HC Deb 21 January 1972 vol 829 cc906-23

Order for Second Reading read.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

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

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) for giving me the opportunity to introduce the Bill. The reason for his generosity to me will become obvious in the course of my remarks.

I believe that the whole House appreciates the need for such legislation as I am proposing to deal with a new phenomenon in modern society. I refer to the "pop" festival, a new sporting or musical event which has taken and is taking place regularly during the season. Such events are on the scale of the Derby race meeting, but they take place without proper proportions being instituted for very large assemblies of people. The Bill is being introduced not to prohibit pop festivals but to make them more acceptable to all concerned and, in particular, more enjoyable for those who go to them to hear the music and entertainment.

Why do we need such legislation? There is a great deal of legislation dealing with assemblies of people, but we have never had occasion to plan for assemblies meeting in the open countryside in areas not designed to receive them—in stadiums, places with proper access and exits or places with proper crush barriers but completely open countryside where large numbers of people—approaching hundreds of thousands—can get together and thus create their own problems.

The need for such legislation falls into a few categories. First, there is the question of safety. Large crowds require precautions to be taken if they are to be properly protected. The House and the country will remember vividly when the control of the crowd at Ibrox football stadium went wrong and 60 people died. We have been very lucky that no disaster like that has occurred at the pop festivals which have taken place. But it is because such gatherings have been held in suitable open spaces with the opportunity to expand freely that we have not had such congestion.

But a site could be chosen which is not suitable which has bad access and when the crush of uncontrolled people could cause a disaster. The Bill is necessary for these reasons.

There is also the question of fire. People attend pop festivals, not for just one day or night, but for several days and nights and they have to put up makeshift shelters which sometimes have been made out of very inflammable material, even bales of straw left in the field by farmers. The danger of fire could be very serious.

There is also the question of danger to health and the fact that a very large number of people concentrating in an area can cause a very serious sewage problem. There is the question of water supplies. Both these matters—sewerage and water supplies—need control and regulation.

Thirdly, there is the question of medical services. A large number of persons gathered together for three or four days can raise health problems, and there could be pressure on the hospital services, on the local doctor and nursing services, and on the ambulance service.

We have no legislation whereby these factors have to be taken into account by promoters. I have already mentioned the question of the site and access to it. There is need to be sure that access to it is suitable to contain the traffic flow of vehicles, motor cars, motor cycles, buses, and, of course, any vehicles which might have to get there in a hurry such as fire service vehicles, ambulances, police cars and so on. Of course, adequate access requires suitable parking facilities. Any of us who have been to a large race meeting—for a large assembly of persons in the open is not a new phenomenon in our society—whether a point to point or the Derby itself, will know that arrangements are made for access, for exit, for parking and so on. These sorts of requirements are not yet present on the pop festival scene.

There is another question, the need, in my opinion, for consideration to be given to the other users of the countryside when the promoters or the local authorities are deciding whether a particular site is a suitable place for a pop festival. I do emphasise that I am not speaking against pop music and pop festivals at all. My son, who is a teenager, regularly goes to pop festivals and puts up with the inconveniences, but, nevertheless he has complained about them, although he enjoys what he sees and hears there. He has pointed out to me that sometimes the arrangements for sanitation and for living are anything but adequate, and that enjoyment could be very much enhanced if there were more restrictions and more order in providing for them.

I should like to say just this about consideration for those other persons using the countryside apart from those who go into the countryside for a pop festival. The people who live there, and, of course, pay rates there, are concerned about their property and about what happens afterwards, and that is the pollution which can come to the countryside if insufficient precautions are taken to prevent pollution or damage to property. Farmers are concerned about damage to crops, to fences, hedges and gates, and, also, damage to the land itself. Everyone who knows anything about sewerage and drainage problems in the country knows that great damage can be caused to farmland if there is insufficient sewage control on the occasions of these large gatherings. If the land is left littered with beer cans, plastic containers, broken glass and glass bottles it can be an absolute disaster to the farmer.

