§ 2. Mr. Heffer
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he intends to take regarding crime prevention as result of the recent survey of crime patterns in Merseyside.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw)
The report of the survey is being studied by the chief constable and other agencies in Merseyside. The Home Office crime prevention unit is available to assist them with any initiatives they may take.
§ Mr. Heffer
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the survey clearly shows that the poor people of Merseyside suffer most from crime and that police services in poorer areas are inferior to those in better-off areas? Will he tell his colleagues in the Department of the Environment that the proposed cuts in grants and the suggestion that there should be 700 fewer police officers on Merseyside is nonsense? Does he agree that we need more foot patrols so that people in working-class areas can have a much better service than they are getting at the moment?
§ Mr. Shaw
I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument. He will be the first to understand that there is no barrier between classes in regard to crime.
There has been a substantial growth in police strength on Merseyside since the Government came to office in 1979. I accept that, on Merseyside, as in other urban areas, the people who are most at risk live in inner urban areas. That is one reason why substantial sums of money are being made available to assist inner urban areas. There is no truth in the suggestion that the Department of the Environment, or any other Department, wants to reduce policing levels on Merseyside.
§ Mr. Thornton
Does my hon. Friend agree that many of my constituents would be extremely worried if there were any likelihood of the number of Merseyside police being reduced? There are major problems in the city of Liverpool, but my constituents, who live on the outskirts, think that there are insufficient foot patrols in their area and they are worried about the possibility of any cut in the police force.
§ Mr. Alton
Is the Minister aware that the Merseyside crime survey shows that there are three times more burglaries on Merseyside than anywhere else in the country and that it is very much a burglars' paradise? Will he consider having more neighbourhood police stations, more policemen on the beat, more alarms for elderly people and more effective neighbourhood watch schemes?
§ Mr. Shaw
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that neighbourhood watch and crime prevention is a matter of great concern to the Home Office and to the chief constable of Merseyside. The MCS, compared with the national pattern, not the pattern for equivalent metropolitan districts, showed that the figure was about one and a half times as great, not three times, as the hon. Gentleman suggested.
§ Mr. Soley
If the Government go ahead with their plans to abolish the metropolitan county councils, surveys of this type will no longer be possible and, therefore, there will be no such recommendations on which to act. Is not the truth of the matter that the Government have abandoned all financial support for crime prevention schemes almost everywhere in the country?
§ Mr. Shaw
The hon. Gentleman's statement in the last part of his supplementary question is outrageously wrong. The Government play a great part in trying to create conditions in which crime prevention surveys can be undertaken. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Home Office helped to fund the Merseyside crime study. Under the new procedures, policing arrangements will be similar to those which are currently undertaken.