HC Deb 02 May 1958 vol 587 cc793-809

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

3.1 p.m.

Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is the third Litter Bill which I have helped to sponsor and I hope that it may be a case of third time lucky. I should like to express my thanks to those hon. Members on both sides of the House who have helped and encouraged me in guiding the Bill on its passage through the House. My special thanks are due to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), who introduced a somewhat similar Bill two Sessions ago. He did a great deal of pioneering work on the Bill and he mobilised public opinion in favour of legislation.

My thanks are also due to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Parliamentary Secretary and to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for the help and assistance which they have given. These Ministers suffered a severe buffeting when my somewhat similar Bill was given a Second Reading in the last Session of Parliament, and they damned that Bill with the faintest possible praise. They received, in particular, a very severe dusting from the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).

I am very glad that the Ministers have had second thoughts and that since then they and their Departmental officers have been extremely co-operative and helpful in drafting this Bill. The Bill is a good example of how Parliament, when it is united and determined, can exert a bene- ficial influence on the Executive and can prod the Executive into taking action.

Throughout the period that the Bill and its predecessors have been under consideration by the House they have had the wholehearted support of every one of the local government associations. The Bill has also had a wide variety of support from the many voluntary societies in Britain which take an interest in preserving amenities, both in our towns and in the country. The list of societies supporting the Bill is so long that it is impossible to mention them all by name, but pre-eminent among them and one of the most helpful has been the "Keep Britain Tidy" group. This group is sponsored by the National Federation of Women's Institutes and it brings together and co-ordinates the anti-litter efforts of many voluntary organisations.

Throughout the time that the Bill has been under discussion the "Keep Britain Tidy" Group has been a real tower of strength and I should like to express my appreciation to that group for its unstinted support. I should also like to thank the Country Landowners' Association, whose legal adviser has been of great assistance.

I do not know what reception the Bill will receive at the hands of hon. Members today. Some may think that it goes too far, while others may think that it does not go far enough. But I can say that it has come as a very agreeable surprise to me that in all the great volume of correspondence which I have had on this subject from public bodies and from the general public I have not had one single complaint or criticism regarding the objects of the Bill. No one has suggested that the Bill goes too far, and I think that this lack of criticism is rather surprising, because when one is taking steps to put restraints and restrictions on the liberty of the subject one would expect some form of abuse at least from members of the lunatic fringe.

I can only hope that the absence of criticism and opposition means that the Bill will prove universally popular and that its provisions will generally be observed. However, we should be under no illusion that if the provisions of the Bill are to be upheld and well and truly observed when it becomes law, we shall have to have a vast improvement in our national habits and attitude, not least among Members of this honourable House. At present, the House and its Members are very far from setting a good example to the country in the matter of spreading litter. We shall all have to mend our ways.

Mr. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

Does it apply to the House?

Mr. Speir

I regret to say that the terms of the Bill will not apply to the House.

In fact, we shall have to have a complete revolution in our outlook, and I do not think that we should fool ourselves into pretending that that will be easy to achieve. It will require a great deal more thought on the part of everyone. I believe that it can be done. One does not, for instance, often find people throwing away full cigarette cases, but very often one finds them throwing away empty ones.

I can honestly say that when presenting the Bill to the House or to others I have never pretended that the Bill of itself will do the trick. I have never suggested that it can of itself cure the problem. I have always taken the view that a Bill on these lines would help considerably, but that such a Bill must be backed up by a full-scale and comprehensive propaganda and educational campaign. We want a really worth-while propaganda campaign designed to educate the old and the young, in town and country, regarding the urgent necessity of keeping Britain tidy.

It will be seen, in this connection, that the Bill, which is extremely short, contains a provision that it shall not become operative until one month after it has received the Royal Assent, and I hope that the Government, through their various agencies, will get busy during that period and make known the contents of the Bill as widely as possible and warn the public of its intended effect. What will be required is a well-thought-out campaign warning people that in future the scattering of litter in public will be an offence against the land and will be punishable as such.

We must make a real attempt to make the British people litter conscious. I can well believe that some people will think that that is a hopeless task, and that it is foredoomed to failure. They might point out that already there are in existence many byelaws on this subject, and that for the most part they have failed. There is a good deal of truth in that suggestion, but I think that when Parliament has acted, and the Bill has become law, there will be a different attitude on the part of the public and on the part of the police, and, also, I hope and believe, on the part of magistrates, and that they will be prepared to treat litter louts a great deal more severely.

