§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
I beg to moveThat this House, noting the growing public anxiety about the maintenance of law and order, deplores the increasing and dangerous distortions which result from the increasing tendency to present the problems of lawlessness in political rather than social terms.It is not long since I returned from my only visit to the United States. Among many other things, I was impressed by the enormous dominance which the issue we are about to debate has in that country, not only as a political issue but as a social theme. I was impressed in a somewhat academic, I might say almost detached way, because I suffered from the firm conviction that things were very different back home. I am now beginning to realise, or at any rate suspect, that that view was hopelessly complacent.
I am becoming unpleasantly aware that law and order is a subject which is becoming more and more a matter for political controversy in Britain. I do not particularly look forward to the next General Election. I suspect that attempts will be made in certain quarters to capitalise not only on the crime issue, the narrow issue of attacks on persons and property and the growth of organised crime—evidence of which can be found in the newspapers this evening—but on that welter of emotions and prejudices which result from the challenge which many feel is now being made to the established norms, to what they think to be the comfortable, settled order of things.
There are a number of issues—immigration, hostility to welfare, the continuing conviction that prosperity is threatened by a horde of work-shy, lazy layabouts who are living in luxurious ease at the taxpayers' expense—together with drugs, demonstrators who demonstrate, protesters who protest and students who talk of revolution—every one of which is a potential theme to be exploited at the electoral hustings, and I fear that every one will be. I fear that as these anxieties increase, an atmosphere will be created in which a rational search for effective policies will become almost impossible.
1109 I take only one very brief example in this field. I do it with some nervousness. It is only five or six years ago that I was an active office bearer in student politics, yet I realise that it might as well be 40 or 50 years ago, so quickly has the generation gap opened. One thing, however, of which I am fairly clear in my own mind is that the great mass of students have very little sympathy for the ideological peculiarities of the militant minority. I believe that to the average undergraduate at British universities Marcuse is still merely a name and that M. Debré's views on revolution remain largely unread, although they are neatly packaged for bourgeois consumption by Penguin books.
What I am also clear about is that, if there is a line-up against student opinion, if there a general censorious note is struck, the whole of the student body will be united behind the minority interest: the minority will rapidly be converted into a majority.
I deeply regret the talk about "academic thugs", however it may be justified in a few, and I suspect very few, individual cases, because it colours the whole debate about the problems of the universities; just as I regret the fact that as I well know there are still many on the staffs of universities who look upon students as mere encumbrances who must be tolerated in order to justify State finance for pet research projects. It is these attitudes which drive students into extreme positions and complicate and exacerbate the position.
Law and order will be a continuing theme for the next election, and the call for law and order may well degenerate into attacks on the legitimate right to dissent, a legitimate right which must be preserved in a society in which elections occur only occasionally and where single issues of immense importance are inevitably swamped in the general campaign.
I mention these wider issues only briefly. I regret that it has to be so brief, but circumstances force me to take a somewhat narrower field in the remainder of my comments. I want to deal, first, with the speech made last Tuesday by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to the Greater London Council Women's Advisory 1110 Conservative Committee. It has made, or it certainly attempted to make, crime and the combating of crime a central political issue, and I deeply regret that.
I have studied the official version of the speech, issued by the Conservative Central Office. It makes sad reading. I often think that I have far more respect for the right hon. Gentleman than many of his right hon. and hon. Friends have, but I am afraid he went a long way towards forfeiting that respect on this occasion.
The right hon. Gentleman's remarks on capital punishment were deplorably weak and can only encourage extremists. Much worse than that was the general note which he sounded. He told us, for example, that crime is twice as rampant in the 1960s as it was in the 1950s. This may well be true, but to pin the attack on the Government or upon a particular political partly must be irresponsible and highly unfortunate. If he says that it is due to malicious incompetence, in terms of police recruitment, on the part of the Government Front Bench, and also goes on to say that it results from the Labour Administation; failure to live up to the economic expectations of the people, it is just nonsense.
The right hon. Gentleman is in considerable difficulties if he is talking about a period from the early 1950s, if only because Labour came to power only in 1964 and I am not aware that the crime rate started to rise only then. We did not invent public anxiety in 1964.
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a depressing one because it invited right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench to start playing the numbers game, to start throwing out charge and countercharge about the number of policemen, the proportional increase in violence and other statistics—all those indigestible facts and figures which every politician can produce if circumstances demand it, but which add absolutely nothing to the enlightenment of the public or to the general worth of any debate on the subject.
I read with very little enthusiam the speech made the other day by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in reply though I recognise that it was inevitably called for because of the tone that the Leader of the Opposition had struck.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Surely the number of policemen and the statistic; of crime are most important. That is what we must base ourselves upon.
§ Mr. Dewar
They are important, but not when they become lost in a plethora of differing bases, when competing statistics are manipulated for party advantage, not to produce a true picture of the situation, but merely to get a passing party advantage and to allow the more effective exploitation of public anxiety.
I think that this is something of which we in Scotland are very well aware, because in 1966 we had the embarrassment of watching the General Election being fought, particularly in the West of Scotland, primarily—almost solely—on the issue of law and order, the crime rate, and the return of capital punishment. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience and one which I do not want to see repeated.
I can only think that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition will have encouraged his own backwoodsmen to mount the kind of pressure on this issue that unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition has shown himself quite unable to withstand on such issues as immigration in the past.
In case the House should imagine that I exaggerate, I want to take only one example of something that I read in the Scottish Press this weekend. I take this example only because I think that it sets the tone of the kind of speech that we shall hear a lot of. An adopted Conservative candidate is reported in my Aberdeen evening paper last Friday as having said this to his annual general meeting:Socialists regard murderers, rapists, thugs and thieves as people merely misunderstood and left free to prey on Society, but Conservatives believe that all who commit such crimes must be made to pay the penalty and that we must have a country where old people and children can walk again without fear.The sentiments are possibly grotesque. They are easy to laugh at, but I fear that they will become typical items in a large number of papers throughout the length and breadth of Britain over the next few months and that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will be largely responsible for that.
1112 Not for the first time, and possibly not for the last, I have a great deal of sympathy for the views expressed by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), if the Observer is correct in reporting him as saying that the crime rise is a worldwide phenomenon andfar too grave to bring down into the cockpit of party politics.I think that my right hon. and learned Gentleman is exactly right. I only wish that he could convert, if that is the right word, his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench.
Once this issue is handed over to party propaganda, over-simplification is inevitable. When the parties start outbidding each other, all sorts of possible useful but small reforms are suddenly elevated into panaceas, into quick and easy solutions, because this is necessary in terms of electoral appeal. Powers of search, birching, capital punishment, what the right hon. Gentleman talked about—the restoration of confidence—all these things suddenly become the vital key and the particular remedy which is peddled soon fills the horizon.
All those who cannot agree entirely on the point somehow are branded as soft on crime and do-gooders; and before they know where they are they find that they are being accused of condoning the rise in the crime rate.
I believe—I think that many on these benches believe—that there must be salutary sentences for hardened criminals who appear before the courts, but I do not think that we should follow on from that by saying that that is all that needs to be done, that that is the solution to the problem, and so let it become a substitute for an examination of the deeper and underlying social causes of crime. Far too many hon. Members opposite, and indeed some of my hon. Friends are apt to do Just that.
The second reason why I shall make a somewhat narrow speech on the crime issue as distinct from a more general speech on the subject of law and order is events in Glasgow over the last few days. All Scottish Members, if not all Members of the House, will be aware of the death of Mr. Thomas Bourne, a Glasgow bus conductor, after a particularly tragic and pointless stabbing last week. It was all too typical—perhaps that is 1113 too alarmist a term; let me say tha it was an example of the kind of vicious, tragic and, above all, stupid violence which has been occurring over a long period of time sporadically in that city. I know that the House will have much sympathy for the family and friends so sadly bereaved.
I want to ask two questions: what can we do in the short term to try to control this violence; and, what is very important in a general debate of this type, why did it occur? In the short term it is important to realise that Glasgow is not unique in having this kind of problem—we sometimes have that delusion. We sometimes take almost an inverted pride in ensuring that there is the maximum publicity for what happens in Glasgow in terms of crime. That said, however, there is a problem for bus conductors and bus drivers who have the right to demand protection and an assurance that their system of work will be reasonably safe.
I hope that the authorities will consider the possibility of walkie-talkie radio links, as the busmen have asked. I recognise that it will be extremely expensive, but, presumably, if timetables were worked out properly, only a small proportion of the buses concerned would need to be so equipped—those used mostly at the weekend, which is when this kind of outbreak almost exclusively occurs, and on certain routes.
In Nottingham, there has been a problem of hooliganism for a long time. There radio-controlled cars go some way to ensuring that help can be brought to a trouble spot quickly. Also installed is what the director of transport has described to me as a hooligan alarm—that is, an amplified hooter system which may be controlled from the driver's cabin and heard over a wide area if the staff of the bus is of the opinion that trouble is likely, or if there is a threat of disorder.
I appreciate that some people will say that such a system would be ineffective, and that the public would lie low and not help, but I have been assured by Nottingham officials that their experience is that the public co-operates, recognises the distinctive note of such an alarm and telephones the police so that aid can be brought quickly. I do not say that it is 1114 the complete answer, but it would be well worth considering. It would also be well worth remembering that Nottingham has had to do this kind of thing long before Glasgow, which shows that this is a national and not the specifically local problem it is sometimes thought to be.
There are wider problems of control. Obviously, we must worry about the level of detection and we must consider our methods of detention. I do not have time to go into any of these at length, but it is rather strange that in all the mass of the per capita financial comparisons between England and Scotland which almost universally reflect the Government's very proper concern for the state of the Scottish economy, an exception is police services on which more is spent in England. I have been told that the expenditure per head in England is £5 2s. 5d., while the figure for Scotland is £4 15s. 8d. I do not necessarily try to draw any wide lesson from that, but it may be something worth remembering.
