HL Deb 03 July 1969 vol 303 cc668-70

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, after the excitement of the last few minutes, I hope you will forgive me if, very briefly, I raise a small point on this particular Bill. I wish to talk about Clause 90, which relates to self-operated launderettes. The wording of the clause is identical to one in the Dudley Corporation Bill, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if my remarks are somewhat repetitious. However, it is hard to make any new points. I wish to raise this as a matter of principle, because I think it would be unfortunate if it slipped through and became a precedent.

The Bill requires that launderettes provide lavatories. That sounds somewhat a small point. However, the reasons why I feel we should consider it are as follows. First, lavatories in unattended launderettes may be a danger. They provide a haven for a host of undesirables, such as tramps, drug addicts, vandals and perverts. Any unattended place, and particularly a launderette, can attract these people if parts of the premises are not in full view of the street and well lit at the same time. Secondly, the compulsory provision of lavatories would cause a problem, since these premises are already very crowded with equipment, and if lavatories had to be provided it would mean that there would be very much less space for machines. If lavatories were insisted upon there would presumably have to be two, as in most places; and if this were so the reduction in the number of machines at the launderette would, I feel, make its operation somewhat marginal. Moreover, it would be less convenient for the public—and necessitated only by these unwanted public conveniences.

Thirdly, staff would have to be provided to look after the lavatories, which would add to the cost. Then all supplies and fuel services would be increased, and the additional costs involved, of course, would have to be passed on to the public. Finally, no proof has been shown that these provisions are necessary. The provisions have appeared for the first time in these two Private Bills. If such a need were shown, surely it would be proper for it to appear in general legislation. Consequently, I should be most grateful if the Select Committee considering this Bill (because it is an opposed Bill), will give careful consideration to this point, and one would hope that they will delete Clause 90.


My Lords, it is not out of vindictiveness to Wolverhampton or the Corporation that I am on my feet to support the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. It certainly seems to me somewhat unfair to make self-service laundry owners use up their limited, and therefore valuable, space for public lavatories and washbasins and so on when other businesses do not have to do so. From the point of view of the general public—and I have no other interest that I should declare in coin-operated launderettes—the mixture of washing clothes and cleansing bodies not only sounds unattractive but may well be unhygienic. The burden of keeping these lavatories clean will fall on the unfortunate proprietor. One wonders why people going to these launderettes cannot go to public conveniences while the machines are actually washing their clothes: they do not have to attend the machines while they are in operation. I think Clause 90, to which the noble Lord referred, puts on the wrong shoulders the responsibility for providing public conveniences.


My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to give some indication of the Government's attitude to the question of whether or not lavatories should be compulsory in launderettes in Wolverhampton. The Government have no attitude. This is a Private Bill, and I simply hope, on behalf of the Government, that this Bill will go into Committee. I am sure that Lord Redesdale will have observed the custom of the House whereby noble Lords should consider whether or not they have an interest that should be declared.


My Lords, I did say that I declared in my speech on the Dudley Bill that there was an interest, but not in Wolverhampton.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon for having missed his reference back to an earlier declaration. The clause which exercises the noble Lord is one in respect of which there are Petitions against the Bill and this of course automatically ensures, what would no doubt be the case anyway, that the Committee will give their careful consideration to this matter.


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has just said, this is an opposed Bill. One of the Petitions that has been deposited against the Bill raises exactly the point that has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, about the provision of sanitary conveniences in launderettes, and the noble Lord can rest assured therefore that this matter will be most carefully considered by the Select Committee to which this Bill will be referred. I am quite sure that the Committee will also take note of the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and by the other noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.