§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
I beg to Move, in page 58, to leave out Clause 71.
2870 I do not propose to move the first Motion on the Order Paper which stands in my name and the names of a number of my hon. Friends—That the Bill be recommitted to the former Committee in respect of Clause 71 (By-laws as to advertisements)"—but I am moving to leave out Clause 71. I am sorry that I should find myself engaged in criticising the Salford Corporation, because the last time I mentioned that city in this House it was in their praise in contrasting their administration of public assistance with that of their large neighbour, the city of Manchester. Having regard to the fact that the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris) is in charge of the Measure on behalf of the Salford Corporation, I feel under strong obligations to be brief, because I think he holds the distinguished office of president of the amalgamated society of back benchers for reducing the length of speeches of ex-Ministers. Seeing him facing me, I will do my best to comply with the views which he and many of his colleagues hold so strongly.
It was only a week to-day that my attention was drawn to the Clause we are now discussing through letters which I received from one of my present constituents in Croydon and one of my previous constituents in Reading. One letter pointed out that:A very serious blow has been struck at the interests of the poster advertising industry by a Clause passed by a Committee of the House of Commons on consideration of the Bill. The importance of this decision lies in the fact that if it stands it will become a precedent applicable to all local authorities and of very great and serious detriment to the poster advertising industry.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I would point out to the hon. Member that what Liverpool has is precisely what the Committee upstairs rejected. They have inserted in the Salford Bill something which is definitely different from what Liverpool has. I do not like either of them, but that is a point we shall come to in due course. Following on these communications, after consultation with one or two hon. Members who had received similar communications, I took the step of putting down the first two Notices of Motion which appear on the Order Paper. Since then I have received a communication 2871 from the Theatrical Managers' Association, under date 26th July:My association entirely supports you in your opposition to Clause 71 of the above Bill. The extension of such powers as those sought by the Salford Corporation to the urban areas throughout the country might well involve a substantial increase in the cost of poster advertising through the limitation of sites available for it. The theatre, especially in the provinces, depends on poster advertising to a very great extent in attracting the public. Moreover, you will appreciate that the industry is not anxious, in the face of the heavy taxation and competition with which it is now confronted, to incur any further increase in the cost of its essential advertising.That letter is signed by the secretary of the organisation. The former constituent who wrote to me from Reading was so moved by the nature of the Clause that his letter includes language which perhaps it would be better for me not to quote.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
On a point of Order. May I ask for guidance? As there are eight Motions on the Order Paper relating to this Bill, seven of which are in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), is it proposed to take a general discussion which will cover all the Amendments, or is it proposed to deal with them in more strict detail?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Before you deal with that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I am moving to leave out Clause 71? What decision the House may take on that Motion it is not for me to anticipate, but if the House decides to delete the Clause, then, obviously, the Amendments could not be moved. I presume that when Mr. Speaker puts the Question on the Motion I am now moving, he will put it in such a way that if I am defeated on this Motion it will still be competent for me to move the Amendments, which really raise three definite points of substance.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Yes, I said at the beginning that I was not moving that the Bill be recommitted. I thought that would be unfair to the Corporation, because it might hold up the Bill so long that it could not become law this Session. 2872 Therefore, I am merely moving to delete Clause 71.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Amendment which the hon. Member is now moving is to leave out Clause 71. On that Motion anything contained in that Clause can be discussed, and I think it would be for the convenience of the House if the Clause was discussed. Any proposals for Amendments subsequent to this, if the Clause is left in, can be included in that discussion, to simplify matters, and we might have a, Division on the other Amendments, without discussion.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
A rather different question is raised in leaving out the whole Clause or merely modifying it. I think it would be for the convenience of the House and for the better elucidation of the matter if we could deal first with the general principle of the Clause and subsequently with the Amendments.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I suppose that the subsequent Amendments must have something to do with the Clause. If that is the case, obviously on the Motion to leave out the Clause the whole Clause can be discussed.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The point that I had in mind was this, that we are not so much debating whether we should have the Clause or not but whether there should be a general extension of the existing law to be applicable in Salford. That is a question of broad principle. If the House decides in favour of that broad principle, there will be certain arguments in detail as to how it is to be achieved, and it would seem to me that the best method would be to have one general Debate on the question that the Clause he left out. If the House decides to retain the Clause, then we could have a Debate on the scope of the Amendments to the Clause. I think one general Debate on the Clause and the Amendments might involve us in a difficulty, but perhaps you will guide us on that.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
There are hon. Members who, like myself do not know the merits of the case on either side and it would help those of us who are not taking a very keen part on either side if we could he told in a general Debate what all these Amendments mean in the Clause if it were amended by the insertion of such Amendments. I think that it would be in accordance with the prac- 2873 tice of the House to carry out Mr. Speaker's suggestion. It would be more informing if we could be told in a general discussion what the Amendments mean. Then we could have a, Division on the separate Amendments, if the Clause is retained in the Bill.
§ Mr. HANNON
I understand that you Rule, Mr. Speaker, that we can have a general discussion on the Motion to leave out Clause 71 and that no Debate would then be necessary on the Amendments. I assume that you will put the Clause so as to safeguard the Amendments.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That was my suggestion. We can be told what the Amendments mean during the Debate on the Clause.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It would not be debarred, but it seems to me for the convenience of the House that it would be better not to have the Debate twice over.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think it would meet the wishes of everybody that there should be no extensive Debate on any of the Amendments, but there are certain points of detail which would require some rather exact elucidation when they are moved, and it is conceivable that if the House defeated the Motion that I am now moving the possibilities of compromise might develop if there was a Debate,subsequently. I want to make sure that you would not regard it as obligatory upon us not to have any Debate at all on the Amendments.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that if hon. Members will confine themselves to points of elucidation it will simplify the situation.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It happens by chance that on three or four occasions during this Session of Parliament I have taken a fairly active part in connection with certain local Bills, and I have done that for two reasons. In the first place, I hold the view, to paraphrase an old phrase, that the duties of local authorities have increased, are increasing, and ought to be diminished. As a result of that fact, their expenditure is steadily mounting at a time when the nation cannot afford the burden. The other point of 2874 principle that animated me in connection with the Middlesbrough Bill and the Essex County Council Bill was this, that when it is decided to make a change in the law which has nothing to do with purely local circumstances, although it may be introduced for the first time in a local Bill, it is undesirable that that change should be made through the chance passing—when I say "chance" I do not say it disrespectfully—of an odd Clause in a local Bill, but it ought to be a definite and solemn decision of Parliament in a Bill of national scope.
I think it is a very dangerous thing that we should change the law of the land fundamentally because in one Session of Parliament we grant to a local authority, for reasons which seemed good to them, and for reasons which satisfied a particular small Committee upstairs, who considered the local circumstances but did not of necessity regard the matter from the broad and national point of view. It is very undesirable that we should in that way establish a precedent and that automatically in subsequent Sessions local authority after local authority should get such a Clause included in their Bills, until, ultimately, the time comes when it is applied generally, as was the case in 1925 when my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), now one of the Lords of the Treasury, introduced and carried through this House an Amendment to the Public Health Act, 1875, now the Public Health (Amendment) Act, 1925, which made general the provisions which a number of local authorities had obtained, although at no time had this House collectively considered the new powers which they were extending to local authorities.
When private legislation is promoted and obtained certain specific local powers, which in character are essentially local, are included, which is all right, but when they are acquiring a power which is of a nature that if it is desirable there it is desirable throughout the country, my feeling is that the proper way to do it is through a public general Act, when the House is perfectly conscious of what it is doing, and, whether it is right or wrong, it is done in a national Bill. On that ground of principle the substance of Clause 71, if it is to be passed at all, should be a Clause in a public general Act and not a Clause in a private Bill.
2875 On the question of cost, it is exceedingly difficult for anyone to make an estimate of the cost if this Clause becomes the law of the land but, obviously, bylaws will have to be made and applied, a decision will have to be taken as to whether Mrs. Smith's gable-end may be let as a bill posting station, someone will have to examine first and take a decision, there will thus be clerical work and, ultimately, the Salford Corporation will have to increase its staff. I have tried to form an estimate and I say that if this ultimately becomes the law of the land there will be an additional expenditure of over £500,000 a year. There are between 1,600 and 1,700 local authorities, and if you divide £500,000 between them the average per local authority is not much. I suggest that one additional person will be added to the staff of a local authority if the Clause is passed, and that would cost more than £500,000. I congratulate my hon. Friend who has played such an active and successful part in Parliament as the leader of the distressed areas agitation, although I understand that he is not too happy as to how matters have turned out for his own borough as they are deprived of the advantage which he has won for the rest of the country. But, nevertheless, he has made very eloquent speeches on behalf of distressed areas. What justification is there for distressed areas, at this time, to ask for power to incur expenditure for the preservation of amenities when they tell us that they are not in a position to meet their ordinary expenditure?
