HL Deb 18 July 1960 vol 225 cc417-39

5.41 p.m.

An Amendment reported (according to Order).

Clause 2 [Restriction of operation on highways, etc., of loudspeakers]:

LORD TAYLOR moved, after subsection (2) to insert: (3) Paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to the operation of a loudspeaker between the hours of noon and seven o'clock in the evening on the same day if the loudspeaker—

  1. (a)is fixed to a vehicle which is being used for the conveyance of a perishable commodity for human consumption; and
  2. (b) is operated solely for informing members of the public (otherwise than by means of words) that the commodity is on sale from the vehicle; and
  3. (c) is so operated as not to give reasonable cause for annoyance to persons in the vicinity."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in the Marshalled List in the names of my noble friends and myself. Those of your Lordships who have followed the Amendments which have been circulated by the Printed Paper Office will have noticed that an earlier version of this Amendment carried the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. This was inadvertently removed from the list of names, and the noble Lord wishes me to say that he warmly supports the Amendment, though he is sorry he cannot be here this afternoon, as he is in Scotland.

On the Second Reading of this Bill I expressed the view that it was more useful than I thought it was when I first read it. It enables three householders to act together to stop any unreasonable noise; and it can be done by their adopting the procedure as though it were a statutory nuisance, and causing the matter to be brought before a magistrates' court. Unreasonable noises can therefore be dealt with in this very simple way, instead of the difficult way which exists at present, and which will exist if this Bill is not passed into law. However, what this Bill did not do was to cover the ice-cream merchants and their little bells—indeed, they were specifically exempted from its provisions.

On Committee stage I had down an Amendment by which, in the interests of shift workers, I proposed to limit the ringing of bells to the hours of 12 noon to 7.30 p.m. However, that Amendment could not be debated because, before it was reached, an Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, came before your Lordships. That Amendment proposed the complete wiping out of the ringing of ice-cream bells; and your Lordships decided, after a very close Division, that that was what you wished to do. Now I must say that I have great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. In the course of his speech, he said that my Amendment would be half a loaf rather than the whole loaf which he desired the public to have and your Lordships to accept. I suggest that the right amount of loaf is in fact half a loaf, and that, if we judge this matter entirely on its merits, the right solution may well be along those lines rather than along the very drastic lines which the noble Lord persuaded your Lordships to agree to when the House was in Committee on the Bill.

The Amendment which I am moving limits the hours under which ice-cream vendors may ring their little bells to a period between 12 noon and 7 o'clock—that is to say, we have cut off a further half-hour from the ice-cream bell ringing period in the evening. Now why have we chosen these hours? The first point is that the morning freedom from ice-cream bell ringing is designed for the benefit of shift workers, so that shift workers can be guaranteed a period in the morning when they can sleep without interruption from these "lolly ringers". One would say here that stopping the "lolly bells" before 12 o'clock may not make much difference to the sale of ice-cream during term time, but during the holiday periods I would say that we are, in fact, compelling the ice-cream vendors to make a substantial sacrifice if we ban morning ringing of ice-cream bells, which we are now asking your Lordships to do. We have asked that the bells should cease at 7 o'clock in the evening instead of 7.30—in other words, that they should cease when most children go to bed. I have had some letters from the public about these bells, and almost without exception they have said that the nuisance, so far as they are concerned, arises between 7 and 9 o'clock; it is when the vans go round the estates ringing their hells at a time when the children are supposed to be going to bed, or are actually in bed, that the thing really is a nuisance. If we stop them at 7 o'clock, we are again dealing something of a blow to the mobile ice-cream vendors, but I think we are justified in saying that it is in the interests of parents, and of children who ought to be asleep at that time.

Now we are doing something more than that, because in the third part of this Amendment we are saying that these ice-cream bells should be so operated as not to give reasonable cause for annoyance to persons in the vicinity. I realise that it is very difficult to describe "reasonable cause for annoyance", but I have spoken with many people about these bells, and they say that where a single vendor rings his little chimes at reasonable intervals round an estate it is not much of a nuisance—indeed, it is fairly pleasant, and certainly pleasing to the children; but if there are four or five of these gentlemen in strong competition, and if, moreover, they turn their amplifiers up to the maximum and ring wildly and extravagantly at very short intervals on their circuit, then it is a nuisance.

