HL Deb 18 May 1922 vol 50 cc518-26

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Newton.)

LORD SOUTHWARK had given Notice, on the Motion, "That this House do now resolve itself into Committee," to move to leave out "now" and to add at the end of the Motion "this day six months." The noble Lord said: My Lords, after one of his most amusing speeches, which are always very much welcomed by your Lordships, Lord Newton last week was fortunate enough to obtain, without a Division, the Second Reading of this Bill. I hope, after the few observations I feel bound to make, and the observations which other noble Lords will make, that the noble Lord will be sufficiently satisfied with the victory he gained last week to agree to the Amendment which I now propose. I do not intend to go into any details in connection with this Bill. We had a long discussion last year when the matter was thoroughly thrashed out. It is well reported in our OFFICIAL REPORT; and, moreover, we had last Thursday the debate at the conclusion of which my noble friend succeeded in getting the Second Reading. I propose, therefore, to condense my observations.

There are many reasons why the Bill should not be proceeded with further. The Second Reading of a similar Bill, after full discussion, in which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack took a most important part, last session, was negatived without a Division. The local authorities have already more powers than they exercise. Those powers enable them adequately to deal with the protection of the public and the amenities of the landscape. In the debate last year, to which I have referred, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, made a very clear statement upon that point, and I desire to remind your Lordships of what he said. The noble Earl then stated— The present law with regard to advertisements is governed by the Advertisements Regulation Act, 1907, by which a local authority has power to make by-laws for the regulation and control of hoardings when they exceed 12 feet in height, and has power to regulate or restrict and prevent the exhibition of advertisements which injuriously affect the amenities of a public park or pleasure promenade, or destroy the natural beauty of the landscape. I do not know what other powers it is necessary for local authorities to have. Some local authorities have exercised those powers, and have issued by-laws. Everything that a reasonably-minded man could wish to be done in the way of protecting scenery and anything else can already be clone under the existing laws.

I should like to point out that the Bill now before the House is not promoted by the local authorities but by a society whose object, I think we must all believe, is to do away with advertisements altogether. The Bill is vigorously objected to by the whole of the commercial and trading interests of the country. The London Chamber of Commerce, whose advertisement committee is composed of a large number of business men representative of every branch of advertising, has worked strenuously against it. The Federation of British Industries and a number of Chambers of Commerce are opposed to it in any form, on the ground that it is a grave interference with the development of trade. I enlarged upon this point last year and it is not necessary for me therefore to go into it further to-day.

Moreover, the Bill is not supported by the Government, and any progress in the House of Commons later is therefore impossible. We do not want to waste the time of this House in dealing with the details of a measure which, when it gets to the House of Commons, will only mean the waste of further public time when Parliament ought to be engaged on more important things. With reference to the Amendment down in the name of Lord Lambourne to the effect that the provisions of the Bill shall not apply to the exhibition of advertisements on or approaching any railway station, yard or platform, I appeal to him to withdraw it and support the Amendment I am now moving. His Amendment is not at all complete, to say nothing about granting special privileges to railway companies which are denied to other traders. If you give a preference to one there will be a great outcry throughout the country on the part of those who are denied any preference.

In this matter I ask your Lordships to listen to business men, and to be guided by them in the votes you give. If this Bill becomes law it will mean further unemployment, and will retard any improvement in trade and commerce. I do not propose to occupy any more of your Lordships' time, but I move my Amendment in the hope that you will realise that this is not a little fad on the part of any individual, but that the whole business and commercial world are opposed to the Bill.

Amendment moved— Leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months").—(Lord Southwark.)


My Lords, I think most of your Lordships must have regarded this Amendment with some curiosity. The Second Reading of this Bill was taken after a very full speech by the noble Lord in charge of the measure, and there was practically no opposition to it at all.


There was nobody here.


The noble Lord says there was nobody here; but he tells us that the whole trade of the country is alarmed at what is taking place. There was a full announcement of the fact that the Second Reading was going to be moved, and they were so anxious about their interests, which are to be harassed by this measure, that there was no one here when the Second Reading took place to suggest that there was any reason why the Bill should not pass. The procedure of your Lordships' House no doubt permits of many opportunities to impede the progress of a Bill, and I am not prepared to say that the procedure has not been justified in many cases; but to ask upon a Motion that the Bill should go into Committee that the House should resolve to do what is the normal course when the Bill is read a second time, is something that cannot recommend itself to your Lordships either by precedent or by expediency.

