HC Deb 05 March 1987 vol 111 cc1013-5
2. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in respect of each year since 1978, what were the numbers of crimes known to his Department to have been committed against persons over 60 years.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Mellor)

The only information I can give the hon. Member comes from a survey carried out in 1984. This suggests that, in England and Wales that year, some 13,000 people aged 60 or over were victims of violent crime, which represented 7 per cent. of the total of 182,000 such offences.

Mr. Fisher

Does not the Minister understand that those figures suggest that elderly people have had seven years of misery under this Government? Many elderly people are genuinely anxious about stepping outside their homes and are afraid to go out at night. What does the Minister intend to do about that? Will he discuss the problem with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to ensure that the basics are done, that estates are properly lit, that secure locks are placed on doors and that there are decent social services to support elderly people? Unless that is done, more elderly people will live in more and more misery.

Mr. Mellor

Of course, all those things are happening. Some 6,000 places on this year's community programme—with an expenditure of £40 million—are involved in providing such protection for pensioners' homes. Another scheme has been introduced allowing basic protection to be installed for under £40. There is also provision for a wide range of other assistance for the elderly. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, of course, a great deal of what he is asking for is the responsibility of local authorities. Conservative authorities, such as my authority in Wandsworth, provide such things for the elderly. The hon. Gentleman may have noticed what happened in Greenwich and Knowsley and recognise that local authorities have fallen down on their responsbilities. That is not the Government's responsibility.

Mr. Cash

Has my hon. Friend noted the recent disgraceful and appalling murder of two ladies in their 80s and 90s? Will he take note of the very strong feeling on the Conservative Benches for the reintroduction of capital punishment?

Mr. Mellor

Obviously, opinions about the remedy will vary. I gather that we shall have the opportunity to debate this matter at a later date. I deplore those murders and deplore the circumstances wherein elderly people are put at risk.

Mr. George Howarth

Does the Minister accept that if authorities like Knowsley were given resources to protect elderly people they would dearly love to do that job?

Mr. Mellor

That is a pathetic excuse. It hardly washed with the hon. Gentleman's electorate and it will not wash in here.

Mr. Dickens

Is the Minister aware that the two elderly spinsters, Susan and Florence Egerton, aged 92 and 81, who were savagely and barbarically killed, lived in my constituency? Does the Minister believe that the state is sufficiently protecting its citizens? Will he pay particular regard to the initiatives that I have sent to the Home Office? Will he also pay particular regard to the way he votes on the clause for the reintroduction of capital punishment when the Criminal Justice Bill returns to the House this month?

Mr. Mellor

The Government are extremely solicitous about the welfare of elderly people and everyone else in relation to violent crime. For that reason, the resources available to the police have been increased, represented by an extra 15,500 officers over the past seven years. A great deal has been done to strengthen the penalties available for violent offences and the availability of parole to violent offenders has been restricted. The spiralling growth of neighbourhood watch schemes means that people are able to protect themselves by taking a communual interest in one another's welfare. We shall continue to pursue those policies.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Are the figures that the Minister has just given duff figures in relation to Kent? Have they been doctored by the Kent constabulary? In the light of yesterday's news that someone else has come forward to reaffirm that the clear-up figures in Kent were doctored, what action do the Government intend to take or is the issue again to be dumped?

Mr. Mellor

I am not sure what tenuous link this has with the main question. The Police Complaints Authority is investigating the matter and I can say nothing more.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

I share the abhorrence expressed by my hon. Friends at the murders of the two people concerned but, does my hon. Friend appreciate that many of us do not believe that the return of capital punishment is the answer?

Mr. Mellor

Yes, and I am one of them.

Mr. Corbett

Does the Minister appreciate that behind the ever-rising crime figures are literally millions of elderly people living in terror behind their front doors, especially in inner city areas? Will he reconsider making crime prevention grants available to help those at risk and those with most to fear so as better to ensure their safety?

Mr. Mellor

I have already detailed the enormous amount of work that the Government are doing through development of the community programme and through issuing advice to the elderly about basic security methods that cost under £40 to employ. I appreciate that as part of its policy of trying to bribe the electorate with their own money the Labour party has come up with a scheme for home security grants, but there is no sign of how it would be able to afford it, and one suspects that there is no prospect of its coming about.

Mr. Lawrence

Does my hon. Friend think that the over-60s would be better protected if the police were placed under the political control of councillors such as Bernie Grant and starved of resources as they were last time the Labour party was in power?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. and learned Friend is, as always, quite right.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I regret that the next question to be answered today, through a printer's error, which I have asked to be investigated, has been left off the Order Paper. It is in the name of the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) and I ask him to read out the text before the Minister replies.

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