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Serious Crime

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 22 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what factors he attributes the increase in serious crime.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the main reasons for the substantial increase in crime since May 1979.

Recorded crime has been rising for a quarter of a century. The causes of this are complex, and it is unprofitable to seek explanations for short-term variations from year to year.

Does the Home Secretary agree with the comment in the recent edition of the Police Federation's magazine that there is a link between unemployment and juvenile crime and, indeed, with the comments in the United Nations recent report "Economic Crises and Crime" which suggest that there is a strong relationship between increasing unemployment and increasing crime in Britain? Unemployment is by no means the most important, or a single, factor in increasing crime, but does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the most important single measure for reducing crime would be a reduction in unemployment?

Is not the most important significant immediate cause of increasing crime the fact that potential offenders no longer fear the consequences of their offending? Does that not necessitate an increase in the police force to ensure that detection is more likely, an improvement in the procedure of criminal trials to ensure that conviction is more likely and more prisons to ensure that punishment is more certain?

Yes, Sir. Many of those measures—in fact, all of them—have been taken by the Government in the past three years.

Since, as I understand it, the Home Secretary has just said that he did not accept the analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), why did he accept it in 1973, as recorded in at least three copies of Hansard?

I thought the right hon. Gentleman said 1973. I do not believe I pronounced that in 1973.

In 1978, not 1973. I certainly admitted then, as I said before, that unemployment was a factor, but there are many others. I have said that and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said it. Equally, there are many other factors as well.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that both long-term and short-term remedies can be taken in this matter: to build up the family as a unit, to take action in schools to bring back discipline and respect, to take action in the courts so that penalties are just, and to get more police on the streets?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Many of these matters are for me as Home Secretary. Many of the others are matters for my right hon. Friends. We are discussing these matters together, because a concerted effort by the Government as a whole, backed by the House, is very much needed in all these areas.