|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to draw attention to the problems of maintaining law and order. The maintenance of law and order, the upholding of the Queen's peace, is, in the order of priorities of government, second only to that of the defence of the realm. But there can be no doubt that the state of law and order has deteriorated--not just over the past 36 months, but over at least the past 36 years.
Where do we now find ourselves? The case of Mr Martin, the Norfolk farmer recently convicted of the murder of a hardened young criminal who was burgling his home, highlighted the growing problem of rural crime and the ineffectiveness of current policies aimed at deterring crime. The three burglars were professional criminals. They had been arrested, charged and convicted over and over again. But the penalties exacted for their crimes were laughable--and laugh at them those criminals did. Indeed, the penalties constituted an incitement to crime--an incitement which worked. Incidentally, I should be grateful if, in replying to the debate, the Minister would tell the House whether the two burglars who survived have yet been charged with burglary.
Last Thursday, the Daily Telegraph published a real and simple table of crime statistics for 1954 and 1997. Let me rehearse the comparative figures. Homicide: 1954, 311; 1997, 739. Sexual offences: 16,096; 33,165. Violent crime: 24,414; 347,064. Burglary: 75,443; 1,015,075. Theft and handling stolen goods: 291,667, rising to 2,164,952. Criminal damage: 5,251; 877,042. The grand totals are roughly 434,000 for 1954 and 4,600,000 for 1997.
In the face of a ten-fold increase in crime, the forces against crime have not yet surrendered--but they have conceded ground to criminality and disorder. And they have developed, as we saw in the May Day disturbances, an unstated policy of tolerance of a given level of crime.
An effective policy for the preservation of the Queen's peace rests upon three pillars. The first is a moral authority, stating in absolute terms the distinction between right and wrong. It does not debate, it does not argue--it commands, most notably in western civilisation, through the Ten Commandments.
The second is the civic pressure of society. Man is a social animal. He needs the approval of his peers, and that creates a pressure for social conformity: the pressure to conform not only to the law, but beyond that to accept the standards and norms of society or to be disapproved of and to some extent frozen out of that society. In the lawless housing estates and town centres in our country today, that norm is the norm of criminality.
The third pillar is the combined force of the judicial system. Few would deny that the first pillar, that of moral authority, has been greatly weakened in recent times. Rightly or wrongly--I regret this--the Church, particularly the Church of England, is perceived
As for the second pillar, the very fabric of our society is being assaulted. The family, the basic building block of society, is being weakened--especially, I regret to say, by the present Administration. Ministers say that they have a policy for the family. But however often I ask--and I have done so frequently--they deny that they have a definition of the word "family". It is difficult to have an effective policy towards that which one cannot define. I think that for them the family is not exclusively about intended long-life partnership between men and women or of ties of blood; for them, family includes any association of two or more humans coming together for however brief a period.
Nor does the Administration have much respect for the institutions and values of the society in which we grew up. Apparently, those institutions represent the forces of conservatism, demonised by the Prime Minister and seen as racist, class-dominated and homophobic, outdated and unworthy of respect.
With 250,000 immigrants a year flooding, or should I say "trickling"--in case I am thought to be panicking--into this country, not to mention the 5 million or more members of ethnic minorities already here, there is an overwhelming need to uphold and support, not to denigrate, the society into which they are coming. Their integration into this society should be a priority. But if they are told that the society is worthless, why should they integrate? So that pillar of policy is being weakened.
The load has therefore increased on the thin blue line of the police, and the far thicker and fatter line of the judicial and legal establishment who are, together, responsible for the detection, conviction and punishment of criminals. If we are left to rely more upon that pillar, then we should have been strengthening it, not weakening it. Yet who can deny that the balance between criminals and police has been shifted against the police in every respect? Indeed, the numbers of police have been falling, and will be lower at the end of this Parliament than they were at the beginning.
The establishment view has been that punishment does not significantly deter crime--unless, of course, the crime is sexism, racism, homophobia or speeding on motorways. Oddly, those crimes constitute a separate class of behaviour; they are said not only to be capable of being deterred by heavier punishment but to demand heavier and heavier punishment.
