§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
May I begin by saying how sorry I am that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford) is not able to move the Second Reading? It will be within the knowledge of the House that, since he was fortunate enough to be successful in the Ballot, he has been translated to other spheres which preclude such frivolities as this. I will not say that I am merely acting as a vehicle for his ideas. I think that it would be more accurate to say that I am acting as his lightning conductor.
The Bill is short. It is a little involved. It has a single object. I might also add, for the benefit of hon. Members who watch these things, that it involves no public expenditure of any kind.
I think that it will help the House if I state the object at once and as clearly as I can. The object is to stop the swamping of shop fronts, the obliteration of the identity of shops, by advertisements for the branded goods they sell. This is as closely as I can define it. This is the object—no more and no less. I very much hope that this will not be interpreted as an attack on outdoor advertising as such. I have no doubt that a case could be made against other aspects of it, but it will not be made by me.
I accept, at any rate for the purposes of this limited exercise, all the arguments which are frequently adduced in 768 favour of advertising, both indoors and out. It is colourful, as one discovers when one looks at some of the Communist countries where there is no advertising and which, consequently, look very drab. Advertising is a concomitant to competitive enterprise. It provides, in the view of some, the principal intellectual content of the Independent Television Programmes.
Moreover, it has provided me indirectly with a means of livelihood as a journalist, and I should be the last to attack it.
However, all good things can be spoiled by excess. A balance must be struck. It is the view of many good judges that this manifestation of outdoor advertising has overstepped the mark. Both in town and in country there has been for some time an increasing tendency for manufacturers of branded goods to dominate the face of shops, in particular to substitute for the shop sign advertisements for their own brand of goods.
This act of substitution, whereby "James Robinson", writ large, "Stationer and Tobacconist", writ small, becomes "Players Please', writ large, and "J. Robinson", writ very small, is known as the sponsored fascia panel. Admittedly, this is not new, but its extensive use as we see it today is new and it is not a practice which some of us think ought to be allowed to develop further on present lines.
Before pursuing this, perhaps I may remind the House of the present state of the law. For our purposes it is well contained in Statutory Instrument 695/1960—the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations, 1960. This Statutory Instrument consolidates the Regulations which were first drafted in 1948 after the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.
At the risk of gross simplification, I will give the gist of it. In Part II of the Statutory Instrument will be found the general provisions; that is, the terms on which permission is sought and granted for the general run of outdoor advertisements. In Part III, which is not our concern today, we find the regulations governing areas of special control. But in Part IV we find listed five classes which do not require express consent; that is, planning permission need not be 769 sought for those seeking to erect advertisements under this heading.
This is a category which is covered by the expression "deemed consent", but may be challenged by local planning authorities if, in their opinion, the advertisements offend. The fourth of these classes—advertisements on business premises—brings us to the nub of the Bill. This is one of the "deemed consent" categories, and the Statutory Instrument states:Advertisements displayed on business premises wholly with reference to all or any of the following matters: the business or other activity carried on, the goods sold or services provided, and the name and qualifications of the person carrying on such business or activity or supplying such goods or services, on those premises.On the face of it, that seems sound enough, but a loophole lies in the phrase "the goods sold". Under the cover of these words the fascia sign can go up without consent and only if it appears sufficiently objectionable—as a high proportion have appeared—can it be challenged.
The method of the Bill is to eliminate the words "goods sold or" and again, in a later line, the words "goods or," thereby, as it were, removing branded goods from the sanctuary of Part IV, from which I quoted. Thus eliminated, they would automatically revert to Part II of the Regulations where other considerations arise before advertisements are sanctioned. I realise that there would be other consequences which might be in the minds of hon. Members, but I will come to those later.
The fascia is thus, by the Bill, not banned or barred and nor, I hasten to add, dealt with retrospectively, which would be intolerable. The fascia, together with certain other matters, is simply transferred six months' hence to another part of the Regulations where positive consent must be sought subject to wider considerations of amenity.
It might be convenient if I gave some account of how these Regulations, which came into force in May, 1960, have been fortified by the advertising profession. With the approval of the then Minister—now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury—a code of standards for advertising on business premises was set up. This was a voluntary movement between 770 those concerned with outdoor advertising with the object of setting a standard of amenity for such advertisements and for clearing up clutter. In congratulating the Committee, of which Lord Luke was the Chairman, the Minister expressed the hope at that time that he would see results in about two years.
Although those two years are not, technically, up until next month, I pay warm tribute to the work of this Committee and to those who have co-operated with it. It is certainly no part of my case to belittle its endeavours. It has made strenuous efforts and has achieved some degree of success. It has not achieved all that some of us hoped for, but the results are far from negligible.
The Committee has concluded what it calls "phase one"—which concerns rural areas—and has already broached the second phase, which concerns the large towns. The companies represented on the working committee had, by the end of last month, removed about 73,000 signs and had resited another 15,000. That sounds a lot, but then, of course, there are a lot. The newspaper and periodical industry has removed about 36,000 contents boards and, naturally, I would like to give them a pat on the back for so doing.
As one might expect, this work has run up against the principal target of the Bill; the fascia sign. I do not want to embarrass the Committee, but it is fair to say that it has not found the development of the fascia or the firms mainly responsible for it very much help in the work it has been trying to do. The Committee claims that, in respect of 830 fascias which overstepped the mark, some modification was obtained or they were removed. But the whole point is that a vast number of fascias have gone up during the Committee's anti-clutter campaign, and are still going up.
Perhaps I should now comment on some other views. Although I am not anxious to exaggerate the case against this kind of advertising, the objections are not slight and I shall deal, first, with some of the objections to the fascia board and some of its close cousins. First, these boards remove any distinction between traders, that distinction at present being an agreeable feature of 771 many of our shopping streets. Secondly, they replace diversity with uniform boards displaying advertisements for branded goods and giving, in some streets, every appearance of the tied house.
Some of them are brilliant, even garish in colour; not surprising, because they are designed to be eye catching. They provoke reprisals from those less skilled at signwriting than the original offender and they provoke others to imitate them. The system frequently expands into other and larger signs, often at right angles to a building and on side walls, although that can offend and be open to challenge.
When one speaks of the challenging procedure—with which I will not weary the House—one realises that one is speaking of a race which the challengers can never win. A further objection is that this system must reduce the impulse to reduce clutter, which everyone in the business, advertisers included, are anxious to do. It runs straight in the face of attempts that are being made by such bodies as the Civic Trust to select certain streets for a face lift which results both in their profit and the profit of their traders.
Last, but by no means least, in my opinion, the interpretation which has been put upon this part of the Regulations is not in accordance with the will of Parliament when the Regulations were passed. That, of course, is open to the views of other hon. Members. Reactions among planning officers are fairly varied. In certain counties planning officers have fought and are fighting by challenge, which is a wearisome and expensive business, but I think that they have fought, and are still fighting, a losing battle. Hence this Bill. In this contest of "Gentlemen v. Players" the "Players" always win.
I should next like to touch on some criticisms which have been, and I have no doubt will be, made of the Bill as it stands. I want to deal, first, with a point which is very much in the minds of some of my hon. Friends, namely, that the effect of the Clause as it stands would not be to subject the fascia but all forms of advertisement of branded goods on business premises to the process which I have outlined. That is 772 quite true, and I must tell hon. Members that that is no accident. I am not a clever draftsman, but I am not as stupid as all that, and I will explain why this has been done.
I have not the slightest doubt that, as things are, the spread of the fascia board in one direction, if ingeniously curbed by a form of words in such a Bill as this, would be exploited in another direction almost immediately, because that is the move behind the whole business. A way has been found of making the fascia compatible with these Regulations—at least with the letter of the law if not with the spirit of the law—and it can and will be done again.
As matters stand—I stress this—nothing less than comprehensive legislation could really be guaranteed to do the trick, and thus the force of this Clause, which is quite deliberate. I hope that the advertising industry, on nearly all of whose side I am, will not miss the point. They are the hostages of the worst offenders in this matter.
Of course, a Clause as wide as this is not necessary to achieve the object that I have stated. It is necessary, however, to defeat the increasing number of devices which masquerade as fascia boards and the like. The Regulations as they stand must be interpreted within the obvious limitations as giving carte blanche to manufacturers to do as they will with shops, front and back. That must either be understood and lead to the further exercise of self-restraint by the advertisers and the imposition of that self-restraint on some of the black sheep, or we shall eventually have to have some better drafting on these lines than my poor hand is capable of doing.
There seem to be three alternatives here. The advertisers can settle this among themselves. They have done their best. In my opinion, that is the right approach for the Conservative Party to take, and I support it. The second alternative, if that does not work, is that the Minister must amend the Regulations. Thirdly, if he will not do that, a private Member of Parliament must. That is why I am offering this Bill for Second Reading.
I say bluntly that a degree of ruthless-ness has been shown—and I am not going to mince words here—by the big 773 tobacco companies and others in this business, and I am not going to shrink from just a touch of ruthlessness on my own account. I admit to a weakness for this subject of environment, believing that it really does in the long run make a very big contribution to human health, welfare and happiness, and that, broadly speaking, it is very underrated. But I am not eccentric about this. I am fortified in what I am doing by the knowledge that what is being done is contrary to the wish of Parliament and to the wish of the overwhelming number of advertisers themselves, as I can show.
In the papers which have lately been circulated to some hon. Members the code of standards gives the fascia fairly objective treatment. I can only say that that contrasts a little with feelings expressed only a year ago. In February, 1961, a letter was addressed from the Committee to the Chairmen of the Imperial Tobacco Company and Gallahers. I think that it would not be improper to read two passages from it.At the same time, as we can record this progress in the right direction"—that is "Players"—there is, unfortunately, a retrograde step which is much more noticeable and is causing considerable doubt in the public mind as to whether a voluntary code can be really effective. I refer not to the general principle of fascia boards as displayed by your Company, but to those boards which, by their size and shape, do not fit into their surroundings and which, indeed, are adding to existing clutter and doing serious damage to the cause of advertising as a whole. Outdoor advertising is on trial as never before.It concludes with this passage:Therefore, may I ask you to let me know how far your representatives have implemented the promise given to me that offending fascia boards would be removed and only those which comply with the spirit of the code will be erected.May I add to those words some expressions of a planning officer, whom I will not name as he is a public official in one of the English counties. I do not want hon. Members to think that this is a purely personal point of view that I am expressing. He said:This type of advertising involves a complete abuse of Class IV,"—to which I have already alluded—which was never designed with such displays in mind, but was intended to enable the trader to display his name and trade and a reasonable amount of advertising of his products 774 without the formality of obtaining consent. It seems quite immoral for an organisation the size of the Imperial Tobacco Company to pay lip-service to the Code and, at the same time, indulge in this complete abuse of its principles.Those are not my words. They are the words of a very much better judge of these matters than I. To this, of course, the response may be made that the offending fascia signs have been taken down. All I can suggest is that the evidence of the eye today indicates otherwise.
This brings me to the subject of the two principal tobacco companies concerned, and here I am most anxious not to use the protection of this House for any expression which could not be justified outside. I think that most of the evidence speaks for itself. "Players Please", "Capstan" and "Senior Service" predominate these fascias. There is no secret about who makes them. I feel that in this matter the attitude of these two big companies, although they are now not alone—and it is one of my fears that they may be joined by an ever-increasing host—has been to a degree cynical They have pursued a somewhat selfish policy in this direction, fully aware not only of the damage which they are doing themselves but the example which they are setting to others.
It is part of my submission that companies of this size have certain social obligations which may not necessarily be on all fours with the sale of the maximum amount of goods. They carry responsibilities in all sorts of ways, and I do not hesitate to name this as one. These big firms cannot but be aware that they have been skating on very thin ice round the Regulations, acting contrary to much reasonable opinion, in conflict with the endeavours of the advertising industry itself to achieve improvement, and contrary to the effort of many amenity societies, led by the Civic Trust, which have certainly not in this respect, I submit, behaved as crack-pots. Such a policy does not amount to leadership. It reflects rather grievously on some of those who have been in charge of these matters. I say no more.
The thought may pass through people's minds that the discussion we are now having about the fascia sign in particular, which is closely linked with 775 the tobacco companies, should be associated with the other news received this week. I propose to make no close association between these two subjects. I find it difficult to reconcile with my own philosophy a policy of positively restraining advertising of a product which may be harmful in excess. However this may appear to other hon. Members—we shall, no doubt, discuss the matter at the appropriate time—all I want to make plain now is that I do not use the report on the harmful effects of smoking as a stick to beat this particular back. The Bill relates to amenity, not to health, and it is to amenity that I adhere.
Dealing further with the criticisms which could be levelled at the Bill, one school of thought, of course, is that the fascia is often an improvement on the dull sign which it replaces. This does not carry much weight with me. The object, of course, is not to improve the shop but to advertise the goods. Moreover, I do not think that uniformity of this kind enhances the dignity of a street.
The Chairman of the Conservative Party, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, believes in diversity. That is a very sound principle, and it applies very well in this matter. I well remember the awful trouble that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) got into many years ago when he let loose a little phrase about the man in Whitehall knowing best. I hope that we shall not have it suggested in this case that the man in Bristol knows best. I am quite sure that he does not.
I come now to the Government's attitude. I do not seek to make my hon. Friend's task harder. I am thinking aloud, as it were. The present Minister's predecessor, the present Chief Secretary to the Treasury, thought that the regulations ought to have a trial run for two years to see what the industry did meanwhile to collaborate. The two years terminate in April. Quite rightly, no one has been anxious to anticipate this termination of experiment. I see the force of that. Nevertheless, while the effort on the whole has, according to the evidence, been altogether praiseworthy, the trend in this sphere remains retrograde. We do not need to wait until April to see what is happening to fascia signs. 776 They are going up in more and more places, and the trend here must be regarded as a discouragement to other sections of industry which may be tempted to follow suit.
My hon. Friend may say that the Bill is premature, notwithstanding the reference to six months after the passing of the Bill—rather a good touch, I thought. All I can say is that, if my hon. Friend says that he proposes to go about it in his own way and that I have done it in the wrong way, with all that that implies, I shall listen intently. But, in my view, no harm would be done if this little stimulus were provided, a sort of pathfinder, as it were, which would strengthen the hand of the righteous if it were taken in the right way.
