HC Deb 10 December 1969 vol 793 cc577-601

10.26 p.m.

Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1569 (S.I., 1969, No. 1532), dated 29th October., 1969, a copy of which was laid before this House on 7th November, be annulled. We are debating tonight one of the biggest bureaucratic nonsenses that have been put before this House for a long time. The Government are endeavouring to introduce regulations which will result in a considerable increase in bureaucracy and a considerable loss of freedom to small shopkeepers and businessmen without any real benefit to the public.

I think that both sides of the House will agree that it is important to keep reasonable control, from the point of view of amenity and safety, upon advertising in this country. At present, there is a law whereby planning permission has to be obtained for all large signs, illuminated signs and signs which are not attached to business premises. Therefore, there is already sufficient planning control to ensure that our amenities in towns and villages are not destroyed by a colossal collection of advertisements.

The Government now seek substantially to end these powers and to impose planning controls on various forms of advertising. In doing so they intend setting up what must be a very considerable bureaucratic machine. At present, we have a situation in which the control over advertising is supervised by local authorities who have powers to protect particular areas of high amenity value and to work in close collaboration with the business communities.

The remarkable thing about these regulations is that, so far as I can see, nobody apart from the Government has pressed for this type of legislation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not true."] None of the local authority associations have pressed for this form of regulation and, so far as I know, the only body which has given any tentative support at all is the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers. It has done so because one or two concessions were given to that body in discussions and, if I may say so, it is almost the least representative body concerned with this form of regulations. Although it represents certain national advertisers, in fact it represents primarily those which are able to advertise in the major media of television and newspaper advertising. It is not concerned with the economics of advertising and it does not represent the High Street users of outdoor advertising.

Against these regulations we have a formidable list of opponents. We have the Advertising Association, the Electrical Sign Manufacturers Association, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary laughs. Perhaps he has more regard for nationalised organisations such as London Transport advertising, and British Transport advertising, both responsible bodies, I presume, in his view, as they are nationalised bodies.

We have the National Chamber of Trade, the National Union of Small Shopkeepers, the Retail Confectioners' Association, to mention but a few of the major bodies which are strongly opposed to the Government's proposal.

I will explain why they are opposed to this proposal. They consider that it is perfectly reasonable to have certain control. The present situation is that no shopkeeper is allowed to put up a large sign or an illuminated sign on his premises without the local authority concerned having power to challenge that sign and thereafter to listen to any case which the shopkeeper may have for its retention. The Government intend to change this and to move to a situation in which discontinuance notices may be issued.

The difference is that whereas a local authority may now issue a challenge to a sign and the shopkeeper may put his case to the local authority and, if the local authority finds against him, appeal to the Minister, in future he will have no power to go to the local authority and he will have to go direct to the Minister. We will have the absurdity that if the local authority objects, for example, to an illuminated sign saying, "Fish and Chips", instead of the proprietor of that fish and chip shop being able to argue his case to the local authority, that small shopkeeper in some remote part of England will have to go to Whitehall to appeal to the Minister to be allowed to continue to display the sign.

When the Government introduce legislation such as this, I wonder how absurd they can become, but that is not the end of the effect of this proposal. At present, any shopkeeper is allowed to put inside his shop window any sign he wishes, provided that it is not illuminated. From now on, there will be deemed consent unless the local authority issues a discontinuance notice, which it may do provided that the sign is within a certain measurement of the shop window itself. If it does, the shopkeeper has to appeal to the Minister to be allowed to continue to display the sign.

There are absurdities in this situation, but there will be drastic effects for garage proprietors. The Government are continually bombarding the small garage proprietor with an unending series of pieces of legislation which have led to increased expense for the garage proprietors and much more bureaucracy. The Government have suddenly introduced legislation which says that no garage proprietor may have more than 4.5 square metres of advertising on his forecourt without obtaining planning permission from the local authority.

We all know that garage proprietors wish to advertise various services. Some offer credit facilities on production of various types of card provided by banking and other commercial concerns. Some offer various forms of stamps and bonuses. Some offer replacement and servicing facilities. But in future a garage proprietor will have to apply for planning permission to put up a sign to say that he is offering bonuses or services—unless he fixes the sign to the front of the building.

We shall have the ridiculous situation that a proprietor wishing to advertise that he accepts certain types of credit card will get round the necessity to apply for planning permission by fixing the advertisement to the main building itself, preferably the front of the building and not in the window, and he will not be allowed to put it on a flank wall.

How can it possibly assist road safety, which is one of the factors at which the regulations are directed, if in future, instead of clearly seeing what facilities a garage offers, a motorist has to peer at the front wall of the building, as opposed to the forecourt, because to avoid having to make a planning application, the garage proprietor has decided that putting the advertisement there is the easiest way out?

