HC Deb 18 March 1971 vol 813 cc1789-863

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

I have not selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), On Second Reading of Isle of Wight County Council Bill, to move, That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months. However, I think that all the arguments appropriate to the Amendment can be developed on Second Reading.

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

I thank you for calling me early, Mr. Speaker, because it will be helpful to the House, I think, if I briefly explain the reasons for the Bill and what it seeks to do. There are many miscellaneous provisions, but all but five of these Clauses are either model Clauses or they are with precedent. I therefore propose to confine my remarks to the remaining five Clauses.

Of these, Clause 29, which sought to impose a landing tax, was the subject of a good deal of objection. The Treasury did not like it, and the Isle of Wight County Council will, by leave, withdraw this Clause. It has given an undertaking so to do. Of the total of seven petitions against the Bill, four were against this Clause, and they have been withdrawn.

Clause 26 seeks to prohibit camping in parks and Clause 41 seeks to impose planning control and other control over piers beyond low water mark. It is remarkable that these two Clauses are without precedent. Nevertheless, they are quite innocuous and I do not intend to say anything further about them. There are no petitions against those two Clauses.

This leaves me with two Clauses. Clause 40 contains the power to make byelaws to regulate the use of hovercraft. I would remind the House that the Isle of Wight is the home of hovercraft. This is where it was invented and developed, this is where we built the first prototype and this is where we had the first production run and the first operational services in the world. So we do not seek to hold back the advance of this vigorous new industry.

All we wish to do is exercise a certain amount of control in the interests of safety and of preventing nuisance to other people. I assure the House that nobody could have a greater interest in the furtherance of this industry than the Isle of Wight, which depends on it so much economically. So I need not weary the House further with that Clause. There is a petition against this Clause by British Rail, Red Funnel and Hovertravel, but I am certain that whatever differences exist can be sorted out in Committee.

This leaves me with one Clause, which is the main Clause of the Bill. It is Clause 5 which seeks to obtain power to exercise control over large gatherings of people in the open overnight. There are no petitions against this Clause, but I understand that it is the desire of several hon. Gentlemen opposite to have the matter discussed in the House because it is a Clause without precedent.

Clause 5 has the backing of the County Councils Association and the vast majority of people in the Isle of Wight. It is supported not just by the county council but by the district council, the N.F.U., the ratepayers' associations and almost every other association on the island.

It arises through the island's experience of three pop festivals. The first was in 1968 on a relatively isolated site. There were something short of 7,000 people there. It lasted for two days and it was of relatively little trouble.

The second occurred in 1969 and it was put on by the same promoters as the first. It lasted for three days and was at Wootton, in close proximity to a small community of people. It attracted between 80,000 and 100,000 fans and there was a complete lack of control over the whole affair.

Totally inadequate toilets on the site resulted in other land, and even private gardens, being used. A churchyard was despoiled. Local shops ran out of food and fire and ambulance services had inadequate access. There was a serious potential risk to public health. Only because the weather was suitable did we not have some sort of epidemic.

Then we had the third festival, in 1970. It occurred in the August Bank Holiday week last year. This attracted between 150,000 and 200,000 people. They stayed for four days and nights during the period of the festival, but they were there altogether for about 10 days. The county council and the rural district council sought to avoid the chaos that had taken place the previous year at Wootton by trying to persuade the organisers to enter into a voluntary agreement to meet the council's requirements covering lavatories, water supplies, access drainage, noise, refuse collection, site clearance and matters of that kind.

But the terms of the agreement were not met and a local authority has no means of enforcing such an agreement. If people choose to run these enormous events in an airy-fairy way and cause chaos in a small community of 5,000 people out in West Wight and infringe public health requirements, the fines are derisory. When promoters are expecting an income of a quarter of a million or more £s, they will not be deterred by having to pay a fine of £10 because they have not provided enough lavatories.

I spent two days at this festival incognito in my hippie outfit—[Interruption.)—and the scene both during and after the festival was one of indescribable squalor and filth.

There is no doubt that local authorities must have complete powers to stipulate the conditions under which these large gatherings are organised, for the present penalties are derisory and they do not deter, especially when the people who organise events of this kind are not people who appreciate the needs of the young but are promoters who seek maximum profit out of what they do. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is Tory philosophy."] I very much doubt, judging from the young gentlemen I know, that they were Tories.

During the last seven months of the Labour Government, I spent a lot of time with Arthur Skeffington trying to persuade him to introduce public legislation. He was sympathetic, and he was doing his best to sort out the right way of doing it. Since the general election, I have been constantly in touch with the Department of the Environment and having discussions with Ministers, trying to persuade them to introduce public legislation, for that is what is necessary.

But the Isle of Wight cannot wait. It is threatened with another of these enormous festivals in August this year, as hon. Members will have seen from the Press yesterday. Hence, Clause 5 of the Bill.

I must make clear, in spite of the trash which the promotors sent to every hon. Member—on glossy paper, beautifully printed, although they are in compulsory liquidation—that it is not the intention by this Clause to ban pop.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has said that the promotors opposing the Bill have circulated literature to all hon. Members. I assure you that several of us on this side have received no such literature. Should he not withdraw that remark?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. That is not a point of order.

Mr. Woodnutt

If that is correct, I can only say that the hon. Gentleman must have chucked it in the wastepaper basket [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] Our local Press reports the lovely story about how, during the postal strike, 630 of these things were brought up here by hand. I got one. I do not imagine that they would have sent me one if they had not sent one to every hon. Member.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

On a point of order Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Brown

I will not sit down. I am raising a point of order with Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have listened assiduously and with interest to what the hon. Gentleman has said. He has spoken of a glossy pamphlet which he alleges was sent to each hon. Member. If that is relevant to his case, should we not have an adjournment while the document is laid in the Library so that those of us on this side who have not had an opportunity of seeing it—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order.

Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that hon. Members on this side do not read their mail with the same scrupulous care as he does?

Mr. Woodnutt

I do not suggest that at all, and I am sure that my hon. Friends throw just as many things in the wastepaper basket as hon. Members opposite do.

But that is immaterial. The document says that the Isle of Wight County Council seeks by the Bill to ban pop festivals. This is not true. All we seek to do is to exercise control over them in the interests not only of the local residents, but of all the fans who come to these pop festivals so that they may have the right to facilities, and of the promoters themselves.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

I am partly with the hon. Gentleman on this, but I should like to have one point clarified. Is he really saying that it is quite outside the bounds of possibility for his county council to make any legally binding contract with the promoters? Are there no sanctions, apart from the normal ones of public health? If not, cannot the contracts be written in such a way that those who allow the use of their land can include penalties for the misuse to which the hon. Gentleman referred?

Mr. Woodnutt

That can be done only by an agreement voluntarily entered into by both parties. But this happened in the island. The only reason why the promoters entered into the agreement was that they knew jolly well that if they did not sign an agreement to carry out what was necessary under the Public Health Acts the county council would seek an injunction in the High Court to restrain them. So the agreement was signed. The trouble is that when it is signed there is no means of enforcement if it is broken, particularly of the promoters go broke. There is absolutely nothing that can be done about that. In any event, local authorities should not have to go to the High Court and enter into agreements with people. They should have the right to enforce the public health regulations. That is all we are asking for.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Would it be fair to say that Clause 5 prevents a form of pollution, pollution by human beings, which lays bare whole acres of land just as locusts lay bare acres of land in other parts of the world?

Mr. Woodnutt

That would be quite right. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for describing it in that way.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

The hon. Gentleman has explained that the county council might have moved for an injunction in the courts. Can he explain how it could enforce any legislation without recourse to the courts? If not, what advantage is the Bill?

Mr. Woodnutt

If the public health regulations say that there is such and such a fine or penalty for a breach it will automatically be paid.

Mr. Archer


Mr. Woodnutt

I will come to that if the hon. Gentleman gives me time. I will finish by explaining the Clauses and what the Bill seeks to do. If any hon. Member doubts the wisdom of giving local authorities this power, I would just ask him how he would react to 200,000 people descending on 200 acres of land in his constituency without adequate facilities.

Now I will come to the main provisions of the Bill. First, it insists that anyone wishing to have any sort of vast, open-air gathering of this nature, whether pop or whatever, shall give four months' notice to the local authority of its intention, the date and the site. This is not just done in the interests of the local authority and the local inhabitants. If promoters are running this sort of thing they need four months in which to do their advance publicity and prepare for it.

On the last occasion, the county council had only seven weeks' notice of the site. When the agreement was signed the promoters rang me up, as chairman of the committee, the very next day and wanted to change the site about 28 days before the date of the event, and of course we would not let them do so.

Under the Bill the county council has 28 days in which to say "Yes" or "No" to a particular site. It would do a feasibility study on drainage, the subsoil, the environment and that sort of thing, and if it said "Yes" it would have to set its conditions within that period of 28 days.

If hon. Members say that the county council is seeking to ban pop festivals, I remind them that there is in the Clause a right of appeal to quarter sessions if the would-be promoters are not satisfied either with the rejection of the site or with the proposed conditions.

There are, I admit, rather large penalties—£1,000 on each director and the land-owner for each day on which there is an infringement. But the only way to deter people is to make the penalties heavy. There is also a provision requiring the deposit of cash or a bond to defray the county council's extraordinary expenditure and the cost it may incur in having to carry out various works that the proprietors did not do themselves. It applies to gatherings in excess of 5,000 and deliberately it is between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., so that it excludes agricultural shows, rallies and any large meetings in the open air which may take place during the day.

The Bill has minor imperfections. But on behalf of an island that has suffered very much last year and the year before, I ask that the Bill be read a Second time so that Clauses may be considered in detail in Committee.

Finally, I quote from Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, as follows: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of the rights except such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedom of others.

10.37 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

The hon. Gentleman has presented his case in an extremely moderate and even plausible way. I want to take up at once only one point which he made about Clause 5, because it is quite an important one. I shall have more to say about it later.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the first subsection of the Clause, which requires four months' notice of the holding of such a festival. If tonight the House allows the Second Reading of the Bill, I do not know how long it will take for the Bill to complete its journey through Parliament, but it seems pretty obvious that the four-month date will be very nearly approaching by the time the Bill is passed and able to be put into effect by the Isle of Wight County Council. If the council delayed by considering the site suggested, or if it said "No" and if there were an appeal, as the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) has mentioned, to quarter sessions, then the pop festival would be out altogether this year. [Interruption.] I thought that there would be those revealing noises from the haters of youth opposite. That sort of noise makes nonsense of the hon. Gentleman's claim that they are not against pop festivals as such. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are."] That is one point, which hon. Members cheer, which shows that the object is simply to kill pop festivals. Some hon. Members opposite have not listened to the short and simple argument which I was pressing.

If the notice has to be given four months in advance, obviously there will not be time to do it this year.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)

How many teenage children does the hon. Gentleman have? I have five and I am very fond of all of them.

Mr. Driberg

I have several step-grandchildren who enjoy pop festivals very much, but I do not know how relevant that is to the debate. It was a rather silly intervention.

Before I reach Clause 5, there are some other Clauses in the Bill which deserve some attention, and it is our duty to probe this Bill in some depth before we agree to it or decide not to do so. Whatever is said later might influence our attitude. If, for instance, the hon. Member were to give notice on behalf of the county council that he would withdraw Clause 5—perhaps for it to be reconsidered and re-drafted in a less objectionable form—then we would have to reconsider our attitude.

The Bill as a whole is a most extraordinary hotch-potch of different subjects. The hon. Member mentioned Clause 29, the attempt to impose that egregious landing charge or tax on everyone arriving in the Isle of Wight. No wonder the Treasury and other Government Departments took a dim view of such a proposal. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has been withdrawn."] You should not try to make my speech for me.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am not making the hon. Member's speech. He knows that.

Mr. Driberg

I do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am sure that you would not want to make it. I am sorry that I was led into saying "you" when I should have said "Would hon. Gentlemen opposite allow me to make my own speech?" I do not know why they try to make one's speech for one. It only tends to prolong it and they cannot do it better than I can.

An Hon. Member

Yes they can.

Mr. Driberg

They cannot make my speech better than I because they would not know what I wanted to say. It does not surprise me that the Treasury and other Government Departments persuaded the county council and its rather ill-informed advisers to withdraw this Clause. But the fact that it was withdrawn shows how ill-considered and ill-drafted the Bill was.

Mr. Gorst


Mr. Driberg

The hon. Member asks "Why?" I do not think that some hon. Members opposite can understand plain English. I suggest that the fact that the Clause had to be withdrawn indicates that the Bill was in the first instance ill-considered and ill-drafted.

Mr. Gorst

Would the hon. Member not agree that there are other reasons for withdrawing Clauses, such as, for example, a demonstration that the drafters of the Bill are being flexible and reasonable in listening to argument before the Bill comes before the House?

Mr. Driberg

I should have thought that they would have considered the arguments for and against such an unusual and drastic Clause before putting it in the Bill in the first instance. However, that is a matter of opinion. The hon. Gentleman thinks it was very intelligent to put it in.

Mr. Woodnutt

The hon. Member is really wasting time on this Clause. I would like to tell him that this suggestion was made 10 years ago in a White Paper, through a Working Party set up by the Government, to adjust the fact that the Isle of Wight has no trunk roads. So it was not as ridiculous as he is trying to make out.

Mr. Driberg

If the Government thought that 10 years ago I find it rather surprising that they persuaded the county council to withdraw the Clause now. However, this is not the most important item to be dealt with. The fact that my speech is going on longer than I intended is because of the interruptions from hon. Members opposite sedentary or erect.

The hon. Member said that there were objections to Clauses 38, 39, 40 and 42, I think. I do not know whether he can tell us anything more about those Clauses other than what he has said about the hovercraft, which we understand and accept. If one is anywhere near a hovercraft it makes a noise even more objectionable than a pop festival, as we know only too well at Westminster, where there are often a few hovercraft around. I hope that the brilliant engineers in the Isle of Wight who invented and developed this machine are considering the problem of noise, which is a problem of pollution. It is now taken to be part of the general pollution of the environment.

Clause 23 rather puzzles me. Burial grounds somehow manage to find their way into this extraordinary, mixed-up Bill. Clause 23 provides: The powers of a local authority in relation to a burial ground maintainable by them"— not necessarily belonging to them— shall include power— (b) to level any grave therein; (c) to remove the whole or any part of a memorial therein". All that the authority has to do before doing that is to advertise its intention to do so in two successive weeks in a local newspaper, display a notice in the burial ground, and try to discover a relative of one of the dead people commemorated by the memorials or whose remains lie in the grave.

