§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Lord Renton rose to call attention to the increase in crime, and to the problems involved in the maintenance of law and order, and to the need to strengthen and support the police; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the crime statistics recently published show that in England and Wales in 1981 there was a general increase of serious offences of 10 per cent. compared with 1980. Indeed, nearly 3 million serious offences were recorded by the police. More than half of those were crimes of theft and handling stolen goods. A quarter of the total were burglaries, which were up 16 per cent. There were nearly 500,000 robberies and thefts from the person, and they were up by 14 per cent. In London serious crime was up by 8 per cent. Over 630,000 serious offences were recorded here in the Metropolis and of those 18,700 were robberies and other violent thefts, including what are generally now called "muggings". Those robberies and other violent thefts were up by 34 per cent. In London there were nearly 145,000 burglaries, which were up by 15 per cent. Of course we remember that there were the Brixton disorders which we debated on 4th February, but I shall not cover that ground again. However, I am glad to see that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, will be speaking in the debate.
§ In England and Wales there were fewer homicides, woundings and sexual offences, but the crime figures for 1981 confirm the growing public anxiety about the crime wave, more especially because of the great increases in burglaries in people's homes and muggings in the streets. One must say that anxiety is further increased because only 38 per cent. of the offences brought to the notice of the police were cleared up. That compares with 40 per cent. or more in recent years. But, in fact, in 1981 over 1 million cases were cleared up in England and Wales compared with fewer than 900,000 in 1980. It is also worth noting that 97 per cent. of homicides were cleared up, and that is quite remarkable in view of what one sometimes reads in the newspapers. Moreover, 75 per cent. of woundings and 89 per cent. of shopliftings were cleared up, and perhaps that knowledge may discourage some people. Also, 99 per cent. of cases of handling stolen 968 goods were cleared up. However, despite those, to some extent, reassuring facts, there is deep anxiety caused by the fact that only 30 per cent. of burglaries, 25 per cent. of robberies and 14 per cent. of cases of theft from the person were cleared up. Those are the basic facts—the most recent that one can find—about the crime wave.
§ I am confident that this debate in your Lordships' House will be of value to all concerned including, one hopes, the long-suffering law-abiding general public. I suggest that the problem in England and Wales gives us enough to get on with. Indeed, that is where Home Office responsibility is engaged, and it is perhaps a fortunate coincidence that this week the Home Office is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its separation from the Foreign Office. I am glad to see that I shall be followed in the debate by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, who was himself, as I once was, Under-Secretary at the Home Office.
§ I suggest that we should not attempt to include in this wide-ranging debate the even worse problems of Northern Ireland. Nor should we surely include Scotland, because your Lordships will not wish to become embroiled in the Hillhead by-election where a former Labour Home Secretary has moved across the Border.
§ It is significant and valuable that so many of your Lordships intend to speak. We look forward especially to hearing the maiden speech of the Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane. I am sure that your Lordships will join with me in regretting that my old chief, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, is no longer with us to take part. I served with him in the Home Office for 4½ years, which was a long time for two ministerial colleagues to be together in one department. He was a great reforming Home Secretary, but let nobody imagine that he was other than firm in his policies for maintaining law and order—history records that. He never flinched in his lonely responsibility of deciding death sentences. We were desperately worried then, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, about the increase in crime, but it may surprise your Lordships to know that, compared with nearly 3 million serious cases in 1981, there were in 1961 only 806,900 serious offences recorded by the police. But we were desperately worried. In 1961 we had only 70,000 police in England and Wales; now there are 120,000. The Metropolitan Police then numbered 17,000; now they number 26,000. I make these comparisons to show that crime has increased remorselessly over the years, despite efforts to defeat it by having more and more police, better and better equipped.
§ Why has this happened? It is no consolation to record that most other countries have even more crime and disorder. But we must look a little to the causes—and I find it especially distressing that 50 per cent. of the offenders here are under the age of 21; 25 per cent. are aged 17 to 20, and 25 per cent. are aged 10 to 16. It so happens that because of high birth rates in the 1960s there are now more young people aged between 10 and 20 inclusive than ever before in our history, and they constitute a higher proportion of the population than ever. That may partly account for some of the increase in crime in the past three years.969
§ Let us consider for a moment those young offenders. To find excuses for them will not help. This is a point which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, made in the rather narrower context of his report. In my opinion, unemployment is not an excuse. Indeed, I doubt whether it was ever a major cause of crime. In the 1930s we had, relative to the size of the population, more unemployment than we have now. But there was very little crime then. In 1931 only 160,000—not 3 million—serious offences were recorded by the police in England and Wales. The only threat to public order in the 1930s was the British Union of Fascists, whose antics led to the Public Order Act 1936. Nearly a year ago the Government issued a Green Paper reviewing that Act and related legislation, and I hope that when my noble friend Lord Belstead speaks, he will tell us what the Government intend to do about the revision of that legislation.
§ One could speculate endlessly about the main causes of crime. More to the point, surely, is how to prevent it and what is being done about it. So I invite your Lordships to consider what the Home Secretary has done and is doing. As promised in the Conservative Manifesto at the last general election, the money spent on fighting crime—that is, expenditure on the police forces—has gone up tremendously. From £1,150 million in 1978–79, it will go up in this coming financial year, 1982–83, to £2,314 million—it has slightly more than doubled in four years. That more than takes account of the inflation which has taken place.
§ Secondly, increases in police pay were fully implemented as recommended by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, and his committee in 1979. The then Government decided that they should be increased from September of that year, but this Government decided that they should be backdated to 1st May, and they were. As a result, besides replacing the wastage of the last few years of the 1970s, we now have 8,500 more police than we did then. Every force in England and Wales is now up to its authorised establishment, except the metropolitan force, which is fast approaching it.
§ The Criminal Justice Bill is in Committee in another place. Its main purpose is to amend the powers of the courts with regard to sentencing young offenders contained in the 1961 Act, which I had to pilot through Committee in the other place. May I say that I rejoice that that is being amended. This new Bill gives mote flexible and effective powers to the courts, but it requires the courts to order parents or guardians to pay fines, compensation and costs incurred by their children or young people, unless it seems to the court to be unreasonable that they should be ordered to do so.
§ The short, sharp shock in detention centres, which was our policy in 1961, is to become shorter and sharper. Mr. Whitelaw has provided 35 more attendance centres, seven of them for older youths who are, of course, often the ringleaders. He has announced the building of eight new prisons, and that will be the biggest building programme since Lord Butler's in 1959. During the past six months the police have been fully equipped with anti-riot gear, and they are now 970 specially organised into squads for dealing with riots if necessary.
§ Surely those achievements and policies are a great credit to Mr. Whitelaw. He has himself a fine record of decisive and courageous service to the country in war and peace. He is not responsible for last year's increase in crime. Indeed, but for the measures that he has taken, it would, of course, have been even worse. A factor of great importance is that he has gained the confidence of the police, and their morale is high.
§ The Motion refers to the need to strengthen and support the police. We expect them to do a lot in addition to crime prevention and detection, and general law enforcement. Let us just consider this. They have to control traffic and, if possible, keep it moving. They have to patrol the roads on which over 5,000 people are killed year by year. They have to deal with terrorism and riots, and prevent clashes between extremist groups, whether they are taking part in processions, assemblies or otherwise. They have to keep order at football matches and deal with vandalism and violence on the terraces, which I am sorry to say again appears to be a prerogative of the young. Whenever there is a disaster, like floods or an aircraft crash, they are quickly on the spot and in charge of the situation. They have to do all those things on behalf of the people, and they deserve and need the full support of Parliament and the people all the time.
§ Of course, there are those on the extreme Left who want to destroy our society as we know it, and one of their principal methods is to be break the morale of the police. Indeed, as Mr. Wall said quite plainly and publicly, they would like to get rid of all judges and chief officers of police. I do not think that that would put the country right. But surely everyone else has a strong interest in encouraging the police. So let us consider what else should be done to help them.
§ First, I suggest that their establishments should be reviewed as a high priority. They were last approved years ago, and they need revising. I am glad to say that the police are now well equipped and that local government economies have not interfered with that; they have merely deferred some building programmes for the police. I hope that I shall not he considered too bold if I say that it is time that all local police committees should support their police forces without interfering with their operational methods. The police are professionals. They have a tradition of experience in dealing with these matters, and it really is not for amateurs, even democratically elected ones, to attempt to dictate to them.
§ Now I come to the question of what can the ordinary citizen do to help the police. There are people who feel like forming vigilantes, but I suggest they should be discouraged. However, we must remember that under the common law everyone has a duty to help the police when asked to do so, and everyone has both a right and a duty to arrest a criminal who commits a serious offence in his presence. However, having said that, I suggest to your Lordships that if people want to give active help to the police they should apply to become special constables. I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Belstead whether the Government have any definite policy for increasing the numbers of special constables.971
The great silent majority of law-abiding people can also help in other ways by bringing up their children decently with love and firmness, which I have always thought were inter-dependent. You cannot have one effectively without the other. Secondly, by setting an example of sober good behaviour. It was Edmund Burke who said:
Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at none other".
Thirdly, the public can help by protecting their own property better, whether it is bicycles, motor-cars, or their own homes, and the police can always give advice about that if necessary.
§ Then teachers have a part to play. They could encourage the police to give talks to the children in schools, and that might lead to better understanding and co-operation from the children. When teachers find that there is crime in schools, such as the protection rackets that we have read about, they should call in the police at once.
§ There are so many of your Lordships who, I am glad to say, are going to speak that I am going to curtail my remarks and conclude by saying this: It is a personal reminiscence which I hope may be forgiven. In 1959 the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey—after Lord Butler had introduced, with the help of the Churches, his Home Office paper, Penal Practice in a Changing Society, and had called the Churches and the youth organisations together—said to me that in his opinion those in authority could not solve the crime problems alone, and that the people themselves had to play their full part. What that wise man said in 1959 is, I believe, true for all time. We have a Home Secretary who is doing what he can do, and so are the police, and now it is up to the rest of us. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Lord Elystan-Morgan
My Lords, the House is deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for the opportunity of considering matters of great public concern and of current interest. I am sure that the House also is most appreciative of the balance and restraint with which the noble Lord has presented his argument. There are few here who would not accept the fundamental precepts of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. No sensible society can view rising levels of crime as other than a matter of the gravest concern. No responsible legislature should ever cease to be vigilant in relation to these issues. Every enlightened community would wish to add to the efficiency of its police forces. Crime figures, however, as we all know, tend to conceal rather more than they reveal.
The House will recollect the wise words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report on the question of crime statistics in general, when he said:Statistics—or at least the analysis of statistics—is not necessarily an exact science… Crime statistics, like any other statistics, need handling with care… It would be wholly reprehensible were police policy to he moulded on the basis of unsafe statistical generalisation".To those words of wisdom I am sure we add also the words of Sir James Crane, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, who a fortnight ago, on the publication of the annual statistics for Scotland 972 Yard and for the police in England and Wales, advised against instant comment.
My appeal today is that the House should take a cool, balanced look and not rush to over-simplistic conclusions concerning the data that we have before us. The figures published by both Scotland Yard and for the police forces of England and Wales outside the Metropolitan Police District are figures for reported crime, and that is important to bear in mind. No one disputes that those crimes referred to there have undoubtedly been committed, but no one knows what percentage they represent of crimes that have in fact been committed in the span of a year.
The Home Office in 1981 came to the sober conclusion that it might well be that as much as 90 per cent. of actual crime went unreported. The distinguished criminologist Sir Leon Radzinowicz in his study came to the conclusion that the figure was of the order of 85 per cent. Another distinguished criminologist and sociologist, Professor Howard Jones, came to the conclusion that it was of the order of 75 per cent. Clearly there seems to be every reason for believing that only a small fraction of crime is reported. It varies of course from one heading of crime to another.
When we look at annual statistics we must bear in mind that it may well be that the percentage of crime in relation to a certain heading that is in fact reported has changed from one year to the next, so that one is not of necessity comparing like with like. Indeed, there was the situation between 1949 and 1960 where crime figures for England and Wales were wholly artificially but quite genuinely inflated merely on account of different procedures of reporting. In the City of New York in 1950 there was a 400 per cent. paper increase in reported crimes of robbery merely on account of a different system of recording.
I do not pretend that one can, year by year, look at statistics of crime and say it might all be just a matter of statistical accident. The conditions that apply in relation to reporting from one year to the next have been fairly well settled, certainly over the last decade, and therefore all things being equal, there is most assuredly a sharp curve in the increase of most headings of crime. But beyond that I do not think too much should be read into the actual figure which appears for any one particular year.
It is customary for some to portray the crime situation as a continuing set-piece battle between police and criminals. Indeed, the whole approach of such people is governed by the situations and idioms of warfare. One person who is archetypal of that approach is Mr. James Jardine, chairman of the Police Federation, who, in a speech in Cardiff last week, said:When an army goes to war, generals put reinforcements into the field, including the cooks. The Police Service has got to go to war with the criminal and it is time we called up some of our own reserves".The implication in those words, and indeed in the whole speech of Mr. Jardine which has been given very wide publicity, is that if police officers were to be withdrawn from fringe duties and committed to battle stations, if they were backed by the legislature in providing more draconian penalties and if they were given further support by the courts in imposing more swingeing sentences, all would be well. I believe that to be a total fallacy.
973 In the first instance, uniformed officers by and large deal directly with criminal matters for only a minority of their time. A number of extremely interesting and valuable studies were carried out by and on behalf of the Home Office in the middle '70s with the Metropolitan Police and various provincial forces. To summarise those findings, the net conclusion seemed to be that most uniformed officers spent only between 30 and 35 per cent. of their time actually dealing with crime. It is most important for us to bear that in mind. The duty of a police officer is to uphold the Queen's peace. It is a wide-ranging duty. It means that police officers act in such a way as to enable society to indulge in its normal, lawful, peaceful occupations. The suppression and control of crime is an important part, but only one part, of that comprehensive duty.
Furthermore, I believe it is wholly erroneous to believe that the police, irrespective of whatever support they get by way of equipment, further numbers and other general support, can, by their own efforts—as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, made clear—regulate the level of crime. Sir Robert Mark, a former well known commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, not a person with whom I normally agree on all matters—save for the excellence of the heavy duty tyres of a certain brand; and Sir Robert is not a wet by any scale of political humidity—in a speech made recently and reported a few days ago in the Police Review called for—a reassessment of the long-standing general belief that the amount of crime is directly related to the number and efficiency of the police and the efficiency of criminal justice".He went on:A great deal of crime is simply not preventable. Even the biggest police force that society could want or afford to pay would be unlikely to have any significant effect on the number of thefts, burglaries or on crimes of violence between people who know each other".The clearest proof of that is in the figures published by Scotland Yard for the Metropolitan Police District for last year. The Metropolitan Police—I join with what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said by way of tribute to the Home Secretary, Mr. Whitelaw—due largely to Mr. Whitelaw's own efforts, now has 2,500 officers more than it had at the end of 1979. Of those, over 2,000 are directly on foot patrol in the streets. Nevertheless, there was in 1981 an overall increase in crime in the Metropolitan Police District of 8 per cent. Even more remarkable, arrests for that year compared with the previous year fell from 105,017 to 97,276. The detection rate fell from 20 to 16 per cent., the lowest ever recorded and probably, although I am not certain, the lowest recorded this century for any force in the United Kingdom. That compares with the figure for 1981 of 42 per cent. as the detection rate for the South-West force and 38 per cent. for the country as a whole.
It is, therefore, clear—I do not say this by way of condemnation of the Metropolitan Police; they have their own very special problems and they deal with a terrain that is unique—that addition to numbers is not by itself a solution. It may be that additions to foot patrols can, in relation to certain species of street crime, produce results. But they tend to be rather limited results, as research the world over shows, of short duration, and even to achieve those 974 results there has to be a very substantial deployment of added manpower. However, as I mentioned in the debate on the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, a few weeks ago, I believe there is a strong case for adding to the weight of foot patrols wherever reasonably possible, if only for the fact that even if the diminution in street crime is only modest, nevertheless the public genuinely feels it is getting better protection. That is invaluable in further cementing that bond of mutual trust between the police and the public at large.
It is perfectly clear from all the available statistics, and there are mountains of them, that sending more criminals to gaol is in no way a solution. In Britain, of all the countries of the. European Economic Community with the sole exception of Western Germany, we have a much higher percentage of our population in gaol; and again barring Western Germany, we have sentences which on average are longer than those in any of the countries of our EEC partners. Therefore, if the fact of sending persons to gaol were the test, or if longer sentences were the test, then we should be top of the European league so far as the suppression of crime is concerned. That is very far from being the actual situation.
In my submission, it is equally fallacious to suggest that there is a racialist basis for crime. That was the impression certainly given and, it seems to me, carefully fostered, by the publication by the Metropolitan Police a week or so ago of the analysis of figures for robbery and other violent crime broken down on a colour basis. As an analysis I believe it to be wholly misleading. I do not know whether it was calculated to poison race relations, but most certainly it seems to me that it runs the very high danger of doing exactly that. The figures for robbery and violent theft in the Metropolitan Police district represent 3 per cent. of the totality of all serious crime committed in that area. The figures for street robbery, or "mugging" as it is colloquially called, represent 0.9 per cent. of the totality. The main headings of crime were ignored. They are as follows: Vehicle crime—that is, the stealing of vehicles, stealing from vehicles, or the damaging of vehicles—31 per cent. of all serious crime; break-ins 23 per cent; and simple theft 26 per cent; making a total of 76 per cent.
Neither was anything said as to the colour of the victims in relation to the street robberies. The data were collected on the basis of the estimate that was made by the victim in his report of the colour of the assailant. The point has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that, in the United Kingdom at the moment, as compared with earlier periods, we have a disproportionately high percentage of young people. As is well known, coloured communities have a very much higher percentage of young people who are, as it were, candidates for crime on an age basis.
In my submission it is utterly meaningless from a statistical point of view to publish such data. What assistance would it be for us to he told that the vast majority of "muggers" in the city of Glasgow were white? The information has no significance whatsoever, unless it is related to the colour breakdown of the very area in which it occurs.
By whose authority were these figures published? At what level was the decision to publish them made? 975 I am sure that the House would very greatly welcome a statement dealing with that particular question by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, when he winds up. Were the figures published in retaliation against Lord Scar-man for the balanced and fair criticism that he gave? Whatever the motivation in relation to the Brixton riots, whatever the motivation, the conclusion that any fair-minded person, looking at the delicate situation which exists in so many of these areas, would come to is that it was an act of monumental irresponsibility.
So far the police generally are concerned, as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has said, we expect a very great deal of our police officers. We expect even of rather raw recruits that they should show a finely balanced diplomatic judgment, sometimes having to be made within a matter of seconds rather than minutes, and, as often as not, acting alone without the company of colleagues.
We accept and understand that there are feelings of frustration among the police, feelings of frustration that are not assisted by some of the lurid campaigns in relation to law and order that are carried out by certain less responsible sections of the popular press. It is a situation which calls for wisdom and leadership. At the moment, there is nothing easier than to lead the police into a stockade of isolation and bitterness, and a heavy responsibility lies upon the shoulders of senior officers and political spokesmen alike.
One hallmark of a free and enlightened society is that the police should be accountable to the public. They are not a gendarmerie, as they are in some countries, they are not a corps d'élite, entitled to exercise overlordship over a supine populace. To be accountable to the public, they must be answerable to publicly-elected persons, who are themselves in turn responsive to public opinion. I should like to quote again from the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. He stated:Accountability is the constitutional mechanism which can provide the backing [for responsibility] for it renders the police answerable for what they do. Thereby it prevents them from slipping into an enclosed fortress of inward thinking and social isolation, which would in the long term result in a siege mentality".Against such principles, we look with great trepidation at the remarks of Mr. Anderton, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, and his proposals that elected members should be abolished from police authorities and replaced by persons appointed bureaucratically.
Another contributor to this particular debate, which raged last week, was the right honourable James Callaghan, who spoke with all the authority, as befits him, of a former Prime Minister and, more than that, of a former Home Secretary who, if I may say so, achieved a very great deal by way of firmness and indeed humanity in that distinguished bed of nails that is called the Home Office. Indeed, he speaks also as one who had the benefit of being for many years the parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation.
As the House will recollect, his proposals were to the effect that the Home Secretary should no longer exercise the traditional dictatorial powers that all Home Secretaries have used in relation to the Metropolitan Police district, but that there should be an elected police authority on the basis of the local councils. That proposal, though it goes much further than the pro- 976 posals for consultation contained in the Scarman Report, is nevertheless broadly in the same direction, and I commend their merit to the House. At the moment the citizens of London have no direct say in regard to policing functions. As ratepayers they have no voice whatsoever with regard to police financing.
Time will not allow me to mention the tangent to this debate about law and order that has again been raised by Mr. Jardine of the Police Federation in relation to the reintroduction of hanging. May I just say this; All the statistics are against the argument that the reintroduction of capital punishment would save human life to any degree. But this is not essentially an issue of statistics. It is a moral issue. It is an issue of whether a state is entitled to say of any man or woman that he or she is irredeemable. It is an issue of whether a state is entitled, in a ritual way, cold-bloodedly to take the life of a murderer. It is an issue of whether a state demeans itself by barbarism.
I am sure that there is no noble Lord or noble Baroness in this House who would advocate that, where a criminal has caused the loss of an eye of a fellow citizen, a court should order that the criminal's eye should be removed surgically as a penalty. That would be obscene and barbarous. How much more obscene and barbarous, say those of us who are against capital punishment, to take the whole of human life!
My Lords, there is no single policy or group of policies that can be acceptable to a free society and at the same time can guarantee to reduce the level of crime. Crime, like ill-health, does not stem from a single source but originates from a multifarious variety of sources. Perhaps the one thing that we can be certain of is that a community's crime pattern mirrors certain deeplying volcanic aspects of that community's life. Yet there is no formula that can assist us, for it is difficult to identify the relevant factors, let alone to quantify their respective influence.
I, like many, was shocked by the statement made by the Prime Minister in another place last week that she could see no correlation whatsoever between a high level of crime and the highest level of unemployment that our community has suffered for the last 50 years. Does the Prime Minister expect that millions of homes can be visited by the blight of actual or threatened unemployment, with all the despair, frustration and disruption that such entails, without spawning the conditions for added crime?
Governments (more often of the Right) the world over are often tempted to lash the public into frothy fury in relation to its fears in the context of law and order. Such a ploy can be a powerful distraction from failures in the field of economic and social policies. But, my Lords, in a mature democracy such as ours, such subterfuges are fraught with peril for those who resort to them. In the heady atmosphere of an election, the temptation to concentrate on law and order as a main issue is often very great. The forfeit, however, soon has to be paid when the air is heavy with robust chicks coming home to roost. If the party opposite suffer on account of the issue of law and order, they have no one but themselves to blame. Law and order is not the monopoly of any one party; it is the concern of the whole community, which, in the end, by its own values, its own outlook, its own attitudes, inevitably determines its own crime laws.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, too, should like to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important topic this afternoon. I should also like to add, by way of introduction, if I may, that if a cat may look at a king it is, I am sure, in the tradition of your Lordships' House that a cat might be entitled to say with what eager enthusiasm he looks forward to the king's maiden speech, which is to follow shortly.
My Lords, the figures that have been quoted are of course disturbing. Attempts have been made in some quarters to fudge them in one way or another, or to offer what I think are rather specious criticisms to the effect that they may not be entirely accurate in one respect or another. But I believe it is beyond argument that the figures disclose a substantial increase in crime in this country. That is not a new development. For example, I have the figures for the five-year period from 1971 to 1976, when in this country there was a 28 per cent. increase in the number of offences of which the police were informed.
I mention that five-year period because it happens to he the last five-year period for which similar figures are available for some of the other countries in the European Community. As against that 28 per cent. there was in West Germany an increase of 25 per cent., in France 40 per cent. and in the Netherlands 70 per cent. That is a trend that has continued up to the present day. The diligence and research of the crime correspondent of the Daily Telegraph has made it quite clear that that has continued and, indeed, increased in almost every western European industrial society. The Daily Telegraph appears to have missed (and I can understand why) the recent announcement in Pravda that apparently the number of muggings in Moscow has also trebled recently.
The significance, I think, is this. It means that in every Parliament of our democratic friends there must be debates similar to this taking place at about this time. That, I think, means that there are obviously deep-seated underlying causes of this steady increase in crime throughout a great part of the world for many years past. That in turn, I think, means that we are not going to do very much more than make an extremely modest contribution concerning the problem that faces us if we try to deal with the situation in terms that are peculiar to the conditions in this country. To take a simple example, if the number of muggings is going up in Brussels, in Moscow, in Paris and in London, it is not I think going materially to solve the problem to start talking about whether we have the question of the short, sharp, shock treatment precisely right in this country.
