HC Deb 03 December 2003 vol 415 cc491-2
2. Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast South) (UUP)

What plans he has to bring forward legislation in the period following elections to the Assembly to deal with antisocial behaviour in Northern Ireland. [141215]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar)

I am considering measures to deal with antisocial behaviour, and in particular whether something similar to an antisocial behaviour order could be developed that could operate within the different local government structures that exist in Northern Ireland.

I plan to consult soon on a package of measures, including legislative changes, to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I welcome the Minister's positive response. Will he give us a guarantee that the package will not be unduly delayed? We must bear in mind that housing associations continue to allocate housing to people who have been moving from one place to another. They are jumping the queue because of their antisocial behaviour, to the consternation and destruction of good communities.

Mr. Spellar

I take the points made by the hon. Gentleman. He and the impressive delegation from his constituency made those points in detail when they came to see me. I stress, first, that I intend to consult fairly soon. Secondly, the issue is about not only legislative changes, but the administration of the system and making sure that the Housing Executive, housing associations and other Government agencies take these matters seriously at all levels and implement actions in real time to the benefit of well-behaved orderly citizens and their families, who should not have their lives, their family life and their neighbourhoods disrupted by antisocial elements.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con)

Does the Minister agree that if the acts of normalisation in the joint declaration—to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) referred—are to take place, not only antisocial behaviour, but punishment beating, racketeering and other criminal acts must cease? Will he urge all the democratic parties that took part in last week's elections to support the police to ensure that that happens?

Mr. Spellar

May I first congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his new Front-Bench appointment? We have made our opposition to all forms of paramilitary behaviour very clear. The hon. Gentleman is indeed right that that is an additional factor in the problems on some housing estates. However, none of that detracts from the responsibility of state agencies to ensure that people who are committing acts of antisocial behaviour and have persistent patterns of offending are dealt with rapidly and effectively for the benefit of orderly families and estates.

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