This seems to me a high-handed and possibly wounding action to take with regard to a grave or memorial of people who may have relatives still alive and still respecting the place where the relatives' remains are laid.

Mr. Woodnutt

In an effort to help the hon. Gentleman, I should like to tell him that this is a model Clause which was thrashed out years ago in the House.

Mr. Driberg

That may be so. I am entitled to make my own observations about it, nonetheless, because there is no indication of consultation with any churches which may be concerned with these graveyards. They are not necessarily graveyards belonging to a local authority. They may belong to a church. One would suppose that there would be consultation with the churches concerned as well as with the relatives.

Moreover, subsection (5) of Clause 23 provides that if a memorial is removed The local authority may put to such use as they think appropriate, or destroy, any memorial removed under this section, unless it is claimed … by somebody within a certain time. This is a very strange procedure. I do not know whether there are in the Isle of Wight any graveyard memorials by distinguished sculptors like Epstein or some of the Victorian sculptors like Thorny-croft. But if there are, it is very odd that the local authority should be permitted to remove them, destroy them or perhaps "pinch" them to install in the councillors' own gardens.

This is a very dubious Clause, whether it is a model Clause or not. We should be told something about the possible treatment of memorials of some artistic merit.

Another curious Clause on which my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) feels rather strongly —he cannot be here tonight because he has an engagement elsewhere—is Clause 7. He remarked to me that this "coffee bar" Clause was very odd, and I shall be glad to give way to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight if he can explain it. What my hon. Friend thought was strange about it was that it is only two years since Parliament passed an Act dealing with the control and regulation of cafés and other places which stay oven at night for the purpose of providing refreshment.

It is curious that there should be a local authority Act cutting across in various particulars the provisions that seemed suitable to Parliament only two years ago. Possibly the hon. Member could explain this to me, and some of the subsections of this Clause which read rather quaintly. For instance, I do not understand subsection (2): For the purposes of this section premises shall be deemed to be kept open for public refreshment at any time during which they are being used for the sale of refreshments to the public whether or not the public are allowed to be on the premises at the time of sale. I do not know what that means. I expect it has some meaning to those better informed than myself.

Mr. Deakins

I might be able to help there. This probably applies to a refreshment place on the beach where people get beach trays and take them back to their deck chairs. It could not be said that they are getting refreshments on the premises, but the refreshments are being served to the public on the premises.

Mr. Driberg

That is ingenious and helpful of my hon. Friend. It is, however, comforting to see in subsection (7)(a): Provided that the Council shall not impose any condition under sub-paragraph (v) of this paragraph in the case of premises which are kept open wholly or mainly as an ancillary amenity to a bona fide tenpin bowling establishment. The next paragraph is a little more doubtful, and is of some concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court who drew it to my attention: (b) Any person concerned in the management of a coffee bar who contravenes any condition imposed under this subsection, or who knew or had reasonable cause to suspect that such a condition was being contravened by some other person, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds; That seems rather severe, in the circumstances one can imagine, of a busy holiday evening in a coffee bar in the Isle of Wight.

It is undesirable that we should have sweeping local legislation creating new offences which are not offences anywhere else in the country—not offences in the neighbouring counties, even—and imposing Draconian new penalties for these new offences.

The main point of the Bill, with its clear intention to prevent pop festivals from coming to the Isle of Wight, is found in Clause 5. Whatever one may think for or against pop festivals, much more important is the general issue of the right of assembly. This right has grown, or has been diminished, down the ages, from classical times—the Agora at Athens, and so on—with freedom broadening down, unlike this Bill, from precedent to precedent. One thinks of medieval pilgrimages and the equally serious purposes of demonstrations and protests. Any record of the struggle for the right of assembly would be bound to include Peterloo, Trafalgar Square and the anti-Corn Law agitation. So many episodes in the history of this country are concerned with the right of assembly. For that matter, staying in the open air overnight is not confined to pop festivals. It is an old custom on Epsom Downs during Derby week, when, if the weather is fine, thousands of people sleep out. Clerkenwell Green was another great centre of free assembly a century and more ago. There are General Elections. The hustings are also free assemblies, very often with many thousands of people. Only a century or so ago, people like Lord Sidmouth and Lord Castlereagh spoke with great contempt of free assemblies and the right of the common people to raise their voices in assemblies.

I hope hon. Members will not think it irreverent of me, in any way, if I read a short passage from the description by Wesley of the tremendous impact of the great open-air gatherings that he and Whitefield used to address in the time of their evangelical revival—the great impact these gatherings had on him and many others. There were often 30,000 to 40,000 people involved.

Mr. Ogden

I must declare my religious affiliation for the first time in this House. My hon. Friend is surely not suggesting that a pop festival on the Isle of Wight has any relationship in spirit with those gatherings addressed by Wesley. I happen to be a Methodist. The two might be the same in numbers but not in spirit.

Mr. Driberg

I hope my hon. Friend will be patient and allow me to finish. I do not, of course, mean an exact comparison and I do not mean this in any irreverent or blasphemous sense. Wesley described how at Gwenap he … stood on a wall in the calm still evening, with the setting sun behind him, and almost an innumerable multitude before, behind, and on either hand, At Exeter, he preached in the moat of the old castle. It was an awful sight! So vast a congregation in that solemn amphitheatre … and so on.

Whitefield also preached on one occasion from a stage which had been erected at a fair for some wrestlers. On another, he erected his pulpit on a race course, with thousands of spectators. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), I am not drawing any comparison between these two very different kinds of event, except to say this: that in a period in which young people have largely lost any sense of belonging or affiliation to any of the orthodox or regular religious churches or communities, I believe—and this may seem strange to some hon. Members—that pop is a kind of religion of the young. It may be a kind of Dionysian religion in some instances.

Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)


Mr. Driberg

It fills them with a sort of exaltation, a euphoria. It has nothing to do with drugs or sex. It is the getting together of thousands of young people to enjoy and share an experience which exalts them.

Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)

Is my hon. Friend aware that some churchmen of various denominations who were present at the festival which is being discussed have all borne witness to the fact that, quite against popular misconception, there were elements of spirituality present in that gathering which they as Christians found extremely impressive?

Sir C. Taylor


Mr. Driberg

I wish the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) would not keep interjecting "fornication" from a sedentary position. He seems obsessed with the subject.

Sir C. Taylor

I thought the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) was a very good Catholic.

Mr. Driberg

Not good.

Sir C. Taylor

I thought he was a Christian. He is not talking as a Christian or as a Catholic tonight.

Mr. Driberg

With respect, it is not for the hon. Gentleman to decide, nor indeed for any hierarchy to decide, whether I am or I am not speaking as a Christian or as a Catholic. I speak according to my conscience and judgment, and if it hurts some hon. Members opposite I cannot help it.

Mr. Gorst

Could the hon. Gentleman help us with a point about religion? At the occasions to which he referred in connection with Wesley there was no pollution of the ground and the whole environment, whereas this is the whole point of Clause 5.

Mr. Driberg

How can we be sure of that? I should have thought that there was almost certain to have been if 40,000 people were gathered together in the evening for some hours. I do not want to go into too many details of that, but I am sure that there was no instance of the provision of a mile of urinals, as there was last summer at this festival.

I had reached a rather serious point in my speech. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd). I know that what he suggests is true.

Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith (Chislehurst)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that with the great evangelists it was a case, in the main, of an hour's stand or a half-day's stand and that they journeyed from place to place? They normally sent their congregations home in peace for their night's shelter. The congregation did not stay for over a week or 10 days, as some of them did at this festival, which accentuates the problem.

Mr. Driberg

I do not know how long Wesley and Whitefield preached for, but I think that the average length of a sermon in those days was much greater than it is today in any church, evangelical or otherwise.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

Is there not a record of at least one instance of St. Paul having preached all night?

Mr. Driberg

Yes, and a very unfortunate consequence was that one man fell asleep and fell out of a window; that was Eutychus. I hope not to go on for as long as that myself, but I have been interrupted a great deal.

The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West is very sound. I myself talked at some length last summer, after that festival, with one of the local clergy who had helped, as I think several of them did—the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight will correct me if I am wrong—and provided a welfare and counselling service for young people who were in doubt or in trouble. He spoke in very high terms indeed of the average young person who had come to consult him. I do not think that the hon. Member has attacked the generality of young people there. No doubt in any such enormous crowd there would be some who would misbehave and who would not behave according to the standards of Eastbourne. On the whole, the testimony of these clergymen, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West says, is rather encouraging about the character of many of those who took part in the festival.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

The hon. Gentleman appears to be recommending a substitution of pop festivals for some degree or any type of religious observance, or even making a comparison between them. Even he must surely realise that if he is doing any such thing he will cause a great deal of offence on both sides of the House.

Mr. Driberg

I am not recommending any such thing. I am a little surprised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should so have misheard me and should so misrepresent me. What I said to my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby—who is a Methodist and I respect him for that—was that in these days most young people—surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows this—are not attached to any regular church community at all. Indeed, they are on the whole rather sceptical and doubtful about the claims of the organised churches. I also said that in the vast crowd at a festival like this, where music is performed of a kind which many hon. Members do not like but which the young people do, they are absorbed into something bigger than themselves, something above themselves—a mass emotion, if one likes to call it that—which is a substitute for a religion. I did not say that I was recommending it—not at all.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

The hon. Gentleman surely made a comparison.

Mr. Driberg

I said that it was not an exact analogy and I did not pretend that it was.

Before I return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West, the hon. and gallant Gentleman persuades me to read part of a letter which appeared in The Times a few days after that festival. It was written by a young lady who took part in it. She says: After reading many of the reports written about the Isle of Wight Festival. … I do not think that anyone has fairly expressed what actually occurred. Much emphasis … has has been given to the sad minority who caused damage … and to the complaints of the local residents who were caused a few days' disturbance, but no one has spoken of the wonderful and uplifting experience it was for everyone else. What actually happened was that for five days all barriers of class, creed and nationality were totally ignored. People shared their food, money and possessions with complete strangers and the 'natural reserve' of the British was entirely forgotten. This strange and wonderful state of affairs was not only due to the hippies but to the vast majority, who were students and ordinary working taxpayers. That is part of a letter which I think is a remarkable tribute to what I call at least a quasi-religious feeling. These young people were behaving like the earliest Christians, in the Acts of the Apostles, who had all things in common.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)

What nauseating claptrap.

Sir C. Taylor rose

Mr. Driberg

If the hon. Gentleman has something serious and constructive to say, of course I give way to him.

Sir C. Taylor

The girl who wrote that letter to the newspaper expresses quite outrageous opinions, and so does the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Driberg

I did not know that the the hon. Gentleman knew the young lady in question.

Sir C. Taylor

I do not, but—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)


Mr. Driberg

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you can keep the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) in order. He is doubling the length of my speech by his constant, stupid and offensive interjections.

Sir C. Taylor

They are quite permissible. Come off it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) please keep in order?

Sir C. Taylor

I am keeping order. I am—

Mr. Driberg

Is the hon. Gentleman raising a point of order?

Sir C. Taylor

I am merely suggesting that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) should sit down.

Mr. Driberg

Whether that was a sound point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I leave to you. On the other hand, if it was not a point of order, the hon. Gentleman should not have—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] Hon. Members opposite would assist matters if they persuaded their hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne to shut up and behave himself.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order for me to ask you whether I might invite the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) to come with me to the bar and have a drink?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It would be quite out of order, but perhaps a good idea.

Mr. Driberg

I am very much obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The testimony of the clergymen which was referred by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West is supplemented by other more official testimony. The medical officer of health for the island, whom no doubt the hon. Member for Isle of Wight knows, has said that the disorder or the health risks were greatly exaggerated. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is necessarily a greater expert on the health risks than the island's medical officer of health, Dr. Quantrill. I believe that Dr. Quantrill will be reading a paper to a medical conference next month—oddly enough, at Eastbourne. In the course of that paper, I gather that he will indicate that the health risks were very greatly exaggerated, even if some of the provisions of the agreement were broken—and I must accept the hon. Gentleman's word for that. There was no epidemic. There was no very serious health disorder. Probably a few hundred people got colds, 'flu, or something similar, out of 200,000. It all went off remarkably well, thanks largely to the extremely intelligent behaviour of the police, who did not throw their weight about unduly. The Chief Constable was very sensible and lenient, and he also paid tribute to the excellent behaviour of the young people gathered there in such enormous numbers.

I agree that the position about the debts and bankruptcies needs clearing up. I gather that the promoters intend to use any profits which they make on this year's festival to repay some of the creditors whose claims are now being examined by the receiver. I cannot speak officially for the promoters—I have never met any of them—but I know that one famous American star has offered to hand over her fee, which would be very large, towards paying off the debts incurred last year. The debts also have been exaggerated. The receiver correctly insists that all claims which have been put in must be considered and examined, and the claims of some creditors have been inflated to a remarkable degree.

I recently came across a pamphlet—a Conservative pamphlet, "Public Order" —the general spirit of which I commend to the House. Its main tenor is that we do not need too much new legislation, the creation of new offences and new penalties, and that most offences can be dealt with by the existing common or statute law. At the end of this pamphlet there is a list of offences with the penalties attaching to them. One which I suppose would be applied to this kind of thing by some people is, public nuisance, i.e., an act or omission endangering the life, health, property, morals or conduct of the public. That can be dealt with under the common law by fines and/or imprisonment. I do not see any need for county councils to invent new laws to deal with old crimes.

I apologise for keeping the House so long, but hon. Members should not allow whatever prejudices they may have against the peculiar clothes, long hair, and so on, of some young people to cause them to impair this tremendous heritage of freedom of assembly, which I believe the Bill could do. I do not share this prejudice which is held by some of the old against some of the young. I think that it was Cyril Connolly who said that the age war is the one war in which everybody changes sides I do not think that all of us have changed sides in that war. Some of my hon. Friends certainly are young either in years or in spirit, or both. The young are entitled to what the Americans call the pursuit of happiness. I hope that they may be allowed to enjoy it, even in the Isle of Wight, for a few days each summer.

11.14 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Richard Sharpies)

It may be of assistance to the House if I intervene at this stage to indicate the Government's attitude to the Bill.

