§ 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.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Advertisements by means of smoke.
§ 2.—(1) A person shall not use or cause or permit to be used for purposes of advertisement any aerial contrivance or means involving the emission of smoke or other visible fumes.
§ (2) Any person acting in contravention of this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD moved to leave out Clause 2. The noble and learned Earl said: When this Bill or a similar Bill—perhaps a less moderate Bill—came before the House a year ago, 155 I ventured to indicate some of the objections which I felt to the general scheme and outlook of the Bill. When in a more moderate form, which conciliated a great deal of antagonism, the Bill reappeared in your Lordships' House this year, I did not on the whole feel called upon to restate the objections which nevertheless I still retained, because, to be perfectly frank with your Lordships, although a man of extremely pacific disposition, I seem to have become involved in a great number of antagonisms, and I thought that I might allow this one to be passed without any intervention on my part as others who are interested in the matter seemed to have abandoned their objections. But since then I have been taking note a little carefully of some of the issues which arise, and I feel it necessary, in order to test the opinions of your Lordships, to carry to a Division the proposals of Clause 2.
Clause 2, if I may describe it in a short and popular way, proposes to make it-impossible in the future for any air advertisements to be exhibited, in the sky. I am most anxious to do full justice to the case which is made upon this point by the noble Lord who has interested himself so much in this Bill, and therefore, lest I do him an injustice, I shall read what he said upon the Second Beading. He said:
There is only one new feature in the present Bill to which I will allude, and that is in Clause 2. Clause 2 deals with smoke advertisements. I remember that last year when I introduced this Bill the noble and learned Lord. Lord Buckmaster, expressed the opinion that if these advertisers had their way they would paint the rainbow. That statement was received with a certain amount of derision, but Lord Buckmaster proved to be an extremely accurate prophet, because within a few days of that statement being made, the Daily Mail burst upon an astonished and disgusted world with their smoke advertisements in the sky. We suffer quite enough from the Daily Mail on earth without being plagued by it from heaven. The only good thing I know to the credit of that blatant organ is that it once had to pay me £5,000 for aspersing my character. I have sometimes wished, when in financial straits, that they would renew their attack upon me.
The noble Lord went on to say:
The sky is already sufficiently polluted by atmospheric pollution without adding to it the fumes of the Daily Mail, and the prospect of the noble Viscount. Lord Rothermere, bawling and shouting across the sky, not in letters of fire, but in letters
of smoke, 'Hats off to France,' or 'Business as usual,' or 'Bonar Law must go because he will not do what I want,' is a prospect which no reasonable being could tolerate for a minute.
The noble Lord will not think I am disrespectful to the rest of his arguments if I adopt that as a summary of the considerations which, in his judgment, were most likely to prove persuasive in inducing your Lordships to give a Second Beading to the Bill.
§ Having assented to the principle of the Second Reading we have now to apply our minds to the details. We are now in the Committee stage, and have to consider whether we may not possibly, under the influence of the humour and the persuasiveness of the noble Lord, have committed ourselves a little too deeply. This Advertisements Regulation Bill is one which in my judgment—I am not at liberty except perhaps in an elusive sentence to deal with its general principle—seems to proceed upon an altogether exaggerated view of difficulties and objections. The world is a very big place. Advertisements are very small things, and, although England is a small country, that proportion of the countryside of England which is disfigured and defaced by advertisements is quite inconsiderable.
§ It is perfectly true, if you travel in a railway train and examine the posters which are exhibited on the road along which you travel, that you may see various things which, if you are of a very sensitive nature, may offend and affront you. It may be my misfortune, but I am not of a very sensitive nature. It does not annoy me when I am travelling on the road if I read recommendations to take somebody's pills. It does not really spoil the scenery. The whole artistic standard is wrong. The man is a bad artist who allows his appreciation of the scenery to be deflected by the circumstance of being recommended to take somebody's pills. He is not a philosophical but an unphilosophical man who allows himself to be so disturbed. Any mind is unbalanced that allows such considerations to come into collision with the requirements of trade and commerce, if, indeed, the considerations involved in trade and commerce are at all advantaged by these exhibitions.
