Section 16 — Authorisations

Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:15 am on 17th June 2004.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 11:15 am, 17th June 2004

Group 7 is on dispersal of groups. Amendment 51, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 1, 2, 52, 53 and 3 to 6.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I have been looking forward to this debate, because the dispersal of groups has been the subject of some consideration and public debate. We now have the proper parliamentary opportunity to reflect and to decide on the matter.

We have never claimed that dispersal powers are the only answer or that they will cure all the problems of disorder on our streets and in our open spaces. We have always made it clear that they are but one part of our approach. However, we will not shy away from doing something to address the real fears and problems that exist among young and old alike in communities throughout Scotland. It is incumbent on the Parliament to ensure that it comes up with solutions, instead of just criticising. Too often, I have heard the fears of local communities trivialised. That is at best irresponsible and at worst downright insulting to those who suffer day and night from antisocial behaviour.

Bill Aitken tried to remove section 16 at stage 2—he failed then and I sincerely hope that he will fail again today. Throughout consideration of the dispersal powers, we have on every occasion sought to emphasise that they would come into effect only in an area where there is clear evidence that antisocial behaviour is an ongoing problem and there is a need to offer those who live in or around that area a period of respite.

I will now tackle the criticism that section 16 will simply create no-go areas. The harsh reality is that we already have many areas that are effectively no-go areas because so many people experience harassment and intimidation and cannot walk their own streets. There are more young people who are frightened to walk down their streets than there are young people who commit antisocial behaviour and it would serve us to ally ourselves with those young people who are afraid. We have to do something to restore calm in their communities and to give those areas back to the people who want to live in peace and quiet and without fear. That applies to communities throughout Scotland—in my constituency, in Bishopbriggs, in rural areas and, I say to Mr McLetchie, it applies to communities in Broomhouse.

There are those who continue to say that people innocently going about their business—whether they are young or old—will be moved on by the police and find themselves subject to criminal sanction based simply on the opinion of a member of the public who does not like the look of them. Such talk is not only irresponsible and belittling of the real problems that many communities face; it is fundamentally wrong.

We have emphasised all along that the dispersal powers must be seen in the wider context of the local strategy to tackle antisocial behaviour. That strategy—in fact, those action plans drawn up by local authorities and the police in partnership with community groups and others—will cover prevention and diversion as well as enforcement and will be backed up by the resources required to turn strategic plans into action. I say clearly to the Parliament and to the communities who might be listening, that if we introduce dispersal powers we will not only be curing antisocial behaviour, we will help to prevent it. The powers will do much more for communities and young people than anything that the Tories or the Scottish Socialist Party have ever suggested.

I will be clear about what the bill proposes. Section 16 makes it clear that, in any circumstance, a senior police officer can authorise the use of dispersal only if antisocial behaviour has been a persistent problem and is having a significant effect in an area. The bill also sets out that the authorisation will last for a specific period not exceeding three months. The section refers appropriately to times or days in that period, for example, a Friday or Saturday night. Therefore, the powers will not be employed at the drop of a hat, they will not be used without proper consultation and they will be tightly targeted, time limited and based on evidence of significant, persistent and serious antisocial behaviour.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

If the use of those powers is based on evidence of persistent and serious antisocial behaviour, would it not be better if the police acted there and then to remove those youngsters, instead of applying for a dispersal order?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Here we see the perverse logic of the ultra-left—Tommy Sheridan would rather have us lock up those young people and criminalise them instead of taking preventive action by saying to them, "Think again and think about the impact that you are having"—

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

For serious and persistent behaviour, I would.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Tommy Sheridan should learn to listen to arguments instead of always shouting at people. We are obliged in this Parliament to listen to different arguments that are proposed to us.

Section 17 ensures that, before an authorisation can be made, reasonable steps must be taken by the police to inform those people in and around the area of their intention. For example, the police must say how long the period of authorisation will last and indicate any specified times in that period; they must also be clear about the area to be covered by that authorisation.

