HC Deb 08 December 2003 vol 415 cc762-3
4. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/ Co-op)

What publicly funded alarm schemes he and his ministerial colleagues have assessed in terms of their ability to deter would-be distraction burglars; and if he will make a statement. [142088]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears)

The Home Office established a distraction burglary taskforce in 2000, with funding of £1 million, to provide advice and guidance on tackling such crime. Another £1 million was provided for three projects to tackle distraction burglary. Alarms can play an important role in helping older people to live independent and safer lives in their own homes, but the Home Office does not assess individual systems.

David Taylor

I thank the Minister for visiting Coalville last month to review the work of PRIDE, the protection and reassurance initiative to defend the elderly. Under that initiative, nearly 2,000 remote-control alarms, very visible and very audible, have been fixed to the outside of homes occupied by vulnerable people. What was the Minister's assessment of the scheme? How can we secure sustained funding, and how can we roll the scheme out to other areas in the light of its success in driving revictimisation rates down to an incredibly low 2 per cent.?

Ms Blears

I was delighted to be able to visit local people in Coalville, and to have the honour of presenting Mr. and Mrs. Wickwar with their brand new PRIDE alarm. I was also delighted to meet Mrs. Bird, who was already the proud owner of an alarm. She told me, "I have never had to use the alarm, but I feel so much safer now."

My hon. Friend is right. The alarms act as a deterrent and provide the crucial reassurance sought by elderly people in particular. I am pleased to say that we are investing £72 million in the building safer communities fund at local level to establish crime and disorder reduction partnerships to fund schemes such as that and many others. I urge them to fund all schemes that can make people, especially older people, feel safer in their homes.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

Does the Minister not agree that tough deterrents work, particularly in the case of professional career criminals such as burglars? Will she urge the Government to find a reverse gear and ensure that burglars go to jail?

Ms Blears

The hon. Gentleman will, I think, accept that it is vital for us, as well as being tough on crime, to be tough on the causes of crime. It is this Government who, as well as imposing stiff sentences for burglary, have reduced its incidence by 39 per cent. since coming to office. I bet his constituents, like mine, would far rather not be burgled in the first place, and it is this Government who have been able to drive burglary down. There have been some tough sentences, but there has been crime reduction as well. This Government operate on all fronts.