HL Deb 18 March 1924 vol 56 cc798-808

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:

Extended powers of making byelaws.

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 disfigure or injuriously affect—

  1. (a) the view of rural scenery from a highway or railway, or from any-public place or water; or
  2. (b) the amenities of villages in rural districts: or the amenities of any historic or public building or monument or of any place frequented by the public solely or chiefly on account of its beauty or historic interest.

(2) In Section two of the principal Act the words "or to disfigure the natural beauty of a landscape "are hereby repealed.

(3) This section shall not apply to the exhibition of advertisements on or upon any railway station, yard, platform or station approach belonging to a railway company.

LORD NEWTON moved, in subsection (1), after "preventing," to insert" within their district or any part thereof." The noble Lord said: This is really little more than a drafting Amendment. I propose its insertion to meet the views of the Home Office, and I do not think it requires any explanation.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 9, after (" preventing ") insert (" within their district or any part thereof ").—(Lord Newton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD NEWTON moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "in such places, in such manner and by such means "and to insert "so." The noble Lord said: This and the following Amendment are drafting Amendments.

Amendment moved— Page 1, lines 10 and 11, leave out (" in such places, in such manner and by such means ") and insert (" so ").—(Lord Newton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 16, at beginning insert (" (c) ").—(Lord Newton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD DANESFORT moved, at the end of subsection (3), to insert "or on or upon the wharves, locks or toll stations of, or the approach road to any canal or inland navigation." The noble Lord said: The object of this Bill, as stated in the earlier part of the clause, is to prevent the disfigurement of the view of rural scenery by advertisements—an object which, I believe, all your Lordships desire to see carried into effect. The object of my Amendment is in no way to interfere with the general objects of the Bill. It is not intended to do so, and I am confident that it will not do so. The only object of my Amendment is to give to the property of canal companies the same exemption from the operation of the Bill as is already given by the Bill to the property of railway companies.

I think I am right in saying that it has always been the practice in legislation in this House, and in the other House, for an exemption which is given to railway companies' private property to be granted similarly to the property of canal companies. They are both part of the transport system of the country, and are sometimes in competition with each other, and it is difficult to see any reason why, if this exemption is given, in my judgment properly, to the property of railway-companies, the same exemption should not also be given to the property of canal companies. I do not suppose it will be suggested for one moment that there are likely to be, or ever have been, more disfiguring advertisements on the property of canal companies than are exhibited on the property of railway companies, and in drafting my Amendment I have been careful to follow, as far as possible, the words of the exemption already given to railway companies. The exemption given to railway companies in Clause 1, subsection (3), is in the following words: 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. Therefore, following this as nearly as I can, I suggest that your Lordships ought to add at the end of the subsection the words of my Amendment on the Paper.

Can anyone suggest why a canal company should not be allowed to use its wharves for the purpose of advertisements, if it thinks fit ? The effect of such user will not be to disfigure the view of any rural scenery, and therefore as regards the word "wharves" I presume that my noble friend—who is. I understand, celebrating his birthday to-day, a matter on which we all congratulate him—will be in a conciliatory frame of mind, and will raise no objection. Then I go on to the words "locks or toll stations." If you exempt their wharves, why not, exempt also their locks, or toll stations ? A lock, in itself, is not a very beautiful object. Most of them are very repulsive, and I have no reason to suppose that they will he rendered more disagreeable by advertisements being placed upon them.

Then, as regards the approach roads, I would be quite willing, if the noble Lord desires it, to limit the words of the Amendment to any approach road belonging to the canal company; in other words, to make it apply only to what is the property of the canal company. I have been unable to discover any difference between the case of canals and the case of railways with regard to this exemption, but it has been suggested to me that it would be proper to limit this exemption in the case of canal companies to urban areas, whatever that may mean, and improper to grant it in the case of rural areas. I cannot, however, think that that distinction can really stand, because there are wharves of canal companies in rural areas, just as much as there are in urban areas, and if the exemption is given in one easy it is difficult to see why it should not be given in the other ease. Therefore, I think my noble friend will see that in accordance with the regular practice of this House in the treatment of railway and canal companies, it would be proper to give effect to this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 26, at end insert (" or on or upon the wharves, locks or toll stations of, or the approach road to any canal or inland navigation ").—(Lord Danesfort.)

LORD CLWYD, who had on the Paper an Amendment to insert at the end of subsection (3), the words "or on or upon the docks, quays, piers, landing stages, wharves, locks or toll stations of, or the approach road to any harbour, dock, canal or inland navigation," said: I have an Amendment dealing with the same point, but extending the exemption proposed by Lord Danesfort to properties in connection with docks and harbours. Perhaps, with the leave of the House, it will save your Lordships' time if I state now my position with regard to this Amendment, with a view of hearing something from the noble Lord in charge of the Bill which will be of a satisfactory character. I think your Lordships will all agree that if protection is provided for railway stations, it ought to be provided for property held by dock and harbour authorities, and I think there is no chance of these authorities making a misuse of their exemption in this regard. I am heartily in favour of the general aim of this measure, and I do not think that any ill effect will flow from granting this exemption for which I ask in my Amendment. I support Lord Danesfort's Amendment, and hope that the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill will be able to say something of a reassuring nature with reference to the position of properties in connection with docks and harbours, for I think they have an equally good ground for protection in this matter.