§ I have had the good fortune all my life not to be a business man and, therefore. 157 I can only draw certain inferences as to what is likely to be conveyed to a reasonable man under normal considerations, and I cannot conceive that any men of business would spend their lives in advertising that which they sell, be it good or bad, allopathic or homoeopathic, unless they derive some advantage from the advertisements. In these days of declining trade, I have never been able to understand why we should be called upon to stop these advertisements, in order that when we travel in a railway carriage our eyes may not be affronted by five or six advertisements of large oxen or large camels, of appreciations of somebody's pills which we are under no compulsion at all to take. The noble lord is evidently of a very sensitive disposition. I have long appreciated that. He has felt these things deeply. They have entered into his soul. As long as he brooded upon the earth, like a famous person in history once did, as long as he confined his proscription of these things to the earth and the sea—I was against him a year ago, I was against him on the Second Reading of this Bill, but being unwilling to add to the considerable anxiety I had in hand already I did not intervene on the Second Heading debate—I left him the land and I left him the sea, but I will not without protest leave him the air.
§ Where are we now? He is like a new Icarus. In his brooding he looks at the sky and says, "Not only am I to be allowed to travel in the railway train without having my æsthetic sense wounded and affronted by these advertisements, but I will not tolerate the risk when I raise my eyes of seeing five thousand feet in the air a smoke screen from the Daily Mail." I utterly refuse the noble Lord any such jurisdiction. Even the Ex-Kaiser only claimed the earth and the sea. The noble Lord, more imperious than the All Highest, refuses to have his fastidious sense affronted by the chance that when he raises his eyes to the sky he may see a smoke screen in the air. After all, I attach a great deal of importance to what the Kaiser thought at a certain period in the Kaiser's career, and I attach a certain amount of importance to what the noble Lord thinks at the present moment of his career, but I am unaware of anything the noble Lord has ever yet produced which entitles him to stand forward and say: " I am so 158 æesthetic in my nature, so much more sensitive, in my nature than anybody else, so much more artistic than anybody else, that if I see a Daily Mail screen going up with advertisements exhibited in terms of smoke in the air, I go home miserable and crushed and come to Parliament and ask for release."
§ Why should the noble Lord put himself on this pedestal? I have travelled about the streets and on a few occasions have seen the exhibitions of the Daily Mail. And give me leave to say quite plainly, as a man accustomed to antagonism and criticism, and prepared to endure them indefinitely, that I do not believe that for ten years one word friendly to myself has appeared in the Daily Mail, and I do not care if for another ten years no word friendly to myself appears in that organ of the Press. I stand here as amicus curiæ, and as I examine this question I recollect the occasions on which the Daily Mail advertisements have appeared in the sky. What have I seen? Have I seen the supporters of the noble Lord flocking from the shops and warehouses in artistic and æsthetic protest against the disfigurement of the firmament? Nothing of the kind. I have seen His Majesty's liege subjects crowding to read the letters, delighted if they can read them, and waiting in constant anxiety to complete the sentence which so much exasperates the æsthetic sense of the noble Lord.
§ We must be reasonable. The sky is a big place; there is plenty of room; there is no obstruction. All the case the noble Lord makes is that his (esthetic sense is affronted and wounded to see a few sentences depicted in the sky. Let me give him a word of friendly advice. As he stands there in the windows of his club, or in his motor car, or from whatever point of view he contemplates these developing horrors as he spells out the letters Daily Mail, let him think all the time of that £5,000 and I assure him that the wound to his æesthetic mind will be corrected by the financial subvention which that recollection will convey. How does the noble Lord know that another libel against him may not be exhibited in the sky at any moment? There may be another £5,000 waiting for him if he will only wait.159
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
He has given away his whole case. The noble Lord has admitted that he is prepared to support this great peril if only he can be assured that there will be another libel against himself. Need I say another word? Although I have been humorous on this subject I have nevertheless a serious criticism to make; and that is that to interfere with the ordinary business of advertising by private enterprise will be futile. If the noble Lord's æsthetic sense is affronted by a few lines in the air when he turns his eyes upwards he might remember Sic itur ad astra. I would advise him to look at Pall Mall, and not into the air at all. There are really other obvious reasons well worth the attention of the noble Lord and of the House and which are even more worthy the attention of the Air Ministry and the Government.
