§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Birk.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Power to erect flagpoles, etc., on highways]:
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 1 and 2:
§ Page 2, line 9, leave out (" under an enactment ").
§ line 13, leave out (" under an enactment ").
§ The noble Baroness said: With the leave of the Committee, I should like to move Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 together. As it stands at the moment, subsection (2) 825 provides that an authority shall not be entitled, to place flagpoles et cetera on a highway carried by a bridge, except with the consent of the body which has a duty under that Act to maintain the bridge or its approaches. It has been pointed out to us that there are many bridges carrying highways Which are maintained, for example, by the British Railways Board as a result of obligations deriving from Common Law, or agreements or conveyances involving particular landowners and not deriving from any enactments at all. It is just as desirable in these cases that the bridge authority's consent should be obtained before flagpoles are erected on the highway. This is achieved by the Amendment, which removes the references to " an enactment I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Control of mixing of mortar etc on highways]:
§ Viscount AMORY moved Amendment No. 3:
§ Page 5, line 4, after (deposits ") insert (" or causes or permits to be mixed or deposited ").
§ The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Young and myself. This Amendment covers a very small point indeed. I do not know what the noble Baroness will feel about this, but I wonder whether she might think it sensible for me to speak to Amendments Nos. 3 and 5 together. They are both very small points.
§ Viscount AMORY
Then I will speak to them together and withdraw on the second one if an objection is raised later. The first Amendment deals with the question of mixing cement and mortar on a highway. The direct responsibility in the Bill is placed on those who do it— who, in the normal way, one would think would be labourers, probably employed by a contractor. The suggestion is that, as those labourers will presumably be working under the supervision of the 826 contractor himself, the contractor as well as the labourers should be made liable here.
We are dealing with a case where cement or mortar is mixed on the road itself. Of course, if it is mixed on a wooden or other movable foundation, or on something which prevents it from coming into contact with the road, then there is no objection. I believe that the wooden plate on which it is mixed is technically know as a " spot ", but 1 shall not use that term because it might be a little confusing in the circumstances. This section creates a criminal offence and so it will presumably be strictly construed. The view has been expressed that, under the Bill as it stands, the contractor would be caught with the existing wording in the same way as a company can be caught if one of its employees sells unfit food. But the advice which the local government associations have obtained is that the analogy is faulty, because the contractor in this case would not mix the cement himself. So the suggestion, which seems reasonable, is that the employer as well as the labourer who is directly concerned should be liable if an offence is committed.
Amendment No. 5 deals with another aspect of the same problem. If cement is mixed on the highway, and sticks to it in any quantity, very considerable damage can arise. The liquid cement can be wafted into a sewer or other piping, and great damage may be caused which needs expensive remedial work. The object of this Amendment is to provide that, if damage is caused in that kind of way, full compensation arising from it can be claimed by the authority which has to carry out the remedial work. Under the Bill, there seems no right to recover expenses incurred in the course of the remedial work.
I understand that at an earlier stage in the discussion of this Bill the Government undertook to introduce an Amendment to deal with this question, but in fact did not do so. I believe they feel that existing powers will be adequate under Section 35 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973, the Highways Act 1959 or the Highways (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1961. But I am advised that under those Acts only discretion is conferred, and there is a limit of £400 too, which in the kind of case I am envisaging, 827 where widespread damage is done to sewers, would clearly be inadequate. It would seem fair to everybody concerned that a right to full compensation for the remedial work required should be specifically included in the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
The noble Viscount has explained the Amendment so clearly that there is no point in my going over what it seeks to do. We believe that it is a misconceived Amendment because, as the clause is drafted, it already provides that a contractor employing as a servant a labourer to mix mortar or cement would be subject to the provisions of the clause, and the Amendment is therefore unnecessary. If the Amendment were made, the person who caused or permitted mortar or cement to be mixed or deposited on the highway would be guilty of an offence under subsection (1), even though he might have no direct control over the contractor who committed the offence. This seems to us unnecessarily punitive, and is not what is intended by the Amendment.
There is no gain in prosecuting a property owner who employs a contractor to do work on his property, if an offence is committed which he could not have prevented and which, in many cases, he would not even have known had been committed. In practice, it is thought that the clause as drafted would work satisfactorily, and for that reason I am resisting the Amendment. I believe, as the noble Viscount pointed out, that a similar Amendment was moved during the Committee stage in another place and it was withdrawn, by leave, after the foregoing explanation had been given. I shall deal with the other Amendment when we come to it, because I think it would be easier to proceed that way round.
§ Viscount AMORY
The information which the noble Baroness has seems to be different from that which I have received. I understood her to say that she thought that under the existing wording a contractor who employed a labourer who was guilty of this offence would be liable. If that is so, then it meets the point of this Amendment. But may I ask her again whether that is what she did say, that there would be no wish to catch anybody other than the employer and the 828 labourer: for example, anybody who owned the contiguous land who was not directly involved?
§ Baroness BIRK
What I said was that under the Amendment it would be possible for a property owner, who was employing a contractor to do work on his property, to be prosecuted. If an offence was committed which he could not have prevented and which, in many cases, he would not have known had been committed, a property owner could be drawn into the circle of those liable without having condoned or agreed to it. That is an additional reason why I have to resist the Amendment.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I am sorry to pursue this point, but I think that we are slightly at cross-purposes. I believe I am right in saying that my noble friend Lord Amory and I are concerned that in a case like this a labourer would be prosecuted under this clause for the offence of mixing cement directly on the pavement. We are seeking to make an Amendment which would also render liable the employer of the workman. What the noble Baroness has said is that our Amendment is incorrectly drafted and would apply to the owner of the property who had employed the contractor. If that is the case, then of course we shall withdraw the Amendment and redraft it to meet this point. But before doing that, it would be helpful to know whether or not a contractor is liable and, if so, where that is stated in this clause. Perhaps the noble Baroness could say.
§ Baroness BIRK
As I understand it, this is covered by the clause. Where the employer and the contractor are one and the same person, the clause will apply as it stands at the moment. What we are anxious to avoid and what the Amendment, probably inadvertently, would bring about is the situation where, when the employer and the contractor are two different people, the property owner is brought into the case and is punished for something for which he was not responsible. That is my clear understanding, although my exposition may not have been as clear as it should have been.
§ Viscount AMORY
We are certainly not suggesting in any way that anybody other than the direct employer—to whom 829 I referred as the contractor—and the labourer should be caught. We were suggesting that he is the person who should be liable, not the person who placed an order with the contractor for the work to be done. The noble Baroness has not quite told us whether she thinks it would be fair and reasonable that the direct employer of the labourer should be caught. We think that the direct employer, whom I called the contractor, should be liable.
§ Baroness BIRK
As I understand it, the direct employer would be caught. But under the Amendment, somebody in between—the property owner—would be caught, although he would not be caught under the clause as it is at present drafted. I gather that this point was gone into very carefully in another place, and it was not a matter of the Amendment being lost; it was withdrawn, by leave, after these explanations. But what I am prepared to do, so that there can be no doubt, is to take further legal advice and write to the noble Viscount between now and Report stage, if that will satisfy him.
§ Viscount AMORY
I thank the noble Baroness very much. I think that my noble friend Lady Young and I will be perfectly happy if we can be sure that the direct employer will be liable in a case like this. We do not want to spread it any wider than that. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 4:
§ Page 5, line 39, leave out from (" 1959 ") to end of line 42.
§ The noble Baroness said: With the leave of the Committee, may I move Amendment No. 4 and speak at the same time to Amendment No. 48. As noble Lords will see, these Amendments involve the deletion from subsection (3) of the affirmation that the term " statutory undertakers " in subsection (2)(d) does not include a person entitled to the benefit of a licence in respect of the highway under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1971 and the insertion of that affirmation 830 under the definition of " statutory undertaker " contained in Clause 35. These Amendments are a tidying-up exercise and move words which are interpretive from Clause 3 into Clause 35, which is an interpretive clause. They make better sense and also make the Bill easier to understand. I beg to move.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I am sure that we are all very pleased to accept any Amendments which make the Bill easier to understand.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Viscount AMORY moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 5, line 42, at end insert—
("(4) If in any case any mortar, cement or other substance is mixed on a highway in contravention of subsection (1) of this section and thereafter sticks to the surface of the highway, or solidifies in drains or sewers connected with the highway, the authority responsible for cleaning the highway or cleaning the drain or sewer, after carrying out any work necessitated by such contravention, may recover from the person responsible for the contravention, or from the person who causes or permits the contravention, the expenses reasonably incurred by the authority in so doing.").
§ The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the names of my noble friend Lady Young and myself.
§ Baroness BIRK
As the noble Viscount pointed out, it is quite true that a similar Amendment was proposed in Committee in the other place and that this was at the prompting of the Association of County Councils. The Government spokesman agreed to consider the point. As I think the noble Viscount said this afternoon, it was thought that the Government agreed to introduce an Amendment. 1 understand that this was not so. We agreed to look into the matter and find out whether an Amendment was necessary. The matter was looked into and the Government's conclusion was that no such provision was necessary. Their conclusion—again as I understand it—was conveyed to the Association of County Councils. The reason for their conclusion is that a provision of this kind would not do anything at all.
If a person mixes mortar or cement on a highway in such a way that it passes into the drains or sewers and solidifies there, the authority responsible for the drain or 831 sewer would have a claim for damages against the person who had mixed the mortar or cement. This would be a Common Law claim arising from negligence and the damages which the authority could recover would include the cost of clearing the drain or sewer. I should have thought that this would be quite ample to cover the position and meet the noble Viscount's point. If the costs of cleaning the highway or clearing the drain or sewer are known at the time of prosecution, Section 35 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973 will enable them to be recovered. Sections 127 and 128 of the Highways Act 1959 and Section 8 of the Highways (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1961 also provide a remedy. If the costs are determined after prosecution the local authority can simply demand payment. If that is unsuccessful they can institute a civil action for damages under Common Law. The outcome of these remedies depends upon the courts. They will consider all the relevant facts and order accordingly.
If what is sought is an automatic right to recover the cost of clearing the drain or cleaning the highway from persons whose activities result in a drain or sewer being blocked or a highway being obstructed by cement or mortar which sticks to the surface, this would be a completely new departure. There is no such right in the whole of the public health legislation. This is branching out into an entirely new area. What is more, we are aware of no such provision for the clause in any of the local Act precedents.
The Amendment is unacceptable also since it refers not only to persons responsible for the contravention but also to persons who cause or permit the contravention. We believe that this is both unnecessary and undesirable.
§ Viscount AMORY
I must own that I am not as absolutely familiar as I could wish to be in every detail with Section 5 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973, the Highways Act 1959 and the Highways (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1961, so I shall have to accept what has been said by the noble Baroness—who, I presume, is familiar with every detail of these three important pieces of legislation. However, as I understand it, and the noble Baroness has not, I think, said anything to the contrary, they only 832 confer power on a court to use its discretion in making an award for compensation, although the noble Baroness did mention civil action. May I ask the noble Baroness this question. In that case, if civil action is taken, I take it that there would be no limit. What seems to me to be wrong and does not meet this case is that I understand that under these three Acts there would be maximum compensation of £400. That seems quite unsuitable for the kind of damage that might be done here. I am sure that some noble Lords have tried mixing cement in order to mend the garden path and know of the mess they can get into and the quite appalling disasters that can follow. I need not recount them to your Lordships. One can imagine that if a very small amount of liquid cement and water get into pipework and drains, the damage might greatly exceed £400. Can the noble Baroness assure me that by the course of action that she is now proposing there would be no maximum of that kind which would frustrate what was reasonable?