There are, I think, far more profound influences at stake. I appreciate that the subject of the debate this afternoon does not require any very detailed analysis of those influences, but I do not believe that they can be ignored altogether. Those influences start, I think, from the fact that in recent years moral values—a sense of right and wrong—have really been replaced by the words, "What you can get away with" and "Whether you might get found out". That arises in a number of ways. It arises, I think, partly because of the decline in the influence of organised religion—and I am sorry that none of the right reverend Prelates 978 on the Benches opposite is able to help us, as they might perhaps have done, in the course of our discussions this afternoon.
It arises very largely from the fact that the influence of the home is so much less than it used to be: partly, I suppose, because it has now become so much easier for any party to a marriage to break up the marriage without any substantial grounds if he or she thinks it is advantageous to do so; partly because of the tendency for wives to go out to work and therefore not to be at home in order to control, influence and guide their children; partly from the fact that in our schools no real provision is made for teaching children to respect law and order; partly from the growing influence of drink and of drugs among young people; partly, I believe, from the fact that on television they are subject to a monotonous diet of violence, both in fictional and factual programmes; and partly, I feel bound to add, because there are far too many people in public life in this country who quite openly say that the law is there to be defied if it pleases them to do so.
I must confess myself deeply perturbed at that development in recent times, and at the way in which—and I am sorry if my friends in the Labour Party take offence at this—those people are being sheltered inside the ranks of that party at the moment instead of being driven out into the wilderness where they belong.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, before the noble Lord continues, I wonder whether he will allow a protest to be made at that. There are many of us who have made it perfectly clear that we do not tolerate in the slightest degree those who wish to promote law-breaking or lack of respect for those properly in charge of law and order in this country. That protest has been made very loud and very clear.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for that intervention. When I read that a single such advocate has been expelled from the Labour Party then I shall be more impressed by that observation.
There are those factors and a whole series of environmental factors, too, which are common, I think, to many of our western societies and which have a bearing on this problem. There is unemployment and it is, I think, quite absurd to attempt to deny that it plays its part. It is the boredom created by unemployment that leads youngsters to seek from time to time the excitement that gives rise to crime and violence. There is, curiously enough, also the boredom created by employment. Sometimes it is not easily appreciated how monotonous and repetitious some work can be for people engaged on mass production lines; and one can perhaps understand their desire when they come out from their work of an evening to do something which is more active and which gives scope for their energy in, as it turns out, a wholly undesirable way.
There is the wholly undesirable lack of adequate leisure facilities and opportunities for young people in particular in which they can occupy themselves in their spare time. There is from time to time the influence of had housing, the influence, happily in a now small section of our community, of sheer poverty. All these factors have contributed in recent years to 979 the increase in crime here, and in other countries as well.
My first plea today is that if that is right, if among what I have said are some of the fundamental causes, then it is time we began to research on a much more substantial scale and, if possible, by international action, and not merely national action in this country, to see what steps can be taken to remedy the position. It is against that background that I join with the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, in wondering what significance there was in the publication of the recent figures as to the number of black people committing offences in London. I do not dispute the accuracy of the statistics. I just cannot help wondering what was the point of them. If one cared to analyse by socio-economic class—or whatever the current jargon is—those who commit the offence of mugging on the London streets, one would find inevitably that it was the poorer people rather than the wealthier people who were committing these offences.
If one takes a particularly deprived section of the community where there is real unemployment and a real lack of parental control and where on many occasions there is poverty, and where there are feelings of discrimination, it is hardly surprising that a substantial number of those people should be found to be committing offences. I do not dispute the accuracy of the figures in any way, but I found it pointless to produce them in the way that they were produced.
Having commented on the deeper, underlying forces as I see them, may I come to the other aspect of the matter to see whether we can make some modest contributions in the short run—and I think that they can only be modest contributions—to solving the problems that we face in this country. The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, calls attention to the need to support the police and to strengthen the police. I should have thought that that goes without saying among every responsible section of society. Of course, the police must be brought up to strength where they are not so now. It may be that there is a case for considering the establishments and increasing the strengths. There is no doubt that a contribution was made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, which has assisted very materially in that respect. I think too, that, in order to strengthen the police, we have to integrate them into the community in a way that we have so far completely failed to do.
I do not want to repeat the arguments which I put forward recently when there was a debate on the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, on the Brixton disorders. I believe that we have to cease to treat the police as a separate part of society and to try to get them appreciated by everyone as friends, as people upon whom they can rely and with whom they are willing to co-operate. I am sorry, although perhaps it is too late now to put back the clock, that the smaller borough police forces apparently have gone forever, where there was a loyalty to a particular area which does not exist among police officers in the wider areas in which they now serve. I am sorry that the village police officer is now, to some extent, a thing of the past, and I hope that ways can be found to reintroduce that concept. I am delighted to find that the idea of taking 980 police officers off the beat in the interests of mechanised efficiency has been over-turned and that, at last, police officers are beginning to go back on to the beat. We must take steps to encourage the ethnic minorities to have their representatives in the police force. We must endeavour in a whole variety of ways to try to get the police accepted as part of the community. I support very much the message of the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall; although I am perhaps a little surprised at the medium that he last chose in which to put that message forward.
With that kind of community policing, there must arise the whole question of the accountability of the police. Clearly, they must be accountable to someone. Clearly in a body of police officers, among whom inevitably because of the nature of the difficult task they have to perform, there are bound to be some with, perhaps, authoritarian tendencies. Clearly, there must be a responsible body to whom they are accountable. How we devise such a body is a matter of the greatest difficulty. I can understand Mr. Anderton's recent observations; I can understand his frustration when he finds a situation about to arise for the first time in which responsible police officers may find themselves accountable to local authorities, many of whose members do not believe in law and order at all.
If I may again query what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, I appreciate there are great problems in this capital city. I appreciate that there is a very interesting argument as to whether the Metropolitan Police should be responsible directly to the Home Secretary or not, but I hope that your Lordships will agree with me that whoever the Metropolitan Police are to be responsible to, perhaps Mr. Livingstone would not be the ideal choice.
I turn for the last minute or so of what I wanted to say to the issue of whether by, in some way, revising our concepts of punishment, we can materially affect the incidence of crime. I start from this: that I do not believe that severity of punishment, in itself, let alone the brutality of punishment, in itself, is a deterrent in more than a very minute number of cases. I can understand those who want to hang and flog and mutilate criminals; because I can understand that there are people who will temporarily feel somewhat better when that has been done. But I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that that type of punishment, all experience shows, has no significant effect at all on the crime rate.
To take the obvious example—hanging terrorists is really not going to reduce the amount of terrorist activity. I dare say that hanging drunken motorists might materially reduce the number of motorists who venture forth with too much to drink. But I suspect that your Lordships will agree with little argument that simply to increase the severity of punishment is not in itself going to deter crime and to prevent the increase of crime that we have seen in recent times.
I agree too with the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that apart from the statistical argument about deterrents, the fact is that we are—and are proud to remain—a civilised society. If we are to remain a civilised society, then however uncivilised some criminals 981 may be, and however much they may be seeking to destroy our civilised society, I believe that we have to be true to our own society and treat them in a way that can be only described as civilised.
All my own experience in the courts has led me to the view that sentences of imprisonment have a very limited effect on a very limited class of people. I know of very few people who have come out of prison any better than they went into it, and I strongly suspect that for all the efforts that are made by an enlightened prison service the reforming clement of a prison sentence is really almost entirely non-existent.
I do not believe that prison sentences on the whole deter other people from committing offences. The value of a prison sentence I believe is quite simply that so long as a person is in prison, he is not going to commit further offences. I believe therefore that there are grounds for distinguishing very sharply between those people who have to be sent to prison for long periods of time in order to protect the community from their activities and the rest of the people who commit offences for whom it is not necessary to deal in that way. I am happy to sec that in many ways the Rome Secretary has endeavoured to encourage much shorter sentences among people of that sort, and indeed to try to encourage the courts not to send to prison at all such people as drunks and prostitutes, the people who do not pay fines and petty thieves, and so forth.
I hope too that the Home Secretary will consider substantially relieving the gross squalor and overcrowding in our prisons and I would still suggest, if I may, that perhaps the simplest way of doing that, and the one that I think would be acceptable by the judiciary and the public at large, is that the remission rate should be increased from the present third to a figure of a half. It would at once allow a certain number of people their liberty and at once enable the overcrowding in prisons to be relieved.
My Lords—I was going to say "like other noble Lords" but that would be offensive—I have spoken too long on this particular subject, particularly when there is a substantial list of speakers to follow. I venture to hope that we shall take a long, cool look at the underlying causes of the increase in crime. I hope that, without in any way encouraging the hysteria that is in some danger of developing on this subject, we shall in your Lordships' House this afternoon be able to make some modest contributions towards solving the very difficult problem with which we are faced.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for introducing this debate today, and especially because in his speech my noble friend—and indeed the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Elystan-Morgan and Lord Wigoder—showed very clearly that the problems of crime must be met, and must be anticipated, on a variety of different fronts. When the Government came into office, we were committed by our manifesto to support the police; to keep securely in custody those who are a danger to the public; to provide a wide enough range of sentences to enable the sentence of the court to fit the crime; and we made clear our recognition of 982 the claims of victims of crime. If the old saying that "actions speak louder than words" has any truth, let me remind your Lordships of what my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has done to fulfil those pledges, even though I repeat some of the generous words which were spoken by my noble friend Lord Renton.
Acting immediately upon the recommendations of the committee under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, my right honourable friend has ensured a transformation in the pay and recruitment of the police service. Today there are well over 8,000 more police officers in England and Wales than when the Government came into office, and I ask the House to reflect on the importance of that single fact. During a time of recession, more has been spent on fighting crime, a factor of great importance both to the police and the public. And we are talking of very large sums of money. Next year the expenditure on the police will represent an increase of £832 million or 56 per cent. over police expenditure for two years ago. We have now started a programme for building new prisons greater than any other attempted this century, accompanied by substantial projects for improvement of the old buildings in which the prison service has to operate.
My noble friend spoke of crime committed by young people. In the Criminal Justice Bill, which is yet to be considered by your Lordships, we are providing the courts with a proper range of custodial sentences for young offenders; we are strengthening the power of magistrates when dealing with children already subject to care orders or whom the court wishes to put under supervision and we are placing more responsibility upon parents, where we believe the responsibility should lie, for the behaviour of their children.
At the same time my right honourable friend has consistently shown his determination to provide effective ways of keeping young people out of custody whenever possible. That is why there are now some three dozen more attendance centres than when my right honourable friend came into office and why the Criminal Justice Bill provides for extending community service of 16-year-olds. And because the work of the probation service is central to this objective, my right honourable friend has secured extra resources for more probation officers. Although today's Motion focuses on the police and crime it is vital to recognise that effective policing is one part of a system of criminal justice and that my right honourable friend's responsibilities are not piecemeal but right across the board. I believe he has shown his determination to discharge his responsibilities in full.
My noble friend's debate today is a forceful reminder of the substantial problems of law and order. We place on the police services the onerous duty of preserving the Queen's peace, and sustaining public tranquillity. That very phrase calls both for steadiness in facing the problems and determination to mobilise all our resources to overcome them. The Government are very conscious of the need to listen to what your Lordships have to say in this debate. Those people who apparently believe that good order and good government would be advanced by abolishing your Lordships' House would do well to reflect that this debate today attracts speakers representing a variety 983 of experience of our criminal justice and penal systems, including the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice—to which we are looking forward so much—and, of course, the two noble and learned Lords who are responsible for two of the most significant reports on police matters made in recent years.
Within the overall responsibility for law and order the prevention and detection of crime is a primary task of the police. The importance of the recommendations of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, lies not only in the rapid increase in police strength, but in the reversal of the damage which was being caused during the 1970s by the loss of large numbers of experienced officers. But the full effect of these improvements has yet to be felt. Especially in city areas, new young officers have to gain experience and the police and Government are fully engaged at the moment in re-examining training and the whole approach to supervision and management.
Two weeks ago the Metropolitan Police announced that in 1981 serious offences recorded in London rose by 8 per cent. compared with the previous year, and the corresponding rise nationally in 1981 was 10 per cent.; but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that global figures of this kind do not tell us the whole story. A traditional measure of the violence of a society used to be its murder rate. The figure of 559 homicides recorded in 1981 is appreciably lower than the numbers recorded in 1979 and 1980. The number of sexual offences recorded in 1981 was also lower than for some years. On the other hand, the number of robberies recorded in 1981 rose disturbingly by about one-third in comparison with 1980. The figure now amounts to about 40 robberies in the year for each 100,000 of the population. That is far too high, of course, though it is worth bearing in mind—as a warning and not as a solace—that according to FBI figures for 1980, at 244 robberies per 100,000 of the population, the rate in the United States of America was six times greater.
Street robbery and burglary are the crimes by which law-abiding people feel most threatened. These crimes not only cause distress to their victims but they spread fear in the locality. There may be reasons for this, but no excuse; and I can do no better than repeat the words of Lord Scarman written in the context of his report:The law is the law. It extends to all and it must be applied firmly and fairly.I had intended to say a word, if your Lordships allow me to speak again at the end of the debate, about the Metropolitan Police statistics, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, specifically raised the point, I feel bound to say that in view of the public concern about robbery and violent theft, it is better in the Government's view for problems to be discussed in terms of as many facts as possible rather than entirely on the ground of rumour.
§ Lord Belstead
So far as the Government are concerned, we showed in our racial attack study, which 984 was published by my right honourable friend some months ago, that we wished to get at the facts and then to publish them. We are not now going to turn round and criticise the Metropolitan Police when they are doing very much the same thing, because the police do need to know as much as possible about the sorts of crimes that are taking place. And all those with influence in our communities need to face as many of the facts as can be gathered in order to turn away from crime people of all races who live in those communities. That is why my right honourable friend is doing all he can to ensure that the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, regarding liaison committees are put into practical effect.
In dealing with all forms of crime, it is of course the police who are in the front line and it is important to recognise their achievements. Against terrorism and major crimes we have good reason to be proud of the police record. It was only three weeks ago that the Essex police handled the dangerous situation at Stansted with skill and efficiency; and for the more serious crimes the record of detection is very high. Last year 97 per cent. of the homicides were cleared up. Eighty per cent. of offences involving danger to life were cleared up, as were 73 per cent. of all sexual offences.
Against the general run of street crime, too, special measures can be and are being taken. We shall very much miss Sir David McNee's sterling qualities when he retires as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in October; but of course we welcome the appointment, announced now, of Sir Kenneth Newman as his successor. The commissioner, with the full support of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, attaches great importance to getting policemen back on to the beat; and it has been the continuing high rate of recruitment to the force which has enabled him to pursue this policy with considerable success.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, recommended increasing the number of foot patrols whenever possible. Over 900 officers have now been released from mainly internal or civilian duties in the Metropolitan Police for operational street duties. There are more men on the beat; and there are also CID patrols in plain clothes. To give one example from outside London, by using small teams of detectives working solely on street crimes, and by concentrating on small areas with a bad record of these offences, the West Midlands Force has achieved an encouraging reduction in the number of street crimes committed in recent weeks. That is just one example of a positive and effective police response to this problem. And of course a likely advantage of the fast-growing home beat system of policing is improved intelligence about those who commit these local crimes.
It is therefore in the interests of the law-abiding community that crime prevention should be recognised for its great importance. The Government thought it right, despite opposition in both Houses, at the same time as abolishing the "sus" offence in the Criminal Attempts Bill during the last Session of Parliament, to make interfering with a car a specific offence. In view of the further increase in the crime statistics of thefts from and thefts of motor vehicles, I am certain that the introduction of this new offence has been justified. 985 In this, as in other areas of crime, the public really must have the protection of the law. But if, in addition, people will take their own safety precautions and will seek advice, which will be readily given, from local police crime prevention officers, a great deal more can be achieved to prevent crime.
I would like to pay tribute to the work of crime prevention panels which exist in force areas. There are about 180 of them in England and Wales and their activities extend far beyond simple security of property. In some areas retailers use the medium of their panels to organise together very effictively against shop theft. In many areas the panels are part of the police campaign to try to educate children on the dangers of crime. In others, a major meeting of a panel will provide an opportunity for magistrates and special constables to come together, also with regular officers, always with the same objective in view: how to work together to reduce the level of crime. May I say that the Government attach great importance to the special constables. My noble friend Lord Renton asked specifically about this. We believe that special constables represent all that is best in voluntary service. In the hard-pressed metropolitan areas numbers have shown an increase. Let us have more of them.
The police need the understanding and full support of the public. This must be a two-way process—for the police, to explain what the problems are and how they are tackling them: for the public, a readiness to listen, to recognise the problems and to support action to deal with those problems. We are all in this together. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, stressed, policing by consent is an integral part of all aspects of police work and not something which can be put into a separate box labelled "Community Relations".
Of course, the process of consultation is not new. It already goes on between chief constables and their police authorities and in London, at local level, between senior officers and locally elected representatives. But, following Lord Scarman's recommendations, we have been pressing ahead with a programme designed to encourage police authorities and chief constables to establish local consultation arrangements with wider local representation. It has been an encouraging start that, following an initiative by my right honourable friend, a new consultation group for Lambeth has already held two meetings. Home Office officials are now engaged on a series of visits to selected force areas outside London to study what is happening there, and to discuss how liaison committees should operate both inside and outside London in the future.
Therefore, there is nothing really new in this, although, of course, the noble and learned Lord gave it a most valuable emphasis and interpretation; and there is nothing in it to undermine the operational independence of the police. On the contrary, an officer is surely at his most effective when he knows his local community. And people can make a major contribution to the reduction of crime, provided they stand ready to support the work of the police. That, we believe, is the central aim of consultation.
People can also assist the victims of crime. It was my right honourable friend the Home Secretary who began Government finance for the National Association 986 of Victims' Support Schemes, which co-ordinates the admirable voluntary work of the 140 victims' support schemes up and down the country, and this year we were able to increase our grant. Of course, it is the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which pays public money to victims of crime; to the value of over £21 million last year—a scheme which we have now extended to victims of violence in the home. In the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill, we are placing greater weight on the power of the courts to order the payment of compensation by the criminal, and we are uprating the maximum fines for offences in the magistrates' courts to more realistic levels.
The Motion before the House reminds your Lordships of the range of responsibilities which the police face, and these must include response to public disorder. Following the riots last summer, the police are now better equipped to deal with public disorder. At the same time, the police service have given urgent thought to changes needed in training and tactics, and in doing this they have been able to build on the action which my right honourable friend set in hand two years ago, following the disorder in Bristol. It was then that my right honourable friend called for a thorough and urgent examination of the arrangements for handling spontaneous public disorder, and subsequently that work has been carried forward. At the same time, if I may respond to my noble friend Lord Renton on this point, we are considering urgently the needs of public order legislation and we are doing this in the context of comments upon our Green Paper, of the Report of the Select Committee of another place and of the implications of the events of last summer.
The manpower resources which the Government have made available to the police are now at an all-time high and the service as a whole is using this opportunity both to rebuild the earlier experience that was lost, and to put more men back on the beat. Chief officers and the Government recognise that, despite all that has been achieved, there has to be a comprehensive approach to tackling the enormously varied demands which flow from crime. My right honourable friend looks particularly to the advice and professional leadership which Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary can give in carrying out their crucial task of assessing efficiency and spreading good practice in the use of police resources. But throughout this range of activity we cannot, and must not, look to the police alone to solve problems which require a much broader response. That is why my right honourable friend has taken, and will take, further action across the board of the criminal justice system. In relation to police powers, we will seek to modernise and clarify the law. In the Criminal Justice Bill, additional powers are provided for the courts to deal with crime. In our prisons, we have started to reverse the slide in capacity caused by years of neglect in giving too low a priority to building and places.
But beyond that, we need positive action from agencies outside the criminal justice system and from the community as a whole—the ability to look at things afresh, while remaining steady in our support for the institutions which we all prize. That is my right honourable friend's determination, and I hope it will be the thrust and tone of this debate.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Lane
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence and trepidation to address your Lordships in this arena which, for me, is unfamiliar. Please forgive me if I unwittingly break any of your Lordships' rules. Your Lordships' attention has been directed properly to the courts, to the police and to statistics. So far as statistics are concerned, I propose to say nothing, except that they are mostly misleading and very largely unintelligible. So far as the police are concerned, I just wish to say that they can operate only with the consent and with the active help of law-abiding citizens. What can destroy the efficacy of the police more quickly than anything else is the undermining of their authority by people who ought to know better.
As to the courts I wish, if I may, to say a little. Judges are a popular target for all kinds of different people. They are an attractive target, because they make good copy and they are a target which very seldom has the opportunity of answering back, which increases its popularity. Within these past very few days the judges have been heavily and almost hysterically criticised for passing too lenient sentences; they have also been criticised heavily for passing too severe sentences and, of course, it is quite impossible for judges to do right.
What they are trying to do at the moment is this. They are trying to reduce prison sentences, wherever that is possible, and there are two main reasons for those efforts. The first reason is that it has become apparent, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has already said, that prison never did anyone any good. It is remarkable how the attitude of the experts, the criminologists and those who seek to advise judges has changed over the last very few years. There is a book called, The Sentence of the Court, which is a semi-official publication meant to provide guidance for judges sentencing criminals. The edition of 1969, page 40, reads as follows:The disadvantages of short sentences are particularly marked, as it is impracticable in a space of a few months to give a person any effective remedial treatment".That is a belief which, happily, has perished and judges up and down the country now undoubtedly realise, and need no encouragement to realise, that the shorter a sentence can be the better.
First, is it possible to keep a man out of prison altogether? If so, well and good. If he has to go to prison, then how short can the sentence be? That is the principle upon which judges are now operating. There is a second reason. It is a subsidiary, but nevertheless an important reason, and it is this. If the prison system were to break down, then all of us—judges, your Lordships and the rest of the population—would inevitably suffer catastrophe. From that practical point of view as well, it is up to judges, so far as they can within the limits of their duties, to keep sentences down. But there is a limit to what judges can do in that respect. Certain criminals have to be met with prison and certain crimes have to he met with substantial prison sentences, partly to deter others—one must not underestimate the effect of the deterrent upon other would-be criminals—and partly to prevent the citizen from taking the law into his own hands, an aspect which is sometimes overlooked but which is nevertheless of great importance if anarchy is not to 988 reign. Consequently, offences of violence, whether they be violence with weapons, knives, guns or sexual violence, have to be met with terms of imprisonment, often severe terms of imprisonment.
The difficulty so far as the prisons are concerned is demonstrated by some of the figures which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, earlier gave to your Lordships. A quite considerable proportion of valuable prison space is taken up by the young recidivist burglar. Of all the crimes which excite among the ordinary citizen horror and fear, and sometimes nervous breakdowns, the burglary of private dwelling houses ranks very high indeed. It is simply not open to the courts—indeed, it would be a dereliction of their duty if they were to start treating those young recidivist burglars with kid gloves. They have got to be sent to prison, if only for the brutal reason, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said, that so long as they are in prison they are not terrifying householders and stealing householders' goods.
May I try to explode one myth which recently has gained currency in the media: that the judges thwarted Home Office liberal penal proposals by threatening to increase sentences in retaliation against the proposals. They did nothing of the sort. The facts are these. The proposal was that all sentences of, I think, three years and less should be divided into three: a third should be spent in prison, a third should be spent on what is called supervised release and a third should be the subject of remission. So the actual term served in prison would be precisely one-third of that which the judge imposed. There was to be no opportunity for a judge to non-apply the system if he thought the criminal ought to stay inside longer for the protection of the public. The judge consequently would have been in a hopeless dilemma in many cases: should he obey the dictates of Parliament and pass the sentence which was originally in his mind, knowing that only a third would be served, or should he increase the sentence—contrary to the wishes of Parliament?
That proposal was mooted first of all at the judicial seminar in September at Roehampton. That seminar was attended by judges of all ranks from all over the country dealing with criminal matters and it was rejected by them unanimously. I took the liberty of seeking the views of the senior Lords Justices presiding in the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. They also were unanimously opposed to it and I am very glad to say that the proposal was dropped. But we did not thwart anyone, nor did we threaten anyone.
