asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the level of crime in Liverpool, in May 1979, and for the latest available period.
The information available centrally relates to offences recorded throughout the Merseyside police area. About 28,500 notifiable offences were recorded by the police in that area in the second quarter of 1979, and about 34,600 in the second quarter of 1982.
Is the Home Secretary aware that since 1979 one crime has been committed every four minutes in the city of Liverpool and that there has been a 60 per cent. increase in robberies and a 35 per cent. increase in burglaries? How does the Home Secretary explain that? Does he stand by his statement in 1978 that there was no relationship—sorry, that there was a relationship—between the number of crimes committed and a high level of unemployment?
I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman is asking me to substantiate. One moment he seems to say the opposite of what I said and the next moment he says what I did say. I have always accepted that unemployment is a factor in crime. I said it then, I say it now and I shall continue to say it. With regard to what can be done now, I believe that co-operation between the police authority, the local police and the local community is crucial in dealing with crime in Merseyside and elsewhere. I look forward to the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends giving their full support and help to that community.
I am glad that the Home Secretary has agreed that there is a link between increased crime and higher unemployment. Unemployment in Merseyside, particularly in inner areas, is massive, and thousands of young people are roaming the streets. That is why crime is rising.
I am always ready to answer questions in the House. I have spent a long time in the House and I have yet to discover when I have to answer questions that have not been asked.
As the clear-up rate of serious crime by the Merseyside police force is one of the lowest in the country, and, as the Home Secretary said, successful policing depends on the police having the trust and confidence of the public, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is necessary to restore confidence in the police on the part of the public in Merseyside and that that could be best done by introducing an independent method for investigating complaints against the police and establishing a form of democratic accountability of the Merseyside police force to its constituent local authorities?
The hon. Gentleman is prejudging many of the discussions that will take place on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. I accept that such co-operation is important. In our answer to the Select Committee we stated our belief in an independent assessor of police complaints. I have also made it clear that statutory consultation will be provided for in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman's views on those matters.