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Although I share the concerns of hon. Members of all parties about the DNA aspects of the Bill, the House will be pleased to know that I do not intend to talk about that subject at this late hour. Neither shall I bring up any issues that do not appear in the Bill.
I want to speak about some provisions to which I am sympathetic, including those on wheel-clamping. I shall tell two brief stories about incidents, one affecting a constituent, the other my own office. A constituent came to see me to complain that they had parked their car on private land outside a shop where they actually worked, yet it had been clamped and towed away, requiring a payment of £600 to get the car back. The constituent did not have the resources to pay that bill. It turns out that when these private companies-in some respects, I view them as nothing more than thugs-go in and intimidate people, they do so on the basis of choosing someone who may not own the land or the shop but who just happens to be around to sign a contract. That contract allows them to clamp people and issue these vile fines of hundreds of pounds.
The story relating to my own constituency office is that I received a phone call from one of my office staff, telling me that a small sign had gone up, saying that clamping was in place and fines would be applied. I was told that two hefty men were there to enforce the said fines. How had they got permission to carry out this clamping on what was private land, servicing about five or six different shops or businesses? Apparently, these men went in to someone who had a temporary lease in a shop and said that a lot of illegal was parking going on. They asked whether the person would like that parking stopped and said there would be no charge to them whatever. "Yes, sign the paper", they said, and the next thing was that all and sundry were getting tickets.
Fortunately, we were able to get that retracted and to take the signs down so that the clamping ceased. I accept that not all the companies involved are like this, but the vast majority brought to my attention in my Ilford, North constituency are certainly nothing more than extortionists. This must be stopped. I would like to see these people completely banned from doing it. I believe that there is a role for local councils in respect of parking enforcement, but not a role for rogue traders to take money from innocent people going about their work and legitimately parking their cars. I add that there are no appeals against these companies. There is either small signage or no signage whatever and I say again that this practice should be made illegal.
Let me touch briefly on domestic violence. Without question, it is vile and we all abhor it. However, in many cases drawn to my attention at my constituency surgery, young women have told me that it can happen because of intimidation, low self-esteem, fear or even because the man has had children with the partner and is concerned about their future, yet they say that the attack has never taken place. Except through some measures already in place and measures proposed in the Bill, if someone says, "It did not happen; I walked into a door; I fell down the stairs", it would not be covered. That greatly concerns me. I am not asking to be made a member of the Committee, but if I were on it, I would raise the issue again.
Let me say a few words about antisocial behaviour orders and parenting orders. Antisocial behaviour is a blight on our communities, but we must distinguish what is antisocial behaviour from what is not antisocial behaviour. Groups of young people who gather together doing no harm is not antisocial behaviour, no matter how disconcerting their presence may be. Groups that intimidate people and make people fear to leave their homes is antisocial behaviour, however. I believe parental responsibility is vital in this context, and I want to commend Peter Terry, the borough commander in Redbridge, and his colleagues for the work they have done with me in tackling this problem.
I am aware of the time and of the fact that other Members wish to speak, but let me tell a brief story. There was a problem with some youths, and one Sunday morning I went out and met them. I asked them why they wanted to cause these disturbances, and I asked if they would be happy if this was happening to their grandparents and they were too scared to leave their homes. The problem did not go away-these problems never will go away completely-but I am pleased to be able to say that reports of antisocial behaviour fell by more than 70 per cent. after the police and I had held those meetings.
Finally, I want to touch on the issue of gang-related violence. As Ms Smith said, this is nothing new. I am told by people who are older than me that in the '60s there were groups called mods and rockers. Obviously, I am far too young to remember that myself, but we all know that violence took place in seaside towns such Margate and Southend. The major concern today is the age of the people involved in the gangs, however. I do not remember in my youth boys and girls as young as 12, 13 or 14 being involved in gangs and carrying knives and other weapons. This is a serious issue, and it must be tackled.
I support parts of the Bill, therefore. Sadly however, because of the DNA provisions and other measures, I will not be voting for it this evening, but I hope that in Committee we can all come together to change the parts of it with which we disagree.
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