§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)
We hope to publish the final crime figures for 1988 shortly. Current indications are that the figures for Greater Manchester are likely to show a drop of about 8 per cent. compared with 1987.
§ Mr. Burt
May I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging reply? Will he confirm that it seems that within those statistics, there will be a pleasing drop in robberies and burglaries, for which all those involved in neighbourhood watch should be thanked? Will he also note my constituents' concern about the continuing unwelcome growth in violent crime? What reassurance does he have for us in Greater Manchester that we shall see more bobbies on the beat?
§ Mr. Patten
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has recently ensured just that by allocating Greater Manchester an extra 45 police in his recent announcement, which is the second highest number given to any police authority. I also believe that the fact that burglary rates and property crime are declining so fast will continue to free more time for the police to concentrate on violent crime. The Greater Manchester police are already concentrating on various initiatives concerned with public disorder and I am sure that they will continue to have the desired effect.
§ Mr. James Lamond
Does the Minister realise that his rather complacent attitude will not go down well with the many thousands of pensioners who were represented in the House recently with a petition calling for more police in the Greater Manchester area? Although the Minister may boast that the Home Secretary has been able to allocate an additional 45 police men, that does not measure up well to the request by the Greater Manchester police authority for 258 extra police men, whom it needs to carry out its duties correctly. He gave less than one fifth of the number requested.
§ Mr. Patten
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not set greater store by first, the increased numbers of police my right hon. Friend has made available to the Greater Manchester force and secondly, the increased amount of time that that will make available for the investigation of serious crimes against elderly people. Thirdly, burglary rates and property crime are coming down so fast that the Greater Manchester police will have considerably increased time for the investigation of crimes against the elderly. Fourthly, I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has not welcomed the recent excellent initiative financed by the local gas, water and electricity boards in a specific crime prevention campaign aimed at helping the elderly in the Greater Manchester area.