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Mr. Kevan Jones : Is it now Liberal Democrat policy not to name and shame individuals? In Durham, some estates are plagued by certain individuals. Is the hon. Lady saying that they should be protected?
Lynne Featherstone: We should comply with the spirit of the UN convention on the rights of the child. Interested parties, such as estate wardens, should be informed because they could work with the police to enforce a drinking banning order. We should not simply name and shame, like in the olden days in the stocks and by pillory. Publicity could also be self-defeating. ASBOs have become a badge of honour for some young people, and drinking banning orders could be prized in the same way. We know that young men can be competitive about how much they drink.
Mr. Jones: Will we see Liberal Democrat "Focus" leaflets published to highlight the fact that Liberal Democrats now oppose naming and shaming individuals? How will people on the estates plagued by certain individuals be able to help the police if the individuals cannot be identified? The hon. Lady's proposal is totally unworkable.
Lynne Featherstone: I remain convinced that informing interested parties would be more valuable than placing notices in the press, as suggested by the Minister. Publicity might be self-defeating, because the resulting celebrity might encourage youngsters to break their drinking banning orders. It would be far more appropriate to notify only those interested parties who could help the police.
New clause 1 proposes that an ASBO should last for only three months, but that is far too short a term in which to change behaviourand that has to be the objective of any such order. We need to produce a cultural change. An ASBO lasts two years, but a year would be just right. I would prefer to see far more work being done with those who are served with ASBOs or drinking banning orders. If that happened, the length of the order could be modified according to improvements in behaviour.
We discussed the definition of "disorderly" for some time in Committee. I am not unattracted by the Conservative definition, but it is very vague and did not get any clearer despite all our attempts. The Government are trying to achieve the difficult job of pinning the definition between the criminal and the high-spirited, but I was concerned when the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) said that behaviour that constitutes disorder and should be banned included:
"It may be seen as . . . threatening and people are disturbed by it."[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 18 October 2005; c. 35.]
Drinking banning orders may cross several fine lines, but we will have to see how they work in practice. I am inclined to give the Government the benefit of the doubt until we see how drinking banning orders work. The terms are ill defined, but I understand that the nuisance created in some cities has now gone beyond the pale and it is that mischief that[Interruption.] I have always acknowledged that such behaviour has gone too far. I want to see how the Government's plans will tackle it, and I am not convinced that they will achieve their aims without stepping over the line into an authoritarian approach. However, I assume that the matter will be kept under review and that if there is a step too far, we shall retreat
Lynne Featherstone: No, Liberal Democrats have a well-balanced view of life and have nothing whatever to be ashamed of. I have always been proud of our position, which is, in the end, common sense.
Given the length of some of the speeches, I shall conclude my remarks. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will allow us to vote on amendment No. 28.
Bob Spink: I have little sympathy with the Liberal amendment, No. 28. I believe in naming and shaming individuals who indulge in loutish behaviour and damage other people's lives.
I want briefly to support the new clause, the logic of which is clear. There are too many complex laws and we are making too much law. New laws take time to bed in and become effectiveif they ever doso using existing ASBOs is the rational way to deal with the problem and improve the protection we offer communities that suffer from loutish and unacceptable behaviour.
Lowering the height of the hurdle from two years to three months, as the new clause proposes, is the rational way forward. It will make ASBOs more attractive and promote their use, so that the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts are encouraged to implement them to increase protection for residents and people whose quality of life is regularly damaged by bad behaviour and nuisance on our streets.
I support the new clause and hope that the House will accept it on a Division. It is rational and common sense, and we should adopt it.
Hazel Blears: We have trawled over some of the ground we covered in Committee, but we now have a clearer idea of the views of all the parties. The purpose of the Bill is to try to ensure that we protect the law-abiding majority of decent people from the kind of behaviour that the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) just mentioned.
New clause 1 and amendment No. 1 would reduce the minimum length of an antisocial behaviour order from two years to three months. It would remove all the
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provisions relating to drinking banning orders, on the basis that the Opposition feel it would be appropriate to use ASBOs rather than drinking banning orders in all circumstances[Interruption.] I hope to cover every point that the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) made and to rebut some of the things that he got wrong.
Technically, it would be possible to reduce the length of ASBOs and simply provide conditions tailored to drink issues, where that is the problem behaviour, but that would do no service either to ASBOs or to the proposed new orders. In Committee, I talked about the need for courts to consider making a drinking banning order on a basis that is much more proactive than that for their current consideration of ASBOs.
Antisocial behaviour orders cover the spectrum of antisocial behaviour. The motivations that drive that behaviour will be very varied. Those receiving ASBOs will often have poor educational records, a history of truancy, problems at home, parental issuesa range of different things lead up to their offending behaviour. That is why ASBOs are fairly complex, with a range of prohibitions to try to target the antisocial behaviour. As Members have said, the complex nature of ASBOs meant that they were slow to take off when they were originally proposed in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We have made them simpler, but they remain significant and serious orders. Courts need to be pretty well convinced of the case for making an ASBO; indeed, some of my hon. Friends might say that courts, local authorities and the police are not using the powers to their full extent in many areas, although I am pleased to say that the situation is improving.
ASBOs take time to have an effect, and the community must be protected in the interim, so simply reducing the time limit for ASBOs is not the right remedy to the problem that we face. It is important that we have a fairly simple orderthe drinking banning orderthat is designed to tackle the problem of binge drinking and the violence that emanates from the people who indulge in it.
Let us not forget that, in other circumstances, binge drinkers can often be fairly responsible citizens who have decent jobs, good wages and normally conduct themselves as decent members of society. They go out and drink far too much in far too short a period. They deliberately go out to get as drunk as they possibly can. They get involved in a fracas about a kebab or which person they will take home for the evening. They get involved in a fight in the taxi queue. They are then suddenly involved in the kind of violence and disorder that no one wants to happen.
Jim Sheridan: My right hon. Friend is right, and one of the contributory factors is the irresponsible attitude of retailers who have happy hours and buy-one-get-one-free promotions. They have a responsibility as well.
My hon. Friend is right, which is why we have been working with the industry to try to ensure that we can introduce provisions on happy hours. We have had a dreadful situation in this country. During some happy hours, people are told, "Drink all you can for £10", and I saw a sign saying, "Girls drink free until midnight", which is a recipe for mayhem and bad behaviournot just among the girls, but more
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generally, too. That is why I am pleased that several of the big chains have recently decided to outlaw the kind of irresponsible promotions that we have seen in the past, and I expect many more of them to take that action.
There is a significant difference between ASBOs and the orders that are proposed. We are asking the courts to use drinking banning orders much more proactively. Whenever they hear a case in which someone has been involved in violence while under the influence of alcohol, they should consider whether it is appropriate to make a drinking banning order. No great big, convoluted and complicated application is necessary, and the remedy is fairly simple. The whole idea is to try to get people to change their behaviour and to make them realise that going out on Friday and Saturday nights, getting into a completely drunken state where they cannot remember what they have done and getting involved in violence and disorder will simply not be tolerated and the court will make an order to do something about it.
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