The Metropolitan Police have been subjected to what I regret I must call the crass stupidity of the Macpherson report. Senior officers now engage in public self-flagellation to purge themselves of imagined racism--an essential, of course, for future promotion--while officers on the beat hunger for retirement and decline to notice suspicious behaviour by people from racial minorities, fearful of accusations
Mr Wilkinson, the director of Bramshill strategic command course, states in today's Telegraph that although overall "crime management"--a curious phrase--is a key role for police chiefs, they should study "social exclusion, racism" and "that sort of thing". He talks about directing the Met as a big company job and "not messing about chasing criminals". He says that that is "a concept of the police 10 years ago"; nowadays senior policemen are business executives "trying to improve the social outcomes".
I suspect that I edge towards the controversial, so I may as well go further. Over the past four decades the whole direction of policy to maintain law and order has been perverse, totally mistaken and has had the reverse effect of what was intended. That view will be dismissed by those responsible for the conventional wisdom of the past 40 years, but it is their theories and policies which have not worked. Crime has got worse, not better.
It is not the first time in recent years that the conventional wisdom of the day has been found wanting. For example, 30 or 40 years ago the conventional view was that inflation was caused by greedy unions and workers pushing up wages and greedy capitalists pushing up prices, thus creating a wage-price spiral. Everyone knew that the cure was a prices and incomes policy, although no one could find one. The dissident voices of Milton Friedman, Hayek and Enoch Powell were dismissed as those of wild, bulging-eyed extremists, but they were right. We all know now that inflation is, and can only be, caused by governments. The "cures" for inflation that we used were at best ineffective--more likely, counter-productive--and certainly caused us to neglect the policies now in place which control inflation.
What I say today will no doubt be rubbished by the legal judicial establishment, the criminologists and, above all, the soft, wet, Left establishment. But I ask them at least to ask themselves why the reduction of sanctions against criminality has coincided with an increase in criminality. The two could be unconnected. But is it very likely? The principal difficulty in maintaining law and order lies not in our criminals, vandals and thugs but ourselves. It was Home Secretary Jenkins who famously said that,
The same was true of society in New York, but there the policy of zero tolerance, not merely of crime but of crude, loutish and uncivilised behaviour, has been shown to work. Here, a policy of permissiveness has also worked but in precisely the opposite direction. I give two brief examples of behaviour that we see every day. Cyclists are allowed to ride unchecked on the footpath and ignore traffic lights, one-way streets and keep left signs, and they ride at night without lights.
Crime will not be beaten nor the streets made safe for the citizen by acting solely against the most serious crime. Not many criminals start their careers with serious crime; they learn to scoff at the law as juveniles, commit petty crime and work their way up. It is at the early stages that effective action can stop the escalation into a life of serious crime. Zero tolerance is not a soft option. For a similar population, London has 25,600 police officers whereas New York has over 40,000. That pays huge dividends. In New York since 1993 both violent and property crimes have fallen by more than half; murders have fallen by two-thirds; and hooliganism has been defeated. New York has been liberated from crime and returned to its citizens. The liberal permissive establishment derided Mayor Guiliani, just as Friedman and Hayek were derided, but was proved wrong.
Sadly, the Home Secretary has been taken hostage by that same wet, soft Left, pink, permissive establishment, and that is a great disappointment to me. Despite his difficult adolescence in student politics, I thought that the Home Secretary had grown up. I had great hopes that he might run his department; alas, it is running him, as it did almost all his predecessors, except Mr Michael Howard. I hope that he will break free and campaign for the law-abiding majority, not the criminal minority.
Think what a crowning achievement for this Government it would be if they could make the streets of Islington, Holland Park, Battersea and Fulham safe for the new London permissives to stroll between expensive restaurants and soft porn cinemas flaunting their pearls and gold Rolex watches. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
Lord Brennan: My Lords, I declare an interest as a practising barrister. I make that declaration with pride, and I must add to it a disappointment for the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit: as chairman of the Bar last year, I was described by The Times as the "antithesis of establishment man". Although the contrast between what I am about to say (following the traditions of this House) and what has just been said may be stark, I hope that your Lordships will nevertheless find my comments helpful.