Undoubtedly, it will depend upon the keenness and enthusiasm of local authorities, the magistrates and the police; and if we want a real success for our anti-litter campaign we must make efforts to win over the great British public to our cause. We do not want to be "fusspots", and certainly we do not want a mass of snoopers, and that is why the Bill has severely limited the right to take names and addresses of offenders. Nevertheless, we do mean business. We must be fair, but we must also be firm.

I believe that it is the practice in the Royal Parks not to launch a prosecution against anyone scattering litter if a person has done so accidentally, and that it has to be a rather deliberate act before any action is taken. I venture to hope that the same kind of common sense approach will be adopted by the other enforcing authorities in the rest of Britain.

I am convinced myself that this is a worthwhile and workable Bill. Inevitably, some time will elapse before it can find its way to the Statute Book and before it becomes operative. Probably, a good time to bring it into operation would be just before the next August Bank Holiday, but even that is not now so very far off. If the Bill is to become operative then, the Government must now be doing some thinking about the ways and means of warning and educating the public.

The Government should tell the public how much the clearance of litter costs in the way of additional rates and taxes, amounting, I believe, to over £11 million a year. In the City of London, for instance, it costs over £3,000 a year per mile of streets to keep the streets of the City free from litter. The public ought also to be told how dangerous are the scattering of broken bottles, glass, tin cans and other litter on our shores and at riverside resorts. I imagine that a bather has to stub his foot only once on broken glass to become a keen supporter of this Bill. But litter is also very dangerous for dogs, horses, cattle and other animals.

Finally, we must tell the public how scruffy we are regarded as being by foreigners. They are shocked at the untidy mass of litter which they see despoiling our towns and country, and it is, indeed, a shaming fact to have to admit that This other Eden, demi-Paradise; This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. is now one of the dirtiest countries in the world. We have played with this far too long: we have been far too tolerant, and now the time has come for Parliament to say that it means business and that we are all determined to keep Britain tidy.

3.15 p.m.

Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

I beg to second the Motion.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) on having reached the Third Reading stage with his Bill on this, as he explained, his third attempt to introduce or assist in the introduction of an anti-litter Bill. It is not a world-shaking Bill, but it is an important one. It is not, perhaps, as strong as one which he hoped to introduce last year. Nevertheless, for the first time throughout the country there will be statutory powers enforceable by local authorities against people who deliberately spoil our countryside and towns by throwing litter about.

During the earlier stages of the Bill, hon. Members spoke mostly about the spoliation of the countryside by litter louts; and, of course, that is the thing which comes most readily to mind because such disfigurement of the countryside is so conspicuous. The hon. Gentleman was quite right to refer to the opinion of foreigners. There is an unhappy contrast between our towns, cities and countryside and those we see abroad in this respect.

There is an almost complete lack of co-operation by the British public in keeping our own country in decent order, whereas on the Continent people voluntarily and out of pride in their own country and possessions behave very differently. We hope that more and more people will come to visit our beauty spots and historic places, but, if they find them disfigured by litter and rubbish, great discredit is done to our country.

The problem in the countryside, although important, is comparatively not so great as it is in the towns. Far more people live in the towns and there is far more litter cast about. There is a tendency to become, as it were, accustomed to litter. If there is anything in a man's hand for which he no longer has any use, he is inclined to throw it about the streets and leave it there for somebody else, paid for by the public, to clear up. The London County Council has been extremely interested in the Bill and most anxious that it should go through. The two local authorities in my constituency, the Metropolitan Boroughs of Shoreditch and Finsbury, are particularly anxious that the Bill shall become law. I mention this because I do not want it to be thought that this is purely a countryside matter. It is very much a matter for people living in the towns, and the local authorities in the towns are very closely concerned.

There is a special problem in London, in the throwing of litter from public places on to bombed sites where it becomes putrescent. All sorts of things are thrown—loaves of bread, food, mattresses, old prams—not merely hideous and disfiguring, but actually a menace to health. These things are not cleared up until a complaint is made to the local medical officer of health, who has power to clear such rubbish only if it is putrescent. However, many health officers exceed their powers and clear away a lot of other things. At one time, I took the view that there was a problem, not covered by the Bill, which arose from the throwing of this sort of thing by people from their own houses on to bombed sites, but I gather now that the War Damage Sites Act, 1949, will deal with it.