May I just say, with reference to something which was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, that there is a danger in the automatic reduction of all sentences in the way which he suggests. It is necessary if you are going to do that simply to relieve the prisons, to give to judges some opportunity of non-applying it in cases where somebody has got to be kept out of circulation in order to protect householders and ordinary citizens from meeting the fate which earlier victims met.
Finally, may I say that neither police nor courts nor prison can solve the problem of the rising crime rate. By the time that the criminal falls into the hands of the police, and more particularly by the time that he reaches court, it is too late. The damage has been 989 done. The remedy, if it can be found, must be sought a great deal earlier. Again I am repeating something which your Lordships have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. But what has happened is that the sanctions have all gone: the parental sanction has gone; the religious sanction has gone; the social sanction has gone; the financial sanction has gone; the employment sanction has gone—and so on. It is now very bad psychologically for anybody to have a bad conscience, a guilty conscience. Nothing has been found yet to replace it.
Quite apart from those disincentives which have gone, we are now faced with positive incentives to commit crime, in the shape of violence, depicted on screens of all sizes, and the depiction of acquisitiveness and greed. All these things are religiously imitated. And they are religiously imitated by the youngsters who form such a very large proportion of the statistics. Not only that, one would only have to sit for a short time in my court in the Strand to realise the imitative effect of the huge increase in the sale of pornography The rarefication and the recondite type of sexual behaviour which now accompanies sexual crime is almost unbelievable, and it is quite obviously traceable to the glossy imports which come into this country, disguised as Danish bacon or Dutch tomatoes, in very large quantities and which, percolated through various shops, find their way into the hands of young people, with the inevitable imitative results which we see, increasingly, every day. These are the areas were I respectfully suggest that the attack should be levelled rather than, too late, at the time when these young people arrive in court or in the hands of the police.
§ 4.58 p.m.
My Lords, it must be accounted a unique privilege for any Member of your Lordships' House immediately to follow a Lord Chief Justice who has sat down after making his maiden speech. Speaking as one who rather enjoys unique occasions, it is for me a very special pleasure to speak in the name of all your Lordships in complimenting the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice on a very notable speech.
It is a particular pleasure for me to do so for another reason. Not so very long ago I enjoyed a rather special relationship with the noble and learned Lord when we were colleagues on the Parole Board. I am tempted, but will resist the temptation, on this occasion to adopt a more familiar approach to the noble and learned Lord. The relationship which we created on the board of a close friendship enabled us to be totally frank and forthright. I think all noble Lords will agree that that was a speech full of wisdom and common-sense on a subject entirely appropriate to the speaker. Recalling, as I do, the great contribution which the noble and learned Lord made to our deliberations on the Parole Board, in expressing the hope (which is the hope of us all) that we shall hear him again from time to time, I would be inclined to express also that he will deploy the particular qualities, apart from his wisdom, which we enjoyed on the board; a trenchant and lively wit, and the superb imitative skills (and I am not referring here to the kind of imitative skills which the noble and learned Lord has just described) he has with regard to people's mannerisms 990 and the way in which they speak. Those skills certainly lightened the burden of responsibility which we felt as members of the board and might lighten the atmosphere in your Lordships' House. We thank him very much indeed.
The recent release of Metropolitan Police statistics, which are foremost in our minds this afternoon, was made, we will all agree, at a crucially important time; at a time when a beginning is about to be made on implementing the recommendations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and a time when the Criminal Justice Bill is being debated in another place and will shortly be before your Lordships' House. Those statistics, if taken out of context and without full analysis, and emblazoned as headlines in certain sections of the media are, I think, liable to sway public opinion against the spirit of the recommendations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. They are, perhaps, liable to sway public opinion towards pressing for amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, contrary to the public interest. I would say that there never was a time when a sober appraisal of a serious situation was more important. The proper place for that is Parliament, which is my way of thanking the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for giving us the opportunity to debate this matter today.
As the noble Lord has pointed out, the Motion is in two parts. The first part relates to the rising rate of crime, and the consequent problems of law and order. I have no intention of minimising the significance of the Metropolitan Police statistics. With detection rates running at about only one in nine or ten and with clear-up rates, which have been referred to this afternoon, falling, as has been mentioned, the situation is certainly more serious even than the bare mention of those statistics would indicate. Nor is London unique among our major cities in having a steeply rising-crime rate. In Liverpool in 1981, for instance, the rate of crime rose by 28 per cent. It is not a sudden rise; as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, mentioned, this has been going on for at least a decade. It is rising markedly among the under-21s and reaching down, which is sad and serious, into the age range of primary schools. I believe we would all agree that we are faced with a cause for serious concern.
But I suggest also that there is absolutely no reason for surprise, because it has been going on for so long and because we are in a period of prolonged economic recession. Nor do I believe there is any excuse whatsoever for playing on a trend at this particular time and presenting it as a new disaster out of a blue sky, to alarm and anger the minds of the public. It is vitally important to look below the headlines, always supposing that there is anything below the headlines; headlines which raise the level of emotion to either panic, anger, revenge, or all three. Even The Times on 8th March had, for The Times, a sensational headline:56 crimes an hour in London";and it went on to call all those crimes "serious" quite irrespective of their nature. In the second paragraph below that headline, it was explained that 53 of those crimes were of the nature referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan; breaking and 991 entering, theft, and car theft. Therefore, only three of those crimes related to violence against the person, and that, I suggest, is the area which is the main cause of concern among all of us. It is quite important that it should have careful scrutiny itself, to distinguish between the relatively trivial and the dangerous and disgraceful acts of violence that we know as mugging.
The figures shown in The Times bear out Home Office research quoted in a recent "Panorama" programme, which many of your Lordships may have seen, and which was also printed as an article in The Listener on 25th February. The research shows that the more serious crimes of violence, including actual and grievous bodily harm, are increasing at only a few percentage points per annum. We have heard already that murder, rape, and serious homicide generally is actually going down. The 34 per cent. rise in 1981 reported in The Times on 11th March referred in large part to those less serious crimes of violence, and those constitute more than 90 per cent. of the violent crimes in the Home Office criminal statistics.
I would like to emphasise again that I am not seeking to condone any degree of violence. I am merely suggesting, as others have done, the importance of retaining a correct perspective and sense of proportion, both in regard to the degree of violence and to its geographical spread. I suggest to your Lordships that it is a gross exaggeration, to put it mildly, to state that as the Sun would have its readers believe in its headline:Britain is a nation which walks in fear".In implying a state of near anarchy in Britain, I regard that kind of headline as an insult to the vigilance of the police, an insult to the intelligence of the ordinary man and woman, and an insult to British sang-froid. There is fear in parts of London and in the much-quoted areas of Brixton and Notting Hill, and other areas are cases in point. There is fear in parts of other inner cities. That is quite bad enough. Let it be remembered, in relation to the presentation of the Metropolitan Police statistics, that it is a fear shared by blacks and whites alike.
On 16th March The Times referred to Home Office statistics taken from the 1981 police report, which showed that blacks are 36 times more liable to be attacked by whites than is the case in reverse. And anybody who knows Asians will know that they are largely a law-abiding and unaggressive people, and yet they are 50 times more likely to be attacked. A study carried out by the North Kensington Law Centre, entitled Police and the Notting Hill Community, shows that blacks were stopped "on suspicion" under harassing conditions 30 times more frequently than were whites. Let it be remembered that there are very many other areas in Britain where citizens have no cause to "walk in fear", and it is my view that this brand of generalised sensationalism does a positive disservice to this country at home and abroad.
I am just as concerned as everyone else that violence, albeit that much of it is not of the most serious kind, has trebled in the past decade. I am just as concerned as everyone else about the very high incidence of property offences, so many of which are not detected; 53 occurrences every hour in London, and they are the 992 majority of all crimes. I have been "done" myself. The house in which my wife and I live has been "done" three times in the past three years. For what use it is, I have lost every piece of inscribed silver—to me, of purely sentimental value—which I have ever possessed. My immediate reactions were just the same as everyone else's—anger and vindictiveness. But I know from having studied literally thousands of dossiers of persons eligible for parole among burglars, thieves and recidivists that, even during the less straitened economic circumstances of the late 1960s and early 1970s, they are in large measure explicable—not excusable but explicable—in terms of deplorable social conditions, homelessness, and unemployment, on which I would lay the emphasis.
So far as young people are concerned, I know that violence among young people is a result very largely of frustration and—as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said, and I agree—of boredom, and, not least, of the rejection and neglect, and, I am sad to say, authoritarian attitudes on the part of parents.
It is easy to say that the situation is intolerable and that crime must be stamped out. These are the things that are said outside this House. It depends how far we are prepared to carry our intolerance. If the police go too far, they are certain to alienate whole communities, and I am not thinking only of the communities of ethnic minorities. I venture the view that, so long as we in our Western society are prepared to tolerate economic and social disadvantage to the extent that we do, so long as we fail to win the respect of the young generation to the extent that we do, for so long must we be prepared to accept a certain percentage, quite a high percentage, of crime in our society. Cowardly attacks on innocent people, in the street or elsewhere, must attract severe penalties, but, even with crimes such as these, I should like to see a constructive element added. I would like to see an experiment made in facing the assailment up to his victim with a view to perhaps feeling some shame, making an apology and making some reparation. In case that sounds too pie in the sky, some interesting and hopeful experiments are being made in that direction in the United States.
I would go further than other noble Lords in qualifying this; I am sure we shall not solve the problem by resort to the kind of ruthlessness advocated by some people, by resort to any generalised policy of more and longer prison sentences. That kind of policy would fly in the face of all informed opinion and practical experience. I will not weary your Lordships with the evidence which I could produce and the sources of that advice. It is on that advice and experience that rests the wise policy of the Home Secretary in his resolve to shift the emphasis from custodial sentences to sentences carried out in the community under certain conditions.
There is no doubt that most crimes are best contained in the community. So far as young people are concerned, they should be local initiatives which should be designed to challenge and occupy and motivate the young people: intermediate treatment projects, community service orders, of which I have had a good deal of experience. They are showing great promise; they need to be multiplied. They will not be the whole answer, but the very least one can say about them is that they are far less costly, far more acceptable in 993 social terms, and no less effective than shutting people away for months, and possibly longer, only to return the offenders to the community wiser in criminality but in precious little else.
Turning to the second part of the noble Lord's Motion, I can offer total support from this Bench for the proposition to strengthen and support the police, and especially those officers who are in the front of the task of preventing and containing and dealing with crime. Practical support for the police is essentially a local matter. Co-operation between police and public is essentially in our policing tradition. I, too, like the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, strongly support the Alderson line on community policing. But one has to face the fact that, in areas as alienated as Brixton, Toxteth and other areas where there has been recent trouble, it can only become a reality to the extent that ethnic minority leaders are prepared to work with the police and to put the past behind them and look to the future. That places a premium on really courageous and wise leadership. I should like to express the hope and the confidence that that will be forthcoming from our ethnic community leaders.
Mention has been made this afternoon of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the police chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies. It says in the preamble, paragraph 7:An independent judiciary, the police and the Armed Forces are unique in our society and essential to its continuation".Every one of your Lordships would agree wholeheartedly with those important words. Few of us in this House can give the practical support on the ground that this Motion calls for. What we can do is to express our admiration, express our confidence in the work they are doing, and I think, too, express the hope that they will work also so as to restore the relationship between police and public which is our proud, and, I believe, unique tradition. What we can also do is to insist that they are adequately rewarded for the difficult, sometimes distasteful, and often dangerous job they do. For that reason, I should like to ask the Minister, when he comes to reply to this debate, for an assurance that the Government stand firmly on all the recommendations in Lord Edmund-Davies's report, and in particular on the recommendations—I think they are Nos. 45 to 48—which relate to keeping police pay up to date in accordance with changes in the index of average earnings. I should be grateful to have an assurance on that point.
My Lords, in conclusion, may I remind your Lordships that the police are not alone in deserving the support and confidence of your Lordships' House? The probation service and the often maligned social services also do a very difficult, and sometimes dangerous and distasteful job. They also deserve our sympathy and support. And I hope we shall be able to send a message to that effect from this House this afternoon. My last word is to suggest that not least among those who deserve your Lordships' support is the Home Secretary himself. He has been under intense pressure to change course. He should not he diverted or deterred from the pursuit of the policies he has been following hitherto. To the extent that he holds to those policies, I am glad to say he has the total support of this Bench.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, in any other place than this for someone who is merely a member of the Junior Bar to offer congratulations on his speech to the Lord Chief Justice of England would seem to be so intolerable an impertinence as to amount almost to contempt of court, certainly as that doctrine was displayed in our proceedings a little time ago. But, my Lords, such is the egalitarian democracy of your Lordships' House that I feel nonetheless free so to do, and to say what I know all of your Lordships who are here feel, that we have had the great advantage of listening to one of the most impressive maiden speeches we have heard for many years—a speech for which all noble Lords feel gratitude in accordance with the classical definition of gratitude, a lively anticipation of favours to come. We hope that the noble and learned Lord will address your Lordships' House as frequently as his other duties permit. Perhaps I may add one other comment. When I heard the noble and learned Lord describe the scheme which had been put to the judiciary in respect of sentencing, and which their combined wisdom has apparently succeeded in removing from the proposals, I felt once again, "Thank God for the judiciary".
Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Renton not only on introducing this subject with, of course, such exquisite timing a day before another place discusses this matter and while public opinion is, rightly, deeply interested in it, but still more on the wholly admirable speech in which he introduced it. I was glad that he took the line—as I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has just taken the line—of indicating confidence and admiration for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary has done a remarkable job in restoring the morale, the numbers and the remuneration of the police, and the community owes a great deal to him for that. In so far as he has had the gloomy task of presiding over the ever-increasing figures of criminal offences, he is, I suppose, in a position somewhat analogous to that of his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is having to deal with a well-developed tendency deriving to some extent from the mistakes of past years, and he is forced to deal with a situation which is the cumulation of processes that have been working for quite a considerable time.
In that context, I thought that my noble friend was very right to emphasise the distinction which I think is so important in this debate between the long term causes of this very severe and disturbing rise in offences of violence—and being long term causes they will take a long time, if it can ever be done, to eradicate—and the short-term measures which it may well be necessary to take to overcome the problem. There is a clear distinction, and I think that this debate will be less valuable than it might be if your Lordships' House fails to make that distinction.
I greatly enjoyed, as I think your Lordships did, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. But in the course of his speech the noble Lord revealed what some of us on this side of the House feel is at any rate part of the explanation of the severe rise in the criminal statistics. No one personally, or by way of policy, has done more to help the criminal, to help the convicted 995 man, than the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I know that his name is blessed in a remarkable series of quarters. But at the same time, and I think that one can perhaps trace this back to 1964, there has been something of a tendency in the Home Office and in the various societies which interest themselves in criminal matters, to concentrate attention on the well-being of the criminal and to a very much lesser extent to concentrate their minds on the fate of the victims, or on preventing ordinary members of the public becoming victims.
The emphasis—I do not want to overstate it—has been so much on the care of the criminal that, to some extent, from the day when Mr. Roy Jenkins—I think that for the moment he likes to be known as Mr. MacJenkins—went to the Home Office, the tendency has been that way, and it was reflected rather interestingly in the speech of his former subordinate, the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan. On reflection, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, may find himself a little surprised that he could make a speech on this subject—a speech of at any rate adequate length—without making any positive proposals for dealing with the situation of ever-rising criminal statistics. Nor did he, to my recollection, express any degree of sympathy with the hard-pressed police—by which I mean not the chief constables and the others, but the ordinary constable on the beat on a dark night or going into a darkened warehouse to try to apprehend a criminal.
§ Lord Elystan-Morgan
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. In fact I thought that I paid the highest possible tribute to the police. I accept that we have police officers of probably the highest quality in the world. Taking a whole decade, the respect of the British public for the police is higher than that found anywhere else in the world. I am most grateful for the opportunity to make that absolutely clear.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for saying that and for saying it so pleasantly. I was not directing myself to general comments on the police force—they are, as the noble Lord has said far better than I can, a most admirable force. But the person for whom one has the greatest sympathy, and who has not, so far, been mentioned anywhere in the debate, is the individual constable on duty, who is quite literally in the front line. He has the feeling, as we have seen, that he requires more protection and assistance from the criminal law than he in fact receives.
I shall in a few moments direct myself to one aspect of that matter, but, while the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, is in action, I should like to take up one or two of the points which he made. For example, I wholly disagree with his criticism of the statement by the Metropolitan Police which included, among a good deal of other detail, particulars of the ethnic origin of a number of those who had committed certain offences. I think that it is the greatest mistake when one is dealing with matters of this sort to try to conceal anything. If one tries to conceal matters of that sort, one only gives rise to rumours far more damaging to the communities themselves than the truth. To criticise as "a monumental lapse"—I think that they were the words used from that Box—the, as it seemed to many of us, very sensible decision of the Metropolitan Police, 996 being in possession of those facts, to give them to the public, seems to me wholly misconceived. I would, indeed, go further.
I would say that if the Metropolitan Police were in possession of facts of this kind which are relevant—they are relevant to our debate today and relevant to the great debate going on in the community—they would be at fault if they suppressed them. It is the party opposite that is always talking about open government, so I am a little surprised at that quite extraordinary criticism. So, too, I felt was the noble Lord's denunciation of sending more people to prison for longer sentences. I would personally adopt the line taken by the noble and learned Lord Chief Justice that one should certainly seek to avoid sending to prison those who commit relatively trivial offences which do not involve violence, but that it is the greatest mistake to insist on short sentences for those who commit serious crimes involving violence, because, although they may not be reformed by prison, at least while they are in prison the community is safe from them.
It so happens that I saw in yesterday's edition of The Times an account of a case at the Old Bailey of a man who was convicted at the Old Bailey on charges of assault, robbery and buggery while on home leave from a sentence already imposed on him for similar offences. The learned judge who tried the case commented in language of moderation on the waste of time of the police and the injury to the public caused by the release upon the public of people of this kind before their sentences have expired. I hope that in our present situation—and these cases can be multiplied—it will be appreciated that cases of people who commit offences during the time that they have actually been released, be it on parole, leave or whatever is the particular jargon of the moment, are making the burden of the police, in catching them again and bringing them before the courts again, all the heavier and are depriving the public of the protection which judicial sentences had sought to give the public. I suggest—particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, and perhaps to the party opposite—that we should place our confidence in sentencing in the judges, who not only have the advantage of their experience and knowledge and the very great advantage of seeing the criminal and the witnesses, but have a much better opportunity of judging what is the proper way of dealing with offences than those of us who read about them in the newspapers or see them in statistics.
§ Lord Elystan-Morgan
My Lords, I do not wish the House to misconceive what I said on that matter. I was totally supporting the sentencing policies of Her Majesty's judges, but making the point—although having taken up so much time with the rest of my speech, perhaps I did not deploy it as best I might—that sentences should never be longer than are necessary to carry out their objective. When a person is a first offender, if a sentence of six months can achieve everything, there is no purpose in keeping that person in prison for a further six months. That is all I was saying—nothing beyond that.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I prefer the formulation of that doctrine which the noble and learned 997 Lord, Lord Lane, put forward; I think that it expresses it more clearly. However, the point to which I was trying to get the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, to address his mind is that, when the judiciary has imposed a sentence with all the care and in accordance with the philosophy which the noble and learned Lord outlined, for others then to involve themselves in releases, premature releases, suspensions and so on, is to take a very severe responsibility, and it is a responsibility which, as in the case that I have quoted (and there are many others), has inflicted very considerable damage on the public.
I come now to the point on which the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, displayed, if I may say so, his splendid power of Celtic emotion. It is the question, which will not go away, of capital punishment. I do not think that any of us can have failed to be moved by the advertisement which the Police Federation placed in the press a few days ago. The Police Federation was not only feeling the impact of the murder on duty of two young constables in the last fortnight, but was also putting on record the very significant fact that, whereas in the 17 years before capital punishment was abolished 11 policemen were murdered on duty, in the 17 years since then, the figure has moved to 26. In thinking of the role of the lonely constable who has to go into the darkened yard of a darkened warehouse to tackle a criminal, it is not surprising that the Police Federation believe that he requires some very special protection.
It seems to me that the relevant statistic which is important—and I very much agree with the criticisms that have been made of statistics—is not the murder rate, but the rate at which people commit violent crime when going armed. Taking the Police Federation's own figures, the number of those serious offences while armed in the London Metropolitan Police district has doubled over the last two or three years.
I cannot help recalling at this point a personal experience. When I was, as a young counsel, defending a man who was one of a gang of alleged and, as it turned out, actual robbers and burglars, it came to my knowledge that, though there was nothing on the depositions about their carrying arms, it was likely that the prosecution would seek to introduce a suggestion of that kind in cross-examination. Therefore, it was, of course, essential for me to know whether there was any truth in it. So I went to see my client in the cells and asked him whether he was carrying a gun. His expression was one of shocked horror at the question: "Lor Guvnor", he said, in words that I can well remember, "if I carried a gun it might go off, and if it went off, I should swing for it, would I not?" I confirmed his view of the then law.
I think that this is the crucial point. If professional criminals now go armed, they are risking some increase in their sentence—not, in the case of a heavy sentence for a serious offence, so very large a proportionate increase. They are also giving themselves the chance of shooting their way out, of destroying the witness and of complete escape. It is a gamble, and it is a gamble in which the odds are very much in their favour. Whereas, at the time of my interview with my client all those years ago, it was a gamble against a much more serious risk; it was a gamble against a 998 totally different penalty, and one from which hardened and professional criminals shrank.
It is in the context of the growth of crime by armed men, that I think your Lordships will find that outside this House a good deal of public concern has arisen and is growing. I have a personal concern because, as the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, may remember, when Parliament last dealt with the matter I wound up for those who would retain capital punishment on the Motion to make its abolition permanent in 1969; my noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys made the opening speech. In my speech I ventured to warn the other place that, if capital punishment was permanently abolished, it would certainly save murderers' lives, but that it would be at the cost of the lives of innocent people, and that in my judgment—and it remains my judgment—on balance, it seemed to me better that the guilty rather than the innocent should suffer.
Since that time two things have happened. One is the growth—to which I have already referred—of armed crime, which has grown enormously since then. I am not arguing that it has grown because of that decision; I am merely stating the fact that it has grown, and it is a relevant factor for consideration in this context. The other is, of course, the growth of terrorism. As an answer to terrorism, capital punishment has two advantages. A terrorist is never very much impressed by a very long sentence of imprisonment. He guesses that an amnesty arising from some settlement at some time will involve his release. If that does not happen, he knows that some of his friends outside will attempt, by kidnapping or hijacking, to blackmail some Government into releasing him. On the other hand, if the penalty is a speedy death, those alleviations are not open to him, and I would again suggest that the existence of this penalty would be a very considerable deterrent.
I should like to make one more personal comment. When I speak of capital punishment, I am not speaking of it wholly without experience. As some of your Lordships know, I had the responsibility of imposing it towards the end of the war in a number of cases, and also the disagreeable duty of witnessing the carrying-out of the sentence. Therefore, in suggesting this, I am not suggesting that other people should do anything that I was not prepared to do myself in what I took to be the line of duty.
The problem that arises from the practical point of view on this is the doctrine, most eloquently expounded by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, that capital punishment, its continuance or its restoration, is a special subject involving moral considerations which are virtually unique. I do not express it as well as the noble Lord, but I think that that was the substance of what he said; that the taking of life by the community is something quite different from anything else. With respect to him, that is a false basis for argument. All Governments have to take decisions involving human life. The Government of which he was a member took the right decision to send the troops to Northern Ireland, thereby inevitably sending a good many British soldiers to their death. Governments who decide relief programmes to the third world where famine and distress exist are in fact dealing with human lives. Governments deal with human lives the whole time. Although it is not a light thing to take 999 anybody's life, in the context of capital punishment, it is not unique. It is a responsibility which those who undertake government have to be prepared to face.
That brings me to a way which seems to me sensible to resolve this problem, which will not go away. The fact that the police wish it, the fact that a great many people outside your Lordships' House wish it, comes up against the fact that in another place I have no doubt there is no majority whatever for it. I am not such an enthusiast for referenda, as is my noble friend Lord Alport, but I should have thought here, where people do take the view—I happen to disagree with, but I accept that they take the view—that this is a matter of individual conscience and not of the policy of Governments or parties is almost the ideal subject for a referendum. I should have thought that it would be helpful to all of us to have a referendum on this matter.
If public opinion said, "No, we do not wish to see it come hack", that will be the end of the matter for a good many years. If, on the other hand, public opinion—as I am inclined to think it would be likely to do—answered that it was in favour, then that would create a new situation. I was sorry to see that the Home Secretary, for whom I have already expressed admiration, made an extraordinary speech about this at what must have been an extraordinary gathering—a gathering described in the press as that of the Mayfair and Soho Conservative Association. One finds it a little difficult to visualise what they must have looked like.
