I want to make one very simple point in this speech. To the police, housing officers, local authorities - we've listened, we've given you the powers, and it's time to use them.
You've got new powers to deal with nuisance neighbours - use them.
You've got new powers to deal with abandoned cars - use them.
You've got new powers to give fixed penalty fines for anti-social behaviour - without going through a long court process, use them.
The new legislation, the ASB Unit in the Home Office, this Action Plan we launched today has been two years in the making. In this time, I have visited many estates and talked to local people about their concerns. Two things emerged. First, ASB is for many the number one item of concern right on their doorstep - the graffiti, vandalism, dumped cars, drug dealers in the street, abuse from truanting school-age children. Secondly, though many of these things are in law a criminal offence, it is next to impossible for the police to prosecute without protracted court process, bureaucracy and hassle, when conviction will only result in a minor sentence.
Hence these new powers to take swift, summary action. The FPNs were piloted in four local areas. Over 6000 fines were issued. The only complaint of the police was that the powers weren't wide enough. So we have listened, we have extended the powers, extended who can use them, and made them from early next year when the Bill becomes law, nation-wide.
We owe it to the victims of anti- social behaviour, often, the poorest in society to get our act together. It's not acceptable for these powers to be used in some parts of the country and not others. Loutish behaviour is loutish behaviour wherever it is. And it should be dealt with in the same way wherever it happens. So - not occasionally, not as a last resort, but now, with real energy, in all parts of the country.
And we will continue to listen. So if, even after this legislation, more powers are needed we will go further and get you them.
Take fireworks. The abuse of fireworks is not just a safety issue, particularly for children, but too many families say it blights their lives and the lives of those around them. That is why we are bringing forward urgent regulations to limit the sale and use of fireworks across the country.
We urge retailers to act now in the spirit of the new law so that means not selling fireworks to children and prohibiting the supply and sale of the most dangerous fireworks like air bombs. And there will be tough new penalties coming in for those that break the law.
Respect is a simple idea. We know instinctively what it means. Respect for others - their opinions, values and way of life. Respect for neighbours. Respect for the community that means caring about others. Respect for property that means not tolerating mindless vandalism, theft and graffiti. And self-respect which means giving as well as taking.
Respect is at the heart of a belief in society. It is what makes us a community, not merely an isolated group of individuals.
These powers can't come fast enough for the families and communities living in fear of the irresponsibility of others. Work undertaken by the Home Office as background for the plan we are launching today found that there were 66,107 reports of anti-social behaviour in a single day in September. I have made many visits over the last year up and down the country, and on each occasion anti-social behaviour has been the issue raised by people.
I listen to their stories. The same things come up time and again. A tiny number of people on an estate of hundreds making people's lives a misery: shouted insults in the street, graffiti daubed on the front-door, fireworks used as weapons, abandoned cars left in the streets.
When I visited a nursery centre in Leeds I saw the nursery centre which offered a place of safety where children could get decent support. Outside that centre there was rubbish, graffiti and a mum told me about having chemicals thrown in her face of her toddler while crossing to the centre. The good work of the nursery was being undermined by the horrible behaviour of a mindless few.
We badly need a simpler, more effective approach area by area, tailored to the distinctive problems of each neighbourhood. We need to support local leadership and decision-making with the appropriate resources and power to get the job done. That is why we are giving local authorities and the police new powers and engaging the business community to contribute management skills for locally defined projects. But most of all, we want to give all of you the tools to tackle the scourge of anti-social behaviour in every neighbourhood and community in our country.
Just last week I visited an estate in Camden where the lives of local people had been radically improved by a new community centre for the local kids, converted from an old garage by three inspirational local mums. The council had put CCTV equipment into the estate, the police had enforced ASBOs, a local centre for young people and residents had been opened and as a result local people felt that their concerns were being taken seriously. Sure, it took Government money to fund some of the projects and it took central legislation to create some of the tools, but most importantly it took local people - residents, councillors, police, local authority officers - to turn this central agenda into a reality for the families on that estate.
This imperative underpins the anti-social behaviour action plan we are launching today and the proposals David has announced will build on the measures we have already taken to deal with these difficult issues:
We are simplifying the approach to anti-social behaviour by increasing the number of offences punishable by a fixed penalty notice, and extending them to the parents of truants.
We are toughening our response to nuisance neighbours - those few families who can cause misery in the lives of those around them - by giving local authorities new powers to license private sector landlords, ensuring that landlords and their tenants behave responsibly.
And we are strengthening our response to the devastation caused by drug misuse by giving police new powers to close down crack and drug dealing houses, quickly and effectively.
To those who say the answer is tackling the causes as well as the symptoms of Anti-Social Behaviour I don't disagree. We are investing heavily in the biggest anti-poverty programme for over half a century. Record investment in education, the New Deal, the Working Families Tax Credit, record increases in child benefit and income support, and Sure Start. Our commitment to equalising opportunity has meant sustained support for families under pressure. The life-chances of children are hugely influenced by their earliest experiences, which is why access to post-natal support, parenting classes and early years provision is so important.
But with new opportunity must also come greater responsibility. Only by rebuilding cohesive communities and reforming the system to bear down harder on anti-social behaviour can we achieve our vision of a strong and fair society. That is why reforms to restore civic responsibility are not a threat to social justice, but essential for its realisation in a modern society.
I am an optimist. I believe in progress. I believe that the thousands of acts of individual decency each day outweigh the acts of anti-social behaviour. But it's time to stop a small anti-social minority setting the rules.