We must impress upon the public the enormous cost incurred by the local authorities, that is to say, the enormous cost incurred by every taxpayer and ratepayer, as a result of the defiling of our towns, our streets and public places. I have a friend whom I see every morning of the week on my way to the office. He is a roadsweeper. We always pass the time of day each morning, and I am always impressed by the way he works. He has his cart, and he goes up the left hand side of the main road in the morning, always at work—always, apparently, happy about it—his beat being precisely a quarter of a mile long. He goes up one side of the road in the morning and in the afternoon, when I am coming to the House, he goes down the other side of the road. That man, hard at work all the time, is devoting his life's work towards keeping one quarter-mile of a London street reasonably clean and reasonably clear of litter and refuse. When one thinks of the thousands of miles of streets in London and equates that to one man per quarter-mile, it gives an idea of the tremendous cost and how much that cost can be reduced if the Bill becomes effective.

The success of the Bill when it becomes an Act depends on three factors. The one which is of overwhelming importance is the extent to which we are able to make the public litter-conscious. There are a number of steps to be taken towards that end. First, we must hope that the police will take the Bill when it becomes an Act seriously enough to ensure that there are some prosecutions. I, too, hope that there will not be a lot of prosecutions, but there must be at least enough for the cases to be reported in the national and local Press so that people become aware that to throw stuff about is an offence against the public and themselves.

Some of us are more tidy-minded than others. To some of us it is almost a physical pain to see a filthy, untidy street, or a filthy, untidy town. Some other people are not similarly offended. Some friends of mine can sit happily in their armchairs smoking and flicking the ash on the carpet. It must come quite natural to such people similarly to throw things away in public places, because, if they cannot treat their own property properly, they cannot be expected to respect property belonging to somebody else, or indeed public property which belongs to them.

Therefore, it is necessary, first, for the police, when they find offenders, to institute prosecutions and for the local authorities to back them up. The local authorities perhaps are not the second arm, but they are a vitally important arm in this effort. They have to take the lead not only in implementing the provisions of the Bill when they have the opportunity, but in doing their utmost to educate public opinion about litter. Some local authorities are more conscious of this than others.

The question of clean streets is allied to the question of clean air. Some local authorities, my own in particular, have already started nominating areas for smoke abatement. It is that consciousness of cleanliness and implementing it that this Bill is designed to assist and which can only become effective if the local authorities play a part.

Many urban local authorities are gravely lacking in fulfilling their responsibility to supply enough litter bins and places where litter can be put. We all have the experience of coming off a bus with an empty cigarette packet in our hands and having to look round for a proper place to deposit it. My local authority makes its litter bins earn money by putting them on lamp-posts and letting them out to local shopkeepers for advertisement purposes, so that they are not a cost, but a source of revenue. If more local authorities would adopt that attitude, we should have a lot more places where litter could be properly put. It would be much easier and less expensive to collect and it would not cost the local authority anything.

Above all, as applies in so many other things, it is the members of the public who will decide whether we are to keep Britain tidy and whether we treat our property and our country in a way which shows that we appreciate it. When I have found my own workpeople abusing material, knocking it about and walking over it, an attitude which I have found successful is to impress upon them that the goods belong to them and are, in fact, theirs. This has a salutary effect.

We cannot impress sufficiently upon the people that public buildings, streets and public places really belong to them as individuals and that if they abuse them, they are abusing their own property. This applies irrespective of ownership. No matter to whom the land belongs, whether it is publicly or privately owned, it is our country. We must all collaborate in making people conscious of these things and securing their co-operation.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hexham on his pertinacity, enterprise and public spirit in introducing the Bill. I hope that the House will accord it a Third Reading without opposition and that it will pass its final stages in time for implementation by August Bank Holiday, so that that will be a cleaner Bank Holiday and, thereafter, we shall see not only cleaner streets, but less refuse after public holidays.

3.22 p.m.

Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) on introducing the Bill. I hope that the House will give it a Third Reading. With modern transport, no place is safe from litter. People can go to the most remote corners of the country and to beauty spots—I am glad that they can—but, unfortunately, they often leave these places in a deplorable state. Not only is the litter hideous to see but, as my hon. Friend pointed out, it is often dangerous to stock and human beings, especially when it is broken glass and bottles.

