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Vehicle Security

Volume 202: debated on Thursday 23 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from motor car manufacturers regarding their intentions to improve motor car security.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on initiatives taken to improve vehicle security.

I have had three meetings with car manufacturers. I will be meeting them again in March. I have urged manufacturers to fit to all new cars dead-locks, immobilisation devices and visible identification numbers. I am pleased that they have responded very positively.

Car crime, principally by young males, accounts for nearly 30 per cent. of all recorded crime. Our major crime prevention campaign this year will be against car crime, and the courts will soon have available the additional penalties under the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Bill.

I am grateful for that reply. When the Home Secretary meets the car manufacturers in March, will he impress on them the seriousness of the situation and consider compelling them to fit such devices as standard, bearing in mind that, last weekend alone, £100,000 worth of damage was caused by car theft in my constituency?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support. When I first met the car manufacturers, they did not appear to be taking the matter very seriously at all, but my last meeting with them revealed that they are now much more prepared to make their cars more secure. I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. Whether we can make it compulsory for cars to be fitted with such devices is a matter for the European Commission. My Department and the Secretary of State for Transport have already made submissions to the Commission that a standard high level of security—as high as we have in Britain—should be enforced across Europe.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his initiative in talking to the manufacturers about improved vehicle security. Will he tell the House what support he has had for his additional measure, the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Bill, which will surely go a long way towards stopping the theft of motor vehicles? Will he assure the House that he has had the unreserved support of the Opposition during the passage of that Bill?

Regrettably, we did not receive very much support because, in Committee, the Opposition voted against the major proposals in the Bill. That is the trouble with the Labour party: one has to distinguish between its rhetoric and reality when it comes to law and order. This morning, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said that he wanted to see more policemen on the beat, yet when he was a member of the last Labour Cabinet he cut the number of policemen and left the police force under strength.

Will the Home Secretary confirm that he is about to launch a £5 million campaign involving the glitzy television commercials that have been his trademark in every office of state that he has held? Is not it a fact that he never learns from experience? Last year, his May campaign—national crime prevention week—cost £4.5 million, yet the three-months' figures for crime following that expenditure showed an upsurge in crime. When will the Government spend less on advertising and more on the police and crime prevention?

We have increased expenditure on crime prevention and the police much more than the previous Labour Government, who cut it by 3 per cent. I can confirm, however, that on 11 February I shall announce a major campaign—car crime prevention year. It will be a highly successful campaign and will cost £5 million. It will be supported by BMW, Citroen, Ford, Honda, Peugeot, Renault, Rover, Toyota, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo and most of the major insurance companies in Britain. They are uniting with us to reduce crime.

The hon. Gentleman again raised the question of law and order. I shall be only too pleased to fight the next election on the basis of the record on law and order and to show that we have a very much better record than the last Labour Government.

In reply to the main question, my right hon. Friend said that he had had discussions with motor vehicle manufacturers. Has he had any discussions with motor vehicle insurers? Many criteria are used to determine motor vehicle insurance premiums. Should not anti-theft devices be one of them? As someone who has recently paid an enormously increased premium, I think that that would be an excellent idea.

I met the insurance companies of Britain on three occasions. In October, they issued a new set of tariffs which provide that a car owner who suffers a loss has to make a larger contribution and introduce the principle and concept of a premium reduction for certain security devices.

Order. Before we proceed to Prime Minister's Questions, may I remind the House of what I said on Tuesday? Questions on matters of policy should relate to policy options available to the Prime Minister. They should not consist of invitations to comment directly on the policies of other parties in the House, for which the Prime Minister has no responsibility.