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Mr. Sheerman : Is the Minister aware that the conditions in which young people are being held in B wing are the most ghastly, for adults or juveniles, in virtually the entire prison system in this country? Is not it about time that a civilised country stopped putting people under 17 into prison at all, whether on remand or to serve sentences? Will the Minister please make it a personal compaign to have Hull B wing closed as soon as possible?
Mr. Mellor : I return to the point that it is a very exceptional course for the courts to remand juveniles in custody. This is done only when the courts are satisfied that there is absolutely no alternative. We are most anxious to improve this aspect, as well as every other aspect, of our prison stock. I am glad to be able to say that, last week, the number of juveniles held in Hull B wing was down to eight. I hope that it will be possible to maintain that low figure, but I repeat that we have had to address serious deficiencies in the prison building stock across the board. It has not been possible to deal with all problems at once, but there will be new remand arrangements and I hope that within the next two or three years these will remove the necessity to use Hull.
24. Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now collect information on prosecutions and convictions in sufficient detail to identify the sex of victims in each police force area in England and Wales.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten) : We have no present plans to do so. The sex of the victims is already known in homicide cases and sexual offences. Domestic violence is a very wide term which can cover a number of different offences. I can announce today that we are preparing new guidance for the police, for issue in the early summer, in which we shall suggest that all domestic violence cases should be recorded in exactly the same way as all other violent offences. It will also emphasise the need for comprehensive local record-keeping so that every officer who attends a domestic violence incident will have up-to-date information about any previous incidents and can thus accordingly remove the victim to safety and deal suitably with the alleged offender, as I am sure the House would want. A crime is a crime whether it is committed in the home or elsewhere.
Mr. Jones : I am grateful for that reply. Unfortunately, the Minister did not quite answer my question, which did not relate to domestic crime. I asked him about violent crime generally. As the fear of crime is greatest among women, should not the figures for crime against women be available both nationally and locally so that there can be a properly targeted response?
Mr. Patten : If the hon. Gentleman reads question No. 24 carefully, he will find that I answered it exactly. It is necessary for the police to collect statistics only when it is necessary for the police to collect them. Otherwise I should prefer the police to be out preventing and detecting crime and protecting women.
Mr. John Patten : Although we do not have a comprehensive record of the local authorities concerned, I am sorry to have to report to the House that some local authorities, including Cleveland county council and Stockton, Hartlepool and Langbaurgh district councils, have refused planning permission for the erection of neighbourhood watch signs. Authorities have power to refuse planning permission only for signs on highway land since the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 1987 gave deemed consent for the erection of signs relating to properly approved neigbourhood watch schemes, which were not to be placed on highway land.
Mr. Hughes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the announcement that he has had to make is a disgrace? When it came to something positive that those local authorities could do to help to fight crime, they did not bother. Is not it notable that all the authorities concerned are run by the Labour party, which seems not to care about crime?
Column 1231Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend, characteristically, has put his finger right on the matter. I wish only that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and his colleagues, including the Leader of the Opposition, who was here to hear my hon. Friend's supplementary question, would write to those
Labour-controlled councils and ask them to support neighbourhood watch and not to attack it.
Mr. Tony Banks : Does the Minister agree that the action of four local authorities is hardly justification for such an outburst of synthetic anger from the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes)? Would not it be better to put more police men on the beat to patrol the streets rather than people having to rely on self-policing because of inadequate police resources?
Mr. Patten : The list that I gave was rather modest. I could have added some London boroughs such as Hackney and Haringey, which are not exactly helpful towards neighbourhood watch schemes. The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that in the past 10 years we have seen nearly 15,000 more policemen on the streets--there are more to come--and another 10,000 civilians supporting the police. If only we could discover the Labour party's policy towards law and order and how much it would cost in this new world of phantom politics, we should be better informed.
Mr. Ian Taylor : Does my right hon. Friend agree that my constituents are fortunate not to live in Socialist boroughs? Is he aware that the boroughs of Elmbridge and Guildford positively welcome neighbourhood watches, as do the Metropolitan and Surrey police? The importance of neighbourhood watches is community concern about crime prevention instead of reliance on the police. The police are grateful for the help that community and neighbourhood watch schemes provide.