In anticipation of what my hon. Friend may say, I put to him these reflections on the Government's attitude. The Government's best friend could not claim that their attitude to amenity was distinguished. I seek to put this in a reserved way. With the outstanding exception of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, who founded and has fostered the Civic Trust, Ministers do not normally keep amenities very high on their list of priorities.
It is not a matter of being foolishly restrictive, but a matter of being occasionally inspired. I confess to a great admiration for the work of the Civic Trust, although I am not a member of it. It is a good illustration of an imaginative and creative instrument not merely to combat the adverse forces all too numerous in our modern life, but sometimes to seek to create beauty where otherwise beauty would not exist. I make no secret that the Bill is inspired by one of the Civic Trust's many aims.
To those hon. Members who may be inclined to belittle the Bill, and think that I have spoken misguidedly in advancing a purpose which is stuffy, fussy, bad for business, restrictive and un-Conservative, I say that this little Bill ought to be seen against the background of the work which the Civic Trust has tried to do. I should not on my own judgment come to the House with a Bill of this sort and say to hon. Members, "These signs offend me. They should be outlawed." But I do not hesitate to do it on behalf of and fortified by the 777 views of the body which has done so much practical work.
It has done nearly all of it in a creative way without, be it noted, seeking unduly statutory aid from the House of Commons. Chambers of trade, traders, and advertisers make a thumping mistake if they suggest that the Civic Trust is not on their side. One of its principal functions is to select drab streets which have fallen on hard times and give them a face-lift, not as an arty-crafty business, but on clean sensible lines, outstanding examples of which can be seen at Norwich and Windsor. The effect is not only to make streets more attractive but to make them more lucrative, which is what interests those who have to sell. I mention that, because I understand that a start may be made in Edinburgh, which may be a relevant factor.
The Civic Trust endeavours to make a strong contribution to the prosperity of traders and, in wider terms, to the welfare of those who have to live in the streets. Of course, it is not the only body at work. I could name a dozen more, among them the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the National Trust, all of them making it their job to improve and preserve and try to cherish our surroundings and what we are left with. When the Government can reasonably do so, they should help in this matter and not neglect a chance to give encouragement and support.
What appeals to me about the Civic Trust and what moves me to make the proposal I do in the Bill, small though it be, is that the Civic Trust pursues its mission principally not in the country, not in rural England, but in towns. I say that as one who was born and bred, and who remains at heart, a countryman, as one who instinctively regards the town as a place in which to earn a livelihood and to leave as soon as possible.
It is one of the tragedies of our age that millions of people are conditioned by the same instinct, and there lies the further tragedy in our attitude towards the appearance of our towns and streets. Whenever outrages afflict the countryside, there can usually be found crusaders who will rise up and go into action. Our towns, particularly the small 778 towns of the Midlands and the North, have fewer champions to fight for them.
Thus we have a generation of, as it were, exiles spending a great deal of their working life in, I do not say drab, but not very distinguished surroundings. Their minds are often fixed as upon a star on the day when they will be able to retire to a small place of their choice far away. They end up just detached on the south coast of England to find that the fascias have got there just ahead of them.
We owe it to this reluctantly urbanised community to make the best of our towns. Much high policy will depend in the years ahead on making our towns places which do not repel, but can attract. Therefore, though their appearance and amenities may seem to hon. Members only a fragment of these great social desiderata and shop signs, but a marginal factor in such considerations, they do count and they should count for something among civilised people which, above all, is inclined to make tastes formerly the prerogative of a few the pleasure of the many. This Bill, heaven knows, is only a tiny contribution in that direction, but that is the motive behind it and that is the fundamental reason why I hope that at least the idea will commend itself to the House.
§ 11.41 a.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has delivered a cogent speech on a modest, but very important, Bill, which I hope the House will support. The few words I wish to say on the Bill are not said because I am against all advertising. I do not take the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), who seems to think that all advertising is equally bad. I think that some advertising is worse than others and some advertising is excellently done. The London Transport posters are often an addition to what the hon. Member for Ashford described as a very drab landscape.
I recently saw in Africa a form of advertising which appealed greatly to me on what are called "mammy buses". One sees fascinating notices on these buses, such as "You, too, can fly", on a very decrepit old bus which shows no signs of flight. I do not know how 779 another notice which I saw persuaded people to travel on a bus. It read, "The Lord is my shepherd—I don't know why."
The original Regulations were intended to protect the countryside. The question is whether they have succeeded. I should have thought that they have not been as successful as was expected. There are organisations such as the C.P.R.E. and the National Trust which do an enormous amount in their way to protect the countryside and it seems unfortunate that their efforts should be continually thwarted by other organisations which have not the interests of the countryside at heart.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon has compared this country unfavourably with foreign countries, but in many ways conditions are far better here. I would much prefer to go along the M.1, straight as these motor roads may be, than along the Autostrada, in Italy, with a line of advertisements all the way down them. We should be grateful that we have had organisations such as the C.P.R.E. and the National Trust, which have done so much to preserve the countryside.
If the Bill were passed it would be another step in the right direction. As the hon. Member for Ashford has said, there are many loopholes at present. We have all had the experience of travelling along a road in the countryside, with a beautiful view in front of us, and suddenly being confronted with a huge advertisement on a cottage shop. It may be a pretty cottage, but suddenly one sees a great sign, "Player's Please" in front of one's eyes which completely prevents one from enjoying the view.
The hon. Member for Ashford spoke about the ingenuity of brand firms in getting round the Regulations. These firms are remarkably clever at evading the Regulations in a way that the Minister could never have dreamed of when they were drawn up. I cannot understand the mentality of the tobacco firms. The late Lord Dulverton gave enormous sums of money to beautify Bristol. Whether the buildings which have been erected as a result are beautiful is another matter, but they were built with great trouble and vast expense to beautify the town. Yet Lord Dulverton obtained the 780 money to pay for the buildings with the aid of this form of advertising, which ruined large areas of the countryside.
It seems to me an extraordinary dichotomy in a human being that he should spend half his time destroying amenities and then spend the other half trying to put beauty elsewhere. It must be said of Lord Dulverton, however, that he did do this work to beautify one town. Many of the tobacco firms have not even thought of doing that.
I join with the hon. Member for Ashford in saying what a remarkable organisation the Civic Trust has proved to be. The fact that it is presided over by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, with whom I often have disputes on matters concerning his Ministry, does not make me think the less of the Civic Trust. It is doing excellent work and it is an excellent thing that the right hon. Gentleman should be presiding over it. It has done remarkable work in Stoke-on-Trent, and also in Norwich, in improving the frontages of just the types of shops that have been mentioned already. But how can they be improved if these big firms are determined to put up large advertisements and to bring pressure groups to bear to prevent improvements being carried out in other towns?
The voluntary code has been on trial for two years and, as the hon. Member for Ashford said, 830 advertisements have been removed. But many more new ones have been put up. I should like to ask the hon. Member, or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, whether the number is not now in excess of 830. It is very likely far in excess of that number.
§ Mr. Deedes indicated assent.
§ Mr. Dugdale
If that is so, and I see that the hon. Member nods in acquiescence, surely the Regulations can be said to have failed.
During the debate on the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Amendment Regulations in February, 1960, the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said:No good advertiser wants to defile the countryside or to harm or injure areas of historical interest or beauty. The special control areas are designed to protect those districts.781 I do not know whether the hon. Member includes tobacco companies among good advertisers. If he does, I beg to differ from him. These firms certainly defile the countryside and harm or injure areas of historical interest or beauty.
Later in the same spech, the hon. Member said:If the industry does not obey this code, I should certainly join with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central in saying that the Minister should enforce it by regulation. Those good advertisers who have taken part in the conferences which led to the formation of the code have said that all along.This is, I gather, the view of the advertising industry itself. If it is, surely there can be no objection to the Bill.
The present Chief Secretary to the Treasury said in that same debate, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government:I have said throughout, and I say again tonight, that if that effort is not successful, if this code does not achieve its object, I shall certainly not hesitate to produce in due course other means, because in one way or another I am determined to get rid of undesirable clutter …Those were the words of the Minister, two years ago.
As the hon. Member for Ashford has already mentioned, the right hon. Gentleman said:I should certainly expect to see results from the voluntary code within two years …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 982–5.]It is because those results have not materialised that the hon. Member is introducing his Bill. Had they materialised, had we had the degree of control which was expected from the Regulations, there would have been no need for the Bill and I am sure that the hon. Member for Ashford would have been delighted. But the Regulations have failed.
We have a beautiful countryside still, in spite of the advertisers and in spite of the speculative builders, a countryside of which all of us are proud. Let us see that we do our best to protect it.
§ 11.51 a.m.
§ Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)
I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on introducing the Bill, and I congratulate also my hon. Friend the Member for 782 Ealing South (Mr. Batsford), who originally inspired it, but who, for certain reasons, has not been able to present it himself.
I should like to refer to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford about our towns and countryside. He spoke of our towns as places which many of us are tempted to desert as soon as we can. That may be so in the London area and in some of our industrial zones, but in other parts of England, certainly in my constituency, we have small towns where, I think it is true to say, our objects are very different. What we are trying to do is to attract people to live in those small towns, to appreciate them and to make them places that are, and will be, as they have been in the past, a delight for others to visit.
I refer, for example, to Ludlow, which is known the world over as a beautiful small town. Another town in my constituency is Bridgnorth. Here we are within range of what is called the Midland conurbation and we are conscious of the danger that is bound to exist to a small town so situated. It is an encouraging fact that the inhabitants of Bridgnorth have themselves started a civic trust to preserve the beauty of their town.
The battle on this front has to be fought in many ways. There are innumerable problems in preserving the beauty of our small towns and all efforts can be defeated if advertisers are allowed to placard the small shops with the type of advertisement against which the Bull is directed. I therefore give it my earnest and hearty support.
My hon. Friend said that this might be regarded as a question of whether the man who knows best is the man in Whitehall or the man in Bristol. We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that what the Regulations are doing, by amending them, is to put the whole of the onus not on the man in Whitehall or on the man in Bristol. We are putting the onus on the man in Maidstone, in Lewes, in Winchester, or, in my case, the man in Shrewsbury; that is to say, our local planning authorities, and, as a member of my own local planning authority, I am increasingly conscious of the burden which this involves.
783 As we are discussing the Bill, I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to direct his attention to this steadily increasing burden, because the bigger the burden becomes the more difficult, obviously, it is for our planning authorities to carry out the policy that we all wish to see carried out and, at the same time, to be fair to those who might suffer from it.
As is emphasised in the Bill, it is not aimed against advertisers in general. It is a Bill which should, we hope, encourage advertisers of the right kind at the same time as carrying out what we all hope to see. I have great pleasure in giving hearty support to the Bill.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I sincerely congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on the great lucidity and logic of his argument in support of the Bill, and, indeed, the great sincerity with which he put it forward. It was all the more commendable because, in my view, it is a bad Bill. Because I wish to oppose it, I must at once declare an interest as being concerned in an advertising agency. I assure hon. Members, however, that the sort of advertisement of which my hon. Friend spoke does not normally pass through the hands of advertising agencies. I am far more concerned from another viewpoint as a vice-president of the National Chamber of Trade, which represents 800,000 small shopkeepers who, if the Bill were passed, would suffer severe hardship.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford has tried to limit the Bill to a certain extent, but he must stand by the wording which he has put before the House. I find it quite impossible to limit it to that extent. The Bill has a rather grandiose title of "Protection of Amenity Bill", but my hon. Friend restricted his arguments to something of an attack on the advertisers of branded goods and, in particular, their method of advertising on fascia boards. He said that the endeavour of his Bill was to stop the swamping of the shops by advertisements of branded goods which shopkeepers sell in those shops.
I find difficulty in following my hon. Friend's argument to the extent that it is objectionable to have the words 784 "Players Please" on a fascia board whereas it is not objectionable to have the words "John Jones", or whoever runs the shop, or even "Marks & Spencer" or "Woolworth". I do not think that I am putting my hon. Friend's argument unfairly, but he did not indicate exactly the distinction between them and why he thought one was objectionable and the other was not.
I should like to state in a little more detail the effect of the existing law and how I understand the Bill would change it. As hon. Members know, to display any advertisement—I am speaking generally—requires planning permission. That comes under Regulation 5 of the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations, 1960, which states:No advertisement may be displayed without consent granted by the local planning authority or by the Minister on application in that behalf … or deemed by virtue of the next following paragraph to be granted.So, any advertisement showing to the outside of a shop must either have express consent or must have "deemed" consent.
In the next paragraph of the Regulations, deemed consent is defined in these terms:Consent shall be deemed to be granted for any advertisement displayed in accordance with a provision of these regulations whereby advertisements of that description may be displayed without express consent.To find what advertisements may be displayed without express consent, one turns to Regulation 12, which begins:Advertisements of the following Classes may be displayed without express consent …Class IV, which is the class which my hon. Friend seeks by his Bill to alter, includesAdvertisements displayed on business premises wholly with reference to all or any of the following matters …These are the ones which are allowed to be shown without express consent.the business or other activity carried on, the goods sold or services provided, and the name and qualifications of the person carrying on such business or activity or supplying such goods or services, on those premises.There is a provision about the overall area which may or may not be covered by such advertisements.
Before dealing with the alteration which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford wishes to make, I want to refer 785 to the method by which these "deemed consent" advertisements can be challenged. If a local planning authority considers that any advertisement of this kind is offensive, it has the power, under these Regulations, to challenge the shopkeeper and to make him apply for express consent. That comes under Regulation 8, which lays down that the planning authority can require the advertiser to apply for express consent, and, if he does not get it, to remove the advertisement.
How many premises are affected by this deemed consent? The best estimate one can give is that about 750,000 small shopkeepers are advertising branded goods which they sell in their shops. If the law were altered in this way, they would all be affected, for the law would be that if they advertised branded goods which they were selling on the premises, they must apply for express consent.
§ Dr. Barnet Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Has the hon. Gentleman the figures with him? It would be interesting to know how many shopkeepers out of the 750,000 are using fascia boards for advertisement of branded goods being sold on their premises.
§ Mr. Page
I have not that figure, but I will show later how the Committee administering the voluntary code has tried to deal with this.
