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Jeremy Wright: I understand a great deal of what the Minister is saying, but is not the logic of her remarks that those who deserve a drinking banning order are behaving antisocially? That is why the court wants to    mark their behaviour as antisocial. In those circumstances, would it not make more sense to call the behaviour what it is, by using an antisocial behaviour order?

Hazel Blears: The description "drinking banning order" is very graphic and pretty easily understood. One of the prohibitions that the court must consider is banning people from premises that sell alcohol. The whole idea is for the order to contain prohibitions that tell people that they are not allowed to go to their favourite bars and clubs. That is quite a disincentive to carrying on in a drunken way. People may also be prohibited from going out with their regular group of friends, with whom they go out and create mayhem in communities.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) asked whether the order will become a badge of honour. The prospect of not being able to go out to their favourite pub or club on Saturday nights, perhaps for three months over the summer, can have more impact on young people than many of the other things that we pass in the House. That will help to change behaviour.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): Does the Minister agree that, rather than introducing drinking banning orders and such measures to tackle the problem of binge drinking, it would make more sense to allow other measures time to work before opening up bars and clubs to 24-hour drinking?

Hazel Blears: The hon. Lady repeats the assertion about 24-hour drinking. I am sure that she knows that a tiny minority of licensed premises will have those extended licences. We will see flexible licensing hours. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) said, rather than everyone being tipped out on to the streets at the same time, people will have their exit from pubs and clubs staged, and we hope that they will behave better.
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On that basis, I ask the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) to withdraw the motion. I have been sympathetic to his earlier amendment, but I am afraid that he has run out of luck now. I cannot accept that we should simply have ASBOs, rather than the new drinking banning order, which will be of significant use in dealing with such issues and is welcomed by the police and local authorities.

The hon. Gentleman asked what the penalty for a breach of a drinking banning order would be and whether it could be a custodial sentence. I must correct him for the record. I made it clear in Committee:

He will know from his extensive experience that the courts will have the power to make a community order as well as to impose a fine. There would be a range of options including curfews, exclusion orders and unpaid work. In Committee, he welcomed the range of options available to courts through community orders because that meant that magistrates could respond more flexibly to the kind of mischief and problems with which we are trying to deal. He was not correct if he thought I said that there could never be a custodial penalty, because clearly there could.

Jeremy Wright: The Minister advanced the same argument in Committee. She might remember that I asked her a question about the matter. Does she accept that it would be perfectly feasible for people to breach the community penalty that they received for breaching a drinking banning order, yet to be able to continue with the drinking banning order? In other words, they could decide not to drink, even though they would have breached their community penalty. If people can do that, does it not underline the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) that the response to the breach of a drinking banning order should directly be a custodial penalty? Such an option would remain available, would it not?

Hazel Blears: No. We have a taken a view on this and do not think that there should be a direct custodial penalty. A community order can be made and if the case returns to the courts after the breach of that order, it will be for them to decide the appropriate penalty. It is perfectly proper for the courts to do that. That will sharpen up the distinction between antisocial behaviour orders and drinking banning orders. I am sure that hon. Members are not in the business of saying that people should go to prison for up to five years if the breach of the order has been to enter the single pub or club from which they have been barred from entering. It is important that penalties are proportionate to the breaches that they address.

The hon. Member for Woking has alleged on several occasions that prosecutions for being drunk and disorderly have decreased dramatically in recent years. In 1997, there were 31,891 such prosecutions and in 2003, there were 31,343. The number of prosecutions has stayed pretty constant. As he knows, some 86,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued for a range of offences, so there are more sanctions against drunk and disorderly behaviour than there were in the past.
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The hon. Gentleman repeated a point that he made in Committee about a parliamentary question that he tabled and my response to it. The reason for the discrepancy was the fact that the question related to Greater London and my response in Committee related to national figures. I pointed that out in Committee, so I am surprised that he simply tried to repeat his point today to no good effect.

Opposition amendment No. 4 would change the definition of premises to which prohibitions might apply. The Bill currently provides that a drinking banning order prohibits an individual from doing things described in the order. The prohibitions must include whatever the court considers necessary with regard to the subject entering premises that sell alcohol and club premises. The definitions of the premises are in line with those in the Licensing Act 2003.

We had a general discussion in Committee about the possibility of people being banned from supermarkets or garages. It is unlikely that the courts would want to ban individuals from entering supermarkets unless that proved absolutely necessary due to the circumstances of a specific case.

If the intention were simply to stop a person from obtaining alcohol, that would not be sufficient under the Bill. The Bill gives the courts flexibility. They may impose a whole range of prohibitions, such as not going out with certain groups of people to certain premises, but they must include a prohibition on entering specific licensed premises. People will thus be stopped from entering the bars, pubs and clubs to which they really enjoy going. That is an attempt to change their behaviour, which is an important aspect of the Bill.

Mr. Malins: The Minister said that the order must include a prohibition preventing someone from entering certain licensed premises. Can she specifically tell the House whether a drinking banning order can forbid someone from going into a supermarket to buy alcohol, but not simply from going into a supermarket? Can she confirm on the record that that is the case?

5.30 pm

Hazel Blears: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Bill, he will see that clause 1(2) states:

"Any prohibition" may therefore be imposed by the court. Clause 1(3) lists the mandatory requirements of such a prohibition. A supermarket prohibition could therefore be made under clause 1(2), but not under clause 1(3)(a) or (b).

Under amendment No. 28 the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green seeks to reintroduce an earlier amendment that required the court to receive a report on the subject's mental and physical health and substance addictions. We had a long discussion about that Committee, and I accept that the hon. Lady has changed "must" in her earlier amendment to "may". However, local authorities already have a duty under the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 to assess
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anyone who may be in need of community care services. If there is any evidence to suggest that someone is suffering from a syndrome or problem that prevents them from understanding the order social services authorities must make sure that they are subject to an assessment, which should run alongside the collection of evidence and an application for an order. I do not want inordinate delay and a bureaucratic system. Drinking banning orders, as we have discussed, are meant to be a short, sharp shock. They enable the court to deal proactively with someone accused of committing an offence under the influence of alcohol. If we include a panoply of provisions to cover the handful of such cases, the courts will be inhibited from using the power to protect the decent, law-abiding majority. We must be aware of vulnerable individuals, but we must not predicate all our legislation on one or two specific cases; otherwise we will undermine its very purpose.

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