At that quite extraordinary gathering my right honourable friend said that he would not accept a referendum because it would compel Members of Parliament to vote against their consciences. It would do nothing of the kind. No referendum of this kind could be binding either on Members of another place or of course on your Lordships. It would simply inform as to what public opinion wished. But it is the duty and the practice of Members of both Houses—it perhaps involves more courage in another place—to stand up against public opinion when they think it is wrong, and Members would be entirely free to vote for their conscience, but they would know what the public wanted. I hope that this thought will be considered carefully.
This is a debate of great importance in the eyes of our fellow countrymen. It is impossible to overrate the seriousness with which the old lady in the post office, the people in the darkened street, feel about the fact that this, which was once a very safe country to walk about in, has without exaggeration become quite a dangerous one. Anything that your Lordships' House can contribute to a solution of this will not only inure greatly to the public appreciation of your Lordships' House, but will do some public service.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Lord Gardiner
My Lords, I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for having given us the opportunity to discuss this afternoon the important question of crime and punishment. I should like to add, if I may, that I am greatly privileged to have heard the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane. I am perhaps as well qualified as anyone to judge, and it would be my 1000 guess that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, has the support of the whole of his judiciary and indeed of the legal profession to a greater degree possibly than a number of previous Lord Chief Justices. I echo what has already been said; I am quite sure that if at any time he can spare the time from his judicial duties, we should be grateful indeed if he would give us the benefit of his advice.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, and I have some things in common. We are both lawyers; we are old friends, though belonging to different political parties. May I come in a minute to another thing we have in common, but first may I make it plain that I am speaking only for myself. I have had some major operations. I shall shortly be 82. I had been doubtful whether I should really return to the House. I have been persuaded to do so for today, but I want to make it clear that I am not speaking for the opposition, I am not speaking for the Howard League, or any of those bodies in which I hold office. I am speaking only for myself, so that if anyone is let down by my speaking it will be me, and nobody else.
The other thing which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, and I have in common—he probably does not know it—is that on Wednesday, 15th March 1964 I opened a debate on crime and punishment in this House for the then Opposition. That is to say, I had been made a Peer—this was before I was Lord Chancellor—so therefore we also share that in common. I have naturally been looking to see how far I agree with what I then said nearly 20 years ago. I find that in the main I am in agreement, although there are one or two points on which I have changed my mind.
The main point I was making then is the main point I want to make tonight, and that is what I think is the most important fact in the whole of this field. What I regard as the most important fact is simply this: if the conviction rate—that is, the proportion which convictions bear to the crimes known to the police—goes up, crime goes down. If the conviction rate goes down, crime goes up. This has always been true. It does not matter what region of the country you look at, what police district, or anywhere.
It is no good saying, "It is only statistics, and therefore we should not regard it". Convictions are facts. They are recorded in the records of the courts. How many convictions there have been in a year is a fact. The police themselves know which cases have been cleared up, and say so each year. There have been two minor changes—which I do not think really matter—with regard to nomenclature. We used to talk about the conviction rate. We now more often talk about the clear-up rate. This is rather more favourable to the police, but quite fairly so. It means that if they find out who has done something but he dies before he can be prosecuted, he is included in the clear-up figure, and quite properly. There is not much difference between them.
Secondly, we used to talk about indictable cases. We now talk about serious cases. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think I am, they are exactly the same. I do not know why the change has been made. It does not make any difference. We now talk about serious cases; they are what we used to talk about as indictable cases.
1001 The fact that crime goes up or down in accordance with the conviction rate, or clear-up rate, is something which I do not know why anybody should be surprised about. What it means is that if you take Snooks, a young man—it usually is a young man—who has been invited by a peer group to take part in some criminal activity, no doubt a lot of things go through his mind. First, and importantly—I do not wish to diminish it—is how he has been brought up by his father and mother to know the difference between right and wrong. Secondly, what sort of moral role he has been given by his schooling.
If he is still hesitating, "Shall I? Shall I not?" all experience shows that the final determinant is that if he thinks that if he does the job he will get away with it, he does it. If he thinks that if he does the job he will be caught and punished, he does not do it. The thing which the "hang'em and flog'em brigade" always forget is that you cannot punish anybody whom you cannot catch, and the judges do not see those who have been deterred. No doubt the severity of punishment is a factor, but it is of much less importance than the conviction rate because, by and large, if Snooks thinks that if he does the job he is going to be caught and punished, he does not do it anyway.
Before the war—these were the facts at the time I was speaking—the conviction or clear-up rate for indictable offences was always over 50 per cent.; so if you committed a serious crime in England or Wales the probability was that you would be caught and punished. After the war not only did the number of crimes increase greatly but the conviction rate fell and fell. After the war the increases in offences were, for example, for burglary and housebreaking, 250 per cent.; crimes against women, 400 per cent.; crimes of violence, 500 per cent. We were not alone in that; it was the general feature of life in all those Western European democracies which had taken part in the war. Whether it was because life became cheaper or we had trained people to use arms I do not know, but the very great increase in crimes of all kinds was not peculiar to this country, as I said at the time.
I made full inquiries and discovered that the conviction rate was such that if, in London, you did robbery with violence, it was three to one you would not be caught or punished because the conviction rate was down to 20 or 30 per cent. If you did a housebreaking job, the percentage was six to one that you would not be caught or punished. If you stole something from a stationary car, it was 12 to one that you would not be caught or punished. That being the case, what could one expect to happen? I said in that debate that what had happened was not the fault of the police or the Home Office. It was our fault, that of Parliament and successive Governments because we had never increased the police force to deal with the increase in crime.
Indeed, in those days the police were not given anything remotely like the help they should have had. When I was a boy in London you never knew when you would meet the local bobby coming round the corner, and the local bobby knew his customers. But by the time I was speaking, it was in London difficult to find a policeman anywhere, and when you found him he was usually on traffic duty. I said in the 1002 debate in 1964 that we must help the police and that many policemen were doing many things that other people could do—acting as mortuary attendants or carrying the mace for the mayor. One could go into a police station and find sergeants and inspectors just sitting waiting to use the one typewriter in the station, and even that appeared to have come out of the ark. We ought, I thought, to have more traffic wardens to help them with their traffic duties. They were badly equipped, with a very limited number of walkie-talkies, and they were short of cars. The Metropolitan Police said they could do with 1,000 tape recorders because they had only 150, and there was only one police force in the country with a helicopter.
I was suggesting various ways in which we should be supporting the police, when I made a mistake. We all make mistakes and the one I made then I now regret. It was entirely my idea, and therefore entirely my fault, in that no Member of either House had ever suggested it before. I said I understood from the Howard League that some of the police forces in the United States found it useful to have a thing called a computer, particularly to help them with matching finger-prints, as it could perform certain tasks more quickly than anything else. Scotland Yard might benefit from having a computer, I said.
If I had known the use the police would make of computers when they got them I should never have made that suggestion. I had no reason to envisage what would result because in all the time I was in government—Mr. Wilson's Government were absolutely clear about it—no Minister who acquired personal information for a particular person was ever to disclose it to anyone else. Your tax return was absolutely safe and confined to the Inland Revenue. If you had been treated for veneral disease, even if knowledge of that fact might lead to the police clearing up crime, they were not to be given it in any circumstances; it was confidential to you and your doctor.
I recall an occasion when we found a mass of machinery being imported and we wondered whether we could make the machines in Britain, so we wanted to know what sort of machines they were and the prices at which they were being imported and so on. Customs and Excise had all the information, and we called for it, but they said, "Not on your life. All importers know that any information given to us is for the sole purpose of enabling us to decide the correct amount of import duty and it would be a gross breach of trust if we were to divulge such information". Today we have reached the extraordinary position disclosed only this week in this Home Office reply:The Home Office supplies confidential personal information to other Government departments in a variety of circumstances";and it goes on to give all the details, including the police. But perhaps I digress.
I remain today as convinced as I was then that the key to the problem remains the conviction or clear-up rate. I see that I have the word "question" in my notes; that means that I have a question to ask, and it is a jolly good one. I may be asked, "If what you say is right, why on earth did you not do all that while for nearly six years you were Lord Chancellor?" That is a perfectly fair question—because, after all, I have been talking about 1964—and there are two 1003 answers, and in giving them I am being as accurate and as honest as I can be.
The first is that while the Lord Chancellor has many and varied—and, no doubt, some nefarious—things to do, prisons, the police and crime in general are matters for the Home Office. Metaphorically at least, outside the Home Office there are large notices saying, "Lord Chancellors keep out". I had cordial relations with those who were Home Secretary while I was Lord Chancellor, we discussed matters together and we never, as I recall, had a row. So far as the departments are concerned, the Home Office, quite properly and naturally, are jealous of the fact that they, not the Lord Chancellor, are the department for law and order.
The second reason is that after a time we made a start on increasing the police force to match the increase in crime. It was not nearly as large an increase as the present one, but we started the process and for about 18 months we deliberately increased the police force in order to increase the conviction rate and therefore reduce crime. However, we were then brought up against the fact of the devaluation of the pound, with cuts all round and the Treasury saying, "We cannot afford to do anything which would mean spending money now". I wish most warmly to congratulate the Government for being the first since the war really to tackle the problem of increasing, at any rate to some extent, the size of the police force, because that is the only action which in the end will reduce the level of criminal activity.
While I do not want to get involved with a lot of statistics, I must say that the present position is not very happy. It is an improvement in some fields but not in others. Homicides are among those that are going down. The two governing documents are the Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary 1980, and the Report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for the year 1980.
If one looks at the figures, one feels that it is depressing that there has not been the marked increase which one might have hoped for in the clear-up rate. The position is much the same in London, in regard to which the last report, in dealing with arrests and crimes cleared up, states that there has been,a gradual decline from the 29 per cent. clear up rate achieved in 1971. Although there were fewer arrests during the year than in 1979, the number of offences cleared up increased by 3 per cent. and the clear up rate remained at 20 per cent".That is not very hopeful, and I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, whether he can tell us why he thinks it has not been more successful. There are several possible perfectly sensible explanations. One is that although the numbers of police have increased by 4,000 each year for two years, that is nothing like increasing the police force to match the increase in crime. Secondly, crime has of course gone on increasing meanwhile. It might be that there has not yet been sufficient time for an improvement.
I find the way in which the clear-up figures are given a little difficult to understand. In one of the reports there is a note that explains that this year the method of giving the figures has been changed, and perhaps when convenient the Minister can tell us what the 1004 change consists of, and whether it means that the figures for 1980 are less or more than they would otherwise have been.
However, I would warmly congratulate the Government on doing what ought to have been done long before. We must of course all support the police. They were not receiving the support that they ought to have had. It remains the undoubted fact that if the conviction rate or the clear-up rate rises, crime falls, and vice versa.
I should like to add a few words on the question of capital punishment. I am not going over the whole of the subject again, but I thought that the action of the police in this regard was ill-advised. I am delighted that the police are now being paid so well; they thoroughly deserve it. I doubt whether their recent campaign was a good way of spending their newly-found wealth, since half-page advertisements in the national newspapers are not cheap. The police were not asking for the capital punishment for the murder of policemen; they were calling for capital punishment for all murders. This is not a party-political subject, but it is a political subject; capital punishment is a political subject. I doubt whether the police, in their own interests, are really wise to spend a lot of money, hoping by advertisements to change public opinion on a political question.
Your Lordships will have noticed that although in the case of black people the police gave statistics, they did not give any statistics when it came to capital punishment. They did not point out that this year produced the best rate so far as homicides were concerned; it was the one bright hope. There was a large decrease, and with one exception it was the best year for seven years. I should have thought that the police could have found a better use than that for their money.
But as I have said, on the whole I very much congratulate the Government on tackling the problem at what I am sure is the most crucial point. I shall be interested to hear whether the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, thinks that this approach is going to be kept up. We know that it has been done for two years running and we hope very much that it will continue, because the improvement is still very small in relation to the increase in crime. This is a very important point and a very important subject, and I am sure that we would do well to bear in mind that such a very high proportion of those concerned in this matter are young people.
I would conclude with one reminder which I think is not wholly irrelevant. Your Lordships might remember that a committee, of which I was chairman, was once appointed by Howard League, NACRO and Justice, to consider people who were convicted of indictable offences when young and thereafter had gone straight. With the assistance of the Home Office (which we very much acknowledged) we discovered that there were walking around about a million people who had committed an indictable offence when young and had then gone straight for five years. Of those who went straight for five years, 95 per cent. went straight for 10 years.
Then the Home Office told us, "There is something else that you did not ask us about, but which we have found out and which might interest you. It is that we find that the prospect of one of these men committing 1005 another indictable offence is slightly less than the prospect of somebody who is of absolutely exemplary character and who has never done anything wrong in his life, committing an indictable offence. That is because these men have learnt their lesson. They are extra careful, and nothing will persuade them ever to appear in the dock again". All the people whom we investigated had started by having committed an indictable offence in their youth. Whatever action we take, we must always bear in mind the great importance of trying to save young people before it is too late.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Lord Scarman
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and it is an even greater pleasure to observe in what fine fettle he is, and what a capacity he has for racing along the course, notwithstanding his recent illness. I should also like to congratulate, as I know the whole House must be doing, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice of England on quite one of the most distinguished, witty, entertaining, and instructive maiden speeches that this House can ever have heard. We owe having heard that maiden speech to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who has put down a Motion that has enticed the Lord Chief Justice of England out of the Strand back into the neighbourhood of Westminster Hall, to which he belongs just as much as he belongs to the Strand. I express the hope, which has already been expressed by others, that amidst his arduous and time-consuming duties, my noble and learned friend will find time to come down to the House to assist us on the many questions which must interest him and the judiciary. Having heard the Lord Chief Justice this afternoon, I think all of us know that so long as he is with us, the judges can on occasion answer back, and when they do, there really is not the slightest atomised hope of a further reply.
I was, of course, delighted to have listened in the course of the debate to a whole number of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, making it quite clear that by and large the analysis that I attempted of the problem of law and order in Brixton and elsewhere is accepted, and that by and large there is a broad intention to implement the recommendations—not of course item by item, but broadly so. That enables me to follow my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice in one other respect. I hope to be the first speaker since he to limit my speech to about 10 minutes. It is astonishing how the subject of law and order makes your Lordships run on. Therefore, have decided to say to your Lordships that I speak to the House through the Brixton Report. I stand by it. I have not yet learned anything by way of subsequent experience which would indicate to me that any of its main recommendations were wrong, or that its analysis was faulty. I will say no more about it than that—though that is quite a lot, of course.
I should like to concentrate for a few minutes on one aspect of this Motion, and one only—the need to strengthen and support the police. This need is imperative. It is true that in Brixton there was an occasion on the Saturday when the few unreinforced policemen, many of them young, under their local and very courageous leadership, stood between us, the inner 1006 city of London, and a total collapse (limited in area, no doubt, but a total collapse) of law and order. That is an indication of the need for a strong and well-supported police force. Remember this: if that thin blue line had been overwhelmed—and it nearly was on the Saturday night—there is no other way of dealing with it except the awful ultimate requirement of calling in the Army, and to turn the military inwards on British people is not something which our tolerant and free society can possibly accept.
I have also had experience in Northern Ireland, and I will just mention a matter there which has crossed my mind several times, even though the noble Lord, Lord Renton, asked us not to discuss Northern Ireland. In retrospect, I think the greatest disaster in the Northern Irish situation was not when the Army went into the Bogside in the late summer of 1969, but when the police, the RUC, came out and then stayed out for years. There is a moral there: unless you have your police not only strong but well supported by the people, then you may find yourself in that sort of situation, and that sort of situation is the beginning of the end of a free and tolerant society. Indeed, it may be the beginning of the end of very much more.
A word or two as to what I mean by supporting and strengthening the police. First of all, they must achieve and maintain operational efficiency. That is a matter of discipline, it is a matter of training and it is a matter of equipment with all the proper modern technological aids. That is an absolute necessity; and they must be professionally led by police officers who have had the necessary training in the use of modern technology in the handling of law and order problems. This is vital, but it is not all. They have also got to have the support of the community, and that means that they have got to exercise their efficiency in a way which commands the consent of law-abiding citizens.
It is on this issue of consent that men like myself, who have seen the situation in the inner city areas where there are the ethnic minority problems, are troubled. There is not the slightest doubt that we have the men and the will to improve, where necessary, the efficiency, the equipment, the training and the discipline of the police; but have we the will, have we the know-how, to be just as firm about ensuring that they operate with the consent of the community that they police? Here are the doubts. I have not any doubt at all that the senior direction of our police forces, both metropolitan and regional, are well aware of the necessity to strengthen their force by cultivating consent.
Again, let us not use the trendy language of "community policing", and so forth; I am talking now of something which has been integral to police thinking ever since Sir Robert Peel instituted the police in 1829. Just a word in passing. Scarpia was an immensely efficient policeman. He came, I am glad to say, to an early sticky end, in very attractive company. He will not do by himself; we must have Robert Peel. Robert Peel stands for consent, and consent, ever since Robert Peel's time, has been part and parcel of the philosophy of our police.
Now how does one cultivate consent in an area where there is ethnic diversity? This is a problem, and it is a twofold problem. I must not be too long; 1007 my ten minutes are up. First, there is, of course, the ethnic gap, if you like: the apparent white establishment, represented by the police (I am thinking of a law and order situation) and the youngsters—West Indian, or whatever their group may be. So there is that ethnic gap; but there is also, unfortunately, a generation gap, which is not so frequently emphasised. It is no good thinking that you are getting across to the teenagers of Brixton merely by chatting it up with the responsible middle-aged men and women who run the youth centres and other charitable institutions, and the schools, in an area like Brixton. They are facing the generation gap when dealing with their own youngsters; and that generation gap is very serious for them because the impact of the move from the Caribbean to this country which their parents or grandparents made has been to break down the ties of their family life.
It is for that kind of reason that in considering the problem of consent—consent is essential to strength—I put forward my proposals in regard to accountability and consultation. I believe in them. I think that without them you may not make the progress that is needed to make a police force operating with consent, and that is the only way in which a police force operates with strength. I earnestly beseech the Government to give the most careful consideration, not only, of course, to the sort of arguments I am developing now but to the whole detailed case made in my report, and to the dreadful story in Brixton of the breakdown of liaison between the police and people between 1977 and 1981.
My Lords, I have done. Let me say just one word on statistics. I wholly agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Lane about the danger of placing too much reliance upon statistics. Criminal statistics are more unreliable than most. None of us knows how much crime is committed. The police know how much is reported: they know how much they "clear up"; but even those statistics are based on human judgment at its most fallible. They are based upon what is reported to the police; they are based, to some extent, upon identifications carried out by the police; they are based to a further extent upon detecting techniques. This is a morass. There are paths to follow to safety other than the statistical path.
Finally, this has been a calm, unprejudiced, thoughtful debate. I wish that the discussion of these matters outside this House during the last few weeks had been similarly dispassionate. I very much fear the temper of the debate which has been taking place outside and I wonder what its consequences may be on those who do not have the opportunity or perhaps the ability to ponder these matters as they should be pondered. I am convinced that your Lordships' House has once again shown that it is a place where these matters can be calmly reviewed and I would invite those outside who are able to maintain the debate to take thought as to the way it has been handled here and perhaps seek to handle it in the same way in the newspapers and on the television screens.
§ 6.22 p.m.
My Lords, it is a very great responsibility to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in a police debate. First, I should like to 1008 pay tribute to him again for the great service he has done the country and the police in the way he carried out his inquiry and the speed with which he produced so valuable a report.
We have had a number of law and order debates in this House over the last year, and in general we have treated them in a short-term way. When we have spoken about changes and improvements of policing, it is understandable that we should have thought in the short-term following the fact that we were caught unprepared at Bristol, in London and elsewhere. We had taken it for granted that our police, with the highest reputation in the world, could take anything in its stride when, of course, it was not as simple as that: as witness the debate we have recently seen in our newspapers between two chief constables. Here, without mentioning names, may I say that I am much more on the side of Devon and Cornwall.
But I want to look further afield this evening. want to clear my thoughts about what I should like to see and what I hope your Lordships would like to see and what is possible in the field of policing this country five, 10 and 20 years ahead, because these changes, whatever we may decide now, do not all work through in a short time. To start with, I should like to look back and refer to a speech made in the other place. I do not think that it is wholly out of order. Speaking in a debate like this, a Member said that he feared that one of the causes of crime was the increase in the mechanical ingenuity of the age by which the perpetration of crime was aided and the means of detection lessened. He meant that the mechanical improvements which so much distinguished the country and which were a great source of its prosperity so aided the perpetrators of crime by allowing them to travel great distances in a few hours and to use great caution in the selection of time and manner and the means of detection were very much lessened. I will not continue; but that was a speech by Sir Robert Peel speaking during the Second Reading debate on the Metropolitan Police Improvement Bill in 1829. It might just as well have been written last week.
I am not sure that all noble Lords will agree with me on this, but I am sure that we shall never have enough professional policemen in this country (and it will be the same in other western countries) to do all that all of us want. Policing has become a very costly service. The pay of police officers, civilians and auxiliaries in any force is now a very big item, and, in addition, there is the elaborate equipment necessary if a force is to operate efficiently. Further, there is only a limited number of men and women in any country at any time who want to make policing their main life's work. Men attracted to the police force primarily by the pay will be no good; it is better that they never put on uniform.
I should like to put the recent welcome increases in the police strength in perspective. Eight thousand is the additional figure claimed by the noble Lord, and a very creditable figure it is. It represents, according to my interpretation of the Home Office figures, a total increase of 9 per cent. That represents an increase in the strength of men of 5.6 per cent. and in the strength of women police constables, 20.9 per cent. Against this there have been annual drops in the number of special constables, which must be 1009 weakening the police presence on the streets at weekends when it is most wanted. That is very much to he deplored.
My noble friend Lord Renton also mentioned the figures of total cost of the police service over recent years. His figures are not entirely the same as mine but they are very close. The total cost of our policing between 1978–79 and 1981–82 shows an increase of 75 per cent. on the £1,178 million which was the cost in 1978–79, while the pay element in these figures has risen from £983 million to £1,815 million, which is an increase of 80 per cent. Important though it is that we should keep the numbers up, and important though it is that we should see that the equipment is the best, the fact remains that we are facing a very costly service.
Then there is loose talk about the man on the beat. You hear the locals in country towns—those of us who were in the House of Commons still have contact with some of our old constituents; the noble Lord opposite nods approval—saying: "Why should we not have a policeman at the crossroads in the middle of the town?" What they do not realise is that to have one man on a static post permanently on such crossroads, for example, means 5½ men on the strength and if it costs £15,000 per annum to employ one police constable with his hack-up material at a main crossroads, this will cost £75,000 per year.
The Secretary of State spoke of a closer and more trusting relationship between the public and the police; and he is right. He spoke, too, of the need to back up the police with assistance and help from every sector of the community. I have great admiration for the Secretary of State, but I should like him to say how he sees this closer relationship being developed and what assistance he would think most valuable. Anyone who has tried to work closely with the police and to learn what their job entails will have found it difficult. I started some years ago to try to learn what a constable's job was about. This is much more easily said than done.
But I believe that times are now changing. Up till recently, our police were not as open as I should have liked them to be. But, if anyone persists, I am sure that he will find real friends and learn the feeling of that tremendous loyalty which binds policemen together and which is part of their great strength. At times, he will also find that he is held at arm's length and, at others, that he is at the receiving end of real rebuffs. So he must have a thick skin and he must soldier on.
The other day, I was reading a book called Community versus Crime. It was written by a police officer and not by a politician. On page 118 it discusses this question of help for police forces:The notion of helping to develop community resources is a tough pill for many professionals to swallow. However, unlike many other professions, the police service has great difficulty in accepting or using volunteers. The thought that laymen may be more effective frightens most professionals".That, I am afraid, is very strong among certain divisions of the police. Until the other day, the police could not see the need for allies, trusting too much in the police party line and in their own folklore; they tended far too much to remain imperium in imperio. This could have grown from a sense of insecurity at the top which has filtered down and has become a damaging influence. 1010 In spite of recent improvements—and they are very real—in quality as well as numbers, there is still a shortage of top class material in our police and a shortage of what I should call outside experience.
