§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
rose to call attention to the problems of maintaining law and order; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to draw attention to the problems of maintaining law and order. The maintenance of law and order, the upholding of the Queen's peace, is, in the order of priorities of government, second only to that of the defence of the realm. But there can be no doubt that the state of law and order has deteriorated—not just over the past 36 months, but over at least the past 36 years.
There probably never was a golden age of law and order. Golden ages live retrospectively in our imaginations and prospectively in our election 290 manifestos. But in London during the war mothers did not worry about young children travelling alone through the pitch darkness of a blacked-out city. Churches had no need, 30-odd years ago, to lock their doors against vandals and thieves. The idea of an assault on a teacher by a pupil or parent, although sometimes tempting to pupils, was unthinkable. As for murder, it was a crime which then still truly shocked. For most of us, and my experience is common, the only peddlers and pushers around the gates of our schools were the Wall's ice-cream men, not drug dealers.
Where do we now find ourselves? The case of Mr Martin, the Norfolk farmer recently convicted of the murder of a hardened young criminal who was burgling his home, highlighted the growing problem of rural crime and the ineffectiveness of current policies aimed at deterring crime. The three burglars were professional criminals. They had been arrested, charged and convicted over and over again. But the penalties exacted for their crimes were laughable—and laugh at them those criminals did. Indeed, the penalties constituted an incitement to crime—an incitement which worked. Incidentally, I should be grateful if, in replying to the debate, the Minister would tell the House whether the two burglars who survived have yet been charged with burglary.
Last Thursday, the Daily Telegraph published a real and simple table of crime statistics for 1954 and 1997. Let me rehearse the comparative figures. Homicide: 1954, 311; 1997, 739. Sexual offences: 16,096; 33,165. Violent crime: 24,414; 347,064. Burglary: 75,443; 1,015,075. Theft and handling stolen goods: 291,667, rising to 2,164,952. Criminal damage: 5,251; 877,042. The grand totals are roughly 434,000 for 1954 and 4,600,000 for 1997.
In the face of a ten-fold increase in crime, the forces against crime have not yet surrendered—but they have conceded ground to criminality and disorder. And they have developed, as we saw in the May Day disturbances, an unstated policy of tolerance of a given level of crime.
An effective policy for the preservation of the Queen's peace rests upon three pillars. The first is a moral authority, stating in absolute terms the distinction between right and wrong. It does not debate, it does not argue—it commands, most notably in western civilisation, through the Ten Commandments.
The second is the civic pressure of society. Man is a social animal. He needs the approval of his peers, and that creates a pressure for social conformity: the pressure to conform not only to the law, but beyond that to accept the standards and norms of society or to be disapproved of and to some extent frozen out of that society. In the lawless housing estates and town centres in our country today, that norm is the norm of criminality.
The third pillar is the combined force of the judicial system. Few would deny that the first pillar, that of moral authority, has been greatly weakened in recent times. Rightly or wrongly—I regret this—the Church, particularly the Church of England, is perceived 291 widely to be in decline, anachronistic, lacking in faith in itself, and preoccupied in introverted controversy over issues such as women priests and gay marriage rather than upholding the supremacy of the commandments.
As for the second pillar, the very fabric of our society is being assaulted. The family, the basic building block of society, is being weakened—especially, I regret to say, by the present Administration. Ministers say that they have a policy for the family. But however often I ask—and I have done so frequently—they deny that they have a definition of the word "family". It is difficult to have an effective policy towards that which one cannot define. I think that for them the family is not exclusively about intended long-life partnership between men and women or of ties of blood; for them, family includes any association of two or more humans coming together for however brief a period.
Nor does the Administration have much respect for the institutions and values of the society in which we grew up. Apparently, those institutions represent the forces of conservatism, demonised by the Prime Minister and seen as racist, class-dominated and homophobic, outdated and unworthy of respect.
With 250,000 immigrants a year flooding, or should I say "trickling"—in case I am thought to be panicking into this country, not to mention the 5 million or more members of ethnic minorities already here, there is an overwhelming need to uphold and support, not to denigrate, the society into which they are coming. Their integration into this society should be a priority. But if they are told that the society is worthless, why should they integrate? So that pillar of policy is being weakened.
The load has therefore increased on the thin blue line of the police, and the far thicker and fatter line of the judicial and legal establishment who are, together, responsible for the detection, conviction and punishment of criminals. If we are left to rely more upon that pillar, then we should have been strengthening it, not weakening it. Yet who can deny that the balance between criminals and police has been shifted against the police in every respect? Indeed, the numbers of police have been falling, and will be lower at the end of this Parliament than they were at the beginning.
The establishment view has been that punishment does not significantly deter crime—unless, of course, the crime is sexism, racism, homophobia or speeding on motorways. Oddly, those crimes constitute a separate class of behaviour; they are said not only to be capable of being deterred by heavier punishment but to demand heavier and heavier punishment.
The Metropolitan Police have been subjected to what I regret I must call the crass stupidity of the Macpherson report. Senior officers now engage in public self-flagellation to purge themselves of imagined racism—an essential, of course, for future promotion—while officers on the beat hunger for retirement and decline to notice suspicious behaviour by people from racial minorities, fearful of accusations 292 of racism leading to the loss of their reputation, their jobs and their pensions. The result is an increase in crime, particularly against members of the racial minorities.
Mr Wilkinson, the director of Bramshill strategic command course, states in today's Telegraph that although overall "crime management"—a curious phrase—is a key role for police chiefs, they should study "social exclusion, racism" and "that sort of thing". He talks about directing the Met as a big company job and "not messing about chasing criminals". He says that that is "a concept of the police 10 years ago"; nowadays senior policemen are business executives "trying to improve the social outcomes".
I suspect that I edge towards the controversial, so I may as well go further. Over the past four decades the whole direction of policy to maintain law and order has been perverse, totally mistaken and has had the reverse effect of what was intended. That view will be dismissed by those responsible for the conventional wisdom of the past 40 years, but it is their theories and policies which have not worked. Crime has got worse, not better.
It is not the first time in recent years that the conventional wisdom of the day has been found wanting. For example, 30 or 40 years ago the conventional view was that inflation was caused by greedy unions and workers pushing up wages and greedy capitalists pushing up prices, thus creating a wage-price spiral. Everyone knew that the cure was a prices and incomes policy, although no one could find one. The dissident voices of Milton Friedman, Hayek and Enoch Powell were dismissed as those of wild, bulging-eyed extremists, but they were right. We all know now that inflation is, and can only be, caused by governments. The "cures" for inflation that we used were at best ineffective—more likely, counter-productive—and certainly caused us to neglect the policies now in place which control inflation.
What I say today will no doubt be rubbished by the legal judicial establishment, the criminologists and, above all, the soft, wet, Left establishment. But I ask them at least to ask themselves why the reduction of sanctions against criminality has coincided with an increase in criminality. The two could be unconnected. But is it very likely? The principal difficulty in maintaining law and order lies not in our criminals, vandals and thugs but ourselves. It was Home Secretary Jenkins who famously said that,the permissive society is the civilised society".We have tasted it. Many parts of our society have descended into barbarism. Our society has become less civilised in every respect.
The same was true of society in New York, but there the policy of zero tolerance, not merely of crime but of crude, loutish and uncivilised behaviour, has been shown to work. Here, a policy of permissiveness has also worked but in precisely the opposite direction. I give two brief examples of behaviour that we see every day. Cyclists are allowed to ride unchecked on the footpath and ignore traffic lights, one-way streets and keep left signs, and they ride at night without lights.
293 They abuse and threaten anyone who objects. Motorcyclists now follow their example. Shoplifting has not been prosecuted effectively for years. Gangs now walk into shops and wheel out racks of clothes. Shop staff are told by employers not to risk their lives resisting shoplifters. It is a sad comment on our society that on average about four people a year are killed by convicted killers who have been released from prison to kill again.
Crime will not be beaten nor the streets made safe for the citizen by acting solely against the most serious crime. Not many criminals start their careers with serious crime; they learn to scoff at the law as juveniles, commit petty crime and work their way up. It is at the early stages that effective action can stop the escalation into a life of serious crime. Zero tolerance is not a soft option. For a similar population, London has 25,600 police officers whereas New York has over 40,000. That pays huge dividends. In New York since 1993 both violent and property crimes have fallen by more than half; murders have fallen by two-thirds; and hooliganism has been defeated. New York has been liberated from crime and returned to its citizens. The liberal permissive establishment derided Mayor Guiliani, just as Friedman and Hayek were derided, but was proved wrong.
Sadly, the Home Secretary has been taken hostage by that same wet, soft Left, pink, permissive establishment, and that is a great disappointment to me. Despite his difficult adolescence in student politics, I thought that the Home Secretary had grown up. I had great hopes that he might run his department; alas, it is running him, as it did almost all his predecessors, except Mr Michael Howard. I hope that he will break free and campaign for the law-abiding majority, not the criminal minority.
Think what a crowning achievement for this Government it would be if they could make the streets of Islington, Holland Park, Battersea and Fulham safe for the new London permissives to stroll between expensive restaurants and soft porn cinemas flaunting their pearls and gold Rolex watches. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Lord Brennan
My Lords, I declare an interest as a practising barrister. I make that declaration with pride, and I must add to it a disappointment for the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit: as chairman of the Bar last year, I was described by The Times as the "antithesis of establishment man". Although the contrast between what I am about to say (following the traditions of this House) and what has just been said may be stark, I hope that your Lordships will nevertheless find my comments helpful.
One of the best measures of a civilised society is the effectiveness and fairness with which it seeks to maintain law and order. The legislature is a crucial component of that objective, whether in legislating for policing, sentencing, the care of victims or the criminal justice system generally. Such legislation is, surely, 294 directed at the long-term welfare of society. There is, therefore, an obligation on us to conduct any debate on law and order with moderation and on the basis of reliable data; otherwise, in seeking to respond to people's concerns (if I have the phrase correctly) we can quickly descend into at best rhetoric and at worst populist clamour.
The need for debate both in your Lordships' House and among the public to be well informed is well illustrated by information provided only last week by a research study by the Home Office into attitudes to crime based on the British Crime Survey 1998. From that contemporary knowledge, it emerges that 80 per cent of those interviewed thought that 30 per cent of recorded crime was violent crime. Serious violent crime accounts for only 8 per cent. That reveals a dramatic misunderstanding of the position. As to sentencing, 80 per cent of those interviewed felt that judges were out of touch, not because of their social habits, but essentially because of what was perceived to be their approach to sentencing. Yet, when asked what to do with a convicted burglar with previous convictions, the majority of members of the public who were consulted came out with a more lenient sentence than current Court of Appeal guidelines.
Finally, the public want tough sentences, but they do not want more prisons. That tension between expectation and reality means that debates like this must be informed and constructive. Knowing that some of your Lordships will speak on them, I therefore decline to talk about the reform of the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with the speed with which it is now hoped to bring the arrested to disposal and about the importance of looking after the victim. I am sure that they will be covered in the debate.
Rather than doing that, I invite your Lordships' attention to three discrete areas of change, each of which is designed not only to maintain but also to improve law and order. The first—I ask no forgiveness for making it number one—is to ensure that in our civilised society racial crime is properly dealt with. Whatever was said earlier, the fact is that we have a diverse ethnic society. Anecdotal evidence indicates, from an article in the Economist the other day, that racial crime is on the increase. I need not trouble your Lordships with the famous examples. With that increase, perceived even if not real, the fact is that the police, my profession, and the courts should be aware that this crime is a cancer in our modern society. What more effective way to deal with it is there than to ensure that, in their constitution, the police should be required to represent the demography of our present society? London and the West Midlands are the most ethnically diverse of our communities; the percentage of ethnic minority representation in the London Metropolitan force is only 3.9 per cent; in the Midlands it is 4.4 per cent. In neither case is that figure truly representative.
The police are making great efforts to improve on that, and I commend them on it. I invite your Lordships' constant attention to the need to ensure that racial crime is properly investigated as such, and, if a conviction occurs, properly sentenced as such.
295 Secondly and very differently, the Sex Offenders Act 1997 established for the first time a UK register of sex offenders. When I was travelling abroad last year in my professional capacity, it became clear that the international aspect of such registers must be considered. The Association of Chief Police Officers is at present discussing with the Home Office how to improve the register. There are two ways. Difficult though they are in technicality, they are important in principle. The first is to ensure that sex offenders travelling abroad declare such a journey beforehand so that the country they intend to visit can be informed. Vice versa, those who go abroad to commit such sexual crimes against children and who become convicted for it, on their return to this country should be required to declare the same and have it registered.
Thirdly and finally, perhaps I may make a suggestion which I hope is not too "modernising"; it has extremely venerable origins. I refer to the codification of the criminal law. The Martin case, what is the true extent of self-defence, double jeopardy, and the injustice that can be created by the mandatory life sentence, are all discrete aspects of the criminal law, all of which have been considered in recent months in isolation from the rest of that law, often quickly, superficially and not helpfully.
In 1879, Lord Blackburn presented to this House a Roya1 Commission report on the codification of the criminal law. In 1989, the Law Commission produced a draft modern criminal code in clear, rational language. I invite the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary to seek to implement that code in any future parliamentary session. Why? First, it will give coherence, clarity and certainty to our community about what the criminal law is. Secondly, it will save the cost of the legal judicial establishment having to investigate, as we now do, the terminology of an Act of Parliament of the last century dictating crimes of violence. Thirdly, it will show the public that the law and this House are in tune with what they think should happen to maintain law and order.
I thank noble Lords and the staff of the House for the courtesy shown to me since my introduction. My daily diet is what might gently be called a "robust dialogue" between Bench and Bar. To have enjoyed, as I have just done, an uninterrupted monologue has been a real pleasure.
§ 3.45 p.m.
My Lords, it is my very great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, on his maiden speech. We all know of his distinguished record. He was the chairman of the Bar Council last year. He is now a recorder of the Crown Court and has been so since 1982. He brings to your Lordships' House tremendous experience and expertise and we have all listened with immense interest to what he said on this important subject this afternoon. The noble Lord made a number of points that I, for one, and I believe others, will want to read in Hansard. I am sure I speak for everyone in saying 296 that we look forward to hearing him on many occasions. I believe, as we all do, that he has much to contribute to our debates.
I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Tebbit for introducing this important debate this afternoon. It is almost impossible to meet anyone who is not concerned about law and order. Like your Lordships, I believe that the two basic functions of the state are the defence of the realm, and law and order at home. I do not believe that there are any quick solutions or easy answers to the question. In my opinion, to reduce the level of crime today will be a long haul.
I was interested in my noble friend's analysis. He pointed out that the three props which maintained law and order in the past—the moral authority of the Church, the moral authority of society at large and the judicial system—have all changed, particularly the first two. In the course of my remarks I shall concentrate on what I see as the collapse of society and its effect on law and order.
One of the great changes I have seen in my lifetime is the increase in crime. When I was a child in the 1930s, we could go out without locking the front door. Now everything must be locked, even when we are in the house—windows and doors. Of course, we all have the inevitable burglar alarm. Cars must always he locked. Like many women, when out driving I like to have a mobile telephone to hand as an assurance. Despite all that, which is common knowledge, it is hard to think of anyone we know who has not been burgled even when what is taken is not valuable.
Nor is a breakdown of law and order confined to the richer members of society. There are enough vandalised council estates up and down the country to show that all sections of society are suffering. As my noble friend rightly pointed out, a number of crimes are no longer even considered crimes. (For instance, at my home in Oxford cyclists regularly ride on the pavement, through red lights and without lights at night, to the great danger of both motorists and pedestrians.) The same may be said of shoplifting.
All that comes at a time when the country has never been richer. Like my noble friend, I do not suggest that there was some mythical golden age. But the fact is that crime was lower before and immediately after the war and increased only very slowly during the 1950s. Statistics show that crime has increased rapidly since the 1960s and has continued increasing every year. As my noble friend's figures illustrate only too well, there has been an incredible increase from 1954 to 1997.
I am not a lawyer; nor have I had a great deal of experience of the systems of justice. However, I have heard enough debates in your Lordships' House to know that many remedies have been tried. I well recall that in 1979 we talked about the short, sharp shock. We have talked at length about community sentencing and longer prison sentences. Now I read that there are proposals promoting prison by day with perhaps evenings and weekends off. I have no doubt that for some offenders some treatments have been effective and should be continued and lessons learned. I believe strongly that those in prison should be educated and 297 trained to be able to have some constructive employment when they come out. I certainly believe that there should be more policemen on the beat. There is no greater reassurance to the public than seeing someone in uniform. It is quite extraordinary that one hardly ever sees a uniformed policeman, even in the centre of towns, unless there is some kind of violent demonstration.
