§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Mansfield)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(The Earl of Mansfield.)
§ On Question, Bill read a third time, with the amendments.
§ Clause 32 [Retention of metal]:
§ Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 1:
§ Page 22, line 5, after ("any") insert ("non-ferrous").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I consider this clause to be a blot on an otherwise well-meaning and, on the whole, good Bill. When the working party looked into the Acts that are being modernised and consolidated—for example, the 1892 and 1903 measures—they said in relation to scrap metal dealers (and remember they reported in 1976):
We understand that consideration is being given to the possibility of regulating scrap metal dealing by separate legislation, as is done in England and Wales".
Such are the hopes of working parties, civil servants and Ministers. That was 1976, and nearly six years have passed and there is no legislation on its own for metal dealers; they are covered in this Bill as one of many aspects of trades and businesses that require licences. That is to the disadvantage of metal dealers. Indeed, those in Scotland would probably have paid rather more attention if it had been legislation on its own, and I have a feeling there would have been much more serious consultation about the whole matter.
§ In England and Wales metal dealers have to be registered. There is no hold-up or delay in processing and the passing through their stockyards of the metal with which they are dealing, but, if there is an offence, they are subject to a fine and they can be asked to keep, without processing, all their materials for 72 hours, and that is a penalty for up to two years. That, as I say, is the situation in England and Wales.
§ When the Bill came before us we found that the normal situation in Scotland in respect of all metal dealers, who first of all had to be licensed, was that the were not allowed to process and further proceed with their business of dealing in metals for 72 hours, excluding Sundays, which meant a considerable interference with their business. As that applied regularly—and, so far as the Bill was concerned, would have continued, without a change in legislation, for ever—it meant that law-abiding Scottish scrap metal dealers were being treated worse than metal dealers in England and Wales who had been convicted of an offence.
§ I pressed the matter at every stage and eventually we got the 72 hours changed to 48, and then a new 548 subsection was inserted to the effect that metal dealers could apply to the local district licensing authority to be excluded from the delaying process which interferred with their business. There is, however, no guarantee, and let us remember that in certain areas scrap metal yards are not all that popular. It is conceivable, therefore, that they would not be allowed to get that exclusion. That is lamentably unfair and discriminatory. Scottish merchants trading in this business resent this discrimination against them compared with those in the same business, and in many cases competing with them, in England and Wales. It all means, of course, that there would be increased charges for storage and equipment—which, in order to pay its way, must be used; some of the equipment used in these yards is very expensive—and hence a complete waste of money, including interest charges, double handling and so on.
I do not know what your Lordships feel about the work of Scottish metal dealers. In fact, because of the cutback in steelmaking, Scottish scrap is now being exported, sadly, some of it coming from factories that are now disused. At least these dealers are making good export business from it. They have had to seek overseas markets to sell the surplus scrap, and they say in a letter to me:
We have managed to build up this trade, and in 1980 we exported nearly £18 million worth of ferrous scrap from Scotland, and the 1981 figure is likely to be slightly higher
Why on earth should they be subject to this restraint on trade when in England only those who have been convicted of an offence are subject to it? And in their cases it is for a period not exceeding two years whereas in Scotland it is the normal course. That cannot be justified.
§ Why is ferrous scrap included in the clause at all? I appreciate that the police are worried about scrap metal dalers. There may be people stripping lead and stealing other metals and therefore the police require a breathing space, as it were. But why include ferrous scrap, if that is the case? One tonne of ferrous scrap is worth about £50. It is not ferrous scrap that the police are concerned with, and it has been suggested to me that, if we omitted ferrous scrap from the clause, that would remove a considerable part of an unwarranted restraint on trade that is offensive to any Scot. I am surprised that the Government have not seized the point before. I have tried to tackle the problem with various amendments, and, while I accept that the Bill is an improvement on what it was, this restraint is still unjustified in relation to the facts and the treatment of Scottish metal dealers compared with their counterparts south of the Border. I beg to move.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I should like very briefly to support my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock in his amendment. Quite apart from its own individual and particular merits, the amendment illustrates one of the problems which the Government have presented us on a variety of occasions during the passage of the Bill. The problem is this. Quite often the Government set out with a good intention, with a particular aim. It might be to deal with a problem arising from burglaries, or disposing of stolen goods, or similar matters. The Government set out with a good 549 idea and attempt to deal with a specific problem which they have in mind. They quite clearly make out and argue a strong case in the House.
