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House of Commons

Thursday 14 January 1993

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker -- in the Chair ]


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] (By Order)

Woodgrange Park Cemetery Bill

[Lords] (By Order) River Humber (Upper Burcom Cooling Works) Bill-- [Lords] (By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 21 January 1993.

Oral Answers to Questions


Fines (Ability to Pay)

1. Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made as to the success of the points system linking magistrates court fines with the individual's ability to pay.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle) : The principles of the scheme were successfulltrialled before its full-scale introduction in all magistrates courts from 1 October 1992. It is too early to judge the full effectiveness of the scheme, but I am ensuring that it is closely monitored.

Mr. Steen : I am sure that the House will agree that it is important that the way in which our courts conduct their business should appear to be fair. Does the Minister consider it fair that a man on income support who drives along the A38 at 100 mph should be fined £24--less than a parking fine--while a man driving immediately behind him at the same speed whose disposable income is £100 a week, which is not very much, is fined £1,600 for the same offence? Does that not discriminate against the ordinary man in the street and clobber him although he is not a millionaire?

Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on individual cases. On the principle,

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however, he will be aware that offenders' means have long been taken into account by the courts. My hon. Friend will know that magistrates still have total discretion regarding the seriousness of an offence and all relevant factors. I hope that he will also bear in mind that a fine is supposed to be punishment which hits the offender's pocket with the same punitive effect whether he is rich or poor. The scheme provides a framework to make that possible for magistrates courts. The scheme will continue to be monitored.

Mr. Llwyd : In my constituency there were two recent cases of driving without due care and attention, both of similar gravity, but one defendant was fined £800 and the other £25. Does that not strike the Minister as absurd?

Mr. Wardle : The units reflecting the seriousness of the offence may well have been the same, but the assessment of the fines would have depended on the offenders' disposable income. That is the purpose of the scheme. As I said, courts have long taken financial resources into account in deciding fines.

Business Crime

2. Mr. Ward : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures have been taken to reduce the level of business crime.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Michael Jack) : The latest safer cities progress report highlights a wide range of successful crime prevention initiatives that have benefited business, whose own crime prevention efforts have also gained from Home Office research covering issues such as retail crime analysis, shop theft and cheque and credit fraud. We have also supported the business and crime initiative launched by Crime Concern and the Confederation of British Industry.

Mr. Ward : Does my hon. Friend agree that the 300 business watch schemes represent a real commitment by the police and the business community to fight crime in partnership? How does my hon. Friend intend to encourage the extension of such schemes, and what practical help can he give to the participants?

Mr. Jack : I am delighted that my hon. Friend mentioned the word "partnership". That is the key to the way forward. Partnership has certainly been encouraged by the 20 safer city projects, and we have announced our intention to create 20 new safer cities. In addition, I have also had discussions with leading retailers, who are now showing considerable interest in working on crime prevention in partnership with us.

Mr. Redmond : When businesses such as B and Q open on a Sunday they commit a business crime. When will the Minister stop hiding behind local authorities? When will he stop condoning that activity and take positive action to stop those businesses breaking the law?

Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has given a clear idea of the Government's intentions on Sunday trading. Later this month a Bill dealing with the subject will be discussed. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity then to express his views more forcefully.

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Mr. Paice : My hon. Friend has referred to retail crime. He will be aware of the great concern among retailers about large-scale, heavy-duty burglary, including ram raiding. What steps are being taken to reduce the incidence of ram raiding in terms of discussions with retailers and with the Department of the Environment, which controls the planning aspects of the prevention of ram raiding?

Mr. Jack : I recognise the severity of the effects of ram raiding. It is worth pointing out, as this may not be widely known, that ram raiding offences can attract a sentence of up to 10 years' imprisonment if burglary or aggravated burglary is involved. My hon. Friend should be aware that we are pursuing Car Crime Prevention Year vigorously to ensure that the source of the tools of trade for ram raiders, if one can put it that way, are prevented from being stolen. I shall certainly pass on to the Department of the Environment my hon. Friend's comments relating to protective street furniture.

