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House of Commons

Thursday 25 April 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Killingholme Generating Stations (Ancillary Powers) Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Thursday 2 May.

Mr. Speaker : As the next eight Bills have blocking motions, I shall put them together.

Cattewater Reclamation Bill

(By Order)

London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) Bill

(By Order)

East Coast Main Line (Safety) Bill

(By Order)

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill

(By Order)

London Underground (King's Cross) Bill

(By Order)

Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

(By Order)

British Railways

(No. 3) Bill-- [Lords] (By Order)

London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 2 May.

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Oral Answers to Questions


Miscarriages of Justice

1. Mr. John Garrett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to update the Home Office response to the 1982 report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on miscarriages of justice in the light of recent events.

4. Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his plans to deal with miscarriages of justice.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : On 14 March, my right hon. and learned Frind the Lord Chancellor and I announced the appointment of a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, with very wide terms of reference. It would not be right at this stage to try to anticipate the outcome of the royal commission, but the Government will be submitting evidence to the commission and will introduce such measures as are considered necessary in the light of its report in due course. In the interim, I remain prepared to consider very carefully any representations alleging that there has been a miscarriage of justice.

Mr. Garrett : Does the Home Secretary agree that if the Home Office had listened to the unanimous report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs 10 years ago, in which it stated that the Court of Appeal was incapable of dealing with miscarriages of justice and that there should be an independent review body, most of the disasters of the past few years would not have happened?

Mr. Baker : The Government accepted several of the recommendations of the 1982 report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, especially those relating to the Crown prosecution service. As for miscarriages of justice, an undertaking was given that the Home Secretary would in future be prepared to exercise his powers of reference more readily. That has happened. The hon. Gentleman will know that the royal commission's brief goes much wider than the findings of the Select Committee in 1982.

Mr. Grocott : I very much welcome the Home Secretary's assurance that he will listen carefully to any further evidence on cases. Does he agree that following the Birmingham and Guildford cases, all instances where the prosecution depended on uncorroborated confessions must give rise to great anxiety? Although we welcome the royal commission, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will not use it as a reason for delaying consideration of other serious allegations of miscarriages of justice? Will he confirm that where there is new evidence, especially in cases of uncorroborated confessions, he will take them seriously and deal with them speedily?

Mr. Baker : I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. While the royal commission is sitting, deliberating and formulating its proposals, I shall consider any cases put to me that concern miscarriages of justice

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and give them the scrupulous attention which I and all my predecessors have exercised. That applies to the cases to which the hon. Gentleman referred and to all other cases that may be referred to me.

Mr. Lawrence : Does my right hon. Friend agree that while it is an undoubted miscarriage of justice for the innocent to be convicted, it is as much a miscarriage of justice for the guilty to be acquitted? Will he ensure that the Runciman inquiry considers that as well as the other matters to which he referred?

Mr. Baker : The introductory words of the terms of reference of the Runciman committee refer specifically to that. The purpose of justice is to ensure that guilty people are found guilty and that the innocent are not. I fully support what my hon. and learned Friend said. The Runciman committee will consider specific matters of concern, including the way in which the right of silence is treated by the courts.

Mr. Corbett : Will the Home Secretary make it a little clearer than he has that when he receives new evidence which casts doubt on the safety of convictions, such as those of the people who were held responsible for the terrible Bridgwater crime and those of the Tottenham Three, he will seriously consider the evidence and argument without waiting for the outcome of the Runciman inquiry? Will he give the House an assurance that he will pay special attention to cases of that sort where serious allegations have been made against police officers or where investigations are under way?

Mr. Baker : I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. He will know that since I have been Home Secretary I have referred to the Court of Appeal one convicted prisoner in the Broadwater case to see whether the sentence was still safe in the light of evidence which was sent to me and which I examined carefully. If additional evidence is provided in relation to any prisoner in Britain I shall certainly examine it carefully and if I am convinced that there should be a further hearing I will refer it to the Court of Appeal.