However, almost always in this Bill they have drawn the clause too wide, so that, in addition to dealing with the problem at which they are aiming, their clause acts like a scatter gun and deals with a number of other ancillary matters with which they did not at all intend to deal. That is what is wrong with this clause, and that is why the amendment of my noble friend Lord Ross is right. If the Government were to exclude the words which my noble friend in his amendment asks them to exclude, they would hit the correct target and would leave alone the other matter. I support my noble friend and I think that the Government should accept his amendment.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, tabled an identical amendment on Report. We discussed the matter at that time and I have to say at once that I now have the same view as I then had. By his amendment the noble Lord seeks to enable all dealers in ferrous metal to be free to dispose of, or process, any such metal at any time without having to wait for the expiration of the retention period of 48 hours or having to seek a dispensation from the licensing authority under the terms of Clause 32(2). That was a provision which we inserted on Report and which I think went a long way to meet any possible objections.
Of course we recognise the problems of the large scrap dealers—I think that the noble Lord referred to them more specifically on Report—but this amendment is not related merely to large scrap dealers; it relates to all scrap dealers. The unequivocal advice that we have had from the police is that in the interests of crime prevention it remains desirable that we have powers to control scrap metal dealers. I cast no aspersions on the vast generality of honest small dealers, but there is considerable scope for criminal activity in recycling even ferrous metal illegally acquired, in particular by the small operators. The amendment does not seek to restrict the exemption only to the large, semi-industrialised processes, and therefore it goes very wide—I would say much too wide.
The noble Lord has, I think, said in effect that it is insufficient to rely on Clause 32(2) because the local authority would have to deal with an application that the dealer makes. I can tell the noble Lord that after consultation with the police authorities it is our intention, after the enactment of the Bill, to advise local authorities in a circular that in our view it would be entirely appropriate for authorities to exercise their power under Clause 32(2) to relieve the industrialised and large processors from the record-keeping requirements. But I do not think that in a Bill such as this it is practicable to differentiate between the large dealers and the rest. That we must leave to the discretion of the authorities, who no doubt will look at our circular and be guided accordingly. They will also be guided according to their own local circumstances, and I am quite sure that they will exercise their functions responsibly.
The noble Lord suggested that this legislation is not only alien to the English legislation, but that in fact 550 it disadvantages Scottish scrap metal dealers as compared with the English dealers. But I have to tell the noble Lord that where a retention period is provided for in the English legislation it applies equally to ferrous and non-ferrous metals—
§ The Earl of Mansfield
Let me finish. What I intend to tell the noble Lord is that, consistent with the theme which runs through the Bill, it is up to the local authority to exercise its discretion in a way which meets local demands and circumstances. That is a much better way than to have the very broad brush approach of the English legislation which, once somebody has been convicted, then provides the retention period for all classes of metal. I consider, and I advise the House, that we have reached a better way of dealing with the matter. Obviously the scrap metal trade is concerned about the possible implications of this part of the Bill, but I hope that it will see that this is much the most sensible way of going about it.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, I have been in touch with the scrap metal dealers in Scotland and they are not at all satisfied. Right away they are being treated in the same way as English scrap metal dealers who have been convicted of an offence. What is fair in that? The noble Earl relies on the new subsection that was inserted at an earlier stage, but I would point out that we stumbled towards that, and the noble Earl was very reluctant to take that particular step. I am not at all satisfied with this situation, but I do not propose to divide the House for the simple reason that the Bill has a long way to go in another place, and I shall be very surprised indeed if this point survives the scrutiny of the Scottish Committee there. People are concerned about the differences in treatment. I am surprised that at this very sensitive time the noble Earl does not appreciate the situation. I was in a certain part of Glasgow yesterday. The noble Earl is so unthinkingly objective about this kind of thing that he fails to appreciate how unfair people consider the position to be. I shall not withdraw the amendment. I shall not proceed to a Division, but shall instead allow the amendment to be negatived.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.
