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House of Commons

Thursday 22 October 1992

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]


City of Bristol (Portishead Docks) Bill [Lords] (By Order) Read a Second time, and committed.

British Railways

(No. 4) Bill-- (By Order)

British Waterways Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Crossrail Bill

(By Order)

East Coast Main Line (Safety) Bill

(By Order)

Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System)

Bill-- [Lords]

London Underground (Green Park) Bill

(By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 29 October.

Bank of Credit and Commerce International


That there be laid before this House a Return of the Report of Lord Justice Bingham's inquiry into the supervision of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (excluding the appendices to the Report).-- [Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

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Oral Answers to Questions



2. Mr. David Martin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new initiatives police forces are being encouraged to take to meet public concern about car crime, street crime and vandalism.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle) : Police are playing a full part in car crime prevention year, the development of the safer cities programme and community-based initiatives designed to tackle local street crime.

Mr. Martin : I am grateful for my hon. Friend's reply. Will he assure me that he is fully aware of the deep public concern about lawlessness on the streets and of the continuing need for a visible and effective police presence in combating it? Can he give specific examples of action taken and proposed to be taken by Hampshire police to help meet these concerns, which are shared by me and many other residents of Portsmouth?

Mr. Wardle : I entirely understand the public concern that my hon. Friend describes. Hampshire police have taken a special unit to Portsmouth to run a vigorous campaign against street crime and drug-related crime. In the first six months of this year they achieved 167 arrests. They are also involved in the sold secure scheme and the secure car parks project, and with local schools they are fighting vandalism with the ACE detection scheme--A for accident prevention, C for crime prevention and E for environmental awareness.

Mr. Winnick : Is it not unfortunate, to say the least, that at a time of increasing crime we have the added worry of the latest terrorist outrages in London and elsewhere? Should it not be made clear by the entire House that no matter how much terrorism is perpetrated on the mainland and in Northern Ireland the people of Britain will not be intimidated by terror and the terrorists' campaign will certainly not succeed?

Mr. Wardle : I entirely share the hon. Gentleman's sentiments. I am sure that the whole House deplores the activities of the terrorists.

Mr. Patrick Thompson : Is my hon. Friend aware of the strong support given by Norfolk police to the Crimestoppers initiative which is funded nationally by the Community Action Trust? Will the Government reaffirm their support for the initiative and encourage chief constables to provide further publicity and support for that good way of fighting crime?

Mr. Wardle : Yes, indeed ; the Government adopt a comprehensive approach against crime--not only increased spending but strengthened powers for the courts, more neighbourhood watch schemes, more youth crime prevention panels. It is a partnership against crime involving the police, local authorities, voluntary agencies, business and the whole community.

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Mr. Michael : Will the Minister accept that what people want is policemen on the street with the time to deal with the community and with crime? Does he acknowledge that the rising crime of recent years has left the police overstretched and looking for more support from the Government?

Mr. Wardle : What people want is that crime should be tackled most effectively by the police. It is worth bearing it in mind that while crime has been increasing steadily throughout the western world, in the United Kingdom there is far less risk of crimes of violence, although car crime has been on the increase. The hon. Gentleman will wish to recall that there are 16,000 more uniformed police officers than in 1979 and 12,500 more civilian staff working for the police.

3. Mrs. Angela Knight : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what support car crime prevention year has received from car manufacturers.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Michael Jack) : Many car manufacturers have responded very positively to the message of car crime prevention year by contributing or promising support worth more than £3 million ; in addition, many more new cars are now being fitted with security systems as standard equipment.

Mrs. Knight : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is he aware that most thefts from cars take place when the cars are not locked properly or the windows have been left open? What further measures will the Government take to highlight that problem, to ensure that individuals take more care of and responsibility for their cars?

