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Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, I welcome this amendment for three reasons. First, it seeks to incorporate into the law of Scotland something which has proved to be of value in England. Secondly, it implements a commitment set out in the Tory Party manifesto for Scotland which had, as one of its policies, to introduce legislation to make it a breach of a tenancy for a tenant to deal in illegal drugs from rented premises or permit others to do so. I look forward to similar good ideas being brought forward.

Thirdly, and seriously, this a very valuable addition. There is no doubt that drug dealing bedevils a number of the housing areas of Scotland, whether it be privately owned property or property owned by local authorities. Dealing in drugs affects not just people that live in the immediate vicinity of the house but those further down the street and the general environment. Any measure that this Government propose to attack that evil will have the full support of these Benches. Therefore, I very much welcome the initiative to introduce such a clause at this stage of the Bill's proceedings.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have quite such a glowing response as that of the noble and learned Lord to the amendment, which would introduce wide powers and extend the range of grounds to evict antisocial tenants. It is the proposed powers of eviction which concern me. Indeed, Shelter Scotland has encouraged me to ask a number of questions and make a few points about these new powers.

First, those powers apply only to tenants and not to owner-occupiers. The spirit of these new causes of eviction are no doubt admirable; but the letter is drawn too widely. The eviction of drug dealers, other criminal or immoral operators and actively antisocial people will be welcomed, but many more tenants will be caught by these new powers. Anyone who is imprisoned for an offence committed in the vaguely defined "locality" of his home, can be evicted. That includes motoring offences, not having a television licence, not paying a fine, breaching a community service order or even defrauding a mail-order catalogue. Conversely, an assault to severe injury committed three miles away would not merit eviction.

This raises the question of the definition of the punishment of imprisonment; it now seems that the loss of one's home is to be added to the loss of liberty, reputation and income. That flies in the face of the commonsense evidence that reoffending is more likely to occur when ex-offenders are homeless. It also flies in the face of the Scottish Office code of guidance on homelessness, which states that local authorities should try to prevent prisoners becoming homeless on release, and help them safeguard existing tenancies. Is that extension of imprisonment intended? When can a line be drawn under the offence?

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Among those soon to be evicted are vulnerable women and children who have committed no offence. They are in the frame because someone else has committed an offence in the house or in its vicinity. This could be a visitor, and not just a resident. Eviction could follow the conviction of a visitor with a small quantity of drugs for personal use. Is it realistic for tenants to operate an active search on every visitor--a sort of Wild West saloon, "Leave your drugs at the door", regime?

There is also danger that there will not be consistency across Scotland. Not only do we have 32 local authorities and more housing associations adopting their own unique policies on housing convicted persons; we also have more than 100 sheriffs, each with his or her own consistent, but unique, practices. Unless the wording of these new grounds of eviction are more tightly drawn, I believe that the chances of eviction will vary too much across Scotland. Finally, no fast track procedure is proposed in the amendment. It will take just as long for an eviction order to be acquired as it does now. Presumably the intention is to deal swiftly and resolutely with seriously antisocial neighbours.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Hardie: My Lords, I shall begin by dealing with the points raised by the noble Earl. First, so far as concerns the question of penalising tenants as opposed to owner occupiers, the owner occupier could lose his or her home if he suffered a custodial sentence either by virtue of not being able to keep up the mortgage payments or, in the context of drugs, by virtue of the confiscation provisions.

In addition, owner occupiers, like tenants, could be subject to other orders such as antisocial behaviour orders. This measure has been extended to tenants to reflect the social menace of drug dealing which is frequently at the root of much antisocial behaviour in our cities and towns. The existing grounds for eviction do not catch all of the offending behaviour. The provisions we are introducing simply reflect the provisions which were introduced in England and Wales in 1996 to allow eviction for criminal activity in the locality of tenanted properties, to cover behaviour of visitors, and to facilitate the use of professional witnesses.

The noble Earl referred to the definition of "locality". This is intended to cover as wide an area as possible, not just immediate neighbours. At the same time some recognisable link would need to be established between the tenant's behaviour and the fact that he lives in an area that may be affected by that behaviour. For example, the definition would certainly cover the common parts of a tenement or block of flats. It would also cover other parts of a housing estate. It would even cover parts of the same general locality which did not have the same landlord. I do not have any difficulty with that definition because of its nature the antisocial behaviour would cover--particularly if it is related to drug dealing--that sort of locality. One would consider the locality to determine whether it would be appropriate

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for the tenant in question to remain as a tenant within that locality, having regard to the dangers to the rest of the citizens living within that area.