Mr. Michael : Does the Minister realise that the House is aware that he is being incredibly cheeky in suggesting that he will double the number of safer cities projects when in fact he will produce no extra cash?

On the real question before us, is the Minister aware that crime against business costs more than £10 billion per year, which is equivalent to a third of all NHS spending or 6 per cent. on income tax? Is he aware that fraud in the City of London costs more than £500 million per year? Given the Home Secretary's enthusiasm for putting business men in charge of hospitals, schools and prisons, or perhaps even the police, will the Minister now put some real enthusiasm into taking dramatic steps to sort out business crime? Mr. Jack That restatement of a problem that we take only too seriously is merely a thinly veiled apology from the Opposition for their total lack of positive thought on how to deal with the problem. Last week we announced in full detail our plans for the safer cities projects. We always made it clear that there would be a limit on funding for existing projects until the end of 1994.

I am surprised and disappointed that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) gives no weight to the announcement that we made about the National Board for Crime Prevention, which includes a dialogue between business and the Government to address the very problems that he detailed.

Mr. John Greenway : Does my hon. Friend agree that the outburst from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) that the House has just witnessed is an outrage on the great majority of businesses in the United Kingdom which wish to co-operate with the police and the Home Office to prevent crime? Can my hon. Friend tell the House what arrangements he has in mind to ensure that business men are encouraged to sponsor crime prevention schemes?

Mr. Jack : I am delighted that my hon. Friend referred to the police in the context of crime prevention. The police are central and play an excellent role. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members disagree with that, they will have a chance to say so later. As for contributing to crime prevention, we have certainly made it clear that there will be a real opportunity

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for local businesses to bring not only their expertise but their resources to help perhaps even to run some of the new 20 safer cities schemes.

Data Protection

3. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the EC data protection directive.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd) : The Government are seeking to achieve a directive as close as possible to the 1981 Council of Europe convention on data processing, on which our law is based. We consider that the convention preserves a proper balance between the rights and interests of data users, data subjects and others.

Mr. Cohen : Will the Government not be adopting double standards if later today they say that they support privacy protection from the press for individuals, from royals to plebians, but then spend their time watering it down for computer records? Why are the Government against the inclusion of manual data and data subject consent before records can be passed to others? Why do they expect France and Germany to have lower standards for their privacy protection than they already have?

Mr. Lloyd : We expect the Germans and the French to have the arrangements that they think best. Data users are well protected under the European convention. The fear is that their real interests will not be better looked after under the directive but rather that the data subjects will have extra expense and inconvenience as their banks, building societies and insurance companies will have to write to them more often to get written permission for routine transfers of information which most people want their banks to do automatically.

Mr. Matthew Banks : Does my hon. Friend agree that, contrary to the impression given by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), the United Kingdom is in the forefront of data protection? Does he further agree that United Kingdom law is based on the 1981 convention, which has not even been ratified by five of our EC partners?

Mr. Lloyd : That is right. Five of our EC friends have a long way to go. We signed the convention because, after long discussion, we believed that it provided the best protection for the data subjects as well as allowing business to be transacted by electronic means, which is in the interests of everyone, not merely businesses.

Local Police Forces

4. Mr. Dunn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is yet in a position to announce the future shape and organisation of local police forces ; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : I am still considering a range of issues connected with the policservice, including the future shape and organisation of local police forces. I shall announce my conclusions when we have proposals to make.

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Mr. Dunn : When my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary comes to consider the nature of reforms as presented to him, will he ensure that two things take place : first, that local accountability is maintained ; secondly, that nothing is done to damage the integrity, work and competence of the police force of the county of Kent?