I do not want to speak for long: I want to be among the shorter speakers. I am going to end with a summary of points which I feel ought to be considered in the near future if we are to effect long-term improvements in our policing. Bearing in mind the fact that there are limits to the numbers of men who can be attracted into the service and the amount of materials which we can afford, I am not going to quote the various well-worn topics, such as consultation or complaints.
I think that the police advisory board or any think-tank in the Home Office about future policing should be made up not just of policemen and civil servants; it should be designed to attract an input of fresh ideas and the experience of other professions of which our police have been sadly short. While remaining anxious to maintain local administrative control, which I think is important—and I say "administrative" and make no reference to operational control, which must remain the responsibility of senior officers—we should consider a reduction in the number of our smaller forces by further amalgamations. I am not—and I repeat "not"—in favour of one national police force.
We must, I am sure, see further study of the organisation and tactical employment of reserves. There are two sorts of reserves. First, as regards employment of reserves, of which was highlighted in Bristol, are we sure that all police support units across the country have the same organisation and broadly the same equipment, including radios, which should present no problem when units are moved from their home force to support another? I have heard it said that metropolitan police forces all over the country have a different system from the other police forces if so, it certainly defeats the whole object.
Then there is another form of reserve. When a police officer leaves the service, he is finished and has no more responsibility to it and the service has no more responsibility to him, except for paying his pension. His skill and training cost a great deal and are lost. Was it right that we should allow what I think was called the First Police Reserve to disappear? I believe that there are about six police officers from one county force who are still on it. It has been conveniently forgotten by the Home Office, and I should have thought that consideration ought to be given to reviving it.
Then there is the question of cadets. There is no doubt that the cadet system has produced a number of the very best police officers. On the other hand, they are not all of the best. It is an extremely expensive service to operate and it results in men entering the police without first having earned their living in the outside world or learned how the other side live. In this, I know I am echoing the thoughts of many police officers. It can be a great disadvantage to go straight from school into uniform as a cadet and then at the age of 18½ be sworn in as a full police constable, never having felt any of the strains and stresses of a young man finding his feet in the world outside.
Then I would say that we ought to have a further look at the special constabulary. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, may refer to the recent working party recommendations. They were made before the Brixton 1011 epoch and may well need looking at again. The recent policy has been to make special constables pale copies of regulars. I do not consider that that is necessarily making the best use of available talent and material. In particular, it is a mistake to retire able special constables at the same age as regulars or after very short extensions. There is no need for them to wear uniform; there is no need for them to do the routine duties, but there is every reason, if they understand policing and have special talents and special experience, to keep them in police forces.
The recent report of Her Majesty's Inspector for the year 1980, which I have borrowed from the noble Lord, Lord Renton, gives one third of a page in the whole of this report to the special constabulary. At a time like the present, when there is every need to see the special constabulary developed to the full extent, this superficial treatment should be wholeheartedly condemned but I am afraid that it reflects the opinion of a great many senior police officers who do not understand how to use the special constabulary.
My last point is that the police should overhaul their man-management techniques, which are far less good than those of the most forward-looking industrial concerns. The police and public must get away from thinking just of the present and the police must get away from the idea that they are a form of elite. The public must realise that the recent violence is not something new to Britain, even though the years from 1925 to 1950 were very free of violence. We must not forget the violence following the movement of population as the feudal system gave way to a money economy, and again when the Industrial Revolution was drawing men into the towns only to find instead of riches a life of poverty waiting for them there. In both those periods there was great violence. It is all to be read in our history books, and not least in Macaulay. All too few men today want to learn from history, and men who take no need of history are likely to misjudge the present.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
My Lords, it is with very great humility that I venture to say a few words in your Lordships' House this evening following some of the most brilliant speeches to which I have ever had the privilege of listening in the House over the past 11 years. It is certainly not for me to congratulate the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, although I personally would like to do so. It has been a memorable occasion for me to hear him when I have heard such a very great deal about this great man. So this afternoon, having had the privilege of listening to him, it has made even the slighty long wait to get up on my feet certainly well worth while.
I am also very deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for initiating this debate today. How wise it was of him to put it down just when not only we in this Chamber, but, I venture to suggest, most people in the country are getting more and more disturbed about the escalation of crime in certain aspects of our lives.
I shall not quote any statistics because your Lordships have already heard a great number of them; nor shall I be very long because I am going to speak 1012 only about the 15 to 21 age group of young people—they are the young people on whom, for the past 24 years in my capacity as magistrate, I have had to adjudicate. Of course adults are concerned as well but, as a parent, I have thought that that particular age group is perhaps the one at which it is possible to turn them from a life of crime into becoming ordinary citizens. In my view, with the under-14 age group, one certainly can do that. As regards the over-21 group, it is my personal view that if a young man or young woman is set on a path of crime then they are likely to continue on that path if they have already been criminals up to the age of 21.
1 shall also shorten my speech greatly by mentioning only three sorts of crime. First, there is the street theft where violence is used and which we usually call "mugging". Elderly people, and indeed younger people, we know—I doubt very much whether any noble Lord in this Chamber tonight does not know of somebody who has been mugged—have had their lives quite ruined and shattered by being mugged, particularly when they are elderly. The people who commit this crime must be brought to book, but how are we going to do it? In America I understand they use television cameras far more than we are able to do in this country. Whether that is possible as a means of contacting the streets and having the television cameras piped back to the local police station I do not know, but I do know that they are used on underground stations.
Regarding offensive weapons, that term means to me carrying something that can kill—not necessarily a paperweight—a knife, a kitchen knife, a sheath knife or a press-open knife. Such weapons can cause stabbing and can cause death. There was once a time, now some time ago unfortunately, when the fact that a person had been stabbed in our streets would make headlines or, if not headlines, was reported in the press the next day. Now it is so common and young people are losing their lives to such an extent that I think it is almost impossible to get the figures, and if we are to try to prevent people carrying instruments that can kill, we must try to deter.
The only way I can see to deter young people from carrying these instruments is the power of search by the police. I understand that there is this power of search, but it does not seem to me to be used nearly efficiently enough. I suggest that where it is thought some young people are carrying or may be carrying offensive weapons the police should call for a police van, herd them into it and then search them and take them into custody if indeed they are carrying offensive weapons. In the end that might deter, because the word will spread that the police might well take them into custody if they ae found to be carrying offensive weapons.
A third offence is burglary. There must be a number of your Lordships who, like myself, have had people entering their homes and taking a great many personal possessions—in my own case last year, nearly everything that I possessed. I do not feel particularly "mean" towards the man who did that but I should very much like him to be caught—that has not yet happened.
I maintain that this is a situation where good neighbours should come in. I do not particularly want 1013 people going round the streets but I do think we should encourage them to be far more neighbourly and watchful over their neighbour's properties. That is something we all did during the war and I think it would help the police if one could see people going round to the back of a house if they heard something suspicious like a pane of glass being smashed, and they could then call the police. To my certain knowledge, the police would be very grateful for that.
What are the deterrents? I wish that we knew. I am afraid that I am a "strong-line" person. I do not say to a young offender: "Oh, little Billy won't do it again: let's put him on probation". I do not say that however good the probation staff are, and they are very good and I pay due tribute to them. Some time ago a deterrent was the loss of their liberty and the fact that they would be caught. I still think that if young people in the age group I have mentioned are deprived of their liberty, that is a deterrent. I am going to ask my noble friend Lord Belstead whether he thinks it would he possible to encourage magistrates to enforce loss of liberty on young people who have been apprehended and who come before them on any of the three charges I have mentioned. I think that such offenders should be deprived of their liberty at once and not be given a second chance. I have asked young people what it means to be deprived of their liberty. As a chairman of a very large juvenile court, I have had the opportunity of talking to some young offenders who unfortunately have sometimes come back before me. Sometimes they have said: "I was away from my mates and I didn't like it". I remember that another one said: "I missed my mum's cooking"—may I say in passing that my son would not miss mine! In another very unfortunate case, one of them said to me, when I asked him why had he come back: "Because I want to go back again, mum—please could I go back to the detention centre because I had lots to do there". I thought that rang a bell.
Certainly, so far as mugging is concerned, I believe that for a first offence they should be deprived of their liberty; but we do have to ask ourselves why there is this escalation in these crimes and indeed in other crimes in this particular age group. I am afraid that we have to blame the parents. We have only to look round or see in other people's houses to realise that they are not communicating with their children. They are watching television; they are doing anything except listening to the children and the problems that are upsetting them. I know of very many cases where the parents have had no idea where their children were and certainly did not know that they were out burglaring. Therefore, why do the police come into this? The police have all my sympathy and—I think and I hope during my many long years on the Bench—my encouragement too. I personally feel that no matter how much they are said to be up to strength, in the very big conurbations we need even more police.
During the last few days, I have discovered that after a young man has done his training he is taken on the beat by an older man. But, directly that young man is aged 19, he is sent out on the beat by himself. As a parent, I do not think that a 19-year old could, or should, have the responsibility of going into some of our very difficult areas—and we have to admit that 1014 there are some—by himself, but I have been assured that they do go in alone. But anything we can do to help the police, certainly by encouraging and strengthening them, should be supported by this House, and I hope that the debate in the other place will also give encouragement.
Finally, we must see this problem in perspective. I have a feeling that the wheel will turn, because the young people who will be parents in the future will not want their cars daubed with paint, will not want their houses burgled and will not want their mothers mugged. If that can be part of the wheel that can possibly turn, then I hope that we might at this time and in this year be seeing the top of the escalation of crime.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I always listen with great attention to what the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, says on these matters, even though her first-hand knowledge tends to lead her to conclusions which are very different from mine, particularly about the benefits of incarcerating young people. A noble Lord of great distinction told me earlier this afternoon that he was going to leave the House at that point, and he did not think he would return because he could predict exactly what everyone, including myself, was going to say. I do not think he would be able to predict exactly what I am going to say, because I shall not deal, for example, with the length of sentences. I have had my say on that and I shall say it again. This leads to very different conclusions from those of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, but I shall not go into that question this afternoon. However, I certainly do not retract anything that I said on a previous occasion.
I am not going to deal with the police. Possibly, the fact that my great-great-grandfather was Sir Robert Peel entitles me to consider that the family contribution has been made for this afternoon. But I would deal briefly with victims and the causes of crime. I must say what a distinguished debate it has been. Everybody who has been in the House a long time must feel that, in terms of elevation of thought and phrasing, we have seldom excelled ourselves more obviously. And, of course, it was a special joy to hear my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner again. I remember very well the speech he made in 1964 when I had the honour of supporting him, as I support him now. I shall always support him on every subject, except possibly the one which we are debating tomorrow afternoon. I think that that is the only subject on which he and I might differ. So perhaps he will take a holiday after his great achievement of this afternoon.
Naturally, I found it very agreeable to follow the dispassionate address of the leader of my own side, which, in its turn, followed a similar address by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. I should like to say just a few words about victims. It always astonishes me that people talk about victims, but never try to do anything for them, because one can do so little. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who is not in the House now, was extremely sympathetic when a few years ago I introduced a Bill to help victims. But with the best will in the world, one cannot attribute any activity 1015 on a large scale to the present Government on behalf of victims. But better things may be on the way. The right honourable gentleman Mr. Whitelaw last night made an important speech about victims, and in the, Criminal Justice Bill there is a clause which should be of great assistance to victims.
But when people occasionally say to me, "You talk a lot about criminals. What have you done for victims?", I can only reply that there have been four debates in this House on victims in the last 20 years, and I have initiated all of them. But there has been very little interest in this House for victims, and I do not think it is very appropriate for people to lecture penal reformers on victims, when they themselves do nothing whatever to help them. I say that respectfully to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who was not, I think, very active on behalf of my victims Bill when it was introduced—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to intervene? I felt that the Bill proposed by the noble Earl needed no further assistance.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, that is quite a jolly little joke, but it does not really deal with the fact that the noble Lord neglected his duty, if he cares about victims, or, alternatively, if he does not care about victims, which I hate to believe. May we just look at the causes of crime? It may well be said that these are fundamental. In 1955, I undertook an inquiry for the Nuffield Foundation into the causes of crime. The Nuffield Foundation and the rest of us were alarmed about the growth of crime. At that time, there were 20,000 people in prison. The figure was 10,000 when I first become involved in penal matters before the war. Now there are well over 40,000, so that, statistically, I cannot be regarded as a very successful penal reformer, although we are told that statistics in this field can be misleading.
But we were very worried 25 years ago about the steady increase in crime, and we took a great deal of evidence from every possible quarter about the causes. At the end, there was no clear conclusion and nothing that would satisfy sociologists or scientists, so that everybody could draw conclusions for themselves as we can today. We have since seen this further great increase in crime, but I do not think that we would find it any easier today to draw up an agreed report about the causes of crime. Clearly, it can be argued that it is due to some kind of moral decline. There I disagree, though it is an arguable matter. I do not think that you can judge the morals of a country entirely by the crime figures. We are a much more humane country than we used to be, although we have much more crime and our sexual morals are rather looser, which I deplore. But the unemployed, the elderly and others in distress are treated much better, so I do not think one can talk about a general decline.
But what we have seen is a diminution in respect for authority. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I do not think that a cap-touching society is necessarily superior to a society in which people treat Jack as being equal to his master. Therefore, I do not think that the diminution of respect for human authority is a sign of deterioration. But it involves risks. It 1016 means that, if fear is not to prevail, then another higher motivation must take its place, and one has to cultivate the conscience even more ardently than when there was some reverence for those in authority. I put it to the Churches, which I am glad to see represented this afternoon, that this is their opportunity. But it is not an opportunity that will be easily grasped.
Without deviating too far from the subject today, may I say that, to me, this is a very encouraging moment as the Churches in this country are drawing closer together than at any time since the Reformation. Although I do not find it easy to believe in the personal devil in the old sense, I think all this is bad news for the devil. Therefore, I do not think one must assume that the devil is rejoicing at the decline of religion. I think he may be trying to reassure himself that it is just possible that there will be a big religious revival in the years ahead, whether or not some of us older ones actually see it.
Leaving out the moral side, which brings in what we said about the parents, the fact is that it is the worst homes, though not necessarily the poorest homes, from which most of the criminals will come. So one cannot leave it to the parents, because you are leaving it to the weakest vessels and therefore you perpetuate crime. It is up to the leaders of opinion. The Government may be called on soon to conduct a big inquiry into religious education. That is just one possible way of tackling the problem. I would say that the Government must face the fact that parents are given all too little guidance from those in the highest places.
We come down to the present day, so to speak. These fundamental causes have been going on for a long time. We all know that both in this country and in other western countries there has been a steady increase in crime. In the youth centre of which I am chairman and which I visit more or less daily, I deliberately interrogated this morning four young men, all with criminal records, in their early twenties. I am afraid that I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, that they had all been incarcerated for the best part of 10 years. They had been in approved schools and borstal, they had been young prisoners and so on and it had not done them, in criminal terms, any good. So it is not easy to know how to dissuade them from crime and produce the result which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and others have spoken about: the conversion of these young delinquents into law-abiding citizens. That is what many of us this afternoon are concentrating on.
I asked these four vigorous young men, not inadequate in any obvious sense, whether they saw any prospect of giving up their life of crime and taking to the law-abiding life which we in this House consider to be so estimable. One of them summed up what they all said, in effect: "I would lead a decent life if I'd got a decent chance". That would lead one, if one pursued the idea, to the question of the effect of unemployment (they were all unemployed, or very seldom employed), bad housing and the rest. Therefore, we have to agree that social conditions, which are not their fault but our fault if we regard ourselves as public people, are a factor. These social and economic conditions undoubtedly do foster crime. Whatever the statistics may prove, I do not think anybody would doubt that 1017 the social conditions which exist today make it more likely that people will take to crime and settle down as criminals.
While I think that those conditions have been rendered more acute by the policies of the present Government, I am not saying that all this has arisen in just the last three years. The same problems, whether or not on quite the same scale, have existed in this country for many years. If we ask, "What can we do?" one could reply that social workers can do a lot, whether they be probation officers or people who work in a centre like ours. And there are countless activities of that kind. This country is not short of "do-gooders". I am not ashamed of assuming that mantle. These people say that a centre like ours—and there are many other such centres—is the one thing which keeps them from embarking straight away on a life of crime. I do not say that they never would embark upon it, but they all agree that there would be far more crime if it were not for the existence of centres of one kind or another, or of social work of one kind or another. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who is a most distinguished social worker, will have something to say later on that topic.
So it comes to this: Are we prepared to say that we in Britain can do no more than we are doing? Britain is a very wealthy country. We go on about economic stringency sometimes rather indecently when one thinks of the poverty in the rest of the world and the poverty and conditions in which so many people of the kind I am talking about live. Are we prepared to do more for them? Are we prepared to show that we are a more caring society, which means spending a little more money and devoting more resources to this problem than the Government now devote—either directly, through the social services, or by assistance to the voluntary bodies? I can see no signs, I am afraid, of this Government devoting larger resources, although I hope that they will do so, to this problem than are being devoted to it now.
I am well aware that in the Cabinet it is always very hard to get what is called "money for delinquents or criminals", if one likes to call them that. The attitude is similar to that of the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son: "Here am I, a perfectly well behaved person, but you're getting ready the fatted calf, or you want to get it ready, for this young delinquent who's come along and said he's come to grief and wants your help". I am quite convinced that we shall never deal with crime in this country unless we help young people far more than we help them now. By that I mean that we must help those who, on the face of it, would be called undeserving. Unless we cease to draw this arrogant distinction between the "goodies"—that is ourselves—and the "baddies", the young delinquents, we shall have a lot more crime in the years to come. However, I am hopeful that today the House will set an example in the right direction.
§ 7.7 p.m.
Lord McAlpine of Moffat
My Lords, many of your Lordships may recollect that at the beginning of this century there was a very colourful character who was very fortunate. He was the guest of Her Majesty the Queen, or perhaps it was the King at that time, in 1018 Reading Gaol. He made a lot of rather profound remarks. One very cynical but well worth considering remark was, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". That, to my mind, is a question of interesting public opinion. I think that a large number of people like, at the expense of the community, to purchase a spiritual fire insurance for their advent into the hereafter. They do it by saying, "This poor fellow, we must help him. He is a criminal, poor chap". But they do not think about the other poor people who have been so badly hurt and injured.
The Scarman Report is a wonderful thing but I wonder whether we could have a similar report on the psychological and social effects on the population, particularly the old, of the present crime situation: old people who dare not leave their flats, people who cannot take out their dog for a walk in the evening. We read of these things in the newspapers and think that they will never happen to us, but we are reaching the stage where we are finding that it is going to happen to us. It is happening to our friends. Therefore, we are faced with a very serious situation.
It may be that I have a chip on my shoulder, because over half a century ago I was in charge of a small section of Tilbury Docks where steam appliances were driven by coal. I found that I was losing coal and it was eroding my profits. It had been going on for such a long time. The great problem was to discover how it was happening. A friendly detective slept all night on the contract and found that the night watchman was systematically stealing it. What happened? He went before the magistrates' court at Tilbury and was fined 10 shillings. Did the punishment fit the crime? The magistrate said that this fellow, McAlpine, had got tons of coal, so why should not this poor fellow, who had got practically no coal, have some of it. Here is a nation which glorifies Dick Turpin and Robin Hood. Even in my own country my noble ancestor Rob Roy invented the protection racket. He is regarded as a hero. We are a funny old lot of people, but we have got to cure crime, somehow. Perhaps that magistrate had something because, in those days, there was something that seems to have been forgotten—shame and disgrace. It may be that that man in Tilbury was sent to Coventry because he was a thief, whereas today being a thief does not appear to matter to anybody.
Recently I had a very sinister experience. I attended at the No. 1 criminal court at the Old Bailey. It is just as well that your Lordships know, I was invited as an observer. It was horrifying. The people on trial were a couple who had been living together in a flat. The girl was a teenager who already had two children and the man was in his early 20s. They had quite deliberately gone to a flat two or three floors down from their own, where there was a decent middle-aged man living by himself, who worked for the Post Office. By some subterfuge, the girl went into the flat, saying that her electricity had broken down and she needed some hot water for her baby's bottle. While the man was preparing the hot water he looked round and saw the other man—who had hidden in the baby's basket an axe, which he used to kill him. This was the case to which I had to listen.
It just happened that when I entered the courtroom a young constable was giving evidence. The only defence that the defence counsel had was to blackguard 1019 the policeman; to try to find some weakness because the murder was so blatant. The young constable in the witness box was pink in the face, perspiring and looking terrified—yet he put up a good show. Later a police sergeant gave evidence and he put things right, because he had knowledge and experience of these things. The police sergeant was asked by the prosecution what he thought of the girl. He answered that she was the most ghastly, brutal and callous person he had ever met in his life. What interested me was that the relatives and friends of the accused were all sitting there smugly delighted at watching this poor policeman going through a very unpleasant and very unhappy time. I did not stay until the end of the case, but I learnt that the man was sentenced for life and the girl was given four years. This couple were so blatant. They were not frightened. They showed no sign of remorse.
I ask your Lordships to ponder this: supposing the ultimate sentence had been the death penalty and capital punishment; do your Lordships think that the people in the court would have been quite so smug and taken quite the same attitude? I am not going to start a debate about capital punishment because I believe it is the job of Parliament to legislate and I do not believe that we should have a referendum, but Parliament does tend to bend to strong public opinion. Capital punishment would come as an act of desperation—but how near to desperation are we, with cases of this kind?
On a much happier note, I have been a very lucky chap because in the old days. Sir Billy Butlin asked me to help him with the Police Dependants' Appeal Association, of which I have been chairman for five years now. The result of my chairmanship has been that I have seen an enormous amount of the police force. I have visited Hendon, Wigan, Derby, to see Anderton and his people, and various other places, and I have also spent a considerable time at New Scotland Yard because the commissioner who is about to retire has taken a very great interest in this appeal, and also because he was born in the same town as I was and was being brought up in the same sort of strange Presbyterian background. We both have the same approach to life, or we "talk the same language".
All I can tell your Lordships is that the spirit among policemen—the dedication in all ranks and in all places—has given me the most terrific inspiration and I have had more happiness than anything I can think of, from meeting these enthusiastic people. Because these people are so dedicated they are also sensitive, although they do not let you see it. What we should try to do is to encourage them in every way and make them feel better.
It was very interesting talking to the Metropolitan Commissioner the other day because he told me that when he took on his job, he studied the guidelines laid down by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. The commissioner said that Sir Robert Peel must have been an extraordinary man because everything the police needed today has been provided for in the guidelines; it was a book of rules that was absolutely topical in dealing with the present situation. The commissioner also said that he is more interested in preserving the structure and traditions of the police force than in putting forward his own personality, and that is why he has made up his 1020 mind that nobody should really be in that job for more than five years; it is a traditional organisation that has to preserve itself rather than be dependent.
I would like to say how excited I was by the speech made by my noble friend Lord Renton. It said everything that it should say. If I am to be really constructive, I should ask your Lordships to ponder on what was said by my noble friend. There was so much of moment in every sentence that I do not believe any of us can appreciate his speech until we study Hansard. So I suggest that we all spend tomorrow morning studying Hansard.
§ 7.16 p.m.
My Lords, may I add my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Renton for initiating this debate, which has produced some very fine speeches, and in particular the maiden speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, which could not have failed to impress anyone who listened to it. In view of the number of speakers and the late hour, I will confine my remarks to two points which I hope may help the police in fighting crime and improving upon the present low detection rates.
First, I was shaken to learn from the most recently published prison statistics that half of the adults discharged from prison are reconvicted within two years, including one-third who are reconvicted within the first year. The figure for young offenders is even worse—two-thirds of the young offenders released are reconvicted within two years. The emphasis on shorter sentences must mean that there are going to be more probable offenders at liberty. I know the arguments for giving prisoners a fresh start, but it does seem that the police will have to carry an additional burden. I suggest it would be helpful to the police, and not a great hardship to the ex-prisoner, if as a condition of his release he is ordered to report to a specific police station once a week, to give his present address and notify any intention of moving to another district. Apart from helping the police, this system might have a salutary effect upon the ex-prisoner as well.
Secondly, I advocate the formation of a body which, for the moment, I will refer to as "police auxiliaries". Before describing their functions I wish to stress that it would not be my intention that they should be thought of as a substitute for the Special Constabulary, nor in any way as vigilantes. They would be subject to police discipline. The police are often criticised for having too few men "on the beat". However, from what has been said tonight it is now recognised that the police do appreciate the value of the man on the beat, but with the present cost of today's highly trained police officer there must be a limit to the number who can be so deployed.