I would suggest that the proper way to deal with those who misuse and abuse the privilege of ringing ice-cream bells would be to bring into operation subsection (c) of this paragraph which we are seeking to insert—that is to say, to enable the magistrates to assess what is a "reasonable cause for annoyance". I think that would really deal with the nuisance of ice-cream vendors between the hours of 12 and 7. It is, of course, considerably less radical than the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, but I feel that it is the right line; that it is not just a compromise but is the proper way to treat this thing. After all, selling ice-cream is an honourable and reasonable occupation. I remember that when I was a boy ice-cream was a luxury of the rich.




Yes, indeed it was. It was a very rare thing indeed to have ice-cream.


I had plenty of ha'pennies when I was a boy.


As usual, I entirely disagree with the noble Lord. He always interrupts me, and I always think he is talking nonsense. In my opinion, ice cream was a luxury, and it is now something which is enjoyed, thank goodness, by everybody. It is also a first-class food, and it is, so far as I know, a completely innocent food, if it is properly prepared; that is to say, decent ice cream is safe and nourishing and entirely desirable, provided that you do not eat too much. I can see nothing whatever wrong in selling ice cream. I understand that there exists something which is called the "ice-cream lobby". I have never seen it, or been approached by it in any way. Had I been approached, I should not have taken any notice of what it said. I think that this is a reasonable solution to the matter and I beg your Lordships to consider this Amendment on its merits, without any regard to the action which another place might take. I think that we should give a reasonable lead to another place on this matter, and if we get the right answer, I feel sure that they will accept what we are proposing.

I am not very musical—I confess that I like Salad Days and Gilbert and Sullivan—and I do not know whether these bells have an æsthetic value whatsoever. They are at best a pretty little noise, not unlike the noise of the band which one hears wafted over the breeze from the bandstand in the park. They have not any great æsthetic value but they are a bit of fun.


May I give the noble Lord a little information here? Neither of the noises he mentioned has any æsthetic value.


My Lords, does the noble Lord mean Salad Days and Gilbert and Sullivan, or the noises from the bandstand?


All, possibly.


My Lords, at the worst they are a confounded nuisance, and I think that it is right to deal with a nuisance. I suggest that the right way of dealing with it is on these lines. I hope very much that your Lordships will accept this as a reasonable way out of a real difficulty. I hope your Lordships will agree that it meets the reasonable and legitimate aspirations of the vendor of ice cream, gives reasonable protection for shift workers and for children, and that any unreasonable behaviour on the part of the operators can be dealt with. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 40, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Taylor.)


My Lords, I rise again to oppose this Amendment, not on any Party lines and not because I have any dislike of ice-cream vendors or of ice cream, or of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, whose friendship I think I may claim to have enjoyed for some time, and I hope to continue to do so. Not only do I like the product of the ice-cream vendors, but I well remember the time when I considered that it should be served at every meal, and after 40 years I have come back to re-enjoyment of that delicacy. My Objection is still totally one of principle. A week ago an Amendment was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, to be followed by an Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. The House went into the Division Lobby and deliberately passed Lord Milverton's Amendment. To my mind, it is slightly surprising, the House having expressed itself as not wanting the terms of this Amendment, that it should come up again on a different stage. It does not seem quite right that we should be asked to come again and give our opinion on this same matter on which we have already given an opinion.

In certain sections of the Press there has been some rather patronising and sarcastic references to your Lordships' discussion of this matter. One paper said that we were discussing it when another place was discussing much more serious questions. But your Lordships well know that when another place was discussing this matter we, in our turn, might well have been discussing something much more serious. This is a serious Bill. It is a Noise Abatement Bill and not an Ice Cream Bill. Nor should it be put on a sentimental level. The ice-cream industry does not manufacture ice cream just because it thinks that children are sweet little things and should have sweet things to eat. I cannot agree with the picture of the altruistic Pied Piper of Ice Cream leading a procession of nonpaying little children. Money is presumably made by the manufacture of ice cream and I do not think that it wants any noise at all. Although the noble Lord who has just spoken says he has never heard of it, I understand that there has been very much a lobby of those interested in the manufacture of ice cream in getting this Amendment—


My Lords, has the noble Lord any evidence of a lobby in this House?


I hope I made it clear that I personally have no evidence at all, but there is hearsay. We know that it is a large industry and that it would be in their interests to have this inserted in the Bill.


