Anti-social Behaviour Orders

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th December 1999.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford 12:00 am, 6th December 1999

If he will list the anti-social behaviour orders (a) granted by the courts and (b) currently applied for. [99689]

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Information on the number of anti-social behaviour orders granted or in progress is not held centrally, but I am aware of 10 ASBOs made to date. Orders have been granted in north Somerset—which my hon. Friends will be grateful to hear is a Conservative council area—Liverpool, Derbyshire, Redditch, Camden, Blackburn, Coventry and Waveney. They are a new weapon to help the police and local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour in the community. We are giving more impetus to that work, and are setting up an action group to achieve that and to ensure that the police and local authorities have the confidence to take action quickly and efficiently.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that some of the delay involved in serving anti-social behaviour orders arises from difficulties with establishing the requisite evidence, either because the complaints are not sufficiently specific or because of intimidation or improvements in behaviour when inquiries are known to be afoot? Will he consider ways in which those difficulties might be overcome?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Certainly I will. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said earlier, we are learning how best to address the evidential issues. We are considering ideas such as the use of portable videos in particular areas to strengthen the evidential basis of action, and we are talking to local authorities and police across the country to learn from their experience how we can give better guidance to ensure that there is much higher take-up of ASBOs. I hope that all Members of the House will encourage their local authorities and police to take up ASBOs in the most effective way.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The Minister may read out a list of individual local authorities that have made orders, but is not the reality that pitifully few have been issued? Does he not recall that the Government promised that this measure was their way of addressing disorder in estates up and down the country? Should he not accept that the courts, the police and the local authorities have found the orders difficult to operate? Would not it be sensible to invite Lord Warner, as part of the review that the Home Secretary has announced, to consider the legal character of the orders? Instead of blaming civil rights lawyers, local authorities and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, the Government should look at the nature of the orders, because that is where the defects arise. They will have to accept responsibility for that deficiency.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I have already said, as has my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that we intend to provide much stronger guidance, stronger guidelines and better protocols to address those issues. I am acutely conscious that Hertsmere is not one of the authorities that have so far issued an ASBO, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman has been doing his best to persuade it and local police to use one in his constituency.