Once the authorisation is in place, sections 18 and 19 will enable the constable to give the group or any member of it a direction to disperse only if he or she is satisfied that their presence or behaviour is likely to result in members of the public being alarmed or distressed. The powers cannot be used simply to move people on who are doing nothing wrong and presenting no risk to others; they may be used if in the constable's professional judgment there is a real possibility that alarm or distress is likely to be caused and that giving a direction would reduce that possibility. He or she can act in a pre-emptive way rather than waiting—as some members would have it—until an offence is committed. Such a preventive measure is not currently available to the police. An individual's refusal to comply with the constable's direction would become an offence under section 19.

Section 20 provides for the issuing of guidance to which the police must have regard when they implement the powers under part 3. Over recent months, my officials have worked closely with the police associations and others to develop practical guidance on the implementation of the provisions. I am grateful for the police's support in ensuring the operational effectiveness of the dispersal powers. We will draw on that work to prepare draft guidance for consultation during this summer.

I want to make it clear again—I hope that I do not offend Patrick Harvie in saying this—that the provisions in part 3 neither provide sweeping new powers nor do they add anything to existing powers. Rather, they offer an additional tool for dealing with the specific problems that are caused by the behaviour of groups in areas that are blighted by persistent disorder. That said, I have listened to genuine concerns. I believe that amendments 51 to 53 will further deflect any criticism by ensuring that the powers can be exercised only in a measured, proportionate and time-limited way.

Amendment 51 seeks to put beyond doubt in what kind of situations the powers could come into effect. As the bill stands, the dispersal powers can be exercised only if a senior police officer is satisfied that antisocial behaviour has been an on-going problem that is having a significantly adverse effect on the area. Amendment 51 will add "serious" to the tests of "persistent" and "significant". The amendment will thereby further increase the gravity of the antisocial behaviour problems that would need to be present before an area could be authorised.

Amendment 53 seeks to provide that the constable must consider whether dispersing the group would have the effect of causing less alarm and distress to members of the public in that area. In addition, amendment 53 seeks to clarify that, whether or not there is any current or likely risk of distress or alarm being caused, past behaviour alone can be a basis for the constable's exercising the power.

Amendment 52 is consequential to amendment 53.

Amendments 51 to 53 will further tighten the conditions under which dispersal directions can be given. As such, I hope that they will provide sufficient reassurance that the powers will not be able to be used as a quick fix for some isolated incident of low-level disorder and will not be deployed indiscriminately against those who are lawfully going about their daily life.

I acknowledge that part 3 has been the subject of some debate and controversy. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe that the provisions that will now be contained in the bill demonstrate that we have listened to both sides of the debate.

Despite the scorn of those who have argued otherwise, communities have pleaded for the powers in part 3. We owe it to them to give them the respite that the powers will afford. We cannot afford to let them down today. I hope that the Parliament will approve amendments 51 to 53 and reject amendments 1 to 6.

I move amendment 51.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

As the minister has obviously anticipated, the effect of amendments 1 to 6 would be to remove part 3 in its entirety. To our mind, the wide-ranging powers in part 3 are, as I have said before, both unnecessary and illiberal. Again, the existing law has been totally disregarded.

When a group of persons congregates in a particular location and causes a nuisance, such nuisance is almost invariably accompanied by noise and/or by threats to local residents. Those are the classic ingredients for a charge of breach of the peace. Quite frankly, the law can deal with those situations.

The problem is that the Minister for Justice and the Executive have manifestly failed to enforce the existing law by issuing the appropriate protection for members of the public. I fully accept that the minister is concerned to provide that protection for the public, but the fact is that our police are under- resourced. Moreover, our prosecution service has traditionally been under-resourced and the Executive has shown a total lack of willingness to grasp that particular thistle firmly.

Basically, the minister's amendment 53 would mean that, if the police considered that exercising the powers of dispersal would be likely to cause more trouble than it was worth, they could decide not to exercise the powers. That being the case, we must ask why it is necessary to give the police those powers anyway, given that they can already charge the offender with a breach of the peace or with breaching one of the various offences under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and other legislation. Why must the Executive always seek to legislate when it already has the existing powers and has simply lacked the courage or determination to use those powers to ease the problems that they have quite properly identified?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 11:30 am, 17th June 2004

Can Bill Aitken tell me what he would say to the residents of Broomhouse who say that the existing law has failed dramatically to address the situation that they are dealing with?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I would point out to the residents of Broomhouse why the existing law is totally adequate to cope with the problems that they have to face day by day. I would also ask them why they are not asking the Executive why it has manifestly failed to support them in the seven years that Labour has been in power. Labour Governments have simply not been able to cope with problems of disorder and have shown, until comparatively recently, a total reluctance to stand up to the minority of people who make life a misery for the vast majority of decent people. Only now, largely as a result of the clamour from its own back benches, has the Executive been prepared to take any action whatsoever. It is to the Executive's eternal shame that that is the position.

