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Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:00 pm on 29th October 2013.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:00 pm, 29th October 2013

The Home Office works closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is fair to say that we are engaged, as we are on all measures, in discussing every aspect of government where we share interests in common. I do not want to go into detail on the Floor of the House, but I certainly will write to the noble Lord in this regard.

A number of views were expressed about eviction. Some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and my noble friends Lady Hamwee and Lord Faulks, expressed concern about the strength of the powers to evict persons convicted of a related offence. As we saw in 2011, those who riot and trash communities can take away people’s livelihoods and homes. Although the law currently enables the landlord to seek to evict those who riot in the locality of their home, it does not capture the sort of riot tourism that we saw in 2011. The Bill puts that right. It will allow for landlords to apply to evict tenants where they or members of the household have been convicted of an offence at the scene of a riot anywhere in the United Kingdom where the behaviour takes place. That unashamedly sends out a strong message that rioting will not be tolerated and may carry housing consequences wherever it occurs.

However, I reassure noble Lords that we expect landlords to seek to evict in those circumstances only exceptionally and, where they do, important safeguards will be in place. In particular, the court needs to be satisfied on a case-by-case basis that it is reasonable to grant possession. The impact on the whole household and any young children is likely to be a relevant factor. Existing eviction powers make it clear that tenants are responsible for the anti-social behaviour of members of their household. This provision follows that well established principle.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, my noble friend Lord Redesdale and the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, gave us the benefit of their views on the dog measures in the Bill. I believe that the provisions in the Bill will assist front-line professionals in tackling dangerous dogs, not only once an attack has occurred but to prevent such attacks. There have been calls for dog control notices today, echoing those from animal welfare organisations. The rather bright tie that I am wearing is a Dogs Trust tie; I thought that it would be appropriate to wear it today. The work of such organisations is vital to improve responsible dog ownership through education and providing support for those unable to look after their pets.

However, I do not agree that a bespoke dog control notice is needed. The Bill contains a number of anti-social behaviour powers which can be used in exactly the same way as a dog control notice. The community protection notice, for example, can be used to require a dog owner to have their dog neutered, to keep it muzzled, to keep it on a lead in a public place and to attend dog training classes. The draft practitioners’ manual explains that comprehensively. To provide for another class of notice that does exactly the same thing as existing provisions in the Bill would undermine one of our key objectives, welcomed by practitioners, which is to streamline the existing, complex mix of overlapping powers.

It was helpful to hear from my noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lord Hussain and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, about forced marriage. We know that the introduction of legislation is not of itself enough. The Government’s Forced Marriage Unit provides direct assistance to victims. It also undertakes a full programme of outreach activities to front-line practitioners and communities to ensure that people working with victims are fully informed as to how to approach such cases. Overseas, the unit also provides consular assistance for victims to secure their return to the UK, but I look forward to debating that at later stages in the Bill’s progress.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, also raised the clauses dealing with sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders, generally welcoming them. I will write to her on the impact of those orders in the way that she described.

Concern was expressed about PCCs commissioning victim services and whether that would lead to some services not being delivered as they have been. My noble friend Lord Dholakia mentioned that, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, was concerned about the impact on rape counselling. Although it makes sense for support for victims of such crimes, which have high impact but are low in volume, such as homicide, rape and human trafficking, to be commissioned centrally, the majority of victim services are best commissioned locally. That is how this issue will be divided. Police and crime commissioners are best placed to decide on the sort of issues that are needed within their communities. Major crimes will still be addressed through national funding.

PCCs will be able to respond to local needs and ensure the best use of funding. In his evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of Victim Support, agreed that the move to local commissioning of victims’ services provided an opportunity for better integration of local services in support of victims. We agree. That is why we are legislating to ensure that PCCs have clear powers. I welcome the support of my noble friend Lady Newlove for these provisions.

There has been widespread support for the Police Remuneration Review Body. It is good to hear from the noble Lords, Lord Condon and Lord Dear. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Harris of Richmond referred to the new policies for determining police pay. The Police Remuneration Review Body will deliver pay and conditions that are fair not only for police officers but for the public as well. The move to an independent evidence-based method of determining police pay and conditions is the right way forward. The current negotiating system is time-consuming, inefficient and adversarial. I can, however, assure my noble friend Lady Harris that police officers will continue to have a voice in determining their pay, as their representatives will have the opportunity to inform the annual remit letter, which will be provided by the Home Secretary and sets out issues for the body’s consideration. They will also present evidence to the new body in the same way as any other interested parties along with the Government and police and crime commissioners.

My noble friend Lady Harris asked about the applications of these provisions to Northern Ireland. Policing, as noble Lords will know, is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland. This provision was introduced with the full support of the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland. However, this is an important change for Northern Ireland. The Department of Justice has consulted policing organisations, including representatives of police officers in Northern Ireland—those who, between them, are responsible for maintaining the police service in Northern Ireland—to ensure that they have a full opportunity to feed in their views. The Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland is considering those views and will respond in due course. I might say, while we are talking about police matters, that I greatly valued the observations of my noble friend Lord Wasserman.

A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends, Lady Berridge, Lord Faulks, Lord Dholakia, Lord Avebury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, referred to the changes we are making to the powers in Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act. I welcome the conclusion of the Joint Committee on Human Rights that,

“the Government has clearly made out a case for a without suspicion power to stop, question and search travellers at ports and airports”.

I also welcome the committee’s support for the amendments to the Schedule 7 powers we have made in the Bill. These are important changes, including a reduction in the maximum period of detention by a third.

The difference between the Government and the Joint Committee is whether the changes in the Bill to Schedule 7 go far enough. In particular, there are some who would continue to argue that the provisions in Schedule 7 are disproportionate and at odds with the convention rights and that these modifications are insufficient to cure that. Given the continuing threat we face from terrorism, the Government profoundly disagree. This is not simply the view of the Government, the police and the intelligence agencies. I refer the House to the judgment of the High Court in proceedings brought by an individual examined under Schedule 7 earlier this year. In that judgment, the court said that,

“we have concluded that the Schedule 7 powers of examination survive the challenges advanced before us. In short, the balance struck between individual rights and the public interest in protection against terrorism does not violate the fundamental human rights in question”.

I hope that noble Lords will agree with that as we debate this issue. I should add that it is our aim to respond to the JCHR’s report before we enter Committee.