§ 4.56 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ Baroness Birk had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 2:
§ Page 2, line 14, leave out subsections (5) and (6).
§ The noble Baroness said: This is a very short amendment. I will speak very briefly to it so that we can get on with the Bill. In Schedule 1 the paragraph referring to licensing does not apply to this. It says "performed as an incident to a religious meeting or service". We have just inserted the words "or political". We are thinking here of a meeting where it may be felt that they want some singing to take place, or a piano, or some music. I thought this would probably have been quite acceptable to the Government. I do not think there is any more to say on this.
§ Lord Belstead
I have been taken rather by surprise at the brevity with which the noble Baroness has introduced this. On my reading of this Amendment No. 3 when taken in conjunction with Amendment No. 330 4, which I think one is bound to do, it is really tantamount to introducing a licensing system for pop festivals. Before we go any further, may I ask the noble Baroness whether I am right in thinking that?
§ Baroness Birk
Yes, the Minister is right, but nevertheless even if there had not been an amendment following it we would have wanted to put in "or political" in any case. I may have made a mistake myself, but that is how it struck me. I was going to speak to them together, but I thought they were two separate things. I will carry on and speak to them together.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
We must be in order. The Question before the Committee is that Amendment No. 2 be agreed to in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, "Page 2, line 14, leave out subsections (5) and (6)".
§ Baroness Birk
I am sorry. That amendment is not moved because it is consequential on the amendment which has just been lost.
§ [Amendment No. 2 not moved]
§ Schedule 1 [Licensing of public entertainments]:
§ Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 3:
§ Page 44, line 17, after ("religious") insert ("or political").
§ The noble Baroness said: I am afraid I did not save much time over that. In moving Amendment No. 3 I will, if I may, speak also to Amendment No. 4. These amendments are to deal with pop festivals, the licensing of pop festivals. I would say from the outset that this is a Bill where, with very few exceptions, there are a variety of opinions—both on the Benches behind me and the Benches opposite—on the different clauses and amendments. We have been trying to find a way in which there can be some sort of control or guidance from the local authorities without necessarily—although some people might like to do so—going the whole way to a licensing system or, perhaps part of the way towards that. I am recalling that it was as regards the proposal in this amendment—not the other one—that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, when winding up on Second Reading, said that he would look at the matter. On Second Reading I did say that I would like to see guidelines laid down by the local authorities.
§ There are, of course, two different types of pop festival; there are the free ones which take place in large areas in the country, and as regards which it is quite often difficult to find out who are the organisers or to lay down conditions which are kept. There are also those which take place in inner areas—for example a football ground or somewhere like that—where, unless there is some control by the local authority, people will either not let the ground be used or the residents in the vicinity will find parking and other matters a great nuisance to them.
§ The reason that I am rather tentative about the way in which this matter should be dealt with—although I think that somehow we should find some way of dealing with it—is that I would very much dislike doing anything which would result in a ban or an 331 embargo on pop festivals. However, I want to ensure that they are conducted in a civilised manner and in the right place. That is why I took the view at the beginning that the only way that I could achieve that was by means of some form of licensing system or something rather like it. If the Minister says that the local authorities could introduce private Bills but that then we would repeal all the local Acts at the back of the Bill—to which my noble friend Lady Fisher referred when speaking to the last amendment—then I think that it would be a great pity if some of the local authorities were put in the position of introducing yet again another Private Bill when they had already been to the trouble and expense of introducing one in the past. I think that would be, as she rightly said, a truly Gilbert and Sullivan situation.
§ We are worried that the situation will be left without any form of control for local authorities to take on, if and when they wish to do so, and I was hoping that, between Second Reading and now, the Government would have thought the matter out and found some way of dealing with it so that there could be some form of guidance and control either through a type of licensing system or through some other means. I beg to move.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Airedale)
Before calling this amendment, I should have put the Question, That Clause 1 stand part. Perhaps I may now do that. The Question is, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
The amendment now proposed is in Schedule 1 at page 44, line 17, after "religious" insert "or political".
§ Lord Evans of Claughton
I should like to say briefly that I recognise the problem and the way in which the noble Baroness has tried to get round it. I think that what the noble Baroness and I, and many others of your Lordships, would want, is the introduction of some kind of control of entertainments which take place wholly or mainly in the open air, as they are at present controlled in Greater London. If one did not exclude political and religious meetings and bazaars and other harmless occupations of that kind, one would sweep a whole lot of perfectly commendable public entertainments into an area where they had to be licensed.
As I see it, the purpose of these two amendments is to say that an entertainment held wholly in the open air should be licensed except for the exceptions of a,religious or political meeting or service…as an incident to a bazaar, sale of work, garden party, fete",and so on. Although I do not seek—I do not think that the noble Baroness seeks—to ban pop festivals, I do seek to give the local authority, if they have a licensing procedure, the opportunity of making a decision as far as the district is concerned in which the pop or similar festival is to take place, about whether they can cope with the kind of trouble that very often goes with these kinds of entertainments—for example, litter and other hazards. It seems to me that, although possibly this is a rather laboured way of doing it, as things stand at the moment the noble Baroness has found the best way of trying to deal with the matter.
332 I would like the Minister to explain to us (I am sure that he will try to do so) why what is good enough for Greater London—namely, the control of festivals of this kind—should not also be good enough for the provinces. Some of us have the good fortune to live in the provinces and think that we are at least entitled to equal concern about our lives being disrupted, or possibly being disrupted, by some of the more advanced pop festivals which, I understand, since the 1960s have passed, are not so frequent as they used to be.
On first reading the amendment one concluded that the noble Baroness was trying to press the Government—who were apparently in favour of religious meetings, but not in favour of political meetings—to broaden their outlook. If noble Lords think that religious meetings are no trouble and cause no difficulty, I would invite them to come to the part of the world where I live, because I can assure them that religious meetings can be even more noisy and even more troublesome than political meetings. The general purpose was to try to control in the provinces entertainments which take place wholly and mainly in the open air, and to make exceptions of the two groups of entertainments referred to. I have much pleasure in supporting the proposal which the noble Baroness has put before your Lordships' Committee.
§ Viscount Ridley
I should like briefly to add a few words of support to the amendment on behalf of the Association of County Councils who I think were very glad to see this amendment before the Committee. In seeking such powers as have been very well described by the noble Baroness, the ACC would not be trying to stop pop festivals in any way, but merely to see that they are subject to proper control, to safeguard both those who take part and, of course, the local neighbourhood. In the past I believe that the Home Office has allowed quite a number of county councils to have such powers in various local Acts. It seems illogical if the Government are now going to oppose the amendment because they already have the powers. If the Bill goes through unamended a great many powers will lapse and several authorities which have taken the considerable time, trouble and expense to acquire these powers will, therefore, lose them. I hope very much that the Government will be sympathetic. On Second Reading we all understood that nothing contentious should be brought forward at this stage of the Bill. I do not believe that this is contentious and I hope that the Government can help us.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
On Second Reading I spoke about what is the best way to reconcile the young music enthusiasts who want to have pop festivals with the interests of the local residents. The arguments for and against this being best achieved through the local authorities controlling pop festivals seem to me to be as follows. The major argument is that the cause of the pop festival could be very much strengthened if it were felt that the local residents' interests were represented by local authorities.
If I owned a field in Essex, for example, and a group of young people resembling very closely my own children, came and asked me if they could use my field to hold a pop festival in, I would immediately wish to know whether they were going to have help 333 in organising the pop festival. I would like to think that there would be help as regards the traffic arrangements—which would be enormous—the litter arrangements and, indeed, the safety arrangements, which I think the Minister brought out when discussing Clause 1. Fire regulations and safety regulations, even out of doors, are something that should not be left in the hands of what is mainly a very youthful group of people. Therefore, as I say, I should have thought that the sympathy of local people, who would be very much affected by the holding of a pop festival, would be much stronger if they knew that the local authority was, in all honesty, representing their interests through organising the pop festival.
Of course, the arguments against are that in some places local authorities would be completely against such an activity and would wish to place an embargo on a pop festival. But, again, I do not think that this would be very probable. As the noble Viscount who preceded me said, it has not happened in Greater London. I do not think that there is very much scope for outright refusal. If, indeed, for some reasons a local authority did put an embargo on a pop festival, then, of course, there would be the right of appeal both to a magistrates' court and to the Crown court. So surely, as my noble friend Lady Birk said, the local authority would always want to lay down guidelines; these would state exactly where the festival should happen, its size, and the best arrangements that would fit in with the interests of the local authority.
Another point which has been made is that several local authorities have, indeed, gained powers to control festivals, and they have only just gained them at great expense and time. It would seem a strange anomaly if they were to approve the provisions of Schedule 6, under which they would lose such powers. After all, these young people indulge in what is a very popular activity, and compared to many of their activities it is an extremely harmless one. Therefore, on balance, I think that they would be better represented if local authorities had power to give them guidelines, and to steer these pop festivals through in the most harmless and peaceful way possible.
§ Baroness Stedman
When we had a working party on pop festivals, it split down the middle as to whether we ought to be asking for legislation to license or whether we should leave things as they were. For my part, I can see no difficulty whatever in licensing for the genuine commercial pop festivals. But the problems will arise with the so-called "free" festivals, when they invade some farmer's land without asking permission; when there is no one person against whom one can issue writs or against whom one can put out summonses, or with whom one can negotiate. Once the negotiations become a little difficult, that person vanishes and one has to find another person.
Although I think that the licensing of commercial festivals would be workable and would probably be acceptable to local authorities, that will not solve the problem of the "free" festivals; and if they still take place, there will still be itinerant people moving around the countryside until they are able to persuade a farmer that it is in his interests to leave them alone and let them have their pop festival. Then someone has to pay for clearing up the ensuing damage. I only wish that we could find some form of co-operation 334 between the people who run the "free" festivals and local authorities.
In our working party we decided that we could not recommend legislation at that time, but we hoped that there would be much more co-operation and, in a sense, a wider welcome by those who wanted to run "free" festivals, to try to do so with the co-operation of the organisers of the "free" festivals and the local authorities concerned. However, there is a tremendous amount of hostility to break down, which has built up over the years, before we can reach that situation. I hope that local authorities will go on trying to co-operate with the organisers of "free" festivals, and I hope that when local authorities are planning their leisure pursuits, they will also plan open spaces in which events like pop festivals can take place without causing too much annoyance to the countryside around and to the people who have to live in it. Although I think that there will be no problems at all as regards licensing legitimate and commercial festivals, I also think there will be tremendous problems in trying to license "free" festivals, and making it stick.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, when the Bill had its Second Reading, I and my noble friend Lord Bellwin gave assurances to your Lordships that the Government were considering whether it would be possible to introduce some sort of control with regard to pop festivals. Since then we have gone into this at some length and given detailed consideration to the problems. But I felt that we ought to hear the views expressed by your Lordships on these two amendments.
The Committee may think that that was not a very adventurous way of approaching the problem, but I think that the Government can be forgiven for hesitating. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, who has just spoken, of course, chaired a committee during the time of the previous Government. Although the noble Baroness had just told the Committee that her committee was split down the middle on this particular subject, none the less I think that the committee of the noble Baroness, under her skilful chairmanship, reached a main recommendation, that pop festivals should not be licensed. However, that was followed by a secondary recommendation, that if one local authority took private Act powers to control such festivals, the Government should make licensing powers available on a national basis.
I say that only to show that, clearly, there were different thoughts in the minds of the noble Baroness's committee and maybe in the mind of the noble Baroness herself. Probably, for very much the same reasons as persuaded her committee three or four years ago, the Government, again, were not entirely sure on this matter. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, we are also not entirely sure when we look at the example of London, which the noble Lord put specifically to me. Arguably, the events which are permitted in London by the Greater London legislation are not confined to pop festivals, but are open-air concerts, no different from open-air classical music concerts, which also take place in London during the summer. In looking at the Greater London legislation, it is a little difficult to think that there is an obvious example which should be followed outside London.
335 Having said that, and having listened to the Committee debating this matter for the last 20 minutes, on behalf of the Government I should like to say that I accept that there is a case for some controls to be provided and I would be prepared to bring forward amendments on Report. I say that in no way wishing to sweep aside the amendments which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and her noble friends are putting forward; but because I think that there are some matters in these amendments which perhaps need some attention. If I may say so, I do not think that the exemptions go quite wide enough in some respects. For instance, I do not think that music incidental to sporting events ought to be controlled, and I think that that is what would happen if these amendments go through unamended. Nor do I think that there should be an exemption for music incidental to political meetings, which, of course, is the subject of the first of the two amendments, as this would put local authorities in the invidious position of having to decide whether a meeting was primarily political or primarily musical. In other ways, the proposed controls are perhaps a little too wide.
Although local authorities are forced to make whatever reasonable licensing conditions they choose for indoor entertainments, we think that there is a case for restricting any powers which they might be given to control pop festivals to their basic aspects. In saying that, I am thinking particularly of the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, who felt that sensible, straightforward rules to ensure that proper standards to be followed by young people who want to have a pop festival would not be unreasonable; of the speech made by my noble friend Lord Ridley, who, if I may say so, said very much the same thing; and, indeed, of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who said that pop festivals should be conducted "in a civilised manner".
If we could go down that road, that would mean confining the licensing aspect to such things as public health, safety and noise, and the provision of access for emergency vehicles. I am also persuaded in this, bearing in mind the speech which the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, made earlier this afternoon, by the effect of the repeal of local legislation. Although it is interesting that the Isle of Wight legislation—which I believe is the only specific pop festival piece of private legislation to be found on the statute book—has never been used by the Isle of Wight, none the less there are about seven more important local authorities which have private legislation on the statute book—the noble Baroness is right on this point—which trenches on how to regulate outdoor entertainments.
If those pieces of legislation are to be removed by this Act, and it is being done because it is so terribly difficult to unpick the bits that relate to pop festivals from other bits in the local legislation, then it is arguable that those local authorities could say, "Well, we do look towards local government in this Bill to put something in its place." I should therefore like to make an offer to the Committee. If the noble Baroness would consider withdrawing the amendment, I should like to be allowed to take this matter away, and then, perhaps in correspondence with the noble Baroness 336 and her noble friends, to put forward a suggestion for a Government amendment, or amendments.