Another point which has been brought out in representations to me on this matter has come from the schools. It is proposed, for example, in my constituency this year to hold a pop festival both at Whitsun and in August, and it has been pointed out to me by the headmasters of schools that there would be very, very serious interruption at examination time if the festival were to occur when examinations are being taken. This is a small matter but, nevertheless, one which should not be neglected. This is the reason why my hon. Friend has let me speak first—that it is proposed at Bishopsbourne in my constituency to hold two pop festivals this year, one at Whitsun for four days and one at the August Bank Holiday for five days—that is, four days and nights and five days and nights, nine days in a year.

There is no legislation to control this, and it is for this reason that we need such legislation—not to prohibit such a festival, but allowing it to proceed if the site for it is thought to be suitable. The promoters in this case, a company called Great Western Festivals Ltd., have been offered a site, at Bishopsbourne in my constituency of some 47 acres. They propose to invite into that area of 47 acres 250,000 persons to spend days and nights. Those are the people they would invite, but the number who could come if the weather is fine—it is only 65 miles from London—could well be double that figure, 500,000, and the situation could get seriously out of hand. At Weeley near Clacton last year there was a pop festival at which it was planned that 10,000 should attend, but the weather was good and 150,000 turned up.

The crowd that might come down to Bishopsbourne would come through the old city of Canterbury along the inadequate A2 road from London, or along the A2 from Dover because the festival would attract tens of thousands of young people from the Continent. I am not against that; I am saying that the siting is inadequate and quite wrong.

Two hundred and fifty thousand people are equivalent to ten Army divisions and they would be crowded into 47 acres. It just is not on. I remind the House, in terms of ten Army divisions or 250,000 people, what happens each day. It is estimated that the number who would have to report sick every day is 2,000. There would be several births and several deaths by natural causes. The Kent and Canterbury Hospital, the accident centre for the whole of East Kent, has represented to me that it could not cope with such an influx of population and could not continue to provide a proper accident service for an area of 30 to 40 miles radius if this extra burden were suddenly to be imposed on it.

I do not wish to burden the House by constantly referring to sewage, but the sewage from this number of persons would amount to 63,000 gallons a day or 265 tons per day. About 2,000 chemical closets would have to be provided and 1,700 yards of slit latrine trenches—all this in a water catchment area, an area in which, under the Planning Acts, it is impossible for a local resident to put in a cess-pit or septic tank without special permission because it is a water catchment area. Yet the Minister has no power to stop people creating such a problem because they do so for only a short period in the year, less than the stipulated period of 28 days.

There has been a universal outcry that this site is wrong. Perhaps the most important requirements contained in the Bill are those of safety and public health, but the local authority should always be able to consider the site to see whether it matches up to the requirements of health and safety and is suitable.

It is wrong that a commercial enterprise should be able to descend on any part of the country, not just to entertain young people, but for the prime purpose of running a business and making a profit, completely ignoring the interests of the people who live and work there. There is no law in the land to stop them doing so. The promoters can come and make their nuisance, endanger property, foul the land, disturb the peace, create danger by crush and by fire, overburden the medical services, deplete the road accident service run by the local authority and pollute the water supplies—all this within a loose, inadequate law.

For these reasons we need this Bill. When the promoters have finished with these pop festivals they can drive away and leave behind their devastation and shambles for somebody else to clear up and pay for. This is the problem.

There are other occasions when people congregate in the country—for example, when they go camping or take their caravans. But, as the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) and I well know, these people know how to treat the countryside. They know how to behave and there is never any pollution from such organised bodies. Camping of this nature is on a smaller scale, but they understand the problems. Those people are not going into the country to make profits; they are going there to enjoy the benefits of the fresh air.

We have this new phenomenon in our midst and, although we do not condemn the young as part of our society, we hope to see that, by the passing of this Bill, these functions can be organised more safely and be adequately promoted.

3.16 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) for the clear and moderate manner in which he presented the Bill. I was particularly delighted to hear him say that the Bill is not intended to restrict the activities of young people attending pop festivals or aimed at stopping the young from enjoying themselves. It is designed to regularise the situation and to bring some sense of order and reasonableness to the activities of pop festival promoters and those who attend for enjoyment.