At the moment this Bill was passed, about 750,000 shopkeepers would be offending against the Regulations. Indeed, they would be offending perhaps half a dozen times over, because it may be that they are advertising as many as half a dozen branded goods. My hon. Friend says that he does not wish to be so drastic but that he realises that the Bill may be so drastic. He is concerned particularly with the fascia boards. Indeed, the Regulations were concerned with them. Regulation 12 (2) says thatConsent deemed to be granted"—in the way previously stated in the Regulations—shall be subject to the following conditions..These conditions are that the letters must not be more than 2 ft. 6 ins. high and the advertisement itself shall not 786 be above 15 feet from the ground. Thus, there are already some fairly detailed controls within the Regulations themselves. My hon. Friend cannot complain that these fascia boards are projecting high above premises or that the lettering is large and garish because, under the Regulations, such height and size of lettering can be prevented. The complaint must surely be only about the depth of the fascia boards, over which there is no control.
§ Mr. Page
It may be that, in certain cases, glaring colours have been chosen. I will deal with colour later and with how it is starting to be dealt with by those administering the code.
As I understand it, it is only the advertising of branded goods in this way about which the complaint is made. One should realise that it is sometimes a lot more useful to the customer to see the goods advertised on the fascia boards than the name of the shopkeeper. I wonder whether, in elections, my hon. Friend puts his name in larger letters than that of his party or his party's name in larger letters than his own. It is very often more useful to the customer to know the brand than to know that it happens to be John Jones who is selling it.
It was about four or five years ago that the then Minister of Housing and Local Government was minded to control outdoor advertising by rather strict Regulations—much stricter than the present Regulations. I think that he was satisfied then that, had he gone ahead with that strict control, it would have been impracticable, expensive to enforce and administer, would have caused a great hardship to the small shopkeepers and businesses, and, because of the difficulty of administering it, would have brought the law into some disrepute.
As an alternative to strict control, therefore, he encouraged the industry—both the advertisers and the owners of the advertising sites—the local authorities and the amenity societies to get together and see whether this could not be done voluntarily. Indeed, it is a great satisfaction to all of those concerned in this that a voluntary code emerged from that. A consultative committee was set 787 up by those concerned—advertisers, local authorities and societies—and the result was the "Code of Standards for Advertising on Business Premises" which came into operation in April, 1960. As my hon. Friend has said, the code deals with the fascia board type of advertising in some detail. At least it gives it fairly objective treatment, to use his own words. The Minister at the time said that he hoped some result would come from the code within two years. As that two-year period is up at the end of this month, we should look back and see what the Consultative Committee has done.
The first phase was to distribute the code. That was quite a massive job. It had to be distributed to the Press, to local authorities, amenity associations, trade associations, chambers of trade, chambers of commerce and to many retailers and advertisers and their associations. It became obvious that mere exhortation and education by the code would not be sufficient, and in January, 1961, the Advertisers' Working Committee was set up as the executive to caary out the code. At the same time, the Circulation Managers' Committee of the newspapers and periodicals undertook the job of clearing up the clutter of the loose newspaper boards—the leaning boards—and they have been most successful in getting rid of them.
The Advertisers' Working Committee in March, 1961, carried out a very interesting operation at Maid-stone. That test anti-clutter operation showed a very high degree of voluntary cooperation between the shopkeepers and the advertisers. The working committee, encouraged by the results of that test, has been meeting very regularly in order to try to achieve its two-year target. It had to take things by stages and so it has concentrated in those two years on the rural areas; that is to say, it has omitted any towns with a population of over 50,000. It realised what a massive operation the whole matter would be and, therefore, it decided to concentrate on one aspect at the outset. This rural area phase has been for all practical purposes completed, and the clearance of clutter from the rural areas is very impressive.
What has been the plan of that campaign? First and foremost, it is to get 788 co-operation between the working committee and the planning authorities. A fairly close co-operation has been built up between the committee and the county planning officers, not just on an ad hoc basis but on a long-term basis, so that the committee and the planning officers could continually be considering whether the voluntary code was being carried out. The working committee alone has removed 73,000 signs and re-sited 15,000. The figure of 830 relating to fascia boards has been mentioned, but I wanted to mention those quite impressive figures relating to normal signs, the sort which appear outside small shops.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Does the hon. Member know the number that has been put up? Eight hundred and thirty have been removed but how many have been put up to replace them? It would be interesting to have those figures.
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) asked me that just now and I replied that I did not know the number of new fascia boards put up. At the moment I am dealing with the general clutter of advertisements and not with fascia boards. I said that 73,000 of these had been removed and 15,000 had been re-sited. In addition, the Newspapers and Periodicals Committee has removed 36,000 of the loose leaning boards and has now had all the other fixed. That is one of the conditions on which they supply them. Taking all the efforts into account, not just what the members of the working committee have done, I am given the figure of 200 advertisements a day, over the last six months, having been removed or resited. Whether hon. Members agree that the committee is doing a right job or not, it certainly has not been lazy or slack over it. It has been exercising its energies to try to carry out the code. In doing so it does not have only to consult the national advertisers. That is a fairly easy job. But there are a lot of local advertisers who have to be informed of the code and persuaded to comply with it.
I come to the question of fascia boards and branded goods. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked a Question about this in January, 1961, which was just at the time when the working committee was being set up. 789 One cannot have it both ways. These Regulations were primarily concerned with the removal of clutter. It may well be that if we remove a lot of little advertisements they will be replaced by rather more effective larger advertisements provided that the size of those advertisements do not breach the Regulations.
The object of the working committee is to improve the look of shops and it may be that they can be improved by reducing the clutter and providing one larger advertisement. That advertisement may be provided by those who sell branded goods. There is nothing new, as my hon. Friend said, in advertising by means of fascia boards. However, when criticism was received by the Advertisers' Working Committee about fascia boards, all fascias which had been erected recently were inspected. A complete exercise was carried out of inspecting all those which had been erected recently. It was out of the recently erected ones that the figure of 830 arose. Eight hundred and thirty new ones were modified or removed. I cannot give the figures for those which were erected before that time, but the working committee is continuing with its work and trying to keep track of those now being erected and about which any complaint is made.
§ Dr. Stross
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what answer was given to the letter sent by Lord Luke referred to by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deeds) and what answer did he receive to his objection to advertising on fascia boards?
§ Mr. Page
I have not seen the answer to that letter. I intended to mention the fact that the letter was sent because I wanted to show the attitude of the committee towards this and that the committee is alive to it. In short, the voluntary code is working but the task is great. We have only given it a chance to run for a couple of years and the working committee was not set up until some nine months after the code came into effect and it was realised that there had to be some executive body to try to carry it out.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Am I right in thinking that the hon. Member is arguing that if the policy of the voluntary code and the activities of 790 the working committee are fully carried out this Bill will become unnecessary, or would he say that if the operation of the code were applied universally throughout the country he would then have no objection to the Bill.
§ Mr. Page
I am pleading with my hon. Friend to let the voluntary code operate. I am endeavouring to show the House that it has operated as well as one could expect up to the present. There is every prospect that it can enforce the code and it is better to deal with things voluntarily than compulsorily, especially as my hon. Friend said that we cannot concentrate legislation on one particular point of complaint. He has had to phrase the Bill in a very wide may thereby affecting a very great number of shopkeepers adversely, catching in his net, I suppose, ninety-nine for the one he really wants to catch. Therefore, I do not think that legislation is the right vehicle for this.
I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in carrying out the code many men have been employed in re-siting and removing existing advertisements. This has been paid for by the companies concerned, whereas if this had been in any way compulsory, a huge administrative staff would have been necessary to carry it out, there would have been claims for compensation and it would have been done at considerable expense to the Exchequer.
It is true that this working committee is a committee of advertisers. They are concerned to improve the appearance of shop-front advertising and not to curtail this source of shopping information. I say that quite frankly. I believe that my hon. Friend's speech today will greatly assist them in doing that. He has pointed out where faults lie, and the direction in which the working committee can proceed, but his Bill discards the voluntary system altogether after two years' trial.
I believe that the Bill, if an Act, would create enormous administrative expense. I believe that it would create tremendous resentment among shopkeepers against their local council who would be trying to enforce such an Act against them. I believe that it would cause shopkeepers immense hardship because to a great extent they rely on nationally advertised goods. I believe that in that respect it 791 would be another blow at small shopkeepers who are suffering enough already from the encroachment of the supermarket and that type of store. I believe that if the Bill were passed in its present form it would cause great inconvenience to the shopper and to the person who wishes to give his custom to the smaller shops. I hope, therefore, that either my hon. Friend will withdraw the Bill, or that the House will refuse to give it a Second Reading.
§ 12.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
May I, first, say something about the form of the Bill and then deal with its merits? The form seems to be extraordinarily novel and inconvenient. I do not recall any other occasion on which a Private Member's Bill has been used to amend Regulations made under an Act of Parliament.
I may be wrong about that, but this seems almost an abuse of the facilities given by the House to Private Members' legislation, because one has to remember that this privilege of securing a place in the Ballot is much sought after and highly cherished, and, therefore, I think that all Members have a duty, if they are successful in the Ballot, to select for the topic of the Bill something which is not only of general interest—and I concede that this matter is of general interest—but something which is relevant for legislation by this House. This is not entirely a technical point, and it is worthy of the attention of the House.
§ Mr. Deedes
Surely the hon. Gentleman agrees that the more one has delegated legislation, and the more one passes empowering Acts of Parliament, the more one is likely to be compelled to do this in the way I have done it?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman and I will try to explain why.
Legislation has its place, and subordinate legislation also has its place. The Bill seeks to amend some consolidating regulations, namely, Statutory Instruments 1960/695, which were made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government pursuant to the powers entrusted to him under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. The empowering provisions of that Act were in 792 Sections 31, 32 and 111, and pursuant to the powers contained in the Act, Regulations were made from time to time. Subsequently, in 1960, largely at the behest of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and others, they were consolidated.
The Bill seeks to amend one small section of an amending Regulation, and I ask myself what would be the effect of the Bill being passed. If the Bill were enacted, and one gave effect to its terms literally, some Regulations would in future have to be laid in a different way. But this would not affect the Minister's power in any way. He could, the next day, make an order reinstating the Regulations which the Bill is seeking to amend. Therefore, this is not the right way to do it. This cannot be an effective way to do it. It is not for me to instruct hon. Members how they should draft their Bills, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to give effect to the result he mentioned in his speech he should try, by an Act of Parliament, to limit and circumscribe the powers of the Minister under Sections 31, 32 and 111 of the 1947 Act.
I do not want to weary the House with the details, but the mechanics of this seem to be important. Sections 31 and 32 are the overriding provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which give the Minister power to make Regulations controlling advertisements. Some Regulations have been made. When those Regulations were laid, it was open to the hon. Gentleman to pray against them, but he did not do so. Nor did my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), whose name is on the Bill. I am sorry that because of an important engagement in Grimsby my hon. Friend cannot be here today. It is worth while pointing out that no steps were taken by any of the promoters of the Bill to raise this point when the Regulations were laid before the House.
It seems to me, therefore, that even if the Bill in this form were enacted it would not in any way deprive the Minister of the powers given to him by the Act of Parliament to make different Regulations. They might vary in different particulars. They might not go as far as the promoters want. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to do something effective in this regard, he 793 should produce a Bill limiting the powers of the Minister to make Regulations under Sections 31 and 32. He could easily have drafted a Bill as an addendum to Section 31 of the Act, saying, in effect, "provided that no regulations shall be made which do this, that or the other", and then there would have been complete legislative authority to try to achieve what the hon. Member wants.
That is why it seems to me that the form of the Bill, apart from anything else, is open to the most serious objection, and is vitiated by the failure of the hon. Gentlemen to understand the difference between legislation enacted by this House and subordinate legislation produced by a Minister of the Crown under an Act of Parliament making Regulations that are subject to certain parliamentary control.
That would seem to be the right way to do it. If the hon. Member were serious in seeking to achieve effective legislation in this field I should have thought that would have been the only way he could have done so. If he had taken that course he could have produced a Bill to secure his object without involving the unnecessary consequences to which the hon. Member for Crosby has referred and which, I gather, the hon. Member for Ashford does not wish to be produced by the Bill.
I wanted to make this protest, because I regard the Bill as being defective in form and unlikely to fulfil its objectives, even in the event of the House agreeing with its motives. Other hon. Members have Private Member's Bills awaiting discussion—my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Abse), for example—and there are other Private Member's Bills queueing up on the Order Paper.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
Does not the hon. Member agree that the real defect at the moment is that local authorities have no power, because practically all the power is vested in the Minister?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I was about to deal with the merits of the Bill. I do not appear to have convinced the hon. Member of what I was trying to argue, which was that, assuming the whole House 794 desires to achieve the objectives advocated by the hon. Member for Ashford, and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, it seems particularly unfortunate in that this vehicle is the wrong means of setting about it, because it will not produce the desired result.
I was pointing out that it would have been quite easy, with a little forethought, to have produced a Bill which was an enactment of Parliament for all time and which curtailed the power of the Minister to make what the hon. Member for Ashford regards as offensive and objectionable Regulations.
So far, I have been talking only about the form and mechanics of this legislation—
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
I am in complete agreement with the hon. Member about the form of the Bill, but I should like to ask him one question. He said that a Prayer was not laid against the Regulations when they were made. Does he, with his wide experience of the House, recollect more than one occasion on which a Prayer has ever been successful—and that success being due only to the great skill of hon. Members on this side of the House? I am speaking of recent years.
§ Mr. Fletcher
My experience is rather longer than that of the hon. Member, For his information, I can tell him that I am aware of some other occasions on which Prayers have been successful. Other Prayers which have been carried against the Government of the day have been promoted by Members on both sides of the House. Further, there have been many other occasions on which, although a Prayer has not been successful, it has caused the Minister to withdraw certain Regulations because of the arguments put forward in the discussion of the Prayer.
The House cannot amend Regulations, but it has been able to object to a certain paragraph of a Regulation, and to secure the withdrawal of the Regulation and its substitution by another Regulation omitting the offending paragraph. I am sure that the experience of the hon. Member for Crosby is the same as mine.
The powers given to this House to control subordinate legislation, limited 795 though they are, have been used effectively in the past on some occasions. It may be argued that they are not as effective as they could be, but that is not the point. On this occasion, the hon. Member for Ashford seems inadvertently to have gone out of his way to confuse what the House can do, when it chooses to enact legislation, by attempting to amend the Regulations of the Minister.