I think that that is really a monstrous statement. One should not make accusations against an industry merely on hearsay.


My Lords, in this case may I modify my remark in this way: that if we are passing an Act of Parliament, surely it is improper that privilege should be given to one side of industry and that we should leave out all others.

It seems to me that if ice cream has certain protection on this then other members of other interests should have the same protection.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not make any difference between one industry and another? Ice cream is very perishable and other food products are not so perishable.


My Lords, I am not convinced that perishable commodities need to have an amplified tinkle attached to them. As a matter of principle, I do not think that it is proper to put in a Bill a special exemption for one industry. It is on this ground that I base my objection to this Amendment.


My Lords, I intervened on the last occasion not because I had any personal interest in this or had heard these bells but because representations were made to me about the nuisance caused. Since then I have had many letters thanking your Lordships' House for the action we took, because many people seem to think that these bells cause a bad nuisance. I have had a pitiful letter from a night watchman, whose time for rest coincides exactly with the hours in which these bells will be allowed to operate. He seems to get to bed just about 12 o'clock, and that is when these things start. His rest goes on to about 5 o'clock. He says that he never gets any rest at all and that soon he will not be able to stand in his job. That is the only piece of evidence I have. I do not know the habits of shift workers and we have not heard anything from anybody about that. Before we assent to these bells, I think that we should know a little more about the matter.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in his evident anxiety to back up the Government's assertion that we have "never had it so good" by the argument that until the present day—I suppose until the Labour Party came into office—ice cream was enjoyed by the rich and not by the poor. I am seriously concerned with the question in general. I cannot help feeling that as a Chamber we are making ourselves a little bit ridiculous over this idea of special legisla- tion to deal with one little industry peddling ice cream up and down the streets. If it has to be dealt with, surely it should be dealt with in an omnibus form, because there are other noises that interfere with shift workers. I do not think that, even in the case of motor cycles, this Bill has done justice to the noise involved. I think that, from a sense of proportion, we could very well leave the question of whether an ice-cream van should have a little bell to announce itself. I feel that it is a silly little method of dealing with a little question.

I have under my window every night, after 12 o'clock, the sounds of more than one motor cycle starting up, cycles owned by young men who have taken their best girls home and leave for their own homes about midnight. The noise is infernal, and, if I were a shift worker, I should feel very annoyed at it. The point I want to put is that in this Bill we ought to deal with noise in a fundamental sort of way. Surely everyone connected with the motor-cycle industry or who knows anything about motorcycles, knows that there is no reason for this noise. Motor-cycles can be produced to be as noiseless as any car, but they are not so produced because they do not sell. They cannot sell them, because these young speed merchants want the noise: they pay for it, and they insist on its being there. I do not want to make a big song about it, but that surely is a much more dignified approach to the question of noise than talking about a ha'porth of ice cream—and you have to pay more than a halfpenny now; I remember that sixty or seventy years ago I got as much for a halfpenny as you can now get for 3d. So do not talk about the rich or poor in terms of ice cream.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, it may be convenient for your Lordships if I intervene at this moment. I hope that your Lordships may see fit to accept this Amendment which has been moved, by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I would emphasise that this is a Noise Abatement Bill, and, as such, the Government think that it will be of value, though necessarily somewhat limited in its scope. While not dissenting from the undoubted fact that your Lordships have every right to seek to amend the Bill in any way you wish, I think there is considerable force in the argument used by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that the action we took on the Committee stage was perhaps a little severe. On that occasion your Lordships decided to abate this particular noise by the somewhat Draconian method of abolishing it altogether. I think I must say, as there has been so much talk about ice cream, that there is no mention of ice cream in the Amendment. What is mentioned is "a perishable commodity for human consumption," and reading my Times newspaper this morning I think I gathered that vintage port might even be considered to be such a commodity.

I would recommend your Lordships to accept this Amendment as a workable and more acceptable compromise. By this Amendment we should, as has been said abate the noise at the time when it is most troublesome; that is to say, in the morning when shift-workers are asleep and in the evening when children ought to be. I am glad to hear that the present Amendment would be acceptable to the Association of Municipal Corporations, whose views on the position of the authorities enjoying the local Act powers will be met, I understand, by the Manuscript Amendment to Clause 3 which will be moved by my noble friend Lord Conesford.