What is the present legislative position? In 1907 the Parliament, whose composition I profoundly disliked, passed an Act for the regulation of advertisements. It provided that advertisements should not be used in such a way as to interfere with the amenities of parks and pleasure grounds. In 1925, in a Parliament of which I was a Member and which had more interest in the countryside than the Parliament of 1906, the law was amended and the provisions of the 1907 Act applied to rural scenery and the amenities of villages. That is the law to-day; and it has worked reasonably well. I have here the by-laws of a very important local authority. They regard them as important and effective powers; and that local authority certainly presents a little more beautiful appearance 2876 than Salford. I am familiar with Salford. I have tramped most of its streets on business purposes, and I have crossed the marvellous river which separates it from Manchester. No one would mind if it was bill posted and not seen again. Why do Salford want these special powers? Nobody else wants them, except Liverpool, and they have them in a different form. All that is needed for the preservation of real amenities is already provided.
Last year the House discussed this very problem in a Bill presented by His Majesty's Government, all of which I did not like, the Town and Country Planning Act, and in one section of that Act very extensive powers are provided when a scheme is made under the Act. I confess that I am not familiar with the provisions of that Act, but I believe it gives to local authorities every reasonable power they ought to have, and I do not understand why we are being asked to give these special powers to one municipality without being offered any reasons why they should have them. It is not only a question of increased expenditure, but this constant growth of municipal power is a menace not only to our liberty but equally to our prosperity. A great many industries are affected. Obviously the bill-posting industry is one, and the theatrical people another. There are also those engaged in the printing industry, and those who erect hoardings; all of whom would be prejudiced if the powers in the Bill are widely extended. When it was discovered that there was a substantial body of opposition to this Clause a great many Members of the House received communications asking them to support the Clause. From whom did these communications come? They came from the town clerks of a large number of boroughs. The town clerk is a municipal servant; he is not a politician. He is entitled to write to the Member of Parliament for his borough if he is so instructed by his council, but the bulk of these communications, many of them in the form of telegrams, which have been addressed to hon. Members of this House have come from town clerks on their own initiative. I think it is entirely improper that a municipal civil servant should interfere in politics in that way.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
Does the hon. Member suggest that a town 2877 clerk would dare to send a telegram to the Member of Parliament for his division without the approval of his municipality
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am not going to say that it is the general practice, but I know that it has been done in this case. Members of Parliament have come to me and shown me the telegram; and I know why they have been sent. We need not go into precise details. It is obvious that the town council did not hold a special meeting to consider this matter.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
But did they hold a meeting to consider this matter? It is only after I put my Motions on the Order Paper that these telegrams were sent.
§ Mr. THORNE
Is the hon. Member aware that local authorities receive communications and resolutions from other local authorities, which are placed before them by their town clerk?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That may be true, but in this case I handed in certain Amendments on Thursday and they did not appear on the Order Paper until the Friday. On Friday a hint was given to certain people that they should telegraph, and I am quite certain that the bulk of the town councils concerned have not held a meeting and that the town clerks have sent these telegrams out on their own initiative.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The hon. Member has made a very serious charge against town clerks. I was a member of a town council for 10 years and as far as I recollect this is what happens. When a local authority is proposing any new legislation in a Bill the town clerk of an authority informs his council of the new proposal, and the town council generally decides on the matter some time before the Bill actually comes before the House of Commons. It is quite possible that in this case the town clerks would know the decision of their councils on this proposal months ago, and consequently dealt with the matter before the hon. Member put his Motions on the Order Paper.
§ M. WILLIAMS
That will not do. No town council in the country has had a special meeting to consider the Salford 2878 Corporation Bill, except those town councils in the immediate neighbourhood who probably wondered whether they were trying to pinch a bit of their territory. I have been a member of a town council and I know exactly what happens. I know why these telegrams were sent, and I think it is entirely improper. I never take any notice at all of communications from a town clerk unless I am satisfied that he is sending the communication with the full responsibility of the body of which he is a servant. The Association of Municipal Corporations, whose offices are across the road, whenever these issues come up send out a communication to every town clerk that they should write to their Member of Parliament. I have taken trouble on many occasions, in respect of these communications, to inquire whether they have been authorised by the town council, and I am taking this opportunity of making a serious protest against this abuse by these official gentlemen.
§ Mr. CAPORN
I am sure the hon. Member does not want to be unfair. When a. town clerk sends a letter he says that he is writing at the request of the authority, but in those cases in which he sends a telegram he perhaps does not make that distinction.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The town clerk is a citizen and as such is entitled to communicate with his Member. The telegrams I have seen have been signed by the town clerk, and that is an intolerable interference on the part of these people which should be stopped, and I make a most serious protest against that kind of method of influencing votes in this House. The Salford Corporation case is somewhat unusual, and if there had been a willingness on their part for an accommodation it would have justified our accepting the Clause, subject to modification. I regret that the spirit of compromise has been absent, though not on the side of my friends and myself. We recognise the peculiar position of the Salford Corporation, because 33 years ago Parliament gave them special powers to deal with hoardings. As far as I can make out the Salford Corporation have not been altogether wise in the way in which they have applied these special powers. They have unduly restricted the provisions of bill posting on hoardings, and as a result 2879 there is now an excessive amount of bill posting on the gable ends of buildings. The people of the United States reviewed the 18th Amendment of their Constitution, and as a result produced the "Speak Easies." The Salford Corporation unduly used its powers under the Act of 1899, and, as a consequence, they have bill posting on gable ends which would never have happened if there had been ample provision for bill posting within the borough. Now I am told, "Oh, yes, but they have refused very few applications." That is true, because the bulk of the applications that would have been made were never made, as it was useless to make them.
We ought to reject this Clause. There is no similar Clause in any previous Bill. The Liverpool Act is not an analogy. The Salford Corporation, basing themselves on the Liverpool Act, incorporated the Liverpool Clause in this Bill, but the Committee upstairs, having heard the evidence, rejected that Clause, and the promoters brought forward a different one. Under the Liverpool Clause an aggrieved person would have an appeal. to a court of summary jurisdiction. Under the Clause we are now considering there is no such appeal; the regulations are made by by-law, which will require the confirmation of the Home Secretary, but when the by-laws are to be administered in detail, if their administration is oppressive there is no appeal at all. If in the interests of amenities there is call for some extension of the Acts of 1907 and 1925, and of the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act of last year, it ought to be done in a public general Act, and ought not to be smuggled through as an individual Clause in a private Bill.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
I beg to second the Amendment.
It has been fairly and forcibly moved by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). When many of us were approached by the Salford Corporation to give support to this Bill for the better government and arrangement of Salford, while we wished to support them in that object, none of us ever intended to give support to the Clause which is under discussion. The Clause puts into the hands of the Salford 2880 Corporation a power which is nothing short of despotism. The Salford Corporation want to have, for the first time in history, a control far wider than that which was intended by Parliament when Parliament passed the Advertisement Regulation Act of 1907, which gave for the first time proper control of advertising in certain areas. This Clause goes far beyond any authority to regulate advertisements. It imposes restrictions on advertising. It is far more severe than the original Clause which was discussed in Committee. It omits the qualifying words which are dealt with in the Advertisement Regulation Acts of 1907 and 1925—words which were repeated in substance in the Town and Country Planning Act of last year; and it confers absolute autocratic power on the local authority. That is entirely unreasonable.
I ask the House to remember that this extraordinary and supreme suggestion comes from Salford, a distressed area. Those who represent that distressed area have come to this House, and asked for a free hand in spending the ratepayers' money to reach the objective in view. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon gave a rough estimate of the additional cost that would be entailed if this Clause became law. It is unarguable that if this power is given to Salford it will have to be given to every local authority. If it is right to give it to any authority at all, it should be given through the medium of a general Act which is of universal application. The experience I have had of local authorities, and the experience which probably every hon. Member has had is that when money has to he spent it is spent by the local authority without any regard to the money that is available.
