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Mr. Truswell: Does the Minister accept, nevertheless, that no reputable tradesperson really needs to use cold calling? I am heartened by the fact that the Federation of Master Builders takes no exception to the idea of outlawing cold calling for the specific purpose of property repair, maintenance and improvement.
Ms Blears: I am sure that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not trespass on the domain of the Department of Trade and Industry in that respect. He has made his representations extremely robustly for a long time, and I am sure that the DTI will take on board his extensive personal experience, knowledge and expertise on the matter, as will the OFT when it considers its final report.
I want quickly to make a point about action being taken to protect the bank accounts of vulnerable people. The hon. Member for New Forest, East made a compelling point about significant, high-value transactions taking place in a short period, and I am delighted to be able to tell him that representatives of the Trading Standards Institute and the British Bankers Association, who are on the distraction burglary taskforce, are working together on that very issue. They have a pilot scheme in Kent that asks bank and building society staff to be on the lookout for requests for unusually large cash withdrawals for building work, and to take action to safeguard their clients.
The institute is producing videos and other training materials for use with banking, call centre and enforcement staffeverybody who deals with victims of such crime. That is an important pilot project, and we will be learning lessons from that about how we might implement it across the piece. Increasingly, banks and financial institutions are carrying out fraud checks when significant numbers of payments are made in a short period. That is an excellent way to help to protect elderly people who are particularly vulnerable.
I want to say a little about how Departments are working together to try to tackle distraction burglary and bogus callers. It is increasingly obvious that many elderly people are in touch with social services, and they can get valuable information from their carers, home helps and other people with whom they are in contact. Many elderly people are influenced by their family, so we must get the message out to families that much of this burglary and deception can be prevented if people take simple precautions, such as checking callers and asking for proof of their identity.
There is now a national crime protocol, which has been signed by many energy companies and those who have traditionally needed access. It requires callers to submit their identity and to provide a telephone number so that the resident can confirm it. Simple, practical steps such as those can help to reduce distraction burglary, which causes people huge distress and trauma. Through crime and disorder reduction partnerships we are trying to engage everybody in these issues as part of their mainstream business. Then, when people are going about their daily work, they are thinking about how they can help to protect elderly people.
This is a difficult issue, because we are asking many elderly people to change the habits of a lifetime. They grew up in times when it was, perhaps, safer to be more open, friendly and welcoming and to keep the door open. These days, sadly, that is not the case, so we have to ask people to put the chain on the door, stop and check the identity of callers, and think very carefully about what is happening. It is not about being unfriendly; it is about being in control. We want to empower people so that they can rebuff approaches from rogue traders.
I am delighted that this issue has been highlighted in the House. There is a great deal of work going on throughout the country to ensure that we protect people from such despicable activity. The more we can do to work together on crime prevention in the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, the better for everybody. I certainly undertake to ensure that we have an input and work closely with the DTI before the OFT report comes out early next year.