[Lords] (By Order)
[Lords] (By Order)
[Lords] (By Order)
Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time on Thursday 18 March.
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question[8 February], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Debate to be resumed on Thursday 18 March.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : There has been one extradition request from India in recent years.The application was withdrawn and it would not therefore be right to name the individual concerned.
Mr. Madden : As the Indians have sought to extradite only one person in recent years, what is the justification for asking Parliament to approve an extradition treaty between Britain and India? Why is Parliament being asked to approve this wretched treaty, bearing in mind the appalling human rights violations that are being committed in India each and every day? Thousands of extrajudicial murders are being committed, including that of the leading lawyer Kulwant Singh ; thousands of people are being held in detention without trial, including the Kashmiri leaders Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik and two Britons.
Will the Home Secretary agree to meet United Kingdom-based Indian organisations to discuss the human rights position in India and defer the orders asking Parliament to approve the treaty?
Mr. Clarke : I regret that the hon. Gentleman should choose to use his question to make a partisan and rather wild speech about Indian politics. The fact is that India is the largest working democracy in the world, has a legal system based on ours and is both a very close ally of this country and a leading member of the Commonwealth. It is plainly right that we should have up-to-date extradition arrangements between India and the United Kingdom. It is particularly important that the so-called political defence should not be cited in criminal charges that turn on terrorism, from which both our countries suffer. I will commend the orders to the House in due course.
Mr. Allen : The Home Secretary may be aware of the problems surrounding extradition. Will he act now to end the difficulties highlighted in the immigration and nationality section of his Department which were exposed by the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs? Does he agree with the Committee's conclusion that the delays are being used as an unauthorised and unofficial means of control? As the Conservative Government are seeking to hide behind the citizens charter, will he press for the charter to redress some of the appalling delays that are now evident in his Department?
Mr. Clarke : I am glad to say that we are making satisfactory progress in reducing delays in both the immigration and nationality divisions. We shall continue to do so, by improving the management and control of the workload. We are also very near to completing parliamentary discussion of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, which will enable us to handle many cases
Column 1089much more speedily, not just in the relevant areas but in many others. If the Opposition had not opposed the Bill and protracted discussion of it for so long, we would have made still more progress in reducing the delays about which the hon. Gentleman now has the nerve to complain.
2. Sir Roger Moate : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on the maximum penalties available for trafficking in class A drugs ; and if he will make a statement.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle) : The maximum penalties available to the courtsin cases of trafficking in class A drugs are life imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both.
Sir Roger Moate : Does my hon. Friend agree that that threat of life imprisonment and the Attorney-General's right to appeal against lenient sentences represent two of the most crucial weapons in the battle against drug smuggling? They would not exist but for a provision in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which the Labour party opposed. Is not it disgraceful that Labour should oppose that measure, as well as many other law and order measures introduced by the Conservatives?
Mr. Wardle : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the Conservative Government increased the maximum penalty from 14 years' imprisonment to life imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both. Opposition Members have voted against every major piece of law and order legislation since 1979.
Mr. Trimble : The Minister will know that paramilitary organisations are deeply into drug trafficking as a means of raising funds and are doing so in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Is there any evidence that they are involved in similar activities in England and Wales and, if so, what are the Government doing about it?
Mr. Wardle : The Government are well aware that drug trafficking is an international business. That is why we have bilateral agreements with 28 countries, why we ratified the United Nations convention in 1988, along with 70 other countries, why we are a major donor to the United Nations drug control programme and why we provide 33 liaison officers who are working in various countries to fight drug trafficking.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Michael Jack) : The main achievement of the 20 safer cities projects has been successfully to implement the partnership approach to crime prevention, where local agencies work together to tackle crime problems. Through this approach, the projects have supported more than 3,000 local crime prevention schemes.
Mr. Thurnham : Does my hon. Friend agree that the safer cities programme is an excellent example of the Government working with town halls and police forces to cut crime? Will he make safer cities funds available to Bolton for my campaign against crime and will he ensure that town halls do not follow Labour's soft line on crime, because juvenile criminals should be in special schools, not playing truant, robbing and thieving?
Mr. Jack : I congratulate my hon. Friend on his personal lead in and endorsement of crime prevention in Bolton. He is an assiduous Member of the House and takes these matters seriously. I thank him for underlining the case for Bolton and I will certainly bear its credentials in mind when we come to make those decisions.