Before doing so, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) upon the way in which he introduced the Bill, which I know will be of great interest to his constituents.

The Government have a direct interest in only two Clauses. We would have objected strongly to Clause 29, so I am glad that my hon. Friend indicated that that would be withdrawn.

The Clause which is controversial and has formed the main burden of my hon. Friend's speech is Clause 5. My hon. Friend will recognise that there are real difficulties in drafting a Clause of this complexity in a Private Bill. My right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for the Environment will be sending a report to the Committee when this Bill is examined, putting forward certain reservations about parts of the Clause and suggesting certain alterations to the present drafting of the Clause. I am sure that the right place for discussing these details of the Clause is in Committee.

The Committee will or course take note of those reports and of any objections to the Clause and of anything said in the House tonight. Having said that, I believe that this long Bill, which is of great importance, the preparation of which has been a great expense to the residents and ratepayers of the Isle of Wight, should be given a Second Reading, and that the details should be discussed in the Committee, as is the normal practice.

11.17 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)

There are one or two points which I should like cleared up. Under Clause 5, it seems not only that the council will be assuming new powers but that the penalties will be very high. Under Clause 5(9)(d) the fine will be £1,000 maximum. Why is this? I appreciate that the council has every right to be concerned about health and sanitary conditions and so on, and the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) has every right to be concerned that an assembly like this, with so many people, could create health hazards not only for the residents but for those going to the festival. But why £1,000?

In similar Measures, like the Trade Descriptions Act, the maximum penalty is about £350. This is not just £1,000 but £1,000 a day. In what circumstances does the hon. Gentleman envisage this fine being imposed? I assume that he accepts that a court of law will have to administer the Bill. This is absurd and out of all proportion to the harm which the Bill is seeking to obviate. Nor has the hon. Gentleman explained—or, if he did, I did not understand him—precisely what he means. Presumably he is not suggesting that there are not Public Health Acts which could be enforced or other civil remedies which either party to such a dispute could take?

Mr. Woodnutt

I made it clear that fines for infringement of the public health regulations are at present derisory, perhaps £5 or £10. This must be related to the enormous takings at a vast festival, where the income can be £300,000 or more. Irresponsible promoters—I do not say that all promoters are irresponsible—will just ignore the public health regulations and such small fines for takings of that magnitude. That is why we have fixed the sum so high. It will be a deterrent, though I remind the hon. Gentleman that £1,000 is the maximum. It would be for the court to decide how much it should be.

Mr. Davidson

I accept that, but I do not see the circumstances in which a court would impose a fine of that magnitude. What assurance has the hon. Gentleman that any court would be prepared to fine somebody more than it can already impose under existing legislation?

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight said that at one stage the county council had contemplated seeking an injunction. That remedy is still available to any authority. I do not see the need for these extra powers. The existing law seems sufficient to deter everything but the most wilful abuse, and I do not think the majority of those who promote these festivals wish to indulge in wilful abuse of this kind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) was rightly concerned to protect the traditional right of public assembly, a right of which we in Britain are proud. This House has always been concerned to debate at length any issue which could be seen to diminish that tradition. I do not impute base motives to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, and he has every right to raise an issue which affects his constituents, but one must question whether these provisions, which would enable a county council to assume unprecedented powers —the hon. Gentleman used that phrase—would diminish, perhaps only to a small degree, our traditional right of public assembly.

The House may be interested in this remark which was made by the then Home Secretary in 1916, admittedly at the time of a coalition Government: It is a very good thing that public opinion should be sensitive whenever there is any interference with the right of public meetings, even in time of war"— This remark was made during the 1914–18 war— for the free expression of opinion is a matter of the greatest importance, and the House of Commons is well advised to watch any measures taken by the Ministry of the day which in any way threaten or impair the right of public meeting". If the House should watch any measures taken by the Ministry, how much more carefully should it watch measures taken by a county council?

The full implications of Clause 5, therefore, must be examined closely before the Bill is given a Second Reading.

11.25 p.m.

Mr. Robert Boscawen (Wells)

None of us on this side would devalue the traditional right of free assembly, but what some of us here, and people in my constituency in particular, are against is the utterly ill organised, chaotic uncontrolled sort of festival which we had last summer. I thought the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) totally irrelevant. He sought to turn a stone of controversy in almost every sentence of his speech.

We are against one type of pop festival, and that is the type which we had at Shepton Mallet last June. The promoter said that 20,000 to 30,000, or perhaps 40,000, fans would come. Days before it was due to start, large numbers began rolling in. There were no services for those fans because it was before the time of opening. By the time the weekend came, 150,000 to 200,000 fans had arrived, only to find totally inadequate services of every kind. At this hour, I shall not go over what my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) told the House about the lack of latrines and so on. At Shepton Mallet, there was only one telephone in the whole festival site, and only six doctors were brought in by the promoter. Those are examples of the lack of preparation in that disgraceful affair.

I am convinced, many of my constituents are convinced, the Somerset County Council is convinced, the local planning authority is convinced—and I believe that the County Councils Association is thinking along the same lines —that some form of suitable legislation to control such events is urgently needed.

It is not a question of being against the high art of pop music. I do not understand it as well as the step-grandchildren of the hon. Member for Barking do. Perhaps he does. If they enjoy listeninig to individuals screaming through a microphone, their enjoyment in reasonable circumstances must be protected. But there are other people to be thought of in these circumstances. Other people have rights, too.

The two innocent groups of people most concerned in my constituency were those unfortunate folk who live in the nearby village of Prestleigh and those who were, perfectly legitimately, using the roads—most of them going on holiday at the weekend to the West Country—who were stopped for hours on the road due to the completely chaotic traffic conditions which resulted from such a large number of people coming to the area.

The people living in that village have rights to enjoy the peace of their homes, just as anyone else has. They have liberties to be defended. Those who want to travel for legitimate purposes have liberties to be defended.

The Bill is not perfect. It may have many shortcomings. But legislation of this sort must come soon. One major weakness, of course, is that, if the Bill goes through, the Isle of Wight will be likely to export its problem to other parts of the country. Certainly, we have a vested interest in this. I believe that there is need of a general Bill to cover the whole country very soon. It may be that the Isle of Wight Bill is not the correct method. I understand that the Music and Dancing Licences (Home Counties) Bill, 1926, is still in operation. It should be looked at to see whether it is relevant for the rest of the country.

There is a danger, too, of this sort of unorganised festival being exported from abroad to this country. It is interesting that in October last year even the State of New Jersey introduced a very similar Bill to the one that we have tonight. With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to read the Preamble to that Bill. It is An Act for the regulation of mass gatherings … of substantial numbers of persons for the purposes of mass musical or public entertainment of various designations such as 'pop festival', or 'rock festival' or 'rock music festival' … Whereas the experience of the State of New Jersey has clearly demonstrated the need for uniform, adequate and constitutionally permissible Statewide standards regulating the promotions and conduct of such gatherings". If that Bill is legislated in the United States, it is more likely that its mass gatherings will be exported to countries where the limitations are less. That is why there is great need for the Government to consider overall legislation for limiting the disorganised affairs that we have seen in this country during the last two years.

I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Barking wants to defend the sort of liberty and freedom of people to bring about the affairs that we have seen. I received from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight a copy of that glossy document called "The Woodside Broadcasting Ltd.". It was addressed to all Members of Parliament and it did not happen to go into the waste-paper basket quickly enough. It said: We write to lodge the strongest protest against certain provisions in"— the Isle of Wight County Council Parliamentary Bill… we suggest that the promoters of this Bill have, as their real motive, the outlawing of Festivals of Popular Music simply because they themselves do not approve of this type of entertainment. Should such powers be conferred by law then we hate to think of the effect the ultimate outcome would have on the freedom of the individual. I have seldom read, even in this Parliament, so much humbug.

What freedom is there for the unfortunate people who live in the village of Prestleigh, in my constituency, when that sort of thing happens? What freedom is there even for the fans who arrive to find indescribable conditions provided for them? And what freedom is there for those who choose to pass through the area on perfectly legitimate business? I cannot believe that these colossal, chaotic, neo-Bacchanal revels that we have seen lately are really wanted by either young or old in Britain.

11.34 p.m.

Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)

The hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) made a profound point during his remarks when he suggested that there might possibly be imperfections in the Bill and that so many of the points raised within the scope of the Bill were deserving of national legislation. I think that I would be speaking for a number of my colleagues on this side of the House if I said that we would look forward to the day when the Government found the time and initiative to bring before the House appropriate national legislation dealing with many of the points raised in the Bill.

The House will understand if I speak with a certain degree of real concern, representing as I do a constituency very close to the Isle of Wight, but a concern tempered with a certain amount of caution about what I have to say particularly as I have been invited to speak at an important social function in the island tomorrow evening.

Together with other citizens of Portsmouth, I like to look across to the scenic beauty of the Isle of Wight on a Sunday afternoon. It is very easy for people in my position to take the island for granted and not to look closely at some of the problems with which the inhabitants of the island may be confronted from time to time. I understand them to be proud and independent people. This is very clear from their reaction to the Government's proposals on the reorganisation of local government.

While I in no way dissociate myself from the points made very tellingly about the fundamental importance of freedom of assembly, we must take into account the price which may be asked of a particular community, such as that in the Isle of Wight, when large numbers of other people decide to enjoy their right of freedom of assembly perhaps at other people's expense. I think that I speak for a number of my hon. Friends in saying that we cannot help being a little amused, with all respect, to find right hon. and hon. Members opposite once more brought face to face with the consequences of the unbridled forces of the market economy. Whenever this happens it is so interesting to see their rapid transition to a refreshing commitment to social planning. We wish that they would be prepared to take the logic of this commitment into a more comprehensive approach to Government.

It must also be said, in fairness, that amongst all the very important points made about the principles at the basis of our democracy we on this side of the House must not overlook the elements of crude commercialism which exploit the idealism of the younger generation when those young people allow themselves to be exploited.

But, all that said, I do not want to underestimate the social problems faced by the people of the Isle of Wight as a result of an invasion of the magnitude we are talking about. The over-ridingly important point brought out about the contentious Clause 5 is that even though they live on an island it is impossible for the people of the Isle of Wight to believe that the consequences of the festival affect them and them alone. I was struck at the time of the last festival by the way in which, for example, it was the police of Hampshire who had to go to the assistance of the island's regular police force to do the first-class job to which my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) has referred. I too pay tribute to the sensitive and imaginative way in which the police handled the occasion.

It is also obvious that it was not just the transport or road system of the Isle of Wight that had to face up to the consequences of a festival of that magnitude. British Rail and travellers in trains to Portsmouth and Southampton also had to face up to the consequences. As to the shipping, we should pay tribute to the magnificent improvisation and organisation which got people away against all the apparent odds. The shipping is not only the concern of the people of the island. We islanders in the rest of Britain are concerned with the shipping operation as well. There are also the people of my city, Portsmouth, and of Southampton, who are confronted with some of the consequences of a festival of this kind and the disruption resulting from it.

Taking all that into account, one has to accept that if we are considering legislation and appropriate measures, we have to look at the problem in a wider context than simply the Isle of Wight. We should not only look forward to national legislation to cope with situations of this kind occurring anywhere in the country but also, in the context of a particular festival of this sort, realise that the sphere within which the Bill seeks to introduce appropriate administrative measures is probably too restrictive.

I cannot help but draw the House's attention to the fact that this Clause, taken together with other Clauses to which I shall refer, seems to illustrate a certain illogicality in the apparent attitude of leaders of the island community on the Government's measures for the reform of local government.

With all credit to the Government, I suggest that what is brought out here is that some reorganisation in Southern Hampshire as a whole is essential in the interests of the people of the Isle of Wight.

Let me pick out at random several Clauses which illustrate my point. Let us take, for example, Clause 10, dealing with bathing. If one is really concerned about the dangers to bathers and swimmers, presumably one is not only concerned about weather conditions but one will be increasingly concerned in the future about the dangers of pollution, which affect the entire coastline. For a busy waterway like the Solent, there are special dangers which result from accidental or intentional dumping of chemicals or other things. We had a nasty fright in the Solent area last year about that.

I would have thought that if the people of the Isle of Wight were concerned about the problem, they would be wanting to work jointly and in close cooperation with other local authorities in the area to ensure that the preventive measures are effective.

Let us take Clause 25, dealing with aerodromes. I hope that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), who has done such a clear and concise job in presenting his case to the House, will not take amiss what I am about to say. The Clause is almost ludicrous in the context of modern air transport. How on earth shall we cope with air traffic control and congestion of the airways if we have every local authority reserving to itself certain powers in that respect? If we are to deal with air traffic effectively in South Hampshire, we must have a closely integrated unitary air authority.

Mr. Woodnutt

I cannot sit and listen to the hon. Gentleman saying this sort of thing. Does he not realise that this is a model Clause which many councils have adopted, giving them these powers? The Isle of Wight is asking for no more than what most authorities already have.

Mr. Judd

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that he cannot sit and listen. He has done a helpful job this evening. I do not want to irritate him in any way. But he has suggested to the House that in the Bill the island community is trying to project some new—

Mr. Woodnutt

It is a model Clause.

Mr. Judd

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say that, but if it is a model Clause which is no longer adequate to meeting the situation now, why, in a debate such as this, may we not discuss the inadequacies of such a Clause?

In the context of the increased use of the airways, it is essential that we move towards greater rationalisation in air traffic control. Taking into account the whole community of Southern Hampshire, in the provision of air services and aerodromes, we want a comprehensive approach and not a fragmented policy split up between different local authorities.

On Clause 38, I should like first to associate myself sincerely with what the hon. Gentleman said in his introductory speech about the development of this unique British invention, the Hovercraft, in the Isle of Wight.

It is something of which the people of the Isle of Wight should be justly proud. There are consequences of this form of transport which again have implications for far wider communities than those of the Isle. Dealing with the point of noise pollution raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking I can assure the House, as a resident of a part of Portsmouth very near the coastline that this is a major problem which we must look at collectively in the development of this form of transport.

I congratulate the hon. Member on presenting this Bill and raising issues of profound importance. I would like to re-emphasise that it seems that the Bill, paradoxically, by attempting to deal with very real problems, has revealed its own inadequacies and the urgent need for comprehensive Government legislation to cover the points which concern not only this island but many other parts of the country.

