§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:
"Mr Speaker, with permission, I wish to make a Statement on tackling the scourge of anti-social behaviour.
"In recent years, we have made significant progress in tackling crime and disorder. In the past six years, crime is down by more than a quarter, street crime reduced dramatically. The chance of being a victim of crime is the lowest in more than 20 years. Yet, the fear of crime remains high. No one will believe that crime has fallen, unless they experience it in their own lives and those of family and friends.
"More than one in three consider that anti-social behaviour is still affecting their quality of life. Over 30 per cent are intimidated by gangs hanging around their neighbourhood. Too many lives are affected by the irresponsibility, disrespect and loutishness of others.
"Anti-social behaviour can affect people physically and emotionally, undermining health and destroying family life. It can also hold back the regeneration of our most disadvantaged areas, creating the environment in which crime can take hold.
"Where enforcement is poor and anti-social behaviour goes unpunished, criminals learn that they can get away with lawlessness. That is why we are now leading a new drive to work with individuals, families and communities to build effective action.
"Rights and responsibilities must go hand-in-hand. This White Paper and the legislation to follow aim to put in place support and help for those who are prepared to accept it, and clear, speedy, and effective enforcement, when they are not.
"Our public spaces should be open for everyone to use freely. Our streets should be free of loutishness, gangs of drunken hooligans, or drug dealers capturing the lives of young people. Neighbours creating noise and nuisance, and those intimidating others, are a blight on our society.
1321 "Those who do not suffer this, should not get in the way of protecting those who do. That is why we will crack down on noise and nuisance. Fixed penalty notices of £100 w ill be available to environmental health officers. Persistent abuse will lead to a reversion to probationary tenancies, court action and fast-track eviction.
"Automatic rehousing is no longer an option. Children of persistently anti-social and dysfunctional families will be offered new intensive fostering. Tenants and landlords must share responsibility. Anti-social tenants will lose their right to buy.
"But we intend to go further. Tenants must not be allowed to make the lives of others a misery. We will empower local authorities to license landlords, so that they no longer automatically receive direct benefit payments. We will also consult on the appropriateness of measures to withdraw from individual tenants the automatic right to be granted housing benefit. Where the problem is caused by pubs or clubs, environmental health officers will have the power to close them.
"Unscrupulous drug dealers can exploit weak tenants and owners of property. New fast-track closure powers for crack houses will enable the police to act decisively in sealing such properties.
"But gangs of youths can often be the catalyst for further crime, as well as intimidation. We will enable the police to designate areas experiencing high levels of anti-social behaviour, within which new powers to disperse groups causing trouble will be available. We will merge these powers with those of child curfews, to enable unaccompanied children out late at night to he removed from the streets.
"We are well aware of other forms of behaviour threatening neighbourhoods. We have already announced measures to tackle the misuse of air weapons and the availability of replica guns. We will make carrying an air weapon or imitation in a public place an arrestable offence. We will support wholeheartedly the new proposals to restrict the sale and use of fireworks.
"But we recognise that family problems, poor educational attainment, unemployment and alcohol and drug misuse, can all contribute to unacceptable behaviour. These do not constitute an excuse, but we must act to enable people to rebuild their lives. We will take cross-government action to provide support, while ensuring the principle of 'something for something'.
"No longer should an individual child disrupt a school, nor should inaction by parents disable that child for the future by non-attendance at school. Parents have a duty to ensure that their children are in school and behaving. Persistent failure will result in parenting orders, fines, or fast-track court action.
"We will support families to overcome their problems, through parenting classes and new fast-track parenting orders. We will examine residential provision as a compulsory part of education and rehabilitation.
1322 "At the heart of anti-social behaviour is a lack of respect for others—the simple belief that you get away with whatever you can get away with
"We need the help of the community as a whole in changing the culture: parents to instil a sense of responsibility and respect; communities to build the confidence to provide witnesses and to stand up to the thugs; and businesses to accept their responsibilities.