§ Clause 97 [Disused petrol containers]:
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Page 62, line 15, at beginning insert ("in this section").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment with no policy significance, but it is not right that the Bill should go to another place in defective form. The point of the amendment is to make clear that the definition of "petroleum spirit" referred to in Clause 97 has relevance in this Bill only to Clause 97. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.551
§ Clause 99 [Statues and monuments]:
§ Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 3:
§ Page 63, line 15, leave out from beginning to ("with") in line 18 and insert ("Sections 102 to 111 of this Act shall apply in relation to a statue or monument in respect of which a notice is served under paragraph (c) of subsection (1) above").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a humble attempt to introduce much more felicitous drafting into this very strange clause. The subsection states:
Where a staue…in respect of which a notice is served under"—
is neither land or premises…".
§ Well, I never thought that a statute was land or premises. The subsection was a contrivance to apply something to the previous reference to statues and work that might be required on them. Had the Government stuck virtually to the words in the draft Bill, it would have been very much better. There is nothing original in the words in my amendment; they come from the Government's own draft Bill. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, I agree that the noble Lord's amendment makes the subsection more readily intelligible, and I am happy to accept it.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 100 [Street names and house numbers]:
§ 5 p.m.
§ The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 4:
§ Page 63, line 37, leave out ("a conspicuous part of").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 5 at the same time as I move this one, No. 4. Noble Lords may recall that there was some confusion so far as this clause is concerned when we discussed the matter last week, and I undertook to reconsider the principle of the amendment moved by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, requiring that street names should be easily legible to both pedestrians and motorists at night. For the reasons I advanced last week, I doubt whether the concept of "visibility at night" is practical, but I agree that in the interests of consistency Clause 100(c) should be amended to provide for a general requirement of ready legibility by the public similar to that introduced into Clause 100(d) by the amendment I tabled last week. So I hope the noble Lady will agree that these two amendments fulfil my undertaking to her by making the clause more internally consistent. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Earl has been able to produce these two amendments instead of the very clumsy ones that I proposed last week. I think and hope that this amendment will make local authorities realise that street names must be capable of being read by the public in the street, not just by the sparrows on the housetops.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 5:
§ Page 63, line 39, after ("it") insert ("so as to be readily legible to members of the public there,").552
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 121 [Regulation of charitable collection]:
§ The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 6:
§ Page 78, line 14, after ("Act") insert ("1939").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 129 [Advertising on local authority lands, vehicles etc.]:
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 83, line 21, at end insert—
("( ) The provisions of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above shall not apply to an agreement with a candidate, eleciton agent or other person for the display for electoral purposes of advertisements during the period of a local government, parliamentary or European Assembly election.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the third occasion—that is, at each stage of the Bill—that an amendment has been brought forward to deal with Clause 129. On this occasion the amendment is limited to relate merely to subsection (1)(b), dealing with advertisements on any vehicle owned or operated by an authority. The purpose of the amendment is to provide for the exclusion from any vehicle (only vehicles, not buildings or premises) of advertisements by any election agent or candidate during the period of a local government, parliamentary or European Assembly election; that is, advertisements for electoral purposes. I believe that we are gradually bringing this amendment into a form which the noble Earl should be able to accept. We are, of course, still concerned with the other aspects, but in view of the arguments put forward by the noble Earl we have concentrated solely on the vehicles.
The noble Earl asked for cogent arguments. I was under the impression, frankly, that on the last occasion, at the Report stage, we had brought forward cogent arguments, because the terms of this very short clause are quite clear:
A local authority may enter into agreement with any person for the display of advertisements
There is no limitation at all. Therefore, one could have an authority making an agreement with just one election agent, one candidate, for the display of posters for electoral purposes on all the vehicles belonging to that particular local authority.
§ I am certain that a cogent argument is clearly there. Most ratepayers would regard this as improper. As one who has fought as an election agent in a vast number of elections, I would take strong exception if I found that my opposing election agent had made an agreement of this kind; and I would readily understand criticism by an election agent or candidate if I attempted to do such a thing. The electors would just not understand if there was an agreement with just one candidate or agent for the display of posters, and that could occur under the terms of this clause, because it is so wide-sweeping, with no limitation at all. Therefore, there could be a situation where, while the local 553 authority may not have political bias, there could be allegations that there was political bias, and that is wrong. I think that is the strongest cogent argument for the amendment we are now moving. I beg to move.
§ Viscount Thurso
My Lords, may I merely suggest that the noble Earl the Minister listens to the argument which has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, because I think he is putting the proper case.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Underhill on this occasion, although he and others will recall that I opposed him when he moved similar amendments at earlier stages of the Bill. However, it seems to me quite clear that there are only two possibilities in relation to advertising on vehicles during elections. One is that all candidates should be allowed to advertise and the other is that none is.