I should like to speak about what I believe to be some of the fundamental causes of the increase in crime. In preparation for the debate, I reread that interesting book by Norman Dennis and George Erdos, Families without Fatherhood, which I much recommend. In the introduction, Professor Halsey states:No one can deny that divorce, separation, birth outside marriage and one-parent families as well as cohabitation and extra-marital sexual intercourse have increased rapidly. Many applaud these freedoms. But what should be universally acknowledged is that the children of parents who do not follow the traditional norm (i.e., taking on personal, active and long-term responsibility for the social upbringing of the children they generate) are thereby disadvantaged in many major aspects of their chances of living a successful life. On the evidence available, such children tend to die earlier, to have more illness, to do less well at school, to exist at a lower level of nutrition, comfort and conviviality, to suffer more unemployment, to be more prone to deviance and crime, and finally to repeat the cycle of unstable parenting from which they themselves have suffered".I am not for one moment suggesting that no children from traditional families ever take to crime. But the price of marriage breakdown and the growth of single parent families has been a heavy one. The focus and the justification for easier divorce, and the explanations given of the so-called benefits of this, are that it has benefited women, many of whom in the past considered themselves to be oppressed by marriage. But the consequences for the young male in particular—and I regret to say that on the whole it is young males who take to crime—growing up without a father, without a role model showing him what responsibility is all about, have been disastrous. Many boys growing up now never see a man in a position of responsibility until they reach their second, third or fourth year in a secondary school when they see a schoolmaster. There are few men in primary schools. If they come from a single-parent family, brought up by their mother, there is no man taking responsibility whom they meet regularly until they reach the age of 13 or 14. We find that the dramatic decline of young men who are married and living with children has been paralleled by soaring crime rates as well as drug and alcohol abuse. One result is that those young men make very unattractive prospects as husbands and so the marriage rate continues to fall as girls do not want to be married to someone they regard as an irresponsible drop-out.
We are in a descending cycle from which at present it is difficult to see how we shall escape. The figures of all the surveys confirm this trend. The National Survey of Health and Development, following a group of people born in 1946, found that boys who had experienced the breakdown of their parents' marriages were more likely to be in custody; and those who had been young at the 298 time of the breakdown were twice as likely to be delinquent by the age of 21 and to have been convicted of serious offences. Data from the National Child Development Study found from follow-up of 16 year-olds that 8 per cent of boys with both natural parents had been to court at some point whereas 16 per cent of boys with lone mothers, and 19 per cent of boys with stepfathers, had been before the courts.
The Cambridge study of delinquent development found that experience of separation from a parent before the age of 10 was associated with future delinquency. Where separation was caused by parental conflict rather than death, 32 per cent of boys separated because of parental conflict were convicted as juveniles compared with 16 per cent of unseparated boys.
Interestingly, American criminologist Robert Sampson was able to show that a city's divorce rate is actually a better predictor of the robbery rate than statistics of arrests and sentencing.
Looking to the future, the British criminologist Professor Sparke predicts that by the year 2010,crimes of violence, rape and sex crimes will be greatly increased. So too will the effects of alcohol and drugs".Those are serious figures. It is a serious issue for all of us to consider. Your Lordships will know that I have long taken an interest in family policy. One of the issues which worries me about our society today is that I see it in free-fall: that the figures of the breakdown of marriages, children being brought up by single mothers and teenage pregnancies become worse each year. Unquestionably, that is having an effect on law and order in this country. Many people feel that we now have growing up a kind of warrior class of young men who have no role models, with no fathers and grandfathers to show them how a responsible man lives and contributes to society, and who are left simply to rob, molest and maraud from one end of the United Kingdom to the other. It is not an issue which will be solved today or overnight. I support very much what my noble friend said about zero tolerance. If we could achieve that, it would be very important. But I do hope that we shall find more ways of sustaining marriage, because until we do society will continue in its free-fall and crime will increase.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Lord Greaves
My Lords, this is my first speech in your Lordships' House. When I inquired about the conventions relating to maiden speeches, I was told that I must not be controversial. I have to tell the House that I have never made a non-controversial speech in my life, but there is always a first time for everything. I obtained copies of the maiden speeches which some of my noble friends have made in recent months. I discovered that one word stands out from the pages of Hansard: "trepidation". I looked up the word "trepidation" in the OED and found that it meant:Tremulous agitation: confused hurry or alarm",and—this is how I feel now—involuntary trembling of the limbs, as in paralytic affections".299 One thing I have discovered in the past week in your Lordships' House is that, if I am overcome by tremulous agitation to the extent that I collapse in a heap on the Floor of the House, many extremely kind and friendly people will pick me up and sort me out. The wonderful friendliness I have encountered from noble Lords on all sides of the House has been a revelation; and the friendliness, efficiency and superb professionalism of the Officers of the House and of all the staff have been a great help in joining a somewhat intimidating new institution.
As regards getting lost, which everyone does, as a mountaineer I have discovered a tip for all other neophyte Peers. I advise them to carry a pocket compass. Once I discovered that the alignment of your Lordships' House and of the whole building is from north to south, life became a great deal easier.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for the opportunity to take part in this debate on the problems of maintaining law and order. I speak as someone who grew up in a police family. One of my great regrets today is that my father unfortunately died quite recently and cannot be here to listen to this speech. He served his life in the West Riding Constabulary, and my second exhibit this afternoon—I am not sure whether exhibits are permitted, but never mind—is a police whistle which he bequeathed to me. I have been strongly advised by noble friends that blowing it here would not be a good idea.
However, policing has changed very rapidly since the days of the police whistle. Whether it is the legitimate demand for more visible policing on the streets and in villages, in towns and on council estates, or whether it is the equally legitimate requirements of the police force for a new generation of highly skilled and specialist officers to deal with crime in modern technological ways, I hope that your Lordships' House will respond with its support.
I come here as a lifelong Liberal. As a Member of the Liberal Democrat Benches, I suppose that the question of police numbers is one for easy political knock-about at the moment. Police numbers fell during previous Conservative governments and they have fallen by 2,000 since 1997. However, that is not my intention today. Although, like everyone else, I could read out my party briefings, I am told not to be controversial on this occasion and, anyhow, we all know the figures.
I want to pose two perhaps much more fundamental questions. The first is that we should ask ourselves why crime is wrong. It may be obvious; it may be a silly question. However, is it wrong because it breaks the rules? Is it wrong because it is a counter to authority? Or is it wrong because it is simply unpleasant? The real reason why crime is wrong is because it has victims and attacks people's basic, fundamental human rights. As a Liberal, it is people's basic, fundamental human rights that I am in politics to support and defend.
The second question I ask is: can the police eradicate crime? The answer, I suggest, self-evidently is no, although that is not because the police are no good or because they do not have enough resources. The police 300 can never eradicate crime any more than can the courts, the state or any other authority on their own; nor can schools eradicate truancy on their own or landlords eradicate housing arrears.
Like everyone else, the police operate within society as it is. It is not simply to the organisation, the resources and the support for the police that we should address our questions, although that is very important; we should also ask what is wrong with our society that there should be such an increase in crime. The police and other authorities can limit crime; they can contain it. If we are prepared for very authoritarian, draconian measures, they can suppress it, at least for a time.
However, fundamentally, it is to society as a whole that we should address our questions; that is, society at all its levels. If we are too draconian and too authoritarian in the measures we put forward, they will not work. What is more, they will begin to restrict to an unacceptable degree the very liberties of all the people who are not engaged in crime. It is a balance that we have to find.
I thank noble Lords for their patience and courtesy in listening to me today. I am relieved to inform the House that I have not been completely ovenwhelmed by tremulous agitations, at least not just yet! I look forward to playing a full part in the work of your Lordships' House and I promise that in future I shall not be quite so non-controversial.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Baroness Stern
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on an excellent maiden speech. His remarks showed the radicalism, clarity, forthrightness and also the humour for which he is well known. That may be because he comes from Lancashire. It may be that, because he used to be a geography teacher, he has had more success than some of us in finding his way quickly round this House. He brings to the House 30 valuable years of experience of local government, activism and community politics. On the strength of what he has said today, we look forward very much to his participation in future debates.
I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, on his foresight in initiating this debate, and I congratulate him on the title he has chosen for it. By drawing attention to the problems of maintaining law and order and to the complexity of the subject, I believe that he does us a great service. He makes it clear how difficult it is to maintain law and order in a democratic and pluralistic society where there is such a range of views, as no doubt we shall hear today, about what is proper behaviour and what is not, about what should be tolerated and what should be stamped on, and about what is the exuberance of youth and what is thuggish, yobbish behaviour.
I wish to draw attention to what we know of the success of various strategies for maintaining law and order and to ask the Minister how he sees the way forward.
I begin by reminding the House of something said by a distinguished colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in government in the 1980s. It was said by the 301 noble Lord, Lord Hurd—who is not in his place—when Home Secretary. Addressing the debate about law and order at the 1988 Conservative Party conference, he said:If we doubled the police, doubled the penalties, doubled the prisons until all three reached American levels we still might find ourselves with American levels of crime and violence much greater than our own".He was making the point rather wisely and, perhaps in the environment he chose, rather courageously that the maintenance of law and order in any society does not come primarily from what does or does not happen to criminals. It comes from many other aspects of social life and social policy and from what is going on in society more generally: the strength of families; the level of child poverty; and the social and moral climate. All those areas were helpfully elucidated by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.
Not surprisingly, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was also making an interesting prophecy. Since 1988 we have put into practice some of the policies upon which he counselled caution. We have not doubled the number of people we lock up in prison but we have increased it from just under 49,000 in 1988 to more than 64,000 today. We have not doubled the police; the number was more or less the same in 1999 as it was in 1988. We have not doubled the penalties but we have certainly increased them.
The proportionate use of prison has increased substantially. In 1988, 20 per cent of men over 21 sentenced for indictable offences went to prison. Ten years later, 27 per cent were sent to prison. Of every 100 men over 21 being sentenced, seven more are now being locked up. We have nearly doubled the number of prisoners serving sentences of more than four years, from 10,000 in 1988 to over 18,000 in 1998.
What about the rate of recorded crime? In 1988 there were 3.6 million recorded crimes. In 1998–99 there were 5.1 million. These are crude measures needing more analysis, but they show that there can be no simple trade-off between a harsher penal system and a more peaceful society. Maintaining law and order is about much more than catching and punishing criminals, as the police know well. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, with his great experience of policing.
I have had the opportunity to travel and see at first hand the criminal justice system in many countries. I can say with confidence that we should be overwhelmingly grateful for the police we have in this country. They are unarmed, with an understanding that they are a service, not a force, and with an enormous commitment to maintaining peaceful communities through community policing. They work with social agencies and try whenever possible to prevent a crime before it happens rather than waiting until it has happened and picking up the pieces. It is no wonder that so many British police officers are working all over the world running training programmes in British-style policing. Policing and how communities are policed is one of the keys to a peaceful society.
302 In 1990, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was no longer Home Secretary. A White Paper on crime policy was published in that year when the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was Home Secretary. One phrase from that 1990 White Paper, Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public, became famous throughout the world. It is claimed that it stated:Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse".Just as Lord Acton did not say that power corrupts, as with many famous quotations, that is not quite what the White Paper said. The actual words are more guarded. Perhaps I may remind the House of those words:nobody now regards imprisonment in itself as an effective means of reform for most prisoners … Prison is a society which requires absolutely no sense of responsibility from prisoners. Normal social or working habits do not fit. The opportunity to learn from other criminals is pervasive. For most offenders, imprisonment has to be justified in terms of public protection, denunciation and retribution. Otherwise it can be an expensive way of making had people worse.That wise passage from the White Paper of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has also been forgotten in what the Mail on Sunday last Sunday called,the competition between the Conservative and Labour parties over who can take the toughest line on law and order".The Home Office is now predicting a much higher prison population, saying that by the year 2007 it will be between 70,400 and 80,300. What effect will that upsurge in locking up people have on crime? We do not have enough clear evidence to answer that question definitively. Some research put out by the Home Office in 1993 suggested that an increase in the prison population by 25 per cent might lead to a crime reduction of 1 per cent.
We also have the results of a study carried out in the United States by the Rand Corporation, a respected research body. The study shows how many crimes are prevented each year by certain kinds of policy. One million dollars spent on helping children to finish their school education prevents 258 crimes being committed. One million dollars spent on families experiencing difficulty bringing up their children prevents 160 crimes. One million dollars spent on prison prevents 60 crimes.
The same organisation conducted research on the relative advantages of dealing with illegal drugs. Its report is helpfully entitled, Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences, throwing away the key or the taxpayers' money? The report concluded that spending 1 million dollars to expand the use of mandatory sentencing for drug offenders would reduce national drug consumption by 13 kilograms. Spending the same sum on treatment would reduce consumption by 100 kilograms.
Those surveys are perhaps not the whole story, but they make a point about what policies are worth pursuing to deal with problems of law and order. Can the Minister tell the House whether he has looked at the results of such research studies and whether he is sure that the great expansion of prison places planned by the Government will provide value for money, safety on the streets and satisfaction for victims?
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Lord Eden of Winton
My Lords, in his powerful speech opening this debate, my noble friend made reference to the rioting which took place in London on 1st May. I, too, want to start my speech with reference to those events.
I cannot claim to bring any particular knowledge or expertise to the debate. For that, I apologise to noble Lords. I do not make a habit of taking part in debates on this subject. However, I feel I am speaking as an ordinary member of the public; one who remains deeply troubled by the events that we witnessed on 1st May. I still have many questions to ask about that. How was it ever allowed to happen, particularly as it is well known that a large number of those who committed acts of violence on that day were already known to the police authorities? They were clearly bent on violence and hijacked other causes seeking to demonstrate in their own interest.
It appeared to me that the police made the judgment that if they acted with care and sensitivity, there would be the minimum of disturbance and trouble and that, on the whole, things would go comparatively quietly. As events showed, that was a misjudgment. But I do not blame the police for not knowing quite what to do. They must be deeply disillusioned. They have been held accountable on those occasions when there has been sustained violence, as happened in earlier rioting in the streets of London. It was the police who were then accused more than those who actually perpetrated the acts of violence. They are again in the dock of public opinion for not acting strongly or quickly enough to stop the violence on 1st May. So they are in a no-win situation.
I am not surprised that morale in the police force is low and that they are uncertain of the action they should take in the face of threats of violence of the kind witnessed. Let us be totally frank: what we saw was nothing new. It has happened many times before. It happens on the football terraces as much as in the streets. They are the same type of people who commit acts of wanton thuggery and violence.
The question in all our minds must be how we are to tackle this problem. First, we must support the police and the authorities in tackling all major disturbances and all minor breaches of the peace. We must support them in the action that they feel it necessary to take in dealing with any offences committed against people or property. It has been reported that crime in London is increasing, as the figures quoted indicate. Street crime rose by 36 per cent last year; that is, muggings, robbery, shop lifting, snatch and grab, damage to property, smashing of windows, and the growing use of knives and imitation guns.
Many of those acts of violence and robbery are opportunist; they are committed on impulse, probably for kicks, by young people below the age of 20 years, sometimes as young as 10. It is difficult for the police to deal with them and it is quite wrong for us to expect the police alone to deal with them.
304 One of the first things we can do is to ensure that the urban environment is improved and enhanced, not just in the housing estates, but in shopping centres, Underground tunnels and bus shelter areas; in fact, any area to which the general public have access. There is far too much litter and graffiti around. I believe that by dealing with the problem of litter and graffiti we will improve the quality of the environment for people, and that in doing that we shall raise the threshold of expectancy of conduct and behaviour. We must start with something simple and small. That means we must have people on the ground to deal with it.
I do not know whether any other noble Lord has had the opportunity to visit the London Eye, but if they walk along where County Hall used to be, alongside the River Thames, they will find it to be a sordid area. It is an absolute disgrace. It ought not to be allowed to exist as it is. It is knee-deep in litter. Every five yards someone is selling sausages and the whole place smells of fried onions. It is an absolute abuse. I do not know which local authority is responsible for that area, but it should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. That situation should be tackled straightaway. We all know that if we leave a pile of litter in one place, before long other litter comes to join it. If we clean it regularly, it is kept clean permanently. So the quality of the environment is most important.
I am glad that my few faltering remarks will be followed by the much more informed comments of the noble Lord, Lord Warner. He has experience of youth offending teams, which are an admirable introduction into ways of dealing with the problems. I should like to know how they are progressing. What analysis has been made so far of the pilot schemes that have been in existence? I believe the reason they work so well is that they bring together the police, the probation services, social workers, and people involved in education and in health. They bring their collective experience and knowledge to bear when dealing with young offenders in order to ensure that they do not reoffend.
Anything that can be done to end the demarcation between the authorities will be good. Just as the environment needs to be improved in quality, so does the provision of education, again in the quality of the buildings, the toilet facilities and so forth. Parent support groups are developing under the youth offending teams, which must give enormous encouragement to the prospect that parents will acquire new skills and experience for dealing with their own children.
As always, it all comes down to resources. Resources are very necessary yet, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Tebbit, police numbers are falling. They are finding it hard to recruit new people to train for the police force. Good people are leaving the force because they are attracted by better pay and conditions in other employment. For example, recently in London the mortgage allowance for police was withdrawn and we now have the anomaly of two policemen working together, one being in receipt of 305 the housing allowance and the other not. There is a difference of £5,000 a year to an individual, which means a great deal in terms of quality of life.