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman when he mentions the legitimate rights of people who live in the countryside to be protected from the excesses of those who descend on them and disrupt community life and then leave behind them a pigsty.

I want to put to the House some considerations which must be taken into account in respect of those other members of our society who wish to have access to the countryside—to use the countryside as is their right as British citizens, but to use it in such a manner that their enjoyment does not inflict intolerable disadvantages on others.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) deserves the congratulations of the House on using his good fortune in the Ballot to put forward this Measure. It is a Measure that is necessary in the wide context of uncontrolled pop festivals. However, he will not be surprised to hear that I cannot in all respects wish well to the Bill's provisions.

The present situation is that our Statute Book is cluttered with Acts of Parliament which affect the use of the countryside. These Acts range from the Public Health Act, which controls certain activities in the countryside, to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960 and the various provisions in the Town and Country Planning Acts. I accept the need for national legislation to deal with this new phenomenon of pop festivals, but I am concerned that the provisions of the Bill go far wider than that simple and necessary aim.

There has been, and I hope that there will continue to be, a growth in the use of the country by our people. A great number of people, young and old, get immense enjoyment, quite apart from pop festivals, from their membership of many bona fide organisations. They go camping and caravanning and indulge in many other activities requiring an overnight stay in the open air and, in indulging in those activities, they enjoy their leisure in a completely legitimate way.

In some respects, this Measure follows the Private Bill promoted by the Isle of Wight Corporation to deal with pop festivals. At least this Bill has the merit of dealing with the situation on a nationwide basis.

My argument is that, taking such organisations as the Boy Scouts Association, the Girl Guides Association, and the Church Lads Brigade as examples, there are many decent, reasonable organisations which use the countryside for the training and the creation of the right sense of citizenship in our young people. However, as drafted at present, this Bill could have a very serious effect upon those very necessary and reasonable activites.

The Camping Club of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Caravan Club of Great Britain and the Motor Caravan Club are three bodies whose members use the countryside. They have codes of conduct which lay upon their members very stringent and very reasonable rules in terms of sanitation, in terms of observing the countryside code and in terms of not being a nuisance to other people who are also living in or enjoying the countryside.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

As I understand it, the Bill deals only with assemblies of more than 1,000 people. All the very worthy causes that the hon. Gentleman has just enumerated very rarely have assemblies of 1,000 people and, on those occasions when they hold special jamborees, surely they should seek the views of the local authorities concerned.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I have seen no research which would substantiate the hon. Gentleman's claim. He may be right. But I am not aware of any published information which shows that legitimate assemblies of the nature to which I have referred do not exceed 1,000 people. I can speak only from personal experience, as a member of the Boy Scouts Association and of camping and caravan associations. I have attended many assemblies in recent years of campers and caravanners where more than 1,000 persons have been present overnight. After all, one needs only 300 camping or caravanning units with an average of 3½ persons per unit to exceed the total of 1,000 people, and that is not an uncommon occurrence in my experience. I do not entirely accept the hon. Gentleman's point.

Another body which has rules and a code of conduct is the Showmen's Guild. All the bodies that I have mentioned so far are exempt from the provisions of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, because they have satisfied the Secretary of State that their codes of conduct are such that there shall be no apprehension as to their conduct when they use the countryside.

As drafted at present, this Bill will be an inconvenience and a puishment to those legitimate organisations. It will lay upon them requirements which they have not so far been required to observe because they have satisfied the Secretary of State that they are bona fide responsible organisations able to conduct their activities without detriment to those of other members of our society.

In my view, the Bill is very wide. It gives such sweeping powers to local authorities that I understand it could in fact be used to override planning permissions obtained under other Acts of Parliament, because, if enacted, it would give local authorities power to impose further restrictions and require further undertakings. It represents a departure from the approved system of exempting organisations operating in this sphere of activity. It will adversely affect good, decent, ordinary men, women and children who are out to enjoy legitimate pastimes in the open air.