"Record police numbers; the historic reform of police pay and regulations; and the new extended police family, including community support officers, specials, street and neighbourhood wardens, all have their part to play.
"We have an effective armoury of measures; fast-tracked, slimmed-down anti-social behaviour orders, acceptable behaviour contracts, and parenting orders. Since August almost 2,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the four pilot areas. We are clear that breaches of orders must he treated decisively.
"We must slim down bureaucracy, free up the police and enforcement agencies to do their job and engage the public, business, and landlords, in creating a safer, saner world.
"I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this White Paper and for the co-operation of ministerial colleagues in this cross-government drive to rebuild civic society.
"I know every Member of this House believes that families should teach respect, that had behaviour must be dealt with decisively, and that there is a need to restore pride in our communities. This is the challenge we face in the decade ahead. I ask the House to support the measures I have outlined today as a contribution to that endeavour".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Baroness Anelay of St Johns
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made a short while ago by his right honourable friend in another place. For the past 18 months, we on these Benches have been talking about the importance of "re-establishing the neighbourly society" and "recapturing the streets for the honest citizen". The Minister's excellent catch-phrase, "respect and responsibility" is remarkably similar. I do not complain about that—far from it.
The similarity of our language derives from the fact that we and the Government share the same diagnosis of the same problem. We both recognise that there has been and still is, in too many parts of Britain, a retreat from civilisation. We both recognise the truth behind the "broken windows" thesis that has guided American cities in their successful efforts to reduce low-level disorder and crime.
We both recognise that if our children are to grow up into the people we want them to be, they need to grow up in a society that is orderly and respectful and not on streets that are controlled by gangs and drug 1323 dealers. The difference between the Government and ourselves is not one of diagnosis, but of what the cure should be.
Since the Government came to power, they have battered us with 15 Bills dealing with crime and disorder. Legislation continues to pour out of the Home Office at a rate of knots. The problem is quite simply that we doubt today whether the latest battery of proposals will prove any more effective than the last at curing the problems which we both diagnose to be undermining our civil society.
The simple fact is that the gangs on the streets—the drug dealers—do not show any signs of avidly reading the Government's block-buster tomes of legislation. They go their own way confident that their activity will go unchecked.
Of course, we all recognise that police numbers are important. And of course we all recognise, as the Minister did today, that it is important that they should not be tied up with bureaucracy. However, I am afraid that that is precisely what this Government have done to the police. It is important that the police are set free to do their real job of policing.
Will the Minister assure the House that when these new orders are introduced, they will not go the same way as child curfew orders that have never been issued? Will he assure us that they will not go the same way as the night-time courts that now appear to have been abandoned after costing—according to Written Answers in another place—£6,000 an hour and £7,000 a case?
How will parenting orders be any less bureaucratic than the anti-social behaviour orders that have proved so difficult to obtain? I noticed one slight deviation in the text delivered by the Minister from that delivered by the Home Secretary in another place. With regard to the reference to tenants not being allowed to make the lives of others a misery and the Government empowering local authorities to license landlords, I noticed that the noble and learned Lord omitted that the people to be licensed—that is, the landlords—would be designated private-sector landlords. Will the Minister tell us whether the omission was simply a slip of the tongue or was there something more significant about it?
The Minister says that children of persistently anti-social and dysfunctional families will be offered new intensive fostering. Why cannot the Children Act 1989 achieve that? What is "intensive fostering"?
I note that the White Paper states at paragraph 2.24 that the Government will take powers to enable intensive fostering to occur as an alternative to custody. On what basis would this be enforced by the courts? Would it be by the family proceedings court or by the youth court? That is an important issue.