On reflection, I am sure that he will agree that his objective would have been far more likely to be achieved if he had sought to amend an Act of Parliament by limiting the powers of the Minister, in certain respects, than it is at the moment, when his Bill merely attempts to amend Regulations made by the Minister. I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby, at least, will agree that there is some force in my argument.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I agree that there is some force in it—but the hon. Member must realise where is argument is leading. He is asking for private Members' Regulations days.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am not asking for that; I am asking for more care to be taken in the presentation of Private Members' Bills which, so far as I can judge, command the support of many hon. Members. That is why I say it is a pity that the form in which the Bill comes before us should be so defective.
I now turn to the merits of the Bill. I have listened to part of the debate, and I sympathise with the objectives which the hon. Member and the promoters of the Bill have in view. I am sure that all those who have regard for the appearance and well-being of our streets, whether in rural districts or in populated cities, are anxious to see the imposition of effective control of advertisements in order that their vulgarity should be removed, and that they should comply and conform with the general views of the public in relation to amenity, decency, order, tidiness, and so forth.
Although I have no experience in the matter, one way or the other, I have no doubt, as the hon. Member for Crosby tells us, that the working party and the other bodies concerned with the subject—including the one over which Lord Luke presides—have been carrying on a useful and vigorous campaign which has produced worth-while and deserving results. 796 We would all wish to encourage that campaign. I am not in a position to judge whether the situation is better dealt with by allowing the voluntary code to continue for a time or by giving local authorities greater power. I should have thought that the two methods were not inconsistent.
That is why I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Crosby. I could not follow where his argument was leading. At one time I thought that he was arguing that these voluntary bodies and working parties, and this voluntary code, were achieving such commendable progress that if they were allowed a little more time to fulfil all their objectives no legislation would be required. But if that was the burden of his argument it seemed to me that we might draw the diametrically opposite conclusion and say that if this voluntary work went on so successfully the hon. Member for Crosby and those who agree with him could not possibly have any objection to local authorities having powers to do what these organisations are doing voluntarily.
That is why I asked where the hon. Member's argument was leading. In logic, it seemed to me to lead to the conclusion that at some date the hon. Member would not be able to resist an appropriate Bill of the kind which the hon. Member for Ashford, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby all desire.
§ Dr. Stross
There is another point which has to be taken into consideration. However much we like to believe in the use of the voluntary code, however much support all of us would wish to give to it, if it appears to us that some manufacturers—particularly one or two of those mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes)—ignore representations made to them by the advertisers' committee which set up the code, we must take some further action; for in this respect the code will have failed.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I entirely agree. It seems to me a fair answer to what the hon. Member for Crosby was saying. One need not in any way decry the progress made by his working party of voluntary organisations. But it seems to me—I do not 797 speak with any great knowledge of the subject, but merely as a citizen who goes about seeing advertisements in various places, and seeing whether I find them pleasing or displeasing or offensive, and so on—that as a matter of logic my hon. Friend's argument is insoluble.
However successful a voluntary campaign may be, and good luck to it, there are bound always to be some "black sheep," some "back-sliders", who will not conform or respond either to pressure of public opinion or the exhortations of their own industry. They can be brought into line only if in the background there are statutory powers to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. F. P. Bishop (Harrow, Central)
Is it not the fact that these necessary powers already exist under the Regulations as they stand, through the challenge procedure and in the overriding powers of the Minister under Regulation 13? Where it proved necessary to apply those underlying powers to deal with refractory persons who would not comply with the code, surely there would be agreement and co-operation between industry and the authorities in applying the code.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Member may be right. Probably he knows more about this matter than I do, although I sought to inform myself.
In answer to the hon. Member's suggestion about adequate powers, I would say that my attention, in my capacity as one of the vice-presidents of the Association of Municipal Corporations, has been drawn to this very aspect of the matter. From a letter which I received from Sir Harold Banwell, the secretary of that Association, it is obvious that the Association does not think that the existing powers are adequate, and Sir Harold is in a position to know.
On the question of the adequacy or inadequacy of the existing powers, I think that I should quote from the letter I received from Sir Harold Banwell, on 5th March:Many members of the Association are becoming concerned at the increasing number of advertisements which are being displayed on small shops, and whilst not wishing to be unduly restrictive in relation to advertisements which genuinely fulfil a need they feel that 798 they are handicapped in trying to protect the amenities of a town by the freedom granted for various kinds of advertising of which sponsored advertisements on fascia boards form a substantial part. The Association hopes accordingly that you will see your way to support the Second Reading of this Bill.It is quite obvious that so far as they are in a position to form an opinion the local authorities consider that their existing powers are inadequate, and I should have thought that they were in a better position to know that than anybody. The view of the local authorities is definitely that the powers are not adequate and to that extent I think that it is a reply to the hon. Member, and an aspect of the matter which might induce any hon. Members in doubt about their attitude to the Bill to give it their support. Although I have already drawn attention to the defects in the Bill, probably we have to make the best use of it that we can as it stands. Those who feel as do my hon. Friend and myself may consider that is the best thing which we can do in the circumstances.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I had hoped that the hon. Member would go on to develop the point in the letter from Sir Harold Banwell about why these powers are inadequate. Some of us are not always prepared to take a mere statement, even, with respect, from Sir Harold, just like that. Cannot the hon. Gentleman develop it a little further and tell us where the challenge procedure fails?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I think that I can. The letter also states:If the Bill is passed, the prior consent of the local planning authority would be required before advertisements relating to goods sold in such premises could be placed upon the premises and in granting consent the local planning authority could attach conditions for the protection of amenity.That seems to me a reasonable attitude to take. One knows from experience that if something cannot be done without consent, although in the majority of cases consent would normally be granted, the mere power to withhold consent also carries with it the power to attach conditions to consent being granted. That operates in the whole sphere of town planning applications of various kinds.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
This is a very important 799 matter. It seems to me almost the hub of the matter. If the local authorities wish to take power to refuse permission following an application, because of the damage which the granting of an application would do to the amenities of the district, I do not think that they would be taking a greater power than they possess under the existing Regulations, particularly Regulation 8 where it states:… where it appears expedient to the local planning authority so to do, they may serve on any person displaying an advertisement with consent deemed to be granted … a notice requiring application for express consent for the continuance of such display to be made …I should have thought that that would cover it.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I think that would cover it, if It applied to a judgment under Class IV of paragraph 12.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Member said that this may well be the hub of the matter. It may well be an important matter, I am not saying that it is the hub of the matter. But it is a relevant consideration. We must take it in stages. The first question is whether the provisions in Regulation 8 apply to the provisions in Class IV of Regulation 12.
§ Mr. Bishop
I apologise for interrupting again, but this is an important point which it is necessary to get clear. The answer is in Regulation 12 (1). At the very beginning of the Regulation it states that the whole of the Regulation is subject to thepower of the local planning authority, by notice served under Regulation 8 of these regulations, to require application for express consent to be made.So in any case where they are dissatisfied with an advertisement on a shop, by the challenge procedure they could require an express consent to be made and so bring it under the procedure of Regulation 8.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, but whether that is generally accepted as the proper way in which to construe Regulations 8 and 12, when read together, I do not know. I have not sufficient experience to judge, but I should have thought that there was at least some doubt about it.
§ Mr. Deedes
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. I think that there is no doubt at all that what has been said is correct. The whole point is that the procedure is tremendously protracted and cumbersome.
§ Dr. Stross
I hope to be able to deal with this matter briefly when I have an opportunity of addressing the House, but, of course, hon. Members opposite are quite right, I think, in two ways. Their views about the machinery is correct.
The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is quite right in his objection to this form of machinery, because it is so tedious and difficult, but, in practice, since these Regulations came before us there has been a number of appeals to the Minister who is the appellate authority, and it is the experience which local authorities have had with the Minister which allows me to find great objections to the piece of machinery which now exists.
§ Mr. Fletcher
To conclude what I was saying, whatever may be the correct interpretation of Regulations 8 and 12, it is quite obvious from the views expressed by the Association of Municipal Corporations that it does not feel that the existing powers are adequate, and that even though there are some existing powers they could be strengthened. The real position with which we are dealing is this. At the moment, there is considerable complaint throughout the country about the abuse of fascia board advertisements. We all agree on that, and we are anxious to take more effective steps to deal with the abuse.
Therefore, without detracting in any way from what the hon. Gentleman has said about the efforts, and the success which has so far attended those efforts, of voluntary organisations, whatever be the fate of his Bill and whatever be its effectiveness, I hope, at any rate, that this debate will do a great deal to strengthen the efforts of all these voluntary organisations in ridding the countryside and our towns of the disgrace that still prevails in some parts as a result of the abuse of fascia board advertisements.
§ 1.3 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on the very considerable advertising of his own case, but I hope that all he wants to do is to go so far as to advertise his case and not seriously to press for the Bill to be read a Second time. I hope, too, that he is bringing the matter to the attention of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary so that he may realise the difficulties which have arisen, and arisen, in particular, because of the consents given by the Minister in the cases on which appeals have taken place and where the local authority concerned has not been supported by the Minister.
In my view, the Bill is really taking a sledge hammer to catch a Whale, and in trying to catch that whale my hon. Friend is hammering an awful lot of minnows—no less than three-quarters of a million of them.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
In all decency, is there not some limit to which one can mix metaphors on a Friday morning?
§ Mr. Allason
I am trying to advertise my own case, but, of course, I could not hope to be so able as my hon. Friend. He spoke about fascia boards, and the debate has tended to continue on the subject of fascia boards, but I do not believe that this is the end of the matter at all. Indeed, my hon. Friend admitted as much when he said that certain other people should be caught. I want to speak for the three-quarter of a million minnows who are going to get caught. Class IV, on page 12, which is to be amended, states:Advertisements displayed on business premises wholly with reference to all or any of the following matters: the business or other activity carried on, the goods sold or services provided, and the name and qualifications of the person carrying on such business or activity or supplying such goods or services, on those premises.Under the Bill we are going to leave out that part of Class IV which deals with goods, so we can have the name and address and the business carried on, the services provided, but not the goods sold. But Class IV says:Advertisements displayed on business premises,802 and that does not relate only to fascia boards. I suggest that it relates just as much to advertisements inside a shop as outside a shop. It seems to me that even if a small notice is put up right inside the shop, even on the counter, but which can be seen from outside the shop, that comes under "displayed on business premises." Even if some dispensation is given on that, when we get to the lettering on those little advertisements in the window, they do not come under "displayed on business premises." Reference is made to the external face of the building, and the external face might be held to be the outside of, say, a plate-glass window.
To take the small Hovis advertisement, it may be that if the lettering is displayed on the outside of the window it will be covered by the Bill, whereas it would be exempted if stuck on the inside of the window. I should like to hear a little more about this. It is quite clear that this is going to affect pretty well every shop in the country.
§ Mr. Allason
I am interested to hear that the hon. Gentleman wishes even advertisements inside shops to be forbidden.
§ Mr. Lipton
I take it that the idea of the Bill is that it should apply to all shops and business premises, and that is what I meant.
§ Mr. Allason
Yes, I am saying that the matter is going beyond fascias down to every little notice of every sort which, probably, would be held to be not objectionable. The consequence would be that every single shop in the country would have to scrap every type of advertisement and not show whether it sold Lipton's tea or anyone else's tea.
Then, again, we have to look at the way that the Bill is drafted. If we remove the goods sold we can still use the services provided. What about an umbrella hanging outside an umbrella shop? Would that be regarded as advertising umbrellas for sale and, therefore, as objectionable, or would it be regarded as advertising that umbrellas could be repaired on the premises and that, therefore, that was a service and could be accepted?
803 I can see that people are going to get round the fascia board point. For instance, there could be an enormous fascia displaying "Players Please" and in small letters down below, "Get your supplies here," That would be advertising a service, not advertising goods. It might well be that this proposed amendment would completely nullify itself because we should be trying to deal with people by pinning them down by Regulations instead of getting them to approve a voluntary code of conduct.
I do not know if hon. Members realise that this would affect every petrol station in the country. If there were a notice merely saying "Petrol" that would be offering goods for sale, but if it were a petrol station it would be offering services and presumably that would be permitted. Therefore, every individual notice at a petrol station would have to have the word "station" added to the word "petrol" in order to comply with the regulations. Every petrol pump would be covered and each one would need a single application so as to be exempt from the Regulations. Newspaper contents boards would also be covered and there would have to be separate applications for every display of a newspaper board.
The main danger of this Bill is that it has a very attractive title. I am afraid that hon. Members who have not had the advantage of listening to the powerful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), and I hope the other powerful speeches which will follow mine, might vote for it on the basis that it is so widely drawn that the whole of what is objected to can be taken out in Committee and an entirely different set of Clauses introduced. That would be a very poor reason for allowing the Bill a Second Reading.
So far as I can see, this would have one advantage. I always think it useful for advertising that ones' constituents should learn the name of their Member of Parliament. One has only to produce a Bill which will affect the interests of a large number of constituents in an adverse manner—I hope I have said sufficient to show that it is a very adverse manner—to make them take the trouble to learn who their M.P. is so that they might write to him To that extent some 804 hon. Members will get some benefit from this Measure, but in general I think it is completely futile legislation which is produced in a wrong way.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Is the hon. Member arguing that to permit the advertising of Lipton's tea in Brixton will help my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton)?
§ Mr. Allason
Yes. I say that we cannot draw the line. If one is to prohibit advertising Hovis bread or Lipton's tea, the little unobjectionable advertisements, one has to go right inside the shop where there may be a little display card saying "Cadbury's Chocolate". That would have to be pasted over because it would be displaying an advertisement on the premises.
§ Mr. Allason
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend.
I think that this proposed legislation would be carrying things much too far in a laudable attempt to bring some pressure on certain manufacturers who in the opinion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford have transgressed in relation to fascia boards. The existing Regulations deal precisely with that matter. I hope that the House will not give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I shall not go into all the points which have been raised by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason). Otherwise I should be accused of advertising certain products to the disadvantage of others. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has rendered a useful and valuable public service in bringing this Bill before the House.
I wish that the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead and others who are doubtful about this Bill could take a walk, or a drive, along Kennington Road and have a look at two shops which are quite near to Kennington Green. Those shops have survived both world wars intact. They probably carry more displayed advertisement per square inch than any other two cigarette and tobacco shops in the whole of London. They are fascinating in a revolting kind of way. I wish I had 805 photographs of them to show to hon. Members. Those two shops by themselves illustrate what a very strong case can be made for the Bill.
