asked the Secretary of State for Scotland in view of the concern which has been expressed in legal quarters at the circumstances in which certain people have recently died as the result of deliberate lethal attack, in some cases by juveniles, what steps he intends taking to create greater security for human life.
The police have been strengthened in the past year and my right hon. Friend will continue to support and encourage them in all they do to increase efficiency. In co-operation with local authorities we shall maintain action on the social front. My right hon. Friend has also referred the penalties for homicide to the Emslie Committee.
Would the hon. Gentleman accept as a basis of his approach that punishment for crime should have a curative purpose? Does he believe that to be so today? If he does, can he say why the number of murders in Scotland during the last few years has been increasing so rapidly?
As the hon. Member appreciates, the question of the causes of violence and so on is a very wide one. I agree that one has to look at it on every side, in relation to the police, the forms of punishment and many other factors. I assure the hon. Member that I take very seriously what he has said.
Would the Under-Secretary bear in mind that the increase in crime over the past few years has been in weapon assaults rather than murders? During the past six years there has been a fairly steady rate of murders in Scotland, until the past year. In these circumstances will the Government pay attention mainly to weapon assaults?
I take note of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. As he knows, the question of powers of search for offensive weapons, a matter in which I had some interest at one stage, is at present being considered by the Thompson Committee on Criminal Procedure. I take to heart what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, because this is a serious aspect of the problem.