In a general way, I would prefer all candidates to be allowed equal opportunities for advertising, but we know perfectly well that in elections, especially by-elections, the number of candidates becomes quite large. There is a current by-election in Glasgow, and I think there are about half a dozen or more candidates. We can all remember periods in the past when there have been such by-elections. Your Lordships will remember the time when you could get out of the Army by standing in a by-election, and there was a by-election, I think somewhere in Yorkshire, near Sheffield, when two or three dozen disaffected soldiers put up as candidates in order to get out of the Army, to buy themselves out in the cheapest possible way.
It would be quite impossible for local authority vehicles to carry advertisements for anything like three dozen candidates; and even if the number was much smaller—a dozen or ten, or whatever it was—it would still be absurd. Since that is absurd, my noble friend ought to be supported. If they cannot all be on, there should be none; and this Bill seems to me to be as good a place as any to deal with the matter. I know that earlier on in the proceedings on the Bill the noble Earl the Minister suggested that it was a matter for electoral legislation, but so far as I can recall it is not in electoral legislation and no such legislation is promised in the immediate future. I think we should take this opportunity to deal with this slightly peripheral matter, and I hope the noble Earl will accept my noble friend's amendment.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, I know that the Government are very anxious that local authorities should as far as possible get into the money-making business, and that they are so desperately short of cash that if they have space for advertising they should use it. And, remember, a fair number of vehicles are owned by local authorities. Think of all their trucks, all their vans, all their cars. If you go to certain of the city authorities you will find that they own the transport. Think of what they could make in respect of buses, and what good advertising space it is. But I do not think there are many of us here who would look with any favour at all on suddenly seeing, "Vote for so-and-so next Thursday" on local authority transport, on local authority vans or on the waste 554 removal vans that come round and hover about for quite long periods—good advertising, space.
There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. If we leave this power and they enter into an agreement with any person for a display, then it is just asking for trouble. Some local authorities may be more desperate than others to use the powers that they are given. They are not being given many powers these days by the Government. No doubt, the next Bill that we shall get before us will be yet another Local Government (Scotland) Bill putting the hammer on them in respect of finance. They may look at it and say, "Here's our chance". Think what money could be made in Hill-head by the City of Glasgow using all its vans and vehicles and letting them out for a day to this person and a day to that person. How they would work out the two Jenkinses, I do not know, but no doubt a way would be found.
It is a silly situation. Should we not avoid it by saying that no person should be allowed to advertise for electoral purposes on vehicles owned or operated by that local authority? That is why we have the words, "candidate, election agent or other person…for electoral purposes". I think that that is common sense. No one with experience of politics would say other than that this is a sensible amendment.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, bearing in mind what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, has said, I have listened on three occasions to the arguments put by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I hope, sympathetically; and I hope that some others, equally, will listen to my argument. What I have to say is similar, if not identical, to what I have said previously. If this amendment or something like it is needed at all—and I do not accept that it is; I have heard no cogent evidence that it is—my point and the Government's point is that it is not the way to legislate to put a provision such as this into a Bill such as this. A more suitable vehicle would be in the context of Representation of the People legislation.
I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has tried in the sense that this is a more tightly drawn amendment than its predecessors. Nevertheless, my difficulties of principle remain. At an earlier stage the noble Lord, Lord Ross, made some reference to a by-election in 1963 and the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, referred to something which happened in Yorkshire. Nevertheless, there has not been any evidence submitted of any kind of abuse. Even the 1963 case was not so much one of vehicles being used as a means of advertisement, but rather of local authority property. So if litter bins or parking meters were thought to be worthy of having advertisements put on them, the present amendment would not catch them.
