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.