Skip to main content


Volume 115: debated on Thursday 7 May 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the steps he is taking to reduce the level of crimes which involve cars.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of overall crime involves cars; and what plans he has to seek to reduce this level.

We regularly receive correspondence from right hon. and hon. Members as well as from members of the public about various aspects of autocrime. Theft of or from cars accounts for about 25 per cent. of all recorded crime. Most such offences are committed by opportunist criminals preying on cars which are intrinsically insecure, and car owners who fail to make the best use of security devices. Accordingly, efforts to reduce autocrime concentrate on preventive measures. Crime prevention publicity seeks to make motorists more security-conscious; car security advice leaflets are being distributed with licence reminders; and the new highway code also contains suitable advice. Manufacturers are being encouraged to improve the security aspects of new cars and the advice on car security which they give to car owners.

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that most helpful reply. Does he agree that a crucial consideration in the level of crime involving cars is police manpower? Is he aware that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) recently visited my constituency to talk about law and order without, apparently, knowing that the major problem is that the Labour group of the Strathclyde regional council, uniquely in Scotland, keeps its police numbers below authorised establishment as a matter of policy? The resultant swing to the Conservatives in Eastwood and the fact that the right hon. Member for Gorton made an ass of himself are not matters of regret, but is it not important that the public throughout Great Britain know of the importance of proper levels of police manpower to deal with crimes involving cars as well as other crimes?

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the high level of autocrime distorts to some extent overall criminal statistics? Secondly, does not the answer lie in far more electronic gadgetry being installed by motor car manufacturers? It is absurd how easy cars are made for the criminal to break into.

My hon. Friend has touched on two crucial issues. Autocrime is one of the great growth crimes, and has been for the past 20 years. The reason is that it is easily carried out. Too many car owners are slack in the manner in which they leave their cars, and one in five is still left unlocked. Secondly, perhaps too little attention has been focused in the past on the need for good car security as a selling point for a car, and I am glad to say that a new British standard of vehicle security has been launched. We are getting co-operation from motor manufacturers. I hope that car security will improve, that the public will be aware of the improvement and that they will make use of improved security measures.

What has happened to our education system if it leads Ministers to come out with expressions such as autocrime, which, if it means anything, means crime against the self? Does the Minister realise that many crimes involving cars involve drink as well? Instead of being sympathetic to the progress of the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), will he recognise that we should tackle the problem of drink and driving if we are to make changes to our licensing laws?

It took about half an hour for an alliance representative to appear in the Chamber for questions. I am glad that when one did he was able to ask such a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed supplementary question. Of course drink-driving offences are important. The Department of Transport has a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. North that is considering whether the present laws and penalties are adequate, and it will be reporting shortly.