There is, in fact, a company which is known as the Savage Sky-Writing Company in England which has put into commission a number of pilots, mechanics, and single-seater aircraft, and the noble Duke who replies for the Air Service will not deny that in the opinion of the armed forces of this country they would be of the greatest military value to this country as a nucleus of an air squadron. These sky training operations, which the noble Lord to gratify his æesthetic tendencies desires to prevent, must be carried out at a great height, if possible at 12,000 feet, and sometimes higher still. The smoke and the noise of the engines can in no circumstances be a nuisance to people on the ground. On the other hand, the quick manœuvring necessary at this great height must provide the most admirable training for pilots in the air. Those who have watched sky writing would, I should have thought, have agreed with me when I said a moment ago that these operations are popular with the public. Major Savage, a retired officer who served with the Royal Air Force during the war, possesses patents which in his judgment—he may be too sanguine—cover all possible methods of using smoke for sky-sign writing. At present this company is based in England and is using English pilots and British aircraft in America and in France. It is proposed to extend its activities throughout the whole of Europe and throughout the whole of the British Empire.
160 It is obvious that if a Bill is passed to forbid sky-sign writing in this country Major Savage will be compelled to close down his English company, which provides great employment in England, and to remove that English company to another country which is not handicapped in its commercial and aircraft enterprises by the æsthetic difficulties which obsess the noble Lord. Let me tell your Lordships the extent of the calamity which would result if that company left this country. The company at present employs 15 pilots and 37 mechanics, and it possesses 21 aeroplanes, some of them belonging to a type which was one of the best fighting scouts in the British Army at the conclusion of the war. Let me add this. At a moment when the problems of the air are occasioning the greatest embarrassment and difficulty to this country and are well known to be engaging the most anxious attention of the Government, this is the only civil aviation company which does not draw a penny in the shape of a Government subsidy. It is the only independent aviation industry which is self-supporting. Knowing the present financial difficulties of the country, I am not prepared to discard immediately 15 highly trained pilots, 37 mechanics and 21 aeroplanes, a force—let me make this admission in favour of the noble Lord's contention—that may be considerably increased, as I hope it will. Are we to get rid of the only unsubsidised force contributory to our potential air defences in order that the noble Lord, as he takes his walks abroad, may not be offended by a screen of smoke which may be made to spell the name of the Daily Mail?
Leave out Clause 2.—(The Earl of Birkenhead.)
§ LORD NEWTON
I confess that the action of the noble and learned Earl has taken me considerably by surprise. What has surprised me, perhaps, not less than anything else is the fact that the noble and learned Earl, with all his great Parliamentary experience, should come here and deliver an elaborate Second Beading speech on the Committee stage of a Bill. But that does not exhaust my surprise. I feel considerably surprised also at the objections to this clause which the noble and learned Earl has put forward. He assumes that I must be an 161 ultra-sensitive, ultra-æsthetic kind of person to be provoked by these exhibitions. All I can say is—and perhaps I shall surprise him in my turn on this occasion—there are people much more sensitive than myself. I refer to the members of the advertising trade and those who constitute the advertising section of the London Chamber of Commerce, and I should not have thought there was anything very æsthetic about them. These gentlemen actually came to the promoters of this Bill and asked us to put this clause in because, as they said: " This particular form of advertisement is no good; it is objectionable; and above all, it is desperately expensive. The Daily Mail is rich enough to indulge in it. We cannot do it, and if we are obliged to compete with the Daily Mail we shall all be ruined." The noble and learned Earl attributed the insertion of this clause to my personal objection to the Daily Mail. I admit that I am not fond of the Daily Mail, and I should not think the Daily Mail is fond of mo. On the other hand, I also object very strongly to smoke, and a combination of the Daily Mail and smoke is a thing which I think all reasonable persons ought to oppose as strongly as they can.
I shall not delay the noble and learned Earl, particularly as I understand he is going to touch upon a much more important subject shortly, by following him through the whole of his speech, but I do desire to point out that this is an agreed Bill, and that up to this moment I had not heard a single person suggest that there was anything wrong with this particular clause. The noble and learned Earl made great play, as a skilful advocate would, with what he called the Savage Sky-Writing Company, who apparently maintain fifteen airmen and a certain number of mechanics. I gather from him that it is only through the advertisements of the Daily Mail that these persons are able to earn their livelihood. I should like to ask the noble Earl what these persons have been doing for the last ten months, because for the last ton or eleven months none of these smoke advertisements have appeared.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
They are practising for renewed exhibitions upon a larger scale in the next few months.