§ Mr. J. P. MORRIS
The hon. and learned Member has referred to the expense that will be entailed if this Bill is passed with the Clause as it stands. 1 have the authority of the Town Clerk of Salford for stating that the cost, so far as the City of Salford is concerned, will not be more than £50, and will represent only the printing of the by-law.
§ Mr. LYONS
I am very much indebted to my hon. Friend for that interpolation. It comes at an extremely odd juncture from one who has been so assiduous, and rightly assiduous, in this House in getting for his borough a grant from national 2881 funds because the people of Salford are not in a position to meet their responsibilities, possibly through their own lack of good management. I should like to know how the Town Clerk can carry out for £50 the supervision which he has to carry out under this Clause. When the Town Clerk says it means merely the printing of the by-law he is talking rubbish.
§ Mr. LYONS
If this Bill is to have any effect there will be a. complete department of the local authority set up to consider, inspect and supervise all proposed advertisements. There will be an official with a staff, and local authorities do not hesitate to have a staff of good size, because it is paid for by the ratepayers, who have little control over the engagements. This staff will consider every advertisement that is booked to the Council, and will say whether in its opinion the advertisement comes within the Clause of the Bill. It is idle to say that the total cost will be only £50 a year. Mere will be a new department set up, at a most inopportune time, in a place which is not fitted to take on any new obligations of this nature and to compete unfairly with various trade interests.
I would say at once that the Town Clerk of the borough which I in conjunction with two others have the honour to represent, has sent no notification to me. It is perfectly monstrous that outside town clerks or anyone else should send circularised messages of instruction to Members of this House, and try to interfere with them in the proper exercise of the authority with which they are invested. It is a very different thing when a local trader does it. I have had communications from traders who are ratepayers in my city. They say, "We are billposters, we are printers, and we realise that if this Clause is passed you will put on to our trade a fetter which it ought not to have."
If we give any local authority the power to regulate or to stop certain advertisements in that authority's area we (hall diminish the trade carried on in that area. It would have been more to the advantage of Salford if it had done something to increase the spending power of the people in that borough instead of 2882 trying to reduce the earnings of people in the various trades that will be embraced by this particular Clause. Can it be said that there is any need at all for legislation of this nature, in view of the Advertisement Regulation Act of 1907 and subsequent legislation? If the amenities of the borough are to be interfered with, there is ample power in the legislation that exists. There is no need for the despotic power that is sought by Salford. Like the hon. Member for South Croydon, I have seen Salford at various times and from various angles. It would be a good thing if a great deal of Salford were covered up. Some of the posters that are published to-day, which are things of beauty, would hide from the public gaze a lot of Salford. I have seen Salford at its best and at its worst.
On this matter of public control by local authorities without any review, do hon. Members realise that if this Clause goes through, the political or other bias of a local authority can absolutely and unfairly prevent any advertising matter that it is wished to prohibit? You might get a council in Salford so thoroughly opposed to organised or collective buying and selling that it would stop altogether any placard or advertisement of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Why should it have that power? You might get a local authority so composed that it would say, "We shall sallow cooperative societies and no-one else to advertise." Great expense is borne by ratepayers up and down the country because of the work of the local authorities and their departments. The time is coming when there will have to be a curtailment of many of those departments. It is not on the social services that attacks will have to be made, but on things of this kind, which are totally unnecessary to the health and welfare of the public. A Clause of this kind would give to an already overburdened local authority further work.
With an active and alert Member in this House—as we all recognise the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris) to be—they have demanded a share of £500,000 from those areas where the local authorities conduct themselves properly in order to meet expenditure which they are at present unable to meet, at such a state of insolvency have they arrived. With the extraordinary object of being first in the country in regard 2883 to this matter, the borough of Salford now asks this House to give it power to prevent the covering up by advertisements of things which, as I have said, would be better covered. I hope that the House will give a. majority for this Amendment. I hope that we shall in passing this Bill—which contains many proposals for the benefit of the people of Salford and for the better management of the affairs of that borough—strike out this drastic Clause which would for the first time give a local authority a right of this kind without any review.
§ Major HILLS
I have been listening to a great deal of argument with which I disagree profoundly, but I must intervene on that point. I have read Clause 71 and when the hon. and learned Member says that there is no review and that it will be open to the Corporation to prohibit any form of advertisement they choose, he must have omitted to read Sub-section (3) which provides that a by-law made under the Section shall not have effect until confirmed by the Secretary of State, and that the Secretary of State shall give 30 days' notice for the hearing of objections. He may also order a local inquiry.
§ Mr. LYONS
My right hon. and gallant Friend has rightly called attention to a, matter which which I must deal, and I hope I have not given the impression that I was trying to keep back anything which might put a different complexion on the matter. But as I understand this Clause, while it is true that the local authority will have to submit to the Home Office and the Home Office will have to approve or disapprove of the principle of anything that is done under the Clause, the actual details of its application will be in the unfettered hands of the local authority. That was the point which I desired to make at the inception of my remarks, and I do not withdraw anything which I have said. The details of application will be for the exclusive consideration of the local authority, and there is no right under this Clause, as there is in other legislation of this kind, to go to a local court and ask for a decision upon any action taken by the council. I hope the House will authorise the deletion of Clause 71. In my opinion it deals with a matter which ought not to be made a, subject of local legislation.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
For 50 minutes we have listened to dissertations against the retention of this Clause, dissertations on the position of distressed areas, dissertations on the possibilities of action according to the different complexion of different authorities, and dissertations on the possibility that if this Clause is passed it will cost the country £250,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "£500,000!"] I am sorry if I understated the case of the opponents of the Clause in that respect. I propose not to waste the time of the House by predictions of all sorts of things that may happen but simply to apply myself to this Clause as it is. It is just as well for the House to know first of all what has happened to this Bill since its introduction before a Select Committee of another place and of this House. No petition whatever was put in against this Clause on Second Reading. No petition was put in when the Bill came before the Committee.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
On a point of Order. There was a petition against this Clause. I forget the name of the Society which petitioned.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
That may be a reason for interrupting, but it is not a point of Order.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
May I be permitted, as a matter of explanation, to state that I have here two pages which are filled with an account of the appearance of petitioners before the Committee, and my hon. Friend, who was Chairman of the Committee and who is present, will bear me out when I say that there was a petition.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I may be mistaken and, if I am, I willingly give way to the hon. Member. But the Bill was introduced in December, 1932, and the widest publicity was given to it, and no objection was taken to it until, as my hon. Friend says, a petition was pm. in when it came before the Committee. I have always understood that the practice with regard to these Private Bills was to send them before a Private Bill Committee of the Lords and Commons where argument by counsel is heard on both sides and witnesses are called. Those Committees have the advantage of hearing the full arguments on each side. Then 2885 they come to their decision. If it is to become the recognised rule in this House that Members can get up on Third Reading and destroy all the work of such a Committee, and reverse its decision, then it would appear that there is no need for anybody to put in a petition against a Bill. There will be no need to go to the cost. An objector can simply get hon. Members to move against the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I am not suggesting that the action of my hon. Friends is not right. I am drawing my own conclusion in saying that if when a Bill has been examined in Committee it can be thrown out on Third Reading, that will do away with the need for any objector to petition against any Bill at all. Instead of going to the expense of petitioning, objectors can get Members of Parliament to move the rejection of the Bill on Third Reading. It is just as well to note the decision to which the Committee came in the case of this Bill. These are the words of the Chairman.It may be that failure to amplify the decision of the Committee on Friday, may have left some doubt as to precisely what the Committee had in mind. I have to say that when the Chairman used the word regulating 'the Committee intended that to mean really the wider connotation of restriction and prevention and, after consideration, we think the new Clause as drafted by the promotor's Counsel should be adopted.I mention that because a question might arise later on about the word "regulation." It has been asked, Why should Salford ask for these special powers, seeing that they have the same powers as anybody else? Nothing of the sort. We have in Salford, being a congested area, no Town Planning Act in operation, and therefore all the restrictions under the Town Planning Act to which my hon. Friend referred in his opening speech cannot apply to Salford. Then it was said that the council will be made a dictator, and it was said by one hon. Member that there would be no check on them, but it is clearly stated in the Bill that before a single by-law can be passed it has to be submitted to the Home Office, and if the Home Office, after holding an inquiry and hearing all the objections to the by-law, find that it is not reasonable, they can refuse to allow it to be 2886 brought into operation. I maintain that that is an even stronger restriction than the Clause that the Liverpool Corporation got, under which there is an appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction. That Liverpool Clause was inserted in this Bill in the first place, but the Committee thought they would not approve of it and said that they would give us leave to apply this power through by-laws.