Mr. Clarke : Proposals are not being put to me. I am preparing proposals, which, in due course, I shall put to my hon. Friend and to the House. Of course I am determined to make the police service in Britain yet more effective and efficient to tackle the serious problems of lawlessness which we all know that we face. I already have in hand work on quality of service, more effective local policing, the pay and command structure of police forces, and what can be done about policemen who lack the capacity for the job. Now I have announced that I am having a look at the disciplinary procedures for those who face serious charges.

Obviously, I am also looking at structure and financing. I shall certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's legitimate points when I do so. The relationship between the local police force and the local community is crucial to a good police force in Britain.

Mr. Mandelson : Has the Home Secretary reconsidered the 2 per cent. budget cut forced on my police force in Cleveland as a result of the Government's financial curbs on local authorities, about which I have had a complacent and unsatisfactory letter from his colleague the Minister of State, Lord Ferrers? Does the Home Secretary not realise that unless Government resources match his rhetoric, any reorganisation or tinkering with the management of the local police forces will be regarded by the public with the utmost suspicion?

Mr. Clarke : There has been a further substantial increase in the resources available to the police service nationally and to local government to spend on the police service as a result of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's autumn statement. I shall look up the financial arrangements of the hon. Gentleman's police force to see whether any particular local circumstances explain the difficulties that he describes, but overall we had a good settlement this autumn in the light of the economic recession which we know the country faces. The police service had a bigger increase than any other part of local authority expenditure.

Mr. Sykes : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the tragic murder between Christmas and the new year of an 80-year-old pensioner, Mr. Percy Noble, in Whitby in my constituency? That followed a similar event in September in which PC Moss was tragically blinded in the course of his duties in a so-called joy-riding accident. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the tremendous anger felt by people in Scarborough and Whitby at those incidents? Is he aware that we want more bobbies on the beat, less paperwork for them to do and, most importantly, the punishment to fit the crime and not the criminal?

Mr. Clarke : I am aware of the tragic events that my hon. Friend describes. I also appreciate that they are only the worst feature of the problems that his constituents and many others face in today's society. That is why I am so determined to ensure that the police are made more

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effective and efficient. Although obviously the police cannot reduce the level of crime of their own volition, we have to have the best police force possible to tackle it. For that reason, I am looking at every aspect of police forces, including the relationship between the large numbers of headquarters staff in police forces throughout Britain and the policemen deployed on the ground, where I agree with my hon. Friend that the public most wish to see them and gain the greatest sense of security from them.

Mr. Blair : Does the Home Secretary agree that the most important thing that people want is a say in the policing of their local communities? They would resent it very much if policing were to be controlled by Government boards, stuffed with Government appointees. Would it not therefore be better if he had the broadest possible consultation on the changes, so that the outcome could be based on the interests of the public and not on his obsessive dislike of local government?

Mr. Clarke : First, I should make it clear that any proposals that I make will go out for consultation. I doubt whether that will interest the hon. Gentleman very much because he has already denounced my proposals-- just in case--before he even knows what any of them are. The public are concerned about the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes)--about how far the police can be enabled to protect members of the public against the rising level of crime--rather than about the hon. Gentleman's prime concern, which is who sits on what committee, which seems to be a comparatively subordinate question.

Woolf Report

5. Mr. Amess : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made in the implementation of the Woolf report.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The Government's proposals in response to the Woolf report were set out in the White Paper, "Custody, Care and Justice", published in September 1991. The White Paper identified 12 key areas of priority for change. I will write to my hon. Friend with a more detailed account of progress in each of the 12 areas and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House. The White Paper paved the way for agency status for the prison service and work is well in hand to establish the executive agency on 1 April. I have appointed a chief executive designate, Mr. Derek Lewis, who I am sure will give dynamic leadership to the service.

Mr. Amess : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that my constituents in Basildon, where crime is falling, agree with the Woolf report? Does he also agree that the rapid progress in providing humane and modern conditions in our prison, is in stark contrast with the record of the Opposition, who cut capital spending on prisons by one fifth in spite of the fact that the prison population grew by 14.5 per cent?