During Question Time, there was an important Question from the noble Earl, Lord Russell, regarding begging proposals. Today, the Government have made much in the press and on television of their new measures concerning begging and the enforcement of the existing vagrancy laws. Will the Minister expand 1324 on his helpful response to my noble friend Lady Sharpies? Will the Minister assure the House that in any legislation on begging they will differentiate between the types of beggars? He alluded to that, but he was not clear. Will the Government differentiate between organised gangs who approach begging as a lucrative business; aggressive beggars who terrorise people on our streets and, in London, on the Underground; and between those who are genuinely the damaged and vulnerable people in our society who need help to overcome the difficulties they face and not penalties to thrust them further into problems? Has the Minister read and taken note of the powerful briefing note provided to noble Lords by Crisis, entitled, Compassion Not Coercion?
Today, the Minister announced a huge raft of detailed proposals. They deserve much scrutiny since they involve cross-departmental co-operation on a grand scale. It is astonishing that the Government have published this document only four weeks before the Bill is to be introduced in another place, if the Government's Whips Office is to be believed.
I am ever the optimist: I would not survive long here if I were not—I mean, in this House, not on these Benches. Therefore, I hope, for the sake of the future of our society, that the Government begin to think about a coherent, long-term strategy for the programmes that lift our young people off the conveyor belt to crime. In future, I hope that the Government listen more carefully to their own Social Exclusion Unit whose recent advice is that they should let existing legislation settle down and be effective instead of hurrying into a panoply of penalties for the sake of one good PR day.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Lord Dholakia
My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. There is no dispute that we believe and share in the goal for a more respectful and less abusive society. The Government measures have been based on the experience of anti-social behaviour orders which were introduced under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. These are civil orders which become criminal only when they are breached.
We are concerned that ASBOs, as they are now termed, tend to distract the public from the continuing failures of six years of law and order policy, rather than contributing to the coherent development of successful existing policy. Existing research points out that ASBOs are cumbersome, costly and difficult to enforce. NACRO—a body which I chair—found that the average ASBO costs more than £5,000 to enforce and takes more than three months to obtain. More than one-third of ASBOs were breached within the first nine months of issue. That does not build much confidence in the present system.
It would be helpful to know whether the Government have sought a more holistic approach, combining enforcement with preventive initiatives tailored to local conditions. Examples of good practice include the use of acceptable behaviour contracts and parental control agreements, along with youth 1325 schemes to provide activity programmes and mentoring. I suggest that the noble and learned Lord should look at the ASBO contract introduced in Islington, where the whole family is included in the process of designing the contract. It is then evaluated and monitored.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether the definition of anti-social behaviour is clear. Evidence points to confusion among local authorities over how to identify and respond to problems that are rife in certain areas. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 defines anti-social behaviour as acting in a manner,likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household".Home Office research shows that ASBOs have been used in response to behaviours as diverse as graffiti, noise, trespass, assault and prostitution. The public wants long-term policies that deal effectively with crime and the causes of crime. Local solutions—devised locally—which gain the confidence of the community are worth any number of centralised solutions. If more was invested in the many good schemes providing incentives and rewards for good behaviour and effective discouragement for bad, then we really would begin to deal with the causes of crime rather than chasing after the consequences.
The reduction of alcohol and drug abuse, the use of guns and knives and violent crime should he the central thrust of government policy. That is why dealing more effectively with crack houses is welcome. But further criminalising beggars will simply marginalise people already existing on the edge of society. Beggars need support and routes hack into settled lives, not ever-longer criminal records.
It should be the role of central government to provide the funding necessary for local policing, community safety and youth work. There is a real danger that the Home Office is suffocating the efforts of those who have to bring about change in our local communities by the use of more and more unrealistic legislation.
We shall study carefully the measures that will require further legislation. We accept that anti-social behaviour acts as a catalyst for more serious crime and disorder. However, we must strike the right balance. Large numbers of our young people are law-abiding and lead useful lives. However, if breaches of ASBOs continue at the present level, their impact on the criminal justice system will be substantial. The fact that we have more than 72,000 people in prison is a clear sign that many pre-emptive measures could be taken. We need to identify the legal measures outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, before using ASBOs.
