HC Deb 21 July 2004 vol 424 cc318-9
4. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con)

What plans he has for reducing the level of antisocial behaviour on housing estates. [185310]

The Minister for Local and Regional Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

The Government have increased the powers available to local authorities, the police and other agencies to tackle antisocial behaviour no matter where people live. Antisocial behaviour orders are available regardless of the perpetrator's or the victim's housing status. There are also a number of powers available specifically to social landlords to protect both their tenants and the wider community. Those have recently been strengthened in a number of ways, including the commencement on 30 June of new powers under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. The Housing Bill also provides new powers applying to both the social and private rented sectors. On Monday the Home Secretary launched his strategic plan reinforcing the Government's commitment to tackling antisocial behaviour. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must come to order.

Mr. Bellingham

I am grateful for the Minister's reply, but is he aware that a very small number of tenants in my constituency, through blatant antisocial behaviour, are making the life of many tenants of council and housing association homes a complete misery? That is doing untold harm to the victims. It can lead to the break-up of marriages, depression and illness, and many good tenants are being forced out of their homes. Will the Minister come up to my constituency so that I can take him out canvassing, and we can view the problem at first hand?

Mr. Raynsford

I am well aware of the specific problems that have been identified on the Gaywood South ward, the Reffley Lane estate and the South Lynn estate. I understand that the council is aware of the problems, but may not have been able to pursue the antisocial behaviour orders as expeditiously as people would like because of capacity constraints due to staff absence. It will be taking action, however, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will support that wholeheartedly. I am not sure, though, that he really wants me to come and canvass for the Labour party in his constituency.

Ms Christine Russell (City of Chester) (Lab)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways of tackling antisocial behaviour on estates has been the introduction of neighbourhood wardens, who can be a uniformed presence on the street and the eyes and ears of local communities? Will he join me in congratulating the Chester community rangers, who have just been awarded the neighbourhood renewal unit quality standard for their excellent work? Following the comprehensive spending review, can he assure me that their work will continue?

Mr. Raynsford

I very much endorse my hon. Friend's views about the importance of neighbourhood wardens and the significant role of community support officers working with the police to ensure a far more active presence in many of the areas where antisocial behaviour and criminal activity pose a challenge to communities. We are determined as a Government to extend those initiatives and to help to reinforce the sense of security and safety in communities, so that they can work together to tackle that appalling problem.