Mr. Clarke : First, I believe that the encouraging crime statistics in Basildon are a result of the efforts of the local police force and the crime prevention initiatives canvassed a moment ago by my hon. Friend the Minister of State. The Government have certainly set a target of a more enlightened prison regime. We have adopted Lord Justice Woolf's proposals, appointed Judge Tumim to point out

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the deficiencies and are moving towards a more modern and effective management system which will deliver that target as soon as possible. It often surprises me that Opposition Members, who are most critical of the present failings of the prison service, appear most resistant to any idea of changing the way in which we run that service. The steps that we are taking will speed up the achievement of the targets that my hon. Friend wants us to set.

Mr. Maclennan : What does the Home Secretary intend to do about young offenders institutions, especially the one at Feltham?

Mr. Clarke : I visited Feltham, where a series of difficult and tragic incidents have taken place in recent years. I was glad to see the progress being made there to get out of those difficulties. The present governor and staff are to be congratulated on raising the morale of the team, introducing innovative ways to deal with offenders and providing more productive regimes. Bullying at Feltham is being tackled and we hope that efforts being put into improvements there will put an end to the problems that have occurred.

Mr. Bowis : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that when I visited Wandsworth prison recently the most impressive aspect had nothing to do with the laundering of Canadian diplomatic mail bags, but was the building works which will make possible single prisoner cells without slopping out? I hope that that work will continue quickly. The education work being done by the prison education service was the second most impressive thing. Will my right hon. and learned Friend keep a close eye on the current changes to the service to ensure that when prisoners have served their sentences they are able to leave prison best equipped to return to the community and the job market?

Mr. Clarke : My right hon. Friend's autumn statement preserved the Government's capital programmes and I am glad to say that, as a result, the prison capital programme was kept well in place. We are making great advances in extending and improving the amount of prison accommodation. I am glad to say that we are on target for ending slopping out and having integral sanitation everywhere by the end of 1994. More than 70 per cent. of prisoners already have such arrangements. I hope that my hon. Friend is assured that the improvements that he saw when he visited Wandsworth prison will be continued in the near future.

Ms. Ruddock : In the light of those replies, does the Home Secretary recall that his chief inspector of prisons, Judge Tumim, reported only three months ago that prisoners were still in overcrowded and disgraceful living conditions with inadequate medical attention? Do I need to remind him that, since then, there have been allegations of drugs and alcohol dealing and the rape of a female staff member of Long Lartin prison, a riot at Reading remand centre, and reports of a gangland culture at Wymott? The Secretary of State must acknowledge that the central recommendations of the Woolf report on reducing overcrowding and providing better education and work facilities for prisoners have not been carried out by the Government and that in that respect the Home Secretary has failed in his duties.

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Mr. Clarke : It was this Government who appointed Judge Tumim to be Her Majesty's inspector of prisons and I recently reappointed him precisely so that he could carry on pointing out to the Government and to the public the failings and shortcomings in the prison service. We know that they exist on a wide scale. The conditions that the hon. Lady described still exist in too many of our local prisons and I have been describing how we propose to tackle them. Substantial improvements have been made towards getting Lord Justice Woolf's recommendations in place and we shall continue to make progress. When we have made the necessary changes to speed up progress, I hope that the Opposition will not merely resist them all, defend the status quo, and become frightfully obsessed with the fact that we bring in business men from outside to raise the management culture and improve the running of prisons.

Electoral Law

6. Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had regarding changes in electoral law ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We have set up five working groups of Home Office officials and representatives of returning officers and local authorities to look at different aspects of the electoral process.

