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Graffiti, Groningen and Anti-Social Behaviour

There was a debate in the house last night which can be read in hansard here. It demonstrates that the government are not really listening on the issue of graffiti and low level crime. The punishment of "clear it up" is the ideal punishment for graffiti, but the government want to fine people. Quite a few cannot pay the fines so it becomes meaningless.

Anyway here are some extracts:
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way on the subject of early intervention and the need to support families at that stage. I had the opportunity to visit a Sure Start centre in my constituency and, separately, to go to see Home-Start, which does similar sorts of early intervention support work. Home-Start said that about half of its problems arise from bad housing, whereas Sure Start said that some 75 per cent. of family problems arise from bad housing. From a holistic perspective, does the hon. Gentleman that agree that if we are going to deal with that, we need to ensure that there is a stable housing environment? Without that, it is quite difficult to provide early intervention and support for the families and to keep things on an even keel.

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman has made the point about housing in his own way. Clearly, when we consider housing and the resettlement of offenders when they leave prison or drug rehabilitation, we need to ensure that there is adequate housing that enables people to come back into a community. It is essential to have a housing mix as part of that.

John Hemming: Perhaps the right hon. Lady will agree that another aspect of the problem is that human behaviour is often habitual, rather than necessarily rational, that people need to develop good habits, and that one way to enable them to do so is for us to ensure there is better discipline in schools. In my constituency four or five years ago, a child was excluded from school for assaulting a classroom assistant, yet that child was forced back into school. Does the right hon. Lady agree that that is not helpful to good discipline?

Hazel Blears: I certainly agree that discipline is essential and that it is important at school, but I will be frank with the hon. Gentleman: many of these problems start at home. The primary responsibility lies with parents. About 90 per cent. of the public say in all our surveys that parents must take more responsibility. I agree that schools have a major role to play, but it is not simply down to them. If people learn the boundaries and standards of behaviour at home, they will take them with them through the rest of their lives.

John Hemming: I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware of the research done by the university of Groningen, which identified that it is absolutely critical that rules should be enforced, and that unenforced rules undermine the whole concept.

In Birmingham, we have supported a limited number of antisocial behaviour orders as well as acceptable behaviour contracts. We are particularly keen that offenders who create graffiti should be forced to remove it from the walls. Does my hon. Friend not share my regret that the Government would not support proposals for community fixed penalty notices, which are a way of enforcing the rules so that those who create graffiti are forced to remove it?

Chris Huhne: I agree with my hon. Friend, fundamentally so on his initial point that if we are to have such law it must be properly enforced. The real problem with ASBOs is that the Government’s periodic attempts to use them have not been matched by the necessary back-up. If they were used as a last resort at the end of a whole series of measures that were able to bring gradual pressure to bear, we would be providing a much better back-up for ASBOs and there would be fewer breaches. In reality, in some areas where they have been overused they have unfortunately become a figure of fun because they have not been properly applied.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): The debate has indicated how complex dealing with antisocial behaviour is. One complexity that underpins it is that, unfortunately, there is not a blank sheet or the same starting point for all those involved in antisocial behaviour. We seem to agree about the need for early intervention, and I say to the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) that everything he suggests we should be doing, we are doing very well. However, some people in our community—adults and young people—have been involved in antisocial behaviour for some time and sucked in the energy of many different agencies and services, and in those cases firmer action needs to take place.

John Hemming: The right hon. Lady says that the Government are doing everything that we suggest they should. We suggested both in Public Bill Committees and on the Floor of the House having fixed penalty notices for community service orders, but the Government did not accept that.


sanbikinoraion said…
Of course they want to fine people - there's money in fining people!

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