Why do we get this kind of situation? We have first to ask whether the situation in Glasgow, for example, is worse than that in other cities. There is always a trend for a reputation built up over years to continue after the justification for it has disappeared. With all the figures for violent crime open to interpretation, it is difficult to discover exactly the basis of truth for the reputation which Glasgow has acquired for being a violent city.
There may be all sorts of other trends which, in recent years, have done something to inflate the figures. It is said, and there may be some justice in this, that when a man goes out for violence now he carries a knife, whereas before he would have carried a razor, and that, while a razor might maim or disfigure, it will not kill, and that to some this change is reflected in the increasing number of fatalities. It may be—and I put this forward only as one small factor—that many of the violent crimes which are reported in the newspapers are the result of wife assault and the awareness of wives' rights has led to women complaining more when they are abused in the home, and this, too, would also be reflected in the crime figures.
There is still an enormous amount of work to be done in discovering what the situation is. I would be the first to 1115 accept that a very large number of the causes of juvenile violence, of the gang phenomena, will be with us for a very long time in terms of an unfortunate school tradition, in terms of schools where the whole education environment is appalling, where pupils are dropped to the bottom of the system and left in what is known as "the daft class", which is often no more than the staging post to the approved school or borstal institution. There is, too, bad housing, and, clearly, it will not be possible to solve such problems in any final sense for a very long time, regardless of what party is in power.
One of the things which strikes me when we consider the causes of juvenile violence is how little we know about them. It is a remarkable commentary on our lack of knowledge that if one wants to read a book on juvenile violence and the construction of the juvenile gang one has to refer to the work of Yablonsky, which deals with gang warfare in New York's East Side 10 years ago. Some work is now being done, but we are hopelessly behind and still working in terms of hunch and intuition and not knowledge.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that it is a major disgrace that we had to wait until the 1950s for our first chair of criminology and that there are still very few such posts in English and Scottish universities?
§ Mr. Dewar
I agree. It is self-evident that there must be diagnosis before cure, and that the disease must be identified and described before it can be diagnosed. For far too long we have been failing to get down to this basic work.
I appreciate that there is at least a research and development branch in the Home Office on which we spend the princely sum of £24,000 a year—and in 1966–67 it was only one-fifth of that—with 45 men on the establishment. I appreciate that the universities are also being used, but still in a fragmented and piecemeal way, and we still tend to fasten on theories which are sometimes no more than pure speculation.
I should like to give a few examples of the kind of question which I should like to be answered. We have heard much about bad housing. It has always been said that if we could cure the housing problem and get rid of the slumghettoes 1116 and put people into a decent environment, we would start to conquer its violent crime syndrome, but, as we all know, the places in the West of Scotland about which we are now worrying are Easterhouse and Drumchapel, which are vast new housing schemes. We have to ask ourselves why this should be.
But even on that I enter a caveat. because the gangs which exist—the Toi, the Tongs, the Fleet and the other big gangs aped even as to name in the schemes—still have as their territories the old and battered parts of the towns, the areas which have still not been redeveloped. These gangs are the models and the problem is not even as clear cut as it may have appeared during the last few moments.
Many of these big gangs are operating in areas where amenities may be shabby, but where they certainly abound. That seems to suggest that more amenities in housing schemes would help, but that is not to say necessarily that they would be a kind of absolute solution. Clearly, if a housing scheme the size of the City of Perth is built merely as a residential area without cinemas, swimming pools or libraries, and only the most occasional scatter of shops and, above all, without pubs, one is inviting trouble. I am not yet convinced that local authorities and Government Departments have learned that lesson.
It may make me unpopular in some quarters to say that I think that the licensing laws in Scotland have contributed to the climate in which these gangs operate rather more than other factors which are more often mentioned. Certainly, if one goes into the average Glasgow pub after 9 o'clock one will find men drinking desperately to get their quota of alcohol before 10 o'clock. That can be compared with the much more leisured atmosphere in areas where drinking laws are looser and hours are longer. Even if I were in the temperance lobby, I would argue that increasing the hours would not necessarily increase drunkenness and might encourage a slightly more civilised atmosphere in the public houses.
I recognise, as we all do, that there will always be gangs. I myself went to a good, middle-class education establishment, for which, I suppose, my parents spent quite a bit of money and I certainly 1117 was a member of a gang. If my memory serves me rightly, we did several things which at least technically constituted juvenile crime. I can, therefore, hardly complain about the existence of gangs in other areas.
What I want to know, however, is why the gangs turn to violence. The trouble, however, in my view, is not in the big gang fights. My information is that one does not get massive casualties there. It is in the sporadic outbursts when small groups come face to face. That raises another problem. If a man is stabbed in an affray in Glasgow, it is always put down to gang violence. The person involved may say that it is gang violence, as a justification, in a sense to romanticise his activities.
I am not convinced that this is a significent factor, and I give it as another example to show how incomplete is our information. Then there is the problem about which we must all have speculated, the structure of the gangs. There was the old idea that the gang was integrated, was a highly-organised homogeneous structure, an opinion held by many people of experience. I doubt it. This is something about which we must know if we are to try to deal with the problem.
I should mention an extremely interesting article that will be published in the Scottish Educational Study, by Mr. James Patrick, of which I have been allowed a sight. This is an account of first-hand experience of working in a Glasgow gang and it confirms very largely the American theories of Yablonsky and others that the gang is small, very loosely structured with an "in" group, a kind of hard core, and a great shifting, drifting periphery.
The hard core are not born leaders, not men who, with education, would be captains of industry, but the psychopaths, "the mentals", irresponsible people who spark off the violence—the touch-paper which sets off the whole mob. If that is a correct analysis, and I suspect that it is, quite clearly what we must try to decide is what is the best way of separating the periphery from the hard core. How do we detach these people?
I would mention one of the good pieces of work that has come from research, initiated, I think, by the Government. I refer to Pearl Jephcott's "Time of One's 1118 Own", published by the Department of Social & Economic Research at Glasgow University. The point is made that these troublemakers, the "in" group, can be identified extremely early in their career, long before real trouble starts and the gang organises. It is very sad that, given that fact, nothing is done to deal with these people, to give them the kind of help and support that might do something to break down the danger as it develops and keep them away from the worst of their future activities. I know that a study group was set up in 1968 by the Standing Consultative Council on Youth and Community Services to consider her findings. I would be interested to know whether there has been any action or decision in principle taken upon this work.
Why have we not yet tried the detached street worker? There is a whole volume of casework about the effectiveness of this kind of project from America. It seems that a controlled, limited experiment would be particularly useful. There is, too, the question of police juvenile liaison which has been working in five or six Scottish burghs for some time—in Greenock since 1956. A recent appraisal by Mr. John Mack, of Glasgow University, has suggested that it has been useful over a period of time; that it has done a great deal to save, at least the peripheral boy, from drifting into juvenile crime. It is astonishing that in the City of Glasgow, about which we worry more than any other, there is no police juvenile liaison scheme. I wonder why?
The article I mentioned by James Patrick makes the interesting point that the hard psychopaths who start trouble, very often, in the author's experience, use youth clubs three or maybe four times a week, which suggests that we cannot assume that involvement in a youth club is some sort of immunisation against gang warfare in the community. It is still quite clear that imaginative youth work must play a greater and more real contribution.
I am glad that the Government have given 60 per cent. to the Easterhouse Youth Club Centre and that they are to spend about £12,000 on one in Drum-chapel. I recognise that since 1962 just short of £750,000 has been ploughed into 282 youth club projects by the Scottish 1119 Education Department. We are not, however, going about it systematically enough, not getting the kind of follow-up information we need.
I also suspect, maybe a little cynically, that in some of these youth clubs, there may be far too great a reliance upon the therapeutic effects of ping-pong for the Government to be really getting value for their money. I am aware that this debate is somewhat truncated by previous events in the House and I do not want to keep too many other hon. Members out.
One of my last points concerns approved schools. Again, I confine my remarks to Scotland, if only because I suspect that in England there is a different situation. To my surprise I find in England there is only about a 75 per cent. occupancy in approved schools. In 1967, the number of places available were actually reduced. My own impression of approved schools in Scotland, although I pay an enormous tribute to the work staff, is that they vary tremendously in quality and in terms of facilities and buildings. I have been at approved schools and have been appalled by the complete and utter lack of privacy of training, by the fact that there is no real attempt made to follow up the boy after he leaves the school.
I believe that we get an arbitrary collection of people thrown together with potentially disastrous results. In a Written Answer I was told, in March, 1968, that in Scottish approved schools 47 people were committed purely for truancy and seven for sexual offences. I suspect that those figures very greatly squeeze the categories of such people actually in approved schools. It is possible, walking round some of these schools as I have done, to wonder, as one leaves the school, how any boy spending up to 16 months, on average, in such a place can possibly come out better than he went in. It seems that he may actually come out worse than he was before being committed. That is a tragic thing for any one to say. There are only 217 places in Scotland for maladjusted children. If one goes, as I have done, and looks at the free-expression art produced by boys at approved schools, one gets this frightening, jagged, simplified mass of colour—repetitive paintings of a kind which have become familiar to us from the colour supplements, dealing with split personalities and disturbed minds.
1120 We must be much more selective about what we put into approved schools if we are to ensure that they do not merely tempt the marginal cases on the paths from which we are trying to win them. I am unhappy at the idea that the boy sent away from the schools at weekends or at the end of his term, goes back to the gang, to the environment in which he originally went wrong, without any real effort being made to help him.
There are a very large number of things I would have liked to have talked about, such as the lack of a prison aftercare service in Scotland. Although I realise that the rise in the number of probation officers to 316 from 262 in December 1965, may not be enough to allow them to operate a scheme effectively. The staff ratio in prisons in England is I to 2.32 and in Scotland 1 to 3.13. This is the kind of thing which worries me and is worth examination.