It is a sad commentary on the manners and so-called education of a large number of people today that they should leave litter about in this deplorable way. In the part of the world in which I live, down in Devonshire, we suffer very much from litter louts. As one travels the beautiful roads and lanes of Devonshire and across the wild country of Dartmoor, one sees on every grass verge and in all these lovely places, after a weekend, at holiday times or during the summer, litter of every description lying about. It is infuriating and disgraceful. It is a poor return to many private owners who allow people to walk through their woods and drives that those who do this should leave orange peel, paper bags and all the rest lying about.

Not many years ago, I found a family picnicking on my drive. I was glad that they should, but they were about to leave behind them a mountain of mess. As politely as I could, I asked Whether they would mind picking it up. The father replied, "If you can afford to have a place like this, you can afford to have somebody to pick up the mess." That may not be a very prevalent attitude, but it is a deplorable one.

I should like to refer to a rather curious living form of litter which I came across the other day. In Hyde Park, there is a place known as the Dell, a nice little grass enclosure with shrubs and trees, near the Serpentine, with some water flowing through it. I have known it, as many hon. Members have, ever since I was a small child. I used always to make for it with my hoop when I was brought to London and was taken to the park. There were some wild rabbits, and a pair of mallard used to breed there. I used to love it. In those days it was a most charming little place.

Now, I am sorry to say, it is not at all charming. It is full of the most horrible-looking rabbits, not wild rabbits, but nasty, mangey-looking creatures, and people empty all sorts of muck, horrible things, out of bags—orange peel, bits of bread, bits of cauliflower, and goodness knows what, and the place looks like a pigsty.

The other day my wife asked one of the park keepers who was responsible for this horrible refuse. To her great surprise, she was told that people come along and drop rabbits over the railings and leave them there. They also drop tortoises, guinea pigs and other creatures. Then people come along and empty bags of this horrible stuff for the wretched creatures to eat. My wife was told that after the weekend it takes a man practically the whole day, and sometimes more, to clear up the mess.

That is very deplorable. I hope it is one of the things which will be stopped when the Bill becomes law. It is really awful that so many people in this country behave like pigs. Indeed, I believe that pigs would behave very much better, for in their natural state they are nice, clean animals. I trust that the Bill will receive a Third Reading.

3.32 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

Like other hon. Members, I am delighted that the Bill has reached this stage, and I hope that it will receive a Third Reading and eventually reach the Statute Book. I am not as optimistic as some hon. Members are about its effect on this shocking problem. I believe that a lot, if not everything, will depend upon the police.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Is it not one of the difficulties that the police cannot prosecute under the Bill, unfortunately?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

What the police can do, I think, is to make reports so that a prosecution is instituted. Obviously, it will be for the police to note people who are flinging litter about and take such steps as they can under the Measure, if it becomes an Act.

Private individuals sometimes almost take their lives in their hands if they attempt to interfere with anyone who is throwing down litter. Several times I have picked up litter which someone has flung down, and have said politely, when I have caught the individual up, "I think you dropped this," and, as often as not, the person will reply, quite cheerily, "Oh, no; I have finished with it."

Sometimes, if these people think that one is criticising them for having flung down the litter they become belligerent, and if they are bigger than oneself often one does not speak. Therefore, it seems to me that private individuals cannot do a great deal, although all of us can do something, and we shall have to depend upon the authorities to implement the Measure if, as I hope, it becomes an Act.

We are nearing Trooping the Colour ceremony, and I have not the slightest doubt that St. James's Park will be in a shocking state by the time the ceremony ends. I live near Hampstead Heath, and weekend after weekend ice cream sellers have stalls near 'the pond there. People who buy ices, however, never dream of putting the wrappings into a receptacle, although there are a number of them about. I mentioned this to my Member of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He was at the time a member of the London County Council and a member of the local borough council, and I felt certain that if I mentioned it to him, as my Member of Parliament, something would be done. Nothing has been done, however.

This is a problem which ought to be taken in hand. It seems to me that the best way to get something done is for all men and women of good will to endeavour to make people conscious of what is happening, what it is costing the country and how easy it would be to educate people, as they have been educated in other countries, to be litter-conscious and to keep their streets and public places clean.

3.35 p.m.

Mr. J. A. Leavey (Heywood and Royton)

I join with other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) on his success in piloting this Measure through to what amounts the threshold of the Statute Book. My hon. Friend is the first to recognise that he has built upon the work of others, and it would not be too much to say that it has been an exercise in tolerant politics; and I hope very much it will succeed.

