I beg to move,
That the salary of the Secretary of State for the Home Department should be reduced by £1,000.
The recent hysterical outburst from the Home Secretary would seem to indicate that he is living in a strange world of his own. The purpose of this critical motion is to bring him down to earth and to remind him that he must discharge his responsibility as Home Secretary for the protection of our citizens not only with words but with actions.
The tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech at Ilford last Thursday would seem to indicate that he has forgotten that we had three debates on law and order last year, in January, July and November. They were all initiated by the Opposition. We made it clear on each occasion that we would not vote because we hoped that the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministers would respond to what we believed were constructive suggestions, to some of which I shall return in detail in order to refute the right hon. Gentleman's accusation that we Conservatives have offered no practical proposals and that our approach has been thoroughly irresponsible and dangerous.
I also intend to answer factually the right hon. Gentleman's accusation, which I deeply resent, that my approach to the problems of crime has been, to quote his words, "unpleasant, untrue and unhelpful". At the same time I intend to substantiate our charges against the right hon. Gentleman. Our first charge is that he has failed to take advantage of the constructive approach that we adopted in the three debates last year. Our second charge is that during his tenure of office his whole approach to the serious crime situation has been astonishingly complacent. Our third charge is that he has totally failed to provide the positive drive and leadership that the real protection of our citizens demands. Lastly I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House the sort of action programme against crime which we would support and which the Conservative Government will carry out.
I turn, first, to the strength and morale of our police service. In July 1977 I raised the question of an inquiry into police pay. Was that really so unpleasant, untrue and unhelpful? If it was so in July, it clearly was not in November, when the right hon. Gentleman announced that Lord Edmund-Davies's Committee would examine police pay as well as police negotiating machinery. I might be excused for feeling that I had been rather helpful in July. If the right hon. Gentleman had responded in July, he would have saved three vital months during which the erosion of police effectiveness through resignations continued at a worrying rate.
In a speech on Saturday, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Cold-field (Mr. Fowler), who has made a special study of the police and had a distinguished journalist's career writing on the subject, gave some serious statistics. He pointed out that in 1975 there were 2,701 resignations from police forces in England and Wales. In 1976 the total resignations increased to 3,827 Last year resignations reached a new peak of 5,166. My hon Friend also pointed out that some of the forces that are under most pressure are losing most heavily. Last year, for example, the Metropolitan Police lost almost 1,100 officers through resignation. That is especially serious because of the high rate of crime in London and because of the special duties placed on the police in the metropolis.
It is appropriate now to mention Saturday's events in Ilford. As I am being critical, and intend to continue to be, of the right hon. Gentleman, it is only fair to give him, as the police authority, and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, every credit for the success of that operation.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that, as a result of speeches made attacking racial minorities, whether in places such as Ilford or elsewhere, expensive operations have to be mounted, costing several thousand pounds, by an over-stretched police force? As the right hon. Gentleman is arguing for law and order, would it not be better for politicians sitting next to him to keep their mouths a little muted on such subjects, which can create the very disorder that he is so much against, according to his speech?
I find that the most extraordinary intervention from the hon. Gentleman. It may be that he has forgotten the period during which there has been violence from various extreme groups at both ends of the spectrum. It may be that he has forgotten some of the violence of the Grunwick picket line. Perhaps he has forgotten that and other things in the past. The hon. Gentleman should not adopt a holier-than-thou attitude about political violence.
I hope that I may make my next point in a calm atmosphere as it is important for the future. Whatever future decisions may be made on political marches—and they involve many conflicting considerations—one lesson is clear, namely, that the law must be upheld without fear or favour. Innocent citizens must have their rights and property protected no matter what extremist or other groups threaten violence. I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will accept that and use whatever influence he may have in certain quarters to ensure that that is carried out.
When the right hon. Gentleman was in a position to enforce law and order in a part of the United Kingdom, he engaged in parlying with the representatives of the Provisional IRA and created a special category of political prisoner. Does he not feel rather hypocritical now to be drivelling on about law and order from the Opposition Dispatch Box?
I am talking, first, about the situation in England and Wales. My record in Northern Ireland, especially in removing the no-go areas which I had on my arrival and which through Operation Motorman I subsequently removed, will stand a great deal of examination by anyone. The hon. Gentleman talks about the IRA. Yes, I did see members of the IRA. I never regretted that I had done it. I said that I would never do it again. I have stood by that and I always will.
I never concealed the fact that I saw them. I came to the House and openly told it why I had done so. Perhaps I may now continue with the situation in England and Wales.
The number of police officers required underlines how worrying it is that the strength of the Metropolitan Police fell slightly in 1977 and that the gap between its already unrealistic establishment and its actual strength is now about 4,500. Many areas of London as a whole must have been short of police protection last Saturday. The right hon. Gentleman, in his position as the police authority for the metropolis, knows perfectly well that the plain statistics disguise a far more worrying situation as regards police effectiveness. I challenge him, therefore, to admit publicly that in London the severe loss of experienced police officers through police resignations is being offset to the extent that it is by the recruitment of young men and women. Of course, the recruits are most welcome, but they cannot be counted as adequate replacements for experienced police officers.
There are many other large areas of the country, especially the large cities, where a similar loss of effectiveness is taking place. We must hope that adverse trends in police strengths will be reversed with an improved pay structure after the report of Lord Edmund-Davies's committee.
However, there can be no doubt that pay is not the only cause of frustration in the police service. There are anxieties about their status in society, about the unpleasant duties placed upon them and the disgraceful treatment that they receive from certain sections of our people. There is anxiety about the physical injuries that are inflicted upon them. Nor do they feel that in their duty of upholding the law placed upon them by Parliament they always receive from all parts of this House the wholehearted support which they are entitled to expect.
Against all this background, surely the right hon. Gentleman must realise that he only makes himself a laughing stock with chief constables and police authorities in many parts of the country when he proudly proclaims, as he did in his Ilford speech, that all forces are free to recruit up to full strength. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that is rather like you, Mr. Speaker, telling hon. Members of the House at the beginning of a very crowded debate that they are all free to make speeches. Indeed, they are. But they are very unlikely to be able to do so.
The right hon. Gentleman's answers to criticisms about police strength always compare present figures with those in March 1974, the Conservative Government having just left office. This comparison is totally irrelevant to the solution of our problems in 1978. Now we have a Government some of whose members constantly undermine respect for the observance of the law. The Lord President of the Council never fails to attack the judges if they produce a judgment which does not accord with his own political views and persuasions. That undermines respect for the law and makes the job of those who uphold the law that much more difficult.
There has been a dramatic rise in unemployment among boys and girls. That is the responsibility of this Government. Let no one have any doubt about the danger that that has created in terms of crime of all sorts, violence and vandalism. If boys and girls do not obtain jobs when they leave school, they feel that society has no need of them. If they feel that, they do not see any reason why they should take part in that society and comply with its rules. That is what is happening and, wherever we sit in this House, that is what we have to recognise.
There are also deteriorating living conditions in urban areas which until recently the Government did nothing about. That is another reason for the increase in crime.
On top of all that—and I agree that it is part of a worldwide trend—there has been a dramatic increase in crime of all sorts, including crimes of violence and vandalism. Surely it is obvious that the police have to deal with a totally different situation from that in 1974.
I notice the right hon. Gentleman screwing up his face. Can he really suggest that the crime rate today is not, for all these reasons, very different from what is was in 1974? Certainly the figures show that it is.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman must recognise the real danger that he faces today of declining police effectiveness at a time of steeply rising crime. He must act decisively to convince the police of their real value to the community and deal promptly with their morale, their pay and their conditions. If he shows real evidence that he intends to take such action, he will not find the Opposition "unpleasant, untrue and unhelpful". Rather, he will receive our enthusiastic and wholehearted support. That is certainly what would happen if the right hon. Gentleman took that action. But I fear that he will not take it.
At least, however, I must thank the right hon. Gentleman for responding positively to another of my apparently unhelpful suggestions. I told him in July how much we regretted his decision to cut back on civilian support for the police and on the recruiting and training of police cadets. But in October those cuts were restored and, in his speech at Ilford, he actually had the audacity to claim credit for this as a completely new and positive initiative.
I move on to the treatment of offenders. If the right hon. Gentleman were to study our three debates last year, he would not find any foundation for his claim that we were suggesting far a moment that there were instant solutions to complicated problems. Certainly he would have to admit that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) and the others of my hon. Friends concerned adopted a thoroughly constructive attitude throughout the debates on the Criminal Law Bill of 1977, with its limited improvements. Nor can the right hon. Gentleman complain with any justice in view of my constant support for the principle of non-custodial sentences, for the work of the Probation Service and for the development of community service orders introduced by the last Conservative Government. Those are areas of common ground, and it is only right for us all to recognise the invaluable work being done.
However, we also have to accept that developments on these lines can have only a limited effect, because the harsh reality is that they are not appropriate for some of the types of offenders with whom we have to deal.
When we consider others matters, I simply cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman can accuse the Opposition of having no practical proposals, bearing in mind that some of my colleagues, with my full support, produced two reports, one on juvenile crime and the other on the proper use of prisons. Both committees were chaired by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner), and both reports provoked considerable interest and discussion.
As a result of those reports, especially the first, on several occasions last year the Opposition proposed, having been supported by a Select Committee of the House and, I think, by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), that the Children and Young Persons Act should be amended to restore to magistrates the power to commit young offenders to secure accommodation.
As was their right, the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of State obstinately made it clear that they refused to meet our point. I think that they were wrong. However, let me make a wider suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman will know that there is widespread dissatisfaction among magistrates, social workers, probation officers and the police with the working of the juvenile courts—sometimes for different and occasionally for opposite reasons.
It has been suggested to me by people with considerable experience that the Scottish system of panels, based on the Report of the Kilbrandon Committee, on the Children and Young Persons Act 1964 and on the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 as amended by the Children Act 1975, works more satisfactorily. I emphasise that it was not my idea. If it were, I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman immediately would brand it as unhelpful. But as it came from people with knowledge and experience which the right hon. Gentleman would respect, I hope that he will at least agree to consider it. If he regarded it as helpful, I should be only too ready to put him and his officials in touch with those who made the proposal.
As for the second report, I believe that all those concerned will accept that its study of the proper use of prisons was a most comprehensive approach to the very serious problems in our Prison Service and that many of its conclusions have been supported strongly in the Press.
Among other proposals, my colleagues suggested that if prisons were to perform their proper role we must make plans to start removing from prisons those who should be treated elsewhere and so relieve the present serious overcrowding. In particular, they proposed the accommodation of the mentally subnormal on a secure basis in mental hospitals and the treatment of alcoholics in detoxification centres. Of course, these proposals could not be implemented at once. However, I want to put this question to the right hon. Gentleman. Does he accept these as objectives? If he does, will he at least start making plans on that basis? If he does not accept them as objectives, what else does he intend to do?
I chose my words carefully, and I made it clear that it would not be possible to do all this at once. But they are still objectives, and I am asking the Home Secretary whether he is prepared to set them out as objectives for the future. Of course, it could not all be done at once. I accept that.
We have constantly proposed more detention centres, both junior and senior. Now that the Home Secretary has boasted of new junior centres, why does he not institute some senior ones? Many football hooligans are young adults. I was interested to find a new note in the Home Secretary's comments at Ilford on detention centres. He said that these regimes were "drastic and firm". If they are genuinely that, it is only right and proper that when he talks of drastic and firm regimes he should automatically admit the importance of the principle of firm discipline, which I support strongly, and have been advocating constantly.
I want to go further. I want to set up an experimental project with severer discipline providing short, sharp, shock treatment. My purpose is not to return to the old curative methods to satisfy some sadistic instinct, which I have not got, but to promote public confidence in our whole penal system by saying that we are prepared to try to deal with the small minority of hardened young thugs who thumb their noses at authority and laugh at all the present penal arrangements. I may be criticised, but the critics can offer no alternative.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any young people who actually laugh at the severity of discipline in detention centres? In what way would his proposals be more severe?
Certainly I have evidence of young persons who start off on a life of crime and move through the juvenile courts, borstal and detention centres to become young adults in prison, and who laugh at their punishment all along the line. These are the people with whom I wish to try to deal.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer my hon. Friend's question by telling us what different treatment he is advocating in the centres that he thinks should be established?
I have tried to indicate that what I am proposing is, first of all, that the regimes in detention centres should be as firm and drastic as the Home Secretary suggests. I think it is questionable that they are firm and drastic. I should like an assurance on that point, but, provided that I accept that they are, I want to go further and have one centre with severer discipline, along the lines of the glasshouse systems in the Services. This would provide a short, sharp, shock sentence under very severe conditions. Those who criticise me must answer this question—if we do not try an experiment on these lines, what is the alternative? My critics have no alternative. If we do not try this, these young thugs will continue through the system and we shall sit back and say that frankly there is nothing we can do about it. I cannot think of anything more likely to undermine public confidence in our whole penal system. I do not say that this scheme necessarily will succeed.
I mean much severer discipline in the centres based on the glasshouse systems that were used in the war. That should be clear enough to anybody. If hon. Members opposite laugh at that, they are laughing at a great many people in this country who believe that something of this sort is vital if we are to get support for our penal system.
I have listened with very great interest to the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. Of course this is very important. Will he tell us where these super glasshouses will be set up and how much money he is prepared to spend on them?
I have proposed that there should be a project. I do not suggest that there should be more than one centre to start with. I want to see one established as an experiment and if it works I want to see others set up as well. We should be able to try a new system, as nothing else has worked so far. To summarise—
To summarise, I shall tell the Home Secretary the programme of action which I believe he should follow and which will be pushed with major political drive and determination by the next Conservative Government. While I am outlining these points I shall not give way at all. It is only fair that as I have been accused of having no proposals, at least the House should listen to these.
First of all, the Government must accept that the law is indivisible. They must show clearly to the country that they will uphold and support the law at all times. The police service must be given unstinting backing and support. It must have pay, conditions and status in society which will improve morale, stop the early resignation of experienced officers and attract the right type of recruits for the future. The strength of the police forces must be built up to authorised establishments, and then establishments must be increased to provide more bobbies on the beat, more anti-vandalism squads and more officers for community relations work.
Those who administer the law—the judges and the magistrates—must be given the widest range of penalties so that the punishment fits the crime and the type of offender. Juvenile courts must be reorganised to give back power to magistrates and to ensure closer cooperation between them, social workers and police in determining sentences. The use of non-custodial sentences, in association with the work of the probation services, must be developed, as must the use of detention centres.
The problem of the hardened young thug who is not affected by any penalty must be faced. Regimes in detention centres must be accompanied by an experimental project of short, sharp, shock treatment and severer discipline. The basic problems of the prison service must be tackled by the encouragement of shorter prison sentences and the eventual removal to other accommodation of those who should not be in prison at all.
Outside the sole responsibility of the Home Office, the Government must uphold standards and values in schools, encourage all voluntary organisations for boys and girls, and deal with the serious problems of youth unemployment for which they are responsible. They must bring back life and activity to the derelict areas in our cities.
I wish that I could believe that the Home Secretary has the determination and will necessary to ensure that the Home Office and the Government will follow such a programme. But, alas, in his period in office so far, the Home Secretary has appeared increasingly frightened of taking decisive action. Does he not realise the serious nature of crime and violence in this country today? Does he not recognise the longing of so many people for a positive lead and for positive action? If he does, why on earth does he not act?
Our vote tonight is a demand for action in place of indecision and weakness. It is a demand increasingly echoed by the people of this country.
I would make it plain to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who quoted parts of my speeches in recent weeks, that nothing that he could do would be unpleasant or unhelpful and that he must not take it to heart if I get at other people in his party: it does not apply to him.
I am sorry to interrupt so early, but if the right hon. Gentleman makes that statement I have to say that I have been the spokesman on home affairs for this party all the time that he has been Home Secretary. If I am not entitled to take what he says personally, I cannot imagine who is, since clearly it must be aimed at the person who speaks for the party on this subject.
What I was referring to was the tendency of the Conservative Party, whenever there is a sign of a General Election or a by-election, to stand up and tell the electorate that only the Conservatives are concerned about law and order. I believe that that is both unhelpful and untrue.
The threat to law and order is not particular to this country. If what the right hon. Gentleman said at the end of his speech is so, it might be worth while casting our net wider to see what we should do. What is happening is common to all Western European countries and to North America. Although the information is far from comprehensive, it suggests that crime in this country has increased by about two-thirds, when it has doubled in the United States, Canada and Holland. What those figures show is that we may, under Governments of all parties, be making mistakes in this country, but it may be that some of the social and economic conditions are such that we do not have the problems that arise, for example, on the North American scene.
If that is so, it is extraordinarily silly and foolish to have a shouting match at the time of an election when the cause of the problem is complicated and we should be analysing it. The growth in the crime rate has happened whichever political party has been in power and in my view will continue to rise, judging by world conditions, whichever party is in power after the next General Election.
It is untrue to say, at a by-election or a General Election, that there is some simple solution to this problem—that if only we were to do certain things, it would be solved. It is like the action of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), who in his own constituency the other day said that United Kingdom passport holders would be sent home and then got his leader to deny that it had happened. This is—
The right hon. Gentleman has said that in my constituency I said that United Kingdom passport holders would not be admitted to this country. That is totally untrue. On every possible occasion that I have spoken both to the Press and to the other media I have made it clear that the Conservative Party upholds the promises that we have made to United Kingdom passport holders. The right hon. Gentleman must not make that case. The only thing that I am saying, as has been said by my right hon. Friend, is that if we faced a situation in which hundreds of thousands of people were still to come in from East Africa, we should have to look at that situation again. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] That has been said by my noble Friend Lord Carr and by my right hon. Friend in this House. It is a terminological inexactitude for the right hon. Gentleman to make those claims.
I have the cutting from the local Ashford newspaper, and before the evening is out we can look at it. It may be, as the hon. Gentleman says, chat it got it wrong. That is the paper that is published in his own constituency. However, if he says that it is wrong, I accept his word for it.
Was it not within the hearing of every hon. Member that what the Home Secretary said just now was that my hon. Friend had in his constituency advocated that the United Kingdom passport holders should be sent back? I understood that to be the charge that he was making. Is that the charge that he is maintaining against my hon. Friend?
If it is not what I said, I withdraw that as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] But let us be clear: what I am saying is that the impression in the country on immigration and law and order is that only one party is concerned—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and that is untrue. The fact that the Tories cheered those words proves what I say, that that is what is being said. That is not true.
With regard to the causes of crime, is it the growth of television? [Laughter.] That causes laughter from the well-known and distinguished hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler), who is the great expert on crime. He sneers at that. But that is what is put to me—that television has something to do with it.
There have been two reports on this matter which, if he had been in the Home Office, the hon. Member for Sutton Cold-field would have chucked out. One says that the sense of lawlessness is inevitably heightened. One has to be conscious that the report from Dr. Belson concluded that long-term exposure to violence on television increases the amount of serious violence among young boys. We did a study ourselves which showed that it has not proved socially harmful effects on the viewers.
Another cause suggested is the decline in the influence of the family. Or is it the changes in the schools? As for terrorism—obviously, I want to return to this subject later—undoubtedly the increase in international terrorism in recent years is due to the new technical devices and the ease of travel.
There is a problem in the inner cities. It is easy to speculate about the causes of crime in this respect, but I think everybody recognises that urban deprivation in the inner cities, especially the larger cities, is one of the sources of crime. This Government have made a significant attempt to grapple with the intractable and deep-seated problems arising in the inner cities.
The right hon. Gentleman says that inner city deprivation is a cause of crime, yet in a period which has seen the increase of every kind of public welfare beyond anything imaginable 30 years ago crime has increased proportionately. Is not this link between the two completely fallacious?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is a lawyer and sees these matters in the courts. In some of the countries that I have mentioned, where welfare payments have not increased nearly as much as in this country, the increase in crime is much greater. The point I am making is that this matter is complicated but that there is undoubtedly a problem in the inner cities.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has developed partnership agreements, we have increased the amount of money spent on the urban programmes and we are looking at the problem of industry in the inner city areas. There is no doubt that this problem is related to the growth of crime. To what degree this is so, however, is much more difficult to decide.
Turning to the subject of vandalism, in April last year I called a conference of about 40 representatives of organisations with a part to play. We discussed housing, education, transport and industry. Local authorities, the police, architects, planners and people involved with recreational and community projects were among those taking part. The conference established beyond doubt that the problem of vandalism has to be tackled on a broad front and that all the agencies have to be involved. I have discussed the matter with chief constables.
The Home Office summary of police and anti-vandalism measures employs a wide variety of schemes with the help of special task forces. In Nottingham recently, I was very much impressed by what the constabulary had done by the use of anti-vandalism patrols and other schemes. These measures are aimed, for example, at preventing football hooliganism. I have had useful meetings with chief constables, British Rail, the transport police and others. Those meetings will continue. The reason why I have held these meetings is that I believe that people should be thoroughly involved in dealing with these problems, and I believe that one body of opinion can learn from another. These matters are very much interrelated.
In my view—and I speak very much for myself on this point—over the years local authorities have been much to blame for decanting people miles away from the areas in which they have been brought up. I am referring not just to the normal high-rise flats, many of which are excellent in my view, but to the fact that in some areas and deserts have been created. This has caused difficulty in terms of social relationships. All political parties and all Governments are to blame in this respect. I believe that it is time we pulled back from that position. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is moving us back from the concept of clearing the inner cities and moving people outside. I believe that the earlier policy was in error, but I must confess that we have all participated in that policy in the past 25 years.
My right hon. Friend said that this is not a matter attaching to any political party. He might wish to know that the Labour group in Derbyshire in 1976 put up a plan involving a massive budget for the police force and that that plan was backed by Labour Members of Parliament. However, as soon as the Tories gained control in May 1976 they slashed that budget by £100,000.
I appreciate that my hon. Friend has mentioned that matter on an earlier occasion at Question Time. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and having to decide to do something when one is in opposition is a very different matter from having to deal with the situation when one is in office.
I now wish to deal with the criminal law and the powers of the courts. The Criminal Law Act 1977 makes a major contribution. It has strengthened the law over a range of offences and it has effected a substantial reform of penalties available to magistrates. It has simplified the rules governing the allocation of cases between magistrates and Crown courts, and it should transfer about 6,000 cases a year from Crown courts to magistrates. Maximum fines are now set at £1,000 and other limits are to be raised. Furthermore, more flexible use may be made of attendance centre orders.
The courts have all the powers they require both to deal severely with serious cases and to give shorter sentences for minor offences.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the courts have all the powers they require. Why, in those circumstances, did the Lord Chief Justice, most recently, complain of the fact that Section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1961 prevented young men between 17 and 21 years of age being sent to prison, except for periods of six months or less or three years or more? Why did the Government insist on resisting our attempts to put the situation right by repealing that section in the criminal law legislation last year? Since court after court has called for that provision to be repealed, why does the right hon. Gentleman insist on retaining it?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to mention that point, and there are different ways of going about the matter. I believe that the generic scheme will be able to cope with any change administratively and will be a much better way of dealing with the matter than the way he suggests. I hope at the appropriate moment to bring in a commencement order. The House will appreciate that that will not happen right away. The expenditure aspect is important. Perhaps when my ministerial colleague replies to the debate he will deal with that matter at a little more length, but it is a matter of argument rather than one of intent.
I was saying that the courts had all the power they require. The Advisory Council on the Penal System—a body which contains policemen as well as academics—has recommended short sentences, and I welcome that approach, which is echoed in a recent Conservative pamphlet. Community service will be operating throughout the country by the end of the next financial year, and it is surely right that these offenders should work for the good of the community.
I wish to turn to the subject of young offenders. A figure of £3½ million has been made available to local authorities over two years for secure accommodation in the community homes system. We are making the fullest possible use of the Children Act 1975 to make direct grants for the provision of secure accommodation. We now have under construction 113 secure treatment places. There are plans for 12 more attendance centres for juveniles, in addition to the 60 already available to provide for part-time attendance, usually on Saturday afternoons, and we intend to establish more.
There are 11 detention centres providing short, firm discipline and education for men aged 17 to 21 and six centres for boys of 14 to 17. Although the regime is brisk and firm, they are not "glasshouses" as envisaged by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border—a punitive approach long ago abandoned when Conservative Ministers were in charge of the Home Office.
As the "Young Adult Offender" report of the Advisory Council on the Penal System pointed out, it is wrong to treat parts of the system for young offenders in isolation from all the others. That is the advice given to us by that body. What is necessary is a constructive response, not a blinkered approach founded on a half-remembered experience of years ago in antique military and educational establishments. Times change and so must our response. As the advisory council's report says when referring to the concern over the effects of custodial treatment of young adults since the war:
These doubts have been accentuated by the rapid changes in social values which have been taking place in modern society. A form of institutional training, originally based upon confidence in military training methods and the boarding-school ethos, now increasingly seems, despite many adjustments which have been made in its application, to be of doubtful relevance to the conditions in which most young adult offenders will find themselves on release".
