|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I did not say that I was having difficulty in understanding the Government's policy on the family; I said that the Government will not define what is a family. That is a different matter. I do not see how you can have a policy for something that you cannot define.
Lord Warner: My Lords, if the noble Lord re-reads the document to which I referred, he will see--unless he is having great difficulty in understanding the Queen's English--that it does actually define what the family is and what the policies are in that respect. I commend the document to the noble Lord.
I believe that the Government have also made a good start on something to which I referred earlier; namely, the reduction of child poverty. This, and other measures, have helped some of the most deprived communities. We sometimes speak as though the problems of crime are unconnected with poverty and social deprivation, but research has shown that there
As I near the end of my remarks, there are just a couple of issues that I believe are worth mentioning. They are sometimes dismissed as being slightly bureaucratic, but I think that they are very important in relation to the way that we tackle crime. In the past, there has been a huge mis-match in the organisational boundaries of the criminal justice agencies. These are being changed to help those agencies co-operate more effectively. The Probation Service will be undergoing major reforms that will improve public protection. Since 1997, I suggest that the emphasis has been on considered practical reform that enhances public protection through greater effectiveness and partnership, rather than relying on empty rhetoric.
Again, we have seen the Government responding to problems during the past few days in a thoughtful and focused way. The sentencing review launched by the Home Secretary and his willingness to use different approaches in responding to different types of offences suggests to me the kind of measured way forward that we need to take.
The central point that I should like to make in conclusion is that we are living through a period in which the approaches and procedures of the criminal justice system are being modernised and adapted so as to become more effective at catching and convicting criminals, improving crime prevention, tackling youth crime and re-balancing the system to take better account of the needs of victims and the harassment of people from ethnic minorities. I feel privileged to have been part of that process. I am far less pessimistic about the future than the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I should like to begin my remarks by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for introducing this important debate, in which I shall mention several small matters. I greatly enjoyed the two maiden speeches. I dare say that both speakers will be able to learn how to make an impartial and non-controversial speech from the contribution just made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. Of course, I particularly enjoyed the speech of my noble friend Lord Greaves. I have known him, and of him, for 30-odd years. I can tell noble Lords that I thought him the biggest blasted nuisance in the Liberal Party when he was a young Liberal. But it just shows what 30 years of responsible, public life in local government can do. Indeed, he has come into this House and, within a week, has turned into a totally civilised Member of whom we are all proud. That just shows the importance of environment for our young people.
I should like to concentrate my remarks on the police. I come from a rural area in Angus, which is fairly peaceful. However, crime is on the increase, with vandalism, and so on, getting out of control. It is not what it used to be. If I think back more than 30 years ago, I can recall a certain Sergeant Kippen. He was the sergeant in charge of the police in Kirriemuir and had two constables under his command. He was a remarkable example of policing. He knew all the trouble-making families; indeed, he knew them and sympathised with their troubles in quite an amazing way. They, in turn, trusted and liked him.
The sergeant knew the people who were apt to take too much drink and make trouble; and he could handle them. At that time, I was the chairman of the annual dinner of the Kirriemuir and District Agricultural Society. This was a noble event at which a certain amount of good will was shown and during which a certain amount of alcohol was taken. At about 12.30 a.m. the sergeant would come into the hall of the Airlie Arms Hotel and stand at the door; he might even have a small dram. But as people went out he would say, "Goodnight Willie", or, "Charlie, if I were you I would take a taxi", and so on. That is policing as it ought to be.
Although the sergeant was an extremely clever man and a very good poet, among other things, he was, sadly, passed over for promotion because he was not conventional enough. Had he been promoted, he would have taken his knowledge of people and applied it in a different way. However, he left the force and went to work as a security officer for a bank in Glasgow. That was a great loss. This kind of thing is happening all over the country.
At present, we do not have any local bobbies in Angus. The police accommodation has been sold, and policing is run from the centre. We have many good policemen, but perhaps I may give noble Lords an example of the situation. The man who came to check my gun licence was a nice and able chap. However, he was checking all gun licences in the whole of the county and, therefore, did not know the whereabouts of most of the people. Indeed, he had to ask me where various people lived. That is the sort of thing that makes for extremely bad policing.
Moreover, in the town of Forfar, which is a small part of Angus, the policing is centrally run. The police move around in cars because, I suppose, there are not enough of them to enable them to go about on their feet. Nevertheless, if the same sort of trouble arises as seems to happen everywhere and you ring up the police, you are just as likely to get through to one of those appalling recorded messages, which I hate, which instruct you to press various buttons, according to the service you require. Certain kinds of blasphemy come to mind when the response after pressing button after button is, "We are busy just now, but hang on and we'll deal with you shortly"; they never do. That is at the root of a great deal of our troubles in the country. I cannot speak of the city, but we are having troubles in the countryside.
We need more policemen. Of course they have to operate from a centre. However, if they were better organised and had more special constables living in the area--there are not enough of them at present--the police would gain a knowledge of the countryside and of the people in it. Such information must be the source of success as regards catching criminals. That is a most important point. As I say, we need more policemen because the number has gone down. People would be willing to pay; and I think that they should pay. I believe that the police force has suffered because of the amalgamation of the various police services. The police are apt to look on themselves as part of the police force as a whole, not as part of the local scene. They seem to think that the force is a sort of fifth estate, instead of something that serves the community. Although we have wonderful chief constables with excellent qualifications all over the country, they are part of the force; they have no local connection. In the old days chief constables were appointed who had local connections. That made a difference to the attitude of the police. I admire the police. I like our local chaps and I think that they do a good job. However, I do not think that the organisation is right. We need more of them and we need them to be allocated to districts where they know the people.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, like other speakers, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for introducing the debate this afternoon. I am perhaps a little less grateful for his description of the Church of England. Is it anachronistic? Perhaps the robes that we are made to wear in the Chamber convey that impression. I was grateful for the use of the word "perceived", as the media report the Church of England according to perceptions.
I defend the right of women to be part of the whole life of the Church of God. I rejoice in the fact that for the past six years women have been ordained in the Church of England. The issue of homosexuals and their rights and place in our society is one with which most of the western world struggles at the present time. As a Church we are in the middle of a process of education and discernment. We cannot at the moment give a simple answer to this particular problem. If we are not given good media coverage, perhaps we have to be tolerant and wait to see what will happen in the future.
It is clear from the speeches we have already heard this afternoon that there are no simple answers to the problems that the noble Lord mentioned. Time and time again the important question has been posed: why are these crimes committed? It has been the accepted wisdom, not least on these Benches, that there is a connection between the committing of crime and deprivation. It has been the accepted wisdom that poverty and unemployment, and lives which contained little to hope for, gave people the motivation to steal and burgle as they wanted what others already had, and that as people became better off they were less likely to steal. As a former parish priest on a council
However, recent sociological research published in the Home Office paper, Trends in Crime Revisited 1999, suggests that we got it wrong and that property crime in particular is affected by opportunities to steal goods. Looser social controls on young men from the ages of 15 to 20 have resulted in an increase in property crime. The correlation between prosperity and theft makes interesting reading. Between 1995 and 1999, every 1 per cent increase in consumer expenditure led to a 2 per cent increase in theft and burglary. Likewise, a 1 per cent increase in the population of young men between 15 and 20 leads to a 1 per cent increase in theft and burglary. There was a decrease in property crime in the late 80s and early 90s which was, in part, due to the decline in the number of young men between 15 and 20. I am told that that is no longer the case and that there is now an increase in that kind of crime.
The challenge for law and order is to socialise our young people and, in particular, young men, given that much crime begins when they no longer feel bound by the norms of our society. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was absolutely right to pinpoint issues relating to morals, to norms of society, and to the way in which legislation and the courts deal with these matters. Why has there been such a dramatic increase in crime between the mid-1950s and the present? Perhaps noble Lords need to go back to the 1960s and the Wolfenden report. That report engendered an interesting debate about law, order, morality and religion. Lord Devlin in his Maccabean lectures, The Enforcement of Morals, responded to by Professor Hare and subsequently by Basil Mitchell, argued the case as to what happens when you separate religion, morality and legislation. Let there be no mistake: in the middle to late 1960s the connection between legislation and religious understanding was certainly broken.
We are reaping the whirlwind of what at that time seemed right and proper; namely, that people should have rights and should exercise them as individuals. However, I regret to say that we forgot to talk about obligations and how we learn to live together in society. Therefore, there is no simple answer. The issues we are discussing today concern what is right and how, together, we perceive that, and how, together, we ensure that it comes into being. That is the responsibility of us all.
But perhaps we do not have to be quite so pessimistic. As a previous speaker said, initiatives are being undertaken which are aimed in part at socialising our young people. I refer to the work of the Social Exclusion Unit and to the New Deal. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, has already mentioned youth offending teams. Each of these measures in their own way helps to tackle the reasons that crimes are committed. I say optimistically that I believe they will achieve some success. We as a society need to know that those initiatives are being undertaken. That
I was about to talk of defending the Churches, but that is being defensive. Rather I share with noble Lords some of the initiatives that are being undertaken at the present time. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, that at Question Time on Monday I was not quite as clear as I should have been with regard to community chaplains and the Prison Service. Prison chaplains in Canada, and especially those working in the community, have been successful in cutting reoffending rates significantly. If we are to tackle law and order, that is something that we need to address.
In Gloucester, Cardiff and Bristol, plans are already in place--and are beginning to be implemented--to develop the concept of community chaplains. The aim is to bring together the combined efforts of prison chaplains and world faith visiting ministers together with Christian churches and other faith worship groups outside prison, voluntary organisations, the police and probation services. The aims are simple, although they will be difficult to achieve. They comprise, first, the provision of an effective ministry to ex-offenders. Prison chaplains know prisoners well. They have privileges in terms of getting to know well people the rest of us hardly dream of. The intention is that that expertise, combined with community experience, will enable us to provide an effective ministry to ex-offenders.
The second aim is to deal with the reintegration of offenders into society. We must be honest and acknowledge that, as a society, we are unforgiving. Someone makes a mistake, pays the price and carries that for the rest of his or her life. In the Solomon Islands in the middle of the Pacific, the law is quite clear; namely, someone who commits an offence goes to prison or pays a fine. But when a person has finished his or her prison sentence, they are welcomed back into the community with a feast. The feast does not celebrate the fact that the offence has been committed, but that the person concerned has paid his or her debt and is now part of the community once more. Reoffending rates there are minimal.
We, as a society, need to deal with the issues of reintegration of offenders into our society. Community chaplains aim to do that. It is about the creation of partnerships. We have heard already that this is vital where resources are limited--and that certainly will be the case. Lastly, it is an opportunity for the creative face of the prison to offer the local community an expectation that can build safer homes and streets. Both information about what is happening and co-operation in the activities that are here described are needed; that is, wide ecumenical co-operation.
