§ 2.51 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Aberdare)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Greater Manchester Bill be now read a second time. As your Lordships will see from the Order Paper, there are four Private Bills down for Second Reading this afternoon, and I think perhaps it might be convenient if I said a word or two about the procedure, as it is somewhat complicated. I intend to move the Second Reading of each of the four Bills one after the other, and, of course, any noble Lord who wishes to speak on the Motion that the Bill be read a second time is perfectly at liberty to do so in the normal way. But not until the Second Reading is agreed can any of the Instructions be moved. So, as soon as the Second Reading of this Bill, the Greater Manchester Bill, has been agreed, the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, will be called to move his Instruction. That, too, can be debated, and when that has been disposed of then the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, will move his, and finally the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will move his. Once the Instructions are dealt with, then we shall move on to the Second Reading of the next Bill, the Isle of Wight Bill.
> May I briefly remind your Lordships of the background and purpose of these four Bills. The Local Government Act 1972 established new local government areas in England and Wales, and in Section 262 enacted the repeal, with certain exceptions, of provisions contained in Private Acts at present in force in those areas or parts of them. The powers conferred by those Private Acts will cease to have effect in metropolitan counties at the end of this year and in other counties at the end of 1984 unless they have been re-enacted by other legislation. The 1972 Act provided a unique opportunity for a thorough revision of all local legislation and, from 1984 onwards, local legislation will be well documented and much more readily understandable by the public.
The first major Bill promoted to retain provisions repealed by the 1972 Act was the County of South Glamorgan Bill in 1975, and that was followed last 1526 Session by four more Bills of the same type, the Cheshire County Council Bill, the County of Merseyside Bill, the West Midlands County Council Bill and the West Yorkshire Bill; those Bills passed through your Lordships' House and are now in another place. General powers Bills of this nature deal with a very large number of topics affecting a great many people and must be scrutinised with very great care. For this reason, I propose to follow the procedure which, with your Lordships' agreement, was used for the County of South Glamorgan Bill, and again last Session for the other four county council Bills, and refer the unopposed provisions to a small Select Committee consisting of two other Members of this House and myself.
Finally, may I say something regarding the Instructions to the Committees on these Bills which have been put down by various noble Lords. I can see no procedural objection to the acceptance by the House of these Instructions, which in some cases reinforce points made in petitions against the Bills. Since all the Bills are opposed, they and the petitions against them will be considered by Select Committees, which will also have to comply with any Instructions which may be passed by your Lordships this afternoon. According to usual practice, Government Departments concerned with provisions in any of these Bills will report on them, and those reports will also be before the Committees. My Lords, I beg to move that the Greater Manchester Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ Lord CULLEN of ASHBOURNE
My Lords, I wish to draw attention to a question raised in a petition on this Bill. The petition has been lodged by the General Council and Register of Osteopaths by way of objection to the provisions of Part XVI, which is concerned with establishments for massage and special treatment. The object is to maintain satisfactory conditions at sauna bath establishments and the like by strict control of standards, to prevent them degenerating into houses of ill repute. This laudable intention is not new, and attempts have been made in the past to apply similar powers to the premises of members of the General Council and 1527 Register of Osteopaths, who seek to amend the Bill so as expressly to exclude its application to members of the Register. It is, however, my understanding that the promoters of the Bill are prepared to amend the Bill, though negotiations on the form of the amendment have still to be concluded and agreement reached. Once a satisfactory settlement has been concluded, the Petition will be withdrawn and all opposition dropped.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.
§ Baroness LLEWELYN-DAVIES of HASTOE
My Lords, I wonder whether the House would allow me to intervene at this point. We are in a rather complicated situation. As I am responsible for drawing up the list of speakers, and as my office was not always sure whether Peers wished to speak on Instructions or on the Second Reading of the Bill, I think it is possible that the list of speakers may be rather confusing. Perhaps, as the Lord Chairman has said, it will be best if those Peers wishing to speak on the Second Readings of the Bills will speak first and then we could hear those who wish to speak on the Instructions later. We have now passed the Second Reading of this Bill. If the House would now like to proceed straight to the Instructions, then I am quite prepared to do that. Would it be the wish of the Front Bench opposite and of the Liberal Front Bench that we now proceed to the Instructions?
§ Lord HEWLETT
My Lords, could I ask the Leader of the House whether that does not prevent a speaker in the debate speaking against the Instruction?
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this: I put my name down too late to get on to the list. The point I wish to make is a distinctly Second Reading point, not against the Bill itself, but a point which arose on an Instruction to us when we were sitting on the Committees last year on the other Bills, and which is very apposite to these particular Bills.
§ Baroness LLEWELYN-DAVIES of HASTOE
My Lords, we have now 1528 passed the Second Reading of this Bill, so I think we should now speak on the Instructions. The noble Lord can speak on the Second Reading of another Bill, of course.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I have put down my name to speak on the Isle of Wight Bill, and I am on the list of speakers on the Greater Manchester Bill. Privileged though that is, should I now wait for the Isle of Wight Bill before I speak.
§ 3 p.m.
§ Lord SANDYS rose to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that:
- (a) they should give special consideration to Clause 192 (Prohibition of parking of caravans and boats in front gardens) having regard to the fact that during the Session 1977–78 similar clauses in four County Council Bills were deleted by the Select Committee on Opposed Common Clauses for the reasons cited in paragraph 30 of the Special Report (H.L. 137) made by the Committee to this House, and
- (b) they should take into account the burden that will be imposed on those whose interests are opposed to the clause if in the course of the re-enactment of local authority legislation following local government reorganisation the clear decision of the Select Committee as set out in the said paragraph 30 is not followed by subsequent promoters.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if your Lordships would permit a degree of latitude when speaking to these Instructions, because there may well be a number of your Lordships who will wish to raise points, as I do myself, which go a little beyond the precise terms of the Instructions. In addressing your Lordships on the Bill I should like to refer back almost 12 months to a similar occasion on 28th February last year when we examined the four County Council Bills referred to by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees; namely, the Merseyside Bill, the West 1529 Yorkshire Bill, the West Midlands Bill and the County of Cheshire Bill. Once again we are faced with a very substantial Bill which is largely a Consolidation Bill comprising a large number of Acts, notably 90 Acts which are partially repealed and only one Act which is wholly repealed, covering the last 150 years.
I read with interest an Explanatory Memorandum which is not attached to the Bill but for which I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Clitheroe for providing, which deals in detail with the clauses in the Bill. The principal point which the Greater Manchester Council raise in their memorandum is as follows:
The Greater Manchester authorities are of the opinion that there is a large corpus of valuable local law which has not been overtaken by national legislation. If action were not now to be taken to preserve it, that whole body of law would be lost automatically at the end of 1979".
§ That is perfectly true because, if we examine the terms of the Local Government Act 1972, it will be apparent from Section 262 that all local statutory provision will cease to have effect in the metropolitan counties at the end of 1979—of course that concerns this Bill—and elsewhere by 1984. It was not appreciated in 1972 what a mammoth task that would be, and so it has proved.
However, I should like to refer especially to the situation which arises on my Instruction. I should like to introduce the point by reverting to what was said a year ago regarding the four metropolitan county Bills. Unhappily, we have a recurrence here. On that occasion I moved an Instruction in precisely similar terms to that which I propose to move today. In their wisdom, the drafters and promoters of the Greater Manchester Bill have sought to bring in a clause which relates to exactly the same area. I should like to refer to that particular clause; namely, Clause 192. Their notes on this clause are not very explicit and I shall quote them. Clause 192 relates to the prohibition of parking of caravans and boats in front gardens. The notes on that clause from Greater Manchester are as follows:
This follows the same lines as the preceding clause, but relates to a different kind of subject-matter. Commercial vehicles"—
§ that is the clause above—
"are to be controllable, because they represent a business use intruding into a residential area. 1530 Caravans and boats, on the other hand, are very much an amenity in themselves".
§ From that note I would deduce that boats and caravans are to be welcomed in private gardens if they are an amenity in themselves. I cannot see from the note on that particular clause any suggestion that they are a disbenefit to the locality.
Referring once again to the situation as it was 12 months ago, when I moved the Instruction on that occasion the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees permitted the Instruction to go forward, and he said on the 28th February, at column 370 of the Official Report:
Finally, I should like to say something regarding the Instructions which the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has on the Order Paper, which are directed at a provision which occurs in each Bill seeking to restrict parking in private gardens of heavy commercial vehicles, boats and caravans. His Instructions relate, in particular, to boats. I can see no procedural objection to the acceptance by the House"—
and so on. However, the point which I should like to raise is that the Select Committee examined this clause in all four Bills. The Select Committee decided to strike it out, and we are now examining a Bill in which we see once again the same clause occurring. I should like to point out to your Lordships that it is possible over the next few years—certainly during the next five years which is the period which ends in 1984—that a recurrence of this clause could happen, not once but many times. Once again the same petitioners will come forward seeking to delete the clause. Once again I, or possibly some other Members of your Lordships' House, may feel disposed to move an Instruction.
§ The point to be made here concerns the question of the common clauses. It has been of great benefit in the past that the common clauses should be adopted by all local authorities. Where they are not specifically obliged to do so, nevertheless they are strongly recommended to do so. It would be a very vexatious situation if, as regards Private Bills, petitioners repeatedly are obliged to petition against precisely the same clause and precisely the same matter.