There are fewer police officers on the streets. That means that there are not enough of them even to answer emergency calls. They have to cope with skeleton staff. In the post-Macpherson atmosphere it is hardly surprising that morale is low. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reverse that trend; to change the pattern as rapidly as possible; to dedicate more resources to the police; to support them in their work and to encourage the constructive efforts that so many of them are prepared to make.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Warner
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind remarks about youth offending teams. However, I confess that I rather like the smell of fried onions so that may mitigate what I am going to say. We have heard two very distinguished maiden speeches this afternoon. I particularly draw attention to the voice of reason, rational analysis and balance put forward by my noble friend Lord Brennan in a most impressive maiden speech which whetted my appetite for more.
We should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for giving us an opportunity to discuss this issue today. Apart from anything else, it provides an occasion to remind people of the generally undistinguished record of his party on law and order when it was in government for about half of the 36 years to which the noble Lord drew attention. I hope to say a few words about that. Before turning to that, I should declare an interest as chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, probably to be dismissed by the noble Lord as part of the wet establishment which has done so much damage.
I had the interesting experience of entering the Home Office, that bastion of pink liberalism, on the day after the 1997 election, as the Home Secretary's senior policy adviser. It was rather like being a member of the Seventh Cavalry arriving in a John Wayne film. That is hardly surprising when one considers what the poor civil servants there had had to put up with. Crime doubled in the 1980s and early 1990s. The number of criminals brought to book fell by one-third. During those years one's chances of being burgled increased from one in 32 to one in 13. Violent criminals became three times more likely to get away with their crimes. Successful prosecutions for rape plummeted. I remind noble Lords that it was the Conservatives in office who voted against a total ban on handguns.
It is perhaps worth drawing the attention of noble Lords to the fact that during that period there was a strikingly large increase in unemployment. The number of children living in poverty during that period rose dramatically. I suggest that there is some cause and effect between some of these events. When I arrived at the Home Office in 1997 my sympathies were immediately with the civil servants because nobody likes to be associated with failure.
306 The problem that they faced was a lack of consistency of action based on any coherent policy analysis during much of that time. Home Secretaries came and went, dabbled here and there, and left. I suggest that the only serious piece of analytical work was done by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, no doubt another member of this wet establishment. He understood that the criminal justice system had to be effective and, to borrow a phrase, you needed to be tough on the causes of crime as well as on crime itself.
In recent weeks we have seen the Conservative Party leadership revert to its default setting of knee-jerk populism aimed at raising public fear of crime. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, drew attention to the factual position and public perceptions of crime. It is very worrying when people in leading positions drive up public anxiety about crime when in many cases there are no grounds for doing so. Indeed, it is quite interesting that the Conservative leader has effectively taken over the home affairs portfolio because his shadow Home Secretary, no mean populist herself, cannot plumb the depths he wishes to achieve. For example, I remind your Lordships that she was unwise to suggest in the aftermath of the Tony Martin case that the present law gave adequate protection to those who used reasonable force in defending themselves against burglars—probably an extremely career-limiting stance to take.
However, enough of dwelling on the past. I want to leave time to talk about the present and future. It is worth bearing in mind that recorded crime in England and Wales has fallen by about 7 per cent since 1977, although I recognise that in recent months there has been some upward movement in some crimes in some places. It is also worth bearing in mind that the domestic burglary rate of recorded crime is down by about 20 per cent in that period.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has laid a strong foundation for a comprehensive and credible attack on crime. It set up local crime and disorder partnerships so that police, local councils and the community throughout the country can fight crime together. That moves the agenda away from assuming that fighting crime is just a matter for the police and, that emotive term, the thin blue line.
My conversations with many police officers at all levels suggest that they welcome this fundamental change of approach. The Act has provided new orders that target specific problems such as anti-social behaviour orders, drug testing and treatment orders and sex offender orders. In their different ways they provide protection for the public by enabling the courts to achieve a sharper focus in their responses to particular offences.
I wish briefly to remind noble Lords of that Act's provision for a radical overhaul of what was a failing youth justice system. In 1996, when the Audit Commission made its fully justified criticisms of that failing system, which was costing about £1 billion a year to the taxpayer, the current shadow Home Secretary, who was then in office, brushed aside its recommendations as a change which involved nothing new.
307 This Government went much further than the Audit Commission recommendations. I am pleased to be able o tell the noble Lord, Lord Eden, that there are now 154 youth offending teams across England and Wales, working on a genuine multi-agency basis, with funding from all the participating agencies and, for the first time, with health and education interests fully involved in tackling youth crime. The failed system of repeat cautions is being replaced by a new final warning scheme that will enable everybody to tackle offending behaviour much earlier when young people begin to offend.
Good progress has been made in speeding up youth justice with persistent young offenders being dealt with within 100 days on average at the end of 1999 compared with 142 days in May 1997. The board chair is now using contracts to drive up standards and the use of constructive regimes in all the secure facilities for offenders under the age of 18.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, rightly mentioned the problem of role models for many young male offenders. She is right, and that is why the board has been funding a large increase in the number of mentoring schemes so that there can be role models working with young offenders in order to move them back 10 a less anti-social approach to life. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who is now president, I believe, of DIVERT, one of the many organisations that we have funded and which runs extremely good mentoring schemes.
These changes are based on analysis and support of the various agencies. They are going with the grain. They are buttressed also by changes that tackle the causes of crime; namely, in the New Deal, Sure Start programme, and a new approach to family policy. If the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is having difficulty in understanding what is the Government's family policy, I commend to him a document called Supporting Families, a consultation paper that was published a year or two ago. That sets out very clearly the Government's approach.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I did not say that I was having difficulty in understanding the Government's policy on the family; I said that the Government will not define what is a family. That is a different matter. I do not see how you can have a policy for something that you cannot define.
§ Lord Warner
My Lords, if the noble Lord re-reads the document to which I referred, he will see—unless he is having great difficulty in understanding the Queen's English—that it does actually define what the family is and what the policies are in that respect. I commend the document to the noble Lord.
I believe that the Government have also made a good start on something to which I referred earlier; namely, the reduction of child poverty. This, and other measures, have helped some of the most deprived communities. We sometimes speak as though the problems of crime are unconnected with poverty and social deprivation, but research has shown that there 308 are very strong links. We must do more to help people in those communities to fight crime. They are often the greatest victims of crime. It is also worth mentioning that the police are being properly supported with more money, new and more modern equipment, better training and greater diversity in their recruitment. The Home Secretary has already announced improvements in funding and an increase in numbers over the next two years.
As I near the end of my remarks, there are just a couple of issues that I believe are worth mentioning. They are sometimes dismissed as being slightly bureaucratic, but I think that they are very important in relation to the way that we tackle crime. In the past, there has been a huge mis-match in the organisational boundaries of the criminal justice agencies. These are being changed to help those agencies co-operate more effectively. The Probation Service will be undergoing major reforms that will improve public protection. Since 1997, I suggest that the emphasis has been on considered practical reform that enhances public protection through greater effectiveness and partnership, rather than relying on empty rhetoric.
Again, we have seen the Government responding to problems during the past few days in a thoughtful and focused way. The sentencing review launched by the Home Secretary and his willingness to use different approaches in responding to different types of offences suggests to me the kind of measured way forward that we need to take.
The central point that I should like to make in conclusion is that we are living through a period in which the approaches and procedures of the criminal justice system are being modernised and adapted so its to become more effective at catching and convicting criminals, improving crime prevention, tackling youth crime and re-balancing the system to take better account of the needs of victims and the harassment of people from ethnic minorities. I feel privileged to have been part of that process. I am far less pessimistic about the future than the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, I should like to begin my remarks by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for introducing this important debate, in which I shall mention several small matters. I greatly enjoyed the two maiden speeches. I dare say that both speakers will be able to learn how to make an impartial and non-controversial speech from the contribution just made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. Of course, I particularly enjoyed the speech of my noble friend Lord Greaves. I have known him, and of him, for 30-odd years. I can tell noble Lords that I thought him the biggest blasted nuisance in the Liberal Party when he was a young Liberal. But it just shows what 30 years of responsible, public life in local government can do. Indeed, he has come into this House and, within a week, has turned into a totally civilised Member of whom we are all proud. That just shows the importance of environment for our young people.
309 I should like to concentrate my remarks on the police. I come from a rural area in Angus, which is fairly peaceful. However, crime is on the increase, with vandalism, and so on, getting out of control. It is not what it used to be. If I think back more than 30 years ago, I can recall a certain Sergeant Kippen. He was the sergeant in charge of the police in Kirriemuir and had two constables under his command. He was a remarkable example of policing. He knew all the trouble-making families; indeed, he knew them and sympathised with their troubles in quite an amazing way. They, in turn, trusted and liked him.
The sergeant knew the people who were apt to take too much drink and make trouble; and he could handle them. At that time, I was the chairman of the annual dinner of the Kirriemuir and District Agricultural Society. This was a noble event at which a certain amount of good will was shown and during which a certain amount of alcohol was taken. At about 12.30 a.m. the sergeant would come into the hall of the Airlie Arms Hotel and stand at the door; he might even have a small dram. But as people went out he would say, "Goodnight Willie", or, "Charlie, if I were you I would take a taxi", and so on. That is policing as it ought to be.
Although the sergeant was an extremely clever man and a very good poet, among other things, he was, sadly, passed over for promotion because he was not conventional enough. Had he been promoted, he would have taken his knowledge of people and applied it in a different way. However, he left the force and went to work as a security officer for a bank in Glasgow. That was a great loss. This kind of thing is happening all over the country.
At present, we do not have any local bobbies in Angus. The police accommodation has been sold, and policing is run from the centre. We have many good policemen, but perhaps I may give noble Lords an example of the situation. The man who came to check my gun licence was a nice and able chap. However, he was checking all gun licences in the whole of the county and, therefore, did not know the whereabouts of most of the people. Indeed, he had to ask me where various people lived. That is the sort of thing that makes for extremely bad policing.
Moreover, in the town of Forfar, which is a small part of Angus, the policing is centrally run. The police move around in cars because, I suppose, there are not enough of them to enable them to go about on their feet. Nevertheless, if the same sort of trouble arises as seems to happen everywhere and you ring up the police, you are just as likely to get through to one of those appalling recorded messages, which I hate, which instruct you to press various buttons, according to the service you require. Certain kinds of blasphemy come to mind when the response after pressing button after button is, "We are busy just now, but hang on and we'll deal with you shortly"; they never do. That is at the root of a great deal of our troubles in the country. I cannot speak of the city, but we are having troubles in the countryside.
310 We need more policemen. Of course they have to operate from a centre. However, if they were better organised and had more special constables living in the area—there are not enough of them at present—the police would gain a knowledge of the countryside and of the people in it. Such information must be the source of success as regards catching criminals. That is a most important point. As I say, we need more policemen because the number has gone down. People would be willing to pay; and I think that they should pay. I believe that the police force has suffered because of the amalgamation of the various police services. The police are apt to look on themselves as part of the police force as a whole, not as part of the local scene. They seem to think that the force is a sort of fifth estate, instead of something that serves the community. Although we have wonderful chief constables with excellent qualifications all over the country, they are part of the force; they have no local connection. In the old days chief constables were appointed who had local connections. That made a difference to the attitude of the police. I admire the police. I like our local chaps and I think that they do a good job. However, I do not think that the organisation is right. We need more of them and we need them to be allocated to districts where they know the people.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Bristol
My Lords, like other speakers, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for introducing the debate this afternoon. I am perhaps a little less grateful for his description of the Church of England. Is it anachronistic? Perhaps the robes that we are made to wear in the Chamber convey that impression. I was grateful for the use of the word "perceived", as the media report the Church of England according to perceptions.
I defend the right of women to be part of the whole life of the Church of God. I rejoice in the fact that for the past six years women have been ordained in the Church of England. The issue of homosexuals and their rights and place in our society is one with which most of the western world struggles at the present time. As a Church we are in the middle of a process of education and discernment. We cannot at the moment give a simple answer to this particular problem. If we are not given good media coverage, perhaps we have to be tolerant and wait to see what will happen in the future.
It is clear from the speeches we have already heard this afternoon that there are no simple answers to the problems that the noble Lord mentioned. Time and time again the important question has been posed: why are these crimes committed? It has been the accepted wisdom, not least on these Benches, that there is a connection between the committing of crime and deprivation. It has been the accepted wisdom that poverty and unemployment, and lives which contained little to hope for, gave people the motivation to steal and burgle as they wanted what others already had, and that as people became better off they were less likely to steal. As a former parish priest on a council estate in the West Midlands, I, along with many other 311 members of the clergy, would say that, judging from our own observations and experience, that account of why some crimes occur is probably true.
However, recent sociological research published in the Home Office paper, Trends in crime Revisited 1999, suggests that we got it wrong and that property crime in particular is affected by opportunities to steal goods. Looser social controls on young men from the ages of 15 to 20 have resulted in an increase in property crime. The correlation between prosperity and theft makes interesting reading. Between 1995 and 1999, every 1 per cent increase in consumer expenditure led to a 2 per cent increase in theft and burglary. Likewise, a 1 per cent increase in the population of young men between 15 and 20 leads to a 1 per cent increase in theft and burglary. There was a decrease in property crime in the late 80s and early 90s which was, in part, due to the decline in the number of young men between 15 and 20. I am told that that is no longer the case and that there is now an increase in that kind of crime.
The challenge for law and order is to socialise our young people and, in particular, young men, given that much crime begins when they no longer feel bound by the norms of our society. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was absolutely right to pinpoint issues relating to morals, to norms of society, and to the way in which legislation and the courts deal with these matters. Why has there been such a dramatic increase in crime between the mid-1950s and the present? Perhaps noble Lords need to go back to the 1960s and the Wolfenden report. That report engendered an interesting debate about law, order, morality and religion. Lord Devlin in his Maccabean lectures, The Enforcement of Morals, responded to by Professor Hare and subsequently by Basil Mitchell, argued the case as to what happens when you separate religion, morality and legislation. Let there be no mistake: in the middle to late 1960s the connection between legislation and religious understanding was certainly broken.
We are reaping the whirlwind of what at that time seemed right and proper; namely, that people should have rights and should exercise them as individuals. However, I regret to say that we forgot to talk about obligations and how we learn to live together in society. Therefore, there is no simple answer. The issues we are discussing today concern what is right and how, together, we perceive that, and how, together, we ensure that it comes into being. That is the responsibility of us all.
But perhaps we do not have to be quite so pessimistic. As a previous speaker said, initiatives are being undertaken which are aimed in part at socialising our young people. I refer to the work of the Social Exclusion Unit and to the New Deal. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, has already mentioned youth offending teams. Each of these measures in their own way helps to tackle the reasons that crimes are committed. I say optimistically that I believe they will achieve some success. We as a society need to know that those initiatives are being undertaken. That requires information to be made available. It also requires co-operation between the various agencies in our society.
312 I was about to talk of defending the Churches, but that is being defensive. Rather I share with noble Lords some of the initiatives that are being undertaken at the present time. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, that at Question Time on Monday I was not quite as clear as I should have been with regard to community chaplains and the Prison Service. Prison chaplains in Canada, and especially those working in the community, have been successful in cutting reoffending rates significantly. If we are to tackle law and order, that is something that we need to address.
In Gloucester, Cardiff and Bristol, plans are already in place—and are beginning to be implemented—to develop the concept of community chaplains. The aim is to bring together the combined efforts of prison chaplains and world faith visiting ministers together with Christian churches and other faith worship groups outside prison, voluntary organisations, the police and probation services. The aims are simple, although they will be difficult to achieve. They comprise, first, the provision of an effective ministry to ex-offenders. Prison chaplains know prisoners well. They have privileges in terms of getting to know well people the rest of us hardly dream of. The intention is that that expertise, combined with community experience, will enable us to provide an effective ministry to ex-offenders.
The second aim is to deal with the reintegration of offenders into society. We must be honest and acknowledge that, as a society, we are unforgiving. Someone makes a mistake, pays the price and carries that for the rest of his or her life. In the Solomon Islands in the middle of the Pacific, the law is quite clear; namely, someone who commits an offence goes to prison or pays a fine. But when a person has finished his or her prison sentence, they are welcomed back into the community with a feast. The feast does not celebrate the fact that the offence has been committed, but that the person concerned has paid his or her debt and is now part of the community once more. Reoffending rates there are minimal.
We, as a society, need to deal with the issues of reintegration of offenders into our society. Community chaplains aim to do that. It is about the creation of partnerships. We have heard already that this is vital where resources are limited—and that certainly will be the case. Lastly, it is an opportunity for the creative face of the prison to offer the local community an expectation that can build safer homes and streets. Both information about what is happening and co-operation in the activities that are here described are needed; that is, wide ecumenical co-operation.