This is a small Bill, but I believe it is a milestone, inasmuch as it will give a chance to the British people henceforth to redeem themselves over something in which we have a bad record, certainly judged by normal standards of decency and by the standards of many people on the Continent.

I hope that when the Bill becomes an Act we shall see it enforced with vigour and determination. I join with other hon. Members in expressing the hope that we shall succeed in making some impact upon the public mind by striking when the iron is hot. As has happened in respect of bye-laws, this important piece of legislation may go by default, because it is overlaid by so many other considerations, and because anybody trying to enforce it will be swimming against the tide.

We have all had experiences of this kind and I will not detain the House in recounting many of mine. Only recently, however, I was shopping on Saturday morning in a neighbouring town and some children, who, in most cases, are much better about this than adults, dropped their ice-cream papers on the pavement. I ventured to step forward and pick up one of these pieces of paper and, rather ostentatiously as I thought, put them in the litter basket. I then ventured to suggest to the children that they might have done the same. It will not surprise hon. Members that I got a frosty response from these quite small children. They paused, looked at me as if I had two heads, and then said, "You don't say?" It was a disheartening experience, and I am sure hon. Members have had similar ones.

I recall, too, hearing on an excellent B.B.C. programme some years ago an account of this problem. The person presenting the programme said he had seen a mother and her child in one of the London parks. The child had unwrapped a toffee and was about to run across and put the wrapper into a litter basket. The mother was heard to say to the child, "We don't want any of your fancy ideas here." That is the mountain of indifference which the local authorities and others will have to surmount.

I make a plea for all those media which can influence public opinion because, as the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) has said, in the long run it will be public opinion which will prevail. This legislation, the Press, the radio, television and poster campaigns can give public opinion a useful prod in the right direction. I am glad to have seen the posters which are available and to learn that the Borough of Oldham, which is the next borough to my constituency, is conducting an anti-litter campaign next week, which is a very fortuitous choice.

I want to make one other plea to hon. Members. If there was ever a time when it was worth while trying to give effect to the maxim that example is more powerful than precept, this is such a moment. As has been suggested, as things are today we do not set a practical example, and anyone who has stayed to have a look at this Chamber at the end of a long day's debate, or paused in his tracks to look at the Library, would be excused for saying that the Members of this honourable House of Commons are, in this respect, a rather filthy lot—and I do not mean any disrespect to anybody, or to the House as a whole. We could avoid the charge of the pot calling the kettle black if we made an effort in that respect.

I join with all my hon. Friends in expressing the hope that the Bill will be effective and will prove to be a step forward. It may be a small infringement upon private liberty, but if ever such an infringement was justified, the Bill has such a justification. I hope that it will prove to be the milestone which hon. Members have already suggested it can be. I very much welcome it and again congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing this legislation to this point.

3.42 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I know that at this stage of a Friday afternoon the best support one can give to a Bill is to say as little about it as possible, but in view of the courage which the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) showed in the last Session of Parliament, when the Bill was most fiercely attacked from the Government Front Bench, and after he has persevered with it and carried it on Second Reading, I want to offer him my congratulations on the final success of his efforts.

I also convey to him publicly the thanks of the various amenity associations which have been wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill for a very long time and which have carried on a very long campaign to get it—the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, the Keep Tidy Group, the County Councils' Association, and the Southern Area of the Ramblers' Association, with all of which I am connected. All are very grateful to the hon. Member for what he has done.

We have managed to get ourselves into a genial mood this afternoon, even for a Friday. When one of my hon. Friends called another of my hon. Friends pigheaded when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair, nobody asked whether that was a Parliamentary expression. When the hon. Member for Hexham, sweeping his arm across the Front Bench below the gangway opposite, referred to the lunatic fringe, nobody seemed at all upset. I can only hope that that means that this matter, which is one in which public opinion more than the law will be the determining factor, will result in a united effort to persuade the people that our country—including the towns—is such a beautiful place that it is worthy of more respect than is sometimes shown.