If we look at the technicalities of the bill, we see that some of it is, frankly, disgraceful. Is it not objectionable that as few as two persons can be considered a group? The proposals smack of "Nineteen Eighty-four". How can any police officer, or anyone else for that matter, anticipate the conduct of any individual or group? If there is a pattern of behaviour in a certain area or if certain individuals, particularly young people, look terrifying or as if they might frighten the horses, that does not necessarily mean that the conduct of those people is likely to be of a type that results in police action. I would have thought that a cogent reason for assuming that they are going to cause trouble is what they actually do, not what they might do. The law must, of course, be brought heavily to bear on those who are prepared to make life a misery for other people, but that must be in response to what they have actually done, not what it is anticipated that they might do.

The police themselves are extremely unhappy about much of the bill. They feel that they do not require the powers and, as I have illustrated, they are quite correct, because the powers already exist. Not only will the legislation not work, but it will succeed in alienating part of our community, namely young people. Scots law has always and rightly proceeded on a presumption of innocence. What the minister is asking us to do is to proceed on an assumption of guilt. There is a restriction of movement and of assembly that is more reminiscent of the South African pass laws than of the type of legislation that a democratic Parliament should be passing.

It would be regrettable if the minister's fairly cack-handed attempt to buy off the Liberal Democrats by the use of amendment 51 succeeded. I would have thought that even the Liberal Democrats would have demanded a somewhat higher price. The bill's repressive nature is unprecedented in Scotland and it should be resisted by the Parliament as a whole.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

A considerable number of members want to speak in the limited time that remains, so I ask members to speak briefly and to the point.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

As with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the principle of freedom of peaceful assembly, in section I of the 1947 Liberal Manifesto of Oxford, liberals from 19 countries affirmed the

"Freedom to associate or not to associate".

The manifesto, a founding document of liberal principles for half a century now, states:

"Service is the necessary complement of freedom and every right involves a corresponding duty."

We recognise, I hope, in this Parliament that we enjoy our freedoms because we limit those freedoms to protect others, by choice. While we voluntarily limit our own freedoms because of respect for and duty to fellow citizens, we acknowledge that, at times, those freedoms will be abused by some in society. Statutory responsibilities are then required and that is the responsibility of this Parliament.

In section 16 we are restricting people's freedoms because, by causing alarm or distress to the public, they themselves are infringing the rights of others. As liberals we must ensure that limits and thresholds are set for when dispersal powers are used and that we set them by using this Parliament's powers.

I pay tribute to Donald Gorrie and Margaret Curran for working together to ensure that the thresholds that are set by the Parliament are real. In order for an area to be designated, there has to be evidence of a "significant", "persistent" and—under amendment 51—"serious" problem of antisocial behaviour there. Police constables will then be able to police the area using their own professional judgment—whether that means working with the father of a boy who is traumatised by repeated bullying in one part of a town or working in a small village where people are constantly harassed by a small group of families. I have worked with constituents on both those issues and the police want more powers on both.

Consideration of the bill began with the antisocial behaviour strategies—there is a legal duty to put together solutions to problems. Section III of the Liberal Manifesto of Oxford stated:

"If free institutions are to work effectively, every citizen must have a sense of moral responsibility towards his fellow" citizen

"and take an active part in the affairs of the community."

That is why I support the bill. The local strategies will promote what is needed for the co-ordination of local agencies and the action plans will put pressure on the agencies to deliver action. Amendment 51 lifts the threshold to provide a more liberal tone throughout the entire bill. I support the amendment.

Photo of Colin Fox Colin Fox SSP

I begin by assuring the minister that I fully understand the strength of feeling in communities throughout the country about the need to address and solve the problems that are associated with groups of young people carrying out offending behaviour in their areas.