My principal object in speaking today is to deal with one aspect of this plague of advertising, particularly on shop premises, which is very topical at the moment. The biggest malefactors in this regard are the tobacco companies. They advertise on shop fronts probably to a greater extent than does any other industry or service. If the Government are favourable towards this Bill they can in a sense kill two birds with one stone. They can help to beautify many streets in large towns and villages while, at the same time, they can do something which the recently published Report by the Royal College of Physicians says that we should do; that is, to restrict advertising of tobacco.
I was particularly interested in that part of the Report which deals with the need to do something about this advertising menace, particularly in regard to cigarette smoking. This Bill provides the Government and local authorities with such an opportunity. Figures which have been published show that in the last year the tobacco companies spent £11 million on advertising. I do not suggest that all that £11 million was spent on posters, billboards and so on displayed outside shop premises, but a certain amount of that vast expenditure was used in that way. When we compare this vast expenditure on advertising which helps to disfigure our towns and villages with the puny counter-advertising, so to speak, done by local authorities and health services generally, we realise what a wonderful opportunity is presented by this Bill to redress the balance.
The figures in the Report by the Royal College of Physicians show that the Central Council for Health Education in 1958–59 spent £1,150 on pamphlets and lectures about smoking. How can any reasonable person contend that this puny expenditure could possibly counteract the vast amount which has been spent by the tobacco companies on advertising, much of it on the shop fronts which disfigure these premises to such a large extent?
Recently, there has been a very steep increase in the expenditure on the 806 advertising of tobacco. It may well be that in due course every newsagent's and tobacconist's shop in the country will be almost obliterated from view by advertisements asking people to smoke and reminding young people what a glamorous thing it is to smoke and how they can satisfy a social or, indeed, a sexual urge by embarking on the tobacco habit. Anything that we can do to restrict this pernicious form of advertising is worth doing.
For that reason I very cordially support the Bill, because it is not only for the protection and advancement of amenity in town and country; it will do something to remedy what is a black spot on this country's record, namely, the fact that we have the highest death rate from lung cancer in the world. In the past year there were 20,000 deaths from lung cancer. We cannot be proud of that.
This Bill will not only help the protection of amenity, but may—I put it no higher—make some small contribution towards restricting the spate of tobacco advertising which the Report of the Royal College of Physicians shows to be having such disastrous results. The Report indicated that legislation to restrict tobacco advertising would be reasonable and would provide evidence of official acceptance of the reality of the hazard. That, I submit, is a further reason why we should view the Bill with sympathy and it is why I hope that the Government are disposed to take a friendly and sympathetic attitude towards it.
A few moments ago I mentioned the vast amount of money, amounting to £11 million last year, spent by the tobacco companies on advertising. Taking the figures from 1956–60, the total combined cost of the propaganda by the Government and local authorities came to less than £5,000—less than £20 a week. As the Daily Mirror rightly pointed out, the Government might as well have spent twenty farthings. I am not asking today for more money to be spent. All I am doing is to ask the Government to regard the arguments which I have put forward as an additional reason why the Bill should be put on the Statute Book as soon as possible.
§ 1.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
I join in the congratulations which have been expressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on the very clear and fair way in which he set out the purposes of the Bill. I also wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford) on his success in the Ballot.
The Long Title of the Bill sets out an objective with which all hon. Members would agree:to make better provision for the protection and enhancement of amenity in town and country.We are all anxious to avoid the defacement of buildings and, in particular, I support any Measure which sets out to preserve the beauty of our shrinking countryside. The Long Title of the Bill, therefore, appeals to me, despite its legalistic terms, which, I know, are unavoidable. The Bill can perhaps be described in simple terms as a Measure to stop people from spoiling the view.
I have an interest in this matter in that I am an associate director of an advertising agency. Perhaps I may add to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), which is that normally the financial interest of an advertising agency in this form of display advertising is marginal.
Having congratulated my hon. Friend, perhaps I may say that I received the Bill with very modified rapture because on looking at it closely, and studying the Regulations to which it refers, I felt that the Bill went further than was the intention of its sponsors. It should be said again that at present advertisements displayed on business premises which refer to the goods sold there are not subject to control under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations, 1960, unless the local planning authority deems it necessary to exercise the power vested in it under Regulation 8 to which I referred a moment ago in my intervention.
Where it appears expedient to the local planning authority to do so, it may serve a notice requiring application for express consent for the continuance of the advertisement in question. But in broad terms, business premises—and 808 that includes shops—are free to display advertisements relating to the goods which are sold there.
Clause 1 amends the Regulations which give this freedom to shopkeepers by removing the words "goods sold or" in line 3 and "goods or" in line 5. This change would make it necessary for a retailer to obtain the consent of the local authority or the consent of the Minister of Housing and Local Government—in Scotland, I presume, that of the local planning authority or that of the Secretary of State for Scotland—before displaying on his premises any advertisement relating to the goods which he sells there.
The word "advertisement" is defined in Part I of the Regulations, where it is stated that'advertisement' means any word, letter, model, sign, placard, board, notice, device or representation, whether illuminated or not".This wide definition covers every kind of display advertisement used by retailers. Further, the definition of business premises in paragraph (3) of Regulation 12 covers not only shops, but every kind of commercial undertaking, such as garages, public houses, and restaurants.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) pointed out that this applies to branded goods and that there is no objection to the shop advertising the sale of tobacco and newspapers. All that one must not say under the Bill is the kind of tobacco and the names of the newspapers.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I appreciate that. I am obliged to my hon. Friend. The effect of the Bill would be very much wider in terms of removing advertisements than I think is my hon. Friend's basic intention. In introducing the Bill, my hon. Friend made it clear that he is not waging a fight against advertising or anything of that kind.
There is no need to go over again the well-trodden path of argument about the place of advertising in society. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said that all good things can run to excess. I agree that abuse should be suppressed. Indeed, I supported a small Bill of this nature 809 recently, but it went, in the end, to join the little queue of Measures which are waiting for the Report of the Molony Committee.
It is important that in our anxiety to suppress abuse we should not also suppress the enthusiasm of those who engage in selling. Two weeks ago my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) made a very interesting and useful speech on this theme. All of us, whether we have direct interests in advertising or not, are very anxious that the undesirable aspects of advertising, which, of course, exist, although they are often greatly exaggerated in the House, should be caused to disappear.
We sometimes tend to give the impression that it is noble to produce things, but somehow perhaps ignoble to try to sell the product. In this country we live by trade. We must accept that the end process of trade is selling. I hope that we shall not give the impression that any of us here are against the selling on which production and employment depend.
My hon. Friend spoke of sponsored fascia panels. I agree that the Bill would dispose of these. It would dispose of the two or three sinners, but it would also suppress the far greater number of innocents. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby paid tribute to the work of the working committee which is giving effect to the code of standards for advertising on business premises. He showed how effectively this has worked. He also showed how effectively the advertising business itself can introduce and operate means of self-control. Seventy-three thousand signs removed and 15,000 re-sited is a remarkable achievement after so short a time.
The most dramatic single result was perhaps the test operation in Maidstone. Several of my hon. Friends have referred to Maidstone. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) in his place. The result of this short operation was that Maidstone was thoroughly cleaned up, if I may use that phrase in this context. This process has now been extended into the country and into smaller towns, with remarkable results. We are told that the newspaper and periodical industry 810 has removed 36,000 contents boards, which I always find very objectionable. I am glad that they are going. The advertising business itself has done much to tidy up the untidiness of our country.
Do we really need to go as far as the Bill proposes? There are about 750,000 shops in Britain. Between them they must carry millions of signs. The Bill would make it necessary for each of these shopkeepers to apply for permission to display every one of the signs and displays which he carries on his premises. I cannot believe that this is the intention, because the task involved would be colossal, not only for the shopkeepers, but for the local authorities, which would face a staggering responsibility.
§ Dr. Stross
Is not the hon. Member under a misapprehension when he says that three-quarters of a million shopkeepers must now go to the local authority, or will have to, to obtain consent for displaying signs on their fascia boards? This cannot be so. It can only be the case, if the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) succeeds in getting a Second Reading for the Bill and it is later enacted, that those who advertise branded goods on business premises will have to obtain consent or change their signs.
§ Mr. MacArthur
Perhaps I have missed the hon. Gentleman's point. The Bill would relate not only to fascia boards, but to the whole surface of shop windows which today carry, especially in small villages, and in the case of the smaller shops, a large number of stickers, banners, and displays of various kinds. The Bill would put a tremendous burden of cost and responsibility on local authorities by requiring that each one of these signs would have to go through a process of application, perhaps inspection, and possibly appeal afterwards. There would not only be a burden in terms of administration but also in terms of cost. The local rates are already high enough.
The main purpose of my hon. Friend was not to suppress the little window stickers and the like, but to get rid of the fascia boards which are used primarily to advertise a brand of product rather than the name of the person who 811 owns the shop or the nature of the business transacted in the shop. I agree that the indiscriminate use of fascia board in this way can suppress the individuality of retail shops and tend to limit the free competition which we on this side believe should exist between shops.
The work of the advertising business has been referred to several times. From the comments which have been made today it seems clear that there are a small number of non-co-operators in this process. If the non-co-operators continue not to co-operate, pressure should be brought to bear on them, not only with a view to enforcing the good intent of the advertising business, but in the wider interests of the public at large.
Because of this, my hon. Friend has done a very good service in presenting the Bill to the House. I do not support it, because it goes much further than is the basic intention. In any case, I believe that the power needed to dispose of the undesirable type of fascia board already exists in Regulation 8. I may have misunderstood it, because these Regulations are rather like a maze. One has to jump from one to another to follow the theme of the proposition. However, it seems that under Regulation 8 a local planning authority, if it takes objection to a display on a shop, can in a sense override Regulation 12 because it deems it expedient so to do, and require an application to be made for the continued display of the sign. It is desirable that the attention of local planning authorities should be drawn, by means of a circular or whatever the appropriate means may be, to the expediency of requiring applications to be made for the type of display which is the basic cause for the introduction of the Bill.
I hope the Minister will not consider that the Bill is the right way to cure this abuse, but will feel that to achieve the basic objective of the proposed Measure either the existing Regulations are sufficient, or, if not, that a much more modified amendment should be made to them.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is apparent from the speeches so far that hon. Members are in favour of the objectives 812 behind the Bill. We all want to combat ugliness, to improve the countryside and our urban surroundings, for not all of us can escape from the cities and towns and move outside. The desire to improve our surroundings has been clearly shown by hon. Members and I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Bats-ford) who, because he has taken a position on the Government Front Bench, unfortunately could not present his own Bill. However, I am sure that we all enjoyed the way in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) cogently and clearly explained the meaning of this tiny Bill.
Those who have been in the House for some years know that the smaller the Bill the more work is associated with it, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Ashford has done an enormous amount of work and I am grateful to him. I did not have an hesitation in being a sponsor of the Measure because, like everyone who has spoken, I strongly subscribe to what is being attempted.
The Parliamentary Secretary will have noticed the rush of amenity Bills this Session. This is no accident. It shows the way the wind is blowing. It is a wind of change and we are becoming sensitive to what is happening. We all wish, wherever possible, to improve conditions. Science helps us, as does the quality of paint and the intricacies of architecture. People generally seek this improvement and we are only reflecting their desires. But we are determined not to lay behind those desires, for we wish to improve our environment and to subscribe to anything that will make conditions better than they were before.
The hon. Member for Ashford described the Bill as being small. It is small and modest—but it is drawn in such a way as to do as little harm as possible and to make it certain that no one should say "This is an attack on advertising", because it is not. The hon. Member for Ashford made it clear, and I agree entirely, that if a voluntary code can work, all well and good. I agreed to that when we debated the Regulations on 29th February, 1960. By then we knew that the code was almost ready for distribution. It had not yet been printed but it was ready for the printer.
813 The hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) asked in effect, "Why do you attack the sponsoring of fascia boards for only a particular group of people? Is there any difference between that and having the name Marks and Spencer or Woolworths on a board?" The answer was given earlier by the hon. Member for Ashford when he said that what we really need is diversity and not uniformity. In any case, one does not find a High Street in which every shop bears the name "Marks and Spencer" or "Woolworths". It would be horrible if that were so, but it is equally horrible when one sees highly coloured fascia boards advertising the same kind of branded goods, whether tobacco, margarine or the sort of drink people are supposed to take.
We are only saying that, accepting that there is room for advertising and that local authorities, in the main, like advertising—if it is of the right type and in the right place—the sponsored fascia is an improper advertisement in an improper place. Perhaps it would be clearer to say that it would be a proper advertisement if it were in a proper place—and the fascia board is not a proper place for it.
When we debated the Regulations there were some interesting exchanges before the Minister replied. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the various advertisements of the past, some of which I have referred to, and concluded:I can only conclude by telling the House of what I have always regarded as the best advertisement ever put up. It was written out, and put up by a school boy who had had some trouble at school. He had the enterprising idea of putting up a notice advertising the school for sale. Having described the buildings in somewhat pungent terms, he concluded, 'And the contents include 20 old masters, suitable for private hanging'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 990.]I then asked leave to withdraw the Motion.
I said earlier that we felt that as the code was ready for printing we should see if it would work. I did not know, at the time of that debate, what length of trial it should be given and I asked the Minister whether he thought that 18 months or two years would be sufficient. In his reply, the Minister said that we should see how it worked after two years. At that time we knew that the County 814 Councils' Association agreed that the code should be given a trial. But this was not the case with the Association of Municipal Corporations, for it was not in favour of the voluntary code.
The hon. Member for Crosby mentioned that certain draft Regulations had been considered by the interested parties in 1956 and 1957. The Association of Municipal Corporations was consulted, as was the outdoor advertising industry, on these Regulations. The purpose of the new draft Regulations was to amend the 1948 Regulations and the Association of Municipal Corporations thought that much stricter control was necessary. I think that every thoughtful person, certainly including the Minister, wanted stricter control. The point was how to get it, whether by a voluntary code or by means of Regulations. At that time, I think the hon. Member for Crosby will agree, the outdoor advertisers made strong objections and the Minister, who is now Chief Secretary to the Treasury, discarded the Regulations in favour of this trial period for the voluntary code.
