demands put upon it, to make sure that our prison and borstal systems are adequate and give the kind of flexible training towards rehabilitation which I am sure we all would like to see and would demand.
The tragedy of what has been happening is that the genuine and very proper public interest in the matter has been harnessed to and, if I may say so, distorted by being concentrated on small specific areas which have been exaggerated out of all proportion, and so it has not been turned to those broader issues which, in the cooler, perhaps more rational, mood of 1 o'clock in the morning, we have been discussing. If only half the energy, only half the real commitment which we have seen in the last few months, a commitment which has on occasion shaded into indignation indeed, and has even on occasion plunged into real fury, had been turned to the broader issues, diverted into getting through to the public a sense of the psychological difficulties and of the important policy decisions which have to be made, this would have been a very much better contribution to solving the problem. It is on this kind of field on which the Scottish Office has been rightly concentrating.
I would remind hon. Members that in this, as in almost everything else, money is important. The House will remember the series of Parliamentary Questions on public expenditure per head North and South of the Border, now the A B C of Scottish politics, which show that in almost every field of Government expenditure Scotland comes out rather better than England. There are one or two exceptions to the trend, and one is perhaps significant—namely the police. We spend on police services £4 16s. 6d. a head in England against £4 4s. 6d. in Scotland. This is a matter of real disquiet, and this is one of the facts which I should like to see stressed, and which I should like to see flung in the face of Ministers rather than the kind of generalised charges on specific but minor points of which we have heard so often in recent months.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) and North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) upon initiating this most important debate, even at this early hour of the morning. It is an advantage that this important subject can be discussed free of a particular time limit, for that gives us a valuable opportunity for it, and I am glad so many Scottish Members are here, and taking the chance to participate.
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) in detail, but I will touch on some of his points in the course of my speech. The House must have been impressed by his first-hand knowledge of the law and with his point about the interpretation of the present law relating to search and arrest. It is a very valid point, and any clarification which the Under-Secretary of State can give will be of benefit to the whole country, including members of our police forces who are none too certain about it. It is a matter which the Government have not made clear in recent months when there has been so much pressure from the public for action to be taken.
My hon. Friends have made out a case that there is a serious situation, and that crime has increased. I will not repeat the figures in detail. To overcome the position, we have to bring into greater co-operation in a complementary sense not only the police and the law from the point of view of administration, but also the leadership of the country and the position of the Government represented by the Secretary of State. These four different authorities are all fighting on the same front, but obviously not in the same direction. That is where we must look for the long-term solution, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns brought out so clearly.
During out debate on the Report of the Estimates Committee on the Police almost a year ago, I made a speech to which the Under-Secretary of State replied. I am interested to know what progress there has been in the 12 months since then on some of the points which I raised and to which he gave a favourable commendation, saying that he would look at these matters and do something about them.
A matter in which I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) will be interested is recruitment, establishment, and the amount of overtime which the police have to work to perform their duties. Has the situation deteriorated in the past 12 months? He will also want to know about the resignations from our police forces, as brought out in H.M.I.'s Report. The reasons for the resignations appear to boil down to dissatisfaction with pay and pensions and some of the anomalies which arise from the pension regulations.
The subject of resignations takes in compulsory retirements. The Under-Secretary of State told me a year ago when I asked him about the position in Fife that he was taking the matter extremely seriously and that he hoped at an early date to discuss it with the Fife authority. What has he done? Police officers have been forced to retire after 30 years' service, often in the prime of their police experience.
As it is so important in the long term in relation to fighting crime, can he say what progress has been made about the Scott Report on Police Cadets? This contentious Report has not been accepted by many police forces in Scotland. What progress has been made towards finding a solution which will be acceptable to the majority of forces? The attraction of first-class police cadets is the long-term basis for having the best police officers in our forces.
What progress has been made recently over the Regional Crime Squad? In answer to a Parliamentary Question earlier this month we were given to understand that this was before the Chief Constable:, at the moment and that, when all agreed, the regional crime squad would be put into operation. I should like to know whether we have complete agreement, whether the force will be in operation within the next few weeks, what is the strength of it and what will it cost? We want value for money and cost effectiveness in the regional crime squad. We do not want a name for a name's sake.
What progress has been made in the past year in the provision of equipment for officers on the beat? What progress has been made regarding pocket radios and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns mentioned, the provision of motor transport? The days of the bicycle are out. We want to see every police officer in rural districts equipped with motor transport and in radio communication with his base.
What progress has been made with the introduction of civilians into the police force for administrative tasks? It seems a tremendous waste of a trained police officer's time to have him sit for a long period of time typing out long reports when he is not a particularly skilled typist. The introduction of civilians into the force for this sort of work is a valuable saving of a skilled man's time.
What progress is being made regarding promotion and the memorandum which has been put before the Police Advisory Board? Many of us accept that to get young, able leaders in the police force, they must gain experience quickly, and there must be a form of accelerated promotion. This is the basis for the memorandum. The objective is to find the minimum time that an officer must serve on the beat before promotion. This will be accepted if it is explained carefully and persuasively to the police officers of Scotland.
Since I spoke a year ago on this subject, the Secretary of State has made more frequent appearances at meetings of the Police Advisory Board. This is an essential link between the police forces and the central Government. It is of prime importance that either the Secretary of State or his representative, the Under-Secretary, should be present at the meetings of the Police Advisory Board.
I said that I would not go over the figures which have been given, but they prove conclusively the unfortunate trend in crimes of violence and murder. I have stated that I was always in favour of retaining the deterrent of the death penalty for certain types of murder. Unfortunately this is no longer an issue until the minimum time for review, which will be another year or two.