That is what I am advised by a body which consists of policemen, lawyers and others, and that advice is directly contrary to the view put forward by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border.
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to pour scorn on and is sneering at the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). Will he say what sentence he would impose on the sort of person who chucks darts at a lad at a football match and hits him between the eyes?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman what I would do if I were that hooligan's father. It seems to me that that side of the matter is far more important than the matter of sentencing, which I, as Home Secretary, cannot comment upon because I understand the matter is sub judice.
I regard that case as quite dreadful. It is the kind of thing that is happening at football matches. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not expect me to be on the side of the person who threw the dart. I repeat that I regard that kind of behaviour at a football ground or anywhere else as quite dreadful. It has something to do with the wider ethos of society and there is no one way of dealing with it. I hope that the belligerent way in which the hon. Gentleman put that point to me does not flow from the fact that he thinks that I am in some way weak on these matters.
On the subject of expenditure, a sum of over £250 million more is now being spent in real terms than was being spent in 1974 when the Conservatives left office. I regard that as a meaningful figure. At a time when public expenditure has been pared, £¼ billion in real money, not inflated money, has been spent. In addition, last year an extra £50 million-plus has been allocated, including £40 million to cover the higher costs of services. Further, there was the law and order package of £10 million a year. Most of this was for the police, for additional civilian support, equipment and vehicles and police cadets. The remainder was for community service and for prison staff. On top of this, we added £5 million of capital expenditure, of which nearly £3 million went for police buildings. Our expenditure forecasts provide for a growth in police expenditure of nearly 4 per cent. over the five years to 1981–82.
Future plans provide for a further increase in real terms of £86 million in total law and order expenditure over the next five years. Depending upon the circumstances, and I shall say no more at the moment, I hope that we shall be able to provide more resources. What is sure is that the resources necessary to implement the recommendation of the Edmund-Davies Committee considering police pay will also be found. That is separate from any figure that I have already given.
Has my right hon. Friend any views about whether the Metropolitan Police should have special services and special remuneration in excess of the rest of the con-stabularly in the United Kingdom?
I have had this point put to me as I go round the country by members of the Federation in county constabularies outside London. What I have said is that the Government will accept whatever recommendation the Edmund-Davies Committee makes. The Federation wanted that. We had better wait and see. The point made by my hon. Friend does not seem to be well received by some of the county constabularies, who say that they do equally as good a job as the people in the metropolitan areas. We shall have to see what Lord Edmund-Davies comes up with.
I see in today's Daily Telegraph that the Police Federation claims that law and order accounts for less than 2 per cent. of all police expenditure. That is not the case. This does, however, draw attention to the fact that law and order services will be doing better as a proportion of public expenditure in 1978–79 than in 1973–74.
I turn now to the subject of police strength. There were 7,500 more police officers at the end of 1977 than there were in March 1974. There were 7,500 more police officers at the end of 1977 than were in March 1974.
There were 7,500 more police officers at the end of 1977 than there were in March 1974.
At the end of 1977 there were 1,500 more Metropolitan policemen than there were in March 1974. The right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, in the pie factory on Friday, said that that was not the case. The figures are there. There are more policemen in the country as a whole and in the Metropolitan Police in particular than there were in 1974 when we came to office. I have the figures for the number of civilians working in the police force. Before the advent of this Government the figures were rising. These figures have to be taken together when we are considering the numbers fighting crime.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border poked fun at me when I said at Ilford that all forces were free to recruit up to full strength. What I meant was that there is no limitation to recruitment on any police force. The money will be found for any force which can recruit. In addition, there is expenditure on telecommunications and the other support services.
The point that is important, that we all ought to take into account, is that the problem with police strength lies in the fact that there is a loss of trained policemen after four or five years' service. Although there are more policemen than there were, there is a loss of these trained men. In 1977, 71 per cent. of those left the service prematurely, before pension age, had five years' service or less. We shall have to see the effect of police pay upon this trend. Lord Edmund-Davies is looking at this.
Last year the police received a 10 per cent. increase in pay. When Mr. Roy Jenkins was Home Secretary in 1975, he obtained a 30 per cent. increase for the police when everyone else received £6. The problem is much deeper-seated than that and it may be that there is a need for a change in the method of payment. Perhaps I had better not go any further than that before the Edmund-Davies Committee reports. There is no doubt that in the public service generally—this is not something affecting only the police—young men and women are marrying much earlier than did the generation represented by most of us in the House. These young people want to take out a mortgage earlier than many of us would have dreamt was possible.
Although we have recruited extra numbers, there is the problem of policemen retiring after four or five years' service. I have every confidence in the Edmund-Davies Committee, which is looking at this. As a result of the police accepting the 10 per cent. offer and the Government agreeing to accept the recommendations of the Edmund-Davies Committee, I believe that we shall have a pay structure which will last for 15 or 20 years. That is what the Government are aiming at.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House a breakdown of those figures for the increase in police officers? Will he confirm that there has been a substantial increase in the number of women police officers to fill up establishments? Does he not also admit that the average length of service of a woman police officer is three years and that the service as a whole is losing a substantial number of long-serving, experienced police officers? This must affect not merely the efficiency but the morale of the force.
The hon. Member raised this issue the other day at Question Time. There has been increased recruitment of young women into the police force. There are problems in connection with certain work done by them in the force. I have no doubt that the Edmund-Davies Committee will consider this. I am always prepared to consider this issue within the global figures. What I am not prepared to be told, as the Leader of the Opposition said in Northampton, is that there are fewer policemen under this Government that there were in 1974. That is not the case.
Is it not a fact that the efficiency of the police force has been gravely undermined by the loss of experienced police officers? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the detection rate has fallen from 49 per cent. to 48 per cent. between 1975 and 1976?
Will my right hon. Friend reject the implication in the remarks of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) that there is something unsatisfactory about an increase in the numbers of policewomen?
I do not believe that it is unsatisfactory that there should be more women in the police force. There is, however, no doubt that at certain times on a Saturday evening in certain areas in big cities there is a problem for young women police officers.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in some situations policemen could be better than policewomen, but that there are other circumstances in which policewomen might do better than the men?
My hon. Friend is right. As I go around the country, I am told that male constables respect the work done by policewomen, and the old division between the two, with the sniggering when women went out on patrol with the men, has ceased. That is why I am in favour of co-educational schools rather than single-sex schools—but that is another matter.
In view of the great concern about the police force, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the constructive things that he could do would be to take Judge Edmund-Davies off his judicial duties to enable him to concentrate full-time on the police report?
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to his hon. Friends that the problem is not the recruitment of women but the loss of experienced men? That is what is weakening the morale of the police force. Is it not correct to say that the police force is now 4,900 below the strength that was forecast and planned for this year in the expenditure White Paper of 1977?
I have been discussing such plans with experienced people in this area, and one always over-estimates in that way. The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) is interrupting from a sedentary position. He was a Minister of State at the Home Office, and a very liberal one, so everyone tells me. My hon. Friend the Minister of State warns me against finishing the hon. and learned Gentleman's ministerial career. The hon. and learned Gentleman should know that there is a problem of young men leaving the police after four or five years, but the figures being bandied about in connection with the problem of total recruitment are wrong.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about police numbers. He was able to deploy more than 5,000 policemen at the weekend in an operation costing about £200,000 in order to keep apart two Fascist-type organisations, which in the event were outnumbered by police.
The right hon. Gentleman and the Government have permitted what Whitehall describes as an acceptable level of violence as long as it is confined to Northern Ireland and the Ulster people. Does he realise that his remark and the remarks of some others will not give much comfort to the people of Northern Ireland, who find the Government adopting double standards by being tough with firemen and other workers who ask for a fair wage while condemning Ulster people to murder and mutilation? Does he not think that the Government are branded as traitors in allowing this to happen to the Ulster people?
I do not agree. I understand that the hon. Gentleman was born in the Republic. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border and I have disagreements on this subject, but what the hon. Gentleman said about him was wrong and what the hon. Gentleman said about me was equally wrong. Of all people the hon. Gentleman should understand the nature of the Irish question. We are talking about something different.
We are talking about law and order in England and Wales.
I should like to deal with the question of prisons. We have published a book "Prisons and the Prisoner" and I am sure that every hon. Member read it the moment it was published. It gives the facts on overcrowding.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border talked about detoxification units. There is one in Leeds and one to come in Manchester and one in London. I recommend hon. Members to go to Leeds to see the unit there. It is an excellent development.
On the question of mentally ill prisoners, I have had a number of meetings about this problem and will continue to do so. The mentally ill should go out of prison. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is associated with our investigation, and we looked at the same papers at a recent meeting.
We should be careful about the suggestion that many thousands of the 42,000 people in prison are mentally ill. The number could be considerably smaller, but that does not mean that those who are mentally ill should not go to other accommodation. However, the idea that there are simple abracadabras is wrong.
I have not said enough about the prison service or the probation service. Prison officers sometimes feel that they are not appreciated and that while a lot is said about the police force, not enough it said about them. The fact that I have not devoted a great deal of time to their problems is not because of a lack of concern but because I have given way on a number of occasions.
I wish to talk about public order, particularly in the light of next Saturday and what might happen in the months to come. Let me put a few ideas to the House. One of the most disturbing features of the last year has been the growth of violence at demonstrations arising from National Front marches and meetings. I have no time for the groups operating under names that are akin to that of the party to which I have belonged all my life. We are not comparing like with like when people say that Socialists do this and that. I am told that there are 948 definitions of proportional representation. There are a similar number of definitions of Socialism, and the people whom we are talking about in this context are no friends of mine or my party.
At Lewisham last August, two groups of extremists created havoc and disrupted the life of the community. There have also been demonstrations in Greater Manchester and Birmingham involving the deployment of thousands of police officers. I make clear on behalf of the Government that we shall support the forces of law and order.
After Lewisham and Ladywood, I made clear that we would look at the Public Order Act 1936. Our review has not been completed, but I have talked to chief officers and they see few changes that would be necessary in the Act. In Northern Ireland it is law that no one can march unless the police have been notified. That is not the case in this country, but what is the point of modifying the law in that small way?
The essential point is that the decision must be taken by the Commissioner of Police in the Metropolis and by chief constables elsewhere. I have thought long and deeply about this. The decision is made on the basis of law and order, and I do not believe that it should be made by the Home Secretary. It is right that the Home Secretary is involved in some way, but no Home Secretary should make the decision on the basis that he does not like the march or the marchers or that he believes that they will cause trouble in an area. What do such considerations mean? The decision should be taken by policemen. I applaud the decision of the Commissioner last weekend and I agreed to it.
In the past year we have reached a pitch, though not for the first time, in this country. In 1936 we saw the Fascist marches, and there is little difference between the National Front and Mosley's Fascists. The war intervened and there were no marches in the Metropolitan area until about 1950. There seems to be an inexorable way by which, once one has started on this road, one goes along it.
I saw the comment of the National Front leader about the Brixton by-election and what the Front proposes to do there. It is a promise that I take seriously. He said:
If they think this by-election is a hot potato, wait until we put up a candidate in Brixton.
I have to take that into account. If this is the intention of people marching in the street, I know one thing is true, more at by-elections perhaps than on other sorts of marches: the ordinary people of an area have the right at any time to go about their lawful business. At a by-election they have the right to go about and not to be prevented by people, most of whom come into the area from outside—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and these days use a by-election to get the publicity that they would not get at a General Election. To the man who spoke in that way, if he is threatening the community, I say, on behalf of the Government and all decent people in this country, "Watch it." At the end of the day the mass of the people will decide that there will be peace on the streets, and people of that nature will not determine what will happen.
I understand that my right hon. Friend wants the present system to be maintained—namely, that the chief constable should make the decision and that the Home Secretary should be informed about it. But will he accept one correction to something that he said? No one, as far as I know, has suggested that he should ban any march because he does not like the organisation involved. The suggestion which has been made—I hope that it will be further considered—is that if an organisation, of its own volition, decides to go into an area where there are groups of immigrants, demonstrates in front of their homes and says to them "You ought not to be here. Get out", that is action that is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. My right hon. Friend has not dealt with that matter.
My strong view is that, in view of the new section of the Public Order Act which the House passed under the Race Relations Act and which came into force on 13th June, we should see how that works in the courts with regard to incitement. Decisions as to whether charges should be laid lie with the police. There is sufficient legislation to deal with those who act in the way described by my hon. Friend. Indeed, it pre-dates the Public Order Act 1936 and so on. The police are clear on this matter. However, they resent the feeling that, because they have to march alongside groups for which they have no time, they should be painted with the brush of the organisation that they must protect because of the very nature of their job. The police, like all in this House, no doubt make mistakes from time to time, but overall they are remarkably successful in what they do on these marches. I hope that the House will give the police full support.
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's comments about by-elections. However, will he consider the position that could arise at a General Election when he, as Home Secretary, would be fighting for re-election? I do not ask him to answer this question now. Will he consider, perhaps after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), giving some advice to chief officers of police, who during a General Election may be confronted in constituency after constituency with contingency after contingency, so that they may know how to handle perhaps unforeseen and unprecedented situations in this country?
I appreciate the point made by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will not misconstrue the job of the Home Secretary, whatever his political complexion. Such advice—I will willingly consult anybody on this matter—would have to come from the Home Secretary of the day, and it would have to be of a kind that he could defend afterwards whether in this House or elsewhere. Of course I will do that.
I understand that there were 500 Fascists in Ilford on Saturday, and they had come from other areas. When it comes to elections in 635 constituencies, they will be much thinner on the ground. It may be that they will pick one or two places in which to demonstrate. If the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) on behalf of the Liberal Party or anyone representing other parties has any views on this matter, I shall take them into account.
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should reflect on the Commissioner's position. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis took that decision without any advice from me. It is wrong to suggest that there was any nasty little political aspect to it. The Commissioner came to me with his decision, and I accepted it.
All of us in London are beginning to discover the calibre of the Commissioner. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and other Scottish Members know him from Glasgow. I think we shall find that Sir David McNee can and will speak for himself in these matters.
I should like to make two comments about international terrorism. We are working on this problem within the EEC. I have met my EEC colleagues. Committees are meeting all the time discussing the whole problem of international terrorism. In addition, practical steps are being taken. One must not boast about these matters. I simply say that discussions are taking place on the important matter of international terrorism.
There is a problem of law and order in this country, but it is not as great as in other countries in the Western world. I do not believe that it will be altered by changes of Government. The problem is far too complicated.
I feel that in the rush up to a General Election—perhaps in a year, three weeks, three months or six months—we would be extremely foolish in the House and in the political parties to pretend that one party is for law and order and another is not. We may have disagreements about the matter, but I believe that law and order will improve. By its very nature, it changes all the time. Our job is to respond to the changes. In my view this Government, even in the face of economic problems, have responded to those changes. We shall be prepared to listen to any ideas that are put before us today.
As one of the Home Secretary's predecessors, I agree with him that it was right to leave the decision about the banning of marches to the Commissioner and to support the decision that was taken.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay serious attention to the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) about the possible need to give advice, perhaps after consultation with the other political parties, on the different and possibly dangerous circumstances that may arise during a General Election.
I had the responsibility of being Home Secretary in the previous Conservative Government. I do not in any way speak for the Conservative Party. I speak now for myself. However, I warmly welcome the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), the way in which it was phrased and the massive common sense which it embodied all the way through.
I am, and have been, concerned about the way that the argument on immigration, race and law and order is developing, and in particular how it is being portrayed in the media. This is, as has been said, probably an election year. The campaign has, in effect, already started. I should be appalled to see immigration, race and law and order made major issues in the election. Of course, there must be discussion, argument and controversy. Out of these, progress derives in a democracy. But sheer conflict is quite a different matter.
We all know that, as an election approaches, there is a temptation on both sides to maximise the differences between us and to try to escalate the condemnation of our opponents. That, in the nature of things, is inevitable, but it does not serve the public interest in such explosive issues as those with which we are concerned today.
The vote tonight is on the Home Secretary's salary. I shall support that vote as a condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman's recent speeches, particularly in Ilford. In what he said he was guilty of stoking up racial tension. What he said at that by-election—I listened to him on television—was unworthy of a Home Secretary. He accused my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition of making—I think this is what he said—racialism respectable. That was monstrously untrue. My right hon. Friend gave her views on immigration as she was right to do and as it was her duty to do.
This is a vital problem for a very large number of people in this country, and the fears that exist on it are very real fears. The only people who will benefit from pushing it under the rug are those belonging to the National Front. What my right hon. Friend said was popular, but that is no reason for not saying it. When has a politician ever felt obliged to refuse to express an opinion because it might be popular? My right hon. Friend said what she believed, and I know enough about her to be convinced that she would have said the same thing even if she had believed it to be unpopular. She always says what she thinks.
The word "swamped" has been used in my experience for 10 years or more in discussing this issue. Any hon. Member's post-bag will confirm that there is a genuine fear by people that they will be swamped. The fear may be exaggerated, but it is genuine. Our job in this House is to deal with real feelings and real fears. For that reason, if there is a Division tonight I shall vote for the motion.
I turn now to law and order. Many criticisms can be made of the Home Secretary. But the issue is not one of being for or against law and order. That cannot be the issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border did not put it that way. Ordinary voters of all parties want to see the maintenance of law and order. Our job in this House is to reach the maximum agreement we can on what should and what can be done. That was the spirit in which my right hon. Friend moved this motion today.
That main responsibility rests upon the Prime Minister and his Ministers because they have the power and the initiative. But we in the Opposition accept that we have a duty, too. We must not give cause to anyone to argue that we are exploiting this fundamental issue for party purposes. My right hon. Friend made it clear that any proposals which the Government make for improving the situation and which we believe would be effective will have our warm and wholehearted support.
The practical problems involved—on this I think we can agree to a large extent, and the electorate would be delighted if we did—are two. They are the criminal law and penal practice, and the police. My right hon. Friend put forward a number of practical suggestions about the criminal law and penal practice, and I hope that they will be seriously examined. It is an illusion to suggest that we can influence the sentencing policy of the courts. I remember introducing the Criminal Justice Bill and I recall my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) carrying it through this House so manfully and effectively. In that Bill I was seeking to widen in every possible way the difference between penalties for violence and non-violent crimes.
For non-violent crime we instituted community service, which I believe has been one of the great developments in this country in recent years. I found, however, that, with the sole exception of the carriage and use of firearms, for which we jerked up the penalties substantially, the penalties available to the courts were already very stiff. The question therefore is not one of the penalty provided for by the law but of the use made of it by the courts.
This is where Parliament must be careful about what it says and does. We have the right to express the view of our constituents in order that magistrates can take that view into account in making their decisions. But the decisions must be their decisions, and we must not try to intervene on the question of the sentences that are imposed.
The other main question is, of course, that concerning the police. There is no doubt that there is reason for growing alarm here. Figures have been quoted on both sides. As several of my hon. Friends have said, the problem is the wastage of experienced officers. It is not a new problem. I remember it from my days in the Home Office. After five or six years' service, officers are tempted out of the police force because by then they are an attractive proposition for other employers. The wives of police officers feel that being a policeman's wife is not much fun, given the nature of the hours of work, and they feel that their husbands can get better and more comfortable jobs as security officers. They urge their husbands to make a change. The problem has become more serious recently.
The second point is that police numbers may or may not have increased, but the tasks falling upon them have. I ask the Home Secretary not to be complacent in these matters. Pay and conditions are vital factors here. I have immense admiration for the police forces of this country, particularly the Metropolitan Police for which I had the honour of being the authority at one time. Nothing makes me more sick at heart or more furious than to see on television police officers in the course of their duty and in the defence of peace being battered to the ground by hooligans.
I was sorry to see the visit of two Cabinet Ministers to Grunwick. They visited not the hooligans, but they did visit the peaceful pickets. That was not a wise thing to do, and I hope that it will not be repeated.
The right hon. Gentleman has one part of it right. My two right hon. Friends—the number may have been three—went down there long before there was any violence at Grunwick. They spoke out against violence. They are members of that union and to take part in a peaceful picket and help in that way is not, I believe, against law and order.
They may be members of the union, but over and above that they are members of the Cabinet, which should be impartial on these disputes.
I have always believed that the police should be a special case in terms of pay and conditions for the fundamental reason that they do not have the right to strike. Succeeding Governments have tried to pursue that line, not altogether without some success in the past. I think that the Home Secretary was a little tardy and lacking in imagination in dealing with this problem, difficult as I know it is. I have had to deal with the problem of police pay in circumstances of general incomes restraint policy. It is not easy. The Home Secretary was slow in dealing with it. Now that the committee under Lord Edmund-Davies is to take this on board, it is right to wait and see what it has to say. I am glad that the Home Secretary has said today that the Government are prepared to accept the recommendations put forward by the committee. The sooner the committee can report the happier everyone will be.
It is said sometimes that police morale is low. That may be so, but it would not get any higher if the police became an issue between the parties in an election. I am appalled at the thought of an election fought on the basis of candidates being for or against the police. The political impartiality of our police forces is absolutely fundamental to the good health of our society. I should hate to see the police affiliated to either the TUC or the Tory Party. That would be totally wrong.
Our job is to maintain this impartiality, and the responsibility rests first and foremost with the Government. The nation as a whole wants us to reach the maximum agreement on this point. Both sides have a responsibility for it, but the Government have the greater responsibility since they possess the power of initiative and action. Let them use it as soon and as vigorously as they can.
I shall follow the arguments advanced by the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in some detail later in my speech.
The problem we are discussing is not just the problem of today. Key events cast their shadows before them, and these shadows have been growing longer since the end of the last war. In terms of law and order they have put the nation into some kind of an eclipse. We in this House should be concerned with finding the way into the daylight again.
It may be, as the Home Secretary said, that the whole of Europe and America has this problem in greater or lesser degree.
In the case of the United States the population is four times greater.
We have to decide exactly where we are going. Paradoxically the situation we face is due initially to a state of affluence. It may seem strange to say that, but that is so. Affluence throughout the history of the ages has never been effective in implementing or maintaining discipline. If one goes back in time to the Roman or Athenean courts, the same thing arose time and again. One of our problems has been the over-plentiful supply of money, full employment, access to pleasures and to modest amounts of alcohol—all of which explode at any time, and do so late at night.
The House may remember that in 1958 the present problem first exploded at Notting Hill. Four youths from my constituency, who were of very tender age, were sentenced to four years' imprisonment by Lord Justice Salmon. After the sentence was passed, I was pressed to raise the issue on the Floor of the House. I did so on an Adjournment motion on a Friday. By an element of surprise, which shocked me, the Adjournment came on very early. I think that it was arranged by the lawyers to come on early. I made out a case with a bunch of lawyers behind me who were all idealistic crusaders and all professed to be experts in the law. They followed me and proceeded to slaughter the opinions that I uttered. They are uttering different sounds today. The circle, as circles do, has come full turn and we now have a problem with which we are confronted—I shall not use the word "society", as that word gets on my nerves—which was not of our own making.
In 1956 and in subsequent years there were debates in the Chamber on the death penalty. We abolished it. That was not with my consent. I voted against abolishing the death penalty. I was the only one on my side to do so, and I do not regret doing so.
I think that I have as much understanding as the next man of the forces that compel human nature to act as it does. We run a frightful risk once we take off the checks and balances of society. I do not say that we have to use them. Those checks and balances could be left to the discretion of the judges whether they are used. But the taking away of the checks and the balances has produced the murderous thug who is prepared to use the knife and the gun. I do not believe that the number of murders has reduced, though that is probably what some hon. Members will say is borne out by statistics.
The frightening thing is the number of attacks on the person with weapons. There was a dreadful case in Norwich—no charges have yet been made—of a young man who was literally kicked to death last Friday evening. This is new. I was brought up in Lancashire and I have done my share of street-comer scrapping, but in those days there was oneself and somebody else. Now there are mobs. This is the difference. This has resulted from people watching television. The exploitation of dreadful dramas on British television featuring American detectives has caused the boot and the deaths of boys of 17 years of age. It happens time and again in every city, every weekend.
Lord Justice Salmon sentenced four youths in my constituency to four years' imprisonment on the understanding, as he said, that every citizen had the right to walk free and unfettered upon the streets of London. There are more muggings in Hammersmith year by year than I ever thought possible. The police apprehend only a few criminals, because they are away and gone, and they are not particular as to whom they attack, whether it is the old, the very old, the middle-aged or the young. This is the symptom. There is no effective police manner of dealing with it. The sentences to which the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet referred are not matching the crimes. That is the anxiety in the minds of the public. If the British public were asked tomorrow in a referendum whether they were in favour of re-establishing the death penalty, 95 per cent. of the public would say that they were. Let us not try to hide it. I am not concerned with election issues. The British public are frightened.