I recognise the need to deal on a national basis with this new phenomena of pop festivals. If the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare will give an indication—preferably an undertaking—that in Committee he will introduce provisions, such as are contained in Schedule 1, paragraph 12, of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, that would meet the legitimate apprehensions of all those bona fide responsible bodies. It would place in the hands of the Secretary of State power to exempt those bodies from all the provisions of the Bill and to bring them back to the position they are now in as responsible bodies exempt from these Acts, because they have shown over many decades in their use of the countryside that they are reasonable, responsible people and bodies who do not need to be caught in a net which is designed to deal with another problem. If that is done, we can wish the Bill a little faster progress than it might otherwise receive.

3.27 p.m.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

It might be convenient to the House if I intervene at this stage, but in no way wishing to curtail the debate.

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) on choosing and sponsoring this Bill, which is not easy either in drafting or in advocating. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) on moving it today.

Large overnight assemblies in the open air are liable to create risks to public health and safety and to give rise to public nuisance. They may also involve public authorities in extraordinary expenditure which it is quite unreasonable to ask the ratepayers of those districts to pay.

I understand that the purpose of the Bill is to provide local authorities with the necessary power to lay down in advance, and to enforce, requirements regarding public health and safety, nuisance and financial security. The Bill has the support of the Government, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading today.

The provisions of the Bill apply to overnight assemblies of more than 1,000 people. It has the advantage that it would enable a local authority 10 impose conditions, in the interests of public health and safety and for the avoidance of public nuisance, which it is unable to do under present planning law. The provisions would be for the purpose of controlling these assemblies rather than preventing them being held. But, in the ultimate, there would be power to refuse permission or an assembly to be held on a particular site which, in the opinion of the local authority, was unsuitable for that type of assembly. The Bill does not include any provisions about public order. It deals merely with public health.

Mr. Wellbeloved

With regard to the power of a local authority to prohibit the holding of these assemblies, is the Minister satisfied that there ought not to be in the Bill a provision for recourse to the courts to test the decision of the local authority, rather than providing purely for recourse to the Secretary of State, or to persons appointed by him? There is no right of final appeal to an independent court of justice, and I believe that there should be.

Mr. Page

I think that the promoter of the Bill thought that the best course to adopt was the system of appeal which is now recognised in planning law. There is an appeal to an independent person appointed by the Secretary of State to decide whether the conditions imposed are fair. There will, of course, be provision for, not an appeal, but a reference to the courts from an independent person of that sort by anyone who is aggrieved applying for certiorari on the ground that the decision of the person appointed under Clause 5 is in excess of his jurisdiction, or contrary to natural justice, or erroneous in law on the face of the record.

It will be the intention of the Secretary of State, in using his regulation powers under the Bill, to bring this process under the Council on Tribunals. The Secretary of State would have power to make an order to that effect, and it might be that in Committee we could discuss whether a statutory appeal could be granted in this case so that there could be an appeal on a point of law.

There are no provisions in the Bill concerning public order. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has consulted the chief constables and they are of the opinion that the criminal law as it stands is adequate to deal with the problems that arise. In fact, the level of crime at assemblies of this sort is quite low. The Home Secretary shares the views of the chief constables and considers that further legislation on this aspect of public order in connection with these festivals is unnecessary. All that we are dealing with in the Bill is the public health and nuisance side of these assemblies.

The advantage which the Bill would give to local authorities to protect their own ratepayers as well as those who assemble on these occasions is that they would be able to recover expenses from the promoters. They would be able to require financial security from the promoters to achieve this, and to see that the conditions would be carried out there would be the four months' notice prior to the assembly being held.

The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) rightly referred to the position of those reputable organisations which have been assembling in the open air for many years without any trouble to the ratepayers or persons in proximity of the area where they assemble. It is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, if the Bill is given a Second Reading and becomes a Statute, to relieve those organisations of the burden of the Bill. How it would be done—perhaps by Order under Clause 2(5)—is a matter for further discussion in Committee. We have in mind those who are of financial standing and reliability, such as the clubs mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, the caravan clubs, the campers' clubs, scouts, guides, showmen's guilds, and so on. All those are well know to us.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

And trade unions?

