HC Deb 03 February 1982 vol 17 cc428-31


Power to remove or obliterate placards and posters.

  1. (a)the following section shall be inserted after section 109—
  2. 109A—

  1. (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) of this section, the council of a district or a London borough may remove or obliterate any placard or poster—
  2. (a) which is displayed in their area; and
  3. (b) which, in their opinion, is so displayed in contravention of the advertisement regulations.
  4. (2) Subsection (1) of this section does not authorise the removal or obliteration of a placard or poster displayed within a building to which there is no public right of access.
  5. (3) A council shall not exercise any power conferred by subsection (1) of this section where a placard or poster identifies the person who displayed it or caused it to be displayed unless they have first given him notice in writing—
  6. (a)that in their opinion it is displayed in contravention of the advertisement regulations; and
  7. (b)that they intend to remove or obliterate it on the expiry of a period specified in the notice.
  8. (4) The period to be specified in a notice under subsection (3) of this section shall be a period of not less than two days from the date of service of the notice.
  9. (5) In this section 'the advertisement regulations' means regulations made or having effect as if made under section 63 of this Act.';

  1. (b)in section 269(2) (provisions specified in Part of Schedule 21 to have effect as if the Isles of Scilly were a district and the Council of the Isles were its council) after the word "Schedule" there shall be inserted the words "and section 109A of this Act";
  2. (c)the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (4) of section 280 (rights of entry)—

  1. (a) the Land is unoccupied; and
  2. (b) it would be impossible to exercise the power without entering the Iand"; and
  3. (d) in Part 1 of Schedule 21 (provisions that may be applied to the Isles of Scilly as if they were a separate county) for the words "sections 104 to 111" there shall be substituted the words—

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Macfarlane

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

The new clause is the result of a commitment which I gave in Committee on 22 December when we were discussing new clause 4, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther), who brought his considerable local government experience to bear on our Committee deliberations.

The intention of the clause is to enable district councils to deal more effectively with the nuisance of fly-posting. I am glad to say that useful discussions have taken place between officials in my Department, representatives of the local authority associations for England and Wales and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Wales and Scotland. I understand that the provisions in the clause are likely to be acceptable to the district councils that will have to operate them and to the Outdoor Advertising Council, which has also been consulted.

With the purpose of remedying many deficiencies, the clause inserts a new section 109A in the 1971 Act, which will give district councils in England and Wales and borough councils in greater London a discretionary power to remove or obliterate any placard or poster in their area that is being displayed illegally in the sense that it contravenes the control of advertisement regulations. That is similar to the power proposed by the hon. Member for Rotherham. The reference to a bill has been omitted because that term is synonymous with a poster.

I am confident that all the proposals that are set out in the clause meet with the approval and satisfaction of all the authorities and associations. I am aware that in one sense the provisions may be a disappointment. The National Association of Local Councils has represented to me and to the hon. Member for Rotherham that the power to remove or obliterate illegal placards and posters should be exerciseable by parish councils and town councils. I take the association's point that that would help local councils to assume more responsibility for the appearance of local communities, which is clearly a desirable objective in its own right.

After careful consideration I have decided that the power should be confined to district councils. That is because the new power is deliberately linked with the system of planning control over outdoor advertising for which district councils are statutorily responsible. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rotherham for raising this matter and giving us the opportunity of making a most useful amendment to the Bill.

11.30 pm
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

I should like to make a brief point on the words "placard or poster". I invite the Minister to consider adding to the clause in another place one of the most offensive ways in which people by using spray paint, desecrate buildings in some cases and deface them in all. That is not covered by the words "placard or poster".

Desecrations and defacements are made to the walls not only of buildings but of railway stations. The most unpleasant examples of desecration that I have seen have been National Front slogans on the walls of the Dundee synagogue.

At present, a council does not have power to remove or obliterate these nasty, evil scrawlings. The new clause does not remedy that defect. Therefore, I ask the Minister to consider adding to this new clause the words "spray painting or otherwise", to give local authorities power to deal with the most common form of racist wall writing.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Will this provision in any way alter or supersede the law relating to the fly-posting of election material during an election? Normally, if there is any complaint about the fly-posting of election material, the party agent will receive a telephone call and then he, or one of his representatives, will rush out and remove the offending material.

Subsection (3) provides: A council shall not exercise any power…where a placard or poster identifies the person who displayed it or caused it to be displayed unless they have first given him notice in writing". Who is responsible for removing offending election material? Will the council remove it and bear the cost of such removal? The position at the moment is that the political party concerned is responsible for the cost of removal of such material.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

I should like to add my support to the suggestion about spray painting made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). I hope that the Government will take note of the point that he made. It is an important point. Tension and anxiety are increased in any community where these signs are left on walls. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will respond in the spirit in which my hon. and learned Friend made his suggestion.

Mr. Macfarlane

I take note of the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). Much of the problem lies in the fact that these offensive signs remain for all to see. I undertake to find out the precise legal status. In many cases, the power is available to local authorities to take action. The question is whether they have the modern technology to remove the signs swifty. That has proved to be a problem in many parts of the country.

I hope that the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) was not speaking from personal experience on behalf of his agent during elections, by-elections or general elections. I am sure that is not an acknowledgement of his guilt in recent years.

The procedure embodied in subsections (3) and (4) has been kept to the minimum by confining the requirement to advance notice. It applies only to someone who can be identified from the poster or placard. One of the conditions of our election legislation is that the names of the printer and publisher shall appear at the foot of all such documents. I undertake to look into this matter. The persons whose names appear as the printer and publisher—particularly the publisher—will have some responsibility in this respect.

The House is obviously concerned about these matters. I undertake to consider them between now and when the Bill goes to another place.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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