I have received two letters from the Conservative Family Campaign about young people's involvement in crime. I greatly welcome the growing interest in the role of the family in steering young children away from crime. The fact that the peak age for offending in this country is 15 underscores the truth that the family is our country's first line of defence. Parents and teachers have a clear responsibility to instil into children habits of self-discipline and respect for others.
Will my right hon. Friend undertake to respond positively to the family campaign and say what action he will take in the light of its suggestions and recommendations? In so doing, will he welcome the emphasis that the family campaign puts upon the responsibility of parents in an age when we hear all too much about individuals' rights? Will he furthermore take the opportunity to confirm the Government's commitment to parents and to the concept of the family unit?
Yes, indeed, and I have tried to do that in my earlier answer and on several other occasions. I agree with my hon. Friend. As regards his first point, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), will be receiving leaders of the campaign shortly to go through with them the specific proposals that they have made.
As the majority of teenage crime arises from bravado, should not retribution be swift, painful and humiliating? Could the Government look again at the possibility of introducing corporal punishment, or alternatively some humiliating punishment like the stocks in modern guise?
The House considered the matter not long ago. I remember the debate and I remember its conclusion. If the matter were put to the House again, I am not sure that it would reach a different conclusion. It is worth noting that as a result of the efforts that have been made the number of juveniles sentenced or cautioned has fallen substantially from 170,000 in 1984 to 140,000 in 1987.
Is the Secretary of State aware that it is often boredom rather than bravado which leads young people into mischief and crime? Is it not about time that he talked not just to Conservative party committees but to British local authorities which desperately want to supply leisure facilities and the creative leisure that the French are so much better at providing? Is it not about time that we took on an Eté Jeunes programme, which the French have and which has been so successful in reducing crime in French inner cities?
If the hon. Gentleman went up and down the country he would find a number of different organisations in Staffordshire and Humberside, for instance, where the police are putting into effect on the ground precisely the schemes that he wishes to encourage. That is already going on and I hope that the Labour party and Labour local authorities will do their best to encourage it.