On a smaller and more mundane level, we all know that there is a correlation between drugs and crime. The Bristol Churches' Council for Industry and Social Responsibility, an ecumenical body, has now created a drugs officer post. It is launching an initiative on
The issue of law and order is about what we believe as individuals; how we are willing to work together to ensure that moral authority, the norms of society and legislation go together--and are consistently together; that we are willing to try to diminish the number of crimes committed, to help people back into society and to help them not to commit crimes in the first place. That requires information and wide co-operation among many people in our society.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, in his quiet, knowledgeable way, the right reverend Prelate made a very thoughtful speech, which contrasts clearly with at least one of the other speeches we have heard. I was greatly helped by the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. He summed up from his end of the microscope how he sees what noble Lords must do in this area. It was very helpful to hear him.
Most of the debate has centred around policies which are the responsibility of the Home Office. I want to say a word about what is happening in this country at the moment as a result of one area of our education and employment policies, and what the department should be looking at in particular if the growth in youth crime is, at any rate in part, to be stemmed.
We have to bear in mind all the time that, according to the Home Office statistics for 1998, 41 per cent of all offenders cautioned or sentenced for indictable offences were under 21 years old. Most significantly, those males most likely to commit crime were in the 18 to 20 year-old group, followed by those aged 15 to 17 and, thirdly, those between 12 and 14. Somewhat strangely, the females most likely to offend were those between 15 and 17, followed by those aged 18 to 20 and, thirdly, those between 12 and 14. We see young first offenders turning into second offenders, and then into repeat offenders--all this while still at school or within a short period of leaving school, and most while still living at home.
We recognise--it has been discussed in the debate--that the root causes are extremely complex and that the solutions not easy to find. Punishments that are a strong disincentive are undoubtedly important. When the noble Lord, Lord Warner, was able to get off his political soapbox and tell us about his professional
But what about education? It has long been known that a child's character and ability to cope with what comes in life is largely formed by the time he or she is five years old. How babies and toddlers and under-fives are handled by and relate to their parents makes a huge difference subsequently to how they get on at school and outside school. Every teacher knows this; every social worker knows this; and most parents know it. I believe that in their hearts most parents want very much to be able to find a solution, but the pressures and changes in modern ways of living seem to make it more and more difficult to see how one can succeed as a parent.
For increasingly puzzled parents, current government policies are in some ways very helpful. Getting mothers and, indeed, fathers, off benefit and into work is not only good for the economy--and the economy matters to everyone--but it means a more satisfying life for parents and probably a better income. The children benefit from all those things. Widespread nursery schooling for three year-olds as well as for four year-olds makes possible the advantages of part-time work for parents. If the nursery school is a good one, that can be helpful for the children.
But there is a downside, which is very much related to the debate. Children are being cared for less and less by their parents and more and more by others. At the same time, the opportunities to learn how to handle children for those parents who most need to--and who, in their hearts of hearts, probably most desire to--are being diminished.
It is still a great help to most parents to discuss issues with other parents and to watch and to learn from trained people how they can deal better with misbehaviour and encourage self-control in their children; to learn how they can encourage in their children consideration, generosity, the habit of doing things properly and the basics that bring life's chances to a child. The opportunity to develop such skills is being crowded out and must somehow be brought back.
I hope my noble friend Lord Tebbit will not think what I say next is a "pink" remark--I believe that he may--but I should like to give a true example, based on experience. Some years ago I was chairman of the Scottish Community Education Council, and I declare an interest as an honorary fellow of that body. I gained experience then of the pre-school playgroup movement. The success of voluntary playgroups, not just in working with small children but in working with adults, with parents of small children, was notable. Those parents were trained to work with other mothers and sometimes fathers. Nursery schools involve parents, but not at all in the same way.
The figures given by the Pre-School Alliance for England and Wales show that the numbers of parents involved in those groups have been decimated. In 1997, 700 pre-schools closed in England and Wales; in 1998, 800; and in 1999, 400. That figure would have been more but for a special grant from the Department for Education and Employment that saved 1,200 nurseries. This year, no less than 3,500 of the remaining 17,000 pre-schools have stated that they are under threat.
Parents find it difficult to get to schools because of their involvement in work, and primary and secondary schools, particularly in areas with a higher percentage of lone parents, have increasing difficulty in persuading the parents to find time to come to the school to discuss their children's progress. It may be that the time of day that parents are invited to attend is awkward, and I do not know whether discussions are related purely to academic progress or whether they include general handling of children and their behaviour. However, I suspect that something could be done about that.
Surely, a critical part of the Government's strategy on youth crime should be encouraging parents to involve themselves more, not less, in the upbringing of their children and in developing their skills as parents. Surely, the playgroups should be brought back to life. Perhaps nursery school teachers should be given an added remit to help parents. Primary and secondary schools and further education establishments should work out new ways of accommodating parents' needs within their premises. Directions from the centre will not work.
It is good that more and more parents can enjoy life, but working parents are still parents, and it is parents above all who can enable their children to do well in life and keep out of trouble. I hope that the Department for Education and Employment, as well as the Home Office, are thinking about what they should be doing in this area.
For example, road accidents are counted only if someone has been killed or injured sufficiently badly to require hospital treatment. I know of several communities that cluster around rural crossroads, where "shunts" are a regular occurrence, and where residents will not walk for fear of vehicles mounting the pavement to avoid the traffic queuing to turn right.
A local householder returns from a shopping trip to find two youths in his garage, which contains some old cans of paint, two rusty bikes and three ancient electrical appliances. The youths run off with a metal toolbox containing a couple of damaged screwdrivers, a blunt chisel and an assortment of nails and hooks. The householder telephones the police, who turn up seeking descriptions of the offenders, and they record the incident. They have probably told the beat officers to look out for a couple of youngsters behaving suspiciously, and they may catch up with them a couple of miles away.
Another householder returns from market to find a couple of men in the barn across the farmyard from his house. He sets the dogs loose and the intruders run away across the field. An attempt has been made to remove the locking device from the new baler. It is perhaps four-thirty in the afternoon, and the farm is eight miles from the nearest police station, which only functions from nine to five. Even if the farmer were to ring the police, they would be most unlikely to have the time to travel out immediately, so he does not bother. The damaged lock costs £95 to replace, and he has an excess on his insurance of £100. The attempted theft is not recorded, but I hope that noble Lords will agree that of the two, it is probably the worst.
It is not only distance and isolation that affect crime statistics; there is a difference in criminal activity between crowded urban areas and scattered rural communities, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. How many of our roads in towns and cities are blocked overnight by a lorry load of fly-tipped concrete spoil or fifty or sixty foot Leylandii tops?
When this happens in a village, someone tells the clerk, who rings up the borough, which eventually sends a lorry. In the meantime, the villagers find another way of getting to work. It is an offence punishable by a fairly steep fine, but I doubt if many of the heaps of rubbish that we see every day abandoned across our gateways, in our lay-bys and on our verges, are recorded in crime statistics. Yet there is a strong feeling that one does not want to meet the kind of people who commit such obscenities, especially in a gateway at the dead of night. There is no doubt in my mind that the locals are intimidated by this simple kind of intrusion.
The Countryside Agency's report, The State of the Countryside 2000, makes a similar point. It states that some types of crime have increased at a greater rate in rural areas than elsewhere. For example, a higher proportion of burglaries result in entry to property and theft than in towns and cities. From 1991 to 1995,
These figures bother me because they are averages. There are parts of the countryside where vehicle theft has possibly increased less than in inner cities, but, equally, in some areas the increase is much greater than 24 per cent. In Leicestershire, police figures reveal that while rural areas cover some 84 per cent of the county recorded crime is only 14 per cent.
Noble Lords might ask why I am making a fuss about that. The problem is that, animal welfare legislation apart, crime tends to be defined as actions that damage or harm or outrage people, and it seems to have escaped everyone's notice that towns and cities contain more people than the countryside. The population density of Leicester is 4,087 people per hectare, while the density of the rest of the county is only 288 people per hectare. If the rural area covers 84 per cent of the county, at a density of one-fourteenth of the city, I would expect rural crime to be running at 27 per cent of the total. If, however, some rural crimes are not reported and some others are not recorded, I would expect the figure to be lower than 20 per cent.
As the county is Leicestershire, I would expect rural crime to be roughly as it is because the police have adopted a very positive attitude to their jobs in small towns and villages. They have 173 beats with one specialist officer per beat. The specialist gets to how his or her assignment and is backed up by strong management, regular high quality information and modern technology. Other parts of the countryside are not so well covered.
Other parts of the country are also more isolated than Leicestershire and the time it takes for police to respond to an urgent call for help takes correspondingly longer. I was in Lancashire last weekend and picked up the local newspaper to find a headline from a police inspector calling for,
Last Saturday's Daily Telegraph carried a report on how farmers in Teesdale, County Durham, are turning to high-tech gadgets and security firms to beat the criminals. The NFU Mutual Insurance Company estimates that in 1998 theft cost the rural community £93 million, of which £73 million was for vehicle theft--more than 30,000 four-wheel drives and tractors. There was £14 million of farm machinery and equipment, and more than 100,000 livestock were taken.
The Daily Telegraph report pointed out that over the past 50 years two out of three farms have disappeared and the agricultural workforce has fallen to one-tenth of its pre-war level. There is simply no longer a countryside populated by people who know one another and live and work in a small area. As other noble Lords have said, people do not know each other as they used to. They go out to work all day. They shop, play and socialise in the market towns and cities and may not know their neighbours as people used to in the past. To make matters worse, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, told us on Monday, three-quarters of married women work nowadays so they are not at home during the day either. My noble friend Lady Young spoke clearly and accurately about the importance of the role of the family. I should like to associate myself with her comments. The family is the fundamental building stone on which we start.
Last year the Wear and Tees Farmwatch was voted Britain's best scheme. Every member is equipped with a radio bought by a grant from the NFU Mutual, which paid up after the scheme proved it was saving on claims. The members patrol in two-crew teams for four or five hours at a time after dark, and some nights will have as many as 40 vehicles out. They work closely with the police who give them some of the registration numbers of suspect vehicles and sometimes share patrols. Grown men do not behave like that for no reason. It is fear and anger which cause them to take such action.
This debate is about the problem of maintaining law and order. Rural dwellers can be asked by the police to get involved in crime prevention and can be assisted in carrying out patrols on a regular basis. In the cities that would be regarded as a vigilante movement, but in the rural areas it has become the norm.