§ In that connection, I would mention a specific point; namely, the question of parliamentary costs which arises under the Parliamentary Costs Act 1865. The House of Lords can award costs to a 1531 successful petitioner only where the Committee—that is, of course, the Committee concerned with the Private Bill—unanimously reports that the petitioner has been unreasonably or vexatiously subjected to expense in defending his rights proposed to be interfered with by the Bill. There is such a situation, therefore, if there is a unanimous decision, but let us suppose that there is not a unanimous decision by that Committee. Over and over again the petitioner, in order to protect his position, may be obliged to return to make the same point. I do not think that it is necessary to go further into the matter. I set out the details of the matter in my remarks last year and your Lordships, who were kind enough to speak on the Instruction, also made particular reference to it. The situation is unchanged and I would respectfully draw the attention of the Select Committee to the Official Report. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that:
- (a) they should give special consideration to Clause 192 (Prohibition of parking of caravans and boats in front gardens having regard to the fact that during the Session 1977–78 similar clauses in four County Council Bills were deleted by the Select Committee on Opposed Common Clauses for the reasons cited in paragraph 30 of the Special Report (H.L. 137) made by the Committee to this House, and
- (b) they should take into account the burden that will be imposed on those whose interests are opposed to the clause if in the course of the re-enactment of local authority legislation following local government reorganisation the clear decision of the Select Committee as set out in the said paragraph 30 is not followed by subsequent promoters.—[Lord Sandys.]
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Earl CATHCART
My Lords, I had thought that other noble Lords would speak before me as regards this Instruction. However, as no one has risen I rise to say that I support my noble friend Lord Sandys in his Instruction that your Lordships should require the Select Committee, to which the Greater Manchester 1532 Bill is referred, to give special consideration to Clause 192 concerning the parking of boats in the front gardens of dwelling-houses. In doing so I must declare an interest in that I am a member of the Royal Yachting Association which is one of the petitioners against this particular clause; and I must assume that my remarks also refer to caravans, as regards which I am not particularly an expert.
I must agree with my noble friend Lord Sandys that there is absolutely no need to repeat what we all said on 28th February last year, when a similar clause was proposed in Private Bills. Sufficient evidence was then produced by your Lordships to show what a very strong case existed for the petitioner's action to get that clause, dealing with the parking of boats and caravans, deleted from the Bill. Those arguments must still apply today. Although Clause 192 of the Greater Manchester Bill is drafted differently from those clauses which we considered in our Second Reading debate last year, it still imposes restrictions on the rights of individuals in their own homes.
Perhaps the most relevant of all the local authorities' requirements is that they already have sufficient powers to ensure that boats parked in front gardens do not commit a nuisance to others, and particularly to neighbours, without adding further restrictions and penalties. For example, if a boat parked in a front garden blocks the light from a neighbour's window, or if a boat parked in a front garden obstructs the view of traffic using the road—perhaps on a corner or a bend—sufficient powers exist under general law to deal with that nuisance.
In the definition of a "boat" in Clause 192 of the Bill which we are debating it gives the dimensions as "not less than 1.5 metres" high or—and I must emphasise that it says "or" and not "and"—"not less than 5 metres" long. Thus, in the debate last year, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London pointed out that a rowing skiff 18 feet long would come within this clause. It is difficult to see what nuisance that could be to anyone.
In these days, when recreation and exercise are recognised as playing such an important part in all our lives, and when we are at some risk of becoming a spectator 1533 nation, perhaps it is most relevant that every encouragement should be given to those who make the best use of their spare time, who enjoy maintaining their boats at home during the winter months and getting them ready for the next summer. Therefore, I support the Instruction of my noble friend Lord Sandys.
§ Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY
My Lords, not for the first time have I found myself in a procedural muddle and not risen in time to speak. I support my noble friend Lord Sandys in his Instruction, as I did last year and, like my noble friend Lord Cathcart, I declare an interest in that I am a member of the Royal Yachting Association. First, I support my noble friend Lord Sandys in everything that he has said. Furthermore, I shall not repeat what I said a year ago in your Lordships' House about similar provisions.
However, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Lord Chairman, if he is able to, to draw the attention of the Select Committee to Hansard of 28th February, where similar clauses were discussed. I should also ask whether it is possible—-and I am interested in what my noble friend Lord Sandys has already said—for those organisations, such as the one to which I belong, which have had to petition once again against this clause (which is identical to the one which your Lordships' Select Committee threw out last year) to claim costs, should your Lordships' Committee reach the same decision, as I suspect it might, as last year. If such organisations cannot, it would seem to me to be grossly unfair. No doubt the ratepayers of Manchester do not mind, or perhaps they are not even told by their council, what it will cost, but, as a member of the Royal Yachting Association, I mind quite a bit. If costs cannot be claimed, small organisations, such as the one I speak about, would be ruined. Surely there must be some way to end the ridiculous situation of them having to continue to petition against similar clauses, possibly in another 30-odd county council Bills.
I would also ask your Lordships, and in particular the noble Lord the Lord Chairman, whether there is not a case in future for a mandatory Instruction to be given on the Floor of your Lordships' House if, in future, a county council should try to repeat such a clause in a 1534 Bill. If that is not practicable, is there any other way in which county councils can be discouraged in the future? Surely the Greater Manchester County Council is acting unreasonably and vexatiously in this matter.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord GREENWAY
My Lords, I, too, should like to support the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, as indeed I did last year for the four county council Bills which we were then considering. I shall not repeat what I said on that occasion, except to say—as I am sure many of your Lordships are aware—that boating is a very fast-growing sport in this country. It is enjoyed by people from all walks of life, from the top to the bottom. If this clause were to be allowed, it would tend to discriminate against the not-so-well-off boatowner who may not necessarily be able to afford to lay up his boat in a boat yard for the winter and who, if he had a small garden, would therefore be unnecessarily penalised under this clause. In addition, most people enjoy overhauling and repainting their boats during the winter. For a council to be given powers that could prevent a person doing that, would not only be unnecessary but also an intrusion into a person's rights of enjoyment regarding his own property.
As the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and the two noble Lords who have already spoken, have said, a Select Committee of your Lordships' House has already disallowed this clause in the Bills which we discussed last year. I feel most strongly that to have to consider these matters yet again is not only wasting the time of your Lordships' House and the time of another Select Committee, but is also wasting the time and money of those who have to petition a second time against this matter. That is to be deprecated and I strongly support the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, I, too, want to say a few words in favour of the Instruction that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys. As has been said, as a result of the Local Government Act, a golden opportunity was given to Parliament to reform the Private Local Acts and to make sure that there was some degree of uniformity between them. Unless 1535 we are very careful, we shall be in the process of throwing away that opportunity. A Committee of your Lordships' House has already examined very carefully the four Bills that have been mentioned—Cheshire, Merseyside, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire—and it reached the conclusion that in this particular instance:the evidence of nuisance is very slight and is far from establishing a need for taking local powers which would clearly be an intrusion into the rights, some long-established in law, of individuals to park in their gardens boats, caravans and vehicles incidental to the enjoyment of their dwelling. The Committee therefore disallowed the provisions to prohibit parking in private gardens in all four Bills".If we now allow those provisions to be incorporated in this Bill or any other future Bill which comes before your Lordships' House, surely we shall create a patchwork of legislation in which people are permitted to do certain things in one area of the country and not in another, and no one will know precisely where he or she stands. If provisions of this nature are to be brought forward, they should be in Public General Acts; they should not be brought forward piecemeal by local authorities, as is being done now. It is an abuse of the privileges of local authorities to bring forward these Bills, one after another, with the same provisions, when they know that your Lordships' House and another place have already disallowed those provisions in relation to another local authority.
Therefore, I hope that not only the Greater Manchester Council but others which may be coming forward with similar provisions in the future, will get together with their parliamentary agents to look very carefully at what has been said in your Lordships' House this afternoon, so that we are not plagued with an unnecessary repetition of the same debates year after year as local authorities come forward afresh with provisions which your Lordships have already disallowed.
§ 3.20 p.m.
My Lords, I have no interest to declare or axe to grind, but I sympathise deeply with those people who have become sufficiently prosperous now to buy themselves a boat and a caravan but, at the same time, have not got enough money to afford to leave the boat at moorings during the winter, and cannot 1536 afford hotel and boarding accommodation for their summer holiday. Their only chance of a summer holiday nowadays is to have a caravan, particularly if they have a number of children. Where else are they going to keep their caravan except in their garden? We have heard that there are ample safeguards if they are becoming a nuisance to somebody else. I think that in this increased leisure society, in which people are becoming more prosperous through increased wages and through much increased moonlighting, we should be able to allow them to keep their things in their own gardens.
The Lord Bishop of NORWICH
My Lords, I should like to support the noble and sea-going Lord, Lord Greenway. I have no interest to declare. I have no desire to be translated to Manchester—although I am sure it is a very good See—but none the less it seems to me that I should like to make a three-word speech, the shortest I have ever made, and simply say, "Votes for Boats".
