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Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is quite right; we   came into the House on the same day. He has an   excellent record of looking after his constituents. I   would expect hon. Members to come to some arrangement as to how things should be conducted when they go to a constituency, but I do not expect a Member of Parliament to go into another Member's constituency and hold surgeries. That is for the elected representative. As the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn, I would be more than happy if any hon. Member wished to come to Springburn and hold a   surgery, but under the circumstances the hon. Gentleman is right to raise the matter. Courtesies are important in this House and we should not be holding surgeries in someone else's constituency.


Video Games Bill

Keith Vaz presented a Bill to amend the Video Recordings Act 1984, to extend certain provisions of that Act to video games and to make provision about the labelling of video games: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 8 April, and to be printed [Bill 90].

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Youth Disorder and Engagement

3.35 pm

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): I beg to move,

It is of great importance to my constituents and me that I am able to introduce the Youth Disorder and Engagement Bill. In July 2003, I organised a meeting for 150 local constituents to meet the previous Home Secretary and to discuss ways of tackling youth disorder, which is a hugely important issue to me. Local residents were in touch with me every day, as they were   worried about vandalism, arson, graffiti and intimidation by groups of youths. The meeting attracted a wide range of residents both young and old from all ethnic groups.

Consensus was reached about the two approaches required. First, as Members would expect, people wanted more police on the streets. Since then, I have circulated questionnaires, held local meetings, secured an Adjournment debate, and listened to constituents on the doorstep and in my surgeries. All the consultation convinced me that the initial consensus was correct—everyone wants to be able to walk down the street without fear, and no one wants graffiti, arson and gang fights. The way to achieve that is through a combination of more police and better youth services. We have all heard requests for police, but I hear fewer requests for better youth services. We now have more police. Since 1997, there has been an increase in Tower Hamlets alone of 43 per cent. or 200 new police officers. We have safer neighbourhoods teams, and every area of my borough will have its own team of police officers by July this year. Tower Hamlets will be the first authority in the country to roll that programme out to ensure that residents feel safer.

The safer neighbourhoods programme is delivering exactly the sort of community policing that my constituents were asking for, and we have already experienced a drop in crime. In the past year, crime in Tower Hamlets fell by 5 per cent., and in one of the first neighbourhoods to have a safer neighbourhoods police team it fell by 15 per cent. That programme is clearly working, but what about youth services? Consultation with residents led directly to this Youth Disorder and Engagement Bill, which is intended to make sure that every borough takes responsibility for providing youth services. It is a scandal that such an important area of service provision is not a statutory duty, and it is now time to crack down on antisocial local authorities that do not take young people's needs seriously.

Youth services must be good quality, and must work   as a partnership, which means setting strategy locally with all the stakeholders, including the police, the education authority, Connexions, the voluntary sector, parents and young people themselves. Most importantly, youth services must reach the hard-to-reach—kids who have dropped out of education, kids who have been in prison, kids who have recently settled in the UK and, of course, girls. In the past, most youth
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services have predominantly attracted young men, not young women. Youth services must be both creative and preventive. Kids should have the chance to develop skills and enjoy leisure activities, but intensive work must be undertaken with vulnerable children and those most at risk of offending.

Not many things in Tower Hamlets are getting worse, but I would be kidding if I said that everything was fine. Two years on from the last time I took 150 residents to meet the Home Secretary, we still have graffiti—my house was done last weekend—vandalism and gangs of youths hanging out on the streets. But let us consider some of the issues that those young people face, and some ideas about how the Bill could help local authorities develop good youth services.

Tower Hamlets has almost 20,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 19. Fifty per cent. of the community in Tower Hamlets is white, but 60 per cent. of pupils are of Bangladeshi origin and many live in poor quality, overcrowded housing. Our overcrowding rate is four times the national average. Many families are on low incomes. I imagine that in most constituencies there are areas where the majority of pupils are not entitled to free school meals—in Tower Hamlets 60 per cent. of children are entitled to free school meals.

Tower Hamlets youth services are rising to the challenge, but even Tower Hamlets council has said that although the youth service has performed well, it has not been well regarded. I shall mention aspects of the service that have worked well. One is the rapid response team, which was set up to deal with gang violence, to defuse incidents and to bring a youth work response to antisocial behaviour. The team provides street-based youth work, three mobile youth work vans and early intervention work in schools.

Let me give an example of one young person, Tony, who had already been involved in gang violence when he met the rapid response team. He was sent to a young offenders institution at 16, after being found guilty of grievous bodily harm, and his probation officer referred him to the RRT. He was given one-to-one support to help avoid a return to his problems and to get appropriate training. He is now on a modern apprenticeship course and works with the rapid response team to help other young people get out of the conflict situations they have been in.
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Another example is Asad, who had dropped out of school and felt that the new start initiative was his first real chance to express himself and develop his own choices. He was supported into volunteering as a youth worker and has finally started a degree in youth and community work at Greenwich university. He said, "Lots of my friends were getting into all sorts of trouble. I thought I was heading the same way, but meeting the new start team and trusting them has given me the chance to leave that life behind."

We need to ensure kids like that are given the chance to fulfil their potential. This Bill is the first step towards giving every young person the chance to overcome setbacks, disaffection, violence and, in the case of the young people I described, deprivation. The Bill would give them the chance to walk down the street and be welcomed as a force for good, as Tony now is, not feared as part of a youth problem. The Bill is the next step towards bringing back confidence on the streets for all of us.

In July 2003, 150 people from Bethnal Green and Bow came to Westminster. Tonight another 150 people from my constituency are coming here to meet the new Home Secretary and to discuss the next steps in tackling antisocial behaviour. I am sure my right hon. Friend will listen to what we have to say. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, who is a Tower Hamlets resident herself, is present in the Chamber. I look forward to the time when we ensure that excellent youth services are part of the solution to the problem of youth disorder. I therefore request that leave be given to introduce the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Ms Oona King, Mr.   Bob Blizzard, Ms Julia Drown, Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons, Mr. Fabian Hamilton, Kate Hoey, Alan Keen, Tony Lloyd, Mr. Andrew Love, Ann McKechin, Mr. Andrew Miller and Joan Ruddock.

Youth Disorder and Engagement Bill

Ms Oona King accordingly presented a Bill to impose a duty on local authorities to provide youth services and establish local partnerships to promote youth participation and engagement; and to make other provision in connection with the reduction of youth crime: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 8 April, and to be printed [Bill 91].

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