Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I have for many years been passionate about the future of live music and am only too well aware that many of our most famous acts can have small beginnings, with many well-known artists starting their careers performing in small clubs and pubs or busking on the streets. It was for that reason that I promoted the Live Music Act 2012 and why, on my Benches, we became concerned about the impact of public space protection order powers under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
In response to concerns expressed by my noble friend Lady Hamwee on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, confirmed the importance of the statutory guidance, which would be consulted on. Ominously, he said that the essence was to allow councils maximum flexibility on the exercise of the new powers. That, I believe, is the root cause of the problem today.
Shortly afterwards, in January, I raised a Question in the House seeking further assurance on busking policy to make sure that local authorities would not resort to a PSPO before they had first exercised their noise-abatement powers. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said:
“The Government are certainly not seeking to restrict reasonable behaviour and activity, and we do not believe that these powers do. Live music and street entertainment play an important role in community life and can generate a positive atmosphere that is enjoyed by all”.
He also said:
“We believe that the tests and safeguards set out in the new anti-social behaviour powers will ensure that they will be used only where reasonable”.—[Official Report, 21/1/14; col. 571.]
In June of the same year, I raised issues regarding police attitudes to busking and received an equally positive reply from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, who I am delighted is replying to this debate. She said that,
“the Government are clear that appropriate busking can enrich a community’s quality of life and generate a positive atmosphere that can be enjoyed by many people”.
She also said that,
“we have undertaken … to include reference to busking in the guidance for the new anti-social behaviour powers for use by the police and others. This will be published shortly, in advance of the new powers commencing later in the year”.—[Official Report, 30/6/14; cols. 1531-32.]
Later in the year, in a different context, during the passage of the Deregulation Bill, both in Grand Committee and on Report, my noble friend Lord Stoneham and I pointed out the considerable powers that were already available to prevent noise nuisance. At the same time, we raised our continuing concern that public space protection orders would be used in a heavy-handed way. The Government, this time in the form of the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, gave assurances on both occasions that they were clear that busking can enrich a community’s quality of life and generate a positive atmosphere enjoyed by many people. But later he said:
“The Government do not start from the position that busking requires regulation and control”.—[Official Report, 11/11/14; col. GC 46.]
So right from the start we received a series of ministerial assurances about how the new PSPO would be exercised. Nevertheless, very soon, signs began to emerge of inappropriate use of the PSPO powers.
In February 2015, I asked an Oral Question about the operation of the Act and what use had been made of it to prevent or control busking. In reply, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said:
“We have made it clear in the statutory guidance for front-line professionals that they should not use the new powers to stop reasonable activities such as busking or other forms of street entertainment that are not causing anti-social behaviour”.—[Official Report, 12/2/15; col. 1354.]
Despite those ministerial assurances, it was becoming clear a year and a half ago that these powers were being used extensively in an inappropriate and disproportionate way. In fact, they were not just being used inappropriately to ban busking, they were being invoked for much wider purposes—for instance, to ban the homeless from the streets. In February this year, the Manifesto Club published its report, PSPOs: A Busybodies’ Charter, reflecting this, pointing out the extensive and disproportionate use of these powers and calling for proper limits to be placed on them.
In response to an Oral Question this February, I received yet more assurances from yet another Minister, this time the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon. He said that,
“we have made it clear in the statutory guidance that anti-social behaviour powers should not be used against reasonable activities such as busking, where this does not cross the line into anti-social behaviour”.—[Official Report, 1/2/16; col. 1585.]
Despite a succession of assurances given over the years by at least four government Ministers, the problem of the inappropriate use of PSPOs worsens. Buskers are now falling foul of laws designed to break up dangerous public gatherings and risk being branded as criminals. The problem goes much wider. The Manifesto Club report shows that PSPOs are being used not only to criminalise busking but also the everyday lives of ordinary people, including the activities of the homeless, charity collectors, teenagers, skateboarders, parents dropping off kids at school and even those wearing head coverings.
Sefton Council’s ban on head coverings would include hats. Other councils, such as North East Derbyshire, have prohibited or are seeking to prohibit the carrying of golf bags, or the carrying of skateboards, as in Colchester. At least five have banned rough sleeping. Others, such as Gravesham Council, have prohibited lying down in public, which would prohibit lying on the grass or falling asleep in a public place.