There are women in my constituency, which is a violent constituency, who will not go out at night unaccompanied and are afraid to go home unaccompanied at night. This situation has developed over the years, with certain people on the political side being prepared by deliberate malice to destroy the fabric of our society through planned political action to remove from the political arena those MPs who do not conform to their philosophy or who do not think as they do. I know about that. They removed me. It is occurring in constituency after constituency. Members of Parliament who are having to depend upon their seats to please such people are shirking their responsibility if they do not tackle them face to face on the spot. It is happening. It is stifling the democratic voice in our party.
The Government have been confined by economic restrictions from doing something for police pay and conditions. The police have been astonishingly patient. When I was a member of the Hertfordshire County Council, which was then a Tory Council, we had a big argument about placing a policeman in a certain district because the house that we had selected for him was supposed to be too good for his station. The argument went on for almost two days. When one makes a policeman, one makes authority and one has to respect his authority. We set him apart by establishment and authority, and if we do not, we fail him. We vest him with tradition, and that is what we have been doing. Whether the money comes from North Sea oil revenue, wherever, whatever Lord Edmund-Davies decides, the police should not have been made to wait for increased pay. The police are the guardians of our freedom as we walk the streets. The public backing would be 100 per cent.
I ask the Home Secretary also to con-side the various ages of retirement of policemen after five years. I considered what could be done for older policemen in addition to raising their rent allowance and pay. We could do something about insurance benefits, which would not cost the Chancellor of the Exchequer a lot of money. There could be a graduated, five-year endowment policy on retirement, with the beneficial years applying in the last 10 years of a policeman's service. In other words, we could make it worth his while to stay in the police force once he has joined. Once he is in the police force and once he is experienced, we have a good policeman. That would be my way out of this difficulty. We have to be seen to give the awards and to make them applicable not just to London—we must not split this matter—but throughout the whole of the country.
Then there is the case of the prison officers. Our prisons are vastly overcrowded. I have also inspected the American scene in three lecture tours. They, too, are vastly overcrowded. Some of the inmates of those American prisons made one almost frightened to death even to look at them. I would not like to be in charge of people like that.
Our prison officers should also be in line for a review of pay and conditions along with the police. We shall have to do that even if we do nothing else. So I make the plea that, in a general review of pay and conditions of such service, the prison officers should be considered with the police.
Now I want to say something about the interjection of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) about Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has had that job in Northern Ireland. He knows what a frightful job it is. We all know it. It is significant that the British public do not regard Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. It does not sink into their consciousness because it is across the water. But who would think that, in a place the size of Yorkshire, citizens of the United Kingdom should be suffering what people in Northern Ireland are suffering, year in and year out? Let us disregard the Battle of the Boyne—it is a nonsense on both sides. It is so many years ago. Let us deal with the last nine years, with the people who have deliberately set out to shoot and burn, to wire bombs to cars taking children to school. What kind of men are they?
What does Mr. Jack Lynch, who is always pontificating at us, say to them? He says that he wants all the people to be in Ireland, and perhaps the British Government will do it. But we should tell him that we are going to repeal the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and make Eire a foreign country. We should mine the border and see that no one gets in or out and we should send in the commandos to deal with the people inside Northern Ireland who do these dreadful things. This situation has been going on for year after year, and it is frightful that men can deliberately do such things to other human beings.
We have at this juncture to be careful. We have in many ways a richer, more fruitful and more desirable society than we have ever had before. Through the pace of science and the development of culture and the arts, the opportunity is open to a fuller and better life. We have tipped the scales well and truly on the side of a better life.
But on the other side of the scales, dangerously weighting them, are people who, by virtue of denial of achievement, if we like, or of non-recognition of personality, or of lack of opportunity, or of sheer cussedness, are determined one way or another to destroy the fabric of society.
It has taken us a long time to get where we are, through successive bouts of unemployment and poverty, and self-learning. No one taught me except myself. If we can provide a solution, or stop the slide down the slippery slope, positively pointing, through recruitment or otherwise, to the re-establishment of a proper basis of police authority and of the authority of the courts, giving the courts the leeway that they may require, we shall have done our job.
On more than one occasion I have seen judges reported as saying "I am sorry but the only penalty I can impose is such-and-such". That typifies the judges' minds. They are looking for the tools that we should provide them. Let us get at the guts of this argument by giving them the tools that they need, and giving them without delay.
For almost as many years as the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), I have listened to and participated in similar debates. I recall about ten Home Secretaries speaking from the Dispatch Box in such debates. Their speeches have always been in the context of things getting better and better provided we follow new and enlightened means. But I do not think that the present Home Secretary is quite so optimistic as some of his predecessors were.
Nevertheless, we have always been told how the new enlightenment would prevent crime and assist us to control it. The debates of the last 25 years have been bedevilled by so many opinion-formers and quasi and real academics who have lectured us year after year in sociological or psychological terms, and have succeeded in capturing Ministers, Members of Parliament and the media in seeking somehow to excuse and interpret ordinary wickedness and cruelty as the fault of anyone save the criminal himself.
Every time such a case is presented, the general common sense of the public is repulsed by it and rejects it because the general common sense of the public knows that that is not right. We have a wretched record in the war against crime. I know that that war is not and never will be helped to end if a substantial number of MPs seem quick sometimes to allege wrongful conviction or police misbehaviour, or to demand inquiries. Sometimes I think that the judgment of the National Council for Civil Liberties could be exercised with a greater sense of discretion.
I think that the so-called experts have created an atmosphere in which it is difficult to have balanced discussion on the subject because they always portray their opponents as being bloodthirsty or vengeful, persons whose views of punishment or the treatment of crime are reprehensible. But how wrong those so-called experts have been over the last 25 years. On any other subject they would have lost all credibility and all authority.
In 1964, sharing the same view of the matter as the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, I made the first speech in opposition to the Second Reading of the late Sydney Silverman's Bill to abolish capital punishment. We opponents were, of course, all lumped together if we were in favour of capital punishment. For example, I have never been in favour of corporal punishment because I have never believed that to be an effective judicial punishment. But I have been a supporter of capital punishment.
In the 1964 debate, I suggested that if we abolished capital punishment, that would lead to an increase in the use of firearms by criminals. That suggestion was ridiculed and brushed aside. It was ridiculed not only here but also among those so-called experts in certain parts of the media. However, if we look again at the figures, we see that in 1964 indictable offences involving firearms totalled 731, and that by 1968 that figure had become 2,503. Were we not right? The Firearms Act 1968 altered the basis of statistics. I accept that. But in 1974 there were 2,971 indictable offences involving the use of firearms, and in 1976 that number rose to 4,694.
Always, we are told that if we do this, if we abolish that or if we alter this particular punishment, this will lead to improvements. But it never has done.
In 1976 there were a further 30,000 indictable crimes over the 1975 total. In ten years the number of persons appearing before the superior criminal courts has more than doubled. Therefore, this problem remains one of the greatest problems of our time and one which none of the wisdom of this House nor all the advice that each Home Secretary has received has managed to conquer. But it remains, of course, a prime Government responsibility.
It seems to me that the State has steadily denuded itself of weapons which it might have retained and which might have had some effect in restricting the increase in crime which we have witnessed over these past years.
There are three requirements in dealing with crime. They are the certainty of detection, and that is a matter for the police; the certainty of conviction, and that is a matter for the courts, with an effective prosecuting authority; and thirdly, the certainty of effective punishment, which is a matter for the Home Office and for us in this House.
Effective punishment, which depends upon effective conviction, is to impose forms of punishment that are effective in deterring or detaining. Basically, it must be prison, and basically there should have been long ago an approach towards creating the new prison structures which this country requires. The prison population is increasing the whole time, and, now, the use of parole. Therefore, one comes back to courts imposing heavier sentences because they know that there will be relief for good behaviour and that there will be parole as well. So we get a system of heavier and heavier sentences.
I think that it is unwise of the Home Secretary not to accept that the detention centre idea was meant to be the provision of such a punishment that it really deterred and really stopped the young man. If one looks at the criminal records of recidivists, those who continually come back and back to prison, one finds that they have so often begun this through the whole system of the juvenile courts, approved schools, borstals and so on to prison.
I think that the Home Secretary should look with greater care at a form of detention centre which really is something which can frighten, because the detention centre at present—although I know that the idea of it was to be brisk—has not yet got a reputation among those who might go to it which is sufficient to deter them from the crimes in the way that another system might perhaps do.
There is no clever way of answering this question. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would care to visit one of these places and talk to those who run it and then give us his view in the light of that, I should be very pleased to consider what he says. I sometimes think that people are looking at this matter in the context of a bit of paper and not in the context of how the regime is now run.
I know. I should like very much to take up the right hon. Gentleman's offer. However, since I first became a Minister in 1962 and during my time in the House. I have seen them. I shall willingly take up the invitation that the right hon. Gentleman has extended.
However, it is worth while that attention be given to the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw).
It is one of the suggestions made in these debates that we should have a detention centre along glasshouse lines. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recollect the original detention centres of many years ago, when inmates were required to go everywhere at the double and were got up at 6.30 every morning? It was under a Conservative Government that that was done away with. It must have been done away with on advice. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman know what that advice was and its basis?
The original concept of a detention centre had to be that, but perhaps it has changed. Perhaps it was part of the advice which I wondered was very sound advice and perhaps the experiment ought to have been longer. However, I am suggesting that it is worth while—it may not be right for everyone—to consider whether my right hon. Friend's suggestion might not lead to something which would, in broad terms, put the fear of God into people sentenced to it.
I hope that community service will be extended. I hope that the unorthodox punishments that one sees in other countries will really be brought into play, such as motorists attending in hospital casualty clearing stations and vandals being engaged in the labour of clearing up the mess they have made.
The second of my three requirements was the certainty of conviction. The administration of justice, we must remember, involves not only the acquittal of the innocent of course, which is very important, and the acquittal of those not proven to be guilty, but also the conviction of the guilty. Therefore, it is right that the House, which makes the laws—and I could say a little about the making of laws in this House—should give to the courts the support that they should have.
I heard what the Home Secretary said with regard to sentencing and the question asked of him about the powers available for sentence for young persons in relation to a period between six months and three years. I believe that that power should be given to the courts. I know that the right hon. Gentleman talked about the generic way of dealing with this matter, but I feel that this is a power that should exist. We have given to the courts an incoherent and complex system of law. That is the fault of this House. Hon. Members of this House should realise it. This assembly is not a competent instrument in the law-making process. We have the system of having points debated across a room in Standing Committee, when there should be a Select Committee on legislation to put the law into proper shape so that it can be properly administered.
There was a Criminal Justice Act in 1977. There ought to be an annual Criminal Justice Act, considered with care and without the adversary system of the Standing Committee. There ought to be an annual Administration of Justice Act.
We have put immense pressure upon the courts. Although we have doubled the number of judges, it still takes about six months—and that is a good average—between committal for trial and the trial itself at the Central Criminal Court, and it is far longer, also, between arrest and committal.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend know that there are many cases that take over a year to come to trial and that they frequently include cases of young persons whose circumstances have changed completely in the intervening period, so that the punishment that might have been appropriate at the time has ceased to be appropriate to the case at all?
That is very true. There are these long gaps. Any form of justice delayed is justice denied, for the very good reason that my hon. and learned Friend has pointed out.
Just to give some illustration of the change in the problem and, therefore, the importance of the problem—and, therefore, the need to have this massive switch of resources that there ought to be on the part of any Government—in 1946, when I started practising at the Bar, there were four judges at the Central Criminal Court. They dealt with the crimes before them with expedition, managing to take quite good holidays at Easter and Christmas. This autumn there will be 30 judges, at other times 26. Every court-room is full and there are sittings the whole time. This has happened in my professional lifetime. This is the scale of the problem, which the House of Commons has not properly grasped or accepted, though it is an anxiety which ranks second to none in the minds of the general public.
People outside the House are not so interested in the great political battles across the Floor of the House whether we should nationalise that or denationalise this. For such debates the Benches are full. For this important issue which affects everyone, how very few people attend the debates and we give it very little attention.
The organisation of prosecution and the conviction of the guilty is one of the most important matters in the administration of justice. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions requires and should have more qualified staff. It is prevented from having such staff only, I suppose, by the parsimony of the Treasury.
What is the policy with regard to the Director of Public Prosecutions' office? I believe that it should take over the role of county prosecuting solicitors. There should be area directors for the counties and they should control the prosecution of serious offences.
This is most important. I discussed this point with chief police officers not long ago. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is considering the matter. Although there is a financial aspect, it is not all that great. I merely say that there is strong feeling on the part of the police concerning the view that this role should be taken out of their hands.
I understand that, but I do not believe that too great attention should be paid to the views of local police services. The importance of the Director of Public Prosecutions is that he brings an independent view to prosecution. Over-keen prosecutors in the Provinces could be and would be restrained by an area director of public prosecutions. Such a system would go some way, but not the whole way, towards the Scottish system.
Finally, if we want to have trials expedited, the Lord Chancellor should appoint a working party to look into the working of the Courts Act which has now been running for six years. With my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and Lord Hailsham, I introduced that Act. There should be a working party to see how much bureaucracy has been injected into the operation of that Act. Cases are not being dealt with as efficiently as they should be.
I wonder whether my right hon. and learned Friend would care to comment on the quite astonishing complacency the Attorney-General displayed in answer to a Question I asked him this afternoon, when I asked whether he was concerned about the fact that more than 50 per cent. of those who plead not guilty are acquitted and whether he had any proposals to put before the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure with a view to ensuring either that a greater number of those charged are convicted or, which is just as important, that fewer of those who are innocent are charged. His answers to me were "None" and "None".
The problem is, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, who is to say who is guilty. After all, it is a jury which finds that an accused person is not guilty. However, a general view is that on technicalities and matters of proof too many people escape from receiving the just rewards of their crime.
The third requirement, the certainty of detection—is a matter for the police, and those with greater knowledge than mine have spoken on this question.
It is essential for a society which is determined, as this society should be and must be, to maintain the rights and liberties of free men, the rights of free speech, of free meeting and of free election, to have an efficient, fully manned and properly equipped police force which is fully supported by Parliament and which operates strictly under the law.
The police must be a special case. They are especially required in a free society. We impose very great demands on them. We demand more from them than from any other section of the community. The prevalence of the use of firearms is one danger for them. Mass picketing and marching is another.
This great problem has not received sufficient attention from the House in the past. I do not believe that it is receiving sufficient attention at present. A massive switch of resources is required. It is a major social problem which must be tackled immediately. The nation needs a Government who have and who are seen to have the will and the purpose to ensure that the best possible protection is given to the public. The nation needs a Government who have and who are seen to have a dedication to order under the law.
The distinction between a democratic and a totalitarian society—whether it be a totalitarian society of the Left or the Right—is that a democratic society is governed by the rule of law. Though I respect the Home Secretary, it is because I fear that there is not sufficient dedication in the Labour Party to the rule of law that I shall vote for the motion tonight.
Order. There are 25 hon. Members who wish to get fitted into the debate between now and 9 p.m. Any hon. Member whose speech exceeds about seven minutes will make it that much less possible for an hon. Member to be called later.
I will not follow the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir P. Rawlinson) in his plea for the return of the death penalty, nor in his desire to put the clock back and to reimpose a very tough regime for all prisoners. After all, we used to cut off the hand of a thief, but theft still took place. So what the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposed was not a sensible solution. I hope to be able to find a little time—while obeying your precept, Mr. Deputy Speaker—to say what I believe could be done.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in his expression of hope that the whole question of immigration would not be a feature of the next General Election. Most hon. Members will support such a hope. I never thought that I would hear the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition use the sort of language to which many of us were subjected 10 years ago when the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—then the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—made similar speeches but over a much longer period.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that people are frightened of being swamped—presumably by black immigrants, though not by white ones; that was the tenor of her remarks. She did not explain to her audience how 1¾ million people could swamp 56 million people. It does nothing to ease the present difficult situation when such extreme language is used again. Nor did the right hon. Lady suggest how she would improve matters. She had no positive policy and made no proposal. I suppose the truth is that the Conservative Party has no proposals.
All this inflammatory talk adds grist to the mill of the National Front, which is not slow to take advantage of whatever is said. I believe that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was correct to stop the National Front march through Ilford on Saturday, but I wish that he had banned just the National Front and not all other organisations which may wish to demonstrate absolutely peaceably during the next few months. For all we know, the Young Conservatives may want to march through London, but this ban will prevent them from doing so. I defend the right of the Young Conservatives to hold a peaceable meeting. Why should they not? It is the unpeaceable and violent assemblies about which we are so concerned.
It would be instructive for us to contrast the Commissioner's decision with that made by the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester not so long ago when he landed the Manchester ratepayers with a bill of about £250,000 for the massive army of police to protect those who took part in the National Front march through the streets of Manchester, along a secret route agreed between himself and the Fascists.
If anyone is entitled to feel frightened—I use the right hon. Lady's word—it must be those, in spite of what was said earlier, who have not long lived here and who feel that they are the spectators of a vast army of police literally protecting the Fascists and allowing them to march peacefully through our streets. That is an affront to everybody, from whatever family he may come, from wherever he may come in the world and whatever the colour of his skin, who fought to defeat Fascism. None of that is conducive to law and order. It encourages the Press, radio and television to give a great deal of attention to the antics of the National Front.
In a fairly recent programme about the National Front the BBC described it as England's fourth party. In fact, it has only a handful of members compared with the two major parties. I understand that BBC camera teams were travelling in a van owned by the National Front when the man Webster marched through Hyde guarded by squads of police. He was allowed to march and to make a Mosleyite sort of speech. He was ranting in front of the cameras. On Saturday we saw hordes of photographers, reporters and cameramen milling around the same man in Ilford while he was smirking at them and allowing them to take his photograph, which went into the home of everyone watching television at the time. It must have seemed to many to be inciting violence—theirs against him.
If we are to say that we must have a free society and allow people to express their ideas, I agree with that. However, that demands justice and responsibility on the part of those who claim those rights. The National Front has neither the justice nor the responsibility. In the interests of law and order the National Front should be declared an illegal organisation, without penalising perfectly reasonable and decent organisations that will be penalised because of the ban on marches and demonstrations for the next two months. If the: National Front were banned, there would be no National Front marches and no incitement. For example, there would be no incitement outside our schools, which is one of the latest developments of the National Front's activity. There would be no media interviews and no candidates at local or national elections.
If we refer to the book that Hitler wrote when in prison, we find that he stated clearly that if the German Government of the day had banned and made illegal the Nazi Party, it would not have been able to make any progress afterwards. Hitler said that that should have been done at the beginning if the Government wished to take effective action against the party.
The people will not tolerate for long having their towns disrupted and the streets made unsafe for ordinary people to go about their lawful business. They will not tolerate having to stay indoors when they do not wish to do so because there may be violence on the streets. Business people will not be willing to have their businesses disrupted, and probably on the day of the week when they do the best trade. At present pubs and shops are having to close. There are boards at their windows because the owners are afraid of violence. It is a situation that forebodes serious future developments unless we take matters in hand.
How does the hon. Lady equate that which she has described with the demonstrations of solidarity outside the Grunwick factory, where all the ill effects that she has mentioned were suffered by the local people?
Let me finish. I do not condone that sort of violence, or any activity that interferes with people's business activity or free access to their own property. I am in favour of peaceful picketing, as I think are most of my hon. Friends. I hope that Conservative Members would not wish to deny trade unionists the right to picket peacefully. However, that is not what we are talking about.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has an enormous responsibility for maintaining law and order. He is responsible for police activity. I hope that he will decide that the incitement to violence and disorder in our streets should be removed.
I shall make some brief comments about what we do with offenders once we get hold of them, sentence them and decide how to dispose of them. The glasshouse idea is a non-starter. It has been tried. It was a Conservative Government who decided to end that method of treating young offenders. It did not work. It was found that that treatment made disturbed and violent youngsters more violent and more disturbed and offered no constructive solution. I believe that that is why the experiment was ended.
If we put offenders, having been sentenced, into ancient gaols where the prisoner has no privacy, no proper sanitation, no human dignity, virtually no training for life outside when he is released, no training for a job, little meaningful work within the prison and only a pittance when he does some work, and where it is extremely difficult for any constructive work to be done by well-intentioned prison officers because they have no time to spend with individuals within prison owing to the demands of security in old prisons that were probably built over 100 years ago, the situation is extremely difficult.
If a man or woman—mercifully we do not put very many women in prison—is serving a sentence of any length, he or she is denied all private, human, loving contact with their partners and children. Such people live in dread that their marriages will collapse while they are in prison. All too often that is the result.
We refuse to humanise prison conditions so as to allow privacy for prisoners and their families when visiting takes place. After serving a sentence, the prisoner knows pretty well that his marriage is over and that the family is broken up. He does not know where his children are. They may have been taken into care. In any case, the family is broken up. The prisoner feels that he is having to pay several times over for the offence that landed him in prison. Surely it is the deprivation of liberty that is supposed to be the punishment for the offence that is committed, not all the other punishments that are meted out to the prisoner.
What is needed is rehabilitation, education and care on more or less a one-to-one-basis from caring prison officers and social workers who work within the prison and with the family outside the prison. There is a need for training for work. Above all, there is the need for a job on release. Of course, that is difficult now. However, it has always been difficult. Anyone who has shown an interest in prisoners' aid societies will know that it is extremely difficult to place ex-prisoners in jobs, the very thing that discharged prisoners need most.
Society makes great demands on offenders, and all too often refuses to accept them again afterwards on fair terms. I do not think that anybody can deny that the prison service brutalises men in the conditions that I have described. Conditions are better in our open prisons and in our modern prisons, but there are too few of those. Only a small proportion of offenders are fortunate enough to be sent to that sort of prison.
Although we have been sending men to prison for centuries in the conditions that I have outlined, that has not stopped crime. It has not stopped men committing a crime again. Under the present system society is given protection only while the offenders are shut off from society. Once they are released, they are probably more determined to wreak their vengeance on society than ever before. The result is that society is again at risk. It is a double-edged weapon because such prisoners are able to teach younger prisoners new tricks. They are able to instruct them so that eventually they, too, become recidivists.
I am making a plea that I have made before for a much more positive attitude. Reasonable conditions for prisoners and prison officers are an essential part of a constructive prison system with proper work, training and education. I accept that there are those who have to be kept in a secure environment within prison for a very long period of time. However, all but the most difficult and dangerous must be able to spend some time out of prison on weekend visits to their families or to foster families, as the Swedes and Dutch do, to prepare for freedom, and for family visits in decent conditions until outside visits are possible. This would reduce homosexuality, blackmail and brutality in our prisons, and it would help families, too.
If we are trying to operate a humane prison system, we must bear in mind that the punishments that we are inflicting on families when the heads of those families are put in prison are considerable and very difficult.
In view of your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that hon. Members should make brief speeches, I hope that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) will forgive me if I do not take up any of her remarks.
I am sorry that the Home Secretary is not here at the moment. I do not say that in any criticism. I appreciate that he has been here until very recently. But I regret his absence at the moment because I should have liked to say to his face, as someone who was in the Home Office, that I shared the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that the Home Secretary has tended to use exaggerated language and at tunes to react somewhat hysterically in his recent speeches in Oxford and Ilford when discussing the issues of race and immigration and of law and order, and that, in view of that, he can hardly complain if some Opposition Members feel that what he has said is unworthy of his office and justifies us in our criticism of him.
I turn to the issue of law and order. The Home Secretary said at Ilford that the Opposition were exaggerating the real problems, exciting the fears of the community and offering no practical proposals. He described our approach as being irresponsible and dangerous, which I do not accept. He also referred to our approach as being unpleasant, untrue and unhelpful.
Although, of course, I accept that it is absurd and simplistic to attempt to suggest that one party is for law and order and that the other is against, nevertheless, the genuine concerns of people about the state of law and order today are matters which must be discussed rationally across the Floor of the House, and I do not believe that we gain anything by ignoring those concerns.
The trouble with the Home Secretary at the moment is that, at a time when crime is rising at a faster rate almost than it has ever done before, he appears to exude an atmosphere of complacency. Although it would be foolish to blame the right hon. Gentleman for the increase in crime—and no one would attempt to do so—it is wrong for him to suggest that the Opposition were doing so and, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) was being unpleasant and untrue in the attitude which he adopted.
The causes of crime are complex. I accept that they go far wider than the remit of the Home Office. They are related to social environment. They are related to the difficulty of unemployment. No one can ignore the relationship between the number of crimes committed by coloured youths and the size of the unemployment problem in the areas in which they are concentrated. They are related to the decay in our inner cities and the lack of facilities to provide for alternative methods of expression. They are affected by the breakdown in discipline and by the type of education and the type of schools that we have. They are affected by the lack of respect for the property and the persons of others. I suppose that they are affected by the approach of the Government and the whole of society.
