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"(4A) The court must not entertain proceedings for a demotion order unless—
(a) the landlord has served on the tenant a notice under subsection (4B), or
(b) the court thinks it is just and equitable to dispense with the requirement of the notice.
(4B) The notice must—
(a) give particulars of the conduct in respect of which the order is sought;
(b) state that the proceedings will not begin before the date specified in the notice;
(c) state that the proceedings will not begin after the end of the period of twelve months beginning with the date of service of the notice.
(4C) The date specified for the purposes of subsection (4B)(b) must not be before the end of the period of two weeks beginning with the date of service of the notice."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 16 [Proceedings for possession: anti-social behaviour]:

[Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Interpretation]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 5:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government made a valuable concession at Report stage, in relation to dispersal orders, when they agreed that dispersal orders could be made only by the police in agreement with the relevant local authority. That was most welcome. I can well understand the Government's reluctance for more than one local authority to be involved in the agreement. However, the question that I am not sure that we addressed with sufficient keenness is whether it is appropriate in all circumstances that that authority is the district council or the county council. I shall seek to argue that it should be the county council, if only to have the pleasure of hearing the Minister telling me why it should be the district council.

The fact of the matter is that in shire areas where there are two tiers of authority, the bulk of local government services are provided by the county council. County councils have the sole statutory responsibility at local authority level for services that will largely be involved with the key groups of people who are most likely to be dispersed. They have sole responsibility for young offenders, for social care

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including that of vulnerable adults and people with mental health issues, and for child protection and truancy. Those people would all be prime candidates for the possibility of being required to move on.

County councils have the lead statutory responsibility for the provision of youth offending services in a local authority area. In the case of juveniles who might offend against an order to move on by subsequently coming back into the area, the Minister made it clear on Report that, as they cannot be locked up, they will be subject to community sentencing, a fine, or a discharge if that were appropriate. The county councils have the key function in relation to youth justice, so it could be questioned whether they were the appropriate authority. It would be much more appropriate if orders designating areas in which people could be dispersed were made immediately with the authority with the responsibility for providing the statutory service to enforce the consequences of the orders being broken.

County councils are also responsible for co-ordination of the national drug strategy and local drug action teams, and so on. There is a long list of reasons why the county councils, which deal with the relevant local government services, are going to be most affected by the dispersal orders if anything goes wrong. I thought it was worth moving the amendment in order to get county councils involved in the process of designating areas where people can be dispersed. I beg to move.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I understand why the noble Lord has tabled Amendments Nos. 5 and 6, but they do not deliver exactly what he would like. The amendments would require the police to seek agreement from the county council, not the district council, before granting an authorisation.

Amendment No. 5 would remove the need for a district council in a two-tier area to give its agreement to the authorisation of the use of powers under Part 4 of the Bill. Amendment No. 6 would replace the need for district councils to give their consent with a requirement for county councils to give their consent instead. When we made our last amendment, I understood the need to include county councils. However, I am not sure that it is right in this case to expunge district councils.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, for the sake of clarity, I should say that I put the amendments deliberately in that form because of the Government's reluctance to have to consult more than one local authority.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have considered carefully the points made by the noble Lord in previous debates and this evening. We also recognise that organisations such as the County Councils Network are seeking to work constructively with the Government to drive forward and to tackle anti-social behaviour. We are very grateful to those organisations for their efforts.

We are keen to encourage county councils to play their proper part and welcome their engagement in these issues. However, on this specific point we remain

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of the view that the authorisation process as set out in the Bill is the most appropriate. District councils are those bodies that sit on crime and disorder reduction partnerships in all areas and are therefore, we respectfully suggest, best placed to work directly with the police when deciding whether an authorisation is needed in a particular area.

In addition, we may be talking about authorising the use of dispersal powers in relatively small parts of a village, town or city. In such circumstances the lower-tier authority—the district council—is likely to be best placed to assist the police in making that judgment. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that the Government have sought to address the issues that he has raised and that in no way do we seek to diminish the importance of county councils, or the work that they do with such success.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that at no time did I think that the Government had any intention of diminishing the authority and responsibility of county councils. I also hear what she said about the crime and disorder partnerships and working with district councils, which creates a close relationship between the district councils and the police.

There is a secondary problem which I probably should have mentioned but did not. None the less, it could be relevant. In all instances, one could disperse people across local authority boundaries and thereby export a problem from one borough to another. However, that applies equally to areas where there is, so to speak, single-tier local government. So I suppose that we will have to live with that.

I hear what the noble Baroness said on the matter. I do not wholly agree with her, but I suspect that we will have to agree to disagree on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Clause 37 [Anti-social behaviour orders]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 7:

    Transpose Clause 37 to after Clause 91.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. These amendments move all of the clauses in Part 5 to the end of the Bill. That is in accordance with the current drafting convention that dictates that parts of Bills entitled "Miscellaneous Powers" should be placed at the end. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Certain orders made on conviction of offences]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 8:

    Transpose Clause 38 to after Clause 91.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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6.45 p.m.

Clause 39 [Penalty notices for disorderly behaviour by young persons]:

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone moved Amendment No. 9:

    Page 33, line 6, at end insert—

"( ) After section 2(3) insert—
"(3A) A penalty notice issued to a person under 18 must be given in a police station.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to return for the last time to the issue of fixed penalty notices when applied to children and to speak to Amendments Nos. 9 and 10. The purpose of the first amendment is to ensure that the safeguards of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code of practice C are on the face of the Bill. We feel that that is very important for this age group. The safeguards are there for very good reasons and recognise that 16 year-olds do indeed need to be managed in a different way and that being able to understand the full import of a fixed penalty notice is extremely important. On Report, the Minister said that to do so would be to reduce the effectiveness of the whole scheme because it would restrict the discretion of police officers. She also believed that it would be perfectly proper to issue a notice elsewhere provided that these young people fully understand the process.

