§ Mr. John Patten
In the 12 months to June 1990, 477,000 residential burglaries and 427,000 commercial burglaries were recorded by the police in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Alton
Does the Minister agree that those figures reveal that the number of burglaries and break-ins has now reached epidemic proportions? Does he further agree that in the urban areas where it is almost impossible to get insurance because of repeated instances of break-ins, it would be worth while for the Department to speak to the insurance companies to try to persuade them to take a rather more helpful view about providing insurance? Does he agree that there is a need to provide burglar alarms for those who cannot afford to have their homes properly fitted with alarms in areas where there is a high incidence of burglary?
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I believe that the British insurance industry could do far more, by the use of premium payments and other methods, to encourage people to protect their own property, which would ensure that people in high crime areas would not have difficulties in obtaining insurance. However, all of us can learn a bit from Merseyside. While burglaries have been going up in England and Wales, as I have already said, in Merseyside, thanks to the activities of 5,000 neighbourhood watch or home watch schemes and to the Merseyside police, the number of burglaries dropped by about 13 per cent. in the last 12 months for which figures are available.