Estate Security Schemes

2. Mr. Bellingham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many individual estate security schemes have received Home Office grants in the last two years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peter Lloyd) : Home Office grants have been given for 135 separate crime prevention schemes to increase security on housing estates during the past two years. All those grants were made under the safer cities programme for the 16 towns and cities in which crime prevention projects have been established.

Mr. Bellingham : Is the Minister aware that the North Lynn industrial estate security scheme in my constituency, which was one of the first in the country, has had the effect of almost completely eradicating break-ins and crime? Is he also aware that the local borough council of Kings Lynn in west Norfolk, is setting up a town centre security scheme to cover car parks and housing estates which local

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industrial estates will also be able to join? Will my hon. Friend congratulate that excellent Conservative- controlled council?

Mr. Lloyd : North Lynn is an impressive example of what can be done. It is not part of the Home Office safer cities programme. As my hon. Friend implied, it is entirely the idea of the local authority, local business men and the local police. It is a good idea which has been well carried through and I hope that it will be copied by other local authorities.

Mr. Vaz : Does the Minister agree that the amount of grant should be based on the level of crime in a particular area? He will know that Leicestershire has the highest crime rate in the country. Therefore, does he consider it necessary to increase the amount of money payable under the schemes-- [Interruption.] Perhaps the Home Secretary will allow me to ask my question without talking across me.

Would not it also be appropriate to increase the number of police officers in areas such as Leicestershire to administer the new schemes that have been implemented? Will the hon. Gentleman look again at the figures requested by Leicestershire county council and award the county more officers, because that is the best and most effective way of tackling crime?

Mr. Lloyd : As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the safer cities scheme is directed to areas, particularly inner city areas, where rates of crime are particularly high. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, my right hon. Friend takes his decision on the number of police officers required for Leicestershire on the need as assessed and the priorities stated by the inspector of police. The figures for this year have already been decided, but I am sure that if next year there are good reasons for increasing the number of police, my right hon. Friend will be anxious to do so.

Mr. Anthony Coombs : Will my hon. Friend confirm the importance of the secure by design schemes entered into by a number of police forces with house builders as a means of preventing crime? Is not it important that secure by design is dovetailed into the initiatives of the National House- Building Council so that most house builders can offer such improvements to potential purchasers?

Mr. Lloyd : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we can build out to some extent--sometimes even to a greater extent--the possibilities of crime in the way that an estate is designed, it will be valuable. That is something which the Department of the Environment bears very much in mind in its estate action improvements. It includes exactly the sort of thing that my hon. Friend is thinking of--lighting, secure doors and improvements in the design of footpaths and in layout--so that crime is discouraged and much more difficult to perpetrate.

Sunday Trading

3. Mr. Cartwright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about reform of the law on Sunday trading.

8. Mr. Andrew MacKay : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his consultations with retailers on the reform of Sunday trading laws.

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : Since my reply on 15 November to a similar question from my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), up to 23 April we had received about 570 written representations broadly in favour of Sunday trading and about 362 against.

I have now begun my extensive programme of separate discussions with bodies representing retailers and other interests to assist the possible development of acceptable proposals for reform.

Mr. Cartwright : May I wish the right hon. Lady well in her difficult task of trying to find a workable compromise or solution to the problem? Does she accept that a key element in that compromise must be effective statutory protection for the rights of shop workers? Any system of Sunday trading that left shop workers vulnerable to pressure and to exploitation would not be likely to carry a majority in the House or, indeed, outside.

Mrs. Rumbold : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good wishes for my endeavours. I assure him that I am discussing any possible solution and compromise that we could reach with the relevant organisations, with my colleagues in the Department and with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment so that the issue that the hon. Gentleman raised can be safeguarded. As he knows, there would be no sense in bringing to the House a proposal that would not be enforceable and would not command a majority in the House.

