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Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many offences of robbery there were in each police force area in (a) 1998–99 and (b) 2000–01; what the percentage change between the two periods was; and if he will make a statement. [29623]

Mr. Denham: The requested information is given in the table.

We are determined to reduce the number of robberies across the country as a whole. That is why we have given five metropolitan forces, including the Metropolitan police, an additional £20 million specifically to assist their efforts in tackling robbery, and have set them the challenging target of a 14 per cent. reduction of robbery in our principal cities by March 2005. We are working with those forces, as well as progressing an extensive robbery research programme, to enable us to identify good practice in tackling robbery which we will ensure is disseminated to all forces.

A research study, "Mobile phone theft" (by Victoria Harrington and Pat Mayhew, Home Office Research Study 235) has recently been published. Based on data from those forces which noted whether a recorded robbery involved a mobile phone, the study shows that there was an increase in the proportion of robberies involving mobile phones, from about 8 per cent. in 1998–99 to about 28 per cent. in 2000–01. Also, from robberies in four police Basic Command Units in the first quarter of 2001, the study estimated that in 23 per cent. of mobile phone robberies, victims were using their phone or had it on display.

We are working with the police and the mobile phone industry to reduce mobile phone robbery, undertaking public awareness campaigns and joint tracking exercises. The phone operators are testing ways of putting stolen phones out of action. They have also agreed to improve security as they invest in new systems. We are pressing the handset manufacturers for similar commitments.

A start has been made, but more needs to be done before Britain's mobile phone system can lead the world in security. The mobile phone industry needs to show more interest in the security of phones they are selling to British consumers and, as the motor industry has done, do more to prevent their customers from becoming the victims of crime.

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Robberies recorded by the police

Year ending:
Police forceMarch 1999March 2001Percentage change
Avon and Somerset1,8312,76551
Devon and Cornwall462452-2
Greater Manchester7,6329,91830
London City of295383
Metropolitan Police26,33040,992(88)57
North Yorkshire1701869
South Yorkshire9791,43847
Thames Valley1,3272,14762
West Mercia35142321
West Midlands7,31511,35155
West Yorkshire3,0723,78123
North Wales12716328
South Wales511460-10
England and Wales66,83695,15442

(88) There was a boundary change between the Metropolitan police and Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey on 1 April 2000. the percentage change given for these forces is an estimate of the change which would have occurred had their boundaries remained constant during this period.

Nuisance Calls

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research his Department is conducting in respect of nuisance calls. [34620]

Mr. Denham: Information on nuisance calls derived from the British Crime Survey (BCS) was published in Home Office Research and Planning Unit paper no. 84 "Obscene, threatening and other troublesome telephone calls to Women in England and Wales: 1982–1992". Results from the 1982 and 1992 sweeps of the BCS indicated that 8 per cent. and 7 per cent. of women aged 16 or over had suffered from one or more obscene call in the course of 1981 and 1991 respectively. This information was derived from special questions included in the BCS for those years.

In 1998 the BCS included a computerised self-completion questionnaire on stalking. Respondents who said that they had suffered such unwanted attention

10 Apr 2002 : Column 336W

and were also asked whether they had received silent phone calls from the person involved and whether they had received obscene phone calls. Findings of this analysis were published in a Home Office Research Study 210, "The extent and nature of stalking: findings from the 1998 British Crime Survey" which has been deposited in the Library.

A recent study which examined 167 protection from harassment cases provides further information though recorded accounts about the characteristics of each case and how it was processed through the Criminal Justice System. The study identified several different types of behaviours which constituted harassment, including making obscene and silent telephone calls. Findings of this analysis were published in a Home Office Research Study 203, "An evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997" which has been deposited in the Library.

The BCS 2002 questionnaire asks respondents who use a mobile phone whether they have received in the last 12 months voice or text messages on their mobile phone which they consider offensive, or harassment.

Working Conditions and Practices

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people are employed in his Department on a job share contract; and what percentage of vacant positions was advertised on this basis in the last 12 months. [35362]

Angela Eagle: Job sharing is only one of a number of alternative and flexible working patterns that employees are welcome to take up. The flexibility of the pattern is decided in conjunction with local management to suit an individuals need and the needs of their work. For example, 11 per cent. of staff work part-time in a range of ways from reduced days per week to working alternate weeks. 38 staff are currently recorded as being job sharers in the Home Office, United Kingdom Passport Service and Forensic Science Service. Information on staff in the Prison Service who are job sharers is not held centrally and could not be provided without disproportionate costs.

It is Home Office policy (including the Prison Service) to advertise jobs as being open to part-timers or job sharers unless there is an operational reason for not doing so. Information on the percentage of posts advertised to job sharers is set out in the table.

Vacancies advertised over the last 12 months to 31 December 2001

Home Office(89)95.8
United Kingdom Passport Service91.9
Prison Service(90)
Forensic Science Service(91)

(89) Period of advertising 26 April-31 December 2001.

(90) Information not available.

(91) In the Forensic Science Service (FSS) part-time work is readily available without the need to find job share partners.

We are currently establishing a database to assist staff to find job-share partners. We have also volunteered to participate in the similar Cabinet Office cross-Whitehall scheme that they are setting up.

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Metropolitan Police (Retirement Age)

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will permit serving Metropolitan police officers with specialist anti-terrorist-related skills to extend their service in the force beyond the age of 60 as an exceptional measure. [35808]

Mr. Denham: Under the Police Pensions Regulations the compulsory retirement age ranges from 55 for constables and sergeants to 65 for those above the superintending ranks outside the Metropolitan police area. An officer's retirement on grounds of age is already subject to flexibility in that it can be postponed by up to five years at the discretion of the chief officer or the police authority, depending on the officer's rank.

Publicity Expenditure

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the total real terms expenditure of his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies on publicity in each of the years (a) 1997–98, (b) 1998–99, (c) 1999–2000, (d) 2000–01 and (e) 2001–02 (i) to date and (ii) as estimated for the whole of the present year; and if he will break these figures down to indicate expenditure on (A) advertising and (B) press and public relations. [36174]

Angela Eagle: The information requested is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

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