We have, within the limits of order, touched on the powers of the police. This is the most important question of the day amongst senior police officers in Scotland. I hope that the Under-Secretary will say something tonight not only about the police directly, but also whether it is felt that the courts are being severe enough in their penalties. I appreciate that this is something in which the Secretary of State cannot interfere, but we are entitled to express an opinion. Are the facilities for sentencing adequate? Is this one of the difficulties which handicaps the courts? Is there sufficient prison accommodation?
My hon. Friend the Member for Pollok touched on the question of a young offenders' institution. I know that more places are being made available, but will these be enough? Are there enough places at borstal institutions? These considerations must be at the back of the minds of those who have to make their decisions in the courts.
This summer we shall be considering the position of the probation officer when we deal with the Social Work (Scotland) Bill, but, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South said, many of the problems are affected by the availability of money. In a way, government is the art of priorities, and the art of spending the money that is available in the right place at the right time. If we want more police, we have to give them more pay, just as if we want more teachers we must pay them more. I support these priorities just as strongly as I oppose money being provided for the purposes of the Transport Bill or the Land Commission. We must get our priorities right, and spend the money where it is most required. Whenever there is a financial crisis, cuts are made right across the board. I think that we must be severe where the need is less urgent, and use the money that we have where it is most needed.
I think that in relation to the spending of money on the police and on crime prevention generally we have to support the Government in paying their share of the money which has to be found by the police committee, or the joint police committees as the case may be, because it is essential that all the costs of dealing with this unhappy situation should not fall progressively on the ratepayers who at the moment have to bear a very heavy burden on the rates to pay for this type of service.
I think that at the moment the balance is reasonably fair between what the Government pay and what the local authorities pay, but it may be that as more crimes are committed by criminals to whom money is no object we shall have to provide more money to fight this kind of crime by the provision of even better and more expensive equipment. I think that the Government may have to help local authorities by providing more money for expensive equipment such as motor cars, teleprinters, and so on, which are so important in dealing with crime.
I said at the beginning of my speech that leadership was as important as strengthening the police and strengthening the courts. It can be shown by the sheriffs, by chief constables, by officers on the beat, by teachers, and most important of all, by parents. But the Government, too, must provide leadership, and not just by means of the bureaucratic machine. Leadership must be shown by our elected leaders, by the Secretary of State, by the Under-Secretary of State to improve still more the relationship between the police and the public. The criminal must be brought into perspective, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns said, at the moment he seems to hold almost a position of esteem in our national life. We should hammer him into the ground in every possible way.
Those points make up a form of anti-crime policy. It is for the Government to provide the necessary leadership. At the moment it is far from positive enough.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) on raising this subject and on the manner in which he did so. My only regret is that such an important matter should have to be raised at this hour. It is a general criticism of our Scottish procedures that it could not be discussed in the normal course of business. However, to discuss the benefits of a legislature in Edinburgh in this connection would be out of order. [Interruption.] I am sorry that hon. Gentlemen groan, since I would have thought that they accepted that this subject is of importance to Scotland and that the thin attendance at this early hour does not do it justice.
Some time ago, I asked the Scottish Office about the amount spent on research on criminology and the reply was not heartening. Our centres for such research in the universities are both few and small, and since this is a growing problem, the Government should see how they can increase the scope. Conditions in the institutions for young offenders should be a high priority, I agree, and we should recognise that criminals are made in some of these institutions, and that some first offenders can easily be turned into hardened criminals by the care and rehabilitation which we provide.
When in Hong Kong about two years ago I visited some of their institutions for young offenders. They are bedevilled by the problems of drugs and bad social conditions, but I was impressed by their claim of a 70 per cent. success rate with young offenders—that is, that that proportion does not come back reconvicted. They were proud of that and scornful of our Home Office, and therefore, presumably, of the Scottish Office, because of our success rate of only 45 per cent., which means that more than half the young offenders do come back. We fail at this crucial point, when the young offenders first come into the hands of authority.
One reason that they gave for their success was their closely integrated system of what we would call probation care. They blend after-care with visits during sentence, and it is useful that the same person does both: we might learn from this. I was struck by the fact that the hon. Member for Pollok deduced from his statistics that half the crimes of violence in Scotland took place in a ten-mile radius of the centre of Glasgow. But almost half the police shortage in Scotland is centred in precisely the same area, so there seems to be some correlation between the two facts. Certainly there is a case for improving the pay and conditions of the police force, particularly their pensions.
I will put one particular point about the police to the Under-Secretary of State. It is curious that different constabularies have different qualifications for entry. A number of young Scots who have found it impossible, under the age and other qualifications required, to enter the police service in Scotland, have been able to enter police forces in England. I can supply the Minister with examples of this.
Although the police are often criticised, we in this country are extremely fortunate in that the public respect for, and the reputation of, the police is second to none in the world. Like every hon. Member, occasionally I must deal with complaints by constituents against the police. But in the three years that I have been an hon. Member, I have had to deal with only half a dozen of these cases. Considering that I represent 53,000 people, that small number of complaints represents a good record of police public relationship. The constabulary of Roxburgh. Selkirk and Peebles also has an outstanding detection rate record which, if it were equalled in other parts of Scotland, would make this debate unnecessary.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollock spoilt an otherwise good speech by drawing some false conclusions about capital punishment. He seemed to think that we had made a mistake in abolishing hanging. I intervened to point out that the main increase in murders had occurred in what had been the non-capital category. But if the increase in crimes of violence and murder is concentrated on a part of Scotland, that cannot be blamed on the abolition of capital punishment. We must look more closely at the reason for this growth in violence. Is it caused by bad social conditions, a bad teacher-pupil ratio in the schools in that part of Scotland, family relationships and so on?