These are but a few of the series of nonsenses contained in this legislation. What is worse is that the Government have taken no trouble at all to discover what effect this legislation will have. When they met representatives of those concerned with outdoor advertising, the Government were asked how many additional applications for express permission would result from the proposal. They said categorically that they had no idea, that they had carried out no research to see what additional work would result. The advertisers concerned offered to join with the Government in a joint working committee to examine the true implications of the legislation, but the Government refused to set up any such committee.

So, tonight, the Government are trying to foist on the country legislation which will result in a considerable increase in bureaucracy. If it does not do so it will result in considerable delay in businessmen obtaining permission to advertise their goods. The Government have no idea of the extent of this bureaucracy, they have done no research to measure it and have been unwilling to enter a joint working committee to discover what the results of the legislation will be. No one desires this legislation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—except one or two hon. Members opposite—and what greater condemnation of the legislation could we have than that?

Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)

Would the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the Ministry has received representations from the amenity movement about these regulations and that the proposal is welcomed by those who have any visual sensibility?

Mr. Walker

We have consulted a number of organisations which I suppose could be broadly described as being interested in the amenity movement. They have not in any way pressed for this legislation. Already we have an organisation in being, with the consent of the Government in the past, to see that cases of bad advertising are quickly dealt with. Indeed, 350,000 such cases have been dealt with under the voluntary code set by the advertisers. Under legislation there are considerable powers resting with the local authority. Someone with a display of soap powder in his window could come under this legislation, if the soap packet was of a certain size, and receive a discontinuance order from the Government. Then he could not put a similar display in his window without express permission.

We also have the absurdity that in future there can be no advertising on the flank walls of a business, unless it is in a window. If someone wishes to advertise on a side wall he has to chip out the tricks and put in a window. Then the local authority can do nothing, provided that the advertisement is of a certain size.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)

The owner would have to get planning permission for the window first.

Mr. Walker

But in obtaining that planning permission he will not have to state expressly what use the window will be put to.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's point is typical of the whole attitude of hon. Members opposite to this sort of thing. They delight that a businessman has to obtain planning permission for a window in his premises to display some of his goods. This legislation will create more bureaucracy and will mean a loss of freedom for many small businessmen. It will have no great effect on the large advertisers, because they will still be able to afford to advertise in the national newspapers and on television. For the small businessman, however, for the garage proprietor and the shopkeeper, this is a piece of bureaucratic nonsense which the House should reject.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)

As soon as I saw that it was the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) who was to move the Prayer, I realised that we were in for a bit of knockabout and not-too-serious argument. When there is serious argument on a matter like this, it is left to his hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) to display a little more accuracy than his hon. Friend showed and to treat the House to rather more serious arguments. The hon. Member for Worcester thought that it was enough to litter his speech with insults about bureaucracy to think that he had presented an argument.

We know that hon. Members opposite appear from time to time in quite different guises. Sometimes they want to get away from centralisation and see more freedom for local authorities to settle their own affairs and determine them in their own way without control from Whitehall. This, of course, is not one of those occasions, because this is one of the occasions when the guns of the big battalions that support the party opposite have been firing, and this is an occasion when they want central control of what the local authorities do with regard to the control of advertising.

I congratulate the Opposition on the fact that this is, I think, the third edition of the regulations and it is the first edition to be debated. There was no debate in 1948 and there was no debate in 1960. Of course, all this bureaucratic machine which the hon. Member for Worcester was inveighing against was set up in 1948 and was perpetuated, renewed and given new vigour by the party opposite when it was in power in 1960.

The issue is not the simple one that the hon. Member tried to make out. As in most of the complicated problems in politics, we are dealing not with a nice, clear-cut issue between good and evil, but with the area where two different, conflicting and perfectly legitimate interests overlap and come into conflict. The conflict here is between the legitimate interests of advertisers and the legitimate interests of those whose task it is to preserve our amenities and road safety. The question is how to strike the right balance.

I do not regard myself as one of those who is anti-advertiser. Advertisements have an important rôle to play in our economy, and, looking at the matter purely from an amenity viewpoint, I can think of areas where advertisements positively are advantageous. In some of our drearier industrial towns, I can think of urban vistas that could be improved by well-sited advertisements. It is not, therefore, simply a matter even of advertisement against amenity.