Mr. Jack : My hon. Friend will be aware that we have spent £5 million on car crime prevention year to raise awareness of the precise points that she has raised. The surveys that we have undertaken to see whether that awareness has registered with the public reveal a great appreciation of those issues. In addition, we have tackled the problem of theft from cars and of cars from car parks through our new secured car parks initiative. I am pleased to tell the House that the first awards for that initiative have already been made.

Mr. Corbett : I speak as someone with first-hand experience of car crime, having had one nicked on the way to a crime prevention conference during the general election campaign. Although I welcome the better interest that manufacturers now take in this problem, will the Minister try to persuade them to make it standard in every model now produced that the aerial should be built into the back window and the place where the radio goes is screened? We should try to knock back the temptation to steal because, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, there are people who know their way around security systems.

Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman makes some practical points. I hope that he will visit the motor show, as he will find that there has been a considerable improvement in the specification of cars on offer. He may find, as I have done through my research, that nearly all new cars-- certainly those manufactured in the United Kingdom--have built-in radio protection devices. The hon. Gentleman has raised vital points which I hope will be noted by manufacturers beyond the walls of the House.

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4. Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received from the police concerning the fight against crime.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : I receive regular representations from chief officers and police authorities about a variety of issues relating to crime and policing.

Mr. French : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in relation to certain crimes there is a public perception that the police have greater powers than they do? Will he try to take steps to ensure that the public fully understand the extent to which the police can investigate certain crimes and the extent to which they cannot?

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The public make ever-increasing demands on the police which often lie somewhat outside the realm of crime detection and crime prevention. There are some limitations on the powers of the police in dealing with crime, but we consistently try to extend those powers which are deficient. Modern aids which flow from the opening of the national criminal intelligence service and the potential introduction of computerised fingerprint matching will greatly improve the ability of the police to obtain more information about crime and to act effectively when investigating it.

Mr. Tony Lloyd : Have the police also told the Secretary of State that in areas such as mine in inner-city Manchester a considerable proportion of crimes of violence against people and property are related to drug offences? I am not trying to score a political point, but is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many people in such areas believe that there is no strategy whatever for dealing with the drug problem? I ask the Home Secretary to give the House some confidence that he views that problem with the seriousness that it demands.

Mr. Clarke : I shall be as helpful as I can as I share some of the hon. Gentleman's thoughts. A great deal is being done in this regard. We have 20 local drug abuse prevention teams and within the schools the National Curriculum Council has encouraged a cross-curricular theme in health education to give more information about drug abuse. Many agencies are involved in helping those who are victims of drug abuse as well as increasing awareness of the dangers. I share the hon. Gentleman's belief that there is a need for a better strategy to pull all those things together and I am looking at the very problem now.

Mr. Riddick : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that police officers seem to be spending far too much time doing paperwork inside police stations when they should be on the streets fighting crime? In particular, they seem to spend literally hours transcribing taped interviews with suspects. Has my right hon. and learned Friend any plans to tackle that serious problem?

Mr. Clarke : Again, I am sure that my hon. Friend has a valid point. We have to strike the balance between all the necessary safeguards that we introduce to ensure that the criminal justice system works properly and fairly--for example, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was a great advance on that front, helping good policing and safeguarding suspects--and ensuring that we do not introduce procedures so elaborate that a great deal of time

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is taken up away from the beat and investigative work. Among other things, improvements in the arrangements between police forces and the Crown prosecution service and a better understanding of what paperwork and preparation are required are leading to some improvements, so that paperwork is kept to the necessary minimum.

Mr. Alton : Pursuing the reply that the Home Secretary gave a few moments ago, does he agree that the easy availability of heroin and Ecstacy is a powerful pressure for crime, especially in our urban and city areas? Does he agree that the sequestration of drug dealers' and pushers' assets is one of the most effective ways to show that drug pushing will not pay? Should not those assets be ploughed back into the communities that have been exploited by drug dealers?