§ LORD NEWTON
So far as I am concerned, I hope that those larger exhibitions will never take place. All that I desire to add is that the Bill does not prevent experiments in smoke or in anything else taking place in the sky. All it does is to prohibit these ridiculous smoke exhibitions in the form of advertisements. Any military or naval authority has complete liberty. There is nothing to prevent their indulging in any experiments they choose. I am convinced that I have the sympathy, not of the aesthetes of the world, but of all common-sense persons in the country, when I protest against the sky being additionally defiled by this totally unnecessary exhibition. The noble and learned Earl intimated his intention of taking the sense of the Committee upon this question. I am quite ready to meet him, and I feel a considerable amount of confidence as to the result.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE F0R AIR (THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND)
My only intention is to say one word as to the point of view of the Air Ministry in regard to this question. The Secretary of State for Air and the Air Ministry feel that this sky-writing company is of real value to the development of aviation, and they thank the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, for having raised this point, and for having raised it in the way in which he did. He brought forward arguments to show what particular value these pilots and machines would have for the future of aviation. I should like to make it quite clear that the Government are not taking any particular line upon this Amendment, and that it is left entirely to the discretion of noble Lords to decide in what way they will vote, and to what decision they will come. But, from the point of view of the Air Ministry, we believe that it is really important to keep these machines and to keep the Savage Company in existence as at present.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
A very important situation has been created by the speech of the noble Duke who has just sat down. That speech vitally affects the way in which many of us regard the Bill. It is true that the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill and is in charge of it in this House told us that it was an agreed Bill. Whether Bills are agreed to or not outside the House is, however, a fact which never affects your 163 Lordships, who always maintain a full right to deal with agreed Bills in a way which they think is for the public interest, quite apart from the interests of those who may have agreed upon the Bills beforehand. For my own part I confess that I am so much impressed by what has fallen from the noble Duke that I venture to hope that if the noble Lord in charge of the Bill insists upon going to a Division we shall support the view which has fallen from the representative of the Air Ministry.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK
I should like to trouble your Lordships with one or two words. On the Second Reading of the Bill I informed the House that it was an agreed Bill, and I understood that it-was so much agreed outside that any alteration would result in the Bill being sacrificed. Originally, I was with the noble Karl, Lord Birkenhead, in opposing the Bill in its extreme form, but in its new form it had all the objectionable matter taken out of it, and I considered it to be a useful Bill. Now I feel in a rather awkward position. I am not one of those opposed to advertising—on the contrary—and I now have to ask myself what is my position, having come to your Lordships and said that it was an agreed Bill and that the Chamber of Commerce approved of it. I have not heard these new points raised before this afternoon, but I think I shall satisfy my conscience if I take no part in the Division.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, we have had an entirely new point raised this afternoon. I have never heard about this point before, but I am strongly in favour of giving to local authorities the power of preventing the country from being defaced by advertisements. We are not saying what advertisements should be allowed, and what should not, but I understand that we are giving power to local authorities to protect the amenities of the country. There has been a great deal of pollution and defacing of the country which was essential to industry and could not be avoided, but I am strongly in favour of giving to the local authorities the widest power of preventing further defacement of the country, where it is not essential to industry. With regard to the particular question of these companies, I do not quite understand the position of the Government, but I think it is this. 164 They admit that the air defence of the country is exceedingly important—one of the most important things which the Government of the day have to consider. I spoke not long ago, when the main subject of debate was the question of air defence, and I endeavoured to show that so far as I was concerned I was alive to the importance of it; but precisely because it is so important, are we to be told that it is a matter of real vital difference to the probability of our air defence being safe that we should encourage or depend upon a company whose primary object is not the development of air transport, but the making of advertisements in the air?