§ Baroness BIRK
Yes, I can assure the noble Viscount. What I was also sure about and now have been doubly reassured about is that there is no limit if one brings a civil action for damages. I think this is the main point about which the noble Viscount is concerned, and it is covered. The other point still stands: that this would be a departure and that it would create very great problems in a Bill of this kind if there were an automatic right to recover from persons, which would be the result of this Amendment. Having quite definitely been able to assure the noble Viscount on the point of damages, I hope he will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Viscount AMORY
It does not strike me with any terror that a right to automatic compensation should be provided, even though it has not been provided before. However, I will think over what the noble Baroness has said and forthwith make myself completely familiar with Section 35 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973, the Highways Act 1959 and the Highways (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1961. While I am doing that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.833
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Unauthorised marks on highways]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG
At Second Reading a point of interpretation was raised on Clause 5: whether or not this is a complete re-enactment of previous legislation, which is what I understand it to be, and, if so, whether someone who puts up a sign on a tree in his front garden which happens to overhang the public footpath is now committing an offence. After all, one might well put up a sign advertising a village ê and then discover that under Clause 5 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill one had made an unauthorised mark on a highway. My understanding of this clause, having studied the Notes on Clauses—for which, I might say in parenthesis, I have been extremely grateful—is that it is meant to apply to people who actually write signs on the public highway which might distract drivers. This seems to me to he completely reasonable. On the other hand, it also seems to me completely reasonable that someone should he able to pin a notice to a tree in his garden advertising a cat show, or the village fête, or whatever it may be, without committing an offence. I should like to know whether this is still possible.
I think I am right in saying that if you put up a notice in your garden it is supposed to be there for only a limited period of time; but I may be wrong about that, too. May I ask whether to put up a notice will still be allowed, as I understand it is at the moment?
While the noble Baroness is replying perhaps she will shed some light upon what the Government mean by " reasonable excuse ". I see from line 34 that one can do anything if one has a reasonable excuse, but what exactly is a " reasonable excuse "? If you are very keen on Chelsea winning something or other and you paint " Chelsea " on the wall, is that a reasonable excuse? If you want the nuclear bomb banned and you 834 make one of those funny signs that people make, is that a reasonable excuse? Of course if you are having a ê or something like that presumably that is a reasonable excuse, but are the permanent propaganda exercises reasonable excuses or not? If they are not, presumably the person could be fined £200 for writing " Chelsea " on the wall. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will comment on the meaning of " reasonable excuse ".
§ Baroness BIRK
In answer to the noble Baroness, as long as the tree is on private property this clause is not directed at that case, because as I think the noble Baroness will agree, it states quite clearly in the Notes on Clauses that it is where the notices are painted or marked up on the highway itself. So a tree on private property would be in exactly the same position as it always has been and is now.
With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, in regard to a " reasonable excuse ", as I understand it this could be the sort of situation where, for instance, for some reason there was some paving up or there was some emergency or danger or a hole had suddenly to he dug outside premises because there had been a burst water main or gas main or something of that kind. Then the notice would be for the public benefit and in order to warn people. That is how I read this and understand it. if I find there is any other interpretation of it I will gladly write to the noble Lord. That seems to me to be the reason, so that anybody who had to do something suddenly would not be liable to prosecution.
Conversely then the noble Baroness is saying that anybody who writes " Chelsea " up on the wall is guilty of an offence for which he can he fined £200. Therefore Chelsea supporters should have good notice of this.
§ Baroness BIRK
No, I did not say that. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that I did not say any such thing. He was asking me to give an interpretation of what I would call a " reasonable excuse " and I gave an interpretation of something which I thought could happen- in an emergency. It does not seem to me that what he is suggesting would necessarily offend, depending entirely where it was. 835 I was dealing with the point where it is actually on the highway. If it is on his own private property I should have thought he could write " Chelsea " on the wall—unless of course it offends a supporter of another team.
If I may say so, the noble Baroness has not quite got the point. The point is that " Chelsea and similar slogans are painted on walls abutting on the highway; not on any private property. 1 do not think anybody particularly likes to see these slogans written up and I am just wondering whether it is an offence at the moment to go along the public highway and paint "Chelsea" on the wall.
§ Baroness BIRK
As the noble Lord knows this is a gathering together of a number of enactments that have been passed in a number of Private Bills, and it depends whether it abuts on the highway and could he considered to constitute a traffic hazard, or a complaint was made by somebody. Then the local authority would take action. These are all discretionary provisions in any case and if, say, "Chelsea" or the name of any other team is painted on a wall which is actually on the highway and not hack in an individual's garden, it is an offence, but whether the local authority would necessarily take action on it would depend on that local authority. They would have powers under this Bill to do so.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Viscount AMORY moved Amendment No. 6:
§ After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:
§ Trading near highways
§ .—(1) No person (other than a person selling, offering or exposing for sale or depositing for sale any foods, goods, provisions, articles or things at any market or fair for which a toll, stallage or rent is payable) shall use any shed, hut, shelter, booth, shop, stall, or other erection whether on wheels or not or any vehicle or any container used with or without a stall on the verge or lay-by of any road to which this section applies or on any land adjacent to and within 15 yards of such verge, lay-by or road for the purpose of selling, offering, depositing or exposing for sale any food, goods, provisions, articles or things whatsoever other than newspapers.836
§ (2) If any person contravenes the provisions of this section he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds and to a daily fine not exceeding five pounds.
§ (3) (a) This section applies to roads of any of the following descriptions—
- (i) all trunk roads, and roads which are classified as principal roads by the Secretary of State under the Local Government Act 1966:
- (ii) any other county road, or part of a county road to which the highway authority may by order apply this section.
§ (b) Before making an order under this subsection the highway authority shall cause to be published once in each of two successive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in the locality in which the road is situated, a notice stating the general effect of the intended order and stating that within a period specified in the notice (not being less than twenty-eight days after the first publication of the notice) any person may object to the application by sending notice of his objection and of the grounds thereof to the highway authority.
§ (c) If, before the expiration of the period specified in the notice, any objection to the application is received by the highway authority, the highway authority shall consider any such objection and shall afford to any objector an opportunity of being heard by the highway authority before making the order.
§ (4) Nothing in this section shall apply to
- (a) any shed, hut, shelter, booth, shop, stall or other erection or any vehicle placed on private property by or with the consent of the owner of such property and with the permission of the highway authority;
- (b) any building erected or work constructed with the consent of the Secretary of State in pursuance of section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925 or of any other statutory provision or any scheme made pursuant to a statute;
- (c) the sale of food, goods, provisions, articles or things from a vehicle when in use solely for the purpose of itinerant trading with the occupants of the premises adjoining any verge or land referred to in subsection (1) of this section;
- (d) the sale of food, goods, provisions, articles or things from any premises used as a shop or as a petrol filling station pursuant to a permission granted or deemed to have been granted under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or any order or regulation made there under or in respect of which an enforcement notice cannot be served under section 87 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 by virtue of subsection (3) of that section; or
- (e) the sale by the occupier of land used for agriculture or horticulture, and from such land, of the produce thereof, unless in relation to any particular location on such land a magistrates' court on the complaint of the highway authority under section 43 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952 determines because of the use thereof for the purpose of such sale would adversely affect the safety of persons using the adjoining road that the exemption conferred by this paragraph shall not apply to that location or that the said exemption shall not apply
837 until any condition imposed by the court in relation to access to or facilities for the parking of the vehicles of persons likely to frequent the said location in connection with such sale has been complied with.
§ (5) (a)> In giving their permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section the highway authority may attach thereto such terms and conditions as they think fit.
§ (b) Where an application is made to a highway authority for a permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section then unless within twenty-eight days from the date of the receipt of the application the highway authority give notice to the applicant of their decision on the application the provisions of paragraph (c) of this subsection shall apply in relation to the application as if the highway authority had refused to grant the permission applied for.
§ (c) Any person aggrieved by the refusal of the highway authority to grant pen. …on under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section or by the terms and conditions attached thereto may appeal to a magistrates' court and on any such appeal, the court may—
- (i) if the appeal was against a refusal by order direct the highway authority to withdraw such refusal and to issue the permission for which application was made;
- (ii) if the appeal was against the imposition of terms or conditions direct that the permission shall as specified in the direction, have effect either unconditionally or subject to such modified terms and conditions as may be so specified.
§ (d) Any breach of any terms and conditions imposed by the highway authority under paragraph (a) of this subsection shall be deemed as regards liability to a fine equivalent to a contravention of the provisions of this section.
§ (6) In this section—
- (a) the expression " container " includes any basket, pail, tray, package or receptacle of any kind whether open or closed;
- (b) the expression " private property " does not include common land or unenciosed moorland;
- (c) the expression " vehicle " means a vehicle of any description drawn or propelled along roads whether by animal or mechanical power.
§ The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Young. I am afraid that this, and the next new clause (on which I shall not be …speaking at this minute), are rather long. I should like to make the point that no powers are being sought in either of these Amendments which are not already obtained and used by a number of county councils. We are not proposing anything additional here at all. The powers which are covered here are well precedented and well used and believed to be important.
§ We are dealing here with the problems that arise from a rapidly increasing 838 number of what might be called small commercial enterprises set up on the verges of main roads, particularly in the holiday areas. When my attention was first drawn to this possible new clause, I thought that if it prohibited the sale of flowers or fruit or vegetables by the occupier of a holding contiguous to that road, and on his holding, it would not be a proposal I would wish to have anything to do with because those sales seem to me to be legitimate and one likes to see them taking place and perhaps to avail oneself of the opportunity of buying a bunch of flowers or a punnet of strawberries or something else luscious that is offered for sale. That seems to me to be entirely legitimate and certainly ought not to be interfered with. It is not interfered with here because such sales arc specifically excluded.
§ The power which is provided by this Amendment is already much used and I believe has been taken by no less than 37 councils through local Acts. I would remind the noble Baroness opposite that our sole purpose here in proposing these new clauses is not to give any additional powers but by general powers to save a great deal of Parliamentary time and expense at both ends, as it were, which would be involved by a multiplicity of local Acts; and that principle has been thought well of. These are simply cases where it would seem to be useful to apply that principle and to make it as easy as possible for other councils to acquire these powers which are found useful in the way of general powers.
§ I am assured that the problem outlined here is not covered by the powers under Section 124 of the Highways Act 1959, which I would remind the noble Baroness is an Act which will be by my bedside from now on. Nor is it covered by the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 because most of the kind of small traders we are thinking of are itinerant traders who do not set up structures as defined under those Acts. The fear has been expressed in another place that this would discourage services that are of use to long distance drivers. But the normal habit of long-distance drivers is to stop for their refreshments at places where well-established facilities are available to them.
§ However, this provision would enable the authorities, provided that certain conditions were complied with. to give 839 permission in an appropriate case. Therefore, every stretch of road could be considered on its merits and approval given for such trading in suitable cases. One certainly wants to have here the minimum restrictions possible. But there are many stretches of road most heavily used where small food trading posts of the kind that are here today and gone tomorrow can be a real road safety hazard. It is entirely with the aim of not endangering road safety that this new clause is being put forward. I beg to move.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
Although I support the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Amory, I can see a weakness in it, if he will forgive me. With reference to the use of containers, the Amendment says:…any container used with or without a stall on the verge or lay by of any road …".If someone wanted to get round that, could he not, for instance, have a donkey and put goods on a donkey, or a pony? I do not think this Amendment would cover that. 1 make the point because, so far as I am aware, a donkey, pony or horse is not a vehicle: but perhaps I am wrong.
§ Viscount AMORY
I am inclined to agree with my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard that a donkey is not a container in the strict meaning of that word. I admit I had not thought exactly what role donkeys might play. However, in the event of finding any undisclosed weaknesses on that, I would move a further Amendment at that stage. But I would be glad to know what the noble Baroness feels about it, and particularly about the very serious difficulty raised by my noble friend.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
I was delighted that the noble Viscount should have come to my aid with that, I thought, extremely exotic example. I am advised by my lawyers that the clause as drafted is of limited practical value. They were probably referring to the fact that it had not taken account of the donkey. I have looked into this at some length because I appreciate very much what the noble Viscount said about nuisance, and even the danger of traffic hazards. I appreciate that the present procedures for dealing 840 with these nuisances are cumbersome. But, nevertheless, I feel that the case that has been made out is rather an all-embracing one, using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
For a great many reasons, mainly in dealing with the problem of the long-distance lorry drivers, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, himself referred, I find it very difficult to accept this new, obviously very carefully worded and lengthy clause. As the noble Viscount is aware, the Amendment was put down and defeated in another place. As I understand it, the motivation behind the proposed insertion is that the mobile canteens and stalls present a great road safety hazard. But we really have no evidence of that, and cannot accept it. I accept that quite often they can he a source of irritation to highway authorities, since laybys get damaged or littered. However, these mobile canteens are often extremely useful to road users, and one has to balance the two things. I can see both sides of this problem very clearly.
