Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)|
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003
AINSWORTH MP AND
1. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome
back, Minister. I do not think we have ever had a minister here
twice within four or five days before. We all understand that
you have been landed in it by the resignation of your colleague
and I have asked the Committee to go easy on you! Whether they
will take that request on board remains to be seen. I am sure
they will. Ms Casey, welcome. Would you like to introduce yourself.
(Ms Casey) I am Louise Casey and I am
the new National Director for Anti-Social Behaviour based in the
2. How long have you been in post?
(Ms Casey) This is my tenth/eleventh week.
3. Have you been there since the inception of
(Ms Casey) I knew I was going to do the job from the
Queen's Speech onwards and I started full time some time in January.
So, yes, I have been in charge of the White Paper and the Bill
4. And before that you were dealing with homelessness,
(Ms Casey) I have been dealing with homelessness for
the Government for the last three-and-a-half years.
5. Then if I may begin with some general questions.
Minister, how would you distinguish between anti-social behaviour
and criminal behaviour?
(Mr Ainsworth) Chairman, may I begin by thanking you
for the introduction. I was enormously pleased when I took responsibility
for this Bill at the back end of last week to learn that I was
appearing in front of you at the start of this week! I do feel
somewhat ill-prepared for the Committee by comparison with that
which you would expect. If my honourable friend the Member for
Southampton Itchen was here, the father of many of these proposals,
he would be able to give you a far deeper understanding of the
Bill and I am sure that will be to your loss as well as mine.
Anti-social behaviour often runs into criminality at the bottom
end. The definition is where people are behaving in such a way
as to create fear among people living in their neighbourhoods.
I think what we mean by anti-social behaviour is well understood.
I am not sure that I could give you a script with defined
6. Why is there the urge to tackle this problem
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not think there is an urge to
tackle the problem now, I think there is a degree of frustration
that has built up over a period of time, not by the Government
but by all of us in this House who represent our local communities.
We have seen over a period of time now measures to tackle criminality
being introduced, categories of crime falling and some categories
of crime falling very substantially, but we do not see a comparative
improvement in the feeling that there is in our communities of
safety and a feeling of assurance in our communities and I think
we all know from dealings with our constituents that it is low
level criminality, it is anti-social behaviour, it is graffiti,
slovenliness and all of those other problems that are undermining
the confidence of our communities and hence there is a frustration
to get on and to start to seek to tackle those root causes. Often,
if you allow them to fester, then they lead to criminality almost
inevitably. These are not going to be easy issues to drive back.
There are attitudes that have become fairly ingrained within our
society over a generation or so. Are we prepared to allow them
to continue or are we determined to bring in measures that are
going to do something about it? We stand on the latter; we are
determined to start to tackle these issues.
7. Several of the organisations we have consulted
have complained about the lack of consultation in relation to
this Bill and the speed at which it is being brought in and the
short period between the publication of the White Paper and the
Bill. Why the rush?
(Mr Ainsworth) Not all of the measures in the White
Paper are being rushed. Some of them were already flagged and
are included in other measures that were already going through
the House. Some of the measures have been lifted out and put into
an anti-social behaviour Bill and will be brought in front of
the House in fairly short order. I am sorry that we have not been
able to consult widely. We will try to listen to people as extensively
as we can as the Bill passes through the House and to take on
board comments that are made. I do not think that consultation
is going to bring us to agreement with all of the groups who are
making representations on this. We do have some issues where we
have quite distinct opposition to policies we are proposing. We
will obviously continue to listen and seek to refine those measures,
but there is a need for action and I do not think that it can
just be left on the table to fester and to continue.
