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Together Initiative

7. Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the Together initiative. [211499]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): On 28 October 2004, the Government published two reports highlighting progress made since the antisocial behaviour action plan was launched in October 2003. Results from a national antisocial behaviour survey showed that, between October 2003 and September 2004, 5,383 acceptable behaviour contracts were made and 2,633 antisocial behaviour orders issued, and that between January 2004 and September 2004, 158 crack house orders and 418 dispersal orders were made. Projecting the results of the survey nationally, that is in excess of 100,000 cases tackled in the 12-month period.

In addition, more than 2,500 people were trained at Together academy events and more than 6,200 practitioners have used the Together action line. We also announced the 50 new Together action areas.
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Kevin Brennan: I thank my hon. Friend for her comprehensive answer. What message would she give to the agencies participating in a meeting that I am organising in my constituency next month, under the auspices of the initiative, to ensure that we tackle and refuse to tolerate antisocial behaviour? Will she comment on the proposal announced in the House last week that the Liberal Democrats want to reduce the age of drinking to 16, which is—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I call the Minister.

Fiona Mactaggart: I had the privilege of speaking at the Together academy in Cardiff, and I want to praise people there who have worked well together to drive out antisocial behaviour in their communities. My hon. Friend asked what message I would bring to the meeting that he is co-ordinating, and my answer is, keep at it, working together. I would also stress that we are on the side of the law-abiding majority in wanting to drive out the antisocial behaviour of the minority.

Community Support Officers (Leeds)

8. Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the role of community support officers in community policing for the Leeds area. [211500]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): West Yorkshire police commissioned the centre for criminal justice studies at the university of Leeds to produce a detailed evaluation of community support officers in Leeds and Bradford city centres. The final report, "Patrolling with a Purpose", was published in July 2004. It gave very positive indications about the impact of CSOs on crime and disorder and public confidence. The report showed that CSOs in Leeds spend a very high proportion of their time—77 per cent.—on high-visibility patrol. In the first year of their deployment, theft of vehicles fell by 49 per cent. and personal robbery declined by 47 per cent.

Colin Burgon: I would like to confirm what my right hon. Friend said about the good work of community support officers, particularly those working in association with the Wetherby and Garforth police stations in my constituency. Along with their police colleagues, they are playing a vital and effective part in launching the new neighbourhood policing strategy. However, I have a piece of shocking news: the Liberal-Conservative alliance that runs Leeds is now trying to claim credit for extra CSOs, extra CCTV cameras and extra police officers. Does not that dramatically show how Labour is setting the agenda in our vital public services by talking about investment rather than cuts?

Mr. Clarke: I am indeed shocked, but not surprised, to hear that the council is claiming credit for this Government initiative. The fact is that it is the Government who provided substantial funding for community support officers, who pioneered the approach and who established the legal powers. I want seriously to stress that we want to carry it through in partnership with local authorities. I am prepared to give the council the credit that is due to it, but it should give us the credit that is due to us.
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Binge Drinking

9. Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): What steps are being taken to tackle binge drinking. [211501]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): More about drinking, I am afraid. The Government are working through the alcohol harm reduction strategy for England to tackle the health and crime and disorder problems associated with binge, under-age and chronic drinkers. As part of that, the recent alcohol misuse enforcement campaigns have shown that a united effort to crack down on binge drinking can make a real impact, but we are not complacent and we recognise that work needs to be done to reduce the likelihood of alcohol misuse happening in the first place.

Iain Wright: I am extremely concerned about binge drinking, particularly as a report in my local paper, the Hartlepool Mail, recently suggested that almost half of 15 to 16-year-old schoolgirls in my constituency had drunk up to 14 units of alcohol in the previous week. A local nightclub, the Wesley, was recently bought by new owners, who voluntarily clamped down hard on excessive drinking, especially among the young, with beneficial results in respect of the number of incidents occurring in or near the club. What else can the Minister do to ensure that more pubs and clubs emulate the Wesley and encourage responsible drinking? Perhaps she could ensure that Hartlepool has one of the first alcohol disorder zones.

Ms Blears: I visited my hon. Friend's constituency while he was seeking election. As a result of his excellent activity in the constituency, he is now a fine Member of Parliament representing the good people of Hartlepool. I am delighted that clubs in his area are taking a more responsible attitude to drinking. When I visited Hartlepool, one of the pubs had an "All you can drink for £8" promotion, but I hope that we have seen the last of that. There is more that we can do to work with schools to educate young people about the damage that alcohol can do to them, but many pubs and clubs now recognise that it is good business to run premises in which there is good order and where people can have an excellent night out without getting involved in crime, disorder and binge drinking. I encourage the clubs in his area to adopt the best practice that he has highlighted today.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): We heard earlier about the number of fixed penalty notices that are being issued. Does the hon. Lady accept that they are failing to address the problem because the extent of binge drinking has increased, and they are, in large measure, left unpaid?

Ms Blears: No, I do not accept that at all. Some 4,000 fixed penalty notices were issued in the 13 days over Christmas, which is a tremendous testament to the hard work of the police service in carrying out proactive policing, issuing on-the-spot fines and facing young people with the consequences of their behaviour. If you get a fine of £80 on your night out, Mr. Speaker, it ought to act as a pretty significant deterrent, and it would
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certainly mean that you would have less money to spend on drink. I can tell the hon. Lady that some 50 per cent. of fixed penalty notices are paid straight away and up to 75 per cent. are paid when they become a fine, which is not a bad record for an on-the-spot penalty.

Mr. Speaker: I can tell the Minister that if I get fined £80 on my night out, it will make the headlines for sure.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): Is the Minister aware that at night in Croydon, we have 20 extra policemen in the town centre to deal with binge drinking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights? Those 20 policemen are thus not on the beat. Does she accept, as it was pointed out earlier, that the beneficiaries of binge drinking—the vertical retail outlets—should pay for such extra policing? Although the Home Secretary may be consulting on that, frankly it is time for action.

Ms Blears: Which is exactly what we are doing—in two ways. We are consulting on the proposal to establish alcohol disorder zones. I know that there is a problem in Croydon. I recently arranged for some of the chief executives of major alcohol producers to go out on a Saturday night in places such as Croydon and Romford so that they could see the situation for themselves, and it is fair to say that several were quite shocked by the extent of the problem. We are consulting on alcohol disorder zones, which will mean that licensed premises will have to make a contribution; and we have the new fee structure, under which, the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know, vertical drinking places will have to pay more for inspection, administration and enforcement.

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