11.46 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) in his desire to see more comprehensive legislation to meet the situation which Clause 5 is designed to meet. The only question to ask is: how long are we likely to wait for that legislation? The question in the minds of my hon. Friends is: What may happen in the Isle of Wight in the meantime? I do not wish to intrude in the affairs of the Isle of Wight nor to get in the firing line between my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) and the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg).

My interest in this matter stems from the affair at Shepton Mallet touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen). I received considerable correspondence on this from the National Farmers Union on an issue which has perhaps not been adequately touched on tonight, namely, the damage done to land, and farmland in particular, when these festivals occupy a considerable acreage and are not properly controlled.

In the case of Shepton Mallet the damage to agricultural interests was considerable. The point that arises out of this was: by what means could compensation be secured? I am not clear, arising out of the Clause, what compensation will be payable to those who suffer physical loss, such as farmers, who are more likely to suffer such loss than anyone else, through disturbance, damage to fences and gates and all the rest. I would like some assurance on this because the compensation aspect seems all-important.

I entered into correspondence with the Home Office on behalf of the N.F.U. some time ago. Whatever happens tonight compensation is a big issue. It can be quite simply met by the proposal to deposit a bond. It is incumbent on those who organise these festivals to pay in something from which compensation may be payable to those who suffer damage.

I am in sympathy with much of what the hon. Member for Barking said and I do not want to proscribe pop festivals. What he says is fully justified. It is not so much a matter of proscribing them as ensuring that they do not cause loss to others. What the hon. Gentleman says about free assembly is also right but free assembly which incurs loss for others is something different from the classical instances he has given.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

On this question of the promoters depositing a bond to provide compensation for damage, is he suggesting that a promoter must be held responsible for damage caused by people moving towards the event, going away from it, and for any damage caused within the area adjacent to the event?

Mr. Deedes

I will not be pinned down by that sort of definition. If a person organises an event he is responsible for the damage done within the curtilage of maybe five, 50 or 100 acres. He is responsible for what occurs in the region. If farm gates are torn down, farm cattle disturbed and losses are incurred by farmers, he is responsible for the consequences. What I am saying is that a bond should be deposited from which damages can be paid.

Mr. Driberg

What the right hon. Gentleman was saying just before he was interrupted by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) seemed to me perfectly reasonable. But he is ignoring the point I made at the beginning of my speech, that the time factor sought to be imposed in the Bill means that its purpose is to kill the pop festival, at any rate for this year.

Mr. Deedes

Yes. But if one proposes to organise a pop festival one must think about it for months before it takes place. It is no great hardship to tell the local authority what one has in mind. The local authority has to take precautions as well. With respect to the hon. Gentleman's philosophical dissertation about pop, we are not dealing here with the philosophical virtues of it; we are dealing with the physical consequences. This is the matter which concerns people in the Isle of Wight and anywhere else that a festival is held more than anything else.

Reverting to the point about the bond, contrary to what some people say and what the popular Press sometimes suggests, vast profits are not made out of pop festivals. They are often written about but they do not always materialise. More often than not they are pretty speculative ventures. I cannot remember what the figures were for the last pop festival, but they did not come up to what the promoters hoped for. Therefore, those who suffer damage may find that there is nothing in the kitty. We are dealing, not with very large capitalist ventures, but with very speculative ventures. That means that precautions should be taken for those who are in the "fall-out" area.

It is very easy to be critical about the detail of the Clause. I have sympathy with people in the Isle of Wight who wonder how long they will have to wait for assistance from Government sources and what will happen in the island meanwhile. I accept that there are many difficulties in trying to deal with these matters in a Private Bill. But we have a situation which is relatively new and which will, I think, continue, and it is high time that some more constructive suggestions came from the Home Office, with which some of us have been in correspondence.

It is easy to be critical about what the Isle of Wight is trying to do. But there is a problem and losses are being incurred. We want a reasonable solution of the problem to be found. Either we accept what the Isle of Wight wants to do on its own behalf now, or we give a fairly strong undertaking that we will do something else better quickly. In the light of my experiences over Shepton Mallet and the rough correspondence I received from the National Farmers Union, I say that the sooner we act the better.

11.54 p.m.

Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)

I have a great affection for the Isle of Wight. I was a Portsmouth rating in the Navy and know the island well.

Listening to some of the earlier remarks, I found it very difficult to relate what was said with some of the scenes I saw on television last summer. When we are talking about 150,000 to 200,000 people, even a small minority can be a very large number of people. I have very great sympathy with the authority in bringing forward this Bill. But it is a pity that such a wide range of other measures has been thrown in with it. Had the Bill concentrated on the central theme of trying to get quick action on this problem things would have been a lot easier.

Section 7(6) says: The Council may refuse to register or renew the registration of any premises for use as a coffe bar if they are satisfied that … (b) the persons intended to be concerned with the conduct of the premises as a coffee bar are such that young persons resorting thereto are likely to be depraved or corrupted;' The words are not "may be depraved or corrupted", but "are likely to be depraved or corrupted". This is extremely strong wording which may put the local authority in some difficulty, because a person who is refused has a right of appeal, under Clause 7(11): … the Council shall within seven days from the date of their decision give to him a statement of the grounds upon which it was based. The authority may lay itself open to action being taken against it.

Clause 7(15) contains powers for a duly authorised officer or a police constable to enter and inspect coffee bars under certain conditions. Late one night when we were discussing Police Pension Regulations I raised the question of a police constable entering premises and being injured in the course of his duty. If an officer of the council went in to inspect a coffee bar and was injured and had to retire, what provision would be made for him? It is all very well putting duties on to public servants, but we also have a responsibility to ensure that provision is made for them. As I have pointed out to the Minister before, this is built up on precedent and decided cases—the 1921 Great Central Railway v Bates. The matter should be cleared up. The Minister may feel that this is tedious repetition, but I shall return to the point until I get satisfaction.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) said that certain Clauses were model Clauses. I notice that the provisions about bathing in Clause 10, which are extremely sensible, do not apply to Newport. I thought this was a case of "the Swiss Navy" and that there were no beaches there until I looked at the local authority boundaries and found that in the north-east they stretched to the coast. Why is Newport exempted?

The question of burial grounds was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). Again we were told that this was a model Clause, but if so, why does it not apply to Ryde or to Sandown-Shanklin? The Bill seems to have been spatchcocked together in a rush, and I am wondering whether, in our desire to do something about a serious problem, we are allowing the Bill to slip through without real scrutiny. The same applies to hackney carriage provisions—there are exemptions there.

One of two things asked for are rather peculiar. For example, it is to be forbidden to take photographs for sale unless one is either a professional photographer or engaged by a newspaper or periodical. One can imagine circumstances where this could be quite nonsensical. Someone on holiday might take a snap of someone who had escaped from Parkhurst. The photograph might be printed in a newspaper and he might receive a fee and the prisoner might be apprehended as a result of the photo- graph. Yet the person who took the photograph might be liable to a £20 fine. It might seem a trivial point, but some of these provisions seem to be chucked in on the argument that, "We have a Bill going through Parliament; let us throw in a lot of extraneous stuff and get rid of it all at once". I am anxious to help the hon. Gentleman and if I could get assurances on these points I would be grateful.

12.1 a.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) moved the Second Reading in a forceful and at times aggressive speech. He supports all, or nearly all, the major parts of the Bill and is prepared to defend it as it goes along.

His advocacy is shown by the number of his hon. Friends whom he has been able to provide in the Chamber and around it at this time of night, and on that he should be congratulated. I think that he tended to assume that anyone who happened to be on the Opposition benches tonight was automatically opposed to him. That was my impression of part of his speech and it may be that more of us would move towards the views of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). There is more agreement between the two sides of the House on this than is apparent in the debate, but debates always emphasis differences.

If we can look at this as reasonable men looking for a reasonable solution to a particular problem and not as whether we are pro-pop or anti-pop, permissive or anti-permissive, law-and-order or reactionary, there are hopes for the Bill. I should declare a personal interest which might help the hon. Gentleman. I am going to the Isle of Wight with my family for our holiday if we ever get the Industrial Relations Bill through this Session, and I hope that there will be no pop festival there between 9th and 23rd September.

There is actually no mention of pop festivals in the Bill and the second interest I have to declare is that of my 16-year old daughter, Deborah Diane, who advises me on these matters.

The third interest I have to declare is a constituency interest. When the last festival was thought to be a financial failure—I was surprised by that—it was suggested that the next one should be on Aintree race course, so Lancashire County Council and Liverpool City Corporation would have been involved. This is pathfinder legislation. In different circumstances in a different place this could have been a Lancashire County Council and Liverpool Corporation Bill.

There is interest in pathfinder legislation of any kind. I would have preferred this to be a Home Office Bill. Indeed, it should perhaps be not only a Home Office Bill but a Department of the Environment Bill because it seems to me that some of the problems could have been dealt with under the planning procedure, whereas they are placed under the aegis of the Home Office entirely. I do not, for example, like the idea that any appeal against the Isle of Wight County Council should go to quarter sessions. In planning proposals, appeals might well have gone to the Department of the Environment through a public inquiry. These are possibilities. I do not believe that only the Home Office should be involved. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight will have to do a lot of home work for his constituents, although he seems to have been doing that for a long time on television and elsewhere on this matter.

I notice that there is a provision for four months' notice to be given. If the Bill becomes an Act by June or July, and the four months' notice provision remains, I cannot see a pop festival or any other kind of assembly taking place in the Isle of Wight in November, despite all its advantages of climate. Some assurance will have to be given between now and later stages that, if the Bill receives a Second Reading, the Isle of Wight County Council will at least talk to the promoters of any proposed assembly to see what understanding can be reached, otherwise this will clearly be seen to be simply a Measure to prevent a festival taking place this year.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want the House to be misled into believing that the Bill could become law in time to apply to any festival to be held on the Isle of Wight this year. The Bill has yet to go through its other stages in this House, then go to the other place, and come back here, perhaps with Amendments. I can assure my hon. Friend that if Clause 5 as drafted, with these wide powers, remains unamended there will continue to be vigorous opposition, to such an extent that it will be impossible for the Bill to be on the Statute Book to deal with any festival this year.

Mr. Ogden

I started by asking one question. My hon. Friend has provided me with a number of others. My hon. Friend has emphasised the difficulties that can arise in legislation of this sort. I join those of my hon. Friends who have said that this is not a one-Clause Bill. There is a great deal of legislation in the Bill. We hope that those who have the fortune or misfortune to serve on the Committee will ask many questions about almost every Clause.

Clauses 18 and 19 concerning aid to industry are important provisions. If this is pathfinder legislation to provide other county councils with the opportunity of helping industry in their own areas—lame duck industries or not, Conservative-controlled councils or not—let it go through. It might have been better not in the Bill among all these other things, but it is in.

This is not a public festival Bill. It is a public assembly Bill. As such, Part II could be applied to all sorts of meetings held for all sorts of purposes, whether political or religious. All-night vigils would be covered. Shepherds guarding their sheep at night might have come within the provisions of the Bill if it had been in force 2,000 years ago.

I find the terms "public order" and "public safety" disturbing. They mean different things to different people. I have no complaint against the dictionary definitions of the terms, but if used with too much emphasis by some hon. Members opposite they cause me concern. Some remarks made by hon. Members opposite about a neo-Bacchanalian orgy do not do justice to the young people who went to the festival. I was, in an intervention in his speech, a little critical of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) when he was making a comparison. I admit to my hon. Friend now that there are comparisons between the old Methodist revival and what happened at the festival. There was certainly a pilgrimage from every part of the United Kingdom to the festival. There was a degree of unity. In my own church there is a certain amount of jealously that the churches as churches cannot produce this kind of reaction in young people.

What happens when 40,000 or 150,000 people congregate together depends on what one is looking for. The newspapers and television media had to look hard for something with which to fill the front pages. It is my impression that they were looking hard. There were things at the festival which excited comment and criticism. I did not like law and order being maintained by a group of young people called "Hell's Angels". The difficulties that arise when the police have to try to maintain law and order in such circumstances are tremendous.

Mr. Driberg

In view of what my hon. Friend said about the Press, may I point out that at least one newspaper offered money to various young people—young girls, and so on—to strip and dive into the pool and that most of them refused to do so?

Mr. Ogden

We have the difficulties caused by holding large assemblies in certain places which large numbers of people attend for a special purpose. With all its advantages, the Isle of Wight has difficulties because of the ferry. It has difficulties because it is not normally the kind of area which caters for a tremendous number of people coming at one time. It might be that the organisers of such a festival would be better advised to hold it on the mainland.

What has not been said in this House is that someone on the Isle of Wight wanted it there, and someone there seems to have made a large profit out of it. If there were difficulties with farmers, it was because of the permission and consent of someone and the profit made by someone on the island, apart from the organisers.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight will probably see the Bill receive a Second Reading. If the approach from him is simply one concerned with the difficulties which arise when a large number of people meet for a purpose in any one area, with respect for the rights and responsibilities of others, I do not think that he will have much trouble. But he may have to change slightly from time to time and make certain concessions in return for the passing of the Bill.

12.11 a.m.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

This has been an absorbing debate so far, and it has been interesting to hear the encouragement coming from both sides of the House to the Government to bring forward comprehensive legislation.

It is clear that hon. Members on both sides are not happy about many of the provisions in the Bill, especially Clause 5, being the subject of a local Act. I confess that, having been concerned with the Industrial Relations Bill for a good part of the week and finding that very difficult to understand, I have had only a short time in which to consider this Measure, and it raises many questions in my mind. If they are to be answered, I am afraid that I shall have to speak for a considerable time, which is unfortunate.

It would be useful if, at this stage, we heard from the Government whether they are prepared to consider some of the points in the Bill and to bring forward comprehensive legislation of their own to deal with public order and public safety. That would be much more satisfactory than merely sending advice to the Committee which is to consider the present Bill. The Government should undertake to examine the whole basis of public order, not only in the Isle of Wight but elsewhere, to see what changes if any are needed, and any changes should be considered seriously first by the Government and then at length and at the proper time by this House.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I agree with my hon. Friend. If the Minister of State were to make a clear statement on the exact proposals in respect of Clause 5 that the Home Office will be presenting to the Committee considering the Bill, that might allay our fears. In that event, we could allow the Second Reading to take place without further debate and consider any further matters on Report. In the absence of a statement of the Government's intentions, we are in the difficult position of having to probe the Bill at great length.