Mr. Skinner : It is about time, because in the 1992 election the Tories helped themselves by rigging the elections and piling up in marginal seats votes which they got from Johannesburg and the Costa del Sol. They made sure that those votes were put in the right place. Does the Minister agree that Tory supporters were also voting for the infirm and the disabled in residential homes in order to win the election? Why has there been no public inquiry into those malpractices? Will he guarantee that he will support the Bill to be presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) on Friday--appropriately, in a few days' time?

Mr. Lloyd : There is not much truth in any of that rant, as the hon. Gentleman knows. The whole House, including most of the hon. Gentleman's party--not the hon. Gentleman, but the Labour Front Bench and most Labour Members--supported the enfranchisement of British citizens living overseas. Some 30,000 voted, but they could not possibly have affected the outcome of the general election. What made a difference was the piling up of Labour votes in the Labour heartlands and inner cities--when the population had moved out--because the boundary review had been so long delayed.

Mr. Rathbone : Does my hon. Friend accept that the vast majority of people in the country welcomed those reforms to allow more people with interests in this country to vote in elections here? However, another aspect of electoral review which requires immediate attention is election to the European Parliament. Can my hon. Friend throw some light on the review to take place on that front?

Mr. Lloyd : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are urgently considering how to take forward the question of adding six additional seats for the next European elections in 1994. We intend to keep the existing voting system but to have the existing Euro-constituency boundaries independently redrawn.

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Mr. Barnes : Does the Minister agree that the biggest problem in electoral law is the people missing from the electoral register? Some 2 million have disappeared from the register since 1987 and many redundant names appear on electoral registers, hiding from view the fact that there are many missing people. What are the Government doing about getting a proper--rolling--electoral register? If they are not doing anything, will they support the principle of the Bill that I shall be introducing in the House on 12 February?

Mr. Lloyd : The hon. Gentleman asks a rhetorical question--he knows perfectly well what we are doing, as he and I have had discussions on the matter. As I said earlier, five working groups of local authority and Home Office officials are looking at the various issues, including that of the register. As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the register has always been a problem. The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys is comparing the register with the outcome of the 1991 census.

If the hon. Gentleman casts his mind back to the 1981 census and review he will recall that 6.5 per cent. of people who were eligible to vote were not on the register then and 7 per cent. of names on the register were redundant--the people had died or moved. There is much work to be done by the group, which is why we set it up and intend to consider its recommendations carefully.

Mr. David Evans : Is my hon. Friend aware that we won the general election in 1979? Is he aware that we won it in 1983? Is he aware that we won it in 1987? Is he aware that we won it in 1992? Is he aware that when we won those elections it had nothing to do with electoral reform, but was to do with our policies? Until that lot opposite understand those policies, they will never get re-elected.

Mr. Lloyd : Not for the first time my hon. Friend puts his finger right on it. He is quite right and Opposition Members know that he is right. That is why they come forward with fiddling excuses such as those produced by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Mr. Allen : Will the Minister join me in saying that one of the most important functions of his Department is to ensure that all British citizens who are entitled to a vote receive a vote? Does he accept my criticism when I say that it is unacceptable that millions of our fellow citizens are not on the electoral register? Will he make a statement to the House in the near future about proper and adequate funding for electoral registration officers? In particular, will he make a statement about the disabled people who are currently unable to exercise their right to vote even when they have registered? Will he bring forward proposals to put an end to that disgrace?

Mr. Lloyd : All disabled people are entitled to vote. The important factor is that the law requiring local authorities to provide polling stations to which disabled people can gain access is not always applied. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that some local authorities face difficulties with that--he rubs his fingers to indicate that the problem is money. That is why we contribute 50 per cent. of the cost of providing special ramps and help for those people. As the hon. Gentleman knows, if an individual cannot get to a polling station becuase he is disabled, he has a postal vote.

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Mr. Burns : Does my hon. Friend accept that the Government, through his Department, make available a great deal of money for advertising voter registration and making it easier for people to register to vote? Does he further accept that far too many people cannot be bothered to make use of those facilities to register their vote? In the past three years, some people have deliberately sought not to register to vote, in the hope that they will avoid having to pay community charge. For that reason, one should not get too upset at the crocodile tears shed by Opposition Members. If people cannot be bothered to register to vote, they get what is coming to them.