I am worried, too, about the continuation of short sentences in Scottish prisons. There are over 1,000 people serving sentences of under six months. In the last 10 years the total prison population has escalated from under 2,000 to 3,111. I am concerned about the parole system, where 773 cases have been considered, but only 49 people released. That is an area where more flexibility and not more caution could be the order of the day. These matters may be dealt with by other speakers—I hope so.
I apologise to the House if my speech has been parochial. To some extent it has been necessary. I have described problems, and I have tried to comment on them. Inevitably, I have not suggested solutions, because I do not think that we are in a position to do that. Politicians must face up to the realities of crime. They must also face up to the realities of public opinion. If a prison is to be sited in a special area, if it is a matter of finding a job for someone who has been through approved schools or the penal system, if there occurs an occasional, almost inevitable incident when someone is released and commits a further crime, then the public reaction is a warning of the dangers of doing anything to exacerbate the real hostility towards the proper, flexible approach to the problem.
1121 I hope that all politicians will be prepared to co-operate in looking for such solutions, and will not be prepared, for purely electoral advantage, to exploit the very understandable fears that abound.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) has done a service by using his good fortune in the ballot to draw attention to the basic and important question of the maintenance of law and order.
There are, I suppose, two main aspects of this problem which are causing concern. First, there is the increase in violence connected with what I call, for want of a better term, "conventional crime". In this I include the tendency to regard gunmanship, gangsterism and armed robbery, if not as part of the accepted order of things, then as part of the expected and possibly inevitable order of things. The second aspect is the new and disturbing phenomenon of violence in the streets and public places masquerading as a form of political expression, with its related evils of the denial of free speech and strong-arm action in universities and such-like places.
In the interests of brevity, I shall deal mainly with the second matter, reversing the proportion devoted to it by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, but not because I do not consider that the first aspect is not of great, growing and genuine concern. Of course, it is. The pace of crime grows with a sustained and sorry acceleration. In the first nine months of last year there was an increase of 7 per cent. in crimes involving violence to the person and an increase of 8 per cent. in breaking and entering. This is an increase upon an increase. In London the amount of crime is estimated as being twice as much in the 1960s as it was in the 1950s, and in some provincial cities it is four times as much or more.
If that pattern continues, it is obvious that the prospects are gloomy indeed, and it will continue unless corrective action is taken. We can assess the probabilities of corrective action when we consider that the police force is undermanned by more than 20,000 and that it is 20 per cent. below establishment, with four men trying to do the work of five. Here we find 1122 a link between the old violence and the new, between the conventional criminal violence and the pseudo-political violence. The more that police forces, inadequate anyway, are diverted to deal with pseudo-political violence, plainly the fewer there are to deal with conventional crime. It goes even further than that, because we must assess the effect on recruitment of the apparently complacent assumption that policemen should be expected to engage as a matter of course in violent conflict with organised thugs for which they are ill equipped.
I turn to the second aspect with which I wish primarily to deal. I want to make three propositions in respect of the pseudo-political manifestations. First. these violent manifestations, these so-called demonstrations, are in breach of the existing criminal law.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I shall expound on that in a moment. The hon. Gentleman will then say whether he agrees with me or not.
Secondly, the Government prefer complacent acquiescence to corrective action, and they have failed both in the enforcement of the existing law and in the necessary review and revision of it. Thirdly, this failure cannot be justified on grounds of democratic principle, of constitutional propriety, of international obligation, or indeed at all. It amounts to a basic failure in what is and must be a primary duty of government—the maintenance of law and order.
I said that I would make good the first proposition, and I will do so in the brief time at my disposal. These so-called demonstrations are, in my view, illegal at common law apart from the statutory offences to which they may give rise under, for example, the Public Order Acts of 1936 and 1963, the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839 the Prevention of Crimes Act, and the Malicious Damage Act, 1861.
They are illegal at common law because they constitute the offences both of unlawful assembly and of riot. They clearly come within the criteria of unlawful assemblies as set out in Archbold, and in Smith and Hogan, and other authoritative textbooks. They come within the second 1123 of the two categories defined at page 1294 of the 36th edition of Archbold, which reads:An unlawful assembly at common law is an assembly of three or more persons with intent to carry out any common purpose, unlawful or lawful, in such a manner as to endanger the public peace or to give firm and courageous persons in the neighbourhood reasonable grounds to apprehend a breach of the peace in consequence of it.It is crystal clear that these demonstrations, these manifestations of violence, fall within that definition. It is equally clear that they constitute the graver offence of riot. The five necessary ingredients to constitute a riot are defined in the leading case of Field v. The Metropolitan Police District Receiver, 1907, 2 Kings Bench, and they are set out in the Judgment of the then Mr. Justice Philli-more at page 860: First, number of persons, three at least. Second, common purpose. Third, execution or inception of the common purpose. Fourth, an intent to help one another by force if necessary against any person who may oppose them in the execution of their common purpose. Fifth, force or violence displayed in such a manner as to alarm at least one person of reasonable firmness and courage. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South laughs. Which of those criteria does he suggest is not met by these demonstrations? I will give way to him at once if he wishes to tell us. He does not wish. I thought that perhaps he would not.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)
I am interested in the definition, but I wonder how the right hon. and learned Gentleman would differentiate between the phenomenon he is describing and a crowd at a football match.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson
I am interested to learn how the right hon. and learned Gentleman would differentiate between the definition he has read out and the conduct of the police on these occasions.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I will answer the serious question. The fourth criterion is an intent to help one another by force if necessary against any person who may oppose them in the execution of their common purpose. That is not an ingredient at a football match—or it should not be. The fifth criterion is 1124 "force or violence displayed…". That is not, or should not be, an ingredient. I do not say that football matches may not constitute riots, but these ingredients are not normally present in them. I appreciate that the Under-Secretary of State may be in some difficulty owing to the inevitable absence from the debate of the Scottish Law Officers. That is due to the will of the electorate, with which we cannot quarrel.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
No. The hon.
Gentleman made a very long speech, and I am trying to make a short speech in the interests of other hon. Members.
We come to the clear and inescapable conclusion that activities of this sort are an illegal violation of the existing criminal law.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an estimate of the number of occasions in a year when the ingredients mentioned in the authority all occur in the United Kingdom? Does he suggest that there should be proceedings for riot in each of those cases?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
If the hon. Gentleman wants the information, I will try to get it for him. I will table Questions to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. However, judging from the lack of success which I have had in eliciting information on these matters, he may well be disappointed.
These are offences at common law and, therefore, it follows that those who concert them may be guilty of the offence of conspiracy.
I come, then, to my second proposition. What is the Government's record and attitude in face of these illegal activities? It is negative, complacent, inept, and it is a breach of the basic duty of the Government to maintain order and enforce the law. I, like some other right hon. and hon. Members, have been trying for more than 12 months to get the Government to enforce more effectively the powers that they have and to strengthen the powers if they consider it necessary. In both respects, I am sorry 1125 to say, their reaction has been consistently disappointing and unconstructive.
Time forbids detail, but may I give one example? After the original violence in Grosvenor Square in March last year, I drew the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that powers had existed for more than 300 years to protect Parliament against such violent demon-stations, and I suggested that it would be appropriate to enact similar legislation for the protection of embassies. That would have been a simple and salutary operation, but the Secretary of State refused. After the riots on 27th October, I renewed the suggestion, again without success. The sequel is known to all of us. Come January of this year, and the Foreign Office had to make a humiliating apology and pay compensation to the South African Government for damage to their embassy.
There is one other aspect. It is obviously a matter of public concern to know how much is involved in the diversion of effort and resources to deal with riots of this sort and what payment from public funds is involved. In spite of many Parliamentary Questions trying to get this information about the matters on 27th October last, it has so far been impossible because a sort of conspiracy of silence seems to exist among Ministers on this matter. I was able to elicit the information that 20 Departments took measures incurring expenditure, but what the measures were and how much they cost remain veiled in secrecy.
On 27th November last, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said:I regret this information is not readily available and to obtain it would involve a disproportionate amount of time and money."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1968; Vol. 774, c. 151.]On 28th January last, asked about an estimate, the right hon. Gentleman said:I have no doubt that it would require considerable expenditure of time and money, disproportionate to the value of the information."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1969; Vol. 776, c. 275.]That is a matter of opinion. If it leads to the saving of such expenditure in future, it may be very well worth while.
In dealing with my Questions as to the measures taken, the PaymasterGeneral 1126 has fallen back on the last defence of frightened, inept or authoritarian Ministers and has pleaded the public interest for the non-disclosure of this information. I say that the public interest in this matter is clear, and it is this. The country is entitled to know the cost of the Government's failure to do their duty in regard to these matters and to expect that the Government will do their duty in future.
I can deal shortly with my third proposition. The Government's failure cannot be justified on grounds of democratic principle or the like. Of course the right of freedom of expression is fundamental in a democracy. Of course we have to try to strike a fair balance between the right of the citizen to protest, on the one hand, and the duty of the State to maintain public order and preserve property, which involves the rights of other citizens, on the other hand. But the violent manifestations which the Government seem to be condoning go far beyond freedom of expression or constitutional protest. They are a form of legalised violence which has neither place nor purpose in a democratic society which possesses universal suffrage, free speech, a free Press and the whole apparatus of peaceful expression of opinion. These manifestations fall clearly within the specific exceptions to the general right of free assembly prescribed in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We have increasing conventional crime together with Government acquiescence in the emergence and growth of new forms of violence, themselves a breach of the criminal law, and with it an undermanned and disillusioned police force. All this the Government appear to accept. The Secretary of State used to be considered a friend of the police. Perhaps it is because of this that, honourable and scrupulous man as we all know him to be, he now feels that he should lean over backwards so as not to seem to favour old friends. But he is really carrying it too far. They might well say to him,Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love.Why did you kick me downstairs?This is a melancholy story. The Government have failed in their basic duty and are obstinately persisting in their error in this matter. That being so, the 1127 country can only conclude that corrective action for the real maintenance of law and order must await a new and better Government.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) on his luck in the Ballot and the very able way in which he moved the terms of his Motion. I should like to restrict my comments to one part of it, namely, the reference todistortions which result from the increasing tendency to present the problems of lawlessness in political rather than social terms.I am particularly interested in the reference to political terms and in this I am happy to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith).
