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It was claimed that these orders would help to prevent problems in neighbourhoods, but if prevention was the intention, the breach rate of the orders would not be as
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high as it is. In some parts of the country, more ASBOs are being breached than are being issued. In Humberside, Northumbria, Surrey, Gwent and Leicestershire, breaches of the orders outstrip the number of new ASBOs being issued. As Chief Superintendent Neil Wain notes in his insightful analysis, "The ASBO: wrong turning, dead end":

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies notes that the Government's flagship ASBO policy

It is interesting to note those comments, because clearly the policy was not necessarily thought through. The Youth Justice Board's report on ASBOs indicated that many young people still do not have a clear understanding of the details of their orders; it was found to be not uncommon for them to "flout openly" the prohibitions that placed the greatest restrictions on their lifestyle. Most young people did not regard custody for breach as a real threat or deterrent.

For a while, it seemed that the Government had fallen out of love with the ASBO, with Ministers keener to talk about broader antisocial behaviour "interventions" than ASBOs. The Children's Secretary even went as far as to claim:

ASBOs are now back on the agenda-reheated, repackaged and re-spun-with the Prime Minister's latest contribution to YouTube calling for greater publicity for ASBOs, despite the fears of perhaps making them a badge of honour, and with the Home Secretary putting renewed emphasis on the orders with the creation of drinking banning orders or so-called "booze ASBOs", even though a year ago I was told in a written answer that the Home Office was questioning whether the orders were needed at all.

As they have done this afternoon in the Minister's contribution, the Government have sought to pray in aid the National Audit Office in support of their approach. Yet, the NAO found that the most effective intervention to prevent further incidents of antisocial behaviour among young people was not an ASBO but a simple warning letter. Rather than support the Government's claims of effectiveness for ASBOs and other antisocial behaviour interventions, the National Audit Office observed that it was not possible to draw any conclusions as to whether other forms of intervention, or no intervention at all, would have achieved the same, or a better, outcome-the NAO and the Government just did not know.

The Government's approach has betrayed a complete lack of proper analytical assessment of the various measures that they have introduced. That point was made by the Public Accounts Committee, which noted:

Despite the NAO specifically calling on the Home Office to evaluate formally the success of different interventions and the impact of combining enforcement
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interventions with support services to advise antisocial behaviour co-ordinators better at a local level, nothing has been published to date; the Home Office took the recommendation so seriously that it has only recently commissioned an independent evaluation of the comparative effectiveness of antisocial behaviour interventions, and it is expected to report next spring-that is more than three years after the NAO first highlighted the need for such an assessment.

Hazel Blears: To make it clear to me, and, more importantly, to inform the public, will the hon. Gentleman confirm to the House, here and now, whether his party supports antisocial behaviour orders?

James Brokenshire: As I have already said to the right hon. Lady, we support the use of ASBOs in a targeted way. The information that I have just provided simply sets out that their application and the approach has not been properly considered. That point is made not by me, but by the NAO. It is, thus, strange that the Government have been dragging their feet on providing the qualitative analysis required to ensure that practitioners and communities are addressing antisocial behaviour in the most effective way, which is the point that the NAO was making.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab) rose-

James Brokenshire: I will move on, because I have been generous in giving way to lots of people.

We would give police officers the discretion to deal quickly and effectively with young troublemakers who commit antisocial behaviour before they go on to commit more serious offences. We believe that there is a need for a quicker, less bureaucratic and more effective mechanism for addressing delinquent and unacceptable behaviour in order to help to prevent young troublemakers from going on to commit more serious offences. That is why we have proposed the introduction of the grounding order, which would enable the police to apply to a magistrate for an order against a persistent troublemaker, confining them to their homes for up to a month, except during school hours. If an individual were to break that curfew order, they should expect to find themselves arrested.

Let us consider public action to address unacceptable behaviour. According to Louise Casey, 75 per cent. of the public say that they are prepared to take an active role in helping to tackle crime. However, just four out of 10 people say that they would intervene to challenge antisocial behaviour, which is less than in any comparable European country-six out of 10 in Germany would step in. One of the barriers that exists is the feeling that if someone gets involved-if they challenge unacceptable behaviour and, for example, seek to enforce their ability to conduct a citizen's arrest-they might be the one on the receiving end and, rather than being supported by the police and the prosecutors, they might be the one ending up with the criminal record. Louise Casey's report states:

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Chris Huhne: The hon. Gentleman mentioned the proposal of the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) to introduce grounding orders, but he did not mention the other proposals made at the same time, which included confiscating mobile phones. Has his party dropped those proposals?

James Brokenshire: No, far from it. I did not mention those proposals for the sake of brevity and to allow other hon. Members to take part in this debate. We are certainly working up the proposals that my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell has actively highlighted. I shall return to the point about active participation by communities, once I have taken an intervention from the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen).