In a speech a year or two ago, the then Shadow Home Secretary, Peter Thorneycroft, pointed out that in some senses the word "neighbour" no longer had any meaning in our new communities; that there were no neighbours any more. That is true in some new housing estates. We have created the right physical conditions in which people can improve their standard of living—washing machines, refrigerators and so on—but we have removed the community feeling which existed in the old communities. When I consider the increased rate of crime in some large cities. I wonder why it is not reflected in the same marked terms in places like Hawick and Galashiels.
While I agree that there has been an increase in, say, my constituency, in some of the smaller communities the increase in the crime rate has been caused by bus parties from other areas. This is true in my constituency. Why does this happen? We should examine very carefully why in certain areas there is this attitude of violence which seems to be becoming more widespread. What is it that causes a youngster to slash the face of a baby in its pram? It seems an extraordinary phenomenon which requires more careful investigation.
The hon. Member for Pollok made a valid point when he said there should be a connection between the sentence which a criminal serves and the restitution he makes to the victim of his crime. If we could establish a correlation and make the prisoner realise that in some way he is paying damages for the crime he committed, it would be useful to introduce that into our penal system.
I am suspicious of the pleas put forward for extending police powers. I am prepared on an objective view to say that that may be necessary and we may have to fall back on it, but I would accept that as a defeat and not in itself desirable. There is a grave risk that as we increase the powers of the police in an arbitrary way we may threaten to destroy the happy relationship existing between the police and the public.
It is quite ridiculous to say of any Government, of whatever party, that they are more interested in the criminal than in the victim. That was not true of the Conservative Government, nor is it true of the present Labour Government, but I am not satisfied that long-term difficulties in the problem of increases of violence are being tackled. We must spend more money on this and be suspicious of short-term solutions. I have a great admiration for the Under-Secretary and his qualities, but it is not fair to ask any Minister of the Crown to undertake responsibility for law and order in Scotland while at the same time he is responsible for looking after agriculture, law reform, the fire service and all the other matters which are his responsibility. This matter requires the whole-time attention of a Minister responsible for the whole subject.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) for raising this subject and dealing with it so firmly and effectively. The subject is important and urgent.
As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) said, we have discussed this subject before in this House at unreasonable hours. From time to time it has been suggested that this urgent and serious problem has been exaggerated by hon. Members and people outside. This was amplified by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, who said that some people were capitalising on the problem and this should not be done. I say to him in all seriousness that the main reason why this subject is raised tonight is that it is deeply felt by a large number of people, many of whom are living in fear and terror. It is an urgent problem, an emergency. If my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok can succeed in getting the Government to show an appropriate sense of the urgency and obtain from them a promise of early action, the debate will have been worth while.
I do not think the hon. Member need fear that the problem may be exaggerated. When I questioned the Under-Secretary a few days ago, I was told that in 1957 crimes of violence numbered 1,116 and last year they numbered 3,536. That was an increase of more than 200 per cent. in 10 years. In the last four years, the number of murders has more than doubled.
It would be wrong if we gave the impression that there is an easy answer to the problem. With all his other tasks as Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman must find it very difficult to give time and attention to the matter and search for an appropriate answer. But the message which should go from the House tonight is that we appreciate that the situation is now one of emergency and that urgents steps will be taken to deal with it.
What can be done? An easy way, and one which could give immediate results in a dramatic reduction in the figures—we cannot wait until the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South reassesses his social conscience—would be by having effective deterrents against crimes of violence. This has been proved. We have the example of the effective steps which Lord Carmont took to deal with razor slashing crimes in Glasgow. There was a dramatic reduction in such crimes.
We have a duty to the police and prison officers who have to deal with such criminals. What about the prison officer in Barlinnie or elsewhere who has the job of looking after a man in on a life sentence and who has, in effect, nothing to lose?
Hon. Members opposite have often complained that a life sentence is not a sentence for life. A man in that position who committed a further crime in prison would have a good deal to lose because his sentence would be materially lengthened.
The question of a life sentence is a matter for discretion, and it may be relatively long or short. But it is true that such prisoners have virtually nothing to lose. It is unreasonable to say to a prison officer that he must safeguard the security of such prisoners.
Next, the question of making criminals pay. My hon. Friend the Member for Pollok referred to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. In 1966–67, we paid out £939,000 in Great Britain as a whole, and in Scotland, with one-tenth of the population, we paid out one-fifth of the total, that is, £191,338. It is alarming to see that in the first eleven months of last year we paid out £217,000, a substantial increase.
Many people in Scotland fear that there is a danger of this very satisfactory fund being used as a welfare fund for those who participate in violent crime. I want the Under-Secretary of State to consider further the sums paid by the criminals. In the Third Report of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, we are told that although £939,000 had been paid out, the amount of repayment of compensation recovered by the victims from offenders was only £367. I understand that the initiative depends on the victim. But is there not some way by which the Government could initiate such action and make sure that criminals pay for the damage which they inflict? It might not need legislation. Can we not make sure that money is recovered from those who perpetrate these crimes?
I was extremely alarmed to receive an answer from the Secretary of State recently in which he said that of the £217,000 paid out between 1st April, 1967, and 29th February, 1968, there were no repayments to the Board from recipients in respect of reparation recovered from offenders. Is there any way in which we can tighten this up and make sure that those who participate in crimes of violence make some payment? Could consideration be given to the request made by the Lord Provost of Dundee for a conference of civic leaders to discuss ways of tackling the problem? When such an initiative is taken by an esteemed civic leader a favourable answer should be given.
