HC Deb 19 November 2001 vol 375 cc1-3
1. Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth)

What further plans he has to encourage the police and other responsible bodies to tackle the problem of antisocial behaviour and disorder in communities. [13339]

The Minister for Police, Courts and Drugs (Mr. John Denham)

The Government are determined to tackle antisocial behaviour, such as loutish behaviour, vandalism, graffiti and all its other manifestations. Local crime and disorder partnerships must tackle antisocial behaviour with their local crime strategies. Each partnership has been asked to appoint a co-ordinator to tackle antisocial behaviour. We want partnerships to make use of the full range of measures available to them, such as antisocial behaviour orders and acceptable behaviour contracts.

Mr. Jenkins

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that unfortunately, although we have given the power to those partnerships, we have not yet devised a method of presenting them with the will? We recognise that the key to improving the quality of life of many of our citizens is to get rid of antisocial behaviour, so does he have plans to introduce a league system to ensure that those partners, particularly the police, are monitored in connection with those important measures?

Mr. Denham

We have every intention of publishing information about which areas have used antisocial behaviour orders and which have not. We shall look closely at the strategies drawn up by crime and disorder reduction partnerships, which are meant to come into place next April, to ensure that they have given proper emphasis to that aspect. My hon. Friend is right to say that Parliament has made several tools available to local partnerships to tackle antisocial behaviour, and that where communities are still facing that problem yet those tools have not been used, people have every right to ask why not.

Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

Is the Minister aware of the work of the Bexley community safety partnership? I was one of those who might have thought that this was a sociologists' make-work exercise, but the partnership has done a tremendous job, particularly on the Ellenborough Road estate. If the Minister wants the opportunity to study somewhere where a partnership is working effectively, he need travel no further than the borough of Bexley.

Mr. Denham

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing his local experience to the attention of the House. He is right: where every part of the local partnership is working together, and where there are agreed procedures for acceptable behaviour contracts and for amassing the evidence for antisocial behaviour orders, as well as the use of other methods, that has a real impact on the problems that people face. If I have the opportunity to visit Bexley, I will undoubtedly do so.

Phil Hope (Corby)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the positive take-up of parenting orders as one approach to tackling antisocial behaviour. Where they have been piloted they have been successful. Most Members recognise that developing effective parenting skills that enable parents to take responsibility for their children who are committing offences plays an important part in a sustainable approach to reducing juvenile crime. Does he support the idea of broadening out parenting programmes so that all parents, whether their children are in trouble or not, have the opportunity to access those programmes, and young people and their parents can develop better skills and prevent the reproduction of juvenile crime from one generation to another?

Mr. Denham

My hon. Friend is right about the effectiveness of parenting orders. The Government want extended support to be available to parents to assist them with a job that most people find a challenge at times. We shall certainly look into his idea and see if there are ways of taking it further.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does the Minister not realise that what the Opposition predicted would happen when the Government were introducing antisocial behaviour orders—that they would prove far too bureaucratic to be heavily used—is exactly what has happened? At the time, the Government predicted that there would be thousands of orders. Can the Minister explain why so far there have been only about 300, and chief executives of local authorities and senior police officers are tearing their hair out over the wholly unnecessary bureaucracy associated with ASBOs?

Mr. Denham

One of the difficulties is that some people irresponsibly perpetuate myths about antisocial behaviour orders. In areas that have made little use of them, the belief that they are difficult and bureaucratic is far greater than in the areas that have made effective use of them, often as the pinnacle of a series of measures designed to tackle such problems. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, and in the not-too-distant future we will publish research evaluation that shows that if people are properly organised at local level they can make effective use of antisocial behaviour orders. Moreover, as I hope to make clear in answer to a subsequent question, there have been more antisocial behaviour orders than the most recently published figures suggest. I hope to clarify that later this afternoon.