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Lord Thomas of Gresford: I rise to support my noble friend in opposing this clause and this whole part of the Bill, which really is the "move along" part. I have been

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considering some of the comments made during the course of this debate. The Minister said that it is time to enter the world of reality, while the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford referred to the fact that there are problems with anti-social behaviour in our cities. There are also problems in the countryside, even in the town of Hereford, as I know.

Following the line just taken by my noble friend, ample legislation is in place to deal with the situation where an offence has been committed or there is the likelihood of an offence taking place. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 would apply with drugs and drunkenness offences. The Public Order Act 1986 would deal with a likely breach of the peace. If an offence is being committed or is likely to be committed, the police have a role. The only effect of these provisions will be to permit the police, if they want to exercise these powers—and of course they never exercised their powers under the child curfew order which we debated at length in 1998—to move a group of people from one area to another.

It is said that we are not dealing only with young people; that other groups of people may fall into this category. I have been trying to think of some. It could include those who wish to demonstrate—not by marching; they would be excluded under subsection (5) providing they had permission—for example, outside a social security office or against a pedestrian crossing. In the course of doing so, some people may feel intimidated, harassed and so on. The provisions in the Bill will impinge on people's rights to do that.

There is racial tension in some areas, sometimes between ethnic groups and sometimes involving white racists and so on. Those kinds of public order issues can be dealt with by the existing legislation without the need for more.

In the face of the opposition to this part of the Bill which has been expressed by all the organisations to which my noble friend referred, and the clear decision of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that these provisions breach Articles 5, 8, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, why do the Government wish to persist? I invite them to withdraw this part of the Bill from the consideration of the House.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Many of these issues have already been debated in some detail. I shall try to be as "telegraphic" as the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, would want me to be if he were in his place. The case against clause stand part was succinctly and elegantly put by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford.

I have become troubled by the theme running through a number of comments made in relation to Clause 30—that it is an attempt to alienate or demonise young people. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know it is proper that in Committee we should concentrate on each clause as it comes, but we cannot divorce the Bill and these provisions from the plethora of work that we are carrying out right

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across the piece to re-engage young people and to meet their needs in terms of education, social integration and activity after school. In that endeavour the Government are linking arms with civil society. We are involving the churches, non-governmental organisations, local authorities and all people of good will who have at their core the interests of young people and children.

The clause was not fashioned or targeted to bite solely on young people, but to bite on the people in a community who are responsible for the anti-social behaviour which adversely affects others and makes life intolerable for many. I therefore feel that it was absolutely correct for the right reverend Prelate to emphasise how important he feels that "and" is. I respectfully agree.

The combination of those factors means that it should be appropriately difficult to designate areas to which these provisions will apply. We are not talking about people going about their everyday business and being inappropriately dispersed; we are talking about an area which has been designated as an area of acute difficulty and concern for members of the community, where they are seeking relief. And they are entitled to it.

I join issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in relation to her comments about black young people. Can I reassure her that the people who are part of our black and minority ethnic community are just as passionate about anti-social behaviour and wish to find a means to bring about its cessation as are their white counterparts? I am sure the noble Baroness did not mean to cause offence, but I regret to tell her that some may, on reading her comments, take offence. I am sure, knowing the noble Baroness as I do, that no such offence was intended.

These are temperate provisions which we think give back to communities an ability to reclaim a sense of security. Of course I hear everything that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, says about these matters. We are not turning this into a police state; there will be proper consultation with the local authorities and community groups. I remind noble Lords that in those areas where communities are plagued by anti-social behaviour, there is a hunger for relief—a hunger which we, as legislators, should seek properly to satisfy.

It is not an improper hunger. It is all very well for those of us who have the privilege of living in areas where we are not subjected to the daily harassment and indignity of not being able to go about our everyday business. Some people are terrified to go out of the door because they think they will be jostled and badly treated. There are estates where right-thinking people feel they cannot leave their front door in safety. Some areas have been reclaimed by the use of anti-social behaviour orders, and we aspire to reclaim more of them.

I have some comfort for the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and his lonely boy doing a paper round. It is usual for the boy on his bicycle to be on

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his own. Unless he is riding tandem, these provisions will not apply to him because within this area, police and community support officers will have the power to disperse groups of two or more people. Tandem may become the modus operandi for paper boys in the future, but, to my knowledge, that does not appear to be the case yet.

The direction may also include a prohibition on returning to the area for up to 24 hours. We are not going to play ring-around-the-roses with these situations. Eight hours may not always be quite enough. If people are asked to disperse properly, we want them to do so and not come back, and 24 hours is not by any means an unreasonable period.

When the British crime survey of 2002–03 asked what people were most concerned about, 33 per cent of the respondents cited teenagers hanging around in the street as a very or fairly big problem in their area. I take on board everything that has been said about the need for young people to have safe places to play, proper activities and an alternative. I think on the last occasion on which we spoke about this, I gave the example of the experiment in Harrow. People who were complaining about young children took their dog and went to the park with the young children in question, so they were safe, and the problem was solved.

We need innovative, creative responses to social interaction. The work that we are doing in creating the National Criminal Justice Board, and the local criminal justice boards which will enable people to study local needs and think about diversion and alternatives, will, in addition to the improvements and the grants that we are giving, help us to do much.

There is no simple answer; there is no quick fix. We need the full panoply. We need to use every tool available to us to ensure that our communities are safe for young people. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to the young people who have been dispersed. She will also know that younger young people are often the most frightened. The bullying that worries some of our very young children of tender years is often visited on them by their older brothers' and sisters' friends. We want to make life safe for all our children—the provisions do not relate only to those who want to behave badly and make life hell for everyone else. It is not only a measure for young people, but for everyone.

This is a very important part of the Bill. We are not dealing here with lawful picketing or any other lawful action. Members of the Committee can read what is said in Clause 30. It ensures that those who are picketing lawfully or participating in a lawful march are not caught by the power.

Clause 31 sets out further details about the process of making an authorisation, giving the police the authority to use the two powers. The authorisation must be in writing, signed by the relevant officer, specify the relevant locality, the grounds for authorisation and the period for which it is valid. There is nothing that says that it has to be for six

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months; that is the outer limit, and it can be reduced if it appears that the ill that most concerned everyone has passed away. The provision is a flexible tool.

It may be a flexible tool, but history has taught us that it is a tool that we need in our armoury. It is not illiberal; it is not against the human rights of the individual; it is trying to create a balance. As regards the Human Rights Act 1998, we have to balance the rights and liberties of one group with the rights and liberties of another. Sometimes those rights conflict and we have to strike a balance. We believe that the balance is about right, and I ask Members of Committee to consider that this is a proper part of the Bill and that the clauses should stand part of the Bill. I ask those on the Liberal Democrat Benches to think again, with a little charity, about what everyone is trying to do, and not to press this further.


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