And what was the reason why the noble Lord suggested this course? It was that your Lordships should not occupy the time of this House in discussing the Bill in Committee, as it might perhaps not meet with success in another place. The only Amendment down in Committee on this Bill is the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Southwark, suggests should be withdrawn. In other words, if he had not interfered this Bill would have been through Committee by this time, and the time of your Lordships' House would not have been occupied by the measure at all. I remain quite unmoved by the appeal the noble Lord has made. No one desires to interfere with business, but there are other things in life besides business.




Not pleasure at all, but the delight in some of the beauties of nature which is one of the highest and purest pleasures man can enjoy. If you let business men have their way they would indeed paint the rainbow with advertisements, and implore Heaven to buy their pills and tonics. There is not a single place in this earth, however beautiful it may be, that they would not defile with their abominable advertisements if they had the power. I remember a passage, in one of Jeremy Taylor's works, I think, in which the writer said that it has never yet been revealed that God delighted in ugliness, and I see no reason why this House should prevent the effort of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill to redeem some of the most beautiful places in our land from the defiling abominations of enterprising traders.


My Lords, for two intelligent reasons I desire to support the Amendment of Lord Southwark. The first is that there is no public demand for the Bill, and the second is that if the Bill is proceeded with and goes to another place, my experience leads me to believe that it has not what one would call the ghost of a chance of getting on the Statute Book. It is, of course, rather a peremptory way of dealing with a Bill to suggest that your Lordships should not consider it. What is the object of the measure? It is, in reality, to extend or enlarge the provisions of the Act of 1907, which has been in operation for fifteen years. That Bill gives power to local authorities, municipal and county, to deal with these advertisements, and yet during the whole of those fifteen years, out of scores of municipal authorities throughout the country, scarcely any action has been taken. If they have taken no action up to the present it seems altogether unnecessary to pass a Bill enlarging their powers.

I am sure the noble Lord who has moved the Amendment is in sympathy with Lord Newton. He desires, no doubt, to remove smile of the hideous advertisements that we see throughout the country. But we also have to look at this from a practical point of view. Unfortunately, this world is not the home of æstheticism. If we could all have the world as we wished it, we certainly would admit nothing that would offend any of our senses, but, unfortunately, it is a workaday world, where the majority of the inhabitants have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. That fact must conic before æstheticism, at any rate in this case.

Looking at the question from a business point of view, what do we see? It is said by some that advertisement is not necessary to business. If that were so, surely municipal authorities would have taken some steps to deal with these advertisements. But, on the contrary, the majority of these bodies, although they have the powers, have failed to exercise them, because in many instances advertisements assist the rates, and they realise that their constituents would not support them if they attempted to abolish advertisements which tended to diminish the rates. We find the greatest authority on these matters, the London Chamber of Commerce, unanimously voting against this Bill. We know that during the last twenty or thirty years large businesses have been built up in this country solely by advertisement.

I think it was urged by one noble Lord that advertisement assisted only those who advertise largely, and those in competition in any particular business, who, if they did not succeed in building up the business, would find their competitors doing so. That is not the experience of men who have spent their lives in business. Not only does widespread advertising assist almost all the industries in the country, but it greatly helps the export trade. In addition to that, we know that there are many businesses which would never have been called into existence had it not been for advertisement. An individual may have a most valuable commodity, but if he cannot bring it before the public, and the public do not know of its existence, there will be no demand for that particular article. Even the Government itself is driven to advertise. It is perfectly well known throughout the country that men are required for the various branches of both the naval and military Services. Notwithstanding that fact, the Government are compelled to advertise not inconsiderably in order to secure the men they require.

Let me go a step further. I contend that not only would you injure many other businesses by this Bill, but you would injure what is a great trade in itself, for the advertising trade is a very large one indeed. There are numbers of men employed, not only directly but indirectly, in connection with this trade. You have colour merchants, ink merchants, paper makers, the printing trade, which is a vast trade, and over and above that, you have those connected with night advertisements, you have mechanics—


And paste merchants.


Paste merchants, if you will. You have a large trade. There are not only hundreds of thousands but millions of pounds already invested in this trade. Lastly, I should like to say that the Bill which the noble Lord has brought forward does not and cannot achieve what he requires. The Bill already in existence has failed to have any effect. For all these reasons, therefore—namely, that the Bill is not loudly called for; that it is not likely to pass into law; and that if it did so pass it would not achieve what those of us who desire to see these advertisements diminished really wish—I have great pleasure in supporting my noble friend.


