Antisocial Behaviour and Off-road Bikes — [Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

– in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 26th May 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 1:30 pm, 26th May 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of anti-social behaviour and off-road bikes.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I acknowledge that there are many issues facing Parliament at this time, including the cost of living crisis, the increasing cost of fuel and increasing prices of energy and food, but there is also considerable concern about antisocial behaviour and off-road bikes. I know that you share my concerns, Ms Fovargue, and have had examples in your constituency of these terrible incidents, which can cause such trauma to people and have a negative effect on their quality of life.

The public and the police are seemingly powerless when it comes to antisocial behaviour caused by off-road bikes. My purpose in bringing this debate is to seek action from the Minister, which would be in contrast, with all due respect—I have raised this issue several times—to the disinterest shown by the Minister for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse, in whom I am very disappointed. I must relay the feelings that have been expressed to me. The public are losing confidence and faith in the police’s ability to tackle antisocial behaviour caused by off-road bikes.

There is no doubt about it: off-road bikes are being driven illegally and recklessly on our roads in my constituency of Easington, in the east of our county, and in many other right hon. and hon. Members’ constituencies. That is not just my opinion; I hope to show that the police share my and the public’s frustration at their lack of powers and the lack of direction from central Government. The police, not just in County Durham, are looking to the Government for the guidance and protection they need to act robustly against off-road bikes causing antisocial behaviour.

I thank my hon. Friend Sarah Jones, Labour’s shadow police and fire Minister, who knows about the Horden Hub House, the Horden masterplan, and the crime and antisocial behaviour that blight that community and other former mining communities in east Durham, because she actually took the time to visit, speak to residents and sit down with community groups. I urge the Minister to do the same. It is comforting to know that we have a friend and ally who is a strong advocate.

Sadly, the public are losing confidence in the police. YouGov routinely asks the public whether they have confidence in the police’s ability to deal with crime in their area, and the trends are worrying: 47% of the public lack confidence in the police’s ability to tackle crime, compared with only 43% who are confident in the police. Overall, the number of people who believe the police are doing a good job—this is nationally, not in County Durham—has fallen from 75% to 53% in the past two years. I hope that sets some alarm bells ringing. But statistics do not measure the trauma, and do not paint a full picture of the fear of uncontrolled crime and the sense of lawlessness when antisocial behaviour and criminality are allowed to go on without challenge and intervention. I will give a few examples.

In Westmorland Rise in Peterlee in my constituency, residents have been left frustrated, miserable and in despair after their homes and vehicles were repeatedly covered in mud kicked up by off-road bikes and quad bikes, driven in a fashion to deliberately throw mud on the sides of the houses of the people who were complaining and destroy the green spaces. A respected local councillor, Louise Fenwick, sums up the feelings of the community:

“Not only are these joy riders terrorising residents, but they are destroying Peterlee’s landscaping and causing damage to homes.”

After years of antisocial behaviour blighting Shotton, I attended a Police and Communities Together public meeting at St Saviour’s church in Shotton. I could barely get in the church hall, but I can only say that the community was left bereft. Residents fear reprisals if they report crimes to the police, with their vehicles often targeted for arson—that is a very common threat. When residents report incidents, they can face extended waits on the telephone on the 101 service, only to be told there is nothing that the police can do.

Representatives of a business that we are all very proud of—I will not name it in this debate, but I am happy to share the details with the Minister afterwards—report how off-road bikes and quad bikes threaten their patrons’ lives, health and safety, yet the most basic remedial work is not being undertaken to prevent access to their land. I listened in despair when they said that, had they known the extent of the problems, they would not have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into their business in my constituency.

Members may be aware of the recent tragic case of a four-year-old boy from Bishop Auckland, in a neighbouring County Durham constituency, who was sadly killed when an off-road bike collided with a lamppost. It is only a matter of time before an incident of that nature happens again. The police tell people to report all crime —that is my message, too—but the lack of action, the difficulties people face in getting through on the telephone lines, and the fear of reprisals lead to an under-reporting of crime. Where people make a stand, they can face life-threatening consequences. I want to highlight a case of that, and I will name the individual, because it has been well documented and he has been very brave: Sean Ivey, a resident of the neighbouring constituency of Sedgefield, whose home was targeted in an arson attack and burned to the ground after he spoke out against antisocial behaviour.