I turn briefly to the question of the police. I declare an interest as I have recently been appointed consultant and adviser to the Scottish Police Federation. The Under-Secretary said that there had been a marginal improvement in recruiting last year. Some 747 men were recruited but the number who retired, resigned or left for other reasons was 711. That is a net increase in male manpower of only 36. It is worth looking at the reasons given for resigning. More than half the men who left said that they were moving to more remunerative employment or emigrating. This is a serious problem. The obvious answer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) said, is to prevent large numbers of policemen leaving to obtain more remunerative employment or to emigrate to better jobs. Unless we are prepared to pay the rate for the job we will not overcome the problem.
There is a shortage of almost 1,000, but what is more alarming is the type of men who are leaving. This was mentioned in the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland. In paragraph 9 he said:
It is disturbing that there were so many resignations among probationers, but more so that there should be such an increase in the number who left the service after completion of their probationary period and before qualifying for a pension. Forces can ill afford such a loss of experienced personnel.
This is the root of the problem, and the answer must be to have a better salary and career structure.
Some of the gap can be made good by civilianisation. It has been stated by the Secretary of State that there will not be, as in England, a restriction on the recruitment of police officers. This is something which we welcome. It was indicated that the restriction could be applied to the employment of civilians by police forces. Could the Under-Secretary give any indication of the extent to which the prevention of increases in civilianisation will occur this year? We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of traffic wardens. At the beginning of January, 1966, there were 142. This was up to 282 by the following year and 419 at the beginning of January this year. I hope that we can have a clear assurance that there will be no cutting down on the increase in civilianisation which reduces the pressure on the forces.
We accept that the career structure in the police is important. Obviously there will be better opportunities arising from amalgamations. Has the Secretary of State considered establishing a national police force in Scotland'? This has been considered in the past. It is accepted in many parts of Scotland that it merits more careful consideration. I hope that any change in this direction or progress on further agreements will not be held up by the reorganisation of local government, that it will be considered separately on its merits, and that progress can be made.
Working conditions are very important in their effect on recruitment. I recently had the pleasure of visiting a new canteen in the Southern Division of Glasgow Police. I saw the progress there in introducing machines which could provide hot meals to the police officers coming off duty at all times of day and night. More attention should be given to this, bearing in mind the problems of being on the beat at all hours in inclement weather.
Police building as a whole is even more important. The Report of H.M. Chief Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland referred to the serious problem of the buildings in police establishments. It said:
Many police stations are out-of-date and quite inadequate for present day needs and there is still a great deal to be done by way of improvement and replacement.
There is considerable concern among some forces that the cuts in Government spending may mean that essential work of this kind will be held up. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance on this. Similarly, I hope that work on prison establishments will not be held up by cuts in spending.
We have had unfortunate experiences in the past in pay freezes. It seems that we are moving to another period in which wages will be severely restrained. It is very difficult, and almost impractical, to restrain wages effectively in the private sector. I hope that those in the public sector will not suffer unduly, and that we shall have precautions from the Government against that.
I hope that what has been said in the debate will convince the Government that this is a serious and urgent problem. It is an emergency. We have been accused—and the Under-Secretary himself has done this—of exploiting and exaggerating the problem. But every hon. Member who has spoken from this side of the House has put forward constructive suggestions for ameliorating the situation. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South made an interesting speech, but it was noteworthy that we did not make one effective suggestion about what could be done to meet the urgent situation.
The people of Scotland are looking for urgent action, because the Government's responsibility is to maintain law and order. That means that we must have the police force fully manned, and effective deterrents reintroduced which will ensure that the numbers of crimes will decrease. If the Government are thinking only in terms of long-term solutions they should remember that there has been a dramatic escalation in recent years in the numbers of crimes of violence. An increase of over 200 per cent. in 10 years calls for emergency action. We look for that sense of urgency and a promise of urgent action, and hope that we can have it from the Government tonight.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has the faculty of making it appear that he and his hon. Friends are the only people interested in these matters and have a monopoly of concern about the interests and welfare of the people of Scotland, particularly over the increase in crime, a tendency about which all of us are seriously perturbed.
The hon. Gentleman was selective in the figures he used to justify his case. If one wanted to be equally selective one could take the figures for five years ago, when his party was in power, and say that they had doubled as compared with a selected figure. One could do the same for the year before in turn.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about recruitment into the police. I recall suggesting to the then Government when we were in opposition that an increase in salaries would solve the problem, and we then talked of the police officer being a £1,000-a-year man, which would help to solve the problem. To their credit, the Government of the day increased the salaries, but I am much afraid that the result lies in the figures we have today and that crime is still increasing. I venture to suggest that to go on increasing salaries for constables is not the cure for the present circumstances. I take another view altogether. I believe that much of our trouble lies in the incitement to possessiveness which the instrument of advertising on television and the attractive advertisements in cinemas give to young people to possess this or that. These inculcate into young people the desire to possess some of the more attractive things of life, dressed up, and incites them to actions from which they should he restrained in their homes.
I turn to police recruitment—
Is the hon. Member seriously suggesting that advertisements on television and in the Press incite people to commit crimes of violence which is the main problem we are considering?
No, I am not. The House knows that what I am suggesting is that young people in their most impressionable years, as they leave school at 15, come out ill-equipped to withstand the attractions forced on them. This is one of the means of misleading them to possess things illegally and of inciting them to acquire things illicitly. In that way, one thing leads to another.
The hon. Member for Cathcart referred to the recruitment to police forces. I think that one answer lies in increasing our police forces and in increasing all the equipment to assist in the detection of crime. The Secretary of State, in a reply to a Question, recently indicated that they were willing to do this by the introduction of more flexible systems of policing, by the use of modern equipment, by the provision of better higher training facilities, by making earlier promotion possible, and by giving more publicity to the need for closer liaison between citizens and the police and strengthening the role of the police in civic life.