Mr. Stoddart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making the point so directly. Perhaps I was being devious about it, and it may be that the Minister of State did not understand my point. My hon. Friend has now put the matter clearly, and I hope that we shall have some response from the Minister.

A number of the Bill's provisions are simply not suitable subjects for local Act powers, quite apart from the provisions of Clause 5. However, before I come to those, there is one small point at the beginning of the Bill which puzzles me. It refers to the publication of notices having to be made in the local Press. Why only in the local Press? Not everybody reads the local Press. It is and has been the custom and practice to publish notices concerning important acts which local authorities intend to carry out in other places than in the local Press. The local Press should not have this monopoly.

Why not publish notices on the town hall, in post offices, on lamp posts in the streets? In this way a wider range of people is more likely to know what the local council is about.

Mr. Michael Cocks

May I ask my hon. Friend not to make too much of this point, because it is unfair to single out the Isle of Wight Council. In fact, the statutory provisions for the publication of notices for quite serious changes in the local environment—roadworks, and so on—are quite inadequate. It is the national legislation which needs to be looked at in this instance.

Mr. Stoddart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. This prediliction by local authorities merely to inform people through the local Press is going on up and down the country. Indeed, we should look into it and see whether we can widen the publication of notices of important acts which local authorities intend to carry out.

Clause 5 is concerned with the regulation of public order and safety. I believe that there have been many greatly exaggerated accounts of what went on at the Isle of Wight last year.

Sir C. Taylor


Mr. Stoddart

There is an hon. Gentleman who is shouting "Phooey". A little while ago he was shouting "Fornication". It is that kind of ill-advised and, indeed, ill-informed remark which gave the pop festival a bad name and created a slander on many thousands of young people who took part in the festival.

Mr. Ronald Bray (Rossendale)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Stoddart

I think, to be fair to other hon. Members, I should say that I am referring to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) who earlier made some very nasty remarks in this House before he left for more spirited pastures. It is perhaps unfortunate that he has returned.

It is interesting to read a letter from a Mrs. E. Gunston written just after the pop festival last year: As a resident of the Isle of Wight, and, incidentally, an education welfare officer for the Inner London Education Authority, I would like to correct the impression that many readers of the national press must have got from reports on the pop festival. I was sitting on Desolation Hill from about 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and at no time did I observe any violence, fornication or unseemly behaviour of any sort, anywhere. On the contrary, the gigantic crowd was remarkably well behaved, friendly and generous. Moreover a friend of my daughter who lost his wallet in the arena containing £19 and his tickets recovered it next day from the police. It had been handed in intact by one of these so-called undesirable members of society. It seems a pity that so much of the reporting should have been so inaccurate, as well as so slanted, about the behaviour of the vast majority of the audience. In fact some of the comments made by both local figures and press reporters suggest to me 'Honi soit qui mal y pence'." That is a letter from a lady observer of the scene. She did not observe any fornication. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Eastbourne was present at the festival, so perhaps at some convenient time he would like to withdraw the unwarranted remarks which he has been making all evening. I believe that the police themselves described the remarks which were being made about the people attending the festival as grossly exaggerated, and a number paid tribute to the behaviour of those people. So before we criticise, we should get the facts right.

Mr. Woodnutt

The hon. Member is off beam in this regard. I am not criticising people's morals or drug taking. I have presented the Bill in a restrained way, I could easily take issue on some of these points, but I do not choose to do so. All we are concerned about is public health, safety, and means of access to make life more bearable not just for local residents but for the people who attend these festivals. We are not concerned with moral issues in this.

Mr. Stoddart

I am well aware of that and would join my hon. Friends in congratulating the hon. Member on the manner in which he presented the Bill. It is unfortunate that, at the time, many of his hon. Friends gave quite a different impression. As I sought to show, one hon. Member, the hon. Member for Eastbourne, has been shouting, "Fornication"—that seems to be the only word he can utter—across the Chamber tonight. I hope that the hon. Member who has assiduously presented the Bill, will understand our difficulty.

It is also right to say that the pop festivals themselves have been misrepresented in the Press. He must forgive us for thinking, before we heard his speech, tonight, that the reason for the Bill was to restrict pop festivals. I hope that he will forgive me for continuing on these lines, because this is an important point.

In the original Bill, Clause 29—although it has now been withdrawn—would have provided for a landing charge, of all things. Can the hon. Member wonder why people, particularly outside the House, went in fear and trembling that the Isle of Wight was about to declare U.D.I.? Clause 29 appears to be evidence of a certian mentality on the part of those who originally drafted the Bill.

Mr. Deakins

Could not the intention of the promoters be gauged from the inclusion of Clause 29, although it was subsequently withdrawn? We are surely entitled to assume that the spirit of Clause 29 is the spirit of virtually the whole of Part II of the Bill, and not just of Clause 5.

Mr. Stoddart

That is absolutely true, and I thank my hon. Friend for reinforcing the point.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)

I sail in Lymington, and I saw many of the motor boats which brought some of the people back from the festival. Are we so right to attack landing charges? I wonder what sort of safety devices were on those boats and whether we should not think that the ferries operated by British Railways are the proper way for people to go to and from the Isle of Wight.

Mr. Stoddart

That may be reasonable, but I am not sure that it would be dealt with by landing charges. The safety of boats is covered by other legislation and, if that is insufficient, it should be strengthened. But it should not be dealt with by imposing a new charge the intention of which is to restrict the movement of people within a particular area.

Mr. Michael Cocks

A petition was received by the promoters from the Cowes, Sandown and Shanklin local authorities protesting, in terms similar to those being adduced by my hon. Friend, against this toll. This is another indication of the slipshod way in which this Measure has been thrown together.

Mr. Woodnutt

This is all unnecessary because we have withdrawn the Clause. However, this provision was inserted not to deter people but to raise revenue. That was the idea of the 2s. per head charge. I have explained that, unlike every other county in Britain, we have no trunk road. This has nothing to do with pop or deterring people from coming in.

Mr. Ogden

It would have applied to every holiday maker, and that would have been against the interest of the county council.

Mr. Stoddart

I am obliged for my hon. Friend's intervention.

We return to the main point, which is that the Government should say, "It is nonsense to try to do this by way of a local Measure". If we need new legislation to control assemblies, the Government should introduce it. It has been my impression—I hope I am wrong—that the thinking and motives behind the Bill stem not from the ordinary people of the Isle of Wight but from a section of them, perhaps mainly the golfing and yachting fraternity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I am entitled to my view and if hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree with me, they should say so and not shout "Rubbish" like animals in a zoo.

I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite are making so much fuss about these pop festivals and are giving the impression that we must deter these youngsters from enjoying what they like doing, which is making music, congregating together and doing their thing. There is precious little for young people in this country to do. The traditional forms of entertainment have one by one been ending. The cinemas are closing because they are no longer profitable. The dance halls and the ten-pin bowling alleys have been closing because they are no longer profitable.

Because youngsters want to congregate together, want to enjoy themselves together, and want to enjoy music, there are many people—a good number of them are to be found in the Tory ranks —who want to stop them doing just that. I am glad to say that I live in a town which would welcome a pop festival. Indeed, it intends to have a festival in 1971, and part of it will include a two-day pop festival. We shall be delighted to have the young people come to the town to enjoy themselves. We shall welcome them, and they will be given every facility for enjoying themselves.

There is far too much criticism of young people today. Every opportunity is taken to "bash" them. Hon. Members opposite have become adept at it, as was shown earlier in the debate. All their predatory instincts were aroused— "Bash the young. Keep 'em down". For my part, I believe that the young people of today are good people. Many of their elders, particularly the hon. Member for Eastbourne, could take a good example from them. In the Isle of Wight and at these pop festivals, the young people, "doing their own thing", as I say, usually drink Coca-Cola or water. They do not imbibe stronger spirits which, perhaps, might make them say and do things which they would regret later.

Mr. Wellbeloved

In the cold print of HANSARD.

Mr. Stoddart

In the cold print of HANSARD, as my hon. Friend says. Let me turn to the question of coffee bars and Clause 7. It may well be a good idea to license coffee bars, to put them under regulation, and to make them register with the local authority. But, again, this is a matter for national legislation. If coffee bars need to be further regulated, they ought to be regulated not only in the Isle of Wight but in other parts of the country as well. If it be necessary to have new regulations for the good management of coffee bars, for their cleanliness and sanitation, it should be done on a national basis so that the same regulations apply throughout the country.

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I have been interested in a good deal of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I am wondering whether he has served on the Committee on a Private Bill or what experience he has of these matters. Almost every point he has raised is Committee work, that is, material which the House entrusts to a Committee. Passing references are interesting, but the hon. Gentleman seems to be making a long speech about Committee points. I hope that he will not think me discourteous, but I just do not understand.

Mr. Stoddart

At the beginning of my speech, I warned the House that I would take a little time. I am well aware of the Committee stage. Although I have not long been a Member of the House, I have bothered to find out the procedure of the House and I know that there is a Committee stage. Tonight, however, I have to vote on Second Reading, and I am not prepared to vote on Second Reading, which concerns the principles of the Bill, until certain matters are clarified. One of those matters concerns the regulation of coffee bars, and there are other matters, too, which I want clarified. I hope, therefore, that we can get clarification of these points.

I notice in Clause 15 a matter of principle. It enables the council to take an equity holding in a private company. What does this mean? Does it mean that the council will be able to take an equity holding in an hotel company, for example, or an entertainment centre? If that is what it means, we want to know, because other local authorities may well want the same sort of powers. Other local authorities might want to have an equity holding in Barclays Bank if they can do so or, indeed, to set up their own bank. I know of many local authorities which would like to set up their own banks. We are entitled to an explanation of exactly what the Clause means and whether the Government intend that it should extend to other local authorities if they agree to it in the Isle of Wight Bill.

Clause 18 provides power to give guarantees and financial assistance to industry. Hon. Members will agree that this is an important point of principle on to which other local authorities might wish to batten. We are, therefore, entitled to an explanation of what it means and whether the powers will extend to all local authorities in due course.

I come to Clause 21 concerning the regulation of access to grass verges and trees in highways. What does this mean? Does it mean that the Isle of Wight local authority will now have power to prevent children, however undesirable it might seem, from playing in the street? Under the Bill, that would appear to be the case. It would also seem that the Isle of Wight could prohibit people from walking on grass verges. These are points on which we need clarification, and before I vote for the Bill I want clarification of them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barking referred to the levelling of graves and the removal of memorials. Under the Bill, the county council seeks the power of three weeks' notice to level a grave or remove a memorial. I am convinced that even hon. Members opposite would not vote for a Clause of that sort. I think that every hon. Member would agree that relatives are entitled to be sought and given reasonable notice. Some people go on holiday for three weeks. Some hon. Members opposite go out of the country for holidays of six weeks. How would they feel if during that period a memorial had been removed and the grave of one of their dear departed relatives had been levelled off?

Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

As a matter of personal convenience, may I be assured that the hon. Gentleman will still be speaking at one o'clock, because I should like to have a cup of coffee? I find his speech so utterly boring that I need to leave the Chamber.

An. Hon. Member

Good riddance.

Mr. Stoddart

The hon. Gentleman is Perfectly entitled to do exactly what he pleases.


Order. No—within the rules of order only.

Mr. Stoddart

I think that it would be in order for the hon. Gentleman to go out now and have a cup of coffee. I must confess that I do not care whether he comes back.

Clause 27 deals with costs, charges and expenses of this Act". I do not know whether the people of the Isle of Wight appreciate what they could mean to them in money terms. I had the experience of helping with a private Bill, the Reading and Berkshire Water Bill. The ratepayers of Reading and Berkshire had to fork out £70,000 as the cost of that Bill. I have no idea what the cost of this Bill will be, but I imagine that it will run into many tens of thousands of pounds. The people of the Isle of Wight are entitled to an estimate of exactly what it will cost them.

Clause 31 interests me as well, particularly on behalf of the people employed by local authorities. Subsection (1)(d) says that an officer doing certain things outside his normal duties should not have the remuneration for them taken into account for superannuation purposes. This is a very important matter. Specific things are mentioned in subsection (1)(a), (b) and (c), such as a civil defence instructor, but what of the town clerk, for example, who acts as the returning officer at a General Election? Perhaps he is covered under other legislation. What happens if he acts as a clerk for a joint authority? These are all matters needing clarification. It is a great pity that the Government have not said that they are prepared to see the provisions of the Bill made provisions in a reasonable Measure brought forward my them.

Clause 32 is entitled Suprannuation benefits in certain cases of premature retirement. Here the county council is not taking sufficient powers. It might seem peculiar for me to say that, bearing in mind that I have been saying so far that perhaps it has taken too many, but it might be in the interests of the Isle of Wight to encourage a person to retire at 55, for the sake of greater efficiency, by offering him the pension that he would have earned by the age of 65. Such a provision is not in the Bill, and perhaps it should be.

Clause 45 enables committees which have delegated powers further to delegate those powers to sub-committees upon which will serve people who are not members of council—in other words, co-opted members. Because a subcommittee has delegated powers from the council, the will of the council could very well be frustrated by people who are not answerable to either the council or the public at large, who have had no part in electing them.

I am well aware that many hon. Members were not interested in the points which I had to make. But when hon. Members are asked to vote for a Bill of this sort, it is necessary that they should do their duty as Members of Parliament and, before voting, ascertain exactly the meaning of what they are voting upon. That is what I have endeavoured to do.

I hope that the Government will consider seriously the issues raised in the Bill. I reiterate the hope that they will take heed of what has been said tonight. There are serious issues involved. I hope that they will not make the mistake of letting this local Bill go to a Committee, and of trying to get an enactment for a particular area. A general Act is needed. Therefore, I hope that the Government will heed the advice which they have received from the House and indicate that they are prepared to do something along these lines.

12.47 a.m.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

I am sorry to be speaking at this late hour of the night. Every time I speak in the House it appears to be in the small hours. Perhaps that is one of the disadvantages of being a back bencher. The major debates are always taken up by more important people, such as Privy Councillors.

Tonight we are debating not merely a minor piece of Government legislation but a very important piece of local authority legislation—

Mr. Woodnutt

It is not Government legislation.

Mr. Deakins

A very important piece of local authority legislation—which presumes to take far more powers than are either good for it to exercise by itself or which ought to be exercised by any authority in the country other than the Government of the day.