At least six councils have banned or restricted music or street art. Hammersmith and Fulham Council has banned busking and public speaking in the area outside Shepherd’s Bush Tube station after 6 pm. At least 16 have created new criminal offences of loitering or congregating in groups in a public place. Hillingdon Council has prohibited people from gathering in groups of two or more unless at a designated bus stop, and Bassetlaw Council has banned young people aged 16 or under from standing in groups of three or more.
Kettering Council has banned skateboarding and created a curfew for under-18s, meaning it is now a crime for a 17 year-old to be out after 11 pm or before 6 am. In Oxford, the council has proposed a ban on any activity it judges makes people feel uncomfortable, and a city-centre PSPO has banned aggressive begging, street entertainment that causes a nuisance, remaining in a public toilet without reasonable excuse, and allowing dogs to enter any covered space. Hillingdon Council has banned noisy remote-controlled cars and pigeon feeding from its parks. Swindon Council has banned pavement art, thereby criminalising its resident and well-known pavement poet Danny Lake, even though 68% of the public voted against this.
So far, 80 councils have introduced PSPOs and more are threatening to bring them in. Police and local authorities, often based on the decision of a single official, and without consultation or a council decision, are throwing new orders about like confetti. A huge number of people are being dragged into the net of the criminal law. Clearly, the problem of improper use of these new powers extends well beyond busking: it is high time we took stock of this and amended the statutory guidance and, if necessary, the primary legislation, before our freedoms are eroded any further.
However, there may be a ray of sunshine. After my Oral Question last February, at the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, I, together with the Manifesto Club, the Kennel Club, Liberty, Keep Streets Live, the MU, UK Music, and others, wrote to him and his then Home Office colleague, Karen Bradley, to set out the current issues and demonstrate why changes are needed to the legislation and statutory guidance. Karen Bradley—now, I hope, in her new role stoutly upholding the rights of street performers and their contribution to local culture—wrote back defending PSPOs and the procedures used. She did, however, offer to consider amending the statutory guidance, and I replied in July, setting out what campaigners believe are the key problems and the changes needed to solve them. Let me spell these out.
First, PSPOs are targeting activities that are not in themselves harmful. The most problematic examples have banned activities that do not in themselves cause significant public nuisance or harm, such as rough sleeping, begging, loitering, standing in groups, swearing or skateboarding. We want to see a much stronger test before powers are used. PSPOs must target only activities that are causing significant public nuisance or harm; councils should not be able to use them for activities that some people just find annoying or unpleasant.
Secondly, the majority of PSPOs are being passed by single council officers. The Manifesto Club’s research found that out of the 56 councils that have passed a PSPO and provided data, half—that is 28 councils—have done this. Seventeen councils—30%—passed the order through a committee, but only nine—16%—passed it through a decision of the full council. They must be passed only after a debate of the full council and not based on the decision of a single officer.
Thirdly, PSPOs are not being consulted on adequately. Although most councils have held a public consultation, in many cases these have been of extremely low quality. There must be a requirement for proper consultation, so that they cannot be imposed having asked just a few vague questions of residents.
Fourthly, the grounds and methods of appeal are too limited. We believe that the Government intended that these powers should be partly checked through the courts. There should be a much better right of appeal. Currently, appellants have very narrow grounds to appeal to the High Court, only six weeks to appeal and have to bear all the costs if they fail. The grounds of appeal should be expanded to something more like the test for judicial review, which would allow the worst cases of unreasonable PSPOs to be challenged and checked in the courts.
I am sure that we are here in the area of unintended consequences. Given Ministers’ assurances, I am sure that they did not intend the Act to be used in this way—banning rough sleeping, placing curfews on teenagers and so on. It is urgent and vital that they recognise that there is a fundamental problem with the Act. This may or may not be resolvable by changes to the guidance. I hope that we are making some progress and that amendments to the statutory guidance are being drafted as we speak but, in the light of the history of ministerial reassurances on this, I do not take anything for granted. I should like to hear specifically what is proposed.