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I wish to support what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has proposed with regard to all three Bills. In 1971 in this House a Bill was passed called the Isle of Wight County Council Bill. There are three-and-a-half pages in that Bill labelled Part II discussing public order and public safety.
§ Lord ABERDARE
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? I think he has moved on to Lord Avebury's Instruction, which we have not yet reached. We are at the moment discussing Lord Sandys' Instruction and we shall come to Lord Avebury's Instruction in due course.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I understood that the noble Lord was proposing a Motion which concerned all three Bills.
§ Lord ABERDARE
My Lords, I am sorry if I did not make myself plain. Having moved the Second Reading of each Bill, we then take the Instructions seriatim, one after the other, and any noble Lord who wishes to discuss a particular Instruction can discuss that 1537 Instruction. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has not yet moved that particular Instruction.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I want to come back to the simple question of whether we should be allowed to keep boats in our front gardens, because that is what we are discussing. Boats can have a very aesthetic appearance, unlike some motor cars that are parked in front gardens. If motor cars are to be allowed to be parked in front gardens, why not boats? In the road where I live there are three houses which have a boat in the front garden. I look at them with pleasure every time I pass. Unfortunately I do not own a yacht myself. What occurs to me as I walk up and down the road is this: When prospective house purchasers walk down my road and see three houses with boats in front of them, that must surely put up the value of the property in the eyes of the would-be purchasers.
Furthermore, and perhaps a little more seriously, if a person has a boat, and if he finds great pleasure in the use of that boat, it is an interference with the liberty of the subject to say to him, "Thou shalt not". I am allowed to go fox hunting if I want to go fox hunting. I am allowed to go and watch football matches and throw bottles on the pitch if I want to do it. Why should I not be allowed to have a boat in my front garden if that is one of the few pleasures that I have in life? I support noble Lords who have spoken from the other side.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, perhaps what I was going to say applies more to this Instruction than to the Second Reading. It is mixed and I hesitate, but I shall come in now. I sat last year with the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, on the Committee for those four Bills. As your Lordships are probably aware, the Committee came to several conclusions, one of which was reversed by the House as a whole, so it cannot be said that the Committee did not do its work properly, did not go into all 1538 these aspects with great care, and especially the aspects on boats and caravans. They were well presented, at great length, and at considerable expense to the parties concerned. We listened, we pondered and came to a decision that I think the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, will agree with me was a unanimous decision. I underline, and cannot agree more with various noble Lords who have said that it is a total waste of time, money, expense both to the organisations concerned and to the ratepayers of the various metropolitan counties concerned that they should have to go through this performance again. The process of producing individual Bills is an even greater waste of time, money, and skilled man-hours.
Surely the needs of metropolitan counties and district authorities could be met by one general purpose Bill. I know that the needs of Greater Manchester are different from the needs of, say, Wiltshire, Suffolk, or East Anglia, but they still do not have to take up those powers concerned. In the West Yorkshire Bill, and in one of the other Bills concerned, they will ask for the same powers in a slightly differently worded clause, but each having the same effect. Surely this is an inefficient and archaic way of protecting the public interest. It is of course good for lawyers, parliamentary agents, and local councillors' self-esteem, and for all sorts of totally unimportant and expensive reasons. I know that this is the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, who chaired our Committee last year. I am sure that when the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, speaks he will underline that what I am saying is true—and I hesitate to put words into the mouth of a distinguished Privy Councillor—that this was the complete decision that we all came to. Anecdotally, and finally, the Manchester Bill is nearly 200 pages long, and the Constitution of the United States is 18 pages long.
§ Lord GORDON-WALKER
My Lords, I can speak briefly because, in the main, the noble Earl has said what I wanted to say. I particularly support Clause (b) of the Instruction. I am sure that the thing will be thrown out as our Committee threw it out, but the great thing is to stop this happening in future; to stop a great abuse of power by local authorities.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Lord ABERDARE
My Lords, perhaps I could say one quick word as certain questions have been addressed to me. First, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, for having done me the courtesy of informing me that he posted a letter first-class to me on Friday, which has not yet reached me. May I further thank him for the courtesy of explaining to me what was in the letter that has not reached me. I should like to respond to what he asked me, and to what the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, asked me, and to the whole tenor of those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate—the fear that this kind of clause might occur again and again in future Bills.
I think it is a little unlikely. If for a second year running, a Select Committee has a look at this clause and considers the Instruction that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has moved and refuses to accept it once again, I hardly think it likely that future promoters—or that this would be the advice given to future promoters by one of the agents—would try and run such a clause again. But, in the event that they did, I think that your Lordships could probably with some degree of confidence rely on the Unopposed Bills Committee, to which it would then be referred, to look with great suspicion on a clause which had twice been considered by Select Committees of this House and twice refused. In the unlikely event of even that going wrong, there is always the further final chance that a petitioner can of course petition in the other House, so the safeguards are fairly strong.
So far as the question of a mandatory Instruction to the Committee is concerned, they are rare birds, but there would be no reason in a case like this, where the House had already taken a decision two years running, why a mandatory Instruction might become a more sensible way of proceeding. As for the question of awarding costs, I can only say that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, correctly quoted the Parliamentary Costs Act 1865, and that is the position; namely, that the Committee, if it is unanimous, can award costs.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.1540
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord CULLEN of ASHBOURNE rose to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should give special consideration to Clause 196 (Arrangements as to construction of buildings or carrying out of works) in order to satisfy themselves that it does not constitute an undesirable extension of the powers and functions of local authorities to operate in competition with private industry and interests in the same field.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 196, as drafted, would enable the contracting authorities, which are the direct labour or public works departments of the Manchester Council and the Wigan Council, to undertake new building and construction work for a number of public bodies. That means that the two councils would be carrying on a commercial trade with public bodies and the profitability or otherwise would directly affect the ratepayers. Furthermore, the contracting authorities would be in competition with the private sector, which has more than adequate resources to carry out the work. There is no provision that the power should be exercised in fair competition with the private sector and no requirement that a proper economic charge should be made for any work done, so the private sector could be faced with unfair competition, while, if the authority should make a loss or overspend, the ratepayers would suffer. The two federations concerned consider that the powers sought by Clause 196 should not be granted unless the promoters can show that extending the contruction activities of the contracting authorities would constitute as efficient an application of the limited resources, manpower and materials available to the industry as would be achieved by private contractors. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should give special consideration to Clause 196 (Arrangements as to construction of buildings or carrying out of works) in order to satisfy themselves that it does not constitute an undesirable extension of the powers and functions of local authorities to operate in competition with private industry and interests in the same field.—(Lord Cullen of Ashbourne.)1541
§ Lord SEFTON of GARSTON
My Lords, it was Saturday when I first heard of this Instruction and therefore I did not have the time or facilities to put my name down on the list of speakers, and, being a new Member of your Lordships' House, I was somewhat at a loss to know what to do next. Having arrived here this morning and finding myself in opposition to the Front Bench opposite, I am more nervous still.
To prepare my case I went to the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House. I believe the Instruction should not be accepted. If it were, it would be unfair and against the spirit of the Standing Orders of this House, and I hope I shall not bore noble Lords by referring to page 167, under the heading "Instructions", where the paragraph dealing with permissive instructions evidently reaffirms the principle in our Standing Orders that the House should not try to do something which is being done elsewhere, namely in Committee. It goes on:The most usual type of instruction on a Private Bill is of a cautionary nature. For instance, the Committee on the Bill are sometimes instructed to have regard to certain matters and not to authorise certain works unless satisfied that certain conditions have been complied with".I can see plainly that the reason for that may be that Members of your Lordships' House who are not on the Committee and cannot attend its meetings might have knowledge of certain circumstances, in particular affecting the Bill, of which they think the Committee should be aware, and therefore a cautionary Instruction could be moved in this House and would normally be accepted. However, it also implies that Instructions of this sort should not be moved when the matter is to be debated by the Select Committee. Evidently that is fair because, if an Instruction of this sort were accepted, it would mean acceptance of some of the things the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, mentioned—namely, that there could be unfair competition and that local authorities are not suitable organisations to carry out this work. That provokes me into saying that if one examines the record of the private building industry in this country one could make a case that not only was it inefficient but that in certain cases it was a menace to society, and I am sure I need not tell noble Lords about certain cases that have occurred in the private sector which, if they had 1542 occurred in local government, would have caused local government to be very ashamed indeed.
There is another aspect of this Instruction which must be borne in mind. If this House is to go on record as being a fair body which seeks to do justice to all, surely we ought not to jump the gun by saying that this Instruction should be accepted. If we did, we should be accepting an Instruction containing a principle that ought to be argued about by the Select Committee so that the promoters of the Bill have a chance to put their point of view or to comply with any requirements that any member of that Select Committee may wish to have inserted—for example, about the waste of public money or the removal of unfair competition; that is, of course, if unfair competition can be designated, and I have doubts that about.