I have been in Salford perhaps a little longer than some of my hon. Friends who claim to know it very well. I have been on the outskirts of Salford all my life, and I have represented Salford in this House for 15 years. I would therefore like to tell some of my hon. Friends that they are really quite mistaken when they refer, as the last speaker did, to Salford as a place containing a good many parts that ought to be blotted out and covered with advertisements. It is the bill posters themselves in Salford who have made most of the places there an eyesore. The chief opposition to the Bill comes from the bill posters. The chief bill posting firm in Manchester controls most of the bill posting stations in Salford, but, not content with that, they want to post their bills on every gable-end and on the front of every cottage in the poorer parts of Salford. I say that the poor people in those districts have as much right to protection and to have a pleasurable outlook on life as we have in the better districts. I have had many complaints brought to me in Salford, and—
§ Mr. LYONS
Would not that very protection be given by the Act that I have spoken about, the Advertisement Regulation Act of 1925?
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I was saying that for years these poor people have complained to me that what little outlook they have has been spoiled by these hideous advertisements.
§ Mr. LEVY rose—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
We have already had a very long speech from the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), and a number of Members want to speak, so that I think we shall get on better without these interruptions.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
With regard to the point that has been made that we shall be damaging the trade and 2887 commerce of the country, I have been a business man all my life, and I have had to rely on advertisements as much as anybody else, but the type of advertisements that they want to post in all these back streets in. Salford is not the type of advertisements that would be worth a halfpenny to any business man or commercial man in the City of Salford. I am not going to make any charge against the bill posting company in the way that my hon. Friend made a charge against the town clerk. I will never bring a charge against a public official or anyone else who is not in this House to defend himself and answer the charge. I consider that sort of charge extremely cheap and extremely unfair. We are told that Salford have brought this on themselves by refusing to allow people to put up advertisements, but in answer to that I can say that only four applications have been turned down.
I realise, however, that on a Bill like this it is no good bringing in these extraneous matters and predicting this and that. I only wish to make the point, first of all, that the chief opposition has come from the bill posting companies in this country and the Federation of British Industries. There were three particular Clauses in the Bill, and the federation were called into consultation with the corporation. On the two Clauses relating to warehousing, the corporation met the federation and arranged for an agreement, and the federation never mentioned this first Clause at all until the last moment. Probably, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon said, they only got to know about this a week ago and that is why he brought this up on the Third Reading.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I took no action of any kind at the request of the Federation of British Industries.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I did not say the hon. Member did. All that I said was that the federation had come in at the last moment, as my hon. Friend did, as he told us, only a week ago. We have had two Committees, in the House of Lords and here, we have had counsel, and we have had witnesses called before those Committees, and on that evidence they have given their opinion that this is necessary for Salford and that Salford is entitled to obtain this by-law. I 2888 therefore ask the House to reject the Amendment.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. J. P. MORRIS
As one of the representatives of the City of Salford, I hope I may claim the indulgence and the sympathy of the House in the position in which I find myself in having to combat the eloquence and knowledge of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). I am not a lawyer, and I cannot help confessing that the presenting of this case on behalf of the Corporation of Salford in this House would be better done in the hands of some forensic warrior. I do not know what connection or affinity exists between South Croydon and the City of Salford, or why that hon. Member has taken upon himself the responsibility of putting down the Amendments which stand in his name. I sincerely hope that he has not done that because I refused an invitation to the Croydon Gasworks last Monday. I have never been to Croydon, but if the beauty of Croydon and the efficiency of its gasworks are on the same high plane as the Parliamentary skill of the representative for South Croydon, then in truth I can say that on some future date I have a pleasure in store for me.
The Clause to which objection is taken enables the Corporation to make by-laws for the purpose of regulating, restricting, and preventing the exhibition of advertisements. The Bill, as originally deposited, contained a Clause making it unlawful to erect, exhibit, fix, maintain, retain, or continue any advertisement upon any land or building unless such land or building was licensed by the Corporation. There was a right of appeal against the refusal of a licence to a court of summary jurisdiction and from that court to quarter sessions. The Bill originated in the House of Lords and was referred to a Committee of that House presided over by Lord Redesdale. The British Poster Advertising Association opposed the Bill and appeared by counsel. After a full discussion and evidence, the Clause was allowed by the Committee with an Amendment postponing its operation for a period of four years. There was no further opposition to the Bill. The Bill was then introduced into the House of Commons on 22nd June last, and the time for petitioning against the Bill expired on 3rd July. The British Poster Advertising 2889 Association again petitioned against the Bill, but again there was no other opposition.
The Bill was then referred to a Committee of this House. The Committee devoted two days to this particular Clause, and after hearing counsel and evidence, the Chairman announced that, while the Committee were not disposed to grant the corporation the Clause which appeared in the Bill, they were prepared to give the corporation further powers of dealing with advertisements by empowering them to make by-laws. The case for the corporation in each Committee of the two Houses was that the existing legislation contained in the Advertisements Regulation Acts, 1907 and 1925, and also in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, was not sufficient, in view of the peculiar circumstances of Salford, to enable the corporation to deal with the indiscriminate use of land and buildings for advertising purposes which has taken place in the past year. The Committees of both Houses were satisfied that this was so. I have already stated that the Committee of the House of Commons announced that, instead of granting the Clause which was included in the Bill, they were prepared to give the corporation powers to make, by-laws dealing with the matter, and the corporation were asked to prepare a new Clause and bring it before the Committee.
The corporation, in preparing the new Clause, followed the Advertisements Regulation Acts, 1907 and 1925. They submitted to the petitioners against the Bill a Clause which enabled the corporation to make by-laws for regulating, restricting and preventing the exhibition of advertisements. The petitioners objected to the Clause, and alleged that the corporation had gone beyond the decision of the Committee. That decision was announced by the Chairman in the following terms:I have to announce that the Committee have decided not to grant Clause 68, but we are willing to accept a Clause conferring power to make by-laws regulating the placing of advertisements on buildings and walls, either generally or within such areas as are prescribed by the by-laws.The corporation, in preparing the Clause, took the view that it was the obvious intention of the Committee to extend the by-law powers, but as the Chairman used 2890 only the word "regulating," the petitioners said that that was the only word which should be included in the Clause, and that the Committee's decision should be followed strictly. I submit that if the Clause is restricted to a power enabling the corporation to make by-laws for the purpose of regulating advertisements only, it will be of no value at all to the corporation. The words in the Advertisements Regulation Acts are "regulating, restricting and preventing," and it would not be a difficult matter to satisfy a court that it was the obvious intention of Parliament not to give the corporation any power to restrict or prevent because of the different language of the two Statutes. Moreover, it has already been decided by the Privy Council, on an appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada, that a power to make by-laws to regulate and govern does not empower a local authority to prohibit, and that in fact a power to regulate and govern implies the continued existence of that which is to be regulated or governed.
It therefore follows that if the word "regulating" only is used in the Clause, the corporation will not be able to say that a particular building or part of the town shall not be used for advertising, but they will merely have the right to deal with the manner in which advertisements are to be exhibited and that is of no use to them. As the corporation and the petitioners could not agree on this Clause, it was submitted to the committee. After hearing counsel on both sides and a representative from the Home Office, the Committee, which on this occasion was presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Holderness (Mr. Savery), approved the Clause submitted by the corporation, and the chairman said:It may be that failure to amplify the decision of the committee on Friday may have left some element of doubt as to precisely what the committee had in mind. I have to say that when the chairman used the word regulating 'the committee intended that to mean really the wider connotation of restriction and prevention and, after consideration, we think the new clause as drafted by the promoters' counsel should be adopted.
§ Mr. MORRIS
Yes, that is so. The representative of the Home Office did not raise any objection at the time to the new clause. The Parliamentary agents to the Salford Corporation were Messrs. Dyson Bell and Company, and the senior partner of that firm subsequently interviewed the chairman of the committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Holderness, who was unavoidably prevented from attending when the committee gave their decision. My hon. Friend gave the assurance to the senior partner to the Parliamentary agents that, in his opinion, when he used the word "regulating," he used it in the very widest sense, meaning it to give the corporation full power to deal with the question of advertising.
