HC Deb 06 December 1999 vol 340 cc549-51
10. Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden)

What consultations he has held with the Magistrates Association on the implementation of the orders made available by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. [99685]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)

We have consulted extensively with the Magistrates Association and individual magistrates on the implementation, in particular, of the youth justice provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Courts are participating in the pilots of the Act's new measures, to identify effective practice ahead of national implementation. As at 31 October, mainly but not exclusively in the pilot areas, I am pleased to tell the House that there have been 5,000 reprimands issued, 2,500 final warnings, 900 reparation orders, 533 action plan orders, 178 parenting orders, 10 anti-social behaviour orders and two child safety orders.

Siobhain McDonagh

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree with me that it is essential that we encourage magistrates, the police and local authorities to consider making anti-social behaviour orders, as they provide one of the only ways of solving many of the problems that my constituents face in areas such as Pollards Hill?

Mr. Straw

Yes, the introduction of anti-social behaviour orders was not only widely welcomed but widely requested by the police and by local authorities of all political persuasions. The effectiveness of the orders, where they have been used, is striking. I quote: We should not underestimate too the deterrent effect of the new powers on the behaviour of others, and their potential to develop safer communities. That was the view of Chief Inspector Royston Smith, of Derbyshire police, after he had successfully secured an anti-social behaviour order against appalling behaviour in his area.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

Given that the Crime and Disorder Act was one of the Government's flagship Bills, will the Home Secretary tell us why, on the Jimmy Young show recently, he was forced to admit that he might have to consider amendments to the Act because only 10 anti-social behaviour orders and two child curfew orders have been made? Is that an example of an Act working properly to reduce crime?

Mr. Straw

The Act is indeed one of the Government's major flagships. I repeatedly meet police officers of every rank who say of the Act that it is the most welcome piece of legislation that they have been asked to implement in the whole of their careers.

The record of anti-social behaviour orders needs to be set against the outstanding success of the Act overall, including 900 reparation orders, 533 action plan orders and 178 parenting orders. The hon. Gentleman needs to explain to his constituents whether or not he is in favour of, or against, taking tough action of this kind against anti-social neighbours. If the former, he should be doing what many of my right hon. and hon. Friends are doing and asking the authorities behind the action to come forward and seek orders against the sort of appalling anti-social behaviour about which the previous Administration did nothing.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in my constituency so far one anti-social behaviour order has been implemented? When I first discovered that, I was somewhat disappointed that more use had not been made of a very important measure. However, wider research, confirmed by my right hon. Friend's answer, shows that my constituency is somewhat in the vanguard. When I discussed the matter with my local police and the local authority, I found that they were keen to use the orders but had not always found the other bodies and agencies involved as helpful as they might have been. Will my right hon. Friend pursue that with those other bodies? The one order that has been implemented is extremely successful and is widely supported by the public. That is the way people want us to go.

Mr. Straw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are doing everything that we can to encourage local authorities, magistrates and the police service to follow the example of the authorities in my hon. Friend's constituency in Derbyshire—and in Blackburn as well—where the obtaining of anti-social behaviour orders has proved extremely effective. I have asked my noble Friend Lord Warner, who is also chair of the Youth Justice Board, to take a particular interest in the problems faced by some authorities in seeking such orders.

Before Opposition Members sneer and get on the wrong side of the argument about dealing with anti-social behaviour, I should remind them of a number of the new offences that they trumpeted at the time the relevant legislation was going through Parliament, including the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994; however, 13 years and five years later, respectively, the number of such convictions has been fewer than five, despite all the Conservatives' bluster at the time.

What we see now, on the part of Government and of the police forces and local authorities that are in the vanguard, is a determination properly to use all the orders in the Crime and Disorder Act. The overall figures show already that the Act has been an outstanding success.