If the noble Baroness and her noble friends, and other noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate, do not feel that the Government amendments are sensible, provided there is time we would have a meeting to see whether we could thrash out an agreement, and then get an amendment down on the Marshalled List for Report which might command the acceptance of the whole House. That is the offer that I should like to make. I hope that it will help to take the matter forward.
§ Lord Sandford
May I make one short comment on what the noble Lord said. First, to welcome it very much, and to ask him, if he is thinking of extending the exemptions, to bear in mind military tattoos as another possibility.
§ Lord Foot
If the noble Baroness did, I beg her pardon. I did not hear it. The first amendment is to insert the words "or political" after "religious". If I understood what the noble Lord was saying from the Front Bench, he is disinclined at the moment to accept that. When he comes to reconsider the whole matter, I hope he will think better of that. It is an important matter. If the political meetings are not included, then it would be dangerous for the Labour Party to conclude their conferences by singing the "Red Flag", because that would clearly be incidental to a political meeting. They would be opening themselves to penalties for not having applied for a licence. I hope that the noble Lord will in due course consider that it is right to include political meetings.
He was saying that it would be difficult to decide in any particular case whether a political meeting was mainly for musical purposes or only incidentally. I do not think that that difficulty arises because in Schedule 1 the relevant paragraph would read:performed as an incident to a religious or political meeting or service".It seems to me that there would be no greater difficulty in dealing with a political meeting than in dealing with a religious service, because in each case the music has only to be incidental.
§ Baroness Birk
I should like to thank the Minister for that helpful and generous reply. I am afraid what happened on the first amendment was that I got into a bit of a muddle over the amendment and I moved it briefly before one that should have been moved previously, so perhaps it was not heard. I hope that the Minister will be persuaded by what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, has said, which was really on the lines on which I was going to speak. We are talking about a political meeting with music as well as a religious 337 meeting with music; not a musical meeting with religion, or a musical meeting with politics.
I agree that to open this out more would improve it. As I indicated, this was more of a probing amendment, to see whether we could find something. It was an amendment that I certainly would not have been happy with myself had the Government accepted it in its present form. The important thing is to try to find some means by which much greater mutual trust and co-operation is established between people who are trying to organise these things and the authorities on the other side. Could one try to do that.
We know from what the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has said, that it is difficult to bring this about. I know that from my experience at the Department of the Environment. But I hope we could do it From what the Minister said about access and keeping down to the practical critieria, and things which are of importance both to residents and to the people participating themselves in the festival we might go a long way. I am grateful to the Minister. It is with great pleasure that I withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 4 not moved.]
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Baroness David moved Amendment No. 5:
§ Page 44, line 38, at end insert ("or the provision of one or more electronic or other machines for amusement purposes only")
§ The noble Baroness said: I should like to speak to Amendment No. 6, which goes with Amendment No. 5. These amendments are to deal with machines which I think are called "space invaders", or some of them are. The two amendments are linked. The first seeks to give district councils power to license places where there are one or more amusement machines not being gaming machines with prizes. District councils need this power to control the growing phenomenon of electronic-type games which do not offer prizes and therefore do not fall within the scope of the Gaming Act 1968. Players pay their money for a go on the machines, so this is entertainment and not gambling. Representations were made last year by some authorities, but the Home Office advised that such machines do not constitute gaming and consequently cannot be controlled under gaming laws. That is the reason for seeking controls under the public entertainment licensing provisions of this Bill.
§ Now why do we need controls? The Association of Metropolitan Authorities undertook a survey of all its member authorities. The view that controls should be introduced is shared by all authorities regardless of political affiliations. Authorities have pointed out that capital investment in the electronics industry, together with the versatility and apparent development potential of the machines concerned, make it unlikely that the present situation can be dismissed as a short-term craze, and that Parliament should act sooner rather than later.
§ These machines are being installed, apart from in cafés and public houses, in many ordinary trade premises such as shops and launderettes. The number of young people who congregate to play these machines can be a source of nuisance to neighbours, especially 338 if some of them are living in flats above the premises. These machines are very expensive to play, usually about 20p a time, which can last only a matter of seconds for a beginner. The nature of the games encourages children to spend an increasing amount of money to develop their skill and to obtain a higher score than their friends. Pounds can be spent in a matter of minutes.
§ Increasing evidence is being gathered by the police, education authorities, and social workers as to the detrimental effects of these machines on children. Mr. Foulkes, in the debate in the other place on 20th May in cols. 287 and 289, gave examples of children being up for theft because they had stolen in order to find enough money to play on these machines. One had stolen £106 from his grandmother which she had collected for her funeral. Some others had resorted to blackmail. It is quite a serious problem. We do not want to spoil people's fun and we are not anti these sort of games. They can provide much entertainment and be of considerable help to some people. Brent authority bought a machine for use by handicapped children. Success on the machines depends on very good co-ordination of eye with hand movement, and that is a help for many physically handicapped children.
§ We are aiming to control the installation of these machines. Parliament has already given local authorities power to control gaming machines with prizes—fruit machines and so on—and it seems reasonable that they should have power to control these new machines in the best interests of local communities. Under the provisions of the schedule, any aggrieved applicant would have the right of appeal against the decision of a local authority to the magistrates' court and against the decision of the magistrates' court to the Crown Court. The object of the second amendment, which is consequential, is to make it clear that gaming machines are not being included within the ambit of the proposed control, as they are already controlled separately. I beg to move.
§ Lord Belstead
I understand the concern which the noble Baroness expressed and I assure her that I was aware that such concern existed. However, I am rather worried by the amendment. This is an area of social control where the issues are complex and sensitive and it is necessary to consider how far it is right to interfere with business activities which are not inherently unlawful and to consider the extent of the mischief complained of, the scale of interference which might justifiable and the effectiveness with which the proposed controls might be enforced. I do not intend to go into those matters in depth; in fact, I shall pick out only one of them, and the noble Baroness, Lady David, talked about the extent of the mischief complained of.
I do not know to what extent the troubles about which she told the Committee are a social menace. I take absolutely what she said as being the case, but in my mind is the fact, as the Committee will know, that crazes sweep the country from time to time, and it is possible that playing on video machines may be one of those. A few years ago it was difficult to pick one's way down the street with safety without being bowled over by somebody on a skate board. We do not see 339 many skate boards today, but we do see an enormous number of young prople on roller skates. Suppose, in our wisdom, Parliament had decided to pass some form of legislation to do with skate boards. We might have looked as though we were a little out of date a couple years later. What, in effect, I am saying therefore is that we might just find in only a year or two from now that we wished, instead of legislating for video machines we had legislated for something else.
There is another point which might lead the sponsors of the amendment to consider the matter further. It is slightly odd from a drafting point of view that the amendment should have been put in with a subsection dealing with public contests—exhibitions, displays of boxing, wrestling, judo, karate and similar sports—and therefore from a drafting point of view another subsection would probably have been desirable. On those grounds, the noble Baroness might wish to think further about the matter and ponder whether we might be falling into the trap of legislating for a passing phase. She mentioned the honourable gentleman Mr. George Foulkes who, in another place, had a Bill under the 10 minute rule procedure to do what the amendment seeks to do. Leave was refused to that Bill, and possibly another place had the same thoughts that passed through my mind on looking at the amendment.
§ Baroness David
I have listened carefully to the Minister's reply. I am prepared to accept that the drafting is not ideal and that the amendment may not have been applied to the most correct place in the Bill. I am not altogether convinced that it is a passing phase. Too much money is made from these machines for the people running them to let them go out of fashion; they will find different sorts of games to play and will keep the craze going in that way. As gaming machines are dealt with in legislation, it would not seem different to deal with these machines. However, I shall read in the Official Report what the noble Lord said and consider whether to return with a slightly different amendment on Report. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 6 not moved.]
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 7:
§ Page 45, line 40, leave out ("may remit the whole or any part of") and insert ("shall remit").
§ The noble Baroness said: I shall speak at the same time to Amendment No. 8 because the two go together. In the Bill we are seeking to introduce a code for public entertainment licensing which will be uniform throughout the country outside Greater London. That means it will apply to village halls, public halls, church halls and community centres. The schedule as drafted provides that local authorities may remit the licence fees in whole or in part for entertainments of an educational nature or entertainments given for a charitable purpose, and my amendment is much firmer than the Bill, in that it would make that power mandatory on the authorities.340
§ Village halls and community centres and their management committees are specially concerned about the question of fees. Village halls are mostly nominated and registered charities. They are managed by voluntary committees who freely give of their time and expertise to the benefit of the whole of the community in their area. In rural areas, where public transport is scarce and often costly, the village hall is increasingly important to the rural community. Finance has always been difficult and a high proportion of the funds to maintain the village hall have to be raised by voluntary effort. While grants have sometimes been available, the Government's decision to end direct capital grants in 1981, together with cutbacks in local authority spending, have reduced the availability of that type of assistance. The same comments would apply to community centres run by voluntary committees, but in urban areas.
§ The London provisions, on which the schedule is based, give mandatory relief to charities and it would seem right and proper to have a uniform system. Without a mandatory requirement, however, some local authorities may not feel able or be willing to make a rebate. Many village hall committees go to great expense to ensure there are high standards of safety and public protection. Village halls and community centres in urban areas frequently help to reduce the burdens on both central and local government, so their position should be reviewed as sympathetically as possible.
§ The safety of the public is obviously the point of supreme importance, but a total exemption from fees is needed to encourage the development, while reducing the administrative costs, of village halls and community centres. The administration of the amendment would be straightforward; the Rating Act appears to work easily and charities receive a mandatory relief on 50 per cent. of their rates with an option of further relief at the discretion of their local authorities. As the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, said earlier, many of the counties already have local Bills under which they are able to do that. The areas where this is so (taken from the 1980 Acts) include the counties of Kent, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Cheshire, West Midlands and Merseyside.
§ Since the new legislation will replace the relevant provision in those Acts, it seems to me important that the privileges of the charities should not be reduced. Over the years in your Lordships' House we have paid a lot of lip service to rural deprivation and the need to do something for the rural areas. It is with that in mind that I commend the amendments to the Committee as a positive form of help to rural communities. I beg to move.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
I should like to support the noble Baroness in her amendment. If I may declare my interest, I would say that I am the president of the parish councils' association for the county in which I live—Devon. Over the years your Lordships' House has tended to forget the importance of the parish as a unit and in particular its village hall, and I believe that the amendment is one way in which the balance can be slightly restored. The tendency towards centralised rule is a great mistake, and I should like to 341 quote a story told by my late noble friend Lord Amory. When several years ago he was talking on a local government Bill, he gave an example of two neighbouring parishes in Devon where they were considering amalgamating. One councillor got up and said, "Us don't want to have nothing to do with they there roundheads".
The history of a parish is of special local significance to people in the parish and generally the parish hall has been built by the local people. In more recent years some village halls have received government grants in aid. Some of your Lordships might remember that we had a little trouble, luckily settled in the time of the late Government by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. A local parish had collected all the money due to it under the grant system, and then the Government proposed to abolish the system, which would have meant many more years work for the parish. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment because it would add to the local sense of responsibility for the parish hall. It would also remove a grievance felt by local people that others, higher up, are trying to tell them how they should organise their own affairs. The Government should accept the amendment.
§ Baroness Faithfull
Does not the Minister consider that, as drafted, the Bill reduces the privilege of charities? Bearing in mind what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and the noble Lord who has just spoken, I would point out that those of us who are very much engaged in raising money for charities are all too aware of the great problems facing us at present with VAT. To have imposed yet another problem would lead to real difficulties for charities, two aspects of whose work I would mention. One aspect is the involvement of the local community in the charity and its precepts, and the other is the fun of living in a village and being able to run these kind of affairs. Therefore, I support the noble Baroness in the amendment.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
I should like very briefly to support the noble Baroness in her amendment. As chairman of the trustees of the village hall in my village, I sympathise very much with the tone of her amendment. Our village hall is of course a charity. I come fresh from rasiing about £5,000 in order to repair the roof and redecorate the hall, and this has been quite a mighty effort for a small village. We received a grant of about £500 towards it; so we had to raise £4,500 ourselves. We did it all right, and it was no bad thing that everybody took part in the effort.
The fact is that the village hall is the centre of the life of the village and everything depends on keeping it going. The noble Baroness is quite right—it is a real struggle to keep a village hall going. From time to time you have to have a whip round to raise the money for any major expense. Therefore, the last thing the village halls want to be faced with is an additional fee, even in a small matter such as this. So I hope that my noble friend will aceept the amendment and insert in the Bill the word "shall" instead of the word "may".
§ Viscount Ridley
I should like to add my voice to the universal support for the amendment which has been 342 so well moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. I speak as president of the community council of my own county of Northumberland, where we have at least 150 village halls, all of which are run by charitable trusts. They have been built with charitable funds and are run by charity. People who run the halls are frightened of the Bill as it stands.
They feel that it would make a considerable difference to the potential fees that a local authority could charge. I shall not repeat the arguments that have been so well presented to the Committee, but I think that it would be universally popular if the Government can accept the amendment.
I understand that in a certain part of the country—I am not able to say where—a local athority has apparently stated that when it receives the powers under the Bill, it intends to raise the fee for a licence for public entertainment to £100. That would of course be possible under the Bill as it stands, and that is why I strongly support the amendment and hope that the Government will give way to what looks like universal pressure to accept it.
§ Baroness Birk
I fear that I shall introduce a rather different note into the discussion. I want to ask some questions about the matter, since I am slightly worried about it. In general my heart is with the amendment, but I think that the situation is not quite as simple as it appears. All noble Lords who so far have taken part in the debate have spoken as though the amendment refers only to village halls—and with that aspect I have no quarrel at all. I think that village halls should be let free of charge and the licence fee should be remitted on every occasion.
The schedule refers to,any part of such fee where in the opinion of the authority the entertainment in question…is of an educational or other like character; or… is given for a charitable or other like purpose".I take it that that applies to any building within the area of the local authority and any event which is of an educational or charitable nature. I am looking for the maximum discretion for local authorities and for help for the voluntary organisations as well, and I understand that for many authorities the actual licensing will be a new function. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, referred to various authorities. I have here a list of them—taken from the 1980 Acts. Presumably such authorities would continue to remit the licence fees.