The community knows the solution: more police. The Government will no doubt claim that they are recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers, but that is not the complete picture. True, the Government are restoring the 20,000 police officers they cut since 2010, but unfortunately it is going to take many years to recover those thousands of years of accumulated experience of serving police officers. Extensive and effective community policing and intelligence gathering is the key to addressing antisocial behaviour, and we are paying the price for a decade of Tory neglect and austerity when it comes to crime.

In addition to police, high-quality youth, community and sports offerings can divert young people away from antisocial behaviour. Youths congregating on the street can be intimidating; however, in my constituency, they often have little option, because youth services have been decimated. I must also note that it is not just young people who engage in antisocial behaviour, and it is not all young people. It is a small minority, but where that exists, we can see the community benefits of football clubs, boxing clubs, athletics clubs, cricket teams, cadet services and youth groups.

However, those services have been undermined, with billions cut from council budgets all across the county where there are no safeguards for non-statutory youth and community services. I am old enough to remember the mantra of the last Labour Government: tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime. Sadly, this Government are failing on both counts. The closure of public services such as libraries, the undermining of community policing, and growing levels of poverty are some of the causes of crime.

In a written parliamentary question, question 70255, I asked the Home Office to produce a national police strategy for tackling antisocial behaviour and crime associated with off-road motorbikes. That question was a direct ask from police officers fed up of explaining to my constituents why they cannot pursue people criminally using off-road motorbikes or adopt practices such as tactical contact, which the Metropolitan police use to tackle moped muggers. Officers who use these tactics do so with the fear they could be jailed or sacked if a rider is injured.

I want to highlight to the Minister the case of PC Edwin Sutton, who faced the sack and loss of his pension from the Metropolitan police after he was accused of breaching professional standards by using a dangerous method to stop a suspected moped mugger in 2017. After nearly 30 years of an unblemished career, PC Sutton went through two years of anguish after the Independent Office for Police Conduct ruled that he should face disciplinary proceedings. It took a tribunal to reject the IOPC position, ruling that his decision to block the rider in the circumstances was reasonable. The chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, Ken Marsh, said that PC Sutton was effectively “thrown to the wolves”.

The request for a national police strategy for tackling antisocial behaviour and crime associated with off-road motorbikes is a call from police officers asking for guidance and protection when tackling this type of antisocial behaviour. When I raised this issue with the Minister for Crime and Policing, he said:

“The police have powers under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Police Reform Act 2002 to seize vehicles being used…illegally without a valid driving licence or insurance or in an antisocial manner.”

That includes motorbikes. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:

“Decisions on when to use these powers are operational matters for Chief Constables in conjunction with local policing plans. They are best placed to understand how to meet the needs of local communities.”

In January this year, the Home Office updated statutory guidance to support local agencies to make effective use of these powers. In July, the beating crime plan laid out the Government’s plan for tackling crime and antisocial behaviour.

Durham Constabulary uses the powers available to it. Make no mistake: I am constantly lobbying for the police to intervene when there are cases, as there frequently are, of antisocial behaviour caused by off-road motorbikes and quad bikes. However, Durham Constabulary tells me that its powers are very limited. When an individual who is riding one of these bikes—even illegally and without insurance—refuses to comply, they cannot be made to stop. That is incredible.

Section 59 warning signs were put in place in Peterlee in my constituency, in Shotton, Wingate and Darlington, advising offenders of the power to seize illegal off-road bikes, quad bikes or 4x4s without the need to issue a warning. Durham Constabulary implemented Operation Endurance to crack down on antisocial riders. It was a success. It had its launch in the first week in February, in which 24 fixed penalty notices and 18 barring notices were issued, three illegal quad bikes were seized, three speeding tickets were issued, two stolen mopeds were recovered, one illegal off-road motorbike was seized, one other vehicle was seized, a driver was arrested for drug driving and another driver was charged for careless driving.

I posed another question—No. 76647—to the Minister for Crime and Policing and was advised that

“The Government has no plans to introduce an off-road bike national strategy.”

