HC Deb 27 January 2004 vol 417 cc8-10WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Chris Pond)

The outcome of the consultation on housing benefit sanctions for anti-social behaviour was published today. An analysis of the responses has been placed in the Library and also a copy put on the DWP website athttp://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2003/index.asp.

Tackling anti-social behaviour is a priority for the Government. It blights communities and can undermine the regeneration of the most disadvantaged areas, creating an environment where crime takes hold.

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions consulted on a housing benefit sanction between May and August 2003, he received 487 responses from a wide range of organisations and members of the public. One of the responses included a petition from the constituents of Paisley, South. If the signatories are counted as individual responses the final number of responses was 698. Everyone who responded agreed that anti-social behaviour must be stopped. Victims and local people in particular were supportive of the proposed measures, though concerns were expressed by a large number of respondents about whether the measures would be workable or effective.

In the light of these concerns, particularly from local authorities, who play a key role in preventing and dealing with anti-social behaviour and also both private and registered social landlords, we have decided not to proceed with a housing benefit sanction at this time.

There is already a wide range of tools to deal with the types of behaviour that makes people's daily lives a misery; for example, anti-social behaviour orders and acceptable behaviour contracts. The Government has recently strengthened these existing powers with further measures in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and new proposals in the Housing Bill currently before Parliament. On 14 October, the Home Office published an action plan "Together: Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour". This action plan will help improve the response to tackling anti-social behaviour. This includes funding for every area of England and Wales, a new "together" action line, website and academy to provide help and support to practitioners and a range of projects to tackle nuisance families, begging and environmental crime. We want to make full use of the range of powers available before introducing a new measure. But we do not rule out other means, in the future as we learn from experience and establish what works.