I think that a great deal more flexibility is required in the application of advertisement control than is shown by all local authorities. I was surprised when I had responsibility in these matters in the Ministry, to find how some local authorities seemed to have what appeared to me to be an unreasoning prejudice, for example, against the kind of overhanging sign which is hung outside shops in some streets. These are streets where signs of that kind would be quite out of character and unsuitable, but there are other shopping streets—I think of Beaucham Place, for example, off Brompton Road—where I would have thought that the whole charm and character of the shopping street was given precisely by signs of this kind. I make those introductory remarks only to try to persuade the House that I am not violently prejudiced one way or the other and am seeking to find the right balance.

What we are concerned with here alone is the changes that are proposed in the regulations compared with what we had before, and I wish to refer to a few of them. First, I congratulate the Government on their proposal for replacing the former challenge procedure by the new procedure by which there will be a direct right of appeal to the Minister to the discontinuance order. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester has sat on that Bench in his present capacity a little longer he will be a little more familiar with what goes on up and down the country in this sphere, and will be aware that there have been outrageous abuses of advertisement control because of the old challenge procedure.

The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that many local authorities feel extremely strongly about this. I remember that I certainly found it to be so when I toured the country when I was a Minister. I had a case quoted to me from Cornwall, an attractive area where, during the holiday season, the whole advertisement control was quite obviously flouted because of the delays involved in making application, in discussing it with the local authority, and then in appealing to the Minister and thus ensuring that no effective action could be taken to prevent the abuse until the holiday season was past. We clearly need a very speedy procedure and these regulations will provide for it.

Secondly, I congratulate the Government on proposing to extend advertisement control to windows and to displays within windows. Here again, I urge that—and hope there will be—a little common sense be displayed in its application. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester travels round the country, as I hope he will, I am sure he will see places where there are most attractive shopping areas where chambers of commerce, as often happens, have been co-operating, getting the advice of a local architect, and have been collaborating in getting really attractive schemes of fascia boards, of signs, of external decoration of their shops, and then a vulgar, brash supermarket makes a display which utterly destroys the effect which so many people have been painstakingly building up and which undoubtedly has added enormously to the tourist attraction of the area.

But, as I say, it needs applying with discretion. There is a place for that kind of brash display, but what is suitable in one place—say, in Petticoat Lane—will not be suitable in, say, an attractive Suffolk village, or, perhaps, in Pont Street.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)

The logic of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument is that the Government should decide what one can put in any window of any kind of shop anywhere in the country. His argument is, surely, absolutely ridiculous.

Mr. MacDermot

Personally, I do not want the Government to decide at all. I want the local authority to decide, the authority which has to answer to the local electorate.

When I was in the Ministry I stirred up what proved to be a hornets' nest by suggesting that we should consider whether we should perpetuate advertisement appeals at all, because it did not seem to me that the man in Whitehall necessarily knew any better at all about this, and that it was much more desirable that this should be decided at local level. I need hardly say that that proposal met with the utmost opposition.

As I said, I was in favour of greater control by local authorities.

The next alteration I would advert to is that there should now be properly defined what is the position in relation to advertising on forecourts. I do not myself regard this as a change. I do not think that there ever has been the right to display advertisements on forecourts. It is a matter on which there has been no ruling in the divisional court, and there have been conflicting decisions at quarter sessions. I believe that always they have been subject to control. These regulations define the position clearly, and also they give deemed permission to a very substantial area of advertising which the hon. Gentleman seemed to brush aside. The permission will be for a total of 48 sq. ft. for advertising. That is to say, as forecourts are frequently on corner sites, there will be 48 sq. ft. for advertising given deemed permission on the faces—the sides—of the forecourt.

The regulations propose to maintain the position that there shall not be any power in the planning authority to control the design of advertisements. I think that this is right. One can see by travelling round the country what can be done to improve the attraction and amenity oil' shopping areas simply by the coordination of good design and lettering. Some of our public houses and brewers have set an excellent example and, once the habit starts among a few shopkeepers of good design, good lettering and good display it tends to be copied by others and adds enormously to the attractions of those areas for shoppers and tourists.

The picture painted by the hon. Gentleman is an utterly false one. I have received only one letter from a constituent about these regulations, and that was from a shopkeeper who had been misled by the propaganda he had received from his organisation—I do not know which one—into thinking that suddenly, and for the first time, the Government proposed to impose an utterly new control of advertisements which had never existed before.

10.51 p.m.

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

Of course, the architect of the land betterment levy is hardly a person to rebut charges of bureaucratic bumbledom. That is the charge I level against the Government—bureaucratic bumbledom, a desire to encourage meddlesome tactics at every level of central and local government to try to control every shopkeeper's sign both outside and inside his premises. All retail trade in this country is gravely concerned about the implications of the regulations.

The hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) received only one complaint from a constituent. Derby is hardly an area of high amenity value.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir G. Nabarro

No, I will not.