I should like to quote the views of the A.M.C. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) made one or two quotations, for he and I are vice-presidents of the A.M.C., as indeed until recently was the Parliamentary Secretary. I will quote the last two paragraphs of the views of the A.M.C.:We carefully considered drafts of the voluntary code, but in the event found ourselves unable to accede to it: it did nothing to discourage the types of advertising which we considered particularly damaging to amenity, i.e. advertisements on shops above the fascia level, gable end advertising and projecting signs.It goes on to say:We have been aware for a long time of the loophole in the 1948 Regulations which Mr. Deedes' Bill would, I think, stop up; i.e. of a manufacturer making available a fascia board bearing a shopkeeper's name and also an advertisement for proprietary goods sold in the shop. We agree that this is a form of advertising which needs to be brought under the consent procedure"—that is what the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) was speaking about just now—rather than to be left as it now is for these boards to be challenged.That is the difference between consent procedure and the power to challenge, using the right hon. Gentleman as the appellate authority.
§ Mr. Allason
If the objection is solely to these fascia boards, why is it that the Bill is not drawn in relation to fascia boards? It has been possible to draw the Bill in relation to branded goods and to exclude unbranded goods. Therefore, why not relate the Bill to fascia boards and exclude all the other things? That is my great objection to this Bill.
§ Dr. Stross
It may be that the term "fascia board" is not in the Regulations. If the hon. Gentleman will study the Regulations and can find the words "fascia board" I shall be glad if he will direct my attention to them.
May I come to the last sentence of Sir Harold Banwell's letter to me:The use of these fascia boards is spreading, and the Association feels that this Bill, although not going as far as it would desire, is a useful step.The House should note that last phrase. It does not go as far as the A.M.C. would like but is a useful step. Therefore, it seems to me that the hon. Member for Ashford, in deploying his argument, has done us a very great service.
On 29th February when we debated the Regulations I asked the Minister some questions and he then made it clear, as I have said, that he would wait for the length of time that we have mentioned, namely, two years. Then he said—and this again is a point that has been made by nearly every hon. Member who has spoken—that local authorities would be retaining their right to challenge advertisements and the Minister would, of course, retain his right to consider appeals on their merits and to dismiss the appeals when he thought that was the right course.
What has happened? Nearly two years have gone, and it is my view, and I believe the view of everybody in the House, that there are some manufacturers who have not abided by the spirit of the voluntary code. That is why we are debating this matter today. It would not have arisen otherwise.
The hon. Member for Ashford quoted from a letter sent by Lord Luke on this very problem. I know of no answer that he ever received. I feel that the tobacco interests in particular, who were the first and worst offenders, although they may not in the end be the worst 816 offenders, have felt themselves to be in a position to ignore representations made to them by all the sensible and sensitive interests in the advertising profession. Everyone who has studied this problem knows that we have very little to be ashamed of as compared with other countries. That has been made clear this morning. Perhaps we are not as far ahead as the most progressive of all countries, but why should we expect that all at once? We are doing very well, though of course we can do a lot better still.
However, the sponsored fascia board is increasing in numbers. We know who the chief offenders are, and if they are being copied, those who copy their techniques have a perfect right in law to do so. However, we argue that they are being set a very bad example. Because one group of manufacturers have extensive interests and are very wealthy, there is no reason why we in this House should be forced to move against them by legislation merely because they flout a voluntary code. That is what we are discussing today.
§ Mr. Bishop
The hon. Member suggested that everyone agrees that there has been defiance of the voluntary code in the case of (these fascia boards. Much has been made of a letter written by Lord Luke and the fact that nobody knows what the reply to that letter was. Surely this was private correspondence. We cannot be expected to be in possession of the original letter or the reply. Is not the reply in effect to be found in the Report of the Consultative Committee which has just been submitted to the Minister? It says:When it was found that there was increasing criticism of fascia advertising on the grounds that in some cases the fascias did not blend satisfactorily with the appearance of the shop or with its environment, all fascias which had been erected recently were inspected by the companies concerned. Thereafter a total of 830 were either modified or removed altogether. This work continues.We know the effect of the correspondence, if we do not know the terms of the letter.
§ Dr. Stross
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having brought out this fact and for mentioning that 830 have been altered or removed. I wonder how many have been erected during that same time. We do not know. Is the number 817 2,800 or 5,800? When will it stop? However, I will return to this point later.
A little over a year ago I was a member of a deputation to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who is now Minister of State, Board of Trade, on this very issue. The hon. Member for Ashford was also on that deputation. We went to raise this problem and ask that the Minister should intervene. At first the Parliamentary Secretary was unsure whether we were in the right. He had a file on his table and showed it to us saying, "In some of these cases at least, amenity has not been destroyed by the alteration in the fascia boards. Indeed"—I remember the words—"in some cases it seems as if the scene was improved by them".
I had a much bigger and heavier file than he had, consisting of correspondence from planning officers. When I showed him photographs of the large number of grotesque outrages resulting from fascia board advertising he, like all Parliamentary Secretaries, being a very intelligent person, immediately showed how horrified he was. I lost my file for a month or two, but ultimately I received it back from the Department, and action was thereafter taken.
It is no secret that there were conversations between Lord Luke and the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. Lord Luke has done everything he possibly could. That is quite apparent. Our case—I insist on it over and over again—is that it is obvious to most of us at least that here are one or two black sheep, and we want the black sheep to change their colour and fall into line with thinking generally in the country.
I was distressed that, at about that time, some local authorities challenged some fascia board advertisements and the appeals made by the manufacturers were allowed, not dismissed. They were bad cases. We were thus in a difficulty. All of us, not only those who went with deputations from both sides of the House but all who were interested in these matters, felt that the Minister was not living up to his promises.
I say at once that the work of the voluntary code and of the committee in clearing up clutter has been very successful, and, of course, we believe that it will continue. We are very glad about 818 that. If only it could have stopped this form of soliciting for fascia board advertisement of branded goods, there would have been no need for the Bill.
When the code was prepared, Lord Luke wrote a preamble, and the Minister wrote an introduction to it. I think it is worth quoting two paragraphs from the preamble by Lord Luke. I agree absolutely with what he says.Local authorities are concerned to preserve visual amenities. Advertisers want to foster the material amenity of providing the public with the widest possible choice of goods at the most economical prices. Both are important functions for the community, and both are in every way reconcilable. Advertisers do not want to spoil visual amenity, which after all, is a vital part of the comunity's well-being it is their object to create (and which they are also helping to pay for). Local authorities naturally do not want to diminish the country's commercial prosperity. The object of this Code, therefore, is to bring these two important interests into the harmonious understanding their rôles demand.I apologise for troubling the House with rather long quotations, but I think they are worth recording in HANSARD. The next paragraph reads:Advertising is a young industry which today plays an essential part in industry and commerce. In orer to play that part effectively, it is fully conscious of the need to maintain the good will of the community it serves; and this, in what might be called its 'early middle age', it feels it has already achieved in certain important directions.Lord Luke goes on to say something the truth of which is manifest:The existing codes of advertising for patent medicines, poster censorship and television are practical examples of what have already been done in prominent fields of advertising.Because of the truth of that, one is all the more anxious to see that by some method we achieve success in the whole field.
Last week, the Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to allow me to visit an exhibition of the work done by the Minister's own advertisement control officers which he had organised in his Department. He was present and we looked at it together. I express my appreciation of the work done by the advertisement control officers. I was more than sorry that there were not dozens of hon. Members to go across to see that interesting exhibition that day. It was a week last Monday, about the 819 coldest day of the year, with a semi-blizzard blowing, and Monday, unfortunately, was not a good day, so there were not enough of us to see it.
It is quite apparent that, without the work of these officers, the country would be much worse off today than it is. The impact of their work on both safety and amenity is real and continuous. Nevertheless, having offered that graceful but absolutely true and well-merited compliment, I feel that I must make two critical comments. First, in all cases where challenge has been made in respect of advertisements which are deemed to have consent, the Minister in his capacity as appellate authority has dismissed fewer than he has allowed. He dismisses 40 per cent. and allows 60 per cent. Those, roughly, are the figures we were given when the Parliamentary Secretary's officers showed us the exhibition. It is obvious, therefore, that the Minister is, on the face of it, against the local authority in these matters to the extent of sixty against forty.
Secondly, there have been some cases of challenge against the use of fascia boards, and the response by the Minister has, I believe, disheartened local authorities. They are aggrieved about it.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)
The Minister's position is difficult. Speaking from a borough point of view now, I know that the borough has its own policy. It may object to a certain sign on certain grounds, and it is then very difficult for the Minister, miles away, to judge on the facts. What is really required is the power which the hon. Gentleman suggested, the power in the boroughs to be able to decide for themselves exactly what is good and bad.
§ Dr. Stross
That is the purpose of the Bill. The only power which the local authority has today is power to challenge an advertisement. The Bill is designed to reverse that and give the local authority greater power. I was merely stating the facts. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it may well be difficult for the Minister, but his officers are very responsible officers. They have to go and look. It is their duty to do so. I saw many examples of excellent work done by these officers which has improved both safety and amenity in all parts of the country.
820 I was saying that there have not been many cases of challenge because the local authorities are aggrieved at the result, and the word is going about that it is not easy to be successful. Has the Parliamentary Secretary any figures in regard to this matter? Can he say how many local authorities have challenged the use of fascia boards for sponsored advertisements and what have been the results? How many cases have been allowed after appeal, and how many dismissed?
The Parliamentary Secretary and I, of course, have to be very sensitive about this matter. He is the Member for Norwich, South and I am the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. In both these cities fascia boards and advertisements on dwellings were tackled by the local authority, by the traders and by a voluntary organisation, the Civic Trust, and very successfully tackled. Under the eagle eye of a great designer, Professor Misha Black, in both cities we went back to the original intended purpose of the fascia board, that it should state what is being carried on, what is the business, and the name of the man, that it should be attractive and that there should be complete diversity and yet, within diversity, taking all the fascia boards in a square or street together, that there should be, as it were, an artistic whole. That is the way to tackle the problem; and, of course, it is the way to improve business, too. In both Magdalen Street, Norwich, and the square at Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, business increased by at least 30 per cent. and that is not a bad thing. If anyone, like the hon. Member for Crosby, is speaking on behalf of the small shopkeeper, the point which I am now making is also worth bearing in mind.
I have a great deal of sympathy with our traders, and quite rightly. We should be in a poor state without them and I would do anything to help them. The method of Norwich and Stoke-on-Trent is a better way than allowing outside interests to come along and take away visual amenity and not improve the takings in the shops. It is my considered view that, despite the sincere endeavours of all those who are sensitive to this issue in the advertising industry, there are still manufacturers who are contemptuous and unheeding of the desire of the country as a whole and of 821 our citizens to enjoy a reasonable environment.
We are asking the Parliamentary Secretary to say what action he and the Minister will now take and when he will take it. He has a golden opportunity here. He can urge the House, for example, to give the Bill a Second Reading. If he does that he will have done a great deal. In the past three or four years the number of amenity and civic societies has virtually doubled, and there are about 600 street schemes in different stages of development. This movement is spreading fast all over the country. I admit that in saying this I am saying that it is another way of getting rid of sponsored fascia boards. That is so, but we should make it easier for people to do it. If there is a wind of change it is blowing now and in the right direction. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some goods news.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
It is always a pleasure to follow in debate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). He has given eloquent support to the very powerful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in introducing the Bill. I am sure that everyone in the House is well aware of the great interest which my hon. Friend and the other promoters of the Measure take in preserving the amenities of town and country. I can assure my hon. Friends and the House that my right hon. Friend has the same interest at heart and that he will not allow the situation which they have been describing to go by default.
Advertising, of course, has been a controversial subject for many centuries. Most people are prepared to concede the necessity and, indeed, the desirability of advertising. This has certainly been so in every speech made today. There is no doubt that Lord Macaulay was right in saying thatAdvertising is to business what steam is to machinery—the great propelling power,There was a man who once thought that he could sell without recourse to advertising. In the end, I understand, he was 822 forced to issue an advertisement. It was headed, "Sheriff's sale."
The age-long dispute has concentrated largely on the method and the siting of advertisements. Next year we shall celebrate the centenary of the Act passed to frustrate the contractors who cluttered the streets with purely advertising vehicles. This was fairly effective, but I understand that the courts had some difficulty in determining whether vehicles shaped like baths or bottles were primarily load-carrying vehicles or primarily advertisements. We have difficulties of this nature to face today.
§ Mr. Rippon
That is always a possibility.
At times this controversy has led to violent action. But we in this country have never gone quite as far as some citizens in Ohio who planted poison ivy on a long embankment to discourage advertisers. During the last century when a pill manufacturing company tried to put up a large metal sign on the banks of Lake Windermere local inhabitants formed themselves into vigilantes and they threw the advertisement into the lake. The company retorted by putting the advertisement on the sails of a boat, but the vigilantes boarded the boat, bored a hole in it and sank it.
The company capitulated, but only after John Ruskin had written a letter personally requesting that the advertising should cease. The company had the last word, however, when it said, "They are evidently very aesthetic people in Windermere." It is clear from the observations of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, that there are many people in this country who take the same view today as the vigilantes of Windermere took last century.
In the public debate on outdoor advertising two main interests are still engaged. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, fairly quoted what Lord Luke said on the subject in the foreword to the "Clutter Code". We have to reconcile the desires of those who want to foster visual amenities and the legitimate needs and desires of the advertisers who want to provide the public with a good service and a wide 823 choice of goods. It is our business to try to reconcile these interests and I do not think that this is impossible.
As hon. Members have pointed out, a good deal has been done already. I am grateful for what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central had to say about the exhibition which we staged in the Ministry. I think it showed that we have made considerable progress. I cannot give exact figures of appeals and how many succeeded and how many failed. They represent, of course, a comparatively small percentage of the total of applications. Each is decided on its merits and the local authority wins very often. I do not think that the local authorities have any reason to take the attitude, which the hon. Member suggested they did, that the Ministry was disparaging to their efforts.
At the same time, we all agree that one problem remains to be solved. It is the excessive and badly sited advertising on business premises which we have described as "clutter'. I do not think that anyone in the House today has seriously defended that form of advertising.
The House has been reminded that a few years ago the Government contemplated tightening the Regulations to deal with this situation. In the event, after the long series of consultations that took place, it was agreed that the advertising industry should be given a fair chance to put its own house in order. The result was the emergence of the industry's own code of advertising on business premises, the "Clutter Code" which came into operation early in 1960.
