Housing Benefit (Withholding of Payment) Bill

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Mr. Davey: Thank you, Mr. O'Hara. As you rightly said, I was trying to move on to discussing other alternatives that might be considered. I gave as an example the Islington experiment, which has been running since February 2000. It has been developed borough-wide after some pilots, and some 100 contracts have been signed.

The failure rate is 2 per cent., and action is taken if a contract is breached. Hon. Members might be surprised to learn that the effective penalty for breaching an acceptable behaviour contract is eviction. However, eviction is done in a way that includes support and resettlement services—a multi-

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agency approach is used. People will say that such an approach may be politically correct but never actually succeeds. However, that is an example that it does. Before it is dismissed as trendy or new Labour, it should be noted that the approach works.

On the point made by the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire, the great advantage of acceptable behaviour contracts is that they enable the crime reduction partnership to intervene quickly. There is no need to go to the courts or involve people in making judgments. Someone can talk to the individual concerned and ensure that they sign up. They can be signed up to a contract in a matter of days, not months.

Malcolm Wicks: I understand your point about interventions, Mr. O'Hara, and the need to move on. However, in the dying moments of this morning's discussion—given that most of us hope this weekend to reassure victims of antisocial behaviour in our constituencies that Members of Parliament have deliberated and made some decisions and progress—may I ask whether there will come a moment when the hon. Gentleman, too, will agree to move on, despite the legitimate differences between us, so that we can vote on the matter?

Mr. Davey: I imagine that there will be votes today, and I intend to make progress. However, as you rightly said, Mr. O'Hara, I have been intervened on heavily and have not refused any interventions. I am trying to make progress and, with the Minister's agreement, shall do that. I was trying to point out that that very new experiment was the first. It has not been trialled in other councils up and down the country,

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which may be why other hon. Members are fortunate—

Mr. Clappison: On a point of order, Mr. O'Hara. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I am having difficulty following which amendment we are on. I thought that we had moved on to amendment No. 21, which deals with exceptional hardship, but the hon. Gentleman seems to be discussing amendments that you advised him to move on from some time ago.

The Chairman: The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton might advise us which amendment he is speaking to.

Mr. Davey: I am speaking to amendments No. 22 and 24. I do not believe that at any stage I advised that I had moved on to amendment No. 21. I assure the hon. Member for Hertsmere that I shall tell him when I have moved on.

The right hon. Member for Birkenhead suggested from a sedentary position when the hon. Member for Hertsmere intervened that we did not need a Bill for this purpose. He is absolutely right, because what we have discussed is already happening. My point is that before we put in place a draconian sanction regime we should ensure that the authorities have considered the type of action that I described. It would be the most effective way to deal with antisocial behaviour and would ensure that such best practice—introduced and piloted by the Liberal Democrats—was used throughout the country and becomes part of the process. It would be cheaper—

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Hara, Mr. Edward (Chairman)
Blizzard, Mr.
Clappison, Mr.
Coaker, Vernon
Davey, Mr. Edward
Drew, Mr.
Field, Mr. Frank
Howarth, Mr. George
Knight, Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs.
MacDonald, Mr.
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Selous, Andrew
Wicks, Malcolm

 
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