Previous SectionIndexHome Page


5. Mr. Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East): What action he is taking to support Crimestoppers. [85568]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Howarth): We greatly appreciate the work of Crimestoppers, especially the way in which it allows the anonymous reporting of crime. Ministers attend Crimestoppers events to support its work whenever possible--indeed, I attended a national conference in Birmingham in November. We are holding discussions with Crimestoppers about ways in which we might work together and support it in its work.

Mr. Goggins: In thanking my hon. Friend for his answer, may I point out that one in six of all the cases leading to arrest and charging carried out under the auspices of Crimestoppers have occurred in Greater Manchester? Does he agree that the two main reasons for that success are, first, the good quality of media coverage and, secondly, the high level of support from Greater Manchester police, which provides three full-time detectives as its contribution to Crimestoppers? Will he encourage other police forces to follow the example of Greater Manchester police? Will he consider the possibility of Home Office funding, both for joint projects with Crimestoppers, and to cover some of its core costs?

Mr. Howarth: I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Greater Manchester police on the work that they do in co-operation with Crimestoppers. That kind of partnership between different agencies and the police is important if we are to combat crime successfully. I understand that Crimestoppers has not yet made any specific formal request to the Home Office for direct funding, but obviously any such request will receive serious consideration. I remind my hon. Friend that we are discussing with Crimestoppers how we can support its work, which we take very seriously.

Organised Crime (EU Enlargement)

6. Caroline Flint (Don Valley): What plans he has to ensure that applicants to become European Union members meet the required standards in combating organised crime. [R] [85569]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kate Hoey): The United Kingdom is doing its utmost to ensure that the applicant states meet the required standards laid down by the European Commission in the area of justice and home affairs matters. Measures to combat organised crime form a major part of those requirements. United Kingdom law enforcement agencies are playing a major role in providing training and assistance under the European Union twinning programme and other United Kingdom initiatives to help ensure that standards are met.

Caroline Flint: As the Minister will be aware, organised crime knows no national boundaries. Will she

14 Jun 1999 : Column 6

outline how training and assistance will be applied to ensure that there is proper adherence when countries become members of the European Union?

Kate Hoey: The United Kingdom has been selected to lead four twinning projects on organised crime and related policing matters in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland and to participate in a fifth in the Czech Republic. That is a recognition of the United Kingdom's law enforcement capabilities and how good our law enforcement is. We will try to encourage EU applicant countries to examine their training and support systems and their accountability and, as my hon. Friend said, to consider the main benefits that will accrue from improving law enforcement agent capabilities through nations joining to fight organised crime effectively as a partnership.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will resist extending corpus juris--which is alien to the concept of habeas corpus--to the justice systems either of EU applicant countries, as a condition of membership, or of existing member countries?

Kate Hoey: Yes, the hon. Gentleman has my full assurance.

Licensing Laws

7. Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth): What discussions he has had with the parliamentary beer club about its research into licensing laws. [85570]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Howarth): I met club representatives on 2 July 1998 and 27 January 1999 to discuss how they could contribute most helpfully to the Government's review of licensing laws. The club has been examining licensing systems abroad and is developing its own ideas for reform. I look forward to receiving the club's report, and I am grateful for the advice that it has provided so far about this important subject.

Mr. Jenkins: Does my hon. Friend realise that the extension of hours will benefit the trade in this country and that the change will cause no problems for many well-run organisations? However, is my hon. Friend aware of the term "fun pub"? For many residents who live near such places, they are not fun pubs but neighbours from hell. What extra regulations will my hon. Friend put in place to ensure that those residents' quality of life is not diminished further? How can they be sure that their normal life will continue?

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend raises a serious problem that deserves our proper attention. The aim of the current review is to balance residents' legitimate concerns--not only about fun pubs but about any licensed premises near their home where there may be disturbances at closing time or at other times--with other people's right to enjoy themselves at a time that is convenient and fits in with how they want to lead their lives. We want a licensing system that is robust enough to defend residents while allowing people to exercise their market choice as consumers.