Mr. Lyon

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir G. Nabarro

No, I will not.

Mr. Lyon

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir G. Nabarro

No, I will not.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

On a point of order. I really must ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it is in order for the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) to insult Derby in this way. As a former resident of the great county and city of Derby, I deeply resent the aspersions made by the hon. Member.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

The hon. Gentleman is responsible for what he says to the House.

Sir G. Nabarro

I repeat, Derby is hardly an area of high amenity value, but Malvern, Worcestershire, is an area of high amenity value.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

What about York?

Sir G. Nabarro

The Malvern Chamber of Commerce immediately communicated with its Member of Parliament to register the most grave dissent from the provisions of the regulations, and it would be instructive for the House to consider its views.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

What about York?

Sir G. Nabarro

I am sorry that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government considers that the Malvern Chamber of Commerce is a derisory body and laughs at my reference to it. The Malvern Chamber of Commerce wrote to his Ministry on 25th October: My Council has been informed of new regulations which are proposed by the Government. While appreciating that some form of restrictions is desirable… I concur with that utterly; I do not want Malvern to be "Italianised"—

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

Racial discrimination.

Sir G. Nabarro

No, it is not racialism.

The letter goes on: The Malvern Chamber of Commerce must strongly protest against severity of the new proposals. These would appear to have been drawn up on theoretical lines and are merely tightening the screw which is already seriously hurting some businesses. Surely the area covered by a business premises and the size of it forecourt should have a bearing on the amount of advertising space allowed. Similarly, the area of front and/or side walls should be taken into account.' That was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker)— Whether a side wall has a window in it is irrelevant. One could have a pleasing advertisement on a wall without a window and an objectionable one on a wall without. The ability to display a 'Let' or 'Sold' notice is one of the estate agents most valuable advertisements and to take this right away is equivalent to a new additional tax. The suggested procedure of forms of application and plans is not only an additional burden and expense to the applicant and also to the local authority. As a local councillor, I can vouch for the fact that the latter's staff are already fully occupied. The writer goes on to quote an admirable case of amenity and advertisement which I commend to the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North: The proposal to grant powers to order immediate removal of advertisements is obnoxious and could be most unjust when applied. Very recently there has been a case of this nature locally. For over 30 years there have been what most people consider most inoffensive signs at the Kettle Sings Cafe adjoining Jubilee Drive on the Malvern Hills". My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) knows the Kettle Sings Cafe well. It is unlicensed premises— The proprietor purchased this cafe not long ago and suddenly found his signs removed. This cafe is not visible from the roadway, so not only is his livelihood seriously jeopardised, but a grave disservice has been done to thousands of visitors"—

Mr. Lubbock

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. What the hon. Member is talking, about is in the past tense and, therefore, cannot be affected by these regulations. He is talking about something which happened before they were brought in and, therefore, it cannot be relevant. Will you please rule him out of order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have been listening very carefully to the hon. Gentleman and I have not yet decided that he is out of order, but I was hoping that he will come to an early conclusion.

Sir G. Nabarro

This complaint arises as a result of the regulations—[An HON. MEMBER: "Put the kettle on."] I am not going to put the kettle on.

The letter goes on: Such is the result of bureaucracy. Before introducing fresh legislation may I earnestly beg you to consult and to be advised by those who have practical knowledge of the subject, such as the National Chamber of Trade". I need not quote further from that document because the right hon. Gentleman the Minister has sent a non-committal answer—it was sent from another place by the Parliamentary Secretary—saying that the representations would be taken into account.

The representative body in this connection is the Outdoor Advertising Council and its principal objection to these regulations, which have been circularised widely, leads me to support my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester, for it is couched in these terms: Attack on freedom. The main objection to the new regulations is that they will be a further erosion on the freedom of shopkeepers, business concerns, etc., to carry on their business in the way they see fit. They will be a further attack on private enterprise. It continues: More staff, more on the rates. Planning authorities will have to employ many more staff to deal with these extra applications—an extra burden on local rates. Alternatively, if they cannot find the extra staff, decisions will be delayed for many months and hardship will be caused to shopkeepers, etc.". This proposal is, therefore, an extravagant and unnecessary piece of Socialism.

Mr, Alexander W. Lyon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the regulations controlling advertisements within shop windows were first proposed in the York Corporation Bill, which was sponsored by a Conservative-controlled council?

Sir G. Nabarro

Regulations concerning the control of advertisements were first proposed more than 20 years ago, in 1947, when the principal Statute was passed. I will not now make an historical survey of this type of legislation.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Why Not?

