Clause 35 - Interpretation

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 13 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2:30, 13 Mai 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 191, in

clause 35, page 27, line 12, at end insert—

'' 'antisocial behaviour'' means behaviour by a person which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more other persons not of the same household as the person,'.

I start by thanking members of the Committee for their indulgence in moving part 2, for which I am largely responsible, to today so that I can talk about it, which I would have been unable to do last Thursday. I am grateful to all concerned.

This is a minor, technical amendment, which clarifies the definition of antisocial behaviour for the purposes of this part. We propose an identical definition to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 in clauses 24 to 28. I therefore hope that hon. Members will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Llafur, Gedling

Clause 35 is about interpretation and the definition of ''relevant locality'', which refers us back to clause 29. During our discussions this morning, I meant to ask the Minister whether there is any limit on the size of the designated area or relevant locality. Is a relevant locality defined as a few streets, or is it up to the superintendent to define it?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

The designation, as long as it is justified, can be as large as the basic command unit of which the commander is in control, or as small and as limited as a few streets, as he says. It is meant to be as flexible as that in terms of responding the locality concerned and the antisocial problems therein.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Llafur, Gedling

It is helpful that my hon. Friend the Minister has clarified that the designated area or relevant locality can be quite large. That may overcome some of the problems that some of us thought might arise if a police officer had one set of powers in one street, but not a couple of hundred yards away. I hope that those who read the record of our deliberations—the command unit, the superintendents and so on—will take note of that.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I shall take up what the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) has extracted from the Minister. The concept that a relevant locality could be an entire basic command unit area shines a slightly different light on some earlier discussions. I accept the Minister's point that the superintendent has complete flexibility. He may make the decision only in respect of a couple of streets. However, the prospect that the area could be as large as a whole BCU area throws a different light on the matter. In some ways, if that were the case, it would negate or at least reduce the concerns that I expressed under earlier amendments.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Gedling for getting the Minister to place that point on the record. It makes a significant difference. I just hope that, when the Bill is enacted, superintendents realise that they could have that scope. Then we might really see the benefits of this part of the Bill.

Photo of Liz Blackman Liz Blackman Llafur, Erewash

We have established that a relevant locality involves considerable flexibility. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that, to make the powers work, it is important that the provisions in the code of conduct also have flexibility?

Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

That is indeed the case. The code of conduct is not meant to restrict any more readily than the flexibility in the Bill. As I said earlier, this is about relevance and full justification. In that context, I agree with my hon. Friend.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.