Vehicle Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18 January 1996.

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Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting 12:00, 18 January 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information he has on the level of vehicle crime (a) in England and Wales and (b) in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation andDevelopment countries. [7855]

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

Recorded vehicle crime fell by 9 per cent. in England and Wales in the 12 months to June 1995. The 1994 volume of criminal statistics contains international comparisons with several OECD countries and shows that in 1994, the 11 per cent. fall in recorded offences of theft of a vehicle in England and Wales was the highest of all the countries listed.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Tooting

I note and indeed welcome that reply, as I am sure will hon. Members on both sides of the House. Is the Minister not aware that there is still an enormous amount of vehicle crime in England and Wales? We see evidence of it in our newspapers day by day, be they national or local newspapers. Did the Minister see the programme on television last week about Greater Manchester, where vehicle crime is so organised that cars are stolen on order for Australia? In view of that, what kind of interlinking system is there between police authorities so that there is a greater chance of stopping this on-going increase—in not only the vandalism of motors but, especially, the stealing of them?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I cannot accept the last part of the hon. Gentleman's comment about "this on-going increase". Car crime has been among the largest categories of crime to fall over the past two years. In the past two years, car crime has fallen by 17 per cent. That is 270,000 fewer offences. Of course we are not complacent about that. Car crime is still too high and we will continue our efforts to cut it.

The Government's "Hyena Campaign" has been instrumental in cutting crime, as has the action taken by manufacturers and a host of police and Government initiatives. We shall continue such campaigns, which bear down on car crime.

The hon. Gentleman must not mislead himself, and accidentally mislead the House, by suggesting that car crime is increasing—in fact, it is falling considerably.

Photo of Mr Anthony Coombs Mr Anthony Coombs , Wyre Forest

I welcome the fall in car crime. However, as someone who had his car stolen from outside his house only the day before yesterday, may I ask my right hon. Friend what action the motor manufacturers are taking to make the fitting of car alarms on every vehicle standard, and whether he feels that the insurance companies are offering sufficient discounts on insurance premiums for cars that are fitted in that way?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I met yesterday the vehicle car crime prevention group, which is a sub-committee of the National Board for Crime Prevention, and we discussed that subject. It has been in the lead in persuading manufacturers to take car crime prevention seriously. We have now persuaded our EC partners and there will be a directive on car crime, dealing particularly with the fitting of immobilisers, and other car crime prevention measures. Those measures are making a difference, and they will continue to make a difference in reducing the rate of vehicle theft. We are now turning our attention to truck theft and theft of plant. If it is helpful to my hon. Friend, I will write him a letter which sets out the full details of what we are doing and place a copy of it in the Library of the House.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth:

If the Minister is not complacent about the issue of vehicle theft, will he accept that he certainly sounds as though he is? He has just had to admit that we have the highest vehicle crime rate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Will he acknowledge that, with the exception of Italy, we have the lowest stolen vehicle recovery rate of any country in Europe, and that, in regard to commercial vehicles, we have an astronomical problem? Will he stop coming to the House and denying that Vehicle crime is a problem, and do something about it?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

No one is denying that it is a problem. We are taking the matter very seriously indeed. I resent the hon. Gentleman and others today poring through all the crime figures, trying to find statistics from some foreign country or some nugget of information that will enable them to paint a picture of bad news for Britain. Britain has historically had a higher rate of car crime than other countries, yet I do not hear Opposition Members talking about the much higher homicide rate in other EC countries or about their much higher rate of sexual offences. The Opposition like to pick out nuggets which they can use to criticise the success of the British police.

I would take the hon. Gentleman much more seriously if, in his question, he had mentioned that violent offences fell in this country by 2 per cent. last year, or that sexual offences, recorded rapes and overall crime fell, and that car crime also fell in the United Kingdom. We are not complacent, but we are not trying to cover up, as the hon. Gentleman is.