Hence this debate about how the Government plan to ensure that these powers are invoked and exercised in an accountable, appropriate and proportionate manner: to find out whether demands for change, particularly to the statutory guidance, will be met. We cannot have local authorities and police services cracking down on our culture, ripping out the heart of our town centres and destroying the vibrancy of our local communities.
I have a note here from the Salvation Army. It states:
“Thank you for sponsoring a debate on the operation of the 2014 Act. We have had three of our front line locations raise concerns about the way in which Local Authorities are using Public Space Protection Orders in connection with homeless people spending time in public spaces … We would ask that government clarify their guidance to Local Authorities saying that PSPOs are not to be used to disperse homeless people rather than engage with them”.
I hope the Minister can today give cast-iron guarantees that the Government intend to make vital changes and will see them through.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for introducing this debate with his usual comprehensive analysis of the problem, which, as we have heard, is significant. I am also grateful for the briefings from the Manifesto Club on public space protection orders. The noble Lord rightly focused his attention on PSPOs. The heart of this issue is bound up with our understanding of what public space is and what we want to get out of it.
Not entirely coincidentally, the debate happening simultaneously in the Chamber—an equally important debate led by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter—is also about public space, a different kind of space: the public sphere. The reason we are now having these concerns about the future of public space in the broader sense is that both the imaginary space, as it has been described, of the public sphere and the geographical space under discussion here are under considerable threat to both their amount or degree—a concern I will come back to—and their quality or operation.
I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said about PSPOs, the examples given and about changes to statutory guidance. PSPOs are horrendous. In the manner in which they are being applied, they seem to vary from the ludicrous to the sinister to the blatantly inhumane. As the noble Lord said, the ludicrous include bans on people lying down in parks or carrying golf clubs. The sinister include bans which limit freedom of expression and the right to protest and bans on the gathering of groups of two or more people, such as in Hillingdon and Guildford, and on live music, the handing out of free literature and blanket bans on amplification.
There is a randomness about these orders that has nothing to do with what I would regard as real or respectable law, but there is also a targeting involved which reveals blatant unfairness in them. In a BBC interview in Hillingdon in March this year with a group of teenagers about the ban on groups of two or more—I am not sure the interview itself was strictly legal—one of them said very reasonably, “You know that if there is a group of elderly people standing there”—meaning within the bounds of a particular shopping centre—“they will not get fined”. This, then, will be law used as it suits the local council.
As an example, I refer to a particular PSPO that, in the words of Liberty on 31 August,
“has taken full advantage of this vague power by seemingly banning everything”.
This is Teignbridge District Council’s PSPO for Dawlish of 14 June. It is a detailed six-page document making it illegal to,
“act in a manner as to cause annoyance … to any person”.
It also states that,
“the purpose of the PSPO is to deal with a particular nuisance … in a particular area”.
I emphasise “nuisance” and “annoyance”. The Minister may recall that on 8 January 2014 in this House, at the Report stage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, tabled an amendment that, after a two-hour debate, specifically removed “annoyance” and “nuisance” for injunctions. I believe that the amendment did not cover PSPOs but I am raising the matter of whether it should have. Causing harassment, alarm or distress is quite a long way from nuisance and annoyance but it is at this much less significant level of perceived harm that PSPOs are being applied.
It seems that you can be criminalised effectively for anything that the local council decides on. This surely makes a mockery not just of the concept of public space as a space of co-operation—a publicly owned and shared space whose uses should be negotiated and tolerated by all the public who use that space—but a mockery of the law itself.
At the inhumane end of the scale the criminalisation of rough sleepers in Wrexham and beggars in Southampton and other places is particularly scandalous and entirely unacceptable, since this is the targeting of the vulnerable who need to be helped, not criminalised. The idea of slapping a £100 fine on a rough sleeper or beggar is both absurd and inhumane.
For a number of reasons there is a particular desire at the moment in councils to effect a kind of cleaning up of our towns and cities. Teignmouth, for example, cites holidaymakers and Oxford’s implicit concern is for tourists. None of us likes to see rough sleepers on the street because it makes us uncomfortable. But I would prefer that they are there, in recognition perhaps of a problem so far unsolved, rather than being swept under the carpet, pushed off into another borough, or, worse still, criminalised.
