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Volume 22: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1982

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

:The number of crimes recorded by the police in Scotland has increased not simply since 1979, but during the past decade. The reasons for the increase are many, complex and hard to ascertain. It is because of our concern about this issue that the Government place such a high priority on maintaining law and order.

Does the Under-Secretary of State recall that one of the main paragraphs of the Government's election manifesto was that they would improve law and order? Does he agree that there has been a serious deterioration in law and order since 1979, as compared with the Labour Government's record? Does he further agree that one of the main contributory factors to that deterioration in Scotland is unemployment, especially among young people?

There is no simple correlation between unemployment and crime. At the last election the Conservative Party was pledged to giving priority to the maintenance of law and order. We have done that. There are, for example, more and better equipped policemen in Scotland than ever before. Our measures to maintain law and order have been widely welcomed by the Scottish people.

Does my hon. Friend agree that relating unemployment to the rise in crime, as Opposition Members so often do, is a scabrous insult to those who, through no fault of their own, are out of work? Does he agree that it is about time that Opposition Members started recognising the real cause of increased crime—the lack of discipline at home and at school?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. In pursuing this subject Opposition Members are treading a dangerous path.

Will the Under-Secretary acknowledge that the crime figures in Scotland fell in 1978 but have increased steadily since then? Will he also acknowledge that they increased by no less than 12 per cent. in 1980–81?

Does he agree that it is absurd for him to deny that there is a relationship between crime and unemployment? Does he recognise that the majority of housebreaking and related offences are committed by the 16 to 20 age group? Why do the Government not acknowledge their responsibility for the problem when thousands of young people are hanging about on the streets because of the Government's economic policies?

I said that there was no simple correlation between crime and unemployment. I stand by that. The right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that throughout the time of the Labour Government, crime in Scotland rose. It was rising sharply when that Government left office. I advise him to be cautious in his interpretation of statistics.