Mr. Clarke : I am grateful to the hon. Member. As a country, we are always looking for ways to prevent criminality and to get to the causes of crime. The spread of drug abuse should be one of our main targets because many crimes are associated with drugs and with offenders who are abusing drugs. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we must tackle it in every way. Sequestering the proceeds of crime and dealing with the laundering of the proceeds of drug trafficking are important and this week we are introducing a Bill in another place to strengthen further our powers to deal with those matters.

Sir Ivan Lawrence : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that much of the increase in the crime figures is due to increased reporting of crime? In particular, does he agree that many more cases of domestic violence are reported because of the changed attitude of the police, who previously did not want to get involved but who now pursue batterers? They arrest and charge them and ensure that they are brought to justice, which encourages many battered wives to complain to the police.

Mr. Clarke: I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. The figures reflect the worrying trend in crime, of which we are all aware. One must bear it in mind that reported crime has been increasing for the past 40 years, but much crime is not reported and apparent increases in incidents arise either from the fact that domestic violence is now taken seriously or from the fact that more property owners are insured, which tends to lead to variations in the figures. In the near future my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be making an announcement about the British crime survey and shedding some more light on how we might achieve a more accurate picture of crime and better crime statistics.

Mrs. Ewing : While I welcome the Home Secretary's genuine comments about tackling drug-related offences, can he give a further sign of what he means by looking at that problem very seriously? Has a time scale been laid down by the Government for co-ordination between the various Departments involved--Customs and Excise, the Department for Education, the Scottish Office and a variety of other Departments? Is there a time scale whereby he will lay down a clear strategy, as the issue has consistently been raised with Members of Parliament by representatives of the police, who know that it is one of the greatest threats to society?

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Mr. Clarke : I do not have a time scale for producing any statements, but the fact that two Members have shared my view that we need to tackle an overall strategy and to pull the various agencies together will give added urgency to the work that I have in hand. I hope to come back on that as soon as I can.

Mr. Shersby : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the considerable concern felt by the police about the amount of time taken up transcribing audio-taped interviews? Will he consider extending the excellent trials that have already commenced using video cameras, with a view to using that more modern technique for recording interviews?

Mr. Clarke : Personally, I greatly approve of the introduction of audio recordings of interviews and I am anxious for progress with video recordings. I have seen some of the results of the excellent trials that have been conducted so far. As the courts are not yet equipped to deal with video evidence, however, it is likely that any extension of video recording would still give rise to the need for transcripts. Some progress has been made in editing videos in a way that is acceptable to the Crown prosecution service and useful in the courts. I am sure that one day the courts will be able to see the relevant part of a video interview without any paperwork in between, but that depends as much on technology and on changes in court procedure as it does on progress on our front.

Mr. Blair : We know that a crime is committed every six seconds of every day and that crime has increased by more than 50 per cent. in the past few years. We also know that the Home Office standing conference on crime prevention has not met for almost two years. Is the Home Secretary aware that the country is not looking for complacent statements about the situation getting better when it is getting worse but that the country is looking to him, instead of trying to do the jobs of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the President of the Board of Trade, to do his own job as Secretary of State for the Home Department and reduce crime levels?

Mr. Clarke : I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new post. I am glad to see him visible as shadow Home Secretary. I have no doubt that when he gets into the one job he will take an interest in the wider scene.

Nothing that I said was remotely complacent. I did not deny that there is a problem. I do not deny that we have a rising incidence of criminality, but I point to our record of putting resources and manpower into tackling that problem and of reforming the powers of the courts in an attempt to contain it. We all know that in the modern world most developed countries face the problem. It is my determination to press on with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the police force and all the time to examine the powers of the courts to ensure that we can increase the protection of the public.

Mr. Knapman : Not all crime occurs in the inner cities. For example, there are far too many incidents of crime in the villages of rural Gloucestershire. Last year the county came out very badly in the allocation procedure. Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear that in mind when reaching any future decisions?