What worries me is whether the definition of charity would cover registered charities. I do not think that any of us should like to see a situation in which licence fees were remitted for an organisation which went under the cover of charity or semi-charity and which in fact ought to be making its own contribution. Does the proposal take into consideration the size of the charity? If the noble Viscount is right—I have no reason to believe he is not—and the fees are to be as high as he mentioned, and if there is no question of a mandatory remit (I shall be a little worried unless that point is clarified further) then some of the smaller charities could be put to great expense.
I am thinking of this on two grounds. I think that certainly the village hall ought somehow to be exempted from licensing anyway—that is one thing. Then, when we get to the other charities and educational 343 purposes, there is a much wider field there. I do not know whether the Minister could answer some of the questions I have raised on that point.
§ Lord Belstead
The first thing I should like to say is that I appreciate the concern which the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has expressed so far as village halls are concerned in relation to Schedule 1, paragraph 5, and indeed which every single Member of the Committee expressed until, quite rightly, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, put her finger on the fact that the debate had been perhaps couched in rather narrower terms than the effect of the amendment. I agree with the noble Baroness in that.
May I secondly say that I am sure that councils would in practice use their discretion properly so far as educational or charitable bodies are concerned, and it is certainly the Government's intention that they should do so. But I am a little concerned that the authorities should not be prevented from keeping fees when the entertainment is organised by a body which could perhaps very well afford to pay a licence fee. In that respect, perhaps I could just say to my noble friend Lord Ridley that my understanding is that the fees asked in Greater London, for instance, are nothing of the order or of the kind that my noble friend has been led to understand could be asked for the licensing of a village hall.
Having said that, the views expressed have been so overwhelmingly of one kind in this debate that I feel I really must respond by giving an undertaking, which I am going to give, that if the noble Baroness would agree to withdraw the amendment we will certainly do something so far as village halls are concerned. I give that undertaking. Secondly, I ask that the noble Baroness might consider withdrawing the amendment because I am a little worried about the second amendment, No. 8, which could have the effect, I think, of enabling some organisation which is by no stretch of the imagination charitable—it might be any organisation that one could think of—using the premises of a charitable body and then saying that of course it should fall totally outside the scope of licensing and not have to pay a fee at all. I would go no further this evening but say that I think that really is something which would make one want to hesitate and think a little more before one wrote that sort of provision into the Bill.
Finally, may I come back to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who drew attention to the fact that the amendments would be a good deal wider than the village hall point. Indeed they would, and it is because I think the Government would want to consider seriously exactly where we would try to draw the line that I should like a little further time to think. I repeat the undertaking I have given, that we must and we will do something so far as village halls are concerned. I think it is possible we can go a bit wider than that, but how wide I am not sure. If the noble Baroness will give me the time to do so, we shall try to think.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
Could I ask the noble Lord the Minister to bear something in mind when he is considering village halls—and I go along with the sympathy which has been expressed in that regard? In the large urban areas there are big housing estates 344 where they have what is called the small tenants' hall which serves exactly the same purpose as the village hall. All I would ask is that perhaps the definition of a village hall might embrace that kind of hall as well in the noble Lord's considerations.
§ Baroness Stedman
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for offering to take this back and have a look at it. I could not possibly refuse the invitation to withdraw my amendment and let him do that. I hope that perhaps we may get together before the next stage of the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 8 not moved.]
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Baroness Stedman moved Amendment No. 9:
§ Page 51, line 23, leave out ("district council for the area") and insert ("licensing justices for the licensing district").
§ The noble Baroness said: We now come back again to the subject raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on her first amendment. I referred to the matters covered by this amendment at Second Reading, and I doubted then the wisdom of moving the licensing of public music, singing and dancing from the licensing justices to the local authorities. Many of the premises which have music and dancing licences also have liquor licences, and these licences are granted by the magistrates. The problems of noise and disorder referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, earlier this afternoon and the supply of liquor are quite inextricably interwoven. Under the procedure outlined in the Bill, both the applicant and an objector would have to make their case before two different tribunals, with the attendant bureaucracy, delay and expense.
§ The local authorities in Manchester and Bradford have recently taken this power from magistrates, and I believe the licensing justices in those areas share my fears. As I said at Second Reading, the local authorities will now have to set up departments to issue these licences, and this will inevitably cause extra expense at a time when local authorities are facing huge spending cuts in other services. Most justices' clerks currently deal with liquor licensing and music and dancing licensing together administratively, and they will not be able to reduce their staff when this burden is removed. At Second Reading I referred to Bradford, where previously one member of the justices' clerk's staff had dealt with the licensing and now the local authority employ four members of staff to do the same job, and these four members at present take up a lot of the justices' clerk's staff time in dealing with queries from them about the liquor licensing position of the holders or prospective holders of music and dancing licences.
§ There is then also the question of the cost of licences. The justices' clerks, I understand, charge 25p for a licence, and yet in The Times on 19th February of this year there was a report of the judgment in Regina v. 345 The Greater London Council ex parte Rank Organisation Limited. This judgment referred specifically to the Royal Lancaster Gate Hotel after the fees were increased in 1975. In that year the fee payable was £350; in 1976 they paid £525; in 1978, £630; in 1979, £756. But after a new scale was adopted by the GLC in December 1979 that new scale showed increases varying between 257 per cent. and 594 per cent. estimated to produce a revenue of just under £1 million. In 1981, according to the judgment, the fee payable for the Royal Lancaster Hotel was increased to £5,250. Is this an example of the realistic fees referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead?
§ I hope the noble Lord has considered the points that I raised at Second Reading and that I am raising here today. At this point of time I am treating this more as a probing amendment, to find out how far the Government have got with their thinking and what is their attitude; but I would be grateful if the noble Lord were able to say, if he cannot accept an amendment along the lines that I have put forward today, that he would be willing to consider whether the Government might be favourably disposed towards a proposition at a later stage that the licensing justices should remain the licensing authorities for premises which are also licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor. I beg to move.
§ Lord Belstead: The noble Baroness has put the case again—and we debate it at the beginning of the Committee—for leaving the licensing authority powers of Clause 1 and Schedule 1 in the hands of justices instead of in the hands of the local authorities. I think that there has been some considerable misunderstanding about the purpose of Clause 1 and Schedule 1. It is the purpose alone which determined the Government in their feeling that the licensing authority ought to be the district councils. At the moment, as the Committee is aware, the licensing of public entertainments may be carried out by licensing justices under Section 51 of the Public Health (Amendment) Act 1890 and under local Act powers; and by district councils, as well. If Clause 1 and Schedule 1 pass into law, we are not taking away from the justices a power which they have universally. In some areas, district councils perform this function already, and in others there is no power of control. I apologise for repeating that, in the Government view, it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs when the safety of the public may be at risk—and we are talking about very large numbers of people in modern Britain gathering together for public entertainments.
§ The noble Baroness quoted some startling figures for Greater London charges for licences. All that I would say, gently, is that councils outside London do not all resemble the Greater London Council. I would also say, seriously, that the capacity of the particular hotel which the noble Baroness was talking about, the capacity taken over a period of a year, is enormous. I do not know what is the capacity of the hotel; but it must be gigantic. I wish the hotel good luck in its business, but in addressing oneself to the sort of figures that the noble Baroness quoted, one would want to think about the capacity of the hotel which was paying the charges.
§ The noble Baroness asked a direct question, which 346 is this: Could the licensing justices who would be licensing for liquor licences also remain, if they wish to do so, the licensing justices for public entertainment? The difficulty about that is that one of the rights which Schedule 1 will put into legislation for people who are refused a licence will be a right of appeal to the magistrates' court and from the magistrates' court to the Crown court. If I acceded to the question which the noble Baroness put to me, we should be in the absurd situation of providing that an appeal would lie to the magistrates against the magistrates' own decision.
§ But it is not on that ground that I am resisting this amendment. It is on the ground of what I believe to be the proper basis for public entertainments in a modern, highly urban society. We are going to take into account the also particularly rural aspect which was put on a previous amendment, and eloquently so, by the noble Baroness.
§ The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, asked a question on an earlier amendment which I ought to try to answer. It was this. Had I, in effect, cast a slur on the capacity of magistrates to look at the safety aspects of licensing when they were considering a licensing case? The premises, when one is thinking about licensing, should be looked at from such safety aspects as capacity of exits and provision of fire extinguishing and prevention equipment. The premises need to be inspected by fire brigade experts to ensure that proper standards are maintained; and they will make recommendations to the licensing authority when an application is made for a licence.
§ I do not think that I am being unfair in saying that the licensing justices would not lay claim (except in some cases, perhaps, by the accident of their profession) to expertise in standards of construction and fire safety. And the choice of licensing authority being between the district council and the county council, who are very closely involved professionally with the fire brigades locally, we felt should fall upon the district councils, who, it is true, are not the authority for the fire brigades but who are obviously closely in touch with fire brigade matters.
§ On those grounds—and I have not referred to finance; I referred to it before—there is the right in the schedule to charge reasonable fees. I do not think that the question of local authorities being out of pocket comes into it. On public safety grounds, we base the fact that we have gone for the district councils being the licensing authorities, and—and I hope the noble Baroness will not mind my saying so—I believe, rightly.
§ Baroness Birk
I thank the Minister for replying to the point I made. I must point out that the magistrates in the areas where they have the authority to give licences go round and inspect places, and they go round with experts from the local authority. Particularly if it is a new building, the magistrates see it and the local authorities also are asked by the magistrates, and, very often, by the police, about the safety side. I can see the Government will not budge on this aspect, but, please, do not let us have some unnecessary—and I am sure the noble Lord is not meaning to do this—and misleading reasons for turning this down.
As there has been a great deal of stress on the 347 question of fire possibilities, I should be grateful if the Minister would have it on record that the fire services will be consulted—not that the local or district councils have to take heed of them but that they will consult them—and that it is considered that the fire authority and, therefore, the fire service are the responsible bodies for fire safety matters. I think the fire service would like to have this on record.
§ Lord Foot
May I say a word or two in support of fire precautions? It is some time since I was actively engaged in practice before a magistrates' court, but my recollection of licensing law is—and I think it is the same today as when I was practising—that whenever an application is made for the grant of a licence, or whenever an application is made by a licensed premises for some physical alteration in the premises, it is incumbent upon the magistrates to take the opinion of the fire officers upon the proposed alterations or upon the state of the premises as a whole. Therefore, I cannot see there is very much virtue in the argument which the noble Lord was making. As far as I know, these arrangements, which have been in existence for a long time, have worked satisfactorily and there is no reason to support that the magistrates are not a satisfactory body for making decisions of that kind.
The other matter is the point made by the noble Lord about the right of appeal. With respect, again I see no merit in that point. He says that under the provisions of the Bill, if an applicant is refused a licence, he will have a right of appeal to somebody—forget whom; I think it was the magistrates and the Crown court. It would be simple to provide a right of appeal against the refusal of the magistrates and a right of appeal to the Crown court. That could simply be done and that would follow the ordinary course of proceedings before a magistrates' court, where on most matters, if there is a right of appeal at all, it is a right of appeal to the Crown court. Of course, the Crown court being in the locality it would have the capacity to decide a matter of that kind as much as any local authority.
Another matter—it was I think the noble Lord's first point—also seems to have little or no merit. If I understood him rightly, the noble Lord said that it is not universal throughout the land for the licensing of music and dancing to be in the hands of the licensing magistrates. He said that where that prevails it is as a result of some local legislation or, in some cases, the licensing power is already in the hands of the local authority.
Let us accept that that is so. What the amendment of the noble Baroness would do is make the system of licensing by the justices universal throughout the country. It would get rid of the noble Lord's difficulty altogether. The licensing of places for music or dancing would then be the prerogative of the magistrates. Nobody would have to go elsewhere. It is noticeable—is it not?—that when the noble Lord was responding to the noble Baroness he was suggesting that she was wrong. For the moment what I was going to say has escaped my mind. I am inclined to go on speaking until it comes back!
To try and sum the matter up, the three main reasons which the noble Lord advanced seem to have little or no merit. What I meant to say has now come back to me. The point made by the noble Baroness which the 348 noble Lord did not answer was as follows. If one is going to carry through the provisions of the Bill as it now stands, one is going to have this absurd situation, that in many cases people will have to go to the licensing justices for one licence and go to the authority for another one. It was noticeable that the noble Lord, no doubt taking reasonable precautions, did not go into that matter at all.
I suggest that we are entitled to have some kind of answer upon that matter which is one of very considerable importance. The system of licensing places for music and dancing has been in the hands of the licensing justices, where is has prevailed, for very many years. So far as I can remember, that has been substantially the situation during the whole of my lifetime. I do not know that anybody up to now has ever complained that it does not work. I do not know that anybody has ever suggested that the system does not work or is antiquated or does not meet the modern world. No arguments of that kind have been advanced; but for some reason or other, presumably in order to bring uniformity into the system and to deal with public entertainment in the same way as it is proposed to deal with sex establishments, it is proposed to abandon a system which has worked perfectly well over the years and to introduce something new and, in doing so, to introduce all the complications of having two authorities which are giving out licences for the same kind of premises.
§ Lord Belstead
We are treading over familiar ground because we debated this earlier on, I say in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Foot, that we are not debating uniformity for its own sake; we are debating the principle of uniformity because the Government believe and the local authorities feel that on grounds of public safety in a modern world it really is necessary to have some standards which can be relied upon, particularly with very large gatherings of people for public entertainment in a modern world, if one happens to be meeting in one end of the country or the other.
I am sure that the noble Lord will not think I am being discourteous when I say that his very skilful speech consisted of points which are a matter of opinion. The noble Lord and I would disagree on the points which he put forward. What is a matter of fact is that if we are to have a system of licensing, what has become quite clear this afternoon is that some justices in the country would accept to become the licensing authorities, and some justices would not. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, very fairly made this absolutely clear at the beginning, of the proceedings of the Committee.
However, the Association of District Councils have made it clear to the Government that the district councils would accept the licensing function if it was placed upon them by statute. The noble Baroness asked me one direct question: the position of the fire service in all this. May I direct the attention of the noble Baroness to Schedule 1 paragraph 4(4) where the following is set out:In considering any application for the grant, renewal or transfer of an entertainments licence, the appropriate authority shall have regard to any observations submitted to them by the chief officer of police and by the fire authority".
§ Baroness Stedman
I said in the light of earlier discussions that at this stage this was a probing amendment to find out the Government's views and whether they had progressed any further since Second Reading. Therefore I shall be withdrawing my amendment at this time. I shall read Hansard and consult with those who supported me this afternoon to see whether we can come back at the next stage with a further amendment and hope to put a little more pressure on the Government.
