Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Janet Anderson Is my hon. Friend aware of the press release issued by the Crown Prosecution Service in January, which makes that plain by saying:

One wonders what exactly Conservative Members would like householders to be allowed to do.

Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that and may refer later to some other points in that CPS memorandum. She is absolutely right: does the hon. Member for Vale of York want householders to have the right to hang, draw and quarter intruders, for example; or a gentleman in his castle to be able to pour boiling oil on them from the battlements? It is difficult to see what else householders should be permitted to do under the law.

We should not underestimate the emotional impact of burglary. In the British crime survey 2004–05, 86 per cent. of respondents were emotionally affected by burglary, and if there was forced entry, too, the figure was 89 per cent. The responses experienced include: anger, at 56 per cent. for all burglaries and 63 per cent. for burglary with entry; annoyance, at 46 per cent. and 51 per cent. for burglary with entry; shock, for 36 per cent. at burglary and 42 per cent. at burglary with entry; and a loss of confidence or feeling of vulnerability, for 27 per cent. and 30 per cent. That illustrates how serious the offence of burglary is, and we need to take it seriously in the House.

That said, I do not think that the Bill is an appropriate response. Much has been made by the Conservative party of the support that it claims the public have for the
2 Dec 2005 : Column 523
Bill. That raises the question of what the public actually know about the existing law. The Bill's proponents pray in aid various opinion polls, particularly that on the "Today" programme. Last time we debated this subject, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North—the recipient, to put it neutrally, of the "Today" poll—made it clear that it was not an honest poll. He said that it was not

The poll, he said, was in fact rigged by

One must question whether the "Today" programme was the victim of practices that one can compare only with the way in which people vote in "Big Brother", or similar television programmes, such as the dancing one on Saturday nights at present.

It is interesting that the Conservative party is prepared to claim public support for how it has approached the Bill, but when it came to the recent Bill on terrorism, on which 76 per cent. of the public back the police on the 90-day minimum, 72 per cent. supported 90-day detention and 77 per cent. said the police should have the powers that they said they needed, the Conservatives, for purely opportunistic reasons, voted against the wishes of the public. How on earth have they the bottle to come here today claiming the support of the public—with no opinion polls to speak of behind them—given the very clear message from the public on that previous Bill? That smacks, at the very least, of double standards, and I shall not use the unparliamentary term hypocrisy.

Mr. Ian Austin (Dudley, North) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend as surprised as I am that we have been asked today to take seriously the views of a convicted criminal, a thief and a burglar, Brendon Fearon, yet on the 90-day terrorism issue we were asked to ignore the views of the police?

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Conservative party prays it in aid that the police back the Bill, when in fact the police do not. The police certainly back the position advanced on a maximum detention period of 90 days, yet the Conservative party was not prepared to support them on that.

Mr. Khan: Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will be accurately reporting the views of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis rather than giving an inaccurate summary of what the commissioner said in an interview?

Mr. Dismore: I certainly will refer to the comments of the commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, because I think that he has been misrepresented. During a long interview on the "Today" programme, on one's first day in the job, and given the range of issues relating to policing in London, it is perhaps easy to give an off-the-cuff answer without having had the opportunity properly to consider the response of both the police in London and the
2 Dec 2005 : Column 524
Association of Chief Police Officers to the issue in question. To an extent, perhaps Sir Ian was ambushed on his first day in the job.

Dr. Palmer: Does my hon. Friend not feel that, on reflection, he is being a bit harsh on the Opposition? He claims that Opposition Members are aggressively pushing the Bill, but there are no Opposition Back Benchers in the Chamber.

Mr. Gale: I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon.

Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) makes an important point. I am pleased that the hon. Member for North Thanet is in the Chamber. I have much respect for him. I know that he takes an interest in this matter, given his private Member's Bill. It is interesting that the only two Opposition Members in the Chamber, apart from the Opposition Whip, are those who have promoted Bills on this issue. No other Opposition Back Benchers are present. The only Liberal Democrat Member in the Chamber is the one on the Lib-Dem Front Bench, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson). Yet there are quite a number of Labour Back Benchers in their places, who are ready to give their views on the Bill.

Janet Anderson: Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), the promoter of the Bill, has not even bothered to stay in her place to listen to the debate?

Mr. Dismore: I think that it is disgraceful that the hon. Lady is not present to listen to the debate.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps we can now conduct the debate on the Bill rather than commenting on who is or is not present in the Chamber.

Mr. Dismore: Earlier on, Opposition Members were talking about the incidence of burglary. We must examine the true facts and figures. Burglary peaked in the mid-1990s. According to the British crime survey, domestic burglary from 1995 to 2004–05 reduced by 57 per cent. In 2003–04 to 2004–05, British crime survey and police statistics showed that domestic burglary was down by 20 per cent., and that non-domestic burglary was down by 14 per cent.

The risk of being a victim of burglary has halved since 1995. On average, the chance of a burglary on a particular property is at its lowest for 20 years. On average, a property is likely to be burgled once every 50 years. In my constituency, in July, there were 45 fewer residential burglaries than in the previous year, and there were 48 per cent. more detections. That picks up the point made earlier about detection rates.

We need to challenge some of the perceptions about the likely victims of burglary. We have heard a great deal about rural people and so forth. The people most likely to be victims of burglary are those aged between 16 and 24. Those least likely to be victims are pensioners. The people most likely to be burgled are those with household incomes of below £5,000. Those least likely have incomes of more than £30,000. The most likely
2 Dec 2005 : Column 525
victims are those in private rented property, closely followed by social renters. The least likely are owner-occupiers. The most likely are those who are unemployed or economically inactive. The most likely are those who live in flats and not detached houses. The most likely are those who live in urban areas, who are twice as likely to be a victim as those who live in rural areas, particularly people living on council estates. It is probably self-evident that those with high levels of home security are the least likely to be burgled as opposed to those who have no measures of home security. That starts to correct some of the perceptions.

We need to consider also the number of offences in which violence was used in a burglary. In all burglaries, that was about 9 per cent. The prospect of being a victim of violence when a burglary is committed is very low. To an extent, Opposition Members have run a scare story to try to pretend that we are living in a crime-ridden country. In fact, the incidence of burglary is low, and the chance of being a victim of violence during a burglary is extremely low.

Next Section IndexHome Page