HC Deb 26 April 1968 vol 763 cc748-53

Nothing in this Act shall authorise a person to use any land or premises as to cause a public or private nuisance, or in Scotland a nuisance.—[Sir C. Black.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir C. Black

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Bill increases very largely the opportunity for what one can call, in no disrespect way, secular activities on Sundays. It is clear from the debates that have taken place today that, although there is concern on both sides, and that hon. Members differ in regard to the main purposes of the Bill, there is agreement that we must do all that we can to reduce the annoyance and disturbance caused as a result of the activities which will be legalised if the Bill passes on to the Statute Book.

The purpose of this Clause is to make the fact clear that, although certain illegal activities will, if the Bill is passed, become legal, that will not confer upon the people who engage in these activities the right to conduct them in such a way as to be a source of annoyance, public or private, to others. We all accept in principle that a fair balance has to be held between two or more classes of people.

There are those on the one hand who wish to indulge in Sunday activities which necessarily create large crowds and disturbance, and in some cases annoyance. There are others who wish to spend Sunday in another way. They are not by any means all of them people who habitually frequent the churches or chapels, unfortunately. They have however been brought up in the tradition of the quiet English Sunday, and they like the older way of life on a Sunday more than the encroachments upon Sunday which are continually taking place.

The House has, therefore, tried to draw a fair line between the two sections of the people, to maintain the balance between those who wish to indulge in noisy activities and those who, on the other hand, wish to have a quiet day, undisturbed by noisy activities. It is clear that in this world of imperfection and limitation it is impossible to devise an Act of Parliament or system of government that will give both sets of people all that they want. There has to be an element of give and take, a measure of comprise—there has to be a degree of forbearance on both sides. We recognise that, and our business today, and generally, is to try to hold the scales fairly between the different sections of the community with different requirements and points of view.

All that I want to write into the Bill, and this seems to be a simple, clear, reasonable, straightforward matter, is a declaration that those who engage in the noisy activities which will be legalised if the Bill gets a Third Reading are not entitled to assume from that that they can conduct the activities or themselves in such a way as to cause a public; or private nuisance. I hope that this is so reasonable that it may prove non-controversial and that we may be able to accept it without difficulty ard write it into the Bill.

Mr. Hamling

I would have thought that after the acceptance of new Clauses 2 and 7 there was no need for this one. I hope that the hon. Member will not press it. It is not very well drafted, and would probably have to be redrafted in another place. In any case, it seeks to prevent the Bill doing something that it does not do anyway, namely, to authorise any nuisance, public or private. Furthermore, it refers to Scotland, whereas the Bill does not apply to Scotland. I cannot see the significance of that reference in the Clause. Any nuisance or disturbance to which the hon. Member was referring would be covered by the assurances that have already been given on the new Clauses that have been accepted.

Mr. Tudor Watkins

I support the new Clause because I do not know whether or not the other Clauses will be redrafted to my satisfaction. When I was chairman of a planning committee in Breconshire there was a proposal, made outside Wales, for a motor rally, which was to go on every Sunday in the vicinity of a little bethel. As chapel people, we had to resort to planning appeals to stop it.

I want to see this provision in the Bill so that if any organisation wishes to conduct any such activities near a chapel it will not be given permission. I accept what the sponsor has said, but I am afraid that he has not convinced me on these matters. He has given assurances that he will try to remedy everything. I want to try to safeguard the position in this respect above everything else.

Mr. Hamling

I hope that my hon. Friend will not continue in that way. I have accepted new Clauses. I cannot be more cooperative than that.

Mr. Watkins

I accept that my hon. Friend has been cooperative, but we do not know the end product of his cooperation. Another place is capable of amending legislation as we are. I shall do my best between now and four o'clock to take every legitimate opportunity to try to prevent the Bill going through.

Mr. Martin Maddau (Hove)

I should like to hear the views of the sponsor on the question whether the new Clause will have any effect in relation to motor cycle scrambles or rallies on the public roads, which frequently take place on Sundays. They take place even now, before the Bill has been passed. I hope that we may hear something about the effect that the Bill or this new Clause will have in that respect.

It is a matter of grave concern when people, on the one day of the week when they might expect some peace and quiet, find their ears assaulted at their front doors in this way. I should not let this moment pass without asking for clarification of this issue.

Mr. Parker

On a point of order. Is the Clause in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in view of the fact that the Bill does not deal with Scotland?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

The new Clause has been selected by Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

I understood that in opposing the Clause the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) argued that it was superfluous, that new Clause 2, which he had already accepted, would go all the way that was necessary. But a nuisance, the word used in the proposed Clause, is not the same thing as causing annoyance. Quite a wide range of nuisances would not be included in the term "public annoyance". There are various bye laws against public annoyance in certain towns and districts. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider the meaning of "nuisance", which is a lawyer's word and has been defined, as has the phrase "causing public annoyance". I hope that he will realise that they are different things and, having done so, will treat the Clause with a little more sympathy and understanding.