The ACC argue that permission can be granted for stalls, but we consider that the way to proceed is to tackle the nuisances, not to ban everything and set up what would be a new bureaucratic industry to permit exceptions, which would be doing something which I am sure the noble Viscount and his colleagues would be against in principle: the setting up of more organisations and more pieces of paper than are absolutely necessary. I believe the present powers tackle the nuisances. There are enforcement problems, but there will still be enforcement problems even if this new clause were accepted.
It is true that in an ideal world it might be possible to take a different attitude. But in this case, we are weighing the needs of people, of both the road users to whom the noble Viscount referred in his very apt simile about strawberries and other luscious things, and the question of road safety. On that, fortunately we have not found this to be a danger which should be dealt with in this way. We are dealing with a situation, it is true, which is far from ideal to noble Lords, but we feel that the need to have along the road these facilities for road users, and particularly the long-distance lorry drivers, is of paramount importance, certainly 841 at the present time, until one can find other alternatives. It is also important to keep them on the main roads used by the vehicles rather than diverting them into a byway, when the situation could arise of there being a great many cornplaints—already put forward in many areas—about lorries going through villages or small towns and creating a nuisance by their noise and by their weight. This we want to avoid. If by having the facilities along the motorways and the main roads used by lorries we can avoid this, then, while I am not saying it is a perfect solution, on balance it is better to leave the matter as it is. Therefore, I hope the noble Viscount will come along with me on that point and withdraw the clause.
§ Baroness YOUNG
May I press the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, a little further on this? The noble Baroness mentioned the motorways, but, of course, this does not apply to motorways, because in any event one cannot stop on a motorway unless there is something wrong with one's car. There is also provision on motorways for refreshment facilities. Do I correctly understand the noble Baroness to say now that the only reason for not accepting this Amendment is that it might inconvenience lorry drivers who now have not enough places to stop at on roads other than motorways? This. I am bound to say, is a new reason to appear.
The last thing one would want to do is to put a number of people to extreme inconvenience, but I should be interested to know the evidence on which that assertion is made. It seems to me that what the county councils are suggesting is very reasonable, but at the moment, as I understand it, mobile canteens can be set up on almost any part of a principal road, anywhere. Of course, when lorries draw up, and also private cars which draw up in large numbers in the summer time, this can be a very real road hazard, quite apart from the fact that the conditions under which the food is sold may not be the Most hygienic—hut perhaps this is not a consideration.
I feel that the arguments about road safety have been dismissed rather quickly. I know it is the practice of Government Departments to wait and see how many 842 people die at a crossing before any kind of measure is taken, but I should have thought that, as things stand at present, there are places which would be a very real traffic hazard. When considering a Bill like this, it is our job to try to make provision against that situation arising.
I am delighted that the noble Baroness does not want to extend bureaucracy any further. I am entirely with her on that. But when we come to deal with Part II of the Bill—and I appreciate that the noble Baroness will not be dealing with it at all—one can hardly have a greater extension of bureaucracy so far as the private hire trade is concerned. I do not think we can advance this as an argument against this particular Amendment, because, of course, any extension will involve an extension of supervision and no doubt of administrators.
§ Lord AIREDALE
If the evidence is that as many as 37 local authorities have local Acts which contain clauses along these lines, is this not an indication that there is a general need for a clause of this kind? And is it not an advantage of a general provision in a Bill of this kind that you avoid the irritation of having 37 or more separate clauses in separate local Acts, probably none of them identical, so that the law about roadside trading is just slightly different in every locality? I should have thought that a general need had been proved by the sheer number of local authorities who already have clauses, and that the sooner we had uniformity by a general clause in a Bill of this kind the better.
§ Viscount AMORY
I should like to thank the noble Lord for the point he has made. Indeed, I understand 37 local Acts have been obtained since 1956. I am assured by the Association of County Councils, who made inquiries, that apart from those councils that have obtained powers there are also a number of others who would wish to have these powers but have as yet not taken the step of moving for a local Act in the hope that this would be dealt with under general powers. I wonder whether the noble Baroness would look into that point a little more carefully to see what the experience has been of the 37 local Acts already there, and whether I am right in thinking that those who have to administer them find them of very great 843 practical use. We all agree that we do not want any more bureaucracy than we need have; we do not want to create restrictions unnecessarily by any means. But road safety always involves the balance of considerations, to which the noble Baroness referred, between the convenience of road users and the needs of road safety.
The evidence I have so far is that there is a road safety need for reasonable restrictions in appropriate cases, but not of course, in inappropriate cases. If the noble Baroness would be good enough to say that she will make some further inquiries on that point, the experience of those authorities, and would be good enough to write to me, I would then decide whether to press this new clause or one on similar lines on another occasion. In the meantime I would withdraw the Amendment. Perhaps she would say whether she would make further inquiries. There seems to be a difference between us as to what would be sensible.
§ Baroness BIRK
I appreciate very much the noble Viscount's argument, and of course I will be happy to look at it. But I think I must also point out that local authorities do at the moment have powers to deal with nuisances of any individual traders. I must say right away that the sort of blanket ban which is imposed in this very lengthy clause, on casual traders on the trunk and principal roads to which we are trying to confine lorries, certainly seems to me to be provocative, if not in many ways unuseful. If it were to be the policy for a provision to be made on this issue, I must say that I do not think this is the right way to do it. I have not the information about the 37 authorities with their Private Acts, I seem to have everything else at hand. but not that. I will certainly have another look at it and write to the noble Viscount, but I should not like to give him any false impression that I am going to say, Yes.
§ Viscount AMORY
I want the noble Baroness to be good enough again to look into the particular point of the long-distance lorry drivers. The advice I have is that this would not handicap them at all, because the type of temporary small trading posts we are thinking of are not those that long-distance drivers use. Perhaps the noble Baroness will look into that further, because I believe she will 844 find that there is no force at all in that argument. If there were, I would agree that it is a factor that should be taken into consideration, because these long-distance drivers have a difficult, arduous task, and from my own experience are extremely good, competent drivers. On the understanding that the noble Baroness will look into it to see whether there is more in one or two of the points we have made than she is inclined to think at the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Viscount AMORY moved Amendment No. 7:
§ After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:
§ Placing and leaving of vehicles near highways.
§ (—(1) (a) The highway authority may by order prohibit the placing and leaving of any vehicle, trailer, caravan or tent on the verge of or on unenclosed land adjacent to any part or parts of any highway.
§ (b) In this subsection " unenclosed land " means any waste land adjacent to and within 15 yards of the highway and any common land or other unenclosed land of whatsoever description within that distance from the highway.
§ (2) If any person contravenes the provisions of an order under this section he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
§ (3) Where it is proposed to make an order under this section the highway authority shall have regard to the availability of—
- (a) suitable parking facilities for use as an alternative to those which before the making of the order have been lawfully used for that purpose; and
- (b) public sanitary conveniences in convenient situations.
§ (4) (a) An order made under this section shall —
- (i) take effect from such date as may be specified in that behalf in the order;
- (ii) specify the highway or highways and the unenclosed land to which it is to apply: and
- (iii) specify the particular days and the particular hours between 9 o'clock in the evening and 9 o'clock in the morning during which the prohibition applies.
§ (b) An order made under this section may—
- (i) specify exceptions other than those provided in subsection (10) of this section in respect of which the prohibition is not to apply; and
- (ii) at any time he altered or revoked by a subsequent order made in like manner.
§ (5) Before making any order under this section the highway authority shall publish in one or more local newspapers circulating in the area in 845 which is situated the highway or highways to which the order applies a notice—
- (a) stating the general effect of the order;
- (b) specifying the offices of every local authority in whose district any part of the said area is situated where a copy of the draft order may be inspected by any person free of charge at all reasonable hours during a period of twenty-eight days from the date of the first publication of the notice; and
- (c) stating that, within the said period, any person may by notice to the Secretary of State object to the making of the order.
§ (6) The highway authority shall also publish a notice in the London Gazette stating that they are about to make an order under this section naming the area in which is situated the highway or highways to which the order will apply, specifying the offices of every local authority in whose district any part of the said area is situated where a copy of the draft order may be inspected and giving the name and date of issue of a local newspaper in which the notice explaining the general effect of the order will be found.
§ (7) (a) If before the expiration of a period of twenty-eight days from the first publication of the notice referred to in paragraph (b) of subsection (5) of this section or of twenty-five days from the publication of the notice in the London Gazette, an objection to the making of the order to which the notice relates is duly made to the Secretary of State and the objection is not subsequently withdrawn, the order shall not take effect until it is confirmed by the Secretary of State.
§ (b) Where the Secretary of State receives any objection to the making of an order he shall send to the highway authority a copy of every such objection and the Secretary of State, after considering every such objection and causing if he thinks fit a local inquiry to be held, may confirm or refuse to confirm the order and, if he confirms it, may do so subject to such modifications (if any) as he may think desirable.
§ (8) Where an order has been made and confirmed under this section, the highway authority shall erect or cause to be erected on or near any highway or land to which such an order applies notices indicating the nature and extent of the prohibitions imposed by the order.
§ (9) Notice of the prohibition contained in any order made under this section shall be indicated 6y such traffic signs as may be specified for the purpose in regulations made under sections 54 and 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967.
§ (10) (a) No order made under this section shall apply to the placing and leaving on a verge or land of—
- (i) any vehicle, trailer, caravan or tent if it is not left for more than two hours;
- (ii) any vehicle, trailer, caravan or tent by or with the consent of the occupier of the land;
- (iii) any vehicle, trailer or caravan placed and left because of or in connection with mechanical breakdown;
- (iv) any vehicle, trailer, caravan or tent placed and left because of the illness of any person accompanying any such vehicle, trailer, caravan or tent;
- (v) any vehicle when in use solely for the purpose of itinerant trading with the occupants of premises adjoining a verge or land;
- (vi) any vehicle, trailer, caravan (not used for human habitation) or tent used by any statutory undertakers in connection with or for the purposes of their undertakings or by the highway authority or the local authority in or in connection with the exercise of their statutory functions;
- (vii) any caravan stationed by a gipsy elsewhere than in an area designated under the provisions of section 12 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968;
- (viii) any caravan which is occupied by a travelling showman who is a member of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain and who is travelling for the purpose of his business;
- (ix) any vehicle, trailer or caravan resulting from, or to avoid, any accident or emergency.
§ (b) No order made under this section shall apply to any land on which tents or caravans arc erected or placed in accordance with the terms of a licence granted under section 269 of the Public Health Act 1936 or in accordance with the terms and conditions on which permission has been given for the development by the local planning authority under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or in respect of which a site licence is for the time being in force under Part I of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.
(11) In this section—
highway authority " means—
§ (a) in the case of a trunk road with the consent of the Secretary of State, the county who are for the time being acting as the agent of the Secretary of State, under the Highways Act 1959, with respect to that trunk road;
§ (b) in all other cases the county council.
§ " vehicle " means a vehicle of any description drawn or propelled whether by animal or mechanical power. '.
§ The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the new clause standing in the name of my noble friend. This clause again is well precedented, because it is used very effectively, I understand, in Hampshire and West Sussex in local Acts, and they find it extremely valuable. It deals with parking of caravans on verges. Parking on verges in urban areas is already prohibited. We all recognise that caravans are a highly popular and entirely reasonable holiday provision and have come to stay, or really come, let us hope, to move on and not stay too long in any one place. But the problem which it is sought to solve mainly arises in coastal areas at holiday times when the caravan congestion is really phenomenal. 1 heard of a case the other day in the county of Clwyd, where I 847 am told that in a 48 hour period around the recent Bank Holiday no fewer than 11,141 caravans entered Clwyd at the height of the rush, 10 caravans per minute, from England. In Clwyd there are, I understand, 4,234 approved pitches for caravans. So in those 48 hours 6,907 caravans had to find other parking space, and many were parked overnight on the main roads. In another place there seemed to be an impression that a new clause of this kind would affect gypsies, but gypsies' caravans are expressly excluded here.