One of the best measures of a civilised society is the effectiveness and fairness with which it seeks to maintain law and order. The legislature is a crucial component of that objective, whether in legislating for policing, sentencing, the care of victims or the criminal justice system generally. Such legislation is, surely,
The need for debate both in your Lordships' House and among the public to be well informed is well illustrated by information provided only last week by a research study by the Home Office into attitudes to crime based on the British Crime Survey 1998. From that contemporary knowledge, it emerges that 80 per cent of those interviewed thought that 30 per cent of recorded crime was violent crime. Serious violent crime accounts for only 8 per cent. That reveals a dramatic misunderstanding of the position. As to sentencing, 80 per cent of those interviewed felt that judges were out of touch, not because of their social habits, but essentially because of what was perceived to be their approach to sentencing. Yet, when asked what to do with a convicted burglar with previous convictions, the majority of members of the public who were consulted came out with a more lenient sentence than current Court of Appeal guidelines.
Finally, the public want tough sentences, but they do not want more prisons. That tension between expectation and reality means that debates like this must be informed and constructive. Knowing that some of your Lordships will speak on them, I therefore decline to talk about the reform of the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with the speed with which it is now hoped to bring the arrested to disposal and about the importance of looking after the victim. I am sure that they will be covered in the debate.
Rather than doing that, I invite your Lordships' attention to three discrete areas of change, each of which is designed not only to maintain but also to improve law and order. The first--I ask no forgiveness for making it number one--is to ensure that in our civilised society racial crime is properly dealt with. Whatever was said earlier, the fact is that we have a diverse ethnic society. Anecdotal evidence indicates, from an article in the Economist the other day, that racial crime is on the increase. I need not trouble your Lordships with the famous examples. With that increase, perceived even if not real, the fact is that the police, my profession, and the courts should be aware that this crime is a cancer in our modern society. What more effective way to deal with it is there than to ensure that, in their constitution, the police should be required to represent the demography of our present society? London and the West Midlands are the most ethnically diverse of our communities; the percentage of ethnic minority representation in the London Metropolitan force is only 3.9 per cent; in the Midlands it is 4.4 per cent. In neither case is that figure truly representative.
The police are making great efforts to improve on that, and I commend them on it. I invite your Lordships' constant attention to the need to ensure that racial crime is properly investigated as such, and, if a conviction occurs, properly sentenced as such.
Secondly and very differently, the Sex Offenders Act 1997 established for the first time a UK register of sex offenders. When I was travelling abroad last year in my professional capacity, it became clear that the international aspect of such registers must be considered. The Association of Chief Police Officers is at present discussing with the Home Office how to improve the register. There are two ways. Difficult though they are in technicality, they are important in principle. The first is to ensure that sex offenders travelling abroad declare such a journey beforehand so that the country they intend to visit can be informed. Vice versa, those who go abroad to commit such sexual crimes against children and who become convicted for it, on their return to this country should be required to declare the same and have it registered.
Thirdly and finally, perhaps I may make a suggestion which I hope is not too "modernising"; it has extremely venerable origins. I refer to the codification of the criminal law. The Martin case, what is the true extent of self-defence, double jeopardy, and the injustice that can be created by the mandatory life sentence, are all discrete aspects of the criminal law, all of which have been considered in recent months in isolation from the rest of that law, often quickly, superficially and not helpfully.
In 1879, Lord Blackburn presented to this House a Royal Commission report on the codification of the criminal law. In 1989, the Law Commission produced a draft modern criminal code in clear, rational language. I invite the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary to seek to implement that code in any future parliamentary session. Why? First, it will give coherence, clarity and certainty to our community about what the criminal law is. Secondly, it will save the cost of the legal judicial establishment having to investigate, as we now do, the terminology of an Act of Parliament of the last century dictating crimes of violence. Thirdly, it will show the public that the law and this House are in tune with what they think should happen to maintain law and order.
I thank noble Lords and the staff of the House for the courtesy shown to me since my introduction. My daily diet is what might gently be called a "robust dialogue" between Bench and Bar. To have enjoyed, as I have just done, an uninterrupted monologue has been a real pleasure.
