HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1157-8
The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I beg to move amendment No. 115, in page 38, line 18, leave out `refuses' and insert 'fails'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 116 to 119.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Hon. Members will recall that in Committee I said that clause 54 as drafted was not satisfactory, because, while it was designed primarily to catch noise emanating from or passing into a public place, it would cover also noise made between private households and gardens, to the extent, for example, that a front room was adjacent to any public place. Other noise passing between households—for example, from back rooms—might not be caught, given the definition of public place. That was clearly inconsistent and we sought the Committee's views on whether the clause should be restricted to public place noise or extended to cover all inter-household noise. The Committee clearly favoured the latter course and the amendment is designed to achieve that end.

There is no doubt that noise between households, especially late at night, creates considerable annoyance. There may be difficulties in dealing with such noise and it may have been dealt with in the past as a breach of the peace. The use of civil interdicts could be a course but that is not really a solution for most people. We believe that the creation of this minor offence and a fairly modest fine will enable the police to deal effectively with such troublesome conduct. I do not believe that the enforcement of this provision will place an undue burden on the police. In most instances a request from a constable to desist from making the noise will suffice.

Under clauses 54, 53—the latter dealing with obstruction by pedestrians—and 55 the offences are contingent upon the person refusing to desist and being required to do so by a constable in uniform. There may be instances where a person does not actually refuse to desist but fails to do so. Amendments Nos. 116, 115 and 119 alter "refuse" to "fails" in all three cases to catch the actual actions or lack of them.

Mr. Dewar

This is an interesting little amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman was right to say that it caused some interest in Committee. Of course, he expressed some doubt about the wisdom of moving in this direction. He was anxious about the burden that this might place upon the police. I am glad that he has had advice, or has convinced himself, that there will be no problems for the police. Anyone who represents a large urban constituency—perhaps this applies to any constituency—will recognise at once the problems caused by noisy neighbours. Undoubtedly one of the greatest attacks upon the quality of life is that of having a noisy neighbour who plays records, for example, into the small hours of the night, or even into the large hours of the morning. The fact that the police now have something that is short of breach of peace but that will allow them to bring a report before the procurator fiscal which may result in a charge, presumably in the district court, seems sensible. I accept that the provision may be abused and that the police have a natural reluctance to become involved in stairhead rammies and the problems of noisy neighbours, but this is a useful weapon and I welcome it.

Could the Minister speak briefly about amendment No. 118, which is an addition to clause 54? The amendment says that the new offence of noise should not apply—

It being Ten o' clock, the debate stood adjourned.