The House will recall that the Government's position was stated clearly in debate on 29th February, 1960. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury used words then which I apologise for quoting again, but they still represent the Government's view. They were:I have said throughout, and I say again tonight, that if that effort is not successful, if this code does not achieve its object, I shall certainly not hesitate to produce in due course other means, because in one way or another I am determined to get rid of undesirable clutter as—I say at once—I believe all the wisest and most far-sighted people in the advertising business themselves desire to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 984.]824 As has already been pointed out, my right hon. Friend then said that he would certainly expect to see results from the voluntary code within two years. Now that the two-year period is drawing to a close it is obviously timely that we should review the position.
I might deal with one or two matters which have arisen in connection with the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations. These were made under Section 31 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and, as has been pointed out, advertisements on business premises fall within Class IV of the specified classes in Regulation 12.
The effect of this Regulation is that advertisements which refer to the business carried on, the name and qualifications of the persons carrying on the business and the goods sold or services provided, can be displayed without the express consent of the local planning authority. It is also clear, as hon. Members have said, that such advertisements can be challenged by the local planning authority after they have been erected. I will not deal now with the difficulties which arise in that regard; they have been brought out in the debate.
One further Regulation which has not been referred to is Regulation 17, which states:Provided that where the application relates to the display in accordance with the provisions of regulation 12 of these regulations of an advertisement of a specified class the authority shall not refuse consent, or impose a condition more restrictive in effect than any provision of regulation 12 of these regulations in relation to advertisements of that class, unless they are satisfied that such refusal or condition is required to prevent or remedy a substantial injury to the amenity of the locality or a danger to members of the public.The position is slightly different in areas of special control because of the proviso to Class IV. I mention this, but the debate has shown that the problem now exists largely in the towns. Few urban areas are included in the areas of special control, with signal exceptions like Winchester, Durham and Wells. We are dealing with an essentially urban problem.
Clearly, as they stand under the Regulations, both the powers of the local planning authority and of the Minister are circumscribed by practical considerations and by the effect of 825 Regulation 17. From the outset, it has been clear that a great drawback of the "Clutter Code" and the consultative committee of advertisers is that they have no effective enforcement powers. That does not mean that they have been able to do nothing. Indeed, they have just sent to my right hon. Friend the interim report dated 1st March, to which a good deal of reference has been made during the debate.
No one can dispute the figures that they have given. They have removed approximately 73,000 signs, resited 15,000 others and dealt also with 36,000 contents boards in relation to the newspaper and periodical industry:
They also say, concerning the code of action, thatIt was decided that from all points of view it was right and proper that the rural areas of the country should be dealt with first and the working committee therefore decided that it should, in the first stage of the operation, omit towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants. Some companies and interests have, in fact, also worked in bigger towns because of the geographical situation of their depots. For the latter reason they were not able, as had been hoped, to carry out the work county by county. The work proceeded throughout the year and it is now certain that phase one, the rural areas, will be completed by the end of April. Phase two, the clearance of the large towns, will be commenced immediately after phase one has been completed.It is clear that quite a lot needs to be done about the towns.
Concerning fascia boards, we have had reference to the report which makes it clear that the committee, when it found that objection had been taken, has tried to take action. About 830 fascia boards have been removed. Nobody has been able to suggest the figure of how many have been added, but I have a fairly good idea of how the guesswork might go.
It is unfortunate, as has also been made clear from both sides of the House, that a number of the companies largely responsible for clutter—I need not name them, because the names are also fairly well known—appear to have increased their efforts in the last few years to advertise on business premises. It may be that they hope that whatever the consultative committee might succeed in doing and in taking down, their signs will be lucky and, perhaps, remain as 826 part of limited approved displays. Whatever their motives, however, there is no doubt that there has been a rapid spreading of this form of advertising on fascia boards throughout 1960 and 1961.
I do not think that any hon. Members, on either side, have dissented from the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford that the colours used are often offensively garish. Since the boards are usually standardised, they bear no relation either to the premises or to their surroundings. There is no doubt that there is a grave danger that this form of advertising could seriously prejudice the work of the Civic Trust and other voluntary bodies who are trying to improve the appearance of our towns and cities. I have the honour to be a representative of the city which had the pioneer scheme, in Magdalen Street, in Norwich. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central had the second one in Stoke-on-Trent. Both are fine. It is, therefore, a matter that we must consider carefully in regard to our towns and cities.
I am equally sure, as has been brought out in the speeches even of those who oppose the Bill, that the advertising industry is well aware of the damage to its cause which is created by the erection of these boards. As we have been told and as we know, Lord Luke, the chairman of the consultative committee set up to administer the code of standards, wrote in February, 1961, to the chairman of some of the companies who are the worst offenders. I believe that he was given qualified assurances, but there seems little doubt that whatever assurances he was given, the erection of these boards is still continuing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford has indicated that he is most concerned about the problem of sponsored fascia boards. At the same time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and a number of other hon. Members have said, the scope of the Bill as drafted goes far wider. It would apply to all branded goods on shop premises. Incidentally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) suggested, there might be difficulty in interpreting exactly how far the Bill goes, and, in particular, what is meant in Clause 1 by "branded goods".
827 I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that many of these advertisements, if properly displayed, may be regarded as unobjectionable and deserve deemed consent. As he said, they would not be banned but although the flood of applications for express consent that could result might remove the clutter on shops, the cluttering of the Government machinery can well be imagined.
The hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) wanted the Bill not because he objected to the method or siting of the advertisements, but because he thought that it might help to reduce the numbers of a certain type of advertisement and so be conducive to the health of the country. I have no doubt that the hon. Member's motives in that direction are worthy, but in approaching this problem we must be careful, as most hon. Members who have spoken have been careful, to ensure that we do not impose anything in the nature of a censorship on the content of advertisements.
As Mr. King, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, said in the debate on the original Regulations on 2nd November, 1948:I am sure that it would be repugnant to the House if there were any form of censorship …. We are concerned with the advertisement as an advertisement: whether it advertises Sloane's back ache pills, or advises people … the distance to Llandudno is quite immaterial to us. It is just an advertisement, and we are more concerned with the standard conditions that it should be safe and clean."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 817.]That must remain the general principle. We cannot possibly attack any particular commodity in this way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said that he had drafted the Bill deliberately widely. I appreciate Ms point that if the offenders do not act properly themselves they endanger the position of the whole of the advertising industry. But even if we were to amend the Bill considerably, and narrow its scope, there would remain two fundamental objections to it. In the first place, it is not necessary. The Bill has the effect of amending the 1960 Regulations, but the Minister already has that power. The House will have taken note of what the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said about 828 the form of the Bill. I am sure that the Bill is not out of order—otherwise, of course, we would not be discussing it—but it is an unusual way of proceeding and one that ought to be used very rarely and in extremely restricted cases.
Secondly—and more important still—the Bill is premature. My hon. Friend says he has met that point by providing that the Bill should not come into operation for six months. It is not premature in that sense, however, but in the sense that it prejudges an issue yet to be considered. I have already referred to the interim report which the committee set up by the industry to administer the code of standards has made. My right hon. Friend is studying this document. He proposes to discuss it with the local authority associations, and then will make his own assessment on the success of the voluntary campaign.
§ Mr. Lipton
It would help some of us to come to a right conclusion if the hon. Gentleman could indicate by what time the advertising industry hopes to have carried out this voluntary scheme. When will it be dealing with London, for instance?
§ Mr. Rippon
I cannot answer for the advertising industry. What I am saying is that my right hon. Friend will study this report and consider what further action needs to be taken after consultation with the local authority associations and the industry itself. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, suggested that a two-year period might be sufficient in which to form a judgment, and although that is drawing to a close it would be clearly wrong to amend the Regulations in the drastic manner proposed in the Bill before it has been possible to make a fair and careful study of what has been achieved already.
During the next few months, we are to have a very full and careful study. I hope that the House will appreciate, in the light of the history of the subject, that it would be wrong to prejudge this general review. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend, and the House as a whole, that, in considering the effectiveness of the industry's efforts to puts its house in order, my right hon. Friend will have regard specifically to this matter of the sponsored fascia boards. 829 We are determined to see that all forms of objectionable clutter on business premises, including sponsored fascia boards, will be removed.
I hope that, in the light of these assurances, my hon. Friend will be minded to withdraw his Bill. Meanwhile, the best advice I can give to the industry is that it should not wait and see what happens, but should get on with the second phase of this work, because the two years is up and it is in the towns that some of the worst clutter is apparent.
I am sure, as was said by my hon. Friend, that it is much better to deal with these matters by voluntary action rather than by compulsion if possible. But the job must be done one way or the other, and I think that this debate has made it clear that that is the view of large numbers of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
I shall speak very briefly if for no other reason than that there are, as always on Fridays, other Bills in the pipeline, one of which is extremely important. I have no connection whatever with any advertising company or association of advertisers or with any company which advertises. I got the impression from listening to some of the speeches that this problem may be rather exaggerated, to say the least. I probably do not have the finer cultural attributes which make some advertisements as offensive to me as they apparently are to other people.
I regularly see advertisements which I think are offensive and unfortunate, but to try to draw a picture, as people do on this subject from time to time, of a nation being degraded to an almost appalling degree by the clutter on small grocers' shops is rather overstating the case. We are all concerned with abuses by advertising, and are mostly concerned with such abuses in the countryside. From purely personal experience—I have no professional experience—I should not have thought that this problem was now particularly serious, although there was a time, perhaps before the war, when it was.
Today, however, as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said, the main problem—where there is a problem—is in 830 urban areas, and this is something we must obviously consider. My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton—or is it Lambeth?—
§ Mr. Marsh
My hon. Friend has always shown the facility to be on two sides at the same time. He made the point about smoking. To that extent, there is a case for exercising some control over advertising. I shall not enter into the merits of this particular argument, but no civilised society can go on allowing persons to advertise courses of conduct or incite others to particular actions if they can be proved to be harmful. But that is not the issue with which we are concerned today.
My sympathies, particularly after the strictures of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), are very much with the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). In my innocence, I once got landed—that is the only way in which it can be described—with a Private Member's Bill and, having discovered that I was supposed to draft it myself, I have since had great sympathy with anyone accused of bad drafting. The more one sees of complex private Members' legislation the more obvious it becomes that there is a need for some form of assistance on the purely technical aspects of drafting the Bill. But I will leave that point now.
The big argument about any legislation—leaving out the technical objections, which can be made about any Private Member's Bill—is whether or not such legislation is essential. The burden of proof rests upon those who want to introduce the legislation. In my experience, I do not find that the problem dealt with in the Bill is as pressing as has been indicated by some hon. Gentlemen in the debate. Clearly, however, there is a problem. There is no dispute about that. The ideal thing, however, is to persuade people to deal with these things themselves. If we try to deal with these issues by statute, not only do we get legislation which is of necessity very complex but also we discover that the enforcement of such legislation requires considerable administration and involves difficulties—all of which appear to be rather unnecessary if, as is said, the problem can be eliminated by other means.
831 What are these other means? Already there is legislative provision enabling the authorities to deal with flagrant abuses. It is said that very often it takes a long time to get effective action. That may be true, but when one is dealing with things like fascia boards outside newsagents shops it is not a bad thing to have the process fairly difficult. This is not the sort of thing on which the sledge hammer of legislation should be used with too much ease and too much facility, but if there is a blatant abuse which offends both the authorities and the nation generally, then the offenders know that ultimately there can be a legislative remedy.
It has been the understanding of this industry that it has to put its own house in order. I am all in favour of professional associations trying to inject into any industry standards of conduct and professional ethics. From time to time, we have committees set up within industries for the purpose of doing precisely this sort of thing, but sometimes it becomes clear that they are a smokescreen to avoid doing anything. This happens, as Ministers are only too well aware. It enables the managers of companies in particular industries to play golf with their friends with a clear conscience and not to feel too uncomfortable.
In this case it is obvious that a great deal has been done. I do not think that any one would dispute that what has been done in this way needed to be done, and there has been a conscious effort to meet some of the objections which people have to certain practices which have grown up. If an industry shows that it is able to put its own house in order, that saves everybody a great deal of trouble and avoids legislative interference, which most of us dislike in these days, unless it has to deal with something really serious and exceptional. If an industry is unable to do this, I think that the Minister showed quite clearly that the Government are left with no alternative but to take governmental action. It cannot be done by private Members.
One would hope that in the course of the next twelve months the committee will not only be able to continue its work but be able to place some of the more 832 recalcitrant members of the profession more firmly on the paths of righteousness and get them to co-operate. It looks as if much of the problem that arises concerns not so much the very small men as a very small number of very big men, and it should not be beyond the wit of an industry which makes its living in this way to prevail upon them to exercise a little more common-sense and restraint than they have done so far. If they cannot do this, they will be fully aware from this debate that they will themselves be in difficulties.
From time to time I feel that some of us in this House tend to get a little emotional and pious about this question of advertising. It is something that is with us; it is part of the modern world.
§ Mr. Marsh
This is something with which modern society is faced. Advertising is part of the modern world. It is impossible to avoid it. Even in the most oppressive dictatorships of the world we find a great deal of extremely distasteful advertising. It is the advertising of politicians and of political parties, not particularly honest advertising very often, but clearly it would be pointless for me to spend too much time in attempting to make that point to hon. Members opposite, because many of them are here only because of the truth of that statement.
It is a fact that wherever one goes there is advertising and one has to live with it. Obviously, some of it is quite good; it is attractive. I, with my horrible lack of cultural instincts, like to see powerful, attractive advertisements in the urban areas, but I should not like to see them in the Lake District.
In fact one can produce highly artistic advertisements. The French 833 manage to do this with much greater facility than we do in this country. I think that if the advertising industry did a little more research into this, it might well feel that it had more friends. There are advertisements which are most unpleasant and unsightly. What is at fault is not advertising per se, but lack of professional standards by some advertisers, and this is something which, I think, can be met and greatly improved.
I should not like to have too many people who feel passionately about this, as we all feel about things, trying to make Piccadilly Circus, with its bright lights, into a kind of municipal city centre. I like Piccadilly Circus with all its vital vulgarity. I like the colour that goes with it. That is one of the things that makes many cities in the western world attractive and gives them atmosphere. But I think that when we are faced with problems of this type, there has to be restraint. The only people who are in the position to raise the standards of the industry ultimately—because we are not going to prevent advertising—are the advertisers, and ail that we can hope for is to try to persuade them to raise the standards until the worst excesses of advertising are met.