Evidence so far shows that more than three court hearings have been required before a decision was reached on an anti-social behaviour order. What plans has the Minister drawn up to ensure that the same will not happen with future orders?
1326 Overall, we would support measures which include enforcement, prevention and education. We trust that those aims will be reflected in the forthcoming legislation.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, and to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for the welcome they have given to the Statement. Obviously we need to examine closely the detail of the Bill when it comes through.
Perhaps I may deal first with the specific points raised by the noble Baroness. She asked whether intensive fostering will be enforced by the family court or the youth justice court. The provision indicates that we would envisage intensive fostering being made available both in relation to Children Act proceedings and in relation to criminal proceedings. Thus both courts will have a role to play.
She asked whether these ASBO proposals will go the same way as the child curfew order. ASBOs have now been up and running for a number of years and are providing real help. Acceptable behaviour contracts have been in place for some time and also provide real help, as do parenting orders. Furthermore, as I indicated when repeating the Statement of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, fixed penalty notices are also up and running and they, too, provide real help. However, we need to address the problem identified by the noble Baroness in her remarks. The measures we have proposed will bring comfort in relation to that.
As regards the issue of begging, the noble Baroness asked whether we intend to draw a distinction between the various types of beggars. Making begging a recordable offence and ensuring that after three convictions the court has available alternative actions will make it possible for courts to draw the kinds of distinctions that are needed. It is also worth bearing in mind that begging may be one emanation of a problem, but where there is intimidating or aggressive behaviour, it may be another kind of crime altogether.
The noble Baroness pointed out that a Bill was expected imminently. Yes, we expect to see the legislation during this Session. We need to be ready for it because the problem is urgent and urgent measures are needed to deal with it. She also asked whether there was a difference between what I said in the Statement and what was said by the Home Secretary. My role is simply to repeat that which has been said in another place. If I failed to repeat the Statement with precise accuracy, that was my mistake. I simply repeat rather than originate Statements. Perhaps I may confirm that "designated private sector landlord" is the correct phrase. It means that in those areas where there is a problem, then and only then can a landlord be so designated.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked the Government to think about prevention as well as punishment. I agree absolutely with him; we have to adopt an holistic approach. I support and endorse all 1327 he said about considering ventures such as the acceptable behaviour contracts introduced in Islington. They have worked well in helping to reduce problems within the local community.
The noble Lord said that ASBOs are expensive and that in some respects they are too complicated to secure. He pointed out that sometimes it can take as many as three court hearings to have an ASBO put in place. We have sought to address the problems of over-complication and over-complexity in the Police Reform Act 2002. As a result, it is now possible to impose an interim ASBO straightaway, so that the protection is in place. That has cut down considerably on bureaucracy. The cheapest ASBO was one obtained in Manchester at an estimated cost of £300, so it is possible to secure the orders in a cost-efficient manner.
The noble Lord was right to note that, where a specific problem exists, the court saying, "You shall not do this. If you do, you will be subject to the criminal law", is a right and sensible approach. But it should be regarded as only one part of the armoury now available to the police and local authorities to combat anti-social behaviour.
The noble Lord said that more clarity is needed as regards what is meant by anti-social behaviour. He went on to draw our attention to the definition set out in the White Paper, referring to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Anti-social behaviour is defined as,where a person has acted in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself".The noble Lord will know better than I that such behaviour can manifest itself in a hundred ways and in a hundred locations. However, the effect of that behaviour is immediate, real and personal for the community which has to endure it.