14 Jun 1999 : Column 7

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham): Is the Minister aware of the beer club's research into the smuggling and bootlegging of beer? Does he agree that the problem undermines the rule of law and is becoming increasingly costly to police forces throughout the country, particularly in big cities? Will he give the House an idea of what the Home Office is doing to combat that crime caused by the Treasury?

Mr. Howarth: The hon. Lady is right to say that the smuggling of beer and other products to evade duty is a serious problem, and we all probably have some constituency experience of that. Young people are often a target group for those smugglers, and we have a serious programme to try to make it harder for anyone to sell alcohol to young people. My Treasury colleagues are aware of the difficulties and of the amount of revenue that is lost, and they are working on ways to combat that serious problem. The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to it, and we have plans to tackle it in the near future.

Domestic Violence

8. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): If he will make a statement on help offered by his Department to victims of domestic violence. [85571]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kate Hoey): We have launched an awareness campaign; we have improved funding for the Women's Aid Federation and victim support; we have implemented provisions in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Family Law Act 1996 and we are speeding up justice for victims and protecting vulnerable witnesses.

Mr. Chapman: Violence against women in the home represents a quarter of all violent crime. Does my hon. Friend agree that this scourge needs to be tackled, that it must be given priority and that there must be partnership between agencies and the Government? Will she join me in welcoming the initiative to be launched on Merseyside next month, "zero tolerance for women and children", which will attempt to tackle the problem on that basis?

Kate Hoey: My hon. Friend is right: 25 per cent. of all violent crime is perpetrated against women and it has to be tackled at the highest levels and with the greatest co-operation between all agencies. Of course we welcome all the many initiatives around the country, and I welcome particularly the zero tolerance campaign to which my hon. Friend refers.

Elderly People (Assaults)

9. Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton): What recent reports he has received from police forces in England on attacks on elderly people; what advice he gives to the police on protecting the most vulnerable members of society; and if he will make a statement. [85572]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng): The Government, through the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, have encouraged the police and local authorities to work in partnership with other local organisations to tackle crime against the elderly where

14 Jun 1999 : Column 8

that has been identified as a local problem. There are many examples of successful local initiatives to deal with bogus callers and those who commit other crimes that particularly affect the elderly, including the doorstep code introduced by the West Yorkshire police, which has made a particularly valuable contribution.

Mr. O'Brien: I thank my hon. Friend for that response and also for his Department's effort and its provision of £50 million for the next three years to try to help communities that have high burglary rates. I am concerned about the number of elderly people who feel isolated and socially excluded for want of better street lighting and better lighting around their premises, and more secure doors and windows in their homes to try to prevent people from breaking in and attacking them. It was recently reported that an elderly widow had been murdered in her home, and over the past two years, two of my elderly constituents have been murdered in their homes. My local newspaper regularly reports that elderly people have been attacked, mugged and threatened by people in their community. We need to concentrate more on protecting the most vulnerable people from those bullies.

Mr. Boateng: My hon. Friend rightly identifies crime against the elderly as being essentially a quality-of-life issue for the elderly. There can be nothing more debilitating for an elderly person than the fear that when they go down the road to pick up their daily paper they will return to find that their house has been burgled, or that they will be subjected to harassment while they are going to or from their home. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary introduced the Crime and Disorder Act and why we are placing particular emphasis on target hardening.

Part of the £50 million that will underpin the Crime and Disorder Act will be spent on providing the nuts-and-bolts practical advice and assistance to which the elderly are entitled. That will give them the proper sense of safety and security in their home.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): Does the Minister agree that not only such worthwhile initiatives but sentencing policy should take care of the most vulnerable in our society--the elderly and the very young? Is he aware of a very alarming case in Swindon, which was announced, I think this morning, of the release into my constituency on three years' probation of a paedophile who has been convicted of 17 separate offences against very young children? Does he agree that that sends out the wrong message to paedophiles, and a very alarming one to mothers of young children in my constituency?

Mr. Boateng: It would be wrong of me to comment on an individual case, but I would be only too happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss sentencing policy generally, because this House will wish the clearest message to be sent to those who prey on the vulnerable--be they young or old--that they will be punished, and punished severely, when they offend in such a way.

14 Jun 1999 : Column 9

Next Section

IndexHome Page