HC Deb 07 December 1939 vol 355 cc790-2
28. Mr. Wakefield

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that Mr. T. C. Newman, of 15, Grovelands Avenue, Swindon, was prosecuted at Swindon on 6th November for contravening the lighting regulations at 5 a.m. on 20th September, and that police evidence stated that the windows of his newspaper shop were efficiently blacked-out, lights properly screened casting the light downwards; that there was a heavy canvas sheet hung across the entrance through which workmen moved in carrying out their work, and that air-raid precautions wardens were satisfied with the precautions taken; and what steps does he propose to take to ensure that members of the public are not being unreasonably prosecuted?

Sir J. Anderson

I have made inquiry and am informed that the sheet hung across the entrance to these premises did not reach the floor by nearly five feet, with the result that at the time when the offence was observed light was streaming through the open doorway and shining on a wall on the opposite side of the road. On the matter being brought to his notice by the police Mr. Newman would not make any effort to screen the light. I am not aware of any ground for the suggestion that the prosecution in this case was unreasonable. The fact that the defendant was fined £1 shows that the court which heard the evidence did not take this view of the matter.

Mr. Wakefield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, on a comparative basis, there are more prosecutions in Swindon than in any other part of the country for contraventions of the lighting regulations; and, furthermore, that Swindon is more blacked out than any other part of the country?

Sir J. Anderson

Comparisons are apt to be very misleading.

29. Mr. Wakefield

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that an old age pensioner, Mr. F. W. Mapson, of 18, Station Road, Stratton St. Margaret, was prosecuted at Swindon on 13th November for striking a match indoors; that evidence was given that if he had struck this match out-of-doors he would not have been fined; and what action does he propose to remit the fine imposed on Mr. Mapson, and to ensure that in the future no proceedings will be instituted in such cases?

Sir J. Anderson

I have made inquiry and I understand that the proceedings in this case were taken in respect of a light showing at an uncurtained bedroom window. There was no evidence that the light was caused by striking a match, and I am informed that, in fact, it came from a lighted candle. The case was dismissed under the Probation of Offenders Act on payment of 2s. costs; no question of remission, therefore, arises. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) on 9th November last. Steps are being taken to bring that reply specifically to the notice of chief officers of police for their guidance.

Mr. Thorne

Would it not be better when cases of this kind are brought before the court that the parties concerned should be let off with a caution?

Sir J. Anderson

The reply to which I have referred the hon. Member indicated that the proper procedure was that actual proceedings should be taken only where there has been a flagrant or defiant breach of the regulations, and that in ordinary cases a warning should be given in the first instance.

Mr. Buchanan

Will the right hon. Gentleman see that that applies to Scottish officers as well as to those in England?

Sir J. Anderson

I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on this matter.