Like the minister and the First Minister, I have been to Broomhouse this week. I spent Monday there meeting the save our scheme campaigners, who are grappling with what the minister calls the real issues. The people of Broomhouse, like those of many other schemes in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland, are grappling with two decades of being told that there is no chance of getting a community centre, a youth programme or facilities. I am sure that they were honoured to have a visit by the First Minister, who probably confirmed the same message.

I welcome the minister's statement that a comprehensive range of measures is needed to solve the problem. I also welcome the remarks attributed to the First Minister when he was in Broomhouse, which were to the effect that antisocial behaviour orders on their own will not solve the problem. It is recognised across the board that a wide range of measures is required. Perhaps the Executive is showing signs of having been listening to others in the debate over the past year. I welcome that.

I dissented on the issue in the Justice 2 Committee because I felt that virtually all the evidence that was put before the committee—I appreciate that that evidence was different from that received by the Communities Committee—stated that the powers of dispersal were not needed and were not helpful in addressing the issue. As the minister knows, the proposal was widely criticised on numerous grounds at committee. Among the criticisms was the anxiety that it sends a message that we do not want to send to young people. We do not want to send a message to the vast majority of young people in Scotland—who, as the minister and the Parliament know well, are a credit to the country and to the communities that they live in—that there is a danger that they will be caught up in the dragnet when they are doing nothing wrong and will be dispersed from an area. That is a very dangerous signal to send. The police and young people's groups made the point that the measure could set back a long way relations between the police and the young people with whom they work.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I recognise the point that Colin Fox is making. I assure him that when we drew up the power and when we reflected on any amendment that we would bring at stage 3, we did not want to send any signals to the vast majority of law-abiding young people who, as he says, make a very important contribution. I ask him to acknowledge that the very people who suffer from disorder on the streets are young people because they cannot use community centres. I visit schools in my constituency and I guarantee that the first thing that I am asked—

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Minister, please speak more closely to your microphone.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I am sorry—my voice usually carries.

Young people ask us to do something to reclaim their streets for them. I ask Colin Fox whether he knows of any comment that I have ever made that stigmatises all young people.

Photo of Colin Fox Colin Fox SSP

I welcome the minister's recognition that it is young people themselves who suffer more than any other group in our community. That leads me on to another point of which the minister is aware. People talk about the young people in the children's hearings system as offenders, but the overwhelming majority of young people in the system initially went there because of welfare considerations, not because they were offenders.

In my last minute, I want to take up the point that the minister touched on—the right of young people to assemble. That is a human right and it is part of young people's civil rights. I am sure that the Parliament will want to ensure that powers of dispersal do not alienate young people or take away their right to assemble. We must also ensure that we do not simply disperse problems elsewhere. In Broomhouse, in Inch, where I live, and in all the communities that the Communities Committee has discussed, people would prefer us to give young people something to do that is better than hanging about on street corners. If the Executive did that, it would get the whole country's support.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this aspect of the bill. Some of the opposition to it has been overblown, overstated and unhelpful. It is reasonable to talk about giving young people something better to do, but some things are going on in our communities that are simply unacceptable. We should not try to make excuses for that behaviour, no matter how bored people are.

I agree with Tommy Sheridan that we need to consider what works, but we should not squeeze our views on what is happening in our communities into a preset view of the world. When I first became an MSP, I was stunned to discover that the police found it difficult to police this kind of problem. We have to confront that issue and consider how to make progress.

The problem is that groups gather and cause serious and persistent problems in communities. We are not talking about young people who gather and do nothing wrong and we are not talking about a problem that is exaggerated by intolerant older people. We are not being anti-young. Indeed, the people who have come to me on this issue are mums, dads, grans and granddads, all of whom are committed to giving children a better chance. People talk about stigmatising young people, but we ought not to stigmatise people in our communities who have the courage to raise their voices and say that there is a problem.

People are intimidated, silenced and in fear. I accept that such things do not happen throughout the country, but in some places in Scotland we have, in effect, outdoor youth clubs. It is part of the youth culture for people to gather there. They gather in places that are near youth facilities and they do so after they have used those facilities. The reality is that current powers are insufficient and cannot deal with the kind of group disorder that is occasionally generated.