The public, particularly those living in large towns and cities, are also criticised for being unhelpful in their support of the police and for failing to inform the police when they witness a crime or see something suspicious. However, to give the general public its due, one does know how difficult it is to find a public telephone if one is in a hurry and how often a telephone box is either already occupied or has been vandalised.
I suggest that police auxiliaries might overcome both these deficiencies to a considerable extent. I envisage that the auxiliaries, both male and female, could be 1021 drawn from a wide age-group. They would move around rather than patrol the district. They would wear plain clothes and be indistinguishable from the general public. They would be provided with two-way radio, fitted with throat microphones and hearing aid type receivers. It is also conceivable that they might be equipped with concealed cameras. Their job would be simply to report back to the local headquarters any incident or suspicious act. A patrol car manned by fully trained officers could then quickly be directed to the scene. The auxiliaries might also be useful in identifying offenders, taking car details, and giving evidence of the early stages of an incident.
I would suggest that they are given few, if any, special powers, and be instructed to take no active part in an incident other than reporting it. In this case they would need little training, except to know what to look for and the local geography. Such a mobile body would, I believe, be most useful, relatively cheap, and more effective than the most elaborate system of closed circuit television. I believe it might well attract the right type of person at the present time. On the one hand, it would provide an unusual job, although not highly paid, for any reputable person who was also inclined to help the community. It might also provide some candidates for the regular police. On no account should auxiliaries be thought of as second-class policemen.
In army terms I would compare a police auxiliary with the reconnaissance regiment in an armoured division. Both play an important part. The scout or armoured car is relatively cheap compared with the tank, but it is not expected to take on an enemy tank. The scout car's job is to look for trouble, avoid trouble, but to report back. I hope my noble friend the Minister will give both these suggestions some consideration.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Hayter
My Lords, there has been this evening and earlier this afternoon a cloud of statistics around this House, and I do not propose to add to that. In point of fact, I should like to get behind those statistics to the truth which underlines some of those figures, particularly in relation to crime against property. The difficulty there is, first of all, that not all these crimes are reported; secondly, that the victims very seldom see the attacker; thirdly, that in cases like burglary and housebreaking so many of the offences take place at night that it does not matter how many policemen you have on the beat, they will not be there at the time the offence is being committed. It is committed with speed, committed in private places. So the only honest hope of containing property crime is for us to do something about it, recognising, in a phrase that has been used before, that security is an attitude of mind. For the second time in a month—the first time being when we debated the National Health Service—I find myself saying that prevention is better than cure.
I am not sure that we have paid enough attention tonight to the crime prevention officers. I think I am right in saying that there are 550 of them at the moment. I am almost certain I am right in saying that the crime prevention officer idea first started in this country rather than anywhere else. But I have to declare 1022 an interest. As the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, knows, I was chairman for three years of the British Security Industry Association. There is an industry which makes it possible for the public, to purchase the protection that they need for their property in the way of locks, safes, strongrooms, grilles and cash carrying. In so doing, they will be giving far more practical help to the police than will some of the other ideas we have heard about tonight. Did your Lordships see that burglar—he was a real one—on television the other night, saying how easy it was to attack many houses? Indeed, the security industry really consists of giving you the property which enables you to send the burglar next door, Provided you do that successfully, you will be all right.
To change my theme, I would commend, as several others have tonight, non-custodial sentences, which appeal to me as having such strong elements of protection for the public. I like the idea of the loss of leisure that is involved in those non-custodial sentences; the reparation to the community which can be and often is present; above all, the disciplined reporting and the working on the problems which created the offence. In one way, the probation service can be regarded as a research and development organisation, above all in the opportunity it gives to people to learn self-control.
Another element of the non-custodial side is fines, which I think have hardly been mentioned this evening. I have some statistics—the only ones I will give your Lordships—showing that, in 1977, £71 million was inflicted on the offenders by way of fines. It is interesting that, of that £71 million, £10 million was needed to enforce the actual fines, and the other £61 million was, in that year, equal to the cost of the magistrates' courts all over this country for the whole of the year.
Then, as probation orders have been mentioned—and perhaps the noble Baroness who is going to follow me may be able to enlarge on this—again, the thing that appeals to me is that the probation order can be so arranged as to fit the individual and try to make a better man or woman of him or her. I like the intensive contact, which has already been mentioned, the residential conditions, and the work in the community, particularly, of course, when it comes to community service order, where the offender can be ordered to complete not less than 40 and not more than 240 hours of unpaid work in the year. This seems to me to be the ideal form of punishment for the new and perhaps young offender.
My last point, which I hope the noble Lord will find a practical one, is connected with my City livery company. Some years ago we were fortunate in coming into quite a large sum of money, and it was decided to set up a charitable trust. I went to a friend of mine who was mixed up in the hospital world and asked him what he would suggest. He said, "Do not touch hospitals, do not touch birds, do not touch cats. Go for something unusual." I said, "Well, what do you call unusual?" He said, "What about helping ex-offenders, keeping young people out of prison?". I said, "My family has been in the firm making locks and safes for 150 years, and it is entirely against my own interests to have such a charitable trust." I am glad to say that virtue triumphed in the end and that is what has happened. The greater part of the income is 1023 devoted to helping in the maintenance of law and order, and support is given to youth projects and to projects for ex-offenders. In general, the grants are made to small projects, because we find that in that way we have far more influence on those projects and we act as pump primers—that is to say, we support a project for three years and then hope that the local council or grants from other trusts will keep it going in the future. We always insist that we have one of our livery on the committee. We always insist on getting regular reports.
We have learnt, of course, about the dedication of the people in the various organisations and the wide variety of the social problems that are tackled. I admit with some pride that we use our imagination. One of the youth projects on the Regent's Canal has two narrow boats which the users have to keep in good order so that they can operate them themselves. Messing about in boats is what young people like to do. Also, we invested in the provision of two motorcycles for teaching riding, and mechanical skills to young people at risk. It is done on private land and it gives them for the first time in their lives, I suspect—a sense of property, because, unless they keep the machines in good order, they will not be able to use or ride them.
I admit, as other speakers have done, that behind it all is the tragedy of unemployment. Having got these youths into some of these organisations and having taught them self-control, which we feel is so important, they may then find that there is no job for them. We hope that they can find a purpose in life. We hope that some of them will find that there is some joy in living. I hope that our compassion as regards their problems will ultimately bring their own self-respect back.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for initiating this debate which calls attention to the rising crime rate which is of concern not only to this country but, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, stated, to other countries as well. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, suggested that it might be a good thing if there were an international inquiry into the rise in crime rates throughout, perhaps, the western world. I do not know that I would go quite as far as that, but I suggest that it would be enormously helpful if there were an inquiry into the rise in crime rates within the EEC—perhaps that would be more manageable.
I seek to speak on two aspects of the motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. One aspect is juvenile crime and the other is the training and the first posting of the young policeman coming off his course. With regard to juvenile crime, under the Children and Young Persons Act and the various Childrens Acts "a child" is up to the age of 15 and "a young person" is up to the age of 18. Therefore, I shall be slightly overlapping with the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve.
I would submit that no one sector can combat juvenile crime. The maintenance of law and order which betokens a right way of conduct, lies with the family, the neighbourhood, the schools, with the social services and with the police. Each of those sectors, 1024 where juveniles are concerned, are interdependent. The responsibility does not lie only with the police, and it is unfair that it should do so.
I believe that in the long term, if we really wanted to tackle crime, we would start with the children and we would start with the young people. Since the publication in 1968 of the White Paper, The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, there has arisen a debate on care or control. I submit that it should not be care "or" control but care "and" control. A relationship with children and with young persons which is caring, affectionate and humorous, is inseparable from discipline and control. In fact "care" includes control and provides structure, security and betokens feeling. Furthermore, children know this and welcome it, despite what is often said.
I would draw your Lordships' attention to a structure which gives evidence of reducing juvenile crime—in fact, two structures. The first is a scheme in Exeter and the second is the panel system in Scotland. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, is not here. He always says that we in the South take no note of him in the North. I, in fact, take great note and pay tribute to the panel system in Scotland.
In Exeter there is a youth support scheme which has been set up. It is housed away from the police stations, away from the social services, and it is manned by specially chosen police and social workers. The help of other sectors is drawn in—notably; parents, probation officers, teachers and volunteers such as were noted by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. Children and young persons in trouble are reported to the youth support scheme and a preventive service is offered in the first instance. Therefore, there is a sifting out of cases. Of the cases referred in the last two years, a third only have been taken to court; the other two-thirds have been able to be helped by various projects, by case work with the parents, by support in the neighbourhood and, in addition, the crime rate has diminished. This is a community-based scheme which includes the family and particularly well-trained social workers who are working alongside the police.
The second structure which I bring to your Lordships' notice is known, of course, to all Scottish Peers and that is the panel system in Scotland, set up in 1971 and arising out of the Kilbrandon Report. This legal structure means that the police consult with a reporter and the reporter and the police together decide whether or not a case should go forward. If the reporter calls for the parents, the parents are consulted—they are not told, they are not ordered, but they are consulted. In fact, I would go as far as to say that perhaps cultivating consent, referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, is the role of the reporter. If the parents feel and think that they can cope with their children, they do so. If they think that they cannot, but they recognise that their child is guilty and the child admits it, then there is a panel hearing and the panel hearing includes the parents and the child sitting round a table, all on the same level, discussing what is the best way to help that child in the future. It was found in Scotland that for the first five years this did not particularly affect the crime rate. But during the next five years the crime rate fell. Furthermore, a vast number of children have been prevented from coming into care, from coming before the courts and 1025 from being placed in List D schools which are the equivalent of community schools for education, as we have in England. So it seems to me that perhaps in this country we might consider a new structure for dealing with our juvenile delinquents.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the magistrates of this country, but I am sure that, with the changing circumstances in this country, they would wish—and many of them have told me so—to be more deeply involved in the cases which appear before them, instead of there being just a discussion and a laying down of law, which very often happens in the juvenile court. It may he said by some—and I think probably will be said—"Oh well, this is rather a wet way of looking at things", which I find a peculiar phrase. But this country has the highest rate of children in residential accommodation in the whole of the EEC. Furthermore, as was stated earlier in the debate—I think by a noble Lord behind me within two years those children will have been reconvicted; whereas if they are kept out of the penal system—and I would suggest that this is possible, particularly through education as well as having a different court system—it would be possible greatly to diminish juvenile crime.
I pass to the training of the young policeman. A little while ago it was my privilege to lecture to a number of social work students and public administration students at the London School of Economics. Among those students were three policemen who had been sent on the course to do a degree. I wonder whether we ought not to consider taking on policemen for training at a later stage than we do at present. I wonder whether we should not look at the training of police and consider whether it should be much longer than it is at the moment, and whether the young policeman should take part in other activities; for instance, whether he should work in a mental hospital, in a social services department, or in such schemes as were stated by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, or work alongside those in manpower services' schemes, so that he gets a wider view of life, instead of the rather narrow view that he gets and keeps for the whole of his life. I believe that this would be enormously helpful to him. Moreover, I believe that with increased technology and the need for greater understanding of human nature in our very complex society, it is only fair on the young policeman that he should have had further education before coming to the police.
It is late and I do not wish to make a long speech. Those are the two points that I wished to make. For 18 years I worked closely with the police. I pay tribute to them for it is a great profession, and at no time did I have any difficulties in co-operating with the police. I believe that the police welcome this. Therefore, I conclude by congratulating the police of this country, by congratulating the Home Secretary, by congratulating the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, on his maiden speech, and by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for initiating this debate.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Renton on initiating this debate, which has fed to so many speeches of distinction and eloquence from all 1026 parts of the House. The poet Juvenal wrote in the second century AD:If you go out to dinner, You should make your will first".Much the same remark was made by Horace Walpole in 1754, when he said that:One is forced to travel even at noon as if one were going into battle".I give those quotations not simply because I am a historian and feel an obligation to give some historical dimension to this debate, but because, first, it is desirable to recall that anxiety about crime figures in prosperous countries has often happened before. But, even more important, in the past, before statistics began to be gathered, one could rely only upon remarks like that to know what was happening in the society concerned.
A number of critical and discourteous remarks have been made about the importance of statistics in the course of this debate. But I think it is very important to realise that before statistics began to be collected at all—I think that they began effectively in this country in 1810, when annual lists of committals were published, and in the 1850s with the publication of crimes known to the police—we were absolutely in the dark. Furthermore, although naturally any sensible person would have to accept the qualifications made by many noble Lords this afternoon and this evening about the accuracy of figures, I listened very carefully to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, on the other side of the House, and I was a little perturbed about one of his statistical remarks, suggesting that, in fact, a distinguished criminologist had suggested that we might be something like 85 per cent. out, which would suggest that the present crime rate is nearer 20 million crimes a year than 3 million. That is how my mathematics worked it out in the course of the afternoon; and however many qualifications have to be made about accuracy and however much we remember that in the past, particularly in the 19th century, people were very reluctant to go to the authorities or the police to report what they imagined to be crimes unless they were peculiarly atrocious ones, even so statistics surely enable us to get some general picture of what was happening in the society concerned.
I have no doubt, whatever hesitations we may have about the decimal points, that if, for example, the do-gooders of the 1860s—to use the phrase employed by my noble friend, as he is, Lord Longford—had appreciated that their figure of approximately 280 crimes per 100,000 per year would, by the year 1980, reach our figure of about 5,500 crimes per year, it would have crossed their minds that it might not be so beneficial to try to go on doing good at all. Indeed, the increase in crime figures, give or take a statistic, surely represents a serious question mark about the whole idea of progress in the last 100 years. The figures in the late 19th century and in the earlier part of the 20th century, which have not been spoken about very much today, suggest that that was a wholly different society. It might be the moon in comparison with our present society.
Statistics are also helpful since they show that some of the attributions of crime to economic activities (or inactivities) of Governments can be very seriously 1027 questioned. For instance, let us look at what seem to be the facts of the history of crime in the course of this century. For the first 25 years there was practically no increase in crime at all despite the fact that, politically speaking, this seemed to be rather a violent time with the First World War, the Irish Civil War, and very serious and violent trade union disputes and the Suffragettes. Nevertheless, taking into account the number of the population, the rate of crime was almost static.
Then in the middle period, between say 1925 and 1945, there was a good deal of discussion as to whether crime did not arise from unemployment, economic stagnation, or the upheaval caused by the Second World War. Certainly the rate of crime per 100,000 seems to have doubled in the course of that period, or a little more. But after the war, after 1945, we seemed to be entering a new period of relative calm. I say this with all deference to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who seemed to draw a different inference from the figures.
According to the figures heroically prepared annually by the Home Office the crimes per 100,000 between 1945 and 1946 increased very moderately from 1,125 in 1945 to 1,138 in 1956. There was surely a general sensation then that crime was on the way to being cured; and that affluence, the Welfare State, and the general satisfaction of other psychological problems seemed to be within sight of solution. Then, just as we got rid of the ration book, the new period of crime began. Between 1956 and the present time crime has gone up very steadily, first of all, following the curve of affluence, and subsequently following the curve of economic depression since 1973.
It is quite false, therefore, to draw any conclusions from the policies of this Government, or the last Government, or Mr. Heath's Government, or any preceding Government so far as the rate of crime is concerned. I noticed only three years since the war when crime has gone down; they were 1954, 1973, and 1978. This would suggest two good Conservative years and one good Labour year, if you really wish to make a political point of this matter, although I do not think you really can.
These figures are so baffling that any layman, such as am, not only finds himself perplexed but often has the temerity to make suggestions himself as to why it has all happened. I remember that the late L. P. Hartley used all the forces, which made him one of Britain's most distinguished novelists of this century, to suggest that the crime rate could be directly connected with motor-car ownership.
I just want to say two or three further things. First, naturally we can be comforted by the fact that these experiences are not confined to these shores and are to be found in most other advanced western countries, with one exception, Japan. That is the second point which gives us a certain amount of comfort, since in the course of the 1970s the already rather moderate Japanese crime rates dropped quite considerably. Why should that be so? Is it perhaps because the Japanese have managed to satisfy within the nation some of those demands for a new, or up-to-date, general agreement on principles which so many speakers in this debate have mentioned cursorily or in passing, or have simply circled around, and which surely is at the heart of solving this problem?
1028 Many of the suggestions made by noble Lords for ameliorating the present situation are convincing and interesting, and I myself have my own tactical palliative suggestion. I think, for example, that it is quite wrong that there should be so few graduates in the police; only 489 in 1981. Of course, the introduction of more graduates might very well change the character of the police force, but that might be desirable. Certainly it might help the rate of detection.
Much more important is some consideration, perhaps at a later date, of the need for some general principles of conduct; some means of securing that in the last part of this century some of the self-confidence which perfectly plainly existed in the first part is returned to us. I am not suggesting here and now that the Home Secretary should settle down with the Secretary of State for Education, and headmasters and judges and other persons in authority, to try to work out a new code of honour, but believe that unless something like that is done, something like that in the sense of its simplicity, these terrible figures will regrettably continue to rise, and the wheel which the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, suggested would ultimately start turning in favour of law and order and the revival of decent behaviour, will not do so.
§ 7.56 p.m
§ Lord Davies of Leek
My Lords, it has indeed been a privilege to listen to this debate. I have sat through 90 per cent. of the debate, like my noble friend on the Front Bench, and listened to every speech. It is now difficult for anybody to say anything new in the debate. There is one thing that I would call attention to. We owe a debt to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for raising this issue about the increase in crime, and calling attention to "the problems involved in the maintenance of law and order"—there is the rub—and "the need to strengthen and support the police", and the other little bit, moving for Papers.
Of course we want to support the police, but in trying to find the causes we have to be careful with statistics. Many years ago when I was President of a tutors' association I did a bit of private research on juvenile delinquency in three cities: Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool, and Wolverhampton. I found, in this order, Catholic schools, Church schools, and state schools. What did I find? The most juvenile delinquency in Liverpool, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent occurred in the Roman Catholic schools, the second most in the Church schools, and the best children were in the state schools. If I were an agnostic, I could immediately have written a paper saying, "teaching Roman Catholicism does nothing but make juvenile delinquents and teaching Church of England beliefs does nothing but make juvenile delinquents: send all your children to the state schools".
I had to go deeper. I thought, why is this? I looked at Liverpool, where Roman Catholic areas were in the depths of poverty, and at the church schools in the slum areas. But, where there was a Roman Catholic school in a well-heeled part of Liverpool, Wolverhampton or Stoke-on-Trent, the juvenile delinquency among all schools was about the same. In other words, the arid figures and arid statistics need illuminating by the depth of the sociology of the area in which you are working.
1029 What have I new to say? Well, admittedly, not much. But there are some things. The basic fact is that we have to learn to respect the man in uniform. I always tell that to a young officer. I respect the uniform. It is the uniform that gives the dignity of his position. The first basic fact is that a policeman in uniform does not lose his identity. If you tickle him, he will laugh. If you stab him, he could bleed to death. Yet he, young as he may be, has to have the courage to face any odds, any violence, that may crop up.
We often forget also—and we should publicise it more—the part many young policemen play in the prevention of crime among children by running swimming clubs, boxing clubs, sporting clubs. In South Wales the policeman was a hero if he was in the Pontypool front line at rugby. If the police take part in sports with the general public, it results in all parties mingling, and I should like to see the police participating in more sporting events. I recall that during the 1921 strike in South Wales many football matches were played between the police and the strikers. There was a civilised relationship at that time, but today fear seems to predominate.
I do not intend to make a party political speech. Not one has been made today; it is fair to say that the debate has been above that kind of thing. Two points are paramount. First, the nation, whichever party is in power, will be making a huge mistake if it skimps the money spent on children's education. The children of Britain deserve the best possible education. Secondly, Dickens—and there was much more crime in London at his time than there is today—was right when he pointed out that housing was an essential for a civilised society. Money is well spent when it is spent on social housing and increasing educational opportunities; and the latter would result in the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, getting more graduates.
That is not to say that graduation is a measure of wisdom; an individual can ooze with intellectuality yet completely lack wisdom. That is why I say that to reduce the crime rate, whichever party is in power, we must not use the instruments of education and housing as objects on which to save. Whatever we spend on those activities could be well returned by achieving a better nation.
Noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to speak for more than 10 minutes, I must mention, however, that neighbourliness is dying. Much crime can be created because of that. Think of the arid fiats we have built. It nearly killed me to live in a flat, with not a bit of land around; arid flats with arid staircases, lifts that do not work and neighbours across the landing whom you do not know. I remember travelling in a lift and a person I knew said to another person in the lift, "Good morning", and that starchy person replied, "But I do not even know you". Had they been in a lift in a Welsh block of fiats they would have been gossiping about their neighbours within a few minutes.
Why are we losing the art of neighbourliness? It is because a fear is growing up. I accept the story of the wars as told to us by our great historian, and we need to recapture that spirit. There is great strength in some of the mythological stories; Atlas regained his strength every time he put his foot to the ground. 1030 Modern mankind is being de-humanised, over mechanised and driven away from the natural environment. We should think more about the size of our cities. The Lord God never meant that people should live in cities of 15 million. Walking the streets of Tokyo is like being in an educated ant hill, and London is no different. We are reaching the point when cities of that size, with all the rapidity of communication and speed of movement, cannot be governed in the same way as smaller cities. Policing is made too difficult.
I am discarding that part of my notes containing statistics; we have had all the statistics we need today. I would ask this simple question. Could we become a gun-carrying democracy? I recall walking through the Bowery and Harlem. I would not walk through Harlem today, and I do not think I would wander at night through the Bowery in New York, not in my age group. I do not believe one can build a gun-carrying democracy. Nor do I believe one can have democratic gun-carrying police, although they must have the opportunity of carrying guns in an emergency. But I do not want the flippant movement of police with revolver at the hip.
The House will be pleased to hear that I have arrived at the last point I intend to make. It is that we must not allow hysteria to govern our thinking. But that, I fear, is what is beginning to happen. The Scarman Report contained this sentence:Racial disadvantages are a fact of current British life".We must face the fact that we are living in a multiracial society containing many faiths, beliefs and colours of skin. By some means or other this little old country must solve the problem of putting them all in the melting pot of our British way of life. That can be done, whatever the cost at the beginning, by giving the children of the coloured races the same opportunities of education and progress that we are giving to the whites. I am pleased that in the Brixton area, 35 to 40 coloured men and women have had the courage to join the police. The more of those people we can get in, the more the new people, who fought for us—or at any rate whose fathers fought for us—in the last war will begin to believe that we are working for the equality of society.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, is calling attention to the increase in crime and the problems involved in the maintenance of law and order. There are many answers, but I hope that, in passing, I have mentioned at least three or four that are worth considering.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to speak following my noble friend in the Opposition, Lord Davies (if I may so call him), but I do not think he would expect me to comment on the difference of religion in various schools of which he gave an account. He referred in passing, as I expected, to Welsh rugby and the neighbourliness of the Welsh people. It was in many ways an invigorating speech and one on a lighter note, which we accept with pleasure at this hour.
I too shall not speak for more than about 10 minutes—and we have been keeping up quite a good record for length of speeches. In contemplating what I should say this evening, I came to the conclusion that 1031 the police should be strengthened, by which I mean possibly by certain amendments to the law. In making that observation, I have not come here to criticise my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the most difficult situation which faces him, but to support him and the Government, and that I shall do in some observations and suggestions later in my remarks.
First, I wish to look at the facts of the present circumstances in which the police are required to operate, and they include operating in certain areas where there are disorders in a society of young people a great number of whom, since the 1960s, have been encouraged to challenge authority. A good deal of that has been learnt in schools and from the dissemination of literature peddled to certain sections of our youth. They were encouraged, for example, to despise authority. That seemed to be the slogan; to change society, it was necessary to be militant. I repeat, it is in that atmosphere that we expect the police to perform their duties.
Let us reflect for a moment on the circumstances in which the police were able to operate, say, 20 years ago. There used to be worldwide admiration for Britain and its principles of government, and I suggest that somehow more leadership should be given by those who are in authority to give it. By that I mean a return to those principles for which we once stood, and on which, in my view, we have for too long remained silent.
Forgive me if I now give a personal experience to illustrate what I mean. It is in no way meant to apply to any reflected glory on myself. When men lost their freedom, as they did, and as I did, from 1941 to 1945, when they were starved, and even tortured in a Singapore gaol under an enemy occupation, there was one blinding light which enabled them to live when, by all the rules of nature, they should have died. That was their confidence in Britain, its principles, its laws, the Government, its precepts, and the talks that we used to receive each day from the BBC in London. The talks were disseminated from hidden wireless sets and given circulation each night to the three occupants of each cell in the prison; and of course the greatest care was taken to prevent discovery.