Sir G. Nabarro

Because fundamentally I approve of reasonable control in this sphere—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"—to prevent an "Italianised" situation from developing whereby the countryside is ruined by external advertisements, with large bill hoardings on the roadside every few yards. However, I object to minute controls of small advertisements on every sort of building, since these are an essential feature of day-to-day commercial activity.

These regulations are an integral and intrinsic part of Socialist bureaucracy. For this reason I am sure that the whole of my party, supported by the Liberal Party, will gallop through the Lobby in opposition to what can only be described as a dreadful proposal.

11.4 p.m.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are wrong to suggest that the amendments to these regulations are somehow spawned from the doctrine of Socialism.

One of the major changes in the regulations—the control of advertisements within buildings to ensure that they are a certain distance from shop windows—was first put forward in the York Corporation Bill, which came before Parliament about 18 months ago and which was sponsored by a Conservative-controlled council. It was put forward because of what it meant in terms of an area of high amenity; and I hope that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who represents a little-known cathedral town in the South, will not suggest that York is not an area of high amenity.

Many of the streets of York were ruined because, in the midst of an area of medieval buildings to which highly desirable additions had been made by careful shop owners and by careful planning by the local authority, a supermarket put across the whole of its window space advertisements about how much it was knocking off the price of soap powders, or how many pairs of stockings it was giving away with each pound of its butter.

Despite all the control that was possible under the Town and Country Planning Act, and the Civic Amenities Act, which was also originally sponsored by an hon. Member from the benches opposite, the local authority was powerless to stop that blow to the amenities of York. It therefore put forward its proposals, and I remember the deputy town clerk of York, who prepared the Bill, saying that he could not find any kind of precedent on which to work. His suggestions came before the House, but the relevant Clauses were removed from the Bill by the Committee which considered it because the Ministry of Housing and Local Government gave an assurance that it was considering the matter and that it would put forward its considered views in new regulations.

I therefore welcome particularly these provisions in the regulations, but I welcome the others, too, because they will be of profound significance in making the centre of York into the kind of jewel that it deserves to be, instead of being ruined by commercial exploitation.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)

I cannot help asking myself why the Government have brought these regulations before the House now. We are all agreed that a certain amount of control is necessary, not only to ensure safety on the roads, but to safeguard amenities to a certain extent. As my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) said, we do not want an "Italianised" situation.

What are the Government trying to do? I agree with what has been said by my right hon. and hon. Friends, that the Government are trying to impose control to the nth degree through the local councils, and this I find intolerable. As I said when I interrupted the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), if we follow this line to the logical end we shall end up with the Government, or the local council, but the Government essentially, trying to decide how far, and where, one goes, and what can be put in any windows and what cannot be.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that an effort was made to ensure that the matter was decided locally and not nationally, but that the advertising interests pressed hard for an appeal to the central Government?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

That is not what the argument is about. The point is that freedom is being attacked to an extent that I am not prepared to tolerate.

These regulations are extremely long and complex. Apart from the general principle which I question, there are one or two powers which I should like to question. Class III of Regulation 14 relates to the agricultural sector. It lays down a size of 1.2 square metres and the kind of advertising which can be done in respect of farm sales. Have the Minister and his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary any idea of what they are talking about? I do not believe that they have. In a large rural community it is essential that people all over the district should know where the sale is taking place, and this happens under the existing regulations, but should not. The Minister must apply his mind to that point.

Class VI deals with advertisements on the forecourts of business premises. In my constituency there are firms which have won the Queen's Awards for Exports, and they have been able to fly the export flag on their premises. Unless I have totally misread the wording, those firms will no longer be able to do so. It is quite ridiculous, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman cannot mean the regulations to have this effect.

I turn to the wretched business of shop window advertising. There is no definition of a shop window. Can the Minister give us a definition? This is a matter of crucial important. We do not know what is meant, nor does the advertiser or the owner of the premises. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) or my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) may talk of bashing a hole in the wall, but what is to be put in the window? The person may sell only one article. Is that classified? We do not know.

What is the definition of a first floor? How far from the ground must it be? One can easily construct a first floor that is five inches or five feet or 35 feet from the ground—are they all to be considered to be first floors? Something should be laid down in the regulations.

Again, Regulation 14 affects hotel and public house signs. Such signs are to be restricted; they must not exceed 1.2 square metres. Are we being told that Government and local authority inspectors will measure signs hanging outside the pubs? I do not believe it. It is so bureaucratic as to be sheer nonsense. The Government will have to think again. Of course, we do not want to have enormous signs, nor do the publicans themselves, but, as I say, this is just sheer, bureaucratic nonsense.