I think it is only right—here I shall probably get into difficulty—that I should warn your Lordships that if we send this Bill back to another place as it was left in Committee it is likely to give rise to further controversy there. I think we must realise that at this stage in the Session it may be difficult to find time for such a debate; and if that were the case, the Bill would be lost. I appreciate that that is no reason why your Lordships should not assert your rights do not want to overemphasise this aspect, because I realise that some noble Lords think it is not a matter that should weigh with your Lordships. But the fact is that if this Bill is lost, far from there being a total prohibition of these vendors' chimes, there will not be any control whatever over them, except in areas where local Act provisions or by-laws are in force. I think that, from the purely practical point of view, the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, are good ones—that half a loaf in this case is perhaps better than no bread. In my view, we shall have improved this Bill considerably if we amend Clause 2 as now proposed, and I hope that the Amendment will prove acceptable to your Lordships.

There is one other point I want to make, and it is this. This is a Private Member's Bill, of limited scope, and it is not likely to be the final word on this difficult subject of noise. The Arton Wilson Committee are now at work and we may eventually expect comprehensive recommendations on all sorts of noises, and therefore there will possibly be an opportunity for second thoughts on these particular chimes. This seems to me to be an added reason why we should proceed by stages, and provide in this Bill for the abatement, leaving it until another time to consider again the possibility of abolition.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who moved the Amendment some questions, because I am in some difficulty. I disagreed with the points the noble Lord made in his speech. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rea. Why should we legislate for ice cream alone? The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, talked of little bells ringing and of ice cream. If the Amendment meant that we were to deal with bells and ice cream, I should certainly again be against it. But here we are told that it is a loudspeaker and "perishable goods". The only ice cream noises that I have heard are not bells but parts of a gramophone record that are put on, and I think they are obnoxious. What I should like to know is whether "perishable goods" is meant to cover, say, meat, cream—not necessarily ice cream—milk and all perishable goods. If so, why then have we had a discussion simply on ice cream and bells? If I could be assured that it is not confined to bells or ice cream, I should not have the same objections.


My Lords, as I was responsible for moving the Amendment which has caused this further Amendment to be moved this afternoon, perhaps I may offer a small contribution to this discussion. I would begin, before I forget it, by referring to what the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, said. He said that this Amendment has the backing of the Association of Municipal Corporations—and, incidentally, I am one of the vice-presidents of that body. May I say that the strongest backing I had in the beginning for the Amendment that I put down and which was carried in the Committee stage was from the Association of Municipal Corporations. It was they who said to me: "If it is at all possible, what we want is the Amendment to delete that subsection; but if you cannot get that—if the House of Lords do not agree to it in any way—then half a loaf is better than no bread". What was the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, would be better than nothing. But it certainly was not an unqualified support for the present position.

To turn to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I must say that I enjoyed his speech very much. As a student of irrelevance myself, I think it was a wonderful example of how an ice cream can turn into a red herring. Throughout his speech there ran the idea that the ice-cream merchants have a vested interest in making a noise and that we are taking away something they have a vested right to do. I thought, once more, that this was a Noise Abatement Bill and that that clause was put into the Bill in order to enable something to be clone, among other things, about the ice-cream merchants. I can tell your Lordships that I have received a shoal of correspondence from all over the country saying: "Thank goodness! the House of Lords have done something to help us at last". I know that the provision of ice-cream is regarded as a boon by some people, but there are large numbers of the population of this country who regard it as a curse and a nuisance, a damage to their health and to their peace of mind. There is no question of the variation of the noises made by these electronic dulcimers, as I believe they were called in another place. The noble Lady who spoke last also asked why there has been such a concentration upon ice cream. Any body who has studied the debates in another place will have seen that it was there expressly stated: "Of course it does cover other things, but we all know that what is at stake is ice cream", and they mentioned certain firms which are the main suppliers.

I am quite unrepentant about this. I know that I have been told by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that this should be judged solely on its merits, and that it has nothing to do with what may happen in another place. I do not say that the "ice-cream lobby" has been trying to get at me, but certainly there has been pressure brought privately on me, along the line that if I do not see my way to express my penitence for the damage I have done, then this Bill will be wrecked in another place. I have read the Hansard debates in another place, and I did not get that impression. It may be that the lack of time is what matters, and I suggest to the noble Lord on the Front Bench that this is a thing which he and the Government can easily remedy. At this stage of the Session in another place time is at their disposal, and if they chose to give the time, if there had to be a discussion on this point, it would be quite easy for that danger to be eliminated.