§ Mr. HANNON
From what is the hon. Member quoting? Where does he find the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Holderness. Is he quoting from the record of the proceedings upstairs?
§ Mr. HANNON
Then I must really ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the hon. Gentleman is entitled to give to the House ex parte statements made by one of the promoters of this Bill and saddling it upon my hon. Friend the Member for Holderness?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think it is not infrequent for hon. Members to present ex parte statements. The hon. Member for Holderness is present, and no doubt he will give his own version.
§ Mr. MORRIS
Had the corporation followed what the petitioners suggest, the exact decision of the Committee, there would not have been any possibility showing the exceptions outlined in the Clause. It will be observed that the Acts of 1907 and 1925 are Advertisement Regulation Acts, but both Acts provide not only for regulation, but also for the restriction and the preventing of advertisements. This Bill was deposited in December last, and notices of its provisions were advertised in the" London Gazette," the "Manchester Guardian" and other newspapers in November and December of that year. Among the provisions of this Bill were two Clauses, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West 2892 Salford (Lieut.-Commander Astbury) has stated, relating to the overloading of warehouse floors, and a deputation from the Federation of British Industries waited on the corporation to discuss those Clauses. The corporation met the wishes of the Federation of British Industries, and amended the Clauses; but I want to make it clear that that deputation made no reference at, all to the advertising Clause, and it was also elicited that there had been no opposition from the local chambers of commerce and chambers of trade.
But what happened? A month after the Bill had been passed by the House of Lords Committee the corporation received a letter from the Manchester Chamber of Trade protesting against the advertising Clause, and at the head of the notepaper appeared, "President: Alderman J. Crookes Grime, O.B.E., J.P." This particular gentleman is the managing director of the Manchester Billposting Company, and it is said, has interests in billposting companies in and around Manchester and Salford. He is a prominent member of the council and is a past president of the British Poster Advertising Association, and gave evidence on their behalf before the Committee. Following the receipt of that letter from the Manchester Chamber of Trade other letters protesting against the Clause were received by the corporation.
§ Mr. HANNON
I am so sorry to interrupt, but does the hon. Member suggest that this distinguished alderman of the Manchester Corporation has done anything that is not consistent with his public duty? Alderman Grime has been discharging his duties as a citizen of Manchester.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I do not blame Alderman Grime for discharging his duty, but the opposition to this Clause is inspired by this particular gentleman who is head of the Manchester Billposting Company.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I had not heard of Alderman Grime till this evening, when somebody introduced me to him in the Lobby outside. He has not inspired me.
§ Mr. MORRIS
As I stated, further communications were received by the Corporation of Salford, including some from the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 2893 The Master Signmakers Association of Lancashire, Cheshire and London, the Advertising Association of London, the Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers, the Manchester Publicity Association, the Manchester, Salford and Counties Property Owners' and Ratepayers' Association, and the British Federation of Master Printers. But it is a remarkable fact that although the Bill was deposited in December, 1932, and wide publicity was given to its provisions, not one of the above bodies petitioned against the Bill until the first letter of protest had been received from the association of which Mr. Grime was president. I want to point out that apart from the exemptions which the Clause provides any by-law made by Corporation is subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, who is required, before confirming it, to consider objections which may be addressed to him by any persons affected or likely to be affected thereby. The Corporation are bound to give public notice of any by-laws they propose to make, and if objections are made the Secretary of State is empowered to hold an inquiry. The Secretary of State is not at all likely to approve any by-laws which would be unreasonable, or which would in any way hamper trade or industry. It has been decided on many occasions that a by-law must be reasonable, and that it would be open at any time to anybody to challenge a by-law on the ground of its unreasonableness.
That is the history of the passage of this Bill through the Committees of both Houses up to its present stage. I intend very briefly to advance the humane considerations which have prompted the Corporation of Salford to seek the powers they ask for in this Bill. Whether Salford adjoins Manchester or Manchester adjoins Salford I do not know, but at any rate they are side by side. Salford has a population of 223,000, and is supported by an area containing 5,203 acres, and a point I now wish to make is that the city of Salford represents one of the densest of communities in this country. The density of population of Salford is 43 to the acre, whereas in Sheffield it is only 16. In Salford there are crowded together in small streets a very large number of persons living in houses the annual value of which is between £9 and 2894 £12 per annum. That gives an idea of the comparatively humble type of house in which the great majority of the people have to live. The city of Salford is a remnant, if I may conveniently call it so, of the industrial revolution.
The point of principle which, on behalf of the Corporation of Salford, I desire to put before this House is that it is their right to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to protect the few remaining amenities of the people whose lot it is to live in those small houses in those humble streets. As regards the regulation of advertisements, and in so far as the protection of amenities has been the concern of the legislature, the people who live in the country are in a most privileged position. They obtain reasonable protection, I will not say from desecration, but at any rate from the annoyance through the display of advertisements. It has been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon that people in the humble streets of Salford are not entitled to protection at all in respect of their amenities, because they have no amenities either to protect or to preserve; but if it is their misfortune to have to live in those humble streets that is no reason why billposters should be at liberty to do what they please and be allowed to display whatever kind of advertisements they wish to. I claim on behalf of the people of Salford some right to equality of treatment in the matter of being safeguarded and protected against the destruction of amenities, such as is meted out to people living in other parts of the country.
It has been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon that the existing law is adequate and that the authority are not entitled to further protection. That is not the case, as I will endeavour to prove. In 1907, the Advertisements Regulation Act was passed as a general Act. Section 2 of that Act states that any local authority may make by-laws, first for the regulation and control of hoardings and similar structures used for the purpose of advertising when they exceed 12 feet in height, and secondly for regulating, restricting or preventing the exhibition of advertisements in other places in such a manner or by such a means as to affect injuriously the amenities of a public park 2895 or pleasure promenade, or to disfigure the natural beauty of the landscape. It will be observed that there are no regulations which would control a hoarding up to 12 feet, and that the Act only provides for a public park, a pleasure promenade or the natural beauty of the landscape. I have as yet failed to find any landscape in Salford, and I have certainly not discovered much natural beauty; nor is there such a thing as a pleasure promenade. There is nothing in the Act of 1907 which affords any protection for the amenities of the streets in which the vast bulk of the people of Salford have to live.
The next Act was one passed in 1925 and similarly called the Advertisements Regulation Act. It amplified the powers given to local authorities by the earlier Act of 1907. Let me read Section 1 of that Act, which is the pertinent Section:The powers of a local authority … shall include powers to make by-laws for regulating, restricting or preventing within their district or any part thereof the exhibition of advertisements so as to disfigure or injuriously affect—Paragraph (a) does not apply to Salford, because certainly there is no rural scenery; (b) does not apply to Salford because Salford is not in the area of a rural district council, and (c) does not apply, because there are no historic buildings or monuments in Salford frequented by the people on account of their beauty or historic interest. Therefore, it is plain to see that under the Act of 1925 nothing could be done to protect the amenities of the people living in Salford.
- (a) the view of rural scenery from a highway or railway, or from any public place or water; or
- (b) the amenities of any village within the district of a rural district council; or
- (c) the amenities of any historic or public building or monument or of any place frequented by the public solely on account of its beauty or historic interest."
I will now come to the next and final Act which is supposed to give adequate protection to Salford, namely, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. I think that I shall be able to prove that there is nothing in that Act which enables a local authority like that of Salford to preserve the amenities of the streets of a developed part of a town. Section 47 is that which deals with the control of advertisements and it reads as follows: 2896Where it appears to the responsible authority that an advertisement displayed or a hoarding set up in the area to which the scheme applies seriously injures the amenity of land specified in the scheme as land to be protected under this Act in respect of advertisements, the authority may serve in the prescribed manner upon the owner of the advertisement or hoarding a notice requiring him to remove it within such period, not being less than twenty-eight days from the date of service of the notice, as may be specified therein, and where any such notice is served a copy thereof shall be served in the prescribed manner upon the owner and occupier of the land on which the advertisement or hoarding is displayed or set up.It will be observed that the condition precedent to the local authority of the area having any powers at all for the regulation of advertisements is that there is a scheme in existence which applies to that area. It is impossible to have a scheme of town-planning under Section 6 of the Town and Country Planning Act in Salford, because a scheme depends upon three conditions. One is that public improvements are likely to be made or other developments are likely to take place. I can assure the House that such a thing is not possible in Salford. The second condition is that the land already built upon comprises buildings or other objects of architectural, historic or artistic interest. Whatever interest the houses in those streets have for the persons who live in them, it cannot be said that the streets comprise buildings or other objects of architectural, historic or artistic interest. The third condition is that the land is so situate that the general object of the scheme would be better secured by its inclusion. I can promise hon. Members that there is no land available in Salford for a scheme of that kind. Therefore, I claim that I have made it perfectly clear that under none of the general Acts of 1907, 1925 or 1932 can anything be done by by-laws in respect of the regulation of advertisements in the streets of Salford.
