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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 August, 2004, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Blair highlights nuisance 'hell'
Tony Blair
Mr Blair is focusing on law and order
Tony Blair is promoting measures to tackle the "hell" of anti-social behaviour on the first day back from his summer break.

Visiting an Essex estate, he spoke of efforts to boost the number of court orders issued against nuisance yobs.

Ministers say the number of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) has doubled but the Tories say nuisance behaviour is "out of control".

Later on Tuesday, Mr Blair will prepare for fresh Northern Ireland peace talks.

A possible ban on fox hunting, Labour's party conference and a by-election also feature in his in-tray.

Nuisance powers

Mr Blair's summer break included a stay with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia and trips to Barbados and the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

He returned to the political fray on a housing estate in Harlow, highlighting the government's anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos).

Northern Ireland talks
Hunting ban Bill
TUC and Labour conferences

Mr Blair said anti-social behaviour affected many people's lives.

"It doesn't always get the headlines but if you've got really difficult people living next door or down the street ... if you've got groups of young people misbehaving ... it makes life absolute hell," he said.

Asbos prevent offenders from committing specific anti-social acts, going to certain areas or associating with certain named people for a minimum of two years.

Only local councils, the police and registered social landlords, not members of the public, can apply for them, but they rely on local people to collect evidence and to keep an eye out for breaches.


The government is appointing Asbo "ambassadors" to urge councils and police to use the anti-yob orders and help remove any obstacles.

The plans were announced earlier this month. Around 2,600 Asbos have been issued since their introduction in 1999. The Home Office says new figures show a record 1,323 Asbos were issued in the year running up to last March.

Conservative shadow Police Minister James Paice said anti-social behaviour would continue to get worse while police were "tied up with red tape and political correctness".

Asbos could be part of the solution but proper policing on Britain's streets was needed to enforce them, he argued.

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said yob culture would continue to be an important issue in the run-up to the general election as polling suggested it was high on voters' agenda.

Deal hopes

Later on Tuesday, Mr Blair is preparing for fresh talks in Northern Ireland, where devolved government remains suspended.

The parties meet on Wednesday ahead of formal negotiations involving Irish premier Bertie Ahern at Leeds Castle in Kent from 16 to 18 September.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said the prime minister believed there was a "shared agenda" between all the parties in Northern Ireland which could lead to a deal.

Downing Street says a complete end to all paramilitary activity and the formation of an include devolved government remain the key criteria for a settlement.

The recurring battle over fox hunting is also high on Mr Blair's agenda.

Newspaper reports suggest a Bill to outlaw hunting with dogs will be pushed through the House of Commons next month.

Poll test

Restive Labour MPs want a hunting ban but face opposition from the House of Lords and countryside lobby groups.

The Trades Union Congress, which has often seen Mr Blair's policies attacked, also looms, as does Labour's annual conference later in September.

There is also the Hartlepool by-election prompted by Peter Mandelson's appointment as Britain's European commissioner.

Labour is defending a 15,000 majority but recent by-election results suggest it could face a tough fight.

The BBC's Andy Tighe
"The Tories say Asbos alone won't solve the problem of yobbish behaviour"

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