Mr. Andrew MacKay : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a matter of deep regret that many people still believe in the nanny state and, therefore, do not allow the people of this country to have the freedom to choose whether to shop? Is not it time to change the law and bring it up to date?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend will know that, following the Auld report and the introduction of the Shops Bill in 1986 which would have met his criticisms, the House decided to reject total deregulation. It is because of that rejection that I am now trying to find a practicable solution--a compromise--to resolve the anomalies in Sunday trading, a compromise that will command the support of all hon. Members and be enforceable outside.

Mr. Duffy : The Minister and certainly the Home Secretary know that it is precisely the ideological approach to deregulation expressed by the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) that has put the Government in some of their recent trouble. The Keep Sunday Special campaign has produced some detailed ideas for reform in its REST proposals. Is she aware that a Harris poll shows that 88 per cent. of consumers believe that most of their shopping needs could be met by those proposals?

Mrs. Rumbold : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for letting me know about the Keep Sunday Special campaign's proposals and I shall, of course, study them carefully. I have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the matter with that organisation, but I look forward to meeting its representatives shortly.

Mr. Stanbrook : Do I gather from what my right hon. Friend said about the 1986 Bill that the Government are still committed to a policy of total abolition of all Sunday

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trading restrictions, or have they come to their senses and realised that a compromise is likely not only to achieve success, but to correspond to what most people want--a special status for Sunday?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend knows that I am in discussion with many different people at the moment. Since the Shops Bill failed in 1986, we have sought to find a compromise between total deregulation and the current position in which there are many anomalies, which is most unsatisfactory and which leaves people uncertain. At this stage, I cannot give my hon. Friend any greater assurances.

Mr. Randall : Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the statements that she has made so far, there is still deep concern about the mess that the Government are in over the Shops Act 1950? [Interruption.] The Government are in a mess. Is she further aware that the Labour party is prepared to co-operate with the Government in a responsible, constructive and positive fashion to push sensible, amending legislation through the House at the earliest opportunity? I wish to ask the Minister one simple question--what target date does she have in mind for pushing a new Shops Bill through the House, or will she continue to dither?

Mrs. Rumbold : I am riveted to hear that the Labour party, which introduced the Shops Act 1950, is offering co-operation with the Government. It has not been forthcoming in offering co-operation at any other stage. Frankly, I am not certain that I should want to take that poisoned chalice. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want the Government to step into the arena of introducing legislation until we were certain that there were agreed grounds for legislation that would meet the requirements of the largest number of people.

Mr. Randall : Dithering.

Mrs. Rumbold : I am not prepared to go further than that. It is outrageous for the hon. Gentleman to say that we are dithering. If he does not wish the Government to consult, that is an amazing position. I should be very interested to read specific proposals from the Labour party which would reassure the many people who have different ideas.

Mr. Latham : As a fully-paid up member of the nanny state, may I commend to my right hon. Friend the thought that if 500 representations are one way and 300 are the other, the best thing to do is to push the ball down the pitch?

Mrs. Rumbold : My hon. Friend has been very helpful. I do not intend to push the ball down the pitch, but to continue my consultations and discussions with interested parties to try to reach a compromise.

Detective John Brand

5. Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of the West Midlands as to whether detective John Brand is still on duty.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : No, Sir. It would not be right for my right hon. Friend to do so.

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Mr. Meale : Will the Minister confirm that, so far, none of the officers accused of perjury has been suspended? Is not that silly, especially in the light of the seriousness of what occurred in relation to the Birmingham Six? Is not it about time that the Government ensured that such an action is carried out immediately?

Mr. Lloyd : The chief constable of the West Midlands has asked the Devon and Cornwall police force to investigate what evidence there is against the officers connected with the case. When that evidence is available, it will be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions, not for my right hon. Friend. Meanwhile, it is entirely a matter for the chief constable of the West Midlands whether those officers are on duty or not.