I have here a series of photographs typifying the advertisements to which objection is made and which the Corporation of Salford seek to control. I feel convinced that, if hon. Members saw these photographs, they would not hesitate for a moment in deciding exactly how to vote on this Clause. I ask any hon. Member what he would think if, on looking through his bedroom window in 2897 the morning, he saw an advertisement plastered on the walls and gables of houses opposite. How would they like to see an advertisement saying, "Buy the Sunday Dispatch. Randolph Churchill tells Members of Parliament where to get off," or "If I were Prime Minister," by Randolph Churchill? Think of the effect on the minds of the people of such advertisements as appear in these photographs.
The issue before the House at the moment is: Shall the bill-posters be allowed, subject to no control or restriction, to plaster bills and advertisements upon the ends and gables of houses and in other places? On the other hand, shall they be subject to a reasonable control in respect of so doing? Such control would not remain finally in the hands of the Corporation, but would form the subject of adjudication by an independent tribunal, the court of petty sessions, from which there lies an appeal to the quarter sessions. I hope that I have convinced the House that the restriction in Clause 71, about any decision to which the corporation may come, provides sufficient protection for the legitimate and reasonable exercise of the power of displaying advertisements, and, if I have done so, I hope that this House will reject in no uncertain manner the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon and his colleagues.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. SAVERY
I hope that it may not be inappropriate if, in as few words as possible, I speak in opposition to this Amendment, because I was called upon to preside over the earlier meetings of the Select Committee which had to consider the Salford Corporation Bill. In that capacity I was empowered to make a statement from the Chair which has called for the Clause in question. In that statement no attempt was made to draft a Clause; the purpose of the words used was rather to indicate a direction in which it was hoped that a Clause agreed upon by both sides might be drawn up and submitted to the Committee. The agreement that we hoped for was not arrived at, and subsequently the Committee, after most careful consideration, unanimously decided to accept the Clause which was submitted by the promoters of the Bill.
2898 It would be an astute person, and a still more sagacious Committee, that could guarantee in such matters to satisfy both contending parties, and it is quite natural and intelligible that the course which the Committee took has been a disappointment to the petitioners against the Bill. Their criticism, or criticism from any other source, might well disclose opportunities for altering the phraseology, or even modifying the effect, of a, Clause; but I would submit most earnestly that the disappointment of the petitioners, or even the resentment of the opponents of the Bill, cannot possibly afford sufficient ground for setting aside the considered opinion of the Committee and reversing their unanimous decision.
The issue arising from an Amendment of this sort appears to me to resolve itself into this plain question: Have we or have we not faith in our Parliamentary methods? On this occasion you have a Select Committee drawn from Members of this House. They have sat and deliberated under procedure which has been perfectly accurate and correct. They have heard evidence on both sides; they have taken advantage of the expert advice which is always available to members of such a Committee; and then, in the exercise of their unquestioned powers, they have come to a, unanimous decision on this Clause. Surely, in such a ease, the position of the Committee with regard to this Clause is unassailable, and it would be purely vexatious ruthlessly to challenge their conclusion. Therefore, with great respect but with unwavering confidence, I would ask the House to reject this Amendment and to uphold the action of their Committee.
§ 9.9 p.m.
Sharing the desire of the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris), and other hon. Members, for short speeches, I wish briefly to oppose the special powers that this Bill would confer upon Salford in regard to advertisements. Clause 71 would seem to suggest that advertising, at any rate by poster, is an evil, and an unnecessary evil, which should be prevented, but many who are in close touch with advertising regard it as an effective and indispensable aid to marketing and selling, and, consequently, to the stimulating and sustaining of trade. We claim that it discharges an increasingly im- 2899 portant economic function in the modern world, and that, indeed, mass production and mass distribution would be virtually impossible without it.
Posters are not always decorative, but, at any rate, great efforts have been made, and not unsuccessfully, to raise their artistic standard. The advertiser more and more makes use of the skill of the pictorial artist. Some disfigurements, such as railways, tunnels and pylons, may not be susceptible to improvement from an artistic point of view, but there is good reason to believe that the future will see a continuing improvement in the matter of the poster. Those associations which are opposing this Bill, like the Advertising Association and the Poster Advertising Association, do not, I am sure, in any way resent any effort to preserve the natural and artistic duties of the countryside and its buildings. They, too, may have these things at heart, and certainly they are alive to the desirability, in their own interests, of preventing offences against good taste on the part of their Members. The up-to-date advertiser seeks the good will of the public, and, surely, it would be bad business for him to court its hostility by exhibiting eyesores.
Many of us, realising the extent of the service that advertisers render to trade, have been greatly concerned by this Bill, for it threatens to do a serious injury to a business which gives considerable employment itself, and which directly assists in maintaining employment in a huge number of industries and businesses. Is so drastic a step necessary? Parliament in the past has not been unmindful of the amenities of the country; it has considered the matter from a national point of view. By the Advertisements Regulation Acts and by the Town and Country Planning Act it has introduced numerous provisions to regulate the intrusion of hoardings and posters—provisions to protect places and objects of beauty from disfigurement. We who are opposing this Clause hold that the existing law gives adequate powers to those local authorities who choose to exercise them, and, in view of the association of advertising with trade activities, any proposals for granting further powers should be closely scrutinised, but from a national point of view.
2900 I do not suggest that Salford is not alive to the part which advertising plays in modern distribution, Lilt this Bill would permit those whose objection to advertising may not be balanced by their appreciation of its value to trade an industry to exercise what might well be a paralysing influence on a very important, and, indeed vital, service. In this instance Salford seeks exceptional powers, but, if its amenities and beauties are not adequately protected by the existing law, are other places similarly placed as regards the Town and Country Planning Act to be exposed to the treat of disfigurement? If there is a real need for further legislation, surely it is for us to proceed by general rule, and not by local exception. If there is to be one law in one place and another law in another place, it is bound to be unfair to some localities, and it can only confuse and hamper what I have no hesitation in calling a service to the community. The Bill seeks to take it much further than Parliament has gone when it has considered the matter. If there is really need for further powers to protect the countryside, we should consider the matter in the interests of all districts and not only of one. If there is no need for further powers, I hope the House will prevent any unnecessary interference with a vital service whose practical purpose it is to help to convey the products of our factories to the homes of the people.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
I have never been so perfectly convinced until to-night by my hon. Friends the Members for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) and North Salford (Mr. P. Morris) of the absolute necessity of limiting the duration of speeches. They have been very strong advocates in that cause and certainly they must have convinced a great many people to-night. But I rise, not for the purpose of congratulating them upon that feat, but for she purpose of appealing to the promoters of the Bill to take what I conceive to be a reasonable course. Do not let anyone think that I am tarnished with the atmosphere of Manchester, because I am not, but I do from time to time have to walk through parts of Salford, and I sympathise entirely with Salford in its desire to regulate, to restrict, and to prevent, if necessary, the exhibition of a great many 2901 posters which at present destroy the amenities of a number of mean streets. Some people think a mean street has no amenities, but I see no reason at all why, because a man lives in a poor house in a poor street, he should have his view defaced by a number of posters, and it seems to me that it is just as much necessary in a mean street to protect the inhabitants of that street from the unlimited exhibition of posters as it is even in the countryside, and I sympathise entirely with those who want to have that power. But I cannot see any reason why those who want that power should want it for purely arbitrary reasons, and that is the difficulty of this Bill. It provides that:for the purpose of preserving for the enjoyment of the public or residents the amenities of any street, the Corporation may make by-laws for regulating, restricting, or preventing the exhibition of advertisements on any building, wall, or other structure not being a hoarding within the City as may be specified in the bylaws.Surely that is sufficient power, and I think that power, properly exercised, can be wielded by the corporation in the best interests of the town, and under that power they can do a great deal of good. But why they should want an arbitrary power to control the situation when they can do it all under those words I do not understand. I appeal to the promoters to try to rid themselves of that desire to have a purely arbitrary and unreasonable power. If they will do that, I for one will certainly advocate that the Clause should be allowed to pass, but, while those words are in it, they cannot grumble in the least against the House for opposing it. They are simply saying that the corporation, for a mere whim, may say, "We will not have more than a thousand posters in Salford," and then, when they get to 1,001, the by-law comes into operation. It is a. perfectly silly power. On the other hand, if you have the power to make by-laws regulating, restricting or preventing the exhibition of advertisements, you have everything that is required. Salford is a great municipality and the city is well kept and well looked after. No one can pass through its streets without realising that. At the same time, it is a great pity that, in the desire to get arbitrary powers, it should throw away the opportunity that it has of getting a reasonable power to regulate, restrict or prevent the exhibi- 2902 tion of posters. If they want that power, I for one will do all I can to help them to get it. They can get it by accepting the second Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon, and, if they will accept that condition, I think there will be very little opposition to the Clause.
