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Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South): I thank my right hon. Friend for what he said about accident and emergency departments. In view of the increase in the number of people using such departments, will he agree to reconsider the proposal that the Edgware A and E department be replaced by a mere minor accident unit?

Mr. Dorrell: As my hon. Friend knows, that was the subject of a decision announced many months ago. As he also knows, work is currently taking place concerning the range of services to be provided in the new Edgware hospital. I am not in a position to announce a premature conclusion to that process, but I note what my hon. Friend says.

Mrs. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): Will the Secretary of State confirm that, before his letter to Sheffield children's hospital just before Christmas, there was no national monitoring of the occupancy of intensive care paediatric beds? Does he agree that that absence of monitoring was nothing short of disgraceful? Has his announcement superseded the monitoring work that the children's hospital was asked to do only one month ago?

Mr. Dorrell: No, it has built upon the work that the children's hospital was asked to do at the end of January.

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The answer to the hon. Lady's question is that, if I had not believed that there was a need not currently being met, I would not have written to Sheffield hospital.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, especially the idea that hospital trusts must pay proper attention to how they manage intensive care beds. Does my right hon. Friend agree that health authorities have a responsibility to consider carefully the level of resources that they allocate to trusts in their areas? Although we rightly try to switch resources from secondary to primary care, and succeed in bringing down waiting lists, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is crucial that health authorities do not forget the pressing need to ensure that we deliver a first-class emergency and intensive care service?

Mr. Dorrell: I entirely agree. An important conclusion that I hope health authorities and others in the health service will draw from the document that we are publishing today, is that health authorities need to address directly, within their local areas, the balance between acute services and primary care services, mental health services and other aspects of the NHS. Within the acute services, they must also address the balance between elective and emergency care.

Mr. Keith Bradley (Manchester, Withington): The Secretary of State's response to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said about the financial crisis that, because of management incompetence, faces south Manchester, was completely inadequate. Will he intervene today to stop the closure of 64 beds in south Manchester, and ensure that the inquiry set up by the regional health authority is made public? Will he belatedly agree to meet me to discuss bed occupancy and health care as a whole in south Manchester, to ensure that my constituents do not suffer because of the incompetence of the management over the past nine months?

Mr. Dorrell: The hon. Gentleman talks about my belatedly agreeing to meet him, but he and I know that we have met once to discuss the position in Manchester. As for the changed structure of service within the city, when the hon. Gentleman reads the Geldard case report, he will clearly see the emphasis that the inquiry team places on the need for a quick resolution of the difficult issues--I do not deny that they are difficult--surrounding neurosurgery and paediatric services in Manchester. I hope that he will agree to support those necessary changes. Of course my office is open to him--as it was last time.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. We are now going to move on.

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BILLS PRESENTED

Prevention of Breast Cancer

Ms Mildred Gordon, supported by Mrs. Ann Clwyd, Ms Jean Corston, Mr. Chris Mullin, Mr. Keith Vaz,Mrs. Helen Jackson and Mrs. Bridget Prentice, presented a Bill to enable women over the age of 65 years to have routine checks, including mammography, for breast cancer: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon 12 July and to be printed. [Bill 76.]

Adoption Leave Arrangements

Mrs. Helen Jackson, supported by Ms Tessa Jowell,Ms Ann Coffey, Ms Jean Corston, Mrs. Anne Campbell, Ms Angela Eagle, Ms Janet Anderson, Mrs. Bridget Prentice and Ms Joan Walley, presented a Bill to permit the Secretary of State by order to confer rights on adoptive parents in relation to employment similar to those enjoyed by parents whose children are born to them; to make provision for adoptive parents to have the right to return to work during the adoption period laid down; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon 26 April and to be printed. [Bill 77.]

6 Mar 1996 : Column 370

Stalking

5 pm

Ms Janet Anderson (Rossendale and Darwen): I beg to move,


I am grateful for this opportunity to raise an issue of importance to women in the week of International Women's Day. There has been much publicity this week about Tracey Sant, who suffered a three-year hate campaign of a former colleague Anthony Burstow.The details almost defy credibility. Burstow's unpleasant activities included sending Miss Sant a soiled sanitary towel, stealing her underwear from a washing line, pouring solvent over her car and writing her sinister notes--all because when Miss Sant decided to end their friendship, Burstow refused to accept it. He embarked on an excessive campaign that has left an indelible mark on her health and life. Earlier this week, Reading Crown court gaoled him for three years for inflicting psychological grievous bodily harm.

That was the first case of a stalker being convicted of grievous bodily harm, but it took five days of tortuous legal wrangling before the court was able to reach a decision. The reason is simple: the law is inadequate to deal with the problem. That is why the police sergeant involved in the case has called for action to make it easier to prosecute stalkers.

The Police Federation has also come out in favour of a specific crime of stalking. The editorial in Police last month revealed that the police annual conference will call on the Government to introduce laws to combat such criminal harassment. As it pointed out:


Vanessa Kennedy, a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice), was subjected to an eight-year ordeal that she describes as psychological torture. She still lives in fear of the man who has forced her to change her identity, destroyed her family and driven her to move house. She has attempted to commit suicide four times. Vanessa claims that Laurence Hammond threatened to cut her into pieces and make her pay for her rejection of him. He would describe in detail how he would torture her and other women; the images were terrible, and still give her nightmares.

Those who describe stalking as merely a nuisance should try speaking to a victim. They are mistaken if they think that just celebrities and members of the royal family suffer. The stories of ordinary women's lives that are devastated by the actions of obsessive former partners, or sometimes complete strangers, go largely unreported. Only victims who can afford to or who are entitled to legal aid can resort to civil law. Even then, an injunction is often not worth the paper on which it is written.

When ordinary victims turn to the police for help, the police are sympathetic, but tell them that, other than giving them a mobile phone, possibly installing a panic

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button in their home and driving past their house every so often, there is very little that they can do. Stalkers know that; when they are convicted of offences such as breach of the peace and making nuisance telephone calls, they learn to restrict their behaviour, keeping just within the law.

The unwanted attention can go on for months, even years. Some victims close to breakdown have felt that the only way in which to escape their stalker is to flee abroad. Others, their lives in tatters, can only pray that their tormentor will tire and move on, or be imprisoned for another offence. While the targets of obsession go on suffering, police officers throughout Britain are frustrated and angry about the absence of a specific offence of stalking.

During the passage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, an amendment that would have introduced a new offence of stalking, which was supported by Labour members of the Committee, was voted down by the Government. At the time, we deplored the Government's failure to take the opportunity to provide protection for women who are subjected to obsessive and frightening harassment.

British women who have been stalked are frustrated by the inadequacy of British law. In the words of one:


It is time that Britain followed the example of Canada, America and Australia, where stalking is a crime.

The National Anti-Stalking and Harassment Campaign recently submitted detailed proposals to the Home Office that would give greater protection to victims of stalking. If stalkers are not stopped, they can go on to assault the object of their obsession; in extreme cases, they may commit rape, and they may even commit murder, with which the family of Catherine Ayling is still struggling to come to terms. We must have new legislation to put an end to such a travesty of justice, which destroys the lives of many women. Stalking must be made a crime.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Ms Janet Anderson, Ms Tessa Jowell, Mrs. Bridget Prentice, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Ms Ann Coffey, Mrs. Margaret Hodge, Mr. Mike O'Brien, Ms Jean Corston, Mrs. Helen Jackson, Mr. Don Touhig, Mrs. Anne Campbell and Mrs. Maria Fyfe.


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