Mr. Patten : I congratulate my hon. Friend and, through him, the boroughs that he represents and the Surrey and Metropolitan police on their positive attitude. We now have 81,000 neighbourhood watch schemes, and the number is rising fast. They are strongly supported by the police, by the excellent organisation Crime Concern, and by the Home Office's safer cities unit. Alas, they are not strongly supported by the Labour party.
Mr. John Patten : In this financial year £3.7 million has been granted for local victim support schemes in England and Wales, and the amount will increase in the coming financial year. On 22 February 1990 my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary announced the publication of the new victims' charter. In addition, my right hon. and learned Friend has announced extra staff and expenditure for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Our criminal injuries scheme is more generous and reaches more victims than any other in the western world.
Column 1232have been victims of crime because for far too long there has been a feeling that too much time is spent worrying about trying to justify the cause of the criminal rather than caring for and helping the victims who have suffered? Will he assure the House that any claims for compensation will be dealt with as swiftly as possible so as to minimise the continued suffering of victims of crime?
Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) has exactly summed up my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's policy towards crime and punishment. My right hon. and learned Friend wants to put the victim first and the proper punishment of the criminal second, and to make those two things paramount in his policy. We are doing all that we can to ensure that those who deserve proper compensation from the most generous victim compensation scheme in the western world get that compensation as quickly as possible.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings later today. This evening I shall speak at a dinner of the Royal Society, along with the Prime Ministers of Norway and Sweden, to conclude the international conference on surface water acidification.
Mr. Ward : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread welcome for the Government's determination to encourage saving and, in particular, for the Chancellor's announcement of the big increase in capital which may be held before people are no longer eligible for community charge rebates and housing and other benefits?
The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend makes his own point. This was a vital part of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's very popular Budget for savers. It is right to recognise the conscientious efforts of people who have saved over the years especially for their retirement, and that is precisely what the Budget does.
Mr. Kinnock : I welcome the fact that the Government have made a positive response to the demands that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) made to the effect that retrospective payments should be given to people in Scotland who were denied poll tax rebates because of their modest savings. May I say, however, that this is ignominious retreat by Her Majesty's Government still deals with only one of the multitude of injustices in Scotland, England and Wales arising out of the poll tax?
Does the Prime Minister not think that it would be proper for the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come to the House today to make full statements and to be available for questioning by hon. Members in all parts of the House? Is it not clear from the series of events between Tuesday's Budget and today that the poll tax cannot really be mitigated by concessions and that only abolition will do?
Column 1233The Prime Minister : No. The community charge will be very popular-- [Interruption.] with people living alone, such as widows and widowers, who for years have paid high rates and who will be far better off paying a fair and reasonable community charge. Those people--often people who have saved all their lives--have been ignored by Opposition Members.
With regard to the announcement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland--[ Hon. Members :-- "When?"] earlier today, he will be considering-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : They will consider how a simple and workable scheme of ex gratia payments can be devised. It will be a scheme administered and funded by the Scottish Office from within its existing resources. [ Hon. Members :-- "Ah!"] My right hon. and learned Friend will report the proposals to the House as soon as the details of a Scottish scheme have been fully worked out. I stress that the scheme is an ex gratia one-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : I stress that the scheme will be an ex gratia one. No new legal rights to retrospective payments will be created. There could be no new legal rights on a major statement in a Budget going far wider than the community charge, so the arguments that Ministers have made against formal retrospection stand. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has said that as soon as the scheme is fully worked out after consultation he will make a full statement to the House.
Mr. Kinnock : In view of what the Prime Minister has just said and the interest on both sides of the House in the arrangements that the Government are making, why could not the Secretary of State for Scotland come to the House today and make a statement? Is it simply that he is afraid to acknowledge plainly the Government's gross incompetence?
The Prime Minister : I note that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the excellent proposals that we have made in the Budget were gross incompetence. They were in fact very good and very generous and could not possibly have been announced when a Labour Government were in charge of the economy.
With regard to the way in which people in Scotland are treated-- [Interruption.] Hon. Members want to ask questions, but they do not want to listen to the answers. Government expenditure per head of population is £2,100 in England, £2,400 in Wales and £2,800 in Scotland.
Mrs. Hicks : When the law makers opposite become law breakers and stick to their campaign to encourage people not to pay the community charge and to break the law, as part of which they have invited leading highly paid pop stars to the Palace of Westminster next Monday, is that not a disgusting and highly irresponsible example to set the young people whom we represent?