Mrs. Roche : If the Minister is so keen on the partnership approach to crime prevention, why have not the Government implemented the recommendations of the Morgan report, which has been widely acclaimed and which is all about partnership between local authorities and the police?
Mr. Jack : With no disrespect to the authors of the Morgan report, we have already implemented the partnership approach through safer cities, which is very different from the Labour party, whose manifesto did not even contain the word "community". The only difference between our approach and that of the Morgan report to partnership is that we do not believe that local authorities should have a statutory duty to do what is common sense.
4. Dr. Hampson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he is giving to the discretionary powers given to local authorities in registering shops for Sunday opening in the preparation of his legislation ; and if he will make a statement.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd) : We will bring to the House a Bill containing the three main options for reform of Sunday trading. One of those, the option put forward by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, may give some limited discretion to local authorities to decide which of those shops meeting specified criteria should be allowed to trade on Sundays. We are discussing this with the KSSC.
Dr. Hampson : Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be no service to customers at large and, indeed, would seriously inhibit trade if as much discretion were given to local authorities as provided for in the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)? Does he also accept that, while we wait for the precise drafting of the Government's Bill, there is a risk of a serious and unhealthy vacuum being created, so will he publish the various options as soon as possible, in advance of the Bill itself, to inform public debate?
Mr. Lloyd : No, it is not good guidance. We change the law in the House on the merits of the case, not according to whether the law is obeyed or otherwise. I have condemned the breaking of the law in the past and am happy to do so now. The law as it stands should be obeyed until it is changed.
Mr. Banks : In putting the police and the public on a vigorous offensive against criminals, will my hon. Friend ensure that every available technique, including the use of electronic devices and the deployment by the police of decoys, will be widely practised and encouraged? Will he assure the House that the police will be provided with all the latest technology so that they can catch the criminal in the act and detect and hunt down the others?
Mr. Wardle : As my hon. Friend says, surveillance technology has been advancing rapidly and provides an improved new means of detection. The use of surveillance technology and the amount of money spent on it in each police force is a matter for the chief officer. In the private sector, closed-circuit television and video recordings have been used to good deterrent effect in car parks, sports grounds and shopping centres.
Mr. Jack : Many factors influence recorded crime levels and, generally, it is not easy to isolate the influence of neighbourhood watch overall. However, detailed studies in parts of the Kirkholt estate in Rochdale and in a council estate in Wythenshawe in Greater Manchester have shown that neighbourhood watch schemes can have an effect on the rate of recorded crime.
Mr. Hunter : Does my hon. Friend agree that the most successful neighbourhood watch schemes are those that draw on the energies of local people and local police and that any statutory requirement on local authorities to promote crime prevention could stifle those successful schemes with red tape?
Mr. Jack : I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. When I previously looked at work done in 1987 on the cost of crime to local authorities, it came to £500 million. I am sure that the thought of saving that money would appeal to local authorities and encourage them to play their role in the partnership approach to crime prevention.
We wish to encourage the development of neighbourhood watch. A new neighbourhood watch co-ordinators'
Column 1092manual is to be produced soon and further Home Office advice will be available on local crime prevention panels to encourage that partnership approach.
Mr. Corbett : How does the Minister square his claimed support for neighbourhood watch, which Labour Members strongly suport, with the current freeze on police manpower in England and Wales, given that the most successful schemes involve large amounts of police time? Will he examine that matter?
Mr. Jack : I am delighted to have some endorsement of our partnership approach to crime prevention. The neighbourhood watch scheme was introduced by the Conservative Government. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the police, but he and many of his hon. Friends do not talk about the effective use of the police. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is looking to improve the peformance of the police.
Mr. Shersby : Is my hon. Friend aware that there is insufficient work coming into Uxbridge magistrates court to enable the five courts to sit as they usually do? Is that due to a dramatic fall in the level of recorded crime in Uxbridge or some other matter?
Mr. Jack : I am certainly aware of some of the issues that have been discussed recently in relation to police clear-up rates. In the case of Uxbridge, I doubt whether crime is going down in total terms, but we are looking carefully at that analysis. I know that the Metropolitan police are looking at it. One of the values of good management information is that it shows up certain trends and encourages analysis of them.