Mr. Allen: I know that, beneath the party political banter, the hon. Gentleman thinks deeply about some of these issues. I want to take him back to his point about assessment and the evidence base. I hope that he will underline the fact that any future Government, of any political party, should always look at the evidence and the assessment, so that we get the right set of policies. Does he agree that massive savings would result if we were to spend a small sum helping young people-infants and children-grow up to be capable citizens, rather than spending billions and billions of pounds on court costs, drug rehab, tackling drink abuse and so on? Will he examine such an approach? It could do great things for his already flowering career, because he would be able to save billions of pounds at a time when we are looking to repay some of the debt that is accumulating.

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman has made a significant contribution to the debate through a number of the pamphlets and papers on the need for early intervention, on the focus that he has discussed and on the fact that if we take action when people are younger, we can make such a difference. I recognise what he has said, and I will discuss that preventive approach, focusing on those sorts of issues, before I conclude. He makes a powerful and important point, which I know is shared by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), who has produced a number of papers on early intervention and on dealing with family breakdown issues and ensuring that those issues are focused on because of the significant difference that can be made.

I return to the point about active citizens and people's apparent reluctance now to intervene to confront antisocial behaviour and crime. We believe that there is a need to support, rather than hinder, the active citizen. That is why we would amend the police guidelines so that officers back those who use reasonable force to maintain the Queen's peace, and why we believe the code for Crown prosecutors should be amended so that it is clear that it is not in the public interest to prosecute those who reasonably and legitimately perform a citizen's arrest in good faith. If people take appropriate action to protect their communities, they should be praised, not prosecuted.

Let us move on to the wider issue. Enforcement, sanctions and policing are only one part of the solution. If we are to make a more sustained and substantial shift in community safety, we have to address the underlying
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causes behind that behaviour; aggression, abusiveness and violence are, in part, a symptom of much wider and deeper societal malaise. As Barnardo's rightly points out in its briefing for today's debate,

This is about addiction: the UK has the highest level of drug use and the second highest level of drug-related deaths in Europe. It is about the binge drinking culture, with more violence in the small hours of the night and hospital casualty departments having to deal with those who have committed alcohol-fuelled excess. We need to deal with truancy and exclusion from school, ensuring that underachievement and the lack of basic skills do not close off options to employment and lead inexorably down a criminal career path. We need to strengthen and support families and deal with a benefit system that has become so complex that it holds people down in poverty rather than lifting them out to fulfil their aspirations.

That is why family policy is so essential in setting boundaries and instilling discipline as well as creating greater understanding and respect for people from a different generation from one's own. Parents are the key to the debate, as they can raise the aspirations and opportunities of their children and give them the best chance in life to fulfil their aspirations. However, they can also hold them back and discourage them from fulfilling their potential for fear that, as I heard in one deeply depressing case, their child's success will highlight their own weaknesses and failures and the inadequacies of their lives.

Particular times in a family's life put extra pressure on relationships, and the early years of a child's life are a good example. Parents are more likely to split up in the first year after their child's birth than at any other time. Family breakdown is, of course, not the only cause of our present societal problems, but some figures stand out. A child whose parents have split up is twice as likely to live in poverty and more than 75 per cent. more likely to suffer educational failure. According to the Centre for Social Justice, more than 70 per cent of young offenders come from lone-parent families.

Such deep-rooted problems require a sustained approach over the short term, medium term and long term. That is why we would end the couple penalty in the benefits system so that families are no longer incentivised to live apart and why we would provide more health visitors across the country, so that families have the support and advice they need to give their children a good start in life. We would ensure that there is greater discipline in schools, with head teachers having the right to exclude pupils, and we would enable schools to make behaviour contracts legally enforceable. We would also reform pupil referral units to ensure that they adopt the best practice of those graded by Ofsted as outstanding and of special schools that cater for children with behavioural difficulties to get troubled youngsters back into mainstream education as quickly as possible.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that we also need to have an extensive look at the way in which many teachers think about looking after children? I was rather surprised to find that at the three party conferences, one teachers union had a large headline over their stand that read, "Putting teachers first". Is it not important for our teaching unions to think again about putting children first?

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James Brokenshire: My right hon. Friend makes a powerful and impassioned plea on this point. The focus needs to be on the children, for all the reasons to do with early intervention that I have already pointed out, so that we give children the best start in life and allow them to fulfil their potential, to take their opportunities and to ensure that they are positive, contributing members of our society. My right hon. Friend's point will be heard loud and clear not only around this Chamber but in various places around the country, too.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) is being uncharacteristically unfair to the teaching profession. That was not the inference to be drawn-I am not a teacher-from the headline that he quoted. The teachers were seeking greater influence in the way in which education policies are developed and extended. They were not suggesting that they were somehow at the top of the pecking order and that children, parents and the rest were beneath them. It is very unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to describe that stand in such a fashion.