Tommy Sheridan says that the police should simply clear those young people away. I have asked the police why they do not do that and they say, "But we can't stop them coming back." We therefore end up in a cycle with the young people going round and round.

The Tories tell us that we already have breach of the peace provisions. However, the groups to my left in the chamber are uncomfortable with the use of such provisions because they do not regard those provisions as being specific enough or as offering enough protection. In addition, the provisions do not deal with the particular issue of group disorder. The police have told me of the problem of not being able to get witnesses. They say that it is difficult for them to identify the individuals responsible. The cumulative group effect leads to particular problems. That is why we are talking about a specific power to deal with group disorder.

The Tories also say that there are not enough police. I will fight hard to get sufficient policing into my community to enforce these measures. However, the police tell me that even when they target an area and send in lots of police, they still cannot deal with problems. The difficulty is not just to do with police numbers but to do with the structures under which the police operate.

We are saying that enough is enough. The measure that is being introduced is preventive: it will warn people to keep away, giving communities some respite; it will prevent poor behaviour from escalating into something more serious; and it will prevent the exploitation of some young women who are drawn into groups. Do not imagine that if groups gather, there are not some predatory people round about them. We have to send out the message that harassment is unacceptable. Even if behaviour is defended under the guise of youth culture, we do not want to live in a Scotland where young men in particular are encouraged to believe that gang culture is in any way acceptable. In some communities, we are seeing a move from one culture to the other.

We have to strive at all times for a balance of rights in our communities. None of us has an absolute right to do whatever we want. I am comfortable with putting the argument to the young people in my constituency that we may have to restrict them a little if we are to protect people elsewhere.

The approach that is being taken is a modest one. The bottom line is that it allows communities a clear point of negotiation with the police and other agencies. Where there is a problem, it allows the community to say to the police and other agencies, "There is a power. Can we now work together to deal with the problem?"

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 11:45 am, 17th June 2004

Two issues in the bill have caused real difficulties: the first is the carte blanche approach that the Executive took to the electronic tagging of children; and the other is the power of dispersal.

I am happy to say that the Executive saw sense on the first issue. It returned to what was said on the subject of tagging in the partnership agreement between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. Tagging will be available only on the same criteria as those which are used for secure accommodation. I congratulate the Executive on amending the bill at stage 2 in respect of the electronic tagging of children.

However, I am afraid that in the amendments that it has lodged for today's debate, the Executive has not addressed the real issue that lies behind the power to disperse. It is not the designation of the area that is the problem but the second stage, which is the action that is to be taken against individuals who have done nothing wrong.

When the Justice 2 Committee took evidence on the bill, no one came forward to support the power to disperse. For instance, Douglas Keil of the Scottish Police Federation said:

"Every police officer to whom I have spoken has said that there are more than enough powers"—[Official Report, Justice 2 Committee, 6 January 2004; c 435.]

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland is also against the power to disperse, as is the voluntary sector.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No. [ Interruption. ] Members should just listen—it helps if people listen.

Charities that have approached me to oppose dispersal include Barnardo's Scotland and ChildLine, both of which are against the power to disperse. If the power is supported in the Parliament today, it will drive a coach and horses through the evidence-based approach to legislation that the Parliament is supposed to have adopted.

Many people are specifically concerned that our hard-won right to peaceful assembly is under threat. I have heard no valid reason why we should support this draconian measure. Ministers accept the fact that the power to disperse was never part of the partnership agreement—or at least the First Minister does.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No.

It has been said that, given that the power to disperse will not be used, opposition to it is unnecessary. That argument is indefensible. What self-respecting Parliament would introduce legislation on the basis that it will not be used? I am worried that the power will indeed be used. If it is, it will serve simply to exacerbate the problem. The power to disperse will be counterproductive and will worsen relations with our young people.

Last year, in a debate in the Westminster Parliament, MPs examined a similar power to disperse. Simon Hughes lodged an amendment to remove the power from the UK Government's Anti-social Behaviour Bill. The Conservatives at Westminster supported the power to disperse and voted against the Liberal Democrat amendment, but I am pleased that the Scottish Conservatives have not adopted the stance that was taken by their Westminster colleagues.