§ What the clause will do is enable the highway authority to designate by order individual stretches of road on the verges of which caravans and tents would be prohibited. The general power sought here is in the interests of road safety, and also in the interests of public hygiene in the sort of circumstances I have mentioned, where enormous numbers come surging along the roads, almost head to tail, and have to dump down in very large numbers on short stretches of roads, where they can be a great hazard to road safety, and in certain cases to public hygiene, too. I beg to move.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
Again this is a problem which it would be quite wrong and quite impossible for anybody with any sense or sensibility not to appreciate. It is true that it is precedented in local Acts, but I can hardly take that as a recommendation because, so far as I am aware, there has never been any order attached to them which has restricted parking. A similar provision which was included in the South Glamorgan Bill was in fact withdrawn. Once again I say that this is an enormously and probably rather unnecessarily complicated clause, and the same effect could almost certainly be achieved more simply perhaps by an extension of Section 1 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. The provisions of the new clause range over an enormous area. They conflict with, and overlap, several other general Acts and, I am afraid, would be self-defeating because they would cause an unacceptable amount of confusion. As I am sure is readily recognised, it also would be extremely controversial and contentious, and a clause which has to include such a long list of exemptions—and I am sure that we could all think of more, and if this went ahead everyone 848 would think of more—would he difficult to enforce.
It is said that the problem is found mainly in the coastal areas during the holiday season. However, this is not strictly true. There are also a number of inland tourist areas which suffer the problem over a great part of the year—the Lake District is one instance. Apart from these practical, solid reasons for resisting the clause, there is a much more important principle at stake. The fact that the problem is a real and growing one is recognisable, and I accept that, hut it is not simply a highway problem: nor is it a road safety problem, nor is it even just a combination of public health and safety together. It is all of these. But basically it is a planning problem, and it requires a planning solution. If this is accepted, as I hope it will be, it is not something which can he solved by prohibition and bans. In other words, the person in the caravan or touring car, the holidaymaker, does not suddenly disappear under the ground or into the air because he cannot stop at the side of a particular road. What he does is that he I goes on somewhere else: either on to the road itself or away from the main highway. The problem does not disappear, it is simply transferred, and it could often in fact he made a great deal worse.
Holidaymakers—and particularly campers, or caravanners, who do not have set sites—like to travel by night, and it is reasonable in the interests of road safety that they should halt on their journey rather than drive when they are overtired, and probably precipitate an accident. There are unfortunately—and this is the basic problem on which we are all agreed—very few places for them to go. No one really caters sufficiently for their needs. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they park where they can, stop where they can, on byways or verges, because really they have not anywhere else to go. What we really need is a network of sites related to the road system and the main tourist routes.
I now come to the proposals of the Countryside Commission in 1972. As I am sure the noble Viscount will recall, they published a strategy showing where the sites are needed. If anything is to be done in this area—and I am not for one moment saying that something does 849 not need to be done—I do not think that this clause is the way to do it. We have to look to the local authorities, and also the larger camping organisations, for the implementation of the proposals put forward by the Countryside Commission, or similar proposals, and the development of suitable sites. Then of course we come to the big financial problem. This all costs money, and even though grant aid is available, transit sites in themselves are not an economic proposition for commercial developers or camping clubs. Therefore, one comes up against the financial block there, and they are not particularly attractive to local authorities because the customers are passing through and not staying and remaining there to spend their time and money.
It seems to me that what is needed is a combination of the organised camp sites with accommodation so that you can have transit pitches, and also a willingness on the part of the campers to pay a realistic fee. What we are now doing is completing our consideration of the Report of the Camping Working Party, and hope soon that we shall have proposals for discussion with the local authority associations. It is extremely important and valuable that this whole matter should be aired, and the fact that it has been aired in the other place and turned down is no reason why it should not be discussed here, with contributions from the distinguished and experienced people in local government who are speaking to it. But what I say quite definitely is that this clause is not the way to bring this about, but the raising of the whole matter and the discussion on the clause is effective in that it is both highlighting and pinpointing this particular problem. One hopes that it will get, through the Association and other means, wide publicity about the problems, so that we get down to some sort of planning for dealing with the whole problem rather than dealing with this in what is an understandable, but really a negative rather than a positive, way. I hope once again that I can ask the noble Viscount to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I have known instances where children have been run over because a caravan has been parked on the verge of a 850 highway, so I support my noble friend in this Amendment. I think that the further away caravans can be parked from the verges of the highways the better, and especially at night.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I quite understand that the noble Baroness is taking a sympathetic view of this Amendment, because I think it has pinpointed what is a real problem. I am quite prepared to believe, and I think my noble friend would accept, that the Amendment may not be quite correctly drafted; it may be drawn in too wide terms. However, I wonder whether the Government would look at this again with perhaps a view to themselves bringing forward an Amendment that would at least meet the kind of point raised by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. I understand that the Government are looking at the whole question of camping and caravanning, and I am delighted to hear that there is to be a report on this matter. What this kind of argument usually means is that the report will he published, it will cost a good deal of money to implement at a time when local authorities have no money at all, and in fact what we shall be saying is that nothing is going to be done for years.
In the meantime, the number of caravanners and campers will increase, and it is unlikely that the number of sites will increase all that much, and there is the real danger of unrestricted parking on public highways. Not only is there a danger that a child, or indeed an adult, may be killed, but it is really very unhygienic if unrestricted parking is carried on by large numbers of people by the roadside. I believe that local authorities are perfectly justified in asking for some powers to deal with this question.
The reasons advanced against the Amendment are that it is very complicated, that there is a long list of exceptions and that it is not really a highways, safety or public health problem but a planning one. I should have thought that it was a problem concerning all four parts of Government. The noble Baroness having agreed, I think, that there is a problem, I am simply asking her whether the Government would be prepared to look at an Amendment drawn perhaps not quite so widely but 851 designed to meet part of the point, an Amendment which the Government themselves might consider bringing forward.
§ Viscount AMORY
I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will comment on what my noble friend has suggested. I was not very impressed with her argument about not liking the proposed new clause because in her view it was rather negative. It reminded me of the alcoholic who went to his doctor to seek help, only to be told, " Stop drinking -. The alcoholic replied, " I didn't come here to get negative advice, but something positive ". I hope the noble Baroness realises that this is not, in a vague sort of way, an attempt to push caravans off to somewhere else. This is suggested as a way of stopping them dumping themselves along unsuitable lengths of road, and I assure her that there are such lengths of road and that numerous caravans are dumping themselves there. I shall therefore be interested to hear what she has to say in reply to the last remarks of my noble friend Lady Young.
I am not sure that Lady Birk realises how serious this problem can become when an enormous number of caravans park themselves unexpectedly on a particular stretch of road. I will find out where the noble Baroness lives and if she has a grass verge outside her gate. If so, I will persuade several of my friends to buy caravans, and I shall do so, and we w ill go to where she lives and she will find us parked there. I think that after we have been there a day or two she will realise the need for proper public hygiene arrangements. I am not having much luck in persuading the noble Baroness this afternoon and I may have to adopt more drastic means of one kind or another. In the meantime, perhaps she will be good enough to answer the comments of my noble friend Lady Young.
§ Baroness BIRK
I assure the Committee that I appreciate the seriousness of the problem and, for that reason, I must repeat that I do not feel that the proposed new clause, or indeed anything very like it, would deal with it. As the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, pointed out, we do not just want to move people along to somewhere 852 else; it is not possible at the moment to I come to grips with the problem, and that I is the point I made. I said that although one might move them on to somewhere else—and from a personal point of view people might like to move them on to somebody else's piece of grass—the noble Viscount will agree that that would not deal with the problem. Unless there is somewhere else to which to move them the problem will not be solved. The road safety question is rather wider and different. After all, if a caravan or car is parked while the occupants are having a picnic lunch a child could run out and be run over, so I do not think that that is relevant to the argument.
A new clause of this type is very large and complicated and I must say straight away that it would be wrong of me to promise to bring something forward on Report. I still believe that the way to deal with it is to see how far it is possible to proceed with some of the proposals made by the Countryside Commission—to see whether they can be implemented or at least worked on in the near future—rather than deal with the problem here, because although the noble Viscount took issue with me for saying that the Amendment was negative, I said that it was negative not because the movers or drafters wanted it to be negative but because, unless one has somewhere where caravans, cars, campers or whatever, can go, it is negative to the extent that one is simply moving them on from A to B: they will still he on the move and will stop somewhere. The alternative becomes a quite Draconian and anti-libertarian procedure: that is, to say, " You can have a caravan but there is nowhere you are able to stop ". It would he quite impossible at this time, certainly in the very short term, for the Government to contemplate legislation along these lines. I beg noble Lords to allow us to look at the proposals of the Working Party on Camping—the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to this aspect—and the possibility of using all that has been said today and what was said on a similar new clause in another place, to see what impetus can be given to the matter. I assure noble Lords that I am absolutely with them in hoping that something can be done with as much speed as possible on the proposals, or analogous proposals, of the Countryside Commission, but it would be dishonest of me to promise more.
§ Viscount AMORY
When the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, first acknowledged that there was a problem here, I understood her to go on to say that this was not the way to deal with it and that it would be best done by an Amendment. I may be wrong, but I think that that is what she said before referring to something else. If she has the passage to hand, perhaps she would repeat it. In any event, she has been good enough to acknowledge that a problem exists. When dealing with a Bill such as this, in which we want to deal with matters which are not contentious and which arc precedented, I do not like the notion of pressing an Amendment to a Division, and I would not think of doing so without the agreement of my noble friend. I will read in Hansard what the noble Baroness said; I am referring to the passage before she referred to various discussions and conversations that were going on. If the noble Baroness does not have the passage to hand, I am sure that she will find it in Hansard. Having been notably unsuccessful in persuading the noble Baroness to do anything, I must withdraw the Amendment. I will leave the Committee and have a cup of tea, and I will return in the hope of being more successful later. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 [Safety of certain unoccupied houses etc.]:
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 8:
§ Page 8, line 7, after (" to ") insert (" each person who is ").
§ The noble Baroness said: This is much more a drafting point. It covers the situation where there is more than one person who is the owner in relation to a particular property—namely, joint owners of an interest—and it is desirable that every person who, as a person having control, receives a notice leading to the closing order or undertaking should receive a notice of the council's proposals to use the powers in this clause, and this will be achieved by the Amendment which, as I say, is really a drafting one.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.854
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 9:
§ After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:
§ Supply of water, gas and electricity to premises where supply threatened.
§ .—(1) Where an occupied house has ceased, or is about to cease, to be supplied with water, gas or electricity sufficient for the domestic purposes of the occupants, being tenants or lessees of, or lodgers at, the house or part thereof, by reason of any default on the part of the owner, the local authority may, without prejudice to any action or proceedings which it may take under any other enactment, make such payment to the appropriate statutory undertaker as may be necessary to secure that the supply of water, gas or electricity to the house is restored or maintained, as the case may be, and may recover the expenses reasonably incurred by it in so doing from the owner.
§ (2) A local authority may, if it thinks tit, itself hear the whole or any part of any expenses recoverable under this section.
§ The noble Lord said: This is a proposal to deal with cases of great hardship which have come to light in recent winters, cases where tenants have tenancy agreements under which the tenant pays to the landlord the gas, electricity or water to the premises together with the rent. In many of these cases the tenants have paid the full rent due from them, but for one reason or another the landlord has failed to pay the electricity or gas bill and in consequence the tenant, through no fault of his own, has had his electricity or gas cut off. That is the mischief which this new clause is designed to deal with.
A clause very similar to this was put down at the Committee stage in another place and, as I understood it, the Minister there most emphatically undertook to introduce a Government clause at a later stage of the Bill to deal with the problem. The Minister said:
We certainly hope to introduce our own clause at a later stage ".
He made other equally emphatic observations which I need not read out to your Lordships. I reminded the House of this position during our Second Reading debate and said that I was eagerly looking forward to the new Government clause. I believe that the Government Amendments were tabled last Monday. I got them on Tuesday and I searched for this new clause. I did not find it and 1 have heard nothing, and I do not know what is the position. If the noble Baroness cares to
interrupt me to say that the Government's new clause is on the way, I shall sit down and shall withdraw this Amendment.
