Report (1st Day) (Continued)
20: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue guidance to persons entitled to apply for injunctions under section 1 (see section 4) about the exercise of their functions under this Part.
(2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section.
(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”
My Lords, ahead of Report in the House of Commons, the Government published draft guidance for front-line professionals on the new anti-social behaviour powers. With the exception of those sections dealing with the review of criminal behaviour orders and the community remedy, this was to be non-statutory guidance.
In addition to the draft guidance produced by the Home Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a draft practitioner’s manual for tackling irresponsible dog ownership. Of course, the content of the draft guidance has been the subject of discussion during our Committee deliberations. On a number of points, noble Lords expressed concern that our expectations of how the power should be used would be in guidance with no statutory basis.
While I believe that the new powers have sufficient safeguards to ensure appropriate and proportionate use, I see merit in making the guidance statutory for all the new anti-social behaviour powers. Our intention is not to be prescriptive; it is essential that professionals and the courts have the flexibility to consider the facts of each case and choose the most appropriate course of action. However, statutory guidance will help them use the new powers more effectively. The amendments in this group will achieve that result and I trust noble Lords will support them. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to speak on the statutory guidance sections. I have one little amendment, Amendment 57, in this group, and it is fairly clear what it means.
This is the first time that I have spoken at this stage of the Bill, apart from one intervention, so I should declare my interests again in relation to this group and some others that we will come to. They are my membership of a district council in Lancashire as a councillor, my membership of the British Mountaineering Council, of which I am a patron, and my vice-presidency of the Open Spaces Society, and they relate to things that will come up later.
I thank the Ministers—particularly the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who is not yet in his place—for the way in which they have approached this Bill, for the way in which they have been open to discussion and to holding meetings with the Bill team, and for the large amount of material that they have sent out in letters and so on. Their readiness to look at a lot of the questions raised at Second Reading and in Committee, and to come forward with quite a lot of amendments today—most of the amendments that we are discussing at the moment are government amendments—shows that they have been willing to listen. I have absolutely no doubt that the parts of the Bill in which I am interested—those on anti-social behaviour—are a lot better for that process, so I will put on record my personal thanks to them.
These amendments are all about guidance. As the Minister said, they mean that the guidance that we were told would be issued—we have already seen the draft guidance—and that is now out for consultation with various bodies will become statutory. This is very welcome. A caveat to that is that I would much have preferred the guidance to be statutory instruments and regulations, as those would have had the benefit of having to come before the House of Commons and your Lordships’ House. Nevertheless, it is better that the guidance should be statutory rather than it being left open as to whether or not people will bother to produce guidance. The fact that it is statutory guidance means that there will have to be proper consultation on it, that it will have to be published and everybody will know that, and that the Ministers issuing the guidance will have some accountability to the Houses of Parliament if we want to raise questions as a result of what is in it. That is welcome and it is being welcomed by a number of organisations with which I am in touch.
The guidance referred to in this group of amendments covers a number of different parts of the Bill, including IPNAs—I am interested that we are still calling them IPNAs following the amendment that was agreed this afternoon; I was trying to work out whether they should now be called IPHADs but at the moment they are called IPNAs—criminal behaviour orders, the powers of police community support officers, community protection notices, public space protection orders and the question of the closure of premises, and there may be others. The point that I would have made if I had been able to get in during the debate this afternoon is that the Bill is not really about everything that was discussed this afternoon.
Most of the debate was about free speech, freedom of assembly and the right of people to protest, as by-products of Clause 1. In practice, this Bill is about anti-social behaviour—or at least the majority of it that refers to anti-social behaviour is—and about whether it is successful in tackling anti-social behaviour more effectively than the existing regime based on ASBOs. I am optimistic that it will be more successful, but the guidance that we are discussing is going to be crucial to how it works on the ground. At the moment if you have to make an ASBO, you have failed.
If you have to make an IPNA, or criminal behaviour or public spaces protection orders, that is the end of the process. They are backstops to everything else that ought to be happening in the mean time. If the system is to work properly, the problems should be picked up early. A lot of work should go into what my noble friend Lady Hamwee this afternoon referred to as preventing escalation. That requires a lot of work and effort on the ground, and teams of people: perhaps the neighbourhood policing team, or the local council anti-social behaviour team, or people from schools and from the truancy, probation and environmental health services. These people need to work together as teams rather than individually. That is what tackling anti-social behaviour really means if it is to be successful on the ground.
I hope that the guidance will strongly point people in this direction: to take action as early as possible and to take preventive action to work with people rather than at the beginning waving these new powers, orders and notices, and using them as last resorts but nevertheless as backstops if necessary. However, resources are a huge problem. Before Second Reading, I had a meeting with two people from the local anti-social behaviour team—a team of three altogether—from my council of Pendle to talk about this Bill and get their views on it. They were optimistic that it would help them.
Given the scale of the spending cuts on the local authorities and the fact that my own authority is having to lose about half its staff over six or seven years, the problem is whether that team will exist in a year’s time. The presence of services and teams like these, which are not statutory but voluntary as far as the council is concerned, is crucial if the statutory provisions in this Bill are to work. I think they would want me to make that point. Having said that, I support the amendments in this group and hope that the Minister will reply to my little amendment.
As has been said, the Home Office has already published draft guidance for front-line professionals. The purpose of these amendments is to refer to it in the Bill, with the conferring of powers on the Secretary of State to issue it. In one of the letters sent to us, the Minister also said that:
“We also undertook in response to yet other amendments to revisit the terms of the draft guidance for frontline professionals”.
That letter set out a list of the areas where they would review the draft guidance.
Is the outcome of that review known or is it still taking place? If it is still taking place, is the intention that we will see the outcome of the review of the draft guidance and know what it is before we get to Third Reading? We have at least had the advantage in the discussions we have had so far of knowing what was in the already published draft guidance and, if it is being looked at again, we ought to have sight of any revisions being made to it before we conclude our discussions on the Bill. That would be extremely helpful. Is it now the Government’s intention to review the draft guidance in the light of the carrying of the amendment earlier today, which must presumably have some impact on the draft guidance that has been issued?
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Greaves for his amendment and his comments. I have scribbled down here that I would convey his thanks to my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. I have so conveyed them and he has obviously heard them, so there we are.
Turning to Amendment 57, I can assure my noble friend that any guidance produced under the new clause proposed in Amendment 56 will automatically apply to any person or body designated under the new clause proposed in Amendment 53. We will come on to that amendment later in our proceedings but suffice it to say that, by virtue of subsection (2) of the proposed new clause, any designated person or body would be treated as a local authority for the purposes of Chapter 2 of Part 4 as a whole. As such, the guidance produced for local authorities under the terms of Amendment 56 will be applicable to persons or bodies designated in accordance with the provisions in Amendment 53. I hope that reassures my noble friend in relation to his amendment.
On the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and taking the second question first on revisions to guidelines in the light of the vote, obviously the vote has happened and we shall look at the outcome. The guidelines will be finalised once the Bill has reached its final stages in Parliament.
As to where we are on the guidance, we are currently working with councils, the police and others. Over the coming months we will discuss the effects of the guidance but any results and further alterations will, unfortunately, not be available before Third Reading. However, the final draft of the guidance will reflect the terms of the Bill as enacted.
With those reassurances to my noble friend, I hope that he will be minded not to move his amendment.
Amendment 20 agreed.
Clause 19: Interpretation etc
21: Clause 19, page 10, leave out line 4
Amendment 21 agreed.
Clause 21: Power to make orders
22: Clause 21, page 11, line 38, after “satisfied” insert “, beyond reasonable doubt,”
My Lords, Amendment 22 is in similar terms to the one tabled in Committee by my noble friend Lady Hamwee and proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report on the Bill. The amendment will specify in the Bill that when considering whether to make a criminal behaviour order, the court must be satisfied to the criminal standard of proof that the offender has engaged in behaviour that causes or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any person.