The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend. It is totally and utterly wrong to break the law, and very wrong to encourage by example young people to break the law. I trust that the Leader of the Opposition will disown this latest manifestation of intent to break the law--or does he depend too much on the 30 hon. Members whose action has made it clear that they should not belong to the Labour party?
Mr. Sillars : On the question of competence, is the Prime Minister aware that, of all the Prime Ministers I have seen in the House, none has ever given a more incompetent performance than hers in answering a question from the Leader of the Opposition? Is not it true that the total value of the poll tax rebate concession in 1990 will be £120 million and that, proportionately, Scotland should receive between £10 million and £12 million but as today's so-called concession is worth only about £4 million the Prime Minister is robbing Peter to pay Paul? What has she got against the Scottish people that she must add insult to injury?
The Prime Minister : The figure of £4 million is correct. I have mentioned the generous arrangements per head for Scotland with regard to public expenditure. With regard to the community charge, the aggregate Exchequer grant to Scotland towards local expenditure, plus the business rate, meets 80 per cent. of local authority expenditure. In England the aggregate Exchequer grant, plus business rate, meets only 70 per cent. of local authority expenditure. Scotland is far better off than England with regard to help from the taxpayer for local authority expenditure.
Mr. Coombs : Will my right hon. Friend confirm the comment made last week by the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, who said that not only is manufacturing output in this country at an all-time record level but exports are rising twice as quickly as world trade generally? Our share of world trade is also rising, and we now export more per person even than Japan. Does my right hon. Friend agree with the vast majority of British business men that the one way to put that trend disastrously into reverse would be to adopt the high-taxation, low- incentive and high-spending policies of the Labour party?
Column 1235manufacturing output reached an all-time record, as did manufacturing investment. This morning's trade figures show that since December our exports rose by 11 per cent. over last year's figure. Our imports are stable, which provides further clear evidence that the deficit is narrowing and that our policies are working. I note that under the last Labour Government manufacturing production actually fell.
Mr. Griffiths : Will the Prime Minister recognise that many people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will feel that it is unfair that they have been unable to claim rebates on their rates this year because they have more than £8,000? Will she examine the injustice of that as well?
The Prime Minister : I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on the excellent Budget-- [Interruption.] --on the excellent and generous provision that he made for capital disregards for a wide range of income benefits, and on a very good savers' Budget.
Mr. Oppenheim : Would my right hon. Friend like to contrast last Tuesday's Budget with certain previous Budgets? Does she recollect that before certain previous Budgets people used to queue to stock up in case prices rose too much? Does she also recollect that in some of those Budgets certain savings were taxed at a rate of 98 per cent., which led the New Statesman to assert that the Labour Government were driving the country from affluence into bankruptcy? Does the Prime Minister agree that whatever economic problems we have now are as nothing compared with those bequeathed by the last Labour Government?
Column 1236is strange to see the Opposition supporting a savers' Budget when their whole policy was to put a savings tax on investment income. It was this Government who took it off.
Mr. Ashdown : In view of this afternoon's humiliating turnaround in which Scotland was again treated as an afterthought, does the Prime Minister realise what a shambles her Government have descended to? She tells us that her Government is about leadership, but are there not now more Cabinet Ministers travelling behind the elephant clearing up the mess than in front telling it where to go?
The Prime Minister : I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman could do better than that. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said that from 1 April this year the capital disregard for four income support benefits is to be put up to as high as £16,000. I am surprised that the Liberal-whatever-it's-called party is not grateful for that. The Government whom it supported in office could never have done such a generous thing--their disregards would have been much lower. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the disregards at that time were about £2,000.
Mr. Hind : My right hon. Friend will be aware of the deep, wounding insult to the people of the north-west made by the shadow sports Minister, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), in undermining Manchester's bid for the Olympic games. Will she reaffirm that it is the intention of the Government to support Manchester's bid and to do all that they possibly can to ensure that the games come to Manchester?
The Prime Minister : Yes, we wholeheartedly support Manchester's bid for the 1996 Olympics. The city has put together an excellent brochure which shows how well Lancashire and the north-west have done under a Tory Government, and how they have been able to put up such a good bid. I hope that Manchester will be successful.
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