It is also a bad Instruction because it gives the impression that an attempt is being made merely to oppose competition in the building industry. On that aspect, I would comment only that when the great barrage across the River Thames is finally, if ever, constructed, we may see the weakness of employing private contractors to carry out that sort of work. Indeed, one of the lessons we should have learned about employing private trade in the building industry is the scandal that existed in this country after the war in regard to bomb damage repairs, when "cost plus ten" was the common and accepted way of doing it. If this House is to be fair to be promoters, it should take note of its Standing Orders, which imply that Instructions should not be used to prejudge an issue which quite evidently will come before the Committee. We should be content to allow it to go before the Committee and let the promoters put their case.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, misread the Standing Orders in that he argued as though this was a mandatory Instruction and as though the advice which my noble friend Lord Cullen of Ashbourne gave carried with it the force of preventing the Select Committee from discussing the merits of whatever the petitioners might do. In fact, this is a non-mandatory Instruction, and, far from cutting across the 1543 powers of the Select Committee, it helps them; it allows the Committee to know at once the feeling in the House generally towards this matter.
§ Lord SEFTON of GARSTON
My Lords, I do not think I was confused when I referred to page 167 of our Standing Orders. That deals with a cautionary Instruction. Perhaps in my inexperience I did not make myself clear. I was raising the issue that this kind of Instruction tends to debate a principle—a principle which, according to the objections lodged with the Select Committee, will be debated by the Select Committee in any case.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, the noble Lord is not taking into account the fact that whatever we do with the Instruction now will in no way interfere with how the Select Committee does its work and with what any petitioners may wish to say or do when the matter goes before the Select Committee. At the end of the day an Instruction is nothing more than a comment on a Second Reading debate. All the points which my noble friend has made in the Instruction he proposes are points which could legitimately have been made in a normal Second Reading speech. One would expect a Select Committee, in examining any matter on behalf of the House, to take into account points that are made in a Second Reading speech. I believe that the non-mandatory Instruction which my noble friend is now putting to the House is helpful in that it allows the Select Committee to know that there are feelings on the issue in question, based on considerable evidence. If for any reason the Select Committee does not—contrary to the Instruction—give special consideration to see whether there is anything undesirable, it then risks the matter being overturned by the House as a whole when it is brought back.
I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for thinking even for only a moment that he may be so averse to any criticism against direct labour by the local councils that he has tended to dredge up a supposed technical point in order to suggest that there is a matter which ought to be looked at and which is not quite in keeping with both conventions and the Standing Orders. If the noble Lord had opposed my noble 1544 friend by arguing in support of direct labour, as against the private enterprise tender system, then I should have had some sympathy with him, though I would not have agreed with him. I wish to have on the record the point that if all the evidence is brought forward it will be shown that money is wasted and jobs are done inefficiently under direct labour, as opposed to the normal private enterprise tendering. It looks as though the noble Lord has inadvertently suggested to the House that Standing Orders ought to be viewed in a way which would be different from the way they would in fact be viewed if the matter was being dealt with correctly.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down used a most charming expression; he spoke about a non-mandatory Instruction. To my way of thinking an Instruction is an Instruction, without any qualification, without prefix or suffix. I speak as a former company sergeant-major who knew what an instruction was. I do not want to go into my personal history in regard to this matter. My reason for intervening is merely that I was chairman of a county council, and leader of a county council, and I held other posts; so I have a long experience in local government. I found that almost invariably when a council wished to place a contract, whether with another council or with a firm of private constructers, it had to invite tenders. Therefore, if the Manchester or the Wigan council managed to secure a contract to build a refuse destructor or a housing estate for another council, it would be because the Manchester or Wigan council had won the contract in open competition by submitting a tender which was better or lower than the other tenders submitted by private builders. That is the only point that I wish to make, and I believe that it knocks the bottom out of all the arguments that have been made against the clause.
§ Lord ABERDARE
My Lords, I do not want to enter into the arguments as to the merits of this particular clause, but I ought to say that there is nothing in Standing Orders which in any way leads me to advise your Lordships not to accept the Instruction if your Lordships feel so minded. With regard to the definition of "mandatory", the normal use of the 1545 word in this connection arises when the House instructs a Committee not to accept a certain clause altogether; here the Instruction is merely drawing the attention of the Committee to a particular clause. As the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, correctly said, there is a petition against this aspect of the matter, and the Select Committee will be considering it in the normal way, and both promoters and petitioners will have a full opportunity to deploy their case.
§ Lord PARGITER
My Lords, before the noble Lord the Lord Chairman sits down, may I put it to him that if the position is as he has stated, why need one bother to put down an Instruction when the matter is to be fully considered? It is obviously being done for a particular purpose.
§ Lord FLETCHER
My Lords, I do not want to prolong the debate, but I must say that I have a certain amount of sympathy with what my noble friend Lord Sefton has said, as well as with the remark that has just been made. I wonder what precisely will be the effect of the Instruction if it commends itself to the House. As I understand it, the issue will be argued as between the promoters and the opponents of the Bill. Therefore, I ask myself what will be the effect if the Instruction is passed?
Is it not the case that it may well be interpreted, rightly or wrongly—as my noble friend Lord Sefton suggests—as a pre-judgment of the issue which the Committee has to consider? If the Bill goes before the Select Committee without the Instruction it will be open to argument on its merits. The Instruction—whether or not it is so intended—seems to suggest that, whatever may be the merits of direct labour, there could in certain circumstances be what the Instruction calls "an undesirable extension" of powers. It seems to me that those very words must be calculated to bias and to influence the judgment of the Select Committee on the merits of the matter. I do not wish to comment upon the Standing Orders which enable the House to approve Instructions of various kinds, but I should have thought that the case for this Instruction had not been made out.
§ Several noble Lords: No.
§ Lord CULLEN of ASHBOURNE
My Lords, if I may reply, I would say that, so far as I understand it, all I was doing was to draw attention to the points that I made. I do not for one moment consider that anything I have said will influence the Select Committee in any way. The Select Committee will have evidence from both sides to consider, and the only advantage in having moved the Instruction at all is that this short debate which we have had in your Lordships' House will be on the record.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord AVEBURY rose to move, That it be an instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should not allow Clause 69 (Notice of street processions) of the Bill unless they are satisfied that it is a matter which ought to be dealt with in a Private Bill rather than in national public order legislation.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, as your Lordships may know, various county councils have included in their Bills for this Session provisions requiring persons who organise or conduct a procession to give a certain number of days' notice to the police. The arguments on this provision may to some extent be similar to those with which we have already dealt in regard to the Instruction moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys. If local authorities continue to come forward with provisions that have already been disallowed or withdrawn, then that is just as much a waste of time when we are dealing with a matter of public order legislation as it was a few minutes ago when we were discussing a matter of planning. Where these provisions have been considered by another place, I think I am correct in saying that in one case they were the subject of an Instruction, and in another case the local authority concerned gave an undertaking that the relevant clause would be withdrawn.
§ There are before us this afternoon three Bills which contain similar provisions and it may be for the convenience of the 1547 House if in moving my Instruction relating to the Greater Manchester Bill, I also at the same time discuss those Instructions which I have tabled relating to the Isle of Wight Bill and the South Yorkshire Bill. With regard to the South Yorkshire Bill, I am very pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that this morning I received a letter from the parliamentary agents acting on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, stating that with the leave of the Committee appointed to consider the Bill they would propose to withdraw the clause. That leaves us with the Greater Manchester and Isle of Wight provisions.
§ The first point I want to make is that your Lordships may well think that it would be inconsistent to grant to one or to two authorities powers which have been denied to several others, or which yet others have decided, on reflection, they would not continue to seek for themselves. It may be said that, in the past, some local authorities had powers similar to the ones being sought in these Bills, and I believe that that is true. But I also think that over the years we have become far more conscious of the need to maintain and preserve our civil liberties than perhaps we were at the time when those provisions were enacted.
§ The honourable Member for Birmingham Hall Green referred to various requirements in the West Midlands towns when another place were considering their Bill, and those were enacted in 1959. I am not sure whether any of them were more recent than that, but, if they were, then I would only say that, so far as most honourable Members are concerned, they are too busy to read these voluminous Bills—and I have great sympathy with the noble Lord who remarked earlier on that when one is faced with a Bill of such enormous length as this it is very difficult to make sure that you have spotted everything in it that might be objectionable. This Greater Manchester Bill, as the noble Lord has already remarked, is 181 pages long; and, therefore, unless we have organisations outside, such as the National Council for Civil Liberties, which are vigilant and carefully go through these Bills line by line, then it is only too easy for the promoters to slip in what your Lordships might consider to be objectionable provisions. But I 1548 think, as has already been said, that under the Local Government Act 1972 we have this wonderful opportunity to sweep away all the obsolete provisions that exist in Private Acts up and down the country and to replace them with something which is more attuned to modern conditions. Then we can start again with a clean slate, and can decide on the requirements that have to be observed, in this case by those who organise or conduct processions, from first principles, instead of doing it in a haphazard and piecemeal manner.
§ As my honourable and learned friend the Member for Montgomeryshire remarked when another place were considering similar provisions in another Bill, if one thinks that notice should be given so as to help the police maintain public order—and that is a point of view that one could easily respect—then the police are just as entitled to the consideration of Parliament in one part of the Kingdom as in another. In all other respects we make uniform rules throughout the country, and where a person is obliged to do anything that would facilitate the task of the police in preventing the law from being broken then that obligation is the same in Barrow as it is in Birmingham, in Lambeth as in Leominster, in Harwich as in Harrogate. It would be quite wrong, my Lords, as I suggested in the debate on the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, to create a patchwork of legislation, as we should be doing if we allowed these clauses in the Greater Manchester and the Isle of Wight Bills, so that in different parts of the country people had to give notice of varying numbers of days of their intention to hold a procession. I feel very strongly that this is a matter which can be dealt with properly only in a Public General Act, if indeed we think it is necessary for notice to be given at all.
