HC Deb 10 May 2004 vol 421 cc14-5
7. Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) (Lab)

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of designated public places orders. [171322]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart)

The effectiveness of DPPOs is being monitored and evaluated in the trailblazer areas that are focusing on tackling the antisocial street scene. Those areas are Camden, Westminster, Brighton and Leeds. As of March, around 100 authorities have been operating the system successfully. This indicates that they have been found useful.

Mrs. Campbell

What would my hon. Friend say to the Liberal Democrat leader of Cambridge city council who, despite petitions requesting DPPOs totalling thousands of signatures, has refused to use the legislation on the grounds that it is, he says, impractical and illiberal?

Fiona Mactaggart

I would say that he was a hypocrite. I have noticed the eagerness with which his Liberal Democrat colleagues in election campaigning have said that they would crack down on the yobs. We know from the British crime survey that 44 per cent. of all victims of violent crime describe their assailant as being under the influence of alcohol at the time. Yet, in practice, when we provide effective tools to deal with exactly that problem, they fail to use them. Typical.

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)

Has not the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) provided a first-class example of how the Government's proposals to control violent and drunken youths—while perhaps well meaning—have failed because the cost, red tape and hassle involved in getting antisocial behaviour orders, curfew orders and now designated public places orders mean that, despite the Government's spin, most councils do all they can to avoid using them?

Fiona Mactaggart

The world that the hon. Gentleman describes is not the one in which I live. I have noticed how our efforts to ensure that we slim down the things that need to be done to obtain an ASBO—as well as our work on the availability of interim orders—have meant that, where there is a dynamic and effective partnership between the local authority and the police, the order is a useful tool for dealing with antisocial behaviour. At last, we have the methods to tackle the problem, but I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members are determined to put it down. They are wrong; they should welcome these powers, like the people of Britain in the communities that are the victims of antisocial behaviour.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab)

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Inspector Frank Firth in my constituency, who has successfully used those orders on several occasions to great effect, which has been welcomed by local residents? Does she agree that the one further development that would be welcome would be the courts underpinning those orders by using custodial sentences to reinforce them when necessary?

Fiona Mactaggart

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I apologise to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), whom I should have welcomed to his new place. I got carried away and I hope that the House will forgive me for my enthusiasm on this occasion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) pointed out that, in his constituency, that power is being effectively used because of the determination of his local police service. Where there is effective collaboration between the police and others, it is a very useful power indeed. I agree with my hon. Friend that it depends on the effective use by courts and sentencers of their powers, and I am glad to see the participation of magistrates and others in some of the academy events and other "Together" events that are being organised to support the antisocial behaviour strategy. They are part of a partnership to deliver an effective clampdown on antisocial behaviour and drunkenness in our communities.