Mr. Lloyd : In the last analysis, it must be the individual's responsibility to get his name on the register. The Government have a responsibility to give good advice, assistance and support to electoral registration officers to ensure that those who want to get on to the register, do. We fulfil our responsibility and the study groups aim to ensure that we shall achieve even greater success in future. Electoral registration officers are more effective in the job, which rightly and primarily belongs to them.

Crime (Hampshire)

7. Mr. Denham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the increase in recorded crime in Hampshire since 1979.

Mr. Charles Wardle : Since 1979, recorded crime in Hampshire has increased at a rate of 6.6 per cent. a year, which is broadly in line with the rates of increase for England and Wales as a whole.

Mr. Denham : Is not the Minister aware that that means that crime in Hampshire has more than doubled since 1979, but police numbers have been increased by only 10 per cent? Is he aware that crime increased by 14 per cent. in the last year alone, that there were a dozen crimes involving firearms in Southampton over the Christmas period and that crack is now available in Southampton? In the light of that increase in crime, will the Minister explain to the House precisely how he came to decide, against the advice of the police and the police authority and against the demands of local people, that there should be no increase in police numbers in Hampshire next year? Why has the so-called party of law and order become the Government of criminal Britain?

Mr. Wardle : The hon. Gentleman sounds a long alarm. He failed to mention that Opposition Members have voted against every major piece of law and order legislation since 1979. In the year to last June, recorded crime in Southampton increased by 4 per cent., whereas in the previous year it increased by 22 per cent. In the current year, Hampshire police have received 67 more posts. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be asking the Hampshire force to get on with civilianisation so that more uniformed policemen can get out on the beat and combat crime in his constituency.

Mr. David Martin : I agree very much with what my hon. Friend has just said. I wish to raise with him the concern of residents, particularly in Southsea, about disturbances outside licensed premises. Will he co- operate with local authorities, the police force and all others concerned to make sure that, particularly with regard to

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licensed premises that open into the small hours of the morning, all possible back-up is given to efforts to do something about the problem?

Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend is right to express concern about those matters. His concern is shared by the Hampshire force. As he may know, Hampshire police have introduced a clubwatch scheme to deal with violence in clubs and pubs for that very purpose.

Mr. Gunnell : The Minister will be aware that in Leeds yesterday magistrates imposed a--

Madam Speaker : Order. The question relates to crime in Hampshire. The hon. Gentleman must relate what he says to crime in Hampshire and not to Leeds, which I know is dear to his heart.

Mr. Gunnell : I will make the question applicable to all local authorities, Madam Speaker, and therefore to Hampshire.

Is the Minister aware that for the first time in this country a court has imposed a fine on a local authority social services department because of a crime committed by a young person in its care? Will the Minister explain whether

Madam Speaker : Order. I fear that, although I have given the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to get his question in order, it does not appear that it is directly relevant. We shall have to move on.

Car Crime Prevention Year

8. Mrs. Currie : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police forces have developed special initiatives as part of Car Crime Prevention Year.

Mr. Jack : All 43 police forces in England and Wales have engaged in some form of activity in connection with Car Crime Prevention Year and I take this opportunity of congratulating them on their contribution to a campaign which in its first quarter has seen a 2.5 per cent. reduction in car crime.

Mrs. Currie : Is the Minister aware that last year Derbyshire showed the highest increase in car crime in the country and that certain industrial estates in my constituency have been used by car rings to process cars stolen from a wide area of the midlands? Will he nevertheless join me in praising the considerable efforts of the Derbyshire police force to tackle this problem, after years of delay and pressure from the local Labour-controlled Derbyshire county council intended to impede their operations, and encourage them to take whatever initiatives they can to counter the current crime wave in Derbyshire?