I do not want to go over what has already been said. I reinforce every word said by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. It is because I am only an amateur and not a politician that it seems to me an extraordinary thing that this House, a House of 70-odd, should have come to a decision in Committee and, under the rather specious guise of a new Amendment, there should be an attempt in Report stage to reverse that position. When in Committee somebody withdraws an Amendment and reserves the right to raise the question again, I daresay that it is completely in accord with Parliamentary practice. But this does not leave a very good taste in my mouth, for one, and I think it is regrettable, if the subject has to be gone over again, that it is put at the end of Business, so that it is reached at a late hour when there is not so large a House as there might have been earlier. I do not wish to force my opinions on anybody, but I want this matter to be looked at from the point of view of the convenience of the people affected by it. If this noise is stopped, it will not prevent anybody from buying ice cream. It may reduce the number of parents who are driven to buy it because the noise reaches their children. I have nothing more to say, except that I still strongly object to this Amendment.


My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate, but I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, has made a number of assertions which we must get straight. He has made it clear, unless he wishes to withdraw it, that he is against ice cream as such. I agree with my noble friend Lord Amwell that we are in danger of making too much of this matter and we ought to look now to some sort of sensible compromise. It is no use the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, getting up and saying 'that he is an amateur in politics. In practice, we have to take the situation as we find it. I regard it as ridiculous to suggest that the Government can find time out of a hat at this season of the Session it simply is not practical policy.

I resent, too, the suggestions that have been made that this is the result of the "ice-cream lobby". No one has approached me on the subject. I took the responsibility of putting down this Amendment because I felt that, partly as a result of a misunderstanding, this House had taken a decision which it would like an opportunity of reconsidering. To the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I would again say that I regard it as an unworthy suggestion that this House cannot reconsider a matter and change its decision. The only people who have spoken to me on the subject are people who have said that they are sorry to hear ice-cream chimes disappear. There is provision for reasonable control, so that they should not become an undue nuisance—that is going into the Amendment. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will now accept the advice of the Government and that we shall dispose of this matter by accepting the Amendment.


My Lords, I was one of those who voted for the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, on the Committee stage, but the Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, seems to me to be very reasonable. I agree that these chimes are not very tuneful, and there are two suggestions I should like to make at this very late stage. The first is that they could be toned down slightly, and the second is that the use of these chimes should be limited to week-ends; that they should not be used every day of the week. But I hope it will not go from your Lordships' House that we are anti-ice-cream. I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that the medical properties of ice cream—the recognised makes—are extremely high. If there is real need for some kind of warning to he given, particularly in rural areas, that perishable goods are coming via a van to some housing estate, then a certain amount of reasonable noise seems to be called for. If the Amendment is pressed, I shall certainly support it.


My Lords, I should like to say a word or two with regard to the Amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, I have the honour to be one of the vice-presidents of the Association of Municipal Corporations. I think I should be fairly stating the position to-day in saying that they would accept this Amendment rather than run the risk of losing the Bill entirely. It is not for me to enlarge on that. There is some danger that the Bill may be lost, after all the time that has been spent on it. May I say that I do not know anything about any "ice-cream lobby", nor have I been approached by anybody in connection with the matter. But I think it is only right to say that the position of some of the employees in the industry, or those engaged in the industry, ought with fairness and reason to be considered before we defeat this Amendment.

In regard to the question put by the noble Lady as to whether this Amendment applies only to ice cream, as I read it it applies to all perishable goods for human consumption. A feature is now growing up in some of our rural areas of mobile vans carrying perishable goods other than ice cream, trying to supply the needs of people in places far away from the shops. I think it is fair to say that for at least six years—as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford—the ice-cream vendors, with the express authority of Parliament, have been plying their trade and have used audible means to advise their prospective customers that they are in the neighbourhood. It is difficult to estimate the number, but I believe there are something like 10,000 vans throughout the country. Many of these are owned and worked by small traders who have invested their capital, and their lives, so to speak, in this form of trading—expressly, I repeat, with the authority of Parliament in some areas, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. To a considerable extent these small traders depend on mobile sales.


My Lords, might I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment. Is he referring to mobile grocery shops, and if so, does he not feel that they could sell their goods just as well without having to advertise them by means of a loudspeaker?