I profoundly disagree with my neighbour the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), who says that these regulations are just what are wanted, and that he has had no representations from constituents. I do not live far from him, and my constituency is not far from his, but I can tell him that I have had quite a lot of representations from my constituents—from garage proprietors and pub keepers, farmers and others—against the imposition of these regulations. They all ask why the Government are taking away their freedom and restricting them yet again. They are asking why the Government have laid down such narrow definitions.

The Peak District National Park is an area of great natural beauty, and must be preserved, but, at the same time, we must preserve a certain amount of individual liberty and freedom to behave as we wish within the laws of our society. I am sure that no hon. Member would wish to challenge that assertion.

I cannot understand why the Government should bring forward such regulations as these, which will do little or nothing to further the main issue, and will impose a great burden in many cases. The regulations are ridiculous and stupid.

11.15 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Arthur Skeffington)

It might be convenient if I try to answer some of the points raised in the debate and to put the regulations, and their impact, into rather more rational perspective than they have sometimes been during the debate.

I have enjoyed the debate, but I have not always been enthralled to that degree which from time to time I am and which the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter 'Walker) thinks I should be. The impression was given of bureaucracy malevolently working in Whitehall to produce a complex scheme to baffle the public and hamstring traders, but I must put on record straight away that this is far from being the picture. The pressure for change has come from almost everywhere but the Government.

We have taken a lead in certain matters, but over a long period we have been asked to review the 1960 regulations because despite the good will and the attempt at co-operation by the advertising interests, to which I pay tribute, defects in the 1960 regulations have come to light, some examples of which have been given by my hon. Friends.

In case I do not have time to deal with all the points, I will first answer the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) on the point he made about agricultural sales notices. This is taken directly from the 1960 regulations and all that the new form does is slightly to increase the size as the original figure is converted into metrics.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

That is not true. They also restrict the amount. That was not restricted in the 1960 regulations.

Mr. Skeffington

This now allows something like 12 sq. ft. and in all these cases, an authority in applying a discontinuance notice or taking any other action is most carefully bound by the precise wording of Regulation 16 in relation to the fact that it has to make its proposals in the light of safety or amenity considerations. That is carefully defined and will be open to challenge, not merely on appeal, but outside in the courts, if the authority has departed from that principle. So I do not think that his point amount to much when analysed.

My I start to put matter into persepective—

Mr. Lubbock

Class III will be of some importance in the coming year. In Class III (d) the Minister will see advertisements announcing any event of a political character are included. Can he say how many inspectors will be going round during the next election examining advertisements of meetings for candidates and seeing whether they extend to more than 0.6 square metre?

Mr. Skeffington

I am surprised at the hon. Member's question, because he knows the way in which these restrictions have been interpreted by local authorities and it is only in a case where there is a serious threat to amenity or to safety that the regulations are invoked.

There is no suggestion by local authority associations or by the public or in any representations we have had that, taken as a whole, the powers have been abused. The answer to the hon. Member is that one has to depend, as in so much in this House, on the commonsense and wisdom of local government. If we did not accept this assumption a great deal of what we do would be impossible.

On this side, we have great confidence in them. It is important also to put the time factor into perspective. Far from there being any mad rush, the matter arising in the regulations came up about 11 years ago. The then Minister, Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, took the view that one should see how far a voluntary code which had been offered by the industry would work. It was clear two or three years ago that, although great improvements had been made, there were particular fields in which there were difficulties.

One of these was that development of advertisement clutter, sometimes by large numbers of signs in the forecourts of business premises, which were possibly illegal, although this matter has never been tested in the courts. In the one case which did get to the High Court, it was ruled that forecourts were probably not part of the premises and signs were probably not protected. There was a good deal of complaint about this aspect, particularly in relation to garages in the countryside.

There was an increasing awareness of the difficulties in relation to advertisements inside shops. Again, no one is suggesting in these regulations that, overnight, there will be a change or that every trader will have to apply. In fact, the advertiser now advertising, in every case, has to take no action whatsoever under these regulations, but in certain cases, the local authority may enter into negotiations with him, and may, if these are unsuccessful, serve a discontinuance notice.

At any rate, these defects made themselves known, and far from there being no desire for a change, as the hon. Member for Worcester said, there were very strong recommendations, first from the county planning officers, then from the County Councils Association, in a letter sent in November, 1966. No fewer than 42 county councils, including Worcestershire and Lancashire, were also among those who wanted a power to deal with clutter. Most of them also wanted an alternative to the present challenge policy.

