New powers for local authorities, police and magistrates under the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 became a political football in the commons with Labour MPs praising home office ministers and Conservative MPs questioning why the new powers had had so little effect.
It has been reported that not a single council or police force, for example, has applied to the courts for a curfew order on children.
Home secretary Jack Straw said the new measures - including the anti-social behaviour orders - had been welcomed as of great importance in helping police and local authorities reduce crime and disorder. The government was monitoring the use of all the
He said evidence from areas in which the orders were piloted was encouraging. More than 2,000 police reprimands had been issued and more than 1,000 final warnings, 350 reparation orders, 213 action plan orders and 41 parenting orders.
Mr Straw added: 'There is great expectation about the anti-social behaviour orders. They are fully backed by local authorities and the police. We expect some early applications to be made soon and there will be an equal expectation - which I very much hope will be
fulfilled - that the courts will recognise the importance placed upon those orders'.
But John Greenway, Conservative MP for Ryedale, asked: 'Why, when all the powers given to magistrates to handle crime and disorder are discretionary, are the government insisting that youth referral orders are to be mandatory? Why has consideration in [the home affairs] committee of the youth offender reforms been postponed until the
summer. Is it not clear...that the crime and disorder measures are based on only a handful of pilot studies and on only limited uptake?'
Home office minister Paul Boateng said: 'We are not about being precriptive and imposing strategies from above, but we are about encouraging good local practice and supporting it wherever we find it. We are giving£250m to support the crime prevention and reduction strategies'.
Brian Iddon, Labour MP for Bolton South-East, who praised tenants and residents' associations in his constituency and K division of the Greater Manchester Police for sorting out '12 months of hell', said it was important to train everyone on what their individual powers were under the Act.
Mr Boateng replied: 'Training in the benefits that the Act can bring is essential not simply for the police but for magistrates - and, indeed, to increase local authorities' awareness of the powers now available to them'.