The Justice Secretary has said householders will be able to stab burglars without fear of prosecution under new legislation guaranteeing their right to defend themselves.
Ken Clarke was speaking ahead of the Justice Bill being debated in the Commons today.
He said an act of Parliament will be used to "clarify" the existing legal right to use "reasonable force" against intruders.
Mr Clarke said: "We will make it quite clear you can hit a burglar with a poker if he's in your house and you have a perfect defence when you do so.
"If an old lady finds she's got an 18-year-old burgling her house and she picks up a kitchen knife and sticks it in him, she has not committed a criminal offence, and we will make that clear."
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that the new Justice Bill would "put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted".
Mr Clarke accepted that the defence of reasonable force already exists, but said: "Given that doubts are expressed, we are going to clarify that.
"It is quite obvious that people are entitled to use whatever force is necessary to protect themselves and their homes.
"What they are not entitled to do is go running down the road chasing them or shooting them in the back when they are running away or to get their friends together and go and beat them up.
"We all know what we mean when we say a person has an absolute right to defend themselves and their home and reasonable force.
"Nobody should prosecute and nobody should ever convict anybody who takes these steps."
Mr Cameron's official spokesman said: "The objective is to put beyond doubt the fact that home-owners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to protect themselves or their property should be able to do that without being prosecuted."