The Government should listen to police officers, who are fighting a losing battle when it comes to tackling antisocial behaviour from off-road motorbikes and quad bikes. Operation Endurance has succeeded, but seizing bikes does not always resolve the issue, with people causing chaos in our communities resuming their antisocial behaviour after sourcing a new bike. As I have mentioned, when people refuse to stop, the police are frequently unable to pursue them, so those involved in crime and antisocial behaviour are allowed to get away scot-free with their offending. The public are fed up with reporting these incidents, watching their communities being blighted, and there not being enough police officers to tackle the problem. I am looking to the Minister today to provide some of those answers.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South 1:45 pm, 26th May 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I congratulate my hon. Friend Grahame Morris on securing this important debate, as this problem stretches right across the country and the four nations of the UK.

I recently introduced a ten-minute rule Bill to try to address the problem of off-road vehicles—specifically that of quad bikes—and antisocial behaviour. While quads have an important and legitimate use in agriculture and related areas, their careless, reckless and often unsafe use on our streets is a menace. My constituents, quite frankly, have had enough.

Beyond the contributions here today, a number of stakeholders have identified the issue as a massive problem, including my own West Yorkshire Police, the College of Policing, Brake, and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. Likewise, the National Farmers Union sees it as a particular problem and estimates that some 1,100 quad bikes are stolen from farms each year, costing farmers upwards of £3 million. If just a fraction of those end up on public roads, that means hundreds of new illegal quads running rampant on our streets and paths.

Just one antisocial quad rider ripping through a neighbourhood will disturb hundreds and hundreds of residents. That constant noise causes distress to residents and undermines public confidence in our police over a perceived lack of action on it, as mentioned by my hon. Friend in his speech. However, most seriously, they are a risk to other road users, pedestrians, and to the drivers themselves. Only last year, in Bradford, a man was killed when his quad bike veered and collided with another vehicle. The drivers are often not wearing helmets to protect their lives but balaclavas to protect their identities.

My Bill would have required quad bike riders on public highways to wear helmets, created a registration system for all quad bikes, and directly tackled the antisocial element of these vehicles being in the wrong hands. In Northern Ireland, wearing a helmet is compulsory for all quad bike riders on public highways, but that is not the case in the rest of the United Kingdom. The argument is self-evident: without a helmet, when the worst happens, the results are catastrophic. A quad user is twice as likely as someone in a car to get into an accident in the first place, and is 10 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed.

This is neither a local nor a party political problem, but it highlights the gaps in our current legislation that have allowed this problem to manifest and torment communities right across the country. However, those gaps can be very easily addressed. For instance, the installation of immobilisers is not a legal requirement for quad bikes despite being a requirement for all cars since 1998. The device provides an additional layer of security and, by making immobilisers a requirement, we can make theft harder and reduce the number of quads getting on to our streets.

Again, a simple neatening-up of legislation can make a huge difference to people right across the land. Once a stolen vehicle has been seized, police must link the quad bike being used antisocially to an owner and an address. That can take hundreds of hours of police time—piecing together official reports from members of the public, scouring community websites, looking for intelligence on social media, or reviewing CCTV from businesses, such as petrol stations, for that single frame showing the rider’s face—all to make a strong enough case to act. Not only is that labour-intensive, but, should any link in that chain break, the police can do very little.

We could extend the registration scheme for licensed road-legal quads to cover all quad bikes, including those allowed for off-road use only, to establish a clear link and line of ownership right from point of sale. That would help police in their enquiries when investigating reports and would mean that, once seized, stolen quads could be more easily returned to their rightful owners.

We need to stop seeing these vehicles as toys. If we continue to let this type of vehicle slip through the cracks in current legislation, we will fail to protect legitimate owners from needless theft, residents dealing with chronic noise, and all road users and pedestrians, who will remain at unnecessary risk, and all of this increases antisocial behaviour on our streets.

It is time we brought in measures to provide consistency, to protect road users and legitimate owners of quads, and to stop the blight of the dangerous and antisocial use of quads on our streets. I hope the Minister will recognise that this is a serious and widespread issue, and that gaps exist in the current legislation, and that he will support the call of my hon. Friend the Member for Easington for further action in this area.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office) 1:50 pm, 26th May 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Fovargue. I congratulate my hon. Friend Grahame Morris on securing this important debate, which covers the whole country, including both rural and urban areas.

