HC Deb 09 May 1990 vol 172 cc193-4 3.32 pm
Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require that commercial, industrial and certain other premises in built-up areas shall display the street or other number of the address of such premises. Although my intention is that the Bill should apply to the whole country, London is governed currently by the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939. Section 11(1) of that Act provides: The Council"— in those days, that meant the London county council— may order that any buildings in any street way, place row of houses or block of buildings shall for the purpose of distinguishing them be marked (whether already marked by a number or name or not) with such numbers or names or numbers and names as may be specified in the order or shown upon a plan referred to in the order and that any existing numbers or names which differ from those specified in the order shall be abolished. As if that were not enough, section 12 states: The Council shall make regulations with respect of the marking of the numbers or names or numbers and names of buildings … and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision such regulations may provide for the number or name … of any building to be marked in some appropriate position either on the building or on some part of the premises of which the building forms part as may be prescribed by the regulations. As I am not a lawyer, I do not, thank God, have to attempt to understand all that. Indeed, if my Bill were given leave to proceed, there would never be any need for any lawyer to attempt to understand those provisions ever again. The problem with the sections to which I have referred is that there are too many "mays" and not enough "shalls". The result is complexity of legislation and ignorance of the regulations. This has led to widespread indifference.

I emphasise that the Bill would cover commercial and industrial premises only. It does not attempt to cover houses, and nor does it attempt to cover places in the country. For example, Rose cottage, Great Snoring in the Marsh, would not have to be called No. 10 The Street. It could retain its picturesque name, which doubtless adds greatly to its value.

I seek leave to introduce the Bill because there must be many, many people throughout the country who, every day, set out to find certain premises that they have not visited before. They may want to go to a travel agent. They look up the address in the telephone directory, and see it listed as No. 133 High street. London is full of high streets, and some of them have numbers going up to 1,000 plus.

People are at a disadvantage because they do not know at which end of the street to start because most of the premises do not display street numbers. They either walk or drive along the road, but perhaps only one in every 10 or 12 premises has a number. Even if they find No. 100, for example, they would not know which way to go. They would have to walk past another 10 or 12 premises until they found the next number, which might be No. 90—so they would have to turn around and walk back again. Some roads have odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other; others are numbered consecutively. People do not know which side of the street they are on. They do not know whether they are going this way or that way, or whether they are coming or going.

I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic in his seat because there are well-documented instances of people driving their cars into other cars because they are concentrating on looking for street numbers. That has caused a number of accidents. If I were given leave to introduce the Bill, and it was allowed to proceed, people would no longer have to put up with the aggravation of trying to find premises. Their blood pressure would go down, which would benefit the National Health Service, insurance premiums would go down, and any number of other benefits would flow.

I hope that I shall be given leave to introduce my Bill and that the House will allow me to proceed with it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hugo Summerson, Mr. Joseph Ashton, Mr. Julian Brazier, Mr. Ian Bruce, Mr. Simon Burns, Mr. James Cran, Mr. Jerry Hayes, Mr. Keith Mans, Dr. Lewis Moonie, Mr. Jonathan Sayeed, Mr. Robin Squire and Mr. Patrick Thompson.