Ms Ruddock : The Minister is familiar with neighbourhood watch schemes in my area, but he has drawn most attention to the impact of the Lewisham safer cities project in terms of crime prevention. Does he recall the summer youth challenge, which cut youth crime in Deptford by 28 per cent. and the Deptford business security scheme, which cut crime by 25 per cent? Where is the sense in cutting the Lewisham safer cities grant by two thirds when it delivers such results?
Mr. Jack : I remember the summer youth challenge. I was delighted to see the result and I have inquired into how it is continuing. The hon. Lady knows that at the outset of safer cities there was never an assurance of limitless funding from the Home Office for the first 20 projects. The job now is to use the £100,000 grant fund for the next financial year, together with the £500,000 fund from which safer cities projects can draw, to develop an exit strategy to put in place a lasting, locally based partnership in places such as Lewisham. The hon. Lady has demonstrated the effectiveness of the concept of safer cities and I am sure that the community in Lewisham would wish to continue it.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke : I have asked the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to let me have the results of its research in this area. I will assess its contents once I have received the reports.
Mr. Amess : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the concern of the police, the general public and others about the right to silence? Does he agree that it was the Conservative Government who increased the maximum sentence against cruelty to children from two to 10 years and that it was the socialists in the Opposition who opposed the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which allowed for that provision and allowed tougher sentences generally? How does that square with the conversion of the socialists in the Opposition to law and order, as was demonstrated by the disgraceful scenes in the Chamber last night?
Mr. Clarke : I agree with my hon. Friend, first, that the time has come to look again at the so-called right to silence in all criminal cases. However, it must be looked at with care. I have given evidence on the subject to Lord Runciman's royal commission. We should all wait for the report of the royal commission before we come to conclusions on that subject.
On the second question, it is the case that we increased the maximum penalty for child cruelty to 10 years in the 1988 Act. The Labour party voted against that Bill, as it has voted against every Bill that we introduced in the 1980s to strengthen the powers of the court. Judging from yesterday, its track record will continue in the same negative vein.
Mr. Olner : Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the ultimate cruelties that can be done to a child is for one of its parents to abduct it from its other parent and take it abroad? Will he keep up the funding for the organisation called Re-unite, which is the National Council for Abducted Children? Does he agree that that organisation does a tremendous job not only for parents who have their children abducted but for his Department? The timing is crucial for keeping up that funding.
Mr. Clarke : I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the cases to which he refers and the devastating effect that abduction can have on families. We have received an application for funding from the organisation to which the hon. Gentleman refers and we are considering it carefully.
Mr. Charles Wardle : It is already the case that the judge or magistrate passing sentence in open court is giving public expression to society's condemnation of the criminal behaviour that has led to the conviction.
Mr. Field : In view of the dastardly attack on an 81-year-old widow by three 10-year-old girls on Monday this week, has my hon. Friend had time to read the ten-minute Bill that I introduced in 1988 which imposed penalties on the parents of young criminals? Is not it time
Column 1094that the names and addresses of young thugs were exhibited in their community so that their families shared in their actions and the penalties that they have incurred?
Mr. Wardle : I recall my hon. Friend's ten-minute Bill. It was an important contribution to the debate on truancy, vandalism and young offenders. Of course, it was entirely unsurprising that so many Opposition Members voted against it. I do not agree with my hon. Friend that it would be right to label children publicly as criminals. It would tend to glamorise what they had done in many cases. However, he will be aware that the Criminal Justice Act 1991 involves parents more closely in the misdemeanours of their children and in paying fines for under-16s.
Mr. Soley : In the context of general wrongdoing, is not there a great deal of evidence to suggest that, rather than castigating people in the community, offenders should be made to compensate the community? That is better for both the offender and the community. For example, if people had their pond cleared out and wrongly benefited from that, or built an extension on their house wrongly, they could be made to dig out the village duck pond or build an extension on the community hall. Would not that be a good moral example to set the country?
Mr. Wardle : That depends largely on the crime, but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, community penalties under the 1991 Act are tougher than they previously were and, more importantly, are subject to national standards of enforcement and control.
Sir Ivan Lawrence : Does my hon. Friend agree that humiliation is an important element in deterring the commission of crime and that if all that happens to delinquent children is that they are privately cautioned time and again, that element of humiliation will never deter them from further crime?