From my knowledge of the fire service in my own locality, they are always consulted as a matter of course by the magistrates whenever they are considering licences, when they are looking at new hotels, looking at new halls and that kind of thing. The fire officer is there in person, not just the certificate. The fire officer is there in order to look at the fire prevention and security side. I am sure that this procedure is generally carried out over the country. I am glad to see that it is written into the Bill, and whoever finally finishes up as the licensing authority will have to consult with the fire service. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Amendments consequential on Section 1]:
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alport)
The Question is that Schedule 2 be the second schedule to the Bill. An amendment by Baroness Birk?
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Lord Jacques moved Amendment No. 10:
§ Before Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Use of premises for display of indecent matter.
§ CONTROL OF SEX ESTABLISHMENTS
§ . (1) For the purposes of section 22 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 (meaning of development), the use of a building for the carrying on of any retail trade or business wherein the primary purpose is that specified in subsection (2) below involves a material change of use of the building and of each part thereof which is so used; and, notwithstanding anything in subsection (2)(f) of that section or in section 23 of that Act, planning permission is required for any such development.
§ (2) The purpose mentioned in subsection (1) above is any selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating of articles in connection with which indecent matter is ordinarily made available to the public or displayed in, or so as to be visible from, a place to which the public are permitted to have access.
§ (3) Section 26 of the said Act of 1971 (notices of application) shall apply to any development falling within subsection (1) above as if it were development of a class designated under that section.").
§ The noble Lord said: I speak to this amendment to give me an opportunity of giving an explanation. I could put a very strong case for this amendment, but, having studied the Marshalled List, I have come to the conclusion that the Government have gone a very long way to meet the points of view of those of us who think that local government should have very firm control over the number—if any—and the location of sex shops. They have done that in their Amendments Nos. 31 and 39. I believe that those amendments go a very long 350 way to meet the needs that are required. Because of that, I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment, always of course reserving the right to move it at the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 [Licensing of sex establishments]:
§ The Earl of Halsbury moved Amendment No. 11:
§ Page 2, line 24, leave out from ("resolution") to end of line 37 and insert—
§ ("(2) A local authority may resolve that sex establishments shall not be permitted in their area; and if a local authority do so resolve, as from the date specified in that behalf in the resolution and until such date as the local authority shall by further resolution otherwise determine, which date shall be specified in such further resolution, no person shall in the said area use any premises, vehicle or stall as a sex establishment.
§ (3) Subsection (2) above does not apply to the sale, supply or demonstration of articles which
- (a) are manufactured for use primarily for the purposes of birth control; or
- (b) primarily relate to birth control.
§ (4) The date specified in either of the resolutions referred to in subsections (1) and (2) of this section must not be before the expiration of the period of one month beginning with the day on which the resolution is passed.
§ (5) A local authority shall publish notice that they have passed a resolution under subsection (1) or (2) of this section in two consecutive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in their area.
§ (6) The first publication shall not be later than 28 days before the date specified in the said resolution.
§ (7) The notice shall state the general effect of the resolution.
§ (8) In this section "sex establishment" has the meaning set out in Schedule 3 to this Act.
§ (9) A person who knowingly uses or knowingly causes or permits the use of any premises, vehicle or stall contrary to subsection (2) above shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £5,000 and, if the contravention constituting the offence of which he is guilty is continued after his conviction of the offence, he shall be guilty of a further offence and liable, in respect thereof, to a fine not exceeding £1,000 for each day on which the contravention is so continued.
§ Paragraphs 19(5) and (6), 20 and 21 (except sub-paragraph (1) thereof) of the said Schedule shall apply in regard to such offence as if for references therein to offences under paragraph 19 of that Schedule there were substitued references to this offence,
§ (10) In this Part of this Act "local authority" means:
- (a) the council of a district;
- (b) the council of a London borough; and
- (c) the Common Council of the City of London.").
§ The noble Earl said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford and myself, I beg to move the amendment which stands in both our names. In doing so, I would seek the permission of the Committee to discuss Amendments Nos. 31 and 39 just referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, and, unless any noble Lord intervenes or the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has any objection, I shall suppose that your Lordships are agreeable to that course since the two Government amendments are an alternative to this amendment.
§ In putting down what is really a new Clause 2, of which subsection (1) is common to both, I must steer between the Scylla of failing to explain the rationale of it and the Charybdis of making a Second Reading speech on the generality of the subject. I will try to avoid both hazards as best I can. Clause 2(1) needs no amendment, but the kernel of our new clause is the ban in subsection (2) which will allow the local authority in 351 effect to decide that in no circumstances will it have any sex shops in its district at all. The clause, then, caters in a direct and straightforward way for a wide spectrum of attitudes by local authorities—from the totally permissive attitude which gives no regard to this Bill whatsoever, through an intermediate stage where a limited number of licences are granted, up to the point of a complete embargo.
§ If your Lordships are prepared to agree with that principle, a number of subsidiary matters follow and consequential clauses have to be written into Clause 2, as amended, because once a resolution is passed that there will he no sex shops in the district, Schedule 3 becomes inoperative unless it is imported back into the amended Clause 2. Broadly speaking, that is done by the rest of the amendments in the proposed alternative clause, and particularly subsection (9), where we introduce a penalty clause. We cross-link that to the schedule in such a way that some of the provisions of the schedule relate to it. If any of your Lordships has difficulty in construing the second half of subsection (9) of the proposed new Clause 2, then "this offence" in the last line and "such offence" in the last line but one both refer to the offence created by subsection (9).
§ A slight variation is to make it quite clear in the course of the amendment that shops dealing with birth control are not to be classed as sex shops for the purpose of this amendment. For the rest, I think the correlation between the subsections of the amended Clause 2 and the original Clause 2 should be quite clear to your Lordships. The whole of the proposed amendment is a simple, direct and straightforward application of the principle that we want to have a wide spectrum from total permissiveness to total embargo.
§ In so far as the Government are, as it were, homing on to the same target—and they have gone a long way since Second Reading and since the passage of this Bill through another place—the difference between us is largely a difference of style. Their style of legislation is oblique and circuitous compared with what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and I have in mind.
§ The first axiom of arithmetic as formally presented is that nought is a number, and, if you turn to the proposed Amendment No. 31, it says that for the purpose of sub-paragraph (3)(c) the word "nil" is a permissible number of establishments to have. Your Lordships must then turn to (3)(c), where you will find yourselves concerned with the number of sex establishments in the relevant locality. You must then turn to paragraph 4(i) to find out what the "relevant locality" is. You then find that the relevant locality means the locality where the premises are situated. Just how far that is a circular definition is a matter for a certain amount of guesswork: how widely is the word "locality" to be taken in determining the "relevant locality"? Does it mean the ground plan of the establishment and nothing more? Does it mean the street or the postal district?—or can it mean the entire area within the purview of the relevant local authority?
§ If it is the wish of your Lordships in due course to prefer the Government's circuitous route to the end which my noble friend and I approach by a direct route, then I must reserve my position regarding a 352 further amendment that I might like to put forward at Report stage regarding the phrase "relevant locality"—namely, that, whereas zero is a permissible number for establishments, unity should be a permissible aspect of the area within which the local authority operates, and the locality could be held to be coterminous with the area of the local authority should that be their wish. I hope that, in putting this amendment forward, I have successfully steered between those two hazards which I mentioned at the beginning, that what we propose is clear to your Lordships and that the difference between our approach and that of the Government is clear. I beg to move.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
I have to advise your Lordships that, if this amendment is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 12 and 13.
§ The Earl of Longford
I should like to support the amendment put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, inspired no doubt to a considerable extent by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. I should like to speak a little more plainly about these sex shops than many of your Lordships seem ready to do. I visited one the other day—I visited a number some years ago—and I am under the impression that very few of your Lordships have made such visits. I did meet one noble Lord this afternoon who had, but he was employed to visit them in a somewhat professional capacity. But there is a strange sort of embarrassment about visiting these places, and we have discussed the whole matter in terms of self-determination of local government, and such topics.
In my opinion, sex shops in almost every case would be a social evil. I think anyone who went into one and anyone who saw one or two of the gadgets that I have brought away—I shall not produce them to your Lordships—would agree that they are instruments of perversion. We can perhaps all feel sorry for a happily married couple who are unable to perform the sexual act and need a little stimulation; but that is not the stock-in-trade of a sex shop. There, anybody who goes into one and looks round will find himself being asked whether he wants to put on a harness and that kind of thing. So that anyone will realise we are dealing with very shocking enterprises.
I say nothing about the motivation. The motivation is just making money, which I suppose is respectable—even making profits is something one cannot exactly despise—but here it is making money out of human weakness and stirring up human lust in a perverse direction. As far as I am concerned, every step that can be taken in this Chamber to make it difficult to buy these things is a step in the right direction. No doubt a number of tactical issues will arise here, but I would only say that I support the amendment and I hope it will prevail.
§ Lord Somers
I should like to follow the noble Earl who has just sat down by supporting this amendment very strongly. whether the Government choose to accept it as it stands or whether they are going forward on their own line, I feel that some amendment of this kind is very necessary, although I agree that the necessity for it hangs on whether or not you consider 353 sexual promiscuity to he a bad thing. There are those who will say that that is merely a matter of personal opinion. but I cannot agree with that. There are certain things that are definitely good and others that are bad, which cannot be questioned as a matter of personal opinion.
I do not think anybody could question that what has happened to our nation as a whole, since some Minister of Education—I cannot remember who it was—decided that sex education should be introduced in our schools, is a bad thing. Abortions have absolutely soared in number; sexual attacks are a matter of everyday news; crimes associated with sexual motives are heard of everywhere, and the damage done to family life has been absolutely irreparable. Therefore, I certainly think that it is a very bad thing.
There is nothing in this amendment to force local authorities to impose a total ban. I know that we do not want to live in a police state, but I cannot help voicing a slight private opinion that I sincerely hope that many authorities will take advantage of this right to impose a ban. The question of the freedom of the individual is often raised. As I said, we do not want total police control of our thoughts or actions, but on freedom of speech there is such a thing as slander and total freedom of speech is, of course, controlled by that.
Are we going to allow local authorities to set up colleges of burglary or something like that? Is burglary a good or a bad thing? Is that merely a matter of opinion? Or, perhaps, they could start courses on slander and libel. Are those bad things or merely a matter of opinion? Or, possibly, they could have courses on shoplifting. I do not know whether or not that is considered a bad thing. But there is such a thing as a definite standard of good or had, which is beyond just a personal opinion. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the Government will either accept this amendment or themselves take steps along the same lines.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Somers, because it is time that somebody said he was not in favour of this amendment. Many of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has said are incontrovertible, are, in fact, controvertible. To equate sex with burglary seems to be a somewhat false analogy. I oppose the amendment, but not because I am against the Bill; the purpose, of the Bill seem to me to be wholly admirable. That these establishments should be brought under control is something with which we on this side of the House will, I am sure, wholly agree. But what is proposed by the amendment is to change the nature of the Bill.
Instead of bringing establishments under control, it will have the effect of giving power to abolish them. The noble Lord and I might disagree about whether or not this is desirable. But what is incontrovertible, if I may adopt the noble Lord's word, is that this amendment is outside the Short Title, and even, I think, the Long Title of the Bill, and in another place it would not be accepted for debate because, in my submission, it is out of order. The limitations of the Bill are quite clearly set out. This is not a Bill to deal with obscenity, as the noble Lord implied. This is a Bill to give local government certain powers. It is a miscellaneous provisions Bill.
354 If we were engaged in the business of altering the obscenity laws—and many of us think that that ought to be done—we should have a Bill to do just that. But what the Government seek to do in this Bill, and I support them, is to bring these establishments under control and make it possible for local authorities to regulate establishments within their areas, in such a way as may seem appropriate to them. I want to suggest to the noble Lord that what might be appropriate in Soho is hardly appropriate in Sussex. Therefore, what one set of councillors may decide was in order, so far as they were concerned, would be totally out of order in another area. What the Bill seeks to do is to regulate, according to the circumstances of the case. For this reason, it seems that the Government have it right in the Bill and that the amendment has it wrong, so I hope that your Lordships will not carry the amendment.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My noble friend said the other day to me "If you didn't exist, you would have to be invented". That is no longer true, because, following my noble friend Lord Jenkins, there are at least two of us who are opposing this amendment. I am sure that we are not alone, or we ought not to be alone, in thinking that the constant indulgence of ageing noble Lords in this House in condemnation of the sexual activities of others is really a little unseemly I have said before that we have no qualifications for it, either by age or by current experience. So I think we might leave it to others who have a closer interest in what we are talking about—
§ Lord Somers
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Would he also consider the constant efforts of noble Lords—ageing noble Lords, perhaps—in this House, myself included, to abolish cruelty to animals a bad thing?
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
That deals with the conduct of other people in inflicting cruelty on other species, which is an entirely different matter, morally and politically. But here we are dealing with sexual activity, which is on the human plane and relates to the conduct of individuals. This is another example of a lot of people getting worked up over sex and panicking into repressive legislation.
I am not going to anticipate what the Government's amendments mean—whether nil is a number, anyway, or what is the definition of a "locality". I shall therefore, concentrate on the amendment which is just plain suppression. That is really what it amounts to, and one of the duties of your Lordships' House, on which we are qualified, is to safeguard the liberty of the subject. That is one of our important roles.
The plausible case for this amendment, though I do not think it has yet been put in quite this form, is that it fortifies local democracy. People in a particular area should be able to judge for themselves, through their elected representatives, whether or not they have sex shops in their locality. But I doubt whether local authorities have the representativeness and the real authority, in all cases, to reach the kind of decision that they are allowed to reach under this amendment. Local authorities cannot totally ban licensed premises. Local authorities cannot ban betting shops, slaughterhouse, 355 riding stables or even the obscenities of butchers' shops. All those are lawful activities, and no local authority can ban them completely. They may be given the power to license, and that implies some control, some discretion. But even then there are checks against abuses.
If noble Lords had served, as I did, for three years on the Royal Commission on standards of conduct in public life, they would have heard a good deal of evidence about the tyranny of local authorities, with a built-in majority lasting for years and years for one political party. It is dangerous to allow even an elected local authority to have absolute power. Some check on the abuse of that power is essential in the interests of liberty. That is why the right of appeal is given against refusal of licences in other connections.