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Mr. Clarke : Once a year all our police forces make bids through the Home Office for more resources. Overall, I believe that they have been extremely well treated over the past 13 years. Generally, law and order has received greater percentage increases in expenditure than almost any other area of public expenditure. Spending on the police service has increased by 74 per cent. in real terms--that is, over and above inflation. I shall await with interest the submissions of Gloucestershire this year. As for bids for manpower, I am heavily steered by the advice of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary.

Urban Crime Fund

5. Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether urban crime fund allocations will continue in 1992-93.

Mr. Jack : At the outset of this scheme, local authorities benefiting from the urban crime fund accepted the funding with the clear knowledge that the money available was for this financial year only. Future spending decisions will be determined once the outcome of the total for public Government expenditure for next year is known.

Mr. Cousins : Does the Minister realise how grimly that answer will be received in parts of the country such as Northumbria, where we all respect what the new chief constable and his force are doing in facing the highest number of reported crime incidents per officer in the country? Only the urban crime fund money has kept the police effectively on the streets this year. Without the promise of that money continuing into next year, we shall not have a credible police presence on our streets in Northumbria. Will the Minister give an assurance that, whether through the urban crime fund or otherwise, money will be found and effective policing will continue?

Mr. Jack : I think that I indicated clearly that matters concerning expenditure by all Government Departments will have to wait until we have the results of the autumn statement. I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman did not pay more tribute to the work that has been done on Tyneside. I have received an excellent briefing from my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter). The hon. Gentleman will also know that my right hon. Friend Lord Ferrers, the Minister of State, visited Tyneside and learnt about the splendid work being done to tackle urban crime, including reducing burglaries, car thefts and criminal damage. I think that that is an excellent record.

Mr. John Greenway : Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to extend the areas for which the urban crime fund is available? In particular, will he bear in mind the position of some of the larger towns which are not even classed as urban areas in the police manpower allocation? York, Harrogate and Scarborough, for example, are regarded as rural areas. That cannot possibly be right.

Mr. Jack : I wish that the gift was in my power to respond to my hon. Friend's question. I must point him in the direction of the Department of the Environment, which determines urban programme areas. I am sure that it will have noted his representations on behalf of the country that he represents. There are many other good ways of tackling crime, such as the safer cities programme, and the lessons that they teach are applicable universally.

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Mr. Bermingham : Does the Minister agree that the very existence of the fund and the work that it has done demonstrates that a concentration of police on the streets cuts down burglary, car theft and so on in urban areas? Having realised that that is a benefit to the community, surely it should have a high bid place in the year ahead because if it is cut off all that will happen is that ghettos will return to ghettos?

Mr. Jack : I must take slight issue with the hon. Gentleman's point, because if he looks carefully at the programmes in Merseyside, West Yorkshire and Northumbria he will find that considerable amounts of those resources have not been directed solely at police manpower ; much has gone towards promoting excellent community-based activity to resist crime, for example, new forms of street furniture in South Shields to deal with car crime, and the same is true in Merseyside. It is the combined effect of good community policing occasioned by the fund which has brought success.

Welsh Prisoners

6. Mr. Ainger : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to provide accommodation within Wales for the 800 Welsh prisoners who are currently in prisons outside Wales.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd) : Plans for expenditure on new prison building in the next financial year and beyond are still under consideration, but I hope that we shall be able to increase the number of prison places in Wales.

Mr. Ainger : Is the Minister aware that the probation service, in particular, recognises that family links are an important part of rehabilitating prisoners and that his lack of commitment to a regional prison serving south and mid-Wales is not acceptable either to those families who currently have to travel great distances to visit prisoners or to the local probation service?

Mr. Lloyd : I agree with the hon. Gentleman's sentiment that prisoners should be housed as near as possible to their home areas so that family links can be maintained. That is important and it is the objective of our policy. However, I completely disagree with him when he says that we are not committed to that, because we are, and the 21 new prisons in our prison programme are designed to make that possible. We still have more places to provide in Wales and, as I have already said, I hope that we shall be able to do so.