Some of us will yield to nobody in our admiration of the police in the present situation. They know that we are only too anxious to assist them in their dangerous and important job, but I have yet to be convinced that increasing their powers will alone solve the problem. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his reply to me on 9th February, said that he had given an undertaking to police authorities in Scotland in September last that he was
… prepared to authorise additional expenditure in the current financial year on equipment for new systems of policing. Most forces have sufficient local resources available to meet this expenditure but in some cases I have undertaken to reimburse them the cost of this additional equipment against repayment by the police authorities as early as possible in the next financial year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1968; Vol. 758, c. 240.]
In this way my right hon. Friend is doing as much as he can in present
circumstances. I know that this situation is giving my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State great concern, as it does most of us, even those who do not think it necessary to increase police powers at this moment. I want to draw one or two analogies. There are mothers and fathers who are anxious about their sons and daughters out late at night on Saturday or at weekends and who are not content until they are safely at home and the door locked behind them.
It is being argued, with some force, that the breathalyser is acting as a deterrent to drunken motorists. There is another analogy in the Fire Arms Act. We have given the police certain powers to search for fire arms. There is similar power in relation to drugs. If we are to believe the figures, the breathalyser has resulted in a decrease in drunken driving. Could it not be that by giving the police this extra power prevention of the use of offensive weapons would result? Can my hon. Friend add to what has been said about this? Is he still convinced that the status quo should prevail and that to give the police these extra powers—
I will leave it at that. I want to refer to an article by a gentleman who most Scottish Members know—Mr. Noel Stevenson—in the Glasgow Herald of 9th December, 1967. His theme was that violence and crime pay. He said that there were far more "theft-worthy" goods about now than in the past and too few police to ensure arrest and conviction, while violence makes intimidation easy and difficult for the police to get information on which to arrest and secure a conviction. He went on to argue that we had amateurs and professionals housed together in prison. Part of the problems could be solved through separating these groups. We should take the profit out of crime, reimburse the victim for his loss and suffering and try to do some good for the criminal and the country.
I favour some measures whereby those who have committed some crime against society should be made to make restitution instead of society as a whole. We should hit the pocket, and I hope that my hon. Friend will consider some of the proposals made along these lines. These proposals will help to restore the confidence of the community in Parliament, showing that we are concerned about what is happening in our cities.
I join with other hon. Gentlemen who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollock (Mr. Wright) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Meatus (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) by initiating what has been a helpful and constructive debate. I sympathise with other hon. Members that we should have had the debate at such a late hour, but this is simply the luck of the draw. My hon. Friends were fifth on the list; they might have been first. But the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) is 27th. That is hard luck. It is not right to regard this luck of the draw as an insult to Scotland, or a mark of this Houses' inefficiency, as the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) tended to do.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think that I am saying anything of the kind. He will surely accept that a topic of this importance should not be dependent on the luck of the draw in a raffle for discussion in a Parliamentary context.
I do not dispute that, but we have a curious procedure which we follow very rarely, and it is right that Scottish Members should seek to have their fair share of the time available. I hope that we shall have a further debate at a more civilised hour, but this is in the hands of the Government.
Many figures have been given, demonstrating the size of the problem facing us in attempting to understand the nature of crime and to deal intelligently with it. Crime is so much on the increase that one may well ask whether it is the new profession. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) recognised the extreme seriousness of the Scottish crime level. He commented on unanalysed figures and misleading statistics. While I do not dispute what he said, I am sure that he would be the last person to use that sort of argument to gloss over the serious position. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) drew attention to the fears of people in Scotland. But if the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South has a certain suspicion of statistics and the like, I will tell him something which is no theory, and that is the fact that 147,749 crimes—not offences, but crimes—were made known to the police in Scotland in 1966. That indicates the massive problem which we are debating.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart spoke of the need for effective deterrents, and I agree with almost all that he said. I suggest that the best deterrent to crime is the probability of detection. It is when we consider this aspect of the problem that we come across another worrying fact which has not been referred to in the debate—and I apologise in advance to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South for referring to a statistic, although I am sure he will agree that it is one which is by no means misleading. It is this. Despite a welcome but small increase in the detection rate, only 37 per cent. of crimes are, in fact, cleared up. In other words, for every 37 criminals caught, 63 get off scot free. So long as we tolerate that position, I do not believe that we can seriously expect the crime level to fall. If there is only one chance in three of being caught, the temptation to take up this new "profession" must be very great indeed.
Clearly a higher detection rate, which is what we must seek, requires a stronger police force—stronger in numbers and in organisation and equipment. If that is so—and I think my conclusion is acceptable—it is very disturbing to discover that the police force in Scotland is nearly 1,000 men short of its establishment of 11,000. In other words, for every 10 policemen, there is one man missing. The shortage is not evenly spread, and I am sure the Minister shares the concern which has been expressed during the debate that the shortage is severest where the crime rate is particularly high in Glasgow. There, the police are 460 men short of their establishment of 3,000. At least, those were the figures a year ago. In other words, for every 10 policeman in Glasgow, there are two missing. Yet nearly half the crimes of violence in Scotland take place in Glasgow, and my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok gave us quite terrifying figures showing the incidence of crime in that city.
That brings me to the next point which we should consider, namely, how to overcome this shortage. That must be achieved clearly by stepping up recruitment and by diverting to other people some of the tasks carried out by the police. I was interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart had to say about the increase in the number of traffic wardens. When we first discussed the matter of traffic wardens in Scotland we all expressed the conviction that relations between the traffic wardens and the public would be satisfactory. Indeed. I think the House will agree that that is the case. My own experience in Perth is that a harmonious relationship has been built up.