Slopping Out

6. Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the reduction in slopping out in the three prisons in the Isle of Wight.

Mrs. Rumbold : Work is already in hand to provide access to night sanitation at Camp Hill and Parkhurst and work will start at Albany early next year. Slopping out is due to end at Camp Hill and Albany in 1993 and at Parkhurst by September 1994.

Mr. Field : I thank my right hon. Friend for that excellent answer. Will not the ending of those degrading practices facilitate the excellent work of prison officers at the three prisons on the Isle of Wight in humanising some of the most evil men in our society? Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how that work has been recognised by a number of improvements in our island gaols? Will she ensure that those who continually criticise the prison service are manacled to the facts for a change, rather than to their own rhetoric?

Mrs. Rumbold : I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. I recognise that, with three prisons on the Isle of Wight, he is in constant contact with the prison service. I also support what he says about the extremely difficult job that prison officers have to carry out, working with people who may not be the most willing group in the world. The officers do a good and sound job and I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that since "fresh start" they have been well recompensed for that work.

Terrorist Offences

7. Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will bring forward proposals for reform of the constitution and procedures of the courts for the trial of terrorist offences.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We have no plans at present to do so.

Mr. Trimble : Will the Minister consider having plans to do so? Will he look at the examples that could be drawn from the other legal jurisdictions in the United Kingdom where there are procedures that would be of assistance in dealing with these matters? I refer especially to Scotland, where the inquisitorial system in pre-trial procedures would help to avoid some of the problems that have recently been encountered in England. I also refer the Minister to the procedures in Northern Ireland, where juries have been dispensed with in terrorist cases because

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of their inappropriateness. That has advantages in dealing with miscarriages of justice because the inscrutability of the jury verdict is not an obstacle.

Mr. Lloyd : Juries have been dispensed with for the present in terrorist cases in Northern Ireland because they are frequently intimidated there. That does not apply on this side of the water. As for the hon. Gentleman's general question, no doubt a number of possible changes might be considered, but that could most sensibly be done by the royal commission that has been set up to look specifically at the working of the criminal justice system.

Young Criminals

9. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reduce the level of juvenile and youth crime.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : The Government have several programmes to divert young people from crime. Some safer cities schemes focus on alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour. Some youth crime prevention panels aim specifically at reducing vandalism and graffiti. We are also working with the Department of Education and Science on its measures to deal with truancy. Several police forces organise activities for young people in the summer holidays. However, some parents could do more to influence their children's behaviour and the emphasis on parental responsibility in the Criminal Justice Bill will encourage them to do so.

Mr. Greenway : With those under 21 responsible for half Britain's crime and with young people so often being the victims of crime, must we not involve our youngsters more in crime prevention measures, so that they understand their responsibilities in society and are encouraged to believe that they can play an active role in combating crime, making for a safer society? Against that background, will my right hon. Friend warmly welcome the youth crime prevention scheme launched last week by Crime Concern and give youth crime prevention his full support?

Mr. Baker : I agree completely with my hon. Friend. The rise in crime committed by young people is very disturbing. It is a long-term trend. One has to do everything that one can to combat it. As he rightly says, one of the best ways is to engage young people to help to solve the problem rather than being part of it. The scheme that he mentioned--youth crime prevention panels--and the work of Crime Concern are important. During Crime Prevention Week last week, there were literally thousands of schemes involving young people in fighting crime.

Mr. Hood : Last week's statement by the Secretary of State that a third of all crime is committed by under 17-year-olds will have shocked many who are trying to come to terms with such a statistic. Will the Secretary of State support tomorrow my Bill on under-age drinking, which will make it an offence to drink alcohol under the age of 18 and will give law enforcement officers powers to enforce some discipline in our play parks and housing estates, to stop the dreaded anti-social behaviour of young kids who become involved in alcohol abuse?