On a smaller and more mundane level, we all know that there is a correlation between drugs and crime. The Bristol Churches' Council for Industry and Social Responsibility, an ecumenical body, has now created a drugs officer post. It is launching an initiative on substance misuse. It is quite well known that communities, left to themselves, will hardly ever change—they may not even be able to change —the situation in which they find themselves. The Council 313 for Industry and Social Responsibility intends to provide guidance for parishes to enable their local communities to cope more easily, in a constructive way, with drug and alcohol problems. Here again, it is about partnership, trained volunteers, the sharing of information, and encouraging communities to believe that what they do can change situations.
The issue of law and order is about what we believe as individuals; how we are willing to work together to ensure that moral authority, the norms of society and legislation go together—and are consistently together; that we are willing to try to diminish the number of crimes committed, to help people back into society and to help them not to commit crimes in the first place. That requires information and wide co-operation among many people in our society.
I thank the noble Lord for raising this important issue. It is clear today that we know that it is not an easy issue, but it is one in which we are willing to be engaged.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, in his quiet, knowledgeable way, the right reverend Prelate made a very thoughtful speech, which contrasts clearly with at least one of the other speeches we have heard. I was greatly helped by the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. He summed up from his end of the microscope how he sees what noble Lords must do in this area. It was very helpful to hear him.
Most of the debate has centred around policies which are the responsibility of the Home Office. I want to say a word about what is happening in this country at the moment as a result of one area of our education and employment policies, and what the department should be looking at in particular if the growth in youth crime is, at any rate in part, to be stemmed.
We have to bear in mind all the time that, according to the Home Office statistics for 1998, 41 per cent of all offenders cautioned or sentenced for indictable offences were under 21 years old. Most significantly, those males most likely to commit crime were in the 18 to 20 year-old group, followed by those aged 15 to 17 and, thirdly, those between 12 and 14. Somewhat strangely, the females most likely to offend were those between 15 and 17, followed by those aged 18 to 20 and, thirdly, those between 12 and 14. We see young first offenders turning into second offenders, and then into repeat offenders—all this while still at school or within a short period of leaving school, and most while still living at home.
We recognise—it has been discussed in the debate—that the root causes are extremely complex and that the solutions not easy to find. Punishments that are a strong disincentive are undoubtedly important. When the noble Lord, Lord Warner, was able to get off his political soapbox and tell us about his professional involvement and the job he is doing for the Government at this time, we can see that there is much promise in what is being planned. I am very interested in the youth offender panels that are now coming into operation. I believe there is hope there.
314 But what about education? It has long been known that a child's character and ability to cope with what comes in life is largely formed by the time he or she is five years old. How babies and toddlers and under-fives are handled by and relate to their parents makes a huge difference subsequently to how they get on at school and outside school. Every teacher knows this; every social worker knows this; and most parents know it. I believe that in their hearts most parents want very much to be able to find a solution, but the pressures and changes in modern ways of living seem to make it more and more difficult to see how one can succeed as a parent.
For increasingly puzzled parents, current government policies are in some ways very helpful. Getting mothers and, indeed, fathers, off benefit and into work is not only good for the economy—and the economy matters to everyone—but it means a more satisfying life for parents and probably a better income. The children benefit from all those things. Widespread nursery schooling for three year-olds as well as for four year-olds makes possible the advantages of part-time work for parents. If the nursery school is a good one, that can be helpful for the children.
But there is a downside, which is very much related to the debate. Children are being cared for less and less by their parents and more and more by others. At the same time, the opportunities to learn how to handle children for those parents who most need to—and who, in their hearts of hearts, probably most desire to—are being diminished.
It is still a great help to most parents to discuss issues with other parents and to watch and to learn from trained people how they can deal better with misbehaviour and encourage self-control in their children; to learn how they can encourage in their children consideration, generosity, the habit of doing things properly and the basics that bring life's chances to a child. The opportunity to develop such skills is being crowded out and must somehow be brought back.
I hope my noble friend Lord Tebbit will not think what I say next is a "pink" remark—I believe that he —may—but I should like to give a true example, based on experience. Some years ago I was chairman of the Scottish Community Education Council, and I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of that body. I gained experience then of the pre-school playgroup movement. The success of voluntary playgroups, not just in working with small children but in working with adults, with parents of small children, was notable. Those parents were trained to work with other mothers and sometimes fathers. Nursery schools involve parents, but not at all in the same way.
The last government introduced an excellent scheme to include playgroups in the list of pre-school choices that parents could exercise using the voucher scheme. The pre-school play groups flourished in that way. This Government saw fit to abandon the vouchers, and funded places for three and four-year olds in nursery schools so copiously that the playgroups lost out.
315 The figures given by the Pre-School Alliance for England and Wales show that the numbers of parents involved in those groups have been decimated. In 1997, 700 pre-schools closed in England and Wales; in 1998, 800; and in 1999, 400. That figure would have been more but for a special grant from the Department for Education and Employment that saved 1,200 nurseries. This year, no less than 3,500 of the remaining 17,000 pre-schools have stated that they are under threat.
I understand, although I have no figures, that further education colleges are experiencing a fall in demand by parents for courses in how to bring up small children. They, too, have been crowded out.
Parents find it difficult to get to schools because of their involvement in work, and primary and secondary schools, particularly in areas with a higher percentage of lone parents, have increasing difficulty in persuading the parents to find time to come to the school to discuss their children's progress. It may be that the time of day that parents are invited to attend is awkward, and I do not know whether discussions are related purely to academic progress or whether they include general handling of children and their behaviour. However, I suspect that something could be done about that.
Surely, a critical part of the Government's strategy on youth crime should be encouraging parents to involve themselves more, not less, in the upbringing of their children and in developing their skills as parents. Surely, the playgroups should be brought back to life. Perhaps nursery school teachers should be given an added remit to help parents. Primary and secondary schools and further education establishments should work out new ways of accommodating parents' needs within their premises. Directions from the centre will not work.
It is good that more and more parents can enjoy life, but working parents are still parents, and it is parents above all who can enable their children to do well in life and keep out of trouble. I hope that the Department for Education and Employment, as well as the Home Office, are thinking about what they should be doing in this area.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Baroness Byford
My Lords, statistics are often confusing, and I believe that they are sometimes gathered according to rules that the average person neither approves nor endorses.
For example, road accidents are counted only if someone has been killed or injured sufficiently badly to require hospital treatment. I know of several communities that cluster around rural crossroads, where "shunts" are a regular occurrence, and where residents will not walk for fear of vehicles mounting the pavement to avoid the traffic queuing to turn right. The locals complain to the parish council, which in turn complains to the police, and the police in turn commission a traffic census. The pundits at County Hall look at the result and conclude that because 316 nobody has been killed there is no problem. The locals mutter and complain to the parish council, and the whole business starts all over again.
The Home Office publication of 18th January 2000 contains crime statistics relating to incidents recorded by the police.
A local householder returns from a shopping trip to find two youths in his garage, which contains some old cans of paint, two rusty bikes and three ancient electrical appliances. The youths run off with a metal toolbox containing a couple of damaged screwdrivers, a blunt chisel and an assortment of nails and hooks. The householder telephones the police, who turn up seeking descriptions of the offenders, and they record the incident. They have probably told the beat officers to look out for a couple of youngsters behaving suspiciously, and they may catch up with them a couple of miles away.
Another householder returns from market to find a couple of men in the barn across the farmyard from his house. He sets the dogs loose and the intruders run away across the field. An attempt has been made to remove the locking device from the new baler. It is perhaps four-thirty in the afternoon, and the farm is eight miles from the nearest police station, which only functions from nine to five. Even if the farmer were to ring the police, they would be most unlikely to have the time to travel out immediately, so he does not bother. The damaged lock costs £95 to replace, and he has an excess on his insurance of £ 100. The attempted theft is not recorded, but I hope that noble Lords will agree that of the two, it is probably the worst.
It is not only distance and isolation that affect crime statistics; there is a difference in criminal activity between crowded urban areas and scattered rural communities, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. How many of our roads in towns and cities are blocked overnight by a lorry load of fly-tipped concrete spoil or fifty or sixty foot Leylandii tops?
When this happens in a village, someone tells the clerk, who rings up the borough, which eventually sends a lorry. In the meantime, the villagers find another way of getting to work. It is an offence punishable by a fairly steep fine, but I doubt if many of the heaps of rubbish that we see every day abandoned across our gateways, in our lay-bys and on our verges, are recorded in crime statistics. Yet there is a strong feeling that one does not want to meet the kind of people who commit such obscenities, especially in a gateway at the dead of night. There is no doubt in my mind that the locals are intimidated by this simple kind of intrusion.
The Countryside Agency's report, The State of the Countryside 2000, makes a similar point. It states that some types of crime have increased at a greater rate in rural areas than elsewhere. For example, a higher proportion of burglaries result in entry to property and theft than in towns and cities. From 1991 to 1995, vehicle-related theft increased by 24 per cent in rural areas, compared with only 4 per cent in urban areas and 10 per cent in inner cities.
317 These figures bother me because they are averages. There are parts of the countryside where vehicle theft has possibly increased less than in inner cities, but, equally, in some areas the increase is much greater than 24 per cent. In Leicestershire, police figures reveal that while rural areas cover some 84 per cent of the county recorded crime is only 14 per cent.
Noble Lords might ask why I am making a fuss about that. The problem is that, animal welfare legislation apart, crime tends to be defined as actions that damage or harm or outrage people, and it seems to have escaped everyone's notice that towns and cities contain more people than the countryside. The population density of Leicester is 4,087 people per hectare, while the density of the rest of the county is only 288 people per hectare. If the rural area covers 84 per cent of the county, at a density of one-fourteenth of the city, I would expect rural crime to be running at 27 per cent of the total. If, however, some rural crimes are not reported and some others are not recorded, I would expect the figure to be lower than 20 per cent.
As the county is Leicestershire, I would expect rural crime to be roughly as it is because the police have adopted a very positive attitude to their jobs in small towns and villages. They have 173 beats with one specialist officer per beat. The specialist gets to how his or her assignment and is backed up by strong management, regular high quality information and modern technology. Other parts of the countryside are not so well covered.
Other parts of the country are also more isolated than Leicestershire and the time it takes for police to respond to an urgent call for help takes correspondingly longer. I was in Lancashire last weekend and picked up the local newspaper to find a headline from a police inspector calling for,the people themselves to join rural crime fight".She was referring to the work of Neighbourhood Watch and Rural Watch but on the same page was an article on a local farmer who has to cope every month with burnt-out cars, fly-tipping and the debris from drug abuse. He admits that he would not now tackle people he finds on his property for fear of abuse and personal violence. Although the noble Lord, Lord Warner, is not in his place, perhaps I may say that I do not agree with what he said earlier. Individual people have a real fear. That fear has not been talked up, as my example shows.
Last Saturday's Daily Telegraph carried a report on how farmers in Teesdale, County Durham, are turning to high-tech gadgets and security firms to beat the criminals. The NFU Mutual Insurance Company estimates that in 1998 theft cost the rural community £93 million, of which £73 million was for vehicle theft—more than 30,000 four-wheel drives and tractors. There was £14 million of farm machinery and equipment, and more than 100,000 livestock were taken.
318 The Daily Telegraph report pointed out that over the past 50 years two out of three farms have disappeared and the agricultural workforce has fallen to one-tenth of its pre-war level. There is simply no longer a countryside populated by people who know one another and live and work in a small area. As other noble Lords have said, people do not know each other as they used to. They go out to work all day. They shop, play and socialise in the market towns and cities and may not know their neighbours as people used to in the past. To make matters worse, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, told us on Monday, three-quarters of married women work nowadays so they are not at home during the day either. My noble friend Lady Young spoke clearly and accurately about the importance of the role of the family. I should like to associate myself with her comments. The family is the fundamental building stone on which we start.
Last year the Wear and Tees Farmwatch was voted Britain's best scheme. Every member is equipped with a radio bought by a grant from the NFU Mutual, which paid up after the scheme proved it was saving on claims. The members patrol in two-crew teams for four or five hours at a time after dark, and some nights will have as many as 40 vehicles out. They work closely with the police who give them some of the registration numbers of suspect vehicles and sometimes share patrols. Grown men do not behave like that for no reason. It is fear and anger which cause them to take such action.
This debate is about the problem of maintaining law and order. Rural dwellers can be asked by the police to get involved in crime prevention and can be assisted in carrying out patrols on a regular basis. In the cities that would be regarded as a vigilante movement, but in the rural areas it has become the norm.
Another of the major problems of our society is that lawlessness, intimidation, aggression and selfishness are treated not as the way in which the minority of adults choose to behave but as the outcome of social factors. Some families are dysfunctional. Children are set a bad example. But our education system should surely restore the balance. Lessons in personal and social education, concentration on spiritual development and the broadening of the curriculum to include not only Christianity but the basic beliefs of all the world's major religions mean that children should not leave school unaware of the choices available to them.
I sincerely thank my noble friend Lord Tebbit for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject. There can be no doubt about the strength of feeling in the Chamber. I suspect that all noble Lords would agree that the answer starts in the home.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Baroness Howells of St Davids
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Brennan and Lord Greaves, on their speeches on law and order. I feel sure that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who initiated the debate, will allow me to present to your Lordships' House what I know about the connection between race and law and order.
319 I shall try to speak about a troubling aspect of our system of justice that is too often ignored. I refer to the disproportionate numbers of black people in prison. It has taken less than a decade to turn the descendants of a hard working group of migrants in the 1950s and 1960s into fodder for the police, the courts and the prisons. The rush to imprison and criminalise innocent black people while allowing the real criminals to get away is a policy which hinders rather than advances the state of law and order in this country.
I am old enough—perhaps even wise enough—to understand that there are people who break the law from every racial grouping and that they should be stopped. But the number of black people in our prisons is out of all proportion to their numbers in the general population. In 1998, black people made up 11.8 per cent of the prison population compared with under 2 per cent of the general population. In other words, for every 100,000 persons in the general population there were 185 white persons in prison, 160 south Asians and 1,245 black people. Black women are particularly over-represented in prison—18 per cent of female prisoners are black.
If we agree that the most important aim is to increase the rule of law and order and decrease offending, we must examine what is causing the disproportionate representation of minorities in prison. We know that ethnic minorities are hugely over-represented among those with low incomes. Our poorest neighbourhoods continue to be run-down and shut off from the labour market. Three out of 10 households with a black or Indian head were in the poorest fifth of the income distribution in 1997. We know that minority children make up one-fifth of looked after children but only one-tenth of the under-18 population as a whole. There is a disturbing trend for local authorities to discharge young people from care early. The proportion leaving care at the age of 16 increased from 33 per cent in 1993 to 46 per cent in 1998. Nearly half of the young homeless people in London are black African, black Caribbean or come from other ethnic minority groups.
Around half of all young offenders have been in care or have had contact with the social services. In the 1950s and 1960s, black parents were accused of being too Victorian in the way they tried to bring up their children. It is not surprising that children who find themselves in care, then released alone into the world at the age of 16 with no permanent safe housing and no parental guidance, are the same children who go to prison. Although no more likely to be persistent truants, Afro-Caribbean pupils are five times more likely to be excluded from school than white pupils.
When we speak of law and order, perhaps I may remind the House that minorities are more likely to be the victims of crime in British society. Crime tends to be concentrated in poor areas. A recent Home Office report on social exclusion suggested that in England 40 per cent of all crime occurs in only 10 per cent of all areas. In 1995, blacks were more likely to be the victims of burglary, assault, vehicle theft and robbery than whites.
320 Racial discrepancies in the criminal justice system contribute to the high percentage of minorities in prison. According to the Home Office's Section 95 report, black people received longer sentences than whites or Asians. For young prisoners, 89 per cent of black offenders were sentenced to over 12 months, whereas the figure for white offenders was only 75 per cent. The pattern of longer sentencing continues for adult offenders. Sixty-three per cent of black prisoners were sentenced to four years or over as compared with only 47 per cent of white prisoners.
Black people are four or five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. In nearly all police forces there was a lower use of cautioning for suspected black offenders than for both white and Asian offenders. The social mechanisms which cause minorities to be over-represented in prison are varied and complex. It would be foolish to believe that a response that puts too much emphasis on filling up our prisons will improve the state of law and order.
Many black people know at first hand the problems of maintaining law and order. It is a firm belief within the black community, and supported by statistics, that if you are black you are more likely to be a victim of crime. However, the police continue to stop and search on the basis of racist stereotypes and outdated assumptions, while the real criminals are going scot-free.
The Home Secretary has set in motion a series of initiatives to restore trust in police forces. One move is to make the forces more accountable for their actions. That is why the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill has been introduced. It will extend the Race Relations Act to operational policing. Furthermore, it will afford rights to ordinary citizens who experience racism and discrimination not only by the community but also by the police. This will mean that all of us—including the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit—will have a right not to be discriminated against by the police. Chief Constables, or in London, the Metropolitan Commissioner, will also be held liable for discriminatory acts committed by individual officers in their forces.
Despite the rhetoric of the previous Metropolitan Commissioner, the reality of policing for ethnic minorities has not changed since the death of Stephen Lawrence or the Macpherson report. Lessons have not yet been learned by ordinary police officers on the street. Perhaps I may take a little time to give noble Lords one example. A number of so-called "rotten apples" in the police force, aided and abetted by an unwitting, institutionally racist system, joined forces to violate the rights of a member of the black community. Before I set out the details, I should like to stress that these events occurred after the publication of the Macpherson report.
