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Division No. 2


Addington, L. [Teller]
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Elton, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Morgan, L.
Newby, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Rennard, L.
Roper, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Walmsley, B. [Teller]
Weatherill, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Bhatia, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Hayman, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hylton, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Parekh, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

23 Oct 2003 : Column 1836

7.21 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 50 to 54 not moved.]

Clause 31 [Authorisations: supplemental]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 55:

    Page 27, leave out line 22 and insert "An authorisation may not be given without the consent of the local authority or each"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee we listened carefully to the points made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Linklater, about the importance of the work of local authorities in tackling anti-social behaviour in their areas, particularly through local crime and disorder reduction partnerships, which we have done a great deal to develop over the past five or six years.

Government Amendment No. 55 ensures that the agreement of the local authority is given before those powers can be used. We have responded to points raised in Committee on that issue. Local authorities and the police already work closely together in local crime and disorder reduction partnerships, implementing local strategies for dealing with anti-social behaviour. We expect agreement on authorising the powers to be an important part of that process.

I turn to Amendment No. 56, which is grouped with Amendment No. 55. In this, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, seeks to ensure that the local community is consulted before an authorisation is granted. We agree that the local community should be included in tackling anti-social behaviour in its area. However, we would not want to extend the authorisation process, implicit in the amendment, by building in an obligation to consult the local community.

However, we shall ensure that the code of practice to be issued under Clause 34 of the Bill gives advice on consultation with the local community. Indeed, we would expect crime and disorder reduction partnerships, which include, as I have made plain before, the police, councils and other bodies, to engage with local communities to determine whether there are areas in their locality where the use of the powers would be beneficial.

We agree it is essential that local communities know that those powers are being used in their area. That is why Clause 31(3) ensures that publicity is given to an authorisation. We believe that that communication is extremely important. Therefore, I trust that the noble Baronesses will not feel obliged to press their amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment No. 56. The purpose of the amendment,

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as the Minister has just said, is to ensure that all members of the local community, including children, young people and their families, are involved in the decision to instigate the power to disperse groups in local areas.

We have been briefed on this issue by Barnardo's, the Children's Rights Alliance for England, the Children's Society, Family Service Units, NACRO, the National Association for Youth Justice, the National Children's Bureau, the NCH, the NCVCCO, the NSPCC, the National Youth Agency and YMCS England, to whom we are very grateful. All of those organisations are opposed to the introduction of these new powers because of the detrimental impact that they will have, particularly on young people and their communities. They and we on these Benches do not condone crime, nor do we underestimate the impact that seriously disruptive behaviour can have on people's lives. However, we believe that the proposals on dispersal will not be effective and will simply increase local tensions between those in positions of authority and young people and their families, without effectively tackling the root causes of anti-social behaviour.

The reputable organisations that I have just mentioned urge the Government to reconsider their proposals, and consult with all members of the community including children and young people about the most effective ways of reducing anti-social behaviour while offering the children and families concerned the help that they need. Given the far-reaching nature of these proposals and their impact on children and young people, we are particularly concerned that there is no requirement in the new powers to consult the local community. That is why we have tabled Amendment No. 56.

Young people themselves are also very concerned. A recent NOP poll found that of the 10 to 16 year-olds questioned, seven out of 10 agree that police should not be given powers to move them on if they have not done anything wrong; four out of five say that curfews are not fair because not all young people cause problems; three out of five believe curfews will stop them doing things they enjoy; four out of five say that police are very important in helping children lead safe and secure lives; and four out of five of those questioned say that children sometimes hang out on the streets because there is nowhere else for them to go.

In view of those strongly held views of young people, the absence of a requirement on the face of the Bill to consult with the community is a significant and alarming change to the current situation in respect of curfew schemes under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The Act sets out that an application to the Secretary of State for a local child curfew scheme must describe how the local authority proposes to consult the local community to be affected. That can be found in Section 14(1)(b).

One of the difficulties with the original proposals in Part 4 of this Bill is that they removed the partnership approach between the police and the local authority, which is such a key tenet of the Crime and Disorder

23 Oct 2003 : Column 1838

Act 1998. We share the concerns of the Local Government Association and others about this and very much welcome the introduction of the Government's Amendment No. 55, which means that authorisation will be given only with the agreement of the local authority. That would facilitate consultation with the local community as set out in my Amendment No. 56.

So we either need this amendment so as to be explicit about that consultation or, at the very least, we seek the Minister's clear assurance that the code of practice will refer explicitly to the need to consult children and young people. That would be in accordance with the Children and Young People's Unit guidance, Learning to Listen. Without this amendment or the Minister's assurance about the guidance, the proposals in the Bill effectively remove power from the local community, a strange contradiction to the ethos of the White Paper statement that,

    "to tackle anti-social behaviour we must ensure that the community sets clear standards of behaviour",


    "Local people must be encouraged to win back their communities and encouraged by local and central Government to do so".

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said:

    "We agree that the local community should be involved in tackling anti-social behaviour . . . we would not necessarily want to extend the authorisation process by building in an obligation to consult the local community".—[Official Report, 17/9/03; col. 1002.]

He repeated that this evening. The Minister further stated that he felt that the best way to address this matter was through the code of practice as set out in Clause 34. It is our view that these powers are so far reaching and have raised so much concern about the need to ensure that the imposition of the powers is suitable for the particular area and community concerned, through consultation, that it is of critical importance that they should be reflected on the face of the legislation. I hope that the Minister will agree with that.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, when addressing the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness I thought I made it plain that we would seek, by virtue of Clause 34—the code of practice—to ensure that we have community consultation. I can give a commitment to consult all sections of the community; that will be in the code of practice; and, of course that will include young people. That makes a great deal of sense.

The Government have done a great deal through the crime reduction partnerships to ensure that there is careful consultation on the construction of crime and anti-social behaviour patterns of disorder. Because we view local authorities as very important partners, and because local authorities obviously have deep and intrusive roots into local communities, we see their role as being extraordinarily important.

23 Oct 2003 : Column 1839

It is perhaps worth reminding the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that these powers are not just restricted to children. She seemed to think that they are aimed just at young people. That is not the case. I thought I had made that point clear at an earlier stage in the Bill. I think that there has been some misunderstanding—I am sure not deliberate—in some quarters about our intent regarding this legislation.

So, we have listened to the points made at an earlier stage in the Bill. We think that it is more important to put the provision into a code of practice. There will be extensive opportunities for consultation; and that consultation will extend to younger members of the community.

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