I feel very strongly that that is not treating the subject of air defence from the point of view of real capital importance. I would give any support to the Government in any measures which they may think necessary to make the air defence of the country really strong, but I cannot believe that the Government are going to be so remiss in doing what is really important, that it is necessary for us to reject this Bill on a side issue of this kind, in order that a company may be encouraged in a form of civil aviation which is not essential to industry and is not going to increase the value of trade, but is only going to advertise one particular company or another in the air. I remain of the same opinion as I was when the Bill was first introduced, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall continue to support the Bill.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
I am very glad the noble Viscount has just made this speech, because it gives me an opportunity, as I think, of clearing up the situation, which has developed in a way which I certainly did not expect. The general view which the noble Viscount has expressed, of support of the Bill, is of course, as he knows well, shared by nearly every member of this House, and certainly by every noble Lord sitting on the Treasury Bench. We are all supporters of the Bill, and of that principle of the Bill to which the noble Viscount has called attention, giving local authorities power to prevent the defacement of their areas by advertisements. This particular clause is different from the other clauses of the Bill, because it is a general prohibition. The noble 165 Viscount says he Joes not quite understand the position of the Government. The position of the Government is a perfectly simple one. The Air Ministry would naturally be in favour of the promotion of any industry which leads to the development of aircraft. The representative of the Air Ministry in this House, when he spoke just now, said frankly that, the Government were not particularly in favour of this Amendment. Personally, I am going to vote against it, and I believe that my noble friend the Leader of the House is going to take the same course.
So far as we are concerned we share the view that, on the whole, it would be better that the Bill should remain in its present condition, and upon the grounds which the noble Viscount has just put to your lordships. Deeply though we value, of course, the promotion of the Air Service, and of anything which leads to the increase of aircraft and air experts in the country, we do not believe for a single instant that the success of the great reform in the Air Service is going to be largely promoted by the encouragement of these fifteen commercial aeroplanes which are making smoke signs in the country. It is, I think, relatively a trivial matter, and I do not think we ought to look to the promotion of the Air Service by interfering with this particular clause in the Bill, which is designed to do what we all desire—namely, to prevent offensive advertisements being exhibited in the sky. We are not going to promote the Empire by permitting Daily Mail advertisements in the sky. It is a wholly exaggerated way of looking at the matter, and I do not know why there should be any criticism of my noble friend the Duke of Sutherland for merely stating what was the view of the Air Ministry. I think, on the whole, that the very proper æesthetic interests of the country ought to prevail, and I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
As we have been told, not of course with the intention, but with the obvious result, of influencing the votes of your Lordships, how the Deputy Leader of the House is going to vote, and indulged with a prediction as to how the Leader of the House is going to vote, may I ask how the representative of the Air Ministry is going to vote?
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
Of course it is, and it is of great interest to know how the representative of the Air Ministry is going to vote.
THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
I will immediately tell the noble Earl. I am going to vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The Air Force, if it is going to develop at all, must develop with a civilian or semi-Territorial line behind it, and that will depend upon giving all those who are engaged in using aircraft the utmost extension of business facility. It is only a thing that can come if you encourage people in every way. I cannot foresee how they may employ their aircraft, but I do see that in this Bill it is not a case of giving the power to regulate to local authorities, but there is an absolute prohibition of using aircraft for purposes of advertisement. I cannot see how that may operate in the future, and as I think it is vitally important that we should develop a civilian air force I find myself not able to assent to the clause as it stands.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
The reason why the prohibition is absolute, and not within the hands of the local authorities, is that an air advertisement may be a mile up in the air, and it may not be within the area of a local authority which proposes to act. I rise merely to express to my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead my cordial gratification at the announcement made by Lord Salisbury. It is a great encouragement to me to know how he is going to vote, especially as he is going to vote in the right lobby. Air training is the defence of this country and of our Empire, and it should not and cannot depend upon the virtues of any particular pill, or any other commodity. I am convinced that this House and the country will readily support any outlay suggested by His 167 Majesty's Ministers on the assurance that the money is going to be well spent upon the development of our Air Force. The State should not give an oblique imprimatur to any private enterprise which is using the air for the purposes of advertisement, and air defence is far too serious to depend upon the caprice of any advertiser. I am glad to learn that
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 2 agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 3:
§ Local authority.