Mr. Wardle : As my hon. and learned Friend knows, 87 per cent. of juvenile offenders who are cautioned are not reconvicted within the next two years. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State is addressing the more fundamental problem of persistent juvenile offenders which no doubt will be considered in legislation that will come before the House in this Parliament.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The Government support and have encouraged the police and other agencies in the development of effective crime prevention programmes in all parts of the country. We support a combination of good policy and community-based crime prevention activity such as neighbourhood watch, which, with national initiatives such as Car Crime Prevention Year, can make an impact on local crime levels.
Mr. Lewis : How does that square with the comments of Earl Ferrers in another place that Greater Manchester police have 227 too many policemen? How does it square with the cancellation of the safer cities project or with the apparent lack of co-operation between Departments, which is distorting public spending and revenue support grant and not helping outer-city areas that have inner-city
Column 1095problems? Westminster city council receives £500 per head more than Salford and Wigan. How can that be right and how will it help those on the ground, including neighbourhood watch, to deal with the problems that the Secretary of State mentioned?
Mr. Clarke : Police manpower is up by 30,000 compared with 10 years ago and since taking office we have increased real-terms spending on the police service by 81 per cent. In addition, we have backed projects such as safer cities in Salford, which has been a great success in reducing crime in parts of the borough. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, it was never the intention that the safer cities initiative should concentrate set sums of money in particular places indefinitely. We are moving on to a second phase of projects elsewhere and I expect that the Salford safer cities initiative will become self-financing, like similar initiatives elsewhere. We have spent £20 million on safer cities in the past three years and have made provision for a further £20 million over the next three years.
Mr. Anthony Coombs : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the best way of reducing crime is by appropriate and rigorous punishment? When he considers amendments to the criminal justice system, will he bear in mind the fact that punishment should be aimed as much towards deterrence and protecting innocent members of the public as to rehabilitation of the offender? The Labour party obviously has not learnt that lesson, because in its manifesto for the last election it devoted only 155 words to law and order, which was less than it devoted to national heritage.
Mr. Clarke : I agree that one aspect of combating crime must be effective punishment. During our term of office, the length of sentences for violent and sexual offences has increased, which has given the public some relief from the activities of the most serious offenders. We tackle crime in other ways, such as Car Crime Prevention Year, safer cities, drug prevention teams and so on. The Labour party has not added much to those 160 words. It may have added verbiage, but, so far it has not made a single policy proposal since the election.
Mr. Alton : Does the Home Secretary agree that the massive increase in crimes against the person from 7,500 in 1955 to more than 191,000 last year is, in some small measure at least, attributable to the large amount of violence that is shown on television programmes? Has he seen today's report from Lord Rees-Mogg and the Broadcasting Standards Council, which mentions excessive levels of violence being shown, including an attack on an elderly lady that was screened just after 9 pm? Does he agree with Lord Rees-Mogg, rather than with Alan Yentob at the BBC, that excessive violence on television is one of the factors in the level of violence in society today?
Mr. Clarke : Personally, I agree with that--certainly up to a point. The increased propensity of young people to contemplate violence and growing insensitivity to violence have been encouraged by the extremely realistic violence to which they are more regularly exposed on television. Lord
Column 1096Rees-Mogg's group was set up to monitor that and to give strong advice to television companies. The best way to proceed is for the television producers and television authorities to show more common sense, good taste and restraint. I particularly agreed with Lord Rees-Mogg's strictures on Central Television for showing the interviews with the serial killer who is in prison. I tried strenuously through the law courts to prevent that action.
Mr. Stephen : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the public are particularly at risk in residential areas with a high incidence of burglary, in shopping centres and on public transport? Will he encourage the recruitment of many more special constables to protect the public in those places?
Mr. Clarke : Certainly ; we are conducting a drive to recruit more special constables and we are experimenting with the introduction of modest payments for some special constables when they might otherwise lose earnings by participating. We very much value the contribution that special constables make. That will enhance the already increased manpower of the fully professional police force. It will also enhance everything that we are doing to reduce burglary in residential areas and, through business watch and other schemes, to make business premises safer as well.
Mr. Blair : Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that, as crime has more than doubled in the past 14 years and has risen by more than 50 per cent. in the past three years, now is the last time that we should be cancelling safer cities projects, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) said, have actually been working? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman also understand that as crime is not getting better, but is getting worse, his message that there must be a freeze on police numbers is the worst possible message that he can give to the country? Would it not be better if he lifted the police freeze and allowed more policemen and women back on to the beat where they are wanted?