Mr. Jack : I thank my hon. Friend for her support for the efforts of the Derbyshire police to counter car crime. It is only fair to add that the figures show tremendous potential for further reductions and I hope that the Derbyshire police will contact, for example, those involved in Northumbria Partnership Against Car Theft, which has brought about a substantial reduction in the number of cars stolen and thefts from cars.

Mr. Janner : Is the Minister aware that in Leicestershire, as in most counties, the increase in car crime over the past

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few years has turned into a plague? In the light of that, the Government's refusal to allow the police any additional forces in any of the provinces is a shameful way in which to treat ordinary people in all our constituencies.

Mr. Jack : I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman is single- minded enough to think that police numbers provide the solution to car crime. The police would be the first to admit that it was through their partnership with motor manufacturers, motor traders, car owners and ordinary members of the public that a 2.5 per cent. reduction in car crime was delivered in the second quarter of last year. Let me correct the hon. and learned Gentleman : in this financial year alone, we are putting another 1,000 police officers into service.

Second-hand Cars (Security Devices)

9. Sir Anthony Grant : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to persuade dealers to fit security devices to second-hand cars.

Mr. Jack : Through the medium of my advisory committee on car crime, I am working closely with the Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Association of Chief Police Officers to encourage the wider adoption of schemes such as Essex Sold Secure and Northumbria Partnership Against Car Theft, which are specifically targeted at improving the security of second- hand cars.

Sir Anthony Grant : That is all very well, but the current level of car crime is a national scandal. Whoever is responsible--ram-raiders, or young idiots misery-riding--something must be done. The answer is to fit cars with immobilisers. A number of inexpensive models are available ; I recommended one to the former Home Secretary, but nothing happened. I have one here--it is a very simple model. Car dealers and manufacturers will do nothing until they are compelled to. It is up to the Home Office to put a stick behind them.

Mr. Jack : There is certainly nothing immobile about my hon. Friend's solution to the problem. When I visited the motor show this year, I was heartened to see that many more cars made by our leading manufacturers were already fitted with immobilisers and alarms as a standard precaution. After all, those cars will ultimately become second- hand cars. I hope that the methods of Northumbria Partnership Against Car Theft--which instructs the public about precautions such as that described by my hon. Friend--will be widely adopted. Such precautions have already contributed to the reduction in car crime.

Ms. Lynne : In the light of the Minister's reply to me on 4 December, will he inform us of the progress of the discussions with our European partners about fitting inbuilt security systems to new motor cars? Will he also include second-hand cars in the European directive, if that is possible?

Mr. Jack : The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to that aspect. Work is in progress, led by the Department of Transport, to try to encourage our European colleagues to adopt higher standards in connection with locks, alarms

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and immobilisers. Obviously, the progress that we make today in regard to new cars will affect the second-hand cars of tomorrow.

Voluntary Groups and Charities

10. Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to increase public participation in voluntary groups and charities.

Mr. Jack : The Home Office promotes voluntary activity by supporting bodies whose role is to encourage and extend the work of the voluntary sector to promote volunteering and to provide information, advice and support for other voluntary organisations.

Mr. Howarth : Does my hon. Friend agree that a great many people want to make a contribution to society through voluntary work? Has he any thoughts about the way in which the Government could play a part in establishing networks, neighbourhood by neighbourhood--probably on a fairly informal basis--to help people to find the most worthwhile and practical ways in which to make their personal contributions?

Mr. Jack : I congratulate my hon. Friend on his continuing interest in, and dedication to, the voluntary sector. He asked about local networks and volunteering ; we are working with BBC Radio on a £250, 000 programme to encourage more individuals to volunteer. We have given a pledge to develop the volunteer centres database more widely, to ensure that people can volunteer and can obtain the necessary information about volunteering. I assure my hon. Friend that that pledge will be high on my list of priorities.

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