HC Deb 02 March 1998 vol 307 cc694-5
6. Mr. Coaker

What measures he is proposing to tackle disorder and antisocial behaviour. [30343]

Mr. Straw

There are tough new measures in the Crime and Disorder Bill to tackle such unacceptable conduct, which causes misery to so many communities. They include antisocial behaviour orders, child safety orders, local child curfews and statutory crime prevention partnerships between local authorities and the police.

Mr. Coaker

Will my right hon. Friend reassure constituents such as mine in Gedling that the measures in the Crime and Disorder Bill will become law as soon as possible? Antisocial behaviour and disorder on estates are making many people prisoners in their homes. Will my right hon. Friend reassure them that action will be taken to deal with the repeat offending that seems to be so common?

Mr. Straw

I give my hon. Friend that reassurance. Sadly, the previous Administration failed comprehensively to deal with such disorder. We pushed repeatedly for all-party agreement on such orders. I shall be interested to see whether, after 18 years of refusing to act, the Opposition back our proposals.

Miss Kirkbride

Does the Secretary of State have any advice for my constituent who is subject to visits to his farm by animal rights protesters because of his export of turkeys? Some of them are reasonable people who want to exercise their legitimate right to protest, but there are others who behave irresponsibly and abuse his grandchildren and his farm workers. He is at the mercy of such protesters, who come almost every week to abuse his staff. He has found that they cannot be dealt with under current law.

Mr. Straw

I have every sympathy with the hon. Lady's constituent. I should be happy to meet her to discuss the issue in further detail. I am aware of a similar situation just outside Witney. Some of the actions of the so-called animal rights protesters are outrageous. She will know that some of them have been convicted of offences that amount to terrorism. They call themselves animal rights terrorists and that is how they behave. The attitude of police forces varies. As the Thames Valley police has shown in response to the incidents near zWitney, there is no reason why effective action cannot be taken to ensure that people can go about their lawful duties, as they have every right to.

Mr. Mullin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a good deal of antisocial behaviour is caused by out-of-control youths with air weapons? Does he have any plans to review the ownership of air weapons?

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend will recall that in our evidence to the Cullen inquiry, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I talked not about the banning of air weapons, for which we have no proposals, but about the need for better control over their use. I hope that Conservative Members share that concern. Like my hon. Friend, I personally see no possible purpose in people who live in high-density urban areas shooting air weapons out of back-bedroom windows at human, rather than animal, targets. We shall certainly address that. But we need to take one step at a time; we must get the firearms legislation fully implemented first.

Mr. Greenway

Why should anyone take seriously the Government's claim to support rural communities when they have cut funding for closed circuit television cameras to a paltry £1 million this year, just when market towns and large villages believe that it is their turn to receive support to install cameras to fight disorder and vandalism in their areas?

Mr. Straw

There is the widest possible support for this new Government's crime and disorder agenda, which is one of the many reasons why we did so well in many rural areas. As for the hon. Gentleman's main point, I simply congratulate him on his chutzpah and cheek in daring to complain about the levels of cash allocated for closed circuit television for next year, since those are the exact allocations that were agreed by his Government.

Jacqui Smith

I commend to my right hon. Friend the actions of a group of parents in Redditch, who have voluntarily organised a curfew for their children following some disorder last summer. Will he tell my constituents how the Government's plans will support such responsible community action?

Mr. Straw

I know a little of my hon. Friend's constituency, and visited it last year. I very warmly congratulate those parents. It is clear that almost every parent is backing our proposals for child curfew and child protection orders, recognising that parents, first, have to accept responsibility for their children.