§ Mr. BAILEY
The hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the power of the Salford Corporation being arbitrary. Has he taken notice of Sub-section (3) of the Clause, which states that the Secretary of State must confirm any such Order?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
The fact that the Secretary of State must confirm the by-law in no way affects the point that I am putting. The power of the Secretary of State to confirm or otherwise may be very seriously restricted by putting an arbitrary power into a by-law which merely limits numbers, because you take away from him a great deal of the discretion that he might otherwise have. If you are going to have the Secretary of State confirm or reject a by-law, he must have some opportunity for exercising discretion. If you are going to have merely an arbitrary power to limit the number, you might just as well not have the Secretary of State in at all. I think it would be far better to deal with this on reasonable grounds than on purely arbitrary grounds.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)
I should like to support the appeal that my hon. and learned Friend has made. He has submitted in a very clear fashion the position which the Home Office take up in respect of the Bill. I do not want to deal with the history of the Bill nor with what happened in the Committee, of which I was not a, Member. We have had the Chairman of the Committee making a statement with regard to what happened upstairs, but, with all respect to him, I would say that this House really has every right to criticise a Bill after it has passed through Committee. Even if the Clauses were perfectly normal and common Clauses, we should still retain that right. Here I think our right is, if anything, increased because a new principle is involved in Clause 71. I hope my hon. Friend will not consider that we have in any way attempted to slight the Com- 2903 mittee or to slight him as Chairman of the Committee when we decide to discuss this matter and come to a decision for ourselves. I, at any rate, have not been influenced by any bill-posting company or any association in the declaration that I am going to make. This Clause, as drafted, allows extremely wide powers of making by-laws. It could be used for objects entirely different from the amenities. If the Clause is allowed to go through as drafted, it might seriously embarrass legitimate business being carried on by advertisers.
I am not speaking on behalf of advertising interests. I would like to put, quite briefly, the view of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. As representing the Home Office and as the authority who would be expected to confirm these by-laws, his point of view is that his position would be extremely difficult because, as at present drafted, the Clause does not indicate the considerations to be borne in mind by the confirming authority. If the House will look once more at the Clause as drafted, it will be seen that no reasons need be given by the corporation, who have simply to say that they desire to limit the number or to control the situation of advertisements, irrespectively altogether of the amenities of the district. On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I wish to say that this is much too wide a power, and would make our administration at the Home Office extremely difficult. Quite frankly, my right hon. Friend does not like the bylaw procedure at all in respect of a matter of this kind. The question as to whether advertisements are prohibited in a particular area is much more suitable for the decision on the spot by persons familiar with local conditions. Any decision which may be made should be made on the spot, and be subject to the right of appeal to a court—perhaps the court of quarter sessions. But my right hon. Friend is prepared to accept this by-law principle in this instance on account of the fact that this Bill is sound in other respects. We do not like the Clause as at present drafted and I would reiterate the appeal made by the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves Lord), for unless the Amendment to delete the wordsor of limiting the number or controlling the situation of advertisements2904 is agreed to by the promoters and by the House in general, I am reluctantly compelled to ask that Clause 71 should disappear from the Bill.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I would not have intervened in this Debate at all had it not been that I happened to hear the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) speaking of Salford as a place where he used to go some years since. I happen to be in a similar position in regard to Salford. I can say quite frankly that I have no interest whatever in bill-posting or anything else in connection with Salford, but for some 12 years after the War I had the misfortune to have to earn my livelihood mainly in Salford, and I know the district thoroughly—as well as anybody in this House. I also happen to know the district represented by the hon. Member for South Croydon, and I can assure him that if he will compare the two districts—and he must know them both, seeing that he has visited them—he will agree with me that in the comparison Salford suffers intensely. When I listened to the hon. and gallant Member for Dover (Major Astor)—not having the honour of knowing him—I was wondering whether there was by any chance an advertisement on the gable end of his house. In Salford I have many friends who earn their living in that city—friends that I made during the War when they were soldiers with me in France. I have been one of the lucky ones, and have been able to escape having to live near Salford. They are still there, and it is on their behalf that I have been induced to raise my voice this evening in this House to try, no matter how the Clause may eventually be framed, to get something for these people who are forced to live in that city.
I know from experience that the advertisements displayed there do not improve Salford one jot. When I asked a question as to whether there happened to be an advertisement on the gable end of a certain hon. Member's house, I was thinking of some of those advertisements I have seen in Salford on the gable ends opposite to the houses of friends of mine When my friends open their doors, they see an advertisement advising them to use certain powders which will kill all 2905 kinds of insects. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Dover that that is a very sensible advertisement to have opposite their doors, for most likely they need those powders in such houses. But I fail to understand how such advertisements in such a place add to the amenities of that street where those men are compelled to live. Therefore, I shall do what I possibly can to help forward this Clause, even if it is amended according to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord), because I really think this question of poster advertisements must be tackled not only in Salford, but in every large industrial area of population. The hon. Member for South Croydon objected to town clerks writing in respect of this Bill. Though I did not get a telegram, I did get a letter from the town clerk of Manchester. I would ask whether it was irregular, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member, who adduced no proof that there was any irregularity.
§ Mr. FLEMING
No, you have interrupted enough. Those in my profession have been taught to regard all things as being rightly done by men in such a position until they are proved otherwise, and that is my position in regard to the town clerk of Manchester. Be that as it may, I see in the letter sent to me something more than the hon. Member for South Croydon sees. I see a desire also in the city, of which I represent a part, to regulate their advertisements. I do not think that anyone in this House would cavil against such a desire. I gather, from listening to the arguments, that the only objection to the Clause is the method by which it is proposed to bring it about. I wish it to be clearly understood that I, personally, although I have no interest whatever in poster advertising, have no objection, as the hon. and gallant Member for Dover put it, to the proper use of such methods of advertising. I am all in favour of it, but the method as developed in the city of Salford, of which I had experience for 12 years, is not the right method from the point of view of those people who are condemned to live in that city, and it is on their behalf, and theirs only, that I have risen to speak.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
The hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming) has lifted his voice very worthily in defence of the people of Salford and of their intense dislike of advertisements. I think that had he, possibly, in the course of his advocacy considered the proceedings in Committee when the Bill was going through he would have found that the people of Salford were, in fact, not so agitated about advertisements in that constituency as he might have suspected. There was only one witness called before the Committee to testify to the views of the borough of Salford, and he was the Mayor. In the course of his evidence he managed, with a great deal of brain-racking, to adduce two instances out of the population who objected to the advertisements which were displayed upon their walls—two out of a population, I believe, of 223,000. It was a very excellent percentage of objectors, clearly proving, as the hon. and learned Member says, that the population of Salford have an intense hatred of any form of advertising on their walls or gable ends. On the other hand, possibly, the feelings of the other 222,998 might be considered before this popular appeal is put to the House.
The hon. Members for Salford put the ease for their borough as well as it could be put on this occasion but there are one or two things where, I think, they trespassed somewhat on the intelligence and the tolerance of this House. When the hon. and gallant Member for Salford, West (Lieut.-Commander Astbury), in the course of his speech, said that the only opposition to this Bill came from some organisation of billposters, it seemed to me that he implied that Members of the House who were opposing the Bill were, in fact, in some way concerned with billposting. I should like to take rather strong exception to that. It is a form of argument which is too often bandied about in this House that such-and-such a Member is here to represent some particular interest, and although occasionally, but very occasionally, I have heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say that they, in fact, represented some union or some other interest, I do not think that they have meant it. This House as a whole has the old-fashioned idea that it represents its constituencies, and I take very strong exception to the 2907 remarks of the hon. and gallant Member suggesting that hon. Members of this House represent particular vested interests.