Another of the major problems of our society is that lawlessness, intimidation, aggression and selfishness are treated not as the way in which the minority of adults choose to behave but as the outcome of social factors. Some families are dysfunctional. Children are set a bad example. But our education system should surely restore the balance. Lessons in personal and social education, concentration on spiritual development and the broadening of the curriculum to include not only Christianity but the basic beliefs of all the world's major religions mean that children should not leave school unaware of the choices available to them.
I sincerely thank my noble friend Lord Tebbit for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject. There can be no doubt about the strength of feeling in the Chamber. I suspect that all noble Lords would agree that the answer starts in the home.
Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Brennan and Lord Greaves, on their speeches on law and order. I feel sure that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who initiated the debate, will allow me to present to your Lordships' House what I know about the connection between race and law and order.
I shall try to speak about a troubling aspect of our system of justice that is too often ignored. I refer to the disproportionate numbers of black people in prison. It has taken less than a decade to turn the descendants of a hard working group of migrants in the 1950s and 1960s into fodder for the police, the courts and the prisons. The rush to imprison and criminalise innocent black people while allowing the real criminals to get away is a policy which hinders rather than advances the state of law and order in this country.
I am old enough--perhaps even wise enough--to understand that there are people who break the law from every racial grouping and that they should be stopped. But the number of black people in our prisons is out of all proportion to their numbers in the general population. In 1998, black people made up 11.8 per cent of the prison population compared with under 2 per cent of the general population. In other words, for every 100,000 persons in the general population there were 185 white persons in prison, 160 south Asians and 1,245 black people. Black women are particularly over-represented in prison--18 per cent of female prisoners are black.
If we agree that the most important aim is to increase the rule of law and order and decrease offending, we must examine what is causing the disproportionate representation of minorities in prison. We know that ethnic minorities are hugely over-represented among those with low incomes. Our poorest neighbourhoods continue to be run-down and shut off from the labour market. Three out of 10 households with a black or Indian head were in the poorest fifth of the income distribution in 1997. We know that minority children make up one-fifth of looked after children but only one-tenth of the under-18 population as a whole. There is a disturbing trend for local authorities to discharge young people from care early. The proportion leaving care at the age of 16 increased from 33 per cent in 1993 to 46 per cent in 1998. Nearly half of the young homeless people in London are black African, black Caribbean or come from other ethnic minority groups.
Around half of all young offenders have been in care or have had contact with the social services. In the 1950s and 1960s, black parents were accused of being too Victorian in the way they tried to bring up their children. It is not surprising that children who find themselves in care, then released alone into the world at the age of 16 with no permanent safe housing and no parental guidance, are the same children who go to prison. Although no more likely to be persistent truants, Afro-Caribbean pupils are five times more likely to be excluded from school than white pupils.
When we speak of law and order, perhaps I may remind the House that minorities are more likely to be the victims of crime in British society. Crime tends to be concentrated in poor areas. A recent Home Office report on social exclusion suggested that in England 40 per cent of all crime occurs in only 10 per cent of all areas. In 1995, blacks were more likely to be the victims of burglary, assault, vehicle theft and robbery than whites.
Racial discrepancies in the criminal justice system contribute to the high percentage of minorities in prison. According to the Home Office's Section 95 report, black people received longer sentences than whites or Asians. For young prisoners, 89 per cent of black offenders were sentenced to over 12 months, whereas the figure for white offenders was only 75 per cent. The pattern of longer sentencing continues for adult offenders. Sixty-three per cent of black prisoners were sentenced to four years or over as compared with only 47 per cent of white prisoners.
Black people are four or five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. In nearly all police forces there was a lower use of cautioning for suspected black offenders than for both white and Asian offenders. The social mechanisms which cause minorities to be over-represented in prison are varied and complex. It would be foolish to believe that a response that puts too much emphasis on filling up our prisons will improve the state of law and order.
Many black people know at first hand the problems of maintaining law and order. It is a firm belief within the black community, and supported by statistics, that if you are black you are more likely to be a victim of crime. However, the police continue to stop and search on the basis of racist stereotypes and outdated assumptions, while the real criminals are going scot-free.
The Home Secretary has set in motion a series of initiatives to restore trust in police forces. One move is to make the forces more accountable for their actions. That is why the Race Relations (Amendment) Bill has been introduced. It will extend the Race Relations Act to operational policing. Furthermore, it will afford rights to ordinary citizens who experience racism and discrimination not only by the community but also by the police. This will mean that all of us--including the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit--will have a right not to be discriminated against by the police. Chief Constables, or in London, the Metropolitan Commissioner, will also be held liable for discriminatory acts committed by individual officers in their forces.
Despite the rhetoric of the previous Metropolitan Commissioner, the reality of policing for ethnic minorities has not changed since the death of Stephen Lawrence or the Macpherson report. Lessons have not yet been learned by ordinary police officers on the street. Perhaps I may take a little time to give noble Lords one example. A number of so-called "rotten apples" in the police force, aided and abetted by an unwitting, institutionally racist system, joined forces to violate the rights of a member of the black community. Before I set out the details, I should like to stress that these events occurred after the publication of the Macpherson report.
Mr Tomlinson was an estate agent. In May 1999 he was awarded six-figure damages against the Metropolitan Police after being hauled from his car and beaten up. Since then he has suffered another two incidents at the hands of Metropolitan Police officers. In the original incident, Mr Tomlinson was sitting in his sports car in a quiet residential street in Brixton,
His injuries resulted in two operations and, because of his impaired sight, he was unable to return to work. He developed a fear of police officers, whom he believed picked on him because he was black.
On 16th June 1999, Mr Tomlinson was stopped in Chiswick High Street and handcuffed. He was detained in Chiswick police station for several hours and then released without charge, without an apology and without even an explanation such as, "We made a mistake". On 29th June, Mr Tomlinson sustained a fracture of the right arm and an injury to his already damaged left eye. It began when he parked his Rover Montego car in a multi-storey car park in Brixton. He was with his mother, a reverend at the local Pentecostal church. He was ordered from the car, brought to the ground and handcuffed. His glasses were smashed. After being taken to Brixton police station, he was again released with no charge. He went to hospital for treatment to his face and arms. His facial injuries, received at the hands of police officers, required surgery.
Can we expect people like Mr Tomlinson, his friends, family and his peers, to seek protection from the police, let alone to consider building a career in the police force, if officers in the Met continue to do things like that? I think not.
Perhaps I may say a few words in response to recent statistics from the Met which suggest that street crime has increased because police officers are scared of using stop and search methods. They fear being labelled as racists. No one, whether black or white, has asked the police to stop doing their job. Speaking as a member of the black community, I do not wish to be blamed for a rise in crime. What every black person wants, as much as any white person, is what every taxpaying member of our community wants--a police force that is fair and equitable.
As he leaves this House tonight, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will bear in mind that if he were a black male, he would be five times more likely to be stopped and searched on his way home. My words may seem to be a terrible indictment of the police, but it must be borne in mind that what I have said is supported by empirical data. We have only to ask the police how many more times they have taken black people into custody than they have been able to bring charges against them.
Whether this racism is unwitting or otherwise, I ask that this House, in its wisdom, joins with me in the belief that what we need is a police service that is fully transparent and accountable. Furthermore, we need it now. There needs to be root and branch reform of the whole policing system. We need to pull or even drag a
The Government are doing well with leadership from the top. We need a commissioner of police who is passionate about law and order and who polices with his team and makes policing a crusade and not merely a means to early retirement on a comfortable pension. We must stop accepting policing on racist assumptions and give this society fair and equitable policing. I apologise to the House for speaking for slightly longer than my allotted time.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for calling attention to a subject which arouses great passions and conflicts of view, despite an undoubted shared desire on the part of all of us to see law and order in this country maintained and improved.
As the crime rate goes up and up, so the response by politicians and sentencers is on a parallel escalator of toughness and harshness with more, and longer, prison sentences to ever fuller prisons. If such a response actually worked as a means of improving law and order, the level of crime should come down. But all the available evidence indicates that it does not. Indeed, all the evidence suggests that imprisonment, as measured by reconviction rates, not only fails to deter but can itself contribute to further law-breaking and disorder.
Of course, crime is totally unacceptable in any form-- it is frightening, destabilising and dangerous--and the maintenance of law and order is the cornerstone of a free, civil society. The use of imprisonment serves the dual function of keeping offenders off the streets for the duration and meets the requirements of the law and society of retribution. We know that imprisonment can also be constructive, and excellent practice and projects occur throughout the Prison Service--as I well know, having set up the Butler Trust 15 years ago which administers the Prison Service annual award scheme.
All that matters is that policies for improving law and order are effective. Their aim must be to reduce crime, help social inclusion, contribute to the greater long-term protection and safety of our citizens, and promote a law-abiding and ordered society where we all feel safe. That being so, I believe that we have to reverse some of our current policies--at the very least, in relation to young people, and above all children, because that is the area of greatest failure so far as custody is concerned. How we deal with them now will have a direct bearing on our society of tomorrow.
The simple facts are that we have over 11,000 young people in prison in England and Wales--a figure which has increased by two-thirds in the past five years. Most worryingly, the sharpest increases have been among the youngest offenders: the population of 15 to 17 year-old boys in custody, for example, has more than doubled since 1993 and the number of 15 to
The reconviction rate within two years of young male offenders discharged in 1995 was 77 per cent--and the younger the age group, the higher the reconviction rate: for 14 to 16 year-olds, it is 88 per cent. Imprisonment for this age group is no deterrent by this crudest of measurements and is another example of the escalator at work and its failure to promote law and order. It also gives no indication of the further social dislocation created in already dislocated lives.
We know that the toughest, nastiest hoodlums are likely to have a significant degree of mental and physical problems; to have learning difficulties of some kind and/or to have experienced social exclusion; to have experienced abuse themselves; to have poor parental relationships--if at all; and to be significantly involved in drugs or alcohol. None of those factors excuses any kind of law-breaking, but should help to explain some of it. Most importantly, addressing them and ensuring reparation for their victims would be a far more appropriate response to their offending.
I want in particular to draw your Lordships' attention to a developing aspect of imprisonment which I believe is shocking in the extreme. I refer to the detaining of 12 to 14 year-olds who are persistent offenders in what were called "secure training centres" when the first one, Medway, opened in 1998 and have now been renamed "detention training centres". Since we debated this issue in this House in March last year, not only has Medway continued in business, but two more centres have opened, each holding 40 children, and I am told that there are plans for more. I understand that Medway has modified its practices following the highly critical report of the Social Services Inspectorate, but these DTCs are run on prison lines--unlike the secure units run by local authorities, which have a therapeutic dimension and where the children's problems are addressed while they are contained.