§ The then Commissioner of Police for the metropolis suggested when this matter was being considered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in the course of his inquiry into the disturbances in Red Lion Square, that seven clear days' notice should be given of any procession; and I take it, although, as New Society remarked in its issue of 15th February, nobody is clear as to where this suggestion emanated from, that probably it germinated in the mind of the then Commissioner 1549 of Police for the metropolis and was picked up from the evidence which he gave in the Red Lion Square inquiry, and that that is how we come to find it in all these Bills. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, found that the absence of any such requirement had played no part in the causation of those disorders; and the noble and learned Lord went on to point out that 80 per cent. of the processions held are in fact notified to the police voluntarily, while in the few instances where notice had not been given the police had no difficulty in finding out that a demonstration was planned for the very simple and obvious reason that an effective demonstration demands quite a degree of advance publicity. The noble and learned Lord went on to point out that there were some fringe elements who would not give notice, whether or not a law existed; and he asked the question: Why should those elements be allowed to force us to adopt a largely unnecessary requirement which could be an embarrassment to law-abiding citizens? I will not recapitulate all the organisations which have made representations against this clause, but the Association of Funeral Directors, for instance, has expressed serious, not to say grave, concern about these clauses.
§ It may be said that the events of Red Lion Square occurred some years ago, and that both the scale of demonstrations and the extent of the violence committed by some participants in such demonstrations has worsened since then. Perhaps that is so, and I am sure that almost everybody—certainly everybody in your Lordships' House—would deplore the behaviour of the thugs who terrorise the people of Brick Lane, or those who cause disturbances in Lewisham, for example. But in highly-publicised cases such as those, the police in fact have plenty of warning, and most of the time, I think, they have done an excellent job in maintaining order. Where the law has been broken, it was certainly not as a result of the police being given inadequate notice of the demonstration. If the Metropolitan Commissioner and other chief officers of police believe, however, that provisions such as those we are now considering would be useful, then let them come forward with properly considered proposals for legislation showing how it would stop violence and curb lawbreakers. 1550 Then, I am sure, Parliament would give very careful attention to any evidence which might be produced.
§ In the absence of such evidence, we have no reason to depart from the advice which was given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and certainly not to do so in a piecemeal manner. I think that these provisions would curb the freedom of law-abiding people without affecting the bullyboys of the streets. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should not allow Clause 69 (Notice of street processions) of the Bill unless they are satisfied that it is a matter which ought to be dealt with in a Private Bill rather than in national public order legislation.—(Lord Avebury.)
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I do depart from the advice given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and indeed from that given by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. In his speech the noble Lord related his remarks to both Greater Manchester and, indeed, South Yorkshire, and suggested that there is not a case for those authorities to bring forward powers. My Lords, I have looked with care and interest at what Greater Manchester propose. They have been good enough to furnish details on this particular clause, and I think it might be for the benefit of the House if, with your Lordships' permission, I read out the note which Greater Manchester have attached to it.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, the noble Lord has referred to these notes, which came from the Greater Manchester Council, before. Could he say why they are not available to the rest of your Lordships, where they are and what is their provenance?
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, their provenance is indeed from Greater Manchester. The document is entitled An Explanatory Memorandum. It is not attached to the Bill.
§ Lord SANDYS
It is not in the Printed Paper Office, my Lords, but I was fortunate enough to be furnished with a copy by my noble friend Lord Clitheroe. I understand that this is an official document, and perhaps your Lordships would be willing to accept that as evidence from me. If I may be permitted to proceed, I would read the point because I think it is very material to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said. It says:The purpose of the power being sought in Clause 69 is to ensure that the police and the district council know in advance of a proposed public procession. The clause does not give any additional powers to the police to control a procession. This can already be done under the Public Order Act 1936. The power is considered to be necessary in the light of recent experience within Greater Manchester when a local authority felt impelled to make an order which the Home Secretary confirmed to prohibit processions for a certain period. The fact that neither the police nor the district council were given specific warning of the proposed procession made it difficult for the police to plan for the event and for the local authorities and the public to take consequential action to safeguard their property".I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury said. He adduced the argument for your Lordships that notice of a public procession should be a matter of public general legislation. He added the evidence and the opinion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman; but against that it must be said that chief constables should have a freedom to act. It is the case that in the South Yorkshire Bill, South Yorkshire seek powers to obtain three days' notice and in the case of the Greater Manchester Bill at least seven days' notice before the event is sought. Both these local authorities are acting in the light of experience, in the light of the experience of the chief constables in those particular areas, and they have good reason to do so.
I believe that there is an opportunity here to reject the Instruction of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, because there is very strong ground for believing that these local authorities are seeking powers which are justifiable in local circumstances. We have a police force which is not organised on a national basis. Chief constables should be given the opportunity to act in the capacity to which they have been appointed. I believe that the clause should stand.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord HEWLETT
My Lords, I do not believe that it is inconsistent to have this power in different locations according to circumstances. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested sweeping away the obsolete. There is nothing obsolete in what I am about to say. It applies directly to Greater Manchester at the present time. If we are going to invoke the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, let me read from his Frank Newsam Memorial Lecture at the Police College recently. He said:Members of the general public have a right not to be disturbed as they move about the streets and other public places on their lawful business and pleasures. The principle is plain but I fear that the law's reconciliation of these rival claims for the use of our streets and public places is uncertain, archaic and underdeveloped. This obscurity of the law makes it difficult for the police to be effective without losing an unacceptable measure of public support".In advocating the formulation of clear law, he went on:The criticism I make of English law in the field of human rights is not its lack of principle nor that it is always ineffectual, but that it has not adjusted itself to the realities of an industrial society entitled to exercise freedom of speech, protest and assembly, not only through representative institutions but directly—by assembly, march and protest in public places".Later in his lecture he said:The truth is that there is no modern law governing the basic priorities in the use by society of streets and public places".I therefore think that there is nothing inopportune in respect of this debate if I speak as follows.
I rise to support the inclusion of Clause 69 in the Greater Manchester Bill, irrespective of what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has to say; and I ask the House to reject his Instruction. Since being demobilised from the Royal Marines in 1946 and coming down from Cambridge in 1948, I have lived very close to or in Greater Manchester and have worked full-time in industry in the City of Manchester itself. I do not suggest that that qualifies me especially to give an opinion on this subject but clearly it is no disadvantage—any more than it is a disadvantage to have served on the City Council of Manchester and on the City Bench until my elevation to your Lordships' House. Of course, the freedom and rights of the citizenry should be paramount; but note that I said 1553 "citizenry" and not just some citizens. I suggest that it is time that the greatest good for the greatest number took priority—not to the exclusion of certain individuals but so as to temper their behaviour and the threat to the preservation of public order.
The requirement to give seven days' notice to the chief constable and to the district council of the intention to march or demonstrate, of the purpose thereof, of the route to be taken and of the person in charge—or who is meant to be in charge—is prefectly reasonable to protect those other citizens, thousands of them, wishing merely to go on their own lawful occasions to and from work or wherever else they wish or need to go. This provision in Clause 69 leaves time for the police to ensure that proper emergency services can be made available at the site no matter how great the demonstration or the march.
We all know from very recent picketing experiences how men, women and children have felt that their lives had been disrupted and many feel that they have been threatened. They must surely be properly protected from unreasonable activity. All I ask is that notice be given of the intention to march or demonstrate. I am all for preserving the absolute freedom of speech, free speech, demonstrations, marching and so on. But when the original developments in Manchester took place there was not the vehicular traffic moving at speed and there was not the complexity of industry and public services that exist today. I think it is the greatest intrusion on the liberty of the individual not to be able to use the highway, quite properly, without obstruction. If notice is given, the individual citizen can choose not to go by that particular route or to go at some other time. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for what reason should the majority be incommoded in the way he suggested they should by no notice being given? If proper notice of the situation is given, the ordinary citizen can choose the time and the route that he will take.
The real deep-seated trouble is not the procession. It is the procession led by a counter-procession or a demonstration by an anti-demonstration; and a state of enormous disorganisation can result—and has resulted—because proper notice 1554 has not been given. It is a specious argument to suggest that the police are bound to have heard of the projected march because of the considerable publicity it will have aroused. That is not true. Nor should we ask the civil power to have to listen to rumour and tittle-tattle from which to get its impression of what will be required for the preservation of public order. The police must ensure that if there is going to be a counter-procession, it does not take the same route or happen at the same time—which is likely to cause something approaching riot conditions. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, knows, as indeed does every noble Lord, that the Police Service, like the Armed Services, is in a considerable state of over-stretch. Surely this House does not wish to contribute to that situation, thereby risking the apprehension and maybe the real fear of householders, shopkeepers or the public generally who may have to endure these activities when the police have not been given any time at all to make special preparations for their safety.