I return to what I have said all along. I am confident that the good sense of the local authority and its elected members will stop any abuses of the generally accepted conventions. The proof of the pudding is in the eating—which has happened in regard to the Edinburgh Confirmation Order 1967. I know of no abuses which have arisen in Edinburgh in the last 15 years. Political battles in Edinburgh have been fought with enthusiastic keenness over the last quarter century and I am pretty sure that if any of the practices which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, fears could have grown 555 up Edinburgh might have been the place in which one would have seen some sort of evidence of it. But it has not happened and I do not think it will. Even if it did, there is still protection against widespread abuse under the terms of Section 63 of the Representation of the People Act 1949, which provides that in general:No expense with a view to promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at an election be incurred by any person other than the candidate or persons authorised by him in issuing advertisements, circulars or publications, or otherwise presenting to the electors the candidate or his views. Any person who so incurs such expense would be guilty of a corrupt practice".This would inhibit an ill-advised council from accepting any advertisement which was not authorised by a candidate or election agent. That is the third heading under Lord Underhill's amendment. Even if the advertisements were properly authorised by a candidate or his election agent and a council was ill-advised enough to accept such advertisements, the expenditure incurred would of course have to feature in the candidate's return of election expenses and the local authority auditors would need to be satisfied that the rate charged for any advertisements properly reflected the market value. Even with the increase in election expenses announced on 11th March, I would have thought it highly unlikely that candidates would wish to commit a high proportion of their expenditure on advertisement on local authority vehicles.
So I return to my fundamental point. On the one hand, there will be the inhibitions of Section 64 of the Representation of the People Act and the dictates of good sense and accepted practice, and, on the other hand, I would have thought that most candidates and their election agents would think twice, and several times, before committing a high proportion of their election expenses on a form of advertising which might well redound against them. We cannot legislate on an important matter like this—it should be done on a Great Britain basis—without some evidence or a tendency towards malpractice. There has not been any. Therefore, I do not think it is proper to legislate in this Bill. If there was evidence of abuse and it was widespread then I think we would have to legislate according to the Representation of the People Act.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, the noble Earl sounds persuasive. Let us look at the arguments he put forward. First of all the question of control of fly-posting during an election is not under the Representation of the People Act; it is under the Town and Country Planning regulations. It has nothing to do with the electoral register law at all. He referred to Section 63. To bring in Section 63 of the Representation of the People Act has nothing to do with this. We are not suggesting in our amendment that any local authority is going to put up posters for "Councillor Bloggs" without the permission of that candidate or his agent. With respect, to bring forward that argument is ridiculous.
If the election agent or the candidate has a contract for the display of advertisements, then he must include it among his election expenses; otherwise he could be the subject of election petition and if he exceeds the legal maximum he could even lose the seat for his candidate. All these are red herrings and nothing to do with the 556 point at issue. The noble Earl says that there is no evidence of any kind of abuse. But in this short clause we are putting in the opportunity for abuse. A local authority may enter into an agreement with any person for the display of advertisements. There is no limitation. That means, as my noble friend Lord Ross has said, that if a local authority were so disposed, it could have an application from one agent or one candidate for displaying posters on all vehicles and could agree, quite legally and quite legitimately; and then there would be protests as to why just this one man has the advantage because he has managed to get his agreement quickly. Our amendment is put forward as trying to put the local authority in a completely clean atmosphere. I suggest to the noble Earl that all the arguments he has put forward do not apply to our amendment. The arguments are red herrings.
Before we dispose of this Bill I hope that he will take another look at what has been said. All we are trying to do is avoid the possibility of any election agent or candidate getting in first and quite legitimately under this clause commandeering all the advertising space and then electors would query why that was happening. Alternatively, a local authority does a silly thing and agrees to such an arrangement. My noble friend Lord Howie of Troon says that it will be wise if there is written into the clause that, if there are to be advertisements for electoral purposes by candidates or agents, it should apply to all candidates or agents who want it. That is not in the clause, unfortunately. We have to deal with the clause as it is.
The noble Earl says that surely we can leave this to good sense. In view of controversy over recent weeks your Lordships must recognise that it is what is written into the Bill that matters, not what any Member of this House says—not even, with due respect to the noble Earl, what he says. It is what the words of this clause lay down. It will be open to abuse and I hope that the noble Lord will reconsider this point.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.
§ Schedule 1 [Licensing—Further provisions as to the general system]:
§ The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 100, line 38, leave out from ("application") to end of line 40 and insert (", cause details of such receipt; and
(b) their final decision on each application, cause details of that decision
to be entered in the").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment to make it clear that entries under both subparagraph (a) and subparagraph (b) must be made in respect of every application received. The conjunction "or" was wrongly used instead of "and" and this amendment corrects that, and makes it clear that details of both receipt and decision should be separately entered as soon as practicable. Thus, details of receipt of an application will be entered on the register before it is considered by the committee concerned. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.557
§ The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 9:
§ Page 101, line 31, after ("shall") insert ("seek to").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, noble Lords will recall that at Report stage the House accepted an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, modifying the duty of a local authority in respect of the charges of fees for taxi and hire car licences under Clause 12 to require not that they should absolutely "ensure" that fee income was sufficient to cover expenses but simply that they should "seek to ensure" that their books balanced.
