§ 9. Mr. David Hunt
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to contain the rise in the number of acts of vandalism in urban areas.
§ 17. Mr. Lawrence
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to contain the rise in the numbers of acts of vandalism in urban areas.
§ 18. Mr. Anthony Grant
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to contain the rise in the numbers of acts of vandalism in suburban areas.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Brynmor John)
As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State stated in a reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) on 17th November, it was generally agreed at a conference that my right hon. Friend held in April that measures to counter vandalism are best planned and organised at local level. The Department is continuing work on research, publicity and the co-ordination of information, and is in touch with other Government Departments for those purposes.
§ Mr. John
There has been one report, published in 1975, the effect of which was to put forward practical suggestions. Over 18,000 copies of it have been distributed in order to deal with matters at local level. But I repeat to the hon. Gentleman, who does not seem to have understood my answer, that it is agreed by all people, including the relevant police forces and local authorities, that vandalism is best tackled at local level by local arrangements and co-ordination.
§ Mr. Hunt
Does the Minister agree that the increase in vandalism in areas like Merseyside is giving rise to increasing concern? If so, will he agree to take positive action to bring police establishment figures up to realistic levels, and also to take action to reform the Children and Young Persons Act so that we may have real protection for people and property?
§ Mr. John
The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question was so wide and generalised that I cannot possibly say that the reform of the Children and Young Persons Act would have any effect upon vandalism. In reply to the first part, I repeat what my hon. Friend has just said—that inner city and large city police strengths have gone up considerably, and that they are well above the level of three years ago.
§ Mr. Lawrence
Is the Minister aware that vandalism will be diminished only if offenders are put in fear of the consequences of being caught? What have his Government done to frighten young potential offenders away from committing crimes?
§ Mr. John
Quite apart from the fact that the Criminal Law Act, which increased penalties with regard to vandalism, has just been enacted by this House, I should have thought that the increase in police strength, and therefore the greater certainty of detection, was in itself a deterrent. But I readily concede that it is not for the police alone to deal with this matter; many other people need to co-operate in tackling vandalism, particularly parents and other members of society, by reporting acts of vandalism that they see.
§ Mr. Loyden
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the root causes of vandalism is the environment in which many young people live in inner cities, the level of unemployment among young people, and the lack of opportunities? Is it not a fact that until those matters are taken in hand and resolved, vandalism will continue to be a problem?
§ Mr. John
My hon. Friend says that the problem will not be solved until certain matters are resolved. I agree that part of the problem is as he said. I do not think that it is the sole cause of vandalism, unfortunately, but he will be 896 encouraged by the publication today of the Inner Urban Areas Bill.
§ Mr. John
I am informed by the Commissioner that overtime is a matter for his operational judgment. It is nothing to do with the Home Office, and I should have thought that as the new Commissioner has come in with universal praise he ought to be trusted in his judgments until evidence proves the contrary.