In moving his Motion, my hon. Friend indicted certain Opposition Front Bench spokesmen and Conservative candidates, particularly on the West Coast of Scotland. I do not wish to follow him in that. I wish to indict the Press, which, I think, has a considerable responsibility to bear in this matter.
The distortion with which I wish to deal is the distortion practised by the Press in the build-up which it produced prior to the last Vietnam demonstration, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East has referred. I refer in particular to certain stories which appeared during the early part of September. I have with me, for example, the Evening News of 6th September, which had a headline "Targets for revolution" and said:Take-over targets for militant student groups in London's ' October revolution ' include the central police communications centre at Denmark Hill, the Defence Ministry, the B.B.C. and the Stock Exchange.Mr. James Reid's imagination went on to suggest thatMolotov cocktails, home-made bombs and even guns may be used in major mass demonstrations in London, according to alarming reports reaching Scotland Yard.Perhaps one can expect that kind of story from the Evening News, but certainly one expects somewhat more responsible treatment from newspapers like The Times. I was, therefore, surprised to find on the previous day a story by Clive Borrell and Brian Cashinella in equally sensational terms: 1128A small army of militant extremists plan to seize control of certainly highly sensitive installations and buildings in central London next month, while 6,000 Metropolitan policemen are busy controlling an estimated crowd of 100,000 anti-Vietnam war demonstrators on a peaceful march. This startling plot has been uncovered by a special squad of detectives formed to track down extremists, who are understood to be manufacturing ' Molotov cocktail ' bombs and amassing a small arsenal of weapons. They plan to use these against police and property in an attempt to dislocate communications and law and order.These sensational stories were followed up in other newspapers. I will not weary the House by reading lengthy extracts but some reference should be made to them. The Yorkshire Post on 15th October said:Scotland Yard's special branch have been investigating… a plot to disrupt London's underground railway system during the anti-Vietnam war demonstration due to take place on October 27.The Daily Telegraph suggested that it was all being plotted by the I.R.A.:A message purporting to come from a man described as No. 2 Commandant of the I.R.A. was telephoned to the Press Association yesterday.and so on.
I will not bore the House with other equally sensational stories which appeared in the newspapers. What disturbs me is that these journalists were obviously primed, James Reid in particular. Granada television produced a broadcast on the press coverage, and Mr. Reid was approached. He said categorically that the information had been given to him by Scotland Yard. Messrs. Borrell and Cashinella, however, when approached by journalists on the Sunday Times, refused to give any information about the source of their story. But, from the story, one can see references to authorities in Scotland Yard.
Quite properly the programme producer and script writer approached Scotland Yard and the accounts were denied:Scotland Yard officially denied last night that they had received reports that Molotov cocktails, home-made bombs and firearms might be used in the mass demonstration. They also denied that a special undercover team were searching for an arms cache, for the people responsible for buying arms and for those who financed them.I find it mightily curious that on two days in early September almost identical 1129 stories should appear in two papers, particularly when one was The Times, which we have always supposed to be a responsible paper, which would not print sensational copy of this type unless it had been given the tip-off by persons in authority.
On the basis of the statements that I have just read out, I and other hon. Members could be forced to infer that Messrs. Borrell and Cashinella are liars. They said in their story that they had been given this information by Scotland Yard and that a small squad of detectives had been formed to track down the source of manufacture of Molotov cocktails and other such weapons. Yet, when Scotland Yard was approached it denied that any such special squad had been set up or that there was any proposal to manufacture Molotov cocktails and other such weapons.
I suspect—one can only conjecture about this matter—that someone in Scotland Yard—this is what I find very disturbing—wished to hedge his bets. Whatever happened at the demonstration, the police would be in the clear. If they built up, as they did or as was done for them by the Press and television, highly sensational prior news reporting of this incident, whether it went off peacefully or violently the police would come out of it very well.
Therefore, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not have some responsibility in this matter. As he knows, the demonstration went off very peacefully and the Press had to eat a lot of words. The Times in particular did so. I will quote what it said on the Monday following in a moment. I know that the Press is irresponsible, but certain things might have been hinted or suggested to it which raised the climate. I suspect—I should be very glad for my hon. Friend's comments—that the source of these highly sensational stories which appeared in the newspapers was Scotland Yard.
Most hon. Members will agree that the Press did its best to lay on a major confrontation between the police and the demonstrators in terms of the news coverage. It would have been far better if that kind of comment did not appear. I therefore ask my hon. Friend for an assurance that any information given to the Press in future will be based on hard 1130 evidence. There was none in this case. There was no hard-core group of 400 saboteurs which some of the newspapers suggested. There was no manufacture of Molotov cocktails. There was a very limited amount of violence. Arms were not manufactured. There were no revolvers, which the News of the World suggested were to be brought in from France. None of this took place and the Press was made to appear foolish on the morrow.
It is, therefore, hardly surprising that The Times should say, rather blandly in view of its prior build-up: "It was not a revolution." Certainly it was not. Most of us who took part in that demonstration and who know anything about the people involved in these anti-Vietnam war organisations knew very well that it would not be a revolution. The Times said:It was not a revolution. Nor, in spite of the scare stories, the rumour-mongering and the drawn-out war of nerves about October 27, was it ever intended to be one.This, from The Times, which had played a major part in building up the hysteria. It is hardly surprising that, following that story and the event, people should seriously question the rôle of newspapers in building up this climate of tension.
I put it to my right hon. Friend that it would be proper for him and the Home Office to have conversations with newspaper editors about any prior publicity which they give to the build-up of demonstrations. I see that another anti-Vietnam demonstration is planned and that, in Friday night's Evening News, the sensational coverage and speculation was being repeated. This is very regrettable. It builds up the kind of hysteria to which my hon. Friend has referred. I suspect—I hope that he will be able to deny it—that it has emanated from Scotland Yard.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
We can be very grateful to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) for raising a topic of such importance and great urgency, without accepting all his doctrine on the relationship between crime and politics. When he was speaking about the association of housing and environment with crime, I think that all of us were very nearly in agreement with everything he said.
But when the hon. Member came to crime and politics, he went a little wider 1131 of the mark. Law and order is a responsibility of Government and of the Home Secretary in particular. The Opposition did not hesitate to remind the House of that during the tenure of the last Conservative Home Secretary. The Leader of the Opposition has a duty to do in these matters, and so far as I can see, from reading his last speech, he has in no way exceeded it.
To put a serious and non-political point, public disquiet is not allayed in any way when politicians pretend that there is nothing to be argued about. On the contrary, as one issue which I will not raise now shows—most hon. Members will know which one I mean—it may have the reverse effect, the differences between us are, of course, sometimes exaggerated but it is very much better that they should be than that they should be concealed.
One such difference, which is a legitimate one, is this Government's decision to limit police recruiting last year and the consequences which have flown from it. We attacked the decision at the time, and we attack the consequences now. In retrospect, and for a number of reasons, this decision can now be seen to have been a serious blunder, and no amount of juggling with statistics can alter that. The Home Office has just provided some figures—they are clearly set out in the OFFICIAL REPORT of last Friday—showing clearly the consequences of that decision. In 1967 the battle to enlist enough recruits to offset wastage was being won comfortably with a surplus of 4,000. By 1968 the battle was being lost, with a net gain of barely over 100. Those are the figures, and yet during those two years, as we all know, the load on the police, in many branches, has greatly increased. For part of that we in this House are responsible. As the police themselves pointed out not long ago, no fewer than 10 major Acts of Parliament have gone through in the last two years which have increased their work of enforcement.
There are one or two other reasons which I will put briefly, and I respond direct to the point which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South made. The Government's responsibility as opposed to that of the sociologists is to identify the principal dangers at any particular 1132 time to law and order and then to seek the right remedies and provide the right means. That is a job for politicians and not for sociologists. The hon. Gentleman indicated where some of his anxieties lie. I will very briefly indicate four spheres in which my anxieties lie. In reflecting on them, I refreshed my memory of views expressed about light months ago by Professor Radzinowicz, addressing the police at Bramshill. This should please the hon. Gentleman, because Professor Radzinowicz, who has served two Governments, is not a politician but both a sociologist and a criminologist.
In the first sphere—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) referred to this—we have the enlarged problem posed by protests and demonstrations by minority groups seeking results by direct action. I make only one point about this. It seems to me that the danger here lies principally not in what they themselves do but in the fears to which they give rise and the reprisals which they may induce. Anyone who has read the Kerner and Walker reports on riots in America will realise that the worst of the riots sprang from exaggerated fears leading to action by authority, which exacerbated the situation. That is the principal area in which I have fear in this regard. For this, of course, the media share a considerable part of the blame. Without being smug, we may turn to what we sought to do last year about the two major demonstrations for which the Home Secretary became responsible—to pacify, to give outlets to expression, to take precautions but to avoid undue repression and violent reaction. I would only add that that calls for ample manpower resources, which in the first demonstration we barely were able to field; in the second case we were able to field them and that had a major effect on the result.
Secondly, I would say a word about the professional criminal, who has come off rather lightly in this debate so far—the professional criminals organised in gangs or syndicates, ingenious, ruthless, in business on the largest and most profitable scale. This has been growing, and, in my view, we are a long way from being on top of it. At this point of time it is perhaps well not to particularise. I will only say that we shall not, as we may hope, end this threat by 1133 rounding up particular gangs; in industrial societies there will always be a vacuum which others will be eager to fill. My impression is that the case load on senior detectives and the police involved is very heavy indeed. It has never been so onerous.