The noble Lord commented on the position with regard to beggars. He made the point that we should be careful both in relation to begging and ASBOs that we do not increase the size of the prison population. I have already indicated that the move will be to make begging recordable and to allow for a community sentence to be passed after three occasions. Some 700 ASBOs have been granted. I should stress, however, that such anti-social behaviour can be as corrosive in a community as can many of what may be regarded as more serious crimes. Therefore, in appropriate cases, one needs the ultimate sanction.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord Waddington
My Lords, one passage in the Statement indicates that where problems of anti-social behaviour are,caused by pubs or clubs, environmental health officers will have the power to close them".Is that a reference to pubs and clubs being used by drug dealers? Is it a reference to drunken behaviour that spills out on to the street, adding to anti-social behaviour? If so, is it suggested that an environmental health officer could close a pub or a club without 1328 recourse to the courts? If not, what does that statement mean? Surely it is an illustration of the fact that while this Statement is strong on rhetoric, it is extremely difficult to see exactly what specific measures the Home Secretary has in mind.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, the noble Lord has rightly referred to two possible areas, one where loud noise is generated or people gather in large groups close to a pub, causing distress and harassment to the neighbourhood; or, secondly, where particular kinds of crime, including drug dealing, are carried on at a certain pub.
Subject to appropriate safeguards that are referred to in the White Paper, power is given to close down such places if the effect on the neighbourhood is such that they should not be allowed to continue operating.
§ Baroness Howe of Idlicote
My Lords, I, too, welcome the many measures outlined in the White Paper leading, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, to a more respectful and less abusive society. The White Paper also refers to the early identification of children at risk and the legislation that is to follow. How will the resources required to achieve these aims be split? Given that the cost of anti-social behaviour and worse can be considerable if it is allowed to develop, should not the emphasis be on the identification of children at risk at an early age?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, I endorse what the noble Baroness says about the need to take preventive measures. We need to identify at the earliest possible stage children and young people who might become engaged in anti-social behaviour and take steps to divert them from such conduct. We thoroughly endorse such an approach. We shall produce a Green Paper soon which will deal specifically with that issue.
But it is not a question of either/or. It is not possible to say to the community, "All our focus is on preventive measures and therefore we shall not do anything about the crime or anti-social behaviour that is going on at the moment". We need to emphasise both because both matter. If we do not deal with the immediate effects of crime and anti-social behaviour, the community will lose confidence in its own future. A community that has proper protection is much more confident in ensuring that its children and young people grow up and have gainful lives rather than being sucked into crime and anti-social behaviour.
The noble Baroness asked how the resources would be split between the two aims. I cannot give a precise figure. It is almost impossible to calculate what the percentage will be. We have to concentrate on both because they are equally important.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I wish to ask the Minister two questions. First, as regards the crackdown on noise and fixed penalty notices, it appears that environmental officers are to be allowed to make judgments which, as anyone familiar with the difficulties that can exist between neighbours will 1329 know, will need to be the judgments of Solomon. Is the environmental health officer to be judge, jury, enforcer and so on? Will there be any right of appeal against failure to pay the £100 fine?
Secondly, has the Minister considered that the deplorable behaviour in our streets, on our housing estates and between people has come about because of a lack of respect between people themselves; because of a dumbing down in education and on TV; because of a lack of respect between teacher and pupil and child and parent; and because of the awful, vicious programmes shown on television every day and every night at virtually any hour, particularly when children are about?
Has the noble and learned Lord seen the latest study from the United States which seems to prove what everyone previously denied—that vicious, awful television programmes have an effect on children's behaviour which follows them into adulthood?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, as to fixed penalty notices, we propose that where there is excessive noise and an appropriate warning has been given, which will be for a short period of time, if the noise does not stop the local authority—in effect, the environmental health officer will make the decision—can issue a £100 fixed penalty notice. That is a straightforward, sensible way of dealing with noise, which can occur late at night and be very disturbing. If the person does not pay or wants to challenge the penalty notice, he can go to court. It is an unbureaucratic, sensible way of dealing with the problem.