I can do no better than to quote what Simon Hughes said when he was trying to have the power to disperse removed from the Westminster bill. He said:

"I will not sign up to legislation that allows the perception of one person, the views of one person or the reaction of a group of people to determine who shall be on our streets, in our parks or at our bus shelters. The reality is that the provision will most often be used ... by groups of adults who do not like young people hanging around outside somewhere near them. Sometimes they may go further than that. They may use it because of prejudice, because of the hairstyles of a group of people, or because of what they do, or because of their colour ... it would be unacceptable, in a country that prides itself on civil liberties ... to legislate to prevent people from being present in our public places if their presence alone causes distress to someone else."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 24 June 2003; Vol 407, c 931.]

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Bill Aitken said that the provisions smack of "1984". I reassure him that none of us wants to return to the time when the most illiberal Prime Minister of modern times was in office.

Part 3 contains the most controversial elements of the bill. I made it clear earlier that the SNP does not take issue with the objective of the provisions. It is absolutely right that more should be done to prevent groups of people—whether large groups or small—from making life a misery for law-abiding people who live peacefully in their communities, but we have doubts about the likely effectiveness of the proposals in part 3. We have a duty to raise those concerns and bring them to the attention of Parliament to have them fully aired.

There is a concern, not just in the Parliament but elsewhere in Scotland, that the provisions promise much more than they can deliver. My concerns throughout the process have been two-fold. First, although I do not agree with everything that Mike Rumbles said, like him I am concerned that the provisions will be counterproductive. In effect, the bill will give the police an additional power to disperse groups of people. The police already have the power to move on people who are committing an offence, but if the proposals are passed, the police will be able to move people on simply because they are gathering in a designated area. The concern is that a power that allows the police to disperse people who are committing no offence will undermine valuable and essential relationships between the police and young people.

My second concern, which I touched on in the debate on the previous group of amendments, is that the powers may be ineffective. We all want the police to deal more effectively with groups of people who make other people's lives a misery, but the police themselves—to whom we should listen—have said that they need not extra powers but the resources that will allow them to use their existing powers more effectively. That means more police officers on our streets, not more powers that they will be unable to use because they do not have enough police officers to use them. That is what the police are saying.

The SNP remains to be persuaded that part 3 will have the desired effect, but we are not the only ones. The weight of evidence to the Justice 2 Committee at stage 1 was sceptical. The important point—which every single one of us has a duty to reflect on—is that who is right and who is wrong in the debate will not be decided by politicians talking to one another in the chamber today; it will be determined in the months and years to come in the communities that the bill is designed to help.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, which is why amendments 95 and 96, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, are so important. In accepting them, the Executive has at long last recognised the legitimate concerns of many people. Those amendments will place a duty on the Executive to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposals, which is extremely important.

I said earlier that if those amendments are passed we will reserve judgment and I stand by that. If the Executive really believes that the bill's provisions will make a difference and will not be counterproductive, and if communities want them to be given a chance—and I accept that there is some evidence that that is the case—it would be wrong to deny the Executive the opportunity to put the provisions to the test. Johann Lamont is right that we should never allow preset views to stand in the way of gathering the evidence that will test the arguments, which is why we have said what we have said today. However, I make it clear that if the Executive is wrong, it will be held to account.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I will call Patrick Harvie and Cathie Craigie, but I am afraid that I can give them only two minutes each.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The other day, I asked a representative of Strathclyde police what his thoughts were as the bill came up for stage 3. He said, "We are still against the power of dispersal and we still want it taken out of the bill, but if it is passed, it won't really matter, because we are not going to use it. Why would we jump through additional bureaucratic hoops to set up a dispersal area, when powers already exist to move on people who are causing a problem, and they are the only people we would want to move on?"

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Let me develop my argument. I have only two minutes.

Unlike Mike Rumbles, I am not convinced that the powers will be used indiscriminately to move on every group of people who are not causing a problem, but the powers risk giving a false promise to every community—whether it has a serious problem or not—that its local difficulties will be solved. They will not be solved, because neither the Executive nor the Communities Committee in its evidence taking has got to grips successfully with what the barriers are to the use of existing powers to solve problems. The dispersal power is characteristic of the whole bill; it fails to get to grips with causes, motives and reasons and deals only with symptoms.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am sorry, but I really do not have time; I was given only two minutes.