Mr Tomlinson was an estate agent. In May 1999 he was awarded six-figure damages against the Metropolitan Police after being hauled from his car and beaten up. Since then he has suffered another two incidents at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers. In the original incident, Mr Tomlinson was sitting in his sports car in a quiet residential street in Brixton, 321 waiting to show a client around a house. Three plainclothes policemen suddenly threw open the door, pulled him to the ground and began to kick and punch him. He was handcuffed, taken to Streatham police station and accused of stealing his own car. When it was discovered that the car belonged to him, he was then charged with assaulting an officer. That case was dismissed in 1995.
His injuries resulted in two operations and, because of his impaired sight, he was unable to return to work. He developed a fear of police officers, whom he believed picked on him because he was black.
On 16th June 1999, Mr Tomlinson was stopped in Chiswick High Street and handcuffed. He was detained in Chiswick police station for several hours and then released without charge, without an apology and without even an explanation such as, "We made a mistake". On 29th June, Mr Tomlinson sustained a fracture of the right arm and an injury to his already damaged left eye. It began when he parked his Rover Montego car in a multi-storey car park in Brixton. He was with his mother, a reverend at the local Pentecostal church. He was ordered from the car, brought to the ground and handcuffed. His glasses were smashed. After being taken to Brixton police station, he was again released with no charge. He went to hospital for treatment to his face and arms. His facial injuries, received at the hands of police officers, required surgery.
Can we expect people like Mr Tomlinson, his friends, family and his peers, to seek protection from the police, let alone to consider building a career in the police force, if officers in the Met continue to do things like that? I think not.
Perhaps I may say a few words in response to recent statistics from the Met which suggest that street crime has increased because police officers are scared of using stop and search methods. They fear being labelled as racists. No one, whether black or white, has asked the police to stop doing their job. Speaking as a member of the black community, I do not wish to be blamed for a rise in crime. What every black person wants, as much as any white person, is what every taxpaying member of our community wants—a police force that is fair and equitable.
As he leaves this House tonight, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will bear in mind that if he were a black male, he would be five times more likely to be stopped and searched on his way home. My words may seem to be a terrible indictment of the police, but it must be borne in mind that what I have said is supported by empirical data. We have only to ask the police how many more times they have taken black people into custody than they have been able to bring charges against them.
Whether this racism is unwitting or otherwise, I ask that this House, in its wisdom, joins with me in the belief that what we need is a police service that is fully transparent and accountable. Furthermore, we need it now. There needs to be root and branch reform of the whole policing system. We need to pull or even drag a 322 police force that is inequitable in composition into the 21st century so that it begins to use our culturally diverse and able citizens to assist in bringing back law and order.
The Government are doing well with leadership from the top. We need a commissioner of police who is passionate about law and order and who polices with his team and makes policing a crusade and not merely a means to early retirement on a comfortable pension. We must stop accepting policing on racist assumptions and give this society fair and equitable policing. I apologise to the House for speaking for slightly longer than my allotted time.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Baroness Linklater of Butterstone
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for calling attention to a subject which arouses great passions and conflicts of view, despite an undoubted shared desire on the part of all of us to see law and order in this country maintained and improved.
As the crime rate goes up and up, so the response by politicians and sentencers is on a parallel escalator of toughness and harshness with more, and longer, prison sentences to ever fuller prisons. If such a response actually worked as a means of improving law and order, the level of crime should come down. But all the available evidence indicates that it does not. Indeed, all the evidence suggests that imprisonment, as measured by reconviction rates, not only fails to deter but can itself contribute to further law-breaking and disorder.
Of course, crime is totally unacceptable in any form—it is frightening, destabilising and dangerous—and the maintenance of law and order is the cornerstone of a free, civil society. The use of imprisonment serves the dual function of keeping offenders off the streets for the duration and meets the requirements of the law and society of retribution. We know that imprisonment can also be constructive, and excellent practice and projects occur throughout the Prison Service—as I well know, having set up the Butler Trust 15 years ago which administers the Prison Service annual award scheme.
All that matters is that policies for improving law and order are effective. Their aim must be to reduce crime, help social inclusion, contribute to the greater long-term protection and safety of our citizens, and promote a law-abiding and ordered society where we all feel safe. That being so, I believe that we have to reverse some of our current policies—at the very least, in relation to young people, and above all children, because that is the area of greatest failure so far as custody is concerned. How we deal with them now will have a direct bearing on our society of tomorrow.
The simple facts are that we have over 11,000 young people in prison in England and Wales—a figure which has increased by two-thirds in the past five years. Most worryingly, the sharpest increases have been among the youngest offenders: the population of 15 to 17 year-old boys in custody, for example, has more than 323 doubled since 1993 and the number of 15 to 17 year-old girls in custody increased five times between 1988 and 1998. Of the 29 member states of the Council of Europe, only Romania, Estonia and Lithuania have higher rates of imprisonment for under-21 year-olds. That is some record. While levels of both crime and its detection have gone up in this age group in recent years, I cannot believe that our young people generally are so significantly more criminal than those in the whole of the rest of Europe.
The reconviction rate within two years of young male offenders discharged in 1995 was 77 per cent—and the younger the age group, the higher the reconviction rate: for 14 to 16 year-olds, it is 88 per cent. Imprisonment for this age group is no deterrent by this crudest of measurements and is another example of the escalator at work and its failure to promote law and order. It also gives no indication of the further social dislocation created in already dislocated lives.
We know that the toughest, nastiest hoodlums are likely to have a significant degree of mental and physical problems; to have learning difficulties of some kind and/or to have experienced social exclusion; to have experienced abuse themselves; to have poor parent al relationships—if at all; and to be significantly involved in drugs or alcohol. None of those factors excuses any kind of law-breaking, but should help to explain some of it. Most importantly, addressing them and ensuring reparation for their victims would be a far more appropriate response to their offending.
I want in particular to draw your Lordships' attention to a developing aspect of imprisonment which I believe is shocking in the extreme. I refer to the detaining of 12 to 14 year-olds who are persistent offenders in what were called "secure training centres" when the first one, Medway, opened in 1998 and have now been renamed "detention training centres". Since we debated this issue in this House in March last year, not only has Medway continued in business, but two more centres have opened, each holding 40 children, and I am told that there are plans for more. I understand that Medway has modified its practices following the highly critical report of the Social Services Inspectorate, but these DTCs are run on prison lines—unlike the secure units run by local authorities, which have a therapeutic dimension and where the children's problems are addressed while they are contained.
As a member of the Children's Panel in Scotland, I know just how valuable and necessary secure accommodation is. Indeed, the report of the inspectorate found that Medway was actually strengthening the children's criminal behaviour, where poorly trained staff used excessive force against them. Since Rainsbrook STC opened in July 1999 and Hassockfield in September 1999, there have been 33 and 29 staff resignations respectively, five staff terminations from each, and what are called "performance penalty points" awarded against both, carrying financial penalties amounting to tens of thousands of pounds.
324 This is an extremely difficult group of young offenders who have been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for people over 21, and they clearly need custody. It does not take much imagination to realise that these are children with monumental problems when they are so much out of the control of themselves, their families and the law. But I find it extraordinary that in a so-called "civilised" country such as ours, our response should be so inappropriate. In Scotland, thank God, no such provision exists; nor should it England either.
It is as though the Government have chosen to forget that these are children they are dealing with; that they have chosen the tough, punitive route and elected to bypass the existing provision of local authority secure accommodation with its much more therapeutic approach, which I believe should, instead, have been greatly expanded. Furthermore, they have chosen an approach which costs upwards of £2,000 per week for each child. Although it is too early to assess reconviction rates, a Home Office paper published as early as 1992, Juveniles Sentenced for Serious Crimes, in which children in local secure units were compared with children in prison, concluded that the experience was better in every way, including significantly lower reconviction rates. In Northern Ireland, the Lisnevin Training Centre, which is a type of STC institution, had a reconviction rate of 100 per cent in 1995. Using the escalator model, that may not be too far off the DTC results in England today. That is a national disgrace and an unacceptable way to deal with the problem. My plea is that, in the name of justice, decency and humanity, the Government go home and think again about how they deal with the youngest offenders. Although they are offenders, they are still children whose detention in STCs should make us all feel thoroughly ashamed.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Baroness Seccombe
My Lords, I listened with great interest to earlier speeches. I thank my noble friend Lord Tebbit for introducing this debate with his usual vigour and common sense. I wish to raise an issue that concerns me very much: the long-term future of the magistracy. I have just completed over 30 years as a magistrate, and it has been a huge privilege. Looking back and assessing the changes that have occurred over that period, I recall that when appointed I joined a Bench of 26, a size that was quite usual in those days. What was unusual, however, was our most enlightened and brilliant clerk who was respected throughout the profession and the community. At my first training session he told me that he wanted his magistrates to have wide experience of life and an understanding of people and to possess integrity, compassion, common sense and the ability to make decisions. I thought then, and I still think, that they were qualities that I should like to have and live up to. He also told me that I was not there to know and interpret the law; it was his job to advise the Bench on legal issues.
At that time two courts sat. twice a week and rarely failed to finish by lunchtime. I wore a hat in court, which I found rather difficult. I had worn a hat only at 325 weddings. I believed that a hat was quite inappropriate. One day I plucked up courage and asked the chairman whether it would be possible to sit without a hat, to which he replied he had never understood why we wore hats anyway. As a consequence, none of us ever wore hats again.
Today, we have a Bench of 150 with six courts sitting all day five days a week and wide representation from across the community. The make-up of the Bench includes more women and members of ethnic minorities. The basic training that I received has developed tremendously, with everyone working to try to ensure that we achieve national standards of competence.
Another area in which startling progress has been made is consistency of sentencing. It is so important to avoid odd, one-off decisions. Here I pay tribute to the Magistrates' Association. The critical work that it has done in producing national sentencing guidelines has been of great assistance to Benches. Those guidelines are widely used. I was most grateful to have a starting point for discussion with colleagues in the retiring room. However, as a note of caution, I hope we do not reach a point where there is more and more paperwork, with everyone being appraised to such an extent that extra magistrates have to be appointed to fulfil the requirements and to man the courts. I am all in favour of training so that magistrates have the confidence to play a full part with the clerk in the running of the court.
There has been enormous change in a service which is a most important part of the judiciary. I was, therefore, more than happy to agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when he said to me that he thought being a magistrate must be a very rewarding form of public service. One of the nicest things that happened to me while on the Bench was when, as a known political animal, I was elected chairman. On my Bench, politics were always left at home, quite rightly. I hope it is obvious that I am a devoted fan of the magistracy, and as a consequence I am concerned that it should continue to play a major role in future.
I understand the irritation of the Lord Chancellor when he read a newspaper article condemning him for his intention to "sweep away magistrates' courts". I am confident that no such idea is in his mind. He has said so and I believe him. But I have a nasty suspicion that some civil servants may be beavering away in the background so that, with a change of administration, or even (dare I say) Lord Chancellor, they will be ready to put forward a plan to an incoming holder of that high office. That is a personal view, but the cynic in me says that there may be those who want to see an end to the lay magistracy and the introduction of a wholly professional judiciary which would be under the control of the Civil Service. One could point to instances leading to that belief. My purpose today is to raise that as a possibility and to declare my wholehearted opposition to it.
326 I conclude on an optimistic note. I am much heartened by the warm support of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice. The Lord Chancellor said:The Magistrates' Courts Service is based on a system which is close to the communities it serves, and which can respond to the special needs of the communities. I very much want the changes that my colleagues and I are taking forward to strengthen the magistracy—to help you to continue to deliver strong, effective local justice".The noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, said:The existence of 30,000 citizens distributed around the country, all with a sound, practical understanding of what the law is and how it works is, I think, a democratic jewel beyond price".I am proud to have had the privilege to contribute to something that I believe is very special. I hope that your Lordships support my view that the lay magistracy is very special.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate
My Lords, I am delighted to bring some balance to the debate by following a bevy of noble Baronesses. If that is a sexist remark, I plead guilty. Several speakers have already said, rightly, that the second most important task of any government is to maintain law and order. Law and order is the basis of any civilised society, and without it presumably one has anarchy. Throughout the history of this country there have been examples of anarchy when law and order has broken down.
I should like to touch on three components of law and order. Obviously, the front line is represented by the police. The Crown Prosecution Service is, quite rightly, independent of the police. We also have the court system and the sentences that they impose. In the United Kingdom we are proud to police by consent. A number of noble Lords have already referred to the value of the police service. As a former police officer, I thank those noble Lords who have paid tribute to the service. Policing is a difficult job. After 35 years in the police service I am aware of the difficulties faced by police officers. I have experienced both ups and downs.
I regret that the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, is not in her place. I was disappointed by her description of one terrible case. She dealt with the matter with great passion, and I have no reason to disbelieve the facts. However, I took exception to her generalisation. She blamed the whole of the police service on the strength of one particular set of circumstances. I do not believe that that adds to the debate, in the sense that we seek remedies. If one of the remedies is to recruit more officers from ethnic minorities, it behoves all of us to encourage and not discourage that process, which the noble Baroness tended to do.
Morale in the police service is important. I had meant originally to thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for this timely debate. It takes place in the House at the same time as the Police Federation conference in Brighton, where issues such as these are being discussed. It is an important subject which has excited newspaper articles and discussions generally, usually revolving around rural policing and the case of Tony Martin.
327 Morale is important. I have been a police officer long enough to have been through crises before. I joined on the back of a Royal Commission in 1960 when there was a crisis in policing. The police service was given a boost in salary and we had quite a number of new recruits. Many of them are now coming up to the time when they retire, which is why there is a difficulty.
I remember that in 1978 the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, was Home Secretary and there was a similar crisis. People could not afford to come into the police service. They were on assistance and had difficulty in making ends meet. What the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, did was positive. He set up the Edmund-Davies Inquiry in 1979. Its report was implemented by the then new government of Mrs Thatcher, and the Edmund-Davies report was very enlightened. It set the salaries of police officers at the correct level, as it was then perceived. It also index-linked them to the average index of earnings. That seemed to me to be sensible because it took the police out of the industrial scene at the time of trouble and strife. As noble Lords know, police officers are not allowed by statute to strike. That is quite right because it is an important service. That crisis was put right by the injection of cash into the service.
We then went through halcyon days in policing, in my experience, where recruiting was good, quality was good and the police service has good quality people. We have heard criticism by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, of senior managers and I share some of his concerns, particularly about the "management speak" that we hear. I used to be a DI, a detective inspector. Now we call them crime managers, for what reason I know riot. We read about the local crime manager and I despair. What is wrong with being a DI? I was proud to be a DI and spent most of my service in the CID, so I have done my share of talking to and dealing with the victims of criminals, sympathising with them and their families. Policemen have hearts. They care about the causes of crime, but they also care about the victims of crime. Because the police are generally first on the scene, they have to pick up the pieces. The police deal with the social consequences of crime in the communities. So policemen and policewomen see the results of crime. I suspect that no one would wish more to find a solution to crime than police officers throughout the land.
Morale is important and we need to consider why it is low. One reason is economics. It is difficult in a place like London to join the police service on £16,000 a year and expect to be able to house your family. I was talking to a soldier in one of the many bars in this House. He was thinking of leaving the armed services. He wanted to join the Metropolitan Police, but he had examined the prospect and could not afford to house his family. It is as simple as that. An exceptional recruit was lost to the police service because the allowances and salary are not sufficient.
What has gone wrong since Edmund-Davies? I shall tell your Lordships. We had a new Home Secretary, the right honourable Kenneth Clarke, who became Home Secretary in the mid-1990s. He set up the 328 Sheehy inquiry which examined the responsibilities and remuneration of the police service. It was felt that the police were perhaps being too well rewarded. He had done a similar exercise in the education and health services. I am not speaking out of turn, I went to see Lord Whitelaw—God bless him!—about police problems. Sitting on the settee in his house in Cumbria, he told me that Kenneth Clarke had achieved the same objective in the health and education services. Whether he was being disloyal, I do not know, but he used to speak the truth, and I welcome anyone speaking the truth. It is good to hear it.
Sir Kenneth Clarke set up the Sheehy inquiry, which was opposed strongly by all the staff associations. Much of it was not implemented; it was flawed. He tried to look at the police force as a business, but it is not a business. You cannot measure performance in the way you can the production of widgets, motor cars or anything else. It is a great problem. We tend to measure activities that are easy to measure and judge performance by them instead of measuring activities that are more difficult. For example, we measure the speed or response time of a police officer at the scene of a crime if someone makes a 999 call. That is easy to measure. But we do not seem to measure the quality of the service once the police officer gets there. If a police officer arrives at the scene of a crime and spends quality time with the elderly widow who has been robbed or burgled, that is what good policing is about. It is spending time with victims. There is a great danger that we are making police officers respond to performance indicators. We must be careful before we push out more and more indicators if that does not produce the results we want. In sense, it is a 24-hour social service and we must bear that in mind. We need quality at the point of delivery as well as efficiency in terms of speed and so on.