§ In the interests of consistency this present amendment makes a similar change in paragraph 16(2) of Schedule 1, which sets out criteria for the fee levels to be charged in respect of all licences other than taxi and hire car licences. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ An amendment (privilege) made.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. It seems a long time since we had our Second Reading debate in November. Since then we have considered some 300 amendments and it is perhaps appropriate to look back briefly to what we have done. I must at once acknowledge that the Bill is a better Bill than when it was introduced and I pay tribute to your Lordships' contributions. I have to say that a few have even responded to the invitation generously issued by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, at Second Reading in which he suggested that the Bill was too important to be left to the Scots, and he cordially invited all noble Lords to participate in the Committee stage. Fortunately perhaps, that invitation fell on some deaf ears but we have been glad to welcome in particular the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to our debates.
But, of course, the main scrutiny of the Bill has come from the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, who has displayed his talents in his usual way and I am glad that we have been able to respond positively to many of his suggestions—not least in the simplification of the licensing procedure in relation to the fire authorities, the greater discretion given to licensing authorities to relax the record-keeping provisions for second-hand and metal dealers and the exemption of buildings used for religious purposes from the public entertainment clauses. The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, ensured that the statues of her ancestors are not arbitrarily removed and that her local streets are properly named and numbered, and the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has enlivened our discussions with tales of his youth, and I am sorry he chose to celebrate his birthday by missing the first day of our Report stage. I have been conscious, as always, of the zeal of my noble friend Lord Selkirk (who is not in his place) in his pursuit of greater clarity, and thank him for his contributions—not least in prompting the recasting of the metal dealing clauses. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, accused me at Second Reading of introducing a "beastly Bill". I hope that the fact that he has prompted a number of significant amendments will make him agree that even if it is still a "beastly Bill" ti is at least a rather less beastly one than it was at Second Reading.
558 I might look back at some of the earlier criticisms and see to what extent they have been met. There was a general unease at Second Reading that the licensing procedures were too bureaucratic, although much of this arose from building-in rights of objection and appeal which had not previously existed. I think that the Bill will now be more flexible in operation because of the amendments we have made on such matters as relations with the fire authorities and the greater discretion on the record-keeping arrangements. At the same time as some noble Lords were pressing for less licensing, others were seeking for more mandatory licensing and we have to strike a difficult balance.
As I said at Second Reading, our objective is not to encourage an extension of the licensing of commercial activities but rather to ensure that if it must take place it does so against a backcloth of consistent procedures for application and appeal while building in scope for local authorities to vary conditions of licence once granted according to local needs and circumstances. Most of the changes we have made help that objective. At the same time, of course, we have built in further safeguards against arbitrary action by authorities—and neighbouring property owners—in the provisions of Part VII of the Bill.
I have no doubt that in another place the clauses we have considered will be scrutinised with care. I hope that they prefer there to build on our work and look at some of the areas which we have not been able to discuss in any detail. I think particularly, of course, of the sex shop provisions which will be tabled in another place, which we look forward to discussing in due course when the Bill returns to us. I have no doubt that there will be further scrutiny of the public procession clauses which I introduced on Report. No doubt also the taxi and hire-car clauses will be examined in detail in the light of the consultations to which I referred at Report stage which my honourable friend the Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment is having with the National Federation of Taxicab Associations.
My Lords, we have laboured for six days since Second Reading and now it is the seventh. It is time for us to rest—on this Bill at least—in the certain knowledge that we are saying not so much "goodbye" as "au revoir". I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, that the Bill do now pass.—(The Earl of Mansfield.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, the noble Earl the Minister suggested that it seems a long time since we started out on Second Reading. It seems to me that it was only yesterday. It has been such a fascinating subject and we have had quite a few Members participate. Indeed, had we been able to spend a little more time at an earlier hour of the evening on the subjects that have been left to another place, I am perfectly sure that it would have been even more entertaining and more enlightening.