The noble Lord asks: is there a lack of respect between individuals in our society? Yes, there is. That lack of respect is one of the reasons why anti-social behaviour is perceived to be on the rise. Is it caused by the content of television programmes? I suspect that, in the case of some television programmes, it is. I do not know about the research referred to by the noble Lord, hut I suspect that the content of some programmes does have an effect in terms of people's lack of respect. One must seek to increase people's respect for one another and the way they treat each other in their daily lives.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lady Howe and welcome the general direction of the Statement. I note what was said about educational under-achievement. Do the Government accept that truancy from school, which can lead to exclusion and suspension, is where a great deal—perhaps not all—anti-social behaviour arises? What extra resources have been allocated to deal with these matters? How effective have been the measures taken so far?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that once truancy starts it leads to a whole range of other problems. The White Paper on anti-social behaviour focuses specifically on 1330 truancy and provides a range of measures, including parenting contracts, which seek to reduce the incidence of truancy.
I also agree that when a point is reached where a pupil has to be excluded—which may be reached in order to deal with the problem of the other children in the school—it is very important, as we have committed ourselves to doing, to ensure that opportunities for proper education are provided for the excluded child. The more people are cut off from education, the more chance that crime and anti-social behaviour will grow.
Perhaps I may provide the noble Lord with the specific resource figures through correspondence.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, have Ministers found what I have found through my experience both as a parent and as a teacher—that is, that the way people discharge their responsibilities to me shows an uncomfortable correlation with the way I discharge my responsibilities to them? Does the noble and learned Lord agree that the keystone which closes up the arch of rights and responsibilities is the responsibility of governments to keep their subjects alive? In this context, during Questions the Minister referred to research on the way people survive benefit sanctions. Can he, either now or in writing, give me the references for that research. Ministers have often recommended me to research on the subject; I have looked in all the places they mentioned but I have never found the information I sought.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, the noble Earl skilfully uses the Statement to return to an issue he raised during Questions. The papers that I have in relation to research into the effects of benefit sanctions are DSS Research Report 11, TSO 2000 and DSS Research Report 116, ISO 2000. If the identification numbers are wrong, I shall write to the noble Earl and tell him so.
I agree with the proposition put at the outset of the supplementary question to the supplementary question to the Starred Question—namely, yes, the way in which a person behaves towards one is determined by how one behaves towards the other person.
§ Lord Carlisle of Bucklow
My Lords, returning to the Minister's answer to my noble friend Lord Waddington, he said that where the problem is caused by pubs or clubs, environmental health officers will have the power to close them. Do not the police or the licensing authority have an existing power to close a public house on objection being taken to the continuation of its licence? Is it proposed that environmental health officers should have the right, without applying to anyone, to direct a public house to close in the way the police now can?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, the noble Lord is correct in his reference to the existing licensing provision. The White Paper makes it clear that where there is, for example, excessive noise and, as a result, significant anti-social behaviour in a neighbourhood, 1331 the environmental health officers, subject to appropriate safeguards, will have the power to close a premises, which does, as the noble Lord identifies, represent a change.
§ The Earl of Listowel
My Lords, will the Minister elaborate on the proposals for intensive fostering? How many children are likely to be involved? Where will funding for the placements come from? Is he concerned about the shortage of foster carers in certain areas? What impact will the proposals have due to that factor?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, as regards the proposal in paragraph 2.2 and following paragraphs of the White Paper, it is obvious that, both in relation to proceedings brought under the Children Act 1989 and in the youth court, intensive fostering—that is, placing a child away from its current environment and in the care of foster parents experienced in dealing with the kinds of problems that the child may exhibit—would be a very sensible alternative. I do not know how many children will be involved. The numbers of foster parents available to provide the intensive fostering can be built up only slowly over time, and they are a rare commodity. Where the resources come from will depend on the extent to which the focus is on the social services and the extent to which it relates to the criminal justice system. It will take time to build up, but it is an important resource both for social services and for the criminal courts.
§ Baroness Thomas of Walliswood
My Lords, I am sure I am not the only person who is concerned about dysfunctional families. We know that such families are the single greatest predictor of offending behaviour. I myself have been involved, as a school governor, in ejecting from a school a child who, at five years old, was already totally unmanageable, even by experienced teachers. He came from such a family. What can we do at an earlier stage in the life of the family?