Kenneth Clarke's Sheehy inquiry suggested that changes were needed. The last government, took away the housing allowance and that was disastrous. In 1994 they took it away for new recruits and at a stroke they created a two-tier police service. There were officers with relatively similar service going out to do a job—and this still happens—but being paid with a difference in salary or income of £5,000 or £6,000 in a place like London. That is difficult to justify: it causes divisions within the service and lowers morale. We need to address that as a matter of urgency. It cannot be right that people do the same job but receive such a different salary.
I am conscious of the time. I have only said a quarter of what I intended. I finish by pointing out that we are at risk of destroying the instincts of the good policeman. A good policeman senses when someone needs to be stopped. I cannot explain it, but I have seen good examples of it. When I was a young PC there was a police officer, PC Brown, at Hebburn on Tyneside. We had many police officers. I remember him standing in the office at two o'clock in the morning. He would close the occurrence book, jump on his bike—yes, he had a bike—cycle down the road and catch a burglar coming out of a shop almost instinctively. It was 329 remarkable. He did not do it just once but regularly. I cannot explain it, but I have seen it happen on many occasions.
The difficulty is that if we introduce technology we tend to forget about our instincts. The policeman in a patrol car might be driving down the road and in the past he would sense that there was something wrong with a car. It might have a lower boot level than other cars and therefore had something in it that it should not. The policeman would stop it. Now, the police officer checks the car on the PNC, the police national computer, which comes back and tells him that it belongs to Joe Bloggs and is not stolen. I hope that the good PC does not accept what the PNC says and will still stop the car to check it; it might have been stolen but not yet reported as stolen. It might not be on the computer for whatever reason. We should not rely too much on technology but on the good judgment of good policemen.
Throughout the country, many good policemen are doing a very difficult job. The message from this House should be one of support for, and not denigration of, the police. Denigration will not help. Clearly it is right to denigrate police officers who fall below standard. We shall root out the racist police officers. But let us not tar them all with the same brush.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord Bradshaw
My Lords, first, I declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Thames Valley Police Authority. What I say tonight will be drawn very much from that police authority.
Our aim is to have an adequately staffed force which is properly equipped and has high morale. Crime prevention needs to be given a higher profile. As several speakers have said, we need to have a more effective regime for dealing with first-time offenders, in particular young people.
I do not wish to enter any competition to build up recruitment targets. The simple fact is that we are not recruiting and retaining sufficient new policemen and women. Seven years ago in Thames Valley we had 3,763 officers. We now have 3,746. We have stayed almost still in seven years. The new recruits are four years younger than the average age seven years ago. The average age of 26 has gone down to 22. We are getting less experienced, less mature people. The soldier who was referred to is not coming forward to join the police force. Fifty-three per cent of the people come from outside our force area, so we are having to draw people in. For the most part, they are not local people. It is inevitable that once those people have been trained they will transfer away, so we have this "churning" going on.
We also need now to process twice as many applicants to secure one acceptable recruit. Over the next two years, in order to meet the targets set by the Home Office we need to gain 28 new officers every month. We are currently recruiting 18 officers a month and we are losing 15 through wastage. We have to face facts. With current trends we shall have fewer officers, 330 not more. The possibility is that those will be of a lower standard, with all the implications that that brings. We know from the past that lowering standards brings big trouble as regards the kind of force we shall have in 10 or 15 years' time.
So what have we to do? First, one of the great problems is the perception of the police. The service is currently denigrated both as an institution and as a career. I was quite horrified by what the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, said. I am sure it will disturb many of us. I hope that Ministers will have taken careful note of that criticism and that something will be done about it. Having said that, I do not believe that it is general in the police force. No doubt there are dishonest, racist and lazy people in the police force as there are in all occupations, including some of those people who set themselves up in judgment over us—journalists perhaps and lawyers.
Ministers and other politicians must stress continually the value of having a first-class police force. Neither the police, nor for that matter nurses, school teachers or those caring for the elderly or the mentally ill, should be made scapegoats upon which shortcomings should be heaped by a society which often is too mean adequately to resource the services which it demands. A decent society requires subscriptions from the members of that society.
Remuneration is a serious problem throughout the south of England, the south-west, East Anglia and the London area, although not in other places. My noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond—she regrets that she is unable to be present today—tells me that North Yorkshire has a list of people wishing to join the police force. However, there is a serious problem wherever housing costs are high. It is no good simply addressing this problem in the metropolitan area. The proposed lead of £6,000 which has been offered to metropolitan officers would simply transfer the crisis to neighbouring police forces because people who work for Thames Valley in Slough or Windsor would transfer a few miles over the boundary to receive £6,000 more. That will not help.
There is a real problem of public sector workers and housing costs. In many areas I do not know how people who are coming to teach children or to work in hospitals will be able to marry, buy a house and bring up a family. They simply cannot afford housing.
The rank structure in the police force also disturbs me. It is extraordinarily flat. A large number of policemen retire as constables. That is not a bad thing. One wants that experience. But there comes a point where one's earnings do not increase. The prospects of promotion in much of the police force are not good. It takes until one is perhaps in the late 30s or early 40s to reach superintendent level. That is not characteristic of many professions. The police force is rather short of promotion possibilities.
Police authorities face serious financial problems. The rise in the total standard spending for policing in England last year was 2.9 per cent. That compares with 8.6 per cent for education and 5.6 per cent for social services. Police salaries are geared to average earnings 331 not inflation rates, so police salaries are going up faster. Pension costs absorb 14 per cent of the police budget. That will rise soon to 20 per cent. That burden has to be lifted off police authorities. More and more money is going to pay the pensions of people who have retired; it is not delivering a police service.
We shall have a new public service radio communications project. We have to have a new system because the Government have sold off the existing police radio wavelengths—at some profit to government—but the police authorities have very little money for a new system on new wavelengths. We shall apparently receive the money for the system but it requires many peripherals. It is an intelligent system. A policeman can take a hand-held piece of equipment with which he can interrogate databases. He can take pictures of the scene of crime and transmit them back. But there is no money to buy any of those peripherals. It is no good sending out policemen who are ill-equipped.
We need to have decent call centres that people can ring up and receive satisfaction. That requires the Home Office and government to address the issue of having two call numbers: 999 if the burglar is at the door; and 555 if one wants advice. First, divide; and then do not measure how quickly one gets the person off the line to attend to the next call, although that is important if there is crime in action. But how satisfied are the callers with the response? Contrary to what was said, Thames Valley Police do measure the satisfaction of people by visits of policemen after burglaries, road accidents and 999 calls. We know well how satisfied—should I say dissatisfied?—the public are. But we do know it is wrong to say that we do not have any follow-up.
I believe that the police need more help from the Home Office than they receive in the use of technology to deal with many road traffic offences. Chief constables have robbed the traffic department of staff because they are under such pressure elsewhere. Technology exists to deal with many offences; for example, with regard to policing bus lanes. However, at the moment the Home Office says, "We'll have an experiment in London until the year 2003 and then we'll consider extending it somewhere else". One cannot work on those timescales. If it works, it can be extended. We do not need to wait for years and to test something almost to destruction.
I commend the work that we are carrying out on restorative justice. That involves a plan whereby, instead of receiving a police caution, first offenders are brought in and challenged very firmly about their behaviour. Usually, they are made not simply to apologise but to do something practical. I give as an example the case of someone who burnt down a hayrick and was then made to work on the farm for a long time. It did not pay for the hay, but it put into his head the notion that that kind of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable. Under this scheme, a person is not put in prison or a youth offender sector. Last year we received 5,000 referrals. The scheme has been tested to see what the rate of recidivism is, and early indications are that we shall see a very significant drop.
332 I do not believe that we need a Royal Commission. We need to pay the police properly. We know what the matter is and we need more money to put it right. However, in conclusion—I raised this matter approximately three weeks ago in a debate on an Ustarred Question—I believe that we must consider putting in place an auxiliary police force of some kind in order to get more people on the beat as quickly as possible. We need retained men—specials on a different contract of service—who attend regular training every Wednesday night or whatever. They must be made more professional and be available to deal with the hot spots in towns at weekends. That is the way in which to achieve an active, uniformed policeman in almost every village. In Oxfordshire we have 300 retained firemen; 300 retained policemen would make a huge difference to the police presence and to the satisfaction of the public. There is much to do, and I look forward to the Minister's response.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ The Earl of Listowel
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for allowing us the opportunity to debate these grave matters this afternoon. I apologise to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, for having been unavoidably detained and having arrived after their speeches. I have visited the office of Hansard and have since read their speeches in print.
I put down my name to speak today because of my experience of working with young people on the edge of, or outside, society. I do not believe that noble Lords have mentioned attrition this afternoon. I am not very au fait with penal matters, but I understand that it is an important concept and an important factor. I believe that the drive of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was that people should be held accountable for their actions; that, when they harm others, criminals need to know that they have done so, and take the consequences. The public need to know that, when they are harmed, the perpetrator receives his just deserts.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, gave a very clear and helpful analysis of the present state of our society. I very much share her concerns about what is going on. I hope that I do not sound pessimistic; I believe that I am realistic. I shall return to this at a later point.
I am sure that she has read it, but I shall again draw the noble Baroness's attention to the Government's document, Supporting Families. The original document was quite good at suggesting ways of reinforcing marriage; for example, by introducing a delay of months between the time that people say that they wish to be married and the fact of their being married. The Home Secretary was most positive. He said that we live in a modern society and have various ways of relating to one another, but that marriage is the bulwark of society. In the next report, following greater consultation with the public, that sentiment. was watered down—sadly, I believe.
Perhaps I stray from the main point, but I believe that, if we expect criminals to take responsibility for their actions, a fundamental issue is how we treat our 333 children. I am not calling us criminals but I believe that we must take responsibility for the way in which we treat our children in terms of their behaviour towards us when they come of age.
I am aware that many people feel alarmed about proselytising about marriage, and understandably so. In some schools 50 per cent of the children come from single-parent families. It would not do at all to say to those children, "There is something wrong with you and your parentage". That would be absolutely unacceptable. Recently, I spoke to a headmistress of, I believe, an Anglican primary school near here. She pointed out that one can talk to children—even children from single-parent families—about the importance of marriage without making them feel bad about themselves. Teachers are trained to teach, and sensitive ways can be found to introduce that kind of idea.
I shall speak about my first experience of working approximately 12 years ago in an intermediate treatment centre—an institution which is half-way between a school and a prison. There was a young boy of about 10 or 11 years of age. He had blond hair and was very cute. He was the son of a traveller family. He used to hit us. They were not powerful blows but were stronger than taps. We tried to make sense of why he should hit us. We came to the conclusion that that was his way of expressing affection because he had difficulty in showing his feelings. He obviously came from a troubled background. A memory of him that stands out is a joke that he made against his mother: "What is the difference between my mother and a cream egg?" I shall not give the reply, but it was another indicator of the kind of troubled background from which he came. Since then, I have worked with many other young people who have come from troubled families.
I believe that the analysis of the state of society given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is very sound. Therefore, I believe that I am not pessimistic, but realistic, about the future. I am concerned that the number of young people, and people in general, who go to prison will increase. The Government seem to have made an allowance for that: they have allowed for 82,000 people in custody in two years' time. I believe that we must be realistic by admitting that we have made a mess of things and that more people will offend. We must tell the public that no matter how much we increase the police force and no matter how draconian we are, mixed-up young people will still commit crimes. That does not excuse the young people who commit crimes and it does not mean that we do not have to be tough on them. However, I believe that we shall move towards American levels of crime. Much can be done to mitigate that. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, very eloquently put forward several suggestions.
This Government have taken many positive steps in terms of the New Deal for getting young people into work. I refer also to Sure Start, the family tax credit, and the arrangements for the Youth Justice Board. They are to be applauded for that. I have spoken to the 334 noble Lord, Lord Warner, about this before. The Government may not recognise the gravity of the problem they face and they may end up disappointing people and leading us to take the American view which is, even in fairly liberal households, that some people fail in life and that is just too bad. We do not yet have that view in Britain but there is a danger of that.
I ask the noble Lord, Lord Warner, perhaps to be a bit more modest before the great challenges which he faces. I hope he will forgive me for saying that. I see that he is not in his place at the moment.
I am concerned also that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has not had experience of working with young people. I hope that he will forgive me if I am harsh on him this afternoon. I believe that he has a great responsibility to young people on the edges of society. I know that he is a very intelligent and talented man; that he has been a head of social services; and that he is a fast-track civil servant. But I have discussed this matter with him and he has had no actual hands-on experience of working with troubled children from troubled families. I believe that he should consider remedying that lack.
This morning I was speaking to a researcher of the care leaving project of the Prince of Wales Trust. He gave a very eloquent presentation with all the facts and figures. I spoke to him afterwards and I asked him about the importance of hands-on experience. He said, "One must have all the facts. One must also have the hands-on experience". That goes with what the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate said. A policeman operates from his instincts as well as from his information. The Prince of Wales is raising that same subject this evening. He is asking us to balance scientific research with instinctive wisdom. Instinctive wisdom can come only from experience and in this case, that means working with troubled young people.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, is responsible for organising volunteering to a very large degree. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Warner, would consider talking to her about some sort of easy and relevant experience for himself. I hope that he will not feel that I am being presumptuous by making such a suggestion.
I listened with great interest to the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids. It is awful that there seems to be that personal vendetta against that particular man by the police. I have worked with young black people. I remember an incident when taking some young black people from the White City estate to Hyde Park with a senior black youth worker. When we had the rendezvous at the minibus, two plain clothes policemen came up and accused the young black boys of "feeling up the cars", of trying car doors. The result was that the young boys resisted giving their names. The black youth worker encouraged them in that. I could see that from the policemen's point of view, they were doing their job and trying to protect the public. From the point of view of the young black youths and the black youth worker, the policemen were a sort of army of occupation. There was such 335 resentment there. That is a terribly difficult issue to resolve. I am glad that that is not too much part of my responsibility.
I conclude by saying that if we are to be wise in our treatment of children who are likely to be attracted to crime, we need to know at least one such child personally in order to gain experience of such a situation. We need to spend some time regularly with that child over several months. I give an example of a possible opportunity to do that. There is a primary school near here. It is on an estate with a large number of single parents and a large ethnic population. I am sure that it could do with someone to help the children's reading for 10 minutes per week. Surely that would not be an impractical way of gaining experience in that area.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Tebbit for introducing a really difficult and fascinating debate in which I shall try to marshal the enormous number of thoughts which have already been provoked in my mind.
I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for his kind mention of the DIVERT Trust, of which I am the founding president. I hope he does not think that that exonerates him from any further mention. He made a highly political speech and I have no intention of making one myself.
I should just say this, to restore the balance, that we have all contributed to the present situation. I can best illustrate that by saying that within four days of being appointed Minister for Prisons, I had to answer a full-dress Wednesday debate in your Lordships' House on the future of the Prison Service. In that research, in that very sharp learning curve, I discovered that during the years which separated that debate, which was in 1982, from the end of the previous century, not one single brick had been put upon any other brick in any male secure adult accommodation since before the end of Queen Victoria's reign. If I remember correctly, the prison population had either trebled or quadrupled in the period. All parties had been in office during that time and none of us can wash our hands of it.
I ant sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, did not come in earlier because he might have interrupted me but now he will have to content himself with clicking his tongue when he reads Hansard.
My noble friend Lord Tebbit was very keen that we should have an effective criminal justice system from start to finish; that is, from the police, through the courts, the Prison Service, the Probation Service and the Parole Board. I entirely support him in every respect. I was very impressed by his analysis of the causes which are now contributing to the increase in crime.
In particular, I endorse his belief that we need an effective police force, and we have had two eminent policemen contributing very practical advice in that respect. But it must also be fair. I dare say that the idea of zero tolerance, about which my noble friend so warmly enthused, will seem more attractive to him, 336 and even slightly more attractive to me, than it does to the unfortunate Mr Tomlinson, of whom the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, spoke so movingly and in such detail.
She made very serious charges. I join the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, in hoping that the Minister will do something about that matter. I believe that it calls for an inquiry and, since the reputation of the police is at stake and since we should not generalise from the particular but should be confident that the conclusion is just, I think it should be a judicial inquiry. If there is to be zero tolerance towards bad behaviour, it must concentrate not only on the public but also on the police and, indeed, as my noble friend kindly prompts me, zero tolerance of bad police behaviour. That is precisely what I am saying.
The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, spoke on one issue which, although she is not here, I cannot forbear to mention; that is, the institution of training centres, against which my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley and I divided the House, successfully in the first instance. Those institutions were subsequently set up. I very much hope to hear from the Minister that those institutions have changed in their nature and the regimes within them have changed from what was originally established. The idea of concentrating ne'er-do-well children—and children they are—l00 miles or more away from home and any possible continuity of support seems bad under any regime.