I cannot honestly say that I think my noble friends are, behaving very well over this matter. This is an agreed Bill, the result of most laborious negotiations with people representing the advertising interests, and we have made so many concessions that there is hardly anything left in the Bill. Now, at the eleventh hour, my noble friends come forward and say, in effect: "This is very hard upon canal companies. Why should not canals be allowed to have these beastly advertisements if they want them ?" We heard nothing about canals last year—they never approached me at all—and I submit that the Amendment is not of quite so limited a nature as the noble Lord intimated just now. It will be observed that the Amendment contains the words "inland navigation,'' which would cover, for instance, the Thames. I have beside me Lord Desborough, Chairman of the Thames Conservancy, who, much to his credit, has prevented the Thames from being desecrated by these advertisements for some time. I happen to know that the Thames Conservancy are always in want of money, and the time is likely to come when they will be unable to resist taking all sorts of steps to obtain additional revenue. If this Amendment is accepted it is quite possible that the locks and quays and the rest of the river will be used for the purpose of advertising.

I would further point out to my noble friend that canals are not in the same position as railways. A railway station is a building. As a rule it is a very unattractive building, and you could not make if more unattractive by permitting any number of advertisements. Very often the canals run through pleasing rural scenery. Take a canal like the Basingstoke canal; a lock on that canal is almost an ornamental thing in itself. It would be a, great pity to spoil it by advertisements. But I am so anxious to show a conciliatory disposition that I would suggest the withdrawal of these Amendments, which I cannot accept in their present form, and on the. Report stage my noble friends might bring forward an Amendment of a more limited character which would merely include places in genuinely urban districts. I do not suppose that people would object to advertisements on the docks, say, at Wapping, or even at Cardiff.


My Lords, the noble Lord has said that this is an agreed Bill. It is a Bill for which we have fought for several years, and I think that the suggestion made by the noble Lord is one that ought to be accepted. It will give both sides an opportunity of seeing whether they approve the proposed alterations, and, if it is necessary to have a division of opinion, we can then have it on the Report stage. Personally, I am a supporter of my two noble friends who are responsible for these Amendments, but I think they would be wise to accept the suggestion made.


My Lords. I hope that there will be no undertaking given that this limitation will be put in on the Report stage. There is a general desire that the use of canals for public service should be encouraged, and therefore it is important that nothing should be done that would hinder their development of canals. One of the ways in which a means of transport can be encouraged, where there is a deficiency of capital at the back of it, is by enabling a certain amount of money to be made in extraneous ways. That has happened over and over again in other industries, and canal companies ought to have the same rights.

The reason why I object to the suggestion that this privilege should be limited to urban areas is, in the first place, because it is a very difficult thing indeed to define what is an urban area or a rural area. Is it intended to limit this privilege to the areas which are within the jurisdiction of an urban district council as against a rural district council? If so, I would point out that there are a great number of urban district councils of a very strictly rural character, which would be in exactly the same position as the rural district councils round about them. As I have said, we want to develop water traffic throughout the whole country and get more people to put boats on the canals for transport, to own wharves, and to go into the development of canal traffic generally. And anything that would hinder the general development of wharves by preventing the earning of money would be a very great mistake. I hope, therefore, that, if the Amendment is withdrawn now, the whole question may come up again on the Report stage without the Amendment being limited to the urban areas, and the Canal Association should be consulted in the meantime. It would not be right that this Amendment of the Canal Association should be withdrawn without the matter being properly considered by the many representatives of canals who form that association.


I must say that I think the speech of the noble Lord who has just addressed the House shows an extraordinary lack of imagination, or an extreme lack of knowledge of the conditions of the country. Does anybody suppose that the people who go along the rural canals, as we know them all over England, are the kind of people to whom it is necessary to appeal by advertisements of motor tyres and that sort of thing ? If any kind of protection is given to the interests of canal companies in the matter of raising money by advertisements—which I hope they will never have the opportunity to do, because we propose to nationalise the canals—that should certainly be restricted to the urban areas, and I hope the noble Lord will, if he accepts any sort of Amendment, insist that it should be restricted to urban areas.


My Lords, I have been alluded to in connection with the Thames, and I should like heartily to support the noble Lord who has just addressed us. I do not think it is very hopeful for the inland navigation of this country if it has to depend for its support on pills and motor tyres. I have heard with regret that the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, has got rather a "down" upon locks.. There are forty-seven locks on the Thames. We are doing our best at the present to prevent these locks being disfigured by advertisements. When you are in a lock you cannot escape from an advertisement. You cannot very well shut your eyes because you have to look after your boat. When motoring you can, to a large extent, save yourself by shutting your eyes. We are trying to make the locks places of beauty on 136 miles of the River Thames. I hope they will not be disfigured by advertisements. At present we give prizes to lock-keepers for beautiful gardens, and those who go down the Thames will see the most beautiful crimson ramblers in these gardens. I hope that my noble friend will stick to his Bill as it stands.