The government position was that, as the case law is clear on this point, there was no need to provide for the criminal standard in the legislation. This approach is in line with that taken in other legislation providing for other types of civil preventive orders. However, on reflection, we are satisfied that there are sufficient grounds here for taking a different approach. Part 1 expressly provided that an IPNA was subject to the civil standard of proof so, unless express provision was made in Part 2, we accept that there could be some doubt that the criminal standard would apply in proceedings in respect of the criminal behaviour order. This amendment therefore removes any such doubt. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Government for having reflected and I thank them for the amendment.
Amendment 22 agreed.
23: Clause 21, page 12, line 16, leave out paragraph (a)
Amendment 23 agreed.
Amendments 24 and 25 not moved.
Clause 22: Proceedings on an application for an order
Amendment 26 not moved.
Clause 27: Review of orders
Amendments 27 and 28
27: Clause 27, page 15, line 42, after “any” insert “relevant”
28: Clause 27, page 15, line 42, after “State” insert “under section (Guidance)”
Amendments 27 and 28 agreed.
Clause 28: Carrying out and participating in reviews
28A: Clause 28, page 16, line 15, leave out “the Isle of Wight” and insert “a county in which there are no districts”
My Lords, this amendment is just trying to help the Government. They have a bit here that is wrong. I raised it in Committee and I thought it would be sorted out. I apologise that I did not notice that it had not been until it was too late to get it on the Marshalled List. Never mind: it has appeared.
In all these different sections and all the alphabet soup of IPNAs, PSPOs and the rest, there is a definition of what the local authority is in relation to that particular area. In the case of IPNAs it is all the principal local authorities. In most of them it is the lowest-tier principal local authority. For example, in relation to public space protection orders it reads:
“‘local authority’ means—in relation to England, a district council, a county council for an area for which there is no district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly”.
The definition here in relation to criminal behaviour orders is outdated. The definition in Clause 28(4) has, I think, been picked up from previous legislation which must have been enacted before there were any unitary authorities apart from the Isle of Wight, and certainly before there were any unitary counties. It simply reads:
“‘local government area’ means—in relation to England, a district or London borough, the City of London, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly”.
This means that those areas where there is a unitary county, not a unitary district, are not included and so they are simply missed out of the list. These include Northumberland, Durham and Cornwall, for example, and, I think, one or two more.
My amendment will simply delete “the Isle of Wight”, which is a unitary county, and insert the words,
“a county in which there are no districts”.
That is equivalent to the wording elsewhere. As I say, I am just trying to help the Government by making the legislation cover the whole of England and to get it right. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am for ever grateful to my noble friend Lord Greaves for continuing to keep us on our toes with his scrutiny of the various definitions of local government area as used in the Bill. This amendment relates to Clause 28 which, as my noble friend said, requires a chief officer, in carrying out a review of a criminal behaviour order made against a person under 18, to act in co-operation with the council for the local government area where the offender lives.
This is an area of statute law where there is more than one way of defining a local government area. I have to advise noble Lords that the definition in Clause 28 is correct, but I accept that the drafting could always adopt a different approach. In order to preserve the overall structure laid down by the Local Government Act 1972, the area of a unitary council is usually designated both a county area and a district area, even though it has only a district or a county council. Therefore, in an area where there is a unitary county council, that council will be the council for the district in which the offender resides. In short, the provision works as drafted.
Just as a clarification on the issue of the Isle of Wight, my understanding is that it is a case apart in that it still has districts, albeit no district councils. The express reference to the Isle of Wight therefore avoids any ambiguity in this respect. In light of this explanation, I hope that my noble friend is minded to withdraw his amendment.
I refer the Minister to page 31 of the Bill and the meaning of “local authority” under community protection notices, for example, where the list is different. That specifically refers to,
“in relation to England, a district council, a county council for an area for which there is no district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly”.
It does not refer to the Isle of Wight specifically and separately but refers to,
“a county council for an area for which there is no district council”.
In Clause 67, on page 40, the definition is identical to that for community protection notices.
It may be that, as the Minister said, Northumberland, Durham and Cornwall are districts as well as counties, but that would be news to them since they think that all their districts were abolished a few years ago and that, in common parlance, they are unitary counties. In normal lists of local authorities in England, you refer either to unitary authorities if that is what you mean—you could do that—or to unitary districts and unitary councils. Clearly, unitary districts such as those in Berkshire are districts and so come under the general thing of districts.
Even if the Minister’s rather obscure explanation is right, why is the same terminology not used in different parts of the Bill? Different terminology is used for IPNAs, community protection notices and public space protection orders. It is different because it has simply been picked up, in the case of Part 2 of the Bill on criminal behaviour orders, from previous legislation. All I ask is that the Minister goes away and looks at this again. Even if what he says is right, surely the terminology in the different parts of the Bill should be the same. Could the Minister respond to that?
My Lords, again, if I follow my noble friend’s point, it partly proves my own that different drafting approaches to this issue can achieve the same end. I am assured that the Bill is not defective as drafted so I urge my noble friend to accept the approach we have taken, but I listened to his comments again. I assure him that I will sit down with my noble friend Lord Taylor and the officials once more to get the required assurance that the drafting is correct. I will write to my noble friend Lord Greaves in that regard.
I am grateful for that. I hope the Minister will write to me in good time: I will put the same amendment down at Third Reading if I do not get satisfaction. If it is true that the Isle of Wight is a case on its own and has to be mentioned separately, why is it not mentioned separately in all the other cases of IPNAs, PSPOs, community protection notices and so on? The Minister seems to have it both ways. Again, he has not answered my basic question as to why—so that people can understand it—the same terminology is not used in different parts of the same Bill. The answer will be that different officials wrote different parts of the Bill but that is no reason for not standardising it when you have the opportunity. Having said that, when a Minister makes an offer, I believe it is within the traditions and courtesy of the House to accept it. I will do so and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 28A withdrawn.
Clause 29: Breach of order
Amendment 29 not moved.
30: After Clause 30, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue guidance to—
(a) chief officers of police, and(b) the councils mentioned in section 28(2),about the exercise of their functions under this Part. (2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section.
(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”
Amendment 30 agreed.
Clause 32: Authorisation to use powers under section 33
31: Clause 32, page 18, line 38, at end insert—
“( ) In deciding whether to give such an authorisation an officer must have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly set out in articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.
“Convention” has the meaning given by section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.”
My Lords, there are two government amendments in this group. It may assist the House if I set out the case for the reform of the existing powers available to the police and, in doing so, also address Amendment 32, which has been tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith.
In Committee, the Opposition questioned whether the new dispersal power is needed—indeed, the noble Baroness mentioned that earlier in the debate—and whether there is any problem with the existing powers. It is true that both of the existing dispersal powers have been used successfully to deal with anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related disorder. However, they also have limitations. Section 30 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 is used to deal with persistent anti-social behaviour in an area and requires the agreement of the local authority in designating a dispersal zone. That approach is not as swift and responsive as it could be. This Bill takes a different approach. Where there is persistent anti-social behaviour in an area, it is the council that is able to put in place the measures to promote long-term, sustainable change in an area. It uses not a dispersal power but the new public spaces protection order.
Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 is a police-only power, so can be used more quickly; but it can be used only in relation to alcohol-related disorder, and that is too limited. In reforming the anti-social behaviour legislation, we have sought to streamline the powers and make them more flexible. That is the philosophy behind all the anti-social behaviour powers in this Bill. The new dispersal power will allow police to respond quickly so that victims do not have to suffer the anti-social behaviour while a dispersal zone is put in place. I believe that agencies should not have to label an area an ASB hotspot before the police are able to act. These labels are a stigma on communities and can hinder the hard work of local agencies to improve the quality of life in those areas. I agree that the existing dispersal powers are not “broke”—to use a well known expression—but that does not mean that we should not take this opportunity to improve them. Combining the best elements of the existing powers makes the new power a more effective tool to protect victims of anti-social behaviour.
In its written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, ACPO stated that the new dispersal power,
“will strengthen police powers to remove people from areas for poor public place behaviour in general and are not overly focussed on alcohol related disorder as at present”.
It said that the two existing powers,
“have proved to be very effective tools and combining these orders will simplify their administration and reduce costs”.
