Clause 1 — Power to grant injunctions Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill (Programme) (No. 3)

Mark made the following contributions to a debate on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill:

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

While I agree with the Minister that we should agree with what the Lords have had to say on this matter, I do not necessarily think that it is the result of the workings of democracy—it is anything but. He slightly trivialised the issue of carol singers, but there is a bigger nuisance concern. For example, there might be a sense that if trick or treating was being clamped down on, it would be unfair not to clamp down on other activities, such as carol singing. I think that that is what might have been behind the Lords thoughts on this matter.

Norman Baker (The Minister of State, Home Department; Lewes, Liberal Democrat)

I am not quite sure what was in the Lords thoughts. Other examples were given—bellringers and so on—and nobody in this country would want, in any way, to limit the activities of bellringers. I fear that the Government’s honest attempt to deal with genuine antisocial behaviour has been misconstrued, either inadvertently or otherwise, but we are where we are. We have accepted the form of words—“harassment, alarm or distress”—which was wanted by their lordships.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

I think the hon. Lady is being too sceptical about the genesis of these provisions. As a central London MP, I do not think that everything about the old ASBO regime was bad; elements worked well for many of my constituents. I know that Westminster City council has expressed concerns, which were raised in another place, but it is still a little unfair to suggest that nothing good is coming from the Bill. We will have to see how it works in practice.

Helen Jones (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Warrington North, Labour)

The hon. Gentleman makes the important point that in many cases ASBOs worked. I have seen them work in my own area, as he has in his. As he said, it remains to be seen how the Bill will work, but I look forward to debating it in the future.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

I agree with Dr Huppert that it is a shame that the Government did not take more account of the pre-legislative scrutiny, relying instead on the other place. I accept that all too often, whichever Government are in play, the electoral arithmetic ensures that legislation is rushed through and guillotined here in the House of Commons, and some sensible suggestions are then made in the House of Lords, many of which—as in this instance—we end up not seeking to oppose. Given the relative paucity of legislation in the House of Commons over the next 15 months, I hope that we will pay the House a little more respect, and ensure that whatever Bills come before us during the fifth year of this five-year Parliament are given proper scrutiny.

I support what the Government are doing in Lords amendments 40, 41 and 44 to 47, which relate to public bodies that can issue a public spaces protection order. That has particular resonance in my constituency, and I am glad that a number of friends—in the broadest sense—of the City of London corporation in another placewere able to make some important changes. Numerous other bodies which operate open spaces under local Acts—such as the Wimbledon and Putney commons conservators, to name but two of them—will also benefit from what the Government are doing. The proposed new clause would enable bodies other than local authorities administering open spaces under byelaws to use public spaces protection orders. I believe this is particularly relevant to trustees or local conservators who operate under byelaws inferred by private Acts of Parliament, many of which go back not just many decades but some centuries. I hope the Minister agrees with that point.

The City of London corporation operates some of the most important open spaces in London and the south-east, including Epping forest and Hampstead heath. There are also important local authority parks. In Newham there is West Ham park and there is Queen’s park in the London borough of Brent. It was often under private Acts of Parliament, frequently through bequests of what were the curtilage of large mansion houses, that these local parks and amenities were founded, often back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Conservators have exactly the same issues as local authorities in terms of the public open spaces they administer, so it is sensible to include these places in order not to have duplication but to ensure there is not an opportunity for some of these powers to slip through the net. Conservators are not required to use the orders, and they can keep to the local byelaws if they so wish. If they do make an order, however, and the local authority for the area makes its own, the local authority’s order will take precedence. That is right.

These clauses are sensibly drafted. The powers of the City of London corporation would not in any way

usurp those of the relevant local authority, but this does provide a belt-and-braces approach to ensure there is a proper focus on public order within those important open spaces.

I wish the Minister and Government well in getting this change into the Bill and I hope there will be no opposition from any corner of this House.