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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: This amendment brings us back to my original point of trying to find out whether this is an emergency measure to be used as a result of something approaching a riot, in which case there is a need for an almost immediate response and hence a procedure which takes virtually no time at all to implement.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am grateful for the tone and the nature of the inquiry made by the noble Baroness. The provision is not intended to deal with rioting. The Solicitor-General went laboriously through all the safeguards built into this curfew scheme--and I shall not cover the ground again.

In the past the noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Goodhart, have stressed--I accept their concerns as being properly based--that one has to have a proper balance about the human rights aspects and the public protection and child safety aspects. The scheme described fully by the Solicitor-General in respect of the last amendment is there, and it is deliberately there to be circumscribed--I want to make that quite plain. At the end of the road, it has to have the authority of the Secretary of State, and I believe that to be right. A further safeguard ought to be that one cannot have indefinite periods, but if one needs to implement the scheme in a specific area for the maintenance of order and for the protection of children, it should not extend beyond 90 days.

I take the point made by the noble Baroness that local authorities may feel that it is hardly worth it. But the true way of looking at the situation is that one ought not to look for these curfews until they are demonstrated to be needed. If they are demonstrated to be needed there is consultation, co-operative inquiry and application to the Secretary of State. After that, 90 days will be the limit. Of course, subsequently a further application may or may not be made in a specific area, but we have tried to balance carefully what I can call the "Thomas-Goodhart" questions

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about human rights and we believe that 90 days is enough in the circumstances of what we are trying to prevent.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I thank the Minister for his explanation. I will reflect upon what he said. I still have anxieties about the practicability of 90 days being the maximum, given that it implies that there will be shorter periods which will be the norm for such a scheme, and the difficulty of setting those up. However, I will reflect on his words and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 144:

Page 12, line 8, leave out ("(under 10)").

The noble Baroness said: Again, this is a probing amendment as to why the Government have chosen the age of 10 to be the barrier. Amendment No. 144 deletes the requirement that the curfew scheme should apply only to children under that age. Subsection (2) states that it,

    "applies to a ban on children of specified ages (under 10) being in a public place within a specified area ... between 9 pm and 6 am",

unless they are with a responsible adult aged 18 or over.

I am concerned to find out why that is the age range at which the Government are looking--the nought to the 10 minus one day; or indeed, 10 minus one hour. It is difficult to know how they define the age of 10 for this; I am not too sure. It seems to me to be a narrow age range. I have the most extraordinary visions--perhaps it is the late hour and a low blood sugar level, I am not sure--in which a local authority imposes a child curfew scheme on children perhaps between the ages of eight and 10, four and six, but not between nought and four and six and eight, unless there are such things as delinquent toddlers--there may be. There certainly seem to be some peculiarities associated with the provision and we could end up with huge difficulties for the police in trying to implement any kind of curfew scheme.

This is a probing amendment to ask the Minister to explain why the Government chose 10 as the make or break age. I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Amendment No. 144 removes the upper age limit so that a local child curfew would apply to any child of a specified age.

One of the main thrusts of the youth justice programme is to seek earlier, more effective intervention to prevent young children turning to crime in the first place. In the past too little has been done to prevent children and young people from taking the first steps into criminal behaviour. The local child curfew is one of the early intervention methods and seeks to support that objective. That is why it is geared towards those under the age of 10. We believe that no suitable powers are available to deal with this

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age group. Whereas if you are over 10 sanctions are available, there are no such sanctions if you are under 10.

In addition, we are introducing in the Bill antisocial behaviour orders which will apply to those who are 10 and over. In certain cases these orders can be applied for by local authorities and the police and they can prohibit certain activities. They can also include in certain cases the imposition of a curfew on the person named in the order. But these are all for those over 10. This one, for the under-10s, in a sense complements that. If you had an antisocial behaviour order and a local curfew order, you could deal with the horrendous age problem of trying to identify who is under 10 and who is over 10.

In drawing up the proposals for local child curfews, one of the issues to which the Government gave serious thought was the age limits that should apply. I have therefore attempted to set out the thinking behind the Government's approach and how that fits in with the other proposals in the youth justice reforms to give the Committee some understanding of why the Government concluded that the proposals should apply to those young children who are below the age of criminal responsibility; namely, 10. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able not to press her amendment.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I thank the noble and learned Lord for his explanation. I shall reflect carefully on what he has said and read it in Hansard. I recall his words that the Government are concerned to prevent the first steps into criminal behaviour. It almost sounds as though my delinquent toddlers are becoming a reality. I hope that is not so. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 145:

Page 12, line 14, leave out ("with").

The noble Lord said: This is not a probing amendment. It is a quite simple drafting amendment which I trust the Government will be prepared to accept. I am seeking to leave out the word "with" on the grounds that it is otiose and inelegant English and that the Bill would read better without it. I do this very much in the spirit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who is always a great believer in brevity in Bills. If we can remove at least one word from the Bill, that will be progress.

I should also point out that though the word "with" is used here, I notice that it is not used in a similar provision, Clause 1(2), where there is also mention of consultation. If it is not used there, I do not see why it need be used here. I do not think I need quote at length from Fowler's Modern English Usage, either the second or third editions, both of which are quite clear on their use of what they describe as phrasal verbs in these circumstances, and I trust that the noble and learned Lord will be prepared to accept my amendment. But before he does accept my

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amendment, which I am sure he is about to do, I wonder whether he could just address one point in relation to Clause 14(3)(b), which refers to,

    "such other persons or bodies as it considers appropriate",

being consulted. Can the noble and learned Lord elaborate on who those might be and whether guidance will be issued by the Home Secretary. I beg to move.

Viscount Tenby: I rise to support the noble Lord's amendment. Will the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General accept that this is the sort of English up with which we will not put?

Lord Monson: Like my noble friend, I find it very pleasing to support this amendment, which is simple, non political, non controversial, I trust, and concerned with the purity of the English language. How horrified the late Lord Airedale, who, as the Committee may remember, used to sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches and was zealous in his concern for the preservation of the language, would have been to see an Americanism like "consulting with" in a government Bill. I trust that the amendment will be accepted.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I disagree with the amendment. I see a difference between consulting someone, which means asking for his opinion, and consulting with someone, which suggests a flow of opinions in both directions. The latter would be preferable and would support the retention of the word "with" in the Bill.

Lord Meston: If the Minister will not accept this amendment, will he at least "meet with" the Front Bench opposite to discuss it?

11.30 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: That cannot be passed without mention of the fact that five Members of the Committee have risen to discuss whether the word "with" should be removed, it being agreed by me that it makes absolutely no difference to the substance. The previous amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, queried the age of 10, but not one Member of the Committee was included in that debate. That is a slightly churlish remark to make, but it is perhaps an indication.

I can see that it is more elegant to remove the word "with". May I consider what to do about it, although it makes no difference to the substance? I will consider and perhaps take up the position of the noble Lord, Lord Meston, and "meet with" others to discuss it. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

A more significant point was raised as regards who are the,

    "such other persons or bodies as it considers appropriate,"

in Clause 14(3)(b). We hope to deal with that in more detail and perhaps I may write to the noble Lord about it. Such organisations that would be typically

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involved would be the social services departments, voluntary agencies and another--but unfortunately I cannot read the wording. It is something "groups and other similar groups". I shall come back on that. I apologise.

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