§ Baroness BIRK
I thank the noble Lord for breaking off and for giving me this opportunity. First, he is quite correct in the story as he has told it and I owe him an apology. There was a great deal to do regarding this Bill, as he will understand. I realise now that I should have written to tell him that it is our intention to introduce the clause. There is no change in the intention and we propose to introduce the clause at Report stage. What I was hoping after Second Reading and, indeed, up to the end of last week, was that it would be possible to get the clause ready in time for Committee stage. However, the noble Lord himself may remember that the Committee on the South Glamorgan Bill took a long time considering such a clause. It is really not an easy one for the draftsmen and it has taken a considerable time to prepare. It is almost ready now but a great deal of consultation has been involved. We have been in consultation with the local authority associations, and the Department of Energy has also had to consult the gas and electricity authorities.
That is the reason for the delay. I shall not detain the Committee longer since I can happily give an affirmative answer and can say that the new clause will be introduced at Report stage. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Lord will withdraw his new clause. I shall then be saved from having to deal with the drafting imperfections which have been drawn to my attention.
§ Lord AIREDALE
I shall keep the Committee no longer, except to say that I entirely accept the apology of the noble Baroness. I fully realise that she has had many matters to deal with in a short time in relation to this Bill. However, it is disappointing when an important Amendment cannot be introduced in time to be discussed at the Committee stage, when the looser rules of procedure allow a freer discussion. With that note of regret, but understanding the difficulty involved, and knowing that the Government clause is on the way, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.856
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 10:
§ . In subsection (1) of section 92 of the Public Health Act 1936 for the words " or a nuisance " in sub-paragraph (a) thereof there shall be substituted the words " or which is to the detriment of or otherwise interferes with the personal comfort of the occupiers thereof ".
§ The noble Baroness said: The noble Baroness will no doubt be familiar with this Amendment because it is similar to one which was debated in the Committee stage in another place. It is not my usual practice to repeat debates, but the point at issue here is, I believe, important, so I venture to do so. The point that arises on this Amendment emerges from a High Court decision, National Coal Board v. Thorne. Before that decision, the local authority had been able to secure the repair of a house by using the provisions of Part Ill of the Public Health Act 1936, on the basis that some items of disrepair were a nuisance. Following upon the court's decision, this is no longer to be allowed and a local authority will be able to serve a notice of disrepair only on the ground that the premises are in such a state as to he prejudicial to health. That means that it will be very difficult for a local authority to serve a notice because, as a rule before this decision, the job of determining a nuisance would have fallen to the public health inspector. Clearly, however, if a case has been made out on the grounds that the state of the property is such as to be prejudicial to health, it will be necessary to obtain the view of the district community physician. He or she is bound to be very busy and two officers of the council will have to go round to serve the notice. It will mean that it will be much more difficult to deal with the problem.
§ My Amendment is therefore designed to meet this difficulty and to attempt to put the position back to what it was before the court's decision. Clearly, the wording cannot be the same, the High Court having decided otherwise; but it would at least make it possible for a local authority to use its public health inspector for this purpose and not to call medical evidence. It seems to me, 857 therefore, that this is in the best interests of the people living in the property and of the local authority.
I have of course read the debate in another place and I understand that the reason why the Government declined to act on this was because they considered it to be outside the terms of the Bill. I have read the Long Title of the Bill and the explanation given in the Explanatory Memorandum. Within the Long Title of the Bill it says that it is intended,
to alter certain supplemental provisions of the enactments relating to public health ".
That is precisely what this is doing. This is again repeated in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum at the front of the Bill. I therefore find it very difficult to understand how this can he regarded as being outside the Bill. I hope that, on further consideration, the Government will agree that this is something that can be considered within the terms of the Bill. With that explanation, I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
On the last point, the noble Baroness said that her interpretation was that this is within the Long Title of the Bill. I am afraid that my interpretation and my legal advice are quite contrary to that. They are that this would not he contained in the present Long Title of the Bill, and that, if it were included in the Bill, it would mean an alteration and an amendment to the Long Title.
The effect of the judgment to which the noble Baroness referred is that a statutory nuisance arises only if the premises are prejudicial to the occupants' health, and a mere nuisance in relation to premises must therefore now affect persons other than the occupants if it is to be a statutory nuisance under the Act and so amenable to proceedings under that Act. This clause is not precedented in local law, but apart from this objection, it is not acceptable on merits. In any case the clause does not amend a supplemental provision of the Public Health Act 1936, because Section 92 is not in Part XII of that Act, and this is why the Long Title would have to be altered. So it does not fulfil that part of the Bill, as it was originally conceived and as it went through the other place.
858 I now turn to the question of merits. The Department received representations from the London borough of Haringey shortly after the judgment referred to, and the new clause which the noble Baroness has introduced follows precisely that which was suggested by the borough. This argues that the judgment restricts the power of housing authorities to, take action under Section 92 against occupied houses in disrepair and that environmental health officers would have difficulty in establishing that a defect is prejudicial to health. However, the judgment also similarly restricts the powers of individuals to take actions. as they may, without consulting the local authority under Section 99; this could work to the advantage of authorities in cases where they owned the property concerned. The new clause seeks to restore the status quo before the judgment, so far as housing is concerned, by removing the concept of nuisance from Section 92(1)(a) and enabling action to be taken in cases of detriment to, or interference with the personal comfort of the occupiers of the property.
But this is the part which is not acceptable, because it does not restore the status quo, but as a side effect it deprives local authorities of the power to take action against premises, whether they are housing or non-housing or occupied, are a nuisance to the community as a whole or to passers-by. Local authorities have the alternative of proceeding under Section 9 of the 1957 Housing Act, through repairs notices, which is amended by the 1969 Act and can cover both fit and unfit houses, and this is the appropriate provision since it is designed for the purpose and applies the criterion of fitness which is more rigorous than that of nuisance.
If the authority in the case of the National Coal Board v. Thorne had chosen that section, there is no apparent reason why it should not have succeeded. For these reasons I have given the new clause cannot be accepted, but I can assure the Committee that the Government accept that the current state of the law is certainly not beyond improvement, and we therefore have in hand a fundamental review of the statutory nuisance provisions of the Public Health Act 1936, and it is within this area that this point—the objective of this new clause—applies and should be 859 housed. In reviewing this matter we will now bear fully in mind the points which the noble Baroness has made, and we will consult everyone who is concerned before bringing forward firm proposals. I repeat that the place for putting this right is not within the Bill which we are discussing today.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation, but I am sure that neither she nor I wish to embark upon a long dispute in law on what all these different Acts mean. But my advice is quite clear that although the 1957 Housing Act might be used to deal with a nuisance. the procedure is very complicated requiring at least 21 days' notice of the execution of the works, the possibility of an appeal to the county court, and in the event of failure to comply with the notice, the responsibility is with the authority to carry out the works in default, there being no penal sanctions under this section at all. This is therefore a very different proposition from the powers which local authorities had under the public health Acts to deal with a nuisance arising from the disrepair of a house. On consultation with the borough of Haringey I understand that approximately three to four cases a week come to the notice of the borough and of course far more notices than that are served by the public health inspector. So to imagine that this number of cases could be dealt with under the 1957 Act is not to be very realistic about the matter.
However, I appreciate the spirit in which the noble Baroness replied and I appreciate, too, that the Government are aware that something ought to be done about this. I should like to know from the noble Baroness when it is expected that some legislation will come forward to meet this point. After all this is a Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, and if I have understood the matter correctly the reason why this Amendment cannot be taken under the Long Title is that the Long Title refers to supplemental provisions of public health Acts and my Amendment applies only to a Public Health Act. But moving on further down the Long Title, I wonder why it cannot apply to something else:…to provide for certain future local enactments …or 860… orders to have effect subject to certain other enactments ".It seems to me very broad: or…for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid ".What can come under that? What I really fail to understand is how we may not debate this matter under the Long Title of the Bill and yet—I am sorry to keep referring to Part II—we are going to debate at length taxis and private hire cars. I see no mention of them at all. So, presumably, those come under these general terms,…to provide for certain powers of local authorities to execute works to be exercisable outside their areas.Perhaps that is where the private hire car goes outside its area. I do not know. But if that can fall within the Long Title, I fail to see why a matter falling under the Public Health Acts cannot, and I should like to press the noble Baroness on this point.
§ Baroness BIRK
I shall not reveal the exciting goodies which my noble friend has in store for the Committee on Part II of the Bill, although the noble Baroness keeps on drawing in the taxi cabs, and each time my noble friend quite rightly disappears for a cup of tea out comes a point regarding the taxi cabs. Perhaps this is a lawyer to lawyer confrontation; perhaps we should set them at one another's heads or throats—I am not quite sure. But I have been through the Long Title, I have discussed it, and indeed I have raised many of the layman's points which the noble Baroness has raised herself, and I am assured that without an alteration to the Long Title this proposal has not a place in the Bill.
I think that the noble Baroness was rather less than fair when she seemed to argue that I was resting the whole case on provisions in an Act which were not working very satisfactorily, because the main point I was making was that we recognise that the current state of the law needs changing and that we appreciate that using the present cumbersome machinery is not satisfactory. This is why we have in hand a fundamental review of the statutory nuisance provisions of the Public Health Acts. To proceed in that way is a far better method of dealing with the problem in order to right it.
861 With regard to legislation, there is no legislation in the Public Health Acts sphere at present because the review must take place first. I hope that the noble Baroness will take my word for it that the intention to review is genuine and not sprung up merely to try to get her to withdraw the clause; that would be using a sledgehammer. Until we review the position—and no doubt other similar points will emerge—it is very difficult to say what needs to he done in terms of improving the Public Health Acts. But as soon as we know the position and the review is under way and proposals have been prepared, we shall conic forward with them. This is clearly recognised; there is nothing between us on this point. I am not arguing that the situation is much different from that described by the noble Baroness, with the proviso of the points on which we differ regarding the legal interpretation. I repeat that this is not the right place for this proposal, nor is this clause the right way to deal with the matter. I hope that on the basis of what I have said about the Public Health Acts and the review, the noble Baroness will withdraw the new clause.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I always accept that any Amendment that I put down is incorrectly drafted. I think one can take that for granted at the outset, and I of course accept that. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for expressing sympathy. We are both in agreement. I do not find it very satisfactory simply to be told that the legal advice is that this is not allowable under the Long Title of the Bill. As the noble Baroness knows very well, I am not a lawyer, but I believe in attempting to understand what it is I am trying to do, if only because, if I understand it myself, I can sometimes explain it to somebody else, which in many instances one has to do; and I must confess that I am going to be at a loss to explain to those who have asked me to raise this point why it is not allowable under the Long Title.
In order to save the Government a lot of trouble—because clearly this is a point to which we shall have to return time and time again, as to what is allowable under the Long Title—I think we ought to know. However, I will not pursue it further this afternoon. I do not really want to divide the Committee on the issue of the interpret 862 tation of the Long Title, because I do not think that is a proper way to do it. But, to be quite serious about it, I would be grateful if, in return for withdrawing the Amendment, the noble Baroness would write to me and would set out why this is not allowable under the Long Title, how we are going to know what is allowable under the Long Title and how the rest of the new provisions which have been added at Committee stage in another place fall under the Long Title. I would also be grateful to have such a letter fairly soon, because clearly I shall need to consult before the next stage of the Bill. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 10 [Production and supply of heat, etc., by local authorities]:
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 11:
§ Page 11, line 38, after (" pump ") insert (" meter,")
§ The noble Baroness said: This is, I am happy to say, quite a small Amendment. The effect of it would be to enable local authorities to instal and maintain meters in connection with pipes when they are engaged in the production and supply of heat. This was really put down at the instance of the local authority associations, which suggested that authorities might need to instal meters to enable areas of heat loss and possible leakages from pipes to be identified. We were entirely in agreement that this need should be provided for, and accordingly this Amendment proposes that the definition of " associated works " should include " meter ". I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 11 to 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15 [Power of local authorities to obtain particulars of persons interested in land]:
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 12:
§ Page 19, line 11, after third (" the ") insert (" nature of his interest in the land and the ")863
§ The noble Baroness said: As Clause 15 is drafted at the moment, the provision places no requirement upon the recipient of a notice to state the nature of his own interest in the land. This Amendment will impose such a requirement. The purpose of the Amendment is really to bring the clause into line with those provisions which it will replace. It will he replacing all similar provisions which are in other Acts by a general power. The principle is well established in a great many Private Acts and also in public Acts. One example is Section 277 of the Public Health Act 1936. Again, this is really a tidying-up Amendment. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
§ Viscount AMORY moved Amendment No. 13:
§ After Clause 15 insert the following new clause:
§ Transfer of Assets.