Stewart Stevenson referred to 2007. I do not know whether what he said was meant just as a party-political jibe, but it has more meaning than that. The Executive has heavily oversold the entire bill and the dispersal power in particular as a solution to genuine problems. People have been sold a solution to their problems, but if they find that those problems remain, they will not easily forgive the Executive.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

I will not be able to say all that I want to say on part 3 in the short time available. I support much of what my colleague Johann Lamont said earlier in the debate.

Elected representatives have a duty to deal with the facts, but a number of members who have spoken in this part of the debate have certainly not done so. Some members, such as Nicola Sturgeon, Mike Rumbles and Bill Aitken, have suggested that people will be moved on simply for gathering, which is just not true. I do not know how much clearer the minister could have made that in her opening remarks. I hope that she will say again when she sums up that it is simply not the case that people who are gathering lawfully will be asked to move on.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

No, I am sorry, but I do not have time. No doubt the member will get time later on. Mike Rumbles mentioned all the people and all the professional organisations that said in evidence that they were against giving the police the power to disperse. However, he failed to highlight all the communities that have said in evidence to the Communities Committee and the Executive that they want the police to have the power. Mike Rumbles failed to point out that the people whom we meet in our constituencies daily who work in those professional organisations tell us that they do not have enough power and that they support the police having the dispersal power. He did not tell us about the representatives of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers who gave evidence on behalf of people working in shops and who also said that they support the power. I ask members to support the measures in the bill, which are only a small part of dealing with the bigger picture.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I apologise to members who were not called. We are working to a timetable. I have left four minutes for the minister to wind up.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I am surprised at the tenor of some of the debate. Bill Aitken got a wee bit over-exercised; that is usually my department, so I was a bit annoyed with him. His comparisons to pass laws were staggering. I will not embarrass him with the details of where his party stood on South Africa and where my party stood on South Africa.

If the laws that we are seeking to introduce are so draconian, I wonder why the Tories supported similar laws at Westminster. Bill Aitken has some explaining to do.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

No. Bill Aitken had his time.

Michael Howard was not heard to excuse antisocial behaviour as a rite of passage, so Mr McLetchie might be in bother with the higher ranks of the Tories, given what he has said. The Tory members have to explain why their party thinks that it is okay to give the powers to communities in England and Wales, but not to communities in Scotland; 2007 is a date that lingers for the Tories too.

Mike Rumbles talked about evidence. He should remember that USDAW gave evidence that it strongly supported the power of dispersal. As Colin Fox said, of course we have to listen to the evidence that is presented to committees, but we reserve the right to disagree with it. As we try to modernise and change Scotland, somewhere along the line we will have to disagree with professionals. We have to represent communities and get professionals to respond to changing circumstances. The fundamental question for today is whose side we are on. The power of dispersal is proportionate and means that we will take action in communities that have to date been abandoned.

It is not just about the dispersal power; it is about the actions that are consequent on that power. Why have certain agencies left those communities with no place to go to complain except their MSPs? Why have the police not answered the calls to deal with the plight of those communities? On that point, I say to Patrick Harvie that I have never met a police officer who would not obey the will of an elected Parliament. If we pass this dispersal power today, I have a categorical assurance that the police will implement it.

I ask the Parliament to say fundamentally whose side it is on. Members should be on the side of the victims of antisocial behaviour and should line up to ensure that we have the courage of our convictions and start solving the problems arising from antisocial behaviour in Scotland instead of displaying the complacency and defeatism that has marked the arguments of the Opposition in this debate.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None 12:00 pm, 17th June 2004

The question is, that amendment 51 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 5

For: Adam, Brian, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Curran, Frances, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, MacDonald, Margo, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Tosh, Murray

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The result of the division is: For 97, Against 24, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 51 agreed to.

[Amendment 1 moved—[Bill Aitken].]

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6

For: Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Curran, Frances, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, MacDonald, Margo, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Tosh, Murray
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Adam, Brian, Cunningham, Roseanna, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The result of the division is: For 34, Against 63, Abstentions 20.

Amendment 1 disagreed to.