§ 3. Every urban council in England shall be a local authority for the purposes of the principal Act and this Act, and Section seven of the principal Act shall accordingly have effect as though the words " containing a population according to the last census for the time being of over ten thousand " were omitted.168
§ the members of the Government are going to support this Bill as it stands.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 32.167
|York, L. Abp.||Grey of Fallodon, V.||Merthyr, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Hood, V.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Monkswell, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Long, V.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Younger, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)||Annesley, L. (V. Valentia.)||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Armaghdale, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Askwith, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Bradford, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Bethell, L.||Rowallan, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Biddulph, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Lindsey, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Lovelace, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Clwyd, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Stewart of Garlies, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dewar, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Russell, E.||Erskine, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Faringdon, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Yarborough, E.||Hatherton, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Allendale, V.||Hemphill, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L. [Teller.]|
|Chelmsford, V.||Hothfield, L.|
|De Vesei, V.||Hylton, L.||Wrenbury, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Kilsant, L.||Wyfold, L.|
|Finlay, V.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Marlborough, D. [Teller.]||Devonport, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Haldane, V.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Wimborne, V.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Cromer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Denman, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Donington, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Harris, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Illingworth, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Vivian, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Lawrence, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Kimberley, E. [Teller.]||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL moved to leave out Clause 3. The noble Viscount said: I am very sorry to have to trouble your Lordships with an Amendment to this clause, and I apologise to my noble friend Lord Newton for having overlooked the matter on the Second Reading. If I had then observed the change which he proposes to make in the existing law I should certainly have called attention to it, and I should have given notice then of my intention to move this 169 Amendment. In the course of the debate to which we have just listened the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, informed your Lordships that the carrying out of Clause 2, which has just been passed, is not left to the discretion of the local authorities but that under that clause advertisement in the air is absolutely prohibited. But as I read the Bill, it is the local authority who will be charged with carrying out that provision, with prosecuting anyone for the offence and with endeavouring to secure its cessation.
§ Nobody else is mentioned in the Bill as the authority who is to set the law in motion if an offence is committed. Therefore, I suggest that, quite apart from the arguments which I shall very briefly submit to your Lordships' in a moment, to prohibit advertisement in the air and then to charge a local authority with a small population of 500 or 600 people covering a very limited area with the duty of putting the law in force is absurd. It is impossible for the people living in a village in Wales, for instance, to be able to prove whether an advertisement is exactly over their village or over some place ten or twelve miles away. Therefore, Clause 2, in respect of many of the local authorities, would be inoperative. I did not call attention to this matter on a previous occasion because I happened to be present at a meeting of the County Councils' Association, and I am moving this Amendment on their behalf.
§ The statement has more than once been made that this is an agreed Bill. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Newton, on a previous occasion expressed the hope, which we all shared, that if it went through as an agreed Bill it might meet with favourable treatment in another place. I am authorised to say on behalf of the County Councils' Association that if my noble friend Lord Newton is unable to accept the Amendment which I am moving on their behalf, they will be compelled to carry their opposition into the other House and will decline to regard this Bill as in any sense an agreed Bill. And surely they are justified in taking that course. There are in this country no less than 526 local urban authorities with a population of under 10,000. All sorts of measures dealing with a great variety of subjects have been passed by Parliament since 1883, when the county councils were brought into existence, and 1892, when the urban and rural district councils were set 170 up. Never, however, has Parliament abandoned the principle that two main laws should govern local administration. The first is that there should not be too great a divergence between the law in one part of the country and the law in another part of the country. The second is that the main powers of local government should be conferred upon the great central authorities.
§ That is the law, so far as I know, in every enactment which has been passed to give fresh powers to local authorities since the Act of 1888 brought the county councils into existence. This Bill proposes to repeal that so far as advertisements are concerned and to hand them over to all the urban district councils. Consider what some of these urban district councils are. I am not quite sure how it stands now and I have not looked it up, but the law used to be that there was no half-way house between the powers enjoyed by a borough and those enjoyed by a rural district. It has frequently happened that the Government Department concerned, which is now, I believe, the Ministry of Health—it used to be the Local Government Board—has conferred extra sanitary powers on villages, which were really villages, in order to enable them to carry out certain reforms. Those villages were thereby created urban districts. Therefore, not only does the Bill propose to take away powers which are now enjoyed by county councils, and enjoyed by them in common with all other similar powers, but it; proposes for the first time—it is the most reactionary proposal I have over heard of—to confer very far-reaching powers upon places with a population of anything from 500 up to 10,000. I do not know what view will be taken by your Lordships of this interference with the rights of county councils, but I am confident that it will be opposed in another place by all those who represent county councils and, I believe, the larger boroughs.