The opposition to this Bill is not a question of any particular interest but one of general principle as to whether or not extremely extensive powers are to be given to local authorities. I suggest that there is no precedent really before the House for these powers to be given. The House listened with great respect and appreciation to the hon. Member for Holderness (Mr. Savery) when he explained the position of the committee. But, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, even Private Bill Committees can be mistaken, and it is because they can be mistaken that there is such a thing as the Report stage in this House—another fact to which the hon. and gallant Member for West Salford took exception. I think the House will realise that the committee in this case have made a very honest mistake, but definitely a mistake, because after striking out the clause, which they considered to be too drastic, they inserted another clause, thinking that they had reached a reasonable compromise, but it is a clause which is, in fact, far more drastic than the one they struck out.
I should like to refer to some of the remarks of the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris), who said that a great deal of evidence was brought before the committee as to the necessity for the corporation of Salford obtaining these powers, but, as I said before, that "great deal of evidence" was, in fact, his worship the Mayor, a very worthy gentleman I have no doubt—I have not the privilege of knowing him—but, although embodying in himself the civic spirit of Salford, he did not produce, legally speaking, "a great deal of evidence." The hon. Member for North Salford went on to quote certain legal decisions in support of his argument that the corporation should have those powers, but, unfortunately, he omitted to tell the House that the law he was quoting was Canadian, and not English. I have a great respect for Canadian law, but, even although an assiduous reader of the "Daily Express," I cannot suggest, or expect this House to suggest, that we should accept Canadian law as the basis for our decisions here.
2908 The House is being asked to extend to the borough of Salford a power which is not, in fact, held in the same way by any other borough in this country, but certain boroughs have got certain laws for the regulation of advertisements, and when the House realises which boroughs they are, they will see that there are extra qualifications which do not apply in the same case to the borough of Salford. The cities of Edinburgh and Leith, which, I believe, are now combined, have certain powers, not nearly as drastic as those asked for in the Bill. But Edinburgh is an acknowledged beauty spot, and, although Salford is a fine borough, I think that even its hon. Members, worthily though they represent it, will not argue that it is an acknowledged beauty spot. Other towns which have extra powers are Dover, Newcastle, Leeds and Brighton. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) has already dealt with the case of Liverpool, but in respect of these other four towns, there are special circumstances which do not arise in this particular case. There is no popular feeling in the borough of Salford for the suppression of these advertisements other than the evidence given by the Mayor—the only witness, and, incidentally, one of the few people in Salford who is exempt from the provisions of the Bill in his own business, because he owns a cinematograph theatre which he advertises on his walls, and which advertisements do not come within the purview of this Clause. During the Committee proceedings many photographs were submitted to the Committee as to the undesirability of a particular type of advertisement, and the most undesirable were two posters exhibited in front of his worship's own cinema. Therefore, I do not think that that evidence can be treated as really conclusive. Many of the people living in these houses in Salford might well believe that if they received a little money for having an advertisement displayed on the walls of their houses, it would be a welcome addition to their weekly income. I am told that Salford is purely a working-class borough. The working classes in these days are not well provided in regard to their weekly incomes. Why should any possible addition to that weekly income be at the arbitrary disposal of the borough council? If the owner of one of 2909 these cottages should like to strike a bargain with an advertising company to exhibit posters, then in the interests of the liberty of the subject and in the interests of their own economics they should have the power to do so, but if this Clause goes through they will not have that power. Therefore I appeal to the House to reject the Clause. Every opportunity has been given to the promoters of the Bill to reach a reasonable compromise, but every effort to reach a reasonable compromise has been rigorously rejected. Therefore the House has no alternative but to reject the Clause in full.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. CHRISTIE
The House has been engaged for a very considerable time in considering this Clause. While I am inclined to support the Motion of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), I feel that the time will not have been wasted if the Debate calls attention to the present position of the local legislation groups who consider these Measures. Before the change was made by the last Socialist Government the method of carrying on local legislation was that these new Clauses and these new precedents were considered by the joint Local Legislation Committee. The two Local Legislation Committees at that time were presided over by Sir Thomas Robinson and Sir Walter Raine, who were undoubtedly the finest chairmen of those committees that we have had for many years, and I cannot help thinking that a very bad backward step was taken in dividing the work of those committees among the present multiple units. If the old system had been carried on and this Clause had been submitted to the entire Joint Committee, with the advantage of the two chairmen being present, it would never have been put in the Bill in its present form. I am now given to understand, and I am thankful to say, that the protagonists are inclined to come to an agreement. Therefore, I will not trouble the House further.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
I am authorised, on behalf of the promoters, to accept the Amendment: In page 58, lines 23 and 24, to leave out the words:or of limiting the number or controlling the situation of advertisements.2910 I think it necessary to make one point clear. The petitioners against this Bill, and this section of the Bill in particular, have stated emphatically their view that Salford has no amenities to protect. They have concentrated the whole of their evidence and their case upon those lines. In accepting this Amendment now, it must be clearly understood that the promoters are not accepting the point of view put forward by the petitioners on those lines, but on the lines put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) that the meanest of the streets of Salford have amenities to be protected, in case of need. We think the matter should be considered on those lines.
The opposition to-night has been largely initiated by the hon. Member for South Croydon, and there has been a great deal of kite-flying in connection with this particular Clause. One would imagine that the City Council of Salford are for some unknown reason going to become mad at once, because they have some special powers granted to them. It would be well if some reason were given why the Salford City Council or any other local authority should suddenly become mad in the application of powers granted to them. We have had objections raised to town clerks circularising Members of this House, and there has been resentment because from some words used this evening it is implied that hon. Members have a personal interest in some business or other. There is never a week that passes in the lives of Members of this House that they are not directly or indirectly approached by some sort of interest. If there be any implication at all it is the implication that we all suffer in accepting these approaches, directly or indirectly. If the House wishes to claim a virtue on these lines I think the sooner steps are taken to prohibit approaches, direct or indirect, inside or outside this House, the better. The promoters are. now prepared to accept the Amendment to which I have referred and I hope that, the good sense of the House will be fully-satisfied with that acceptance, in response to the appeal made by the Under-Secretary of state for the Home Department.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
If I understood the hon. Member aright, his statement is that his friends, who are the promoters of the Bill, have agreed to, 2911 accept the second Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon, namely, to leave out the words:or of limiting the number or controlling the situation of advertisements.It is rather hard to decide who is able to speak for the promoters because we have several voices, but if that is the agreement and they will accept that Amendment then I think my hon. Friend will be willing to withdraw his opposition.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
I have had some conversation with the promoters and they assure me that if this is agreed to they will be quite willing to accept that Amendment without a Division. I think that is a very satisfactory conclusion to the discussion.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
On behalf of the promoters I agree to accept the Amendment to leave out the words:or of limiting the number or controlling the situation of advertisements.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, but I desire to make one minor qualification when we come to the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, in page 58, lines 23 and 24, to leave out the words, "or of limiting the number or controlling the situation of advertisements."
The qualification 1 wish to make is this. I recognise the peculiar situation of Salford, because of the Act passed in 1899, and I am willing to agree to this concession in respect of Salford because of the fact that they have certain special powers, but I do not regard it as a precedent for any other municipality which may come to Parliament and ask for similar powers. I reserve to myself the full right to oppose any Bill in future which may seek to extend to other municipalities the powers which are proposed to be given to Salford to-night.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Dr. O'DONOVAN
While I heartily agree to the Third Reading of the Bill I should like to draw the attention of the promoters to Section 92, which introduces an absolutely new principle into the control of the practice of medicine. Any doctor in Salford in future, who wishes to treat his patients by the modern means of ultra-violet light therapy, must now produce every year a certificate of his competence signed by two medical practitioners. If the policy be extended it will produce the extraordinary position by which the Salford Corporation holds itself entitled to reconsider the work of the General Medical Council and to assume the responsibilities of the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons who have trained and certified men as fit to practise medicine generally. Should a registered practitioner go to Salford and adopt this ordinary, simple method of modern treatment he must yearly produce a certificate of his competence and of the fitness of his premises. This is so extraordinary, and novel, so far-reaching and improper, that I think the promoters should take notice of it before the Bill is finally passed.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time. and pased, with Amendments.