I accept what the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) said about television to the extent that I believe that, although it is unproven whether there is a connection between the portrayal of violence on television and the violence which exists on our streets, those who run the television programmes have a responsibility to see that they limit the use of unnecessary violence in their programmes.
Therefore, the issue of crime goes wider than the Home Office and affects all aspects of any Government's policy, although in certain aspects this present Government, with their at times apparent disrespect for the law, have not helped.
I want to turn at once to the Home Office itself, where clearly the immediate responsibility lies, and to suggest to the Minister of State that there are three important areas: the duty to provide adequate forces of law and order, the duty to ensure adequate penalties, and the duty to ensure adequate resources to carry out the penalties imposed by the courts. I wish to suggest to the House that the record of this Government in each of these areas has been bad, especially over the past 12 months.
It may be that at times the impression is gained that the rise in crime is inevitable. I do not know whether it was by way of flattery or condemnation, but the Home Secretary referred to me as having been a liberal Minister in the Home Office. All that I say to the Minister of State is that, between 1970 and 1974, we gave a great deal of thought to how to tackle the problems of crime, that, as a result of actions which were taken in 1971 and 1972, police strength went up by more than 6,000, double what it had been in the previous two years, and that police manpower generally went up by more than 11,000 over the same period. It is a significant fact that in 1972 the increase in crime was only 3·5 per cent., that in 1973 there was a slight reduction in the volume of overall crime, and that at the same time the prison population dropped by some 3,000. Since then, the increases have been enormous.
Statistics about how crime rises and by what amounts are notoriously suspect, as the hon. and learned Member knows, but it is a fact that in 1976, for example, recorded crime rose by only 1 per cent. If the hon. and learned Member is painting a totally black picture, as he appears to be doing contrary to the impression given by certain of his hon. Friends, will he take that into account as well?
I was not painting a totally black picture. I made the comment in passing that the rate of increase in 1972 and 1973 was lower, and I was leading to the point that, since the beginning of 1974, although the 1977 figures have not yet been published, it appears that the volume of crime has risen by about 50 per cent., and that the rate of crime at present is running at about 17 per cent. higher than it was in the previous year.
The Home Secretary seemed to take pride in the fact that the police force in that period increased in number by 7,500. However, that increase occurred when crimes increased by about 50 per cent. more than its volume in 1974. When the right hon. Gentleman talked about the Metropolitan Police strength being 1,500 more than it was at that time, he did not also say that, according to his Department's own figures, the total strength was 400 fewer than it was 12 months before.
The real problem is that over the past 12 months the police have been losing experienced officers at a rate which is totally alarming. More than 1,000 Metropolitan police and more than 5,000 from other police forces left before pension age. When one talks to chief constables these days, one is left with no doubt that they see as one of the main problems the issue of pay. Therefore, I welcomed the statement by the Home Secretary today that the Government intended to accept the recommendation of the Edmund-Davies Committee. I hope that its implementation will be brought forward, because in the metropolitan areas establishments are still too low and the strengths are well down on establishments.
I come to the question of juvenile crime. I am not one to suggest that all the fault lies in the Children and Young Persons Act. Clearly, there was a shortage of resources before that Act came about. While the principle of the Act was right, in practice many problems have arisen. There is a clear and overwhelming case for restoring power to the courts to make custodial care orders as suggested by the Select Committee and the Conservative group that looked at this matter. I believe, also, that there is an overwhelming case to do something about senior detention centres.
On the prison building programme, the Home Secretary has rightly expressed concern about overcrowding in prisons today. I remind him that in 1970, when we were faced with a situation in which there were 39,000 people in prison, not only did we pass the Criminal Justice Act; we began the largest ever prison building programme, which was aimed at producing 3,000 new places a year. What happened to that programme? I understand that it has been practically killed. I do not believe that we now have the same chance that we had then of getting rid of some of our Victorian prisons and replacing them with modern and more effective ones.
I do not believe that it is right for sentencing policy to be seen as an expedient reacting to the shortage of prison places. We should attempt to use methods of punishment other than imprisonment. At the same time, we should see that the expenditure required on prisons is, in fact, spent.
My criticism of the Home Secretary tonight—and the cause of my vote against him—is that in the three areas of providing the forces of law and order, of looking at the powers of juvenile courts and of doing something about prison overcrowding, he has, in the time that he has been Home Secretary, lacked the necessary urgency for his task.
I have been wondering whether to apologise at the outset for returning to a theme that I have raised on a number of occasions, so far without any great response from the Home Office. If this House were to pay as much attention to the private security industry as it does to the police force, we would make a better attack on crime rates in this country.
Here is a body of men more numerous and in some instances better equipped than the police, yet we do not spend much time debating the problems of this large and important industry. If it were made more efficient and accountable, at a stroke we would double the number of personnel engaged in crime prevention. The police forces, because they are considerably overstretched, have far less time for crime prevention than is desirable. They tend to react to crime when it occurs rather than performing the vital function of preventing it. We could have probably 180,000 to 200,000 people involved in crime prevention. If we fail to recognise in a de facto or a de jure sense this very important industry, we are losing a vital second arm in the battle of crime prevention.
No political party has a monopoly of concern for law and order. It is either very naive or malicious to suggest that one party is very concerned about law and order and others are derelict in their duties. The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) accused the Home Secretary of hysteria. There is no monopoly of hysteria on the Government side of the House. If we can deal rationally with the subject of law and order there could be a consensus.
The private security industry is a vital one, and the Government should realise that it is also recession-resistant. It is one of the very few industries that is growing because of the increase in crime, the economic recession and terrorist activities. Companies like Securicor would never admit it, but they should be grateful for the increase in terrorism, because it has made people far more conscious of the need for private security. As public law enforcement officers are overstretched, there have been areas that they cannot enter and do not want to enter. This is where private security has stepped in and filled the very large breach.
Fears that have been expressed about a massive increase in crime have been somewhat exaggerated. Some people are frightened to go out in the streets at night, not because of their knowledge of crime but because they are constantly being told that they should be frightened.
The private security industry is not functioning properly because of poor wages and working conditions. There is a high turnover of staff because of the low status and salary. There is little or no training, and there is little respect or co-operation from the police. If there were better co-operation between the police and the industry in dealing with crime, there would be much better progress.
The industry has failed because it has not spoken with a common voice. Although it has associations speaking for it, it is fragmented, it has failed to make an impact on the Home Office. Yet at very little cost to society an impact could be made on crime in terms of cost to society. The cost of improving the industry will not be considerable. The cost of setting up a licensing authority to bring the industry under public control would be recouped by the licence fees paid partly by the companies concerned and partly by those seeking to enter or those already in the industry. If we could prevent one major robbery like the famous £2 million robbery from Heathrow—a theft by a member of the staff of a respectable company, Purolator—the cost of licensing would be justified. There would be a better system by which employees could be vetted before obtaining employment in such organisations.
In areas like in-house security and industrial security, officers are concerned not just with the preservation of property against criminals but with fire prevention and precautions. By having a security officer properly trained for detecting and dealing with fire, society could easily recoup the cost of setting up the licensing authority.
The Government should not abdicate responsibility for the industry. If we allow it to grow and burgeon, we should at least have the right to oversee it.
I introduced the Private Security (Registration) Bill in February 1977. It was published in July, and obviously it lapsed. I hope to meet the Home Secretary shortly to ascertain the Home Office's views on this matter and see whether there is any likelihood of the Government's accepting responsibility for my Bill. I believe that the private security industry is far too important and complex to be dealt with by a Private Member's Bill.
Why should the Home Office accept that it should be involved and that it should support my Bill? It is in our economic self-interest to take an interest in this industry. In terms of combating crime—nd because the money is easily recouped if the private security industry operates efficiently—the cost would be worth while.
The second reason is that at the moment the industry is weakly controlled through general law, which means that, in effect, it is largely uncontrolled. I have never used the private army argument for proposing control, but many hon. Members have expressed fears about such a large body of uniformed men being responsible only to market forces and not to society as a whole.
Another important reason for controlling the industry is that there is evidence of intrusion into the industry by people with serious criminal records. I do not regard that as the major argument. There are people in the industry with serious criminal records but it is difficult to ascertain how many. The crime prevention officers in the Home Office would probably be able to say if they were asked.
However, there is considerable evidence from Press cuttings and those who work in the industry that people with serious records—I would never be so authoritarian as to say that any criminal record was an automatic disqualification—work in the industry. For example, a judge in the Sheffield Crown Court criticised Barnsley Council for accepting men to guard Barnsley Market from the same security firm which had supplied them with 22 dishonest guards. I have with me several Press cuttings which tell similar stories. They say such things as:
Christie's antiques guard had form … Factory's night guard was just a convict on parole".
In my own constituency, a security guard, bored with life, caused damage worth between £8,000 and £10,000 by setting fire to the property that he was guarding. The headlines go on:
Depot guard goes to jail … Ex-security man jailed for three years after bakery fire.. Security man assaulted girl and teenage boy … Securior guard in thefts"—
that shows that even the major companies, despite their vetting procedures, are not immune to this problem—
Arsonist jailed for life—'He tried to recapture the excitement of Ulster'
by setting fire to the property that he was guarding. There are many other such examples.
The risks of employing criminals cannot be prevented, but licensing would minimise them. The Home Office says that there is no evidence of serious criminality, but I believe that there is.
Many people would welcome licensing. I have had a great deal of support for this proposal from hon. Members, from all sections of all parties, from the two trade unions concerned—the General and Municipal Workers' Union and the Transport and General Workers' Union—from the National Council for Civil Liberties, the International and Professional Security Association, the Police Federation, the Master Locksmiths Association, the Association of British Investigators, the Institute of Professional Investigators, the Intruder Alarm Installers Association, the New Law Journal, the Law Society Gazette, The Criminologist and Top Security.
I have been in continuous contact with the BSIA. Its members support licensing but their demand is more for what they call "private" licensing—the industry policing itself. My suggestion is for public licensing. We are both for licensing; it is only the method that gives rise to argument.
Many other professions are regulated—betting shops, consumer credit agencies, employment agencies, nursing homes, dentists, occupational therapists, publicans, vets, midwives, nurses and insurance brokers. Two Bills at present going through Parliament would regulate hairdressers and estate agents. If those professions need licensing, so does the security industry.
Licensing is too important to be left to the industry itself, especially when there are so many organisations speaking on its behalf. I should not like any one to dominate. That is why the licensing should be neutral and public. I do not minimise the difficulties of drafting the right Bill. I am not a lawyer, and if the Home Office is prepared to support the Bill I should be only too happy, if they would do the research, for the Government to introduce their own legislation. It would be of inestimable advantage to the industry, the security services, the public, the Government, Parliament and almost every section of society except the criminals. They alone will have no interest in such legislation going through.
I shall not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) in his special pleading, except to say that when I was prosecuting a murder case two months ago, five security guards were mentioned, two of whom were called as witnesses and all of whom had very serious criminal records. So something needs to be done.
According to today's Financial Times, under the signature "Justinian",
Politicians who try to make law and order an electoral issue do so at their peril.
That is undoubtedly true. Of course people are concerned about the increase in the crime rate, particularly in the use of violence, but many people realise that this is a manifestation of modern society and most sensible people are more concerned about how our society is progressing.
We heard today that on Saturday it took 5,000 police officers, at a cost of over £200,000, to keep two extreme parties apart, one on the Left and one on the Right.
That is because they were using the modern mass media society for their own purposes. It is stupid for politicians of any party to try to make political capital by blaming one another for the crime increase. It is much better to spend time considering why it happens and why it is increasing.
The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) was chairman of a Conservative Party committee which produced a report on the better use of prisons. That was a knowledgeable and sensible report, which made a true contribution to the larger debate instead of trying to suggest, as the official Opposition are today, that one party is more concerned about law and order than is another.
Why is there such an increase in the crime rate? Why is violence increasing? Why is there so much juvenile crime, and why do all the reports suggest that it is so linked with truancy? Why is there so much truancy in our schools? Those are the questions that we should be asking ourselves.
I remember my colleague, Roddy Bowen, who used to sit for Cardiganshire some years ago, telling my bar mess when he was the leader of our circuit that Welsh juries were against sin but that, mercifully, they were not dogmatic about it. We in this House are all for law and order and against crime, but it would be a powerful person who could be dogmatic about the cause of most crime. We do not know.
For example, the William Benson Report, "Juvenile Theft: The Causal Factors", although its methods had their limitations, disclosed some interesting findings. For example, every one of the 1,425 boys interviewed, from vastly different backgrounds and classes, had indulged in some stealing. So this is not an area where we can say that someone is absolutely black and others are totally white. That certainly is not borne out by those findings.
The fact that many who indulged in stealing developed into committing more serious crimes depended on certain accidental factors. One of the most important of those factors was the company they kept. Another was the permissiveness that characterised their attitude towards larceny. For example, larceny from school and sometimes larceny from the family were regarded as fair game. The findings of the Benson Committee suggest that nobody can be dogmatic in believing that there is one class only that tends to indulge in crime.
The crime rate and the attitude towards crime are facets of our society today and are reflected in it. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) made an interesting speech. I agreed with a great deal of his remarks, although I disagreed quite strongly with other parts of it. The hon. Gentleman was right to say that we are dealing with the products of an affluent society. We are becoming an increasingly affluent and, indeed, an increasingly amoral, society. It is all very well for people with high standards to live by a system based on relative standards in morals, but it is a different matter for youngsters who have not had the advantage of a good home background, who have had a disappointing school and who do not attend any place of worship. It is sometimes difficult for them to distinguish simply between what is right and what is wrong.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North was also right to refer to the influence of television. The great danger of the fact that so much violence is portrayed on television is that youngsters come to regard violence as normal and acceptable rather than as abnormal and unacceptable. Familiarity with violence appears to breed permissiveness towards it.
I represent a constituency which has an old Welsh Nonconformist rural background. It has a low incidence of crime. There is no doubt in my mind that social sanction is an important factor in keeping down the crime figure. But youngsters in my constituency are being constantly fed on a diet of violence, and they tend to come to accept it as a not unusual matter in society. However, violence in my area is relatively unusual even in these days.
It is important to distinguish between respect for the law and the maintenance of order. Let us not forget that order is better maintained in, say, Soviet Russia than here, and in East Germany rather than West Germany. It is also better maintained in societies which operate under the old strict Arab law. Yet we would not exchange our system or our country for theirs, even though they manage to maintain order better than we do.
In this debate we are seeking to deal with order maintained with respect for the rule of law. We are talking about a concept of society different from that of many other countries. I believe that it is wrong to portray this debate as a discussion of a meaningless phrase—"law and order." We are dealing with the maintenance of order within a country that respects the rule of law, and that is a difficult matter.
Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman think that it is vitally important, in a country which has respect for the rule of law, that the spirit of natural law should be respected by such persons as the Government, whom he supports, in their attitude to black lists and similar matters? The Government have done nothing that is against the law, but they have done a lot that is against the spirit of ethics and natural law.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to score political points, and he should not do so. He may remember what I said about the Government's attitude towards some of the actions during the Grunwick strike. I think that those actions are not permissible in a civilised society.
I do not think that anybody here would seek to suggest that there is any justification for the use of violence in public life.
Let me turn my attention to another problem. I think that we shall see an increase in crime in this country. I think that is inevitable in this kind of society. It is a matter that should concern us all. A further important matter which must also concern us is the decreased likelihood of detection. The Benson Report points out that fear of detection rather than the fear of punishment is one of the greatest deterrents to crime.
That being the case—I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman has hit the nail on the head—is it not the Government's duty to sustain the police and their morale, and to pay them properly?
Most people in this country would agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. However, under a policy of wage restraint, as occurred under the Tory Government, there was less money available for the police as for everybody else.
There are many useful suggestions that need to be encouraged. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) established a case for massive public expenditure, and I agreed with him. He said that there should be much more reform and greater changes in the inner city areas. He also suggested that there should be new hostels and shelter provided, so that various classes of offending people would not be sent to prison unnecessarily. He suggested that we should have more prisons and police officers. In other words, he was asking for more and more public expenditure to take place. We are all somewhat hypocritical in this House, because although we talk of combating crime, when it comes to paving the bill we are not prepared to meet it. When I intervened a little earlier to ask about the programme of cost, I was told virtually that it had not been thought of and that it would all take time.
I now wish to deal with the use of prisons. The United Kingdom has the second largest number of people who are serving sentences in closed institutions of any country in Europe. We have a total of 75 people who are in closed institutions out of every 100,000 of population. West Germany, which is the most affluent country in Western Europe, has a larger number of people serving in closed institutions, namely 81 for every 100,000 of population. Holland has the lowest figure in Europe in this respect, although that country has a high crime rate. It has 21 persons serving in closed institutions out of every 100,000 population, and it is not without significance that Holland in its approach to penal problems differs markedly from this country because it insists on community participation and treatment. Its crime rate has lately been falling.
Prisons have been described in modern times as crime factories. I think they could be more accurately described as crime universities. They are places from which often youngsters graduate into more sophisticated avenues and techniques of crime. They learn about the hierarchical nature of the criminal fraternity and become more and more estranged from normal society. It is interesting to note that two-thirds of the prison population at present have an average age of under 27.
Prisons as places of reform, as they were regarded in the past, are generally futile for the mass of prisoners who are today sent to them. The more who are sent there, the more difficult it is for prison staff to maintain the constructive atmosphere that is necessary to keep up morale.
Last year the prison governors sent a valuable and important memorandum to the Home Secretary, urging upon him, among other things, that the courts should, when passing custodial sentences, give their reasons openly and publicly for doing so. I regret that in this debate we are not discussing that memorandum, because the prison governors, collectively and individually, know more about these problems than does any Member of this House.
No one should be sent to our overcrowded prisons unless it is absolutely necessary. I remember speaking to the governor of Holloway Prison at a judicial conference. I asked her whether she would ever send a woman to prison if she was in a position to do so. She said "I would never d ream of sending anyone there unless it was absolutely necessary". We all should know why.
There are certain categories of offenders who have to be sent to prison. There are those guilty of crimes of violence. I take a puritanical view on some of these things and I think that society should not tolerate the use of violence in any form. There is only one answer today to crimes of violence, and that is prison, except when there are mental problems involved, and there often are. There are also those who are a danger to society and who are totally committed to crime. There is nothing very much one can do about them.
Lord Brockway, in another place, speaking of Bernard Shaw, said:
On coming out of prison, I was very fortunate indeed to be appointed a joint secretary of the Prisons System Inquiry Committee. May I lighten the sombreness of this debate: we asked Mr. Bernard Shaw to write the introduction to our report. He concluded that there was only one way to deal with incurable criminals, and that was to put them into lethal chambers. My Quaker joint secretary, the distinguished Stephen Hobhouse, could not accept this, whereupon Mr. Bernard Shaw rewrote the passage. He said:
'There are two ways to deal with incurable criminals: one is to put them into lethal chambers; the other is to find Quakers who will look after them for the rest of their lives'."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 29th June 1977, Vol. 384, c. 1175–76.]
What we have to remember is that we have not got Quakers to look after these people for the rest of their lives. We have a prison service which has to do that. It is under great stress and it is important that we should bear in mind the advice of prison governors on this matter, and their position.
The third category of offender who should be sent to prison is those who need a short, sharp, punishment. Prison governors made the following point in their memorandum: the first week in prison is the greatest single deterrent; by the time a prisoner has been there for six months, he is used to the routine. Judges everywhere should get used to the idea of a short sentence being not the imposition of 18 months instead of two years but two months instead of 18 months. This is particularly the case for those offenders for whom everything else has been tried. Let us give them a taste of prison. If we followed the practice of short sentences carried out in the Netherlands—Lord Hunt, I think quoted this in another place—we would practically halve the present prison population. If we have the enormous problem of over 42,000 persons in our prisons and the prisons being unable to cope with this number, is not the sensible answer to go for much shorter sentences for those categories to whom I have referred?
There are therefore grounds for a more dramatic change in sentencing policy. Many hon. and learned Members will have been to various sentencing conferences, when many suggestions are made as to how sentencing policy should differ. Our experience in the courts, by and large, however, is that that policy does not differ very much. It takes a long time for change to get through. There ought to be a speeding up of the change in sentencing policy. There is also a temptation with some of our judges to pile on a sentence sometimes because of the Parole Board. I know that this is denied but I believe that it sometimes happens. That ought to be resisted.
We need to spend more money—here I agree with the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border—on alternative methods and not only to do with community service. There should be much more sheltered accommodation, hostels for vagrants and for the homeless. The point is made that so often people come out of prison and, because they have nowhere to go, fall into crime once again very easily.
Over the past 10 years there has been a tendency to change the probation officer into a bureaucratic being. He spends a great deal of his time writing reports for the benefit of the courts or the service, rather than in face to face contact with the probationer. We ought to make much more use of probation officers. We should have many more of them and they should revert to their old job of helping the person in need. If the judges have to do with fewer reports, so be it.
Generally, I deplore the centralisation of so much of our local administration, the running of prisons, borstals and approved schools. Over the years this has resulted in divorcing local communities from any true involvement with legal processes or the consequence of crime. In many ways I regret the disappearance of the truly local prison.
Going back to the idea of a short sentence, it would be ideal if that sentence could be served in the home locality of the offender. Far too few people have any idea of what prisons are like. There is a total misconception on the part of many members of the public as to the conditions in prisons. We are not talking about the newest, most modern prisons, but the ordinary run of the mill prisons. This subject is a closed book to most people. One good service which television has performed is in providing an insight into life in prisons through some recent programmes.
Turning to the question of the police, may I suggest to the Home Secretary that it is important to get the Edmund-Davies report out as soon as possible? It must be an enormous burden doing this work and I notice from newspapers and from my own knowledge that Lord Edmund-Davies is still sitting in a judicial capacity. It would seem that it is extremely important to the country that Lord Edmund-Davies should be freed to work full time on this subject.
I remember, years ago, I was at an assize in North Wales at which there was also a distinguished chief constable, Sir Thomas Williams. I happened to notice in the newspaper that day that a new chief constable, I think for Pembrokeshire, had announced that he intended to "motorise" the whole of his force and to use more modern methods. This wise old chief constable said to me "This is the greatest possible mistake. The policeman should be part of the community. He should be on the beat. It is there that he gets all the gossip from his friends and it is then that you can solve crimes." We only need the modern techniques, and they are necessary, when the gossip and the grapevine fail. The truth is that many of our police techniques over the past few years have been misconceived, in addition to much of our penal policy.
About an hour and a half ago my predecessor in the Chair, who is an excellent mathematician, appealed to hon. Members for seven-minute speeches, since when speeches have averaged 15 minutes. It is obvious that unless hon. Members show some restraint a large number of those who have been present in the Chamber throughout the debate will not be called. I renew my predecessor's appeal and express the hope that hon. Members will try to speak as briefly as possible.
Generally speaking, I agree with many of the comments made this afternoon, particularly about the public anxiety and concern over violence in the streets of our towns and cities. I wish to make three points. What I have to say refers to the overpowering and appalling situation which exists in most of our old, Victorian prisons. It is easy for hon. Members to say that prisoners should be given longer or shorter sentences. Those of us who have been concerned with penal problems for many years know that the prisons are bursting at the seams. There are over 5,000 men living three in a cell. At times they have been four in a cell. At times, prisoners have to sleep on dining room floors and in corridors. If we followed to their logical conclusion the wishes of some hon. Members, even more men and women would be sent to prison.
It has been suggested that mentally disturbed people, alcoholics and drug addicts, and inadequate petty offenders who, together, total many hundreds of prisoners, should come out of the penal system.
Has the Home Secretary considered the fact that an important category of prisoner for whom community service orders are not available are line defaulters? In 1976, a total of 16,000 offenders were imprisoned for not paying fines. They made a significant demand on the space and resources of our hard-pressed local prisons. Under the Criminal Justice Act 1972, there was a power for community service orders to be made for fine defaulters, but that provision has not yet been implemented. Will the Home Secretary consider its implementation, because it would make a significant difference, even though sentences for fine defaulters are usually short?
Two or three, or possibly four, open prisons have been closed. Would it not be possible to use them as weekend prisons for the three categories of offender that I have mentioned? Such prisons are commonplace on the Continent and are available in New Zealand. Their use would allay many of the worries and fears that have been expressed on both sides of the House.
The prisoner would have closer contact with his family and would probably be able to retain his employment. As punishment for his offence, he would be called upon to sacrifice his leisure time—as good a punishment as any. Most people would concede that drunken drivers are afraid not so much of a fine as of the possibility of having their licences suspended. That is the biggest punishment that can be imposed on a drunken driver.
