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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am more than happy to give the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Clement-Jones, the assurance that they seek. I absolutely understand the anxiety that they expressed on behalf of those who suffer from disability and are often subject to disgraceful prejudice. I can certainly assure the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that the example that he gives of a child who smiles too much or waves at everyone is certainly not the sort of behaviour that we wish to capture. I am also happy to place in the Library a copy of a letter that I wrote to both noble Lords, which states clearlyI am happy to reiterate this from the Dispatch Boxthat the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 applies in full in relation to such individuals.
As the Committee will know, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 renders unlawful discrimination against persons who have a disability in the fields of employment, in the provision of goods, facilities, services and premises, and in the provision of public transport. The DDA was introduced to ensure that disabled people are treated fairly in respect of the services they receive, and housing rights are included within that. The Government are keen to ensure that the correct balance is maintained between ensuring that effective remedies against anti-social behaviour are available to protect all members of the community and that people with disabilities are not unfairly discriminated against.
Landlords, including social landlords, are already within the scope of the DDA. The protection offered to disabled people by the DDA will remain in place. The Bill makes no amendment whatever to the DDA or any other discrimination legislation. Therefore, as the noble Lord kindly implied, his probing amendments are unnecessary.
In order to ensure that social landlords are aware of their responsibilities in relation to the DDA, the Government intend to address those issues in guidance on policies and procedures issued under new Section 218A of the Housing Act 1996 introduced by Clause 12. I hope that that will make it crystal clear to social landlords that the provisions of Section 22in particular, of Section 22(3)(c), which, as the noble Lord will know, expressly relates to evicting the disabled person or subjecting him to any other detrimentof the DDA 1995, which makes it unlawful for them to discriminate against a disabled person, will apply.
With those assurances, I hope that both noble Lords will feel a little easier because we are at one as to the need to protect those who suffer disability to ensure that they are not adversely or prejudicially treated by this or any other piece of legislation.
Lord Elton: Perhaps I may ask a simple question for guidance. The noble Baroness made a convincing argument for the existing protection as regards proposed new subsection (1)(c), which concerns registered social landlords, but does that extend also to new subsections (1)(a) and (b)? Will the advice be similarly circulated?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We can certainly ensure that it is. It should really apply to all landlords. When the matter comes before the court, the noble Lord will know that the court is obliged to take into consideration all aspects of law that relate to the application made. If the matter of disability is raised by the person against whom such an order is sought, the court will be obliged to look to see whether the provisions of the DDA 1995 apply. It will then have to balance the two and make a proportionate, non-discriminatory decision.
Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the Minister for that helpful and authoritative assurance, which will go a long way to reassure those who have concerns. It will be useful to have that on the record if courts are in any doubt about how they need to maintain that balancewhich is, after all, the essence of the Bill and of the concerns that underlie it. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 29 and shall not press the others.
The noble Lord said: The amendment attempts to deal with a problem that I have with the definition of anti-social behaviour under the Bill as drafted. We all know what is anti-social behaviour in the housing context, which is really what we are discussing. That involves someone who is a persistent nuisance and intrusive over a long period. The Bill states:
Amendment No. 30 would therefore introduce the words "persistent and unreasonable" to the behaviour or conduct. That is the intention of the Bill. I hope that the Government will not find it unreasonable to accept those two words.
Amendments Nos. 31 and 34 would reintroduce the definition or description of anti-social behaviour that exists in current legislation. "Capable of causing" is considerably wider than "causes or is likely to cause". As I understand it, the inclusion of "causes or is likely to cause" in current legislation has not proved any impediment to housing authorities when applying for anti-social behaviour orders. Birmingham has a particularly successful record and, as a result, has done much good for its communities.
These are important amendmentsthey are all important, so I stand corrected for what I said recently. The addition of three words to a Bill with so many words is very small and, in that sense, trivial. The amendment is necessary for the improvement of the intentions and purposes of the Bill.
We are not talking about spasmodic conduct. I have grandsons who are anti-social on a monotonously regular basis, but they would not be the cause of the abrogation of a tenancy. We need to improve the definition, and my amendment attempts to do so. I am
Baroness Hamwee: My noble friends and I have presented an a la carte menu of choice to the Minister. We would probably be happy if any one amendment were chosen. We do not seriously expect all three to be accepted. Our point is the same.
I still remember with extreme embarrassment and shame an occasion when I lived in a block of flats and a neighbour knocked on my door to say that the record I had probably been playing over and over again, while sitting in a warm bath, could be heard elsewhere in the block. It was in the days of vinyl, so I was very young and not quite as aware of how that might affect neighbours as I would be now.
That conduct would probably fall within the Bill as drafted. But I did not do it again, so I was not persistent and, although the activity was probably unreasonable, it did not continue to be so. I do not think that the conduct was significant, and it certainly was not intended to cause a problem.
Amendment No. 33A is not on my Marshalled List so I am not sure what my noble friend Lord Phillips proposes. The same point is being made, and I hope that the Minister can respond. I am being a little flippant but it is a serious point.
My concerns are specific and apply to the conditions that I mentioned in the previous group of amendmentschildren with autistic spectrum disorder, mental illness and so on. Children with autistic spectrum disorder can often be misinterpreted as naughty because of instances of challenging behaviour. It follows that adults with ASD can also display challenging behaviour that might be deemed odd or as conduct capable of causing nuisance.
It would be preferable to require a degree of intention behind the behaviour so that it is deliberate. At the moment, the definition could include behaviour that is not deliberate but simply the result of a medical condition, ASD or another condition.
The matter needs to be taken seriously. This is a broad definition that causes considerable concern. Whether taking the view that the issue is persistent behaviour or intentional behaviour, the wording certainly needs tightening up. In Committee, a thousand flowers and suggestions bloom, but I hope that the Minister will take away a number of them and consider them carefully.
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