I submit that it is, indeed, the duty of Parliament and of Government first and foremost to protect society as a whole. The cost to public funds of the National Front and then the Socialist Workers' Party marches in Manchester, Stockport, Tameside and Bolton amounted last year to £140,000. I know that half was paid by the Government; but we all know that it is not the Government who pay but the taxpayer, so that half was paid by the ratepayer and half by the taxpayer. I think that is an unwarrantable sum of money to be required when, if notice had been given, many of these extra provisions would not have been required.
On the pretext that the powers should not be given locally but nationally, if at all, through legislation, it is suggested that Clause 69 should possibly be removed from the Bill. Such, I suggest, would run counter to the principle established in 1975 in respect of the removal of individual clauses from Private Members' Bills on the grounds that they might subsequently become subject to general legislation. That may be true: but there is precious little chance of the present Government getting a measure through its own Party, let alone through Parliament, to amend the Public Order Act 1936. The picture of Ministers of the 1555 Crown on the Grunwick picket line is warning enough of this. The Grunwick demonstration meant, as noble Lords know, that no fewer than 25 per cent. of the whole of the Metropolitan Police Force had to be sent to that site on almost a continuous basis.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He is surely not trying to pretend that the police did not know that the Grunwick picket was going to take place?
§ Lord HEWLETT
By no means, my Lords. I am suggesting that a major procession without notice being given takes very much more attention and emergency action on the part of the police and takes them off their proper duties.
§ Lord HEWLETT
I beg Lord Avebury's pardon, my Lords; I do not suggest for one moment that Lord Avebury is fair to say that is an irrelevant point. With 8,500 demonstrators at Grunwick—and 3,000 of them Yorkshire miners led by Mr. Scargill—one can say that nearly a riot situation did prevail. If speaking not elected by but representing the citizens of Greater Manchester, I wish that this situation shall not be created in the Greater Manchester district, I am perfectly right to put the view in your Lordships' House. Amendments to the Public Order Act 1936, as I was saying when the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, interrupted, would not be popular with this Government. I reiterate that Clause 69 is not trying to inhibit marches at all but merely to facilitate their being held properly.
My plea, my Lords, is that the wider community interest should be served; other metropolitan areas, as your Lordships have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, are seeking similar powers. It might interest your Lordships to know that France, West Germany, Italy and Holland already require notice to be given for demonstrations and marches of this type. It seems to me to be eminently sensible that Greater Manchester and any other greater metropolitan area in Britain should be protected by notice of these marches being required. There- 1556 fore, contrary to the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about Clause 69, there are points of view which I ask the House to take into consideration. I am reinforced in summarising these views to your Lordships by the knowledge that the clause is supported by the vast majority of local authorities in the Greater Manchester area and by the chief constable. I am certain that the chief constable will be prepared to attend before the Select Committee to explain his support for the proposed measure. I hope your Lordships feel that there are considerable merits in the proposal and that it would be wrong to confine the scope of the Select Committee's examination of the clause in the way in which the noble Lord's Motion now seeks to do.
If I could just restate this: the clause does not, as has frequently been claimed, give additional powers to the police, nor does it restrict the liberty of the individual. It merely asks that some consideration should be given to the electorate and the public at large. The clause contains that requirement of notice of a proposed public procession should be given to the police, but the chief constable retains his regulatory powers under general legislation applicable throughout the whole country. May I remind the House that the chief constable already has power where he apprehends that serious public disorder could arise to request a district council to prohibit such a march, and such an order does not become effective until approved by the Home Secretary. He also has power to impose conditions generally on the routeing of processions in the interest of maintaining public order.
Because of the chief constable's fear in Greater Manchester some 18 months' ago that such serious public disorder would arise at Tameside, he asked the Tameside Council to impose a ban on all processions and the Home Secretary of this Government so approved. So, my Lords, I am sorry but Lord Avebury's argument simply is not sound. The difficulty in these cases is that the chief constable has no legal or formal means of knowing when or where the procession is to take place. The chief constable and the community have a right, I submit, to this information because it is the public which can suffer through damage to private property with personal injury, 1557 traffic congestion, and the most important factor of all, the disruption to the emergency services, not to mention the general fear, apprehension and inconvenience caused.
The instruction moved by the noble Lord would require the Select Committee to limit its investigation of the need for Clause 69 to the matter of whether it is more appropriate for national rather than local legislation. I have already said that I cannot foresee Her Majesty's Government getting such legislation through. In the case of the South Glamorgan Consolidation Bill, the very first to be promoted after local Government reorganisation, the House were asked by the Committee to which that Bill had been referred to uphold a principle that a proposal in a local Bill should be disallowed if it was to meet a need common to all or a great number of authorities. That this House refused to do in 1975 and I claim created a precedent thereby. The fact that a power may be more appropriate for national legislation is no reason for withholding it from a private promoter when the Government have indicated no intention of legislating nationally. That was our decision on 9th December 1975, and I claim that the House should uphold its decision today. I ask this House to support the decision that Clause 69 be maintained in the Bill and to reject Lord Avebury's proposed Instruction.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I have no wish at all to speak against the powers which are being asked for. I think it is quite possible that such powers are necessary. May I remind your Lordships that the particular Motion put down by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asks the Committee not to allow the clause unless they are satisfied that it is a matter which ought to be dealt with in a Private Bill rather than in national public order legislation. In 1971—if I am in order in referring to it now—we had a Bill before this House which had come through the House of Commons. I am informed that it got through the House of Commons because certain Members happened to have misunderstood the Orders of the Day and did not realise that the matter was coming up. But we had a Bill which came to this House dealing with the matter 1558 of the Isle of Wight; the legislation which we are considering today is quite analogous to it. In this Private Bill which came from the Isle of Wight, they had a clause, Clause 5, which referred to public order and safety. I have the Act in my hand and it contains three and a half pages which deal with the question of public order and safety.
At the time the Isle of Wight were concerned with the control of what were called "pop festivals". Some of your Lordships may remember the debate. It so happened that, because it had come through the House of Commons and was passed by them, the Second Reading was unopposed in your Lordships' House. It was only when the matter came before the Committee that deals with Private Bills—whose chairman was at that time the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—that it then became clear that there were certain matters which were objectionable in this clause. Many people thought that the whole clause was objectionable. But since it had been passed by the other place, and since it had a Second Reading here, the only way of dealing with it was by moving minor Amendments at Third Reading. I moved two such Amendments, and it so happened that they were carried.
The promoter of the Bill and the man who introduced it in this House was the noble Lord, Lord Blyton. He presented this Bill and accepted the Amendments. The amendments were on minor matters but it was hoped they would do two things: first, would prevent too hasty action and, as they were accepted, this hasty action was prevented; secondly, would be a warning that your Lordships' House does consider these matters carefully and does not accept without deliberation what comes forward in a private Bill.
I have looked back at the debate which took place on Third Reading on 19th July 1971. The noble Lady, Lady Ruthven of Freeland, said at column 755:Like many other speakers, I am doubtful whether powers of this kind should be dealt with by local authorities; I think they should be dealt with by central Government".The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said that she believed that legislation of this type must be public and should not be introduced by means of a Private Bill. Then 1559 in column 750 she made a very important remark:In this country we do not have a written Constitution. If we had one, it is very unlikely that this Bill could pass …".I was talking to some Americans about that time, and they said there was no question that such a Bill would have contravened the basic written Constitution of the United States and would not have been allowed. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who was speaking for the Government at the time, both spoke of the desirability of general, as opposed to private, legislation.
I think that is a very important matter in this consideration. It is not a question as to whether the steps proposed by an authority should be right or wrong, but whether they should be generally accepted and approved by Parliament, because Parliament alone—despite what people may say—can lay down the general principles on which the order and public security of the country are governed. On that occasion, at column 760, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said:I appeal to the Government—pointing out that we shall watch how this matter goes—that other local authorities"—that is, other than the Isle of Wight—should not be convinced that this House will automatically allow clauses of this kind to be put into Bills".It was generally accepted by your Lordships' House at the time that it was highly undesirable that these matters, which are of public and general importance, should be decided by local authorities promoting Private Bills. A Private Bill is something which is necessary in order that a local authority should be able to carry out certain works and certain things which it desires to do. That is generally accepted, but I would submit to your Lordships that when a local authority goes beyond that and asks for powers to deal with matters which are of general public importance, that is something which concerns the country as a whole. Therefore it is something which must be decided by Parliament and not in terms of a Private Bill.
A Private Bill is like this one which the Isle of Wight has produced. When you go to the Printed Paper Office and ask 1560 for the Private Bill you are told it is in the Private Bills Office. Other Bills are there in the Printed Paper Office, but you have to go to the Private Bills Office to get this Bill. There, we find, if I may quote the Isle of Wight Bill, that Part V refers to "Public Order and Public Safety. "That is exactly the same title as they had in their Bill in 1971. It was pointed out to them in 1971, and pointed out to all local authorities, that your Lordships' House would not pass these clauses automatically but would consider them carefully.