Mr. Page

I am talking about those who use the open air for recreation of this sort.

Mr. Lewis

Unfortunately, there is a miners' strike on at the moment. Supposing that the miners wanted to get all their members from all over the country —I am not saying that they will—to an open-air demonstration at which they had to stay the night. Would that be exempt? If the national unemployed workers movement, which now represents over a million people, wanted to bring the unemployed to a big demonstration, would that be excluded?

Mr. Page

It would be difficult to draft a provision to exclude them completely from the provisions of the Bill—which, after all, is for the protection of that type of assembly and not for its prevention. We have had a report from the Chief Medical Officer of Health to the Department of Health and Social Security in which he says that there are serious health risks, with spread of disease and so on, if these assemblies are not properly organised and the sanitary conveniences and other services are not available. There is an immense amount of catering to be done at some of these assemblies, which can give rise to the spread of disease if it is not properly controlled.

Mr. Lewis

I agree with all that the Minister says. That is not what I am afraid of. The establishment can, and sometimes does, use legislation to prohibit legitimate demonstrations like this by invoking this sort of legislation. I would not want to see the miners or the unemployed prevented from having a demonstration because this legitimate legislation was used against them.

Mr. Page

As the Minister for Local Government and Development, I have great faith in our democratic system of local government and believe that we can leave it to the good sense of the local authorities in whose hands and discretion it will be to deal with this sort of assembly properly.

This is a valuable piece of legislation, modest in its purpose, which is needed at the present time. I believe that it will encourage the enjoyment of the open air and of music in the spirit of camping and picnicking. It will not obstruct the enjoyment of the countryside by the campers, walkers and cyclists. I commend the Bill to the House.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. Robert Boscawen (Wells)

I heartily welcome the Minister's assurance of Government support for this Bill. I have been disappointed for some time that the Government have not introduced some such legislation of their own. Many people in my constituency will be glad to read reports of his speech.

Any rural area which has suffered the influx of a large ill-prepared gathering of this kind is desperately anxious to ensure sensible rules for the preparation of and the facilities provided at these gatherings, which can then be insisted upon under the law. Any area which has suffered them knows how these gatherings completely disrupt the normal day-to-day life, not only at the time but probably weeks before and many days afterwards.

I have had a letter in the last two or three days from one of my constituents complaining that be found it difficult to make any plans for his summer holiday because he dare not consider leaving his house in a village alone in case there was a return of the festival that we had last year. That is the sort of disruption of normal day-to-day life which occurs. I therefore wholeheartedly support the Bill, although there are some details about it which we should like to be amended in Committee.

The Minister said that the police have the means of enforcing the criminal law at these festivals; he implied that the criminal law was adequate. But I wonder whether that is necessarily so. Enforcement of the law at these festivals is extremely difficult when such large numbers of people attend. The police in Somerset, where there was a very large festival two years ago, had a most difficult and unenviable task in enforcing reasonable conditions and the law.

Local authorities and the police have an immense short-term problem with these festivals which disrupt their normal work for a long time, both before and afterwards. They cannot provide the service for which they are manned and equipped. It is therefore absolutely right that we should take the Bill seriously and give it a Second Reading. I know that it will be greatly welcomed in all parts of the country.

3.41 p.m.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for, perhaps surprisingly, not moving the Second Reading of the Bill as it is in my name, but, knowing the objections and problems of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), I arranged to respond to his speech during mine.

I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House who have put their names to the Bill as supporters of it. I also thank the Government for the help they have given me in drafting it. The County Councils Association gives the Bill its support in principle, as does the Rural District Councils Association, with which I closely liaised in drafting it. It is right that I should say something about Section 5 of the Isle of Wight Act and pay tribute to the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), since it is clear that that Section is the father of this Bill.