Many constituents have come to me about the disruption caused by off-road bikes being used on patches of land in my local community. The issue affects people everywhere, so this is an important debate to have. My hon. Friend painted a picture of the impact the issue has had on his constituents. He has been brought here to be a voice for those constituents, and he is a strong voice for them on this issue. We all understand the pain that they have gone through and how much he has done to champion their right to a more peaceful life.

We also heard loud and clear the message from the police that my hon. Friend had spoken to. I have had similar, very strong messages from the police about their need for more support. We need to ensure that they have the right powers and the tools they need to tackle the problem.

My hon. Friend Judith Cummins has a lot of experience in this area and a lot of good ideas. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister why those ideas cannot simply be put into practice, as they seem to be very sensible. We need to do something in this area and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about my hon. Friend’s suggestions.

Before Christmas, I travelled around the country to get a sense of the breadth and scale of antisocial behaviour more broadly, as well as how it affects people and what is being done about it. The problems caused by off-road bikes came up time and again. Feeling safe in our communities and our homes is a basic right, and I am afraid that after 12 years of Conservative Government our streets have become less safe.

Since the last Government came to power, crime is up 18% and prosecutions are down 18%. Violence against women and girls is at an alarming level. The police are struggling to do all the things we ask of them, while a mental health crisis rages through our country and they end up spending large proportions of their time dealing with some of those issues, which should be prevented elsewhere.

Every day, the impact of noise, graffiti, fly-tipping, drug dealing and misuse, vandalism and antisocial behaviour blights people’s lives. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington mentioned Sean Ivey, who I met when I went to Horden. His house was attacked by arsonists after he reported antisocial behaviour. His life was ruined—his house was burned down—and he is campaigning for change, as well as having to rebuild his own life. He wants to fundraise for youth centres, which I will come on to, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Easington mentioned, they are a really important part of the picture.

New figures show that rates of arson are spiralling out of control. According to the latest crime survey, arson and criminal damage have risen by over 90,000 incidents compared with 2019, despite the country being in lockdown for the first three months of the year. The proportion of offences leading to a police charge is just 4.3%, down from 8.3% in 2015. Some 58% of investigations are closed without the police identifying a subject, equating to over 280,000 cases. These figures reflect a truly shameful record on crime. Arsonists cause huge damage to local communities, ruining not just people’s property but their sense of safety and pride in their community. I am sure the Minister understands the scale of the problems that we are talking about and will perhaps qualify her earlier remarks about antisocial behaviour being low-level crime. I do not think it is, and I know that our constituents do not think it is either.

Turning to off-road bikes specifically, there is clearly a problem. These vehicles are often driven loudly and illegally on roads at great speed, muddying the roads and ruining green space. Often they have been stolen from farmers in rural areas, and I talk to the police about this issue. Another issue, which we will have to talk about another time, is to do with insurance. It is quite technical, but the police are very frustrated because insurance claims on off-road bikes are paid out even if the key is in the ignition, so people can just turn up and steal them. There is work to be done there, but that is more of a matter for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and I will raise it elsewhere.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Easington talked about, action is being taken by Labour police and crime commissioners around the country, who have a grasp of the importance of dealing with this problem. In Gwent, represented by Jeff Cuthbert, 135 off-road bikes have been confiscated in the past year, which is quite some number. In Northumbria, where Kim McGuinness is the Labour PCC, bike and quad seizures have been informed by the use of long-lens cameras to identify offenders, and the police have been working with Crimestoppers to help people anonymously report those using bikes to carry out antisocial behaviour. Northumbria police are also cracking down on garages selling petrol to underage buyers and those with unregistered off-road bikes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Easington talked about the good work being done in his area, and I thank him for his kind words. I very much enjoyed visiting his constituency; such visits are an important part of trying to understand the issues that people face every day and what we need to do when we are in power. I met constituents and local groups at Horden Hub House in his constituency, and I saw the excellent partnership work that Horden is doing to help vulnerable people, who often have complex needs. I also met the Labour PCC, Joy Allen. As my hon. Friend said, Durham constabulary have introduced higher charges to keep dangerous vehicles off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. On seizure, there is an instant charge of £150 and then a £10 per day storage fee to reclaim the bike. On average, the amount paid to get the bike back is around £200, but only roughly 40% of bikes are reclaimed. If the rider does not have a valid licence to ride the particular class of vehicle or has no insurance, the only way they can get their bike back is to insure it and get a valid licence before paying the fee.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