I invited all your Lordships to enter into the spirit of this and give us the benefit of their wisdom, because your Lordships insist that it be done here. You do not want devolution for Scotland. There are times when I 559 think you do not even want Scottish legislation in here—suggesting, if we go over 6 o'clock at night, that we should hurry up and get this Scottish business over. I hope the Highland lairds will take that advice tonight when we get on to the subject of deer. The noble Earl said that my advice had fallen on deaf ears. I am sorry to say to your Lordships that all the deaf ears were not on the Back Benches. They have been on the Front Bench as well and we have seen two notable examples today of good sense just being talked out by the noble Earl the Minister.
I said that it was a well-meaning Bill, and indeed it is —but I think it is too well-meaning in the sense that you can tidy everything up just a wee bit too much. You can apply the same sort of rules for licensing taxis and hire-cars—and then on to window-cleaners, then back to metal dealers, and then to itinerant scrap metal dealers, and apply all the same kinds of provisions to them. I feared at the start that it was a wee bit too bureaucratic. We have improved it and I think the Bill is a better Bill than it was, but it still has some difficult parts.
There is still Clause 91, which takes away the absolute right of a common owner in a tenement to say, "No" to somebody who wants to develop something in a shop down below him. I am surprised at the obstinacy of the Government in respect of that one. Yesterday morning I went along Byers Road—and I would tell the noble Lord who did not know where Ballochmyle was that Byers Road is in Hillhead; at least one side of it is. There are all these shops with all these fine tenements above. All those flat owners above—do they know the Government are interfering with their rights at present?—at the moment can say, "No", to any development they do not like. They started out with Clause 85, an absolute taking away of the right, and saying that they had to give access to some developer to put in pipes, not just on the outside walls that were common but through their actual houses.
The Government have had second thoughts on that and have now given the right to a developer to go to the sheriff, and the sheriff can dispense with the right of the common owner, the person who owns the flat and who hitherto has had the absolute right to say, "No". One is surprised at the obtuseness of the Government and at their lack of political sensitivity; but if that is the way they want it, let them have it. Of course, there are another 10 or 11 days to polling day, so they can change their minds about this taking away of the rights of these people in this respect.
Regarding window cleaners, I still think this is a bit of nonsense. If it applies to window cleaners, why not also to chimney sweeps? Regarding processions, I hope that in another place they will be able to "dent" the department into making better arrangements for the Salvation Army and the Boys' Brigade. I think it is important that they should not be classed with provocative processions and that their traditional right to march shall continue. I wonder how the Royal Highland Fusiliers, who have the right to march through Glasgow with fixed bayonets, will fare—must they now apply for permission? There are a whole number of things which have not been properly teased out, and I 560 would have hoped that some of the noble Lords here today could have helped us with this as well as with the subject of deer, which we are going to deal with later on.
There is only one question I should like to ask the noble Earl about the Government's intentions with respect to sex shops. Is the decision of the district licensing authority in respect of sex shops going to be as final in the Scottish Bill as it is in the English Bill? It may be that it is too early for the noble Earl to answer that, but we shall be watching that point when the Bill comes back here to see whether the district authorities have the same powers in respect of that as are given to the licensing authorities south of the Border.
I welcome the fact that we have improved the Bill and certainly I wish it well on its controversial or non-controversial way. It is not "goodbye"; it is" au revoir. We shall see it again and we will have a wild talk about sex shops to see how the Scots have dealt with this in their own Presbyterian way.
§ Viscount Thurso
My Lords, it is indeed a mixed and unusual Bill that we have been dealing with during these seven days, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ross, that it is a useful Bill and I, like the noble Earl the Minister, hope that when it goes to another place it will be dealt with in the spirit in which it has left your Lordships' House. We have tried to improve it during our seven days' consideration of it and, on behalf of my noble colleague Lord Mackie of Benshie, who is unfortunately not with us today, I should like to say that I am grateful for the way in which the noble Earl has listened to the points we have put forward from these Benches, and has incorporated some of them in the Bill.
I am sorry that the amendment to the Government amendment on processions, which we put forward on Report, was not acceptable, but I am grateful that it is to be looked at again and that we have at least some sort of assurance that this matter will be again considered in another place. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, I hope that organisations such as the Salvation Army, the Boys' Brigade, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides and indeed the common ridings have their traditional place in the community life of Scotland given to them by right. I realise that we have done what we can to the Bill at this stage, and, like the noble Lord, Lord Ross, I await its return to your Lordships' House in as good a shape as it leaves us this afternoon, or even better.