Mr. Clarke : The safer cities initiative had been one of the most successful things that the Government have done to tackle and reduce the level of crime in particularly difficult parts of cities. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports that policy. However, he is wrong to say that we are cancelling it. Some £20 million has been spent over the past three years and another £20 million is to be spent over the next three years. We are not continuing the central Government financing that we started with. We always made it clear that we were going to move on to other cities and we are doubling the number of projects.
I have already said that police manpower has increased by 30,000 since we took over from the former Labour Government an under-resourced, underpaid, undermanned police service and transformed it into a service which has been given a unique priority by this Government ever since we have been in office.
Mr. Burns : Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that one of the proposals to which he should give more urgent consideration is that which relates to the responsibility of parents in controlling their children? Does he accept that it is absolutely crucial that parents do not abandon all responsibility for their children, that they ensure that their children are at home and supervised in the evenings, that their children do their homework and that
Column 1097they spend more time talking with their children and entertaining them, instead of letting them go around our streets and towns at night, bored out of their brains, causing mindless acts of vandalism and crime?
Mr. Clarke : I endorse all that and I am sure that the progress of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education in establishing closer links between parents and schools and in tackling truancy and, I hope, involving parents in tackling truancy and confronting their responsibilities will help. Where parents fail to do that, and where they could make a better contribution, the Criminal Justice Act 1991 now gives power to the youth court to have parents brought before it, be bound over if necessary or obliged to pay their children's fines. As I recollect it, that was another strengthening of the law which was opposed by the Labour party.
Mr. Illsley : I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he impress on the vehicle manufacturers when he meets them the need for vehicle immobilisers and deadlocks to be fitted as standard to all vehicles? I appreciate that the manufacturers are doing all that they can, but the time has come when those devices should be fitted as standard. Will the Minister also discuss with the manufacturers the reasons that they have put forward in respect of European car crime and will he try to discover why this country suffers more car crime than the rest of Europe?
Mr. Jack : I thank the hon. Gentleman for those supportive comments. After my visit to the motor show and seeing what is happening on the ground, I believe that many more manufacturers now have a wide range of models with the very equipment that the hon. Gentleman identified. Double locking or deadlocking are now available as standard on 25 per cent. of all models. I should certainly like to see that extended much further into model ranges. I will draw the attention of the vehicle manufacturers to the points that the hon. Gentleman has made.
Sir Anthony Grant : Is my hon. Friend aware that not only is deadlocking required but immobilisers are essential? That is the only way to deal with the national scandal of car crime. Will my hon. Friend tell the manufacturers that if they do not respond, he will introduce regulations, as he did for safety belts?
Mr. Jack : It is interesting to look at the figures on immobilisers, which are currently available as standard or at point of sale on 97 per cent. of all United Kingdom-produced models. The message is getting home. Good common sense is enough to persuade manufacturers and it is clear in much of their advertising that security pays and security sells.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Since 12 February the Prison Service has not locked prisoners out of prison, except on one occasion on 4 March. Of course, police forces have continued the normal practice of detaining in police cells prisoners who have been taken into custody after it is too late to transfer them to prison that night.
Mr. Bennett : Can the Minister confirm that prisoners who ought to be in prison are still being held in police cells in Greater Manchester and that following the Strangeways riot over £200 million was spent on containing prisoners within police cells rather than in prisons? The money could have been far better spent on putting more police on the beat. The scandal of the way prisoners were dealt with after Strangeways was a disgrace to the Government.
Mr. Lloyd : Of course prisoners ought not to be kept in police cells. We have made enormous changes to the system to ensure that does not happen. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that police forces have been paid £200 million over the past two years for looking after those prisoners. That operation has been brought to an end, but we still need the co-operation of the police and the other criminal justice agencies to make sure that the rising number of prisoners now coming into prison does not again spill over into police cells.
Sir Anthony Durant : Will my hon. Friend have further discussions with the prison officers about these matters because there is resistance to taking in prisoners at late hours, which means the police have to look after them in cells? I do not believe that it is the job of police officers to guard prisoners in cells, except before they appear in court.
Mr. Lloyd : No, it is not. The courts generally finish by lunchtime or early afternoon and in most cases there is plenty of time to get people to prison. Prison officers do not organise to refuse to receive them if there are places in the prisons. There are now places in prisons. Where there are difficulties and courts sit late, there should be flexibility and communication from the police to the prisons warning them that they will be arriving with prisoners rather later than usual.