§ .—(1) A local authority may, if it considers it expedient to do so for the purpose of carrying out its functions under Part III of the Community Land Act 1975, Part VI of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or sections 2–4 of the Local Authorities (Land) Act 1963 make arrangements with any person for the establishment under the Companies Acts and of a transfer of assets to one or more companies controlled (whether severally or jointly) by the parties to the arrangement and may take shares in such companies.
§ The noble Viscount said: This proposed new clause, the insertion of which I should like to move, has as its object to help partnership schemes between a local authority and some other body. It has sometimes been found that positive planning can best be achieved by partnership arrangements between local authorities and some body or bodies in the private sector, and a number of local authorities, as the noble Baroness will know, are making use of arrangements of this kind, relying on local legislation. The Government, I understand, are not hostile to this idea at all, but believe that the powers already available are sufficient; in particular, Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972. I understand there was a Working Party set up which reported in 1972, really very forthrightly, 864 in favour of encouraging these partnership arrangements in the way of joint developments, sometimes of a very important kind, but that all that resulted from that was Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972.
The legal advice available to local authorities makes them really dubious whether the powers under Section 111 would be specific enough to enable a corporate body, for instance, to set up other corporate bodies. The courts, I understand, are apt to interpret powers of that kind very strictly. There was a case called A.G. v. Fulham Corporation (1920), I believe, in which the court took the view, and stated, that
in every case it is for a corporation … to show that it has affirmatively an authority to do particular acts,
whereas Section 111, to which I have referred, really only gives authority in a very general way indeed. If it is feared that companies set up like this might set out to do more than they were meant to do or were authorised to do, then I would suggest that the memorandum and articles of such companies would be a control on what they may or may not do.
§ I am familiar, of course—as familiar, possibly, as the noble Baroness—with the legal maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Who is not familar with such a legal maxim? But I cannot believe that the specific power that I am suggesting here, and which some local authorities are already finding useful, would narrow the general powers given to local authorities under Section 1ll. However, local authorities are extremely unlikely to commit themselves, perhaps to enormous investments like, as I mentioned, a new town centre, by means of a joint project of the kind I have indicated unless they are absolutely certain of their legal powers; and I would say once again that the best legal advice available to the local authorities is that Section 111 of the Act of 1972 is not specific enough to afford them the certain protection that they would require before embarking on major projects of this kind. I hope the noble Baroness will look favourably on the aim of this new clause, though she may find something inadequate or insufficient in the drafting of it. I beg to move.865
§ Baroness BIRK
I shall try to keep my reply as short as possible because the noble Viscount has not only explained his case but has also more or less sketched out what he thinks will be my reply to it. He is right about the encouragement of partnership of this sort. We are again at one over this; but it is the question that we consider that Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 has sufficient powers to enable local authorities and other parties to set up these partnerships. It really comes to the point that not only do we think it is not necessary but it could impede the working of this if one kept on putting in specific powers where the general power covers the subject extremely well. Where it does not or where there is any doubt, there is a question for specific powers; but because the power to implement such a consortia is already included in Section 111, we believe that is quite sufficient. I repeat that we are concerned not to undermine the generality by rushing into specific legislative provisions.
I can see the argument the noble Viscount put forward of making it specific and it is true it has been put forward in one if not more Private Bills; hut when we are trying, as we are in this Bill, to gather together a great many completely dispersive activities and at the same time—on which we were all in agreement when we discussed the South Glamorgan Bill—trying to keep the numbers of these provisions down, it would be quite wrong to try to add to something where it is not necessary. Rather than weary the Committee by expressing the same sentiments at great length and going over the same, ground again I can say that that is the basis of the objection.
I can point to the specific drafting of the clause but this is not the main point, as the noble Viscount, I am sure, appreciates. It is that the Government believe that it is unnecessary. If they want to do the things calculated to facilitate or he conducive to or incidental to the discharge of their functions, the local authorities have all the necessary powers for doing so in this area. The powers extend to taking shares in or participating in the promotion of a company. We feel that to go beyond these powers—which it appears the new clause may allow—would be undesirable particularly in the 866 absence of appropriate safeguards for public and private interests.
So, on the one hand, there is a duplication, and, on the other hand, where it slightly departs from the duplication it goes that much further which we do not consider would be either necessary or advantageous. I should have thought, after the thorough discussion it had in another place and the discussion the same point received on the Committee stage of the Community Land Act, everyone should be by now satisfied that the local authorities have the necessary powers when and where they want to use them.
§ Viscount AMORY
I dislike the Community Land Act so much that I find myself highly embarrassed apparently asking for some additional power to be used under it. I think the noble Baroness is right. There seems to be a conflict of' legal opinion here between the opinion of her advisers—which maintains that Section 111 of the local Government Act 1972 is sufficient authority and protection for local authorities wanting to enter into partnership agreements—and the legal advice obtained by the local authorities which is to the contrary. All I can suggest is that the noble Baroness might ask her officials perhaps to consult further with the officials of the local authorities body concerned to see whether they can get a better measure of agreement on the legal question.
It is simply that. It is no more we are asking than that. If the noble Baroness is right with the advice she has received: that section 111 is sufficient, there is no need for this new clause. If, on the other hand, the advice available to the local authorities bodies is right that it is not specific enough, then something is needed. I shall certainly suggest to the local authorities body concerned that they check with their advisers further on this matter perhaps in the normal course of routine consultation—and I am glad to say that the scope for consultation between the noble Baronesses' Department and the local authorities bodies is very close and easy—and we can only suggest that there should be a further get together on this narrow point of whether Section 111 is specific enough. Having said that, in view of the discussion that we have had and in view of what the 867 noble Baroness has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 [Byelaws about bathing and boating within 1,000 metres to seaward of low water mark]:
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich) moved Amendment No. 14:
§ Page 19, line 43, after (" of ") insert (" the preceding provisions of ").
§ The noble Lord said: This is simply a drafting Amendment. Its effect will he to achieve rather more precision in the drafting of subsection (3). I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 19, line, 44, at end insert—
(" (3A) In subsection (I) of the said section 231 (which specifies the matters which may be regulated by byelaws under that section about public bathing), after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted the following paragraph—
§ (aa) prohibit or restrict public bathing at times when and places as respects which warning is given, by the display of flags or by other means specified in the byelaws, that bathing is dangerous.")
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 15. The effect of this Amendment will be to extend the purposes for which byelaws may be made under Section 231(1) of the Public Health Act. The new subsection will ensure that bye-laws could be made to prohibit bathing when, by means such as red flags shown on shore or other means specified in the byelaws, the local authority considered that bathing in the sea would be dangerous. Section 231(1)(a) of the Public Health Act 1936 empowers the local authority to make byelaws:
…to regulate the areas in which and hours during which public bathing shall be permitted for the prevention of danger to bathers ".
In using the word, " hours " the subsection permits only the making of byelaws in which the actual times of day are prescribed rather than times during which certain conditions may or may not prevail. The new subsection would enable a local authority to prevent bathing at dangerous times without being obliged to prescribe
permitted hours for bathing. This is a useful provision for lifeguards in assisting them in discouraging bathers from entering the sea when it is dangerously rough and having to be rescued by the lifeguards. There are a number of Local Act precedents.
§ Baroness YOUNG
I entirely support this Amendment. I think its object is very valuable. However, I should like to ask the noble Lord, as this is an Amendment to the Public Health Act, how this comes under the Long Title when the other Amendments to the Public Health Act do not.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
By a happy chance I was here when the noble Baroness raised this point. She will not be astonished to know I am quite unable to answer her question. I am sure it w ill be dealt with in the correspondence in which my noble friend will be engaged in the near future.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 16:
§ Page 20, line 8, leave out (" this ") and insert (" that ").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 16 to correct a drafting error in subsection (4) of the clause.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 17:
§ After Clause 16, insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of section 233 of Public Health Act 1936 (1936 c. 49)
. In section 233 of the Public Health Act 1936 (which empowers local authorities to make bye-laws with respect to swimming baths and bathing pools not under the management of a local authority) for the proviso to subsection (1) there shall be substituted the following proviso—
Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any swimming bath or bathing pool which is not open to the public other than a swimming bath or bathing pool provided by a hotel, holiday camp, private school or other body or person who makes a charge for any of the services or facilities they provide or by any body which requires the payment of a fee or other subscription for membership thereof.
§ The noble Lord said: This proposed new clause is also intended to extend 869 the application of a section of the Public Health Act 1936. I do not know whether a clash with the Long Title is involved here—we shall see. Section 233 of the Public Health Act allows a local authority to make bye-laws regarding swimming pools in respect of four things: purity of the water, the adequacy and cleanliness of the accommodation provided, regulating the conduct of persons who use the swimming pool and prevention of accidents. It does not apply to swimming pools where the public are not admitted and where no charge is made for the use of the pool. The purpose of the Amendment is to extend somewhat the application of that section, not to extend it so far as the private swimming pools in the private gardens of private householders using their own swimming pool with their own friends and relations, but only so far as what one might call the semi-public swimming pools operated by hotels, holiday camps and private schools. After all, the people who have access to those swimming pools are not very far removed from members of the public. They are indeed members of the public having the money and inclination to become visitors to the hotel, holiday camp or whatever it may be. It is thought that it would be useful to allow local authorities to use this bye-law—making power not only in respect of completely public swimming pools but the semi-public ones operated by hotels, holiday camps and so on. I beg to move.
Lord BRUCE of DONINGTON
I do not know whether my noble friend is going to give an affirmative response to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, but as one who swims about twice a week, winter and summer, this Amendment has attracted my attention. The Committee sill he aware of the fairly strict regulations that are already in operation over the majority of municipal baths under the control of local authorities in this country. In addition to the more picturesque regulations which cover the prohibition of what is called " bombing ", running by the side of the pool and " petting ", they make provision that the depth of the pool shall be correctly indicated at the side of the pool. That has certain safety implications and one would generally hope that the same standard that 870 is applied to local authority pools throughout the United Kingdom ought to be capable of enforcement over all other pools that invite custom for profit. It may well be that my noble friend will tell the Committee that the Amendment is unnecessary. If it is unnecessary, so be it: but if it is necessary, I hope that my noble friend will give favourable consideration to it.
§ Baroness BIRK
I am certainly not going to say that it is unnecessary to do something: something needs to be done, but I am afraid I am going to say that this is not the way to do it in this Bill. One of the reasons that it does not find a place in the Bill is because there is no precedent in local Acts, so it makes it inappropriate for this Bill. Apart from that, it is inopportune, but not because there is not a growing concern about the deaths from accidental drowning. The horrifying fact is that after fatal accidents on the roads and in the home, accidents at swimming pools are probably the next largest group. Therefore, it is not something about which we can be complacent. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and my noble friend are quite right about this. In 1973 there were a total of 816 deaths from drowning recorded in England and Wales: 59—— about 7 per cent.—occurred in swimming pools, 26 in public pools, and the remaining 33 were in pools belonging to hotels, holiday camps, schools, universities, clubs, hospitals and so on.
It is for that reason that there is a Home Office Working Party on water safety which is examining the means adopted by local authorities and others to prevent drowning accidents and effect rescue. That is looking at the whole problem, how matters can be improved and what provisions should be brought in. I have checked recently and publication of the report is expected before the end of the year. The report covers safety in public and private swimming pools, including the adequacy of the existing law, the need for a code of practice of pool management and problems concerning private pools. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will agree that what I have read out covers precisely the points he has included in his Amendment.
With such a comprehensive Working Party at work at the moment, he will agree that it would be wrong and premature—and we should he unlikely to get it right 871 even with the hard work he has put into it, to do anything through legislation until this report is issued. Therefore this or, indeed, any other Bill would not be the appropriate place to deal with this aspect at this time. With the assurance that it is not a case of something which is going to be set up—the Working Party is at work and will publish its report before the end of this year—I hope the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will withdraw his Amendment.
§ Lord AIREDALE
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, and I are both pleased to hear the Minister say that we have drawn attention to a matter of great concern. I have to accept that this may not he the right place and time for dealing with it. I am grateful for the information that something is being done and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 17 agreed to.