All that is being asked now in this Motion is that the Committee, under the extremely competent control of the Chairman of Committees, will look carefully at this to decide, not to accept it, and not to reject it but whether it is something which is more appropriate in a Private Bill than in a Public Bill. For that reason, I strongly support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, one has been led to believe by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, that the Ayatollah Khomeini was going to come and lead a procession round Peterloo and that this state of near-insurrection and anarchy might be slightly modified by being told to a chief constable seven days before. If this state of affairs is something of national importance, let us remember, my Lords, that the Queen's first duty in Parliament is to protect the internal peace and good order of her Realm: that is her primary duty. Therefore, surely that must mean that either one policeman should have the power or that no policemen should have the power. That is absolutely fundamental.
§ Lord HEWLETT
My Lords, if the noble Earl would be kind enough to give way, would he not agree that circumstances in a very large conurbation like Greater Manchester are likely to differ tremen-doubly from those in Montgomery and Merioneth?
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, the powers of the policeman in Montgomery or Merioneth should be the same as those of the policeman in Greater Manchester, Liverpool. Guildford or Thameside. The fact that Merioneth has a lot more sheep 1561 than people in it may alter the number of people who are prepared to go on a procession: I will concede that your Lordships. But the powers of the police, and their rights and privileges, are a national and not a local concern. They should and must be uniform. Then the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, said that in France and Germany the police have these powers. France and Germany are States and not individual local authorities, and that is uniform in both France and Germany. I would point out to the noble Lord that Germany is a Federal State and, from what he said, the powers of the police in the Federal States are similar as well.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, if I may detain the House for a few minutes, I would begin by apologising for the fact that I did not put my name down to speak, but I have been up-country and it was only upon my return that I saw that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, had tabled this Instruction to the Committee. I would join the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, in opposing this recommendation, and in emphatic terms, because the noble Lord made the rather obvious point that if you are dealing with a policing problem in Manchester, it is a little different from dealing with a policing problem in a rural area. It seems to me that one problem which we have to recognise on this occasion is that many local authorities have in the past had precisely these powers: I would repeat, with great respect, "precisely these powers". If the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, would allow me for a moment to deploy my argument I will gladly give way later. We listen with great respect to what he says and one must be able to answer his argument.
The point is that a number of local authorities have had powers either precisely similar, or remarkably similar, to the powers that are being asked for here. That is the substance of the argument. The question is whether we should retain those powers here, in one of the largest local authority areas in this country which has already had substantial public order problems because of National Front and other demonstrations. I can hardly think of a more injudicious moment to withdraw a power of this kind. It appears to me that a large number of our fellow citizens 1562 in this country would regard it as a most remarkable proposition that, at a time like this, we in this House should decide to withdraw a power of this kind.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, did the noble Lord say "withdraw a power"? They are asking for an additional power.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, with great respect, I was talking about a withdrawal of power of this kind, as is proposed in this Bill. We are talking about a clause in the Bill which, if this Instruction is carried, might well be withdrawn and it is that to which I am objecting. If I may just make one point to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, I listened to him about the Constitution of the United States. With great respect, he is entirely wrong. As Minister of State at the Home Office, I visited the United States only a little over a year ago, and discussed precisely this question with a number of senior United States police officers who have not only this power but greater powers. I would mention the City of Boston, but there are many others which have powers not only to notify, but to require a permit to be secured. Therefore, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, he is, in fact, wrong, about the Constitution of the United States in so far as that is relevant to this debate.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, since I am accused of being wrong, may I say that I discussed this matter with the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee of Congress.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, with great respect to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I would draw his attention and that of the noble Lord to the provisions in Boston, and in a number of other United States cities, which have been used by police departments in those cities for many years past. I have no knowledge of a case which has been appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and if such an appeal had been made to the Supreme Court, then, of course, the powers would have had to be struck out. Therefore, with great respect to the noble Lord, I think that on this matter I really must be right. Developing this—
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to make this point. He has asserted that precisely the powers contained in this Bill are already on the Statute Book in private legislation. I challenge him to name one local authority anywhere in the Kingdom, in which seven days' notice has to be given of a procession.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, what I am saying to the noble Lord is that there are a number of local authorities. If he is asking me to name them now, then he has the advantage of me. I cannot, in fact, name them, but I shall gladly make inquiries on this point. But, with great respect to the noble Lord, I note his point about the seven days, and I have no objection to the Committee discussing at some stage in the future whether the period should be seven days or some other time. What we are talking about is prior notification. That is the substance of this matter and, with great respect, that is what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has to address himself to. We are not here talking about a fundamental question of civil liberties, as the noble Lord suggested, because the police are not here being given power to ban a procession. They are being given power to require notification to be made. I can see no grave civil liberties issue at all here. It seems to me that, at a time when the police in many of our great cities are having to deal with substantial public order problems as a result of extremely large-scale demonstrations, it is reasonable that they should be given a power of this kind. After all, we are talking about—
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
No, my Lords. With great respect, I have already given way twice. I think it not unreasonable that I should be allowed to deploy my argument. All I would say to the noble Lord is that we are talking about a situation where, if he received proper notification as would be required under this Bill, a chief constable would have time to make the deployment of very substantial numbers of personnel, which it would be necessary for him to make if he was to be faced with a demon- 1564 stration, possibly consisting of many thousands of people. That being so, it seems to me particularly desirable to maintain this power.
I think that the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, are essentially matters for the Committee, particularly the question of whether the period of notification should be three days, four days, five days, six days or seven days. That is entirely a matter for the Committee. But the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has made his attack on this clause so sweeping that it seems to me that the House should address itself to the question of principle. All I would do is to repeat that, certainly on the basis of my own experience as a Home Office Minister for a period of five years, when we were having more and more large-scale demonstrations of this kind, it is highly desirable that this power should be retained. Certainly, if the noble Lord divides the House I shall go into the Lobby against it.
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he has not made a very good speech saying that this is a power that is required generally by chief constables? I do not think anybody is disagreeing with that. What some of us are finding slightly odd is that one chief constable alone should have this power, and not all the others. That is what one is kicking about.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, there are two answers to that point. We are looking at this matter in connection with the Greater Manchester Bill, but we considered precisely the same matter at the time of the Merseyside and West Midlands Bills. The noble Earl may have spoken on those occasions, although I cannot recall him doing so. But we have already considered this question. The Committee did not oppose this power on the previous occasion and, that being so, it puts this matter on a very different footing from the boats issue which we were discussing a few moments ago. One knows, on the basis of one's own experience as a Minister, how difficult it is to squeeze Bills into a Parliamentary timetable. We are now talking about a Bill which will, if passed by both Houses of Parliament, go on to the Statute Book in this Session of Parliament. If we are 1565 talking about some general power, then we shall not be talking about this Session, next Session or the Session after that. The question is whether we are to give the Greater Manchester police this power. It seems to me that, given the scale of the public order problems that have arisen in Greater Manchester, it is essential that they should be given this power.
§ 4.38 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has given a very impressive explanation of why we should not allow this Instruction to go forward. But there is a detail. My noble friend does not seem to have been convinced by that impressive speech, and I gather by his intervention that neither has the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. They seem to have made up their minds that, on all occasions, any powers should be national powers and that there should never by any local powers. I would go with them so far as to say that, from my experience, the overwhelming majority of powers should be national and not local. The example given by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, was a good example of that. He was right in suggesting that the Isle of Wight pop concert crowds was a matter which should have been dealt with by national powers and not by local powers. But there are powers that ought to be given locally that need not be extended nationally, and I believe that one of those powers is that set out in Clause 69 of this Bill.
This clause is not giving extra powers to the chief constable. It is merely reinforcing powers that are generally accepted throughout the country. The real power of being able to direct a procession and do something about it is already national. All chief constables over the whole country have that power. So that, to that extent, the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and my noble friend are covered. What these local authorities are saying—and I think that they are right—is that, while they have those general powers which are shared by the rest of the nation, they believe that there are circumstances in their area which call for those general powers to be reinforced, because of their special problem. It is the special problem of a great conurbation, with mixed races, and all the centralisation of political 1566 thought that goes on in a city like Manchester.
They are saying, "The general powers are good, and they are all that we need, but we want it to be reinforced so that the general powers can be properly applied. At the moment we have no legal knowledge as to when a procession is likely to take place, but we find out nine times out of 10, or even 99 times out of 100". As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, they say, "We see the publicity advertising processions, or we know from our various police sources that something is going to happen, and in that roundabout way we try to take some precautions which will minimise any dangers which may flow from it". But they have no legal right to know when these things will happen. It could be that through not having a legal right there would be processions which developed into disorder on a scale none of us would want.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was quite wrong in saying that no procession that would carry these dangers could take place without the police knowing about it. As an analogy, I do not know whether he saw last week that excellent television programme "Julius Caesar". In that presentation we had a precise example of the eloquent orator Mark Antony, at a time when a meeting was in progress, by his oratory and his inflammatory speech getting the crowd, at a second's notice, to follow him in pillaging Rome in order to justify what he thought was the wrongful assassination of Julius Caesar.
I do not know how long the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has been actively engaged in constituency politics. I remember that on more than one occasion when I was a young councillor in the constituency of Wednesbury, where they took politics very seriously, I saw a very great orator representing the Labour Party whip up a crowd. Almost at a minute's notice he was able to get the crowd to follow him down the street and do all sorts of things. That will now be legal, unless we give to Manchester and to places like it the power to insist that they must have seven days' notice, or some days' notice, so that the police can take precautions to safeguard the shopkeepers and other citizens in the area.