I fear that the balance of this debate is perhaps wrong. We are concentrating on deterrence. I am not sure that deterrence is effective, as many of my noble friends and others believe it to be. After all, when a gamekeeper pins up a magpie on the barn door, he finds that dead magpies do not stop live magpies stealing eggs. I am afraid that the same is true of criminals if they think they are not going to be the next magpie. What are the chances of being the next magpie?
In 1986, the Audit Commission published a seminal report called Misspent Youth from which I quoted at length in another debate and from which I must make a selective quotation now. The report calculates, convincingly, that 28 million offences are committed every year at a cost to taxpayers and victims of £16,000 million. One quarter of the offenders were under 18 and accounted for around 7 million offences in that year. Under one-fifth of those offences were even recorded by the police and a bare 5 per cent cleared up. So, the magpie has a 95 per cent chance of getting away with it. Then, the magpie that is caught very often gets away with it too. Only a microscopic 3.1 per cent of crimes committed resulted in any attempt at corrective action. That attempt often failed. While 1.8 per cent led to a caution, only 1.3 per cent ended up in court. Not all those resulted in convictions and not all convictions were pursued.
It is clear that the majority of the tiny proportion who go into custody as a result of trial re-offend at an astonishingly high rate; much higher than 50 per cent, nearer 88 per cent. This necessary exercise in deterring crime and trying to protect the public is enormously 337 expensive and ineffective. Merely identifying a single young offender costs the police around £1,200. A successful prosecution costs a further £2,000 after that. Your Lordships have heard from other lips than mine the enormous cost of keeping those people in prison.
It seems to me that prevention has to be better than cure. Prevention is not achieved by nailing the magpie to the barn door. It has to be achieved by addressing the problem. We have a government whose one endearing feature, I thought, when they came into power was being tough not only on crime but on the causes of crime. I should like to see a bit more of that.
I was very glad to read in Hansard on 15th May that the On Track crime reduction programme is due to start in 24 areas almost immediately. The objective is to set pilot schemes dealing with children. I cannot find a reference to the ages but I think that it is between five and 11. That makes sense to me. Our experience at DIVERT is that the threshold of criminal behaviour is becoming younger. I have always thought that the predetermining conditions were almost at birth, depending on the condition of the family and the extent of love within that family. That bears on what has already been said about the availability of good role models.
One can try to supply what is missing, as the DIVERT Trust does. One can try to provide a good male role model, where it is missing, in the form of a mentor, but one needs a society which supports one. The right reverend Prelate, in a speech of which I only heard two-thirds as I had to leave the Chamber to attend a meeting, identified the decade of the sixties as the point at which there was a divergence between public convention and morality on the one hand and tolerance and public behaviour on the other.
The time has come to stand up and be counted. We make these intellectual points in our debates. We quote statistics in the security of this Chamber and we have intellectual arguments over the dinner table. They rely on the sort of statistics I have been quoting. But the fruits we are reaping now are the fruits of a society which has lost its direction.
My noble friend rightly said—he gazes anxiously at the clock but I have two minutes left—that one of the pillars of maintaining an orderly society is social convention. The other is an established morality. How often do you hear people rooting for social convention and standing firm on public morality? Occasionally there is a great public event, such as that in which my noble friend Lady Young tends to become involved, and it is a debate in this House. But it seems to me that more and more we need ordinary people like the rest of us to make clear in conversation that decent behaviour is what is expected of people; that outrageous behaviour is outrageous and that cruelty is something we will not tolerate, even at personal risk.
We need to teach society again the lesson it has forgotten and without which it will not survive, which is taught by Our Lord. I make no apology for the fact that I am a Christian. If more people said that they might then be forced to go on and say why. The 338 essential duty of every member of society is not to look after himself but to look after everybody else. If we did that, these problems would diminish with great rapidity. That would make the difficult job of the Government a little easier.
Having sat in that place opposite that Dispatch Box facing this sort of question, I have great sympathy with the Minister. It is not easy. I do not expect to be greatly satisfied by what he does. If I am not, I shall return to the attack, as I am sure will my noble friend.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, from this side of the House I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, on the clarity of his contribution. Perhaps I may also say how delighted I was to see my noble friend Lord Greaves making his maiden speech today. He and I grew up together as young Liberals and never in the past 40 years changed our opinion of that political party.
I start by saying to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that I hope he will accept that I have hands-on experience of the subject on which I speak. The reason for that is simple. I have served as a magistrate, on a board of visitors of a prison, and on a police authority. At times I have contributed to a parole system review and at present, as chair of NACRO, we look after those discharged from prison. I have, therefore, considerably wide experience.
Events of the past few weeks have clearly demonstrated why law and order is so high on the public agenda. The violent demonstrations that desecrated the Cenotaph and the statue of Winston Churchill are a clear reminder that there are still elements in society who are increasingly lawless. But we also know that the nature and extent of crime varies from place to place and generation to generation. It is therefore appropriate that I start with a quotation from Sir Winston Churchill. As Home Secretary, during a speech to the House of Commons on the prison vote on 28th July 1910, he said:The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country".That is my starting point. Crime is something with which all society must come to terms in its own way. Over the years there has been much debate about the underlying causes of crime and a good deal of research into the efficacy of various responses. Today's debate is no exception. It is however important to bear in mind that most research has tended to refute rather than confirm hypotheses about the causes of crime and the effectiveness of punishment and treatments. It is as true now as it has always been that the public and political mood continues to be conditioned more by gut feeling and media hype than by considered analytical research.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I welcome the changes that have taken place in policing our diverse society. Let me put on record my thanks to Judge Macpherson for his report on the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Home Secretary of the day, 339 Michael Howard, turned down a request from the Commission for Racial Equality to set up an independent investigation. It took the courage of Jack Straw to put that matter right. Without that thorough investigation, we would never have discovered the incompetent way in which the murder inquiry was carried out. More importantly, it identified the extent of racism in our society. The noble Baroness, Lady Howells, clearly demonstrated how that affects our communities. The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, said that that was only one example. Perhaps he and I could sit down together and, if he has the time, I can give him other examples.
We, as a society, failed to arrest racism, of which Stephen Lawrence was a victim. Let me say also to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that more than half of those in minority groups are born in this country. They are as British as anybody else and we do not need a cricket test to prove that. Of course, I shall have to read his speech carefully in relation to our diverse society; but let me say this. I have been a product of the British Empire, having been born in Africa and lived in India, and during that time I have never come across an integrated Englishman.
But let me go further. Like the glorious 12th, which is the start of the shooting season, we now start with the Police Federation conference. It seems to be a focal point of political and public response to law and order. But we must bear in mind that it is a trade union for the police and they will clamour for more resources and more power. Nobody disputes that. As Mandy Rice-Davies said, "They would, wouldn't they?".
Popular tabloids have had a field day. The political pronouncement of this week is a case in point. Even before the ink is dry on the Government's response to the Macpherson report, we have the Conservative Party clamouring for the reform of the double jeopardy rule. Of course we know that the Law Commission is examining that issue and it will be wise to await its deliberations. Why is it that we are so impatient on such fundamental issues of law? Political point-scoring is not helpful at all.
Are we being increasingly lawless? All crime indicators point in that direction. There is too much reliance on prison as a way of dealing with offenders. The Government and the Opposition are now competing to identify with the slogan that "prisons work", and I need not take noble Lords through the argument put to the Minister on Monday. But the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, was absolutely right when he said that there will always be prisoners who, on leaving prison, will return to society embittered against authority or perhaps having learned from fellow prisoners new ways of committing crime, or who may have become drug addicts during their time inside, all of whom are likely to re-offend. Is not that how prison works in a rather unattractive way?
It is profoundly depressing that so much of the public and political debate about law and order is currently based on the wholly unfounded assumption that the most effective way of reducing crime would be 340 to increase the degree of harshness towards offenders. That punitive approach all too often simply produces more hardened and embittered offenders who are rather more than likely to re-offend. The overwhelming weight of worldwide research evidence shows that the most hopeful answers lie in a three-pronged approach to crime. First, effective measures to prevent crime; secondly, effective sentencing practice which learns the lessons of research into what works; and, thirdly, determined effort to rehabilitate and resettle offenders who go to prison.
If we look first at preventing crime, physical methods of crime prevention involving better locks, bolts and security devices have an important role to play and have undoubtedly helped to reduce the number of recorded burglaries and car crimes. But even more important in the long run are social measures to prevent crime. For example, support for families under stress can help to reduce the chances of the children of those families becoming delinquent. Research in the United States—the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, quoted some figures—demonstrates that programmes which help parents to develop confidence and parenting skills can improve parenting, reduce child abuse and neglect, improve school achievement and reduce delinquency. It has been estimated that for every one dollar invested in such programmes, six dollars are saved as a result of reduced demands on the benefits system and the criminal justice process.
The research shows that high quality pre-school education for disadvantaged children, which involves their parents in their education, can cut crime when those children grow older. A long-term evaluation of the Perry pre-school programme in a disadvantaged area of Michigan found that children who had taken part were more likely to complete their schooling, more likely to find a job, more likely to own their own home, less likely, in the case of girls, to become pregnant as a teenager, less likely to get involved with drugs and less likely to be arrested. By the age of 20, 7 per cent of the programme participants had been arrested five or more times, compared with 35 per cent of similar children who did not participate. And I can give many more similar figures.
There is powerful evidence that well-structured activity programmes for at risk young people in disadvantaged high crime areas can make an important contribution to reduce youth crime. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for giving us his experience in such matters. Earlier this year, NACRO, which I chair, produced a report called Making a Difference, summarising research on a wide range of such projects which helped to reduce youth crime in their areas by amounts ranging from 30 to 75 per cent. For example, one NACRO youth activity project in Bolton led in one year of operation to a drop in youth-related crime of 30 per cent. A similar NACRO project in Southwark produced a 39 per cent decrease in criminal damage and a 62 per cent decrease in motor vehicle crime in the heat area where most of the young people lived.
Once again, there is striking evidence of cost effectiveness. An evaluation carried out by Coopers and Lybrand for the Prince's Trust in 1994 looked at 341 five youth work schemes for young offenders and young people at risk of offending. The average annual cost of working with a young person in those programmes ranged between £165 and £440—less than the cost of keeping a young person in custody for one week. The total saving from preventing a crime committed by a young person was conservatively estimated at £2,400. Because the young people on those projects were at risk of becoming prolific offenders, it was estimated that on average the projects would be cost effective if they prevented just one in 50 of the participants from offending.
We need effective sentencing based on the lessons of research into what works. A growing body of evidence shows that some types of work with offenders can reduce offending by between 10 and 50 per cent more than other types. They include a range of highly focused programmes which confront offending behaviour; teach offenders to restrain aggressive and impulsive behaviour; make offenders aware of the impact of their crimes on victims; tackle the alcohol and drug problems; and provide skills training and employment. The research indicates that those programmes produce better results when carried out in the community than in custody.
Much of that evidence is available in a number of reports produced at NACRO. I want to look more fundamentally at how we resettle and rehabilitate prisoners. Here again, the evidence from the research is clear. It shows that unemployed ex-prisoners are twice as likely to re-offend as those who obtain and keep a job; that homeless ex-prisoners are two-and-a-half times more likely to reoffend than similar ex-prisoners in stable accommodation; and so forth.
Arrangements to resettle short-term prisoners are particularly deficient, and the Minister perhaps should look at this. Prisoners sentenced to under 12 months constitute over 50,000 of the 80,000 people sentenced to imprisonment each year. But they receive much less help than longer-term prisoners who are compulsorily supervised by the Probation Service on release. What can we do effectively to put that right? Far more needs to be done to support composite counselling in assisting the victims of crime.
I am coming to the end of my contribution. Perhaps I may give noble Lords some late news. Just before I began to speak a note was thrust into my hands which says that I may like to know that not police have fired teargas in Copenhagen to disperse fighting Arsenal and Galatasaray fans. That happened today. Therefore, there is also a need for us to bang the drum for involving young persons in their own society, difficult as that is when communities are under such strain. Unless and until every young citizen feels that he or she is part of society and takes their own stake in it, we will only be sticking plaster on the body politic. It is no good talking about low morale. I have worked in every organisation, be it policing or whatever, but I have never come across an organisation where morale has been high except in the case of the committee room at the Romsey by-election. That teaches us never to have a knee-jerk reaction to policies of this nature.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, this has been a reflective debate on the very long-standing problems of law and order. It was a debate improved by two excellent maiden speeches. I congratulate both the new Members of your Lordships' House on their speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, made an impressive speech drawing on both his experience and expertise as an advocate over many years, to our great advantage. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also brought his own experience to the debate, and in a small way that of his father, as well as a touch of humour.
I do not believe that my noble friend Lord Tebbit has ever before been thanked by so many people from such a diverse spectrum of politics for introducing the debate this afternoon. He began with a typically powerful and thoughtful speech, with plenty of his usual colourful language to emphasise his points. He emphasised particularly the length of time over which the problems of law and order, or crime and disorder, as I believe we should really call it, have been building up, to the frustration not only of our citizens but of all governments over the period. He also introduced the theme, taken up by others, that the foundations of law and order rest not only on the police, the courts, the prisons and so forth but also on the other pillars, as he described them, of morality and social pressures on society. Other speakers emphasised that as the debate continued. My noble friend Lady Young spoke of family life and the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, gave us some figures from research. My noble friend Lord Elton, among others, emphasised our duty to others.
Successive governments have attempted to deal with these problems and all kinds of things have been tried. But as regards the Home Office side of matters, it was my right honourable friend Michael Howard, as Home Secretary, and my right honourable friend John Major, as Prime Minister, who achieved the first improvements in the total crime figures for many decades.
I do not pretend for a moment that the problem was solved but there was some improvement. I make that point in particular because the noble Lord, Lord Warner, began his speech with examples of the political use of statistics, against which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, had warned us. The fact is that when the noble Lord, Lord Warner, entered the Home Office in 1997, as he described, we were towards the end of six consecutive annual falls in the rates of crime. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, told us that that created consternation among Home Office civil servants and caused him to have sympathy for them. Perhaps that tells us something about the attitudes that my noble friend Lord Tebbit described.
Once the noble Lord, Lord Warner, got off his political soapbox, as my noble friend Lady Carnegy expressed it, he spoke about the youth justice board and other initiatives. I am certain that we all wish him and his colleagues well in what they are trying to do. There is nothing more important in this field than youth justice and tackling the problems of youth crime. I hope that the noble Lord will take note of 343 some of the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, because I believe he missed his speech. The noble Earl made some important points.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol gave us an extremely interesting speech. He defended the Church of England against earlier remarks. Although he said it in a very different style and with a different approach, a lot of what he said seemed similar to some of the things said by my noble friend Lord Tebbit. He also told us of important initiatives in the Church and in his diocese in particular. That was also an extremely important contribution.
There is no doubt that throughout this debate the issue of morals and the norms of society were revealed as being extremely important and must, as the right reverend Prelate said, go together with legislation.
That brings us to the question of race, which was touched on throughout the debate. No one who listened to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, could imagine that there is no racial element to these problems. Her examples and statistics as regards offenders, those in the criminal justice system and also the victims of crime among the black community were extremely important. Reference to the Macpherson report reminded me of a fact also referred to in some other speeches—that it not only seemed to emphasise racism but inefficiency. The problems arising from lack of supervision, follow-up, ineptitude and general incompetence revealed in that report were extremely worrying apart from the racial aspects. Sir William Macpherson thought that these inefficiencies and the ineptitude could only be explained by racial attitudes. It worried me that there was more to it than that.
Another theme of the debate has been strong support for the police. That was no more strongly expressed than by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, drawing on his experience. He referred briefly to what seemed to me to be a hint of a golden age with PC Brown, I believe it was—I nearly said PC Dixon. There was an important message in what he said. He encapsulated one of the problems to which my noble friend Lord Tebbit drew attention. He told us that the job he did as a detective inspector was now being done by crime managers, which is an extraordinary choice of phrase to describe such a function.
We were brought close to the day-to-day problems of the police by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, speaking from his experience as vice-chairman of the Thames Valley police authority. Among other things, he spoke about police pensions and the problem of financing them. I fully recognise that that is a difficult problem, but I hope that the Minister will refer to it in his response. The noble Lord also raised the question of the special constabulary, which was discussed a few days ago, and the possibility of retained policemen.
However, it is clearer than ever from this debate that noble Lords do not believe that the police, or the courts and the prisons, should bear all the burdens of dealing with crime. But they should have all possible support in what they do. At present, it is extremely 344 difficult to follow what the Home Secretary thinks will happen to police numbers as a result of the Crime Fighting Fund, because the story seems to have changed from time to time. If it is successful, it seems likely that all it will do is stem the fall in the number of policemen, rather than lead to a significant increase.
But we are not only concerned about numbers; we are also concerned about morale. Anyone who doubts this has only to read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, and that made this morning by the Chairman of the Police Federation at the conference, which I was able to attend briefly before coming to your Lordships' House for this debate.
