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Antisocial Behaviour

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

There have been three independent reports in the last three years—by the Home Affairs Committee, the Audit Commission and the National Audit Office. The NAO report found that antisocial behaviour orders work, and that two thirds of people behaving antisocially stop after the first intervention, rising to more than nine out of 10 by the third intervention.

I am delighted to be the first to put a question to my hon. Friend the Minister. I wish him the best of luck in the future.

For the first time, the residents of Black Dog walk in my constituency will have a peaceful time because a person who has been harassing them is now, after three antisocial behaviour orders, in prison. Through the ASBO process, how can we further protect those residents when that person is released?

I know that my hon. Friend takes such matters very seriously, and so do we. Any breach of an ASBO says more about the individual than it says about the law itself. If someone breaches an ASBO, it should be clear that they could face a custodial sentence, as happened in this case. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s constituents welcome the measures that have been taken and will welcome such measures in the future.

I am sure that the Minister would agree that antisocial behaviour is a serious matter to many law-abiding citizens. Could we not treat it more harshly—and transparently harshly—by making offenders, especially young ones, undertake community projects such as removing graffiti and chewing gum, and picking up litter from the streets? In that way, they could help to put right the wrong done to, and improve, the community in which they live. Let us treat such behaviour more seriously, and more transparently seriously.

We do treat it seriously, which is why we have a range of measures in place, not only ASBOs, but a range of powers available to the police and local authorities. The hon. Gentleman raises several important issues, not least of which is community payback. We are seeking to extend its use, so that the community can actually see the punishment and the tough action taken against offenders.

I too welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box for the first time. I know that he will do a first class job as a Minister.

Up to 400 car cruisers occupy the Asda car park in Blackwood in my constituency on a Thursday evening. The police have used dispersal orders to try to break up the gathering, but it still takes place. If I had my way, I would seize the cars and put them in a crusher. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me to discuss my modest suggestion and ways in which we can bring to an end this antisocial menace that causes grief to my constituents?

Even the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East and Saddleworth (Mr. Woolas) hopes that my right hon. Friend would want to take the drivers out before crushing the cars. [Laughter.] A range of measures is available, and we would encourage the police and the local authority to ensure that all those powers are not only available, but used. Of course I would be willing to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss this important matter.

What does the Minister believe might be the consequences for antisocial behaviour of the recent fashion among some local authorities, my own included, to turn off street lights in the middle of the night?

I would have thought that if a local authority were taking such steps, it would have reason to do so. Local authorities would need to demonstrate that such action would not have a detrimental effect on the level of crime or antisocial behaviour in that area. I hope that they would take such issues into account.

The drinking of alcohol in the street leads to antisocial behaviour. What research has been undertaken into the effectiveness of street drinking bans in local communities, and will he support my campaign for such bans in towns such as Dawley, Oakengates and Madeley in Telford?

I know that my hon. Friend takes this matter very seriously. Of course, we want local authorities, including his, to take account of every power that is available. I do not think that anyone could complain that we had not made a range of powers available to local authorities. It is, of course, up to the local police and local authorities not only to take those powers into account but to show which one is most useful.

When drinking banning orders were launched to curb drink-related antisocial behaviour, the then police Minister, the right hon. Member for Salford (Hazel Blears), said that they could have

“more impact on young people than many of the other things that we pass in the House.”—[Official Report, 14 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 723.]

However, three years later the current Minister has admitted that they still have not been brought into effect and that he will be taking stock of whether there is any need for them at all. Will the Minister confirm that drinking banning orders will be scrapped, and indicate what other measures he now considers to be unworkable, unnecessary or otherwise surplus to requirements?

We are disappointed that local authorities and some police forces have not taken those powers into account and done something about them. We will be conducting a campaign in the near future, and I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he is looking for that we intend to scrap the powers.