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Baroness Amos: My Lords, there is regular reporting put up on the DfID website. I shall quite happily write to the noble Lord giving him details of that. There have been reports in between those reports that were placed in the Library of this House and in the Library of another place. A coherent strategy is in place. With respect to the Madrid donor conference, we will be pledging more than 300 million, in addition to the money that we have spent on humanitarian aid so far. We have paid a huge amount of attention to localising the rule of law. The goal is to have 70,000 Iraqi police officers by the end of 2004. There will be 3,000 police officers trained every eight weeks at a facility in Jordan. The reintegration of the army is also going ahead.

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Anti-social Behaviour Bill

3.32 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 12 [Anti-social behaviour: landlords' policies and procedures]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 9:

    Page 9, line 25, at end insert "who is a tenant of that landlord or to any person seeking to become a tenant"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment deals with a difference of opinion between the Government and myself over the best wording of the Bill. At present, the Bill states that, in relation to anti-social behaviour:

    "The landlord must . . . prepare a summary of its . . . policy and procedures . . . to any person who requests it".

That is not sufficiently specific.

It is clear to me that every tenant should have that document and the landlord should be required to provide it, although, if the policies and procedures in relation to anti-social behaviour are included in the tenancy agreement, I readily concede that the tenants will have it. Whether those policies would be spelled out in full in a document that relates specifically to the right to occupy a property is another matter, although I do not doubt that they would be referred to.

More importantly, where the Bill says,

    "to any person who requests it",

social landlords, or any landlord who has a policy towards anti-social behaviour, ought to be required automatically to provide it to people seeking to become tenants. It is to correct that difference of opinion, or to advance my opinion as being superior to that of the Government's—although I would not claim such arrogance in the matter—that Amendment No. 9 is before us.

I do not intend to debate the matter for a long time. We debated it in Committee and had a useful discussion but not, quite frankly, a satisfactory one. We need to be precise in such matters, and there are other areas of the Bill, to which we shall come later, which could be improved.

Amendment No. 17 has been tabled because of a complete failure on my part. I do not like putting matters that are "immaterial" in the Bill but, in trying to make those matters material, I failed. However, it would still be better not to have immaterial matters in the Bill, and that is why Amendment No. 17 has been tabled. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there continues to be something of a disagreement here, and I intend to explain why that is the case.

Amendment No. 9 would require social landlords to provide copies of summaries of their policies and procedures on anti-social behaviour to existing tenants, and to anyone who is seeking to become their tenant only. However, the amendment would remove the requirement to provide free copies to anyone, other than tenants or prospective tenants, who asked for

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one. Under existing provisions, the summary will be available to anyone at all with an interest in it. While we agree with the noble Lord that the information should be available to tenants and prospective tenants, we would not want to restrict access to the information in any way, and certainly not in the way that the noble Lord suggests. So we are dealing there with an unintended consequence of the noble Lord's amendment.

The effect of Amendment No. 17 would be that social landlords could use the housing injunctions introduced by Clause 13 to prohibit only the anti-social behaviour that occurred in the housing accommodation or its locality. That would have highly undesirable consequences. The wording is not immaterial to the legislation; it refers to where the anti-social behaviour takes place, so it is material.

It is not our intention that social landlords should police the activities of perpetrators of anti-social behaviour wherever they are, regardless of the circumstances. Where such behaviour happens outside the neighbourhood, there must be some link to the housing management function. However, there are numerous incidents where such a link is easy to establish and where it is perfectly reasonable for a landlord to seek to protect the victim wherever the behaviour has occurred.

If the noble Lord thinks back, he will remember that I gave some examples in Committee. For example, our intention is that a housing officer who refused a tenant a transfer could be protected if the aggrieved tenant later saw him in a supermarket some miles away from his place of work and attacked him. A dispute outside a school could also be covered, where it had started as a neighbour dispute on the landlord's estate. The amendment would remove that important protection.

Powers under Clause 13 are intended to allow social landlords to deal with real problems affecting the lives of real people. Anti-social behaviour is not neat and tidy, as I am sure the noble Lord understands, and victims cannot always escape it by stepping away from the neighbourhood. We will have failed victims if we allow housing-related anti-social behaviour to follow them away from their home or their work, but do not allow protection to follow them as well. Wherever it is reasonable for social landlords to seek to protect people, we must allow them the flexibility to do so.

I hope, having heard that and having reflected on the importance of the wording, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. As regards Amendment No. 9, I admit that it might be disadvantageous if social landlords, or, indeed other landlords in this field, were not required to provide their policies to anyone. To that extent I am prepared to accept that my amendment could be improved. I may well take it away to see whether I can improve it.