Thirdly, we come to the abnormal offender, perhaps the most difficult field of all, and very potent in its effect on the public mind. It can impose the most difficult and unsatisfactory tasks on the police. I would make only two points about it without going into details. We ought to look very carefully again at the workings of part of the Mental Health Act. I am thinking of the system of safeguards after an offender has been caught.
Secondly, I remain convinced that we must take more seriously the subject of stimulus. I do not want to appear to make the mass media the whipping boy, but really we should make a more serious effort to probe the connection between the diet of violence and a minority with abnormal minds. I stress the need for more information. It is five or six years since a Conservative Home Secretary set up an inquiry into violence on the television. The I.T.A., I believe, subscribed £250,000 for that inquiry. What are the public results? The Home Secretary tells me that the final report is about to be issued. Are we any closer to the answers we seek? If not, why not? We really must make a renewed attempt to tackle this scientifically and effectively.
The fourth feature to which I would draw attention is the growth of robbery. Unlike the generality of offences in London in 1967—I make no comment on places in the hon. Gentleman's country, Scotland—this category did not fall; it increased disturbingly. In nearly 1,000 out of 2,000 cases in London weapons were used. In 165 instances firearms were used. I go very quickly over these figures. In London in 1950 there were 250 cases of robbery; in 1960, 750; in 1967, 2,000, an eightfold increase since 1950; and only 30 per cent. were cleared up, better than in 1966, but still alarmingly low. Look at the profits. In London alone about £2 million a year—tax-free; in the years from 1963 to 1967, £7 million of loot unrecovered. What we must note is that, unlike the general rate of crime increase, which has been checked, the rate of robbery is accelerating.
1134 All this adds up to a new, formidable load on the police. It is a picture which abundantly justifies the strictures which we laid on the Home Secretary last year for the steps he took in curbing the police recruiting rate.
There are some other general reasons why this was seen by many people, not just the Opposition, to be a great mistake. At a difficult time for the police it was a blow to morale. It was unselective; it made no allowance for chronically undermanned forces in London, Glasgow, and the other big cities. It was shortsighted because the volume of crime, the volume of loot, is now something to be weighed in the national accounts. Finally, it struck at a force where perhaps there is less featherbedding, less wastage of manpower, than in almost any other institution or industry today.
I fully concede that in the time of this Government, the last five years or so, the police have been enabled to set an example by their actions to achieve more effective use of manpower, and for this credit goes not only to the Home Office and the working parties but to some of the police leaders and chief constables. They are doing two jobs. They are running their own forces, and they are also giving a lot of collective assistance and advice at the top, on strategy and other matters, and this is saving us a great deal of top brass staff which would otherwise have to be appointed.
For these reasons I conclude by insisting that the Home Secretary's action was wrong. It has been proved to be inept, and, whatever the hon. Gentleman says, it stands condemned.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)
It may be useful if I intervene now in order that the debate on this Private Member's Motion may continue and close on a private Member basis.
The terms of the Motion have been borne out to a very large extent by some of the contributions that we have heard in the debate this afternoon. It is an opportune Motion. I do not think any of us, when we first saw it on the Order Paper, expected that within a week the tone of some of the public speeches which have been made would have borne out the truth of the main point that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, 1135 South (Mr. Dewar) was making. I personally, regret the speech by the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) to a Conservative women's association. I regret that it should have injected that kind of political note, for while it is perfectly clear—[Interruption.]—I have read that speech and I was looking at it just now. I have read it.
The right hon. Gentleman referred, for example, to the recent figures of the rising crime rate. When we examine the recent figures we find that the rate recently has been declining, that the big increase was at an earlier period. The right hon. Member said:The latest… figures… show that the number of indictable offences… are rising steeply…Why did he refer to the latest figures in that way? Consider what happened when the Conservatives were in power. In 1960 the figures rose by 10 per cent.; 1961 by 8 per cent.; 1962 by 11 per cent.; 1963 by 9 per cent.; and in 1964 they rose by 9 per cent. The latest figures, for 1967, show a rise of about ½ per cent.
§ Mr. Buchan
I will not give way. I have not finished yet.
It must be made clear, if politics are to come into this, that the original statement came from the Conservatives. I deplore this. I accept that the nature of our society will be reflected in, among other things, crime. Nevertheless, one should not try to draw from a short period the sort of conclusions which the Leader of the Opposition drew in his speech. A political attack has been made, and, before dealing with the more important questions of recruitment and so on, I must answer it.
§ Mr. Hogg
Is the Minister aware that he is not referring to the latest figures that are available? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Is he aware that figures for the first nine months of 1968 have been given to the House? Will he now apologise 1136 for the extent to which, no doubt unwittingly, he has misled the House?
§ Mr. Buchan
I was referring to the figures covering the end part of the year. I agree that the figures for the first nine months show that to an extent for England and Wales the numbers have increased over the previous year—
§ Mr. Buchan
—but the fact remains that when we compare the latest figures with the figures at the time of Conservative rule we see that the rise has been smaller. If we consider 1966, a more comparable year with which to compare the figures for 1968, we see that the rise has been only half what it was at that time. This is not an important argument, and if the Leader of the Opposition had not started it I should not have been raising the matter.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am replying to what the Conservatives have said. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had not started this—as I explained, it is a largely irrelevant argument—the matter would not have been discussed. In any event, I treat the whole thing with utter contempt, particularly as a political gambit, because, in a way, it is worse than a crime in that it is a blunder. The Conservatives' figures were worse.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
Since the Minister quoted from my right hon. Friend's speech, he may care to have the extract properly on the record. The Leader of the Opposition said:The latest available figures for England and Wales show that the number of indictable offences, which at one time showed some sign of levelling out, is in fact rising steeply once again.What was incorrect in that statement? The Minister has shown, on his own figures, that while the rise in crime was reduced to less than 1 per cent. in 1967, it has been rising by 6.7 per cent. in the first nine months of this year.
§ Mr. Buchan
I have been trying to make hon. Gentlemen opposite realise—just as I have been doing for Scottish hon. Members in the past year—that there is bound to be a fluctuation in the figures. As soon as there is a rise we find the Conservatives up on their hind 1137 legs full of criticism. As soon as there is a fall, however, they are not so quick to compliment us. I have explained that this is a largely irrelevant argument which arose at a Conservative meeting when there was a responsive audience for this show of irresponsibility by the Leader of the Opposition, and I regret it.
I am not alone in regretting the right hon. Gentleman's handling of this matter. The Police Federation regrets it, too. We have heard how some hon. Gentlemen opposite are friends of the police. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) explained, as a friend of the police, he said, how we had produced disillusionment among the forces, and that we no longer had the same support. The Police Federation certainly deplores what the right hon. Member for Bexley said. The Federation has exclaimed:We would be extremely worried if abolition or law and order as such were to be made an issue between the three parties. It is our experience that when these issues are placed in the political arena there is no great benefit to the individuals concerned, in this case the policemen.When hon. Gentlemen opposite call themselves friends of the police, they should bear in mind that the policemen are rejecting their latest efforts.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that at a conference which he attended, at least for part of the time, the Police Federation in Scotland unanimously called for the restoration of capital punishment?
§ Mr. Buchan
I am aware of that. At present I am drawing attention to the attitude of the Police Federation towards these matters generally, and this attitude is shared by the police north of the Border. The police do not want this problem, and especially the aspect of it dealing with law and order, put into the political cockpit in this way. That is why i have condemned the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South has raised this matter today. I agree that there is never a good time to discuss this subject because it is a problem in which none of us can win. No matter what the figures may be. any crime is reprehensible 1138 and is to be deplored. I hope, therefore, that this business of quoting figures for and against, this "figure swopping", so to speak, will be stopped, because if we are to solve this problem we must explore every facet of it.
As I say, it is difficult to find a time to discuss this subject because usually when we think it is an opportune time something happens on our doorstep and we are faced with an issue which we must deplore. For example, in England there was the recent shooting of a policeman, and in Scotland a killing took place on a bus last week. There has been great tension as a result of it.
I listened with interest to the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South. He will not expect me to comment in great detail on the central case which he raised. However, I wish to express my sympathy for the family of the man, Mr. Bourne, who was killed in the course of his duty. In the past week I have spoken to the convenor of shop stewards at the garage in question. I have also spoken to the Chief Constable of Glasgow. Negotiations are taking place between the local authority and the union about the suggestions which have been made, and I accept that some other ideas—for example, the use of radio and other equipment—have been put forward this afternoon.
This brings me to the question of the rôle of the mass media. I do not wish to go into great detail about this. It is clear what happens when there is a competition in sensationalism. I agree that over-sensationalising something, particularly in advance of its happening—I have particularly in mind events like demonstrations—is to be deplored because it tends to bring about some of the effects that are being predicted.
We are all aware of the honey-like qualities of a television camera to young people. However, while there may be a small minority of youngsters who are more concerned with a punch up than a teach-in, the vast majority of young people participating in demonstrations have good motives. Most hon. Members would agree with much of the content of the matter about which some demonstrations are held; for example, these youngsters do not like war or authoritarian rule by government. However, we must pay attention to the stimulus which 1139 the mass media engender, and I would rather we did that than leave it all to Scotland Yard. I hope that the hon. Member will not allow his suspicions of the police force to be over-developed in that way.
It is almost tedious to repeat that we all felt that the last big demonstration in Grosvenor Square was handled extremely well by the police, and this evoked a response from the demonstrators. That is interesting and important, and I hope that the demonstrators will learn from it. In my student days we used to take the line that the police were our fellow workers It might be useful if demonstrators kept that view in mind, and did not regard the police as "fuzz".
§ Mr. Hogg
But does not the hon. Gentleman intend to deny categorically the extraordinary charge made by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) that Scotland Yard had been responsible for the rumours about Molotov cocktails? It is the Minister's duty either to set up a Select Committee or to deny that charge categorically.