I hope that the transfer of traffic duties and other responsibilities from the police to traffic wardens will continue and increase. It is disturbing, however, that when we face this urgent need to come nearer to the establishment and, indeed, to reach it, we should find that in the last year the net increase in the police strength was only 36, if the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart are correct, as I am sure they are. That is a tiny increase when the shortage is nearly 1,000 and I hope that the hon. Member will comment on the questions and constructive suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart.
I have said something about the need also to increase the strength of the organisation. Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries, have referred to the importance, in this respect, of the regional crime squad. Earlier this month the Secretary of State told us that a scheme for a regional crime squad had been prepared and approved by the Police Advisory Board. He said that the scheme would be sent to all Scottish chief constables by the end of this month. That is now only a few days away, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us if the scheme has been approved by all the chief constables in Scotland, and when the regional crime squad will be put into effect. I hope that he will also tell us something about the equipment of the squad, its operation and its organisation.
Here I must be careful what I say, in view of your very wise Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member is considering recommendations made by the chief constables and Glasgow magistrates about the powers of search of the police, and I say no more than that I cannot conceive that it is right not to act on these recommendations, in view of the alarming increase in crimes of violence. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill rightly pointed out, what we need to do is to stop the weapon from being used, and not to leave police action until the damage has been done.
In an intervention earlier when I was speaking the hon. Gentleman suggested that no one would suggest that there should be random frisking in the streets. That being ruled out, will the hon. Gentleman explain how the proposal made will increase, in practical terms, the powers at present available to the police?
I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I can remain in order by making just one point to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South because it answers his question. I turn to the question of birds' eggs. Last year Parliament gave police powers in this respect. Section 11 of the Protection of Birds Act reads:
Where a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that any person has, in contravention of section 1 of the principal Act, taken or destroyed an egg of a bird included in Schedule 1 to that Act and that evidence of the commission of the offence is to be found on that person or in any vehicle, boat or animal which that person may be using, the constable may without warrant stop and search that person and any such vehicle, boat or animal …
I leave that point simply by asking the Under-Secretary to reflect on the difference between a bird's egg and a flick knife.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pollok and other hon. Members have raised the fundamental question, why has this frightening increase taken place? What accounts for this enormous rise in the rate of crime, and particularly in what, on the surface, appear to be senseless crimes of violence? If we can discover why these things happen, then we shall be much better equipped to know how to deal with them and how to prevent them from happening again. Is this a symptom of poor housing and bad environment? To some extent, I am sure it is. To what extent does the rise in crime reflect lack of parental control over and interest in the child? No doubt this has some bearing on the matter, too. Is it the lack of parental care for the child that can encourage a child to drift from naughtiness into wickedness later on? Is this a consequence of the growing permissiveness in our society? Is it a consequence of the disruption and loosening of the old disciplines of the family, the school, and the Church? And there are many other questions one could pose.
I believe we do not give enough consideration to fundamental questions of this kind. Sometimes we begin to strive to find an answer, I suggest, almost by accident. I was most interested in the Kilbrandon Report. I cannot refer, without straying out of order, to the legislation which follows it, but I was particularly attracted by one aspect of that Report, which put forward proposals which could perhaps help to nip the potential criminal in the bud, and we shall be debating that on another occasion. I am convinced, however, that there is need for more research into all these questions. There is need for more action by the Government.
If we can follow some of the recommendations put forward tonight and encourage the Government to take steps which will increase the rate of detection of crime I hope we shall remember that an increased rate of detection puts an added strain on the prison service, another body of men to whom it would be right for the House to pay tribute tonight. The prison service works in very difficult conditions. Prisons are overcrowded, and here again, I do not think we give enough consideration or imaginative thought to another fundamental question, which is, for what purpose do we send a man to prison? That, too, is something we should think more about. Do we give enough thought to the social problems facing a prisoner approaching release, and the discharged prisoner, so that they can be helped to take art honest place in society?
Here again I return to the question of research. I believe that research into the nature of crime will surely establish facts about the background and the behaviour of the criminal and so help to produce a new knowledge about the origin of crime. Of course, research and study will not remove or lessen the need for all the other measures which have been referred to during this debate, but research and study may in the end help us to tackle this grave and growing problem at its source.
I have been slightly disturbed during the debate, slightly puzzled, too, having heard Member after Member congratulating the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) on the manner of his speech. I am not puzzled or disturbed because of their congratulating him on raising the debate: I approve entirely this debate having been raised. But he has been congratulated on the manner in which he delivered his speech. I have been puzzled, and I have been worrying about what was worrying me about his speech. It was a strange mixture. Throughout it, we were reminded of the hon. Gentleman's academic background, and I was pleased to hear it. Recently, I have come under frequent attack when I have stressed the need for research, and I was glad to have his support. However, mixed up with so many of his valuable and interesting points, there was what might be called academic Alf Garnettry, and it disturbed me to hear it coming from a real academic. Some of his point could have provided us with a great deal of useful material, for discussion.
Clearly it has been difficult for most hon. Members to discuss this subject and, to a great extent, their obvious intention was to deal with the problem which has given rise to much public discussion over the last few months, and it is especially difficult for me in that I cannot explore some of the aspects which arise.
The problem involved in the forbidden subject of search is not an easy one. Above all, I should say to those hon. Members who have thought of it as being the panacea that that is not a view which is shared by most workers in this area of activity. At best, they say that it might help. The big question which we have to face is whether it would help, or whether it would create more difficulties than it would solve.
I cannot specifically go into the analogy between firearms and birds' eggs, much as I would have liked to, because it would have made the point even more clear. However, perhaps one or two matters should be kept in mind. The first is the comparative rarity of firearms being carried. To have reason to believe that a man carries a gun one must have been prompted by a very specific factor. The second is the ease of a definition of "firearm", unlike "offensive weapon".