§ Clause 18 [Recreational facilities]:
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Baroness VICKERS moved Amendment No. 18:
§ Page 21, line 1, leave out (" dance studios and riding schools ") and insert (" and dance studios ").
§ The noble Baroness said: This Amendment was inspired by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. On Second Reading he made a very good point about riding stables. He was not certain whether he could attend the Committee today and that is the reason why I am moving this Amendment. I realise that the Bill allows local authorities to run riding stables if they wish to do so. I do not think that we should put this provision in the Bill because I do not think it is desirable that local authorities should run this type of organisation. I should like to know whether any local authority has ever demanded or asked for this permission. When we had the South Glamorgan Bill it contained nothing about stables or running riding schools.
§ I agree with the noble Lord who spoke on Second Reading concerning the high risk of having to pay compensation for injuries. I do not know whether the noble Baroness is a horsewoman, but she 872 probably knows how temperamental horses are. The very quietest and most placid type of horse can suddenly shy. In a riding school they see " ghosts " and suddenly shy when there is nothing there at all. But the horse moves very quickly and this throws the rider off. Also sometimes the horse shies because of shadows which are cast from windows of an indoor riding school. In the open air a horse may shy at pieces of paper which blow across the road; and motor cars very often drive too near to horses. A horse can be upset, especially when ridden by someone who is inexperienced or perhaps not temperamentally suited to riding. In such cases a horse may harm not only the rider but itself as well.
§ There are some people, unfortunately, who will never make a good horseman or horsewoman because they simply have not the right temperament or the necessary ability; and the interesting thing is that a horse quickly senses this and quite often plays up more in such cases. I have done a considerable amount of riding in my life and also some show jumping, so I have some knowledge of the difficulties involved. I also think a difficult situation could arise if a ratepayer were to go along to the municipal stables and ask to hire a horse. If the person running the stables considers he or she to have insufficient skill or knowledge, will they be able to refuse the ratepayer in the same way that a private owner could do?
§ Another point is that running a stables is an extremely expensive business. A swimming pool or sports centre can be shut down for a day or two, but a stable has to give attention to its horses for seven days a week, and when a horse is ill very often someone has to sit up with the animal. It seems to me that running a stables would prove to be a very difficult operation for a local authority. Most stables are run as a family affair with individuals living on the spot so that they can tend the horses day or night. I would suggest that this is not really the sort of thing we want a local authority to do. One can imagine debates being conducted on certain ways in which the horses might be used. Therefore, I should like to suggest to the noble Baroness that unless there has been a tremendous demand for riding and the hiring of horses. she should give favourable consideration to my Amendment.873
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
I should like very strongly to support this Amendment, and also the remarks made by the noble Baroness behind me. Yesterday, as your Lordships know, we had a debate on the state of the economy when the main theme was the desirability of reducing public expenditure, particularly in view of the fact that the public sector takes 60 per cent. of the gross national product. In this Bill we seem to be putting temptation into the hands of local authorities to increase their expenditure. I am all for local authorities embarking on as many recreational activities as possible—bowling greens, squash courts, tennis courts and so on—hut when it conies to riding schools the noble Baroness is quite right in what she says.
Some time ago in this House I introduced a Bill intended to ensure the proper regulation of riding establishments, and I can assure your Lordships that the noble Baroness is perfectly right when she says that riding schools are expensive to run. Unlike a squash court or a tennis court, a riding establishment, with its horses, has to be looked after seven days a week, and when horses get ill, as they do occasionally, they must have expert attention. There are also dangers connected with riding establishments in urban areas, where I presume the pupils will he taken out on roads. There is always the possibility of a pony shying, as a result of which the skull of the rider could be broken.
If you are to allow local authorities to run riding schools, where is this going to end? Shall we soon be having the Hammersmith Hunt, or the Clapham Harriers? What is to stop a local authority—if it is in the right area, of course—having a grouse moor? You must call a halt somewhere and think of the poor ratepayers.
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
As a resident of Hammersmith, I wonder why the noble Viscount selects that borough and asks about our having a hunt?
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
The noble Baroness has a point, but in fact I chose the "Hammersmith Hunt " only because it sounds right—nothing more than that. You could, of 874 course, hunt rats in Hammersmith. But I must reiterate the point: where do you stop? It is essential at the present time to control public expenditure, especially on the part of local authorities.
Lord BRUCE of DONINGTON
I hope that my noble friend will resist the Amendment put forward by the noble Baroness. I listened very carefully to her speech and although she enlarged to some degree on the whole question of riding schools, I am certain that her Amendment also extends to dance studios—I am wrong. I beg her pardon. But I hope that my noble friend will resist the Amendment. I really cannot understand the point of view put forward by the noble Viscount in regard to public expenditure. It has been suggested for a long time, particularly by those who are sympathetic to the views put forward from time to time by the noble Viscount, that there is tremendous public expenditure in the country because of vandalism, juvenile crime and a whole series of anti-social acts which are the direct product of frustration among youth. Therefore, I should have thought that any facility which is comprised in Clause 18(1)(a) to a local authority to provide facilities, which the noble Viscount must admit are inadequately provided for by private enterprise, would he a very good thing.
As for riding schools, I do not see why it should be outside the competence of a local authority to provide such facilities as long as the local ratepayers approve of it—and presumably they will, because they elect their own councils. It is wrong that the whole question of riding schools should he regarded as the exclusive preserve of people who are fortunate enough to be in the rather more comfortable income groups. It may be a very desirable facility in some cases, though not in all, for the local authority to provide where they consider there is a real need.
May I just ask the noble Lord who would subsidise these facilities? Otherwise people would have to pay exactly the same price as is paid now, and they would have to pay the same price at a municipal riding stables as at a private stables.
Lord BRUCE of DONINGTON
I concede immediately to the noble Baroness 875 that there are many services, including amenity services, provided by the local authority which are not self-supporting. I should like to refer again to swimming pools. There are very few municipal swimming pools which pay their way on the basis of the admission fees charged. But the principle behind it is that if you provide the facility or creative recreation, as distinct from permitting destructive idleness and frustration to exist, you might be doing a good thing for the community. Incidentally, at the same time, I would ask the noble Viscount to believe that by this means you are probably avoiding a considerable amount of public expenditure in other fields.
I think that within the context of the Bill we ought to allow local authorities to take a broad view on this question, consistent with their appreciation of the local circumstances and of the needs conveyed to them by the people living in the locality, who invariably elect their own councils. It would be wrong to restrict this clause in the manner suggested by the noble Baroness, and I sincerely hope that my noble friend will resist the Amendment.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, has gone off at a tangent from riding schools to a great many other things which do not come into this Amendment at all. This is the only function which it is suggested local authorities might undertake—and I am in entire agreement with him about all the rest of them—which involves the exploitation of live animals. have never run a riding school, but to exploit live animals for profit by allowing other people to use them requires very strict discipline on the part of the person who is in charge of the animals.
That people should have the facility to learn to ride is a good thing, but it will be exceedingly difficult for a local authority to inculcate the necessary discipline in managing a riding school. You must have a person who is not only fond of the animals he is looking after—which I am quite certain a person employed by a local authority would be—but who is also financially involved, and who does not want people giving his horses bad mouths, sore backs and so on. I hope that the noble Baroness will consider very strongly this one point. This and the fishing are the only two functions detailed 876 here which involve anything to do with animals. I shall be raising one in a moment which I hope your Lordships look upon in a different way, because it has a rather different background. But to bring in animals of a higher degree of sensitivity is probably not the right way for a local authority to proceed.
§ The Lord BISHOP of NORWICH
I hope that the noble Baroness. Lady Birk, w ill resist this Amendment on behalf of the Government because, with respect, I take almost the opposite viewpoint to that of the noble Earl who has just spoken. For 10 years. I was vicar and rural dean of Islington in the most heavily built-up area of North London, and to have any sense of contact with animals, which I believe to be an important part of children's education, was very difficult for our Islington children. In fact, it was very difficult for them even to play football. because there were hardly any grass pitches in Islington, except one at a very famous football ground which I supported very strongly, called the Arsenal, and that was restricted in regard to who could play on the pitch at any one time.
Therefore, even to put into the mind of local authorities the possibility of a riding school would bring the relationship between boys and girls and horses and ponies under good and careful public supervision, and I have always felt that there is a certain sense in which the dignity of both man and pony is increased when they have a relationship with each other, rather than when they never see each other. I say this with some experience, because as a Commando chaplain in the Far East I had never ridden properly until I learned to ride in Hong Kong and was thrown from a very fierce and wild horse which, if I had been able to go to a riding school as a small boy, I might have stayed on.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
I wish to support the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, in her Amendment. I also want to contradict the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Bruce, that riding is a sport which is almost the sole preserve of what I might call the comfortable classes. If he would walk through Epping Forest with me at some weekend, he would find scores of little typists and mechanics from Ford's factory riding on 877 horses which they had obtained from local stables.
On Second Reading, I criticised this provision in the Bill which permits local authorities to set up and run riding stables. One of the reasons I mentioned was that local authorities would find themselves inundated with claims for damages sustained as a result of pupils and riders being thrown off their horses and seriously injured. Pupils can be seriously injured by being thrown off a horse. Even experienced riders can be seriously injured. We all have in mind the recent incident which involved Princess Anne. I used to consider myself a fairly experienced rider. I kept three hunters once upon a time, and I had a very narrow escape one day in the hunting field when my horse's hoof caught the top bar of an oak fence. He pitchforked me into a ditch on the other side of the fence and came down on top of me. Fortunately, no hones were broken but I was very seriously bruised for months afterwards.
Even when a riding school has an expert riding master in charge, accidents can happen and they will. But there are so many privately-owned riding schools in existence at the moment that there will be no spare riding masters for the municipalities to recruit into their establishments. When a cavalry squadron sergeant-major is demobilised these days, your Lordships can take it for granted that he has probably never seen a horse. I have no financial or other interest in riding schools; I never have had. But I feel that the riding schools which now exist, the stables and the pony clubs are quite capable of catering for all the would-he riders.
But there is another objection which I have to incorporating this provision into the Bill. At the moment, local authorities are very busily engaged performing those tasks which the Legislature lays upon them. Moreover, local authority officials have increased in their scores of thousands during the last few years. Local authority expenditure has soared like a lark during the last few years not only to the disgust and disagreement of ratepayers, but also of Ministers of the Crown. I do not think this is the time when we should be urging local authorities to set up new establishments and spend more money than they are spending at the moment.
878 What would be the cost of setting up a stable? First, you would have to build, buy or rent the stable, and you would want a field or a couple of fields adjoining so that the horses could he put out to grass. You would need to build a house for the man in charge so that he would be on the spot day and night, seven days a week. I suppose he could have some high-flown title such as they give to local authority employees these days, like Director of Equitation or Master of the Mayor's Horse. He would have to engage grooms and instructors, and then horses would have to be bought: and those of your Lordships who have been to horse auctions and markets will know what a very tricky business that is. I know it can be said that this Bill does not compel local authorities to set up riding schools; of course it does not. But when councillors see the words " riding schools " in black and white in a Government Bill, they will get their tongue over the bit and not all the curbs in creation will hold them back. It may sound desirable to make riding schools available to everybody, but is it realistic?
There is another argument that perhaps can he used against us, which is that some local authorities may already have riding schools. They may have obtained them through Private Bill legislation. That legislation will run for a year or two and if they feel that they want to continue their riding schools they can renew their Private Bill legislation. I have always been a strong upholder of municipal enterprise, and over more than a quarter of a century in local government I have promoted many local government enterprises. However, when councils are worried about whether or not they can fulfil their housing, education and other vital services, this is hardly the moment to give any order of priority to the establishment of riding schools, particularly since the national economy is walking a tightrope. I hope that my noble friend will give further consideration to this section of the Bill.
§ Lord SOMERS
May I support the Amendment of the noble Baroness, and for this reason. Anybody who has any experience of horses—and the noble Lord who has just sat down certainly has knows that very specialist knowledge is needed in order to look after them. One thing that local government do not 879 possess is specialist knowledge. They have very good general knowledge of finance and other matters but specialist knowledge of horses they do not possess, since hitherto they have had nothing to do with them. It would put the public at very great risk—not to mention the horses themselves—if horses were put in the charge of inexperienced trainers, and I sincerely hope that the noble Baroness will press her Amendment.