As a member of the Children's Panel in Scotland, I know just how valuable and necessary secure accommodation is. Indeed, the report of the inspectorate found that Medway was actually strengthening the children's criminal behaviour, where poorly trained staff used excessive force against them. Since Rainsbrook STC opened in July 1999 and Hassockfield in September 1999, there have been 33 and 29 staff resignations respectively, five staff terminations from each, and what are called "performance penalty points" awarded against both, carrying financial penalties amounting to tens of thousands of pounds.
It is as though the Government have chosen to forget that these are children they are dealing with; that they have chosen the tough, punitive route and elected to bypass the existing provision of local authority secure accommodation with its much more therapeutic approach, which I believe should, instead, have been greatly expanded. Furthermore, they have chosen an approach which costs upwards of £2,000 per week for each child. Although it is too early to assess reconviction rates, a Home Office paper published as early as 1992, Juveniles Sentenced for Serious Crimes, in which children in local secure units were compared with children in prison, concluded that the experience was better in every way, including significantly lower reconviction rates. In Northern Ireland, the Lisnevin Training Centre, which is a type of STC institution, had a reconviction rate of 100 per cent in 1995. Using the escalator model, that may not be too far off the DTC results in England today. That is a national disgrace and an unacceptable way to deal with the problem. My plea is that, in the name of justice, decency and humanity, the Government go home and think again about how they deal with the youngest offenders. Although they are offenders, they are still children whose detention in STCs should make us all feel thoroughly ashamed.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I listened with great interest to earlier speeches. I thank my noble friend Lord Tebbit for introducing this debate with his usual vigour and common sense. I wish to raise an issue that concerns me very much: the long-term future of the magistracy. I have just completed over 30 years as a magistrate, and it has been a huge privilege. Looking back and assessing the changes that have occurred over that period, I recall that when appointed I joined a Bench of 26, a size that was quite usual in those days. What was unusual, however, was our most enlightened and brilliant clerk who was respected throughout the profession and the community. At my first training session he told me that he wanted his magistrates to have wide experience of life and an understanding of people and to possess integrity, compassion, common sense and the ability to make decisions. I thought then, and I still think, that they were qualities that I should like to have and live up to. He also told me that I was not there to know and interpret the law; it was his job to advise the Bench on legal issues.
At that time two courts sat twice a week and rarely failed to finish by lunchtime. I wore a hat in court, which I found rather difficult. I had worn a hat only at weddings. I believed that a hat was quite inappropriate. One day I plucked up courage and asked the chairman whether it would be possible to sit
Today, we have a Bench of 150 with six courts sitting all day five days a week and wide representation from across the community. The make-up of the Bench includes more women and members of ethnic minorities. The basic training that I received has developed tremendously, with everyone working to try to ensure that we achieve national standards of competence.
Another area in which startling progress has been made is consistency of sentencing. It is so important to avoid odd, one-off decisions. Here I pay tribute to the Magistrates' Association. The critical work that it has done in producing national sentencing guidelines has been of great assistance to Benches. Those guidelines are widely used. I was most grateful to have a starting point for discussion with colleagues in the retiring room. However, as a note of caution, I hope we do not reach a point where there is more and more paperwork, with everyone being appraised to such an extent that extra magistrates have to be appointed to fulfil the requirements and to man the courts. I am all in favour of training so that magistrates have the confidence to play a full part with the clerk in the running of the court.
There has been enormous change in a service which is a most important part of the judiciary. I was, therefore, more than happy to agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when he said to me that he thought being a magistrate must be a very rewarding form of public service. One of the nicest things that happened to me while on the Bench was when, as a known political animal, I was elected chairman. On my Bench, politics were always left at home, quite rightly. I hope it is obvious that I am a devoted fan of the magistracy, and as a consequence I am concerned that it should continue to play a major role in future.
I understand the irritation of the Lord Chancellor when he read a newspaper article condemning him for his intention to "sweep away magistrates' courts". I am confident that no such idea is in his mind. He has said so and I believe him. But I have a nasty suspicion that some civil servants may be beavering away in the background so that, with a change of administration, or even (dare I say) Lord Chancellor, they will be ready to put forward a plan to an incoming holder of that high office. That is a personal view, but the cynic in me says that there may be those who want to see an end to the lay magistracy and the introduction of a wholly professional judiciary which would be under the control of the Civil Service. One could point to instances leading to that belief. My purpose today is to raise that as a possibility and to declare my wholehearted opposition to it.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, I am delighted to bring some balance to the debate by following a bevy of noble Baronesses. If that is a sexist remark, I plead guilty. Several speakers have already said, rightly, that the second most important task of any government is to maintain law and order. Law and order is the basis of any civilised society, and without it presumably one has anarchy. Throughout the history of this country there have been examples of anarchy when law and order has broken down.
I should like to touch on three components of law and order. Obviously, the front line is represented by the police. The Crown Prosecution Service is, quite rightly, independent of the police. We also have the court system and the sentences that they impose. In the United Kingdom we are proud to police by consent. A number of noble Lords have already referred to the value of the police service. As a former police officer, I thank those noble Lords who have paid tribute to the service. Policing is a difficult job. After 35 years in the police service I am aware of the difficulties faced by police officers. I have experienced both ups and downs.
I regret that the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, is not in her place. I was disappointed by her description of one terrible case. She dealt with the matter with great passion, and I have no reason to disbelieve the facts. However, I took exception to her generalisation. She blamed the whole of the police service on the strength of one particular set of circumstances. I do not believe that that adds to the debate, in the sense that we seek remedies. If one of the remedies is to recruit more officers from ethnic minorities, it behoves all of us to encourage and not discourage that process, which the noble Baroness tended to do.
Morale in the police service is important. I had meant originally to thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for this timely debate. It takes place in the House at the same time as the Police Federation conference in Brighton, where issues such as these are being discussed. It is an important subject which has
Morale is important. I have been a police officer long enough to have been through crises before. I joined on the back of a Royal Commission in 1960 when there was a crisis in policing. The police service was given a boost in salary and we had quite a number of new recruits. Many of them are now coming up to the time when they retire, which is why there is a difficulty.
I remember that in 1978 the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, was Home Secretary and there was a similar crisis. People could not afford to come into the police service. They were on assistance and had difficulty in making ends meet. What the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, did was positive. He set up the Edmund-Davies Inquiry in 1979. Its report was implemented by the then new government of Mrs Thatcher, and the Edmund-Davies report was very enlightened. It set the salaries of police officers at the correct level, as it was then perceived. It also index-linked them to the average index of earnings. That seemed to me to be sensible because it took the police out of the industrial scene at the time of trouble and strife. As noble Lords know, police officers are not allowed by statute to strike. That is quite right because it is an important service. That crisis was put right by the injection of cash into the service.
We then went through halcyon days in policing, in my experience, where recruiting was good, quality was good and the police service has good quality people. We have heard criticism by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, of senior managers and I share some of his concerns, particularly about the "management speak" that we hear. I used to be a DI, a detective inspector. Now we call them crime managers, for what reason I know not. We read about the local crime manager and I despair. What is wrong with being a DI? I was proud to be a DI and spent most of my service in the CID, so I have done my share of talking to and dealing with the victims of criminals, sympathising with them and their families. Policemen have hearts. They care about the causes of crime, but they also care about the victims of crime. Because the police are generally first on the scene, they have to pick up the pieces. The police deal with the social consequences of crime in the communities. So policemen and policewomen see the results of crime. I suspect that no one would wish more to find a solution to crime than police officers throughout the land.
Morale is important and we need to consider why it is low. One reason is economics. It is difficult in a place like London to join the police service on £16,000 a year and expect to be able to house your family. I was talking to a soldier in one of the many bars in this House. He was thinking of leaving the armed services. He wanted to join the Metropolitan Police, but he had examined the prospect and could not afford to house his family. It is as simple as that. An exceptional recruit was lost to the police service because the allowances and salary are not sufficient.
What has gone wrong since Edmund-Davies? I shall tell your Lordships. We had a new Home Secretary, the right honourable Kenneth Clarke, who became Home Secretary in the mid-1990s. He set up the Sheehy inquiry which examined the responsibilities and remuneration of the police service. It was felt that the police were perhaps being too well rewarded. He had done a similar exercise in the education and health services. I am not speaking out of turn, I went to see Lord Whitelaw--God bless him!--about police problems. Sitting on the settee in his house in Cumbria, he told me that Kenneth Clarke had achieved the same objective in the health and education services. Whether he was being disloyal, I do not know, but he used to speak the truth, and I welcome anyone speaking the truth. It is good to hear it.
Sir Kenneth Clarke set up the Sheehy inquiry, which was opposed strongly by all the staff associations. Much of it was not implemented; it was flawed. He tried to look at the police force as a business, but it is not a business. You cannot measure performance in the way you can the production of widgets, motor cars or anything else. It is a great problem. We tend to measure activities that are easy to measure and judge performance by them instead of measuring activities that are more difficult. For example, we measure the speed or response time of a police officer at the scene of a crime if someone makes a 999 call. That is easy to measure. But we do not seem to measure the quality of the service once the police officer gets there. If a police officer arrives at the scene of a crime and spends quality time with the elderly widow who has been robbed or burgled, that is what good policing is about. It is spending time with victims. There is a great danger that we are making police officers respond to performance indicators. We must be careful before we push out more and more indicators if that does not produce the results we want. In sense, it is a 24-hour social service and we must bear that in mind. We need quality at the point of delivery as well as efficiency in terms of speed and so on.
Kenneth Clarke's Sheehy inquiry suggested that changes were needed. The last government took away the housing allowance and that was disastrous. In 1994 they took it away for new recruits and at a stroke they created a two-tier police service. There were officers with relatively similar service going out to do a job--and this still happens--but being paid with a difference in salary or income of £5,000 or £6,000 in a place like London. That is difficult to justify: it causes divisions within the service and lowers morale. We need to address that as a matter of urgency. It cannot be right that people do the same job but receive such a different salary.
I am conscious of the time. I have only said a quarter of what I intended. I finish by pointing out that we are at risk of destroying the instincts of the good policeman. A good policeman senses when someone needs to be stopped. I cannot explain it, but I have seen good examples of it. When I was a young PC there was a police officer, PC Brown, at Hebburn on Tyneside. We had many police officers. I remember him standing
The difficulty is that if we introduce technology we tend to forget about our instincts. The policeman in a patrol car might be driving down the road and in the past he would sense that there was something wrong with a car. It might have a lower boot level than other cars and therefore had something in it that it should not. The policeman would stop it. Now, the police officer checks the car on the PNC, the police national computer, which comes back and tells him that it belongs to Joe Bloggs and is not stolen. I hope that the good PC does not accept what the PNC says and will still stop the car to check it; it might have been stolen but not yet reported as stolen. It might not be on the computer for whatever reason. We should not rely too much on technology but on the good judgment of good policemen.
