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Mr. Michael: No, I did not. My hon. Friend the Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office may be able to give more information about the Scottish system when he responds. The White Paper on youth justice and our proposals on youth offending teams and the final warning show that we are looking at ways of introducing measures that have succeeded elsewhere in a way that fits in with our methods for dealing with juveniles in England and Wales. We want to dealwith matters more effectively.

Mr. Leigh: I am grateful for that response. We are trying to resolve the problem of families from hell, but we are trying also to avoid dragging young children--we are talking here about 11-year-olds--through the criminal justice system. Would it be possible for the order to apply to the adult but--in the way in which it was framed and the injunction that it laid on the adult--instruct the adult, in some shape or form, to control his children? If so, the order would be directed against the adult, and the child would not be dragged through the courts, but the problem would be dealt with. I should have thought that that was a reasonable proposition.

Mr. Michael: If it is a question of parenting, the parenting order forms another part of the Bill.

Mr. Leigh: I am grateful for that response. However, it opens up a further debate. If the parenting order is available and if the Government are seeking to learn from the Scottish experience, why should an anti-social behaviour order be applied to a very young child? I may not be understanding this point as well as I should, but I believe that a serious point has been made by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. We are talking about young children, and I should have thought that there must be other ways of dealing with them than by dragging them through the court. The Minister may shake his head. He may disagree, but I have made my point.

Ms Keeble: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of Government amendment No. 13 and against amendments Nos. 74 and 147. The anti-social behaviour order is one of the most important measures in the Bill. I am sure that it will contribute to restoring to many people and their communities a sense of security which has been missing in recent years.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State came to a conference in my constituency last year on the Blackthorn estate, where there had been rioting by young people and there were concerns about endemic disorder. Those problems were causing serious distress and, literally, wrecking some people's lives. Many of the people involved in the rioting were young. There were reports that some were as young as 11.

That relates to the point made by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith); although the anti-social behaviour order would not normally be used against young people who were rioting, the fact that

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young people were involved in those serious disorders shows that we are not talking about little angels, but about young people capable of causing substantial distress and for whom--in some circumstances--it might be appropriate to use those measures. That is why I think the Liberal Democrats are wrong in their proposals to change the ages to which the orders might apply.

Mr. Beith: The hon. Lady must recognise that the Government are saying, at the same time, that there are no circumstances in which it would be appropriate to use such an order in Scotland for a child aged between 10 and 16. She cannot tell me that there are no families from hell in Scotland.

Ms Keeble: I do not know about families from hell in Scotland. I do know that, in my constituency, there is clear evidence that children as young as 11 are capable of causing seriously disruptive behaviour. Although we do not want to take children through the courts, we must find sanctions to help to prevent behaviour that causes serious distress to other people.

For many of the people at that conference--where my hon. Friend the Minister of State presented the idea of the anti-social behaviour orders--the prospect of being able to deal with the problems that had torn their communities apart for so long was nothing short of a liberation. No longer would they be powerless to counter anti-social neighbours, or to deal with them only by placing themselves at risk of victimisation. No longer would they have to tolerate young people running riot around an estate without being able to set boundaries for their behaviour. No longer would the victims of crime feel a sense of injustice at a criminal justice system that failed to provide proper justice and redress for them.

One of the most startling presentations at the conference came from Blackthorn middle school, which presented an analysis of the difficulties presented by truants and disruptive pupils. The teachers were able to present a typology of behaviour which identified the need for different and more complex sanctions, some of which recognised the need for community support, and some of which recognised that, in some families, the lack of parenting skills was a major issue in terms of children starting down a road that could--if it is not, as my hon. Friend the Minister would say, "nipped in the bud"--lead from stone throwing to bike stealing to car stealing and then to a life of crime.

Middle schools cater for children aged from nine to 13, which is an indication of the seriousness of the behavioural problems we can get with young children. Before hon. Members jump to conclusions, the estate was not a wholly council-owned estate; nor was it an inner-city estate. It was an estate with mixed housing tenure and high employment levels. Although there was a fair measure of deprivation, it was not on the scale that we see in the inner cities. That is a symptom of how deep rooted some of the problems of disorder have become in our community, and that is why it is right that the Government should make the measure available.

In terms of the Government amendment, it makes sense to ensure that the measure can be applied to different local authority areas, since people do not live their lives by local authority boundaries. In Committee, the Opposition raised some points--which they have repeated this

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evening--about the anti-social behaviour orders, on the grounds that it was not clear when and how they would be applied. I have found that the community in general has no doubt about the orders and is fairly clear about identifying the types of behaviour to which they might be applied.

During the Committee stage, I put out a leaflet that said something about the orders. Immediately, a stream of people came to an advice surgery with complaints about serious problems of anti-social behaviour on their estates. For example, an estate was living in fear of a family which had been evicted from their council property, but had bought a private property and had moved back in. Because the council action in evicting them applied only to their council tenancy, there was no immediate redress for local people. The anti-social behaviour order would provide an avenue of redress and it is worth noting that, in this instance, children in that family might have been the subject of such an order.

In addition, one member of a family that came to see me had severe facial injuries. The family had been involved in a series of altercations with neighbours which had spilled over into a nearby community. That dispute threatened the family--which had six children--with homelessness. One of the protagonists in the series of assaults was a young person of only 13.

I suspect that the main--perhaps the only--problem with the anti-social behaviour orders will be that they will be extremely popular and only too well understood by the public. There will be real pressures to apply them quite frequently, and I expect to see at the front of the queue many hon. Members who will want such action taken to resolve the problems that they hear about in their advice surgeries, weekend after weekend. I commend the orders to the House, with the Government amendment. I strongly oppose the changes to the age limit proposed by the Liberal Democrats, which would weaken the effectiveness of what will be a popular measure.

The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office (Mr. Henry McLeish): I want mainly to deal with amendment No. 147, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Perth (Ms Cunningham), but I shall first refer briefly to the contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (Mrs. Heal) and for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble), who acknowledged that the anti-social orders will be popular. More important, the Government want to make them effective. Throughout the United Kingdom, massive problems are caused by individuals and families who are not yet aware of the need to strike a balance between rights and responsibility in any community.

The Government have no doubt that, if properly used to deal with the appropriate tenants and, indeed, owner-occupiers, the orders could have a tremendous impact in improving the quality of life for a great number of people who experience hell because of the actions of individuals who should know better. It is difficult to sum up what motivates some families to behave anti-socially, but the orders will provide a remedy, as part of a wider armoury available to the police and local authorities. My hon. Friends the Members for Halesowen and Rowley Regis and for Northampton, North have made clear their support, which, I have no doubt, will be echoed on both sides of the House.

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