I turn now to prisons. What worries me is that the prison population continues to rise much faster than expenditure on prisons. One of the results of that has been a series of adverse reports by the inspector. I hope that the Government's only action in that respect will not be to change the way that Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons works. That seems to be at least a possibility judging by recent press reports.
The Government are also releasing some prisoners early from prison, with the aid of electronic tagging. However, many of the prisoners released in that way have re-offended and some serious crimes have been committed. I do not know whether new thought will be given to this policy during the course of the sentencing review which we are told will take place. The latest proposal is that prisoners should be imprisoned only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That does not seem to be a good idea because, generally speaking, the working hours of criminals are not nine to five; indeed, they tend to be during the evenings. So this proposed scheme will deprive those concerned of the ability to earn a living, support their families and go straight, as it were, while not depriving them of the ability to continue with a life of crime.
Several references were rightly made to the importance of trying to make prison and detention constructive, as well as keeping criminals out of society for the duration of their sentences. That is also important. As I said, we have had a wide-ranging and thought-provoking debate. I hope that our comments will be widely considered and referred to so that we can follow up some of the points expressed. I should add that our debate was improved by the two excellent maiden speeches that we heard.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)
My Lords, I, too, greatly enjoyed this afternoon's debate and discussions. I have waited a long time to have a disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and this debate has given me an opportunity, at least in part, to pursue that disagreement with him. Like many other speakers, I also enjoyed the contributions made in the two maiden speeches of my noble friend Lord Brennan and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves.
My noble friend Lord Brennan was absolutely right to try to focus our attention on ensuring that we had a debate that was, as he put it, well informed, with good 345 information, and with reliable data and facts—not, I suppose, fiction. His other point was echoed several times during the debate; namely, the important issue of racism. He said that racism was a cancer in our society. I have been heartened by many of the comments made in your Lordships' House and most impressed, as ever, by the comments of my noble friend Lady Howells in her very strong and powerful contribution.
I should also like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his maiden speech. I observed and listened with interest to what he said. However, after listening to some of his colleagues, I am not sure whether he is a reformed radical or a radical reformer. Whichever it is, I thought that the noble Lord spoke with the good sense of a local grass-roots activist—something that I can certainly identify with most strongly. Indeed, I believe that that has very much been the noble Lord's trademark in Liberalism—or now, perhaps, Liberal democracy. I thought that the contributions of both maiden speakers bode well for the future. I look forward to hearing much more from both my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in our debates.
As I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, I have enjoyed waiting for the opportunity to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. The greatest source of my disagreement with him is his analysis of where he feels that we, as a government, are going wrong; and perhaps his general attack on the liberal establishment. In summary, the noble Lord's attack seemed to me to suggest that the police are suffering from over-zealous political correctness; that we are living in a society that seems to tolerate crime, whatever happens; that the judiciary are in some way weak; that the establishment is full of soft "pinko" liberals; and, worse, that the Home Secretary is now the victim of the virus of extreme liberalism. I do not believe that my right honourable friend Jack Straw, the Home Secretary—and my boss—would see any of that in his persona, but no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, takes an entirely different view.
The noble Lord also seemed to conclude that in the lifetime of modern politics—after all, he stretched back to what he said may not have been a golden age—the only real Home Secretary we have had was Michael Howard. I must say that that seemed to me to be a rather chilling view. Michael Howard was the last of a long line of distinguished Conservative Home Secretaries. The noble Lord spoke about the distinguished record of the previous government. However, we should not forget the simple fact that that term of office stretched to 18 years. My noble friend Lord Warner reminded us of some of the statistics of that government which were, perhaps, less than distinguished.
Indeed, crime doubled in the 1980s and early 1990s and, during that time, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was a leading government Minister and a member of the Cabinet. The number of criminals brought to book fell by one-third and the crime rate increased faster than in any other major western country. The chance of being a victim of burglary under that government 346 increased from one in 32 to one in 13. The representatives of that government voted against a total ban on handguns, and violent criminals became three times more likely to get away with their crimes. The number of recorded rapes ending in conviction or caution fell from 37 per cent in 1980 to 11 per cent in 1996. The number of robberies ending in conviction or caution fell from one in four in 1980 to one in 10 in 1996. More than 500 serious criminals were released from prison in August 1996 and the chance of being a victim of violent crime trebled.
During those 18 years, the total cost of crime rose to £16 billion. The cost of house and car insurance rose by almost 90 per cent between 1984 and 1994. The average delay for getting persistent young offenders from arrest to sentence rose to four and a half months, and the number of young offenders cautioned or found guilty fell by more than one-third between 1984 and 1994. Of course, famously in 1992, the Conservative government broke their manifesto promise to provide an extra thousand police officers within a year. That is a fairly serious indictment.
This afternoon's debate has been about the problems of maintaining law and order. All governments are infected with this particular problem; indeed, we all have to deal with it. Noble Lords who made the point that maintaining law and order must be a second priority after maintaining the defence of the realm were absolutely correct to make that point.
The debate ranged far and wide and noble Lords made telling contributions. Although I disagreed with some of the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, she was right to focus on the importance of family life, however one defines it. Clearly, family life provides a bedrock for all of us in our early and formative years. It informs the way we think and it certainly shapes how we are. Both parents, or a single parent, as the case may be, have an important influence on the way their children view the world. That was certainly the case as regards my childhood and my generation. The noble Baroness dwelt perhaps over long on the notion of the collapse of society. That is an interesting point. Not everyone agrees with that notion. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, did not appear to think that society existed at all. Therefore, I am not quite sure that she would recognise the collapse of society in the context in which it was mentioned. Nevertheless, family values are important in our society. The Government strongly believe that they must be supported. Our policies and programmes seek to achieve that.
The Government were elected on a coherent law and order programme which touches on a whole range of services. When we came to office, the services which relate to the criminal justice system—the courts, the prisons, the Probation Service and the police—were not connected. We decided to establish a coherent programme to bring all those services together to enable us to bring pressure to bear to reduce crime in our society. To that end, we enacted the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. I believe that it has laid firm foundations for our attack on crime and disorder.
347 The Act set in place a framework to deliver local solutions to local problems. It set up successful crime and disorder partnerships through which police, local authorities and other agencies can identify and tackle problems together in the coherent manner that I mentioned earlier. It encouraged inter-agency working, a partnership approach and the involvement of the community through those partnerships. The Government have strongly supported those partnerships. Through the partnerships, three-year crime reduction strategies have been developed which reflect local needs and priorities; for example, by focusing on crimes which are a particular local problem, or by emphasising the special needs of rural areas—something which many noble Lords have mentioned this evening. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, gave a clear and analytical exposition of some of the problems in Leicestershire where she lives. We need to focus on the problems of rural crime. The Government certainly do not underestimate those problems.
In addition, the Government's crime reduction strategy—this has a bearing on both rural and urban areas—has set ambitious targets; for example, to cut vehicle crime by over 30 per cent over five years. The Government are keen to see crime reduced, not merely contained. We refuse to be cynical, as it were, about crime. We want to tackle it. That is part of our programme and the way in which vie see ourselves working.
The Crime and Disorder Act also introduced antisocial behaviour orders. I know that there has been some cynicism about the effect of those orders. However, there are now some 45 in place. I believe that they have led to a rethink on the part of crime partnerships at local government level and within the police service as regards the way in which they approach anti-social behaviour in their localities. The orders have enabled us to focus more on those kinds of problems.
The Government are spending over £150 million on CCTV schemes in England and Wales. That is the biggest ever CCTV investment programme. We are investing £60 million on projects to prevent burglary as part of our crime reduction initiatives. We shall concentrate that resource in about 2 million homes in high-crime areas. We seek especially to strengthen the homes of low-income pensioners.
At the same time, there is an urgent need to restore public faith in the criminal justice system. Therefore, the Government have embarked on an important phase of reform: speeding up the court process; improving the prosecution system; and ensuring that offenders are properly punished. We have also undertaken the most radical overhaul of our youth justice system in decades. I cannot speak on that subject with the authority of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, who, based on his long experience in local and central government, understands precisely the issues and problems that are involved.
Youth offending teams have been set up to bring together all the local agencies dealing with young offenders in order to nip offending behaviour in the 348 bud. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, believed that that element was missing. It is an important element of what we are trying to achieve. A system of final warnings and new options to help the courts to reduce crime, such as parenting orders, has been introduced. I claim some small responsibility for that. We believe that parenting orders will have a profound impact on the relationship between parents and offenders, making parents take some responsibility for the offending behaviour of their children.
All of these measures appear to be working extremely well. The latest published figures show that recorded crime in England and Wales has fallen by about 7 per cent since the general election. Having listened to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, earlier, one would think that crime was increasing inexorably and that somehow the Government had given up on it. That has never been the case. Even more impressive have been the reductions in domestic burglary, down by 20 per cent, and car theft, down by 17 per cent. No one can afford to give up on these issues. We certainly cannot afford to be complacent. But even at a time of a small increase in the general level of recorded crime, the Government are committed to ensuring that we attack those problems.
I do not think that there can be any doubt about the Government's commitment to supporting the police. Much criticism has been levelled at the police, not just in your Lordships' House. I echo the support voiced for the police by many noble Lords this evening. The Government have tried to ensure that we have a recruitment strategy that works. We turn our face against the numbers game. We do not believe that it is appropriate to become involved in that. Nevertheless we are committed to expanding the number of police officers over the next two years. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred to numbers. We think that we have now adopted the correct position in this respect. I refer to the recruitment of 5,000 officers that we pledged in September of last year. We are now rolling forward that programme of recruitment. We shall offer the police service the opportunity to recruit 3,000 of those 5,000 additional police officers within the current financial year. However, we believe that it is right that chief officers remain responsible for their overall budgets. They are, after all, best placed to assess local priorities and to allocate and manage their resources.
Other measures will also help the police to work more efficiently and waste less time on bureaucracy. Here I pick up a point that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised. We are putting more resources into the Public Safety Radio Communications Project to provide more reliable, better quality and secure communications. We are also expanding the DNA database. All of these measures are part of our commitment to modernise and improve the way in which the police service works.
We want to end the phenomenon of "revolving door" justice which sees offenders returning to the courts again and again. The Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill, which is currently before another 349 place, significantly tightens up the enforcement of community sentences and ensures that the Probation Service acts as a law enforcement agency. We believe that to be entirely correct.
A number of noble Lords asked questions about the Prison Service. I do not believe that I can this evening respond to all of the points that were made in that respect. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, made some important points, which we support in the main. We need to ensure that we have purposeful regimes within our prisons, and we need to ensure that those regimes produce people who are not worse for being through the prison system. For that reason, we are focusing on the world of work; on improving the quality and range of education opportunities (on Monday I informed the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that we were increasing teaching hours by some 200,000 across the entire prison estate); on offering more and better training in our industrial and agricultural prisons; and on ensuring that people have access to the kinds of courses that will enable them, when they come out of prison, to lead a better, straighter life and to find work, rather than to return to a world of crime.
So far as concerns the Prison Service, another important part of our programme is to ensure that the evil of drugs within the prison system is tackled. I remind your Lordships that I said on Monday that the mandatory drug testing programme, which just two years ago revealed that 24 per cent of prisoners tested had drugs, has now found that we have reduced that to 14 per cent. That is a very impressive statistic. It shows how much the determined CARATS programme and the programmes of rehabilitation and support are now beginning to achieve within the prison estate.
Many noble Lords raised issues relating to public order. Much has been made of the problems of public disorder which the police have had to face. The noble Lord, Lord Eden, was very critical on this point, and the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, also took issue on the subject. Public disorder is not new to this Government's time in office; it has been with us for many decades. I do not need to remind your Lordships' House of the kinds of problems faced by the previous Conservative government. There were riots in many of our major cities—in Toxteth, in Birmingham, in Brixton, in Handsworth and in parts of Haringey—and there were the poll tax riots. Throughout and during those occasions, it was absolutely right that when we were in opposition we provided the kind of support that the police quite properly deserved.
The Government congratulate the police on meeting the challenges of the kinds of organised chaos which protestors tried to impose on 18th June and 30th November last year and again on May Day this year. We deprecate the actions of the organised hooligans and the way in which they abuse our public statues and disfigure public life. It is clear that the police deserve our full support for learning from past incidents—they clearly have—in the way in which they contained the problems on 1st May and in dealing effectively with the serious damage and 350 violence which spread through our streets on that occasion. The police worked well; they deserve our support. They will carry on deserving our support and we must give it most fully.
It is surprising to hear in your Lordships' House criticisms of the police for being, on the one hand, too heavy-handed and, on the other, for being too slow to take action in respect of minor misdemeanours. Noble Lords will know that the police have always had an element of discretion in regard to the way in which they enforce the law. It is right and proper that they should, and that they can rely on that operational independence. They must rightly be given the opportunity to make the difficult judgments that have to be made by both commanders and individual officers as to how best to deal with situations of public disorder. We should fully recognise that and support the police efforts to get it right. I know that they are committed to ensuring that they do get it absolutely right.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, would this be an appropriate time to ask the Minister whether he has taken on board the concern of many noble Lords that something further should be done about the case of Mr Tomlinson.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for reminding me of the case of Mr Tomlinson. I shall certainly study Hansard very carefully. I was impressed that the noble Lord raised that issue in reflection of what the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, had said earlier. Yes, I shall ensure that we look at that case urgently; it deserves to be looked at more closely.
I said earlier that I had a profound disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. It relates to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report. That report will be seen in future years as very much a watershed. Critics on the right of our political culture see it as being something which has undermined, or acted to undermine, the police in the very difficult job they do. I take an entirely different view, as does the Home Secretary. We see it as a watershed in the sense that it will have a profound impact on improving police and community relations, and, in particular, police relations with black and ethnic minority communities.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, said that, in part, the Macpherson report commented on the sheer inefficiency of the police in dealing with that particular tragedy, that horrible murder. Far from having had an adverse effect on police morale in the context of dealing with street crime, it has enabled us to take time and take stock of police and community relations, and the whole relationship with ethnic minority communities.
As a government, we have been right to put in place training and measures which ensure that we have a police force which properly reflects the composition of what is now a multi-ethnic and diverse community. Over the months in which I have been a Home Office Minister, I have been impressed by the way in which the police service has begun to respond very fully to the 351 implications of the Macpherson report. I pay tribute to it for that. I do not believe that over time the report will undermine its work; I think that it will help it. It will encourage policing by consensus, something on which many Members of your Lordships' House have laid particular emphasis and stress.
The Home Secretary has taken a very keen interest. He has made this very much a test of the way in which we modernise our police service. He has established a ministerial priority for all police forces to increase trust and confidence among minority ethnic communities, and he has set targets to ensure that the police service properly reflects the composition of our communities.
Many noble Lords focused on crime and crime reduction. We are making a significant investment in that sector and we believe that, over time, it will pay off. Crime statistics published in January show that, while crime rose nationally, it is not all gloom and doom. Those forces which are putting in place policing plans and tackling the important issues—such as burglary and non-domestic burglary—in a focused way are continuing to show falls in recorded crime. We think that that is the right way to proceed. Making sure that the criminal justice system works in a focused, purposeful and cohesive way will bring longterm benefits.
Yes, there are problems. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, ably described some of the difficulties which police forces—particularly in the Home Counties—are facing in terms of recruitment. The announcement that the Home Secretary made today, again reinforcing the need to bring in more police officers and better training, and increasing the ability of chief constables to recruit, will make a long-term difference.
The noble Lord is right to remind us of the issue of police pensions. It is a matter that we are urgently reviewing.
I have spent many minutes on my feet. It is right that I should conclude by thanking all Members of your Lordships' House who have made important contributions to this long—and perhaps long-awaited—debate on crime, crime reduction and the problems of law enforcement. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, made the point that there are no quick fixes to the problems of crime and disorder. Crime increased significantly under the previous government; we have set our sights on reducing crime. We have put 352 in place a number of important changes to the legal framework and reforms of the criminal justice system in order to tackle crime more effectively and to restore public confidence. We have fully supported the police in their efforts to fight crime and disorder on our streets, and we will continue to do so.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for introducing this debate, and I thank again your Lordships for making it so interesting. It has ensured that we focus on this most important of all public issues.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, the debate was remarkably short of political partisanship; that is, until the Minister read his departmental political rant. However, I am grateful to him for his presence throughout the debate, although I am disappointed that he has not answered my question as to whether the burglars in the Martin case in Norfolk have yet been charged.
§ Lord Bassam of Brighton
My Lords, I apologise for not having given a response. I am quite happy to provide the noble Lord with that reply.
The two burglars were charged with conspiracy to burgle. One burglar was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and the other, who did not enter the building, was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment.
Other noble Lords have also asked questions to which I have not responded, but I undertake to reply in writing.
§ Lord Tebbit
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. We have listened to two maiden speeches, both of which I shall certainly remember. I shall also long remember the Liberal homily on racism, which ended with the statement "I have never met an integrated Englishman."
I was most encouraged by the general concern expressed by noble Lords on all sides about the weakness in the moral and social pillars of our defences against crime and disorder. We should build on that consensus. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
House adjourned at nineteen minutes before eight o'clock.