In defence of children, anyone who tries to preach to children will always have it proved to him that the best place to do it is from the pulpit and not from their level. It was noted after the Coronation that the only place in London which was not covered with litter was the place not so very far from this House which was allotted to children. Of course, they were under supervision of those professionally trained to supervise them. One must hope that the constant lessons on this matter now given in schools, and the pictures which are displayed there, will have some lasting effect after the children have left school. It is to be hoped that those who are older will not give them bad examples by leaving litter in public places, for which sometimes the children cannot be blamed for following.

I congratulate and thank the hon. Member for his services to this cause. He can rest assured that he carries with him the good will of the whole House and, I believe, of all right-thinking people in the campaign of which he has been so conspicuous a leader.

3.46 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The promoter of this Bill will have noticed what importance the Opposition attaches to this useful Measure. We have three Privy Councillors on duty, two of whom have taken part in this discussion. That is one indication of the importance we attach to this Measure.

I am not quite so optimistic as some previous speakers. All our propaganda hitherto has failed, and we must now bring in legislation to assist propaganda against litter. That propaganda has been going on for many years, and it will still be necessary even when this Bill reaches the Statute Book. London, of all the capital cities, is probably the most untidy. I hope this Bill will make a difference in London where, of course, there are rather more people and, in consequence, unfortunately rather more litter. My local authority, the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth, is strongly in favour of the Bill. It happens that Lambeth Town Hall is at a very busy crossroads. One man has to be kept on duty every day of the week merely to keep the pavements outside the town hall reasonably tidy. He has a full-time job, but that ought not to be necessary.

I wish to make a suggestion which might help in this matter. At every bus stop there ought to be a litter bin. Although each bus has a container into which passengers are supposed to put their used tickets when they leave the bus, they do not make use of it and every bus stop is littered with old tickets. It would help the tidiness of London streets if there were a litter bin at every bus stop. It is necessary to make it so obvious that a person has deliberately not made use of the facilities available for disposing of litter before it will be possible to obtain convictions against offenders. We must not give offenders the slightest cause for making a mess in the streets. That, perhaps, is one way in Which a contribution can be made towards what we hope will be cleaner streets in London and cleaner roads in the countryside.

Another point that has not been made so far in this discussion is the extent to which car users contribute to litter by slinging cigarette packets and so on out of moving cars. It will be rather difficult to obtain convictions in cases of that kind. Let us hope that as a result of this Bill coming on to the Statute Book and the unanimous support it has received in all quarters of the House and from public opinion, it will mark a new stage in providing a cleaner and better country.

3.50 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord John Hope)

I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir), the promoter of the Bill, upon its success. He criticised the House in somewhat stringent terms upon its untidy habits and I wondered for a moment whether we were covered by the Bill. I see that it applies to. any covered place open to the air on at least one side, no matter which side. It is not a bad description of the House. I hope that we shall all take his words to heart.

It has been an interesting debate, although of fairly wide range. Although one must only refer to what appears in the Bill, perhaps I might mention the emergence of a new zoo in Hyde Park, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Sir H. Studholme). That seems to be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works. It is quite a new one on me.

I do not think there is anything that I want to add to what has been said, except to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham once again. Therefore, I shall not stand any longer between the House and the passage of this most useful Measure.

3.52 p.m.

Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)

I should like to strike a note of slight misgiving about the Bill. The hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) talked about it as designed to stop people who are deliberately spoiling the countryside. I see that the words of the Bill are: If any person throws down". That is obviously a thing one cannot do by mistake. The Bill goes on: drops or otherwise deposits in, into or from any place … Subject to better advice, these words appear to catch the person who drops things by mistake. Papers may fall out of our pockets. A right hon. Gentleman did not pick up some papers that he dropped on the Floor of the House by mistake. He did not know he was doing it, no doubt because he was agitated.

It seems hard that we should introduce a penal provision which catches not only the deliberate person, but the person with a hole in his pocket, or a bundle of papers from which a bit of paper falls out, or who picks up a picnic basket in a gale, which causes a piece of paper to fly away. It is hard to make a criminal offender of someone who does not know that he has dropped anything or, having seen that he has dropped it, fails to pick it up. That is an act which might be deliberate or negligent.

Mr. Speir

If my hon. and learned Friend would read the Bill he would see that the offence is committed only if he both drops and leaves the matter in the public place.

Mr. Bell

Suppose he drops a wrist watch and does not know it; that might be litter. I am surprised that the Bill went through Standing Committee without an hon. Member suggesting the word "knowingly" or "deliberately" It is wrong to make an innocent act into a crime.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.