This is a sizeable body of opinion, and the impetus has come not from the Government but from the local authorities. The Urban District Councils Association, in 1965, asked the Minister to take steps for the preservation of amenities by limiting the extent of use of shop windows for advertising matter. Indeed, this was followed by various interests, including the Conservative hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean), who asked what the Minister would do about this increasing use, and by a large number of other bodies, like the R.I.C.S., the Civic Trust and the C.P.R.E., whom one would expect to be in the forefront, and who particularly believe that the clutter in shop windows is one of the most serious facets of advertising. And there were other bodies.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Would the hon. Gentleman take it from some of us on this side that we are not entirely happy with the state of advertisement clutter, but that it is this piece of bureaucratic nonsense which will force us into the Lobby against it tonight?

Mr. Skeffington

If the hon. Gentleman gives me a few more minutes, he will see that it is not bureaucratic nonsense, and that what is proposed is, on the whole reasonable, and has been discussed with all interests, a large number of whom we have consulted, including one advertising body which the hon. Member for Worcester himself mentioned, although he rather discredited its status—perhaps because it supported us. We have had a large number of consultations, not only with the local authorities but with trade bodies. We have had a larger number of consultations with professional bodies and, indeed, with the Law Society, which, I am sure the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) will confirm, has found no objections.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Member realises that the Law Society is not allowed to advertise.

Mr. Skeffington

That has not prevented it from intervening in our debates on this and other subjects in the past. A large number of professional bodies have expressed themselves reasonably satisfied with the regulations as they have emerged, including the Confederation of British Industry, which, at one time, thought that the figure for advertisements on forecourts was too small, but which, when it was stated that 4.5 square metres was more than the equivalent of 48 square feet, made no further comment.

Mr. Wallace Lawler (Birmingham, Ladywood) rose

Mr. Skeffington

I will not give way again. It is unfair to other hon. Members.

Mr. Graham Page

On a point of order. I have to put this point of order before 11.30 p.m. Having regard to the number of potential speakers who rose, before the Parliamentary Secretary spoke, to address the House—there were four on this side of the House and three on the other side—and having regard to the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary obviously will not be able to deal with the subject adequately in the next four minutes, may I, at this stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker, invite you to exercise your discretion to adjourn the debate at 11.30 p.m. so that it may be finished on another night? Obviously, it cannot be finished tonight.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Chair will have to consider these matters at 11.30 p.m.

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order. When considering the matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would you bear in mind that because of the abnormal time taken by Divisions after 10 p.m., this debate did not start until 10.26 p.m. thereby depriving intending speakers of about 20 minutes of debating time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member has already spoken. I hope that he will let the Minister reply.

Mr. Lubbock

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not see why you need to wait until 11.30 p.m.—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have ruled that these considerations must wait until 11.30 p.m.

Mr. Lubbock

On a point of order. May I finish my sentence? I do not wish to question your Ruling in any way, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) pointed out that only two hon. Members have spoken from this side of the House and that four hon. Members rose to speak on the last occasion, as well as three hon. Members opposite. When the Parliamentary Secretary has finished it will be 11.30 p.m. and our proceedings will come to an end.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has added nothing to the submissions made by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I hope that he will not waste more time.

Mr. Skeffington

Perhaps I have given way too often.

There is nothing in the regulations which prejudices any advertisement or advertiser. In the case of clutter and of some categories which are mentioned, the authority can serve a discontinuance notice. It has power under Regulation 16(5) to withdraw that, and, meanwhile, negotiations can go on, and not to reimpose it if it so wishes. But even if it does reimpose the notice the matter can still be taken to appeal. There will be opportunities, moreover, for public authorities who want these powers to protect both safety and the amenity of our countryside.

Mr. Graham Page

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I repeat the request that the debate should be adjourned. If you—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am required to deal with this matter at 11.30.

The Question is—

Mr. Graham Page rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am required to decide whether to put the Question or to adjourn the debate. My decision is that I must put the Question.

It being half-past Eleven o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 100 (Statutory Instruments, &c. (Procedure)).

The House divided: Ayes 151 Noes 203.