Ms. Ruddock : Is the Minister aware that the crisis in the prison service in Wales, as in England, will have been heightened this week by the Home Secretary's rejection of his chief inspector's report on prison overcrowding? Why are prison resources being directed at market testing for privatisation rather than at implementing the Woolf recommendations for providing real work and education aimed at prisoner rehabilitation?

Mr. Lloyd : The Home Secretary does not reject the report ; he comments on it. The whole process of privatisation of the management of prisons--not the prisons themselves--is to obtain better standards in those prisons. I welcome the hon. Lady to her position. When she has held it a little longer and has read the tender

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documents for the Wolds, which is in operation, for Blankenhurst, which has been issued, and for Manchester, which is to be issued shortly, she will see that at present that is the quickest way to obtain prisons with managements that will produce the Woolf standards.


7. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made with his review of the legislation concerning travellers.

Mr. Charles Wardle : We are discussing with other Government Departments and the Association of Chief Police Officers what changes to the law may be needed to tackle the problems of large gatherings of travellers and ravers.

Mr. Shepherd : Will my hon. Friend keep the pressure on the review, as there is considerable anxiety among landowners and tenants that we shall move into the next travelling season without a set of adequate safeguards to protect them? It is felt that section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986 does not give adequate protection. While my hon. Friend is at it, will he also look carefully at the definition of gipsies, because the traditional nomadic habit type gipsies fear that travellers will move into their sites and displace them?

Mr. Wardle : I understand my hon. Friend's points. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has expressed unequivocal views about the selfishness and anti-social behaviour of travellers and ravers. Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986 is being reviewed. Above all, we are seeking practical ways to combat the problem and proposals will be brought forward in due course.

Mr. Bennett : Will the Minister be careful before he and his colleagues commit the Government to confronting travellers? That could be extremely expensive. Would it not be better to provide sufficient local authority caravan sites throughout the country where proper charges are made, so that travellers make a proper contribution to the cost? Rather than confrontation, there should be an effective policy that enables people to pursue their traditional way of life.

Mr. Wardle : The hon. Gentleman's second point is a matter for the Department of the Environment. As he knows, a consultation paper on amending the Caravan Sites Act 1968 is being circulated. As to his first point, police have operational responsibility for enforcement. They make it clear that preventive tactics are their first priority but that when there are huge gatherings, containment is the order of the day.

Mr. Dunn : Is my hon. Friend aware that we on this side of the House take the view that new age travellers are no more than a bunch of unwashed, benefit-grabbing, socialist anarchists who deserve a good slap and a wash? There is a problem with bunches of travellers who continually return to green belt sites in urban areas, causing massive destruction and upsetting local people. Will my hon. Friend undertake to liaise with the Department of the Environment on that vexed issue?

Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend expresses his views vividly and forcefully. He will be aware of the initiatives taken by the Department of Social Security, and I emphasise that

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section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986 is being reviewed by the Home Office, and that proposals will be brought forward after further consultation.

Everton Football Supporters

8. Mr. Loyden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 18 June, Official Report, column 645, how many people gave evidence on behalf of the Everton football supporters arising out of their arrest and conviction.

Mr. Jack : Following the conviction of the Everton football supporters, eight persons made statements to the police during the course of inquiries in 1989. In addition, statements from eight other persons have been considered during the course of our reviews of this case.

Mr. Loyden : The Minister is aware of the strong representations made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and since then further information from eye witnesses to the incident has been collated. It seems to those hon. Members who met the Minister that there has clearly been a miscarriage of justice. Will he look again at the evidence, to see whether he, too, becomes convinced that that is so?