This is echoed by a number of individual police forces and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which also welcome the new dispersal power. The Criminal Justice Alliance stated that the new power,
“could alleviate antisocial behaviour from particular areas quickly with far less administrative bureaucracy than previously”.
All these organisations caveat their statements with the note of caution that it will be important that the new power is used proportionately and sensitively, and we agree. As I have explained, the new power is designed to allow the police to act quickly to prevent anti-social behaviour from escalating. This does not mean that we expect the police to act in isolation from other agencies; indeed, we acknowledge that there will be many situations where it is appropriate to involve the local authority in the response to anti-social behaviour.
However, to require the police to consult the local authority routinely before the dispersal power is used would severely constrain its use. As for providing democratic oversight of the police, which some have suggested is the reason for local authority involvement, that is not the role of the local authority. As with all police activity, police and crime commissioners will provide the democratic accountability for the use of dispersal powers.
I believe that it is right to reform the dispersal powers. That said, we have listened to the concerns expressed in Committee that the new dispersal powers could be used to restrict peaceful protests and freedom of assembly. That brings me to government Amendments 31 and 33, which I hope will be agreed by the House. I remain satisfied that the test for the exercise of those powers precludes them from being used in such a way. However, given the strength of feeling on the matter, we have tabled the amendments. Amendment 31 makes it clear that, before authorising the use of the dispersal powers, the authorising officer must have due regard to the rights to freedom of assembly and expression as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Similarly, Amendment 33 makes clear an officer’s duty to consider those rights before issuing a dispersal direction.
Similar concerns were raised in the context of public spaces and protection orders. Although not in this group, Amendment 54 places a similar duty on the local authority to have particular regard for those two convention rights before making such an order. Again, as public authorities under the Human Rights Act, local authorities are already duty bound to act compatibly with convention rights, but we recognise that, in the context of the Bill, it is helpful to reinforce that point.
I hope that that reassures noble Lords that the new dispersal powers will not be used in a way that conflicts with an individual’s convention rights. I commend the government amendments and the provisions of Clause 32 to the House.
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the Minister for Amendments 31 and 33. They are clearly intended to address one of the problems which arises from the clauses on dispersal orders. They address the issue of whether this power could be used in respect of people conducting a demonstration of some sort—at least, I assume that that is what they do. Perhaps when the Minister responds, he could tell us the strength of the words,
“have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression”,
in relation to a demonstration which may be a bit rowdy, a bit difficult or a bit challenging, as opposed to a straightforward, entirely sedate slow march or, indeed, to someone standing still waving a placard.
For example, could the power be used under circumstances in which, having given regard to the rights of freedom of expression, the inspector concerned decides that he has thought about it but, none the less, he wishes to use the power? If the Minister can reassure us about that, clearly the issue has been adequately addressed by Amendments 31 and 33.
I address my remarks to the wider issues raised by Amendment 32 in the name of my noble friend, which would remove Clause 32. I suspect that that is a rather blunderbuss approach to a matter on which we have been trying throughout the passage of the Bill through your Lordships’ House to get clarity on: in what circumstances the power might be used and how that might happen. We asked many questions in Committee about how this might happen, to which we have had very little in terms of answers. I certainly recall raising the issue of the rank of the police officer who would authorise the use of the power in a specified locality. I accept that the Minister described inspectors as comparatively senior police officers—and indeed they are comparatively senior police officers compared with a constable or a police sergeant—but they are not comparatively senior compared with an assistant chief constable or a superintendent. These are relative terms.
Will these officers have sufficient sensitivity to the local environment, local circumstances and local community issues that might be raised by the use of dispersal powers? The reason why this is so sensitive is that it is a very broad power. I am sure that many of your Lordships remember the debates that took place in the 1970s about the use of the sus power. That was a power to stop, really, on the basis of a police officer deciding they did not like the look of somebody. What we now have with this power is a facility for the police to say, “In this area, we are deciding that this group of people will not be here”. If those people are removed and they refuse to go, this has created a power where they could ultimately be going to jail. There are community implications of doing that. As an example of where these powers might be used, I cited a group of boisterous youths in a fairground site or in an area where other activities are taking place, who are or might be regarded as alarming or distressing members of the public in the locality, or likely to alarm or distress members of the public in the locality. Those are exactly the sort of circumstances which could provoke major disturbances, certainly in some of our inner cities and, I suspect, in many other areas, if the powers were used insensitively, inappropriately or in a disproportionate fashion. How will these authorisations be given? Will there be a proper account of the likely local community consequences?
This is why the absence of any reference to consulting the local authority is so silly. This is not about a democratic deficit. The Minister is quite right to say that under current legislation the police service is held to account by the police and crime commissioner. This is not about holding to account. This is about involving democratic representatives prior to a decision being taken. This is not about ceding direction and control. It is about listening to the voice of the people who know the area best, usually the locally elected representatives, on the likely consequence of saying, “In this particular area, we are excluding these particular people because it is alleged that they may be liable to cause a particular problem even if they have not done so already”. That is why it matters. The danger is that the inappropriate use of this power creates circumstances where there are going to be all sorts of problems and disturbances in the future. I would personally have confidence in the sensitivity of inspectors in making such decisions, but there may well be circumstances in which that would not be the case and a more senior officer would be appropriate.
I cited the example of a county force which might decide, “We have this complicated new legislation—the annual Home Office piece of legislation. We need to make sure we get it right. We will designate an inspector for the whole force area who will be in charge of authorisations to use powers under Section 33 of this new Act”. That would be a sensible decision for a police force to make—it might even be one that the police and crime commissioner would endorse—but it would mean that the inspector making that decision would not necessarily have any knowledge of the locality concerned. If it was the community inspector for that area, if you could define one and such a thing existed, or if it was the local commander or an officer of sufficient seniority that they would have thought through all the community implications, that would make sense. However, the way that it is expressed at the moment, which is simply as,
“A police officer of … the rank of inspector”,
does not provide enough safeguards.
The Minister seems to imply that it is making it more difficult for the police to act if there is a requirement to consult. However, there are various forms of consultation. I do not think that any of us talking about this are envisaging a circumstance—at least I am not—in which there would be a three-week consultation with a formal exchange and so on. We are simply talking about the courtesy call. What is the likely community impact in this area of doing that? That could be a simple phone call; it could even be a text message or by word of mouth. It could be done in a variety of ways. However, surely the least that should be expected is that there will be communication with the local authority with which the police are supposed to be in partnership as part of their crime and disorder reduction arrangements. Yet that is omitted. Indeed, the Minister said that it would be far too cumbersome to allow that to happen. Well, there might be a small degree of inconvenience and slowing down of the speed of action but that opportunity to take advice might be what averts a major disturbance or even a riot. That is why these issues are important and why we need some clarity.
We are told that the authorisation, once given,
“must be in writing … must be signed by the officer giving it, and … must specify the grounds on which it is given”.
That is fine—it is not a complicated requirement—but presumably there is then an expectation that members of the public will know about this, so presumably this has to be copied and made available to the officers on the ground so that they can explain to an individual, “These are the legal powers under which I am asking you to disperse”. Again, we have not had clarity from the Minister. Or if we have had it I have lost it in the piles of letters that he has had to send out following Committee because of the difficulties with the drafting of some parts of the Bill. We have not had clarity about how this power is to operate, the circumstances in which it is envisaged to operate or whether there is to be sufficient guidance to make sure that the nightmare that I can see round the corner does not occur. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us on this point. We have waited quite a long time for this reassurance; we have still not had it.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the amendments that he has brought forward. He did respond to the debates in Committee by bringing them and we welcome the provisions on freedom of expression and assembly. However, as my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey said, he and I both raised more fundamental concerns about the changes being made by the Government. I do not propose to repeat the comments made by my noble friend or comments that I made previously but the fact is that we did not receive satisfactory answers in Committee, particularly on how the dispersal orders will work in practice or on the evidence base for why they are being extended and changed.