At not inconsiderable public expense, these open prisons are not being used. Could we not experiment and use them as weekend prisons? It would not involve vast expenditure by the Exchequer. All the alternatives, including hostels and homes, are infinitely cheaper than prison, where it now costs us £98 to keep one man for a week and the results shown in men who come out of prison do not say much for the influence of long sentences.
The use of detoxification centres has been in many people's minds for a long time, but nothing seems to happen. It is slow progress. I know that the Home Secretary is considering the matter with great care. I pay him credit for that and the Home Office credit for its enlightened view in examining alternatives to prison. In 1976, there were 3,000 receptions into prison of people convicted of drunkenness offences, and most of them were imprisoned for the non-payment of fines. Surely some of the money available would be better spent in establishing further detoxification centres. One of the most successful is in Leeds. If we set a pattern, it might be less expensive than building a vast number of new secure prison units.
It may be that as soon as resources are available we should have an extension of building of new prisons, so that we get rid of the degrading, monstrous, Victorian prisons where people can only be turned out like animals because there is no way of living when three or four people are put into a cell that was built 120 years ago for one person.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) made an important point about the use of prisons at weekends. I should like to see that experiment pursued. The views expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) about the Probation Service were extremely important. Probation officers spend too much time on qualifications and have too little practical experience. That is my experience from years past on the Bench.
I was in North Ilford on Saturday and saw, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, shops being boarded up. The biggest industry that day was the boarding-up of shops—not against the National Front but against hooligans of all kinds, ranging from the so-called Anti-Nazi Party and the Socialist Workers Party to people who probably could not get into a football match. The decent, honest traders of Barkingside had to suffer and the ratepayers of London will have to pay.
Many ordinary Londoners may vote for the National Front. They fought and were bombed by the Nazis during the war and they do not need to be told, vocally or otherwise, by long-haired students of the Left of the vileness of Nazism. They have seen it and have suffered it.
The extreme Left is no more interested in racial tolerance than is the extreme Right. The extreme Right seems to want to hoodwink unemployed youngsters and to induce them to vent their political frustration on racial hatred. The extreme Left wants to perform a similar exercise for young West Indians. The extreme Left seems to want to prey on itself and on the extreme Right—with the poor police force in the middle.
The National Front and the Socialist Workers Party are crawling out from opposite sides of the gutter of politics. All they offer are alternative roads to the concentration-camp State. The tragedy is that the media have not yet realised this.
While rent-a-mob pickets march, crimes increase. Publicans, taxi drivers, bus drivers and conductors all sustain increasing violence. They are bitterly unhappy about the so-called intellectual theorists who have inhabited the Home Office for far too long. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) tried to bring some of the Home Office ideas back to reality.
Vandalism on council estates is increasing. One reason is that the police are grossly below strength. Is it realised that the Metropolitan Police establishment is exactly the same today as it was 50 years ago, although there are now 400,000 more crimes every year? We are asking the police to do an impossible task. No one can have failed to hear the Government's cry on public spending cuts, but they have been made too little, too late and in the wrong places. After all, Sir Robert Mark, in his last report, said:
The Force can only fulfil its role if it has adequate resources of manpower and equipment to do so. Restricting the availability of either, at a time when the Force is facing difficulties and challenges such as it has never had to face before, is bound to impair its efficiency. The consequences are likely to be serious and far-reaching.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) spoke a lot of sound common sense. He is one Labour Member who is suffering because he has dared to speak out against the intellectual Left and the extreme Left, whose members are not interested in the problem of law and order. I respect the hon. Gentleman for not trimming his sails. I wish that more of his colleagues had the guts to stand up against their own constituency Labour parties.
It is clear that we have real problems in London. Between 1973 and 1976 there has been a 30 per cent. increase in offences of violence against the person in London, from 9,300 to 12,200. In 1973, 72 per cent. of those crimes were cleared up, but by 1976 this proportion had fallen to 59 per cent. That is an unacceptable figure. I give the Home Secretary credit for agreeing that the figure is unacceptable.
It is little wonder that the police force is gradually fading away in numbers. The family strain is intolerable. There is also the cancellation of leave. Weekend after weekend the police have to protect mobs of people who want to march to distract 95 per cent. of the population. If these people want to demonstrate at all, let them have their meetings in parks and not disturb the rest of the civilised population, who do not want their lives distracted and their police force to have to look after these people week after week.
I want to criticise the magistrates and the courts. I think that bail is being granted much too freely. In one case in Belsize Park, in my constituency, two people were arrested for attempted house-breaking. They had already been out on bail, which the police had opposed. The court granted bail, again against police opposition. One of those persons has again been caught stealing. The courts must realise that they are dispiriting the police and making the public realise that there is not the protection that there should be from the courts. The effect on the morale of the police, which is all important, cannot be underestimated.
We need to look at the effect of the mob rule that we saw outside the Grunwick factory. For weeks, local residents wondered what the police were doing. Their walls were broken, their gardens urinated in and used as a battle ground, and their children frightened. There was not a peep from the Home Secretary about the rights of those citizens.
The right hon. Gentleman went to Ilford last week and made an unscheduled speech. That shows how scared the Labour Party is of the result. His speech did not make much impression, because it went the wrong way. But on television—he will forgive me if I paraphrase what he said and if I get it wrong, I shall take a correction—he said that he would see that there was the manpower available so that the electors could exercise their democratic franchise. That, coming from a Government who have done more to cut the police numbers because they have refused to pay them properly, is rich.
There are now more policemen in London than when we came into office. It is silly for the hon. Member to say what he did. I went to Ilford because I was asked to go My hon. Friends have a great organisation of schedules. The hon. Gentleman has revealed that he knows very little about the matter, particularly in the Ilford area.
The Home Secretary made an unwarranted attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) and had to withdraw it. The scheduled speakers, for the Labour Party were the Secretary of State for Energy, the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, according to the advance list provided by Transport House. The right hon. Gentleman came in at a very late stage. Those are the facts. It is clear that he said people should exercise their franchise, but he has done nothing to assist the police to increase their numbers.
I believe that the Conservative Opposition were right to raise this issue today in the House of Commons. It is a long time since we had Cabinet Ministers taking any real interest in this subject. The last occasion, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) said, was when three of them appeared on the picket line—certainly peacefully—at Grunwick.
Immigration and law and order have been swept under the carpet for far too long. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was right to speak out, despite efforts deliberately to misrepresent what she said as racialist. Prelates as well as politicians have a duty to be accurate when they attack someone for speaking out. I hope that the lesson spelled out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border will be learned and that, as a start, the Home Secretary will have £1,000 of his already too large salary docked tonight.
I apologise for coming into the debate rather late. However, I was glad to be here when the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) made his speech. I am sure that when I read Hansard tomorrow I shall find his the most refreshing speech that has been or will be made today. The hon. Gentleman knew what he was talking about. He had a lot of experience.
Most people forget that the situation that we are facing is not a phenomenon only of this country. It exists throughout Europe, if not throughout the world. It is right that we should be disturbed, upset and deeply conscious of the violence and vandalism that take place. But it is significant that every major capital in West and West-associated countries—Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, Bonn, Rome and Brussels—has in the last 10 years witnessed major demonstrations and confrontations and seen policemen killed. London is the only capital that has not seen that, thank the Lord. London is also the only capital where, with the exception of the Red Lion Square riot, students have not been killed in demonstrations.
Let us not pretend that this problem lies at the feet of the Labour Government. Let us not pretend that only a Tory Government would be able to resolve it, because there are Tory Governments in Europe where the problem is much greater than it is here.
One problem above all others in this respect is that many citizens turn a blind eye. They do not want to be involved. People have told me that they saw boys on a previous night wrecking telephones. I said "What the devil is the good of coming to me tonight to tell me what boys were doing last night? Why did you not use a telephone? If you have not got one, you should go to someone who has and get in touch with the police". We have a terrible problem in that respect. So many people contract out. They do not want to be involved. That is the problem from which Northern Ireland suffers. The problem there would be halved if it were not that people did not want to be involved. They do not want to appear as witnesses. They turn, as it were, a Nelson eye.
I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham that too many people are sent to prison—people who should not be sent there at all. In consequence, our prisons are overcrowded. I know of men who have no intention, because of the circumstances of their private lives, of paying maintenance money to their families. I do not know what can be done about such people. We can send them to prison repeatedly, but that will not get them to redeem the obligations that the law imposes upon them. I do not believe, therefore, that prison is the answer in those cases. I could illustrate my argument with many other cases that I know of, but I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have appealed for brief speeches.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) has ever been to the Durham Miners' Gala. It is a mammoth demonstration. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people go there, yet no one is ever locked up or prosecuted. There is no violence or vandalism. The shops, however, still board up their windows, and they do it sensibly, because of crowd pressures. The shopkeepers are not prepared to run the risk of their windows being broken. That risk arises by virtue of the people who want to watch the procession standing in such numbers on the footpath that if anyone leans against the windows or is pushed he will go through.
As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have for many years abhored violence as much as anyone in this House. All my life I have said that it is no answer to any of our problems. I believe there is something to be said for trying to increase the size of the police force. Perhaps the police have a special case, but I beg hon. Members to understand this if they understand nothing else.
As we all know, in the personal histories of hon. Members on both sides of the House there have been sons or daughters who have not necessarily followed the straight and narrow path. That is true of politicians throughout Europe. Europe has a problem which will not be solved in the way some men feel it should be solved, by becoming more violent towards those who have abused the law. It will be solved only by a greater involvement of the general public and by getting people to stand up and be counted whenever that is necessary, and by giving the police all the help we can.
Order. For the benefit of hon. Members who have just come into the Chamber, I shall indicate that this is the third appeal for brevity that has been made in order to try to enable those who have been here all afternoon to speak in the debate.
It is a pleasure to follow on my side of the House my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg), because I wish to amplify and confirm what he said about the situation in London. In 1731 a Londoner wrote as follows:
Violence and plunder are no longer confined to the Highways. The streets of the City are now places of danger. Men are knocked down and robbed, nay sometimes murdered, at their doors and in passing and repassing from house to house or from shop to shop. Stage coaches are being held up in Holborn, Soho and Whitechapel.
I want to take part in this debate because the situation today in Acton some 250 years later may appear to be somewhat similar. In doing so I do not wish
to be accused by the Home Secretary of needlessly exaggerating the situation, so I have brought along the local paper, which is read by most of my constituents and from which, rightly or wrongly, they derive their impression of the state of law and order in the constituency.
At the top of page 1 we read,
Death in the park—exclusive pictures page 18
Race hate campaign at the school gates
which takes up the rest of the page. On page 2,
Clothing firm a four time loser
tells us that a warehouse in Acton has been broken into for the fourth time in three months. Beneath that there is,
Mechanic took club cash
The whole of page 3 is devoted to a story with the headline,
Have-a-go drivers in bid to foil bank raid
which is sub-titled,
Skateboard kids could give vital clue".
Page 4 contains an advertisement, which is non-violent, and page 5 has two stories, one being,
TV row ends in stabbing
Death road crossing plea".
Page 6 is a letter page and page 7 is devoted almost exclusively to,
Two injured as blast rocks hut".
On page 16 we read
MP joins fight against bus terror
and on page 17,
Grim toll brings new safety plea
Youth who stole repays in time".
Page 18 is devoted entirely to,
Lunchtime killing of Hydri Hoshafi".
After the eight-page weekend supplement the last news page carries the headline,
Paranoid Albanian who took gun to work.
I drew on that material in order to convince the Home Secretary that concern about law and order in Acton is not something that is whipped up by Tory Central Office. This is what my constituents read about and talk about in the pubs and at work, and it is what
elderly people in particular in Ealing are very concerned about. The Home Secretary may say that their fears are ill-founded and that he has the situation under control and that I should be reassuring them. I cannot reassure them and I will say so in local terms, again because people perceive this problem in local terms.
First, the Acton police force is seriously undermanned. The theoretical establishment is 113. The current strength is 83, so the police have only three-quarters the men they should have. By the Home Office's own standards, therefore, my constituents are not getting the protection to which they are entitled.
Secondly, this quantitative problem is worsened by a qualitative one which is caused by the resignation of experienced officers. Between July last year and today, two and a half times more police officers left the service through resignation than through reaching pensionable age. The police force therefore has lost a large number of experienced officers, and that prejudices the efficiency of the force because it takes a number of years for their replacements to achieve a comparable standard.
This gives us a clue to the real problem, which is pay. At a time of rising unemployment, the policemen in Acton who resigned have had no difficulty in finding other jobs. Two have emigrated, one is driving a long-distance lorry and two are working at Heathrow for security firms. Men of the intelligence, integrity and physical condition required by the police force can command substantially higher salaries elsewhere, and until we put that right we shall not solve the problem. Only one-third of those who apply to join the police force are acceptable. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to say that there is no reason why the Acton police force cannot be brought up to 113. The answer is that the police are not paid the right salaries to attract the right people. The only way to get the number up to 113 is to lower the standards of the London police, and I am sure that the Home Secretary does not want that to happen.
The third reason is that the resources of the police forces are increasingly being diverted to deal with political demonstrations. These, coupled with the two other factors I have mentioned, reduce the ability of the police to tackle crime. Twenty years ago the police in Acton would have been called upon perhaps once a year to help out with the Aldermaston march. The participants were pacifists in theory and in practice. In 1976 there were 393 public order events in London necessitating special police arrangements. That is at a rate of more than one a day, and it hits all the forces.
On Saturday, for example, X Division, which covers West London, had to send between 80 and 100 men to Ilford in addition to trying to meet its normal commitments in West London. Acton police had to go to Grunwick last year at 4.30 every morning, and that problem still continues. The problem to be dealt with there is not one of pacifists but of militants in theory and practice. If hon. Members doubt that, they should read chapter 3 of the report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the year 1976 to see exactly what the police had to put up with.
The important factor is this: with political demonstrations, industrial disputes involving picketing, major incidents caused from time to time by the IRA, and the need to protect senior diplomats and Heathrow Airport from international terrorists, the scene is different from what it was 20 years ago. Many more policemen, not fewer, are needed to cope.
Arising from this I come to the fourth reason for believing that my constituents are right to be concerned. It is that the crime figures are going up. In Ealing and Acton the most serious category of crime—crimes of violence—went up from 458 incidents in 1976 to 507 in 1977, a rise of over 10 per cent. Crimes involving motor cars rose from 3,588 to 3,980—more than ten a day—again an increase of over 10 per cent. Miscellaneous crime—namely, offences involving criminal damage to the value of more than £20—went through the roof. In 1976 there were 578 incidents. Last year there were 1,467.
Overall last year crime in Ealing went up 12·8 per cent. and in Acton 10·3 per cent. That implies a doubling in about eight years, and that is unacceptable.
This brings me to my final and most important point—police morale. The police are responsible for maintaining the law of the land, and in discharging that function they believe that they are entitled to the support of Parliament. They do not get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to go to Grunwick and be subjected to violence and abuse because they want to. They go up there because we have asked them to do so. When they go up there they think that they are entitled to support from Parliament. When they see political associates of the Home Secretary on the picket line they begin to wonder on whose side Parliament might be. When Members of Parliament start calling the police thugs, the police wonder whether it is worth all the trouble.
For all the reasons that I have outlined, people in my constituency are concerned about the great problem of law and order. I have tried to substantiate my argument with facts and figures.
There are two root problems. One is pay and the other is morale. We hope that Lord Edmund-Davies will tackle the problem of pay and that he and the Government will not be tempted to defer the increases for such a long period that there is no impact. The problem of morale can be put right by Parliament. The Home Secretary could do something tonight which would cost him nothing and take but a few seconds. He could go to a meeting of his hon. Friends who are members of the Tribune Group and invite them to put their names down to an Early-Day Motion supporting our police force. That is worth several million pounds to the police and would cost the Home Secretary nothing. That is something that he could well consider doing.
When one looks at the extent of corruption among police forces in the past years, one realises that in Britain we have a first-class police force, even though occasionally there are shortcomings because policemen are human beings. Our police are less corrupt than the Hong Kong police used to be. In the same way, we suffer from less violence than many other countries. Britain has a great deal to boast about in the contemporary scene on questions of law and order, although, of course, matters are getting worse in some ways, and there is nothing to be complacent about.
In South Africa there is the death penalty and the police carry arms. By comparison with South Africa, Britain is a haven of law and order. When one thinks of law and order one thinks of the duties of the police and what they can do to help, but one also has to think of other persons and groups that carry a heavy responsibility for the maintenance of peace and the rule of law in this country.
Among those groups are the judiciary. It is the duty of judges by their own conduct constantly to renew people's respect in the rule of law. Judges should remember when they sit on the Bench that the public, through its ears, the Press, are listening to what is being said, and if judges say silly or ill-advised things or say something prejudicial, different groups in the country begin to lose faith in the judiciary. If they lose faith in the judiciary they lose faith in the rule of law, and without respect for the rule of law there is no healthy parliamentary democracy, which we all cherish.
Those of us in the House who fight for the rule of law do not want to find that we are being stabbed in the back by idiotic or ill-chosen remarks made by judges, which make it more difficult for us to show that we have in Britain a detached, wise and fair body of judges to whom any citizen can come and be sure of receiving impartial justice.
One hears a great deal of talk about capital punishment as a means of deterring crime. People have somehow got it into their heads that if we brought back hanging that would somehow affect vandalism of telephone kiosks, vandalism by breaking old people's windows or vandalism at football matches. Capital punishment has never been a punishment for those crimes. Capital punishment in those circumstances is relevant as a matter for discussion in relation to only a very tiny section of crimes. We have to look elsewhere when we consider why there is vandalism and why there is hooliganism. What is there at football matches and in the environs of football matches which make people behave as they do?
Although the punishment of crime comes in at the end, one ought to be looking all the time at what causes people to act in this anti-social way in the first place. I fully accept that when one perceives crime and people are convicted, one has to punish them. Therefore, I am among those who take the view that for hooliganism at football matches, where people are terrified, the punishment has to be severe. Indeed, normally it has to involve a custodial sentence. But, as someone who sits on the Bench himself, I am conscious at times of the small variety of weapons at my disposal for dealing with people before me.
Nowadays, judges and recorders have to visit penal institutions such as borstals, detention centres, remand homes and prisons. One talks to the people in them and to those who run them. One listens to the head of the prison service and one listens to psychiatrists and so forth. Then one tries to do one's best for society in having some regard for the future of the defendant, because it is in society's interests that he does not come back to a penal institution having sinned again.
One becomes conscious—I believe many judges share this view—that one sends some people to prison not because one thinks that it is going to do them any good. Indeed, one often thinks that it will make matters worse. One sends them to prison because for the protection of society there is no other remedy left. Everything has been tried and everything has failed. Then one says "Society has to be protected somehow. This man has to be kept from society, kept from this wrong doing, for a period of time."
Our prisons are old. Massive resources would be needed to make enormous strides in changing our prison system, because when most of the prisons are over a hundred years old, what can be done? They were built in order to keep people in cages. They were not built to improve people. They were not built to rehabilitate people. That was not the social attitude prevailing at the time that the prisons were built. Now we realise that we do not want people continually to come back to prison. It is no good to them and no good to the society upon which they prey. It is no good for the taxpayer who has to maintain them. Having realised this, one has to try to find a means of dealing with them in a constructive way.
It is no use saying "Send people to prison for longer and longer periods" when there is no room. The prisons take 42,000 people, of whom many are living three to a cell. It has been said many times—I remember the former Home Secretary, who is now in Brussels, saying it—that 42,000 is the maximum number of prisoners that our prisons could take. Accordingly, we have reports urging us to cut prison sentences. The greatest pressure for penal reform comes not from right hon. and hon. Members of the House but from the fact that there are not enough prisons in which to put people in any kind of way in which they remain human beings.
Whatever one thinks about prison sentencing, one has to ask where one puts the prisoners. There is an on-going prison building programme, but unfortunately it seems that it does not match the increasing crime. I hope that that situation will change, but at the moment there is pressure to cut prison sentences.
Although the main pressure comes from shortage of prison space, there is a new view growing that long sentences often do not achieve anything very much, and that if one wants to destroy a man's self-respect so that he does not care very much whether he goes back to prison, one should give him a long sentence, but that if one wants to give a person a shock and make him frightened to go back to prison, one should give him a short sentence. That view matches the places in prison with the continuing number of crimes.
There are all sorts of views as to why crime is increasing. I do not believe that it is simply a matter of the fault of the previous Tory Government or the fault of this or any previous Labour Government. If we in this House look at the matter in purely party terms, we do not deserve the respect of the British people on what is such a major problem. Some people say that Britain lags 20 years behind the United States in many ways and that we are gradually catching up in terms of crime. I hope that that will not happen. I believe that we can still walk about at night fairly safely in this country, perhaps not as safely as 50 years ago, but more safely than most people can walk about in most other countries.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, like Roy Jenkins did before him, is doing a good job within the limits of the resources available to him. Neither my right hon. Friend nor Roy Jenkins is a person to ignore professional advice and each has taken it into account. Like Roy Jenkins, my right hon. Friend is available to Back Benchers, to listen to their complaints and their suggestions.
The trouble is that these debates that we organise here deal only with the tip of the problem, with the results of bad housing, bad social conditions, irresponsible television, and so on. All these things are part of the problem, and it is idle to hope to convince people by staging debates of this sort that this is a party matter and that somehow Labour encourages crime.
Labour does not want crime. We are a party of law and order. We believe that we are traditionally a party for law and order. We are not stupidly repressive. We believe that our Ministers will continue to try, both before and after the next General Election, to see to it that crime is curbed, and that the people have better conditions so that fewer feel the need to become criminals.
In view of your request to be brief, Mr. Speaker, I shall not follow the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons), except to say that I do not deny that there are many countries where crime and the increase of crime have been far worse than here. But we are concerned with England and Wales in this debate, and it is only within our remit that we can in the political arena do anything about it.
There is no doubt that the dominant political issues in the minds of my constituents are law and order and immigration and, whatever view and attitude one takes towards these problems there is no doubt that the Conservative Front Bench was absolutely right and perfectly justified in raising them and bringing them into public discussion, because these are subjects that have now come into the political arena because of the people's interest, and they have to be properly discussed.
The rise in crime is plain for all to see. We do not have to read out all the statistics. We are all agreed on the fact that crime has risen alarmingly over a number of years. I concede that crime is more prevalent in many places than in my pleasant constituency of Harrow. Nevertheless, even in the agreeable constituency that I represent, burglary has greatly increased. So, too, has theft from motor cars. We might reflect whether the enormous spread of the internal combustion engine and its consequences have in some ways caused lack of respect for the law, particularly among young people who find it far too easy to interfere with motor cars.
The police in my constituency also report that there is a direct link between juvenile crime and truancy. They find this to be so time and again. They find young people wandering about the streets. They take them back to their schools, but the schools do not accept them, because they are trouble-makers. They then take them home, but find that the parents are not there to accept them. If such youngsters are not apprehended, it inevitably leads to shoplifting, and that leads to other crimes. This is a major factor in more constituencies than my own area.
Vandalism has been on the increase. The police in my area tell me that they find that it occurs, not unnaturally, in places where young people tend to congregate, and they specifically cite large council estates which have a predominant number of young people.
My local police also report an acute manpower problem and the consequent difficulties they have in preventing crime as opposed to dealing with it once it takes place. Above all, they would welcome anything which would enable us to get back to the "bobby on the beat" which they believe would do more than anything else to prevent crime.
What is the cause of this increase in crime, particularly juvenile crime? At the turn of the century, it was argued by old frauds like Bernard Shaw that crime was directly linked with poverty. Cure poverty, they said, and crime will disappear. The exact opposite has taken place. Poverty as known then has decreased year after year, yet crime has increased year after year. So we have to look for other reasons.
Whenever juvenile crime is discussed, inevitably someone says "There was a lack of amenity", or "The community is to blame", or "We must have more leisure centres". But in the last few years we have been knee-deep in leisure centres, and the rate of juvenile crime has been higher than ever.
We need to look at other causes. There are many bodies in our society which have responsibility and have a part to play. The first of these are our schools. The teaching profession possibly gets far too much blame for juvenile delinquency and for its failure to deal with children. I think that sometimes the blame is exaggerated, but there is no doubt that since the war the teaching profession has encouraged the young to challenge existing ideas and moral standards. That is all very well, but all the questioning that goes on tends to cause confusion. Young people trained as iconoclasts may be very good at tearing down, but they are unable to rebuild. By all means let us teach young people to question, challenge and argue, but let us also teach them how to take decisions and not always lead them to suppose that other people will do it for them.
The teaching profession has more than its fair share of the blame, and I believe that the breakdown of family life has been a major factor. It has led to a growth in hedonism, with responsibilities passed on to someone else or to some organisation, the duty of bringing up children taking second place to personal interests. The schools and the authorities cannot do everything. At the end of the day, what matters is personal example, which is what young people respect more than anything else.