§ Mr. Buchan
Had I known that the right hon. and learned Gentleman wished to intervene on that level, my usual generosity in giving way would, for once not have been possible. I certainly intend to deal with specific points, but this matter had nothing to do with Scotland Yard. I am not responsible for the British Press. This was a bit of sensationalism, but in regard to matters under my control and at Scotland Yard, I completely repudiate the suggestion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South explored some of the present problems in our vities. He is perhaps right in saying that a great deal of the present youth crime is not necessarily linked to particular gangs. It is rather difficult to estimate what proportion is linked, but his analysis may be right. I agree that it is a pity that public research into gang structure has so far only tended to come from writers like Thrasher and Yablonsky on the other side of the Atlantic. Some research work has been done in this country, but not sufficient.
My hon. Friend is probably right in saying that the complete gang set-ups in industrial c ties such as Glasgow are not 1140 so highly structured as some of the more schematic sociologists tend to show. My own interpretation, which is not so far from his, is that there is a hard black core and a rather grey periphery drifting in and out of the gangs involved. I know that some of Jephcott's case work has been done on a voluntary level in the Gorbals, and I agree that it is useful work
My hon. Friend referred to the relation ship between police and youth in juvenile liaison schemes, and I have been very pleased to see some of the initiative being taken by local police forces in Scotland as in England and Wales, with the police becoming involved in youth activity. One knows of the development in the Raploch scheme in Stirling, and there are other examples.
One realises that it is not enough to provide ping-pong in order to solve some of the problems. We all used to think that once we abolished poverty we should have abolished crime, but we have been shown to be sadly wrong in that respect. I know of the research to which my hon. Friend refers when he speaks of there very often being a high correlation between youth clubs and delinquency, but the answer is not to reject the attempt to find the right kind of community involvement for these young people. As far as one can see, the results of the work done at Easterhouse have been promising and helpful, and I am sure that the work should continue.
I do not wish to refer to all the points made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East; but some of the definitions he used to make points on the problem of demonstrators were pretty nearly applicable to almost any pub brawl or football match. We have to maintain the right of asembly, the right to demonstrate, and the police in London have shown that this can be done while at the same time preserving the peace in effective terms, rather than taking a legalistic view of the situation, which might have caused even greater alarm.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Can the Minister, then, answer the following question? Irrespective of what other hypothetical assemblies come within the definition of an unlawful assembly and of riot, does he or does he not agree that these demonstrations were riots and unlawful assemblies within the meaning of the law?
§ Mr. Buchan
Again, the question is: why is it right to prosecute one and not the other? If both are to fall within the right hon. and learned Gentleman's definition they are alike liable to prosecution all along the line. That is my only point in that connection.
There were certain ameliorating factors written into the restrictions on police recruitment in England and Wales, and hon. Members will be pleased to know that the planned increase of 1,200 men up to the end of March of this year is expected to be reached. For the next year there is a planned increase of the order of 2,000. We must get recruitment into perspective. In Scotland, we also adopted a restrictionist policy, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) was, quite correctly, very forceful in objecting to it. There is, however, an ameliorating factor in that restriction also, and we are trying to guide recruitment to areas of greatest shortage. Nevertheless, it would be wrong for hon. Members continually to make a comparison on the basis of the forces as opposed to the establishment.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) was much more realistic. He sought to relate the size of the existing police force to the new needs imposed on it. That is a good and valid point. I am not trying to push something under the carpet when I say that I do not think that the correct comparison is with establishment figures, but when we look at that side we see a very useful increase has taken place. I accept that it is the responsibility of government to deal with law and order in the sense of providing the sinews to cope with the problem.
In December, 1964, the establishment figure in England and Wales was 89,000, and it is now 108,000. We must not compare unlike with like. We find that over four years this Government have increased the number of police in England and Wales by about 10,000, and it is important to note that the actual police strength in England and Wales is now bigger than was the establishment under a Conservative Government. In Scotland, we have increased the force from 10,026 in December, 1964 to 10,308 in January, 1969. That is not enough, I agree, and we want more.
It is not only a question of numbers. The right hon. Member for Ashford 1142 referred to the new responsibilities and duties in combating large-scale organised crime as being one of the new factors of our time. This position cannot just be answered by increased police forces. We also require new methods, and our record in this respect is extremely good.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He said that we must not compare establishment with strength, but he found it convenient to do so when quoting the 1964 figures. He should follow his own doctrine.
§ Mr. Buchan
The hon. Member completely misunderstood the point I am making. I was saying that the recruitment had gone up so much under this Government that in England and Wales we have more than the target figure which was the establishment figure in 1964. I still accept that the establishment figure is not a valid judgment of itself regarding overall shortage. If the hon. Member does not get that point, I am sorry. It seems perfectly clear to me.
The other aspect is new methods and expenditure on equipment for those new methods. Here our record has been good. I have been looking at the experiments in unit beat methods. The amount of capital expenditure has risen from £1,346,000 in 1964–65 to £2,462,000 for the coming year. That is a very substantial increase, almost double in four or five years. I am talking of Scotland. I have increased the number of personal radio sets from 400 in January, 1967, when I came to office, to 1,530 by the end of the last year. I have increased the number of vehicles between 1964 and 1968 from 965 to 1,208. We are spending money on equipment to cope with the new kind of problems posed to police forces. In England and Wales the expenditure on equipment has risen from £5,500,000 in a very good year for the Tories—1963—to £12 million at this time.
Instead of generalising and speculating on causes of crime, which I am prone to do at the drop of a hat, I have tried to deal with the points which have been raised. Sooner or later we come back to 1143 the kind of problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South. We have to see that the new society we live in creates its own problems, and that it is not sufficient, as we once thought, to create the right kind of housing and then the problems will be solved. We have solved the problems of civil engineering, but we are only beginning to grapple with the problems of social engineering. This in the last analysis must be the solution.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I certainly do not intend any personal discourtesy to the Under-Secretary, whom we are very glad to see here with his colleague from the Home Office, when I say that as this debate has progressed I have found it more and more difficult to excuse the absence of both Secretaries of State.
When the Home Secretary told me last week that he was proposing to absent himself I thought then he was justified, but then I did not know the kind of speech in which he was to indulge over the week-end. He cannot be here, so he says, but it seems absolutely inexcusable that, with this debate coming on, the Home Secretary should have made that kind of speech, not here, but before a captive audience.
Parliament is the great forum of the people. Parliament is the place where these questions should be thrashed out. I criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), when he made his speech about immigration, for not coming here to make it. It seems utterly inexcusable that one should indulge in this kind of shadow boxing in the country and not treat Parliament to one's opinions.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Is it not inexcusable that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Home Secretary should be missing from this debate?
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Home 1144 Secretary did not publish any data that was not already well known and that he himself had no desire to hurl this matter into the cockpit of politics, but took it up only by way of rebuttal of the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition, which were completely unfounded?
§ Mr. Hogg
If the Home Secretary had really desired that this not be brought into what he called "the cockpit of politics" he should not have attempted to escalate the debate in the way he did in the country. If the Under-Secretary, whose loyalty to his chief does him nothing but credit, will contain himself I shall deal both with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and that by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
I do not intend by what I say to escalate; on the contrary. If one escalates foolishness one does not necessarily appear more sensible oneself. I shall, therefore, deal with the two speeches to which reference has been made in discussing the Motion which is before the House.
The Motion has two parts. It deals, first, with what is described asthe growing public anxiety about the main tenance of law and order".I share that public anxiety to the full. What are the facts? The facts are that since 1945 indictable offences and all forms of crime have been growing steadily year by year over 25 years with only a short trough in the years between 1951 and 1954, a period for which I do not intend to take party advantage for reasons which will emerge in the course of my argument.
The latest figures available, I must tell the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, are not those he gave, but those for the first nine months of 1968 compared with the first nine months of 1967. In that period indictable offences grew by 6.7 per cent. Therefore, although the Home Secretary in the speech he made over the week-end, which I wish he had made here, said that the peak had been reached in 1960 to 1964, the peak of the wave, as he elegantly expressed it, had not been reached and he was misleading the country. It is not a wave, it is a tide, and there is no evidence at all that the peak has been reached yet.
1145 The figures I have been referring to are an all-time high on top of an all-time high. This is what gives rise to public anxiety. When the Home Secretary attempted to play the numbers game which—I share the view of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar)—is a singularly infructuous one, and referred to the figures for the Metropolitan Police district in 1967, it was a pity that he did not point out that robbery and attempt to rob in that period and in that locality had risen spectacularly by about 28 per cent.
These are the facts which give rise to growing public anxiety. I find it very difficult to excuse the Home Secretary for having glossed them over in the way I have described. The Under-Secretary suggested, as I anticipated, that the Home Secretary was provoked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I am bound to say to him that even had it been true—and I shall give my reasons for disagreeing with the Under-Secretary—I should have thought that it was a pretty poor response from a senior member of the Government. If he had seriously wished to de-escalate controversy, and take the matter out of party politics, I could conceive of no worse measure that he could have taken than the speech he made, which could only make my task in seeking to approach the question on an objective footing more difficult almost to the point of impossibility.
But I do not agree with the Under-Secretary's interjection. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made one party point, and that was the point about police recruitment. I have heard it made, and I have made it myself in the House. It seems to me to be a perfectly valid point, because in all the confusion about the causes of crime, the methods of penal treatment and police methods, one incontestable fact is that in the face of a growing tide of crime, to curb police recruitment at all must have a counter-productive effect.
I challenged that action of the Government when it was announced, but, what my right hon. Friend was saying—it is outside the terms of reference of this debate, but it seems to me to be perfectly within the ordinary proprieties of party conflict—was that the Home Secretary 1146 only purported to justify his claim on the basis of the measures of economy. I have no doubt that in the recesses of the Cabinet Room he attacked it as strongly as we have done. He purported to justify that goal, however, only on the basis of economy. My right hon. Friend made the point that we on this side blamed the economic situation and the Government.