Licences generally are for regulation and control. A moment ago, my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney referred to the implication of this amendment: that it is for prohibition, not for regulation and control. This section of the Bill deals with regulation and control, not with prohibition. I doubt whether, off the cuff, one could think of any lawful activity which it is within the power of a local authority totally to ban without the right of appeal. I do not know of one. I think a very dangerous principle is embodied in this amendment.
I said a moment ago that I am strongly in favour of banning activities which may involve cruelty to animals, to children, or to anybody. Cruelty is perhaps the greatest crime of all. But we are not dealing with cruelty. Therefore the amendment must be firmly rejected. The Bill is littered with authority for local authorities to issue licences. It is all about the issue of licences. It is not about prohibition.
Another point against this amendment is that it is discriminatory. In making by-laws the Home Office are always careful to guard against by-laws being made which discriminate unfairly as between one section of the community and another, or between certain interests in the community and others. The aim is to keep some kind of balance. Control, Yes, but not prohibition. When I deal on Monday with the County of Lancashire Bill, we shall be looking at the principles which the Home Office have followed in deciding whether or not to confirm by-laws which local authorities wish to introduce. Therefore this amendment is to be rejected on all counts.
If I may be permitted to say just a word or two about the movers of this amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has had his great parliamentary triumph. His finest hour was on seat belts. Why does he go in search of another? Why can he not rest on his laurels and leave this new battle to be fought, if I may say so by more juvenile hands? Coming to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, his triumph was in getting through your Lordships' House on two occasions a most comprehensive Bill of reform for the protection of laboratory animals. His triumph has not yet come. When the Government legislate, that will be his finest hour. Why can he not wait patiently for it instead of chasing after new notoriety, new fame, new grandeur in parliamentary affairs? If I may say so with great respect, I think that both should retire from this sex business—and allow me to retire from it, too.
§ 6.45 p.m.
I think it is time that somebody spoke again in support of the amendment, and I should like to do so. But I support it faute de mieux, because I am sorry that the Government, to which the people of this country look for a lead in these matters, will not ban sex establishments outright. But half a loaf is, after all, better than no bread.
The demand for sex establishments comes from a very small section of the population. The majority of people in this country are decent people, contrary to what one might suppose from reading the newspapers. Are their wishes, their feelings, the welfare of their children and the safety of their wives and daughters to be disregarded because a few depraved people want these establishments, and others have discovered that they can make fortunes by catering for them? If everyone must always have everything he wants, however harmful to himself and to others, why do we not have laws enabling local authorities to license opium dens and the sale of hard drugs? My noble friend Lord Somers has given some other instances, and I think he is quite right. That argument just does not hold water. Make no mistakes: the aim of these establishments is to stimulate desires which then require satisfaction, and assault and rape are frequently the means by which they are satisfied.
In the 10 years after pornography became easily available, rape—which had begun to decline in the early 1960s—increased by over 100 per cent. Every day now we read of cases, and those are only the ones which are reported. I n the Daily Mail of 18th February there is a report of an 89 year old widow being raped in a secure housing unit in Southwark. It is a horrible story. Nowadays in London, and in many other cities, women can no longer go about in safety.
When I was young, pornography was virtually unobtainable, and in most parts of most cities in this country a woman could walk safely through the streets at night. And that is how it should be again. It is not only in their contribution to increasing rape and violence that they are harmful. Quite innocent young people will go into them, in the first instance out of curiosity, and will be corrupted—who would otherwise not have been. Therefore, if the noble Lords whose amendment this is choose to press it, I shall be very happy to follow them into the Lobby.
§ Lord Beswick
I should like to say how very much I was impressed, as I think many of us were, by the speech of the noble Lady behind me. In many ways it would have been appropriate for the debate to finish on the note which she struck, but I thought I ought simply to say that the interpretation of liberty of the subject given by noble Lords on this Bench is not one which I share.
The more I listen to current debate the more do I begin to look extra carefully at those who try to put forward a case on the basis that it is for the liberty of the individual. What is restriction for one man may be liberty for another. What is liberty for my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby is not liberty, as I see it, for many others in this country. I want the liberty of walking down a street without seeing some of these offensive establishments. I want my children and 357 my grandchildren to be able to walk down these streets without being offended by some of these establishments.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is very careful to put forward this battlecry of liberty of the subject, but I notice that he wants to restrict the liberty of the individual subject in many ways when it comes to his cruelty to animals legislation. I notice, too, that he wants to restrict the liberty of the subject when it comes to the question of unborn children. I do feel that he was unfair on the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. Personally I greatly respect the courage they have shown in putting forward ideas for us to discuss and this amendment.
Cruelty can be defined in many ways. There is an element of cruelty in society today which was probably not so pronounced when first I entered political life. I believe that this cruelty has been enhanced by the permissive legislation we have seen in recent decades. I would like to think that the tide is now beginning to turn. I believe that the Government, with the amendments they have brought forward, have themselves responded to this new feeling in society. I feel certain that the amendment proposed by the noble Earl is also in response to this new feeling. After all, this is not a question of prohibition. This is a question of people being able to elect a local authority with the right to say whether there will be certain establishments in the locality or not.
I was surprised that my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney said that although he was in favour of control, he was not in favour of taking it to the lengths suggested by the noble Lords opposite. If one is going to have the power to control, surely one should be able to control matters to the extent of saying that a certain type of establishment will not be allowed in this place or that place. As the noble Lord said, it may be that councillors elected in another part of the country will take a different view. As I see it, the Bill before us now—even as amended by the noble Earl's amendment—would still allow a properly elected local authority in one part of the country to take a different view from that which I personally would take in my area.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to explain the difference between us on this point. It is not that I wish to limit the powers of councils to do as they please; it is that I do not wish to give them an overall power under which, for reasons quite separate from those laid down as being appropriate under local government legislation, they would be able to take steps on moral grounds. That is not what we are about here.
§ Lord Beswick
One day, I shall have to have a debate with my noble friend about what constitutes moral grounds. I believe the interpretation can be very wide indeed. We are talking about the judgment of local authorities in saying whether or not a certain type of establishment is appropriate in a particular locality. All I am saying to my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney is that, if one is going to give local authorities the power to stop something happening in a particular locality, it is quite wrong to say that in other localities they must agree with that thing happening. 358 That is what my noble friend is saying, in effect. All we are saying is that if the local authority has the power to act in one locality it should have the power to act also in a neighbouring locality, provided that it comes within the council's area. I hope that the noble Earl will see fit to press his amendment. Certainly I for my part will be prepared to support it.
§ 6.54 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln
I would like to support this amendment. As we all know, sex shops exist and the object of this Bill is to control their existence. It seems to me that from this amendment stems the capacity of local authorities to do exactly that.
§ Lord Tranmire
May I come back to the point of this amendment? At the present time, the number of sex shops in this country is growing considerably, and local authorities do not have the power to control that growth. Sex shops are a form of environmental pollution. Your Lordships' Committee should give adequate powers to local authorities. That seems to me to be the nub of the matter. Is the "juvenile" noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, aware of what is happening; that large sums of money are being made by the proprietors of these sex shops throughout the country? It is our duty to give local authorities the power to control their numbers and location, and whether we take the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, or the Government's amendments on the Marshalled List, is not the point.
The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said that we must have a sensible form of definition of the area of control. I do not consider that the relevant area in paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 is a reasonable way of dealing with this. For one thing, whatever the definition, it must be one that will apply to rural areas as well as to urban areas. The locality definition certainly would not apply to some of the more remote areas which are worried at the moment by the threat of the spread of sex shops. I hope that between now and Report stage, whatever happens to this amendment, the Government wil look at the definition and see whether it is effective.
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
I want just to take up one point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I can well understand how people can hold varied views on the amendment; but how anyone can say that cruelty is not involved, I cannot understand. If we were dealing just with immorality, that would be one thing; but in my submission it is the sadistic aspect of some sexual material which is the serious aspect of this problem.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I should like to make one point which, although not being entirely relevant to the amendment, is very relevant to the issue. Although I am not concerned so much with whether a local authority should be able to ban or not ban, I am concerned with the degree of the shop itself. There is no doubt that there are many varied degrees and it is not only my noble friend Lord Longford who has found out about this. Where I live, in Chelsea, there is a very discreet establishment and I went to talk to the gentleman who runs it. He held very strong views about the type of shop which operates in Soho. In fact, I could 359 not see how he was going to make very much money because there was nothing very expensive in his shop. He told me about the people who visit his shop and mentioned with great pride the lady who dropped in on her way back from Ascot last summer to pick up something she needed. I feel it is a pity that this particular establishment should be "knocked in", with the other kind. From my modest investigation, it became quite clear that there are two kinds of establishment; one would possibly fit in with today's world but the other is that with which cruelty and degradation is associated—although it seems that in our minds we see them both falling within the same category.
§ Lord Monson
As one known to be in favour of the greatest possible degree of individual freedom, let me say at once that I do not oppose all the restrictive amendments relating to sex shops which appear on the Marshalled List. For instance, I find that Amendment No. 34, which would prevent people under the age of 18 patronising or working in sex shops, highly commendable and I would certainly support it. But I believe that the amendment we are discussing now is the thin end of a dangerous wedge of censorship, which I have always opposed, and therefore I must oppose the amendment.
When the Indecent Displays Bill promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, was going through Parliament only a few months ago, assurances were given that this was not the start of a puritan backlash or of some puritanical crusade to put the clock back 25 years and prevent adults from buying or reading whatever they wished. It was on that assurance, I believe, that the noble Lord's Bill received the degree of support which it did.
However, Amendment No. 11 is not concerned with the public nuisance aspect of sex shops, nor with whether the shop is sited in close proximity to a school or some other place where young people tend to gather. This amendment provides that a sex shop may be driven out of business even if it has a plain, inoffensive frontage, which could not possibly offend the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, or members of his family, and even if it is sited well away from schools or residential areas. It would be put out of business solely because its mere existence offends some pressure group.
This is analogous to the argument used in the mid-1960s against the Bill introduced by noble Earl, Lord Arran, to liberalise the law relating to private male homosexual behaviour following the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee. Opponents of that Bill argued that the mere knowledge that such activity was taking place somewhere, even though it might be behind closed doors, which by definition it had to be, was offensive to them and should therefore be banned. Luckily, their arguments lost the day, and I do not think there are now many people who would wish things to revert to the pre-1967 situation in that regard.
Of course, if it could be proved beyond doubt that sex shops were harmful, as opposed to merely irritating, there would indeed be a case for an out-and-out ban. But obviously there is no such evidence; otherwise the Government would be duty bound to take steps to ban such shops outright and would already have started 360 to do so. Might it, on the contrary, be the case that distasteful though these establishments are—certainly I have no wish to defend them—they may have one useful function? (Here I am afraid I must disgaree with my noble friend Lady Saltoun, although it is purely a matter of judgment—nobody can be certain) I understand that these shops cater for those whose particular proclivities cannot easily be satisfied elsewhere. If these people's desires are frustrated through the removal or closing down of sex shops, is it not possible that innocent women and children are going to find themselves put more at risk from rape and indecent assault than would otherwise be the case?
§ Lord Swinfen
As one of the more juvenile Members of your Lordships' House, I should like to support this amendment, first, because I am not very fond of sex shops in any case, and, secondly because I think it is very much clearer for the layman reading the Act which this Bill will become than is the Government's own amendment. Having myself on occasions had cause to thumb through various Acts of Parliament to try to find out what they mean, it is sometimes very difficult. I think it is essential that it should be as clear and as easy as possible for the layman. The people who are going to have to work this Bill when it becomes an Act are laymen, the vast majority of them with very little legal training. They may have advisers, but they themselves have to make the decisions
I feel also that every authority must have the power to say that they wish to have no sex shops in their areas. I do not think sex shops do a great deal of good. They may help some people. But one reads in the newspapers of more and more marriages breaking down because of the odd sexual behaviour of one partner or another, and I am sure that this is encouraged by sex shops and the perverted objects they sell, the magazines and books they produce. They are perverting the whole idea of sex and turning it into pure self-gratification rather than an act of love between two people. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will see his way to agreeing to the amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, in place of his own. I wish it well.
§ Lord Underhill
I should like to say a few brief words, as I did refer to this in my speech at Second Reading. First, every noble Lord who has spoken has referred to sex shops, but the amendment deals with sex establishments, and that includes sex cinemas. One has to link that up with what is described as these "activities", both the sex shops and the sex cinema, in the terms of Schedule 3. It is the activities listed there to which many noble Lords, including myself, take great exception. It is not a question of freedom of the individual. It is a question whether there is freedom of the individual to interfere with other people and to affect other people and other people's lives, and to affect children's lives by affecting their outlook. I think that is very important.
The only other point I would mention is this. If one accepted the logic of some of the arguments, including that of my noble friend Lord Jenkins, it would mean that the local authority representative could say, "Well, as we must not have an umbrella ban, although 361 people want it, it is good for the south ward to have this, but it is not good for the north ward, where I live, to have it". I think this is putting local authority members into an impossible situation. If the people of the area believe that this is offensive and dangerous for themselves or their children, I think they should have the freedom to make that decision.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
This amendment would give a local authority the right to impose as a matter of general principle a complete prohibition on trade in the materials covered by the schedule. I think the speeches which have been made in this debate on this amendment have shown that there are deep feelings generated by this particular subject and also by this particular amendment. I think the problem with the amendment is that, even though the trade which would go on in those places could be entirely lawful under the general criminal law as the law stands, what we should be doing in a local government regulation Bill would in fact be altering the general criminal law. Having said that, I do hope that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and indeed my noble friend Lord Nugent, who has not yet spoken to the amendment, will not be under any misapprehension that the Government, in taking the view which we do, which I am going to explain very briefly, are any less concerned to ensure that local authorities are provided with fully effective powers to control these premises.