§ Lord Wilson of Langside
My Lords, I took little active part in the debates on this Bill, which has turned out to be such a useful one; but I take credit for listening to practically all the debates we have had—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, would concede that listening too can be a fine art. I rise only to echo the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and his appreciation particularly of the readiness of the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, to listen to the many suggestions that were made for the improvement of this Bill.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, like most noble Members of this House, I am pleased that this well-meaning 561 Bill has gone through. I should like to thank the noble Earl the Minister for such concessions as he has made. I think these were due to the benign influence of my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock, ho encourages all Members in all parts of this House to incline towards good rather than anything else.
However, I am not quite sure whether the noble Minister has gone quite far enough in his concessions. We debated earlier on the matter of processions and my noble friend Lord Ross has today reminded us that the Royal Highland Fusiliers were entitled to march through Glasgow with fixed bayonets. That would certainly be a procession, and the noble Lord wondered whether they might have to get permission from the region to do that. I think I am right in saying that since the Royal Highland Fusilers used to be the RSF once upon a time—and another part of them was the HLI—in all probability they have the right to march through Ayr with fixed bayonets. They would no doubt have to seek permission from the region once again.
I return to the point that I made in the earlier debates, that it would be much better if the local matter of marching through Ayr were considered locally, rather than sent up to Glasgow to be considered there at regional level. This is a local matter for a much smaller town and it would be much better considered and agreed in the district, which in this case, I presume, would be Kyle of Carrick. So I think the Government would be well advised to relax a little on their insistence that permission should be given at regional, rather than local, level.
The other point in the Bill, which I do not care for very much, was touched upon earlier by my noble friend Lord Ross when he spoke about the licensing of window cleaners. At one time during the debate, I received with a certain amount of joy an indication from the Minister that he would look again at what we described as casual window cleaners. He looked again and sent us away empty handed. I wish that he would look yet again and reconsider the question of casual window cleaners. I shall give the noble Earl an example of the kind of thing I had in mind, which has occurred since we debated the subject.
I have an 18-year-old son who, is at the moment, working for his "A" levels, or at any rate, he has played his guitar a lot under the guise of working for his "A" levels, which, incidentally, are in maths and physics. I do not know how the guitar will help him, but no doubt it will. A week or two ago, he was asked by a neighbour to undertake casual work for her on Saturday mornings, and the casual work was quite simple. It consisted of tidying up the garden, washing the two cars which this family has and cleaning the windows for a fee. I hope that it is a large fee, but he has not confided in me. But it is a fee of some kind. Noble Lords will remember that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, posed exactly that question of a neighbour cleaning windows for a small fee.
Happily my 18-year-old son is doing this in NW11, and not in Scotland. Therefore, he is out of the reach of this draconian part of the Bill. But were he in Scotland, he would be obliged to get a licence for this Saturday morning work. That really goes too far, 562 and the noble Earl the Minister should reconsider that part of the Bill with his colleagues in Government, and sec whether there is any way in which these young entrepreneurs can be relieved from the necessity of seeking licences for humble work of that kind.
I have enjoyed the debates on the Bill and, like the noble Earl the Minister, I regret that I was absent on the first day of the Report stage. As he said, it was my birthday and it is just as well that I stayed away, because in all probability I would have been burdened by thoughts of mortality and would have become philosophical and gone on at greater length than I normally do. I feel that contributions should, on the whole, be brief and apposite. But I hope that the noble Earl will reconsider those two points—changes in the licensing of casual workers, and the need for people holding processions to apply for permission at regional, rather than local, level.
§ The Earl of Mansfield
My Lords, I should like to thank noble Lords who have taken part in this ultimate stage of the Bill, so far as this part of the proceedings is concerned. I am glad that noble Lords have acknowledged—at any rate, I think they have—the flexibility of the Government. Of course, all these matters, where the situation may not be entirely satisfactory, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, for instance, has exemplified over window cleaners, will be considered and reconsidered. Of that I have no doubt. As I have said on a number of occasions on this Bill, it is difficult in setting up a licensing scheme such as this to have regard to those principles which we want to observe, to have regard to the rights of the individual and, at the same time, to avoid setting up a bureaucratic machine which would be welcome to nobody. I freely acknowledge that in certain areas, I do not think we have solved all the problems, but that is one of the points of having two Houses of Parliament.
I was particularly interested when the noble Lord, