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Young Offenders

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 22 July 1993

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11.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further proposals he has to deal with persistent young offenders; and if he will make a statement.

I intend to bring legislative proposals before the House as soon as possible.

I thank the Home Secretary for that reply. May I also—this may surprise him—welcome the initiatives that he has taken so far, particularly on behalf of the residents of the Saffron Lane estate in my constituency, who have been subjected to a great deal of criminal behaviour and hooliganism in the past few months? Does it cross his mind that a contributory factor to that criminal behaviour may well be the political thrust of the Government's policies over the past 14 years, which have emphasised selfishness and greed as opposed to collective action and responsibility?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the first words that he uttered, but I must tell him that the rest of his contribution was absolute nonsense from beginning to end. What we must never do is obscure the difference between right and wrong. That difference is well understood by the vast majority of people in this country. Making such absurd accusations is an affront to ordinary, decent, law-abiding people in all walks of life throughout the country.

I remind my right hon. Friend that it is about 25 years since Lord Kilbrandon in Scotland made a constructive distinction between the principles governing the way in which the commission of a crime is regarded and the punishment or treatment that is required after that has been done. Will he therefore look again at the whole concept in England of the age of criminal responsibility, because many of my constituents find it quite intolerable that there should be an automatic assumption that some hooligans and young children are too young to be scooped up by the law?

As my hon. Friend is well aware, we propose to take measures as soon as parliamentary time permits to enable persistent young offenders to be detained in secure accommodation and to receive the education and training which I hope will lead to a permanent change in their habits of behaviour.

I, too, welcome the measures being taken, because many people in Wolverhampton are tormented by the level of youth crime, but it is nonsense for the Home Secretary to believe that Opposition Members do not wish to see the difference between right and wrong. The atomisation of society by him, his party and his leader, and the belief that there is no such thing as society, has caused the uprising in young crime. It is a disgrace. Measures need to be—

Order. I have not yet heard a question from the hon. Gentleman. Does the Secretary of State wish to reply?

It is utterly disgraceful that week after week Opposition Members get up and protest against crime when they voted against the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Public Order Act 1986, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and the Criminal Justice Act 1991, and they continue to vote against the prevention of terrorism Act every time it comes before the House.