This is an important debate and it has been recognised as such by the Government in the terms of the Motion which you, Mr. Speaker, read at 10 o'clock, which was moved by a Government Whip. On opposed Private Business it is rather unusual to move a Motion at 10 o'clock allowing unrestricted discussion. Although as a new Member I know little of parliamentary procedure, I understand that this is the effect of the Motion accepted at 10 o'clock.

Had the Government, and perhaps the promoters of the Bill, not been seized of the importance of the Bill, they might well have moved a different Motion, one perhaps restricting discussion to one or two hours after 10 o'clock. Therefore, in view of the importance of the debate, recognised by the Government in the Motion, which could have been a different Motion, I hope that there will be no attempt to move the Closure of the debate while there are still Members present wishing to discuss this very important matter.

We must first deal with the principles behind the Bill. I endorse the opinions of all hon. Members who have congratulated the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) on the very moderate way in which he moved the Second Reading. Nevertheless, moderation in moving it is only one thing and it must not detract from the fact that the Bill is an immoderate measure in terms of one or two Clauses to which I and some of my hon. Friends take exception in principle.

The hon Member for the Isle of Wight said that local authorities must have powers to deal with large assemblies of people, meaning in this context pop festivals. Everyone fully accepts that there is a need for statutory national powers if there is a problem, and judging from the remarks of hon. Members, those who attended the festival in one capacity or another, those who read about it and those who quoted letters, there has obviously been a problem to some extent. I can sympathise with the promoters in seeking to bring forward some sort of restrictions on health grounds over pop festivals, but we are entitled to look not only at the intentions of the promoters but at the wording of the legislation and the implications of principle for the rest of the country and this House.

Mr. Driberg

Despite what the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, who is not now in his place, said about overriding health considerations, the medical officer of health for the island, who presumably knows at least as much as he does, says that those considerations were greatly exaggerated and that there is no real health risk at all.

Mr. Deakins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I had not appreciated that point which, if it is true, and I accept that it is, rather undermines the case put forward by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight. These matters should be dealt with by national legislation, by us in this House, and fully debated as public legislation. The very title of Part II, "Public Order and Public Safety", is a misnomer because a local authority Bill ought not to be concerned with wider issues of public order and safety. They should be a matter for government legislation. I am sure that if the Minister could assure us that even at this late hour the Government would change their attitude on Clause 5, many of our fears would be allayed. In default of such an assurance I must stress some of the matters of principle which make this Bill objectionable and one against which I shall vote.

The first principle is that we must avoid having one law for one part of the country and another law for the Isle of Wight. I exclude Scotland for historical reasons, but I am thinking of the United Kingdom generally. If Clause 5 is not substantially altered in Committee, if it gets there, we shall have one law for the Isle of Wight dealing with public order and safety and a different one for the rest of the country.

In an intervention I referred to the intention of the promoters. We are entitled to deduce the intention of the promoters from what is in the Bill, even if subsequently, following various forms of public and private protests, they have seen fit to withdraw a particular Clause. There is no doubt that had the original Clause 29 remained there would have been a minor barrier between the Isle of Wight and the rest of the country and it would have been a major precedent in any form of legislation which could have led to other councils praying it in aid when they brought forward Bills to impose charges on people entering their area. I do not want to labour the point because the promoters have wisely withdrawn the Clause. Nevertheless there still remains sufficient in Clause 5 and the other Clauses to suggest that the Isle of Wight is seeking powers of control of assembly and of people in public places which do not apply anywhere in the rest of the country and which raise these issues of principle.

My second point of principle is this: most areas, and indeed the nation, want to encourage tourism and visitors. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight acknowledged with pleasure that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) was going there on holiday. Tourism is increasing. There are various forms of tourism and various types of visitor. My hon. Friends and I suspect that the purpose of Clause 5 is to make it extremely difficulty for certain types of visitor to get to the island for certain purposes while not putting any obstacles in the way of other people going there for other purposes.

One is entitled to ask what the intentions of the promoters are in seeking this distinction, which I regard as illegitimate. Hon. Members opposite and perhaps some of my hon. Friend support views which have been expressed from the Government benches. This is not a party political matter. A number of hon. Members on both sides would, I think, say that the distinction is because the people are young or because the visitors to pop festvals do not spend very much money. It might be argued—and I would not dissent from this argument—that perhaps they spend less than they cost. In other words, it is a negative drain on the Isle of Wight's balance of payments. It may be that hon. Members on both sides object to the people who go to pop festivals because a minority of them are, or appear to be, dirty and scruffy. This offends the susceptibilities of many ordinary people.

I accept these points. But are these features of young people and people who go to pop festivals illegal? They may be considered undesirable, but surely as long as they are not illegal these features should not motivate the promoters to try to restrict pop festivals in such a way that it will be difficult for the promoters of pop festivals on the Isle of Wight to operate them in future.

If Clause 5 goes through, I am sure that there will be a rush to include provisions similar to these in every succeeding Private Bill from a major local authority. Therefore, even if the Government are not stirred into taking action on this occasion, they may soon be forced to do so by the appearance of a Clause of the type of Clause 5 in other private legislation.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

I have been trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I cannot do so. First he says that he believes in tourism and then he says that these pop fans are a negative drain. It seems to me that the local authority in the Isle of Wight has a right to want to encourage a profitable enterprise in its island and not an unprofitable one. The hon. Gentleman's argument is a total contradiction which takes us absolutely nowhere.

Mr. Deakins

I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. I am completely in favour of tourism, particularly in view of its effect on the overall balance of payments. But pop festivals probably do not bring the money which ordinary holidaymakers bring, in terms of per capita spending. That is probably one of the basic reasons behind the promotion of Clause 5. The authority does not want people on the island who do not have much money to spend.

That is an even more important principle, because it is not just pop fans who do not have much money to spend. An ordinary person with a large family who cannot afford a continental holiday, even the cheaper sort which it is possible to get now, may want to take his family to the Isle of Wight and he may not spend very much more than the average pop fan while he is there. Surely it cannot be said that the Isle of Wight does not want people who are unwilling to spend a certain amount of money on the island. That would be a most undesirable principle for one part of the country to adopt in relation to people travelling to it from another part of the country.

My next point of principle has been reasonably well covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), and that is the right of free assembly. I stress that it is the right of free assembly for peaceful purposes. If there is a right of free assembly for political discussion and for religious meetings, why should not there be a right of free assembly for enjoyment? Surely we are not so staid as to suggest that free assembly for purposes other than enjoyment is all right but that free assembly for enjoyment is not.

I do not want to follow the mystical remarks of some hon. Members about whether a pop festival is a shared religious experience as I have no personal experience of a pop festival, but all the reports of pop festivals have stressed their peaceful nature. Since the war what more peaceful gatherings of large numbers of people have there been than pop festivals? I have considerable experience of football matches, where there are large gatherings of people, not all of whom are young, where there is a great deal of violence.

I fully understand that a certain degree of supervision for public health purposes is desirable, but that supervision should not be motivated by fears which are groundless. If law breaking occurs, that is a matter to be dealt with by the police under the existing law.

My next point of principle against the Bill is that it is a Private Bill which seeks powers to interfere in a commercial contract between two parties, the promoters of the pop festival and the owner or occupier of the land. In any commercial contract, damage to third parties is actionable under civil law. Any damage caused to third parties as a result of breaking the criminal law is a matter for the police. In both cases there is a remedy. The argument for the other side is that existing remedies cannot always be enforced, and I accept that, but since when have remedies provided by Parliament, both civil and criminal, always been capable of being enforced? People cannot always get the damages they want. While farmers may not be able to sue the promoters of the festival for damage to their land because the promoters have gone bankrupt, they nevertheless have a legal remedy. The fact that it cannot be enforced is no reason for introducing new legal remedies, backed by a local authority, which are not available elsewhere. A Private Bill is the wrong place for this sort of interference. I do not want to draw my analogy here too wide. The principle which we are discussing is this; if I were to hold a party in my house and garden and the local council had the power to say, "You are inviting too many people for the sanitary arrangements, the size of garden and the number of rooms you have", would not that be considered by the House an intolerable invasion of liberty?

Mr. Woodnutt

In this excellent parallel which the hon. Member is suggesting, is he intending to invite 200,000 people to his house?

Mr. Deakins

Of course I am not. I was going to make the point that I should not be so foolish as to invite on to my own property more people that I could successfully cope with. This is an important principle. But surely in the first instance the duty here lies with the farmer—I think that it is a farmer in this case in the Isle of Wight—or the owner of the land who has entered into a commercial contract to lease his land for a period for the purpose of a pop festival, leaving the arrangements to the promoters.

It may be said that he may be greedy and is not worrying about the number of people who come on to the land, and therefore, there are legitimate grounds for complaint. But those grounds for complaint can be dealt with by existing law, and if it is felt that existing civil and criminal remedies are either inadequate or cannot be adequately enforced even if they are available, we should be thinking in terms of national legislation and not local legislation.

I want to say something about the right to deposit and particularly the provision concerning the extraordinary expenses of the Isle of Wight County Council in, so to speak, clearing up after a pop festival. To use my earlier analogy again, it would be as if my local council were to charge me extra on my personal rates for the task of emptying dustbins full of bottles and so on and sweeping up afterwards.

Compensation is a very important principle, but although it is enshrined in much of English law and in the law of the United Kingdom, compensation can always be obtained by the parties whose interests are damaged. I return to my other analogy, that of crowds at football matches. It has been apparent for years that some young supporters on their way to and from matches damage local property. They not only damage trains but smash shop windows, annoy passers-by and create as much if not more nuisance in a short time on a Saturday afternoon than the whole of the pop festival. Yet there has been no suggestion in this House that such activity by young hooligans at football matches needs any permissive remedies for local authorities whose ratepayers have been adversely affected. It has been said that we need to enforce the existing law in this situation more strictly, and I agree. The police do their best. It is also true that local shop keepers have a remedy at law if the offenders are caught. The offenders can be sued for civil damages as well as be punished under the criminal law. The same is true of the Isle of Wight.

Mr. Gorst

The line of the hon. Gentleman's argument leads us to suppose that what he is saying is that two wrongs make a right and that just because we do nothing about the ravages of football crowds we should do nothing about the wrongs and ravages of these trampling elephants who come to the Isle of Wight. Surely that cannot be a tenable argument.

Mr. Deakins

The hon. Gentleman has missed my point. I am not arguing that we should do nothing. I say that, if there is a problem of the behaviour of large crowds injuring people other than the promoters of the event, sporting or otherwise, if there is damage and if there are complaints, and if the existing law is inadequate, the existing law of the country should be altered and it should not be done in private legislation.

There are a number of undesirable features about Clause 5, connected first with subsection (7) and the deposit of money. I shall not make Committee points, because I am arguing objections in principle as a reason why, unless we are given an undertaking that Clause 5 will be substantially amended, I personally will vote against the Bill. Subsection (7) talks about the deposit of an amount of money with the local authority and also talks about a bond with sufficient surety. How can a bond be fixed in advance to cover extraordinary expenses incurred or likely to be incurred as a result of over-attendance at pop festivals —over and above the number the promoters had indicated would attend the festival? How can that amount be fixed in advance? Is it not in the nature of a penalty rather than a genuine attempt to quantify damages?

Is it not a fundamental principle of at least English law that we do not like penalty Clauses, particularly wide-ranging penalty Clauses which give one party, in this case the local authority, tremendous latitude to fix whatever amount it likes? The local authority, if it does not like pop festivals, as I fully accept that it does not like pop festivals, for reasons which have been gone into by hon. Members on both sides, may legitimately say under subsection (7), "We are likely to incur enormous extraordinary expenses. Therefore, we will ask for a bond of £50,000". I pluck a figure out of the air. People have talked of very large sums of money this evening and I have no doubt that that is the sort of figure the county council might reasonably think itself entitled to. Yet is not this the sort of thing which would deter almost any promoter of any festival anywhere? If we want to prevent pop festivals, why not let us be open about it and pass a law prohibiting large assemblies of young people from assembling for purposes of entertainment and enjoyment only?

This is an extraordinary power in subsection (7). I personally think that this is one of the most objectionable features of the whole Bill.

Subsection (8) provides a right of appeal. That right of appeal, however, is to a local court—a court of quarter sessions of the county. With great respect to the gentlemen who will be the judges at this court of quarter sessions, is it not a safe assumption to make that, when an aggrieved complainant—a pop festival organiser—says to them that the county council has asked for far too much money and that it is unreasonable, they will side with the county council?

Mr. Sharples

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that a court of quarter sessions would not act in a judicial capacity in a matter of this kind? This is a very serious allegation indeed which the hon. Gentleman is making. I hope that he will withdraw it.

Mr. Deakins

I will certainly withdraw, I am not making any allegation about a court of law acting in its judicial capacity. I am talking about matters of fact. The court will have to consider matters of fact brought to it by the pop promoter and by the Isle of Wight County Council.

Mr. Woodnutt

On a point of order. Quite apart from the Bill, I think that the hon. Gentleman has made a serious allegation about a court of quarter sessions. He should withdraw.

Mr. Deakins

I am trying to make a point—I hope that I can do that and keep in order without making allegations which I certainly would not want to make—that I do not regard this as a safeguard for the promoters concerned. I do not think that it is an adequate safeguard. I leave it at that. I hope that I am in order in making that point.

My next point concerns Clause 5(9), which refers to the management of an assembly. Here, the Bill is very loosely drafted—

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about trying to deal with the principles of the Bill and not with Committee points. However, I assure him that the points that he is making are Committee points. The Committee can strike out a whole Clause, and Committees have done so in previous Private Bills. The hon. Gentleman is, in fact, dealing with Committee points.

Mr. Deakins

I take that point. Certainly I do not wish to go into great detail. I am merely trying to illustrate my reasons for thinking that the Bill is neither moderate nor well drafted.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am sure that my hon. Friend will not allow himself to be put off by the strictures of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden). The points that my hon. Friend is adducing are quite in order, otherwise Mr. Deputy Speaker would call him to order. My hon. Friend is attempting to influence hon. Members with his argument, and I hope that he will not be deterred by the unwarranted remarks of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Deakins

I am a newcomer to this House, and I am always grateful for the advice of more senior hon. Members. Certainly I have no wish to put myself outside the rules of order. I am sure that I shall be pulled up by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker if I trespass.