Baroness Young: My Lords, it is my very great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, on his maiden speech. We all know of his distinguished record. He was the chairman of the Bar Council last year. He is now a recorder of the Crown Court and has been so since 1982. He brings to your Lordships' House tremendous experience and expertise and we have all listened with immense interest to what he said on this important subject this afternoon. The noble Lord made a number of points that I, for one, and I believe others, will want to read in Hansard. I am sure I speak for everyone in saying
I start by thanking my noble friend Lord Tebbit for introducing this important debate this afternoon. It is almost impossible to meet anyone who is not concerned about law and order. Like your Lordships, I believe that the two basic functions of the state are the defence of the realm, and law and order at home. I do not believe that there are any quick solutions or easy answers to the question. In my opinion, to reduce the level of crime today will be a long haul.
I was interested in my noble friend's analysis. He pointed out that the three props which maintained law and order in the past--the moral authority of the Church, the moral authority of society at large and the judicial system--have all changed, particularly the first two. In the course of my remarks I shall concentrate on what I see as the collapse of society and its effect on law and order.
One of the great changes I have seen in my lifetime is the increase in crime. When I was a child in the 1930s, we could go out without locking the front door. Now everything must be locked, even when we are in the house--windows and doors. Of course, we all have the inevitable burglar alarm. Cars must always be locked. Like many women, when out driving I like to have a mobile telephone to hand as an assurance. Despite all that, which is common knowledge, it is hard to think of anyone we know who has not been burgled even when what is taken is not valuable.
Nor is a breakdown of law and order confined to the richer members of society. There are enough vandalised council estates up and down the country to show that all sections of society are suffering. As my noble friend rightly pointed out, a number of crimes are no longer even considered crimes. (For instance, at my home in Oxford cyclists regularly ride on the pavement, through red lights and without lights at night, to the great danger of both motorists and pedestrians.) The same may be said of shoplifting.
All that comes at a time when the country has never been richer. Like my noble friend, I do not suggest that there was some mythical golden age. But the fact is that crime was lower before and immediately after the war and increased only very slowly during the 1950s. Statistics show that crime has increased rapidly since the 1960s and has continued increasing every year. As my noble friend's figures illustrate only too well, there has been an incredible increase from 1954 to 1997.
I am not a lawyer; nor have I had a great deal of experience of the systems of justice. However, I have heard enough debates in your Lordships' House to know that many remedies have been tried. I well recall that in 1979 we talked about the short, sharp shock. We have talked at length about community sentencing and longer prison sentences. Now I read that there are proposals promoting prison by day with perhaps evenings and weekends off. I have no doubt that for some offenders some treatments have been effective and should be continued and lessons learned. I believe strongly that those in prison should be educated and
I should like to speak about what I believe to be some of the fundamental causes of the increase in crime. In preparation for the debate, I reread that interesting book by Norman Dennis and George Erdos, Families without Fatherhood, which I much recommend. In the introduction, Professor Halsey states:
We are in a descending cycle from which at present it is difficult to see how we shall escape. The figures of all the surveys confirm this trend. The National Survey of Health and Development, following a group of people born in 1946, found that boys who had experienced the breakdown of their parents' marriages were more likely to be in custody; and those who had been young at the
The Cambridge study of delinquent development found that experience of separation from a parent before the age of 10 was associated with future delinquency. Where separation was caused by parental conflict rather than death, 32 per cent of boys separated because of parental conflict were convicted as juveniles compared with 16 per cent of unseparated boys.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, this is my first speech in your Lordships' House. When I inquired about the conventions relating to maiden speeches, I was told that I must not be controversial. I have to tell the House that I have never made a non-controversial speech in my life, but there is always a first time for everything. I obtained copies of the maiden speeches which some of my noble friends have made in recent months. I discovered that one word stands out from the pages of Hansard: "trepidation". I looked up the word "trepidation" in the OED and found that it meant:
One thing I have discovered in the past week in your Lordships' House is that, if I am overcome by tremulous agitation to the extent that I collapse in a heap on the Floor of the House, many extremely kind and friendly people will pick me up and sort me out. The wonderful friendliness I have encountered from noble Lords on all sides of the House has been a revelation; and the friendliness, efficiency and superb professionalism of the Officers of the House and of all the staff have been a great help in joining a somewhat intimidating new institution.