Mr. Baker : Alcohol abuse is a serious aspect of criminality for young people and for people of all ages. I

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shall certainly look at the terms of his Bill, although I cannot say whether I shall support it. Anything that can be done to get the dangers of alcohol abuse over to young people is to be welcomed and some crime prevention panels do that. In some city centres efforts are being made to ensure that there is no open drinking of lager-- it has now been banned in the city of Coventry--as very many young people were doing so. One must use efforts of that sort to try to reduce the attraction of alcohol to youngsters.

Mr. Favell : My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) mentioned that 50 per cent. of all crime is now carried out by juveniles. Is not it apparent that the soft approach that has been advocated by the so -called experts for years has patently failed, that the day that we abolished approved schools and borstals was a sad one for this country and that we should look back to it?

Mr. Baker : Let me make it clear that some juveniles certainly have to be held in custody because of the nature of their crimes, their inherent violence and the threat that they pose to society. In the past four or five years the number of juveniles--14 to

16-year-olds--held in custody each year has declined from about 6,000 to 2,000 because we believe that it is easier to help them grow out of crime if they are kept out of custody. I assure my hon. Friend that the different alternative sentences now available must be administered in a tough and realistic way. They must not be seen as a soft option. Those young people who have to be locked up should certainly continue to be locked up.

Mr. Hattersley : Will the Home Secretary confirm that a large proportion of the crimes committed by juveniles is associated with motor cars? In the light of that, why will not the Government limit the sale of duplicate and skeleton keys to those who can demonstrate a legitimate use for them?

Mr. Baker : First, I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said. It is true that a large amount of juvenile crime, especially among young males, is associated with motor cars. Indeed, the motor car is involved in some 24 per cent. of all crimes. The evidence that we have from a wide survey is that there is little use of skeleton keys in breaking into, and stealing, cars. The youngsters who get up to these practices have simpler tools and have become experienced in breaking into cars. That is one of the reasons why yesterday I met the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Next week, I am seeing the car manufacturers to encourage them to design cars in a way that makes them safer and more secure.

Prison Building

10. Mr. Wilshire : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the progress of his review of the prison building programme.

Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend and I are reviewing the prison service estate. We hope to be in a position to announce our conclusions later this year.

Mr. Wilshire : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is she aware that the continuing uncertainty about what will be done with the sites is causing considerable concern among those who live close to the sites? Therefore, will she undertake to clear up the uncertainty at the earliest

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possible moment, rather than later this year? In the case of the site at Ashford in Middlesex, while local people are grateful for the short-term help that has been given, will she take the opportunity this afternoon to put them out of their misery and announce that she no longer requires that site?

Mrs. Rumbold : As my hon. Friend will know, we are undertaking the prison estate review as quickly as possible. As he will be aware, there are some 150 prisons. When we prepare the White Paper, we shall certainly seek to incorporate in the review the best way to meet some of the requirements in the Woolf report.

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that we are about to agree a lease on the land at the Ashford site for the local authority for the next three years. At this stage, I cannot commit us any further than that because we could not then conduct a proper review of the whole estate.

Mr. John P. Smith : Does the Minister have any plans to build a training prison in Wales to help to alleviate the suffering of families of prisoners who are serving long sentences?

Mrs. Rumbold : That is one of the issues. We are considering, not necessarily a training prison in Wales, but whether people are sufficiently close to their families when they are put in prison. That is particularly necessary for young offenders. We are aware of the importance of access to families and relatives while young people are serving sentences. The matter will be part of the review.

Mandatory Life Sentences

11. Mr. Lawrence : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is Her Majesty's Government's policy in respect of the retention of the mandatory life sentence for murder.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : The arguments for maintaining the mandatory life sentence for murder still seem to us to be very strong. Other matters were raised in the debates in the House of Lords and we will, of course, consider them.