(Ms Casey) The other thing to bear in mind is that
with my three-and-a-half years working for the Civil Service running
homelessness and being in and amongst housing departments a great
deal, a lot of the ideas contained within the White Paper have
actually come out of local authority housing departments who feel
that we need to act a lot faster on pushing some of these measures
through in order that they actually have the tools that they need
to do the job. In the last 10 weeks, I have spent two days a week
outside London predominantly in local authority areas meeting
both residents and members of the public but also practitioners
and a great deal of what is contained within the White Paper and
a lot of the measures that are contained within our Bill are actually
quite practical workmanlike measures in order to try and get things
pushing forward, things like trying to tackle the private rented
sector and landlord abuse of that, things like trying to bring
together some of the good stuff that has happened on anti-social
behaviour orders and consolidate that as well as more general
things on noise which plagues people and people become frustrated
when they do not have everything that they need. It is really
quite a workmanlike approach to the Bill and also the White Paper
and I myself, having come from the voluntary sector before coming
into government, feel very strongly that it is important that
whatever we do is actually based on the reality of what is happening
outside and that we are going to be entirely dependent, particularly
the unit in the Home Office, in delivering all of this and we
will be dependent very much on the police and also on local authority
people and community groups to help us push this agenda forward
and therefore the White Paper and the Bill reflect a great deal
of what their views and opinions were during that process. I can
literally pick out parts in here and think that so-and-so had
said that over and over and over for the last year or so and it
is now in here, it is done, we are going to be get it through
Parliament, they will be able to use that tool and we will crack
on with the job.
(Mr Ainsworth) Let me take a specific point to illustrate.
The measures on crack houses. The actual measures we are proposing
are relatively new on the scene, but the issue has been kicked
around for a very long time. We have consulted on alternatives.
We have tried desperately to give the police the power they need
to close crack houses and to close them in short order. The issue
is not new; the issue has been around for too long in many ways
and we do need to move on.
8. It is fair to say that many of the housing
proposals are not going to be in the Bill that is published later
this week, they are going to be in a Housing Bill published when?
(Ms Casey) I think that is due in the course of the
9. During "the course of the summer"
sounds a little dodgy to me!
(Ms Casey) I will check the detail.
10. I think we shall want to give this Bill
a little pre-legislative scrutiny and we would therefore hope
it turns up when the House is sitting.
(Ms Casey) I am sorry, Chairman, I have just been
told that it is being consulted on shortly and will be in the
House in September. The anti-social behaviour social tenants are
contained within the anti-social behaviour White Paper and the
Bill. The measures to tackle the private rented sector, selective
licensing and more wide licensing, is going to be in the Housing
Bill because they are complicated and we need slightly more time,
so they are in the White Paper.
11. It may not be a job for this Committee,
it may for some other Committee, but I am sure that Parliament
will want to have an opportunity to scrutinise this Bill in advance
and they will not have the opportunity to do so if it just turns
up as this one did.
(Mr Ainsworth) I saw your eyes light up, Chairman,
and the point you made about your desire to give pre-legislative
scrutiny is well made and we will check it out and come back to
12. I hope you will send word. Some of the critics
of this Bill have argued that the thrust of Government policy
is to stigmatise young people. How do you respond to that?
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not believe that is so. We obviously
do not want to stigmatise young people, but there are problems
with the behaviour of certain young people and with what happens
within certain families. It is other young people who suffer from
that kind of behaviour and it is other families who wind up suffering
from that behaviour. We need to tackle those issues. People cannot
just say that because we need to tackle issues that are at the
root of some of the problems that exist in many of our neighbourhoods,
we are seeking to stigmatise a whole class of people. We are certainly
not seeking to do that. How can young people grow up within an
environment where norms are being set and expectations are being
given to them that are totally outwith what we would want to see
within our society? Unless we are prepared to clamp down on the
bad behaviour, then we should not be at all surprised if that
bad behaviour begins to spread to other sections of young people.
Setting standards is not an attack on young people in my opinion.
13. You are effectively calling for a cultural
change, are you not? You are calling for communities to become
more willing to take a stand against anti-social behaviour.