My noble friend Lord Tranmire, in speaking pretty trenchantly about this amendment, said that one thing he was absolutely certain of was that there should be adequate powers for local authorities. May I just set out very briefly the powers which we have put down from the Government point of view? The grounds for refusal provided in the Bill by paragraph 11 of Schedule 3 are extensive. In particular, as Amendment No. 31—which the noble Earl wished to he discussed with this amendment—proposes to make clear, the local authority would be able to form the opinion that it would be inappropriate to have any sex shops at all in the locality to which the application relates. The local authority would be able to refuse to issue a licence on that ground alone, saying that nil would be the correct number of sex shops for the locality. That would be the effect of one of the Government amendments, Amendment No. 31. We have also put down Amendments Nos. 37 and 39, which propose that the local authority's judgment on the question of whether a sex shop is appropriate should be final; in other words, on that question there should be no appeal. We have put down those two groups of amendments in the light of concern expressed before this debate took place that, as has happened in other fields, a local authority's judgment might be overturned by a court which is less familiar with local circumstances. That really is the effect of the Government's amendments, which we have not yet come to. I should like to return to what I consider to be the main purpose of this amendment—
§ Lord Beswick
If I may intervene, will the noble Lord be good enough to say something about the definition of "locality"? If it is to be a narrow definition, 362 Amendment No. 31 makes absolutely no difference to the Bill at all.
§ Lord Belstead
With respect, I do not agree with the noble Lord. As my noble friend Lord Tranmire pointed out, "locality" is defined in Schedule 3, paragraph 4. It says:the relevant locality' means—(i) in relation to any premises, the locality where they are situated".It will be for the local authority to decide exactly what is the locality. It will not be possible—and I am absolutely at one with the noble Lord in wishing to make perfectly certain that there is no loophole—for an application for a sex shop to be able to slip through a loophole because in some way it can say that it does not belong to a locality at all. The local authority will decide, in its wisdom, what the locality is for each application and will be able—because of the Government amendments to which we have not yet come—first, to decide that it is possible to say that for the locality the number will be nil; and secondly, to say that, incidentally, their decision (if that is their decision) on the inappropriateness of the application for a sex shop shall not be overridden on appeal. Let me come back to what I believe is the main purpose of the amendment.
§ Lord Swinfen
I wonder if my noble friend will give way? I wish to raise a matter on the question of "locality". Does it include the whole of a local authority's area or does it only refer to parts of it? Can a local authority decide that the whole of its area is a locality or will it only have the power to ban sex shops in certain parts?
§ Lord Belstead
I think that my noble friend Lord Swinfen really answers the question by asking it. Obviously, if in relation to any premises the locality is clearly going to be the whole of the local authority area, that is the locality for the particular application. But if the local authority on receiving an application decides that the locality is a particular area in a town, then that is the locality. However, I repeat: I do not believe, when one reads Schedule 3, paragraph 4, that it will by any stretch of the imagination, be possible for an applicant for a sex shop licence in some way to slip through the licensing procedure because the applicant can find a locality which is not covered by the definition.
The Earl of Halsbury
Will the noble Lord give way? What the noble Lord has said seems to me extraordinarily important and has a bearing on the proposed amendment on Report which I foreshadowed. If I understand him correctly, it lies within the authority of a local authority to say, "So far as we are concerned our area is one locality". Do I interpret the noble Lord correctly?
§ Lord Belstead
I repeat that, if one looks at Schedule 3, paragraph 4, it says:the relevant locality" means—(i) in relation to any premises, the locality where they are situated".It is, therefore, for the local authority, who must decide the application, to interpret that. It can only interpret 363 it, presumably, by deciding two matters: first, the nature of the application; and secondly, the local authority's own understanding of the way in which its area is made up. I do not think that I can go further than that at present.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
It is rather confusing. The noble Lord mentioned the definition of "the relevant locality" but we also have the definition of "the chief officer of police". It says:in relation to any locality, means the chief officer of police for the police area in which the locality is situated".So there is very considerable confusion in the noble Lord's explanation of the powers of a local authority to define "locality" differently from what the Government themselves state is the meaning of "locality" in respect of the chief of police.
§ Lord Belstead
I do not think that it is entirely easy to interpret. What I am absolutely certain about is that the chief officer of police does not, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, have anything to do with it at all.
§ Lord Belstead
Obviously, localities will fall within the force area of a chief constable. As regards that point, it is as simple as that. As regards the point which we have been discussing in question and answer, I would just add the following. Flexibility is needed, in that almost certainly "locality" does not mean the whole area of the local authority district, because almost certainly there will be applications for different areas. However, I repeat what I have said before: first of all, the local authority will presumably have to take into account the nature of the application. That must persuade the local authority as to what the locality for that application is liable to be. Secondly, the local authority presumably must consult its own officers as to what it believes the correct locality is. Thirdly, I repeat, I do not believe, therefore, that there is any possibility—but I would obviously like to look at this again and will certainly do so as a result of this brief exchange—of an application in some way slipping through a loophole by being able to suggest that it does not belong to any locality covered at all. I shall certainly give way to the noble Earl.
The Earl of Halsbury
Frankly, slipping through loopholes is not the point on my mind. I am concerned that the process of being refused a licence would go on and on from locality to locality instead of a simple decision being taken.
§ Lord Belstead
May I look at the matter again? I think that I have said as much as I can and the noble Earl, and, indeed, any other noble Lord, can return to the matter. I shall return to what I believe is the 364 main purpose of the amendment. It may very well be that, as a matter of policy, a district council will wish to have no sex shops in a particular locality. But in a local government Bill and in a schedule dealing with control by licensing, I think the Government believe that the authority really should be required to look at each application, although, as I have said, the Government intend to ask your Lordships to make it crystal clear in the Bill that the authority has the right on each application to decide that no sex shop may be established in a locality and has the right not to have that decision overturned on appeal. I hope that that shows that, although noble Lords, and the Government are approaching the matter in different ways, it will enable licensing authorities to reach the same conclusion in the end, if that is their judgment.
I hope that, with that assurance, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, may feel that it would be right at least to have a look at the Government amendments, to which we have not yet come, and to withdraw this amendment at the present time, always of course leaving themselves free, without commitment, to decide how they will proceed on Report.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
Before the noble Lord sits down I wonder if he would make one matter clear? He has said that he will look again at what is meant by "locality". Those of us who have read the Bill notice that the word "locality" occurs three times in that paragraph of the schedule. At one point it relates to the police area and at another point it is not quite clear to what it relates. My noble friend says that he will look at it again. Is he telling us that if the present amendment were to be withdrawn and, therefore, his own amendment comes to be called, he will, in fact, withdraw it, and will come again with new phrasing at the Report stage?—or is he going to push on with his own amendment, if the one that we are discussing fails?
§ Lord Belstead
I must make it absolutely clear to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale that I think that it is highly important—I am absolutely at one with the noble Lord, Lord Halsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent—that one of these amendments should go on to the face of the Bill. I think that, on the grounds that I have tried to deploy, the Government's amendments are the more appropriate. I know that Governments are very fond of saying that they want their own amendments. However, I do think that in a local government Bill, which is a controlling measure, to put in an amendment which in fact would change the criminal law would be less appropriate than putting into the Bill, if your Lordships agree, amendments which would tighten the control in this area on which many of your Lordships feel so deeply.
§ Baroness Birk
I was waiting to hear what the Minister had to say and I had intended to speak on the Government amendments, as I thought that there was a possibility that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, would withdraw their amendment. But the Minister has now said fairly specifically what is in the Government's 365 amendments, and it seems to me that this has become almost one general debate.
First, I do not like the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. Secondly, I do not like the Government's amendments. However, I think that the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, is more frank and more honest in its intention than the Government amendments. The Minister has just said that he thinks it would be quite wrong in a Bill of this kind—which is (and we must keep remembering this) a local government Bill—to have something in it which makes a general ban and which comes almost into the area of criminal law.
So, instead of a straightforward:A local authority may resolve that sex establishment shall not be permitted in their area",we have an amendment which, apart from the inelegance of its language, seems to me to be much more fudgy:Nil may be an appropriate number for the purposes of".that particular paragraph. This is a completely backdoor way of dealing with something which should be in public legislation. The Minister has said that this is not the intention, but this is what is happening and what will happen. I have listened very carefully to what every noble Lord has said and, particularly on a subject like this, everyone must take a personal view and express a personal opinion. But to try to do something in a Bill which has no place for it, seems to me to be a matter of principle, which is rather different from talking about sex shops, or what we are talking about.
This schedule is trying to restrict where it can, and trying to give local authorities the power to decide and to say that in their area, no matter what some people may feel about it—and, after all, in a democracy the views of the minority are important; there are also views of a vociferous minority who may be against sex shops in a particular area; and all this needs to be taken into account—there shall be no sex shops. This is in spite of the fact that today sex shops are legal. We are talking about something that is a legal activity. I think that we must remember that and concentrate on it.
Having said that:Nil may be an appropriate number…",I listened very carefully to what the Minister said about "the relevant locality". He said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, that it clearly could be the whole local authority area; he then said that it does not mean the whole area of the local authority; he then said that they must also consult their own officers. Where I felt at one with the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, was when he was trying to elicit what this meant, as, indeed, were other noble Lords. It is still not clear.
I would certainly go along with the proposition that a local authority may decide that in a particular locality within its area—meaning a particular district, a particular location, or a particular group of streets or roads—it did not want any sex shops. But that is entirely different from saying that in the whole of Hackney, in the whole of Islington, in the whole of Westminster or wherever you like, we can decide that there will he no sex shops at all. This seems to me 366 to be getting very close to—in fact, to be getting right on top of—the whole problem of censorship. This is not the Bill for it. If the Government feel as strongly as this about it, the right place for this to be is in public legilsation, for sex shops to be made illegal, if that is the will of Parliament, and for the Government not to deal with it in this way.
Together with the nil proposition or the proposition of the noble Earl and the noble Lord whose amendment this is, there is also the taking away of the right of appeal. My noble friend Lord Houghton is absolutely right about this. It is now a completely closed box. On the one hand, a local authority can say that there should be no sex shops or sex establishments; on the other hand, there is no right of appeal. This is getting round any intention of valid licensing at all.
The Government are trying to base this on the gaming law. This is not a proper analogy. First, the control of gaming lies finally within a central authority, the Gaming Board. There is no sex board or sex shop board—no quango to deal with sex, at least not yet. There may be one, but there is not one at the moment. Therefore, the Gaming Board can represent its views to the licensing magistrates when a licence is applied for or when there is the question of an appeal.
Therefore, if the Government are to follow the approach of the gaming legislation, there must be this sort of global authority which has overall supervision and can monitor what is going on. Throughout, on everything, if you look at the gaming Acts, there is a right of appeal. To have such a licensing system without a right of appeal is, I repeat, a matter of very important principle. For a moment we must forget, if we can, that this is about sex; this is about an activity that is legal, which a number of people want and make use of. Yet the Government are to make it possible for it to be banned in an area and, at the same time, there will be no right of appeal.
When the Government borrow all this procedure from the gaming legislation, they seem to forget that in the past gaming has had a long history of penal legislation which, of course, sex has not—certainly not in this sort of context. So for myself—and even speaking on this side of the Committee it is perfectly clear that I can speak only for myself, for many of my noble friends take an entirely different view, which I totally respect—I find that I cannot go along with the amendment which we are at present discussing; nor can I go along with the Government amendments that will be moved later.
My noble friend Lord Longford has said that sex shops are a social evil. There are a great many things that one could call social evils. He has said that people are making, money out of human weakness. People are making money out of drink. I have even seen my noble friend have a drink; I have had some very pleasant drinks with him. People make money out of the human weakness of vanity when they sell us clothes. There are all sorts of examples of this. I do not think that this is enough. If he wants to say that all sex shops must be banned, a different route must be followed. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, asked: what has happened to our nation as a whole since sex education in our schools? I shall not delay on that because that is a slightly different subject, but if we are to put such a premium on ignorance and believe 367 that that will help young people, God help us all and the youngsters in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Tranmire, spoke about environmental pollution. There are some environmental pollutions that are very much worse in this country today. I think that the effect of lead in petrol and some of the catastrophies that we have had with waste material have caused more harm than sex shops, especially if there are now to be controls on them. Nobody has to enter them. People may not like the look of them, but not all of them are as garish as those we see in Soho. People have the right to patronise them or not, as they think fit. I have no affection for them. They neither attract me nor do I particularly like them, but we should not get quite so hot under the collar if other people find that they supply a need for them, which I do not think is really any of our business. I would say, let us have a licensing system, let us have control, but not prohibition and not allied with a system from which there is no means of appeal.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
On behalf of my noble friend Lord Halsbury and myself I should thank my noble friend Lord Bestead for his reply to our amendment, which has promoted an extremely interesting debate. I should like to thank most warmly those who have been good enough to support our amendment. Turning to my noble friend's Amendments Nos. 31, 37 and 39, in my opinion, by a circuitous route, they achieve the same end. They will allow the local authority to deal with proposals, with applications for sex shops, as they come along and will enable them to decide not to have one if they feel that it is not appropriate for their area, and they are protected in that decision by Amendment No. 39 which will deny an appeal to the applicant.
I believe that, albeit by a circuitous route this in substance meets our amendment. Many noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have spoken would obviously have preferred the direct approach; the direct power in the local authority to pass a resolution. However, there is weight, which I recognise, in my noble friend's point that our amendment would change the criminal law on obscenity, and therefore there is a constitutional objection there. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was on the same point. Therefore, I would feel that we should accept the amendments which my noble friend is going to move later as being adequate in meeting the purpose that we had in mind.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, delivered—I am sure in a jocular fashion—an attack on me and my noble friend Lord Halsbury, and charged us with being notoriety seekers. I do not really believe that anyone in the Committee would agree with him on that. Neither of us has any interest in seeking notoriety. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Halsbury's objective in coming here is exactly the same as mine; we are here to serve as well as we can. If I achieve a minor success in getting seatbelts made compulsory, I am glad to do so, but it is only in combination with everybody else here and elsewhere. I am certainly not going to be deterred by the fact that I am getting older from taking on subjects like this one, which are particularly unpleasant to tackle.
The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, must have felt 368 when he was listening to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, speaking behind him—she is about half his age—that he was pretty adequately answered. How many people seeing these sex shops think how dangerous they are? My noble friend Lord Swinfen, again a young man compared to the rest of us, expressed a similar view. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is very experienced himself and certainly is not deterred by age from having a go too, and if notoriety was the only thing that was to prevent us having a go he would have stopped long ago because his fame goes far and wide for the causes he takes up.