1567 So it is not true in practice—although in theory it may be thought to be true by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—that the police must know on all occasions when something disreputable is likely to happen. It is true that, generally speaking, the powers already apply nationally. This will merely reinforce them locally. In the light of all that is happening today we should be very unwise to ignore the advice given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, backed up by the experience which he gathered while he was a Minister at the Home Office.
§ Lord SEFTON of GARSTON
My Lords, I feel that I should apologise to the House for speaking twice, but I am tempted to do so because, having moved from "Julius Caesar" to the practical times of today, I have not yet heard why it is that demonstations happen. Evidently, some demonstrations have taken place in the recent past which were deliberately aimed at causing public disorder; but there are other kinds of demonstration. I well remember that at the time of Suez a demonstration took place on Merseyside. Thousands of people were involved in that demonstration, which took place within a time span of two days. If the chief constable of Liverpool had had the power to require seven days' notice of that demonstration, that safety valve of a demonstration by thousands of people would have blown. It was only because the chief constable of Liverpool, exercising his right in a sensible way, allowed that demonstration to take place that no riots occurred in Liverpool that evening. We could not have given seven days' notice.
I think that this highlights what I said previously: whether we like it or whether we do not, the debate is taking place today in this House instead of taking place in a Committee. If I have to vote I shall vote in favour of the Instruction, because I believe that to require seven days' notice is stupid. We should give power to the chief constable, but we should have sufficient trust in him to say that his power should not be restricted by the clock. The right to demonstrate in the United Kingdom is sacrosanct. You cannot say to somebody who feels strongly about a certain issue, "Yes, express your indignation, but wait for seven days".
§ Lord HEWLETT
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not agree that there is a big difference between the demonstration which he mentioned regarding the Suez operation and what transpired in Greater Manchester when the National Front chose to hold a big demonstration through the centre of the conurbation and the Socialist Workers' party chose to answer it by a similar demonstration over the same area? We were very close indeed to major civil disorder. If proper notice had had to be given, the police could have made far more adequate preparation than they were allowed to do.
§ Lord SEFTON of GARSTON
My Lords, if I may say so, I think that the noble Lord has completely missed the point, because he has allowed emotion to sway his judgment.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord BOSTON of FAVERSHAM
My Lords, I intervene briefly in this debate on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about processions only to say that the contents of this Bill and of others like it arc the responsibility of local authorities. The Government have neither asked nor in any way suggested to the authorities that provisions regarding notice of processions should be included. I should like, however, to put to the House a few points in relation to the general law and then on the question of local Bills.
As to the general law, your Lordships will know that the Public Order Act 1936, which contains the relevant national law, imposes no requirement on the organisers of processions to give advance notice. In this country, we have not found the need to impose a general requirement, although in recent years we have had to consider that on more than one occasion. The then Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis proposed to Lord Scarman's inquiry that the law should be changed so as to include a requirement of seven days' clear notice of processions. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has quoted what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said at that time.
In particular, there is the noble and learned Lord's point that our law assumes that people will be tolerant, self-disciplined and willing to co-operate with the 1569 police and that that is why, with no legal requirement of notice, the police are notified in at least 80 per cent. of cases. There is also the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, that those on the fringe of our society who would never give notice at all should not force upon the law a largely unnecessary requirement which at times could be an embarrassment to law-abiding citizens. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, as your Lordships know, did not recommend a change in this law.
We in the Home Office considered, after the disturbances at Lewisham and Ladywood, that the Public Order Act 1936 should be reviewed. Admittedly, at Lewisham the lack of an advance notice requirement had in no way contributed to the disorder. It had, however, I am advised, made more difficult the policing of the election meeting at Lady-wood where impromptu marches were organised by the demonstrators. The lack of such a requirement also had a bearing, I am advised, on events in Manchester on 8th October 1977, when the National Front held a march through Levenshulme and Longsight. Our subsequent discussions with chief officers did not suggest that deficiencies in the national law were regarded by them as a major problem.
The arguments were finely balanced, but it is the view of the Government that the views expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, have not been invalidated for the country as a whole by subsequent events. We see no reason currently to amend the Public Order Act 1936. However, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said recently in another place that in making it clear that we do not currently see any reason to amend the Public Order Act 1963, it does not necessarily follow that we should wish to advise the House to vote against an advance notice provision in a local Bill. What it does mean is that any area wishing to retain or acquire such a power should, in our view, have to justify its case clearly and firmly on grounds related to the special needs of the area. Therefore, in our view, it is for your Lordships' House to decide the matter on its particular merits.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, I am afraid I have to say that the attitude of the 1570 Home Office is a cowardly and unseemly one, backing away from what is essentially a national problem and leaving it to the local authorities to make up their minds in particular cases whether or not they wish to take such powers as we are discussing at the moment. Of course I except the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, from those strictures; I know that he has not been in the Home Office for very long and I am sure that, left to himself, he would agree with the proposition that I have been advancing this afternoon, that this is pre-eminently a matter for national and public legislation and not—
§ Lord BOSTON of FAVERSHAM
My Lords, I can satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, absolutely on one particular point and that is that, although I have been in the Home Office for only a very short time, I am in fact speaking for Her Majesty's Government and I am wholly committed to the point that I have advanced before your Lordships this afternoon.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, of course I accept entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Boston has said, although I must say that I would not have expected him to follow that line of argument but rather that he would have leant towards the view that I have been advancing, namely that this is pre-eminently a matter for public and general legislation and that it would be unsatisfactory to leave it to Greater Manchester or any other local authority to take these powers if they were necessary.
Who can tell where the National Front or the Socialist Workers might be minded to create a disturbance next? The noble Lord, Lord Boston, mentioned two cases as examples where it might be claimed that if the police had had better notice it would have made a difference to the arrangements that they made. The noble Lord mentioned Ladywood and Manchester but are these the only places where the National Front or the Socialist Workers are active? I have been to several places in Greater London where disturbances have been created and I am quite certain that in the Provinces also there are areas where there are cells of these organisations working towards the creation of violent confrontations, either during the forthcoming election or quite independently of any political activity 1571 that may be taking place on a national scale. Therefore, nothing which has been said in this debate this afternoon removes my firm conviction that this is a matter for national legislation.
This afternoon, we are not addressing ourselves to the merits of Clause 69, although most of the speeches have been on that subject. We are in fact talking about whether these matters should be dealt with on a uniform basis—whether we are speaking about the powers of the police or not—and there has been an interesting difference of opinion between those who have spoken against the Instruction as to whether or not there is any enlargement of the powers of the police. I say that we are not speaking so much about the powers of the police as about the rights and the privileges, as well as the obligations, of the ordinary citizen, because it is the citizen who organises or conducts a march who has to notify the police, either seven days before, as in the case of Greater Manchester, or before some different period as laid down in other Acts. When I intervened in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I did so because he used the words, "precisely these powers", and I think he now accepts that so far there is no local Act on the Statute Book which requires a notice of as much as seven days. In all the West Midlands local Acts which I examined the period is either 24 or 48 hours. But that is a minor detail as compared with the general principle that we are allowing to go through, as it were, on the nod by accepting a provision in a local Act.
If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Hewlett, made an extremely good speech in favour of the inclusion of a provision such as this in a public general Act. He hardly mentioned the case of Greater Manchester except to refer to his own lack of experience of that city and the disturbances which would have taken place in Tameside had it not been for the appeal made by the chief constable for a period during which all demonstrations were prohibited, an appeal which was subsequently accepted by the Home Office. It was because the police were well aware that these confrontations were likely to take place that they invoked the Public Order Act and obtained the prohibition 1572 which no doubt was completely justified by the circumstances of Greater Manchester. That they did without any reference to the amount of notice; in fact it is an argument against his speech, that the Instruction should be rejected, because the police were aware that these events were to take place and they were able in good time to ask the Home Office to exercise its powers under the Public Order Act.
§ Lord HEWLETT
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, whether he really wants to leave a matter of such importance to chance, just in the hope that the police may hear accurately? I cannot believe that he wants that.
§ Lord AVEBURY
Not necessarily, my Lords. I say that this is a matter which should be examined calmly and dispassionately on a national scale and it is really not good enough for the noble Lord to introduce a comparison between Greater Manchester on the one hand and Merioneth on the other. We are really speaking here about major conurbations; those are the areas where disturbances take place, organised by the extreme wings of the Left and the Right, and, if we were going to have national legislation, it would of course cover not only Greater Manchester and London, but also Birmingham, Liverpool and the many other large urban centres where demonstrations may take place.
However, I am not trying to pre-empt the judgment of Parliament on that matter. It would be quite wrong of us to do so on this occasion. In fact, the reason why I tabled my Instruction was not so that we should arrive at a decision on a Private Bill but so that we should have a proper look at this in terms of a national problem, even though perhaps we cannot introduce legislation in the current Session, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, remarked, and though it might be next year or the year after before we could get something on to the Statute Book. I entirely accept that point and I think there might be one or two instances where the police would regret not having the sort of powers for which Greater Manchester are asking in this Bill, but I think that is an extremely small price to pay for getting the law right on a national basis and I beg the House this afternoon to pass this Instruction.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?