(Mr Ainsworth) I hope this is the start of precisely
that. I do not think that the measures in this White Paper taken
alone or the measures in the Bill taken alone are going to achieve
what we need to do. We have seen some trends in society, as I
have said, over a long period of time where we can just sit back
and accept that they are the inevitable consequences of the modern
structure of our society and say, "Well, there is nothing
we can do." However, it is not the role of Government to
do that. It is the role of Government to start to try to turn
back some of those trends and to make some differences in the
behaviour that has become so ingrained in some areas and which
is causing such problems.
14. I am sure you will agree that such changes
cannot be achieved by legislation alone. How can people as a whole
be encouraged to play the sort of role you envisage in challenging
(Ms Casey) The first thing is just by the very fact
that we have published a White Paper and we are doing a Bill and
putting some urgency into that has actually been welcomed certainly
by the places I have been to in the last few weeks. We think that
the Government are putting this subject squarely on the map for
the voiceless victims, which is what the people who suffer-anti-social
behaviour are. They feel that they do not have a voice and that
no one is supporting them though they sometimes feel that the
local authority housing department or a certain police officer
will step in and help. What we will do on the back of the Bill
and the White Paper is literally roll forward a programme to encourage
people and to say that we are on their side and that we do not
expect people to sit in silence any longer having fireworks put
through their front door letterbox or having noise played night
after night or being racially intimidated day in and day out,
and that there are things which we need to get right everywhere.
In some places, there are people who can tackle that very well
now and, in other places, they are not tackling very well and
my job working for ministers and working for the taxpayer is to
actually shift a gear up and say, "We are going to do something
about this and we can do something about it." On the youth
issue, I feel very strongly, having at one time been a volunteer
for Centrepoint, that young people are the victims of crime, if
you look at the statistics, as much as the perpetrators. In fact,
you are more likely, if you are a young man, to be beaten up than
you are to beat up somebody else and I think it is really important
that the White Paper and what we are doing on anti-social behaviour
is about standing up for their rights as young people to live
in a society where they are free of being intimidated and bullied
and that we are on their side in all of this. What this does is
back up the phenomenal, in my view, work that people like Sure
Start and also the Youth Justice Board with the whole raft of
money that is going into Splash Schemes and all sorts of things,
the Children's Green Paper, and all that sort of stuff. We are
there to support young people but, as Bob says, there is a line
and, at the moment, we do not think that the line is defined clearly
enough within the community where people know that, if they step
over it, there are going to be consequences and we will support
and support and support people up to the hilt in order to try
and get families in communities back on track but if young people
or their parents or anybody steps over that line, they need to
know that the community is going to be supported in taking action
15. Minister, would you agree that one of the
problems is lack of pride in the community where many of these
young people live? Do you think there is a role there for the
voluntary sector and the voluntary youth movements in particular?
If there is, do you think it would be money well spent if there
were financial incentives given to the voluntary youth movements
to set up shop in such areas?
(Mr Ainsworth) There is no doubt that there is a lack
of pride, and there is a lack of respect and a lack of respect
for people's neighbours and the communities within which people
live for collective provision. People do not respect public property
to anything like the degree we would want them to do and the costs
of that are absolutely phenomenal. The costs of just cleaning
up street furniture and neighbourhoods, even to the standards
that we manage to achieve, is completely and absolutely astronomical.
