Motion to Consider
My Lords, I beg to move the order, which was laid before Parliament on 14 January 2015. The purpose of the order is to enable local authorities to authorise a housing provider to issue community protection notices under Section 43 and fixed penalty notices under Section 52 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, in Chapter 1 of Part 4 of that Act.
Along with other new powers under the Act, community protection notices came into force on 20 October 2014. They are intended to deal with particular, ongoing problems or nuisances which negatively affect the community’s quality of life by targeting those responsible. Community protection notices can be issued by local authorities, the police or police community support officers, where designated by their chief constable, or a person designated by the local authority to individuals over the age of 16, or to a business or organisation.
A notice may be given if the issuing body is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the conduct of the individual or body is having a detrimental effect on the lives of those in the locality, is persistent or continuing in nature, and is unreasonable—for example, noise nuisance, dog-related anti-social behaviour or environmental anti-social behaviour such as littering. Before a notice can be issued, a written warning must be given to the person committing the anti-social behaviour. The written warning must make it clear that if a person does not stop the anti-social behaviour, they could be issued with the notice. Enough time must be left between a written warning being given and the issuing of a community protection notice to allow the person to deal with the matter. The person can appeal against the issuing of the community protection notice to the magistrates’ court. The notice should give details on how an individual can appeal.
If a notice is issued it may impose requirements to stop doing certain things, to do certain things, or to take reasonable steps to achieve certain results to prevent the behaviour occurring in future. Failure to comply with a community protection notice without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence subject to a fixed penalty notice or prosecution. A person found guilty on summary conviction may receive a fine. However, a person given a fixed penalty notice may discharge any liability to conviction for the offence if they pay the penalty amount of up to £100 within 14 days.
As I mentioned, community protection notices can be issued by a person designated by the relevant local authority. Only persons specified in an order made by the Secretary of State may be designated in this way. As housing providers in England and Wales manage a vast number of dwellings and deal with thousands of complaints of anti-social behaviour every year, we believe that there is a formal role for them in using the community protection notice. The order will therefore allow local authorities to designate housing providers—namely, a housing trust, a housing action trust, a non-profit private provider of social housing, a landlord under a secure tenancy, or, in relation to Wales, a Welsh body registered as a social landlord—to issue community protection notices and fixed penalty notices in order better to protect communities from anti-social behaviour.
The order makes a relatively minor but important provision that complements the wider anti-social behaviour reforms introduced under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which gives front-line professionals faster and more effective powers to protect victims and communities, and I commend the order to the Committee.
I have read the proceedings on this order, which took place in the other place on 23 February. The noble Baroness has just explained the purpose of the order. There is really only one issue that I want to raise, arising from the response given by the Minister in the Commons during the debate on the order.
The Minister in the Commons was asked to confirm the date by which she expected all the provisions in the Act to be fully enforced, particularly the injunctions to prevent nuisance and disorder, for which it was believed the regulations were still awaited. In reply, the Minister said that there was one outstanding provision,
“which is the civil injunction to replace the antisocial behaviour order”.
She went on to say that:
“While all the other powers were introduced in October 2014, except the one in the order”,
which they were debating and which we are debating today,
“the civil injunction is yet to be commenced. It has been delayed due to the need to consult and to make arrangements for legal aid changes to support its introduction. Agreement to publish the Government response to the legal aid consultation was delayed while the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice came to a final agreement on the costs of implementation and meeting additional costs arising from commencement. Subject to Parliament, we now expect the civil injunction to commence on Monday 23 March”.—[Official Report, Commons, Third Delegated Legislation Committee, 23/2/14; col. 6.]
The answer given by the Minister in the Commons during debate on this order related to the introduction of the injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance. Those injunctions have to be obtained through the Crown Court, albeit there is no criminal sanction for breaching them. The IPNAs have not yet been brought in and the answer from the Commons Minister suggested that there had been a bit of a difference of view between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice over the cost of implementation and meeting additional costs arising from their commencement, presumably including legal aid, in the light of the Crown Court’s involvement.
Can the Minister give an assurance that this argument between two government departments, which the Minister in the Commons revealed, has definitely now been resolved? Can she say what the costs and additional costs to which the Commons Minister referred cover, and what they amount to? Can she also clarify the Commons Minister’s statement that subject to Parliament, “we now expect” the civil injunction to commence on Monday 23 March? Presumably, a further SI will be required to bring in the IPNAs. Can the Minister confirm whether that is the case, when that SI will be before this House and the House of Commons, and whether the Government are still saying that they expect the civil injunction to commence on Monday 23 March or are now saying that it will commence then, subject to Parliament? Finally, is there any likelihood that the IPNA will not commence prior to the Dissolution of Parliament, unless it is because Parliament has rejected the necessary SI?
I thank the noble Lord for his comments. I am afraid that I cannot comment on differences between departments being referred to in the House of Commons, other than that they have been resolved and referred to normal discussions between government departments. The civil injunctions aspect will commence on 23 March. The noble Lord also asked whether that meant that the SI would be there in good time, before the Dissolution of Parliament. By inference, the answer would be yes. He also asked about costs. I do not have any costs before me; if it is okay, I will return to him on that.