Attempts have been made, I think I can say, to sell ice cream with mobile vans without any audible means of advising people that they are in the neighbourhood. But again I believe I am correct in saying that sales fell off anything between 50 and 70 per cent.

Other suggestions have been put forward—that they might go from house to house. That would be even worse, I think, than a few minutes of chimes, which many people may dislike. It has also been suggested that there should be a fixed schedule of times when these people would be passing through the neighbourhood. When people are looking at the television, or even engaged in gardening, their desire for ice cream may fade away. The experience of the industry, as I understand it, is that, particularly in rural areas and on large housing estates where people live far from shops, this audible means of announcing the presence of the vendor is the only practical way for the industry. I suggest that they are rendering a useful service to the community; and if other people followed their example, selling cream or perishable fruit, strawberries or anything like that, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, would not object and feel that something wrong had been done. They would both come within the definition, as I read it, in the Bill itself, and if the other traders follow suit I hope that we shall not have any difficulty about it. Not only will the public lose a service, but—and I would ask noble Lords to consider this—notwithstanding the fact that these mobile vendors have legitimately plied their industry under the sanction of Parliament, if this Bill becomes law without this Amendment these small traders who have tried to build up and earn an honest living may be ruined as a result of our decision.

I would submit also that those who are afraid of a nuisance should bear in mind what the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave said; that this is a Noise Abatement Bill, and really if one considers this Bill carefully, local authorities who have to deal with the question who have no by-laws, nor a local Act of Parliament, will find their hands strengthened by the clause, which enables them to take action if any annoyance is caused to the public. The Amendment seeks to safeguard the position of those engaged in serving the public and at the same time ensures protection of the public against annoyance. I am convinced that, on reflection, it will be seen that a total prohibition of the use of chimes would be a grave injustice not only to this industry but to any other industry that might follow suit. It would ruin many small traders who have been acting within the law, who have invested their capital and worked hard to build up a business; and it would also, despite what people may say, deprive the public in many areas of a service which is greatly appreciated on the whole. I therefore would suggest that what Lord Taylor said in introducing his Amendment, together with what has been said by the noble Earl, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, should convince your Lordships that we are on the right road in voting for this Amendment. I trust that it will commend itself to your Lordships.


My Lords, if it is possible for the advocates of the ice-cream vendors to kill this Bill, it has been killed by its advocates rather than by its opponents. On the last occasion the noble Lord did his best to kill this Bill by threats to the Committee that if they exercised their right to use their judgment on a particular Amendment dire consequences would follow. Now my noble friend, my dear noble friend, Lord Burden, puts forward the further argument that if we oppose this Amendment we are going to ruin the small traders and a great many other deserving people. But this Amendment is not put down in the interests of the small traders; it is the big ice-cream manufacturers who are behind it.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, I assure him that the Amendment is not put down in the interests of the ice-cream traders. Strangely enough, it is put down in the interests of noise abatement, as being reasonable and the best we can hope to get through Parliament.


The particular people who go round making the noise are the big people. It is not the small traders about whom my noble friend spoke. If this is a Noise Abatement Bill, it is an extraordinary clause to find in the Bill, giving exemption to people to make a noise during certain hours of the day. I do not understand my noble friend regarding this particular Amendment as an Amendment in the interests of noise abatement. It is surely in the interests of making a permitted noise during certain hours of the day. However, having said all this, and having emphasised the fact that it is the advocates of the Bill who are doing their best to kill it, I would say that I feel that this is a rather better provision than we had before us on the last occasion. There is the provision that they must so operate this licence to make a noise as not to give reasonable cause for annoyance to persons in the vicinity.


If I might interrupt, that was there last time.


I am doing my best for the noble Lord. I gathered it was not. If it was there, then I cannot help the noble Lord on that. But it is a modification of the previous Amendment, and I appreciate that the noble Lord the sponsor of the Bill, and some of my noble friends, have done their best to minimise the evil. In those circumstances, I do not think any of us feels very strongly about it—I certainly do not—and I would suggest that, now that we have had our say in the matter, noble Lords would not feel disposed to participate in a Division.

6.30 p.m.


My Lards, as the sponsor of the Bill in this House, I rise to welcome this Amendment, though I did not put my name to it. May I deal at the outset with a point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, about the propriety of reversing on Report what we had done on the Committee stage? That is in accordance with the practice of this House, as I have every reason to know, because almost exactly a year has passed since I struck out the first clause of the Legitimacy Bill in Committee and the House reversed that decision on Report. What, therefore, the House is being invited to do to-day is not only in accordance with precedent but is in accordance with recent precedent.