As regards getting lost, which everyone does, as a mountaineer I have discovered a tip for all other neophyte Peers. I advise them to carry a pocket compass. Once I discovered that the alignment of your Lordships' House and of the whole building is from north to south, life became a great deal easier.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for the opportunity to take part in this debate on the problems of maintaining law and order. I speak as someone who grew up in a police family. One of my great regrets today is that my father unfortunately died quite recently and cannot be here to listen to this speech. He served his life in the West Riding Constabulary, and my second exhibit this afternoon--I am not sure whether exhibits are permitted, but never mind--is a police whistle which he bequeathed to me. I have been strongly advised by noble friends that blowing it here would not be a good idea.
However, policing has changed very rapidly since the days of the police whistle. Whether it is the legitimate demand for more visible policing on the streets and in villages, in towns and on council estates, or whether it is the equally legitimate requirements of the police force for a new generation of highly skilled and specialist officers to deal with crime in modern technological ways, I hope that your Lordships' House will respond with its support.
I come here as a lifelong Liberal. As a Member of the Liberal Democrat Benches, I suppose that the question of police numbers is one for easy political knock-about at the moment. Police numbers fell during previous Conservative governments and they have fallen by 2,000 since 1997. However, that is not my intention today. Although, like everyone else, I could read out my party briefings, I am told not to be controversial on this occasion and, anyhow, we all know the figures.
I want to pose two perhaps much more fundamental questions. The first is that we should ask ourselves why crime is wrong. It may be obvious; it may be a silly question. However, is it wrong because it breaks the rules? Is it wrong because it is a counter to authority? Or is it wrong because it is simply unpleasant? The real reason why crime is wrong is because it has victims and attacks people's basic, fundamental human rights. As a Liberal, it is people's basic, fundamental human rights that I am in politics to support and defend.
The second question I ask is: can the police eradicate crime? The answer, I suggest, self-evidently is no, although that is not because the police are no good or because they do not have enough resources. The police
Like everyone else, the police operate within society as it is. It is not simply to the organisation, the resources and the support for the police that we should address our questions, although that is very important; we should also ask what is wrong with our society that there should be such an increase in crime. The police and other authorities can limit crime; they can contain it. If we are prepared for very authoritarian, draconian measures, they can suppress it, at least for a time.
However, fundamentally, it is to society as a whole that we should address our questions; that is, society at all its levels. If we are too draconian and too authoritarian in the measures we put forward, they will not work. What is more, they will begin to restrict to an unacceptable degree the very liberties of all the people who are not engaged in crime. It is a balance that we have to find.
I thank noble Lords for their patience and courtesy in listening to me today. I am relieved to inform the House that I have not been completely overwhelmed by tremulous agitations, at least not just yet! I look forward to playing a full part in the work of your Lordships' House and I promise that in future I shall not be quite so non-controversial.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, it is my great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on an excellent maiden speech. His remarks showed the radicalism, clarity, forthrightness and also the humour for which he is well known. That may be because he comes from Lancashire. It may be that, because he used to be a geography teacher, he has had more success than some of us in finding his way quickly round this House. He brings to the House 30 valuable years of experience of local government, activism and community politics. On the strength of what he has said today, we look forward very much to his participation in future debates.
I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, on his foresight in initiating this debate, and I congratulate him on the title he has chosen for it. By drawing attention to the problems of maintaining law and order and to the complexity of the subject, I believe that he does us a great service. He makes it clear how difficult it is to maintain law and order in a democratic and pluralistic society where there is such a range of views, as no doubt we shall hear today, about what is proper behaviour and what is not, about what should be tolerated and what should be stamped on, and about what is the exuberance of youth and what is thuggish, yobbish behaviour.
Not surprisingly, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was also making an interesting prophecy. Since 1988 we have put into practice some of the policies upon which he counselled caution. We have not doubled the number of people we lock up in prison but we have increased it from just under 49,000 in 1988 to more than 64,000 today. We have not doubled the police; the number was more or less the same in 1999 as it was in 1988. We have not doubled the penalties but we have certainly increased them.
