HC Deb 29 November 1926 vol 200 cc939-43

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The object of the Bill is to amend an Act which was passed in connection with the regulation of parks in 1872. The essence of this Bill is contained in Clause 2 (1), which gives the First Commissioner of Works power to make Regu- lations for the propel management of the parks, the preservation of order in the parks and the prevention of abuses. Anyone who breaks those Regulations is liable, on conviction, to a penalty not exceeding £5. The old Act of 1872 had as its object the same things, namely, the maintenance of order and the prevention of abuses, but it was passed 54 years ago, and although the object was the same as the present. Bill, to make the parks comfortable and pleasant for law-abiding citizens, the method was different from the method we propose in the Bill. The method of the old Act was to draw alp a set of Regulations and to embody those exact Regulations in a Schedule to the Act.

Anybody who broke those Regulations was summoned in exactly the same way as they can be summoned under the provisions of this Bill, but those Regulations were rigid and definite. Being rigid and definite, they naturally tied the hands of the First Commissioner of Works. They prohibited certain things from being done. Section 9 of the Act states that any rule made in pursuance of the First Schedule—the First Schedule being the Schedule which contained the Regulations—could be made and enforced, subject, of course, to being laid on the Table of the House. The rules, in other words, had to be in pursuance of the Regulations contained in the Schedule. The rules were only enforceable by summons when relevant to matters which were specifically stated and laid down in the Schedule. Fifty-four years ago is a long time, and no specific mention was made in those old Regulations of anything in connection with motor cars, wireless loud speakers, aeroplanes or other more recent inventions. However far seeing the individuals were who brought the Bill forward 54 years ago, it was impossible for them to cover everything that ought to be covered now. They could not anticipate all the inventions that would take place. So much for the old Act.

I may be asked, in connection with the new Bill, what Regulations we propose to enforce. It is quite obvious that it would not be judicious for me to state exactly what powers we intend to take under the provisions of this Bill. It would obviously lead to considerable trouble if people knew what rules we are unable to enforce at present. But I think the House is entitled to have an illustration of what I mean. A short time ago certain tipsters came into Hyde Park. They planted themselves in the vicinity of the Marble Arch. They gave bogus addresses advertising their tips, and certain people took advantage of their advice and possibly made fortunes and possibly lost a great deal of money. The newspapers stated in bold headlines that these tipsters were not actually committing any offence against the park regulations provided they sold their tips outside the park gates. The result was that we had a large increase of tipsters.

Fortunately, on this occasion the Press were wrong, for we had powers to prevent these people advertising their wares, and we immediately made rules which were put into force. Hon. Members will no doubt hear with some gratification that these tipsters are no longer in the park. If we had not had these powers it is quite clear that this abuse would have continued, and it is possible that greater nuisances may be created if we had to acquaint the world at large of the rules which we cannot at present enforce. One case will show the necessity for this Bill—litter. It is a strange thing that at this moment the Office of Works has no power to prevent people scattering litter up and down in the parks. Any man or woman can deliberately tear up paper and make a nuisance of themselves, and we are not able to enforce our rules by law. We actually tried to enforce our rules by law in this connection; and we failed. When one considers the great beauty of our parks and the money and labour spent on them, it is most humiliating not to be able to prevent people throwing litter about, and the request we are making to-night in this Bill is a perfectly reasonable one. It is made in the interests of the community; so that the Office of Works will have power to be able to manage its parks properly. The London County Council has these powers at present, and, therefore, we are not asking for more than is granted the London County Council at the moment.


I imagine there will be no serious opposition to the passage of this Bill, provided we can have a satisfactory assurance on one or two points. The Bill is wholly concerned with the Royal Parks, and does not touch those already under the control of the London County Council and the municipal authorities. It proposes to give powers to the Office of Works similar to those which are at the moment exercised by the London County Council in ifs parks. I should like an assurance on this point. Is it proposed in any way to interfere with the right of free speech or extend the existing Regulations dealing with the sale of literature hitherto possessed by the Office of Works? Are the Government going to rest content with the powers they already have under the Act of 1812? I have looked carefully through the Bill and compared it with the principal Act, and I cannot see that there is any increase of the power given to the Office of Works, but it would be well if we could have an assurance that there is no intention whatever to interfere with liberty of speech, and that the Regulations dealing with the sale of literature will be the same as under the Act of 1872?


Perhaps if might shorten discussion if I give the assurance now. If the Bill pass into law, we shall have no more power than we possess at present in connection with speeches or literature in Hyde Park.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow.—[Captain Hacking.]