Mr. Jack : I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members on their assiduousness in continuing to make representations on an issue that I know is of sensitivity to them and to the persons whom they represent. However, all the further evidence and statements submitted to the Home Office have been meticulously studied. The hon. Gentleman knows that the case has already been before the Court of Appeal, which did not agree with those who feel that the convictions were unsafe. The criterion for any miscarriage of justice is the provision of new information not previously considered by the courts. So far, no such new evidence has been forthcoming. It is still open to those who feel aggrieved to submit a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority. They have not yet done so. If such action elicited new facts, I would of course consider the case again.

Mr. Barry Porter : I join the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) in asking the Home Office to consider again not only the quantity but the quality of the evidence that has become available. I do not blame the present Minister with responsibility for the matter for the reply that he has just given, but some difficulty arose in the form of a general election, which allowed the previous incumbent of his office to avoid making a decision. The quantity and quality of available evidence does not leave the matter in doubt but shows beyond peradventure that the convicted Everton people are innocent. What more do we need to do? Look again.

Mr. Jack : What more we need is new information. All cases involving miscarriages of justice are examined meticulously by the Home Office, but I must remind my hon. Friend of the base criterion : for any case to be reopened, we must have new evidence that has not been considered by the courts before. The answer that I have just given the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) will provide a way forward, if that way forward is chosen.

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Electoral Registration

9. Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement outlining his Department's contribution to an improvement in the accuracy of the electoral registration process for autumn 1992.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We have run a nationwide advertising campaign again this year, with a budget of £617,000, designed to encourage people to complete and return their electoral registration forms. We continue to commission annual research into the working methods of electoral registration officers, and we provide updated guidance to assist them in compiling accurate registers.

Mr. Rooker : Bearing in mind the fact that that sum does not represent an extra amount, and bearing in mind the fortune that the Government have spent on delivering indescribable rubbish about the council tax to every household in the country, cannot the Home Office take its responsibilities more seriously? Its own research--which, as the Minister has said, it commissions regularly--identifies under-registration among unemployed people, inner-city dwellers, tenants of private landlords and tenants of multi-occupied properties. Why will the Home Office not take special action to ensure that under-registration ceases among that element of the population? If it does not take such action, on the basis of known evidence and research, there are those who will make the allegation that the Government have deliberately encouraged under-registration in certain areas in order to rig the parliamentary boundaries later.

Mr. Lloyd : Setting aside the adjectives used by the hon. Gentleman and the sentiments that he has expressed, I agree with his objective. That is why, when consulting local authorities and political parties after the election and reviewing the processes that it had involved, we set up a joint committee to examine five issues, one of which is electoral registration. The examination will take into account the particular circumstances mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that it will provide the hard evidence, and the suggestions for change, for which he has asked.

Mr. Allen : Now that the general election is over, will the Minister admit to the House that one of the biggest acts of gerrymandering perpetrated in the past 13 or 14 years was the introduction of the poll tax, given the effect that it had on the electoral register? Will he now ensure that local authorities have enough money to put all the people concerned back on to the electoral register?

While the Minister is at it--in the light of the election that is currently under way on the other side of the water--will he examine the system of same-day registration that operates in a number of American states, enabling the people to vote there and then if they wish? Only if he does that will Opposition Members and people outside begin to take seriously the idea that he wants everyone in the country to enjoy the franchise.

Mr. Lloyd : The hon. Gentleman may be right in suggesting that some people did not register in order to avoid paying the community charge, and that others had to do so. He should also take into account, however, the fact that many electoral registration officers used the community charge lists to extend, improve and fill out the

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lists that they had. The community charge could work both ways in that regard. As for the question of rolling registrations, the sub-committee that I mentioned earlier will be examining it carefully.

Sunday Trading

10. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about Sunday trading.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : Since my reply on 18 June to a similar question from my hon. Friend, we have received--up to 21 October--some 4,433 further written representations broadly in favour of greater Sunday trading, and 190 against.

Mr. Marshall : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the present law is indefensible and illogical? Does he also agree that a law that is frequently broken and rarely enforced brings the whole rule of law into disrepute, and that early action must be taken to curb this nonsense?