The noble Earl quite properly pointed out that the measure would affect tenants who were unfortunate enough to have visitors who had committed such offences. He asked whether a tenant would need to search his or her visitors to see whether they were in possession of a small quantity of drugs. Clearly, if we are talking about a small quantity of drugs not carried for the purpose of dealing, that would be a matter that the sheriff would take into account in the use of his discretion as to whether it would be appropriate to evict the tenant, particularly if it was a case of possession of drugs by a visitor to the premises. On the other hand, in drug dealing and other situations much serious antisocial or criminal conduct is perpetrated by visitors to houses, either in or outwith the dwelling house, and often the tenant is well aware of what is going on and it is not appropriate that that should be permitted. It is important to deter tenants from allowing visitors to behave in an antisocial manner particularly as regards drug dealing.

I understand the anxieties of the noble Earl and of Shelter about these provisions, particularly as regards the possibility of women and children being evicted. But eviction should always be considered as an action of last resort, in particular where children are involved. I am sure that that would be another factor that the sheriff would take into account. He would look at the whole circumstances of the family and of the offence before deciding whether it was appropriate to evict. Before initiating any such action, local authorities would have to take the welfare of any child into account. The welfare of such a child would be a paramount consideration for the local authority in accordance with the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

Housing and social work departments must therefore work together in exercising their respective functions in relation to children under the different legislation.

I hope that some of those comments have satisfied the noble Earl and that he is able to withdraw his opposition to the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 59:

After Clause 21, insert the following new clause--

Noise-making equipment: police power of seizure

(".--(1) The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 shall be amended in accordance with this section.
(2) In section 54 (offence of playing instruments, etc.), after subsection (2), there shall be inserted the following subsections--
"(2A) Where a constable reasonably suspects that an offence under subsection (1) above has been committed in relation to a musical instrument or in relation to such a device as is mentioned in paragraph (c) of that subsection, he may enter any premises on which he reasonably suspects that instrument or device to be and seize any such instrument or device he finds there.
(2B) A constable may use reasonable force in the exercise of the power conferred by subsection (2A) above.
(2C) Schedule 2A to this Act (which makes provision in relation to the retention and disposal of property seized under subsection (2A) above) shall have effect."

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(3) In section 60 (powers of search and seizure)--
(a) in subsection (5)--
(i) after the words "Nothing in" there shall be inserted the words "section 54(2A) of this Act or"; and
(ii) for the words from "which" to the end there shall be substituted the words "which is otherwise exercisable by a constable"; and
(b) in subsection (6)--
(i) in paragraph (a), for the words from "in pursuance" to the word "vessel", there shall be substituted the words--
"to enter and search--
(i) any premises in pursuance of section 54(2A) of this Act or of subsection (1) above; or
(ii) any vehicle or vessel in pursuance of the said subsection (1),"; and.
(ii) in paragraph (c), after "under" insert "section 54(2A) of this Act or".
(4) After Schedule 2 there shall be inserted the Schedule set out in Schedule (Schedule 2A to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982).").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, one of the main causes of complaints about antisocial behaviour is excessive or inappropriately timed noise. This new clause will add to the options the police have to tackle noise nuisance.

The clause implements one of the recommendations in the 1996 Scottish Affairs Committee report on housing and anti-social behaviour. When the committee considered the problem of noise nuisance, it concluded that existing police powers to confiscate noise-making equipment--which are limited to common law powers including the power to take equipment which may be needed as evidence--were inadequate. It recommended that the police should have the statutory power to confiscate equipment where they have grounds to suspect that a noise offence has been committed under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

This clause provides that power. If a person causing a noise fails to stop when requested to do so by the police, then the police will be able to take the noise-making equipment away and hold it for 28 days. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, will be relieved to know that we are speaking about equipment and not noises emanating from him! After that period, the owner will be able to apply to get it back, but will have to meet whatever conditions are imposed by the police on its collection and to pay whatever charge the police consider reasonable to cover their costs. Where court proceedings are instituted, then the equipment can be held until the end of the case.

There will, of course, be safeguards to protect the interest of an innocent owner who did not cause the noise nuisance himself and did not know that the equipment was likely to be misused. And there will be an appeals mechanism to ensure that the police do not act unreasonably in handling claims for the return of such equipment.

Overall we consider this to be a modest but useful measure to assist in the effort to tackle antisocial behaviour. We hope that it will make people think twice about disturbing their neighbours with, for example,

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loud music late at night if they know that they run the risk of being deprived of their music equipment for a period.

I commend this clause and the associated schedule to the House. I beg to move.

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