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Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord for his remarks in this connection. I believe that Amendment No. 19 puts the case more frankly, but perhaps the wording is too emotive. In recent days, I have received representations from organisations representing the elderly and pensioners expressing their concern about the fear which those people have of crime. Although many senior police officers will say that many of those fears are exaggerated and stoked up by the media, for whatever purpose, the reality is that in recent years crime has increased substantially, whatever the statistics may show to the contrary. Therefore, it is essential to take into account the feelings of local people in this respect, and I welcome the noble and learned Lord's remarks.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I understand that we are discussing Amendment No. 20 with Amendments Nos. 18 and 19.

Lord Henley: My Lords, we are discussing the Government's Amendment No. 18 and my Amendment No. 19.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I am grateful for that correction. In spite of what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, we will come to Amendment No. 20 in a moment.

Baroness David: My Lords, I am pleased that the Government have come forward with the amendment. I have received a number of representations about the matter. Although I wish the amendment were more strongly worded, like that of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I know that the aim is the same and I thank the Government for bringing it forward.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I put my name to Amendment No. 19 and I am delighted that the sentiment will be contained in the Bill. I wish to stress the extent of the fear of crime and to cite an example from a survey carried out by the National Federation of Post Office and BT Pensioners which I received today. It indicates the extent of fear among old people. Of the 300 respondents--they are waiting for the results from 20,000 others--56 per cent. go out less at night due to fear of crime; 45 per cent. feared crime against the person and property; 71 per cent. felt that policing levels in the neighbourhood were inadequate; and 13 per cent. had been the victims of bogus callers. Amendment No. 18 will go a long way to redress that situation. If the aim of the Bill is to adopt the multi-agency approach in dealing with crime and disorder it is right and proper that an audit of the fear of crime is undertaken. Furthermore, old people should have a place at the table during discussions about the fear of crime. I am grateful for the Minister's assurances.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for indicating that he will not move his Amendment No. 19.

The noble Lord asked a number of questions about Clause 5(2)(c). It refers to:

    "every person or body of a description which is for the time being prescribed by order of the Secretary of State under this subsection".

The order will be a statutory instrument by negative resolution. The precise details of how that will be dealt with are set out in Clause 92(2).

We have not yet decided which the prescribed bodies will be and I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, for his suggestions. They will probably include bodies such as social housing providers, environmental health officers and voluntary organisations. I am sorry that I cannot go further at this stage, but I believe that that answers most of the noble Lord's questions.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 6, line 3, after ("meetings") insert ("which are easily accessible to the elderly and disabled").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment continues on the same theme. It addresses directly the risk that the fear of crime may prevent certain sections of the community from attending a public meeting on a crime and disorder strategy. My amendment refers to the elderly and disabled.

It also addresses the more general issue of access, which is important. It is not merely access for elderly or disabled people, important though that is, but access in terms of time. If, for example, as a result of worries about crime at night it was believed that meetings should be held during the day, one would have to make arrangements to allow for those who are at work during the day and can attend meetings only in the evening.

I appreciate that the amendment might be inadequately drafted, but its purpose is to ensure that meetings are held in ways and at times that enable as many people as possible, from as wide a section of the community as possible, at some time or another, and at some place or another, to attend and contribute to the development of the crime and disorder strategies which are set out in Clauses 5 and 6. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I regard this as an important and necessary amendment. The elderly and disabled are most vulnerable to criminal attacks, even in their own homes. Recently, we have seen reports of appalling cases in which people living alone have been assaulted and sometimes killed and anything of value in their home has been stolen. Those people really should be at the meetings which are envisaged. I hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this amendment which is extremely important.

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5.30 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, there is one small point which I wish to make. It would be better to insert the word "people" or "persons" so that the amendment reads,

    "which are easily accessible to persons who are elderly and disabled",


    "accessible to elderly and disabled people".

It is important not to forget that people are people first and foremost, whatever their disability or age.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it would be difficult to oppose the sentiment underlying this amendment as it is the Government's intention to encourage widely-based consultation during the crime and disorder analysis stage of developing local strategies. I fully accept what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said. I accept also what the noble Baroness said in relation to ensuring that the elderly and disabled are treated as people rather than as something else.

However, in practical terms, as a matter of legislation, there may be occasions when complying with the legal requirement proposed could result in it being impossible to hold meetings in some communities because an appropriate venue was not available. Therefore, a more appropriate way forward to deal with that important issue is for the non-statutory guidance that will accompany the legislation to urge specifically the use of a venue which will encourage as many people as possible to take part in the process and which will be readily accessible by elderly and disabled people.

I am happy to give an undertaking that the guidance will contain such advice. By doing that, the particular needs of every member of the community, whether from minority groups, the young, elderly people or disabled people, will be recognised but the practical difficulties of making such a specific legal requirement as that proposed will be avoided. The views of such vulnerable groups can be sought by other means apart from public meetings, if necessary. We should bear that in mind in developing our strategies. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I start with an apology to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I have been a Minister in a number of different departments with responsibility for disability issues. I should have known far better than to use the word "disabled". We have seen a development of the use of language over the years and we have begun to get away from crude terms such as "the disabled". We have moved on to the phrase "disabled people". The noble Baroness may remember that we then moved on to an expression, which was rather a mouthful, which was "people with disabilities". However, we have now moved back to "disabled people" which is a more satisfactory form of words. I deeply regret that I did not think of that when drafting the amendment and should I wish to return to the matter I shall make sure that I get those matters right.

Having said that, I have no plans to return to this matter because I am satisfied with the answer given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. He states

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that there will be non-statutory guidance which is obviously the appropriate manner in which to proceed. That guidance will set out how the responsible authorities are to go about the consultation process.

The Bill refers to "public meetings or otherwise". I trust that we shall have an opportunity to see the draft guidance in due course. I hope that the guidance will make it clear that where possible public meetings should be held and that the "or otherwise" is very much an "or otherwise" and should not be used with great frequency. Where public meetings are held, all that can be done should be done to make sure that they are as accessible as possible in relation to both time and place and that as many people as possible can attend. On the basis of such an assurance from the noble and learned Lord, I am more than happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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