Mr. Clarke : I agree with my hon. Friend. The Shops Act 1950 is not supported by any member of any wing of opinion in this country, from the most Sabbatarian to the most libertarian, and no one believes that the Act has got it right. At present, we do not even know whether it is valid law : we are waiting for a ruling from the European Court, which will come some time later in the year. We have already said that we will bring the matter back before the House, and I hope shortly to make a fuller statement to the House explaining exactly what process we intend eventually to suggest to resolve the matter.

Mr. Ray Powell : The Government have had six years since 1986 to introduce legislation to tidy up the Shops Act 1950. Surely it is high time that we had an Act that applied in particular to the large, Tory-backed retailers who trade illegally on Sunday and who, as a result, close down a lot of small shops. It is high time that the Government took action to ensure that they comply with the law. The Home Secretary boasts continually of the importance of law and order. Why, therefore, does he not ensure that the provisions of the Shop Act 1950 are implemented by his Tory friends-- five big retailers who continually open illegally on Sunday?

Mr. Clarke : The Conservative Government gave the House ample opportunity to resolve this matter in the mid-1980s. We published the Auld committee report which was approved by a majority of hon. Members. We brought forward a Bill to reform the law, but, unfortunately, a majority of hon. Members, including the hon. Gentleman, voted against it and made it impossible for the Bill to proceed to its Committee stage, where we might have been able to thrash this matter out and resolve it. I hope that as soon as the Government have sufficient parliamentary time to adopt a similar procedure, people will not flatly turn it down so that we are left with the Shops Act 1950, which satisfies absolutely nobody, it seems to me, in the current climate.

Mr. Paice : Is not it the case that effectively we do not have any law on Sunday trading and that, therefore, we are deregulated? Those who are concerned about deregulation should realise that what they see is what they will get : that the current pattern would probably not be extended and

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that if sufficient worker protection provisions were attached to the legislation it would receive widespread support?

Mr. Clarke : My hon. Friend makes a valid point. There has never been any legislation on this matter in Scotland, so one can see there what happens on the ground. The current position has been fairly described by my hon. Friend as one where nobody knows what the law is, so no law at all is being applied. We see on the ground, therefore, what emerges in those circumstances. That will, no doubt, help to inform the debate when the Government are able to bring this matter before the House.


11. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had since 1 June on the subject of crime in London ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jack : My right hon. and learned Friend has met the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on four occasions since becoming Home Secretary, and I have had discussions with the Inner London probation service and Lewisham Safer Cities. We continue to tackle crime by providing strong support to the police, giving the courts the powers they need, and fostering a growing range of partnership initiatives aimed at preventing crime.

Mr. Hughes : As the Member for Parliament for the London borough where crime has risen every month for two years, where we have the second highest level of recorded crime in every category and the seventh highest unemployment figures in the country, may I ask whether the Minister and the Home Secretary heard from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that his view is that there is a direct link between rising unemployment and rising crime? Given that it appears from this morning's "Today" programme that the Home Secretary is now in the economics team of Cabinet Ministers, can we have a clear understanding that to deal with rising crime in Britain the best remedy is to reduce unemployment? Can that be a commitment from all Government Ministers?

Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman may have a little weekend reading to do. I commend to him a piece of Home Office research by Dr. Simon Field which refutes the assertion that underlies, I believe, the hon. Gentleman's belief that individual unemployment is directly related to individual wrongdoing. If the hon. Gentleman had been a fly on the wall during the discussions between the Minister and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis he would have heard of the excellent work that is going in Southwark on burglary, of the extension of Operation Bumblebee, of the car crime initiative Delta, and the sector policing developments, all of which are tackling crime in his constituency.

Mr. Bowis : Would my hon. Friend like to suggest to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) that he could do worse than visit Battersea police station with my hon. Friend to see the sector policing that has been in operation for some time there and the results, which have led to a lower rate of crime, increased enforcement rates and a much better relationship between the community and the local police force?

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