In this particular context we are taking over a Bill in which these proposals for licensing were only looked at in the House of Commons at the end of the Report stage. They were never looked at in Committee stage. Therefore, we have a special duty to look at the Bill in detail here and to improve it in any way we can. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has read the debates in another place. The general trend of almost every speech made was that the Bill needed strengthening.
One of the precedents that was picked up was that referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, of the proliferation of betting shops, and how objectionable it is that all over the place, on almost every corner, you pretty well fall over them. We have far more than we need. Because the machinery of appeal operated to detach the final decision from local considerations to the Crown Court, so decisions were taken in many cases to allow licences where, in the view of everyone in the locality, they should never have been granted. This is one of the reasons why the opinion was so strongly expressed in the House of Commons—and noble Lords have expressed it again tonight—that the power of appeal should not be allowed in the case where the local authority has taken this decision.
I would feel that my noble friend Lord Belstead has tried to meet the sense of the majority of us here. He has also tried to meet the sense of the almost universally expressed opinion in the House of Commons that something of this kind is needed. It is in that spirit that I am accepting my noble friend's amendments, and advising noble Lords and noble Baronesses on all sides who have been good enough to support us that we should accept this as being adequate. I hope when we come to the point later on in the Marshalled List the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, will not feel quite so savage about these amendments and might even accept them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Earl of Halsbury
May I just say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Nugent, and associate myself with his Motion to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Greenwood of Rossendale)
Amendment No. 12. I must tell your Lordships that if this is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 13.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lord Jacques moved Amendment No. 12:
§ Page 2, line 33, leave out ("that section") and insert ("paragraph 5(1) of that Schedule").369
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment has two objectives. First, to correct an error. The error is acknowledged by the Government in their Amendment No. 13. The word "section" should read "Schedule". But this amendment, as distinct from the Government's amendment, has a second objective. If the local authority is required to publish a notice stating the general effect of the whole of Schedule 3, the notice would have to be long and elaborate, since otherwise questions might arise as to whether or not the authority had complied with the Act and the provisions were in force in their area.
§ Long newspaper notices are expensive and are seldom read. It is suggested that it would be sufficient to require the notice to state the effects of the principal operative provision of the schedule as set out in paragraph 5(1) with any relevant explanation of the expression "sex establishment". I beg to move.
§ Lord Belstead
Perhaps it would speed matters along after the long debate we have just had, which has covered so much of the ground, if I spoke to the next amendment in speaking to Amendment No. 12. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has put his finger on an important drafting point. "Section" ought to read "Schedule", and it ought to read "Schedule" for a good reason, because people will want to know what is the schedule which is the operative part of the Bill so far as the rules about sex establishments are concerned. But, with respect to the noble Lord, if the requirement for a notice is confined only to paragraph 1, that would not be satisfactory. There would be no obligation to give the date on which the licensing controls are to come into force, to give one example. But more generally, I think that without taking up a huge amount of print in the local press it would not be beyond the wit of the local authority concerned to make up a pro forma, before they ever start considering licensing sex establishments, which would be succinct and short and would give just a brief outline to people who wanted to know what was in the schedule. For that reason, we should prefer to refer to the schedule rather than just to paragraph 5(1) of the schedule.
§ Lord Jacques
Would the noble Lord have another look at the matter to see whether it would be possible to have some restriction? Perhaps the restriction I have indicated—namely, paragraph 5(1)—would not be sufficient and that there should be a little more. Frankly, however, it need not be the whole schedule. Let us try to reduce the expenditure of local authorities. Over the years Parliament has tended to give local government elaborate duties and responsibilities and then, at the end of the day, to grumble because they spend too much. In this case expenditure by local authorities could be restricted, and lest anybody thinks we are speaking of a minor expense, I assure the Committee, from long experience of private or co-operative business, that by making cuts of this sort all over the place, in the end one gets a big saving. That is where good management comes in. I therefore ask the Minister to have another look at the issue to avoid having unnecessarily long newspaper advertisements which today are costlier than ever.
§ Lord Belstead
If the noble Lord would withdraw the amendment, for the reasons I gave, I shall certainly look at the matter again. I admit that last night I began to write on a piece of paper the sort of headings I thought might be needed at short notice. It came to rather a long list and I tore the piece of paper up and decided not to use it in the debate on this amendment. I think the noble Lord has a point and I will undertake to look at it again. Meanwhile, perhaps he would agree, so that the text of the Bill makes sense, to withdraw his amendment and agree to the following one.
§ Lord Jacques
I shall be glad to do that, but I emphasise that I am very serious about this. It may be a small point but it is a most important one affecting good management. I shall have a good look at the Marshalled List to see if anything has been tabled for Report and if, on the final day when amendments must be tabled, I see that nothing has been done, there will be another amendment tabled by me. On that understanding, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 13:
§ Page 2, line 33, leave out ("section") and insert ("Schedule").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Sex establishments]:
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 14:
§ Page 53, line 2, at end insert—
§ ("Saving for existing law.
§ Nothing in this Schedule—
- (a) shall afford a defence to a charge in respect of any offence at common law or under an enactment other than this Schedule; or
- (b) shall be taken into account in any way—
- (c) shall in any way limit the other powers exercisable under either of those Acts.").
§ The noble Lord said: I will, with permission, speak at the same time to Amendment No. 41. These amendments serve two purposes. The first fulfils the undertaking which I gave on Second Reading that the Government would propose an amendment to move the present paragraph 25 in Schedule 3 to the head of the schedule. That followed a suggestion in another place that it would be helpful in order to give greater prominence to the fact that, as the paragraph makes clear, nothing is made lawful by the schedule that is presently unlawful. The second purpose which is fulfilled by the amendments is to ensure that the saving for the criminal law applies to forfeiture proceedings under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the Protection of Children Act 1978.
§ At present, paragraph 25 of Schedule 3 refers to "offences" and a "trial for an offence". That is not appropriate in the case of forfeiture proceedings, since the latter are not criminal proceedings, for there is no defendant and no trial. The only question at issue in such proceedings is whether the articles which have been seized should be ordered by the court to be forfeited. It would clearly be highly undesirable 371 if it were possible to advance an argument at forfeiture proceedings that an order should not be made because the articles had been seized from premises which had been issued with a licence. Similarly, the issue of a licence should not be held to affect the powers in those Acts, such as entry and seizure, which preceded forfeiture proceedings. Accordingly, it is proposed in Amendment No. 41 that the present paragraph should be amended by adding sub-paragraph (b) (ii) and sub-paragraph (c). I hope that explanation is intelligible.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
In calling Amendment No. 15, I have to inform the Committee that if that is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 17.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 15:
§ Page 53, line 13, leave out from ("activity") to ("or" in line 15.
§ The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 18, 20 and 22; possibly the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, would like to include in the debate Amendment No. 16; and perhaps my noble friend Lord Belstead would like us to include Amendments Nos. 17, 19, 21 and 23, because they are really alternatives to my amendment.
The purpose of this series of amendments is to leave out words in the schedule describing the activities in a sex establishment, either a cinema or shop. They appear in the schedule, and when they appeared they surprised and shocked honourable and right honourable Members of another place, who expressed their surprise and shock, and noble Lords here. Especially the words complained of were:
acts of force, restraint, violence or cruelty which are associated with sexual activity
and a good many people were shaken by the following sentence:
concerned primarily, with the portrayal of, or primarily deal with or relate to, genital organs or urinary or excretary functions".
Those words are repeated, as it were, throughout the other amendments, so I need not trouble the Committee with them again.
§ There are two reasons why those words shock people. First, it seemed that by including them in the licensing provisions Parliament was, by implication, legalising them; but on the face of them, those activities and materials are illegal in the terms of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. Therefore, they pose the second question: if they are illegal, as appears to be the case, why are the operators not prosecuted? Having done some visiting of sex shops, I have a better idea of what the answer is to that. In any event, those are two questions which my noble friend Lord Belstead must answer: is there not a real implication that by a licensing scheme we are legalising them, and why is it that the operators are not prosecuted? It is not necessary for me to expand the matter further. Those are the two points which I am sure my noble friend will wish to 372 answer and to which other noble Lords may wish to speak. I beg to move.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich
I should like to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and if for a moment I may backtrack, I should like to say how grateful I think we all are to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for the point that lie made about paragraph 25. The matter is brought into better proportion by the assurance he gave us that the provision would not make legal activities that are already illegal. One of the anxieties as well as one of the problems about the Bill has arisen from being explicit about the terrible things that are mentioned. That places an aura of permission over them, even though we dislike them.
I think that the background to the present amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, is strengthened by the assurance of the Minister that paragraph 25 will be placed near the head of the schedule. We would be concerned about anything which in years to come could be shown to "respectable-ise", let alone legalise, some of the quite terrible things listed on page 54. For a moment I wish to refer to something that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said. Those things listed are there not to help people in their weakness but to pander to people in their lust, and that is something which I believe we in this Chamber should do our best to restrain. I see no problem over the question of liberty—I listened very carefully to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—because when it comes to driving on the left-hand side of the road liberty is restricted as a natural concomitant to guard against serious danger. Since some of the things mentioned in this part of the schedule can only place people in serious danger, I am sure that we are right to be restrictive and to be quite open about our restriction for the sake of caring for others. Therefore I should like to support the amendment of Lord Nugent and to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for his earlier remarks, from which it is clear that in a way lie is seeking to contain the problems which we are debating at such length and I believe in so proper a manner.
§ Baroness Birk
I should like to support the amendment. My name is attached to some of the other amendments, though due to an error on my part my name is not attached to the first amendment in the group. At this late hour I should like to speak briefly to the noble Lord's amendment, my own amendment, and the Government amendment. This is one occasion on which I agree with some of the people on the other side of the fence in their approach to the Bill. I find the spelling out of the meaning in a statute quite obnoxious. I also find the drafting rather extraordinary, rather rococo. I also think that some of the words are redundant. Many distinguished legal opinions which I have sought agree with my view on the redundancy point. I think that this kind of language is quite unnecessary in the statute. It seems to me that, if the words are omitted from the paragraphs in the way proposed in the amendments, almost the whole field would be covered. In relation to sex shops the schedule would then refer tosex articles, or other things intended for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging sexual activity".373 I appreciate that the Government have put forward what I would call a halfway house position. They have removed what they obviously feel are the most repulsive words so far as the Committee is concerned, and have left it at that. But I think that they will get themselves into a legal tangle, quite apart from the semantics, or whether one likes the language or the way in which it is used. If one includes certain activities, one is in difficulty if everything is not included. If an attempt is made to include everything, but that is not possible, due probably to both legal and moral inhibitions, it is easier for someone to say, "You haven't covered that"; or, "This is covered in this way". Once a list is included and no generality is attached, there are problems. Personally, I should much prefer to see the provision extend only to the words "sexual activity"—which seem to cover it all—and not include the words "force" or "restraint". That is probably too much to hope for, but that is certainly the way I should like to see the Bill amended.
I think there will be quite a muddle and some confusion if other words are added. I do not want to delay the Committee this evening, but one could raise all kinds of questions on the words that are included and the words that have been taken out; and it would not make the legislation any clearer. In fact, as with so much legislation, it would make it easier for the lawyers. In a way I think it is much easier for people to dodge the issue when things are only half spelled out, instead of having a full stop after the words "sexual activity".
§ Lord Swinfen
I, too, should like to support the amendment. Though not a lawyer, I think that as it stands, the provision could possibly lead to encouragement of contravention of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. As I understand it, the act of rape is an act of force associated with certain sexual activity. As I read it, the wording of the Bill could well encourage people to watch films of rape which could lead them to indulge in rape, which to all sensible people is an abhorrent form of violence. Apart from that, any form of violence or cruelty involving sex that is encouraged is a matter of sexual gratification, rather than of love, and is something that we certainly should not encourage. I have a feeling that, as worded at the moment, the Bill could lead to such encouragement, and therefore I wish to support the amendment.
§ Lord Belstead
In the Second Reading debate on the Bill concern was expressed that the inclusion of the words to which all the amendments are directed, relating to the definition of premises, could imply that in some way Parliament condones such activity. I think that it was implicit in the first question that my noble friend Lord Nugent asked that this point still very much concerns him. I am most grateful to the right reverned Prelate the Bishop of Norwich for referring back to the previous amendment and making plain yet again that by bringing paragraph 25 of the Schedule to the head of the Schedule we shall be making clear that sex shops are subject to the law and that the schedule makes lawful nothing that is presently unlawful.
I should now like to turn to the exact wording, since that is what we are talking about. On Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, suggested that the references to, 374acts of force, restraint, violence or crueltycould be omitted entirely, and I think that she said again this evening that that would be her preferred option. The noble Baroness argued that those words were redundant because anything that was covered by them would be caught by the term "sexual activity". Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to agree with the noble Baroness in her judgment on this matter, since I find the references in legislation as distasteful as I know she does. But I have to say that we do not believe that alone the reference to "sexual activity" would go wide enough. I think I must say quite plainly to the Committee that we think that the omission of all these terms really would leave significant loopholes which would certainly be exploited.
If I may turn to the amendments in the names of the noble Baroness and of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, but moved by my noble friend Lord Nugent, while much of the material covered by these terms would probably be covered by the term "sexual activity", I am advised that some material, in particular that concerned with bondage or other acts concerned with the infliction of pain, again might not be covered by the schedule. The sexual content of such practices is usually apparent, but it does not necessarily follow that it would therefore constitute sexual activity and come within the scope of paragraph 2(1)(a) or the equivalent provisions. I think it really is far from fanciful, in our view, that premises might seek to specialise in such material if by doing so they could escape the licensing controls entirely. This is the only thing which divides the amendments which the Government have put down—Amendment No. 17 and then Nos. 19, 21 and 23, which are just that bit different—from my noble friend's amendments, because we are keeping in some extra words.
If I may go on, it is of course very much easier to criticise other people's amendments than to bring forward one's own in regard to this very difficult schedule, and I should like to emphasise that, while we have been anxious to do what we could to meet the objections which were expressed on Second Reading, with which the Government are in agreement, our first priority really must be to ensure that the definitions in this schedule are sufficiently comprehensive so as not to place the licensing scheme in jeopardy.
So the Government believe that it would be safe to omit the words "violence" and "cruelty", which are perhaps the two words which have given the greatest offence, provided that the words "force" and "restraint" are retained. The term "force" would, we think, cover adequately material depicting acts of violence or cruelty, with one important exception, and this is where, for example, someone adopts the practice of voluntarily submitting himself or herself to bondage. For this reason we think that the term "restraint", too, has got to be retained.