I am very desirous not to take up the time of the House at a time when there are other subjects of great importance coming on, and I am therefore anxious to fall in with the general wish of the House. What I suggest is that I should withdraw this Amendment now, and put it down again on Report. Possibly, in the meantime, Lord Newton will be able to suggest to us what modifications of the clause he would consent to, and then those modifications can be considered by the proper authorities. If we can agree, well and good, and, if not, the question can then be decided. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

EARL RUSSELL moved, after Clause 1, to insert the following new clause: .—(1) A person shall not use nor cause or permit to he 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 noble Lord said: I am rather terrified by the noble Lord opposite saying that this is an agreed Bill. If it is an agreed Bill, I am not proposing to do anything to interfere with its passage. I should be the last person to desire to do so, and I do not quite know why the clause which I am proposing to add was not put in last time. This clause was in the Bid before, and, I think I am right in saying, was struck out in another place. I believe your Lordships agreed to it before, and I think I remember the noble Lord opposite defending it very earnestly and successfully. It proposes to re-enact the clause that we had before us last year—namely, that prohibiting skywriting by aeroplanes. There seem to me to be several objections to sky-writing by aeroplanes. The first is from the purely advertising point of view; it is the worst possible way of advertising. It is a very great expense, and it is very unlikely to return its expense to the advertisers. The second objection is the disfigurement of the sky, and the third objection is, I think, the danger to traffic and to people in the streets which would be caused, if this took place in crowded areas, by people craning their necks up and not looking where they were going.

Last year, I remember, we had a rather passionate defence of the exclusion of this clause by those who then represented the Air Ministry, on the ground that it was going to provide a really important civilian reserve to the Air Force. I do not think we shall hear that defence this year. I, at any rate, did not take that statement seriously. It is not a source to which we should look for our Imperial Air Reserve Force. This sky-writing might just as well be prohibited. It has no advantages and many disadvantages. I do not see why the Bill should be passed without this clause this year. Another place is differently constituted now from what; it was when the Bill was last before it, and it might accept this clause. I, therefore, move, in order to test the feeling of the House, that the clause be inserted.

Amendment moved— After Clause 1 insert the said new clause.—(Earl Russell.)


May I say, on behalf of the Air Ministry, that the Ministry considers that this sky-writing stimulates aviation to a certain extent and arouses interest in it. The actual number of machines now in commission in the Savage Sky Writing Company is 29; the number of pilots is 17, and the number of mechanics is 53. It is perfectly true that this is very small; nobody pretends that it is anything else. But it is the nucleus of a squadron. Those are its advantages. It certainly stimulates interest.

The disadvantages, I think, have been exaggerated, as I am informed that to function successfully sky-writing has to be conducted at a height of over 12,000 feet; that is to say, far out of the range of noise or smell or any other discomfort, and I cannot see that the scenery or the sky is disfigured to any serious extent at that height; more especially as it is probable that these sky-writing performances could only take place on between, sixty and seventy days of the year. Generally speaking, though we do not ignore the æsthetic side of the matter, we deplore the doing away with this form of advertisement.


This is an Amendment with which I have the very fullest sympathy. This is about the most blatantly objectionable form of advertisement that I can imagine, and I confess that I am not at all impressed by the arguments of the noble Lord who represents the Air Ministry. We heard a good deal last year about this wonderful Savage Company which, apparently, has about a dozen machines. They have done no sky-writing for about two years and, therefore, all this elaborate work that we hear about in arguments advanced in favour of allowing these smoke advertisements, seems to amount to this—that these people have been practising upon the ground. They certainly have done nothing in the air. I am not in the least impressed by these arguments, and I am fully in sympathy with my noble friend.

At the same time, I am afraid that I am unable to support his Amendment. There are a certain number of people who are afraid to come out into the open and attack this Bill. But, if this Amendment were adopted, it would provide a lot of excuse for people in another place to say that we were seriously hampering the future of British aviation, and to indulge in ridiculous arguments of that character. I want to get the Bill through, although it is a very modest measure. In the circumstances, I would appeal to my noble friend not to press his Amendment. May I be allowed to make this further suggestion ? If he is really anxious to abolish this absurd, unnecessary and very expensive form of advertising, he should bring in a Bill of his own, a one clause Bill, for the purpose. If he docs that he will at all events obtain my support.


I have not the courage to adopt the suggestion of my noble friend, but I will take the course he has mentioned of withdrawing my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

LORD NEWTON moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause: "In this Act rural districts have the same meaning as in the Local Government Act, 1894." The noble Lord said: This is merely a matter of drafting.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—[Lord Newton.]

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.