The proportionate use of prison has increased substantially. In 1988, 20 per cent of men over 21 sentenced for indictable offences went to prison. Ten years later, 27 per cent were sent to prison. Of every 100 men over 21 being sentenced, seven more are now being locked up. We have nearly doubled the number of prisoners serving sentences of more than four years, from 10,000 in 1988 to over 18,000 in 1998.
What about the rate of recorded crime? In 1988 there were 3.6 million recorded crimes. In 1998-99 there were 5.1 million. These are crude measures needing more analysis, but they show that there can be no simple trade-off between a harsher penal system and a more peaceful society. Maintaining law and order is about much more than catching and punishing criminals, as the police know well. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, with his great experience of policing.
I have had the opportunity to travel and see at first hand the criminal justice system in many countries. I can say with confidence that we should be overwhelmingly grateful for the police we have in this country. They are unarmed, with an understanding that they are a service, not a force, and with an enormous commitment to maintaining peaceful communities through community policing. They work with social agencies and try whenever possible to prevent a crime before it happens rather than waiting until it has happened and picking up the pieces. It is no wonder that so many British police officers are working all over the world running training programmes in British-style policing. Policing and how communities are policed is one of the keys to a peaceful society.
In 1990, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, was no longer Home Secretary. A White Paper on crime policy was published in that year when the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was Home Secretary. One phrase from that 1990 White Paper, Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public, became famous throughout the world. It is claimed that it stated:
We also have the results of a study carried out in the United States by the Rand Corporation, a respected research body. The study shows how many crimes are prevented each year by certain kinds of policy. One million dollars spent on helping children to finish their school education prevents 258 crimes being committed. One million dollars spent on families experiencing difficulty bringing up their children prevents 160 crimes. One million dollars spent on prison prevents 60 crimes.
The same organisation conducted research on the relative advantages of dealing with illegal drugs. Its report is helpfully entitled, Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences, throwing away the key or the taxpayers' money? The report concluded that spending 1 million dollars to expand the use of mandatory sentencing for drug offenders would reduce national drug consumption by 13 kilograms. Spending the same sum on treatment would reduce consumption by 100 kilograms.
Those surveys are perhaps not the whole story, but they make a point about what policies are worth pursuing to deal with problems of law and order. Can the Minister tell the House whether he has looked at the results of such research studies and whether he is sure that the great expansion of prison places planned by the Government will provide value for money, safety on the streets and satisfaction for victims?
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, in his powerful speech opening this debate, my noble friend made reference to the rioting which took place in London on 1st May. I, too, want to start my speech with reference to those events.
I cannot claim to bring any particular knowledge or expertise to the debate. For that, I apologise to noble Lords. I do not make a habit of taking part in debates on this subject. However, I feel I am speaking as an ordinary member of the public; one who remains deeply troubled by the events that we witnessed on 1st May. I still have many questions to ask about that. How was it ever allowed to happen, particularly as it is well known that a large number of those who committed acts of violence on that day were already known to the police authorities? They were clearly bent on violence and hijacked other causes seeking to demonstrate in their own interest.
It appeared to me that the police made the judgment that if they acted with care and sensitivity, there would be the minimum of disturbance and trouble and that, on the whole, things would go comparatively quietly. As events showed, that was a misjudgment. But I do not blame the police for not knowing quite what to do. They must be deeply disillusioned. They have been held accountable on those occasions when there has been sustained violence, as happened in earlier rioting in the streets of London. It was the police who were then accused more than those who actually perpetrated the acts of violence. They are again in the dock of public opinion for not acting strongly or quickly enough to stop the violence on 1st May. So they are in a no-win situation.
I am not surprised that morale in the police force is low and that they are uncertain of the action they should take in the face of threats of violence of the kind witnessed. Let us be totally frank: what we saw was nothing new. It has happened many times before. It happens on the football terraces as much as in the streets. They are the same type of people who commit acts of wanton thuggery and violence.