I do not think any hon. Member has questioned the necessity for the Bill, but it is right that I should repeat that its objective is to provide protection for two sections of the community. The first is local inhabitants of an area in which large assemblies are to be held. The motive behind the Bill is to bring some order into the administration of pop festivals, and protection of the young people and not so young people who attend these occasions against the many problems which can arise on health, sanitation and safety grounds.

It has been suggested that the Bill is perhaps a little late because the pop festival movement has died out. But I have been informed of several pop festivals which it is proposed should be held during the coming summer. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), who moved the Second Reading so ably, mentioned that those proposed at Bishopsbourne expect enormous attendances of people at Whitsun and in August. I know that the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Terry Davis) is threatened with a similar gathering at Wythall, and I am told that there is to be another one in Lancashire.

In his Annual Report for 1970, the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health and Social Security said that pop festivals extending over several days have to be provided with sanitary and catering facilities, often on a very large scale, and in such circumstances a serious breakdown in the arrangements might gives rise to risk of spread of disease. He continued: Careful planning and supervision of these services are essential. One does not have to have a very vivid imagination to realise what would happen if a breakdown in these services took place under these conditions. The people who would suffer would be the pop fans. If these dangers are to be avoided, advanced planning and effective control are essential. This cannot be ensured under existing legislation. Planning law is unsuitable for controlling events of this kind, and although local authorities have some powers under the Public Health Acts to deal with certain kinds of nuisance, no action can he taken until the nuisance has occurred. Enforcement is slow and cumbersome, and the penalities are modest. Faced with an unco-operative promoter, the local authority for all practical purposes, is helpless. The Bill is designed to fill a gap in our legislation, a gap which unless filled could have very serious consequences.

I have no wish to discuss the merits or otherwise of pop festivals. I emphasise that I have no wish to put an end to them. Indeed, if properly run they can have substantial merits. I should like to quote a report from The Rev. Paul Wheatley, who is the Bishop of Bristol's Chaplain for Youth. He attended the festival that took place at Pilton in Somerset last summer.

There was a general atmosphere of considerable relaxation, friendliness and a great willingness to share. These are important qualities which need encouraging in a materialistic age concerned often to get at least cost and give as little as possible. Those who attended came from a wide variety of backgrounds and although all there may have been happy to accept the temporary label of 'hippy', the majority came from stable homes and occupations. They included bank clerks, civil servants, young mums, teachers, skilled and unskilled workers, students who had finished exams, those still at school. Their dress was as informal and as varied as is normal for those in their mid-teens and mid-twenties. Many came for a holiday and went home physically, mentally and spiritually refreshed. In all fairness, perhaps I should complete the part of the report which pointed out the seamy side, which has perhaps attracted more than its fair share of attention: Drugs and sexual activity were clearly evident during the week. There should be no attempt to minimise these particularly as they obviously concern large sections of the vocal public. However, they should be seen in perspective. That is a very balanced view to take, and one which I would support.

I turn to advice from those local authorities which have experienced this type of assembly in their areas. I quote a letter from the Clerk of the Truro Rural District Council about a very small assembly that took place last summer, attended by only about 1,000 people: The Medical Officer had prepared a list of recommendations to deal with public hygiene, the Police gave their views about traffic arrangements, and the Fire Service made their observations particularly with regard to the closed space within which the festival was to take place.…When the day of the festival came, it was found, on inspection, that the ground of the site was, in fact, strewn with straw"— which was a fire risk— and that the only conveniences were, for men, a tent with three buckets (which were overflowing by mid-day) and, for women, a completely empty tent! The Clerk of the Shepton Mallet Rural District Council writes in his lengthy report: The Chairman of the Council personally inspected the Glastonbury Fair a few days before it opened and again during the currency of the event. During the course of his visits, the behaviour of those on the site left nothing to be desired—in fact the arena gave the impression of a large camping site as one might observe at holiday resorts. On the other hand, it was also clear that inadequate arrangements had been made for toilets and washing facilities, while great concern was felt about the 'free-food' unit being located in that part of the farmyard used for manure heaps and other filth. In another paragraph, it is said: It is expected that the Council will wish to be broad-minded in their consideration of reports on the Glastonbury Fair and reiterate their previously declared opinion of not opposing the principle of events of this character. At the same time, it is thought that the experience of this Fair will cause the Council to repeat and reinforce their representations for legislation to be enacted which will enable local authorities to control open-air festivals of this kind. I have made my point. I have here another letter from the Somerset National Farmers' Union, pointing out the substantial damage which took place on land surrounding the Glastonbury Fair, at Worthy Farm, Pilton, last year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury mentioned the Weeley festival, an important and large one, which was originally intended to cater for 10,000 people. In the event, because two competing festivals were cancelled, between 100.000 and 150,000 turned up. The local authority had only 10 days' notice of this enormous increase.