In Committee, the Minister said that he would write to me with that information. Again, I take the same view as my noble friend Lord Harris: my apologies if I have missed the Minister’s letter to me in the many letters that we have received or have been copied into. However, I do not appear to have received the letter that he promised with information on the evidence base for changing the orders. I was very interested in the comments that the Minister made this evening when he opened and I wish that I had had them in writing previously, as I thought I would. That would have given me an opportunity to consider them properly but I will read Hansard to see what he said.
In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, tried to extract information about how the orders would work in practice. He made a similar point tonight, but when he made it in more detail in Committee the Minister accused him of being mischievous. It is fair to say, he does have a mischievous streak. That has been evident but it was not evident on that occasion and it is not evident this evening.
I think that was the phrase I used—that the noble Lord had a mischievous streak to his nature.
No, it was not. The Minister accused him of being mischievous in that regard. He cannot rewrite Hansard. My noble friend was making then, and is making now, a genuine attempt to find out how the orders will work in practice, step by step. The points made about the police officers are ones to which I should like answers.
We are not opposed to dispersal orders. I made that point before and I will make it again. We introduced them in 2004. There was some controversy at that time but we think it was the right thing to do. The issue we have is with the significance of the changes being made in the geographical area and the timescale and the lack of involvement from the local authority. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, made the point that our issue is not with any demographic oversight the PCC can provide after the event. It is with ensuring that, where there is to be a dispersal order, democratically elected community representatives ensure that the power is used to the best effect and that they do not cause any further problems and misunderstandings by not using it appropriately. That consultation and involvement with local authorities is very important.
When the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny in the other place that there should be a duty to consult local authorities over dispersal orders of more than six hours, the Government agreed and said they would amend the legislation. They have not done so and it would be helpful to hear from the Minister why the Government are not now fulfilling their commitment to HASC. There must be a reason why they are no longer choosing to do that.
As far as I understand it, the Minister said that the police have now said that they find the dispersal order powers useful. At the risk of being accused of a blunderbuss approach, I have tabled the same amendment to try to get some answers. What was the evidence base for bringing such significant changes forward? Did the police come along and say to the Government, “There is a lack of flexibility in the current orders. There are delays in implementing them. We do not want to have to liaise with local authorities. We want to go it alone. We need them to be longer. We need a wider area.”? Did they raise those concerns prior to the Government bringing this forward? I am not aware that they did or that there were any such concerns raised by the existing orders, but if there were, can the Minister let us know that? In his comments in Committee regarding the involvement of local authorities he used phrases such as “it is likely” the police will work with the local authority and he referred to draft guidance, which states that the authorising officer “may wish where practical” to consult local council or community representatives. That is very vague and it is not my understanding of the commitment made to the Home Affairs Select Committee.
I am just trying to understand why the changes were brought forward in the first place, who complained about local authority involvement and who thought that was hampering the process or the use of orders? If the Minister is unable to answer these questions at this stage we will have to conclude there is no evidence base but I would very much regret the Government bringing forward such significant changes without an evidence base. I reiterate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. We need some real understanding of how this will work in practice, given the very significant changes that are being made.
My Lords, this gives us an opportunity to come back to a subject where there has not been a great deal of meeting of minds. I am anxious to make sure that we are all reading this situation in the same way. I will address the various points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey—I accept that he is not making them out of mischievousness but out of genuine inquiry as to how the operations are going to work—and the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith.
When we talked about setting this process up, I thought my speaking notes made it clear that information that we provided in the consultation we had on this was about making efficient dispersal arrangements and providing them in connection with the public space protection order. One of those things deals with territory and one deals with situations. I think we all agree that when we are dealing with territory, there is often quite a bit of history—there is certainly a lot of experience—and local government and the police can work very happily in hand together to deal with it. When we are dealing with situations and people, it is very important that we have a clear order of command. In areas which may well have provided trouble in the past or, indeed, in situations which are known to the police and local authorities to be likely to be troublesome, there may well be some prior discussions.
One of the great advantages of using inspector grades to take these decisions is that most inspectors have territorial responsibilities and local knowledge is very important. Indeed, in terms of policing—and it is an operational matter involving the police, not local authority employees, for example—it is the police who have that local knowledge. They have access to that local knowledge and an inspector would have access to it by consultation with sergeants and constables. Indeed, it need not be at inspector level that the decision is ultimately made. If it is a complex issue that requires great sensitivity, the inspector is perfectly entitled to go up to superintendent or even chief constable level before determining that the dispersal order is made. However, this legislation provides the facility for it to occur.
The noble Baroness talked about the evidence. To my mind, the evidence is pretty self-explanatory in that what we need is a clear command structure. The Government feel that this is the right thing. We have presented it to the police. I met Richard Antcliff of Nottinghamshire Police city community protection team before Christmas. He welcomes these new powers. His team is a partnership team of police officers, police staff and council officers. I went to Nottingham in October to see its work. He is very positive about the new dispersal power and sees it as a key intervention in dealing with anti-social behaviour in the city of Nottingham. The work in Nottingham is co-operative, and that is surely the sort of thing we want.
I am not trying to hold up progress through the Bill. I am sure the project that the Minister went to see in Nottingham is excellent, but if it is being interpreted, on the basis of a conversation that he had with somebody there, who was no doubt in deep awe of the Minister, as a statement of police support for this change, it is going a little far. It may be that it is more than that, but the point still remains. The clause we have at the moment simply states,
“a police officer of at least the rank of inspector”.
It does not say, “a police officer of at least the rank of inspector who has, for example, an intimate knowledge of the communities concerned and the likely impact of this action”. If it said something like that, and I appreciate that that is not legislative drafting, that would reassure on that particular point, but it does not. It could simply be an inspector. I think it quite likely that some police forces, given that they are about to receive a large new volume of technical legislation, will decide to have an inspector somewhere—or maybe even a superintendent; it does not really matter which—whose sole purpose will be to ensure that all the boxes have been ticked in terms of following the legislation. That is not the same as someone with an intimate knowledge of what the community consequences are likely to be in that locality.
Although the noble Lord is not being mischievous, he is being extraordinarily cynical. Effective operation of a police force is that police force’s job; it is not our job here in Parliament, as we construct the law, to tell the police how they should effect the law. The law requires us to ensure that dispersal orders are operated properly and that full consideration is given to the rights of peaceful protest and political expression. We have made it clear what the law is, and it is up to the police to decide what they should do. The view that I have expressed—it is, of course, just an opinion—is that it is right to involve inspectors in this sort of decision-making, because, as I think the noble Lord would agree, when it comes to local knowledge of policing situations, it is frequently the inspector who is in the best position. If he does not know, he can ask a superior officer, and also consult the officers involved in policing that particular area.
I am sorry, but I feel that the noble Lord is making heavy weather of what I considered to be a fairly straightforward matter. He asked what sort of protest would not be approved of. I have already said that if people were carrying hate messages on placards they might well be considered to be out of order, and a dispersal order could be the most effective way of handling that situation. I gave that simply as an example.
As I explained in Committee, the dispersal will be authorised by an officer of the rank of inspector or above. This is in line with all the other responsibilities that police inspectors have. A neighbourhood policing inspector will have a detailed knowledge of the local area and what the consequences of using the dispersal power may be. Ultimately, as I have said, it is an operational matter.
I hope I have answered noble Lords’ questions. Have I answered the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith? The noble Baroness asked me about our response to the Home Affairs Select Committee. As she said, we did not make any commitment. We made it clear that we would accept the committee’s argument that the dispersal power would benefit from the additional safeguards, to ensure that its use was proportional and appropriate, and that we would change the legislation to state that the use of the dispersal power should be approved in advance by an officer of at least the rank of inspector. This ensures that the wider impact on, for example, communications can be considered properly before use. Those were the commitments that we made to the Select Committee.
I am under strict instructions from my Front Bench not to pursue this point at any length. But before the Minister sits down, may I ask him whether he would accept that if, at Third Reading, there was an amendment that said, “In deciding whether to give such an authorisation, an officer must have particular regard to the likely community impact of such an order”, that would solve the problem? It would place an obligation on those in the police service, however they had chosen to organise themselves, to consider the community impact. At the moment, the officer’s only obligation is to consider whether he or she is,
“satisfied on reasonable grounds that the use of those powers in the locality during that period may be necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of”,
certain events. That is not the same as having regard to the likely community impact.