We know that such families can be cyclical. You cannot learn to be a good parent unless you yourself have been properly parented. "Respect" does not merely mean that of the child for the parent, but that of the parent for the child. We learn respect only by being respected. What can we do to intervene at an early stage and teach those who do not have the skills—who may even realise that—how to be good parents?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, that is an incredibly difficult but well-judged question. First, we must identify the children at risk. Secondly, we must make sure that the response to the child and the family is properly co-ordinated—not trying merely to deal with the problem as it develops at school but looking at whether the social services have a role. Thirdly, we must regard the problem as a family problem, not a childcentric problem. Parenting classes are often viewed with suspicion by families; but subsequent research indicates that parents say that they wish they 1332 had received that kind of help earlier. Fourthly, we must look at health problems. Fifthly, we must look at whether a family is involved in drug or alcohol abuse, which is frequently a predictor of trouble.
One could continue at length. The three critical factors are: early identification; a co-ordinated response; and someone having responsibility for ensuring that a co-ordinated response occurs. It is not a complete answer, but I suspect that there would never be a complete answer.
§ Lord Brooke of Sutton-Mandeville
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the first use of the word "civilisation" was by Mirabeau in 1757? It is therefore a youngish articulated concept. Does the Minister have views or suggestions on how individuals within the silent majority can make anti-social behaviour less likely?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, one of the things that happens when anti-social behaviour starts—for example, if a park or a street look increasingly untidy—is that the rest of the community begin to let their standards drop. So they begin to drop litter. If they step outside their front door and see a "tip" outside, that reduces the standard of their own conduct. How can society as a whole react? People can refuse to accept that kind of anti-social behaviour and ensure that what they see around them does not necessarily lead to a drop in their own standards.
§ Lord Bradshaw
My Lords, I declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Thames Valley Police Authority. Last Monday, I was at Slough magistrates' court. There were no probation officers—because there are no probation officers: there is no one to do the job. There is a grave shortage of court clerks and barristers—legal representatives are hired in by the Crown Prosecution Service on a jobbing basis. They are not professionals.
The police have put huge resources into Slough. The wall of the police station is covered with the names of people who have been arrested for street crime—which is what the Government want. But the courts system and the probation system are creaking at the seams. There are not enough officers. People cannot be found a place on a drug placement scheme because there are no places. The magistrates are told not to send people to prison because the prisons are bursting at the seams. The firm that collects people to take them to prison—Premier Prisons—does not do its job efficiently.
I am afraid that the anti-social behaviour order is a very good layer on the top, but I can assure the Minister that the foundations are awful. Is something being done to address these extremely serious problems?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, the spending round in 2000 increased resources to the criminal justice system. So, since SR 2000, the numbers of police and prosecutors have gone up. The picture that the noble Lord gives of the courts system is not borne 1333 out by the statistics, save in one respect, because they have been dealing for the past 10 years approximately with the same number of cases.
There is certainly a difficulty in relation to the Probation Service, but the spending on probation has risen by about 50 per cent since 1997 and in the past year by about £70 million. So the numbers have risen, but the demands being made on the Probation Service have increased, for all of the reasons that we have been discussing. The difficulty is not that people do not want to become probation officers. They have to be trained. There is not an endless supply.
It should be remembered that the number of prosecutors has risen; police numbers have risen; the courts are not dealing with any more cases; and we are asking the Probation Service to do more and more—and rightly. We must be patient while the stream of people with qualifications are trained to deal with this work.
So far as concerns prisons, there are about 72,000 people in prison. That is a large number. But the way in which the Prison Service has dealt with the problem over the past five years is very impressive.
We need to do lots to make the criminal justice system work better. I believe that we are going in the right direction. I believe that we are increasing the amount of resources. These problems cannot be dealt with overnight. One of the biggest issues is getting the trained manpower to deal with them. I was amazed by one remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. He said that there is a shortage of barristers. I have never heard that before.