There are some differences in this Bill from Section 5 of the Isle of Wight Act. The question of appeals has been raised. This is a point on which I feel particularly keenly, since a totally hostile council could prevent a pop festival being held, out of sheer spite and malice. It is important, therefore, that the appeals procedure against unreasonable conditions should be clear.

It seems to me that the magistrates' court would be quite unsuitable for this purpose, since local people might well be magistrates and, therefore, somewhat biased, and they might well be local councilors, similarly biased. Also, there is the question whether such a matter is justiciable and a suitable question for the magistrates' court to determine. The Isle of Wight refers its appeals to quarter sessions. As quarter sessions no longer exist, I contemplated the Crown Court. But the Crown Court meets only fairly rarely, and it would be a lengthy and expensive business to go to it.

Although the Secretary of State was, I think, a little reluctant to have yet one more duty thrust upon him, I feel that there is great merit in allowing him to nominate a person to deal with appeals. One would hope that, after the nominated person had heard more than one appeal —perhaps, two or three—he would begin to become something of an expert upon what a local authority should require and how much money the various provisions might cost. I am, therefore, rather attracted by the idea that, when a promoter and a local authority found themselves in dispute, they would know that they would be placing their case before someone with previous experience.

The fines for offences under the Bill have been lowered from the Isle of Wight Act level to a maximum of £400. I believe that the feeling is that this is quite enough for a magistrates' court to be able to impose as a fine upon an individual.

I have great sympathy with the points made by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford concerning organisations such as the Caravan Club, the Camping Club and so on. As a serving Territorial soldier, I have many times seen the great advantages which young people, from both town and country, can derive from spending a night out, learning to fend for themselves, and enjoying our beautiful countryside. I freely admit that there is no merit in legislating against organisations which raise no complaints, and it is not in my mind so to do.

I believe that there are several ways in which the Bill could be amended to meet the point made by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford. The question of numbers has been raised. The hon. Gentleman asked specifically for a reply on the question of exemptions. I cannot be specific now, but, clearly, it will be easy to table a suitable Amendment, and I am freely available to discuss the matter with the organisations concerned. I give the hon. Gentleman my assurance that we shall do our very best to come to a compromise with them and not offend them.

The purpose of the Bill is to safeguard and protect people in the area and the young people who attend. In the early hours of the morning, during the debate on the Isle of Wight Bill, hon. Members on both sides requested that this legislation should be a national matter. The Bill secures just that. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) for bringing forward the Bill, which will have instantaneous and important effects for us in the South-East and particularly in Kent.

The promoters of the pop festival already referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) have been behaving in a most disgraceful manner in our county. Not only have they been going round my hon. Friend's constituency, but in my constituency they announced that they are to hold a pop festival on the Kent County Agricultural Show Ground long before they had made any approach to the Show Society, which had no knowledge of the matter. The Show Society first read of the matter in the national newspapers.

I am delighted that my noble Friend, Lord Falmouth, who is the president of that society, has announced that this pop festival will in no circumstances be held on the Kent County Agricultural Show Ground. The fact remains that any proprietor of a big show ground is at risk if unscrupulous promoters want to go ahead. I therefore wish the Bill extremely well.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).