Clause 70 - Community safety strategy

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 7:15 pm ar 12 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 7:15, 12 Chwefror 2002

I shall endeavour to deal with the serious issues that the hon. Member for Reigate raised. The Government seek to strike a balance between the position recommended in the review and the position that he espouses, which, for reasons that I shall come to in a moment, is closer to the Government's position in relation to the shape of the bodies that should deliver community safety.

It would be inappropriate to seek to shape those agencies now, because it would require anticipating significant changes that are taking place in Northern Ireland. We do not know what those changes will bring. Despite all that and for the reasons to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh alluded, the Secretary of State seeks to take the powers now because some local councils want to deliver on community safety and are getting on with doing so.

They are rightly concerned that what they are doing should be supported by the shape of the legislation.

The Government have introduced provisions for consulted responses. We propose to ensure, in a careful fashion, the maximum consultation and the maximum opportunity for debate once the framework of the provisions has been formed. They will of necessity be interim provisions, as I shall explain.

Clause 70 requires the Secretary of State to devise a community safety strategy for Northern Ireland. Community safety is about reducing crime and the fear of crime. It involves measures to address not only criminal behaviour, but antisocial behaviour and other factors that affect people's perception of their safety. The strategy will set out key targets to be addressed by those working on community safety. It will also inform the local strategies produced by each of the local partnerships that will be established under clause 71. As I said to the hon. Member for Cheadle in an earlier debate, we will shortly publish a draft strategy for consultation.

Clause 71 contains powers for the Secretary of State to establish local community safety partnerships. As the hon. Member for Reigate said, a partnership-based approach goes to the heart of what community safety is about. He tells us that he has experience in his locality of its effectiveness and, from a different model in my locality, I accept that the sort of partnership that he describes is important.

A local partnership can tackle the unique concerns of an area with measures tailor made to meet the area's needs. Each partnership will conduct an audit for the area for which it is responsible to identify issues of local concern. Taking into account the results of that audit and the Northern Ireland-wide community safety strategy published by the Secretary of State, it will produce a plan for addressing community safety in that area.