So, yes, we need to turn back some of those issues. Yes, we do
need to engage young people positively and give them things to
do but, make no mistake about it, we do need to give guidance
about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and we need
the support of the community in order to do that. We cannot just
have the Police Service on its own trying to do that job. We need
the whole of the community to be able to move to a situation where
they can begin to input again themselves. They are restricted
in their ability to police their own communities because of some
of the attitudes that have grown up over a period of time. The
attitude towards people who complain about other people's children
and the behaviour of other people's children is a lot different
to that which it perhaps used to be some time ago. People's confidence
to actually engage themselves and people's confidence to try to
make a difference has been undermined and undermined over a long
16. To come back to the point, would you not
agree that investment in the youth infrastructure, if I can use
that term, by either the voluntary sector or the statutory sector,
would be money well spent, investing in young people rather than
catching up after all the damage and anti-social behaviour has
(Mr Ainsworth) We need to input early both positively
and in terms of setting guidelines of what is acceptable behaviourI
accept thatbecause people then move on to create bigger
problems and to get into criminality; they move from anti-social
behaviour into criminality. So, early intervention is absolutely
(Ms Casey) The answer in the White Paper is that we
are going to do both. There is £530 million going in and
I could sit here and cite chapter and verse of the new money over
the last few years that is going into things like the Youth ServiceI
think £0.5 billion went into the Youth Service last yearand
money going into Connexions and all those sorts of things. What
we both feel is that, even if you put that money in, you still
need to know where the enforcement line is. I was in Wythenshawe
with one of my colleagues sitting on the back row a couple of
weeks ago. We went out with something called Operation Garden
City. That is fantastic; it has had money through Splash and through
the Youth Service and they have produced this great idea where,
every single night of the week in Wythenshawe, there are youth
clubs and youth services availablethe voluntary sector
and church groups as well as the statutory sector. It is not a
huge amount but there is something to do in the locality every
night. It stands and falls on the fact that the police go out
every single night of the week during half termthey do
it over Easter and they will be doing it over the summerand
they work in partnership. So, the police go out, approach kids
and say, "How come you are here? What time of night is this
to be out and about? What are you doing? Have you not been to
this tonight? Do you want us to drop you round there?" It
works hand-in-hand. Amazingly, crime drops, anti-social behaviour
drops and the youth clubs are busy. We visited some of the youth
clubs and they are not just helping kids who are committing crime
and who are at risk of crime, they are helping kids who are not
caught up in anything at all. The Government strategy on youth
and the Government strategy on crime therefore is saying that
we need to make sure that we are getting the money, the resources
and the policy right on youth overall, but we have to make sureand
it is my job and Bob's job to make surewith anti-social
behaviour that we are sorting out the worst excess and that we
do make sure that the people at risk of doing it are brought back
into line. So, it is the doing of both that is the answer.
17. Minister, what is the estimated number of
cases per year in which intensive fostering or fostering on remand
will be deemed appropriate?
(Mr Ainsworth) Twenty-six.
(Ms Casey) In the pilots. This is a relatively new
innovative idea that the Department of Health are leading on.
Frankly, I think it is just fantastic if what it does is ensure
that families are put back together and kids are basically stopped
from committing crime. The idea is to pilot it in about four areas
and initially the Department of Health will be funding approximately
26 places. Obviously this is quite a new approach; it is one of
the matters in which I am certainly very interested in terms of
trying to put top-end support into families and kids. It does
not sound a lot but, if we get it right, that will be really,
18. So that is 26 between the four . . .?
(Ms Casey) The four pilot areas.
19. Do you see any danger in not getting sufficient
volunteer foster parents?
(Mr Ainsworth) There is a problem. There is a gap.
At the moment, we are approximately 8,000 short of what we need
in terms of foster parents nationally. So, yes, we need to grow
the number of people who are prepared to do this work for us and
we need quality people who are prepared to do this work for us
as well if fostering is going to make the contribution that potentially
(Ms Casey) I think the irony isand I say this
as somebody who knows people who are teachers and foster carersthat
they would be quite interested in becoming involved in something
that is so unusual which is trying to help actually quite damaged
individuals and bring them back from the brink and most people
in public service get a huge kick out of that. My reading of it
is that the irony is that we will probably be okay with the 26
placements. It is if the project gets bigger and bigger and where
you are going to need more volunteers. You are quite right to
identify a deliverability issue, but let us cross that bridge
when we come to it. There is no point in not trying something
if we think it will work.