HC Deb 26 October 1989 vol 158 cc1033-4
2. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Secretay of State for the Home Department what further crime prevention initiatives he intends to introduce.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)

In addition to the 11 safer cities projects which are now operating, a further five are planned to start between now and March 1990. Four new projects will be announced in the following financial year. We also launched yesterday the next phase of our national crime prevention advertising campaign which will provide further advice for the public on how they can help to reduce crime. Much excellent work is also being done with all-party support by the organisation Crime Concern.

Mr. Thurnham

I welcome my hon. Friend's excellent new campaign announced yesterday on practical ways to crack crime. It is essential to reduce violent crime. In that context, perhaps he could say more about what he thinks individuals could do. Does he agree that neighbourhood watch schemes are an excellent example of what people can do to help the police?

Mr. Patten

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. Much can be done to prevent crime. Many efforts have been concentrated thus far on the prevention of property-related crimes, domestic burglaries and related acts. We can helpfully use some of the techniques being developed in neighbourhood watch areas to try to begin to deal with the difficult task of preventing violent crime and sexual attacks on women.

Mr. Heffer

Would it not be best if the Government totally supported the police in having far more foot patrols in areas where there is a high level of crime? My mother-in-law, who is 84 years of age, recently had her home broken into. Luckily, she did not wake up; we do not know what would have happened to the old lady if she had woken up when those people broke in. She is a supporter of crime watch in that area. Is it not time that the Government recognised that the real answer is far more foot patrols by police doing what they used to do in the old days and looking after our people? At present the Government engage in all sorts of propaganda but little real action.

Mr. Patten

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that we have far more police. The hon. Gentleman is right when he says that we all want to see far more police on foot patrol. At the same time, modern policing with its speed of communications demands that there be people able to deploy others in the event of attacks on people or property. I was extremely sorry to hear of the unfortunate event affecting the hon. Gentleman's mother-in-law. On the next of my regular visits to Liverpool perhaps he will arrange for me to call on her to discuss these matters at first hand.

Dame Peggy Fenner

I was pleased to read in the press yesterday my hon. Friend's special night time guidance for women. He is clearly aware that women who walk out now do so in a climate of fear. In his new crime prevention activities, will he pay special attention to the special needs of women in this rather violent era?

Mr. Patten

I thank my hon. Friend for her welcome of our crime prevention publicity campaign. The giving of advice to women or men on how to conduct themselves is sensitive and I dare say that every bit of advice will not suit every person. However, it is critically important that every one of us does everything that he can to help to diminish the numbers of attacks on women and to promote women's safety.

Mr. Sheerman

Is the Minister aware that we shall not get safer cities and towns on the back of show business gimmicks and advertising campaigns? Will he look again at backing democratically elected local authorities such as Southwark, which initiated a new campaign yesterday, so that they can lead the way in a positive partnership between the local authority, police, private enterprise and the community? Will he stop starving local authorities and thus preventing them from doing that?

Mr. Patten

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not confusing the giving of useful public information with glitzy advertising campaigns. We are trying to act with all-party support, and I was glad to see that spokespersons—one has to be even-handed when dealing with the Labour party—such as the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) welcomed yesterday's campaign without any reservation. It is important that we have an information campaign and not an advertising campaign.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that at the same time we need to mobilise local authorities, which have an important role to play in crime prevention. That is why we have already consulted the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the Association of County Councils and the Association of District Councils in preparing a new crime prevention circular, which I hope will be widely welcomed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not think that crime prevention is a matter for party politics.