In this respect, politicians have a part to play. I support the decision by Sir David McNee to ban the ludicrous march in Ilford last Saturday. I hope that he will be praised for so doing. The result justified his action. I hope that he will not hesitate to ban the lunatics of the Left as well—people who have probably got away with it for far too long. He must be entirely indiscriminate in taking such action.
Not only politicians but the Government have a part to play by giving a good example in the way in which we conduct ourselves. There is no doubt that, in the minds of the people, the standard of public life and government and the way in which Ministers behave has declined over the years. There is too much putting of party before nation, putting of party interests before Parliament itself, putting of party interests before the rule of law; there is the example of personal advancement, the example by Ministers and other politicians of being on the make rather than having a sense of responsibility to the nation. We see examples of double standards, all the secrecy and deviousness of the years of the Administration of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and, of course, the failure to resign on matters of principle. All these, I believe, have downgraded public life and have set a bad example, particularly to the young in our society.
The Home Secretary invited suggestions as to how the matter could be resolved. He has received a number of suggestions today, upon which I hope he will ponder.
I summarise my suggestions as follows: first, I am very glad that the Government have, albeit perhaps grudgingly, said that they will accept the recommendations of Lord Edmund-Davies. I hope very much that this will mean a transformation in the police situation. In the future, I should like it to be Government policy, whichever party is in power, for the police to be given a much higher priority than ever before. It is tragic that experienced members of the police force should be inveigled, after a certain number of years, into working for private industry. Lord knows. I have been guilty of trying to attract some of them into an industry with which I was concerned. There should be a large number of people of great ability fighting to get into the police force, which should be one of the best remunerated jobs available.
Secondly, the Government will have to tackle the problem of youth unemployment far more vigorously than hitherto. I hope that they will stop the building of great council house ghettoes, which I believe are the breeding places for juvenile crime, and will concentrate, rather, on improving the existing environment.
Finally, the Government must tackle truancy far more vigorously than hitherto if they want to get to the root of juvenile crime.
I have great respect for the Home Secretary. I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber now. He resides not in my constituency but in the borough of Harrow. I think that he will agree with me that the main duty of a Home Secretary is to maintain safety in our streets and public places, to enable citizens to move freely without molestation through the Underground system and on the buses, and through our streets and parks, and to be safe in their homes, and to see that society shall come to their aid immediately if they are threatened. Those are the sorts of duties for which the public expect the Home Secretary to be responsible.
Can the Home Secretary lay his hand on his heart and say that in recent years he has succeeded in this matter? If he can, I believe that he is living in a Cloud-cuckoo-land of illusion totally out of keeping with the views of the public generally. But if he cannot lay his hand on his heart and say that he has succeeded in dealing with this problem of crime and law and order, I believe that as an honourable man—I respect him greatly—he should resign.
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot steel himself to resign—that is out of fashion in our modern political state of affairs—he can do something else with good grace. I say this in all seriousness. He can rise at the Dispatch Box, or do this through his junior Minister, and say that he is prepared to accept the modest reduction in his salary proposed in the motion until he does better. In all seriousness, I think that if the Home Secretary were prepared to do that—it has not been done previously—if nothing more, it would restore a sense of respect for politicians in Britain, and nothing could be better done as an example to our people as a whole.
I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) was serious, certainly in the last part of his speech. I hope that he will not mind if I do not follow up his remarks.
This debate was billed in the weekend Press—no doubt those who were writing on the subject were briefed by the Conservative Opposition so to bill it—as a set-piece confrontation between a tough Opposition intent on law and order and concerned for the great British populace, and a weak and weakly liberal Home Secretary and a Government unconcerned about the problems that have been mentioned in the debate. Of course, the whole timing is related to the Ilford by-election
Apart from the fact that the greater incidence of crime in our inner cities affects those whom we on the Labour Benches represent most of all, no one can with any degree of accuracy label my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, with his record in Ireland and his record as Home Secretary, in any way as being soft on crime. Indeed, the statistics that he set out on each of the categories mentioned by the Opposition show just how much has been done over the period in which he has been Home Secretary.
We looked in vain for some new ideas from the Opposition as to how they would tackle what is clearly a very deep-seated malaise, not only in our society but—this must be accepted—far more extensively in other Western democracies. All that we heard from the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who was a very liberal, humane Home Secretary himself, was a catalogue of generalisations, with just one or two specific matters raised.
On the build-up of the police force, the figures of police strength were given by my right hon. Friend. He also mentioned a wider range of penalties. A wider range of penalties exists for sentencing in our courts today. The glasshouse concept was mentioned by the right hon. Member, yet when asked to give further and better particulars of what he meant by the glasshouse and how this would differ from the current detention centres, he was decidedly coy in saying anything.
What real alternatives do the Conservative Opposition offer, knowing that the crime rate, which is rising and which affects our people and is a major cause of concern, is founded on very deep factors within our society, such as the decline of the religious sanction, the lack of parental control and a number of other factors that are wholly unrelated to whichever party happens to be in power at Westminster at any one time?
Points were made about cash resources on the law and order vote. My right hon. Friend gave figures on this matter. He said that in real terms £250 million extra has been allocated during the period of the present Government.
Points were made about police manning levels. There are serious points to be made on this subject about the loss of experienced police officers, and, indeed, the recruitment of younger, inexperienced women, in part, who may not be able to fulfil the full range of police duties.
I think it fair to say that one has to look not only at police manpower requirements. I have checked on this as it affects the South Wales Constabulary, comparing the 1974 strength—the period of amalgamation—and the current strength, and I find that there has been an increase in strengths over that period. It is not simply a question of manning, but there is certainly scope for increasing the effectiveness of police deployment by an increase in civilian manpower and by removing some of the time-wasting duties that are currently carried out by the police.
I instance one element in the Metropolitan Police force. On any day, in many magistrates' courts, one may find about 20 police officers who are there solely for the purpose of giving the antecedents of individual defendants, when surely one experienced officer could be there with the relevant antecedents, allowing the other officers to be more effectively deployed rather than waiting about and wasting time in court, as is frequently the case.
On police pay, I do not know whether the Opposition seriously suggest that pay policy should have been breached in this case. One knows just how that would have undermined the Government's overall pay policy, which is now bearing fruit. However, any package that comes from Edmund-Davies clearly has to take into account the areas in which the greatest pressure is currently on police officers to leave the force. There must be an element of rewarding those officers who stay longer in the force.
We must look at manning levels throughout the United Kingdom. The salary for a police officer may well be reasonably adequate when compared with wage levels in certain rural areas, but it will not be adequate in major metropolitan areas, particularly in view of the greater pressures on police officers there. Therefore, there may well have to be a much greater regional weighting element than now exists.
I turn now to the Opposition answer to vandalism and to the increase in juvenile crime. It is surely accepted that there is no easy solution to this problem. At a recent conference on this subject convened by my local authority those who had initially thought that they had some easy answers were quickly disabused of them and most of us left the conference rather more perplexed than when we entered it.
I frequently meet youngsters who are accused of, for example, football hooliganism or mindless acts of arson on school buildings. Many of these youngsters are of good character and come from good families. It cannot be said of them that they went wrong for a given reason, that their crimes were due to a lack of leisure centres in their area, or that their parents should have exercised firmer control. The motivation of these youngsters is far more complex and the suggestion that a harsh discipline be imposed—the glasshouse discipline or whatever—is wholly irrelevant to the problem of the youngsters who frequently appear before the courts after such crimes.
Having said that, however, I accept that there is a case for the imposition of exemplary sentences in certain cases. It can be argued with justification that the imposition of heavy sentences in the Notting Hill riots case in 1958 had an effect in deterring others who might have been attracted along that road at that time. It is true that in certain areas the sentences meted out to football hooligans have had some effect in reducing the incidence of football hooliganism.
Hooliganism—which is rife—is also linked to the ordinary inner city stresses—for example, the lack of "community" of which other hon. Members have spoken, when there has been a mindless destruction of inner cities with communities destroyed and people decanted to distant housing estates where there is nothing to bind communities together. That is at the base of much of the social disaffection which prevails.
Now, in the policies advanced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment—the total multi-faceted attack on inner city problems—we see the first concerted effort to tackle a problem which was not tackled by the Conservative Administration. When I was a councillor in an inner city area in London from 1971 to 1974 I felt completely lost and unhelped by the central Government.
The penalties available are clearly not a major inhibiting factor. In any case, when firearms are used, a premium is imposed on the penalty. If football hooliganism occurs, it is normal for some type of custodial sentence to be imposed. It is not that magistrates or judges find that they are inhibited in the sentences they can impose. The exception is the example given by a Tory Member of Section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act, and I have a considerable degree of sympathy for those who have raised this matter.
If there are no easy solutions and if the solutions which have been proposed by the Opposition over the weekend to the effect that they—the tough ones—have the answers are without foundation—in fact, nothing save the glasshouse solution has been detailed—what is the motive of the Conservative Opposition in raising the issue today?
I believe that, with the coming of a General Election, the Tories' public relations advisers have realised that in the range of issues that concern people they score badly as against the Labour Government in terms of the direction of the economy, prices policy, and so on, and that it is on issues such as immigration and law and order where they score well, and they wish to underline these issues. The message has therefore gone out to Conservative spokesmen, in the light of the Ilford by-election and the proximity of a General Election, that they must trumpet their views on this issue to as great an extent as possible.
Hence the speech on immigration of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, no one would take away her right to speak on an issue which is of considerable popular concern, but the tone she used is bound to raise fears among the immigrant population and bound to cause insecurity which will be reflected in less law and order.
I live in an area of high immigration. Anyone concerned with community relations must know that the right hon. Lady's speech did great damage to work which had been carried on quietly over many years. That is the threat to law and order which is so slightly thought of by Tory Members.
The policies pursued by various Governments have a major effect on law and order. The confrontation policies pursued by the Conservative Government from 1970 to 1974 had a major effect on social disaffection. Proof of that is the difference which is to be observed between the miners' pay claim in 1974 and the way it was then settled and the miners' pay claim in 1978.
At the close of the Conservative Administration, as the lights were going out in 1974, people were almost writing off Britain because of the degree of social disharmony which then existed. There were many editorials saying—"Is Britain governable?" Editorials of that type are no longer to be seen, because of the policies of conciliation—the community-minded policies—pursued by the Labour Government.
That is the indictment of the Tory Party—that it left such a great degree of social disharmony from its policies, for example, its policies on housing finance, industrial relations, and race relations. It has been the policy of the Labour Government quietly to rebuild a degree of community which was rudely shattered in 1974. We are the friends of real law and order and security for the people.
I was fascinated by the argument of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). He seemed to follow his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in suggesting that in a period leading up to a General Election—obviously that can be a year or two years—no Opposition party should discuss any subject in the House or outside which could in any way be considered as electioneering or as being favourable to that Opposition party. The hon. Gentleman will find in a year's time that that argument will be limited, and he may regret having made the point.
The hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) as having been a liberal Home Secretary. Whether or not he is liberal I leave my right hon. Friend to discuss, but he was certainly not the Home Secretary, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises, though he will be in a few months' time.
I, as a London Member, was also at the Ilford by-election last Saturday. I want at the outset of my speech to support the Home Secretary to the extent of saying that I believe that he was right to support the ban imposed by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on the National Front march.
I spent the morning by Seven Kings railway station, where many people assembled to take part in one of the rallies. Mr. Peter Hain made an address in which he said "We owe it to the Jews and to the Asians to give them protection". It is for the police to give such protection, not for Mr. Hain or any of his sort.
Those I felt sorry for on Saturday—I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg)—were the ordinary shopkeepers in the area. Their normal Saturday takings must have been considerably down, first, because there were many fewer people about than on an ordinary Saturday morning and, secondly, because many of the shopkeepers had to spend their time boarding up their windows rather than selling their products. Nevertheless, I support the right of obscure parties to stand for Parliament if they so wish, and to lose their deposits. The extreme Left-wing parties can do exactly that. I do not object to their seeking election, but I object that the police have to attend in such strength to protect the extremists from each other, and in so doing to give up their weekend leave and their days off. The police did a magnificent job at Ilford last Saturday.
The Home Secretary is one of a series of Labour Home Secretaries that I have known in this House. I am afraid that he is following the tradition of earlier colleagues. In 1967 the then Labour Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, gave a bad example to the country when he postponed the London borough elections by one year. I have always believed that when a Parliament or borough council is elected for a certain period and the electorate know that that is its period of office, nothing should stop the election taking place at the end of that period. However, there was a postponement in London in 1967.
The schools in my area of Enfield are still suffering as a result of the changes made during that stolen year. A case came to my notice a few days ago. At the Holy Family Convent children are still being educated at the same school in three different places. That cannot be in the best interests of the pupils.
The next Labour Home Secretary was the present Prime Minister. What did he do? The right hon. Gentleman had to lay the orders for the new proposals of the Boundary Commission. He laid the orders in June 1969 and advised his hon. Friends to reject them. It was the first time in our history that a Home Secretary had behaved so disgracefully.
The present Home Secretary is becoming extremely touchy. I am sorry that he is not here, as I should have liked to say that to his face. I turn to the speech that he made at Ilford. If I am not quoting him correctly, I apologise, but I think that I have the gist of his remarks. He said "We shall provide"—he was referring to the police—"the resources and the manpower." I say to him one word—"When?" When will he provide the resources and manpower after four years of Labour Government? Why does he not have the necessary resources when we have had the highest taxation in our history? Why does he not have the manpower when we have the highest unemployment since before the war?
If the Government Whip wishs to interrupt me from a standing position, I shall give way to him.
I am concerned about the strength of the Metropolitan Police. It is not the point to look back to 1974 and to say that its numbers are now greater. The fact is that the Metropolitan Police is now 20 per cent. under strength. It is extremely worrying that last year 2,072 officers left the force. The crucial factor is that 1,128 left voluntarily. They were trained members of the force who left earlier than they need have done. As for the number of applications, we find that it is 30 per cent. down on the previous year. That is another worrying factor.
The overall average of the lack of strength of the Metropolitan Police is 20 per cent. but in Enfield I suspect that it is as high as 25 per cent. I ask the Minister of State whether the figures are calculated on the Lodge formula. Is that the right way to do it in 1978? The police now have the use of modern technology, which has a bearing on the time needed for training. They have to deal with football ground riots, processions and other such matters in Ilford and elsewhere. Are they able to do the job with their present strength, or should their manpower be considerably higher? Are they considerably more under strength than they are believed to be, which is the impression in my constituency?
When we talk to our constituents, we find that they are concerned about the number of minor riots in the streets. The local people feel that they do not have the protection of the bobby on the street or the police officer in the panda car. The lack of that protection is extremely worrying.
There are three parts of my area in the borough of Enfield, namely, Winch-more Hill, Southgate and Enfield. In December there were 217 burglaries in the three areas. That was a 32 per cent. increase on any one month over the previous 12 months. I ask the Minister of State to take that figure seriously. I am also concerned about the future of South-gate police station. I have been in touch with the Commissioner on this issue. There is the suggestion that Southgate police station is to be closed as part of the economy measures. I trust that that will not happen.
I ask the Minister of State a specific question. How many policemen are now needed to keep one policeman operating for 24 hours a day? I was told that it was five and that it may now be seven. That is something that the public would like to know.
I should have liked to raise many more subjects in my contribution, but I have been asked to keep to the time limit and I shall do that. Both the police and the public are in despair at the Government's attitude towards the police as a whole and towards the whole concept of law and order. We believe that the police should be paid a much larger sum. If the hon. Member for Swansea, East wishes to know whether we shall break the Pay Code—all right, we shall break it, be- cause we believe that the police should be paid more.
We want to see a Government who let the people know that crime does not pay and that they believe in a return to the rule of law. The Government have done neither of those things during the past four years. We should not have needed to have the debate but, unfortunately, it is necessary. The Home Secretary still does not appear to appreciate the urgency of the subject. He continues to talk about the future, but happily he will not hold responsibility very much longer. Like his colleagues, but in his own special way, he has failed the people in their own daily lives.
I wish to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) in only one respect. Then hon. Gentleman mentioned that the police should be paid more. Surely we must stop bidding up one another, which gives the impression that if we were personally responsible we would give each group this, that and the other, and more than the other chap. A committee is sitting that will determine the issue of police pay, and we should wait for its findings.
Everyone knows why we are having the debate. The reason was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). I admit that I have not been present in the Chamber throughout the debate, and I must apologise for that. However, my hon. Friend observed that we are having the debate because of the Ilford by-election.
I do not mind if these tactics are used by those who feel that they are in a winning position, or that they want to get into such a position. It could safely be said that a party did not have enough sense to come in out of the rain if it did not latch on to something about which the public feel deeply. However, I reject any suggestion that the Tory Party, if in power, would be especially tough and hard on criminals while we are soft.
I shall get out a few more sentences before giving way to interventions. In any event, I do not know whether the hon. Member for Christ-church and Lymington (Mr. Adley) has been in the Chamber all afternoon.
No section of society has more to lose from what might be called a soft policy towards crime than the majority of ordinary citizens. We on the Labour Benches may claim that we represent those citizens as much as any other party. Our supporters would be hurt if there were a soft policy, and we have no intention of being soft.
We must consider that there have been great changes in our lifetime. Some hon. Members have given their personal history, and I tell the House that I was reared in crushing poverty. Two of the schools that I attended still stand. When I attended those schools no one would have dreamt of committing the acts of vandalism on them that now seem to be commonplace. Such actions are happening throughout the community. That is one of the great changes that has taken place.
Another change that I have noticed has nothing to do with crime or statistics. When I was a boy I could almost measure the seasons by the games in which I and others indulged. Curiously enough, that no longer applies. We used to play all sorts of games and the seasons, in a way, were programmed. I do not know how it was organised, but we knew that one game started after another. I suppose that television has largely taken over from those activities.
We are wrong to pretend that there is a simplistic solution to the problem. It is a very deep-seated one and, as has been said, we have a better record than almost every other Western industrialised nation. One has only to look at the statistics given in any of the international papers or documents to appreciate that. I get Time magazine every week, and usually that carries a report on some country or other. We must not boast about our statistics, of course. We must do all that we can to improve them. But they are better than those of almost any other country. As has been said already, there is no easy solution to this problem, and we are wrong if we pretend that there is.
I want to come to one of the cardinal features which cause the Labour Party possibly to have a label attached to it by the Opposition and which somehow sticks. It concerns the proper function of the police, whether they need to be manned up more, and whether they need better equipment. As I have said already, there is a committee reviewing the pay policy and what our policemen should be paid.
But recently I received a letter, as did those others of my colleagues who represent constituencies in the Merseyside area, from the Chief Constable of the Mersey-side region. In that letter, he gave a review of the types of crimes most prevalent, all of which were increasing, and he made certain suggestions. I responded to that letter by writing and telling him that I had read it carefully, that in one or two respects I did not wholly agree with his presentation of the facts, but that as he had taken the trouble to write to me as a Member of Parliament, I thought that I should respond and that my response was that all the Members of Parliament for the area should meet the police for a serious discussion and listen to some of the no doubt revolutionary suggestions which they wanted to put to us about how they felt that we could help them to help the community.
I hope that such a meeting will take place later in the year, because I believe that we have to understand more about how the police see their duties. There is no doubt that they feel strongly about their pay, but I believe that they will have other proposals to contribute and that, if we can get into a dialogue with them, with us listening to them and them listening to us, we can make progress.
I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend, but I think that it should be on the record that Sir Kenneth Thompson, the Leader of the Merseyside County Council who was at one time a Conservative Member for Parliament, felt that the chief constable had gone slightly too far in some of his views and expressed that opinion to him. I think that that also should be borne in mind.
I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned that. When I replied to the chief constable, I indicated that there were certain aspects of this letter that I did not accept but that I felt we would do better to discuss them at a meeting, and I suggested that we meet. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will be there and that we shall then be able to tell the chief constable and his colleagues in what respects we disagree with him.
Earlier in his remarks, the hon. Member appeared to criticise the Conservative Party for initiating this debate because there was a by-election pending and we wanted to talk about matters which people were themselves talking about. Is he seriously putting forward the proposition that this House should be discouraged from discussing matters which people outside are worried about and are talking about?
I did not suggest that at all. I said that the Tories would not have enough sense to come in out of the rain if they did not take advantage of these circumstances. There is no question about that. The pending by-election is one of the main reasons for today's debate. I am not saying that Government supporters are not worried about the present crime rate. Everyone should be worried about it. I am trying to make the case that Government supporters are equally worried about it, although they do not pretend, as the Tories do, that there is some kind of simplistic solution which can be applied and that if we had a Tory Home Secretary, much of what we are worried about would vanish overnight. That is not true, and that is why I say that the Tories are wrong.
I want to return to the international comparisons which I mentioned earlier in my remarks. One Opposition Member said that people were committing crimes, being arrested and charged, being released on bail and then committing further crimes, in some cases doing much the same thing twice or three times over. As I understand it, the Americans have now developed a new system. It is one of the results of the present backlog of cases that people out on bail commit further crimes to add to those in respect of which they have been released on bail.
The Americans have isolated such cases from the others and are making sure that they go through the courts more speedily than was the case until a short time ago. If the Americans can do that, what prevents us from doing it? Certainly if there is one feature which annoys the public it is the knowledge that people who have been released on bail are committing other crimes. This is a proposal which I feel the Government would do well to consider.
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has replied adequately to this censure motion. There is no need for him to feel that he has not done enough. In the end, I believe that our policies will prove to be the best ones. However, we need to look at the relationship between the police and the public a little more deeply than we have in the past. If we do that, I think that at the end of the day the public will be assured that Labour's policies are as good as anyone else's.
I have news for the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire). The reason why we are debating this topic today is the need to reassure the alarmed British people that at least the Conservative Party is concerned about law and order—and we would not have had this debate if it had not been for the Opposition—and also to tell them that we are determined to do more to restore respect for law and order when we return to power.
I have been watching Government supporters coming in and going out of the Chamber during the course of this debate. They have not remained in their places, as many Opposition Members have. If there is one feature to have come out of the debate, it is the utter complacency not only of the Government but of so many of their supporters.
If it be the case that other countries have crime records as bad as or worse than our own, there is no reason for complacency on our part. If the Government are adopting some measures on law and order which are right, that does not mean that they should be complacent about the measures which they are not taking. An astonishing degree of complacency has come across from them today.
The statistics are staggering. The overall crime rate in this country has quadrupled in the past 20 years. In 1976 there were 2·5 million indictable offences in the United Kingdom, not counting 1·5 million minor offences and not counting 1·5 million motoring offences. Crime is now costing the community £2,000 million a year. What makes the 5·5 million offences truly horrific is the realisation that this figure represents only those offences which are known to the police, and it is authoritatively thought that only one in three crimes is reported. If current trends like this continue, the crime rate will double again over the next ten years, and it will not be long before there is one crime being committed for every two people in the country.
Particularly alarming is the growing incidence of violence against the person, which was up by 11 per cent., and criminal damage, which was up by 17 per cent. between 1974 and 1975. Over the past 20 years crimes of violence, many of them mindless, have increased tenfold. Most worrying of all are the figures for juvenile violence. In Liverpool, for example, 40 per cent. of all robberies and crimes of criminal damage are committed by juveniles. At present rates this figure will double again in six years.
Almost every week I contact the police and discuss with them vandalism and other developments in crime in my constituency. On some occasions I have got extra patrols by the police to deal with roaming youths. Then, on the other hand, I get complaints from parents telling me that their children have been unnecessarily and wrongly molested by the police. It is not as simple a matter as the hon. Gentleman suggests. We are all concerned about law and order, but Conservatives are using it as an excuse for something else.
I should not have given way to the hon. Member. I shall continue with the point that I was making. In only one in five of the indictable offences is anybody charged. Only one in three is reported and in one out of every two cases where there is a not guilty plea there is an acquittal. This is an appalling situation, and it is no time for complacency.
It is an appalling statistic and it is far higher than that of any other country in the Western world. It is appalling because it either means that a very high proportion of guilty people are being acquitted or that a very high proportion of innocent people are being wrongly charged. That is an appalling situation and the Government do not appear to be concerned about it.
Only this afternoon I asked the Attorney-General what proposals he would give to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure about these matters. He said that there would be none. There is no room for complacency in our criminal procedures. A number of measures have been urged on the Government and there is no reason why decisions should not be taken on the right to silence being abandoned and the introduction of tape-recorded interviews between police officers and suspects.
The Government are also complacent about police pay. If the Government had not been complacent about this issue, we would not be in the present poor recruiting position.
