HL Deb 12 March 1925 vol 60 cc505-13

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.)

House in Committee accordingly:

[The KARL 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 within their district or any part thereof the exhibition of advertisements so 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
  3. (c) 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(2) In Section two of the principal Act the words "or to disfigure the natural beauty of a landscape" are hereby repealed without prejudice to the validity of any by-law in force and valid at the passing of this Act.

(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, or elsewhere than in a rural district upon any dock, quay, pier, landing stage, wharf, dock or toll station belonging to any harbour, dock or canal undertaking.

EARL DE LA WARR moved, in subsection (2), after "landscape," to insert "so far as they are applicable to rural districts." The noble Earl said: Subsection (2) is intended to repeal certain powers which have been found to be both cumbrous and unnecessary in the case of rural authorities. As it stands, however, it goes a little further than I think the noble Lord must have intended, for it will weaken the already sadly deficient powers of the London County Council and other urban authorities. My Amendment will remove this defect by excluding the repeal of the urban powers. As the object of the Bill is to increase rather than diminish the scope of the existing legislation, I hope that the noble Lord may see his way to accept my Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 21, at end insert ("so far as they are applicable to rural districts").—(Earl De La Warr.)


I have no objection in principle to the Amendment of the noble Lord, but I must remind the House that over and over again I have stated that this Bill is the result of a compromise, and of elaborate negotiations conducted with various bodies, and I am afraid that it would be rather rash of me to accept an Amendment of this kind unless I could be sure that no opposition to it would be raised in another place. I would suggest to my noble friend, if he sees no objection, that he should postpone his Amendment to a later stage, and in the meantime ascertain whether there is any opposition to his proposal. If there is no opposition, or if he is able to conciliate any opponents that there may be, I shall be most happy to accept the Amendment, but in the meantime I think it would be to the general convenience if he would consent to postpone his Amendment.


I should like to raise one point upon this. So far as the Department for which I speak is concerned they see no abjection to this Amendment so far as it attempts to solve the difficulty between the words "natural beauty of a landscape" and "rural scenery." There may be cases where there is natural beauty of landscape in a town to which the words "rural scenery" are hardly applicable. I should like to bear out what has already been said by my noble friend Lord Newton that the best chance for this Bill passing is that it should remain what, owing to his incessant labours, it has become, practically an agreed measure. I should like to ask my noble friend opposite, if he is going to bring forward his Amendment at a further stage, whether his object would not be secured if the second part of Clause 1 were wholly omitted from the Bill, and urban and rural districts had one description applied to them. I only throw that out as a suggestion for consideration at a future stage.


I will certainly consider the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Desborough. I fully realise the difficulties with which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, is faced in having to deal with very difficult people. I am, therefore, willing to withdraw my Amendment in order to help him.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

EARL DE LA WARR moved, after subsection (2), to insert the following new subsection: For the purpose of the principal Act and this Act, any hoarding, structure or apparatus erected or fixed and used only for the exhibition of an advertisement shall be deemed to be part of the advertisement.

The noble Earl said: During the Second Reading debate on this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Newton, mentioned the case that has made this Amendment necessary. Briefly it is this. The East Sussex County Council has compelled certain obnoxious advertisements to be removed from downs in their county. By a legal quibble advertisers claim the right to leave their equally obnoxious hoardings where they are, and contend that the Council can only enforce the removal of the advertisements themselves. Such quibbles as these, quite apart altogether from the issues at stake, only serve to bring the law into contempt, and deservedly so. The Amendment which I move is drafted in order to make this matter quite clear for the future, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to see his way to accept it.

Amendment moved— Line 24, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Earl De La Warr.)


I am in complete sympathy with the object of the noble Earl, and I recognise with him that apparently the working of the present Act is comparatively futile. It stands to reason that a person who is maliciously disposed can defeat, without very much ingenuity, the purpose of the Act. But I must again remind him that the only chance for this Bill is to secure some kind of general agreement. Although there is no open opposition, I have no doubt that there are certain persons, more especially in another place, who will be glad to wreck this Bill if they can. I am much afraid that if I accept an Amendment of this character they will make it the excuse for declaring that it is a contentious Bill, and its passage will be endangered in another place. I make the same suggestion on this Amendment as I did on his previous Amendment—that he should get into touch with the bodies who represent the advertisers and see if he can arrive at an agreement with them. If he is able to do so I shall be only too pleased to accept the Amendment. In the meantime I hope he will be good enough to accept my suggestion and postpone his Amendment to a later stage.


I am sorry to have to criticise the noble Earl's Amendment, but I rather doubt whether in this case his object will be carried out by the words he has proposed. What he wants to prevent are hoardings remaining after the advertisements have been removed, and I am not at all sure that his Amendment would produce this desired result. According to his Amendment, the words are these: "Used only for the exhibition of an advertisement." It might well be argued that if you take the advertisements away the hoardings are no longer used for the exhibition of advertisements, and I should like to suggest that he should alter his Amendment—subject to the same proviso as has been already stated—and that it should read in something like this form: "Hoardings intended and designed wholly for the exhibition of advertisements shall be deemed to be included in the word 'advertisement'." The Government accept no responsibility for this Bill, although they view it with much favour and hope that it can be got through by agreement.


I again thank Lord Desborough for his suggestion. It seems to me to be an improvement. I shall have to consult my friends on the matter. Being friendly to the Bill and not wishing it to be lost, I will, of course, withdraw the Amendment. But I really must protest that this is a most unsatisfactory way of carrying on public business. In so many words we have been told that some mysterious body behind the scenes is threatening to kill this Bill in another place without discussion, if any Amendments are made. The effect of this is practically to transfer the control of public affairs to some such association as the Bill Posters' Association, who, I presume, are at the back of the opposition.