My Lords, I must confess that I have seldom experienced a greater sense of astonishment than when I saw this particular Amendment on the Paper, and I have not yet recovered from my bewilderment. I always looked upon my noble friend beside me as a solid and serious person, as befits a pillar of the London Chamber of Commerce, and of the trade and industry of the country. I recognise in him at this moment a practical joker of an irresponsible disposition. He is like a man who goes to church prepared to object to the banns, whose courage fails him at the critical moment, and who, after the nuptials have been consummated, comes forward and says that the marriage ought to be annulled because he does not approve of it. Both the two noble Lords have made Second Reading speeches upon this occasion. It is hardly necessary, and it would be hardly becoming, for me to dwell upon the usual practice of Parliamentary procedure, more especially as the noble Lord beside me was in former days a Whip, and is probably conversant with every form of Parliamentary guile.

Everybody must realise, however, that when once the Second Reading of a Bill is carried, more especially if it be carried without discussion and without a Division, the principle is admitted, and there is nothing to do but to amend the Bill, if necessary, in Committee. With regard to the lurid statements made by the two noble Lords in the course of the discussion, if it be true that the country will go rapidly to the dogs in consequence of the passing of this Bill, because a few field posts will have disappeared, because the horny-handed sons of toil will no longer be able to gain their bread by the sweat of their brow, because sky signs or something of that kind have vanished, let me ask why was not something said on this point on the Second Reading? Where was the noble Lord? Where were the soap Lords? Where were the whisky Lords? Above all, I may ask, where were the newspaper Lords? Why were they not here? If there were anything in the contention of these two noble Lords, we should have had Lord Northcliffe, Lord Rothermere, and other noble Lords whose names will occur to you, pleading in broken-hearted accents and with tears streaming down their cheeks pointing out that they were going to be ruined under the operation of this Bill.

I feel some difficulty in speaking with due respect with regard to this particular Amendment. It seems to me one of the most idle and frivolous character. If there is any real and serious opposition to this Bill, these objections ought to have been pointed out long ago. As a matter of fact, I have been extremely generous. Not only is the Bill of the mildest possible character, so that any monstrosity which my noble friend may put up will have five years lease of life if it is erected before a by-law has been passed, but I have given noble Lords a whole fortnight's Notice to enable them to put down Amendments. One noble Lord has put down an Amendment, and even that is objected to because it does not go far enough. I sincerely hope that what I can only term the dilatory and frivolous Motion of my noble friend will receive scant respect at the hands of the House, and that it will be rejected practically with general assent.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not entertain this Amendment. I submit that it is of the most irregular character. The Bill has been read a second time, and then, when it is put down for Committee, a Motion is made that the date should be delayed for six months. That is an attempt to renew the opposition which collapsed upon the Second Reading. If there was any ground for opposing the Bill on principle, the Second Reading was the stage when it should have been attempted, but when the principle has once been decided, I submit that it would be pessimi exempli if any encouragement were given to renew the Second Reading opposition on the Motion to go into Committee.


My Lords, personally I regard this Bill, as I have previously said, as a most futile and unnecessary one, that imposes upon local authorities jurisdiction which they do not seek, which they have never asked for, and which they will undoubtedly, judging by the experience of the last few years, fail to use when they have obtained it. But I was not present on the Second Reading—unfortunately, I was not back in this country—or I should have endeavoured to impress those views on your Lordships. On the last occasion when a Second Reading was sought for the Bill the House refused to give it, and I think a Division was not even challenged by the promoters, but I feel the force of what Lord Finlay has said, that the House quite recently gave a Second Reading to this Bill. I do not think there is any prospect that facilities will be afforded to it—so I am informed—but I think probably your Lordships, having given it so recently a Second Reading, will not be disposed now to adopt a course which would be practically negativing that which you have already decided.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Extended powers of making by-laws.

1.—(1) The powers of a local authority under section two of the Advertisements Regulation Act, 1907 (in this Act referred to as the principal Act), shall include powers to make by-laws for regulating, restricting or preventing the exhibition of advertisements in such places, in such manner and by such means as to—

  1. (a) affect injuriously the amenities or disfigure the aspect of a town, village or street, or of any historic or public building or monument or any place frequented by the public on account of its beauty or historic interest; or
  2. (b) disfigure the aspect of landscape or interfere with the view of rural scenery from a road or railway, or from any public place or water.

(2) In section two of the principal Act the words "when they exceed twelve feet in height" and "or to disfigure the natural beauty of a landscape" are hereby repealed.

LORD LAMBOURNE moved, after subsection (2), to insert the following new subsection: (3) This section shall not apply to the exhibition of advertisements on or upon any railway station, yard, platform or railway approach belonging to a railway company.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move my Amendment. I do not know whether my noble friend will accept it.


Yes, I accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 23, at end, insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Lambourne.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.