Yes, it was that great force, that belief in British principles, that reinforced the will to live. It is those principles of the past which we seem to have lost and to which now we should in some way be returning. In today's debate we have heard appeals from various noble Lords that we of the public must help. So must our leaders. A society cannot survive without respect for authority and certain rules by which we live; and that above all would help the police in their task. It would also help in gaining that consent from the public to the operations of the police—a comment made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his excellent speech to the House earlier this evening.
I now wish to refer to an official press release, No. 78, issued on Monday 8th March by the Greater London Council. I have the press release in my hand, and I shall pass it to my noble friend the Minister. It was issued for publication in the press by Mr. Paul Boateng, the black chairman of the GLC Police Committee. In my view it is a scurrilous and offensive 1032 document. I do not propose to comment at length from it. It is highly inflammatory, since it publicly accuses the Metropolitan Police of racism. In my opinion it also expresses views on matters concerning the Metropolitan Police which are strictly within the competence of the Home Secretary and are not the responsibility of the police committee or its chairman, Mr. Paul Boateng. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will have something to say about the press release when he winds up the debate. I hope, too, that certain action might be taken on the situation, since it only makes the work of the Metropolitan Police very much more difficult.
I shall now give another example of what appears to be inflammatory action instituted against the police. On Monday night of this week I took a walk in the streets of Hackney, and I came across a poster on a wall. It bore a picture of a black citizen, and it was heavily printed with the words:Day of Action against Police Violence ",and the word "Violence" was heavily printed in red. The poster was supported by the Hackney Black Peoples' Association. I should like to see such notices made an offence under the law.
I am aware that, in addition, during the winter the extreme Left have been engineering an awful lot of agitation. Is the Home Office aware of this? Is my noble friend the Minister aware of the activities of the organisation Militant Tendency? It is reported to have a membership of 2,500, and it has recently held various meetings in Brixton and other trouble spots.
Then, there are publications which are legion. I shall quote from only one of the newspapers. An article headedThe next step of the Revolutionary Communist Party",had this to say:The scene is already set for major confrontation with the police in 1982. And the police are gearing up for it. Renewed conflict on an even larger scale is inevitable".We are a tolerant nation, my Lords—perhaps more tolerant than any other nation on this earth. We pride ourselves on our freedom, and we go to extreme lengths to protect the freedom of the individual. But in my view there are ruthless individuals—not many, but in quite sufficient numbers—who prostitute the freedom that they enjoy under our laws to gain their own ends, and if that were to continue and grow, there could be serious trouble. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will take note of what I have said, and that he will, if he is able, answer some of the questions that I have asked as well as take action to strengthen the law under which the police are required to operate.
Finally, I would say that I support my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the difficult tasks ahead of him and in all that he has done up to the present. I find it hard to believe that the office of Home Secretary can ever have been more onerous or difficult that it is at the present time, and in my opinion it behoves all of us to support my right honourable friend. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who has introduced this debate today. I think that it has been worthwhile, and I hope most sincerely that the authorities will find it, as I have found it, extremely helpful.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, other speakers in the debate have just touched on the subject of prison. I intend to devote my entire remarks to the subject. No debate on law and order can be contemplated without including some words and questions concerning prisons and those who serve in them. After all, these institutions are, for better or worse, where those who offend grievously against society end up, and the observance of law and order is as important inside prisons as it is outside them.
We all know the sorry facts of overcrowding and bad sanitation. Her Majesty's prison at Pentonville, for instance, which was due for demolition in 1980 but which is now entering its 140th year, was built to hold 520 prisoner, and now regularly houses a population of around 1,000 men. Although the fabric continues to deteriorate, by both a miracle of administrative sleight of hand and the total dedication of the works manager and his department, those 1,000 souls are fed, cared for and administered by a totally dedicated staff of governors, administrators and prison officers.
Many speakers today have rightly paid tribute to the high quality of our police force, and I should like to be associated with all those tributes. But I think it is important that at the same time we should appreciate just how fortunate is this country in the staff that it has to run its prisons. We should, after all, never forget that in many ways the conditions in which prisoners live are shared by the staff—and the standard of care from the prison service is remarkable. The Government have recognised the importance of prison staffs by massive injections of funds. But, while warmly applauding the prompt application of that part of the May Report, I must mention—and ask my noble friend the Minister for his answer to—what I would describe as the chicken and egg situation.
I refer to the major problem of recruitment of staff. During early Government cutbacks there was a restriction on recruitment, with the result that although Leyhill Training Centre was kept open, the training staff at Wakefield were reduced and the staff for prison officer training were reduced and dispersed. Further, owing to the acute shortage of staff in the female establishments, the emphasis on current recruiting is for female staff. For example, on the current course being held at Leyhill, I understand that there are 46 female and 14 male officers under training. The shortage of discipline officers in the South-East Region alone is now 434, which represents a shortage of 10 per cent.
There is also a shortage of trade officers in the service, and a Prison Officers' Association restriction on the recruitment of civilian workers. Therefore, contractors have to be used, which results in a requirement of additional discipline staff to escort and supervise them. The overall result of this is that when new establishments open—and there is a C category prison due to come into being shortly at Warren Hill, and an additional wing at Hollesley Bay Borstal—they can be manned only by a further reduction of staff in other establishments. It is of course very good news that this extra accommodation is in sight, but it seems to me that the Government's major programme of building eight new prisons must be matched by an 1034 increase of trained prison staff without depriving existing establishments. I hope my noble friend the Minister will reassure me.
It used to be said that there were no votes to be gained by spending money on prisons. I would submit that although no votes may be gained—and it is a terrifying thought that prison spending will have taken up nearly 20 per cent. of the total budget for law, order and protective services during the year 1981–82—yet it is imperative that these eight new prisons ordered by the Government are built. It cannot be cost-effective to be constantly spending money on the repair of old, out-dated and above all overcrowded establishments. Furthermore, since Christmas the number of prisoners coming into the system has increased greatly, and it looks as if we will shortly be back to the 44,000 mark.
My noble friend Lord Renton has done us all a great service by sponsoring this debate today. Quite apart from his impeccable timing he has given us the privilege of listening to a splendid maiden speech by the Lord Chief Justice and to excellent speeches from many eminent lawyers. Now we reach (if I may coin a phrase) the bottom of the barrel, in the shape of a mere lay magistrate, who is grateful for the opportunity to speak in such august company.
I believe that, nowadays, prison is used by the magistrates' courts as a last measure. It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of men suitable for D category and open prisons is decreasing, while the number of those in categories A, B and particularly C is increasing. Those men serving long sentences who are usually in categories A and B are not held in overcrowded conditions, and receive maximum facilities for work, recreation and studies. It is disappointing to reflect that the majority of disturbances in recent years have been caused by these men, and not by those who are held in the badly overcrowded local prisons. In other words, it is the quality of the prisoners rather than of the prisons which causes problems. Let us not forget the men of the prison service, who work in such places.
The Government—any Government—have a thankless task when dealing with any aspect of the vast subject we are debating today. I applaud this Government's positive efforts to initiate reform, to reward and encourage those who protect us, to compensate the victims of crime and to recognise the work done by the prison service. It is right for us to question, but I believe that it behoves us all as a nation to support the Government, the police and the prison service in their very real efforts to deal with and solve these most worrying and frightening aspects of our lives today.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for introducing this subject today, and for the topical nature of the debate, which he probably did not appreciate when he first put down his Motion. If the noble Baroness who has just sat down is the bottom of the barrel, I assume I must be the next level down. This is the stage of the debate when the captains and the kings depart and only those who must get our speeches on the record remain.
I think we must remind ourselves that most people 1035 —99 per cent. of the population—go through life without ever committing a crime. Perhaps the worst offence they are ever likely to be accused of is parking on a double yellow line. Mind you, there are moments when I think, looking at the court's findings, that it is actually cheaper to hit an old lady on the head than park on a double yellow line, such is the nature of our fines system. But I heard quite recently that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said when he was opening a new crime prevention centre:We cannot expect the police, the courts and the other law and order services to tackle the problem of crime alone. Law enforcement is there when all else has failed, and there is no doubt that the community itself can play a major part".I sometimes get the feeling, in the work that I do for the retailers in the prevention of a particular crime, that the community is on the side of the offender and certainly not on the side of the victim. I should like to draw attention to a particular aspect which I do not think anyone else has mentioned, and that is the increasingly violent attacks on workers in the course of their occupation. Even 20 years ago the only worker who might have expected violence was a policeman. Now in every underground train there are notices about assaults on staff; bus conductors and bus drivers are assaulted almost every day of the week; and so are nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers. Do we realise that during the riots many ambulance drivers were injured as a result of bricks being hurled through the windscreens of ambulances? Then there are social security officers, and teachers—even though a particular magistrate seemed to suggest that teachers should expect assault. As an ex-teacher I found this statement particularly ridiculous.
I would speak for one other section of the community that is constantly receiving violent attack, and that is those who serve us in the shops. Figures cannot reveal the horror of assaults by the use of knives, scissors and coshes, to say nothing of a certain very sinister recent trend which takes the form of young men entering a shop and threatening the staff that if they do not turn a blind eye to the theft they will waylay and assault them on the way home at night. One security guard, during his lunch-hour outside a store in London in the last month, was threatened by two men who pressed the point of a flick-knife against his stomach. It would be nice to say that somebody came to his assistance. Indeed, no one did.
Many of the shops now, as your Lordships will know, have restaurants. These are intended for the family shopper, and are very much enjoyed. They are now being invaded by hordes of youths who indulge in all kinds of horseplay and vandalism, and when it develops into full-scale fighting there are tables overturned and crockery broken. Any members of the sales staff who attempt to control them are spat upon, assaulted and verbally abused. The ordinary shopper is actually being driven away from the shops and from the shopping precincts because of the fear of being attacked or of being involved.
Businesses are in fact going bankrupt because of this. A very pathetic letter has been sent to the Prime Minister by the launderette industry. That is an industry mainly made up of small family businesses, a service industry, and it would be to our detriment if these were to disappear. 1036 In that letter they describe the vandalism, the break-ins and all the damage done, which is gradually forcing them to close, one by one. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has replied to that letter, but it is a cry from the heart from one particular industry, though this can be repeated over and over again.
Imagine the horror of the small pharmacist, who not only has break-ins by drug addicts but has break-ins and thefts by people who wish to sell the drugs. He has a highly valuable stock. Again, this is an offence which is increasing, accompanied always by violence. One curious feature of crimes of this kind is that the victim (in this case the shopkeeper) does not get any sympathy from the public. I could describe many instances, but it will suffice if I describe one, which will meet the point.
In Croydon recently four girls were seen outside a shop with large, empty bags. Inside the store they started stealing goods and were busy filling their bags. When they were stopped outside the shop, they began screaming and swearing. A large crowd assembled, completely hostile not to the girls but to the staff who were trying to control them. By this time the girls were kicking and scratching, punching and biting. Members of the public tried to free the girls and repeatedly kicked the manager causing him to fall to the ground with multiple bruises. A woman claiming to be a social worker hit a security officer on the face with her handbag telling him that he should not hurt women—a sexist remark, if you like. Police were called and the two girls that they managed to control were handcuffed and arrested. The other two girls escaped in the fracas set up by members of the public. A quantity of property, including a suede coat valued at £70, was missing from the store. The two girls arrested were already on bail to a Crown court for theft, assault and assaulting the police. Which of the groups ought the general public to have assisted—and which did they? The innocent bystander has everything to lose by the action of the law-breaker.
In Exeter a thief who ran off after being caught stealing smashed his way through a crowd of shoppers, sending a six-year-old boy crashing to the ground. The boy suffered a broken collarbone and was taken to hospital. It would be reasonable to assume that the courts would deal sensibly with this type of offender. But when we see that a man who was stopped in the act of theft and who admitted in court that he had already assaulted three employees was fined £10, and that this is typical, it is not surprising that people do not report crimes and that they do not follow it up by going to the court. I have had a break-in, as no doubt have many noble Lords. I found it amazing that when one mentioned this at any dinner table, half of one's friends and neighbours had suffered the same and had not reported it. When one asks: "Why not?", they say, "Because nothing happens".
We have a number of people at the moment who do not feel they are getting justice. This cannot be good. A letter that I sent to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on the derisory sentences passed in certain courts was passed to the Home Secretary who passed it to a civil servant for reply. I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, would 1037 have paid me the honour of replying to it himself. I would hope that to the next letter I send to the Home Secretary I shall get a reply from the Minister.
Mr. Whitelaw is now having a great deal to say about this matter. As a Christian I tend to say, "By their deeds ye shall know them"—and not by what people say. Mr. Whitelaw said that those who complain about rising crime and at the same time withhold their support from the police by turning a blind eye to criminal activities, with the excuse, "It is none of my business", or those who fail to take sensible precautions to deter wrongdoers do no service to the community. Apathy about crime encourages its growth. The prevention and detection of crime is everybody's business and society will only get the kind of law and order it deserves.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it is only correct that one should sympathise very much with the victims described in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. It is equally right that those people, hopefully, be compensated and the perpetrators of the crimes should be convicted and punished. But if one reads some of the modern press at the moment, if one reads Mr. Boateng, one would think that Tamburlaine had been loosed on England.
I will try to show your Lordships that what is happening in England and Wales now is so minor and so little when compared with what happens in other countries that we should count our blessings that we live in a very, very peaceful society. Violence against the person went up 3 per cent. last year, 3 per cent. the year before and 9 per cent. in the 1970s. Violence against the person can be pulling a policeman's beard at a football match or grievous bodily harm. It is a very broad spectrum of crime. A 3 per cent. increase or decrease is surely statistically unimportant.
The insurance rate for burglary risk is quite an interesting statistic. In London it is between 1 per cent. and 1.2 per cent.; in Paris, 2 per cent.; in Beverly Hills, 3 to 3½ per cent. The insurance underwriters want to make a profit; they want to sell their product. That rate shows beyond peradventure that the burglary risk is greater in Beverly Hills and in California than in Paris and that in Paris it is greater than in London.
Let us take the drugs problem. The situation in New York and on the West Coast of America is horrendous. It is bad in Rotterdam, in Amsterdam and in Marseilles, and it is not good in England but it is a lot better than in those other countries. We in this country do not suffer from kidnapping crimes as in Italy. We do not suffer from organised mobsters as in Sicily and in the USA. The total number of homicides in 1980 in this country was 621 and that figure included murder, manslaughter and infanticide. Of those, 600 were cleared up. That is a 97 per cent. clearing-up rate.
A lot has been made of the difficulty of reporting statistics of crime. I should have thought that it is very easy to disguise or not to count the number of times somebody handles something which is euphemistically said to "have fallen off the back of a lorry". I would suspect that we all—not wittingly—have handled things that "have fallen off the back of a lorry". I think it is infinitely difficult to hide dead bodies. It 1038 is going to be much harder to disguise deaths. It is true that in Arkansas several years ago they uncovered hordes of buried prisoners whom the governor of the prison had "bumped off" and left there. But even these dead prisoners were finally found. It is difficult to diguise dead bodies.
I come to murder outside this country to show that really this country is peaceful and law-abiding and that it is England's green and pleasant land. In 1978 in the USA there were 19,560 murders. That is an absolutely astronomical number—more than the number of grouse shot at Bolton Abbey, and that is quite a lot. In England there were 620. We are talking about a peaceful country; we are not overwhelmed by a crime wave. On the murder of policemen, which people rightly get exercised about: in the USA in 1979 there were 106 such murders, and in 1980 104. During the period 1969–78 there were 1,123 law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the United States. How many were there killed in England? There were 13, my Lords. We are not dealing with an open season for policemen, we are dealing with the very occasional, exceptional crime.
I have some figures which have come from Police Studies of the numbers of policemen per 100,000 killed in a series of 16 nations. The Americans lead the pack effortlessly with 21.93 per 100,000 policemen. The figures for Canada are 9.08; then come the Irish at 6.40. Even the Swiss managed to do quite well with 6.61. The figure for the French police is 5.45, and what is the English score, my Lords? It is 1.3. It is the lowest of all the figures issued in this report.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, would the noble Earl give way? Surely if you are the young widow of a policeman that is one too many even if it is only 13 policemen.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I have never said anything that would possibly give any impression other than that. All I am saying is that there are fewer young widows of policemen in this country than there are young widows of policemen in any other country, and that is something about which we ought to be very proud. We live in a peaceful, civilised country. Judging by some of the press reports recently about some of the activities of certain people, one would think that this was not the case. Is this an excuse for bringing back capital punishment? Incidentally, the murder rate in Louisiana—where they do have capital punishment and it is still on the statute book—is twice what it is in Ulster, including terrorism, at 15.21 per 100.000. Is this an excuse for bringing back capital punishment?
I have two stories on capital punishment. One is about a friend of mine who would have been a Member of your Lordships' House now and would have been alive today were it not for capital punishment. He was not convicted of murder. He was a young officer in the Royal Horse Guards who was shopping in Cyprus. We had hanged a terrorist, or what we then called a terrorist—what some people would call a freedom fighter—for shooting somebody. EOKA had said: "If you hang that terrorist, we will shoot a British soldier". Steven Fox-Strangways, with whom I was 1039 at school, was shot down in cold blood solely as a result of that judicial hanging.
Finally, I should just say this: during the 19th century, between 1840 and 1850, something like 57 people were hanged at public executions. Fifty-one of those people were convicted of pickpocketing at public executions.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Lord Grantchester
My Lords, while congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for instigating this debate, may I apologise to him and to the House for my inability to attend the opening speeches. My inability was caused by having to sit in the Crown court today. This did not rise until 4 o'clock. I have come along, following the sitting, in order to express a few remarks derived from my experience in the Crown court, the court where most of the offences which your Lordships are considering this evening are dealt with. We are here concerned with the offences of violence and dishonesty.
Before making a very few general suggestions and observations, I would express profound disagreement with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, for the tenor of the last speech. I think that the man in the street is upset and worried at the moment by the adverse effect on the quality of life caused by present crime in the large cities. Children in Hammersmith nowadays cannot safely go to and from school without being attacked in the street and robbed of their pocket money. If this happens to them, they return to school where they fill up a form. It is very unlikely that anything more will ever transpire. The elderly are viciously attacked in their homes—often for small amounts of money—which are sought by those attacking them.
Houses now have to be protected, at the demand of the insurance companies, by expensive burglar alarm systems, and householders are persuaded and encouraged to fix panic buttons in case of attack. I do not think that the man in the street—who now finds that public transport will not run across parts of London after dark, and who finds that people will not venture in parts of London after dark—would agree that the quality of life is not being materially and adversely affected by crime at the moment.
Having said that, I have three suggestions to make, one in relation to each aspect of the problem. The problem facing us has three aspects. First, the detection of offenders; secondly, the trial of the offenders; and thirdly, their sentencing. As to detection, during this debate the police have unanimously and justifiably been praised by your Lordships. But this is not what happens in the Crown court when I am sitting there. Too frequently they are subjected to attacks on their integrity and their veracity, often going so far as to suggest that the police are deliberately lying, have themselves attacked the defendant and are motivated by a desire to secure wrongful conviction.
Those attacks are made because the police in the eye of the public have suffered in recent years. The defendants, those who are accused, hope that by this course of action—and they sometimes succeed—they will bemuse or persuade juries not to convict, and the juries will believe that the police have some improper and unjustifiable motive for bringing the prosecution. 1040 I think here it is up to the Government and the police to take active steps to improve the image of the police in the public eye and that we should all seek to support the police by giving little credence to these attacks on their integrity. That is all I wish to say on the detection aspect.
Secondly, as to trial, your Lordships may know that there are over 50 Crown courts just in the centre of London and that each of them costs the taxpayer something over £3,000 a day at present. Therefore the costs just of the Crown courts in Central London are large. I think I heard a figure quoted today of £10 per court per minute. That is an expenditure of public funds on trying what are in many cases minor offences of violence and dishonesty: for example, the shoplifter who has taken goods to the value of a pound or two or the man who has struck another when drunk or in a heated moment and has not necessarily done any permanent damage.
Those kinds of case, I suggest, should not be tried at great expense to the taxpayer by the present Crown court system of judge, jury, ushers and all the other paraphernalia that we have. I do hope that some thought will be given to the establishment of a system of criminal tribunals which will deal with what I call "the middle range"—that is the lesser offences of violence and dishonesty which can now elect for jury trial. I should not wish to abolish the jury trial system for the very serious cases such as grievous bodily harm or intent to cause grievous bodily harm, where the victim is very seriously injured or where the thefts involved are of considerable amount and value; but I would suggest that the middle range of these offences should be dealt with by a similar tribunal and more quickly.
I have the idea that one of the deterrent factors that would be produced by this system would be the bringing of persons accused of offences to trial far more quickly. At the moment, I find myself trying cases which occurred in 1979–80. That is far too long a period and, in the interim, the witnesses will have forgotten or may have become muddled as to what happened. The defendant or the accused will have spent a year or a year and a half doing other things, during which time the thought of the possible trial and what might happen to him thereat will have almost passed from his mind.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Can he give the reason why there is this long delay?
§ Lord Grantchester
My Lords, I think the long delay is because of the great number of cases awaiting trial. I believe therefore that, if one had a simpler system of preparing for trial and a system whereby the trials would not take so long as Crown court trials, involving the judges giving lengthy explanations and summings-up to the juries, it might speed up these cases.
I would say that about trials, and now I should like to make one or two suggestions about sentencing. Sentencing is the most difficult part of the duties of someone sitting in a court. I paint the scene of what happens: you finish your summing up to the jury and the jury retires. Immediately the jury has retired another jury is empanelled to try the next case and you start trying the case while the first jury is still considering 1041 its verdict. Then you have to break into the second case when the first jury has made up its mind and it comes back and gives its verdict. It is at this stage that you have to put your attention to the question of sentencing, and at that stage what you hear concerns the previous position and any previous convictions of the defendant; and you listen to a plea in mitigation and the reading of any reports which may come in. Where you are in that position, of course, what you want to do basically, or so I always believe, is to try to see whether you can prevent that person offending again. That is the object. But you have to operate within the confines of the sentencing range imposed by Parliament for the offence and of course the general circumstances.
It is not easy, but one's great desire is, if possible, not to send the defendant to prison unless that is the only possible course; so one proceeds on that basis. What worries one while sitting there is the generally known fact that the prisons are overcrowded and also the generally known fact that many of the prisons are unhygienic relics of the Victorian age. Therefore, I do welcome the remarks that I heard the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, make, saying, as I understood them, that money is now being spent on bringing the prison system into a state acceptable in modern times. If that occurred, then the judges would feel far better able to address their minds to the sentencing, untrammelled by any considerations other than the desire to prevent the offender offending again—to deter him and at the same time deal fairly with him and deter others from committing a similar offence, So I do hope that the expenditure on and rebuilding of prisons is now a matter to be treated as a matter of urgency, because it is urgent. I think most of your Lordships would be horrified by the conditions—the food, living conditions and everything else—if you were ever to go round some of the worst examples in the United Kingdom.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, may I first apologise to your Lordships for not having been able to attend the House throughout the whole of this debate? Secondly, would your Lordships allow me to express a deep sense of personal deprivation at not being able to hear the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice.
Surely the sense of your Lordships' House is that we have moved far beyond the biblical concept of retributive justice, beyond the Saxon deodand and beyond the Gilbertian simplicity of punishment having to fit the crime. We broadly accept—do we not?—the enlightenment and humane approach of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary towards these matters today. So why, then, if, as I do, I accept his approach without reservation, do I seek to detain your Lordships even for one moment? It is because the question is: Is that approach adequate to stem the tide which licks at the breakwaters of law and order, which serve to protect the beaches of our own civilisation from erosion? In my submission, a new approach must be found, because the maintenance of law and order today poses so many complex and varied problems which relate, as often as not, to cause as to effect.
The disintegration of family life, the weakening of the disciplines—the moral disciplines, the religious 1042 disciplines, the educational disciplines—and the various racial tensions that have assailed us so recently have caused ruptures in the fabric of our society. Surely, it is idle for any of us to pretend—but I have heard it so suggested—that it is an answer to give shorter sentences and automatic remission; that is a mere palliative for want of adequate prison accommodation. Or that it is another answer to have more prison accommodation. That would provide no answer, unless one re-examined the whole prison régime.
On the problems of employment, it would be an answer to seek to devise a better system of countering unemployment. But that would be no answer in this context, unless we were to secure the co-operation of the trades unions and the employers in some new initiative as regards rehabilitation, while at the same time ensuring that the essential interests of neither employers nor trades unions are put to unacceptable risk. It is no use just improving housing. That provides no answer, unless with it one seeks to come to grips with the evils that assail the social fabric. As for just increasing the strength of the police, that of itself is no answer, unless one gives considerable thought to new and relevant policing policies.