The question in all our minds must be how we are to tackle this problem. First, we must support the police and the authorities in tackling all major disturbances and all minor breaches of the peace. We must support them in the action that they feel it necessary to take in dealing with any offences committed against people or property. It has been reported that crime in London is increasing, as the figures quoted indicate. Street crime rose by 36 per cent last year; that is, muggings, robbery, shop lifting, snatch and grab, damage to property, smashing of windows, and the growing use of knives and imitation guns.
Many of those acts of violence and robbery are opportunist; they are committed on impulse, probably for kicks, by young people below the age of 20 years, sometimes as young as 10. It is difficult for the police to deal with them and it is quite wrong for us to expect the police alone to deal with them.
One of the first things we can do is to ensure that the urban environment is improved and enhanced, not just in the housing estates, but in shopping centres, Underground tunnels and bus shelter areas; in fact, any area to which the general public have access. There is far too much litter and graffiti around. I believe that by dealing with the problem of litter and graffiti we will improve the quality of the environment for people, and that in doing that we shall raise the threshold of expectancy of conduct and behaviour. We must start with something simple and small. That means we must have people on the ground to deal with it.
I do not know whether any other noble Lord has had the opportunity to visit the London Eye, but if they walk along where County Hall used to be, alongside the River Thames, they will find it to be a sordid area. It is an absolute disgrace. It ought not to be allowed to exist as it is. It is knee-deep in litter. Every five yards someone is selling sausages and the whole place smells of fried onions. It is an absolute abuse. I do not know which local authority is responsible for that area, but it should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. That situation should be tackled straightaway. We all know that if we leave a pile of litter in one place, before long other litter comes to join it. If we clean it regularly, it is kept clean permanently. So the quality of the environment is most important.
I am glad that my few faltering remarks will be followed by the much more informed comments of the noble Lord, Lord Warner. He has experience of youth offending teams, which are an admirable introduction into ways of dealing with the problems. I should like to know how they are progressing. What analysis has been made so far of the pilot schemes that have been in existence? I believe the reason they work so well is that they bring together the police, the probation services, social workers, and people involved in education and in health. They bring their collective experience and knowledge to bear when dealing with young offenders in order to ensure that they do not reoffend.
Anything that can be done to end the demarcation between the authorities will be good. Just as the environment needs to be improved in quality, so does the provision of education, again in the quality of the buildings, the toilet facilities and so forth. Parent support groups are developing under the youth offending teams, which must give enormous encouragement to the prospect that parents will acquire new skills and experience for dealing with their own children.
As always, it all comes down to resources. Resources are very necessary yet, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Tebbit, police numbers are falling. They are finding it hard to recruit new people to train for the police force. Good people are leaving the force because they are attracted by better pay and conditions in other employment. For example, recently in London the mortgage allowance for police was withdrawn and we now have the anomaly of two policemen working together, one being in receipt of
There are fewer police officers on the streets. That means that there are not enough of them even to answer emergency calls. They have to cope with skeleton staff. In the post-Macpherson atmosphere it is hardly surprising that morale is low. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reverse that trend; to change the pattern as rapidly as possible; to dedicate more resources to the police; to support them in their work and to encourage the constructive efforts that so many of them are prepared to make.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his kind remarks about youth offending teams. However, I confess that I rather like the smell of fried onions so that may mitigate what I am going to say. We have heard two very distinguished maiden speeches this afternoon. I particularly draw attention to the voice of reason, rational analysis and balance put forward by my noble friend Lord Brennan in a most impressive maiden speech which whetted my appetite for more.
We should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for giving us an opportunity to discuss this issue today. Apart from anything else, it provides an occasion to remind people of the generally undistinguished record of his party on law and order when it was in government for about half of the 36 years to which the noble Lord drew attention. I hope to say a few words about that. Before turning to that, I should declare an interest as chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, probably to be dismissed by the noble Lord as part of the wet establishment which has done so much damage.
I had the interesting experience of entering the Home Office, that bastion of pink liberalism, on the day after the 1997 election, as the Home Secretary's senior policy adviser. It was rather like being a member of the Seventh Cavalry arriving in a John Wayne film. That is hardly surprising when one considers what the poor civil servants there had had to put up with. Crime doubled in the 1980s and early 1990s. The number of criminals brought to book fell by one-third. During those years one's chances of being burgled increased from one in 32 to one in 13. Violent criminals became three times more likely to get away with their crimes. Successful prosecutions for rape plummeted. I remind noble Lords that it was the Conservatives in office who voted against a total ban on handguns.
