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Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, I should like to deal further with a point that I raised earlier. I referred to a case where a family was split by a local authority boundary. To put it in context, perhaps part of a family lives in Musselburgh, which I believe to be in East Lothian district--certainly it used to be--and part lives in Edinburgh. If two members of that family in either area were the victim of this conduct, it would be competent for such an order to be pronounced, but if only one member of each branch of the family was the victim it would not be competent. One could go around Scotland--as he said, it is a small place. Areas such as Paisley and Glasgow, and Dundee and some of its outskirts, spring to mind, and one might throw up other examples.

As I said earlier, if the order is to work it has to be perceived to be sensible and fair. I therefore ask the noble and learned Lord to follow the example, as he already has, of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, of giving a qualified undertaking to look at this issue again. It is a practical problem. If, on the other hand, a man reforms when he moves to another area, there is nothing to prevent him from returning to the court and seeking to have the order terminated. That is what the Bill provides. If he wishes to lead a blame-free life in the future, what I am raising need not stand in his way.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said. For a moment I wondered whether he was seeking to re-enact the Aliens Act 1705.

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This is an important amendment. It is a probing amendment, because I wished to understand the Government's thinking. So although I shall withdraw it, I may well return to it on Report. Particular circumstances should be allowed. I agree that generally there should be at least two other persons. But should not the Bill allow for the particular circumstances where only one person could be involved? I give notice that that is probably the way in which I shall return to the issue on Report. In the meantime, I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 not moved.]

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 14, line 40, at end insert--
("( ) that an attempt to resolve the situation by mediation has been tried and failed or that the persons involved are not willing to seek resolution through mediation or other voluntary means; and").

The noble Earl said: The amendment is a substantive one which will add an important part to the process of controlling and reducing anti-social behaviour. The task being placed on local authorities will be considerable. It leads local authorities into the relatively uncharted waters of resolving neighbourhood disputes across the whole of their area.

The amendment was suggested to me by Sacro which, among others, runs two community mediation projects, and has built up useful experience in that work. I thought originally that there was £1 million to be spread across the 32 unitary authorities. O-level arithmetic suggested to me that that would amount to about £31,000 per annum across those 32 local authorities. That suggested one additional officer--the person I choose to call the anti-social behaviour officer--in each local authority. Clearly, the cake would not have been sliced in that way. Larger authorities would have had a bigger share of the small cake. I therefore wondered what prospect there was of Clackmannanshire receiving more than the crumbs. However, the noble and learned Lord then kindly wrote to me and suggested that he and I had read the financial memorandum incorrectly, and that unfortunately there is no provision. In consequence, local authorities in Scotland would have to absorb the new duty within their existing budgets. I leave that point.

There is new legislation in place which allows local authorities to take firmer action with troublesome tenants including eviction and resettlements, which may produce conflicts of interest between social work and housing departments. I have yet to work out which local authority department will have to deal with anti-social orders.

Local authorities already deal with neighbour problems among their tenants, and they can claim to have some experience of that work. Will that be true when all citizens can call on the local authority for help? Recent TV programmes have illustrated the intractable nature of some neighbourhood problems, especially in posh areas. Problems arise in all sectors of society. They are by no means confined to local authority tenants.

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The amendment, which calls for mediation, is relevant because local authorities will be promoting anti-social behaviour orders not as a first line but rather as a last line of action. They will have to investigate all complaints. I hope that part of that investigation will involve an attempt at mediation. The problem will not go away for local authorities just by promoting an anti-social behaviour order in the sheriff civil court.

The anti-social behaviour order is an unsupervised order. That means that, in effect, it has to be supervised by the neighbours. They will have to report any further anti-social behaviour to the local authority. The local authority will have to follow up that further complaint. The need for effective mediation will become obvious, even if only to reduce the anti-social behaviour officer's workload.

I anticipate that the noble and learned Lord will explain that the desirability and need for mediation will be included in guidance. That will be understating the case. Mediation will be a major activity in the procedure for an anti-social behaviour order. Promoting anti-social behaviour orders in the sheriff civil court will be a minor activity compared with investigating and mediating. Failure of mediation will be part of the proof. It is becoming popular for legislation to give a clear indication of Parliament's intentions when the Bill was enacted. The amendment will do precisely that. I beg to move.

Lord Hardie: I agree entirely with the principle which I understand to be behind this amendment that anti-social behaviour orders should be a last rather than a first resort. Perhaps I may say also that I am a firm supporter of mediation projects. The noble Earl referred to the Sacro projects. I know, for example, that Sacro (which is a voluntary organisation working in Scotland to reduce offending, make communities safer and inform change in justice policy) manages two community mediation projects which act to resolve disputes between neighbours in conflict. These projects, and others like them, are showing some success in dealing with anti-social behaviour at the lower end of the scale. I pay tribute to all involved in those projects.

In cases where the anti-social behaviour is directed against a small group of individuals, then mediation or some similar technique should certainly be attempted before court action is considered. The only circumstances where this might not be appropriate is where the anti-social behaviour is directed against a whole community, or where the victims are unwilling to be identified or to negotiate--through fear perhaps.

The importance of using mediation wherever possible, as the noble Earl anticipated, will be fully dealt with in the guidance to be issued to local authorities in due course on implementing these provisions. A first draft of the guidance will be available shortly, well before the Bill has completed its parliamentary passage. The draft will be issued to a wide range of bodies, including the local authorities, for full consultation.

The steps to be gone through before a local authority can make an application are administrative matters which should properly be dealt with in the guidance

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rather than the primary legislation. Important though mediation is, there is no reason to single it out above a range of other administrative matters connected with anti-social behaviour orders. On the understanding that the need for mediation will be fully dealt with in the guidance, I would ask the noble Earl to withdraw this amendment.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: Before the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate sits down, will he say whether the draft guidance will be available before the Bill leaves this place? If he does not know the answer, perhaps he will write to me on that topic.

Lord Hardie: I do not know the answer to that question, and I shall write to the noble and learned Lord.

5 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I said that this was a substantive amendment and it is one on which I am keen. It might be regarded as a Spice Girls amendment; that is, as the amendment that I really, really want. We shall return to it later on Report.

I was glad to hear the noble and learned Lord refer to the promotion of the orders as a last resort. I believe that that is correct; it is where they ought to be. I forgot to declare an interest with regard to Sacro; I am a former employee. I know that the noble and learned Lord will be visiting the Sacro project in Kirkcaldy and I look forward to meeting him there.

I understand that it will not be part of the promotion of the order to establish that investigation and mediation have been undertaken. That may be an optional or desirable aspect but not a mandatory part of the promotion of the order. Will the Minister confirm that?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Before the noble and learned Lord answers that question, perhaps I may intervene. Do I understand that Sacro will probably have a locus in the procedure, even though it is not set out in legislation? Will mediation in the general sense of the word involved Sacro? That is an interesting thought, but I had not realised that it was a possibility.

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