§ When this proposal was before your Lordships' House on a previous occasion the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, who was then Leader of the Opposition, supported this view emphatically. I will not trouble your Lordships by quoting his language, but he expressed what I believe has always been the view held by the majority of people—namely, that in carrying out powers of this or of a similar nature, it is 171 desirable to avoid so far as possible any differences in administration and to confer drastic powers of this description upon the great central authorities and not upon the minor local authorities. This, as I have said, has been the invariable practice of Parliament, and I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, did not think it necessary to call your Lordships' attention to Clause 3 and to give some reason for taking away these powers from the great county councils and transferring them to the smallest of our local authorities, to those who have the least civic pride. To do this is, I believe, to defeat the Bill.
§ In some parts of the country these smaller urban districts are very numerous, and follow closely one upon another. In parts of the country with which the noble Lord himself is specially familiar—in Lancashire, parts of Cheshire, the two Ridings of Yorkshire, and some of the Midland counties—these urban districts follow closely upon one another. You cannot tell, a" you drive or walk along, when you are out of one and in another; yet the noble Lord proposes to give separate powers to each of these urban districts. I do not know what view my noble friend is going to take of this Amendment, but if he rejects it I prophesy that he will make his Bill one which is foredoomed to failure. It will be impossible for the small urban districts to carry out this Bill. One will give effect to it, and another will not. How on earth are you to secure prosecutions?
§ I agree with the provisions in the earlier part of the Bill. I regard the Bill as one which is intended to prevent the degradation of the country-side, and for that reason I welcome it; but that a serious power like this should be exercised by tiny local authorities from which Parliament has been consistently taking away powers and not conferring new ones upon them is to my mind an absolute mistake. I challenge my noble friend to give a single instance in which these places with populations below 10,000 have had fresh powers conferred upon them in the last, fifty years. I do not care whether it is in the matter of education, or of the police or of the roads, or any other subject, new powers have been given not to these places with a population 172 of below 10,000 but to the county councils, and it is in pursuance of that well-accepted principle that I move my Amendment. The least I think the noble Lord can do before he asks us to make such a drastic change in the law is to show that the county councils have failed, and that there is some reason to believe that where they have failed these authorities of small towns will succeed.
Leave out Clause 3.—(Viscount Long of Wraxall.)
§ LORD NEWTON
The speech of my noble friend is an illustration of the difficulties which attend upon what is known as an agreed Bill. I was under the impression that we had satisfied and squared everybody, including the county councils, and now the noble Viscount comes here and accuses me of embarking upon something little short of revolutionary legislation. I cannot help thinking that he is attaching too much importance to this particular provision, and I confess to feeling some surprise that he did not call attention to it when the Second Reading was moved.
My noble friend talks about conferring these extraordinary powers upon small local bodies. I am not such an authority upon local government as is my noble friend, but I am under the impression that these small local authorities have power to enforce any number of by-laws on all kinds of other subjects, and really it is not a very revolutionary proposal that an urban council should have the right to stop objectionable advertisements in its district. The authorities which have power to make by-laws are county councils and town councils. There are many towns in this country which have very small populations—infinitely smaller than many of these urban districts. There are certainly plenty of urban districts near London which contain more than 10,000 inhabitants, and it seems to me rather an exaggeration to contend that if you propose to give them powers to deal with advertisements you are embarking upon revolutionary legislation.