Mr. Gulden

I made no reference to the rules of order, and I do not suggest that the hon. Gentleman has stepped outside them. But he said earlier that he did not intend to deal with Committee points, and I wished merely to tell him that his points were Committee points.

Mr. Deakins

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are certain points which are Committee points but which are also points of genuine principle.

Subsection (9) concerns the management of an assembly. Paragraph (c) says: Any person concerned in the management of an assembly who does certain things or permits them to be done †shall be guilty of an offence". At a pop festival, who are the managers? Are they merely the promoters, in which case no one will weep crocodile tears for them? Are they the stewards at such a function, performing a useful and valuable public service in trying to ensure that people behave properly and preserve the rules of law and order, public decency, public safety, and so on? If the stewards in control of such a large assembly can be guilty of an offence, where are we going? The paragraph says that if they have reasonable cause to suspect that the terms, conditions or requirements laid down by the county council are not being met, they shall be guilty of an offence. Is not that a very widely drawn power for any local authority? Is not it a power that we should look at askance in a Government Bill dealing with public order? Do not we have the right to draw attention to the dangers to civil liberties?

The wording is so loose that anyone associated with a pop festival might find himself being responsible to the county council, and being pursued in the courts and even found guilty of an offence. That is one good reason for opposing this Clause as a whole, unless we have some assurance about the future of it in Committee.

I want also to draw attention to the fact that the burden of proof in paragraph (c) falls on the person against whom proceedings are brought. He has to prove that he has used all due diligence. Does not that run counter to the English legal tradition that the burden of proof should fall on the prosecution and not on the person accused of an offence?

How is a person accused of an offence at a pop festival, a steward, a normal person trying to do his best for purposes which I am sure would appeal to the promoters of the Bill, to be proceeded against in a court of law when his defence has to be that he must prove that he has used all due diligence? I should think that this was an intolerable interference with liberty.

I turn to subsection (9,d) on fines, There has been a certain amount of debate about the reason, the rationale, for a fine of £1,000 per day on pop festival promoters. There are two points of view. Either this fine is too large or it is too small.

I should like to explain. If pop promoters are making tens of thousands of pounds profits out of pop festivals, then I think that a fine of £1,000 a day for four days is a small price to pay for the very much larger profit that they will get. On the other hand, if pop promoters go bankrupt, because they are not very good managers and know very little about the management of large enterprises or large crowds of people, such fines will be too large. They will be pointless because, by the time the fine is imposed, the promoter will be bankrupt. I do not know how a bankrupt promoter can be expected to pay a fine of £4,000 or £5,000.

I should now like to draw attention to subsection (12), which refers to an assembly of more than 5,000 people. This is an important point of principle, and it is also concerned with the drafting. Here is a lophole which I do not think the promoters have spotted. We are referring here to public meetings of more than 5,000 people at night in an open space.

Suppose the promoters expect less than 5,000 people and they inform the local authority accordingly. In that event, many of the precautions in Clause 5 which the local authority would normally take cannot be taken, because it would be an assembly of people not caught by the provisions of the Clause as it would consist of less than 5,000.

The promoters might make that statement because they were ignorant, because they were incompetent, or perhaps because they wanted to pull the wool over the eyes of the local authority. But, for whatever reason they made that statement that less than 5,000 people would be attending, it appears that the Isle of Wight County Council would not be able to operate the powers contained in Clause 5. I hope that in Committee this point, at least, will be looked at very closely. No offence will be committed by the promoters of a pop festival if they state that there will be less than 5,000 people attending, because they would not constitute an assembly defined in the Clause.

I shall say no more about Clause 5. However, I hope that I have said sufficient to indicate my profound dissatisfaction with both the wording and the principle implicit in it.

My second major point of principle and objection to the Bill arises on Clause 7, which deals with coffee bars. For the benefit of hon. Members who do not have the Bill before them, coffee bars are defined as any premises, including any mobile structure, which are kept open for public refreshment between certain hours or (b) any premises which are used by a club, organisation or body", subject to certain exceptions which are later defined.

It is a fact that coffee bars can be places which the older generation of people do not like. In my local authority area there have been complaints from time to time about the types of people who frequent coffee bars, which are sometimes used as the headquarters of motor cycle gangs, and so on. I am sure that similar things have been happening on the Isle of Wight.

At the same time, if there is a serious problem with unlicensed clubs and coffee bars, which are mainly used by young people, and if there is to be any tightening up of the powers of local authorities or central Government on coffee bars, it should be done by a Public Act of Parliament, not by a Private Bill for only a small part of the country.

Mr. Wellbeloved

This is a very valid point. Is my hon. Friend aware that there is legislation, the Late Night Refreshment Houses Act, 1969, a consolidation Measure, which deals with almost all the points which the Isle of Wight Council is trying to embody in Clause 7? The Clause is quite unnecessary.

Mr. Deakins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Whether he is entirely right is a matter for discussion in Committee, but if he is, I hope that the promoters will take his words to heart.

I do not like the wording of Clause 7 in principle. Subsection (6) seems to give the council tremendous power to register or renew registration, provided that it is satisfied that certain conditions are being met. One or two of these are unexceptionable, but paragraph (b) says: the persons intended to be concerned with the conduct of the premises as a coffee bar are such that young persons resorting thereto are likely to be depraved or corrupted; What does the Council have in mind? What depravity or corruption has taken place in coffee bars on the Isle of Wight to justify a Draconian provision like this which does not apply to the rest of the country?

Mr. Cooper

The hon. Gentleman should have done a little more homework. These words are in Section 83 of the Kidderminster Corporation Act, 1969, introduced under the Labour Government, and the Isle of Wight Council is asking no more than that.

Mr. Deakins

I am grateful for that information, but I regret to say that I was not here in 1969—

Mr. Cooper

Everyone has a cross to bear.

Mr. Deakins

Yes, I bore mine in 1967, and I hope that I never have to bear a similar one. But the hon. Member was referring to a public piece of legislation and not a private one.

Mr. Cooper

There is no such thing as private legislation. This Parliament decides what is law and what is not. It does not matter whether it is a private corporation or a private individual concerned: it has to be approved by this House and to that extent it is public and it is the law of the land. This Act was passed and approved by the Labour Government in 1969.

Mr. Deakins

I defer to the hon. Gentleman's great experience in these matters. Nevertheless, what was done then was equally undesirable. If it were not spotted at the time, I am sorry. I was not here and if other hon. Members with my views were not perspicacious enough to spot this point, that should surely not prevent me from raising it on the first opportunity which I personally have had of considering a Private Bill like this. But I accept that Acts of Parliament, public or private, are the law of the land. What I object to is having a law of the land for one section of the community and not for others.

What sort of person is included among, … persons intended to be concerned with the conduct of the premises …"? This loose phrasing refers not to occupier or owner or lessee or manager. It refers to the conduct, not to the management. Could that refer to a waitress in a coffee bar? She is concerned with the conduct of the business. Normally this responsibility in legislation is placed firmly on owners or occupiers, rather than on those who happen to be working in those premises. This seems an intolerable invasion of private liberty.

The provision then refers to hours of opening and closing to ensure that a nuisance is not caused to local residents. Most hon. Members would support that, but why does the council want to exclude a ten-pin bowling establisment? If a coffee bar can cause a nuisance to neighbours, why not a bowling establishment or any other place of entertainment? A nuisance could be caused by people entering or leaving such a place in the early hours. Is it not a fact that this exclusion is being sought simply because the Bill is intended to cover only, as we are told, "young persons", which means persons under 18?

Mr. Gorst

As the hon. Gentleman has spoken for exactly 45 minutes, would he say when he intends to move from the trivia of the Bill to its grand, global provisions? That would enable us to leave the Chamber and return when he is about to deal with important points.

Mr. Deakins

To a similar intervention earlier one of my older and wiser hon. Friends replied that the hon. Gentleman opposite who was anxious to leave for a cup of tea should do so. I take the same view, but would add a little advice from Alice in Wonderland. The king recommended beginning at the beginning and going on until one came to the end, when one should stop. Had the hon. Gentleman been here earlier he would have heard me refer to my six points of principle for opposing the Bill.

Mr. Gorst

I accept that the hon. Gentleman is living in a world of Alice in Wonderland. My point was not so much about time as about trivia.

Mr. Deakins

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to consider my remarks as trivia. Only by considering the minutiae of a Measure does one often discover important factors.

Mr. Stoddart

One need only examine the new Clauses and Government Amendments to the Industrial Relations Bill to find confirmation of that. Many defects have come to light as a result of our examination of the Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. I hope that hon. Members do not intend to try to discuss the Industrial Relations Bill tonight.

Mr. Deakins

Certainly not, particularly as that business has nearly come to an end, at any rate from the point of view of this House.

I come back to my objections of principle to the Bill. No hon. Member is in favour of law breaking or of activities which cause harm or damage to others. But we must always ensure, when drafting legislation to deal with either law breaking or what is, in effect, civil damage, that we do not trespass on people's rights and liberties, and the fact that they are young people should make no difference to that. I hold no brief for pop promoters. I have my own views about pop, but this is not the occasion to express them. They would not necessarily be shared by many hon. Member, but I do not regard that aspect of the matter as relevant to the discussion of the Bill or, in particular, of Clauses 5 and 7.

Here is one last analogy. There have always been open-air assemblies of people. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered at one of the most famous of all, and on that occasion there were completely inadequate facilities and inadquate provisions, and there was the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

Mr. Wellbeloved

That was an assembly of more than 5,000.

Mr. Deakins

An assembly of over 5,000, yes. I shall not pursue the analogy further.

If we are to have control on assemblies of people, we must think not just in terms of the pop festival. There are many other large assemblies which take place in inadequate accommodation, with inadequate sanitation, with inadequate protection for local residents against hooligans and against not malicious but accidental damage, with people trampling over fields and so on. One accepts that these are serious problems, but they are not problems which should be dealt with in a Private Bill.

Unless we can have an assurance from the Government that action will be taken in Committee to remove the worst provisions in Clauses 5 and 7, I shall be forced —I speak for myself, and I do not know what my hon. Friend will do—to vote against the Bill, although I love the Isle of Wight and have spent many happy holidays there.

1.38 a.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

It is unfortunate that the House has to debate a matter of such wide importance for civil liberties at this hour. This is the responsibility of those who decided to suspend the 10 o'clock rule for Private Business. But I make no great complaint because I regard it as the responsibility of each Member to make his own assessment as to the issues on which he feels he should address the House.

Before coming to the Clauses, I shall take up some of the matters which my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) raised in his sincere, compassionate and understanding speech. He spoke of the feelings of very large sections of our community. From all that I have read and heard and witnessed by means of the television screen, I am satisfied that when there are large assemblies, as there have been at the Isle of Wight, there is without doubt an urgent need for Parliament to pass legislation which reinforces, where reinforcement is necessary, the existing law to deal with those large assemblies. I entirely share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), however, who made the point that the agency for such reinforcement of legislation, if reinforcement is required, is not by means of a Private Bill promoted by a county council but by a Public Bill presented by the Government of the day.

The trouble with private legislation promoted by county councils is that normally it goes through "on the nod". It goes to a Committee upstairs. I make no strictures on the manner in which members of those Committees examine Bills, but I do not believe that we can be entirely satisfied, if one looks at the privately-promoted legislation which has gone through the House during the last 10 or 15 years, that the right amount of scrutiny has always been given to it.

It is highly desirable that Parliament should start to look closely at these matters and to have Second Reading debates on these private Measures that come before the House.

Mr. Cooper

I honestly do not know what the hon. Member is talking about. Private Bills, promoted by individuals in this House, have to go through the full scrutiny of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Many important Bills which are now part of the life of the country have got into law and are part of the Statute Book by virtue of the activities of private Members—for example, the Abortion Act, the Divorce Reform Act and all sorts of things. All these things have been done by private Members, but, nevertheless, they have to go through the full scrutiny of the House of Commons and the House of Lords and to receive Royal Assent in the same way as any Public Bill.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) has not grasped the point. It may be due to my inadequacy in presenting the case, so perhaps I had better run over it again for him. I am referring to Private Bills promoted by corporations, not Private Bills presented to this House by individual Members of Parliament such as those to which the hon. Member has referred—for example, the Abortion Act and the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act—all of which are quite admirable pieces of legislation presented by individual Members of Parliament. The hon. Member for Ilford, South is quite right that in those cases there is always a proper Second Reading, the Bill is then committed to a Standing Committee of the House and it goes through exactly the same procedure as a Public Bill.

But the hon. Gentleman, who was a Member of the House in a previous Parliament, must surely know, even at this late hour, that Private Bills promoted by public corporations, by the agency of Parliamentary Agents, do not go through exactly the same procedure. Almost inevitably, they go through "on the nod" on Second Reading, as tonight's Bill would have gone through "on the nod" had it not been for the activities of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking and other hon. Members who diligently perform their duties here at 2.30 in the afternoon by objecting to the Bill. When it receives its Second Reading, this Bill will go not to a Standing Committee but to a certain type of Committee established under the Standing Orders for Private Bills.

If the hon. Members wishes to intervene again, I hope that he will do so with relevance to the points I am making and with relevance to the debate. I hope that he will also bear in mind the strictures of one Mr. Speaker after another to hon. Members that interventions, particularly stupid interventions, prolong speeches.

Mr. Cooper

The hon. Gentleman must not confuse abuse with considered argument. When I first entered the House in 1950, I was appointed to a Select Committee on the Worcestershire Corporation Bill with his right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter). He and I dealt with that Private Bill upstairs. But after we had done that, called for evidence, and reached conclusions, that Bill nevertheless had to come back to the Floor of the House to be approved.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Now that we are talking about the same thing I can agree with the hon. Gentleman on that point.

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made a very interesting contribution. He referred to the helpful aspect of making certain that adequate compensation was available for people who suffered injury as a result of the large gatherings we are discussing, and that it should be found out of a bond put down by the promoters. I intervened because it seemed to me outrageous that on top of the excessive powers sought in the Clause it should be suggested that a promoter of a legitimate enterprise should be required to pay a bond to be held as a token of his responsibility for compensation which may be claimed by a third party through an act committed by someone who has attended that assembly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) seemed to indicate that if the Bill had its Second Reading tonight it would be on the Statute Book in time for any large gathering that may be planned for the Isle of Wight during this year. That is hardly likely. The Bill has to go through certain procedures. Unless the hon. Member in charge of it, or the Minister of State, can satisfy the House on certain points tonight, I and my hon. Friends who are concerned about the excessive powers in Clauses 5 and 7 would not be prepared to assist in any way the speedy passage of the Bill, but would do all we could to ensure that it did not reach the Statute Book at all. So I implore the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) to consider whether even at this late stage he can give some undertakings about Clause 5. That would assist considerably the possibilities of some form of legislation being on the Statute Book for his island for this year. Clause 5 is so wide and loosely drawn, with 13 subsections, that it should be a Bill in its own right.