The liberty of the subject is involved in both those points, but what arises from it is the danger of this tending in the direction suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar), and of search itself leading to the very kind of violence and the provocation of violence which this step was seen as being designed to avoid. I am sorry that I cannot be more specific because of the ruling from the Chair, but I hope that I have at any rate recognised that the problem is a real one, and that there is no delay or dragging of feet in examining it.
I would have thought that increasing the police force in Glasgow to its full establishment would be an even greater deterrent, yet that subject does not arouse the same passions. In other words, the point raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok was truer than he thought when he said that he regarded this as a token of our intent. I was disturbed to hear that from an academic, because it would be dangerous to use this which is a specific proposal for dealing with a given crime as a symbol, and then set it against the grossest kinds of crime. He referred to the Cardonald murder in terms which shook me, and I hope that we do not have cause to regret what he said about a matter which is not yet clear.
A number of hon. Members have put forward specific points about police manpower. I have some figures here which might be useful from a factual point of view. I am pleased to have had approval for spending some time in developing research. I agree however that we are also dealing with a short term measure, and in that the availability of police manpower is enormously significant. I pay tribute here to the police with whom I have been working over the past year. If the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), in his very unhelpful speech, really thinks this is the attitude of the police he should speak to the man most concerned in the discussions with me to see he shares this view about my caring more for the aggressor than the victim. I have had most discussions with the Chief Constable of Glasgow. He should ask him. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns should try to discover these things before making provocative and ill-informed statements. The police have been doing a difficult job well in difficult circumstances. I accept the figures which have been given about the increase in the crime rate.
In 1966 the police strength was 10,194. By December, 1967, that figure had crept up—not nearly enough—to 10,247. In the last two months it has increased again by 63 up to 10,310. Therefore, there has been a measurable, but still not sufficient, increase. We have, however, been helped by recruitment in other directions—traffic wardens and civilianisation, of which hon. Members have approved. The total manpower, therefore, at December, 1966, was 11,758; in December, 1967, the total manpower was 12,284; and in February of this year it was 12,445. That includes police cadets, traffic wardens and whole-time civilians. The available manpower in the last six years has gone up from 10,817 to 12,445. I agree that this is not sufficient. This is one reason why I promoted the campaign that we are currently running in Glasgow. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok should not say that it is an evasive answer because it did not deal with the specific point which he regarded as a token. There was nothing evasive about the meeting that I held and the proposals which arose out of it. They were practical and sen- sible suggestions, including the campaign that we are running in Glasgow. I know of the very great interest it has aroused. In the ten days up to 3.30 this afternoon, 70,400 have attended. This is a great tribute to the officials of the Scottish Office and Glasgow police who organised and publicised the campaign.
The question of prison buildings was also raised. On this point I am taken aback by hon. Members opposite. Of all things with which to charge this Government, the state of our Scottish prison buildings is the last. We are spending about ten times as much per annum as was spent ten years ago. If anyone has the right to complain about the state of prison buildings in Scotland, it is I, because I inherited this problem from hon. Gentlemen opposite. Recently we had a discussion about the siting of a temporary prison when the opposition to it was led by a prominent Member of the party opposite. This is the kind of problem that we have to face, and I hope that we will receive the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cathcart's support when we need to establish a temporary prison in an area.
It was suggested that the number of re-convictions shows the need for heavier penalties to be imposed. I do not know whether stiffer penalties will prevent the return of criminals to prison. This inference cannot be drawn from any research that I have studied. One of the difficulties is that research into the careers of those who commit crimes of violence suggests that on average most people who commit crimes of violence do not persist in their crimes. The only deduction that can be made from the figures is that more people who are criminals commit crimes of violence, but this is almost tautologous.
Reference has been made to the abuse of compensation paid to victims of crimes of violence. I take the point put forward by the hon. Member for Cathcart, and the hon. Member for Pollok. I am sure that they will forgive me if I do not follow them at length into this question. A subcommittee at the Home Office is looking into this. It is part of the Advisory Committee on the Penal System with which we are associated, and it is considering the various aspects of this problem. I think that we had better await its report.
I was asked whether we had done some of the things that we said we were going to do. The establishment of the Scottish Crime Squad was one of these. I hope that the squad will soon be established. A collaboration scheme relating to its establishment is being circulated to chief constables with a view to obtaining the consent of the police authorities to the scheme. The Scottish Office, my right hon. Friend, and I have been accused of delay, but one of the difficulties is that this is a matter over which we have no control. It is largely a matter of convincing the police authorities of the need for this, and we need time to achieve this.
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) asked about Fife. This matter has led to some discussions between myself and the police authorities, but I prefer not to use a bludgeon. I want a settlement to be reached by agreement. I am aware of the point made by the hon. Gentleman, and I made my views clear to all the constituent bodies of the police authorities. Two of the three police authorities have agreed to my proposals, and I shall be addressing a full meeting of the third authority a week on Friday. Modifications have been made to the proposal. They came half way to meet me, but I am not content with that. I agree that the position must be followed through, and I hope to have the matter clarified at the meeting to which I have referred. I may, of course, be convinced the other way, and perhaps I should not express too strong a view about what I think may come out of the meeting.
I have been listening to almost every word of this debate. The hon. Gentleman is telling the House what worries him. What worries me at the moment is that I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman really understands the urgency of the situation. He keeps saying that things are not entirely in his hands. I accept that, but I cannot accept that the police forces in Scotland do not support the principle of leadership, provided it is of the right kind.