In an article in the Guardian in May of last year, Matt Downie of Crisis said:
“Rough sleepers deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance”.
There is that term, “nuisance”, again. He continued:
“They may have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse. Instead, people need long-term, dedicated support to move away from the streets for good”.
Hackney Council’s announcement last year of its order applying to rough sleepers and street drinkers stated that,
“enforcement is always the last option”.
The “last option”: when should the criminalisation of rough sleepers ever be an option? On this occasion, after a sustained, celebrity-backed campaign, the council saw reason, although unfortunately this has not been the case with all other councils who have introduced PSPOs.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, The Social Value of Public Spaces from 2007, made the valid point that not everybody is equal in public spaces. It cites the example of local parks being used by young people for hanging out or by groups of street drinkers. In the absence of other facilities or spaces, it says that,
“this might be regarded as legitimate, as long as no harm is caused to others”.
The fact is that to a certain extent public space is messy because people are messy.
I want to make a point here, too, about street drinking, which I think shows not just how culturally relative this can be but also what a public space might include. In Berlin, for example, drinking on the streets and on trains, particularly late at night at the weekend— that is, quaffing from beer and wine bottles—is socially absolutely acceptable and wholly unaccompanied by violence. It is something that you see all classes of people doing and it is an accepted aspect of their city space.
Ultimately, my preference for PSPOs—indeed for the Anti-social Behaviour Act itself—is that the legislation should be repealed, though I appreciate that this might be asking too much of the present Government. I say this because prosecutions involving harm of one person against another should be based on the law of the land, whatever the environment it takes place in, not on the use to which public space is put, since such legislation in practice has been geared in favour of particular users over others and drives a wedge between perceived victims and perceived aggressors. Such legislation, as we are seeing, does not in effect respect the potential for public space to develop organically but limits it.
Finally, there is real concern that PSPOs are being used to clean up an area prior to its being sold off. That privatisation of our public space, particularly in city centres, has already been a significant long-term trend is undeniable, as Anna Minton forcefully describes in her book Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First-Century City. This issue has not yet properly surfaced as a major public concern, in part because many spaces which are privately owned have the surface appearance of being public—for example, the frankly sterile, privately owned public spaces, or POPs, where PSPOs do not apply, such as the More London estate which surrounds City Hall, where neither protesting nor filming is allowed, full stop. With continuing austerity and the starving of funds for councils this process may well be accelerating. This is the worst-case scenario: that the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act becomes irrelevant, for all the wrong reasons.
We badly need an audit of public spaces in this country. True public space in its different forms is an important if underestimated democratic right, and this is now such a critical concern that there is a case to be made for a Minister of public space, although that is a debate for another day.
My Lords, I declare that I am a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham. We have had two excellent contributions. I am pleased that at least they did not mention Lewisham Council in that list of ridiculous decisions that have been taken by many authorities. I will certainly go back and check that my council has not done some of the stupid things that it was suggested have been done. That was clearly never the intention and it is absolutely ridiculous. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, on securing this Question for Short Debate today. It is good to be back debating with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford. It is a bit strange that we will not mention housing, or the housing regulations in the Housing and Planning Act, but it is good to be here today.
As we have heard, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 replaced a number of mechanisms for dealing with anti-social behaviour with six new powers, which are shared between police, local authorities and social housing providers. These offences were designed to deal with the sort of offences that can upset residents and cause problems and which can quickly destroy people’s quality of life. If left unchecked, these problems can lead to the risk of more serious offences being committed. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asks what is being done to ensure that these powers are used in an accountable, proportionate and appropriate manner, with a particular emphasis on live music, busking and so on.
We all want to live in areas that are safe and free from fear, so ensuring that powers are invoked properly is all about striking the right balance—that is the important thing here. We need to work with local communities and look at some of the powers here. For example, the public spaces protection order was meant to deal with groups of youths out at night, drinking and causing trouble, playing loud music on radios and annoying people. It was not intended to deal with people enjoying themselves in the park and so on. I am quite worried now, because I quite like going to Blackheath, lying on the grass with my friends and having a beer. It was never the intention to stop such things and it is ridiculous that anyone would suggest that they should be stopped. We want to ensure that all these things are done proportionately, like live music, busking and the sort of things that people do with their friends and family in the park and elsewhere, should never be banned. We all live together, and we need to make sure that we live properly, so the list is ridiculous.