I respectfully suggest to your Lordships that a totally new initiative, a totally new approach, a totally new sense of direction is required where there is co-ordination and cohesion. This new initiative, perhaps inevitably, should be taken at various levels. May I make some brief and tentative suggestions and, in view of the hour, I give an undertaking not to detain your Lordships for long.
First, at local government level we must proclaim and teach a new ethos—the moral nature of true citizenship. Here the schools, the Churches and the voluntary associations have an essential part to play. We must seek to eradicate the antagonisms to which my noble friend Lord Gridley and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, referred and must try to cultivate consent—that delightful and forceful phrase used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. At the judicial level, we must "de-Beech" Beeching, so that recorders can once again relate to the locality in which they sit, understand the problems, retain their continuity, follow the case histories of those they sentence and keep in constant touch with the social and welfare officers. At the prison level, there must be more accommodation, more education facilities and more recreation facilities. Also, as my noble friend Lady Trumpington has stressed, much must be done to recognise and boost the morale of that excellent body of men and women—the prison staff.
But there is another aspect, if one is making constructive suggestions. I seriously suggest for your Lordships' consideration, in view of certain criticisms that have been made of the board of visitors procedure in a certain case which was presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, not so long ago, that these procedures are apt to give rise to tensions, and to the feeling among prisoners that justice is neither seen to be done, nor done. And there have been some regrettable instances.
In my respectful submission, the procedures whereby losses of remission are awarded for breaches of prison discipline should be seriously studied and reviewed by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary with a 1043 view to devising a simpler and fairer system. In the aftermath, as I have sought to mention to your Lordships, unless there is some new approach on the part of trade unions and employers with a view to seeking jobs for those who have to be rehabilitated without causing unacceptable risks to the essential interests of either, nothing much can be done to restore essential morale.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton for the opportunity of this debate. Your Lordships' House is not the place in which to condescend to any detail. It is a very wide canvas. One uses a broad brush and paints in bold streaks. But without some new initiative, without a new approach, without some direction, there will be no effective cohesion or coordination and, I earnestly suggest for your Lordships' consideration, we may never deal effectively with this problem. Many factors are [...]. And, apart from the many factors, four or five Departments of State are involved. A new approach, a new sense of direction, is required. For is it not now time that we repaired to our beaches, not to repel some foreign aggressor but to reconstruct the very foundations upon which our society subsists?
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Renton very much for introducing and, indeed, for thinking of this splendid debate, for doing it so skilfully and for setting the course of the debate so clearly for us. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Belstead very much for his introduction and for the many things which the Home Office has clearly set in train already—and is going to set in train as time goes on. Although many congratulations from various quarters have been expressed to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, I should have thought that, in his unassuming way, my noble friend Lord Belstead, in introducing these points, might have said (but he did not because he is a nice chap) that he had had a lot to do with the thinking behind them. From the many occasions upon which addresses us, we all know of the care with which my noble friend views his job and how carefully he views the points that are made in your Lordships' House.
I must also, of course, congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, though with great humility when talking about a Lord Chief Justice. We do not have enough Lord Chief Justices talking to us. Even for him, a maiden speech in your Lordships' House was probably somewhat of an ordeal—as it is for the rest of us. He gave us such a good and House-of-Lords-like speech—which is not always the case with judges—that perhaps we may hear a little more of him in the future. I am sorry that I cannot say that to his face.
The noble and learned Lord said two things which struck me as important. The first was that judges cannot defend themselves. He then proceeded to defend them very well indeed. Perhaps that is another reason why the noble and learned Lord should make more speeches here, because they can certainly defend themselves in this House. The second was that statistics are dangerous. I agree. I particularly agree that statistics are dangerous when we do not have 1044 enough of them.
I was a little saddened that the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, rather spoiled for me his otherwise thoughtful and excellent speech by attacking the statistics produced by the Metropolitan Police relating to Brixton. My noble friend Lord Belstead picked this up. What was lacking—if anything was lacking in the Metropolitan Police statistics—was that there were not enough of them. What one really wants are lots of identifiable statistics, to be able to tell just where corrections need to be made. I thought that those statistics were not really accurate enough. What one makes of statistics depends very much on one's attitude. Most of your Lordships have taken the view that they are all very disastrous, except my noble friend Lord Onslow. I can give him a word of comfort.
I do not know whether your Lordships heard this, but after the riots last summer in Brixton, Toxteth and other places, the BBC (very wisely, I thought) sent a correspondent to the West Indies to hear what the West Indians thought about the riots, because a large number of the people involved were from the West Indies, albeit from perhaps one or two generations back. The BBC found that the people in the West Indies were totally relaxed. They asked the West Indians why they were relaxed and were told, "We have cousins in Central America, South America and the United States, as well as having them in your country. The difference is that when there is a riot anywhere in the Americas, the thing of interest is the number of deaths. Your riots didn't have any deaths—not of our people anyhow". I would have thought that my noble friend Lord Onslow had a point there. On the other hand, I suggest that his point was a bit too relaxed because surely it is a fact that it is trends which matter rather than the status quo. The trends are not good for this country. They may not be good for other countries, but, relatively speaking, things get worse and worse under the circumstances in which we are living today.
The two points I wish to pick-up relate to the crime of teenagers and the relationship of the police with the community. In both cases I am talking against a training background, because that is where my experience lies; in the training of people of all kinds, including young people. I believe that it really must be brought home to those who are responsible for the training of young people (which includes their homes, as many noble Lords have said, their school teachers, and when they are lucky enough to get jobs at the age of 16 or 17, their first employers) that they can have a great effect on these young people. Their training for a job or their training for life must, in my experience, include training for self-discipline. It is quite wrong of anybody to think that they can escape in this modern age not giving that kind of training. There are all sorts of pressures to encourage people not to be self-disciplined. Whatever we may say, we are a prosperous country. Whether we will always be so is another matter, but so long as this Government are in power there is a good chance that we shall.
In these prosperous days, good communications—by which I mean communications through television and cinema rather than by land, sea, or air—make it more important for people to be able to be responsible for their own actions. If there was one thing I found 1045 myself teaching young people, it was that they must be responsible for their own actions. When one can get that through to them, the rest tends to fall into place.
It is quite disgraceful that parents in particular but school teachers, also, should feel that they do not have any responsibility there. I also think that employers should take the same view. But it is particularly so of the first two, because that is where the work should be done. It is very bad indeed when parents and teachers set a bad example of self-discipline on their part. I will say to my noble friend Lord Belstead, because it was not touched upon, that perhaps the Home Office will give thought to the way in which this central truth can be conveyed in some way, without being propagandist or anything nasty like that, to the people who are responsible for children. In the last resort, it is those same people who are going to suffer if there is mugging in the streets and stealing in the shops; this does direct harm to the people who are responsible for children.
The other point is the question of the police and their relationship with the community. I agree with practically all that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, put into his report. I agree in particular with his call for statutory liaison councils or committees. I think that is a good point which I am sure my noble friend will follow through. I also agree with his clear statement of opinion—and here we come back to training—that the initial training of 10 to 15 weeks for constables is really not good enough. When one compares it with the sort of training that is given in the services to young sailors and soldiers and airmen, it just does not bear any comparison. I am talking not about on the job training; I am talking about off the job training in training centres. It is that which I think is inadequate, and I think it is not only inadequate as regards the new entrant but inadequate throughout the policeman's career, so far as I am able to determine.
Young sailors—and I talk particularly about them because I know their situation best, but I know it applies in the other services—will get off the job for training in one form or another at roughly (it varies) three- to four-year intervals throughout their service. Some of it may be only a week's course in a particular subject; some of it may be longer, depending on whether they are getting advanced in rank. I believe it is not necessary to do an off the job training course to become a police sergeant, and if that is so I think it is disgraceful. I really think the police have got to put their minds to it.
This applies not only in the services, which I quote because, being a disciplined force, they have a greater linkage; it also applies to industry, where junior management training is not different from the training one would expect to find for a police sergeant and more senior ranks. I think there ought to be the same sort of thing in the police, and I do hope my noble friend Lord Belstead will be able to take back the thought that the police have jolly well got to pull their socks up and get down to proper training, because until they get that right they are not going to find it easy to develop the right attitudes that my noble friend Lord Inglewood was talking about, determining how to get the proper people at the top in the senior ranks to command the police forces, which we clearly want. Nor will they be able to get the proper attitude for community 1046 relationship with the communities in which they live. This can come only from proper training, properly conducted by experts. It does not come from what is called in industry, "sitting next to Nellie", even if "Nellie" is an old police sergeant, if you see the comparison. I hope my noble friend will take those two points, the training of the young people and how we deal with it in this country, and how to deal with the policeman in regard to his training.
I would like to end on one note of hope. It was put by my noble friend Lady Macleod. I must say that it is my experience too but I would not be saying it if she had not. I think the generation today, the 20 and 18 year olds of today, are more hopeful and more likely to discipline their children than their predecessors of 10 years or so ago. I think we went through a very difficult period for the young people of 10 years ago, but somehow the children today seem to be more stable in their thinking and to have these essential thoughts in their minds to a geater extent than before. No doubt if one lived in Brixton one would reply, "You are talking nonsense", but there are these people in parts of the country. They are much to be applauded; and let us hope that they will shape a better future, and that we can go on to better things.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, may I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Renton for this most timely debate today, and in regard to the thoughtful and constructive contributions to the debate made on this important subject may I thank also my noble friend Lord Mottistone for the generous remarks he was good enough to include in his speech. May I be the last, or the second to last, probably, to recognise the maiden speech of the Lord Chief Justice? In fact, I was reminded that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, was a Member of your Lordships' House as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary for a short time before he became Lord Chief Justice. We very much welcome that the noble and learned Lord has seized the opportunity of this debate to make a speech which it was obvious the House very much appreciated. I very much welcomed the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, setting the record straight in your Lordships' House about the proposal which the Government had certainly seriously considered for what is called early release.
Of course the problem which the noble and learned Lord put his finger on was that the proposal for early release would have meant a substantial reduction in a custodial sentence which would have been outside the control of the judiciary, who would of course, none the less have remained responsible for giving the sentence. However, the Government are going to bring into force on 29th March Section 47 of the Criminal Law Act 1977—a very different sort of provision, which empowers a court to impose a partially suspended sentence. The aim of that sentence is to enable the court to mark the seriousness of the offence while at the same time ordering the suspension of a certain proportion of the sentence so that the period actually served in prison is the miniumm consistent with the needs of the offender and of society. I mention it now because we are also going to offer some slight 1047 changes to the partially suspended sentence in the Criminal Justice Bill when it comes to your Lordships' House.
I very much hope that the provision for partially suspended sentences will mean that the courts will be able to follow the advice which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, has been giving consistently, that those offenders who commit petty crimes and are not a danger to the public should receive the shorter sentences and, where possible, be steered away from custody, but that serious and dangerous criminals and those who commit crimes which are a menace to the community should then he liable for realistic periods in custody.
Many reasons have been advanced for the growth in crime during this debate and not all of them are necessarily compatible. Many and varied prescriptions have been suggested for dealing with the problems of law and order in our society today. Your Lordships will acquit me of discourtesy if I am simply not able to pick all of them up at the end of this debate. But, if I may say so, I think that I do discern to a very encouraging extent that there is common ground within the House today. From the speeches that I have heard, I think that we all value an orderly society based on the rule of law. We look to have the Queen's peace maintained by a police service which is an integral part of our society and which is itself subject to the law. We expect the police to enforce the law firmly and impartially and, indeed, I think that it is obvious that we admire the police in a way which was very well expressed by my noble friend Lord McAlpine of Moffat in the speech which he made.
I was most grateful on behalf of my right honourable friend to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, for his generous recognition of the work which my right honourable friend has done in restoring the numbers and the strength of the police service. I think that all your Lordships acknowledge that every one of us has a part to play in fostering a society where respect for others and self-discipline are given their proper worth and where violence, greed and callousness are recognised as the evils they are. Given this wide and important measure of consensus on fundamentals, I am hopeful that we can find common ground, too, when looking at the practical responses we should be making in our present situation.
I listened with the greatest care, as I think the whole House did, to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. I confirm that he was correct to take it that the Government are doing and are intending to do all they can to see that the effect of his report is implemented. I hope that the speeches which I made on behalf of the Government today and six weeks ago have demonstrated that. I agree with the noble and learned Lord's view, that there is, of course, a difficulty, in that one finds an age gap between the older members of the community and the younger members of the community wherever one happens to look, and that members of ethnic minorities, between the older and younger members of the community, are not exempt from this.
Yet it is the responsibility of those with influence in our community—parents, teachers, youth workers and those who will make up the liaison committees recommended by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman—to try to turn all people away from crime. The 1048 police must have this support and so, indeed, must the community itself. On the occasion of the debate on the Scarman Report in your Lordships' House, on behalf of the Government, I tried to set out the action which we are taking to encourage new commerce and industry to come into the inner city areas. But people will not invest if they believe that the security of their premises and the safety of their staff could be at risk. It is essential for the recovery of an inner city that the level of crime should be reduced. To achieve this, the leaders of communities have a major part to play.
My noble friend Lord Inglewood asked some very pertinent questions about the organisation and tactical management of reserves, meaning—as he explained—those who bring help from one force to another. I say to my noble friend that I am aware that the considerations which he mentioned are very much in the minds of the Association of Chief Police Officers and, indeed, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. I would go further. The disturbances which we saw last summer indeed called for national co-ordination. The rapid deployment of assistance between police forces which we saw then did not just happen; it was the result of careful planning and effective co-ordination of resources.
Perhaps also we run the risk of forgetting that the excellent success rate of the police in detecting the most serious types of crime, to which r referred earlier today, is not achieved lightly. It demands the effective organisation of intelligence and a high degree of cooperation between officers from regional crime squads and a number of different police forces. After all, in many cases, we are talking about highly organised and sophisticated criminals, operating at the national and international level.
None the less, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, asked for the Government's view on the reduction in the clear-up rate in crime. I think we should bear in mind that at the present time we have a great need to increase the number of experienced officers in police forces all round the country, but especially in the inner city areas and in London, where in the past the drop in recruitment has been most severely experienced. This increase in experienced officers, of course, will happen, but it will happen in time. Meanwhile, as I have tried to show the House today, the rates of clear-up differ very widely according to the offences committed.
I shall now try to answer some of the specific questions which I have been asked. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, referred to the prison building programme, and, indeed, I confirm that a massive programme of prison rebuilding is now under way. In that connection, my noble friend Lady Trumpington asked some very pertinent and also not entirely easy questions. Lest I should give my noble friend any wrong answers, I should like to write to her on them; but, if I may, I shall just say this. We certainly intend to see that all the new accommodation which will become available this year is staffed, although, of course, this will mean some substantial periods of overtime. However, I would just remind my noble friend that during my right honourable friend's time in office recruitment to the prison service has been good, but that we cannot have an open-ended commitment for 1049 numbers of prison officers. As I say, I should like to look at the specific questions which my noble friend asked me, and I assure her that I shall write to her.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, and indeed other noble Lords, suggested that police establishments should be reviewed. I should like to make it clear that not only has the strength of the police service as a whole increased by over 8,000 since the Government came into office but that establishments have been increased by 2,400 during that time, while the Metropolitan Police has been thousands under strength. Of course, the question of its establishment has really been academic. But with the force now expected to reach its establishment in 1983, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be considering with the commission before that moment is reached what adjustments will be needed to the establishment.
The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, drew attention to the link, as he saw it, between unemployment and crime. I am sure that the noble Lord will not mind my saying that I think that my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton replied to the noble Lord's points in a very effective way. If we examine trends in recorded crime in this country over the last half century or so, it is clear that there has not historically been an obvious relationship between rising crime and periods of high unemployment. To me as a layman and not as a statistician one of the most remarkable occurrences was the 1960s when during a period of increasing affluence and when unemployment rates were not markedly different from the previous decade, nonetheless, there was a tremendous increase, as the noble Lord will remember, in recorded crime.
In saying that, none of this is to deny the possibility that unemployment may be a factor, along with many social conditions, which lead to offending in some cases, but it is never an excuse. To single out unemployment as an explanation for changes in crime figures over a few years is a thesis which is not supported by the evidence. A number of speakers have referred to the involvement of the young in crime. At this late hour, I would just repeat what I have said before; that this is a matter which the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill deals with in different ways in some detail. Although I have quite a hit of information here, if your Lordships will forgive me, I am not going to repeat it now, because this is particularly a matter which we are going to be debating at some length in only a few weeks' time.
My noble friend Lord Gridley passed to me during the debate a press release from the GLC which indeed refers to a forthcoming meeting with my right honourable friend. I have no idea that my right honourable friend will make clear when that meeting takes place—because it had to be postponed—that we do not accept views expressed in that press release. The point which the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, raises goes rather wider and indeed touches upon a matter which the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, raised when the noble Lord asked me about the need for the London boroughs to become more involved in the affairs of the Metropolitan Police.
My right honourable friend has repeatedly made it clear that this Government have no intention of changing the present system under which the Home Secretary is the police authority for London. The 1050 noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report bore out this point of view. I should like to assure my noble friend Lord Gridley that the fundamental point, we believe, is that there should be no political interference in the enforcement of the law.
The commissioner encourages local police commanders to establish and develop liaison arrangements with the local authorities in their districts. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has strongly supported these developments. With the commissioner's support, he recently proposed to the London Boroughs Association that consultation between district commanders and elected representatives of the boroughs should be placed on a more systematic footing.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, in the course of a most interesting speech for specifically referring to the matter of crime prevention. I agree with him most strongly that people can do an enormous amount to prevent crime through their own exertions and they will find the police very receptive (to repeat what I said) to any inquiries about their own personal matters or any suggestions. At the same time, the work of the crime prevention in this country, and the Home Office Crime Prevention Centre at Stafford is another factor in the whole scene, and we have decided to increase, and indeed have now increased, the size and capacity of the Stafford Crime Prevention Centre.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked me for an assurance on police pay. I hope the substantial presence of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is assurance enough that the Government will at all times do their very best for the police service. As for giving a direct answer to a direct question, the noble Lord will know that in the first instance police pay and conditions are for the Joint Negotiating Committee on Police Pay, and as we are only just over six months from the last increase in police pay, I am afraid that this evening I cannot take the matter any further.
I should refer briefly to the question of police training, raised by my noble friends Lady Faithfull and Lord Mottistone. Lady Faithfull asked whether we should consider widening the content of police training. The Police Training Council is at the moment considering in detail the need for further improvements in police training, taking into account the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. That is the direct reply I give to my noble friend Lord Mottistone. Picking up the point made by my noble friend Lady Faithfull, I would give as an example the fact that the social studies aspects of the initial course at police training centres have recently been revised with a view to providing a greater understanding of how to deal with the public, including ethnic minorities.
Following her point a little further, about in-service training, about which my noble friend Lord Mottistone was critical, I would add that regional management courses for sergeants and inspectors also contain an important community relations element, including the problems of policing a multi-ethnic society, as do central courses for those and other ranks at the Police Staff College at Bramshill, and in addition there are a number of special courses and seminars. But I repeat, the whole scene of police training is under very urgent scrutiny at present as a result of the Scarman Report.
§ Lord Elystan-Morgan
My Lords, does that mean that the Government still have an open mind on one of the most important of the Scarman recommendations; namely, that the period of police training should be six months as opposed to the present 15 weeks in the Metropolitan Police District and 10 weeks in the provincial forces?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I cannot add to what I said six weeks ago in the Scarman debate. Because the noble and learned Lord recommended in the way he did, we immediately went to the Police Training Council and said, "These are the Scarman recommendations", and asked the council to look at the recommendations from two points of view, one from that of resources and the other from that of the balance of training, as to how much of it should be in the classroom, as it were, and how much should be on the job, how much should be in initial training and how much in in-service training. Not until we have the report from the Police Training Council—which I have said on the Floor of the House my right honourable friend hopes to have in the autumn—shall we be able to take the matter any further forward.
I will, if I may, write to my noble friend Lord Fortescue on the matter of auxiliaries. He knows from private conversations that I have slight problems regarding the interesting suggestion he put forward on the Floor of the House. To pick up a point made by my noble friend Lady Macleod, she specifically mentioned the desirability of the power to stop and search for offensive weapons and stolen property. The fact is that this power is represented only by a patchwork of local powers around the country, and this state of affairs was criticised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report and the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, under the chairmanship of Sir Cyril Philips, recommended that the power to stop and search should be placed on a statutory basis. The Government intend to bring forward proposals in the light of the public consultations that have taken place on the Report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, and our intention is to modernise and clarify the law in this area.
My noble friend's point brings me back to the task which faces my right honourable friend in this whole field. The responsibilities of the Home Secretary are broad. Thus he has said that he will modernise and clarify the law on police powers, and the Criminal Justice Bill is providing additional powers for the courts to deal with crime. My right honourable friend is also paying much needed attention to the prison service.
However, in order to support the work of the police we need also the determination of people not to tolerate crime—and I so much agree with my noble friend Lord Mottistone that this determination needs to be instilled into children at an early age. With that determination we are well on the way to policing by consent and to the preservation of the Queen's peace which, in this debate, your Lordships have shown we all so much desire.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I should like to thank all of your Lordships who have taken part in the debate and whose speeches have made it such a valuable 1052 and constructive one. I should like especially—and I am sure that all of your Lordships will agree with me—to thank my noble friend Lord Belstead for his two speeches, which were, as always, helpful and informative. If I may say so, having in another place often had to wind up rather long debates, I think it is remarkable that my noble friend managed to fit into a period of 20 minutes so many admirable and constructive replies to the many points that were raised.
A number of original proposals have been made. My noble friend has already given some attention to them, but he will no doubt wish to study them with a view to seeing what further he can do. While mentioning my noble friend, I should like to remind your Lordships that he has now been in his present position in the Government for two and threequarter years and his service to your Lordships' House has undoubtedly been outstanding. Now—
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I absolutely agree with what has just been said, but would it not be possible for the noble Lord to put the Minister in, as it were, for higher office?
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, that is a suggestion which is as flattering to me as it is well deserving to my noble friend. But I do not have such power.
We have had a wide range of judicial talent among other talents in the debate, from a lay magistrate, to a very distinguished noble and learned former Lord Chancellor, (whose speech we all found so very interesting) and to the Lord Chief Justice. I should like to add my own congratulations to those extended to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lane, on his notable maiden speech. It was indeed a very great advantage to us to hear his authoritative and full description of the sentencing policy and practice of Her Majesty's judges. His description set at rest uncertainties and fears which many people had had with regard to the sentencing policy of the courts. But now we know the position, and we can be thankful.
I hope he will forgive my saying so, but the speech of my noble friend Lord Onslow I found unfathomable. If I may say so, I think he might have thought differently had any of his family been victims of muggings, of which there were 18,000 in London last year, or if his own flat had been burgled—
§ Lord Renton
In that case, my Lords, I find my noble friend's speech even more inexplicable. But apart from that speech, I think it could be said of this debate that "the things that unite us are greater than those that divide us". We are divided on the question of statistics, but without the statistics we have no other way of knowing what is happening and what the trends are. There was division between us on the advantage of publishing separate statistics of the offenders guilty of mugging in London. I must confess that, although I appreciate the feelings of those who have expressed doubt about that, the truth is always advantageous. Unless we can find out who is committing offences—what ages they are, roughly, where they are, and where they belong—we shall not he able to tackle these problems in the way that the public expect us to. We 1053 have got to face that. So I hope that the doubts about that may be set at rest.
We were divided on some of the causes of crime; we were divided on capital punishment; and we were divided on the accountability of the police to police authorities. On that, I make only one comment, and that is that most of us, surely, can be thankful that in London the Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament for the Metropolitan Police, rather than Mr. Ken Livingstone to the Greater London Council.
On the things on which we are united—and this is where I reach my conclusion—we are surely united, first, apart from my noble friend Lord Onslow, in thinking that the scale of crime causes deep anxiety. Secondly, we are united in our support of the police and on the need to strengthen them. Thirdly, we are united in our belief that the law-abiding members of the public have a vital part to play in upholding law and order and fighting crime. Finally, we are united, I do believe, across the House, in our view that the Home Secretary has done and is doing what should be done. I trust, my Lords, that this excellent debate in your Lordships' House will not cause tomorrow's debate in another place to be anything of an anti-climax. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.