I shall speak briefly on a subject which is of great importance. Before the House adjourns for the long recess, I want to refer to the serious problem of car crime in our community. Everyone is deeply concerned about the increase of crime, about which we have heard all too frequently. The figures show that the rise is almost entirely caused by the wholly unacceptable increase in crimes involving motor cars. In that respect we compare unfavourably with European and many other countries. It is a disgraceful stain on our reputation.
I should like to declare an interest in the matter. I have the honour to be the president of the Guild of Experienced Motorists, which represents about 70,000 motorists who are greatly concerned about road safety and have made many useful contributions. Car crime affects all parts of the country. It is especially worrying in my area of Cambridgeshire, where the level of general crime compares reasonably favourably with other parts of the country—but not in respect of crimes involving cars.
Not only does car crime affect the convenience and way of life of us all: it also leads to appalling incidents of what people foolishly call joyriding. I call it misery riding, because it leads to death and appalling maiming. The substantial increase in general crime is often facilitated by the use of motor vehicles which are used for burglary, attacking retail stores and bashing into premises and stealing from them.
The Government and responsible bodies should take every step to curb this menace in society. Motor manufacturers and insurers should accept responsibility. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, and certainly his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), met the motor manufacturers and endeavoured to persuade them of their responsibilities. I am not at all certain how successful they were. I do not necessarily expect the Leader of the House to tell me about that, but perhaps he would inquire of the Home Secretary.
My impression is that motor manufacturers are not over-keen to do anything other than making cars that will sell. They had to be persuaded by legislation to install safety belts, and other safety features in motor vehicles have emerged only because of Government action. I sometimes maintain that if it were not for the law, motor manufacturers would not bother to fit brakes. We must take a firm line with the manufacturers. It is essential for all new vehicles to be fitted with an alarm system or, better still, an immobilising system, because the only way to reduce car crime is to have vehicles properly immobilised.
I drew the Home Secretary's attention to advertise-ments for devices which could cancel car security systems. I wrote drawing his attention to devices called car grabbers. The Guild of Experienced Motorists and others have said that the device should be outlawed immediately. Apparently the grabbers can be used to open any vehicle with impunity, even when a security device is used. The manufacturers of the device say that it is to be used only by car recovery people, whatever that means.
In reply to my letter, the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), said that he appreciated concern about the matter but, speaking for the Home Office, he said:
We do not…have any evidence that alarm deactivators arc in fact commercially available in this country".
I alert him to the fact that they are available. I shall not mention the name of the firm, because I do not want to give it any publicity, but there is a firm in London which is producing leaflets about devices which can overcome any security system. They are called interceptors.
The publicity states:
As more and more vehicles are … fitted with remote control alarm systems, recovery is often difficult".
The interceptor can intercept any system. The splendid advertising also states that the device
has the outstanding ability to disable any remote control alarm system. Specially designed to assist in the recovery of vehicles … simply prevents any remote control alarm system٭ from being armed during the recovery of the vehicle.
After the asterisk, it is stated that the device is "DTI approved", which means that the Government know about the device and appear to have approved it. It strikes me that there is a serious lack of liaison between the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry.
The publicity warns:
It is a criminal offence to use this device for vehicle theft.
Ooh-er—thank you very much. I am sure that all potential burglars and car criminals will immediately desist when they have seen that notice.
The Home Secretary has been rather naive, and I ask him and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to put a bomb under the Home Office and try to get the problem sorted out. It is absolutely disgraceful that we are wringing our hands and saying how appalling it is that vehicles are stolen and used for serious crimes and that people are maimed, injured and killed, yet we do not seem to take the slightest interest in the highly skilled technological devices available to criminals—which are approved by the DTI, if you please. I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to consider the problem seriously—it is not a joke but a subject of immense importance.
Next door to me is the county of Bedfordshire, which has one of the best records for containing crime. As I represent a Cambridgeshire constituency, it sticks in the gullet to praise Bedfordshire, but Bedfordshire has been so successful because the police there took the problem of car crime very seriously.
I shall now sit down because many other hon. Members wish to participate in this short debate, but I ask my right hon. Friend and his ministerial colleagues to consider the issue seriously.