§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Michael Jack)
The latest safer cities progress report highlights a wide range of successful crime prevention initiatives that have benefited business, whose own crime prevention efforts have also gained from Home Office research covering issues such as retail crime analysis, shop theft and cheque and credit fraud. We have also supported the business and crime initiative launched by Crime Concern and the Confederation of British Industry.
§ Mr. Ward
Does my hon. Friend agree that the 300 business watch schemes represent a real commitment by the police and the business community to fight crime in partnership? How does my hon. Friend intend to encourage the extension of such schemes, and what practical help can he give to the participants?
§ Mr. Jack
I am delighted that my hon. Friend mentioned the word "partnership". That is the key to the way forward. Partnership has certainly been encouraged by the 20 safer city projects, and we have announced our intention to create 20 new safer cities. In addition, I have also had discussions with leading retailers, who are now showing considerable interest in working on crime prevention in partnership with us.
§ Mr. Redmond
When businesses such as B and Q open on a Sunday they commit a business crime. When will the Minister stop hiding behind local authorities? When will he stop condoning that activity and take positive action to stop those businesses breaking the law?
§ Mr. Jack
The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has given a clear idea of the Government's intentions on Sunday trading. Later this month a Bill dealing with the subject will be discussed. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity then to express his views more forcefully.
§ Mr. Paice
My hon. Friend has referred to retail crime. He will be aware of the great concern among retailers about large-scale, heavy-duty burglary, including ram raiding. What steps are being taken to reduce the incidence of ram raiding in terms of discussions with retailers and with the Department of the Environment, which controls the planning aspects of the prevention of ram raiding?
§ Mr. Jack
I recognise the severity of the effects of ram raiding. It is worth pointing out, as this may not be widely known, that ram raiding offences can attract a sentence of up to 10 years' imprisonment if burglary or aggravated burglary is involved.
My hon. Friend should be aware that we are pursuing Car Crime Prevention Year vigorously to ensure that the source of the tools of trade for ram raiders, if one can put it that way, are prevented from being stolen. I shall certainly pass on to the Department of the Environment my hon. Friend's comments relating to protective street furniture.
§ Mr. Michael
Does the Minister realise that the House is aware that he is being incredibly cheeky in suggesting that he will double the number of safer cities projects when in fact he will produce no extra cash?
On the real question before us, is the Minister aware that crime against business costs more than £10 billion per year, which is equivalent to a third of all NHS spending or 6 per cent. on income tax? Is he aware that fraud in the City of London costs more than £500 million per year? Given the Home Secretary's enthusiasm for putting business men in charge of hospitals, schools and prisons, or perhaps even the police, will the Minister now put some real enthusiasm into taking dramatic steps to sort out business crime?
§ Mr. Jack
That restatement of a problem that we take only too seriously is merely a thinly veiled apology from the Opposition for their total lack of positive thought on how to deal with the problem. Last week we announced in full detail our plans for the safer cities projects. We always made it clear that there would be a limit on funding for existing projects until the end of 1994.
I am surprised and disappointed that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) gives no weight to the announcement that we made about the National Board for Crime Prevention, which includes a dialogue between business and the Government to address the very problems that he detailed.
§ Mr. John Greenway
Does my hon. Friend agree that the outburst from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) that the House has just witnessed is an outrage on the great majority of businesses in the United Kingdom which wish to co-operate with the police and the Home Office to prevent crime? Can my hon. Friend tell the House what arrangements he has in mind to ensure that business men are encouraged to sponsor crime prevention schemes?
§ Mr. Jack
I am delighted that my hon. Friend referred to the police in the context of crime prevention. The police are central and play an excellent role. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members disagree with that, they will have a chance to say so later.
As for contributing to crime prevention, we have certainly made it clear that there will be a real opportunity 1042 for local businesses to bring not only their expertise but their resources to help perhaps even to run some of the new 20 safer cities schemes.