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Lord Hylton: I want to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said. The schemes will be made much more effective if they can be assured of three-year funding rather than have annual funding which is liable to be cut off.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: In listening to contributions from around the House, I have a peculiar sense of deja vu on this. It takes me back many years to when I was chair of our local housing committee. All the issues relating to anti-social behaviour were alive in the late 1980s, but we did not have the means with which we could adequately deal with them. We did, however, alight on the idea of beefing up tenancy agreements so that they dealt with problems which we now bring within the ambit of more generalised anti-social behaviour.
At that timeand it was controversial in Brightonwe had difficulty in persuading people that it was important to make strong statements of policy about people's behaviour, their conduct and the conduct of their children in the communities on our housing estates. But we have moved on some long way from there and I pay tribute in particular to the housing authorities for the valuable work they did in the early years when such issues assumed a great importance. In many ways, they laid the ground for the important measures we are seeking to introduce and reinforce in this legislation.
Before turning to the detail of the amendments, I want to comment on the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. He is right: it is important that we have a focus on tackling these matters through a positive agenda. Many projects up and down the country attempt to do that in different ways. It may be football in the community, after-school clubs or youth projectsthey address many of these issues in a positive framework. They are linked and those links are made by local authorities, housing associations and through the voluntary sector. Obviously, I would say this, but what has pleased me over the past half dozen years or so is the fact that much more funding has been available for those kinds of projects, some of which have been set up as part of a conscious programme linked into diversion strategies. There has also been the detailed work carried out in the community by community-minded police officers.
I turn to the details of the amendments. In general terms, the spirit behind them is one with which we are in accord. It is a matter of how one addresses the particular issues. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith; I do not believe that the amendments are trivial. They are extremely important because they address important issues which have to be widely understood if this legislation is to have the impact that most Members of the Committee would desire.
Amendments Nos. 22 and 26 would require local authorities to publish guidance on anti-social behaviour and would require social landlords to follow that guidance in producing policies and procedures to meet their requirements under this clause. There is an irony in that because it could result in local authorities issuing guidance to themselves, which seems to us to be over bureaucratic. Furthermore, local authorities are already required to produce strategies under Section 6 of the Crime and Disorder Act. It appears to us that such a provision would replicate something that is already in place and it would oblige local authorities to issue guidance to themselves.
This clause is designed to get social landlords to produce policies and procedures on how to respond to anti-social behaviour that takes place in their stock and it will need to address the particular issues that landlords and their tenants face. It should not be forgotten that the issue goes wider than that. Registered social landlords working in more that one local authority area would need to produce a policy and a procedure for each area that they work in. Because of the way in which housing associations and housing trusts work, that seems to us to be a rather impractical way of dealing with the matter. They would have to fragment the way in which they put together their policy and procedure. As I said earlier, it concerns more than just enforcement.
Amendment No. 23, standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, specifies that prevention and rehabilitation should be included in policies and procedures. I agree that prevention and rehabilitation are crucial in providing a long-term sustainable solution to anti-social behaviour, and we would expect landlords to consider them when drawing up their policies.
The noble Baroness anticipated that, but we would expect such issues to be addressed in detail in statutory guidance. The Government believe that that is a far better way of dealing with the matter than putting something on the face of the Bill. I am sure that the noble Baroness would say in response that we need a clue within the legislation. That is our expectation. We shall put in place statutory guidance which will have that effect. It is an important issue and it will need to be spelt out at large rather than in short terms.
On Amendment No. 24, I believe that there is agreement that it has to be good practice for local authorities to ensure that their policies and procedures are compatible with each other. Again, there is no need to have that on the face of the Bill. It would be much better for that to be included in guidance. The noble Baroness made the point that anti-social behaviour policies and procedures should not be seen as a separate strategy. We absolutely agree with that. There has to be an integrated approach and there has to be "joined-up-ness" within the local authority in the way in which it considers its housing policies and its anti-social behaviour schemes.
Amendment No. 25 seeks to give social landlords 12 months to prepare their policies and procedures after commencement, rather than six months. On time-tabling, our anticipation is that the clause will not be commenced until statutory guidance has been issued and six months from that date. We believe that that will provide adequate time for the production of policies and procedures. The aim of Clause 12 is for social landlords to set out to their tenants how they will respond to anti-social behaviour in the housing context. If they already have policies and procedures that meet the requirements in legislation, they will not need to produce further policies and procedures. There is no point in layering one on the other. No doubt they may wish to clean them up and think them afresh but we want them to ensure that they work within the direction that they are aiming for generally and most housing authorities have that good practice in place.
Amendment No. 27 requires copies of policies and procedures to be provided to every tenant and additionally to everyone who is a prospective tenant. The clause already provides that they should be made available to "any person". It seems to me that "everyone who may become a tenant"I think that term is used in the amendmentcould include a very large number of people and one could see that as being impractical. We prefer our wording; it is our expectation that prospective tenants would be covered by that and most sensible housing authorities and most sensible housing providers in the social housing field publish and produce those kinds of materials for prospective tenants, people on the waiting list, people seeking a transfer and those in similar situations.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, suggested that Amendment No. 28 dealt with an omission. The amendment seeks to require social landlords to record complaints about anti-social behaviour, and to monitor the action taken to resolve the complaints. Again this is not something that is best dealt with on the face of the Bill; we believe that it should be dealt with in guidance. We agree with the noble Lord that such matters are important and integral to the effective working and monitoring of the scheme.
I do not believe that there is a great deal between us. The way in which we intend to develop the policy in implementation is important. In the main we believe that most of these issues can be dealt with effectively in statutory guidance and there will be much consultation on that to ensure that we get it right. We shall work very much with best practice. We entirely agree with the points made about a more positive approach on these matters.
Finally, I shall pick up one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, about fostering and encouraging good behaviour through school programmes. Again, we are already there. This year the DfES has expanded its behaviour improvement programme to include a further 26 local authority areas, building on progress made this year in the original 34 pilot areas. That programme is delivered through Excellence in Cities.
Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I am sure he will understand that the flavour of new Section 218A is enforcement because towards the end it refers to new Sections 153A and 153B, which concern enforcement.
It sounded to me as though the Minister was saying that the Government were close to acceptingif not wholly acceptingthat the policies and procedures under subsection (2) should, if they are to be good, extend to prevention, support and rehabilitation, about which I spoke. I do not know whether I am pushing that too far, but I am working towards an amendment for the next stage, which states that there will not be separate policies and procedures but that they will include aspects of them. With the way in which the Minister has described the Government's approach, they will need to be holisticif I can use a jargon word.
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