With the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, I have a good deal of sympathy. He carried an Amendment on the last occasion, as he thought and believed with the enthusiastic support of the Association of Municipal Corporations. Nevertheless, I can assure him that, on this occasion, the Association of Municipal Corporations greatly hope that the Amendment now before the House will be adopted. They have told me so. I even tried on the occasion when they so informed me to bring along the officers concerned to have a word with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, Whose grievance in the matter I fully recognise. Unfortunately he was not then in the House. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, seemed to regard it as an objection to the present Amendment that it did not deal with motor-cycles. It seems a slightly farfetched objection, but, if he will refer to what was said in the Second Reading debate, he will find out why this Bill does not deal with motor-cycles, though I cordially and strongly agree with what he said about motor-cycles that make such nuisance.

My support of this Amendment is explained by the fact that I support this Bill as a contribution to the cause of noise abatement. I believe that every Parliamentarian who studies the position knows as a fact that, if this Amendment is not carried this afternoon, the fate of this Bill, not by the fault of any of us, will be in doubt. I do not think it is improper that that fact should be made known to this House. I am not suggesting that it is decisive. Any noble Lord is entitled, if this Amendment is so objectionable, to say that he will not accept it whatever the consequences. Nevertheless, it is surely quite in order for those who are endeavouring to get this Bill through Parliament to point out that this Bill will be in danger.

What is the position as regards noise abatement? The contribution made by Clause I of the present Bill is not disputed, and that is not before us now. Now let me look at Clause 2, which this Amendment seeks to amend. Many people have said, "Why have any provision at all dealing with these loudspeakers used in the sale of perishable commodities?" The answer to that, of course, is that this is an exception to the main operative subsection, which is subsection (1) of Clause 2, which prohibits the use of a loudspeaker in a street between the hours of 9 in the evening and 8 the following morning for any purpose. It also prohibits at any other time the use of a loudspeaker for the purpose of advertising any entertainment, trade or business.

The subsection which we are now considering comes in as an exception to the universal application of that prohibition. Noble Lords say, "Why, in a general Bill, make any such exception at all?" Well, I endeavoured to give the reason in the debate on Second Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, has given it again: that numerous Acts of Parliament dating from the Brighton Corporation Act, 1954, have made this exception. It really would not have added to the chance of getting a Private Member's Bill through if it had put a complete prohibition on something that had been allowed in the case of every local authority which, for the last six years, had sought such a provision in a local Act. That is the reason why. It is not for no reason at all that this exception is introduced.

Now may I give the House, and especially those who are greatly irritated by these noises, four important considerations which I think may lead them to support this Amendment. I will deal with them quite shortly. The first consideration is that, if this Amendment is adopted, then, for the first time, there will be total prohibition throughout the country of the use of these loudspeakers except between noon and 7 p.m. That is new. There will be that total prohibition. Secondly, the position of those authorities—there are about six—which already have a total prohibition of these loudspeakers without any exception, will be preserved under a later clause, and the Amendment to it, to which we come next. Thirdly (this deals particularly, I think, with some of the noises which greatly and rightly irritated my noble friend Baroness Horsbrugh) the final paragraph says that the loudspeaker must be so operated as not to give reasonable cause for annoyance to persons in the vicinity. If it does give reasonable cause, it is taken out of the exception altogether. The final point is this: that when this Bill, with this Amendment, becomes an Act of Parliament, there is nothing in any area in the country to prevent a local authority from making, subject to confirmation, a by-law more drastic still. Since the Bill as amended will confer all these advantages, I ask the House to support the Amendment.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, I supported the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Milverton on the Committee stage and I wish to support him in his argument against this Amendment to-day. The principal arguments on the Committee stage concerned two classes of people who particularly needed protection; shift-workers and children. I freely concede that this Amendment goes some way towards meeting that objection and makes certain concessions, but I do not think it goes far enough. What is totally overlooked is that the promoters of the Bill have forgotten what happens on Sundays.