It is perhaps worth drawing the attention of noble Lords to the fact that during that period there was a strikingly large increase in unemployment. The number of children living in poverty during that period rose dramatically. I suggest that there is some cause and effect between some of these events. When I arrived at the Home Office in 1997 my sympathies were immediately with the civil servants because nobody likes to be associated with failure.
The problem that they faced was a lack of consistency of action based on any coherent policy analysis during much of that time. Home Secretaries came and went, dabbled here and there, and left. I suggest that the only serious piece of analytical work was done by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of Westwell, no doubt another member of this wet establishment. He understood that the criminal justice system had to be effective and, to borrow a phrase, you needed to be tough on the causes of crime as well as on crime itself.
In recent weeks we have seen the Conservative Party leadership revert to its default setting of knee-jerk populism aimed at raising public fear of crime. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, drew attention to the factual position and public perceptions of crime. It is very worrying when people in leading positions drive up public anxiety about crime when in many cases there are no grounds for doing so. Indeed, it is quite interesting that the Conservative leader has effectively taken over the home affairs portfolio because his shadow Home Secretary, no mean populist herself, cannot plumb the depths he wishes to achieve. For example, I remind your Lordships that she was unwise to suggest in the aftermath of the Tony Martin case that the present law gave adequate protection to those who used reasonable force in defending themselves against burglars--probably an extremely career-limiting stance to take.
However, enough of dwelling on the past. I want to leave time to talk about the present and future. It is worth bearing in mind that recorded crime in England and Wales has fallen by about 7 per cent since 1977, although I recognise that in recent months there has been some upward movement in some crimes in some places. It is also worth bearing in mind that the domestic burglary rate of recorded crime is down by about 20 per cent in that period.
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 has laid a strong foundation for a comprehensive and credible attack on crime. It set up local crime and disorder partnerships so that police, local councils and the community throughout the country can fight crime together. That moves the agenda away from assuming that fighting crime is just a matter for the police and, that emotive term, the thin blue line.
My conversations with many police officers at all levels suggest that they welcome this fundamental change of approach. The Act has provided new orders that target specific problems such as anti-social behaviour orders, drug testing and treatment orders and sex offender orders. In their different ways they provide protection for the public by enabling the courts to achieve a sharper focus in their responses to particular offences.
I wish briefly to remind noble Lords of that Act's provision for a radical overhaul of what was a failing youth justice system. In 1996, when the Audit Commission made its fully justified criticisms of that failing system, which was costing about £1 billion a year to the taxpayer, the current shadow Home Secretary, who was then in office, brushed aside its recommendations as a change which involved nothing new.
This Government went much further than the Audit Commission recommendations. I am pleased to be able to tell the noble Lord, Lord Eden, that there are now 154 youth offending teams across England and Wales, working on a genuine multi-agency basis, with funding from all the participating agencies and, for the first time, with health and education interests fully involved in tackling youth crime. The failed system of repeat cautions is being replaced by a new final warning scheme that will enable everybody to tackle offending behaviour much earlier when young people begin to offend.
Good progress has been made in speeding up youth justice with persistent young offenders being dealt with within 100 days on average at the end of 1999 compared with 142 days in May 1997. The board I chair is now using contracts to drive up standards and the use of constructive regimes in all the secure facilities for offenders under the age of 18.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, rightly mentioned the problem of role models for many young male offenders. She is right, and that is why the board has been funding a large increase in the number of mentoring schemes so that there can be role models working with young offenders in order to move them back to a less anti-social approach to life. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who is now president, I believe, of DIVERT, one of the many organisations that we have funded and which runs extremely good mentoring schemes.
These changes are based on analysis and support of the various agencies. They are going with the grain. They are buttressed also by changes that tackle the causes of crime; namely, in the New Deal, Sure Start programme, and a new approach to family policy. If the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is having difficulty in understanding what is the Government's family policy, I commend to him a document called Supporting Families, a consultation paper that was published a year or two ago. That sets out very clearly the Government's approach.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page