That is an extraordinary statement. I have not said any such thing. I was talking about our relationship with the police authorities, and defining the existing situation. The right hon. Gentleman was at one time the Secretary of State for Scotland. He knows the powers which exist between us and the police authorities. Leadership is best achieved by collaboration, rather than by any of the alternatives suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, and we get collaboration from the police. It is not a question of making excuses. I am not excusing anything. I regret that we have not recruited more people to the police force, but what does the right hon. Gentleman think I am apologising for? It might help if he could enlighten me on that.
The hon. Gentleman has said that he needs more time for research, and he said just now that the establishment of the crime squad depended on getting the police authorities to come with him, and that it was not within his power to force it. Of course I know that but, surely, when crime is increasing at this rate, leadership would get the police authorities behind him?
At present, the collaboration agreement is being circulated to chief constables, so the right hon. Gentleman should wait to see whether or not they reject our leadership. I am in favour of any search for positive action, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that there is any quick solution. The worst difficulty is that everyone knows the answer to crime, but they all know different answers. We have all suffered from this: I have myself. I used to think that the clue was poverty and that if we abolished poverty we would abolish crime, but that was not right. Nor is affluence the reason, the fact that youngsters have more money in their pockets. We do not see this happening in Denmark and Italy, for example, but it does in other countries.
That is why I agree that we need this kind of research, and I am encouraging it. I have been pleased with my relationships with people working in this field over the last few months. However, it is an immediate problem which requires immediate measures—and not necessarily those which hon. Members would have suggested had they been in order in so doing.
The subject was raised of equipment and new systems of policing as they relate to the estimates. There is an explanation for that. In September, we asked the chief constables to review the operational methods and disposition of their forces with a view to making the greatest possible use of cars, in conjunction with personal radios, in the development of unit beat patrols, and we said that we were prepared to assist in the speedy provision of these cars and the necessary new equipment. The reason for the small amount in next year's provisions is that we slotted it forward to September. It was because of greater and not less urgency.
I am extremely interested in the unit beat police method and hopeful for it. It is interesting—and, I think, useful—that the debate has swung around to the subject of the police. As to whether we are going to cut back the number of civilian employees, we are nowhere near having to restrain recruitment for the police force and recruitment of civilians should also continue where it will release policemen from duties which do not require their qualifications, training and powers. We will, however, have to keep our eye on the recruitment of the additional civilians to see that we are getting this kind of input-output equation.
I have to some extent answered the questions about civilianisation and equipment, although I do not know whether the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) was satisfied with that. But there has been an increase. Between 1966 and February of this year, the number of whole-time civilians rose from 1,092 to 1,371, which is a fairly useful increase. Similarly with equipment.
The other question raised was that of deterrents. It has been suggested that hon. Members have put forward numerous solutions to this problem, but is that really so? I suggest that the real solution came in the remarks of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) when he referred to the real deterrent as being fear of detection.
I would like to make the position clear following the remarks about offensive weapons and stabbings, and I cannot emphasise this point too strongly. Whereas in my younger days in Glasgow the offensive weapon slashed and marked, the danger now is that it stabs; and the effect of this, as we have seen, can be serious. This is partially the reason for the increase in the number of murders. As the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) pointed out, we must treat this increased rate with care, particularly in view of the changed judicial procedure. I accept that there has been an increase in the murder rate, but this has arisen out of the rise in violence, since some violence will end in murder.
From that point, however, hon. Members are in difficulty in suggesting that the death penalty would provide the necessary deterrent, for unless they are prepared to say that the death penalty should be introduced for all crimes of violence, it will not act as a deterrent to that form of violence which gives rise to murder.
I accept what the hon. Member for Cathcart said about heavy sentences acting as a deterrent. There is no doubt that the courts also appreciate this. Reference was made to Lord Carmont, and to Lord Cameron but he was referring in the case to which reference has been made to a serious type of crime, and not the type of crime that could be dealt with by the powers of search. He was concerned with the violent intimidation of witnesses. It is in this connection that it is rather pointless to talk about extending police powers. The maximum penalty of life imprisonment can be imposed for intimidating witnesses, so the powers of the police in this matter really cannot be extended. We must be careful when discussing matters of this sort. Lord Cameron warned—and I go along with his warning—that it should be made clear to everyone that the punishment would be severe for those who interfered with witnesses. He said:
… conduct of that kind, if … punished with light sentences, could strike at the very roots of justice.
He demonstrated—and that demonstration has been repeated by others—that the courts are fully alive to their responsibilities. For example, from September to December, 1967, in four cases, four years' imprisonment was the penalty imposed for the crime of assault. In eight cases the courts imposed five years' imprisonment; in 14 cases, six years' imprisonment; in two cases, seven years; in two cases, eight years; and in two cases, 10 years. They were heavy sentences for crimes of assault. The courts are, therefore, alive to this problem.
While we must realise that it is not possible in many cases to extend these powers, there is the important question, into which I am looking closely, of the relationship between the public and the police. In the long run, this is the way forward. This relationship is improving and I am seeking to improve it. This is an important aspect of the campaign which I am running in Glasgow and the west of Scotland. If it is possible for a message to go out from the House at nearly Three o'clock in the morning, it is that parents, teachers, the public in Glasgow in general and particularly the young people may be assured that those who carry offensive weapons are liable to arrest. The offence, under the law, is the carrying of such weapons; and if people are suspected of carrying them and if it is suspected that they may be used, they are liable to be arrested without warrant. They can rest assured that Glasgow's police will use their powers, as I have explained.
Secondly, to parents and others: Ensure that the young people leave anything behind which might be interpreted or misused as a weapon. In this way with the combination of a repressive rôle and also of the more positive rôle outlined in that part of the hon. Member's speech of which I approved, there is no reason for panic. There is no reason for complacency either, but we must not encourage the feeling and sense of insecurity which I recognise at present.