My hon. Friend is making an excellent point, particularly in relation to my constituency. May I point out—I am sure she saw this at first hand—the problems that we have in a constituency that is part-rural, part-urban? The organised crime gangs are making use of cycle paths, quad bikes and off-road bikes to distribute drugs. It is difficult for the police if the individuals who are involved in criminal activities refuse to stop. Often the bikes are stolen, and tracking them requires the use of drones and specialist police units on off-road bikes. It is an incredibly difficult problem, and we need a commitment from the Government and policies to support the police and their actions.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office)

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We had quite some debate during the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, where some changes were made to what happens to police when they are chasing people on roads. There was acceptance that the current situation was unacceptable and that the police were putting themselves into potentially very difficult positions by doing the right thing. The same applies here: we need to ensure that the police can do what they need to do, and stop people when they can, without facing the problems that my hon. Friend talked about and that Ken Marsh commented on, in his usual robust fashion. My hon. Friend makes a clear point. The fact that PC Edwin Sutton had to spend two years waiting, and then go through a tribunal to overturn the IOPC, shows how the rules need to be looked at properly. Everybody got into a tangle over his case. It was not just his life that was put on hold; everybody was obviously struggling with the rights and wrongs of the situation. We do not want to have an entirely John Wayne attitude of, “Police gotta do what police gotta do,” but we do need to make sure that police can be confident that by doing the right thing they will not suffer negative consequences.

In Durham, lots of work is under way to tackle some of those issues. There has been some success. I congratulate the police and crime commissioners, who are making a difference, but they need support from Government to go further. We have talked about the need for enough police resources. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington talked about cuts to police, and made an interesting and important point that is not made often enough about the lack of experience that is the result of the loss of those 21,000 police officers. We have also had a 50% cut in the number of police community support officers. There is no plan from Government, unless the Minister wants to mention it today, to put those levels back to what they were. PCSOs are in our communities and neighbourhoods as the eyes and ears of the police force; they do the job that they do so that our police officers can deal with the more serious issues that we are talking about today. There are over 7,000 fewer neighbourhood officers on the frontline now than there were 12 years ago. Over 7,000—that figure is a woeful record for this Government.

I would be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say to my hon. Friends the Members for Easington and for Bradford South, who both asked for perfectly sensible policy changes. They asked, in particular, for a strategy around how we tackle off-road bikes. I would be interested to hear how that fits into the Minister’s wider plans on antisocial behaviour. We know there are many problems with the way that is tackled at a national level, not least the fact that the data on antisocial behaviour is not collected nationally in a proper way. It is very hard to get a full sense of the picture. I would be interested to know whether the Minister has any plans to increase the number of PCSOs—they help our police officers to do their job.

We have made commitments to put police back into our neighbourhoods by having neighbourhood hubs. Neighbourhood hubs mean that everybody knows where to go to interact with the police. It is not just about police; it is also about our local authorities, our enforcement officers and our youth services. As my hon. Friend the Member for Easington said, police can only do the job with the infrastructure that they need around them. All the diversionary tactics that he talked about—youth centres, sports and activity for our young people—are absolutely at the heart of his constituency. I saw that when I visited his constituency, and all the other constituencies I went to. Without the underpinning of useful things for our young people to do, the police will struggle even more. I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent speech, and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean The Minister of State, Home Department, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 2:03 pm, 26th May 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I join with other Members in thanking Grahame Morris for securing this debate, and also Judith Cummins for her contribution.

I start by making it very clear that I know that antisocial behaviour causes a huge amount of concern and distress for constituents all over the country—as it does in my constituency. We all represent people who experience those crimes. I want to be very clear with Sarah Jones, and ask her to accept that I have explained to the House on numerous occasions how seriously I take that. I understand the impact of antisocial behaviour, and her characterisation of my remarks does not represent my view, or reflect the work that the Government and I, as a Minister, are doing.

At its worst, such behaviour plagues the lives of victims, stifles communities and ruins the enjoyment of public spaces. The Government will not tolerate that. We have always been clear that we stand on the side of the law-abiding majority, and that includes using every available measure to address antisocial behaviour.

