My right hon. Friend and I hold regular discussions with colleagues about matters that affect Wales. The antisocial behaviour order is a useful tool in dealing with antisocial and loutish behaviour, which causes considerable distress and upset in communities throughout Wales.
I thank the Minister for that reply, but is not it the case that many people throughout Wales feel threatened by rising crime? Given the low take-up of antisocial behaviour orders in Wales, and the fact that many people feel too threatened to testify against criminals in court, what are the Government doing to tackle such problems directly?
Antisocial behaviour orders have proved an effective tool because they have deterred those whose behaviour causes nuisance and upset in our communities.
The hon. Gentleman is having trouble with the maths. The figure is not 12, but considerably higher.
Several other options are available, including acceptable behaviour contracts, curfews, parenting orders, and on-the-spot fines, which are being piloted in north Wales. It is a bit rich of Conservative Members to talk about rising crime. It has fallen by 22 per cent. since the Government came to power, whereas the Conservative Government doubled it in 18 years.
My hon. Friend knows that, especially in mining communities in south Wales, the antisocial behaviour of one person or a single family can ruin the quality of life of a whole terraced street. It is surely distressing that South Wales police have been able to enforce only four antisocial behaviour orders so far. Is my hon. Friend worried that local authorities in Wales are not yet prepared to make sufficient use of antisocial behaviour orders? Will he congratulate South Wales police on appointing a full-time antisocial behaviour order officer, based in Pontypridd?
I certainly welcome the actions of South Wales police on the matter. I chaired a public meeting in my constituency a week ago, during which the issue was discussed. My advice to local authorities and the police service everywhere is to use antisocial behaviour orders when appropriate. Parliament has given the police and local authorities the power to take such action. The crimes that worry most of our constituents—vandalism, antisocial behaviour and petty intimidation—distort and damage the quality of life throughout Wales. Parliament and the Government have introduced measures whereby the police and local authorities can tackle such crimes; they must now use those resources.
The Minister says that he has given the police and local authorities power. However, the low number of antisocial behaviour orders that are used must worry him. Such an order is three times more likely to be issued in England than in Wales, yet the Minister has conceded that a few thugs and yobs cause misery throughout Wales. Is it not time to make life miserable for the thugs and yobs rather than the people of Wales? Will the Minister work with the police and local authorities to try to ensure clarity and ease of use for antisocial behaviour orders so that we can clamp down on the thugs and yobs?
I agree that we must make the procedure as easy as we can. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that there have been difficulties, and that legal advice has been taken about some antisocial behaviour orders. Once that first hurdle has been crossed, however, it will be much easier for the police and the local authorities to put the orders to the best use.
I told the hon. Gentleman when he raised this matter in July that the Government have laid the foundations for the most co-ordinated attack on crime in a generation. Billions are being invested in fighting crime, there are 4,500 more policemen on the beat than there were two years ago, and there are 600 more police officers in Wales than when we came to power five years ago. Only investment and reform will reduce the problem. The hon. Gentleman's party, both here and in Wales, opposes that investment and reform.
Yes, I certainly welcome that initiative. My colleagues who represent Welsh constituencies may remember that I facilitated a meeting between all Welsh Members of Parliament and David A'Herne, the crime reduction director for Wales. I meet him on a regular basis, and I think that it would be productive to have further meetings with him so that we can understand the initiatives that are being taken by the crime reduction and disorder partnerships in Wales, and give them every support that we can. We had a debate on this in Westminster Hall only the other week. I urge colleagues everywhere to press their local authorities and the police service to use antisocial behaviour orders where appropriate.