The noble Lord was also right to say that you should not be able to find a council officer who can sign a piece of paper to ban something; it should at least come before elected members of the authority, or the mayor and the cabinet should decide that, and it should possibly be able to be challenged in the local magistrates’ court as well. The fact that a council officer can ban these activities means that the whole council itself will get lambasted for doing ridiculous things. I will certainly go back and check that my council has not done anything stupid and banned something I do not know about, and if it has I will try to get it changed.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked whether people could be banned for being annoying or a nuisance. I am sure we are all annoying and a nuisance to other people so we could all be banned on that basis. Again, this seems completely ridiculous.
I started a debate last night in the Chamber on homelessness in which we talked about rough sleepers. We all know that the homeless can have mental health issues and drink and other problems but these people need help, not to be banned and moved on elsewhere. That, again, is ridiculous.
I shall leave my remarks there. I hope the Minister can give a full response to the noble Lord. There are other bits of this order on different things. Maybe the Minister could write to us having looked at the more criminal things that people can do. What are the mechanisms for reviewing this and the six powers? There are unintended consequences with some of these things. We must have mechanisms to change them and stop them.
My Lords, I thank all three distinguished noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am very glad to be back with the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, because on a number of occasions we have discussed busking and how much we enjoy hearing buskers, particularly the ones in and around Westminster and further around London. Busking is very positive for community life and that is why this is an important debate. Anti-social behaviour as we know it can blight the lives of communities, but there is widespread interest, not least from this House, in the powers available to the police and local councils to respond to such things being used properly. This debate is timely.
The Government’s starting point is that there is a clear recognition of the serious impact that anti-social behaviour can have on ordinary people’s lives. That is why the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gave the police, local councils and other agencies the powers that they need to take swift and effective action to protect the communities they serve.
The Government are also clear that anti-social behaviour powers are there to protect the activities of the law-abiding majority, to enable people to enjoy their public spaces and feel safe in their homes. They are not there to be used to restrict reasonable behaviour and activities not causing anti-social behaviour, as all noble Lords pointed out. That is why the Act contains legal safeguards before the powers can be used. However, we have said that we will look again at the statutory guidance on the use of the powers that the Home Office published to help emphasise these points.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said that despite ministerial assurances, PSPOs are being used in an inappropriate and disproportionate way. As I said, there are clear legal tests for the use of the power. The statutory guidance references the need for councils to consult whenever community representatives and regular users of the public space think it appropriate and specifically references buskers and street entertainers. Following the noble Lord’s Oral Question this February, the former Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime gave a commitment to revisit the statutory guidance. We are reviewing it to see how we can strengthen it to ensure proportionality in the use of the powers and accountability, which is very important. The work is under way, so the pens are on the paper, and officials are consulting front-line practitioners.
We will write to the noble Lord and other interested noble Lords on the proposed revisions once the work has progressed further. We will complete the work as soon as we can. We are also working with front-line practitioners to develop a case-study document to highlight effective practice and appropriate use of the powers. I say again that it is a useful power but should be used proportionately to deal with a particular anti-social behaviour problem in a particular area by imposing reasonable restrictions. That is critical here.
The noble Lord also talked about the wider problem—not just buskers and street entertainers are affected. He referenced the Manifesto Club’s report on PSPOs, as I think did the noble Earl. Officials have met the Manifesto Club to discuss its findings and see what its primary concerns are about PSPOs. It is important that PSPOs and the other anti-social behaviour powers are used to deal with anti-social behaviour problems, rather than introduce blanket bans, to which the noble Lord referred.