My right hon. Friend made two other points, neither of which was a party point.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
Is it not proper to look at the situation over the span of a few years and to remember that average recruitment during the administration of the party opposite was 1,300 per annum and that the average for the four years of Labour rule is 2,387 per annum? There is a vast difference between these figures.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Gentleman seems determined to bring this matter into the cockpit of party politics, but since he has raised the point, let me say this. It is quite clear that police recruitment in the year when a curb was imposed, partly as the result of actions by successive Governments, was raising the level of the force by about 4,000. That was in the 12 months prior to the curb. I was glad to hear from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that he expected that the 1,200 to which the expected rise was curbed would be met by March. As, I think, only 207 was the net increase for 1968, that means that in the next three months the hon. Gentleman will have to raise recruitment by an extra 1,000 men. I hope that he succeeds.
I share the view of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, who moved the Motion. It was inevitable that an Opposition who took seriously their responsibilities should object to the curbing of police recruitment at this time and in the context of the growing anxiety to which I have referred. It was a perfectly legitimate point to make and I see in it nothing improper or nothing which a member of the Opposition should not do within the ordinary proprieties of public debate.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition went on, however, to make two other points, neither of which was a party point. I want to deal with them 1147 both since they are relied upon as having provided the Home Secretary with provocation. The first was in relation to offences of fraud, which during the first nine months of 1968 increased by, I think, 15 per cent. My right hon. Friend said, and it is a point which I have made to the Government before, that there was an undesirably long period of time between the investigation of a fraud and the verdict.
To give one example of a case, the merits of which I cannot canvass because it still is, and will remain for a very long time, sub judice, the investigation was started by a Conservative Minister during the last period of Conservative government, when the President of the Board of Trade ordered the investigation. The case will not be heard probably until the end of this year. Those of my hon. and learned Friends who are members of the same profession as myself will know that this kind of delay is not unusual, at least in scale, although the particular case was probably longer than most.
This is not a party point. I know that the Government inherited from us the system which they are operating. I know that we inherited it from our predecessors. What my right hon. Friend said was that surely Parliament should consider whether the traditional methods of investigation in fraud were appropriate to the situation. I share his view that they are not. I deeply resent the theory that, by pointing that out, my right hon. Friend was in some way provoking the Home Secretary to make the kind of retort which he did.
The third thing which my right hon. Friend discussed was the five-year period in relation to the death penalty. He pointed out, perfectly correctly, that the five-year period, which was imposed by Parliament in 1965, would come to an end in 1970, in very little more than a year from now. He said, perfectly correctly, that Parliament would then have to make up its mind what to do about it.
I do not think that it is quite such an easy problem as most people seem to find it on one side or the other. From the point of view of what is called the restoration of the death penalty, I should have thought it quite likely that Parliament would find it impossible to go back to what I might call the Kilmuir compromise, 1148 which had various theoretical objections to it and did not altogether justify itself in practice. I should also find it difficult to return to the common law, whose difficulties I will not elaborate at this moment.
If that is so, however, those who wish to restore the death penalty must be thinking now of the terms in which they would prescribe the crime which is to carry it. I do not believe that any fancy franchises, if I may call them that, will attract widespread support on either side of the House. On the other hand, those who wish to retain the abolition must face one very disagreeable fact. Quite apart from whether the death penalty is a deterrent, they must face the fact that under the present law there is a premium on killing.
Under any system of law, whatever system is introduced, one cannot convict anybody unless the criminal can be identified. If the criminal has embarked upon a course of conduct which will attract a sentence of imprisonment of seven years or upwards, he must—or some of them must—reflect upon the fact that no additional penalty, or only a marginally additional penalty, will stand against him if he eliminates what may be only one witness of his guilt.
Therefore, if a man rapes a little girl of seven, or robs a railway train, or burgles a house with a bad record behind him, and there is only one person who can tell that he saw that man there, or if a person is seeking to escape arrest and there is only one body between him and escape from the place of the crime, there is no additional penalty imposed at the moment.
I do not propose to pursue this matter further tonight. I suggest that people should consider before 1970 what other views they propose to take and should deal with the realities of the situation raised. I can see nothing improper at all in my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition having discussed this matter publicly in what I thought was relatively restrained language.
§ Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. He has introduced this point to prove that his right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) had not attempted to play 1149 politics. May I quote from the right hon. Gentleman's speech and then ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman what he has to say. The right hon. Gentleman said:Then capital punishment was abolished. This will again be reviewed by Parliament next year, thanks to a Conservative Amendment for which I voted to Mr. Silverman's Bill to abolish the death penalty in 1965.Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that is a fair way to put the issue? Is not it likely to mislead people?
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not think that it misled anybody, though, if it is any comfort to the hon. Gentleman, I opposed the Bill and I also was not particularly enamoured of the five years' experimental period.
That leads me to the only other point that I should like to make on this matter. I wish to reiterate what I have said again and again in this House, with all the solemnity that I can muster, that so far as I am concerned the imposition or otherwise or the death penalty will never be made a matter of party politics. It will not be a matter for the party Whips. It will not be made a matter of electoral promises. It is a matter for the individual conscience, to be arrived at by the House of Commons next year or the year after. There is no other proper way of handling the problem.
I turn to the second part of what the Motion says, and here I have a considerable amount of agreement with the mover. I think that it is apparent from the figures which I have quoted that we are here in the presence of a world-wide phenomenon, because the one point on which I agree with the Home Secretary in his speech is that this is a worldwide phenomenon, in which the figures in this country are not the worst, which has gone on for a generation.
Anyone who claims to know what is the cause of it is either a fool or a knave, or possibly both, and in the presence of that ignorance, to which I plead guilty myself, I think it ill-becomes the partisans in the parties on either side to play what has been called appropriately enough the numbers game and make selective quotations from particular years, trying to make the public believe that from year to year there is more than a marginal effect which any Government of 1150 either complexion can have upon the crime figures. I am not at the moment dealing with the aspect of the matter which occupied my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker Smith).
On the contrary, my own feeling about this matter is and always will be that it is the business of Parliament, on both sides, to enlist public support behind the forces of law and order, and, in default of precise scientific knowledge which I believe to be wholly absent from this subject at the moment, to make what constructive suggestions they can make to remedy the situation in the knowledge that what it will do is at most second best.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South talked about social rather than political arguments; I forget the exact phrase he used. I want to raise a somewhat different matter. My feeling is that crime and criminal behaviour is not something that can be isolated from the whole pattern of personal behaviour and social activity. We know that probably not one in 15 of the minor thefts which take place is ever brought to court at all. In fact, law and law enforcement is only one aspect of what, at the risk of appearing a little unctuous, I shall refer to as the problem of morality. That is what politics is about. That is what social policy is about. That is what civilisation is about and ultimately, I suppose, that is what religion is about.
Suppose one found onself in a situation of complete darkness, one would not talk about attacking darkness. One would talk about turning on the light. When one finds oneself in a position where there is ignorance, one does not talk about attacking it. One talks about promoting knowledge. When one is faced with disease, one does not always talk about fighting disease. One talks about promoting healthy conditions. When talking about crime, one ought to think in terms of promoting areas wherein morality can be fostered; and when we are in the presence, as we are, of a running tide of increasing criminal figures, we want to ask ourselves more than ever whether the various qualities and social and personal attitudes we adopt are designed to promote morality.
The more I reflect upon the subject—and believe me, I have reflected upon it 1151 over many years—the concept of morality to which law must bear not an exact but some kind of reflected relationship can be reduced to a single principle, namely, the respect which every individual human personality must pay and is under a debt to pay 1:0 all the other human personalities that there are. If this cannot be achieved as a matter of indoctrination, the criminal law is a very bad second best. We cannot do without it. We must enforce it. But in enforcing it we know that we are pursuing an expedient and not hoping to achieve a principle.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)
I should like to speak for longer, as I am sure every hon. Member would, on this fascinating subject, but I intend to speak for only a few minutes.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), as he often does, has spoken to us less as a politician than as a philosopher. What he said at the conclusion of his speech I should like to think about at length. Broadly speaking, I think that he is right.
I am bound to say, however, that there could not be a greater difference in content and in tone between what he has just said and what was said by the Leader of the Conservative Party to a rally of Conservative women on Tuesday. It is no use saying, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that we must now agree to call this quits, that the speech never was made in the form we think it was made. That simply will not do.
As I have said on other occasions, I do not have any animosity towards the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). I think that his conduct over a whole range of social issues has in the past been excellent. But this speech is not. I have read it again and again to try to find some virtue in it or a reason why it was made. I cannot think of one. There are extraordinary references to the fact: that the abolition of corporal punishment has not reduced crime, as if anybody ever claimed that getting rid of corporal punishment would do that.
There is an extraordinary reference to capital punishment, and the Conservative Amendment which was moved.
1152 Despite the right hon. and learned Gentleman's saying, quite rightly, that he would never countenance those issues being discussed in this House on a party basis, his own Leader makes it quite clear that he regards an Amendment moved by private Members as being a Conservative Amendment.
I will quote, not the first words of the speech mentioned earlier by my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench to which the right hon. Gentleman took exception. but the last words of the speech:The maintenance of law and order is something that the British citizen values deeply.We would all agree with that.It will be one of the first tasks of the next Conservative Government to restore confidence in the ability of the authorities to control crime and to keep order.If that is not a political statement, designed for a political effect, I have never read one. It does not become the right hon. and learned Gentleman then to criticise my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for perfectly rightly retaliating to that kind of attack.
§ Mr. Walden
Yes, but if in the General Election of 1964 I had gone around saying that it would be one of the functions of the new Labour Government to restore the decencies of political life, would there not have been an implication that they had somehow languished under the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Government? When one speaks of restoring something, is not the implication that something has seriously gone wrong with it?
§ Mr. Walden
I do not accept for a moment that he put it in that context. Had he done so, he would have been wrong.