As regards Amendment No. 17, the Minister said that this matter, which is described in the Bill as "immaterial", is material. He made it clear that it was

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material. In the circumstances, therefore, will he take the measure away and consider whether he can do something with the wording so that the Bill does not state, "It is immaterial where"? It seems to me that that is a problem. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Injunctions against anti-social behaviour on application of certain social landlords]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 10, line 7, after "to" insert "unreasonable"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 10 is the first amendment in a very large group which I expect we shall spend some time on, all of which arise because there is considerable unease over the definition of "anti-social behaviour". As the Bill states, the definition applies to conduct,

    "(a) which is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person, and

    (b) which directly or indirectly relates to or affects the housing management functions of a relevant landlord".

I accept the second part of the definition which provides a qualification. But conduct,

    "which is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person",

is an extremely wide definition from any perspective. In Committee we tried to tighten up the measure. My "runner" at that time was "persistent and unreasonable behaviour". The use of the word "persistent" drew the fire of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, who rightly said that occasionally anti-social behaviour could be so bad that simply one instance of it was beyond all reasonable behaviour. I have removed the word "persistent" and refer simply to "unreasonable behaviour". Some of the other definitions which we shall hear about in a moment may be more favourably considered. However, what we are relying on here are the courts. I have immense faith in the courts; they will have to decide these matters if push comes to shove. I do not doubt that they will decide the matter sensibly. We are fortunate that we live in a sensible, law-abiding country and we have a very good system of magistrates' courts where decisions and justice are sensibly administered.

However, I still think that legislation should say what it means to say rather than say something and rely on the good sense of a third party to administer it appropriately. My Amendment No. 10 seeks to insert the word "unreasonable" so that the Bill would read:

    "This section applies to unreasonable conduct—

    "(a) which is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any


I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments Nos. 13, 11 and 47. In Committee we had a short debate on similar amendments to Amendments Nos. 11 and 13. An amendment similar to Amendment No. 47 was tabled but not spoken to.

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I believe that it is common ground across the House that a person with an autistic spectrum disorder can sometimes display challenging as well as obsessive and ritualistic behaviours. That may include stereotyped movements, poor awareness of personal space, repetition of strange sounds and words, lack of flexibility of thought or becoming very upset or angry because of changes in routine. These behaviours could be interpreted as being anti-social. In Committee we on these Benches expressed concern that the provisions in this Bill could lead to people with autism being wrongly stigmatised or, indeed, criminalised. That applies both to anti-social behaviour injunctions under Part 2 and to parenting orders under Part 4.

If the Bill is passed in its current form, we are extremely concerned that there could be more examples of parents who have a child with an autistic spectrum disorder receiving an anti-social behaviour order. In Committee I referred to parents who received an anti-social behaviour order because their son had trampolined in his own garden and made what were termed "strange noises" which caused distress to neighbours. Under the wording of new Section 153A to the Housing Act 1996, which refers to conduct,

    "which is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance",

that kind of behaviour is almost bound to fit into that definition.

When pressed in Committee after a fairly tense debate, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, said:

    "We understand the sensitivity required when dealing with people who suffer from particular syndromes, which contribute to their appearing in court, to be dealt with in the way in which this legislation will deal with them. I do not want the noble Lord to leave thinking that I am patronising, a bad cop or unsympathetic—I am not usually. I understand the points entirely".—[Official Report, 11/9/03; col. 499.]

I think no worse of the noble Lord for reading his ministerial brief and then going off piste and drawing on his personal experience from his time as a councillor. I appreciated that as, after all, it is experience on the ground which is so important in this respect. I appreciated the fact that he addressed the point. However, the noble Lord needs to go further and really address the point in the Bill.

In a letter to the National Autistic Society the Government have stated that the courts,

    "will consider everything relevant to the case, including reasons for the behaviour".

However, an innocent person with autism should not be subjected to legal proceedings in the first place. I do not believe that it is the Government's intention to criminalise people with autism, but without appropriate training and the right definition in the Bill, police and other front-line professionals will not be able appropriately to manage a situation involving an individual with autism.

In Committee a number of noble Lords made the helpful suggestion that rather than go all the way in terms of mens rea towards insisting that there should be intention—I understood the points that were made

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in that respect—the concept of recklessness, which is in a sense halfway between negligence and intention, might be usefully inserted into the definition to differentiate between those whose behaviour is knowingly anti-social and those whose behaviour is directly related to their disability.

I know that draftsmen and lawyers, being one myself, much appreciate precedent in this respect. The use of the word "reckless" in legislation is legion. I have a whole series of definitions such as the Criminal Damage Act 197l; Nuclear Material (Offences) Act 1983; Sexual Offences Act 1956; Terrorism Act 2000; Theft Act 1978; Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001; Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985; the very recent Communications Act 2003; Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001; Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and Protection of Badgers Act 1992. There are quite a few precedents here. Without bludgeoning the Minister into submission, I hope that I have made the point that the concept of recklessness is extremely common. It is the kind of precision tool that is required in these circumstances. I very much hope that the Minister and his colleagues will be considerably more sympathetic to these two sets of amendments than they were in Committee.

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