I do not want to cover any ground already covered in the earlier debate, but one point has not been made. Up and down the country a number of church halls or other places where congregations met adjacent to the churches and chapels have been sold off to private businesses or individuals for secular purposes in recent years. There is nothing to prevent them from being used on a Sunday in such a way as to constitute a nuisance and yet still keep within the law.

Mr. Hamling

The hon. Gentleman was speaking about nuisance in the legal sense. Will he define more closely what he is talking about when he speaks of these halls being taken over and used for secular purposes, and give the House specific examples of nuisances being created in this way?

Mr. Body

I do not want to detain the House with a long lecture on the law of nuisance, but I have come into the Chamber armed with Clerk and Lindsell on torts. Page 336 begins a chapter on nuisance which goes on for many pages defining and describing what is meant by that.

Mr. Hamling

I do not want a lecture on law, and neither does the House. But

Division No. 126.] AYES [3.30 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Macdonald, A. H.
Batsford, Brian Errington, Sir Eric Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'tY)
Baxter, William Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Bell, Ronald Hooson, Emlyn Maddan, Martin
Biggs-Davison, John Hordern, Peter Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Bishop, E. S. Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Body, Richard Hutchison, Michael Clark Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Bullus, Sir Eric Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Cordle, John Lane, David Murton, Oscar
Cunningham, Sir Knox Langford-Holt, Sir John Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Currie, G. B. H. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Onslow, Cranley
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Doughty, Charles Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Percival, Ian
Drayson, G. B. Lubbock, Eric Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)

the House is entitled to consideration from the hon. Gentleman. If he talks about nuisance the House is entitled to have some examples.

Mr. Body

I do not want to take up a great deal of the time of the House. We want to get on to other Clauses, but one cannot shortly describe what is meant by nuisance, nor give examples.

As I was saying when I was interrupted, the chapter begins on page 336 and goes on for many pages giving examples of the kind of thing which may be a nuisance—private nuisance and not public nuisance, for we are here concerned with a tort, as distinct from a crime, which is not necessarily a public annoyance. A private annoyance relates to individual rights attached to the ownership of land or to an ordinary individual's personal rights. There is a host of examples that one could quote—

Mr. Hamling

Just quote one.

Mr. Body

I will hand the hon. Gentleman the book and he can ferret them out for himself. I am not going to be diverted into a lecture on the law, as the hon. Member urged me a few moments ago not to give it to the House, because, he said, the House does not want it. I do not think the House does want it. However, I hope he will take it from me that there is a wide range of private nuisances which are torts and not crimes, and causing a public annoyance would be a crime under new Clause 7. For that reason, I hope that the hon. Member will look again at this new Clause and treat it with some sympathy and understanding.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 52, Noes 67.

Roebuck, Roy Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Russell, Sir Ronald Wilkins, W. A. Sir Cyril Black and Mr. John Wells.
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Harper, Joseph Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Heffer, Eric S. Parker, John (Dagenham)
Binns, John Hilton, W. S. Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pavitt, Laurence
Boyden, James Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Peyton, John
Costain, A. P. Huckfield, Leslie Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dalyell, Tam Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Reynolds, G. W.
Dickens, James Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Driberg, Tom Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dunnett, Jack Kerby, Capt. Henry Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Ellis, John Longden, Gilbert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
English, Michael Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Ennals, David McCann, John Vickers, Dame Joan
Faulds, Andrew Mallalieu, J.P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Marks, Kenneth Wallace, George
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mendelson, J. J. Whitaker, Ben
Foley, Maurice Mikardo, Ian Worsley, Marcus
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Fortescue, Tim Morrison, Charles (Devizes) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Freeson, Reginald Moyle, Roland Mr. William Wilson and
Garrett, W. E. Murray, Albert Mr. Ian Gilmour.
Hamling, William Newens, Stan
Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand that Mr. Speaker gave an undertaking that, if desired, there could be a Division on new Clause 9.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I appeal to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) to withdraw new Clause 9, in view of the fact that it is largely embodied in new Clause 2?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Is a Division desired on new Clause 9?

Mr. Bishop


Division No. 127.] AYES [3.39 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Mackenzie, Alasdaer (Ross & Crom'tY)
Archer, Peter Drayson, G. B. MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Maddan, Martin
Batsford, Brian Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Baxter, William English, Michael Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bell, Ronald Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Murton, Oscar
Biggs-Davison, John Hooson, Emlyn Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Bishop, E. S. Hutchison, Michael Clark Ogden, Eric
Body, Richard Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Onslow, Cranley
Bullus, Sir Eric Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Cordle, John Lane, David Percival, Ian
Costain, A. P. Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Roebuck, Roy
Crouch, David Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cunningham, Sir Knox Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Russell, Sir Ronald
Currie, G. B. H. Macdonald, A. H. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
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