Private Bill could end 'ghetto-blaster' nuisance

COLIN BROWN

Chief Political Correspondent

"Ghetto-blasters" could be confiscated under new laws being promoted by the Department of Environment to crack down on noisy parties.

Backbenchers who came high in the ballot of MPs for the right to introduce Private Member's Bills are being asked to take up proposals to outlaw noisy parties.

The legislation would set out a new offence for committing unacceptable levels of noise at night and would carry power temporarily to confiscate sound equipment.

It follows growing concern at the plight of residents, particularly in high-rise flats, who are driven to extreme lengths to protest about noisy parties which are preventing them from sleeping. In one case, a man firebombed a flat which led to a woman dying when she fell from a window in the panic.

The man protested that he had been unable to sleep because of the persistent noise. The measure would have widespread public support and would allow tenants to call in the police, instead of being forced to resort to the civil law and environmental officers employed by local authorities.

The measure, which follows a consultation exercise, is also certain to have Labour support. Jack Straw, the party's home affairs spokesman, has led the campaign for action against bad neighbours. If one of the 20 MPs in the ballot takes up the Bill it could become law by next summer.

The Home Office is also seeking a sponsor for a Bill to outlaw sex tourism. The department's draft Bill would extend the law on conspiracy to make it an offence to conspire to commit a sexual offence abroad or incite others to commit a crime. It could carry a life sentence and those committing unlawful sexual intercourse with children under 13 would face 10 years imprisonment.

The legislation, which would treat crimes abroad as if they had been committed in Britain, is intended to answer public revulsion at organised sex trips to the Far East, including Bangkok, by paedophile rings.

The Department of Transport is also hoping to find a sponsor among the MPs in the ballot for a Bill to licence mini-cabs in London. Some black cab drivers are opposed to such a measure because they believe it will give official sanction for the first time to the mini-cab trade.

Ministers believe licensing mini-cabs will help to impose regulations which could make it safer for passengers. Known sex offenders, for example, could be prevented from holding licences.

The MPs whose names were drawn out of the hat have been bombarded with measures by lobby groups.

John Marshall, the Tory MP who came third in the ballot, is considering taking up the Home Office sex tourism proposals, which failed to win a place in the Queen's Speech.

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