Throughout the country, many good policemen are doing a very difficult job. The message from this House should be one of support for, and not denigration of, the police. Denigration will not help. Clearly it is right to denigrate police officers who fall below standard. We shall root out the racist police officers. But let us not tar them all with the same brush.
Our aim is to have an adequately staffed force which is properly equipped and has high morale. Crime prevention needs to be given a higher profile. As several speakers have said, we need to have a more effective regime for dealing with first-time offenders, in particular young people.
I do not wish to enter any competition to build up recruitment targets. The simple fact is that we are not recruiting and retaining sufficient new policemen and women. Seven years ago in Thames Valley we had 3,763 officers. We now have 3,746. We have stayed almost still in seven years. The new recruits are four years younger than the average age seven years ago. The average age of 26 has gone down to 22. We are getting less experienced, less mature people. The soldier who was referred to is not coming forward to join the police force. Fifty-three per cent of the people come from outside our force area, so we are having to draw people in. For the most part, they are not local people. It is inevitable that once those people have been trained they will transfer away, so we have this "churning" going on.
So what have we to do? First, one of the great problems is the perception of the police. The service is currently denigrated both as an institution and as a career. I was quite horrified by what the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, said. I am sure it will disturb many of us. I hope that Ministers will have taken careful note of that criticism and that something will be done about it. Having said that, I do not believe that it is general in the police force. No doubt there are dishonest, racist and lazy people in the police force as there are in all occupations, including some of those people who set themselves up in judgment over us--journalists perhaps and lawyers.
Ministers and other politicians must stress continually the value of having a first-class police force. Neither the police, nor for that matter nurses, school teachers or those caring for the elderly or the mentally ill, should be made scapegoats upon which shortcomings should be heaped by a society which often is too mean adequately to resource the services which it demands. A decent society requires subscriptions from the members of that society.
Remuneration is a serious problem throughout the south of England, the south-west, East Anglia and the London area, although not in other places. My noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond--she regrets that she is unable to be present today--tells me that North Yorkshire has a list of people wishing to join the police force. However, there is a serious problem wherever housing costs are high. It is no good simply addressing this problem in the metropolitan area. The proposed lead of £6,000 which has been offered to metropolitan officers would simply transfer the crisis to neighbouring police forces because people who work for Thames Valley in Slough or Windsor would transfer a few miles over the boundary to receive £6,000 more. That will not help.
There is a real problem of public sector workers and housing costs. In many areas I do not know how people who are coming to teach children or to work in hospitals will be able to marry, buy a house and bring up a family. They simply cannot afford housing.
The rank structure in the police force also disturbs me. It is extraordinarily flat. A large number of policemen retire as constables. That is not a bad thing. One wants that experience. But there comes a point where one's earnings do not increase. The prospects of promotion in much of the police force are not good. It takes until one is perhaps in the late 30s or early 40s to reach superintendent level. That is not characteristic of many professions. The police force is rather short of promotion possibilities.
Police authorities face serious financial problems. The rise in the total standard spending for policing in England last year was 2.9 per cent. That compares with 8.6 per cent for education and 5.6 per cent for social services. Police salaries are geared to average earnings not inflation rates, so police salaries are going up faster. Pension costs absorb 14 per cent of the police budget. That will rise soon to 20 per cent. That burden has to be lifted off police authorities. More and more money is going to pay the pensions of people who have retired; it is not delivering a police service.
We shall have a new public service radio communications project. We have to have a new system because the Government have sold off the existing police radio wavelengths--at some profit to government--but the police authorities have very little money for a new system on new wavelengths. We shall apparently receive the money for the system but it requires many peripherals. It is an intelligent system. A policeman can take a hand-held piece of equipment with which he can interrogate databases. He can take pictures of the scene of crime and transmit them back. But there is no money to buy any of those peripherals. It is no good sending out policemen who are ill-equipped.
We need to have decent call centres that people can ring up and receive satisfaction. That requires the Home Office and government to address the issue of having two call numbers: 999 if the burglar is at the door; and 555 if one wants advice. First, divide; and then do not measure how quickly one gets the person off the line to attend to the next call, although that is important if there is crime in action. But how satisfied are the callers with the response? Contrary to what was said, Thames Valley Police do measure the satisfaction of people by visits of policemen after burglaries, road accidents and 999 calls. We know well how satisfied--should I say dissatisfied?--the public are. But we do know; it is wrong to say that we do not have any follow-up.
I believe that the police need more help from the Home Office than they receive in the use of technology to deal with many road traffic offences. Chief constables have robbed the traffic department of staff because they are under such pressure elsewhere. Technology exists to deal with many offences; for example, with regard to policing bus lanes. However, at the moment the Home Office says, "We'll have an experiment in London until the year 2003 and then we'll consider extending it somewhere else". One cannot work on those timescales. If it works, it can be extended. We do not need to wait for years and to test something almost to destruction.
I commend the work that we are carrying out on restorative justice. That involves a plan whereby, instead of receiving a police caution, first offenders are brought in and challenged very firmly about their behaviour. Usually, they are made not simply to apologise but to do something practical. I give as an example the case of someone who burnt down a hayrick and was then made to work on the farm for a long time. It did not pay for the hay, but it put into his head the notion that that kind of behaviour is
I do not believe that we need a Royal Commission. We need to pay the police properly. We know what the matter is and we need more money to put it right. However, in conclusion--I raised this matter approximately three weeks ago in a debate on an Ustarred Question--I believe that we must consider putting in place an auxiliary police force of some kind in order to get more people on the beat as quickly as possible. We need retained men--specials on a different contract of service--who attend regular training every Wednesday night or whatever. They must be made more professional and be available to deal with the hot spots in towns at weekends. That is the way in which to achieve an active, uniformed policeman in almost every village. In Oxfordshire we have 300 retained firemen; 300 retained policemen would make a huge difference to the police presence and to the satisfaction of the public. There is much to do, and I look forward to the Minister's response.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for allowing us the opportunity to debate these grave matters this afternoon. I apologise to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, for having been unavoidably detained and having arrived after their speeches. I have visited the office of Hansard and have since read their speeches in print.
I put down my name to speak today because of my experience of working with young people on the edge of, or outside, society. I do not believe that noble Lords have mentioned attrition this afternoon. I am not very au fait with penal matters, but I understand that it is an important concept and an important factor. I believe that the drive of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was that people should be held accountable for their actions; that, when they harm others, criminals need to know that they have done so, and take the consequences. The public need to know that, when they are harmed, the perpetrator receives his just deserts.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, gave a very clear and helpful analysis of the present state of our society. I very much share her concerns about what is going on. I hope that I do not sound pessimistic; I believe that I am realistic. I shall return to this at a later point.
I am sure that she has read it, but I shall again draw the noble Baroness's attention to the Government's document, Supporting Families. The original document was quite good at suggesting ways of reinforcing marriage; for example, by introducing a delay of months between the time that people say that they wish to be married and the fact of their being married. The Home Secretary was most positive. He said that we live in a modern society and have various ways of relating to one another, but that marriage is
Perhaps I stray from the main point, but I believe that, if we expect criminals to take responsibility for their actions, a fundamental issue is how we treat our children. I am not calling us criminals but I believe that we must take responsibility for the way in which we treat our children in terms of their behaviour towards us when they come of age.
I am aware that many people feel alarmed about proselytising about marriage, and understandably so. In some schools 50 per cent of the children come from single-parent families. It would not do at all to say to those children, "There is something wrong with you and your parentage". That would be absolutely unacceptable. Recently, I spoke to a headmistress of, I believe, an Anglican primary school near here. She pointed out that one can talk to children--even children from single-parent families--about the importance of marriage without making them feel bad about themselves. Teachers are trained to teach, and sensitive ways can be found to introduce that kind of idea.
I shall speak about my first experience of working approximately 12 years ago in an intermediate treatment centre--an institution which is half-way between a school and a prison. There was a young boy of about 10 or 11 years of age. He had blond hair and was very cute. He was the son of a traveller family. He used to hit us. They were not powerful blows but were stronger than taps. We tried to make sense of why he should hit us. We came to the conclusion that that was his way of expressing affection because he had difficulty in showing his feelings. He obviously came from a troubled background. A memory of him that stands out is a joke that he made against his mother: "What is the difference between my mother and a cream egg?" I shall not give the reply, but it was another indicator of the kind of troubled background from which he came. Since then, I have worked with many other young people who have come from troubled families.
I believe that the analysis of the state of society given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is very sound. Therefore, I believe that I am not pessimistic, but realistic, about the future. I am concerned that the number of young people, and people in general, who go to prison will increase. The Government seem to have made an allowance for that: they have allowed for 82,000 people in custody in two years' time. I believe that we must be realistic by admitting that we have made a mess of things and that more people will offend. We must tell the public that no matter how much we increase the police force and no matter how draconian we are, mixed-up young people will still commit crimes. That does not excuse the young people who commit crimes and it does not mean that we do not have to be tough on them. However, I believe that we shall move towards American levels of crime. Much
This Government have taken many positive steps in terms of the New Deal for getting young people into work. I refer also to Sure Start, the family tax credit, and the arrangements for the Youth Justice Board. They are to be applauded for that. I have spoken to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, about this before. The Government may not recognise the gravity of the problem they face and they may end up disappointing people and leading us to take the American view which is, even in fairly liberal households, that some people fail in life and that is just too bad. We do not yet have that view in Britain but there is a danger of that.
I ask the noble Lord, Lord Warner, perhaps to be a bit more modest before the great challenges which he faces. I hope he will forgive me for saying that. I see that he is not in his place at the moment.
I am concerned also that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has not had experience of working with young people. I hope that he will forgive me if I am harsh on him this afternoon. I believe that he has a great responsibility to young people on the edges of society. I know that he is a very intelligent and talented man; that he has been a head of social services; and that he is a fast-track civil servant. But I have discussed this matter with him and he has had no actual hands-on experience of working with troubled children from troubled families. I believe that he should consider remedying that lack.
This morning I was speaking to a researcher of the care leaving project of the Prince of Wales Trust. He gave a very eloquent presentation with all the facts and figures. I spoke to him afterwards and I asked him about the importance of hands-on experience. He said, "One must have all the facts. One must also have the hands-on experience". That goes with what the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate said. A policeman operates from his instincts as well as from his information. The Prince of Wales is raising that same subject this evening. He is asking us to balance scientific research with instinctive wisdom. Instinctive wisdom can come only from experience and in this case, that means working with troubled young people.