I hope I have said enough—your Lordships may say more than enough—to convince the Committee that the amendments which the Government have tabled go as far as it is possible to go without incurring a serious risk of undermining the proposed controls. I think nothing is of greater importance in the Bill than that the definitions succeed in imposing a licensing requirement on premises which Parliament intends to be subject to these controls. If we err, I think we really must 375 err on the side of caution. It is that, and nothing more, which divides me from those who have moved the amendment.
Before I sit down, however, I must answer the second question of my noble friend Lord Nugent. My noble friend said, "There are acts which are referred to here in the schedule which are in fact illegal; why are they not prosecuted?" Material dealing with these activities is not necessarily unlawful. Acts of force, for example, may vary considerably in their degree of severity. But the controls which we are imposing in this amendment really have got to cover everything, whether or not criminal proceedings may be possible. However, may I just point out that the saving for the criminal law means that criminal proceedings can of course then be taken whether or not a licence has been issued.
I repeat that I hope the Committee will agree that perhaps the amendments which, from a Government point of view, we feel we have had to bring forward, are necessary. We bring them forward with no pleasure, only because we think that they are needed.
The Earl of Halsbury
I naturally support the amendment standing in my name and in the name of my noble friend, but I did so in the first instance only as a balance of judgment. The two factors to which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has referred were pulling in opposite directions in my mind. One was the factor of leaving loopholes which people would specialise in if there was not some kind of restraint; the other was the factor of licensing anything so manifestly in breach of the criminal law as it stands at the moment. On balance, I felt that I inclined to the view expressed in this amendment, and I associated myself with it.
Since then I have had an opportunity to study the alternative put forward on behalf of the Government by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, which has been referred to—typically Amendment No. 17, as an alternative—and I think it a happy compromise. A fortiori, violence and cruelty would be an excess of force or restraint, and if one was, as it were, embargoed so would the other two obviously be and we would not be licensing something which was manifestly contrary to the criminal law. So for my own part, while supporting the amendment of my noble friend which stands also in my own name, I think that the alternative put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, is a happy compromise.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
I must thank my noble friend Lord Belstead for his reply and, in particular, for the amendments he has put down to meet the point which appears in all our amendments. I recognise his dilemma, that he must make the definition wide enough to cover what goes on in sex establishments and yet try to avoid as too offensive the terms in which he defines it, although everybody found it to be so. I am afraid I have to join Lord Longford as one who has visited sex shops now and testify that everything goes on in sex establishments, and the law is freely breached in every way. The 1959 Act is breached in a way which could be prosecuted any day, and there are unlicensed cinemas all over the place. For a variety of reasons that I will not go into now, prosecutions can only be taken a limited number of times, 376 perhaps four times a year, and the operators simply do not mind; they operate illegally the rest of the time.
One of our problems in licensing is going to be to get the operators to be licensed and then to enforce the licensing system. So I sympathise with my noble friend, that just to follow our amendment and leave out all those words would have left too big a loophole, and I recognise that my noble friend has probably struck about the right compromise in leaving out "violence" and "cruelty" and in keeping in the rest. But I make the point to noble Lords generally that what goes on in these sex establishments really beggars imagination, and if every one of us went there I think even the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, might wonder whether this was a good cause to defend. But, anyway, that is a point that perhaps we can discuss on some other occasion. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 16 not moved.]
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 17:
§ Page 53, line 14, leave out (", restraint, violence or cruelty") and insert ("or restraint").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford moved Amendment No. 17A:
§ Page 53, line 29, at end insert—
§ ("Meaning of "Sex Encounter Premises".
§ . In this Schedule "Sex Encounter Premises" means—any premises which are used for the presentation of an activity or display which is primarily designed to provide for the sexual stimulation (whether by verbal or any other means) of persons admitted to the premises not being premises which are—
- (a) for the time being licensed under the Theatres Act 1968; or
- (b) for the time being licensed under Schedule 12 to the London Government Act 1963 or Schedule (Licensing of Sex Establishments) to this Act, and are for the time being used for a purpose for which a licence is required under the said Schedule 12 to the London Government Act 1963 or Schedule (Licensing of Sex Establishments) to this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: This is one of the amendments of the London Boroughs Association, and, of course, they are authorities, particularly Westminster, which have a very full experience of sex establishments. I would imagine that between the Paddington area and the Soho area there must be close on a couple of hundred of them, and the authorities know all the difficulties of trying to deal with these strange and unhappy places. This particular amendment is to include in the schedule what are known as sex encounter premises or nude encounter parlours. I do not propose at this time of night to spoil your night's rest by describing to your Lordships what goes on there. I will spare your Lordships the detailed description; although if any noble Lord or noble Baroness wishes to have a detailed description I shall be ready to give it; I have it all here.
§ The fact is that these nude encounter parlours, as I think they are usually called, are normally used as a prelude to prostitution. Very heavy charges are made for them: £5 or £10 for ten minutes or 15 minutes, that sort of thing. So they are very lucrative and, at present, the law does not cover them. This is 377 the case for including them in the licensing system and why the London Boroughs Association want them included. I suspect that my noble friend may tell me that these establishments and activities are covered by the existing offence of keeping a brothel. It would be so, if there were two or more girls involved; but, if there is only one girl involved, then they are not covered. Noble Lords may be surprised to hear that in one of the sex shops which I visited, and which had one of these nude encounter parlours, we discussed the point with them that they could be caught for keeping a brothel. They said, "Ah! We have only got one girl now". So they are wise to that. The operators have a number of premises with one girl in each; so that it appears that a loophole can be found in the existing law.
§ Therefore, it is desirable that these places should be in the licensing system, too. The London boroughs regard this as analogous to the control of massage and sauna parlours. They have had so much experience with this sort of thing that we should listen to them and consider whether the amendment should not go into the Bill. My noble friend may not like the form in which the amendment is put down, but the point has weight in it and I hope that he will be willing to look at it. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Birk
I support the amendment in principle. This is a new one on me. I did not know about sex encounter establishments. But it seems to me that if they are going to go into the Bill then the definition of "sex establishments" at the beginning of Schedule 3 should have to include sex encounter shops. That is my only comment. I support the amendment.
§ Lord Belstead
It is clear from the information that I have received from the Metropolitan Police about these premises that they can and do serve as a front for prostitution. I agree with my noble friend Lord Nugent on that. I understand that there were four such premises in operation in the Soho area last year and that proceedings have been taken in each case alleging brothel keeping. In two only of the three cases which have been decided, were convictions secured on that count. The third case resulted in an acquittal. My understanding is that it was not disputed that prostitution had taken place but the court was not satisfied that the defendant was responsible. The fourth case is being heard today.
The view which the Government have consistently taken in this matter is that it would be inappropriate to licence these premises in the light of what is known about their activities. I believe that they can be distinguished from sex shops. The activities of these premises cross far more clearly than sex shops the borderline between legality and illegality, and it is apparent that they can be dealt with under the general criminal law, which, in our view, is the proper course. At least, that seemed the proper course until I listened to the speech of my noble friend Lord Nugent, who raises an important point, in that he says that he believes that there is a loophole. I should very much like to discuss this with him so far as the loophole is concerned. I am advised that it would be likely that, in a one-girl establishment, the persons running such an establishment would be guilty of living on the earnings 378 of prostitution; but I do not know how the penalities for that would compare with putting this amendment into the schedule. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is absolutely right. The Government believe that there would be a need to put down another amendment to allow "sex encounter premises" to come within the definition of "sex establishments" in paragraph 1.
I wonder whether my noble friend might see fit to withdraw the amendment for the time being so that perhaps he and I could discuss the matter. I should like to take further advice and I should like to have a word with my noble friend to see where the right answer lies. I am certain that my noble friend has told us the whole of the case so far as he knows it, and I believe that I have replied giving the whole case so far as I know it. Now that we have had the debate in the Committee, it would be worth while giving this further study before writing anything on to the face of the Bill.
§ Lord Nugent of Guildford
I thank my noble friend for his, as usual, helpful and sympathetic answer. I believe there is a point here. One must understand that in these sex establishments there are many rooms and many activities going on. There are very astute and resourceful people, constantly thinking of new ideas. This is a very new one; and the London Boroughs say, "Let us close this loophole before it is developed extensively". I thank my noble friend. I shall be pleased to discuss it with him. We can visit one together. One way or another we will investigate. Perhaps I shall be able to convince my noble friend that it is necessary to include it in the schedule. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 18 not moved.]
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 19:
§ Page 53, line 38, leave out (", restraint, violence or cruelty") and insert ("or restraint").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 20 not moved.]
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 21:
§ Page 54, line 1, leave out (", restraint, violence or cruelty") and insert ("or restraint").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 22 not moved.]
§ Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 23:
§ Page 54, line 13, leave out (", restraint, violence or cruelty") and insert ("or restraint").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 24:
§ Page 55, line 29, at end insert—
§ ("Provided that no such term, condition or restriction shall relate to articles for sale, hire, exchange, loan, display or demonstration or to the extent to which the business may consist of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending or demonstrating such articles.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List. If I may, I will preface my remarks by the general observation 379 that I think the Government have got themselves into unnecessary difficulties over this set of proposals by not giving them enough thought before introducing them into another place. This is the second time that a Bill dealing with this kind of subject has come to your Lordships' House, ill-thought-out, badly constructed and containing provisions which, when you examine them closely, have very disturbing meanings.
§ This should have been a separate Bill dealing with the whole problem, so that we could have had adequate opportunity of considering all the implications of what was proposed. Indeed, such a general public Bill could have included any provisions for total banning of particular articles or activities had we considered it necessary. However, as it is, local authorities are being left to carry pretty well the whole responsibility and it is not a responsibility that local authorities are equipped to carry. In no other respect are they to be given comparable responsibilities. That shows how unsuitable is our method of approach.
§ If we look at page 55, on the granting of a licence, Schedule 3, paragraph 7 says that the licence may be granted on such terms and conditions and subject to such restrictions as may be so specified. That is absolutely carte blanche. It would facilitate, if one is to take its literal meaning, the intervention by the licensing authority on the nature of the business. A local authority could say: "We will grant you a licence on condition that you do not have the whole box of tricks; you do not have this; we object to that. You can sell certain articles but you will be prohibited from selling others. In other words, we are going to decide what kind of sex shop you are going to have under the licence that we shall grant".
§ Thus we may get as between different local authorities, and indeed within the same area of local authorities, different kinds of licence for different kinds of sex shops. This means therefore some kind of classification or grade of sex shop. One might be called a fully fledged sex shop, with no holds barred. Another one might be called a modified sex shop, restricted as to certain articles. There may be some shops which may wish to stock particular articles that might not be regarded as sex shop articles. There are all sorts of problems here which will probably give rise to a packet of trouble in the future.
§ This amendment seeks to restrain local authorities from granting licences on conditions which amount to running the business or deciding how the business shall be run and having inspectors to go round to see that it is being run according to the detailed conditions that have been imposed. Is this the intention? Do we envisage the inspector visiting to see what transactions are actually going on and to satisfy himself that the conditions as to certain articles or equipment are not the subject of sale in that shop? This is a ridiculous situation. We are going to have another army of inspectors going round to see whether sex shops are doing what they are supposed to be doing, and nothing else. The opportunity for refinement in judgment, what is appropriate in particular areas, is very wide indeed.
This amendment seeks to provide that in laying down the conditions the local authority shall not be able to impose conditions which,
… relate to articles for sale, hire, exchange, loan, display or
demonstration or to the extent to which the business may consist of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending or demonstrating such articles.".
§ This is a lot of rigmarole in order to define the area of exclusion of the conditions which might otherwise be imposed by the local authority. I think that the Minister had better tell us—if he knows—what is intended, what is in mind. Is it literal? Is it by reference to some standards of common sense, or is it by reference to what local authorities may deem to be their appropriate function, or what? This is, when we say it shall be given on such conditions and restrictions as may be so specified. I hope, therefore, that this amendment will be taken seriously by the Government. I say in conclusion (to save referring to it again) that this relates also to Amendment No. 32 where exactly the same considerations arise. I beg to move.
§ Lord Belstead
Lord Houghton's concern is that a local authority should not be able to negate the effect of issuing a licence by prescribing that the premises may trade in certain types of articles but not in others. If we take premises which are operating wholly as a sex shop, the advice which I have received is that a local authority would be acting ultra vires if it sought to impose such conditions. This is logical enough. If someone is required to apply for a licence because he engages in certain activities, it would make little sense if he were issued with a licence, but only on condition that he desisted from some or all of those activities.
So the noble Lord will see that I am in the process of answering the specific question which he asked me, which is: What does it mean in paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 when there is reference to the terms and conditions and subject to such restrictions as may be so specified for the granting of a licence?
But I am advised that a distinction can be drawn between the imposition of conditions relating to the sale of articles with which the schedule is concerned and conditions relating to other articles. For example, a local authority would be able, we think, to impose a condition prohibiting a sex shop from branching out into the sale of other articles, such as food or sweets and tobacco, in order to attract customers. It seems to me to be both desirable and right that such conditions may be imposed. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would prevent such a condition being imposed.
Similarly, we think it reasonable that if a licensing authority issues a licence to premises on the basis that it is partly a sex shop and partly something else, it should be able to ensure that the premises are not immediately turned into a sex shop alone. I am advised that a condition having this effect would be within the powers of a licensing authority; but, once again, this would not he possible if the noble Lord's amendment were accepted. It is on those grounds that I do not intend to accept Lord Houghton's amendment.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. I think that I may be content with that, but I should like to consider it further. I agree that as the amendment is drafted it is probably open to the same criticism as paragraph 7. This is the difficulty of the meaning of words and whether one can define one's purpose and intention 381 sufficiently clearly to avoid ambiguity. I have certainly no intention of suggesting that a sex shop should turn itself into a restaurant, a food shop or sell other goods to entice people into the shop. A sex shop, we all understand, has to stick to sex. In those circumstances, one would not allow it to go more widely. If, however, the restraints which local authorities could properly put upon their trading conditions would amount to undue interference in the full exercise of the licence granted, then there is a point of difficulty. However, for the moment I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment and see whether it needs to be pursued further.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Sandys
I think that this may be a convenient moment to adjourn the Committee stage. Therefore, I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.