I recognise in my noble friend a well-wisher of the Bill, although his approval of it does not seem to be so strong as it was a few days ago, but I must point out 173 to him that if his Amendment is carried it will seriously weaken the Bill. There are, if I am not mistaken, ninety-nine county authorities in this Bill, and of those I think only about forty have made by-laws at all. If his Amendment is carried the position will be that the small authority which desires to do something under this Bill will be precluded from doing it because the county council refuses to move in the matter. I do not wish to prolong the debate, but I think this is an occasion upon which one might be favoured with the guidance of the Government. If the representative of the Government expresses himself strongly in favour of the Amendment of my noble friend I will give way, but otherwise I must divide the House upon the matter.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
As my noble friend asks for the opinion of the Government I will in a few words give the views of the Department of my right hon. friend, but in doing so I do not wish it to be understood that the Government desire to influence the votes of your Lordships. The Home Office do not see the advantage of making every urban district council a by-law-making authority. Our view is that the existing provision, contained in the Act of 1907, which empowers only the larger urban districts to make by-laws and loaves the county councils responsible for the smaller authorities, is preferable to the suggestion which is contained in the Bill. That is the view of the Government, but we leave it entirely to your Lordships to vote in any way you please.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
What ever else we lose let us retain our sense of humour. We are discussing here to-day this Bill as if there was the slightest chance of it becoming law. We spend several hours upon it. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, has spent, I should suppose, many weeks upon it. Does anybody really think that there is the slightest prospect of the Bill becoming law, even though the last Amendment has been defeated, an Amendment which, I venture to say, will undoubtedly be adopted in another place, and be adopted, as we know, with the support of the Air Ministry? This is a private Bill. What is the prospect of it being adopted and carried through in another place? I listened with great 174 interest to the speech made by the noble Viscount, and he appeared to me to develop a powerful case. But do not let us exhaust ourselves on questions which are not going to assume any practical importance. We have had an illustration to-day. The Leader and the Deputy Leader of the House have voted against an Amendment which concerned the Air Service, and on behalf of which the vole which was representative of the vote of the Air Minister has been recorded What are the prospects of such a Bill receiving the slightest support from the House of Commons? What is the prospect of the Government starring this Bill? I see none, and I decline to waste a single moment further over the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
Will the noble Lord answer my question in regard to Clause 2? Clause 2 proposes to make it absolutely prohibitive to advertise in the air. So far as I read the Bill it leaves it to the country village of 500 people to put the law in force. Is that correct?
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
On the contrary. Clause 2 is part of the Bill. Clause 3 is the clause which makes the Bill operative, and the promoters of the Bill ought to be able to tell your Lordships whether I am right in saying that if Clause 2 is contravened by an advertisement in the air the obligation to prosecute rests upon a small local authority with a population of 500 or 600, and an area of six or seven miles.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
It may be well to leave that point until the next stage of the Bill, and during the interval the noble Lord could go into the matter and find out if the difficulty outlined is as serious as it sounds. The noble Viscount, Lord Long of Wraxall, says that no allegation is made against county councils. No; I am sure no allegation is made against them at all, but it is the fact that more than half the county councils have not exercised the powers in respect of advertisements already vested in them. That is natural. Why should a county council go out of its way to protect an area which is within an urban district council? It is only natural 175 that it should take greater interest in matters in which it is more closely concerned than in an area in which its jurisdiction is incomplete. In no less than sixty county councils no such by-laws exist. That really strengthens the case of the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, and I suggest that urban authorities should be given an opportunity. They are the sufferers and it is to them that one ought to look for some action.
I should like to see the Bill maintained as it stands. The noble and learned Earl says that we must not lose our sense of humour. I am not going to lose my sense of optimism. It is no good telling me that this Bill has no chance. I believe it has a good chance and that the country is desperately interested in this subject. Many urban councils have been pressing for such legislation in order that they may exercise powers hitherto vested in another authority. No objection was taken by county councils on the last occasion, and, notwithstanding the remarks of the noble Viscount, I think some county councils would be glad to hand over to other authorities responsibilities which they have not seen fit to exercise.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I hope the suggestion of the noble Viscount will be adopted. I am dead against handing these powers over to small district councils. These bodies are most effete and useless, and in my opinion subject to all kinds of corruption. The proper authority is the county council, and you should make it responsible for a large area. I do not know what would happen if the Bill was passed giving the proposed power to small urban district councils.
§ LORD NEWTON
I am most anxious to be reasonable, and in view of the opinions expressed by noble Lords and by the representative of the Government, I am willing to accept the Amendment. At the same time I consider that my noble friend has done the Bill a very bad turn because it seriously weakens its provisions. I hope now, at long last, that I may be able to speak of it as an agreed measure.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.