The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, is responsible for organising volunteering to a very large degree. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Warner, would consider talking to her about some sort of easy and relevant experience for himself. I hope that he will not feel that I am being presumptuous by making such a suggestion.
I listened with great interest to the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids. It is awful that there seems to be that personal vendetta against that particular man by the police. I have worked with young black people. I remember an incident when taking some young black people from the White City estate to Hyde Park with a senior black youth worker. When we had the rendezvous at the minibus, two plain clothes policemen came up and accused the young black boys of "feeling up the cars", of trying car doors.
I conclude by saying that if we are to be wise in our treatment of children who are likely to be attracted to crime, we need to know at least one such child personally in order to gain experience of such a situation. We need to spend some time regularly with that child over several months. I give an example of a possible opportunity to do that. There is a primary school near here. It is on an estate with a large number of single parents and a large ethnic population. I am sure that it could do with someone to help the children's reading for 10 minutes per week. Surely that would not be an impractical way of gaining experience in that area.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Tebbit for introducing a really difficult and fascinating debate in which I shall try to marshal the enormous number of thoughts which have already been provoked in my mind.
I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for his kind mention of the DIVERT Trust, of which I am the founding president. I hope he does not think that that exonerates him from any further mention. He made a highly political speech and I have no intention of making one myself.
I should just say this, to restore the balance, that we have all contributed to the present situation. I can best illustrate that by saying that within four days of being appointed Minister for Prisons, I had to answer a full-dress Wednesday debate in your Lordships' House on the future of the Prison Service. In that research, in that very sharp learning curve, I discovered that during the years which separated that debate, which was in 1982, from the end of the previous century, not one single brick had been put upon any other brick in any male secure adult accommodation since before the end of Queen Victoria's reign. If I remember correctly, the prison population had either trebled or quadrupled in the period. All parties had been in office during that time and none of us can wash our hands of it.
My noble friend Lord Tebbit was very keen that we should have an effective criminal justice system from start to finish; that is, from the police, through the courts, the Prison Service, the Probation Service and the Parole Board. I entirely support him in every respect. I was very impressed by his analysis of the causes which are now contributing to the increase in crime.
In particular, I endorse his belief that we need an effective police force, and we have had two eminent policemen contributing very practical advice in that respect. But it must also be fair. I dare say that the idea of zero tolerance, about which my noble friend so warmly enthused, will seem more attractive to him, and even slightly more attractive to me, than it does to the unfortunate Mr Tomlinson, of whom the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, spoke so movingly and in such detail.
She made very serious charges. I join the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, in hoping that the Minister will do something about that matter. I believe that it calls for an inquiry and, since the reputation of the police is at stake and since we should not generalise from the particular but should be confident that the conclusion is just, I think it should be a judicial inquiry. If there is to be zero tolerance towards bad behaviour, it must concentrate not only on the public but also on the police and, indeed, as my noble friend kindly prompts me, zero tolerance of bad police behaviour. That is precisely what I am saying.
The noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, spoke on one issue which, although she is not here, I cannot forbear to mention; that is, the institution of training centres, against which my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley and I divided the House, successfully in the first instance. Those institutions were subsequently set up. I very much hope to hear from the Minister that those institutions have changed in their nature and the regimes within them have changed from what was originally established. The idea of concentrating ne'er-do-well children--and children they are--100 miles or more away from home and any possible continuity of support seems bad under any regime.
I fear that the balance of this debate is perhaps wrong. We are concentrating on deterrence. I am not sure that deterrence is effective, as many of my noble friends and others believe it to be. After all, when a gamekeeper pins up a magpie on the barn door, he finds that dead magpies do not stop live magpies stealing eggs. I am afraid that the same is true of criminals if they think they are not going to be the next magpie. What are the chances of being the next magpie?
In 1986, the Audit Commission published a seminal report called Misspent Youth from which I quoted at length in another debate and from which I must make a selective quotation now. The report calculates, convincingly, that 28 million offences are committed every year at a cost to taxpayers and victims of £16,000 million. One quarter of the offenders were under 18 and accounted for around 7 million offences in that year. Under one-fifth of those offences were even recorded by the police and a bare 5 per cent cleared up. So, the magpie has a 95 per cent chance of getting away with it. Then, the magpie that is caught very often gets away with it too. Only a microscopic 3.1 per cent of crimes committed resulted in any attempt at corrective action. That attempt often failed. While 1.8 per cent led to a caution, only 1.3 per cent ended up in court. Not all those resulted in convictions and not all convictions were pursued.
It is clear that the majority of the tiny proportion who go into custody as a result of trial re-offend at an astonishingly high rate; much higher than 50 per cent, nearer 88 per cent. This necessary exercise in deterring crime and trying to protect the public is enormously expensive and ineffective. Merely identifying a single young offender costs the police around £1,200. A successful prosecution costs a further £2,000 after that. Your Lordships have heard from other lips than mine the enormous cost of keeping those people in prison.
It seems to me that prevention has to be better than cure. Prevention is not achieved by nailing the magpie to the barn door. It has to be achieved by addressing the problem. We have a government whose one endearing feature, I thought, when they came into power was being tough not only on crime but on the causes of crime. I should like to see a bit more of that.
I was very glad to read in Hansard on 15th May that the On Track crime reduction programme is due to start in 24 areas almost immediately. The objective is to set pilot schemes dealing with children. I cannot find a reference to the ages but I think that it is between five and 11. That makes sense to me. Our experience at DIVERT is that the threshold of criminal behaviour is becoming younger. I have always thought that the pre-determining conditions were almost at birth, depending on the condition of the family and the extent of love within that family. That bears on what has already been said about the availability of good role models.
One can try to supply what is missing, as the DIVERT Trust does. One can try to provide a good male role model, where it is missing, in the form of a mentor, but one needs a society which supports one. The right reverend Prelate, in a speech of which I only heard two-thirds as I had to leave the Chamber to attend a meeting, identified the decade of the sixties as the point at which there was a divergence between public convention and morality on the one hand and tolerance and public behaviour on the other.
The time has come to stand up and be counted. We make these intellectual points in our debates. We quote statistics in the security of this Chamber and we have intellectual arguments over the dinner table. They rely on the sort of statistics I have been quoting. But the fruits we are reaping now are the fruits of a society which has lost its direction.
My noble friend rightly said--he gazes anxiously at the clock but I have two minutes left--that one of the pillars of maintaining an orderly society is social convention. The other is an established morality. How often do you hear people rooting for social convention and standing firm on public morality? Occasionally there is a great public event, such as that in which my noble friend Lady Young tends to become involved, and it is a debate in this House. But it seems to me that more and more we need ordinary people like the rest of us to make clear in conversation that decent behaviour is what is expected of people; that outrageous behaviour is outrageous and that cruelty is something we will not tolerate, even at personal risk.
We need to teach society again the lesson it has forgotten and without which it will not survive, which is taught by Our Lord. I make no apology for the fact that I am a Christian. If more people said that they might then be forced to go on and say why. The essential duty of every member of society is not to look after himself but to look after everybody else. If we did that, these problems would diminish with great rapidity. That would make the difficult job of the Government a little easier.
Having sat in that place opposite that Dispatch Box facing this sort of question, I have great sympathy with the Minister. It is not easy. I do not expect to be greatly satisfied by what he does. If I am not, I shall return to the attack, as I am sure will my noble friend.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, from this side of the House I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, on the clarity of his contribution. Perhaps I may also say how delighted I was to see my noble friend Lord Greaves making his maiden speech today. He and I grew up together as young Liberals and never in the past 40 years changed our opinion of that political party.
I start by saying to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that I hope he will accept that I have hands-on experience of the subject on which I speak. The reason for that is simple. I have served as a magistrate, on a board of visitors of a prison, and on a police authority. At times I have contributed to a parole system review and at present, as chair of NACRO, we look after those discharged from prison. I have, therefore, considerably wide experience.
Events of the past few weeks have clearly demonstrated why law and order is so high on the public agenda. The violent demonstrations that desecrated the Cenotaph and the statue of Winston Churchill are a clear reminder that there are still elements in society who are increasingly lawless. But we also know that the nature and extent of crime varies from place to place and generation to generation. It is therefore appropriate that I start with a quotation from Sir Winston Churchill. As Home Secretary, during a speech to the House of Commons on the prison vote on 28th July 1910, he said:
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I welcome the changes that have taken place in policing our diverse society. Let me put on record my thanks to Judge Macpherson for his report on the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Home Secretary of the day, Michael Howard, turned down a request from the Commission for Racial Equality to set up an independent investigation. It took the courage of Jack Straw to put that matter right. Without that thorough investigation, we would never have discovered the incompetent way in which the murder inquiry was carried out. More importantly, it identified the extent of racism in our society. The noble Baroness, Lady Howells, clearly demonstrated how that affects our communities. The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, said that that was only one example. Perhaps he and I could sit down together and, if he has the time, I can give him other examples.
We, as a society, failed to arrest racism, of which Stephen Lawrence was a victim. Let me say also to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that more than half of those in minority groups are born in this country. They are as British as anybody else and we do not need a cricket test to prove that. Of course, I shall have to read his speech carefully in relation to our diverse society; but let me say this. I have been a product of the British Empire, having been born in Africa and lived in India, and during that time I have never come across an integrated Englishman.
But let me go further. Like the glorious 12th, which is the start of the shooting season, we now start with the Police Federation conference. It seems to be a focal point of political and public response to law and order. But we must bear in mind that it is a trade union for the police and they will clamour for more resources and more power. Nobody disputes that. As Mandy Rice-Davies said, "They would, wouldn't they?".
Popular tabloids have had a field day. The political pronouncement of this week is a case in point. Even before the ink is dry on the Government's response to the Macpherson report, we have the Conservative Party clamouring for the reform of the double jeopardy rule. Of course we know that the Law Commission is examining that issue and it will be wise to await its deliberations. Why is it that we are so impatient on such fundamental issues of law? Political point-scoring is not helpful at all.
Are we being increasingly lawless? All crime indicators point in that direction. There is too much reliance on prison as a way of dealing with offenders. The Government and the Opposition are now competing to identify with the slogan that "prisons work", and I need not take noble Lords through the argument put to the Minister on Monday. But the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, was absolutely right when he said that there will always be prisoners who, on leaving prison, will return to society embittered against authority or perhaps having learned from fellow prisoners new ways of committing crime, or who may have become drug addicts during their time inside, all of whom are likely to re-offend. Is not that how prison works in a rather unattractive way?