Mr. Lawrence : Is not this a matter of maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system? Surely the public are more confident in a system that uses a unique sentence to mark out the most heinous of all crimes--the deliberate taking of the life of another individual. The public are overwhelmingly in favour of capital punishment. They were given assurances, when capital punishment was abolished, that it would be replaced by a life sentence marking out the uniqueness of the crime. If that were taken away now, public confidence would be substantially undermined and the public would feel betrayed.

Mr. Baker : My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the issues raised in the capital punishment debates before Christmas. Many hon. Members clearly expressed the view that if there were to be no capital sentence, society should show its utter condemnation of the appalling and dreadful crime of murder by a mandatory life sentence.

Mr. Bernie Grant : I refer the Home Secretary to the case of the Tottenham Three--three young men currently serving a life sentence for the murder of P.C. Keith Blakelock. Could I ask the Home Secretary about the case

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of Mark Braithwaite, which went before the European Court last week and in which the British Government successfully argued that he had not exhausted the internal machinery of appeals? If that is the case, will the Home Secretary now give us an undertaking that he will refer to the Court of Appeal the cases of Mark Braithwaite and Winston Silcott so that they can go through the internal appeals mechanism?

Mr. Baker : I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a great personal interest in this case and I believe that he is coming to see me quite soon about it. He will know that I referred one of the sentences, that of Mr. Raghip, for consideration by the Court of Appeal when I received further evidence. If I receive fresh evidence in relation to the other two who have been convicted, I will, of course, consider whether their cases should be so referred.

Mr. John Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Mr. Silcott has been found guilty not of one murder but of two murders and was indeed tried for a third murder?

Mr. Baker : I believe that was so, but that is not strictly relevant in relation to the Broadwater Farm case. If evidence is brought before me as Home Secretary in relation to this particular case, I will look at it.

Superintendent Richard Bryant

12. Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of the West Midlands as to whether Superintendent Richard Bryant is still on duty.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : As I said earlier, it would not be right for my right hon. Friend to do so.

Mr. Madden : Is not public confidence in the police and in British justice undermined if police officers who may have committed serious offences remain on duty, in this case duty within the police complaints procedures? Will the Minister make representations to the chief constable of the West Midlands that he should suspend all officers who may have committed offences, until conclusions have been reached as to whether charges are to be brought?

Mr. Lloyd : The hon. Gentleman is in danger of adding to a major injustice, about which he is quite rightly most concerned, a series of minor injustices to police officers by pillorying them in public before the Director of Public Prosecutions has had the opportunity to see all the evidence that there may be against them.

Auto Crime

13. Mr. Anthony Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to reduce the incidence of crimes involving the taking of or from motor vehicles.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : Last week I published a car theft index to draw attention to the vulnerability of certain models. Yesterday I met the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Association of British Insurers to discuss car crime.

Mr. Coombs : Will my right hon. Friend, while deploring the commission of 1.3 million thefts of or from motor vehicles every year and while urging motor

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manufacturers to improve the security of their vehicles, confirm that a large proportion of those thefts take place when the cars are left unlocked? What advice can he give the public to prevent those thefts?

Mr. Baker : My hon. Friend is right in that the record shows that in London, for example, 27 per cent. of all cars broken into last year were unlocked. Given the value of the car or the possible value of the various pieces of equipment that may be in the car, this is most regrettable and careless. We are trying to ensure that people take much greater care of their cars, but it is also up to the car manufacturers to put higher priority on the design of more secure cars, and some car manufacturers are doing this.

Mr. Maclennan : Will the Home Secretary ask his Department and the police to report on the effectiveness of car alarms? These ear-splitting instruments, which make the night hideous for the general public, have no justification if they do not lead to apprehension of offenders or prevention of crime.

Mr. Baker : There are many types of intruder alarms and car alarms and some insurance companies give rebates off the premium for cars equipped with them. I think that people should appreciate more keenly that a car is a valuable asset, worth something between £5,000 and £10,000. Cars are often left in streets, some of which are unlit, and that is an opportunity for casual crime.

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