HL Deb 05 July 1963 vol 251 cc1162-6

4.2 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, today we have had a large variety of debates. Certainly the Bill which is now before the House is just another measure to protect the womenfolk of this country. Whatever views may be held in your Lordships' House and throughout the country, especially after yesterday's debate, one thing is quite certain: the womenfolk should be grateful to this House for trying to fight for their principles. This is one Bill which does so.

In asking for this Bill to be read a second time, perhaps I may first very briefly go over its history. Originally it was raised in another place under the Ten-Minute Rule on July 19, 1961, by the honourable Member for Blackburn, but, presumably due to the shortage of Parliamentary time, it failed to survive the course. In this Session of Parliament my honourable friend the Member of Parliament for Belfast West raised the matter and it has passed through all its stages in another place without any objections. The Bill is really self-explanatory. Clause 1(1) makes it obligatory on local authorities to remove all existing turnstiles on public lavatories within six months of the passing of this Bill. Originally the period was twelve months, but the Government accepted an Amendment in Standing Committee in another place to make it six months, and I believe that the local authorities are quite happy about that state of affairs.

I will not dwell on the technicalities of the Bill because, as I say, they are really self-explanatory. But may I say why I, for one, am very much favourably disposed towards a Bill of this nature? Not only mothers of small children but fathers as well must be aware of the injuries and inconvenience that can be caused by these objects, turnstiles. I will quote an example which happened to my family and myself only last week. We were driving from East-bourne to our home in Surrey. It was necessary to stop the car at a village near East Grinstead so that my two small daughters could go to the toilet. My wife took them in—the toilet was in a disgusting condition, but that is immaterial. The fact was that they had to pass through turnstiles. There was a large crowd waiting to go through, and apparently it was a most discomforting experience.

Indeed, one lady told my wife of an experience which happened to her small son only recently. She was taking him through a turnstile to a public convenience and he suffered two badly crushed fingers. I have here details of a number of instances of a like nature which have taken place, but at this hour I do not propose to quote them because they have already been quoted earlier in another place. But I would only say that, according to figures supplied by the Ministry, in something like eighteen months following the issue of the Circular, which was in November, 1961, 70 per cent. of turnstiles have in fact been removed. So I think the local authorities are co-operating pretty well on the whole. This Bill has in fact the support of the National Council of Women and other organisations, including the British Rheumatism and Arthritis Association, the Royal College of Midwives and the National Council of Nurses.

To revert to injuries, in the last five years at least 150 people have been trapped in turnstiles in public conveniences, and there have been twelve cases of actual injury. Some of them have been serious. I think it is fair to say that probably most of these injuries have been to expectant mothers, and it is quite obvious to this House, which consists mostly of family people, that an injury of this nature to an expectant mother could have very serious consequences. It has been argued that it is quite unjust for the womenfolk of this country to have to pay to use a toilet whereas men do not have to. But that is really outside the scope of the Bill. The Bill is primarily to abolish these turnstiles. I do not really think that there is any more I could say. As I said, the other place has given this Bill unanimous support. It is certainly time that these objects were removed.

It was mooted in another place that turnstiles should be removed from all organisations, but that again is outside the scope of the Bill; and, of course, in places like museums they do serve a useful purpose in that they prevent people from getting in without paying. But I feel that in these public conveniences—they are mostly in ladies' conveniences—they are an anachronism. As I have tried to show, they can cause injury and discomfort, and I would ask this House to give this short but, in my view, most important piece of social legislation a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Auckland.)

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Auckland has earned the gratitude of your Lordships and especially, I think, of the Ladies. I am rather sorry that the noble Baroness who has just moved the Second Reading of her own Bill is not here. She was complimentary about your Lordships; indeed, she said that she liked men, which was nice of her. As this Bill was really originated by three honourable ladies in another place, of both Parties, I think that we are earning a good mark to-day, especially the noble Lord behind me who has introduced this Bill so clearly and with such confidence that I feel sure that none of your Lordships would wish to oppose its Second Reading.

The noble Lord gave the background to this Bill. Perhaps I might add one or two points. He mentioned the danger of some of these turnstiles but I do not think he actually mentioned the fact that, apart from expectant mothers and small children, they are dangerous to the old and disabled; and in fact it is impossible for some people to use these conveniences. Another small point which is of some interest is that when the subject was being investigated by my right honourable friend, it appeared, from replies to a circular he sent out requesting information, that there were 670 public lavatories in the country using turnstiles. But they were not, as my noble friend seems to have thought, all in ladies' public lavatories. There were 145 actually fitted in those for men. So that the men are not entirely free from this inconvenience.

After the first circular, another was sent out requesting their removal, and stating that there would not be any further loan sanction for the installation of any more turnstiles. It is true that 70 per cent. were removed, but unfortunately there were an obstinate 58 out of 307 authorities who did not remove them, and declined to do so in any circumstances. But since they have had a year and a half to consider this matter, my right honourable friend feels that they have been duly and fairly warned and that there should be no objection whatever to the passing of this Bill, which is highly commended by him.

The only thing I need add, I think, by way of explanation, is in reference to the financial clause. The Government have recognised that the removal of turnstiles would involve local authorities in some expenditure, and the Ministry of Housing obtained some information about this in 1961. The cost to any authority would not be great, but if an authority happens to have less than average rateable resources the expenditure will be eligible for rate deficiency grant under the Local Government Act, 1958. Most authorities have taken, or are taking, out their turnstiles voluntarily, and it would be quite wrong to offer special grants to those who have so far refused and who now will be obliged to remove them; but, as I say, they would be eligible for rate-deficiency grant if they qualify for it.

My Lords, I need not delay the House any longer. I express my thanks to the noble Lord who introduced the Bill, and, if it would not be inappropriate, to the honourable ladies elsewhere for their activities which have successfully brought this Bill from the other place to us today. I would suggest that your Lordships give it a Second Reading.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank my noble friend Lord Hastings for his courteous and extremely helpful reply. I should also like to thank his Department for all the help they have given me, and, of course, the honourable ladies and gentlemen in another place who have really borne the brunt of this Bill. I think it would be the wish of every sensible person that this Bill should reach the Statute Book as soon as possible, and I hope that your Lordships will now give it a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.