Division No. 35.] AYES [11.30 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Cordle, John Grieve, Percy
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Costain, A. p. Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)
Astor, John Crouch, David Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Crowder, F. P. Harvie Anderson, Miss
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Cunningham, Sir Knox Hawkins, Paul
Baker, W, H. K. (Banff) Dalkeith, Earl of Hay, John
Berry, Hn. Anthony Dance, James Heseltine, Michael
Biffen, John Dean, Paul Hiley, Joseph
Biggs-Davison, John Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hill, J. E. B.
Blaker, Peter Drayson, G. B. Hirst, Geoffrey
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Eden, Sir John Holland, Philip
Body, Richard Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hooson, Emlyn
Bossom, Sir Clive Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Hordern, Peter
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Errington, Sir Erie Howell, David (Guildford)
Beyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Eyre, Reginald Hunt, John
Brewis, John Farr, John Hutchison, Michael Clark
Brinton, Sir Tatton Fisher, Nigel Iremonger, T. L.
Bruce-Gurdyne, J. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Fortescue, Tim Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus, N&M) Foster, Sir John Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Fraser,Rt.Hn,Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Jopling, Michael
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Fry, Peter Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Carlisle, Mark Gibson-Watt, David Kerby, Capt. Henry
Carr, Rt, Hn. Robert Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Kershaw, Anthony
Channon, H. P. G. Goodhart, Philip Kimball, Marcus
Chataway, Christopher Gower, Raymond Kitson, Timothy
Chichester-Clark, R. Grant, Anthony Lane, David
Cooke, Robert Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert Langford-Holt, Sir John
Lawler, Wallace Pardoe, John Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Longden, Gilbert Percival, Ian Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Lubbock, Eric Pike, Miss Mervyn Temple, John M.
MacArthur, Ian Pink, R. Bonner Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty) Pounder, Rafton Tilney, John
McNair-Wilson, Michael Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Maddan, Martin Price, David (Eastleigh) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Mawby, Ray Prior, J. M. L. Waddington, David
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Pym, Francis Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Ward, Dame Irene
Miscampbell, Norman Rees-Davies, W. R. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Monro, Hector Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Montgomery, Fergus Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wiggin, A. W.
More, Jasper Royle, Anthony Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Russell, Sir Ronald Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Scott, Nicholas Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Murton, Oscar Scott-Hopkins, James Woodnutt, Mark
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Worsley, Marcus
Neave, Airey Silvester, Frederick Younger, Hn. George
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Nott, John Smith, John (London & W'minster) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Onslow, Cranley Speed, Keith Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Osborn, John (Hallam) Stainton, Keith Mr. Walter Clegg.
Page, Graham (Crosby)
Abse, Leo Ellis, John Macdonald, A. H.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ennals, David McElhone, Frank
Alidritt, Walter Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McGuire, Michael
Armstrong, Ernest Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Ashley, Jack Faulds, Andrew Mackie, John
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Fernyhough, E. Mackintosh, John P.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Ford, Ben McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Forrester, John McNamara, J. Kevin
Barnett, Joel Fowler, Gerry MacPherson, Malcolm
Baxter, William Fraser, John (Norwood) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Beaney, Alan Galpern, Sir Myer Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Bence, Cyril Gardner, Tony Mallalieu,J.P.w.(Huddcrsfield,E.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Garrett, W. E. Manuel, Archie
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Golding, John Marks, Kenneth
Bidwell, Sydney Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Marquand, David
Binns, John Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Gregory, Arnold
Bishop, E. S. Grey, Charles (Durham) Maxwell, Robert
Blenkinsop, Arthur Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mayhew, Christopher
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Booth, Albert Hannan, William Mendelson, John
Boston, Terence Harper, Joseph Millan, Bruce
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Haseldine, Norman Miller, Dr. M. S.
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hazell, Bert Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Heffer, Eric S. Molloy, William
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Henig, Stanley Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Buchan, Norman Hilton, W. S. Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hobden, Dennis Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Cant, R. B. Hooley, Frank Morris, John (Aberavon)
Carmichael, Neil Horner, John Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Concannon, J. D. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Murray, Albert
Conlan, Bernard Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Neal, Harold
Crawshaw, Richard Howie, W. Newens, Stan
Cronin, John Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Norwood, Christopher
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oakes, Gordon
Dalyell, Tom Hunter, Adam O'Halloran, Michael
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hynd, John Orbach, Maurice
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Orme, Stanley
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Oswald, Thomas
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Palmer, Arthur
Delargy, H. J. Latham, Arthur Park, Trevor
Dell, Edmund Lawson, George Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Dempsey, James Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Pavitt, Laurence
Dewar, Donald Lestor, Miss Joan Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dickens, James Lomas, Kenneth Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Dobson, Ray Loughlin, Charles Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Doig, Peter Luard, Evan Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Driberg, Tom Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dunnett, Jack Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Probert, Arthur
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rankin, John
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) MacColl, James Rees, Merlyn
Eadie, Alex MacDermot, Niall Richard, Ivor
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Taverns, Dick Whitaker, Ben
Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George White, Mrs. Eirene
Rodgers, William (Stockton) Tinn, James Willer, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Roebuck, Roy Urwin, T. W. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Ross, Rt. Hn. William Varlsy, Eric G. Winnick, David
Rowlands, E. Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Woof, Robert
Sheldon, Robert Wallace, George
Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Watkins, David (Consett) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Silverman, Julius Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Mr. William Hamling and
Skeffington, Arthur Weitzman, David Mr. Neil McBride.
Spriggs, Leslie Wellbeloved, James