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Antisocial Behaviour and Off-road Bikes | Westminster Hall debates

Thank you, Mr Pritchard; it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I will probably not take all the time that we have—you might be pleased by that.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) on securing this important debate. I thought that he spoke a lot of sense. We have been here before, talking about this issue. He asked the Government to get a grip of the problem in his speech, which the Minister who is now present, the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), missed. I am sure that the Minister will respond to all the points that hon. Members made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra) is worried about the antisocial behaviour that will arise in the summer months, and the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) raised similar issues. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Kim Leadbeater) is so active in her community that she had an event last week on this issue and is having one next week, which shows her commitment to her constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Ashley Dalton) gave a harrowing story of how people feel when antisocial behaviour is rife, and how they think that they cannot report it because there will be reprisals. Such things are often completely hidden because those crimes never get to the point of the police being involved and are therefore not covered by the statistics.

In both this Chamber and the main Chamber, Ministers have described antisocial behaviour as low level, and the Government have not taken the issue seriously to any degree for a long time. It was only after Labour Front Benchers put forward tough antisocial behaviour plans earlier this year that the Government published their underwhelming and unambitious strategy, with lead responsibility transferred from the Home Office to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

We know there is huge underreporting of antisocial behaviour, but the latest stats are awful. There were 1 million incidents of antisocial behaviour last year—more than 2,700 every single day—but that is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that criminal damage to a building other than a dwelling has risen by 20%, and “arson not endangering life” is up by 21%. Over a third of people say they have personally experienced or witnessed antisocial behaviour in their local area, and 72%—nearly three quarters of the population—think that crime has gone up in the past few years.

There is a big problem with antisocial behaviour statistics, because the Government do not do proper data collection. The freedom of information requests that I have submitted show huge variety across the country in how antisocial behaviour is reported and dealt with, and data on the use of new powers is not centrally collected. The Government could choose to address that if they wanted to, but they do not, so will the Minister look again at how antisocial behaviour is recorded? Will he recognise the impact of antisocial behaviour?

Our colleagues have been debating the Victims and Prisoners Bill in Committee over the last couple of weeks, and one of the amendments put forward by Labour Front Benchers was designed to treat victims of antisocial behaviour as victims in law. The Government voted against that proposal, which is a real shame, because until we recognise the impact of antisocial behaviour and that it involves victims too, we will not start to get serious about dealing with the problem.

People across the country raise the issue of off-road bikes, which has a pernicious impact on communities. The vehicles are loud and driven at great speed, causing great danger to other people and to those riding them. They spray mud and dirt, upset communities and ruin green spaces. It is a problem in the north-east, which I visited with Joy Allen and Kim McGuinness, Labour’s excellent police and crime commissioners there. There are also real problems with stolen bikes, and the police are concerned that not enough is being done to help them attack that crime. It appears that off-road bikes are easy to steal, and police tell me their frustrations about the fact that claims on off-road bikes are paid out even if the key is in the ignition. It is quite a niche, technical issue, but if people can leave the key in the ignition and get paid the insurance, it is quite easy for people to steal the bikes, which seems to happen in a lot of areas.

We have seen examples of good work. Simon Foster, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, has funded three additional off-road bikes for the police—they now have six—and he is increasing the number of trained off-road officers in Northumbria. Kim McGuinness has had great success in clamping down on stolen motorbikes, including by using overhead drones.