Policing (London)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:05 am on 28th June 1985.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 10:05 am, 28th June 1985

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman said that. The interviewer said: The Home Secretary, who was relaxed, confident and clearly enjoying his portfolio … said Home Office research suggested that the general perception of a link between unemployment and crime was unfounded. That view was not shared by one of the Home Secretary's predecessors, who said: If we can nip in the bud criminal tendencies in people then we would be going a long way towards easing the pressures on our police … Undoubtedly, economic mismanagement … where that leads to high levels of unemployment, especially amongst young people, also contributes considerably to increasing the number of those tempted into a criminal life. That was Lord Whitelaw speaking when he had the responsibilities that I had as a Minister. True, he went on to make a joke about it, saying: The only real remedy for this situation is a vigorous pursuit of Conservative economic and social policies. As was so often the case, Lord Whitelaw understood the cause, even if he was wrong about the remedy.

As we approach the time when the Labour party will be asked to accept responsibility for the government of our country, we shall not make the Tory mistake or commit the Tory deception of offering gimmicks and platitudes or pretend cynically that it is simple to deal with a profoundly difficult social problem.

We commit ourselves to taking action that will help to create conditions which will make it easier for the police to do their job and more difficult for criminals to do their worst. We will seek to remedy some of the conditions that foster crime and create criminals. We will make it more difficult for criminals to get hold of guns, by restricting their availability. We will tackle the problem of shotguns falling into the hands of people with no good reason to possess them, while safeguarding the rights of those with a legitimate use for one in work or sport.

We will take urgent action against the drug traffic, and will increase the resources available to all those involved in fighting the drug traffic. We will do everything possible to ensure that drug dealers are detected, convicted and given sentences appropriate to the seriousness of their crime. We will tackle the social and economic factors that help to make people, especially the young, vulnerable to drug abuse. We will put an end to the Government's penal policies against local authorities. We will seek to improve life in the areas that are most crime-ridden, where despair leads to alienation and alienation turns into criminal behaviour.

We will give a high priority to restoring local services. Cuts in those services have meant fewer caretakers, park keepers and public servants, whose presence can deter crime and vandalism. A better housing programme and improvements in the environment can tackle certain types of crime at their roots.

Seeking to remedy these problems is not easy, cheap or quick, but it is easier, cheaper and quicker than dealing with the dire results of social neglect. The crime wave is one of the results of social neglect with which our people must live.

When he was shadow Home Secretary, Lord Whitelaw said: A Government that cannot protect its own citizens from attack in the streets of its towns and cities, that cannot protect property from damage, or homes from intrusion, has failed to live up to the basic duties of Government. By their own standards, and on their own tests, this Government have failed. Their departure, which is ever more likely, will give the nation a new chance to combat the crime wave which will be the Prime Minister's grim legacy to the nation which she has so ill served.