There are two very strong objections to this Amendment in relation to Sundays. I am leaving the shift-worker in the hands of the noble Earl. Lord Attlee, who quoted the case of his friend who would be disturbed; and I am not arguing about the children although I do not feel that they are sufficiently protected. In relation to Sundays, however this Amendment is highly objectionable from the point of view of the churches and of the general peace and quiet of Sunday afternoon. I was not sure that my noble friend Lord Conesford did not make a slip of the tongue, for I thought I heard him say that there would be a prohibition between 12 and 7 o'clock. I am right, am I not, in thinking that the period between 12 noon and 7 p.m. is that during which bells will ring?


Yes, that is right.


Church services go on after 12 noon and, without labouring the point, I will read your Lordships a letter which I have in my hand from the Vicar of All Saints, Clydesdale Road, Kensington. I told your Lordships earlier of this objection and mentioned Kensington and I have had this letter: As far as the church is concerned this is a menace. Sometimes at the most solemn part of the service this noise comes along and distracts everyone, and/or in the middle of an address or prayer. I did write to them and ask them to avoid the neighbourhood of the church. No reply and no effect. I have this suggestion. The movers of the Amendment have come some way to meet the objection. Let them withdraw this Amendment now and put down on Third Reading an Amendment preserving the peace and quiet of Sunday. Let Sunday be a day of peace. I believe that if those responsible for the Amendment will do that, they will get a unanimous acceptance; but the Amendment as it stands is totally objectionable to me.

One of the most astonishing things is that we have beard not only the Government speaker but the eloquent noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite advocating this Noise Abatement Bill; and yet in support of the argument to help the Bill those noble Lords are going to punch this hole right through it on one of the most important days of the week. I am not moved by the arguments of my noble friend Lord Conesford. I believe the Sunday aspect has been overlooked, and if the movers of the Amendment will take the hint and do that, I believe it will go a very long way to gain general approval. If my noble friend goes to a Division I Shall certainly support him.


My Lords, I rise only to make two very brief suggestions. It seems to me that a the noise made by these ice-cream vans is being exaggerated greatly beyond what is really the case. I have very happy recollections of years when I lived in the country, and personally I always looked forward to the chiming of these quiet, gentle bells which told me that I could get an ice cream later in the day. When we realise the noises that are going on in the country, the hooting and the screaming of motor cycles and a great many other things, the idea that the noise which this little cart occasion- ally makes in a neighbourhood is destroying the whole peace of the country simply will not stand up.

I venture to say all this, with great respect, to the noble Lord who has just sat down, to whose views I always listen with great interest, and my noble friend on my right who speaks for the Liberal Party. But I really believe that they are exaggerating the position. I put this to the noble Lord: if he feels that the Amendment should not be carried in its present form but that only one small alteration is wanted—to extend the hour from noon to 12.30 p.m. on Sunday or something of that kind—it is perfectly open to him to put down an Amendment on the Third Reading. Otherwise, I feel that we in this House shall be making ourselves ridiculous if we do not carry this Amendment, which is a most sensible compromise to meet views held on both sides and throughout the country.

LORD CONESFORD moved to add to to subsection (1): Provided that in the case of a provision of a local Act which appears to the Minister to be unnecessary having regard to the provisions of the last foregoing section, the power of repeal conferred by this subsection shall not be exercised without the consent of the local authorities for the area to which the proposed repeal extends.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name, but with the agreement of the House I will move it in the form in which it appears in the manuscript Amendment that has been circulated, and not in the form in which it is printed in the Marshalled List. This is an important Amendment which I believe will be welcomed by noble Lords irrespective of the view they took on the last Amendment. It may be recalled that on the Committee stage of this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that under Clause 3 of the Bill the Minister might be able to derogate from the powers obtained by certain local authorities under local Acts.

Under some half dozen local Acts there is a prohibition of these loudspeakers without any such exception as that for which we have just provided. I assured the Committee and the noble Lord that I thought the possibility of such action by the Minister was most remote and that the Minister had no such intention. I was then invited by my noble and learned friend Lord Simonds to make an Amendment to Clause 3 to give effect to what I had said, and so to make any undertaking unnecessary; and that is what my Amendment now does. Its effect will be to modify the Minister's power to repeal such a provision as was described by my noble friend Lord Milverton prohibiting these loudspeakers without exception, unless the local authorities concerned themselves request the Minister to effect the repeal. That meets the request made by my noble and learned friend Lord Simonds and gives the required assurance to the House. My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 28, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Conesford.)

Forward to