It is profoundly depressing that so much of the public and political debate about law and order is currently based on the wholly unfounded assumption that the most effective way of reducing crime would be to increase the degree of harshness towards offenders. That punitive approach all too often simply produces more hardened and embittered offenders who are rather more than likely to re-offend. The overwhelming weight of worldwide research evidence shows that the most hopeful answers lie in a three-pronged approach to crime. First, effective measures to prevent crime; secondly, effective sentencing practice which learns the lessons of research into what works; and, thirdly, determined effort to rehabilitate and resettle offenders who go to prison.
If we look first at preventing crime, physical methods of crime prevention involving better locks, bolts and security devices have an important role to play and have undoubtedly helped to reduce the number of recorded burglaries and car crimes. But even more important in the long run are social measures to prevent crime. For example, support for families under stress can help to reduce the chances of the children of those families becoming delinquent. Research in the United States--the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, quoted some figures--demonstrates that programmes which help parents to develop confidence and parenting skills can improve parenting, reduce child abuse and neglect, improve school achievement and reduce delinquency. It has been estimated that for every one dollar invested in such programmes, six dollars are saved as a result of reduced demands on the benefits system and the criminal justice process.
The research shows that high quality pre-school education for disadvantaged children, which involves their parents in their education, can cut crime when those children grow older. A long-term evaluation of the Perry pre-school programme in a disadvantaged area of Michigan found that children who had taken part were more likely to complete their schooling, more likely to find a job, more likely to own their own home, less likely, in the case of girls, to become pregnant as a teenager, less likely to get involved with drugs and less likely to be arrested. By the age of 20, 7 per cent of the programme participants had been arrested five or more times, compared with 35 per cent of similar children who did not participate. And I can give many more similar figures.
There is powerful evidence that well-structured activity programmes for at risk young people in disadvantaged high crime areas can make an important contribution to reduce youth crime. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for giving us his experience in such matters. Earlier this year, NACRO, which I chair, produced a report called Making a Difference, summarising research on a wide range of such projects which helped to reduce youth crime in their areas by amounts ranging from 30 to 75 per cent. For example, one NACRO youth activity project in Bolton led in one year of operation to a drop in youth-related crime of 30 per cent. A similar NACRO project in Southwark
Once again, there is striking evidence of cost effectiveness. An evaluation carried out by Coopers and Lybrand for the Prince's Trust in 1994 looked at five youth work schemes for young offenders and young people at risk of offending. The average annual cost of working with a young person in those programmes ranged between £165 and £440--less than the cost of keeping a young person in custody for one week. The total saving from preventing a crime committed by a young person was conservatively estimated at £2,400. Because the young people on those projects were at risk of becoming prolific offenders, it was estimated that on average the projects would be cost effective if they prevented just one in 50 of the participants from offending.
We need effective sentencing based on the lessons of research into what works. A growing body of evidence shows that some types of work with offenders can reduce offending by between 10 and 50 per cent more than other types. They include a range of highly focused programmes which confront offending behaviour; teach offenders to restrain aggressive and impulsive behaviour; make offenders aware of the impact of their crimes on victims; tackle the alcohol and drug problems; and provide skills training and employment. The research indicates that those programmes produce better results when carried out in the community than in custody.
Much of that evidence is available in a number of reports produced at NACRO. I want to look more fundamentally at how we resettle and rehabilitate prisoners. Here again, the evidence from the research is clear. It shows that unemployed ex-prisoners are twice as likely to re-offend as those who obtain and keep a job; that homeless ex-prisoners are two-and-a-half times more likely to reoffend than similar ex-prisoners in stable accommodation; and so forth.
Arrangements to resettle short-term prisoners are particularly deficient, and the Minister perhaps should look at this. Prisoners sentenced to under 12 months constitute over 50,000 of the 80,000 people sentenced to imprisonment each year. But they receive much less help than longer-term prisoners who are compulsorily supervised by the Probation Service on release. What can we do effectively to put that right? Far more needs to be done to support composite counselling in assisting the victims of crime.
I am coming to the end of my contribution. Perhaps I may give noble Lords some late news. Just before I began to speak a note was thrust into my hands which says that I may like to know that riot police have fired teargas in Copenhagen to disperse fighting Arsenal and Galatasaray fans. That happened today. Therefore, there is also a need for us to bang the drum for involving young persons in their own society, difficult as that is when communities are under such strain. Unless and until every young citizen feels that he or she is part of society and takes their own stake in it, we will only be sticking plaster on the body politic.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, this has been a reflective debate on the very long-standing problems of law and order. It was a debate improved by two excellent maiden speeches. I congratulate both the new Members of your Lordships' House on their speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, made an impressive speech drawing on both his experience and expertise as an advocate over many years, to our great advantage. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also brought his own experience to the debate, and in a small way that of his father, as well as a touch of humour.
I do not believe that my noble friend Lord Tebbit has ever before been thanked by so many people from such a diverse spectrum of politics for introducing the debate this afternoon. He began with a typically powerful and thoughtful speech, with plenty of his usual colourful language to emphasise his points. He emphasised particularly the length of time over which the problems of law and order, or crime and disorder, as I believe we should really call it, have been building up, to the frustration not only of our citizens but of all governments over the period. He also introduced the theme, taken up by others, that the foundations of law and order rest not only on the police, the courts, the prisons and so forth but also on the other pillars, as he described them, of morality and social pressures on society. Other speakers emphasised that as the debate continued. My noble friend Lady Young spoke of family life and the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, gave us some figures from research. My noble friend Lord Elton, among others, emphasised our duty to others.
Successive governments have attempted to deal with these problems and all kinds of things have been tried. But as regards the Home Office side of matters, it was my right honourable friend Michael Howard, as Home Secretary, and my right honourable friend John Major, as Prime Minister, who achieved the first improvements in the total crime figures for many decades.
I do not pretend for a moment that the problem was solved but there was some improvement. I make that point in particular because the noble Lord, Lord Warner, began his speech with examples of the political use of statistics, against which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, had warned us. The fact is that when the noble Lord, Lord Warner, entered the Home Office in 1997, as he described, we were towards the end of six consecutive annual falls in the rates of crime. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, told us that that created consternation among Home Office civil servants and caused him to have sympathy for them. Perhaps that tells us something about the attitudes that my noble friend Lord Tebbit described.
Once the noble Lord, Lord Warner, got off his political soapbox, as my noble friend Lady Carnegy expressed it, he spoke about the youth justice board and other initiatives. I am certain that we all wish him and his colleagues well in what they are trying to do. There is nothing more important in this field than youth justice and tackling the problems of youth crime. I hope that the noble Lord will take note of some of the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, because I believe he missed his speech. The noble Earl made some important points.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol gave us an extremely interesting speech. He defended the Church of England against earlier remarks. Although he said it in a very different style and with a different approach, a lot of what he said seemed similar to some of the things said by my noble friend Lord Tebbit. He also told us of important initiatives in the Church and in his diocese in particular. That was also an extremely important contribution.
There is no doubt that throughout this debate the issue of morals and the norms of society were revealed as being extremely important and must, as the right reverend Prelate said, go together with legislation.
That brings us to the question of race, which was touched on throughout the debate. No one who listened to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, could imagine that there is no racial element to these problems. Her examples and statistics as regards offenders, those in the criminal justice system and also the victims of crime among the black community were extremely important. Reference to the Macpherson report reminded me of a fact also referred to in some other speeches--that it not only seemed to emphasise racism but inefficiency. The problems arising from lack of supervision, follow-up, ineptitude and general incompetence revealed in that report were extremely worrying apart from the racial aspects. Sir William Macpherson thought that these inefficiencies and the ineptitude could only be explained by racial attitudes. It worried me that there was more to it than that.
Another theme of the debate has been strong support for the police. That was no more strongly expressed than by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, drawing on his experience. He referred briefly to what seemed to me to be a hint of a golden age with PC Brown, I believe it was--I nearly said PC Dixon. There was an important message in what he said. He encapsulated one of the problems to which my noble friend Lord Tebbit drew attention. He told us that the job he did as a detective inspector was now being done by crime managers, which is an extraordinary choice of phrase to describe such a function.
We were brought close to the day-to-day problems of the police by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, speaking from his experience as vice-chairman of the Thames Valley police authority. Among other things, he spoke about police pensions and the problem of financing them. I fully recognise that that is a difficult problem, but I hope that the Minister will refer to it in
However, it is clearer than ever from this debate that noble Lords do not believe that the police, or the courts and the prisons, should bear all the burdens of dealing with crime. But they should have all possible support in what they do. At present, it is extremely difficult to follow what the Home Secretary thinks will happen to police numbers as a result of the Crime Fighting Fund, because the story seems to have changed from time to time. If it is successful, it seems likely that all it will do is stem the fall in the number of policemen, rather than lead to a significant increase.
But we are not only concerned about numbers; we are also concerned about morale. Anyone who doubts this has only to read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, and that made this morning by the Chairman of the Police Federation at the conference, which I was able to attend briefly before coming to your Lordships' House for this debate.
I turn now to prisons. What worries me is that the prison population continues to rise much faster than expenditure on prisons. One of the results of that has been a series of adverse reports by the inspector. I hope that the Government's only action in that respect will not be to change the way that Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons works. That seems to be at least a possibility judging by recent press reports.
The Government are also releasing some prisoners early from prison, with the aid of electronic tagging. However, many of the prisoners released in that way have re-offended and some serious crimes have been committed. I do not know whether new thought will be given to this policy during the course of the sentencing review which we are told will take place. The latest proposal is that prisoners should be imprisoned only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That does not seem to be a good idea because, generally speaking, the working hours of criminals are not nine to five; indeed, they tend to be during the evenings. So this proposed scheme will deprive those concerned of the ability to earn a living, support their families and go straight, as it were, while not depriving them of the ability to continue with a life of crime.
Several references were rightly made to the importance of trying to make prison and detention constructive, as well as keeping criminals out of society for the duration of their sentences. That is also important. As I said, we have had a wide-ranging and thought-provoking debate. I hope that our comments will be widely considered and referred to so that we can follow up some of the points expressed. I should add that our debate was improved by the two excellent maiden speeches that we heard.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, I, too, greatly enjoyed this afternoon's debate and discussions. I have waited a long time to have a disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and
My noble friend Lord Brennan was absolutely right to try to focus our attention on ensuring that we had a debate that was, as he put it, well informed, with good information, and with reliable data and facts--not, I suppose, fiction. His other point was echoed several times during the debate; namely, the important issue of racism. He said that racism was a cancer in our society. I have been heartened by many of the comments made in your Lordships' House and most impressed, as ever, by the comments of my noble friend Lady Howells in her very strong and powerful contribution.