Mr. Woodnutt

The hon. Gentleman appears to have contradicted himself. He said a moment ago that there is no hope of getting the Bill on the Statute Book, and then said that if I could give way on this or that, or whatever he wants, there would be a hope. Could he be a little constructive and say what he has in mind to deal with the situation?

Mr. Wellbeloved

Let me clear up any misunderstanding. If the Bill has its Second Reading without any undertakings about Clause 5 I and my hon. Friends will do all we can to frustrate its passage through the remaining stages. If the hon. Gentleman, in response to my points, can give an indication of Amendments he might be prepared to promote in Committee, perhaps that would not be a necessity. [Interruption.] I can address myself only to the Member in charge of the Bill, not to strangers who may or may not be present in their capacities of parliamentary agents.

It is unfortunate that the Minister of State failed in his duty to the House tonight to make clear precisely and in detail the Government's view on this vital Clause. He must now be aware of the deep anxiety existing in respect of Clause 5. To come to the House and to fail to spell out in detail the Government's view of the various subsections of Clause 5 is quite outrageous. These powers are unprecedented. They do not exist in any private or public legislation which has been approved by the House.

I wish to question the Minister of State on Part II: Public Order and Public Safety". Are the Government satisfied with subsection (1) of Clause 5, which proposes that any person who promotes an assembly and the owner or occupier of any land which is intended to be permitted to be used for that assembly is to be required to give four months' notice? Are the Government satisfied that four months is too little? Is the Minister of State not prepared to act on that? Many of us believe that four months is far too short a time and that promoters ought to give a longer notice if this sort of legislation is required.

Mr. Sharples

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the normal method of putting forward Government comments on a Bill of this kind is for a report to be presented formally to the Committee. That would be the way in which the Government would intend to handle the matter.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The report to the Committee is an acceptable procedure when a Bill goes through on the nod on Second Reading, without debate, but with this unusual procedure of a full- scale debate on Second Reading it is still necessary that the Minister should not rely on the procedure which is acceptable on an unopposed Second Reading. If the hon. Gentleman cannot help on those points, we shall divide the House tonight and do all that we can to delay the Bill.

Mr. Cooper

The hon. Gentleman has not the remotest idea how Bills of this kind are dealt with in the House. If the Bill receives a Second Reading tonight, there will be no such thing as a Committee being set up in relation to how the Members of both sides of the House are divided. Two or three people will be appointed by Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Ways and Means, to deal with this matter. They will take evidence in a quite different way from the way in which ordinary Bills are dealt with in Committee.

It is ridiculous for the hon. Gentleman to talk about himself and his party doing everything that they can to frustrate the Bill. If it receives a Second Reading tonight, it will be dealt with by what one might call a judicial committee of one or two people, perhaps one from either side, which will take evidence and give the House its considered view on the subject. The hon. Gentleman should do his homework.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Once again the hon. Gentleman is using very loose language. He talks of my party and me. I am not speaking for my party. I am speaking for myself and my hon. Friends who have participated in the debate. The hon. Gentleman should tighten up his language and his understanding of the debate.

On the remaining subsections of Clause 5, is the Minister satisfied with subsection (3), for instance, which requires that the number of people it is anticipated will attend the assembly should also be specified in the notice to the local authority?

Is it a reasonable requirement to impose on a promoter that he should estimate the number of people expected to attend? Certainly they can be asked to give some indication of the maximum numbers of people for whom they are making provision. But when dealing with the sort of assemblies at which this Clause is obviously directed there would be great difficulty in giving precise numbers.

Mr. Deakins

Is there not a further difficulty in that the promoters will not be able to give an accurate estimate of maximum numbers because many of the tickets will be sold at the entrances to the festival and there will be no way of knowing in advance how many people will attend?

Mr. Wellbeloved

That is why it is an unreasonable condition. It is another illustration of how wide the powers are and of the real purpose behind the Bill which is to make it impossible for pop festivals to be held on the Isle of Wight. It is not a genuine attempt to control the situation. I could go through the subsections asking for information but the Minister obviously will not be drawn.

Mr. Driberg

My hon. Friend is not quite accurate, because the Minister intervened just now to say that his Department will be making a report to the Committee. If my hon. Friend has any points on which he wishes to have the Government's view, I am sure that the Minister will take note of them and include them in his report. It is worth mentioning them.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Take subsection (4). This gives the council power, if it thinks fit, to say that any assembly to be held in the country: … will be an assembly to which this section applies and can make the promoters provide certain information. If the promoters have no information of the assembly being an assembly of over 5,000 people on an overnight stay the council can still say that the information must be provided. It is surely an intolerable imposition upon the freedom of people to be able to carry out their legitimate business activities. The council can require details of a Boy Scouts' jamboree—

Mr. Woodnutt

indicated dissent.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The hon. Gentleman disagrees but the law will say that the council can require any promoter of any assembly to supply particulars which it requires. "Any assembly" means a Boy Scouts' jamboree, the Boys' Brigade—any group of people who want to use the facilities of the Isle of Wight and which will entail a large assembly being there overnight. It is no good hon. Gentlemen saying that it would not be applied. Unless there is an exclusion Clause it will be. Subsection (4) says that the council, if it wishes, can ask for this information whether or not it is the intention of the promoters to have an assembly of over 5,000 people. It is this sort of point in this loosely-drawn Clause which makes it impossible for hon. Members with the protection of civil liberties at heart to allow this to pass unopposed.

Mr. Deakins

I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the marginal note to Clause 5 which refers to "large overnight assemblies in the open". I wonder whether he has studied the Bill with sufficient intensity to discover the meaning of the words "in the open"? Does it mean people who do not sleep in a tent and who bring their sleeping bags and sleep rough, or will it cover marquees?

Mr. Wellbeloved

That is a legitimate point to which I would draw the Minister's attention. If he asks for leave to speak again, I hope that he will direct his attention to it.

Subsection (5) talks about the council' applying conditions and regulations as to the suitability of a site for the purpose of the proposed assembly …". We need to know what the standard is to be. What criteria will the county council apply in operating this provision? The subsection gives the council absolute power to determine these things.

Subsection (6) provides: If the number of persons who attend the assembly exceeds the maximum number"— and I assume that to be the maximum number set out under subsection (3) in the information which has to be given to the council—the promoters of the assembly shall be held responsible for any "extraordinary expenses incurred" by the authority. Surely that is putting an unreasonable responsibility on the promoters. If people turn up uninvited without tickets and gate-crash and gain access so that the permitted number is exceeded against the wishes of the promoters, they will be responsible and will have to meet the expenditure incurred in dealing with the extra people, whether it be police control or any other means.

Subsection (7) provides that the promoters must pay a deposit There is no indication of the criteria for the deposit. Will it be based on so much per head? Will it be based on so much per marquee? We cannot be asked to give a Second Reading to a Bill which gives the county council power to ask for a deposit which is not based on any criteria approved by this House. It is quite outrageous.

Subsection (9) raises the question of what is management. Can a steward be held responsible for any breach? We cannot agree to this sort of legislation in such wide, devastating terms. It is not "on".

Subsection (11) provides: The Council may pay to any authority the whole or such part or parts of any sums received by them under subsections (3) and (6) of this section as they may think fit". The council, having obtained the deposit to meet the extraordinary expenses of any authority, whether it be a water, police, gas or electricity authority from the promoters of the assembly it wants the power to decide which authority it will pay and how much. There is no guarantee that even the monies paid in by the promoters of the assembly will be applied by the council for the purposes for which it required them to be deposited. Subsection (11) gives the council absolute power to pay those moneys to whichever authorities and in whatever amounts it wishes without any recognition of the requirements of the authorities or any regard being paid to the justice of any claim made by the authority entitled to make a claim for extraordinary expenses incurred. This is a very wide provision which we are being asked to approve.

I shall no doubt be told that Clause 6, which I do not intend to deal with, is a model Clause. I do not take the view that because a Clause has been included in Private Bills it need for all time be accepted as a model. Clauses later in the Bill have been lifted from legislation which has since been overtaken. It is no defence for the promoters to say that a Clause should not be opposed or debated because it has been used in other legislation.

One might think that a coffee bar was a place where a man could go up to the counter and buy a cup of coffee and nothing else, but Clause 7(1) says: coffee bar' means—

  1. (a) any premises, including any mobile structure, which are kept open for public refreshment at any time between the hours of 11 o'clock in the evening and 5 o'clock in the morning;"
The Clause exempts public houses, clubs and so on. The definition includes any premises which are kept open for public refreshment during those times and those premises could be a perfectly legitimate restaurant, a marquee in a field, a mobile caravan serving refreshments on the side of the highway.

Mr. Deakins

The definition of "coffee bar" is extremely widely drawn, although there are so many exceptions that one is tempted to ask what is the purpose of the wide definition. Would it not have been better to have a simple definition of what the promoters wish to act against?

Mr. Wellbeloved

That would have been better. I said in an intervention that it was strange that the Bill should contain provisions almost identical in wording and intention with certain provisions in the Late Night Refreshment Houses Act, 1969, and we are entitled to ask why it is necessary in a private Measure to apply provisions already contained in a public statute.

Clause 7(5) deals with the registration of coffee bars—a matter covered in the 1969 Act, in which there is a requirement for the registration of refreshment places. Indeed, throughout this Clause one finds provisions which already apply in public legislation. Subsection (6) says: The Council may refuse to register or renew the registration of any premises for use as a coffee bar if they are satisfied that—

  1. (a) the premises are not suitable for use as a coffee bar …"
But this is already provided for in Section 7(1) of the 1969 Act. Why does it have to be specified again in a private Bill?

Subsection (6)(b) says: the persons intended to be concerned with the conduct of the premises as a coffee bar are such that young persons resorting thereto are likely to be depraved or corrupted; What does that mean? What are the sponsors of the Bill getting at? What are the criteria? We are entitled to know before we give the council permission to exercise this power over coffee houses conducting legitimate business.

Subsection (6)(c) says: the premises are not safe for use as a coffee bar; Surely that is an unnecessary provision. Surely safety of such premises comes under a Statute—no doubt the Town and Country Planning Act. Certainly sanitation, ventilation and lighting must be covered. This brings us back to the point I made earlier about model Clauses being superseded by public legislation.

Subsection (6)(e) and (f) refer to precautions against fire and the means of escape. The Under-Secretary of State has just piloted the Fire Precautions Bill through the House and surely that Bill has superseded these provisions. Why has there been this sloppy drafting?

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are limits and I think that the Chair so far has been extremely tolerant. It is laid down in Erskine May that a Second Reading is primarily concerned with the principle of a Measure and that matters of detail —Committee points, as they are called —ought not be discussed on Second Reading. We have heard a great many Committee points this evening and there has been very wide latitude. The Chair has certain powers which it would be reluctant to use. I hope the hon. Gentleman will confine himself to matters of principle.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am asking whether it is right, Mr. Speaker, that, as a matter of principle, we should be asked on Second Reading to agree to Clauses which are already covered in public legislation, but I will accept your suggestion and move on to a matter of substance and principle which we must consider at this stage. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight said the trouble with existing legislation in respect of assemblies of the type which have taken place in the Isle of Wight over recent years is that the penalties imposed are insufficient to be a deterrent. The penalties specified in Clause 7 for breaches are lower than those specified in the Late Night Refreshment Houses Act, 1969, so that statement by the promoter was illogical.

Mr. Woodnutt

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that in making that statement I was referring to Clause 5, not to Clause 7.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The promoters ask for excessive penalties in Clause 5, but in Clause 7 the House is asked to agree to lesser penalties than those which can be applied under an existing Public Act. That ground alone is sufficient as a matter of principle to persuade my hon. Friends and Ito oppose the Bill.

It is clear that we shall have no satisfactory statement from either the Minister or from the hon. Member from the Isle of Wight. Therefore, in deference to the indication that you, Mr. Speaker, have given to me that you are anxious that the House should come to a decision on the Bill, I will close my speech by reaffirming the absolute abhorrence of my hon. Friends and myself of legislation of this type being brought to the House and being discussed at this late hour. The Bill seeks to confer upon the Isle of Wight County Council Draconian powers, powers which it is unreasonable to request from the House in this type of legislation.

When the Minister makes his report to the Committee, I appeal to him to make it clear that it is unacceptable to him and to the Home Office that legislation so wide and so loosely drafted as this should be passed by the House.

2.17 a.m.

Mr. Woodnutt

If I may have the leave of the House to speak again, I want to express my gratitude to those hon. Members on both sides who have taken part in the debate and who have shown such understanding and sympathy and have made constructive criticism. Most of the points which have been made are entirely Committee points which I do not intend to deal with now. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) pinpointed the problem and said that Government legislation is required to deal with it. He pointed out that the Isle of Wight has an immediate problem. I am sure that the House will recognise this and will give the Bill its Second Reading.

Division No. 260.] AYES [2.18 a.m.
Atkins, Humphrey Green, Alan Normanton, Tom
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Gurden, Harold Percival, Ian
Benyon, W. Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Pink, R. Bonner
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Boscawen, Robert Haselhurst, Alan Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bray, Ronald Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hornsby-Smith, Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) James, David Russell, Sir Ronald
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Sharples, Richard
Cooper, A. E. Knox, David Soref, Harold
Cordle, John Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stanbrook, Ivor
Crouch, David Le Marchant, Spencer Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Curran, Charles Loveridge, John Tebbit, Norman
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack MacArthur, Ian Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Emery, Peter McNair Wilson, Michael Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Farr, John Maddan, Martin Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Mather, Carol Weatherill, Bernard
Fidler, Michael Mitchell, Lt-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Moate, Roger
Fortescue, Tim Monro, Hector TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Glyn, Dr. Alan More, Jasper Mr. Mark Woodnutt and
Gorst, John Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Mr. Roger White.
Driberg, Tom
Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Mr. James Wellbeloved and
Mr. Eric Deakins.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.