No. I am sorry. I cannot commit the Government to accepting such an amendment.
Amendment 31 agreed.
Amendment 32 not moved.
Clause 34: Restrictions
33: Clause 34, page 20, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) In deciding whether to give a direction under section 33 a constable must have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly set out in articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.
“Convention” has the meaning given by section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.”
Amendment 33 agreed.
Clause 37: Offences
Amendments 34 and 35 not moved.
36: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue guidance to chief officers of police about the exercise, by officers under their direction or control, of those officers’ functions under this Part.
(2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section.
(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”
Amendment 36 agreed.
Clause 45: Offence of failing to comply with notice
37: Clause 45, page 26, line 9, leave out subsections (3) and (4)
My Lords, under Clause 45 it is an offence to fail to comply with the terms of a community protection notice. The defences provided for in Clause 45 in respect of this offence in part repeat the grounds on which the making of a notice can be appealed. However, criminal proceedings on breach of a notice should not be the forum to repeat earlier proceedings on an appeal against a notice. Amendments 37, 38 and 39 therefore remove this particular defence contained in subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 45. It will continue to be open to a person charged with the offence of failing to comply with a notice to argue that they took all reasonable steps to comply with the notice or that they had some other reasonable excuse for the failure to comply. This will bring this aspect of the Bill into line with the approach taken with the public spaces protection order and the closure powers where a reasonable excuse defence also applies. I beg to move.
Amendment 37 agreed.
Amendments 38 and 39
38: Clause 45, page 26, line 22, leave out “also”
39: Clause 45, page 26, line 25, leave out subsection (6)
Amendments 38 and 39 agreed.
Clause 47: Forfeiture of item used in commission of offence
40: Clause 47, page 27, line 25, leave out “to a constable as soon as reasonably practicable” and insert “as soon as reasonably practicable—
(a) to a constable, or(b) to a person employed by a local authority or designated by a local authority under section 50(1)(c)”
My Lords, the Bill confers the power to issue a community protection notice on the police, local authorities and persons designated by a local authority. Provision is made for items used in the commission of the offence of breaching a notice to be forfeited or seized on the order of a court. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee pointed out in Committee, forfeited items must be handed over to a constable and disposed of by the relevant police force. Similarly, the power to seize items is vested in a constable. My noble friend suggested that amendments be made to confer similar powers on local authority personnel in the interests of parity. The Government are satisfied that this would be a sensible extension of these provisions and Amendments 40 to 45 to Clauses 47 and 48 modify the provisions accordingly.
My noble friend also tabled amendments in Committee which sought to enable persons authorised by a local authority to serve a closure notice. I said then that I could see merit in such an approach and that is why the Government have tabled amendments to achieve just that. Amendments 63 to 70 would allow the local authority to contract out the service of the closure notice, while the decision to issue the closure notice would continue to rest firmly with the local authority. I commend the amendments to the House.
My noble friend Lord Greaves often describes what this House is about as ensuring that Bills are workable. That was what was in my mind in tabling these amendments at the previous stage. I do not suppose that the world will change dramatically as a result of them, but I am glad that we are making the Bill more workable at local level. I am grateful for that.
Amendment 40 agreed.
41: Clause 47, page 27, line 34, at end insert—
“( ) Where an item ordered to be forfeited under this section is kept by or handed over to a person within subsection (2)(b), the local authority by whom the person is employed or was designated must ensure that arrangements are made for its destruction or disposal, either—
(a) in accordance with the order, or(b) if no arrangements are specified in the order, in whatever way seems appropriate to the local authority.”
Amendment 41 agreed.
Clause 48: Seizure of item used in commission of offence
Amendments 42 to 45
42: Clause 48, page 27, line 41, after “constable” insert “or designated person”
43: Clause 48, page 27, line 42, at end insert—
“( ) In this section “designated person” means a person designated by a local authority under section 50(1)(c).”
44: Clause 48, page 28, line 1, after “constable” insert “or designated person”
45: Clause 48, page 28, line 3, after “constable” insert “or designated person”
Amendments 42 to 45 agreed.
46: After Clause 52, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue—
(a) guidance to chief officers of police about the exercise, by officers under their direction or control, of those officers’ functions under this Chapter;(b) guidance to local authorities about the exercise of their functions under this Chapter and those of persons designated under section 50(1)(c).(2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section.
(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”
Amendment 46 agreed.
Clause 55: Power to make orders
47: Clause 55, page 32, line 36, at end insert—
“( ) A public spaces protection order on land which has the status of—
(a) a town or village green or forms part of such a green,(b) access land under Part I of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, or(c) a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway open to all traffic that is shown in a definitive map and statement of rights of way under Part III of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,shall not restrict those rights that are conferred on persons by virtue of that status.”
My Lords, I return again to the relationship between public spaces protection orders and what I call special categories of land. This in an important issue, so I will dwell on it for a few minutes. I raised this at Second Reading and in Committee I suggested that these special types of land, where public access is specified and guaranteed by other legislation, should be excluded from public spaces protection orders. The categories of land are: access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which is mountain, moor, heath, down and commons and now includes the coastal footpath and coastal access land where that has so far been designated in England; village greens and town greens; and rights of way—mainly footpaths and bridleways—which appear on a definitive map and the statement of rights of way which nowadays comes under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and is held by top-tier local authorities.
The purpose of the designation of these kinds of land is to allow public access. To have public spaces protection orders put on them which deny that access looks like an easy and quick way for local authorities to prevent access, which is otherwise a fairly difficult and convoluted process. Public footpaths can be closed or diverted. There is a process by which, over time, access land can have its designation removed. There is also a process by which exceptions and exclusions can be made to access land, under the CROW Act. However, these take time and are difficult, for very good reasons.
In Committee, the Minister said this was okay but that rights of access were for specific purposes. For village greens it is informal recreation. For footpaths it is, obviously, walking along them. For access land it is for accessing that land on foot, together with a restricted number of ancillary activities, such as stopping and having a picnic or taking photographs, but there are a lot of activities which are not allowed. Anti-social behaviour may well be taking place on some of that land which is affecting the enjoyment of it by the people for whom the designation has been made, such as the people walking on it. That is a fair point, so Amendment 47 does not say that public spaces protection orders should not be made on this land. It says that, if they are made, they cannot remove the right of access which is the whole purpose of the land.
I know the Government do not want to do this. I do not know why, because it is very sensible. Nevertheless, I am pressing the case to give the Minister the opportunity of saying exactly how these access rights will be protected. I have had a letter about this from Norman Baker, who was in charge of the Bill within the department. I will read some of it out, because it has not been widely circulated and it is worth putting on record:
“I note your concerns that the new public spaces protection order is a much wider power than the three orders it replaces, and as such could be used to restrict access to common land, access land and rights of way on the definitive map. However, I believe the test and the safeguards we have built in mitigate such a risk.
As Lord Taylor made clear during the debate in Committee, these types of land are important and certainly worthy of the additional debate they received. In fact, in the draft guidance, we specifically mentioned a number of these categories of land because of their importance to both the local community and visitors to the area”.
One of the points that I raised in Committee was the importance of the national bodies that look after this kind of land—the Ramblers, the British Mountaineering Council and the Open Spaces Society, as well as landowners’ organisations and others—being involved in any change in the system. Mr Baker writes:
“We also made clear that where restrictions were necessary, national bodies could play an important role in the consultation process”—
that is not something that I had picked up—
“to ensure that all those affected have a chance to comment. I know my officials are continuing to work with interested groups with a view to making this even clearer in the final iteration”.