Noble Lords also referred to the democratic aspect of this, with examples of single officials making decisions. We are examining that in the review of the statutory guidance. We have also discussed such concerns with the Local Government Association. The noble Lord talked about PSPOs targeting activities that are not actually harmful in themselves. The Government’s position is absolutely clear: anti-social behaviour powers are there to protect law-abiding people and enable people to enjoy public spaces and feel safe in their homes. They are not there to restrict reasonable behaviour, as I said, or activities that are not actually causing anti-social behaviour. There are legal safeguards in place and we will look again at the statutory guidance. PSPOs are useful powers for councils but need to be used proportionately. It is critical that councils are able to respond to problems such as street drinking and aggressive begging, because these kinds of behaviours have detrimental effects on a community’s way of life.
The noble Lord also talked about the consultation process. It is clear that a council may make a PSPO only after it has consulted the police, but it must also consult any other interested community representatives it considers appropriate. It is for councils to determine how best to consult, but there will be learning from across various councils; that will come out in the review process. We want to capture that learning as we undertake the review. The noble Lord asked specifically what has been proposed to change the guidance. We are developing a case-study document, as I said. We will write to the noble Lord on the proposed changes when we review the statutory guidance.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, talked about homelessness. He brought up a very good point. The Government are committed to tackling and reducing homelessness. We do not want homeless people to be used as a target. Anti-social behaviour orders are not to be used to tackle the most vulnerable people in our society. They are there purely to deal with anti-social behaviour.
There have been some specific—and, I might say, slightly comical, although I do not mean that flippantly—examples of how councils have used their anti-social behaviour powers to deal with certain things. Some are almost unbelievable, but I do not disbelieve the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I quickly checked on Lewisham and it is not on the red alert list. However, I do not want to draw on the specific examples. How the orders are framed is one issue. Their purpose must not be to restrict reasonable behaviour. The PSPO is there to tackle behaviour that is having a detrimental effect on people’s lives and is persistent and unreasonable. That is quite clear. Those are the tests set out in legislation and they must be met before an order can be made. There are also issues about how they are enforced—again, it must be in a proportionate and reasonable way. I am grateful to the noble Lord for setting out some potential solutions, and we will look very carefully at the points that he made.
It is important that we do not go too far in restricting the freedom of local partners to take effective enforcement action, but I do not think that that is what he is suggesting. We know that there are examples of good practice in councils and I want to place on record my praise for them. In refreshing the guidance, I hope that if we have another debate on this this time next year, we will see that it has been greatly strengthened and probably helped by the questions put by noble Lords, in particular those of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to the debate.
The noble Earl made a good point; I hope that I covered it when addressing the speeches of other noble Lords. There has to be proportionality in this. “Nuisance and annoyance” could be someone walking their dog, but clearly that would not be proportionate. I think that that is what the refreshed guidance will cover, and I will be pleased to hear from the noble Earl if he thinks that we have not struck the balance right. Indeed, one person’s nuisance is something that another person does not even notice. I thank him for his comments.
I was quite shocked by the list set out by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, but I am pleased that he brought it to our attention. The examples are absolutely ridiculous. It is important to get the guidance right because clearly one problem with PSPOs has been that they can come down to, “I don’t like that, so it has to be banned”. When the new guidance comes out, it will have to be very clear and state, “These things are not a nuisance”, with examples of what PSPOs can and cannot be used for.
I will not pre-empt the guidance, which has not yet been written, but the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, brought up some ridiculous interpretations of the orders. We duly note what he said and the councils he mentioned and I am sure that those examples will be taken into account. It is always dangerous to get too prescriptive because that then allows wriggle room the other way. But we will firm up the guidance and refer back to noble Lords.
I hope that the Minister will accept that the essence of this is to try to get the statutory guidance in the right shape. However, I hope she will accept that there is an underlying issue about the definition of anti-social behaviour because if the statutory guidance even after being amended does not do the trick, it calls into question whether the original definition referred to by the noble Earl is right or whether it should be tightened up as per the discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, at Report on the original Bill. That is a fast ball of a question for the Minister, but she should take that into consideration when the statutory guidance is being looked at.
The noble Lord makes a constructive point: it is all about getting the balance right. Anti-social behaviour can and does destroy some people’s lives, but by the same token some of the examples he has given are utterly ridiculous and in no way could be construed as anti-social behaviour. We needed to deal with anti-social behaviour, but only in a proportionate way. I am sure that the noble Lord will look at the guidance and give his opinion on it in due course. I thank all noble Lords.