1153 The right hon. and learned Gentleman must bear in mind that many of us, including, I am sure, the Home Secretary, have in mind not simply the question of crime but the question of race. We have seen what has happened to that argument. Despite guarantees and pledges about this being a non-party matter, it now bids fair to becoming a very serious party issue. I do not want to make any more of this point, other than to say that I prefer the views of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone. When he says that this ought to be kept out of party politics, he is right; and so should the race issue.
It is all very well to talk about not exaggerating and not dramatising, but it is impossible not to do so. If senior public figures make speeches upon issues in which the implication is that something which should be done about crime is not being done, and if they say it at a time when dramatic trials are in progress, inevitably the public will take them seriously, and inevitably there will be an escalation. That is a very good reason for party leaders not to make speeches of that kind in that context.
To come to the remarks actually made by the Leader of the Opposition, even there I do not think that what was claimed and said, whether or not it was said in a party sense, necessarily stands up to analysis. For instance, nobody has yet mentioned that although police recruitment was inhibited by the Government's financial measures, nevertheless the number of people who have been brought into employment in order to release the police has, under this Government, increased by 9,000. These are traffic wardens and other people who have been used to release policemen, sometimes on a man-for-man basis, for ordinary police work.
This is a valuable point which should be brought into any discussion and which was not referred to in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. That should be stressed, and it should also be stressed, when the Government are accused of parsimony, that the amount of money spent on new radio equipment, new communications equipment and on all the ancillaries and assistance that a modern police force needs, has risen very sharply.
1154 I would like to quote from the Home Office figures on account. There has been a sharp increase in the amount of money which has been paid on the last Vote passed by the House on all these things, an increase of 8.7 per cent. Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, I do not want to play the numbers game, but if these allegations are made they must be rebutted by reference to statistics. That 8.7 per cent. increase has gone on increased pay to the police, increased police strength, additional expenditure on police records services, additional staff, increased expenditure on wireless equipment, and so on. All of that has to be taken into the reckoning when it is said that the Government are not doing as much as they should to assist in respect of crime.
Here I make reference to the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who said some extraordinary things in a very pleasant way. His manner was pleasant, but when he says that the Government take a negative, inept attitude to crime. they fail in their duty and they acquiesce in new forms of violence, this is extraordinarily exaggerated language, and some regard should be paid to what the Government are doing financially.
The general proposition of the Conservative Party in all our debates is: cut public expenditure. The detailed speeches of the members of the Conservative Party are about how we should spend more. Here we have another example of the same phenomenon——
§ Mr. Walden
Quite so, he talked about what he called new forms of violence, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the Leader of the Opposition also mentioned this in his speech, and said that it was absorbing police resources, the plain implication being that this had an effect on the number of policemen who could engage on catching criminals. This is a relevant point and, if it were true that the Government were acquiescing in new forms 1155 of violence, that would be a very serious charge.
I do not think the right hon and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East, whose speeches I always enjoy, should have put it like that and left it like that. I do not think for a moment that it is true. Nor do I think it follows that, if we looked at the statistics, the claim of the Leader of the Opposition would be borne out. If a party argument is to be made of this, it ought to be on the basis of four years of Labour Government and the last four years of Tory Government.
May I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman now and promise never to do so in the country? If I were to make the kind of speech that could be made in rebuttal, it would attempt to prove probably the equally foolish hypothesis that the Labour Party cares about putting down criminals whereas the Conservative Party does not. I could, for instance, cite that the increase in crime in London during the last four years has been 2.3 per cent., whereas in the last four years of the Conservative Government it was 7.9 per cent. The police strength in London in the last four years has gone up by 2,210, whereas under the Conservative Government it went up by 1,205.
I could cite that crime in the whole country has risen in the last four years by 4.8 per cent., whereas in the last four years of the Conservative Government it rose by 9.4 per cent. I could talk about police recruitment. Admittedly, we shall not have the figures until the end of March, but we do not need those figures to say that in the same four-year period under the Labour Government recruitment was 8,400, whereas in the last four years of the Conservative Government it was 6,400. So one could go on.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right; we can all play the numbers game. It is foolish for us to do so, but this was started by the Leader of the Conservative Party, who was justly and rightly corrected on this issue on Saturday by the Home Secretary. If the Conservative Party intends to pursue this issue, the Labour Party—which is a dangerous animal; it defends itself when it is attacked—will necessarily put its case with evidence, and, whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman likes it or not, we 1156 shall be trapped into indulging in the numbers game.
In response to my hon. Friend's Motion and the debate which he has initiated, the wisest things have been said by himself, by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Mary-lebone, when they have taken crime in a social context and divorced it from the question of law enforcement, which tends to be a separate issue, and stressed that it relates to morality and social ambiances, and that it is international. The rise in crime is international. The United States has appalling figures, New York has had incredible increases in crime, and so have Chicago and Los Angeles.
We shall be glad to hear the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone or his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition talking about that at any time. What we do not accept, and what arouses resentment in some of us, is that the issue should be presented in a way that at least appears to make a party issue of it. If it is, we shall retaliate in the same spirit.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I shall not follow the same line as the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden). It is obvious to anybody listening to the debate that it would have been far better if the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and the reply to it by the Home Secretary had not been made. The numbers game clearly does not improve our discussions of the matter in the House.
I entirely agree with the approach of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). In this and many other aspects he shows himself to be much superior to the Leader of the Opposition. I entirely agree with him when he says that we are really discussing what is a second best. When we talk of law enforcement we must realise that people commit crime basically because they do not accept current morality. One of the most shaking experiences I ever had was when appearing in a very serious case, to realise that I had no point of mental contact with the man I was defending. It was shaking to me when I discussed with him his alleged crimes to realise that he had no 1157 semblance of a background of morality against which he could judge the crimes with which he was charged, and he was unable to appreciate points that I put to him at all. He had no moral sense, no moral values. I realised then that there is an enormous problem arising from our anonymous society, when a man is conditioned by mass media and has no moral values of any kind and consequently takes seriously what a man with any vestige of morality would have been able to see in some kind of perspective.
The problem will increase if our civilisation continues to develop as it is at present. It is an enormous problem. One hon. Member mentioned that one category with which we are concerned consists of those with abnormal minds. One of the great concerns of our time should be not only abnormal or defective minds but moral defectives or amoral people with no sense of morality. We shall find them increasingly coming within the purview of the courts as they commit crimes of various kinds. We need a very detailed and careful analysis of the effect of mass media on the minds and actions of persons of this kind.
A second category mentioned consists of the hardened criminals. The great increase in calculated crime in our great cities is a matter of concern to all parties, and no party advantage should be taken of it. It is of the utmost importance that there should be sufficient police officers to meet this great threat, which clearly is a matter of common concern. As a society, we must be prepared to spend a great deal more money on this. The people involved are not those of abnormal minds. They calculate the risks. One of the reasons for the great increase is that, whether we like it or not, big crime does pay, and it will pay increasingly unless those responsible are brought to book. At present an unhappily small percentage are. While this happens there is an increasing attraction in that kind of life, with its easy gains.
I do not know, any more than any other hon. Member, what is the cause of the tremendous increase in crime throughout the world and the disregard for the rule of law. But what I know and feel very keenly is that one of the great requirements of our time is that all political 1158 parties should state boldly the necessity in this country for a return to the rule of law. I deliberately used the word "return". Personal freedom and democracy are possible for a sustained period in a country which obeys the rule of law. The twin pillars of democracy are freedom and order. Order is necessary to guarantee freedom. When there is, for example, a clash of freedoms, as there increasingly is in a sophisticated society, there must be order to sort out the consequences. By the rule of law I mean unequivocally that every person, institution and organisation is subject to the same law and must obey it. We provide democratic processes by means of which laws can be changed if necessary, and we must see that our processes are kept up to date and overhauled and changed as necessary. It is a fair criticism that many of our institutions need change, and that very often the Government and the governed are too remote from each other that they do not share, or do not appear to share, the same objects.
What is disturbing in the country generally is that so many of the public regard themselves as rather remote from the law and its values. When crime is committed, how many of them pass by and almost see it committed under their noses and do not think that it affects them as citizens? This is a very disturbing factor.
Equally disturbing are the increasing claims by various sections of the community to be outside or above the law. There should be a concerted effort by responsible people to ensure that it is understood and implemented that students, the trade unions, Government Departments, high officials, political leaders, employers' associations and many other institutions are all subject to the same law and must obey it. The claims sometimes made by Government officials to be in some way above the law—or the impression they create—are very disturbing. If we do not assert the rule of law but allow people to get away with violence, force, threats, arrogant assumptions of authority and so on, people will get so fed up that they will turn for protection to movements which are little concerned with such rights as individual freedoms. We have seen it in other countries, where Fascist Governments have come to power, just as Communist Governments have come to power, in the resulting chaos and disarrangement which 1159 has followed weak democratic Governments.
The essence of liberal government—I use the word "liberal" with a small "I", though it should be a large one—is that we not only believe in democratic government but believe that it should be strong democratic government. It does not follow that because we are a democracy we believe in weak government. An essential test of effective democratic Governments is whether they are strong, and this is a matter of politics. I entirely disagree: with the suggestion that we are concerned here only with a social problem and not a political problem. It is a political problem for the Government to see that the rights of people are properly safeguarded—I mean the rights of all people, not sections—and that everyone is subject to the rule of law.
The judiciary must be, as traditionally in our country it always has been, entirely independent. We must arrest the processes by which, sometimes almost with Government connivance, bodies can put themselves outside the jurisdiction of our courts for many purposes.
Unless the people feel that the rule of law is vitally important to their lives, unless there is that general feeling within society, we should not be surprised that we see a tremendous increase in organised crime. We should not be surprised if in our remote suburbs in the anonymous society we have a growth of 1160 people or of communities which do not seem to have——
§ Mr. Dewar rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
That this House, noting the growing public anxiety about the maintenance of law and order, deplores the increasing and dangerous distortions which result from the increasing tendency to present the problems of lawlessness in political rather than social terms.