This is the vital importance of the statutory guidance, as it now will be, to prevent what I might call rogue local authorities—there are one or two—taking advantage of this legislation and doing things that are not intended. The letter continues:
“However, in terms of restricting access on certain categories of land, I do not believe that this would pass the test, in part because of the final limb, which states that the anti-social behaviour, ‘justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice’. Given the importance of these areas, whether coastal access land or registered common, I cannot envisage a level of behaviour that would constitute such a draconian response. Where a problem behaviour does exist, the flexibility within the PSPO means that the behaviour itself can be targeted rather than access in its totality. This is a major failing in the current system where unless the anti-social behaviour is related to dogs or alcohol, the local authority is left with limited options, too quickly resorted to ‘gating’ in some situations.
In addition, the behaviour that has to be restricted on this land has to be ‘unreasonable’. Again, given the rights afforded to commoners through other legislation, I fail to see how someone exercising these rights in a responsible manner (for instance, pannage) could be considered to be acting in an unreasonable way. As such, I believe these rights are adequately protected”.
In reading that out, I apologise to the Minister if I have stolen his thunder and he was going to say exactly the same things. However, at the very least, I would like him to guarantee here in the Chamber that what I have said is true and that that is the way in which the Government look at it. In the end, of course, how it comes out in the wash will be how we will judge it. However, the discussions that we have had have been useful in clarifying these issues and in concentrating the minds of people in government as to exactly how these things might work. I hope that the Government will accept my amendment. I have no great optimism about that but, anyway, I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Greaves has once again articulated his argument well and, if I may say so, he has also articulated mine. In quoting the letter from Norman Baker he has to some degree stolen my thunder. However, as my noble friend asked that I reiterate the position of the Government on the record, I will do so.
The types of land that he mentioned in his amendment are important and worthy of the additional discussion. Common land, village greens, rights of way and open access land all play an important part both in local communities and in our nation’s heritage. This is exactly why they should be protected from the minority of anti-social individuals who ruin this enjoyment by acting in a way that is unreasonable. I am glad that my noble friend has accepted that the new public spaces protection order could be used positively to protect the categories of land he identifies.
The amendment itself, though, seeks to protect any rights conferred on individuals or groups as a result of other legislation. As I have said before, this amendment is unnecessary. For a new order to be made, the activities have to be “unreasonable”. I do not believe that someone exercising their rights to, for example, collect firewood in a particular woodland could be considered to be acting unreasonably. In addition, while in theory the council could seek to restrict access to that land altogether, I do not believe that that would meet the final limb of the test—namely, that the activities justified the restrictions. Such an absolute ban would likely be disproportionate in legal terms. Indeed, it is the flexibility that we have built into the new power that makes sure that the nuclear option, to use that phrase, is truly a last resort. Where problem behaviour does exist, this flexibility means that the behaviour itself can be targeted rather than access in its totality. This is a major failing in the current system where unless the anti-social behaviour is related to dogs or alcohol, the council is left with limited options, and too quickly resorts to gating in some situations.
However, I do believe that where the anti-social behaviour is unreasonable and so bad as to justify restrictions, the council, in consultation with the police and others, should have the ability to act, and act fast. That said, given the continuing concerns which my noble friend has expressed, I assure him that Home Office officials will continue to work with interested bodies to see how the statutory guidance can address these issues more effectively. We have already emphasised in the draft guidance the importance of these categories of land, but the draft guidance is exactly that—a draft. We want to make sure that by the time we publish the final statutory guidance, it reflects the needs of professionals and the interests of the users of rights of way, access land and village greens.
Many professionals will be aware of the special rights and protections afforded to such land, but where they are not, we can make sure they have the relevant information so that their decisions and actions reflect the needs of the whole community. In the light of these assurances I have given, rather reiterating points made by my friend, colleague and fellow Minister Mr Norman Baker, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.
I also dodged the issue of whether Norman Baker was right honourable or honourable.
I am grateful for what the Minister has said and I think that the general tenor of what the Government are saying on these has shifted a little bit in the right direction. I am grateful to the Minister for his help and assistance in these matters.
I still think there is a possibility of conflict—for example, if there is a village green where traditionally the kids play cricket in the middle of summer, and the cottages around the village green are all bought up by townies who go and live there at weekends and complain about the fact that cricket balls are coming into their gardens. That is the kind of conflict which could happen, and where a PSPO might try to stop them playing cricket despite the fact that that was part of the traditional informal recreation there.
However, the national organisations now clearly have an accepted role, which was in doubt at the beginning of this process, so—combined with the tenacity and vigour with which my friends in the Open Spaces Society pursue these matters—I hope that it will never get to the High Court to sort things out, but at least I am happy in the knowledge that that would be possible if it came to it. Having said that, I am grateful to the Minister for all his help, and for that of his colleague, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 47 withdrawn.
48: Clause 55, page 32, line 37, leave out subsection (7)
My Lords, the government amendments in this group flow from the debates we have had in Committee about the consultation requirements attached to the making of a public spaces protection order and the preparation of the community remedy document. In responding to the points raised in Committee, particularly by my noble friend Lord Greaves, we have sought to strike a balance between the need to ensure that appropriate consultation takes place, while avoiding the imposition of unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on local authorities, the police or police and crime commissioners.
In relation to public spaces protection orders, the key amendment is Amendment 54, which brings together and augments the consultation and notification requirements already provided for in Chapter 2 of Part 4 of the Bill. The key additions are the requirement to consult with the owner or occupier of the relevant land, so far as it is reasonably practical to do so, and to notify any county council, parish council or community council. These requirements are in addition to the existing duties to publish the proposed text of an order before it is made or varied, and to consult the chief officer of police, the local policing body and any community representatives whom the local authority thinks it appropriate to consult.
We have already debated, in an earlier group of amendments, the other new duty imposed on the local authority by Amendment 54—namely, to have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly set out in Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR, so I will not go over that ground again.
Amendments 48, 49 and 50 are consequential upon Amendment 54 and simply strip out the existing consultation requirements, which are now brought together in the new clause.
Amendments 81 and 83 similarly augment the consultation requirements in relation to the community remedy document. In Committee, I undertook to consider an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Greaves which sought to provide that local authorities should be consulted in the drawing up of the community remedy document. While we would have expected local authorities to be consulted by the police and crime commissioner as part of their public consultation, we see merit in making this explicit in the Bill. As my noble friend pointed out, local authorities will often be directly involved in supervising the actions included as community remedies, so it is right for them to be consulted as a matter of course. These amendments accordingly place a statutory duty on the police and crime commissioner to consult the local authorities in the police force area on the actions that it would be suitable to include in the community remedy document.
I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing our attention to these matters and I commend this set of amendments to the House.
My Lords, I suppose that I ought to say thank you. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, when amendments come back like this from the Government, you sometimes think that all the time and effort spent in Committee has produced something worth while. Therefore, I am very grateful to the Government: when I saw this particular amendment, I thought that it was a late Christmas present.
It is an odd amendment because it is an odd new clause, including two completely different things. However, both are very welcome. The reference to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are extremely useful. With this Bill—and all the fuss this afternoon bemused me a little—I have always been of the view that the public spaces protection order provisions had the potential to be a greater danger to freedom of speech and assembly and to the civil right to protest and so on than the injunctions for the prevention of nuisance and annoyance. The reason, as the Minister said when he introduced an earlier amendment, is that PSPOs are about territory and areas, and therefore, unless very specific provisions are made, they apply to everybody. Unlike IPNAs, which are injunctions against individual people or groups of people, as I understand it public spaces protection orders, which can last for up to five years and are renewable, would apply to everybody and stop normal activities such as handing out leaflets, parading with banners, making speeches and holding meetings. Therefore, this part of this new clause is extremely useful and valuable and the Government are to be congratulated. I am a little bemused as to why on earth they did not just produce a clause such as this and attach it to IPNAs, as that might have defused a great deal of the fuss earlier today. However, that is for the Government to think about, not me.
The publicity stuff is useful. A lot of this brings together what is already in different bits of the Bill and puts it in one place. The specific provisions are very useful. My amendment is just to query the difference in subsection (4) of the proposed new clause, under the definition of “necessary publicity”,
“in the case of a proposed order or variation, publishing the text of it”,
“in the case of a proposed extension or discharge, publicising the proposal”.