The hon. Member for Easington has rightly raised specific concerns about off-road biking and the harm it can cause communities. Any form of antisocial, dangerous or inconsiderate behaviour involving vehicles, including off-road bikes, is a serious issue. He has suggested that we need a national strategy to deal with this problem; as he has mentioned, he has raised the issue in parliamentary questions. I will set out the Government’s response and the work we are doing and explain the rationale for our approach, which is a local approach. I will go into the reasons for that in detail.

I want to make reference to the excellent work of the hon. Gentleman’s elected Labour police and crime commissioner. Both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Croydon Central have recognised the considerable power, resource and funding that the Government have given to police and crime commissioners. It is our approach that the best way to tackle policing in this country is to preserve the operational independence of police forces, chief constables and the elected police and crime commissioners, who are directly accountable to their communities. We believe that that is the right way to tackle the worst forms of antisocial behaviour—indeed, all forms of antisocial behaviour.

As the hon. Gentleman said, we need to make sure that the police and local authorities have the tools that they need to tackle antisocial behaviour, including where that manifests itself through off-road biking. We need to make sure that the police are properly resourced.

Members will be aware that we are already over halfway to recruiting our target of more than 20,000 police officers. I want to put it on the record, and remind the hon. Gentleman, that Durham police have recruited 136 additional uplift officers as part of the uplift committed to by this Government, under this Home Secretary, with 90 more officers to come in the final year of the uplift programme. Durham police are fully meeting their targets, and we thank the force for its excellent work getting those officers on to the streets.

On the point about PCSOs that the hon. Member for Croydon Central has made to me on many occasions, it is, of course, a matter for those local police and crime commissioners and local chief constables, if they wish, to recruit those PCSOs. It is for them to decide the best mix of officer skillsets for their local communities. They are close to their communities; they are elected to serve them. It is a decision for them.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

I thank the Minister for giving way. I mean no criticism of either Joy Allen, our excellent police and crime commissioner, or Jo Farrell, the chief constable, who work exceptionally well together and are very responsive. However, it is a bit like having the best plumber in Pimlico—if they have not got the tools, they cannot do the work. With the section 59 notices, even if a police officer apprehends someone illegally driving an off-road motorbike or quad bike, the officer cannot simply stop them without first issuing a warning; then, the second time, they are in a position to stop them. If they refuse, the officer’s powers are very limited. Although I am grateful to the Minister for her recognition, I am suggesting that the tools as currently presented to the chief constables, police and crime commissioners and police on the frontline are not sufficient to tackle the problem.

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean The Minister of State, Home Department, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point, but I can assure him that I have met Joy Allen myself, not on this issue, but on other issues. I am always happy to meet police and crime commissioners, and I meet a number of them regularly. I would be happy to take specific representations from Joy Allen or from the hon. Gentleman’s chief constable on these specific matters. However, as he knows, we keep all our legislation under continuous review. If he will allow me, I will discuss that broader point a bit further.

The police, local authorities and other local agencies have a range of flexible tools and powers under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. It is an issue with a particularly local dimension and the Act was designed to take account of that. It is for local areas to decide how best to deploy those powers, depending on the specific circumstances. They are best placed to understand what is driving the behaviour in question and the impact it is having, and to determine the most appropriate response. Importantly, the 2014 Act contains measures designed to give victims and communities a say in the way complaints about antisocial behaviour are dealt with. The community trigger gives victims of persistent antisocial behaviour the ability to demand a formal case review. I am happy to provide more details about that if the hon. Gentleman wishes, but his local policing partners are fully aware of it.

As the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the statutory guidance for police operational frontline officers is regularly updated, and it has been reviewed again. We have not heard the calls he referred to for widespread changes to the law, but of course we keep these matters under review. We recognise the critical role of local policing and wider partnerships within community groups. That is why, as part of the police and crime commissioners review, we are seeking to improve the effectiveness of the community safety framework, which includes the community safety partnerships.

We are continually looking at whether the tools, powers and frameworks are fit for purpose. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we will not hesitate to act. We have introduced significant legislation to allow policing to tackle the most serious threats to our communities, including the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. We will do a similar thing through the Public Order Bill, the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 and a number of other measures, including the Domestic Abuse Act 2021—the hon. Member for Croydon Central referred to violence against women and girls. I want to draw the House’s attention to the Government’s record of legislating when there is a need to keep people, our streets and our communities safe.