I should also like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for his maiden speech. I observed and listened with interest to what he said. However, after listening to some of his colleagues, I am not sure whether he is a reformed radical or a radical reformer. Whichever it is, I thought that the noble Lord spoke with the good sense of a local grass-roots activist--something that I can certainly identify with most strongly. Indeed, I believe that that has very much been the noble Lord's trademark in Liberalism--or now, perhaps, Liberal democracy. I thought that the contributions of both maiden speakers bode well for the future. I look forward to hearing much more from both my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in our debates.
As I indicated at the beginning of my remarks, I have enjoyed waiting for the opportunity to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. The greatest source of my disagreement with him is his analysis of where he feels that we, as a government, are going wrong; and perhaps his general attack on the liberal establishment. In summary, the noble Lord's attack seemed to me to suggest that the police are suffering from over-zealous political correctness; that we are living in a society that seems to tolerate crime, whatever happens; that the judiciary are in some way weak; that the establishment is full of soft "pinko" liberals; and, worse, that the Home Secretary is now the victim of the virus of extreme liberalism. I do not believe that my right honourable friend Jack Straw, the Home Secretary--and my boss--would see any of that in his persona, but no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, takes an entirely different view.
The noble Lord also seemed to conclude that in the lifetime of modern politics--after all, he stretched back to what he said may not have been a golden age--the only real Home Secretary we have had was Michael Howard. I must say that that seemed to me to be a rather chilling view. Michael Howard was the last of a long line of distinguished Conservative Home Secretaries. The noble Lord spoke about the distinguished record of the previous government. However, we should not forget the simple fact that that term of office stretched to 18 years. My noble friend
Indeed, crime doubled in the 1980s and early 1990s and, during that time, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was a leading government Minister and a member of the Cabinet. The number of criminals brought to book fell by one-third and the crime rate increased faster than in any other major western country. The chance of being a victim of burglary under that government increased from one in 32 to one in 13. The representatives of that government voted against a total ban on handguns, and violent criminals became three times more likely to get away with their crimes. The number of recorded rapes ending in conviction or caution fell from 37 per cent in 1980 to 11 per cent in 1996. The number of robberies ending in conviction or caution fell from one in four in 1980 to one in 10 in 1996. More than 500 serious criminals were released from prison in August 1996 and the chance of being a victim of violent crime trebled.
During those 18 years, the total cost of crime rose to £16 billion. The cost of house and car insurance rose by almost 90 per cent between 1984 and 1994. The average delay for getting persistent young offenders from arrest to sentence rose to four and a half months, and the number of young offenders cautioned or found guilty fell by more than one-third between 1984 and 1994. Of course, famously in 1992, the Conservative government broke their manifesto promise to provide an extra thousand police officers within a year. That is a fairly serious indictment.
This afternoon's debate has been about the problems of maintaining law and order. All governments are infected with this particular problem; indeed, we all have to deal with it. Noble Lords who made the point that maintaining law and order must be a second priority after maintaining the defence of the realm were absolutely correct to make that point.
The debate ranged far and wide and noble Lords made telling contributions. Although I disagreed with some of the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, she was right to focus on the importance of family life, however one defines it. Clearly, family life provides a bedrock for all of us in our early and formative years. It informs the way we think and it certainly shapes how we are. Both parents, or a single parent, as the case may be, have an important influence on the way their children view the world. That was certainly the case as regards my childhood and my generation. The noble Baroness dwelt perhaps over long on the notion of the collapse of society. That is an interesting point. Not everyone agrees with that notion. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, did not appear to think that society existed at all. Therefore, I am not quite sure that she would recognise the collapse of society in the context in which it was mentioned. Nevertheless, family values are important in our society. The Government strongly believe that they must be supported. Our policies and programmes seek to achieve that.
The Government were elected on a coherent law and order programme which touches on a whole range of services. When we came to office, the services which relate to the criminal justice system--the courts, the prisons, the Probation Service and the police--were not connected. We decided to establish a coherent programme to bring all those services together to enable us to bring pressure to bear to reduce crime in our society. To that end, we enacted the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. I believe that it has laid firm foundations for our attack on crime and disorder.
The Act set in place a framework to deliver local solutions to local problems. It set up successful crime and disorder partnerships through which police, local authorities and other agencies can identify and tackle problems together in the coherent manner that I mentioned earlier. It encouraged inter-agency working, a partnership approach and the involvement of the community through those partnerships. The Government have strongly supported those partnerships. Through the partnerships, three-year crime reduction strategies have been developed which reflect local needs and priorities; for example, by focusing on crimes which are a particular local problem, or by emphasising the special needs of rural areas--something which many noble Lords have mentioned this evening. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, gave a clear and analytical exposition of some of the problems in Leicestershire where she lives. We need to focus on the problems of rural crime. The Government certainly do not underestimate those problems.
In addition, the Government's crime reduction strategy--this has a bearing on both rural and urban areas--has set ambitious targets; for example, to cut vehicle crime by over 30 per cent over five years. The Government are keen to see crime reduced, not merely contained. We refuse to be cynical, as it were, about crime. We want to tackle it. That is part of our programme and the way in which we see ourselves working.
The Crime and Disorder Act also introduced anti-social behaviour orders. I know that there has been some cynicism about the effect of those orders. However, there are now some 45 in place. I believe that they have led to a rethink on the part of crime partnerships at local government level and within the police service as regards the way in which they approach anti-social behaviour in their localities. The orders have enabled us to focus more on those kinds of problems.
The Government are spending over £150 million on CCTV schemes in England and Wales. That is the biggest ever CCTV investment programme. We are investing £60 million on projects to prevent burglary as part of our crime reduction initiatives. We shall concentrate that resource in about 2 million homes in high-crime areas. We seek especially to strengthen the homes of low-income pensioners.
Youth offending teams have been set up to bring together all the local agencies dealing with young offenders in order to nip offending behaviour in the bud. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, believed that that element was missing. It is an important element of what we are trying to achieve. A system of final warnings and new options to help the courts to reduce crime, such as parenting orders, has been introduced. I claim some small responsibility for that. We believe that parenting orders will have a profound impact on the relationship between parents and offenders, making parents take some responsibility for the offending behaviour of their children.
All of these measures appear to be working extremely well. The latest published figures show that recorded crime in England and Wales has fallen by about 7 per cent since the general election. Having listened to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, earlier, one would think that crime was increasing inexorably and that somehow the Government had given up on it. That has never been the case. Even more impressive have been the reductions in domestic burglary, down by 20 per cent, and car theft, down by 17 per cent. No one can afford to give up on these issues. We certainly cannot afford to be complacent. But even at a time of a small increase in the general level of recorded crime, the Government are committed to ensuring that we attack those problems.
I do not think that there can be any doubt about the Government's commitment to supporting the police. Much criticism has been levelled at the police, not just in your Lordships' House. I echo the support voiced for the police by many noble Lords this evening. The Government have tried to ensure that we have a recruitment strategy that works. We turn our face against the numbers game. We do not believe that it is appropriate to become involved in that. Nevertheless we are committed to expanding the number of police officers over the next two years. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred to numbers. We think that we have now adopted the correct position in this respect. I refer to the recruitment of 5,000 officers that we pledged in September of last year. We are now rolling forward that programme of recruitment. We shall offer the police service the opportunity to recruit 3,000 of those 5,000 additional police officers within the current financial year. However, we believe that it is right that chief officers remain responsible for their overall budgets. They are, after all, best placed to assess local priorities and to allocate and manage their resources.
Other measures will also help the police to work more efficiently and waste less time on bureaucracy. Here I pick up a point that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, raised. We are putting more resources into the Public Safety Radio Communications Project to provide more reliable, better quality and secure communications. We are also expanding the DNA database. All of these measures are part of our commitment to modernise and improve the way in which the police service works.
We want to end the phenomenon of "revolving door" justice which sees offenders returning to the courts again and again. The Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill, which is currently before another place, significantly tightens up the enforcement of community sentences and ensures that the Probation Service acts as a law enforcement agency. We believe that to be entirely correct.
A number of noble Lords asked questions about the Prison Service. I do not believe that I can this evening respond to all of the points that were made in that respect. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, made some important points, which we support in the main. We need to ensure that we have purposeful regimes within our prisons, and we need to ensure that those regimes produce people who are not worse for being through the prison system. For that reason, we are focusing on the world of work; on improving the quality and range of education opportunities (on Monday I informed the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that we were increasing teaching hours by some 200,000 across the entire prison estate); on offering more and better training in our industrial and agricultural prisons; and on ensuring that people have access to the kinds of courses that will enable them, when they come out of prison, to lead a better, straighter life and to find work, rather than to return to a world of crime.
So far as concerns the Prison Service, another important part of our programme is to ensure that the evil of drugs within the prison system is tackled. I remind your Lordships that I said on Monday that the mandatory drug testing programme, which just two years ago revealed that 24 per cent of prisoners tested had drugs, has now found that we have reduced that to 14 per cent. That is a very impressive statistic. It shows how much the determined CARATS programme and the programmes of rehabilitation and support are now beginning to achieve within the prison estate.
Many noble Lords raised issues relating to public order. Much has been made of the problems of public disorder which the police have had to face. The noble Lord, Lord Eden, was very critical on this point, and the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, also took issue on the subject. Public disorder is not new to this Government's time in office; it has been with us for many decades. I do not need to remind your Lordships' House of the kinds of problems faced by the previous Conservative government. There were riots in many of our major cities--in Toxteth, in Birmingham, in Brixton, in Handsworth and in parts of Haringey--and there were the poll tax riots. Throughout and during those occasions, it was
The Government congratulate the police on meeting the challenges of the kinds of organised chaos which protestors tried to impose on 18th June and 30th November last year and again on May Day this year. We deprecate the actions of the organised hooligans and the way in which they abuse our public statues and disfigure public life. It is clear that the police deserve our full support for learning from past incidents--they clearly have--in the way in which they contained the problems on 1st May and in dealing effectively with the serious damage and violence which spread through our streets on that occasion. The police worked well; they deserve our support. They will carry on deserving our support and we must give it most fully.
It is surprising to hear in your Lordships' House criticisms of the police for being, on the one hand, too heavy-handed and, on the other, for being too slow to take action in respect of minor misdemeanours. Noble Lords will know that the police have always had an element of discretion in regard to the way in which they enforce the law. It is right and proper that they should, and that they can rely on that operational independence. They must rightly be given the opportunity to make the difficult judgments that have to be made by both commanders and individual officers as to how best to deal with situations of public disorder. We should fully recognise that and support the police efforts to get it right. I know that they are committed to ensuring that they do get it absolutely right.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page