I am not quite sure what the difference is there, and this is to probe that in a minor way. I am grateful for the inclusion of the county councils and parish councils under “the necessary notification”, which is common sense, but sometimes you put forward amendments on these matters and common sense does not always apply. On this occasion it has and again I am very grateful.
My final point is that one of the things that my friend Norman Baker sent to me was a draft of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Publication of Public Spaces Protection Orders) Regulations. This point is not exactly in this amendment but perhaps noble Lords will bear with me for two sentences. The regulations set out the instructions to local authorities that where a public spaces protection order has been made it has to be published on the council’s website and the council has to,
“cause to be erected on or adjacent to the land in relation to which the public spaces protection order has been made … such notice … as it considers sufficient to draw the attention of any member of the public using the land to the fact that a public spaces protection has been made and the effect of that order being made”.
It is the same for variations.
Again, this is very welcome. The fact that it will be in regulations is welcome, because councils will not be able to get out of it. If the notices fall into disrepair over time, they will have to replace them and keep the information before the public. I put these amendments forward in Committee, and I am grateful that the Government are taking them up and putting them into a statutory instrument regulations. I thank the Government for this amendment and those in relation to the community remedy documents, where, as the Minister said, the Government have taken up my suggestions about consulting the local authority. That will be in the Bill. This is all excellent stuff. Thank you very much.
My Lords, may I say a word following on from Amendment 54? It is on a matter that I raised in Committee, which is how parts of this Bill fit in with the existing nuisance legislation.
My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and those with whom he worked on what is now the Live Music Act 2012 remain concerned about the possibility of local authorities using public space protection order powers when there is existing nuisance legislation that could be used against a particular nuisance—though I think that they do not regard much music as “nuisance”. There have been some awkward examples of some local authorities banning busking and other live music-making during “reasonable hours”; and when I say that, I would probably agree that they are reasonable, but I do not particularly want to bring that into the equation here. During hours when there have been a small number of complaints, the local authorities would argue that such action is reasonable and there is a concern that the powers might be used far more extensively than the Government would have in mind. They have spoken to me about balancing competing rights between freedom of expression and the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions—in this case the items that are being used for busking.
I am making the point now in the hope that the Government may be able to say something about guidance on the fit between the statutory powers under this Bill and statutory nuisance. I raised the issue at the previous stage following discussions with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. I know that officials are working on this area of the guidance but I also know that those who have been in touch with me will be grateful if they can have further discussions on and further input into what will now be statutory guidance. Clearly those who are working on these issues day-to-day still feel uncomfortable that their concerns about what I called “workability” have not quite been taken on board.
I thank my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lady Hamwee for their hard work on this section of the Bill. They have proposed a number of amendments, many of which have informed government thinking. Indeed, these government amendments are based on ideas that came from the debates we had in Committee with them. We have yet to dispose of my noble friend’s Amendment 55, but I hope he will at a suitable moment see fit not to move it.
The role that my noble friend Lady Hamwee has emphasised depends on the statutory guidance, which is very important in this area. This is a matter for consultation. We want to get the statutory guidance right and ensure that it allows councils maximum flexibility. We do not want to miss the chance, particularly as the guidance will now be statutory, of making sure that we give background information on the exercise of all the elements of these parts of the Bill for the efficient use of anti-social behaviour powers.
I hope I have reassured my noble friend Lady Hamwee on the importance we attach to the guidance and my noble friend Lord Greaves about our recognition of the need to publicise what is going on in connection with the consultations that will take place.
Why does it say “publish” for one and “publicise” for the other?
I am sure someone will know the answer to that; I am not entirely sure. “Publish”, I suspect, implies that it is in a particular form; “publicise” is perhaps multiple publication. However, I am only hazarding a guess, without being particularly good in my command of language.
I will not speculate about whether “publish” is a technical term, which I think it probably is. “Publicise” is about spreading it around in a practical way.
However, returning to my question, will the guidance —I hope it will—make clear that, where possible, it would be more appropriate to use existing legislation, such as noise abatement notices, than these wider powers?
It may be that that is one of the things that is considered in the guidance. We will make use of what we have available to us. There is no repealing of the Noise Abatement Act 1960, for example, in the Bill.
Amendment 48 agreed.
Clause 56: Duration of orders
49: Clause 56, page 33, line 25, leave out subsection (5)
Amendment 49 agreed to.
Clause 57: Variation and discharge of orders
50: Clause 57, page 34, line 5, leave out subsections (5) and (6)
Amendment 50 agreed.
Clause 62: Challenging the validity of orders
51: Clause 62, page 38, line 1, leave out subsection (7) and insert—
“(7) An interested person may not challenge the validity of a public spaces protection order, or of a variation of a public spaces protection order, in any legal proceedings (either before or after it is made) except—
(a) under this section, or(b) under subsection (3) of section 63 (where the interested person is charged with an offence under that section).”
My Lords, in Committee my noble friend Lord Faulks and other noble Lords questioned the effect of Clause 62(7). He asked whether this had the effect of stopping an application for judicial review against a council that makes a public spaces protection order. I agreed to go back and consider the matter further. On reflection, it is true that, as originally worded, the clause meant that judicial review was not available. This was because an interested person can challenge an order in a broader way than is open under a judicial review and, as such, the requirement for that process did not seem necessary. I believe that this is right: it ought not to be possible for the same person to challenge a public spaces protection order on effectively the same grounds through two different legal procedures.
However, as my noble friend pointed out, because only “interested persons” as defined in the Bill may challenge a decision to make an order, this has inadvertently left national bodies and others who do not fall into the category of an “interested person” without any means to challenge a decision. Amendment 51 rectifies this and ensures that the option of judicial review is available to those who do not qualify as “interested persons”. I hope the House will agree that this is a fair way of ensuring that all parties with an interest in a public spaces protection order can challenge the terms of the order should they consider there to be a case for doing so. I beg to move.
My Lords, there was quite a lot of discussion about this question in Committee and it became clear that the Bill was not very clear. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser was involved in those discussions. The amendment now proposed is extremely welcome and has been welcomed by various national organisations that were concerned about it. Again, it is to the credit of the Government that they have seen the sense of this and sorted it out.
Amendment 51 agreed.
Clause 66: Byelaws
52: Clause 66, page 40, line 7, leave out subsection (2)
My Lords, in Committee I undertook to consider an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville that sought to acknowledge the excellent work of the City of London Corporation in managing some of the important public spaces in and around the capital. We agree that my noble friend’s proposal has significant merit. Amendment 53 therefore provides for statutory custodians, such as the City of London Corporation, to be designated by order of the Secretary of State. The effect of such an order will be to enable the designated body to make public spaces protection orders in respect of the land they are also responsible for managing. The amendment also includes the safeguards proposed by my noble friend ensuring that the local authority will continue to have precedence in the decision-making process. Therefore, a designated body will be able to make a public spaces protection order only where the local authority does not wish to act.
In addition, any designated body will be able to make an order only in respect of those matters it already has the power to regulate through by-laws, so there will be no extension of scope. For the time being, the City of London Corporation is the only body that we have in mind to designate under this order-making power. This is in line with a similar provision that currently exists under the terms of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 in respect of dog control orders which will be replaced by the provisions in the Bill.
Amendments 52, 58, 59, 60 and 61 are consequential on the main amendment. I am once again grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue on behalf of the City of London Corporation. I trust that these amendments address the issue that he and it has raised and, accordingly, I commend them to the House.
My Lords, I shall speak to government Amendment 53, to which my noble friend has just spoken. In responding to my amendment in Committee, my noble friend Lord Ahmad was kind enough to acknowledge that there appeared to be a strong case for extending the availability of public spaces protection orders to bodies other than local authorities. I am most grateful that further consideration has confirmed that view. I know also that the City of London Corporation, whose position prompted my earlier intervention, is grateful for the constructive and open-minded approach taken by officials during discussions on this point. No doubt, other bodies that manage public spaces under statute but are not local authorities will also find the change helpful.
