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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 22:41 GMT
Eviction threat in 'respect' plan
Tony Blair launching his 'respect' plans

People could be banned from their homes for three months for being nuisance neighbours under "respect agenda" proposals announced by Tony Blair.

Police could also get new powers to deliver on-the-spot fines, and there would be more parenting orders.

The public would also be able to demand tougher action from their local police on anti-social behaviour.

The Conservatives branded the measures "knee-jerk populism" while the Lib Dems called them a "mish-mash" of gimmicks.

Bob Reitemeier, from the Children's Society, dismissed the eviction idea as "shock tactics" when the highest priority should be the government's promise of accessible support for families.

Existing laws mean "crack houses" used by drug addicts can already be shut down.

Ministers are now consulting on extending the idea so anyone accused of "persistent and serious" anti-social behaviour can be evicted from their homes for three months.

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Eviction by court order would be a "last resort", says the government - but it could, for example, be used against students who annoy their neighbours with loud music.

Fines for owner-occupiers and others not on housing benefit who persist with anti-social behaviour are also being considered.

Burden of proof

Mr Blair set up a "respect" task force last year and the plans are the first real fruits of its work, with 16 ministers dispatched around the country to spread the message.

In a speech in Downing Street, the prime minister said traditional justice measures simply were not working.

Consulting on evicting nuisance families from their homes for three months
Police and councils to have to hold "face the people" sessions
More use of parenting orders and a new national parenting academy to train officials on giving advice
Cards giving discounts on activities for youngsters doing voluntary work
Mentoring schemes, including one using top class athletes
Local councils to have to create family support networks
National phone number for reporting nuisance behaviour

For example, somebody "spitting at an old lady" in the street would not be prosecuted because it used too much police time and the only result was a fine.

Mr Blair accepted that on-the-spot fines for some offences reversed the principle that people were innocent until proven guilty, but said in reality such summary powers were needed.

Later, in a questions session broadcast on BBC Two's Newsnight, Mr Blair rejected claims the parenting orders were a "nanny state" measure.

"If your kid is completely off the rails and causing difficulties for everyone else, then surely someone has the right to go in and say 'You have got to stop this'," he said.

'Face the people'

The action plan would force police officers and council officials to hold "face the people" sessions to explain what action they were taking.

Where local people were not satisfied, they could ask new local scrutiny committees to investigate through "community calls to action".

If any government or group of people wants to promote a more respectful society, it is admirable and needs supporting
K. Woollett, Southampton

The police and other agencies would have a duty to respond to the committees' findings.

Conservative leader David Cameron said Mr Blair had been tough neither on crime nor its causes.

As he met voluntary groups in London, Mr Cameron said: "The real respect agenda must include long-term solutions to the causes of social breakdown, not just short-term sanctions and punishment.

"The real respect agenda must be based on optimism about the ability of people and communities to create civilised lives for themselves, rather than a pessimistic view of human nature."

David Cameron
David Cameron wants a new scheme for school leavers

Mr Cameron wants to make it easier for voluntary groups to pioneer new measures.

And he plans to create a national school leaver programme to give every young person the chance to take part in voluntary work in Britain or abroad.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said making communities safer and helping families was an enormous challenge.

He warned: "It cannot be achieved with this government's usual mish-mash of gimmicks and spin."

The Parentline Plus charity argued that threats of punishments to parents could make them less willing to seek help before their families reached crisis.

Tony Blair and his ministers launch the "respect" agenda

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