In addition to the antisocial behaviour powers, the police have the power under section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which the hon. Member for Easington referred to, to seize vehicles, including off-road bikes, being used in an antisocial manner. That can be the result of using a vehicle in a careless or inconsiderate manner, or causing alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public. The enforcement of road traffic law and the deployment of resources is the responsibility of individual chief officers, taking into account local problems and demands.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Is the Minister confident that the police have the power to seize and destroy illegal off-road quad bikes, rather than seize them and eventually recirculate them back into the system through selling them off?

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean The Minister of State, Home Department, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Lady for her challenge. I am always happy to listen to specific challenges or requests from policing partners. She raises an issue outside the direct scope of my ministerial portfolio, but if she writes to me on these issues, we will look at whether there is a need to change those powers.

I would like to mention a piece of work that we are doing to address an issue that the hon. Lady raised. She talked about insurance, quad bikes and GPS trackers. We know that insurance policies that replace equipment like-for-like with no questions asked encourage a cycle of theft and disincentivise owners from protecting their property. That is why the Minister for Crime and Policing, my right hon. Friend Kit Malthouse, wrote to manufacturers of agricultural and construction machinery in February, encouraging them to commit to do more to increase security. In the Home Office, we are supporting the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for agricultural theft in ongoing discussions with manufacturers of quad bikes and the insurance industry. There is work going on in this space, and we are always happy to speak to hon. Members about it.

The Home Office announced this year the fourth round of the safer streets fund. For the first time, antisocial behaviour in its various forms is one of the primary crime and issue types being targeted. The hon. Member for Easington will be aware that his constituency has benefited from a successful bid for £444,234 in round 2 of the safer streets fund. That funding was provided to the Durham PCC to carry out a variety of crime prevention measures, including installing windows, internal lights, doors and a number of other local security measures to improve the safety of communities. I hope he has seen that that has had a good, practical impact. I have seen that in my area and many other areas, and I know that it makes a real difference to those communities. We will invest £50 million in safer streets funding all over the country every year for the next three years to give local organisations the resources they need to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. Our beating crime plan is working—it is delivering results. Communities are safer, and official statistics show that a person is less likely to have their car stolen or their house broken into.

I thank hon. Members for their contributions to today’s debate. As I said at the start, we recognise the damage and distress caused by antisocial behaviour, especially that caused by off-road biking, and we are determined to drive it down wherever and whenever it surfaces. It is not acceptable for people—or businesses, as the hon. Member for Easington pointed out—to have to suffer as a result of others’ actions. We will continue to support the police and ensure that they have the tools they need to enforce road traffic legislation, including in relation to the antisocial misuse of off-road bikes. I hope I have provided some reassurance that we are committed to tackling these issues head-on.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 2:16 pm, 26th May 2022

I thank the Minister for her response and her constructive engagement. I am sure we will take up her kind offer to engage and identify some of these issues. I thank my hon. Friend Sarah Jones for her insight and the work she is undertaking, including the visit to my constituency. I also thank my good and hon. Friend Judith Cummins, who is a fount of knowledge on this issue—not least because she has tabled a ten-minute rule Bill on it—and has proposed some eminently sensible, practical solutions for addressing what is a terrible problem.

Wonderful though the safer streets fund is—we would like to see a lot more of that funding in my constituency—cameras alone are not sufficient to stop these problems, particularly the issue of illegal, criminally ridden off-road bikes and quad bikes, and especially when the individuals concerned are wearing a disguise or a balaclava rather than hard hats, so that we cannot identify them. People do not realise that this problem requires huge police resource—specialist teams, themselves riding bikes, and support teams in 4x4s—to apprehend these individuals, because of the extensive nature of the bridleways and footpaths they use.

I do not want anyone to misunderstand the fact that many people in my communities feel isolated and terrorised. The Minister has said that she does not consider antisocial behaviour a low-level crime, but it is definitely a high-impact crime, and there is a feeling in many communities that we are losing the battle and people are not safe in their own homes. This is not an entirely operational matter; it is a policy matter as well, and I hope that Ministers and the Home Office will engage in addressing the issues we have identified today.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the matter of anti-social behaviour and off-road bikes.

Sitting suspended.