My noble friend will recall that in my amendment in Committee, to which Her Majesty’s Government have now helpfully responded, I alluded to Epping Forest. In this appreciation of the Government response, I quote a testimonial about the Corporation of London from 1979—35 years ago—when I moved in the Commons the Second Reading of a private City of London (Various Powers) Bill on behalf of the City which primarily related to Epping Forest. Two of my noble friends who are now in your Lordships’ House spoke in that Second Reading debate: my noble friend Lord Tebbit, then MP for Chingford, and my noble friend Lord Horam, then replying to the Bill as Under-Secretary for Transport. They were thus witnesses to the quotation uttered by the late Arthur Lewis—then and for the previous 34 years Labour MP for West Ham, where he was Tony Banks’ predecessor—when he spoke in that debate. I quote the conclusive passage in his speech:
“I do not trust the Department of Transport. By its actions over the years it has not proved that it has the best interests of the people at heart. The City of London has proved this. It has done so for 100 years, and certainly to my personal knowledge for the past 34 years … I have gone along to many Ministers, ministerial advisers and local government officers. I have never found any of them so accommodating or helpful as the City of London authority and its officers. They have not put themselves out in the way that the City of London’s officials have. When I have problems or difficulties over Wanstead Flats, West Ham park or Epping Forest, I know that I get better treatment from the authority’s officials than I do from ministerial Departments”.—[Official Report, Commons, 6/3/79; col. 1203.]
I am confident that the Home Office will be rewarded by the Corporation of London for government Amendment 53 with just such similar imaginative service in future.
Finally, to wind up, I also thank the Minister for taking up the drafting point in Clause 67(2) that I raised in Committee in relation to the interpretation of Chapter 2. I note that this has been addressed in the Report stage print of the Bill now before us and I express appreciation for the Government’s reaction to that.
I will just raise one or two questions on these amendments. Again, I look particularly at what was said in the letter we received from the Minister. On these particular government amendments, that letter ended by saying that any public spaces protection order,
“made by a designated body under the provisions of the new clause would take precedence over a PSPO made by the local authority in whose area the land is situated”.
As I understand it, that means that a PSPO made by the City of London Corporation—if it was so designated—would take precedence over a PSPO made by the local authority covering the area of Epping Forrest, Ashtead Common, Hampstead Heath or any other areas. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm whether that is the case. It is what the last sentence of his letter dealing with these government amendments says, as I just read out.
On the face of it, that would appear to be rather odd because Clause 55, which deals with public spaces protection orders, says that two conditions must be met, the first that,
“activities carried on in a public place within the authority’s area have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.
If the City of London Corporation has responsibility for managing an open space, presumably most of those who will be deemed to be affected on the basis of the,
“quality of life of those in the locality”,
are unlikely to actually live in the open space and likely to live in the areas surrounding it, which are presumably within the area of the local authority.
I am not seeking to raise some frivolous point, and my intention is not to oppose this amendment. What I am getting at is whether there are potential areas of conflict now between what the City of London Corporation may deem to be necessary or desirable in a public spaces protection order and the views of the local authority, bearing in mind that it is surely only the local authority that can make the judgment on whether activities were being carried on which had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. I would be grateful if the Minister could clear that up. Perhaps I have misunderstood it. If I have, I am sure the Minister will explain that when he responds.
My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend for his kind remarks and I reiterate the Government’s thanks for raising these issues. On the noble Lord’s point on clarification of the letter, it is my understanding—and we are just double-checking—that the letter got the position the wrong way round, so we apologise for that. I trust that clarifies the point.
If I may confirm what the letter should have said, it is that the PSPO made by the local authority has precedence over that made by the City of London or a designated body. That clears it up. I thank the Minister very much.
Amendment 52 agreed.
53: After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—
“Bodies other than local authorities with statutory functions in relation to land
(1) The Secretary of State may by order—
(a) designate a person or body (other than a local authority) that has power to make byelaws in relation to particular land, and(b) specify land in England to which the power relates.(2) This Chapter has effect as if—
(a) a person or body designated under subsection (1) (a “designated person”) were a local authority, and(b) land specified under that subsection were within its area.But references in the rest of this section to a local authority are to a local authority that is not a designated person.(3) The only prohibitions or requirements that may be imposed in a public spaces protection order made by a designated person are ones that it has power to impose (or would, but for section 66, have power to impose) by making a byelaw in respect of the restricted area.
(4) A public spaces protection order made by a designated person may not include provision regulating, in relation to a particular public space, an activity that is already regulated in relation to that space by a public spaces protection order made by a local authority.
(5) Where a public spaces protection order made by a local authority regulates, in relation to a particular public space, an activity that a public spaces protection order made by a designated person already regulates, the order made by the designated person ceases to have that effect.
(6) If a person or body that may be designated under subsection (1)(a) gives a notice in writing under this subsection, in respect of land in relation to which it has power to make byelaws, to a local authority in whose area the land is situated—
(a) no part of the land may form, or fall within, the restricted area of any public spaces protection order made by the local authority;(b) if any part of the land— (i) forms the restricted area of a public spaces protection order already made by the local authority, or(ii) falls within such an area,
Amendment 53 agreed.
54: After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—
“Convention rights, consultation, publicity and notification
(1) A local authority, in deciding—
(a) whether to make a public spaces protection order (under section 55) and if so what it should include,(b) whether to extend the period for which a public spaces protection order has effect (under section 56) and if so for how long,(c) whether to vary a public spaces protection order (under section 57) and if so how, or(d) whether to discharge a public spaces protection order (under section 57),must have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly set out in articles 10 and 11 of the Convention.(2) In subsection (1) “Convention” has the meaning given by section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.
(3) A local authority must carry out the necessary consultation and the necessary publicity, and the necessary notification (if any), before—
(a) making a public spaces protection order,(b) extending the period for which a public spaces protection order has effect, or(c) varying or discharging a public spaces protection order.(4) In subsection (3)—
“the necessary consultation” means consulting with—
(a) the chief officer of police, and the local policing body, for the police area that includes the restricted area;(b) whatever community representatives the local authority thinks it appropriate to consult;(c) the owner or occupier of land within the restricted area;“the necessary publicity” means—
(a) in the case of a proposed order or variation, publishing the text of it;(b) in the case of a proposed extension or discharge, publicising the proposal;“the necessary notification” means notifying the following authorities of the proposed order, extension, variation or discharge—
(a) the parish council or community council (if any) for the area that includes the restricted area;(b) in the case of a public spaces protection order made or to be made by a district council in England, the county council (if any) for the area that includes the restricted area.(5) The requirement to consult with the owner or occupier of land within the restricted area—
(a) does not apply to land that is owned and occupied by the local authority;(b) applies only if, or to the extent that, it is reasonably practicable to consult the owner or occupier of the land.(6) In the case of a person or body designated under section (Bodies other than local authorities with statutory functions in relation to land), the necessary consultation also includes consultation with the local authority which (ignoring subsection (2) of that section) is the authority for the area that includes the restricted area.
(7) In relation to a variation of a public spaces protection order that would increase the restricted area, the restricted area for the purposes of this section is the increased area.”
Amendment 55, as an amendment to Amendment 54, not moved.
Amendment 54 agreed.
56: After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may issue—
(a) guidance to local authorities about the exercise of their functions under this Chapter and those of persons authorised by local authorities under section 59 or 64;(b) guidance to chief officers of police about the exercise, by officers under their direction or control, of those officers’ functions under this Part.(2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section.
(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”
Amendment 57, as an amendment to Amendment 56, not moved.
Amendment 56 agreed.
Clause 67: Interpretation of Chapter 2
Amendments 58 to 61
58: Clause 67, page 40, line 21, after “London” insert “(in its capacity as a local authority)”
59: Clause 67, page 40, line 28, leave out from “permission” to end of line 29
60: Clause 67, page 40, line 30, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of this Chapter, a public spaces protection order “regulates” an activity if the activity is—
(a) prohibited by virtue of section 55(4)(a), or(b) subjected to requirements by virtue of section 55(4)(b),whether or not for all persons and at all times.”
61: Clause 67, page 40, line 31, leave out subsection (2)
Amendments 58 to 61 agreed.
Consideration on Report adjourned.