James Brokenshire: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point. It is a question of focusing on children but working in partnership with that focus. I suppose that it is about having that factor in focus when ensuring that we consider the well-being of children.

Mr. Allen: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has heard the words of John Carnochan, the former head of homicide in Glasgow and not someone whom anyone would regard as a pushover. He said that, looking back on his career, he wished that when he was offered 100 extra police officers he had chosen to have 100 extra health visitors, because of the intergenerational nature of violent crime in certain areas. He stated that he felt that our current policy was very much like having gold-plated ambulances at the bottom of a cliff rather than investing in an inexpensive fence at the top of it. Early intervention will stop a lot of things that the hon. Gentleman is talking about and allow those families to self-perpetuate positive traits with optimal parenting skills, which will reduce crime, drink and drug abuse and all the other problems. Will the hon. Gentleman recommit to that, as I know that many members of his party feel the same as I do?

James Brokenshire: I think that the hon. Gentleman has made his point very powerfully and persuasively. That is why I made the point about health workers and giving support to parents in the early years of a child's life. It is recognised that that can make a difference in creating a much more positive outcome for family and for the child if those problems are identified early on. That is why it is important to focus on the issues to do with early intervention, so that we take a preventive approach.

We need to ensure that any changes that are made are long lasting and that we make an intergenerational break. It is exceptionally dark and depressing to go to various parts of the country and to hear of third or fourth generation gang members. When such an approach is passed down in a family from one generation to the next and then to the next without any apparent hope or opportunity for the young people concerned, that is not
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the sort of society in which I want to live. I am sure that that view is shared across the House by Members of whatever political colour.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way on the subject of early intervention and the need to support families at that stage. I had the opportunity to visit a Sure Start centre in my constituency and, separately, to go to see Home-Start, which does similar sorts of early intervention support work. Home-Start said that about half of its problems arise from bad housing, whereas Sure Start said that some 75 per cent. of family problems arise from bad housing. From a holistic perspective, does the hon. Gentleman that agree that if we are going to deal with that, we need to ensure that there is a stable housing environment? Without that, it is quite difficult to provide early intervention and support for the families and to keep things on an even keel.

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman has made the point about housing in his own way. Clearly, when we consider housing and the resettlement of offenders when they leave prison or drug rehabilitation, we need to ensure that there is adequate housing that enables people to come back into a community. It is essential to have a housing mix as part of that.

We also need to deal with drugs. We would introduce an abstinence-based drug rehabilitation order to break the cycle of addiction and offending, re-focus the approach to treatment on rehabilitation and recovery rather than simple maintenance and management, and emphasise prevention in drugs education rather than simple harm reduction and acceptance. We would also introduce a national citizens service programme for all 16-year-olds who want a place, providing a six-week programme to strengthen the skills, confidence and outlook of young people as they approach adulthood.

Then there is the framework for delivering sustained change on crime and unacceptable behaviour. Local authorities should be re-focused on crime prevention and early intervention, providing services to prevent crime from happening rather than attempting to reduce it once it has. Many local authorities are doing innovative positive work in their communities to combat antisocial behaviour, but, as we have heard, too many crime and disorder partnerships are police-led rather than council-driven. Rather than having even more micro-management, there should be clearer ways to identify and share good practice-practice that is scalable and transferable-and the Audit Commission has an important role to play in collating and communicating that information.

Rather than trying to fulfil some of the roles of local authorities as well, the police should be allowed to concentrate on what they do best-deterrence, detection and enforcement. There should be clearer responsibilities, clearer ownership of problems and clearer accountability. We need to address the perverse incentives that are hard-wired into the system and seem to encourage the approach whereby drug treatment strategies are largely focused on substituting a prescription for a drug habit, often ending with illicit drugs, methadone and other prescribed drugs being taken at the same time, and whereby it is seemingly more cost-effective for local
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authorities to let troubled teenagers go to young offender institutions than to deal with the factors behind their behaviour. That is simply absurd.

It is time for a new approach based on the recognition that only with the Government and individuals, and the social institutions that exist between the two, sharing responsibility can we make substantial and sustained differences in changing behaviour; that families and communities are more effective at instilling a culture of respect and responsibility than laws, rules or regulations; and that, ultimately, societal change is required to promote safer and more cohesive communities. This is too serious an issue to be allowed to drift or for people to coast on. If the Government are unable to meet that challenge and to demonstrate their commitment to the sustained approach that is needed to deal with the problems in our communities, we are ready, willing and waiting to meet that challenge.

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