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Mr. Ottaway: Will the Minister comment on the Government's approach to squeegee merchants? In opposition, it was part of Labour's crackdown.

Mr. Michael: That is part of the wider recent debate, which the hon. Gentleman may not have noticed, about the need to intervene quickly in things that cause nuisance and distress to people, and to ensure that they are tackled by the police to prevent them from escalating. Minor items of disorder, as was shown by the British crime survey, lead to more serious offending and damage to the community later. Often offences are committed, and that is a matter for the police. One of the things that we are engaging with is creating a structure in which those who suffer from the commission of offences and the creation of nuisance in their community can work with the police to have the problems tackled, rather than it being a question of complaint and counter-complaint.

If the hon. Member for Croydon, South looks at the whole Bill and the mechanisms that it creates to tackle crime and disorder, both when serious and when at the precursor level to serious crime--including measures to deal with truancy--he should acknowledge that we have made great progress during the life of the Bill, which has been improved by the debates both in Committee and outside. For those reasons, I hope that hon. Members will not press their amendments, which I do not believe would improve the Bill. I hope that I have given an assurance about how its measures will be effective.

Mr. Beith: I do not think that the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) got an answer on squeegee merchants. When the Home Secretary raised the issue in his famous pre-election speech, I thought that he had lost the plot and gone seriously off message. I suspect that he is trying to forget it. However, it is a problem in some areas and we have not had an answer on how best it can be tackled.

I did not expect to get an answer from the Minister which would convince me that introducing the curfew principle into our system of law was desirable, and I have not. What I have got is even clearer confirmation than I expected that the Government see it as having only a limited role, and one which has to surmount many hurdles before it can be put into place. I hope that, in trying to surmount those hurdles, the various bodies involved will realise that there are more immediate and direct ways in

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which to tackle the problem than a curfew, which would probably be an admission of failure. As the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) suggested, the involvement of youth workers might be a better answer, as might getting at individual behaviour.

It is a great mistake to tell youngsters who are merely out milling around, perhaps causing some irritation, but doing no harm, that they are acting against the law when they do not feel that they are doing anything wrong. Few things are more perverting to children's concepts of what is right and wrong than being punished for something that they did not do or did not feel was wrong in the first place. Many have had that experience in childhood and it has probably soured their relations with authority ever afterwards.

The Minister has shown that some of the expectations that surrounded curfews are not in the Government's mind. They regard the provision as limited. Our amendments were designed merely to reinforce that limitation. We argued the issue of principle in Committee, so there is no reason to pursue the amendments today. They have given the House the opportunity to clarify the Government's intentions, which are clearly more limited than some comments had suggested. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16

Removal of truants to designated premises etc


Amendment made: No. 159, in page 14, line 9, leave out from 'authority"' to 'as' and insert 'means--
(a) in relation to England, a county council, a district council whose district does not form part of an area that has a county council, a London borough council or the Common Council of the City of London;
(b) in relation to Wales, a county council or a county borough council;
"public place" has the same meaning'.--[Mr. Michael.]

Clause 17

Duty to consider crime and disorder implications


Amendments made: No. 14, in page 14, line 21, leave out 'has' and insert
'means a local authority within'.
No. 15, in page 14, line 22, at end insert
'or the Common Council of the City of London'.--[Mr. Michael.]

Clause 23

Anti-social behaviour as ground of eviction

Sir Robert Smith: I beg to move amendment No. 83, in page 19, line 20, after 'tenant', insert


', being a person whom the tenant could reasonably be expected to control,'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 84, in page 19, line 20, after 'house', insert


', being a person whom the tenant could reasonably be expected to control,'.

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No. 101, in page 19, line 24, after 'house), insert


'and whose commission is likely to have had a material impact on the quiet enjoyment of the home life of a person residing in the locality.'.

No. 85, in page 19, line 29, after 'tenant', insert


', being a person whom the tenant could reasonably be expected to control,'.

No. 86, in page 19, line 29, after 'house', insert


', being a person whom the tenant could reasonably be expected to control,'.

Sir Robert Smith: Amendments Nos. 83 to 86 would achieve the same goal in different parts of the clause, which seeks to widen the powers of eviction available to public sector landlords to include eviction because of the actions of tenants or their visitors to the property. We want to ensure that those powers will be used only in relation to visitors that the tenant can reasonably be expected to control. We are concerned that the clause could allow victims of domestic violence to be evicted because of the actions of their partner, whom they could not reasonably be expected to control.

Since we tabled the amendments, we have received from the Minister the draft guidelines, which have been extremely helpful. Paragraph 5 of the guidelines states:


I welcome the Government's clarification in those guidelines.

Such clarification is a thread that has run through the proceedings on the Bill, and I hope that, when the Scottish Parliament is set up, pre-legislative inquiry will help a great deal. It seems that guidelines are issued at the end of proceedings on Bills, and to a certain extent issues are resolved. However, there is no formal link between the guidelines and the Bill, and it is extremely important that, as the Bill is implemented, it is monitored to check that what was promised in the guidelines continues to be delivered.

Amendment No. 101 attempts to narrow the clause. If the tenant, visitor or lodger were convicted of any offence liable to imprisonment--although they would not necessarily go to prison--the tenancy could be at risk. We understand what the Government are trying to achieve. The Minister's visit yesterday would have reinforced the concerns of communities about trying to deal with drug dealers and break the cycle of such crime. However, the clause is widely drawn, and some landlords might not want closely to consider the Government's intentions, so our amendment would narrow the clause.

Paragraph 6 of the draft guidelines makes it clear that eviction should be pursued only when an offence has a bearing on the tenancy. I hope that, in further discussions with communities, Ministers may find ways of beefing up the guidelines to ensure that tenants can be evicted for acts that not only result in imprisonment but affect the neighbourhood, rather than society in general. Moving the person on does not necessarily protect the community.

Eviction can be only a small part of dealing with crime. Evicting someone and moving them on merely moves the problem elsewhere. It is important that the whole armoury of actions in the Bill and other legislation is used to tackle

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the drug menace, because it is far more important to tackle the individuals and their offending behaviour than to deal with where they live. Moving them on from their community should help to break their links with that community, and perhaps help to treat them. It certainly helps to relieve the community.

6.45 pm

The Minister promised research--which, I understand from his letter, has not yet been undertaken--about how the measure has been implemented in England and Wales. It is perceived to have been successful in England, but it is important that we examine how it has worked in practice. That research has not yet been done, but we can try to build for the future. I understand that at present there are no centrally collected statistics on evictions by public sector landlords. It would be fairly easy to collect them, and they would be a useful measuring tool. If we could monitor evictions, we could find out whether the guidelines were being applied correctly, and whether there had been any development.

When the Minister replies, I should like him to deal with the possibilities of strengthening paragraph 6 of the draft guidelines, and of collecting statistics on evictions and monitoring their success. The Scottish Parliament will then be able to monitor the implementation of the Bill, and, if there are any transgressions, ensure that the legislation is reined in.


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