On the matter of detention centres, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw) led for the Opposition this afternoon hon. Members opposite asked him what he was suggesting. I am suggesting that it is absolutely incredible that we have only 11 detention centres for senior juveniles in this country. Why should we not have a higher number of centres to give the short, sharp, shock treatment which is being debated?
The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 has been mentioned in the debate. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), who chaired the Select Committee, fought shy of criticising the Government. I will do so instead. The recommendation of the Committee was that there should be more secure accommodation for juvenile offenders. The Government have slept on that. Then there has been the Government's failure to defend the Isle of Man's use of corporal punishment. Instead the Government went to the European Commission of Human Rights and threw in the towel. Many people believe that instead of dragging juvenile offenders through the courts we should give them a short, sharp, shock treatment on the backside the day after they commit the offence. Many people feel that this might make a substantial contribution to solving the problem.
Another example of Government complacency was the whole business in 1975 when Labour Members were whipped into the Lobbies against the restoration of capital punishment for terrorism. Also there was the complacency they showed by supporting the Clay Cross Councillors and allowing Back Benchers and Front Benchers to support the Shrewsbury pickets and the Grunwick pickets.
There has been complacency about legislation. If the Government insist on producing legislation which hurts people unnecessarily in the area of taxation, they will drive them towards fiddling and criminality. I am not talking about classes here—this malaise spreads through the whole social system.
On unemployment, the hon. Member for Walton has been urging more Government measures for combating the very high level of unemployment in his part of the world. If the Government stopped being complacent about it, there would be far fewer juveniles on the streets committing crime. This is a catalogue of complacency in the face of which the Government shrug their shoulders in almost absolute despair and tinker a bit here and there.
With problems of this magnitude, this is not the time for complacency and it is no time for this Government. The sooner that the Opposition get back to power the sooner will the people's will be satisfied that they have a Government who will do something to control the appalling rise in crime.
I and many other hon. Members are glad of the opportunity to discuss law and order, but the motion is inappropriate because it is divisive. It suggests that concern for law and order is the monopoly of the Tory Party, which of course is not true. No one would claim that law and order is the monopoly of this party, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said, there has been a great spirit of conciliation in the years of this Government. Some of us remember that at the dawn of this Government, there was great fear about the future in the country. This Government have played an important role in establishing a conciliatory atmosphere in our society.
Of course there are problems of hooliganism and vandalism, which, unfortunately, seem to be increasing. But this is true not only of Britain. Throughout the Western world and in the Soviet Union these problems are growing, irrespective of the nature of the Government. So a change of Government here would not make a vast difference.
There are complex reasons for the spread of hooliganism and vandalism. The value of a debate like this should be to examine some of those causes. Clearly, we can all learn and share thoughts on these problems, but we cannot do so if we adopt a divisive attitude.
We all have great respect for the work of the police. It is not true to suggest that only the Tory Party is concerned. We all know that the police are greatly overworked and face serious difficulties. We hope that, when Lord Edmund-Davies completes his report, there will be a considerable advance in the payment and conditions of the police. One hon. Member said that the Government have already committed themselves to accept those recommendations.
Another hon. Member mentioned the need for the return of the bobby on the beat. I think that we all accept that.
The Minister will not be surprised to learn that my main reason for speaking tonight is to ask him to look again at one condition of police operations which concerns me greatly and which I have raised with him several times. This is the height regulations. Although the work of the Secretary of State has helped many police forces to increase their numbers, they are still basically undermanned. The height regulations—5ft 8ins for men and 5ft 4ins for women—debar half the population from entering the police force. According to Army statistics—and there are few statistics available on this subject—that is near enough to the average figure for men and women respectively.
No sensible argument has been advanced for the maintenance of these regulations. Indeed, I have not heard any sound argument on the matter of height. I was told by the Minister recently that taller men command greater respect.
One point of view that is sometimes advanced is that some police work needs tall, tough men to carry it out. Judging by many Opposition speeches, one would think that the police spent all their time attending pickets and maintaining law and order. But a great part of the work of the police is spent in panda cars, manning computers and undertaking office work—jobs which men of virtually any height could carry out equally well. One senior police officer told me that anybody who makes a 999 call would certainly not complain if the police officer who arrived shortly afterwards were only 5ft 6 in in height. If the idea is to have the bobby on the beat back again and more policemen available, surely the simplest way to fill the Bill would be to amend drastically the height regulations.
I am glad to see that these matters are being examined by Lord Edmund-Davies and his inquiry. If we are to take a positive step forward in maintaining law and order, I believe that the Government should take a long hard look at these regulations.
It was somewhat surprising that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) sought to reduce the level of this debate on law and order to a discussion about the height of policemen. I shall not take up that argument.
I wish to mention the constructive contribution made to the debate by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire). However, the hon. Gentleman said that the Conservative Benches represented a party which advocated toughness in law and order. He said that we held ourselves out as a party of toughness. I submit that we are nothing of the kind. We are holding ourselves out as a party which gives priority to the problems of law and order. The indictment we bring against the Home Secretary, the Government and many Labour Members is that they do not give to that first duty of Government the priority which it deserves.
There has been in this debate an astonishing level of complacency about the problem which the country faces. It is not good enough to say that this is a worldwide problem and that we are merely having to face up to what other countries are going through. We once took pride in being one of the most lawful, law-abiding and ordered countries in the world, but we have now fallen far indeed from that state of grace. There was a time in this country when criminals prided themselves on not carrying arms. That is no longer the case. The increase in the number of crimes set out in the documents available, as reflected in the report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and the annual crime statistics, is quite horrifying.
I wish to deal with only two categories—burglaries and robberies involving violence to the person. The latest year for which figures are available is 1976. In 1973, in the Metropolitan area alone, there were 42,190 burglaries of dwelling houses. In 1976 the figure was 60,670. The appalling thing is that of that 60,670, only 6,360‒14 per cent.—were brought to justice. The figures for robbery are as disturbing. In 1973 the total was 2,680 while in 1976 it had risen to 5,222 with only 1,124, or 20 per cent. being brought to justice. These are horrifying figures. No Government can be complacent in the light of them.
Even worse than those figures are the figures for juvenile delinquency. These are worse because they concern our future generation. Persons in the age group 14 to 16 were responsible for 30 per cent. of the burglaries, 28 per cent. of the robberies, 29 per cent. of automobile crimes and 12 per cent. of other crimes of violence. These are dreadful figures, set out in the criminal statistics for England and Wales.
Because time is short I shall deal only with the figures involving the Crown courts in England and Wales. Out of a total of 7,961 persons found guilty of burglary at the Crown courts in 1976, 3,305 were aged between 17 and 21. For the offence of robbery there were 1,066 persons out of a total of 2,586 in the age group 17–21.
I agree with those who say that there is no simple answer to the problem. But there are answers which the Government can apply at once. These answers are concerned with priorities. The first thing to do is to see that the police are properly manned and not merely, in the case of the metropolis, for example, brought up to strength, namely 26,628. The Metropolitan Police are currently 4,198 short of that total on the 1976 report. The police force should be brought up to a level commensurate with the increasing population of the country. It falls far short of that.
We should see that the police are properly paid. It is interesting to note that in the report for 1976 produced by the Chief Constable of the West Midlands, where my constituency lies, he says that the force recruited 604 men and women in 1976. However, as there was a wastage of 411, the net gain was only 193. These are devastating figures. The fall is due to the fact that the police have a difficult task. They have difficult lives. They are kept from their homes, not only by crime but by mass demonstrations and picketing. If they are not properly paid and given the moral support which this House ought to give there will be a fall-off in numbers.
The principal way in which we shall meet the appalling problem of crime is not by increasing sentences. The courts have all the powers—certainly in the case of an adult—to deal appropriately with all ranges of offenders. What is lacking, as the figures show, is success in detecting the criminals and bringing them to justice. That depends upon a well-manned, well-equipped and fell-supported police force. That is where the Government have fallen down and that is why I shall vote against them in the Lobby tonight.
I have one further comment about juveniles. It is crazy that the courts are still forbidden by law from dealing properly with juvenile offenders and are limited to sentences of imprisonment, in grave cases, of less than six months or more than three years.
I have tried to be brief so that my hon. Friends who have sat with me all afternoon may have the chance to speak. I shall say no more except that the Government are indicted by their failure to give proper priority to law and order in this country.
We have had a useful debate, but it has been marred by the fact that so many Conservative Members have tried to turn it into a political debate rather than address themselves to the true nature of the problem that we face. The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) made a useful contribution, but he seems to believe that all crime and vulgarity on this island would cease if we had a Tory Government.
That is a paradox in itself. In the United States and Ireland the nickname for a vulgar person, a law breaker or a thief is "Tory". It seems that one of the great claims that the Labour Party can make is that it has made the Tories respectable. They have to be respectable if they are competing with us.
I have a great deal of respect for the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). He did a tremendous job in Northern Ireland and was a pretty good Minister in many respects. It was not pleasant to have to listen to the sort of speech that he made in opening the debate. The only good thing about it was that he enabled the Home Secretary to show what had been done under his stewardship and to reveal that it had not been equalled by any Home Secretary since we began to experience these problems.
I want to concentrate on the serious issue of the media. It is not easy for any of us to argue against freedom of speech and expression or the freedom of people to see what they wish.
Similar aspects to those that we have been debating, though without the ludicrous political undertones introduced by the Conservatives, were discussed in our recent debate on child pornography and pornography generally. At least, no Conservative Member was stupid or insensitive enough to suggest that all forms of pornography were brought about by the advent of the Labour Government. That would have been as absurd as some hon. Members have been in suggesting that violent crime and everything associated with it is caused by the fact that we have a Labour Government. Such remarks will only encourage those who believe in no law, in violence, and in standing on their own two feet with a hatchet in their hand. They will be quoting Tory Members when they are accused of not being good citizens.
I am concerned about young people going around in gangs vulgarising other folk and vandalising public and private property. What on earth makes them behave in this way? I believe that there is some truth in the suggestion that they are mimicking what they read in the papers and see on television. I hope that Members of those great professions will not think that we are criticising them because they are members of those professions.
I see that the hon. Member for Peters-field (Mr. Mates) is laughing. It is well known that he is a bit of a political lunatic and does not realise that these are serious issues. I do not believe that it is a laughing matter to see what happens at football matches and to read of people being beaten up and telephone boxes in small villages being smashed with the result that people cannot use them to contact a doctor. It is a reflection of something that is sour within our times.
I should have thought that we could unite to discover what we must do to try to reduce this appalling behaviour without using it as a political football, which is what the Conservative Opposition have lowered themselves to doing tonight.
We should appeal to all concerned in the media to realise that our young folk are not suffering the ghastly social atrocities of the 1930s. Some of them may be unemployed and belong to unemployed families, but they are not starving, ill-fed or ill-clothed. That is because of the civilised behaviour of this country through legislation passed by both Tory and Labour Governments. Both sides of the House may take credit for that situation. At the same time, there is a small element of the population which misbehaves. I appeal to all parts of the media to recognise that fact. In this respect I quote the words of Oscar Wilde:
As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.
We have referred to young people who malevolently break the law. Something
must be done about such youngsters. I believe that with sensible collaboration between both sides of the House of Commons and voluntary associations outside, we shall achieve a measure of success in that respect.
We in this island are not such mischievous and ill-behaved people as folk in other countries. We should take encouragement from that fact. Many hundreds of thousands of our young people are extremely well-behaved and are an excelent example to the rest of the world.
In such a debate as this we are bound to concentrate on those who misbehave—those who assail and injure others and damage property. Such crimes are deplorable. We must try to find the answer to erase these problems. Let us try to achieve it by liaison and co-operation between young folk, the police and everyone else.
This debate has been marred by the failure of the Conservative Opposition to treat the issue as serious. I have great respect for the right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border, but he did not appear to understand clearly—I hope that he does now—the endeavours and resolutions of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman is a man of knowledge, patience and firmness. At one time we could say of both my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Shadow Home Secretary that they were men of high calibre who would be of assistance in resolving these problems. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not maintained the high standards that he once set. I hope that after the debate he will return to those high standards.
Throughout the debate several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), appear to have been stung by the suggestion that the Opposition give higher priority to law and order than Labour Members. We could not have a better example of the truth of this than to contrast the speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) and the hon. Member for Ealing, North. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton made a thoughtful, constructive and well-informed speech, and when one compares it with the bombastic wind baggery we have just heard from the hon. Member for Ealing, North one can see that it is true that we on the Opposition Benches give this subject a higher priority.
The same was true of the opening speeches in the debate. I think that the Home Secretary deserves to have his salary reduced, not least because his contribution this afternoon was a speech of staggering complacency. Apart from his closing passage on the threat to public order from the National Front, all we had was a lot of rhetoric about Home Office committees and international influences on the crime rate, with a few verbal stones thrown at the glasshouses advocated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw).
But a Home Secretary who is so anxious to throw stones at glasshouses should not come naked into the debating chamber, absolutely bereft of any constructive ideas for dealing with the worrying law and order situation which threatens this country today and about which so many people are deeply anxious. The public are crying out for new and stronger medicine to cure the growing national epidemic of lawlessness, and the Home Secretary's tired old bromides are no longer adequate for dealing with it.
In the interests of brevity I shall concentrate my remarks on the police. To listen to the Home Secretary one would think that everything in the garden was rosy. He talked about an increasing number of police officers and said that there was nothing to worry about. But it is interesting to analyse those figures. It is true that 7,500 new police officers have been recruited in the last five years, an increase of about 6 per cent. But let us compare that with a 50 per cent. increase in the crime rate during the same period, look at the extra strains and stresses on police officers who have to give up five out of every six of their weekends in the Metropolitan area in order to cope with demonstrations, and consider the lowering of morale in the police force in the London area. If one takes all these factors into account one cannot strike the same complacent note that was struck by the Home Secretary.
I wish to refer specifically to a theme that I have mentioned before in this House, and that concerns the special constabulary, because this is an area of benign neglect by the Government. Today there are 21,000 special constables in England and Wales. According to the 1976 report of the Home Office Working Party on the Special Constabulary, these men and women do an average of three hours' voluntary duty per week each. All this sounds splendid, for there can scarcely be a more effective method of preventing crime than the visible presence of a uniformed constable, regular or special, on a beat that might otherwise go unpatrolled.
But the small print of the working party document reveals it to be a rather depressing and unimaginative document. It shows the neglect for which the Government have been responsible. The Special Constabulary is a declining and ageing force. Since the Government have been in power its strength has fallen by 4,000 men and women, or 16 per cent. Instead of seeking to reverse this downward trend, the Home Office has actually cut back the advertising for the special constabulary recruits, even though it has been well established that these advertisements have had a considerable measure of success in attracting newcomers. In 1974, for example, a £10,000 advertising campaign in London resulted in a 30 per cent. increase in "specials" in the Metropolitan area. Perhaps because no Home Office Minister bothered to attend a single session of the working party committee, a rather negative and excessively detailed approach, rather than the progressive and visionary approach which is needed, emerged from the report.
I urge the Home Office to respond to the need for more police constables on the streets—special or regular—by changing its lethargic and negative attitude. A clear Ministerial lead is definitely needed in revitalising and restructuring the organisation. I have referred to the benefits of more advertising. Chief constables could be circularised with the suggestion that they might take a more united approach, because there is a great variation in this respect. In Devon and Cornwall, where the chief constable is a known enthusiast for the special constabulary, they have on their books some 1,400 specials, which represents a 54 per cent. proportion of "specials" to regular officers, whereas in conurbations like Merseyside, Manchester and London the ratio of specials to regulars is below 10 per cent. There is no reason why there should be these enormous differences.
I think, too, that we should look again at the idea of paying active special constables a bonus or bounty as it is called, along the lines of the old Territorial Army bounty. I know that the working party report turned down the bounty idea on the basis of an assertion that
some existing special constables might resign if a bounty were introduced.
However, there was no evidence for that uncorroborated assertion, and from my experience of five years as a "special" I think it highly unlikely that anyone would reject the idea of being offered a modest bounty.
With a bounty of, say, £200 a year, not only would we recruit more "specials", but we might encourage experienced regulars who voluntarily leave or prematurely retire from the police force to maintain their links with the police service. It would be in everyone's interests if the regulars turned out with the "specials" and turned the special constabulary into a much more professional police reserve. With those changes designed to increase the numbers and professionalism of the special constabulary, there is no reason why that body should not return to its mid-1960s strength of about 45,000 constables, compared with the figure of 21,000 today.
Against today's background of deep anxiety at the rising crime rate and lack of policemen on the street, can the Government afford to reject ideas of that kind? It is so depressing to hear the constructive suggestions that have been made by my hon. Friends in three previous debates during the past 12 months today meet with rejections and a complete blank wall from the Treasury Bench. I do not believe that the Government are giving adequate priority to their first duty of protecting the lives and property of their citizens by a strong policy of law and order. What we want, and what the nation wants, is firm decisive action from the Home Secretary to strengthen the police service. Because we are not getting that, we shall vote to reduce the Home Secretary's salary.
I have been present almost since the beginning of the debate, and I have perhaps four minutes in which to make my speech. During that time I want to put forward one or two constructive ideas for dealing with the escalation of the worrying conditions now facing us and the lack of law and order, which everyone recognises.
First, would it be possible to do something to educate people? Pupils now stay at school for an extra year. Surely it would be possible to set aside some time to enable them to develop a greater understanding of what the police are for. In Birmingham just over a week ago the police were viciously attacked. The whole weight and fury of the crowd were turned on them. If there were more education in our schools, particularly in the big cities, about what the police are for, it would help considerably. Children should be made aware of the effects of violence on victims, and also of what prisons are like.
There are two words that we miss today. One is discipline and the other is responsibility. I should like to see responsibility returned to parents. At the moment we are busy taking responsibility away from the parents in many ways. We should return responsibility to them and make them recognise that they are responsible for their children.
I have never been in favour of corporal punishment. I strongly dislike the long time that elapses between the commission of a crime and punishment for it. Why not use water cannons? Other countries do so with great effect. A water cannon does not hurt people, but it is an excellent way of dealing with a crowd such as one saw at Ilford, and previously at Birmingham. If we are not to have corporal punishment, perhaps the suggestion of the stocks that was put forward the other day might be considered.
What worries us on the Opposition side of the House—this came out strongly in the Home Secretary's speech at the beginning of the debate—is the feeling that the will of the Government to do something to improve the standards of law and order is lacking. That is why we shall unitedly vote against the Home Secretary tonight.
This is a distinguished debate, in which many experienced hon. Members have taken part. I hope that the House will understand that the earnest plea from the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) for much shorter policemen did not cut much ice with me, personally. But as for the rest, valuable and constructive points have been made.
I hope that the debate at least demon-stated one thing on which we can agree. We have been discussing a problem of the widest and deepest concern to the House and to the country. It has not been artificially invented by some goblin in Smith Square. The issue exists already. It is people and events that decide real issues, not politicians. That needs to be more widely understood, particularly outside the House, by some commentators who depict right hon and hon. Members as sitting around in small back rooms picking out the latest issues to be run or the latest cards to be played. It is not like that. It is the events and the people concerned that make the issues. It is our job to respond to them and to pave the way for better discussions and, if possible, to provide constructive remedies.
Over the weekend I read somewhere that the Labour Party strategists want to concentrate the political battle of the next few months on personalities and keep off issues altogether. The Conservative Party has no worries on that score. But I do not think that if the Labour Party tried to concentrate on issues it would be fair to the country, and I do not think that it would work, because people would not let it work. Therefore, I am glad to hear cries from the Government Benches that that is not what they intend to do.
It may be correct, as the Home Secretary was arguing earlier, that crime in other countries has risen just as fast as it has in this country. However, we have to say to him that that is no comfort, and I hope that he is not argu- ing it as an alibi. It is not. The rise in crime in this country is appalling. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) said that the number of violent crimes in London has increased by a staggering 30 per cent. in the last year.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) produced another range of worrying figures. It is no comfort that in other countries things are just as bad. That argument seems to creep too much nowadays into justification for Labour policy in every field. That is the first reason why this is an issue before us and one which we have to face.
The second reason is that there has crept into the edges—I hope that it is no more than the edges—of the public debate what is to me the terrifying doctrine—it may not be to all hon. Members—of what might be called justified violence. I refer to the doctrine that violence against the police and against the forces of law and order may in some cases be inevitable or justified. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling), in a very clear speech, mentioned the decision of three Cabinet Ministers to take part in the Grunwick picket. I accept the views of the Home Secretary that they were not in any way condoning or supporting the terrible violence that ensued on those picket lines. But at the very best it was a very silly political act. It raised doubts which have not yet been stilled and have caused great worries.
The truth is that in a decent and civilised society violence is never justified, is always illegal, and is never to be condoned by Governments. Once that dictum is in question, concern is bound to grow. It was, therefore, right to have this debate in order to reflect the concern, and it is right to challenge the Home Secretary because of our conviction, which we are perfectly entitled to hold, and have good reason for it, that neither he nor other Ministers are getting on with the job of using the powers and tools available to them.
It is necessary to make one thing clear. We on the Conservative Front Bench have never said that there are simple and speedy solutions. I know that some hon. Members on the Government Benches have been saying that we have said so, but we have not. None of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench has ever said such a thing. We are all well aware, if we are to have a sensible debate on this issue, that the roots and motives of crime are varied and widespread. We are all well aware that we live in a selfish age—indeed, Mr. Len Murray said the same thing the other day—in which personal responsibility and concern are low.
I do not think that this is just because there is so much State responsibility, although I believe there is too much of that. I believe, rather, that it is because people are increasingly corralled into groups, federations and other corporate bodies so that they can take cover behind collective responsibility. That is the worrying trend. As William Hazlitt said so many years ago, corporate bodies shed no tears and have no souls. That is our view of developments.
We also believe, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) made clear, that the campaign against crime and lawlessness goes far wider than Home Office responsibility. We want to see fresh policies and approaches in education; we want to see more home ownership to get away from miserable mass council tenancies and the opportunities for vandalism; we want to see fresh policies on jobs to give teenagers a chance, and we believe that the major opportunities there will come from private enterprise development and smaller firms. It will not come from big corporations—that is a reality that has to be faced. We want to see changes in taxation in order to increase work incentive and the will to work. We want to see changes in planning in our towns and cities to overcome municipal blight and encourage private ownership.
We want to see more voluntary effort as well. We believe strongly that a much more inspiring and creative lead is needed to encourage local authorities to cooperate with volunteers. That is a particular interest of the Minister who is to reply, and I hope that he will be able to give us comments on the way he hopes to see voluntary effort increased in this part of life.
So it is part of our critique that, to a lesser or greater extent in all these areas, the Government have failed with their measures, that a new approach is required, and that a new policy on all these fronts must come.
But the other part of our case is this: we believe that there must be a new resolve in the Home Office itself for measures for the prevention, detection and dealing with crime. That is what much of the debate has been about.
Many aspects of what is needed have been discussed, and in the time left I shall elaborate on only a few points. First, there is the central question of police morale. It has been discussed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I return to the issue raised by my right hon. Friend—the number of police resignations.
My right hon. Friend gave a figure which I believe in retrospect was so staggering that I am not sure that every hon. Member realised its sheer size. He said that in 1977 resignations from the police reached a peak of 5,166. That is most certainly the worst figure since the war. The Minister of State simply must elaborate on this problem and give us some answers as to what is going on and why we are having this terrific rate of resignations.
We are not against the recruitment of excellent young women into the police force. There are some very good young women coming in, and that is a fine thing. We totally support that. What worries us is that experienced men in their mid-twenties are going out in terrifying numbers, indicating that there is something basically wrong in staying with the police beyond one's mid-twenties. When we add to that the fact that there is probably also an increasing number of early retirements, as policemen take their 20-year opportunity to get out with a pension and a gratuity, we find that we now have the ingredients of a real crisis in the police force.
That is why it is so extraordinarily hard to understand the Home Secretary, when the other day, at the Dispatch Box at Home Office Question Time, discussing the police, he said:
We are doing very well."—[Official Report, 2nd February 1978; Vol. 943, c. 683.]
We are not doing very well. We are doing very badly indeed, and it requires a new sense of urgency of the kind that we had not yet seen from Ministers.
It is no use the Home Secretary saying, as he has been inclined to do today, that all this is being answered by the extra £250 million in real terms which has been spent since 1974, over the past four years. I happen to be one who does not believe that the answer to every problem is to throw public money at it. Some hon. Members do believe that, but I am not one of them.
Having said that, I must point out that the sum of £250 million is half of the losses of the British Steel Corporation for the current year, and when that is stretched over four years, it is not a gigantic sum compared with some of the other huge expenditures in which the Home Secretary's right hon. and learned Friends have been allowed to indulge. In fact, the public expenditure White Paper for this year, in the law and order section, really tells the tale far more precisely. It tells us that there are now 4,900 fewer police at this stage than was forecast a year ago. When we come to civilians and police cadets—support for the police—it tells us that even in 1981–82 there will be just under 3,000 fewer than there were in 1975. That is what is happening on the public expenditure front in terms of manpower.