It is precisely that proviso, coupled with the age of the young person, that PACE exists to cover and should of course be observed, and it can only be assured at a police station with an appropriate adult present. I have heard no argument at all to justify the move to disregard PACE in this context and I believe that it would be wrong to disregard it now. That is not to question the discretion of the police officers at all, but merely to recognise the important fact that these are young people who are being dealt with. I shall not rehearse the same arguments as I did last time in relation to the discriminatory financial implications of the fining process. I was reassured somewhat by the Minister on that point. However, I should none the less be grateful if she would explicitly confirm that lower penalties will indeed be set for 16 and 17 year-olds.

If the Minister is not prepared to amend the Bill, as I fear she may not be, I hope that she can assure me that the presumption will be that fixed penalty notices for under-18s will be issued only in a police station and in the presence of an appropriate adult; that the police operation guidance will clearly state the need to conform to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of practice C in respect of children and young people; and that the guidance will set out further preconditions for under-18s and their ability to understand the implications of the notice. I also understand that the Children's Society and other children's charities would welcome an assurance that they will be consulted on such guidance. I am seeking a lot of assurances. I dearly hope that we may get them and sleep easier in our beds as a result.

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The purpose of my second amendment is to remove the powers of the Home Secretary to reduce further the age at which fixed penalty notices can be issued from the age of 16 to as low as 10 years old by statutory instrument. Having discussed it very briefly with the Minister and having thought about it further, I am afraid that I remain very uneasy about this device of keeping the door open to something that should not be allowed to happen and that she did not directly address when it was discussed on Report.

I must say, first, that I support the application of fixed penalty notices to adults. Indeed, the principle of dealing swiftly with low-level anti-social behaviour in this way—which deals with the problem at source, in an effective place; which hurts people's pockets, a very sensitive place; which does not waste valuable police time; and which does not leave the offender with a record—is admirable, and even more so since we are told that the outcome of the pilots has been successful. I assume that the results will be published in the near future so that we can see exactly how they were assessed.

We understand that the scheme is now to be extended to 16 and 17 year-olds—the subject of my first amendment. However, most crucially, the Bill states that the same sanction can in future, following the results of the next piloted stage, be further applied by statutory instrument to 10 year-olds. It is that to which I feel I must return one more time.

The noble Baroness said when we spoke about this on Report that this penalty will act as a deterrent. I wonder how real a deterrent such a penalty could possibly be to a 10 year-old who would not be paying the penalty anyway and who is unlikely to understand what it is all about or be able to give informed consent as code C of PACE requires. Nor do I see how the pilots on 16 and 17 year-olds will shed any light on how appropriate the sanction would be for children as young as 10. They are simply not in the same ballpark. What parents would punish a 17 year-old and a 10 year-old in the same way? It would not be on.

The principle at issue is that the extension of the fixed penalty notice scheme in this way is not acceptable because it is extending an appropriate adult sanction to children, which is not appropriate or acceptable. As I have said before, children are not small adults and should not be treated as such however awful and unacceptable their behaviour. That is why we have a youth justice system. That is what our system of humane, just and practical ways of dealing with children is all about. It can be argued that this is a relatively insignificant issue to be pursuing where the offences are minor and the sanction simple. However, the principle is not simple.

The other core issue is that the process of statutory instrument is not the way to go about the extension of the penalty. So this issue, with an important principle behind it, could go through on the nod, and that is what I take issue with. It is a matter that I believe merits proper consideration through the proper parliamentary process.

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I have been urged to return to this issue one more time as the feeling is so strong among all the children's organisations that this is an inappropriate way to go about imposing an inappropriate sanction. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some reassurance that this matter will be given the proper time and attention which it deserves before it is allowed to be introduced into the armoury of the police.

Finally, while I am on my feet, I would like to raise one more issue. It is to do with some remarks that were made at Second Reading when I commented on the fact that the Opposition Benches were proposing to discuss only firearms and high hedges—both important matters—while totally ignoring all the other very substantive and serious issues that have subsequently been occupying us all for the past few weeks. That appeared to sting the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes—I only subsequently realised how extremely appropriate her name is for her chosen campaign in the cause of high hedges—into a response. While she agreed—at col. 1120 of Hansard—with,

    "neither the tone nor most of the content",

of my speech—a view to which she is absolutely entitled and with which many may have sympathy—she also claimed that I had said that the Bill was,

    "wrongly conceived and should never have been brought before us".—[Official Report, 18/7/03; col. 1121.]

In fact, what I said was as follows:

    "When the Government and the Home Secretary find us on these Benches resisting some of the measures in the Bill, it is not because we disagree with the basic proposition. What is at issue is the ways and means of effectively and constructively dealing with those problems, and of how we perceive and manage those predominantly young people who display no respect, recognition or concern for the rights, freedoms, privacy or feelings of others".—[Official Report, 18/7/03; col. 1097.]

We have indeed had some interesting and illuminating debates about the means towards agreed ends covering both practicalities as well as some important principles. I should hate to think that anyone, including the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, believed that I or anyone on these Benches do not abhor anti-social behaviour, just as the Government do, even as we argue for the retention of important human rights on the one hand and seek—through our debates, which have been civilised and admirably piloted by the Minister—the most effective way of addressing the causes, the remedies and future prevention on the other. I beg to move.

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