If we can do that by exhortation today, we shall do a very much better job than by trying to legislate against it. If we attempt to legislate against it, we shall be faced with enormously complex legislation requiring a great deal of bureaucratic administration, which will, in the end, cause everyone a great deal of trouble and fail completely in the aims which, I think, roost people are united in agreeing are necessary.
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on making today a really first-class private Member's day. When he started his speech, I was rather afraid that he would have a walk-over because we always expect a very high standard from my hon. Friend. I think that all hon. Members will agree that he surpassed himself. He became so persuasive that I thought there would be no opposition to the Bill. But the first torpedo came from the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). That has 834 been referred to by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, but I should like to mention it again because it seems to me it concerns particularly what a private Member can do on a private Member's day.
The hon. Member for Islington, East is a lawyer who knows much more about these things than I do. He made, what I would describe in simple layman's terms, the point that this Bill was designed to annul the wording in a Statutory Instrument and as such it just made nonsense. This Bill has had a First Reading and therefore it is in order. I should have thought that if in our wisdom we gave the Bill a Second Reading and if, with a great deal of luck, it went through all its other stages and came on to the Statute Book, it would become the law of the land and—merely as an argument—I do not think that the Minister could reinstate that Regulation. If he did so it would be merely flouting the law of the land. In any case, it brought to the notice of some of us who favour the idea behind the Bill the fact which has again been brought out by my hon. Friend, that this is perhaps not the right way of doing things.
In that respect, I am in considerable agreement with the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh). I agree with him that the type of advertisement and the quality of it is the crucial point. The difficulty with these advertisements is that they are made of paper and pasted on boards, and whereas one week there may be a lovely advertisement which everyone likes to look at in a drab and dull town, the next weeks the same advertiser can paste over it a dreadful advertisement.
To come back to the actual argument surrounding the Bill, my real object in speaking is to draw attention more to the future than to the past and present. I suggest, with respect, that most of the speeches from both sides of the House have been dealing with the past and the present. I agree with the hon. Member for Greenwich that a great deal has been done. The advertisers have started to put their houses in order, but, at the same time, that work has been annulled by the introduction of more fascia board advertising. It is rather like a first-class cricketer who goes in to bat and scores 835 100, and then fields at cover point, where he gives away 120 runs. By so doing he annuls his original good work.
When one looks into the future—and I am looking in particular at two types of urban area—the outlook is frightening unless something is done, and done on a voluntary basis. I refer, first, to the type of urban area which I represent. This is a new town, and I refer also to the type of area from which my constituents have come, the big conurbations such as London.
All the new towns are still under the close surveillance of a development corporation. Crawley New Town will be the first to move from that into the new concept of coming under the New Towns Commission, but at the moment the development corporations can, and undoubtedly do, keep a close eye on this problem. Having seen a number of new towns, none of them offends in the form of advertising that they allow. I think that all hon. Members will agree with that, particularly if they have seen Crawley, but there is a danger that in future they will offend, and offend badly.
Some modern buildings lend themselves to bad advertising. If, as my hon. Friend said, the matter is to be looked into, perhaps during the investigations his right hon. Friend will have a word with the Chairman of the New Towns Commission and point out to him that at the moment the new towns maintain a high standard, and that this House expects this standard to be maintained.
Coming back to the conurbations, I saw the other day—and this is merely a plan which will be coming before my right hon. Friend, so perhaps I had better not mention it by name—a magnificent new modern concept of the development of one of our large cities. The development consists of about 5 acres. The idea is to leave about 4 acres as open space. Obviously, the answer is that enormous great buildings must be erected on the rest of the land.
With respect to my noble Friend Lord Brabazon, who spoke about this the other day, I think that to a certain degree, and within limits, all future development in the great conurbations must be along those lines. There must 836 be as much open space as possible, and we must build enormous sky-scrapers—much higher than we have seen so far.
I notice in these Regulations that there is a limitation of 20 feet in the height and one-twelfth of the total face area of the building. If one thinks of a building of 30 to 40 storeys, there is the risk of an appallingly large area being used for advertising.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The Regulations do not permit advertising by deemed consent above 15 feet from the ground. I do not think that my hon. Friend's fears are justified.
§ Mr. Gough
I am glad that my point has been answered, but I still believe that the pull of advertising—if I make the pun I make it badly—is something at which this House ought to look carefully and should continue to do so.
The House is indebted to my hon. Friend for bringing this matter to our notice, but I am glad that the debate has gone the way it has, because, looking at the Bill, I feel that this is not the proper way to deal with this serious problem. I hope that my hon. Friend will be satisfied with the assurance given by the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
I decided to intervene in the debate only because of representations made to me from people in my constituency about the possible effects of the Bill. I do not often come here on a Friday and I was amazed when I went to the Vote Office and collected all these Regulations.
For a long time I was puzzled about the changes which would be brought about by this Bill which was so ably introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who lives in a most delightful part of England. Indeed, we were all carried away by his 837 rhapsodies and the Shakespearean expressions he used, and even my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) left the Chamber enamoured with the praise of Bridgnorth and the wilds and beauties of Shropshire, from where I come.
I was still puzzled why an industrial firm in my constituency should have written to me about the Bill, but as the debate developed it became obvious to most of us that the Bill was a sort of scooter. We were being asked to scoot in and out of the Regulations and use an Act of Parliament to do it. Then the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) pointed out that if the Bill were made into an Act of Parliament it would compete with the original Act. This seems an extraordinary situation into which to get ourselves.
I am in sympathy with the Minister when he says that this sort of legislation is unsuited to the laudable object of my hon. Friend. I can only point out one of the troubles which the Bill would cause in my constituency. Besides the advertisements which will be on the outside of shops there are some new and attractive things called vending machines. In certain areas of the country where people work different hours or come from the hayfields, or have been on late-night shifts, they like to use this method of purchasing their goods. These machines are on the outside of shops and can sometimes be seen through the shop windows.
I have to admit that I have an interest in this. The firm of Joseph Sankey is in my constituency and it makes these machines, and I am a business consultant to the firm. I must declare all that at once.
The firm says that a vending machine which sells goods for twenty-four hours a day affords a real amenity, and I am advised that if such a machine displays upon it an advertisement for some brand of cigarette, or some form of quick-frozen food, it would automatically be caught by the Bill.
§ Dr. Stross
The machine would have to be attached to the business premises, so that it could not easily be moved away from them—otherwise it would not be caught.
§ Mr. Yates
There we are. I am sure that the firm which wrote to me felt that the Bill would affect not only the workers in my constituency but also the vast export trade which it is carrying on. Any curtailment of this industry would have an adverse effect upon its export market.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) asked the Minister to tell him the number of occasions on which the challenge has been enforced and the number of occasions on which it has been refused. The Minister did not answer that question, but the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said that the proportion was about 60–40. I should have thought that my hon. Friend could have told us how his powers are being used, and whether he thinks that this method of challenge and Ministerial decision afterwards is working properly.
We all want to preserve the beauties of the countryside, and we loathe the sloppy clutter of vulgar forms of advertisement. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), who has a new town, which I hope to visit in order to learn some lessons for my new town. First, we must try to obtain the co-operation of the industry and, secondly, the Minister must use his power to see that an ultimate sanction can be imposed against those who fail to meet the requirements which the nation demands.
My sympathies are entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. He has done the House and the country a great service in pointing out how dangerous this name-board racket is becoming. It should be curtailed. Nevertheless, in view of the debate that we have had, I ask him to consider withdrawing the Bill and allowing the Minister to produce something which may be a little more effective. I would rather have seen this debate taking place on a Private Member's Motion than during the valuable time—of which so little is available—devoted to Private Members' Bills. I do not mean to be discourteous in any way, and I hope that my hon. 839 Friend will accept my remarks in the spirit in which I have made them.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates), I had not intended to intervene until I heard the debate that has taken place so far. I have not been able to hear the complete debate, and for that I apologise.
I was very struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh). He seemed to be putting forward the sort of view I normally expect to hear expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) on a Friday. He said that the test of any new Bill coming before the House was the question: is this legislation essential? Shades of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Major Hicks Beach).
The hon. Member went on to say that if an industry could put its own house in order legislation must be avoided. I wondered how the hon. Member reconciled that point of view with the nationalisation advocated by the party opposite. Anyway, the hon. Member made a most valuable contribution to the debate.
It is with the greatest reluctance that I say that for the first time since I came into the House that I cannot entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), for whose views I always have the greatest respect.
Perhaps I should declare an interest in the matter. I have nothing to do with the advertising industry, as such, but I am a director of a company that has a certain amount of advertising material throughout the country. I am advised, however, that the effect of the Bill upon that company would not be very great, so that if I have an interest it is very marginal.
I am told that, as it is at present worded, the effect of the Bill would not be confined to name boards. I wonder whether garages would be affected by the terms of the Bill if they bore a board advertising Shell, or some other brand of petrol.
A great many tourists now visit this country, and we must do all we can to 840 encourage them. One thing a tourist wants to know, for instance, is where he can obtain film or other material for his Kodak camera. If all advertising outside shops is to be banned it will make it very difficult for tourists to know where to obtain the material they want. I know how difficult it can be from my experience in foreign countries.
I wonder how the Bill will be administered. I imagine that there will be an enormous number—perhaps many thousands—of appeals, which will have to be decided by my right bon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. We are always being told how overburdened the Ministry of Housing already is with planning and other appeals. Many appeals have to be settled by the Ministry each day, and this Bill would clutter up the administrative machine enormously.
I am also concerned in trying to preserve some of the things we cherish in England. I know that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) takes an active part in so doing, and I sympathise with the aims of anyone who wants to preserve the English countryside and keep it reasonably clear from gross advertising which is not controlled in a proper manner. But I should have thought that if the voluntary control that exists is satisfactory it ought to be possible to avoid taking compulsory powers. The Bill would cause a tremendous administrative blockage, because of the number of appeals, and I do not know what would happen about those appeals even if they were heard. Would they be allowed? If my right hon. Friend were to allow them all there would seem to be little purpose in the Bill.
I am the last person to criticise anybody for the bad drafting of a Private Member's Bill. I have my own Bill, which is still before the House, and I have had the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford so far. I am loath to think that I might endanger his further support by anything I say today. The strictures of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) were not quite fair to my hon. Friend. We all know the objectives which he is trying to attain, and all of us—the hon. Member for Greenwich had great experience of this—know how difficult it can be to draft a Private Member's Bill.
841 I have great sympathy with some of the aims in the Bill, but I think that as it is drafted it goes too far. We ought, I believe, to stick as far as possible to voluntary control, about which we have heard quite a lot today. I think that the effects of banning so much advertising outside shops would cause grave hardship not only to the shopkeepers but also to the general public, and that consumers, a minority of whom appreciate my hon. Friend's intention, would resent not being able to know the sort of shop with which they were dealing.
I join with others of my hon. Friends in begging my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford to withdraw the Bill at a suitable moment. I am afraid that I cannot support it. However, I hope that, in doing this, my hon. Friend will not be so displeased with me as to try to get me to withdraw my Bill on Third Reading. I have enough respect for my hon. Friend's wisdom and charm to know that he will not hold this against me.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
When my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) opened the debate this morning, it was obvious that he had the whip hand in regard to the Bill. I think he will find my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary such a willing horse that he will not have to be particularly tough in driving through the Bill.
When I first looked at the Bill I was instinctively opposed to it, but I must say that I find its long-term objects, which my hon. Friend outlined so attractively in his speech, very praiseworthy. Nevertheless, during the last forty-eight hours, both in my constituency and between London and my home, I have been carrying out an inspection of the use of sponsored fascias. On the whole, I think that the new fascias which have recently been put up are an improvement to the outside appearance of many shops. I believe that, suitably persuaded, the large organisations are likely to show better taste in the production of the fascias outside their shops than, possibly, the small man.
There is a great danger, however, that there will be complete uniformity in our smaller streets. They will begin to ape the monotony of the high streets, with shop after shop in each town belonging 842 to the same multiple organisation and tending to look quite the same. My hon. Friend made one point about the work of the Civic Trust, which, in Windsor particularly, as I know, has been most successful. Would it not be possible to make the streets which the Trust selects for improvement subject to special control, so that they come under Clause 3 of the Bill?
May I very quickly give just a few examples of where I think there would be hardship both to shopkeepers and shoppers if the Bill were to become an Act? Many people want to buy branded goods. A shop which says "Jaeger House" or "Clarke's Shoes" is often the very shop in a town which many visitors and many local inhabitants wish to visit because they have had previous experience of the goods which they sell and want to patronise them again.
I wonder, too, if a shop which said "Agent for Clarke's Shoes" would, in fact, be offering a service and not the sale of branded goods. There is also a convenience in the easy recognition of the different kinds of shops which these common fascias offer. When one sees "Joe's Café" and Coca-Cola signs on either side, one knows, perhaps, that it is a good pull-up for drivers. When a travel agent displays on the outside of his premises "American Express Travellers' Cheques Changed Here", would that be permissible? If the notice said, "American Express Travellers' Cheques Sold Here", would it be considered as offering a branded article for sale?
Is it suggested that a motor showroom should not be allowed to say which cars it has to display, so that prospective purchasers might pull in and look at the models in which they are interested? Again, there is the question of off-licences. Many fascia panels outside off-licence premises show well-known names like "Mackeson's Stout" or "Double Diamond", and surely it is important that when, at the end of a long day's work, a man may want to buy something to drink at home, he should know where he can get it. If we make arrangements to enter the Common Market my hon. Friend might like to know whether it is possible to buy Mumm or Moet at a particular off-licence. Finally, I have a feeling that a shopkeeper might be driven to the 843 extent of imitating a hotel in Wales where there is a notice outside announcing, "Teas without Hovis". Perhaps the catalogue which I have given might underline how undesirable it would be for the proceedings of this House to be broadcast or televised.
I agree that the present Regulations may be abused. I think that my hon. Friend has done a great service by introducing this subject for discussion. I am quite sure that the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will act as a warning to the small number of firms who appear to be ignoring and abusing the code which, on the whole, is being operated successfully.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.