The House of Lords may not be a democratic body, but I think we have more right to deal with these matters than the Bill Posters' Association. Surely if there is a real case to be put up against the Amendment, the Bill Posters' Association can find some noble Lord who would be prepared to state their case, and it is a matter of courtesy to your Lordships to have the case stated, or an attempt made to put the case before the House, where if could be considered on its merits. As they do not take this course we can hardly be blamed if we conclude that they have no case at all, or that the cause of their silence and their recourse to these backdoor methods is that their case will not bear public scrutiny. They have preferred not to accept this challenge, and I again appeal to the Government to offer such facilities in another place as will give a full opportunity for that fair consideration and fair discussion which the Bill deserves.


The last speech of the noble Earl is a very strong one. This Bill has been through your Lordships' House three times and the Government has never interfered at all in its behalf. Surely the time has come when they might grant reasonable facilities for its discussion in another place, when it would be possible to have these questions, these useful questions, properly considered and determined. It is not a very desirable method of conducting legislation to bring in a Bill and say: "You must take this or nothing at all because there is a body of people who are not here, they are outside, who will wreck the Bill if you do not pass it as it is." I think the noble Lord, Lord Newton, appreciates that. His anxiety is to get the Bill through, and he knows that unless he can get a measure of agreement beforehand, or get the Bill under the protection of the Government, the chance of success is slight. That position is not a very creditable one, and ought to be removed by the Government saying that this is a Bill which deserves some consideration and either take charge of it themselves or let some private Member in another place have a reasonable chance of passing it into law.


I quite agree that we are placed in a most humiliating position: but what are we to do? We are told that we can only get a measure of this kind through by general agreement. If the Government would only give some sort of undertaking, as suggested by the noble and learned Lord, the position would be quite different. I do not feel the least certain that we shall get any definite undertaking from the Government, and, therefore, I think it much better to proceed cautiously. In fact, I am only imitating the procedure of the noble and learned Lord himself. He prefers to get his measures passed through by degrees rather than venture upon an open contest with the enemy. On the whole, it seems to me that the safest and most practical course is for the noble Earl to postpone his Amendment, however disappointing [...] may be.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

LORD STRACHIE moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause: 3.—(1) A county council may delegate to any rural district council the power of enforcing within the rural district any by-laws made by the county council under the principal Act and this Act. (2) The rural district council shall thereupon become, to the extent of such delegation, a local authority for the purpose of the principal Act and this Act. (3)A county council may revoke any delegation under this section, and such delegation shall thereupon cease to have effect, without prejudice, however, to any action that may previously have been taken by the rural district council thereunder. The noble Lord said: This Amendment will, I think, help the Bill in another place. Under this measure county councils have power to delegate powers to local authorities. The proposal is to go a step further—and in this I am speaking on behalf of the County Councils Association—and to give these same powers to urban district councils. Under the Bill, as it stands at present, rural district councils would be unable to be the authority, and I am sure it will assist the passage of this Bill in another place if rural district councils have this power.

Amendment moved— Clause 2, page 2, line 27, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Strachie.)


Before accepting this Amendment, I should like to ask my noble friend whether he has received any assurance from the London Chamber of Commerce, who have practically been the opponents of this Bill. There is a noble Lord who usually represents that body here. I refer to Lord Southwark. I do not see him present now.


The noble Lord refers to Lord Southwark. My noble friend Lord Southwark has told me that he quite approves of my Amendment.


Is the noble Lord satisfied that he has explained the matter to Lord Southwark properly, and that he has a definite statement—because I find the noble Lord a very ambiguous speaker as a rule, and I never feel quite certain as to which way he intends to vote nor what his opinion is? But if my noble friend is satisfied I will take his word for it, and I will also take the chance of accepting his Amendment.


I am quite satisfied.


May I ask the noble Lord whether this measure applies to Scotland?


Yes, certainly.


I notice in Clause 2 a reference to district councils I do not think that Scotland has district councils. They have district committees.


With regard to this Amendment, those for whom I speak have no objection to it in principle, but I ought to point out that I think it requires some little alteration. First of all, I think it ought to be made quite clear that the rural district council must be willing to take over these duties if the county council wish to relegate them.


If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him with regard to that point, the County Councils Association, with whom I am acting, wish to do this only in places where the rural district council so desires.


That ought to be made clear. It should be done by consent. There is one other small point, with regard to expense. Provision should be made that no expenses should be incurred by the rural district councils in this matter. This would involve merely a drafting Amendment, and I think the Parliamentary draftsman could quite easily settle both these points, if the noble Lord agrees.


Would it not be better to postpone this Amendment until the Report stage? I confess that I do not very much like it. I do not know why the county councils should shuffle off upon another body work which has been left in their hands, and I have some doubt as to whether the expense may not be placed upon the rural district councils, who have not the same means of levying rates as the county councils. Surely it would be better to follow the example set by the noble Earl opposite and defer this Amendment for the time being?


I suggest that it would be quite easy to make necessary alterations on Report. I can assure the noble Lord that the County Councils Association put this Amendment forward because they wanted to do something to please the rural district councils.


Oh, yes, they may wish to do something to please the rural district councils, but this is a Bill which gives authorities power to do things concerning which a great deal of pressure will be put upon them. I do not often find myself in agreement with the noble Lord opposite, but I am inclined to think that it is better that the larger authority should administer these powers. I hope the House will, at any rate, hesitate to insert this Amendment at this stage.


I have had no answer to my question about Scotland. There are no rural district councils in Scotland.


The next question which arises is the discussion of Clause 3. I do not know if that covers the noble Lord's Question.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.