HC Deb 19 December 1995 vol 268 cc1338-40
12. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his proposals to help local authorities deal more effectively with anti-social tenants. [4886]

Mr. Curry

On 18 July and 18 October I announced a substantial package of measures to help local authorities to deal more effectively with anti-social tenants. After discussions with the housing association movement, I intend to extend that package to housing associations.

Mrs. Lait

Many of my constituents, who have been badly affected by the behaviour of anti-social tenants, welcome the measures. Is my hon. Friend aware, however, that many of the victims of anti-social tenants feel unable to give evidence because they are intimidated? Can he give the House an idea of how the victims will be protected by the package?

Mr. Curry

I agree with my hon. Friend. Something that I hear repeatedly as I travel around the country is that people know who cause the problems on estates—it may be just one or two families or their kids—but cannot find a way of dealing with them. Those involved may be taken to court and put on probation or their case may be deferred and they return to the estate and cause problems again. We intend to introduce new powers involving injunctions associated with arrest so that people can take action without fear of intimidation. We also intend to make it possible to use professional witnesses, as some local authorities—mainly Labour authorities—are already doing, to try to remove the element of intimidation so that people can enjoy the right to live peaceably in their own homes.

Ms Ruddock

While the Government's proposals are welcome as far as they go, is it not a scandal that it has taken a decade of rising complaints and 17 deaths in noise disputes to get the Government to act? Does the Minister accept that every citizen has the right to enforcement of the law on noise? If so, when he gives responsibilities to local authorities why does he say that the level of service will depend on local conditions and resources? Where is the money to come from?

Mr. Curry

The hon. Lady confuses noise nuisance with anti-social behaviour. The latter is by far the more serious problem as no one has been materially injured by noise in the way that people have been injured by some anti-social behaviour. Both problems affect the quality of life on housing estates and both must be tackled and I hope that both sets of measures will receive a wide welcome. It is distressing that a number of Labour local authorities appear not to want even to implement the package on anti-social behaviour that we shall make available to them, although sensible authorities such as Manchester will implement it. I hope that the laggards will learn from the winners.

Mr. Hawkins

Following the point that my hon. Friend has rightly made, does he agree that in many of our seaside resorts Labour councillors and Labour activists are themselves unscrupulous landlords? They encourage people from outside the area, who become extremely anti-social tenants when they move in, and cause many of the social problems. Is that not the reality of Labour local government and does it not show, once again, that Labour is unfit to govern?

Mr. Curry

I am conscious of the problems in seaside resorts around the country caused by the changing nature of activities in those areas and by the people who settle there to collect benefit. We have taken measures under the planning system to resolve those problems and we shall take further measures to deal with houses in multiple occupation. I shall listen to the views of those who believe that additional measures should be taken so that seaside towns can enjoy the prosperity which has been theirs historically and which they deserve for the future.