Of course, I recognise that it is not just a question of pay, and so do my hon. Friends. It is a question of status as well. We understand that. Someone pointed out to me the other day a very interesting figure that applied between the wars. The policeman on the beat or the village bobby drew a rate of pay that was 55 per cent. above average manual male wages. That gives one an idea of the sort of status that was available then.
I am not saying that we can get back to that now, because the whole view of differentials is different, and we live in a different age. However, it gives the House an idea of the kind of status that the police had and of the way that we should be looking forward when we want to build up again the status of police in our society. It does nothing to justify the Home Secretary's complacency embodied in the statement that I quoted earlier.
I now come to the question of courts and magistrates. Earlier today my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border spoke of our view that magistrates in juvenile courts should have power to make secure care orders. He also spoke of the need for a general review of juvenile courts, which I am sure is right. The case for making secure care orders was the case made by the 1975 Expenditure Committee, in which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) played a key part. It reflects a very deep concern among not only magistrates but social workers about what is going on in the handling of juveniles.
I notice that the other day the Prime Minister sent a message to the Labour candidate at Ilford asserting that hooligans would be dealt with by the courts. But that is precisely our worry. Are they being dealt with by the courts, particularly if they are under the age of 17 and if the opportunity for putting them into secure care does not exist? That is our worry, and it is one that we are entitled to hold. It clearly does not enter the Prime Minister's head, but it is in our minds.
We believe that there should be more secure accommodation and that the Government should support and not resist our proposals for secure care orders to be available to magistrates in juvenile courts. The Government are quite wrong to turn down this proposal. We are entitled to press it, and we shall do so.
I come to the question of shorter and sharper sentences. We in the Conservative Party accept the case for shorter sentences. We think that it makes sense. It happens that this—although this certainly should not be the reason for it—would begin to ease the appalling overcrowding problems in our prisons and would begin to take some of the pressure off the prison service and prison officers, who bear all the heat of the day. It should greatly ease the Home Secretary's problems and the appalling prison overcrowding to which my hon. Friends have referred. What we do not accept is the flat dismissal by the Government of the argument for sharper sentences as well as shorter sentences.
It is not right to depict what my right hon. Friend was saying as seeking to revert to nineteenth century practices or, as the Home Office said in its review of prisons, reverting to the treadmill, and other emotive phrases. That is not the argument. I know that it is hard to get our proposals over to the Minister of State, who is particularly worried about what we are suggesting. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir P. Rawlinson) argued, when we come to questions of trying to see what kinds of treatment are necessary an atmosphere crops up in which balanced discussion floats right away.
The Home Secretary and the Minister of State know that many of the arguments for moving on from the brisk, firm, short, sharp treatment in the original detention centres no longer prevail. The whole range of crime and the seriousness of the situation have changed vastly. Many of the theories about custodial treatment are unprovable and are now coming increasingly into question. The Home Secretary's Review of Criminal Policy has a great section saying that all these theories are in question. Open minds should be applied to new forms of treatment without cries being raised to the effect that the clock is being turned back, and so on.
So we argue that this would have a deterrent effect and that at the least it should be tried as an experiment. I do not think that the Home Secretary can justify his claim to have an open mind if he turns down flat what we are proposing. We are proposing that a period of detention should seek to recreate the type of regime which keeps people on the move, on the double, the tough daily regime, the sort of thing which prevailed in the early detention centres and which was widely argued for. The Government are entirely wrong to dismiss this new approach. I am convinced that those who dismiss it no longer think constructively about the needs of our times.
I turn, fourthly, to the question of non-custodial methods, about which there has been a great deal of debate. We support the community service idea and are glad that it is going ahead. We like the idea of custody and control orders as proposed by the Younger Committee. We are not quite sure where the Home Office has got to on this. We should like to see a little more action. Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us how the matter stands.
We should like to see more attendance centres—both junior attendance centres, which the Home Secretary is putting into effect, and senior attendance centres, which he is not. Some of my right hon. Friends believe that senior attendance centres can be combined with work focus programmes, taking away people's leisure time and directing them to constructive work. I do not know why the Home Secretary's mind is so closed to the expansion of senior attendance centres.
Those are some of the proposals which could be carried through now by the Home Secretary. Those are the things that we have asked him to do—not today, but again and again over the past year in three separate debates and long before that.
What have we got from the Home Secretary in practice? We had from him that terrible Ilford speech, which I suspect he is now coming to regret. In my 12 years in the House I have known Ministers to make unwise speeches, but this one takes the biscuit for unwisdom. In its second line it states that the problem is being exaggerated. The debate disproves that flatly. The speech goes on to claim that we offer no proposals. That is factually incorrect. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border has made that crystal clear. We have offered a whole range of proposals.
The Home Secretary's speech then talks about cynical whipping up. We have not done that. Then it mentions "instant solutions", which we have not offered. Indeed, it is ridiculous for a Minister or anyone seriously concerned with these problems even to talk about instant solutions. There are no such things.
The speech then says that the Government will continue to strengthen the police. We know that the police have been bled by the loss of experienced people. It then says that the Government are taking firm action. They are not. Then the speech claims that
all forces are free to recruit up to full strength.
My right hon. Friend pointed to the absurdity of this proposal. It is exactly the same as saying that everyone is free to have lunch at the Ritz.
My copy of the Home Secretary's speech goes on to say that the Metropolitan police is up 1,500 between March
1977 and the end of 1977. That is plain factually incorrect. I do not know whether that is what the right hon. Gentleman really meant. The speech then suggests that the courts have all the powers that they require, which they have not. It ends by stating—here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—
We live in a troubled era.
That is about the only solid statement in the speech. Almost everything that is wrong with the right hon. Gentleman's policy and approach is encapsulated in the speech. It is a smoke-screen for the fact that he is taking no firm action.
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman's showering us with figures and factoids, sinking into a quagmire of committees and reviews and wringing his hands while we criticise him. It is no use his pursuing that view.
The reality is that the right hon. Gentleman is just not picking up the right message that is coming from the country with increasing urgency. The Government are not getting their priorities right in this area. The country has not been given the right lead by the Home Secretary—a lead that it urgently requires and deserves. That is why the whole ensemble on the Government Front Bench should change their ways or be bundled out, and that is why we shall vote for the motion.
Probably the most self-revealing statement made by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), as it revealed the attitude of the Shadow Cabinet in its present state, was "Do not let us have facts showered upon us." They do not want facts to get in the way of their natural prejudices, which are dressed up in words such as "terrifying", "appalling" and "staggering".
It does no good to the people, recognising as we do the serious problem of crime, either to over-lard the present situation or to over-lard the changes that any change of Government might make. It is to deceive the people in the most cruel way to suggest that a change of Government and any mythical change of policy that another Government may introduce will have a significant effect upon the causes and incidence of crime. Consequently, in answer to the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant), my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not be accepting the motion to reduce his salary by £1,000.
Where the Opposition have such an easy task is that they can always dismiss any proposal as complacency. I do not apologise for the Government's record on law and order. I am not in any way being complacent. I realise that there is a great deal of anxiety about the level of crime, and we are determined to contain it as far as we possibly can. However, I make a central point that appears to be ignored by Opposition Members. Although they talk about crime being a wider matter than Home Office responsibility, we must remember that it is a responsibility of society as well as of legislators. It is time that that was realised.
The approach that was formerly used was that of the Conservative Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1973, who is now the noble Lord, Lord Carr. He said that Parliament
should speak with a united and non-partisan voice."—[Official Report, 12th July 1973; Vol. 859, c. 1872.]
The then Secretary of State was talking about crime. Anyone listening to tonight's debate must recognise that the Opposition have fled from that doctrine considerably. They have fled from it most noticeably in the disgracefully self-satisfied speech of the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who kept on saying that everything will be all right when the Tories take power and that everything is the fault of the Labour Party. That simplistic nonsense may be about as much as the hon. Gentleman can comprehend. However, that it should be said, is disgraceful self-deception and a deception of the British people.
The attempt to blame my right hon. Friend for the rising crime rate is profoundly misplaced. With respect, I do not think that the Opposition have understood the argument about international comparisons. We are not saying that, because the United States is worse, thank God we are not as our brothers are. That is not the Pharisaical approach which we make. We adopt the wider approach.
The worse the incidence of crime and the rise in crime, the more difficult it is to find solutions, because almost every one of the solutions propounded by various hon. Members will have been thought about and put into operation in some part of the world.
It is no good saying, as the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said, that we used to see ourselves as a nation which was quite different from all others in our respect for the law. That is no longer valid at a time when there is international television coverage. We talk about television as though the standards of fictional programmes were all that mattered. But there is the question of imitative crime—of people seeing what happens abroad and imitating it in this country. That is why we cannot divorce ourselves from the world scene.
Another approach trotted out with scanter and scanter evidence to support it is that respect for the law has somehow been weakened by members of this Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Grunwick."] Grunwick is the example that is given. It is still no crime in this country to picket peacefully. I wonder how long that would remain the position under a Conservative Government.
In any event, when we last debated the matter on 12th November 1977, Opposition Members were saying that the courts were too weak in their sentencing policy and that the juvenile courts were a mess. I wonder how much respect for the law the Opposition think that sort of comment engenders. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a perfectly fair argument. If we preach respect for the law, we must allow freedom to the courts to impose sentences, and we must not snipe at them from the privilege of our parliamentary seats.
I hate to puncture the right hon. Member's self-satisfaction. I understood that Government supporters were unique in that respect and that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) and his hon. Friends were giving us an example. I say only that it is very easy to propound a general doctrine. It is not so easy to carry it out in practice. In any event, I shall deal with the right hon. Member's arguments in detail in a moment, because they merit serious consideration.
First, let me deal with the net loss in the Metropolitan Police. It is 223. However, the strength of the Metropolitan Police is still considerably up on the 1974 figure, and the rise in crime in that period, contrary to what the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) said, is not 50 per cent. I shall discuss the figures with him, because a couple of them are projected figures. He did not take account of that factor.
There has been much mention of the gap between strength and establishment. There is a 17 per cent. gap in the Metropolitan Police. But let me emphasise that that is the narrowest gap that there has been for a good number of years. This is nothing new. Certainly it is nothing that my right hon. Friend has created.
Then the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border dealt with what he described as the limited improvements in the Criminal Law Act. He supported that measure. Let me tell him that it was far from being limited. It was a wide-ranging updating of the penalties which exist and are available to the courts.
Many hon. Members raised the question of juvenile crime. Attendance centre orders may be made on juveniles who default on fines. In certain circumstances parents can be made responsible for such defaults. Also, the amount of the fines may be increased, as well as the amount of a compensation order against a juvenile. This is a very worthwhile additional power to the magistrates.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite always call in aid the power that magistrates have lost to make secure care orders for juveniles in cases that come before them. We are providing more secure care places. My right hon. Friend mentioned that 131 are in the course of construction, and another 150 are planned, making a total of 281 additional secure places as a result of Government action.
We do not agree with Conservatives on this matter because we do not believe in blurring responsibility. We say that under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 it should be for local authorities to decide which juveniles should benefit from residential care and which places should be in secure accommodation. We do not rule out the fact that magistrates should confer with local authorities, and we hope that a close liaison will be maintained. But we do not believe in blurring responsibility in this matter because we feel that this will mean that secure care places will be pre-empted by magistrates in not necessarily the most suitable cases.
The right hon. Member asked us to consider the working of juvenile panels. I am happy to do so and I shall contact him. One of the difficulties here is that his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), speaking in the crime prevention debate on 27th January 1977, said:
Since 1971 we have had a system of children's panels instead of the juvenile courts. I am afraid that after five years the indications are that the experiment has not been a great success."—[Official Report, 27th January, 1977; Vol. 924, c. 1827.]
There is a clear difference within the Conservative Party on this matter whether this experiment is likely to be successful. Nevertheless, I am perfectly prepared to look at it, even though I do not necessarily say that it should be adopted.
This debate could be called the "glasshouse and stocks debate." The hon. Member for Guildford has not understood the point that we are making. We are not ruling out of court any change in the role of detention centres. We are saying at this stage that we have no precise details from the right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border about the sharp, short sentence he has in mind. Does that really mean doubling around? If so, let me remind him of the history of this matter. In 1961 the then Conservative Government felt that that function of the detention centre should be abolished because the staff had made representations to the effect that it was more important that they should be allowed to do constructive work with young people. They believed that this was better for the prevention of recurrence of the offence.
The 1970-to-1974 Conservative Government were responsible for issuing a command instrument which said that the aim of detention centre training should be the elimination of the merely punitive approach and the moving towards a more understanding regime. The right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling), when he wrote to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, emphasised the drastic and firm nature of the detention centre but said that it should not be regarded as a harsh measure.
This matter has been accepted by Governments of both major parties. If the right hon. Gentleman proposes to move away from it, that is a point of view. But that view should be particularised before he can expect the present Government, who are fortified by what was done by their predecessors, to abandon the philosophy which has guided both major parties for the past 16 years.
I keep on returning to a simple proposition. I agree that all these proposals may have been made, but what are we to do when we find that they do not work? What happens when some of these young thugs do not respond to any of the treatment? Should we not try something else? What is the sense in saying "We cannot do anything about the situation—we are finished"?
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he is not following my argument with his usual care. We are not saying that we can do nothing, but we are saying that we are not justified in following his suggestion without a great deal more detail being provided as to what exactly is involved. If he is prepared to spell it out, we shall follow him; otherwise we shall not.
I turn to the subject of mentally abnormal offenders. The probability is, although we have no precise figures, that such offenders are to be numbered in hundreds rather than thousands. Therefore, it is unwise and unsafe to rely heavily on the easement that that will provide. Nevertheless, my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has provided some extra money to area health authorities to furnish such secure units in the hope that there will be some easement of the position.
The hon. Member for Guildford mentioned the encouragement of voluntary societies. I believe that there is no form of society that will ever be bereft of voluntary effort. I take a great interest in this subject because I wish to see voluntary bodies making constructive use of leisure and other activities. The Government have given assistance, and we propose to continue that practice. I shall make it part of my duty to ensure that this movement is encouraged.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border said in November that the Government were holding back money for voluntary bodies and added that everybody knew that that was the situation. I did not know that that was the situation and I ask him to give me an example. I was promised that information, but three months later I have still not had a word from the right hon Gentleman. Since that was made as a point of criticism of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman should substantiate that charge or withdraw it. I invite him now to do one or other.
Not only were the local authorities mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman but the Voluntary Service Unit of the Home Office. I wish to inform the right hon. Gentleman that I was not getting excited. He promised to let me have the details. I did not ask him. However, he has not fulfilled his word in substantiating the charge.
I wish to deal with the subject of custody and control orders, a topic raised by the hon. Member for Guildford. We have been examining that matter, and I hope to come before the House before early summer with some proposals seeking to extend the range of options available to the courts. Contrary to what some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have been saying, I do not believe, that the courts are greatly hampered by having too few options at their disposal. The maximum penalties now available to the courts for serious crimes are adequate. It is for us to lay down adequate penalties and it is for the courts to administer them, within their discretion. They have an advantage which we do not have. They see the offenders and they judge upon the particular facts. It ill-becomes us to criticise, even from newspaper accounts, the courts' use of that discretion.
I turn now to deal with the question of the police and the law enforcement package. This has been a central point in the debate. We have produced additional funds for the law and order package in the latest announcement. A total of £6 million is to go, first of all, for the recruitment of police cadets on the basis of one cadet to every three serving policeman, with a view to securing future police recruitment. Second, we intend there to be a 6 per cent. increase in the civilian aids who are helping the police. This will enable the policemen to get back to their main job of policing. That is a worthwhile step forward. Third, we have provided an extra £2 million for the staffs of magistrates' courts.
Those who complain about the delays in people receiving justice—and, unfortunately, there is some truth in the criticism—should know that we are taking active steps to increase the staffs of magistrates' courts the better to deal with this problem. We have also provided for the expansion of community service orders so that, by the end of 1978, the whole of the country will be covered by the community service order project. That is a proper use of a two-party approach. It was the Conservative Party who originated the scheme, while we recognised its worth and carried it out vigorously. I wish that Tory Members were as willing to give credit for the implementation of that scheme by my right hon. Friend as we are willing to give credit to them for the idea.
The wastage of experienced police officers has formed part of the debate and was mentioned particularly by the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn. We do not minimise the seriousness of the loss of experienced officers. It is important, however, to get the figures right. More than 50 per cent.—that is 2,726 out of 5,166—who resigned during the last year did so after having served for less than two years. Only 1,700 who have completed four years' service, who are classed as experienced officers, have resigned. That is not something in which we take pride—quite the contrary. But it is not quite the picture painted by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I would be grateful if he will accept those figures and allow them to guide his future thoughts.
Money alone is not the answer to our problems. I believe that the answer lies in a combination of factors. We have to recognise the expectations of young married couples and the progressive unwillingness of young wives to have their husbands doing difficult and awkward shifts. This factor has to be appreciated properly, whether by the Edmund-Davies Committee or in some other way.
That is not my information or my impression. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and try to provide him with the details.
The prosecution system was dealt with by the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir P. Rawlinson). The question of the arrangement of the prosecution system, the future of the office of the DPP and what form it will take are matters to be considered by the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that we should ignore police objections because they are provincial and do not like anyone interfering with their prerogative, he should remember that this may be one of the ways in which the police conceive that they have been let down. I believe that we should act upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission when it reports. However, it is not going to be a matter that will necessarily find universal commendation among the police.
I accept the slight amendment, but my general point is still valid. That will not find universal commendation among the police.
On the question of juvenile crime, it is not right to say that, apart from a small minority who appear to be impervious to all forms of punishment— and I do not see why they should therefore be more amenable to the glasshouse system than to other punishments—juvenile crime is expanding out of hand. In the last two years for which figures are available, the number of juveniles cautioned or charged with crimes has decreased by 5 per cent. and 4 per cent. This matter must be taken in context and the context is that juvenile crime generally is not increasing.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) asked about prison building and the number of places available. The Featherstone category C prison, with 484 places, has been brought into commission. The Wymott short-term prison, which will provide another 816 places, is almost complete and work has just started on the Low Newton prison, which will be a new dispersal prison. We are trying to combat some of the horrifying overcrowding which, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, occurs usually in local prisons.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned the Probation Service and bail hostels. We have to face the fact that the number of probation orders has been going down. Courts have been making fewer orders. An order went through the House last week, on the initiative of the Government, to lower the minimum period for which probation orders can be made.
We have 14 per cent. more probation officers than in 1974 and we have 14 bail hostels with 288 places for young offenders and 56 bail hostels for 925 adults. We are increasing provision for bail hostels and probation bail hostels considerably. We hope that this will be a means of preventing re-offence.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham, (Mr. Irving) asked about community service orders for fine defaulters. Section 49 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972 enables fine defaulters to be given community service orders. The hon. Gentleman can be reassured on that point.
The irrelevant thing about the debate is that the Conservatives have tried to dredge up for party political advantage the genuine and understandable fears felt by us all. It is because the Home Secretary will continue with constructive but undramatic work in this area— undramatic because there are no dramatic solutions—that I believe the motion of censure, if that is what it is conceived to be, is thoroughly misplaced and utterly malign.
|Division No. 126]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Mather, Carol|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Maude, Angus|
|Alison, Michael||Glyn, Dr Alan||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Arnold, Tom||Goodhart, Philip||Mawby, Ray|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Goodhew, Victor||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Atkinson, David (Bournemouth, East)||Goodlad, Alastair||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Awdry, Daniel||Gorst, John||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Banks, Robert||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Bell, Ronald||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Mills, Peter|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Benyon, W.||Gray, Hamish||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Biffen, John||Grieve, Percy||Moate, Roger|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Griffiths, Eldon||Monro, Hector|
|Blaker, Peter||Grist, Ian||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Body, Richard||Grylls, Michael||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hampson, Dr Keith||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hannam, John||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Brittan, Leon||Haselhurst, Alan||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Hastings, Stephen||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Brooke, Peter||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Mudd, David|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hawkins, Paul||Neave, Airey|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hayhoe, Barney||Nelson, Anthony|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Higgins, Terence L.||Neubert, Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hodgson, Robin||Newton, Tony|
|Buck, Antony||Holland, Philip||Normanton, Tom|
|Budgen, Nick||Hordern, Peter||Nott, John|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Howell, David (Guildford)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Burden, F. A.||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Osborn, John|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hurd, Douglas||Page, Richard (Workington)|
|Channon, Paul||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||James, David||Percival, Ian|
|Clegg, Walter||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Cockroft, John||Jessel, Toby||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Cope, John||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jopling, Michael||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Corrie, John||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Raison, Timothy|
|Costain, A. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rathbone, Tim|
|Critchley, Julian||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Crouch, David||Kershaw, Anthony||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kilfedder, James||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Kimball, Marcus||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Rhodes James, R.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Knight, Mrs Jill||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Durant, Tony||Knox, David||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lamont, Norman||Rlppon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Lawrence, Ivan||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Emery, Peter||Lawson, Nigel||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lloyd, Ian||Scott, Nicholas|
|Farr, John||Loveridge, John||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fell, Anthony||Luce, Richard||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||McCrindle, Robert||Shepherd, Colin|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Macfarlane, Neil||Shersby, Michael|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||MacGregor, John||Silvester, Fred|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Sims, Roger|
|Forman, Nigel||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fox, Marcus||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Madel, David||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Fry, Peter||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Speed, Keith|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Marten, Neil||Spence, John|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mates, Michael||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Temple-Morris, Peter||Warren, Kenneth|
|Sproat, lain||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Stainton, Keith||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Wells, John|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Townsend, Cyril D.||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Stanley, John||Trotter, Neville||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Stokes, John||Viggers, Peter||Younger, Hon George|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Wakeham, John|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walder, David (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)||Mr. Anthony Berry and|
|Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Walters, Dennis||Mr. Michael Roberts.|
|Abse, Leo||Dunnett, Jack||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Allaun, Frank||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Kelley, Richard|
|Anderson, Donald||Eadie, Alex||Kerr, Russell|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Ashley, Jack||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Lambie, David|
|Ashton, Joe||English, Michael||Lamborn, Harry|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Ennals, Rt Hon David||Lamond, James|
|Atkinson, Norman||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Evans, John (Newton)||Lee, John|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Bates, Alf||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Bean, R. E.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Flannery, Martin||Litterick, Tom|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Loyden, Eddie|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ford, Ben||Luard, Evan|
|Boardman, H.||Forrester, John||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Bottomley Rt Hon Arthur||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Freud, Clement||McElhone, Frank|
|Bradley, Tom||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||George, Bruce||Maclennan, Robert|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Gilbert, Dr John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Ginsburg, David||McNamara, Kevin|
|Buchan, Norman||Golding, John||Madden, Max|
|Buchanan, Richard||Gould, Bryan||Magee, Bryan|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Gourlay, Harry||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Graham, Ted||Marks, Kenneth|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Campbell, Ian||Grant, John (Islington C)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Grocott, Bruce||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Cant, R. B.||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Meacher, Michael|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hardy, Peter||Mendelson, John|
|Carter, Ray||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Cartwright, John||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Mitchell, Austin|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Molloy, William|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Heffer, Eric S.||Moonman, Eric|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hooley, Frank||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hooson, Emlyn||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Horam, John||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Moyle, Roland|
|Corbett, Robin||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Cowans, Harry||Huckfield, Les||Newens, Stanley|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Noble, Mike|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Ogden, Eric|
|Cronin, John||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Hunter, Adam||Orbach, Maurice|
|Cryer, Bob||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Ovenden, John|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Pardoe, John|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Janner, Greville||Park, George|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Parker, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Parry, Robert|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Deakins, Eric||John, Brynmor||Pendry, Tom|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Penhaligon, David|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Perry, Ernest|
|Dempsey, James||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Prescott, John|
|Dormand, J. D.||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Judd, Frank||Radice, Giles|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Spearing, Nigel||Watkins, David|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Spriggs, Leslie||Watkinson, John|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stallard, A. W.||Weetch, Ken|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Steel, Rt Hon David||Weitzman, David|
|Robinson, Geoffrey||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Stoddart, David||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Stott, Roger||White, James (Pollok)|
|Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Strang, Gavin||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Rooker, J. W.||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Whitlock, William|
|Roper, John||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Swain, Thomas||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Sandelson, Neville||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Sever, John||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Tierney, Sydney||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Tinn, James||Woodall, Alec|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Tomlinson, John||Woof, Robert|
|Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Tomney, Frank||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Torney, Tom||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Silverman, Julius||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Skinner, Dennis||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Snape, Peter||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Question accordingly negatived.|