§ Baroness ELLIOT of HARWOOD
May I also support the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, and my noble friend. I live in an area where everybody rides and where the main festivities of the next six weeks. called the Common Ridings, take 200 people out riding on common ridings. These people do not necessarily own their own horses hut they manage to monopolise an incredible number of them. Very often, those of us who possess horses lend them if we do not intend to ride. This is an area where horse riding is available to people of all classes. Riding is our main hobby, but everybody would be horrified if the county council on which I served for so many years decided that it was going to run a riding school.
These establishments are very expensive and cost a fearful amount of money. People who own little riding schools or hire out horses spend the whole of their lives with horses—it may be that they are involved in hunting or pony trekking—and they are highly experienced people. They love riding and it provides their main source of income. Riding is not cheap, but people manage to raise money for it. particularly when it conies to events like the Common Ridings. Since local authorities are having to cut down on all the essential services that we want to keep, it would be nothing short of lunacy to encourage them to establish riding schools, especially as they are already being run by private enterprise. Not many areas arc left to private enterprise but this is one of them, and I strongly support the view that riding schools should be left in the hands of private enterprise. ft means that hundreds of people can ride in the riding areas.
By all means let us have a riding school in Islington. or wherever it was that the Bishop mentioned; but, as I have said, riding schools are very expensive. The feed has to be brought in and the hay has 880 to be bought. Last year we were selling hay at £80 a ton. The idea that municipalities should buy fodder at that cost is fantastic. I am afraid that this is a quite ridiculous idea and I oppose it very strongly. I do not oppose the idea that there should be swimming baths, although it is very difficult now to provide swimming baths because of the cost. Many people are saying—quite rightly, I think— that if there is a swimming bath in a small town there is no reason why children from another small town should not use it rather than that there should be a swimming bath in each place. But a swimming bath is a prestige symbol which many local town councils like to possess. That is another point, though; we are talking about the expense of running riding establishments.
This is a highly technical matter. Ponies are very expensive to buy. If riding schools are badly run, all kinds of accidents and difficulties are liable to occur; and if you do not feed the ponies sufficiently you will be brought before the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This suggestion is outwith any sensible local authority and I cannot imagine that any authority would establish one.
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
I would ask my noble friend to resist this Amendment and to support my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington. I am a little alarmed by the suggestion made by several of your Lordships that local authorities are more irresponsible with regard to the kind of people they employ than are private riding schools. I would remind your Lordships that most of the cases which have been before the courts have concerned not local authorities but private owners. I do not believe that history shows that local authorities are less responsible in any of their undertakings than those which are conducted privately. I was intrigued to hear my noble friend Lord Leatherland say that typists ride in Epping Forest. When somebody is on a horse, I wonder how he can decide whether that person is a typist or a duchess?
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
May I interrupt my noble friend. They are very much the same thing these days! However, on one occasion I was viewing these equestrians with my daughter and she said to me, " Look, there's so-and-so out of my office".
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
That is right. I fear that there is an element of class distinction about this. I recall that not too long ago the same arguments were advanced about swimming pools being provided by local authorities. One has only to watch, as I do every day, young people patiently lining up in their dozens to go into the Holborn swimming pool to appreciate that local authorities have brought to the people in towns, including Hammersmith—which is a very worthy borough that would be a splendid place for riding stables as it has open space—all the things which were taken for granted, not even 20 years ago, as the province of one class. Now they can be enjoyed by many people.
Golf is another example. There was a period when you could play golf only if you were a member of a golf club. Now, so many municipalities provide golf courses that it is a joy to see people taking part in this activity. If we want to provide good recreational facilities for people of all ages and classes, surely the local authority is the best body to provide them. The fear that more injuries would be caused by riding schools than would he caused by some of the other activities we are suggesting—water ski-Mg, I notice, is one of them, which is an activity that I applaud—makes me wonder whether there is any evidence to support the view that more people fall oft horses than go under when taking part in water ski-ing. We should need figures to prove that that is so. I hope that an opportunity will be provided in the Bill for local authorities to ensure that everyone who wants to enjoy these sports can do so.
Lord de CLIFFORD
I am afraid that I am going to disagree with my noble friends on this matter. I hope that the Government keep these words in the Bill. I agree very much with what was said by the right reverend Prelate. At the moment, young people say that they have nothing to do, that they have no interests, and so on. We all know that it is expensive to provide riding schools, but nowhere in this Bill do I see a requirement that councils must provide riding schools tomorrow. They are simply being given the power to open riding schools when they feel that the situation is fit.
882 I believe that one of the best things one can put forward to any local council is the power to do something to encourage young people to take an interest in everything which goes on around them, and the interest in horses and the riding and care of horses is something which may appeal to many young people who now have no opportunity of doing so. Do not let us consider that we are putting it in the Bill for them to do it tomorrow. Times must improve otherwise this country is going to pieces. When there is an improvement and the local councils want to do it, let them have the power to do it. I hope that the noble Baroness will oppose this Amendment.
§ Lord ROBBINS
This exchange of views has certainly shown the nonpartisan and extremely grown-up discussion which goes on in your Lordships' House. As the argument has swayed to and fro I have felt a certain split personality. I completely endorse the warnings which were given by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, with regard to the imprudence at the present time of local authorities indulging in this rather expensive kind of amenity. I hope there is nothing in the Bill which enjoins them to do it forthwith. But I think this kind of reserve power has been supported by technical arguments—and I say this with great deference to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers—which surely fail to carry conviction.
It is some years since I was astride a horse. I had a certain amount of instruction when I was a little boy on my father's farm, but I learned technical riding in the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich. I must say to the noble Viscount that there was no evidence there that these delicate animals were ill-treated by the people who instructed the young officers in the First World War. I believe we had an extremely good training. So it seems to me that the technical argument falls down.
If and when prosperity returns, I certainly hope that the local authorities would not indulge in anything imprudent, even in those perhaps long distant days. It would seem to me to be a pity to inhibit them from making experiments on the ground that perhaps they might engage people who were not sufficiently well 883 qualified. On the whole I should be inclined to let them make experiments in the same way as other classes of the community.
§ Baroness MACLEOD of BORVE
May I briefly say how much I agree with what the right reverend Prelate said. So many of our children now get into trouble because they have not got enough to do and they do not come into contact with animals. As an animal lover who was born and brought up in the country, and on horses, I know that it is part of a child's education. I wish to support the Government in this because I believe that the more facilities that are supplied for children to come into contact with animals, the fewer children I shall have in my juvenile courts.
§ Baroness BIRK
What this debate has shown is that this Committee certainly gets its priorities right. Today, apart from the movers of these erudite Amendments the only time that the discussion on this rather rag-hag of a Bill came to life was when everybody brought in their horses. I find myself in a difficult position because rather like my old friend and tutor the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I feel rather schizophrenic about it. I have listened carefully to what everyone has said on this matter: the number of runners has been considerable and the result has been a dead heat.
The points that have been raised have all been valid points: the question of expense, the question of experience and skill, the question of the care of the horses—because animals are involved. All these points have been put extremely eloquently and at one moment I thought that those in favour of the Amendment were right ahead in the field and all we had was a pair in hand—my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington and the right reverend Prelate—but then the other one started coming up.
I think I should explain that the riding schools in the clause as it is drafted are examples. Although it says, in particular, " powers to provide ", it gives a whole list of examples of recreational facilities. I must say that if it had been overwhelmingly the feeling of the Committee that the riding schools should be omitted, I would have accepted the Amendment, because it is a case where I feel your 884 Lordships should decide, and probably we are better off in our knowledge of horses than are the Members of the other place. But as the debate is now so even I think we should leave the Bill as it is, and also for this logical reason. Under the clause as it stands the local authorities have a generality of powers, which means that any local authority could open a riding school if it wanted to.
What we are really discussing is whether this should be included in the list of options. So much has been said, and if I were not against sending so many circulars to local authorities I should feel inclined to send this extract from Hansard in the form of a circular, both as a guideline and as a warning to local authorities who might be thinking of setting up riding schools without taking into account the financial situation, health risks, the care of horses and all the other things which have been so eloquently mentioned. But since they could, in fact, do so if they wanted to, and as it is so evenly balanced, it seems to me that we should leave the matter as it is. The attention of local authorities will obviously have been drawn to this, and will no doubt he drawn to it. From the exchange of opinion in the Committee—not divided between the Parties—it emerges that this is one of the recreational options which should he approached with the greatest caution, both from the financial, the social and the working point of view of being able to do it. At a time—and I think the noble Lord. Lord de Clifford, made this point—when local authorities feel that they have the funds and the opportunity to do so, it should be possible for them to do it.
I see it as the whole range of activities. It is also true that a number of other activities were either at one time only the monopoly of those people who could afford it or, as has been pointed out, were considered to have elements of danger. But almost anything one does, even at times walking down the street or crossing the road, can be dangerous, and I think that must be taken into account. Having heard what your Lordships have said, and quite genuinely wanting to get the feeling of the Committee on this, I think we would all agree that it should rest as it is. I believe that would represent the feeling of the Committee at present.
I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for taking such an interest in this Amendment. She has not replied to one point. I asked her whether any local authorities ever requested the right to run riding schools. I should like to say to the right reverend Prelate that ponies bite at one end and kick at the other. They are not exactly the most friendly animals for children to play with.
§ Baroness BIRK
If I may interrupt, the noble Baroness is quite right and should like to answer her question, which I forgot. I was not trying to hide anything. We have no record of any request from local authorities for riding schools. so it must have been some enthusiastic rider from another place or in consultations; or it may he that Parliamentary counsel ride out on horses sometimes. Therefore, the idea that riding schools will suddenly spring up is not very likely.
I sympathise with the right reverend Prelate with regard to Islington, because I began my social work in Islington. I used to take the children to Whipsnade Zoo several times a year, and they arc much safer there than playing with ponies. If I may mention the word " danger ", we have four Members of this House in wheelchairs because they were thrown from and rolled by horses. This is a very dangerous sport. One Member of this House I know was injured in a motor car. This is just an example of the fact that in this House alone, before our own eyes, we see the results of accidents that can happen to individuals.
I am slightly worried about the question of horse riding coming into politics, if these schools are to be run by councillors. Let us suppose that someone wants to hire a horse for hunting. Many councillors are against blood sports. Are they going to debate whether or not they should hire out horses for hunting? Quite seriously, people may need to come to a decision on that matter in one way or the other. Therefore, I think there is more in this than meets the eye, and I should be grateful if we could consider it in the future. As the noble Baroness said she is schizophrenic about it, perhaps she would look into the matter, and we can discuss it again on Report.
§ Baroness BIRK
I will look again into it. I cannot say that anything more will come out of it. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, is quite wrong over the hunting question, because a riding school quite specifically is a riding school. It is not a question of leasing or renting out horses for hunting. That is not what is meant by a riding school. However, if I can get any further information, I shall be happy to write about it to the noble Baroness. We were both listening very carefully, and she knows as well as I the feeling of the Committee. There is no compulsion or encouragement —this has also been made clear in the case of local authorities who embark on this activity— but it is just one of the options, like so many other things, open to them.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
Then can the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, compose some form of Amendment between now and Report stage? I do not think any of us would object in any way to a riding school where people were taught to ride within the school. What worries me certainly, and I suspect a number of others, is a local authority providing what most of us look upon as a riding school, being a place where horses are hired out to people, to have under their exclusive control for an hour or so. That is what most of us would interpret as being a riding school. If people are purely to be taught in the riding school by the instructor in charge of the horses, I think few will object. If it could be defined in that way I should be perfectly satisfied. I am not satisfied at the moment.
I am sorry, but the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is wrong about riding schools. Of course you are taught in a riding school: you hire a horse for an hour. But you can also hire a horse for hunting. I have done it many times myself. When I first began, I used to do this from a riding school in Ascot, so I think the noble Baroness is wrong on this point. Perhaps she will get herself corrected before the next debate.
§ Baroness BIRK
In order to save the time of the Committee, I will look very carefully into the definition of " riding school ". I should have thought it was different from a hacking stable, but I will look into it. I shall be grateful to receive any messages or any definitions 887 from members of the Committee who, I think, probably know more about this than I do.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
I suggest to the Committee that this may be a convenient moment to halt. If that is acceptable to your Lordships, I beg to move that the House do now resume.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.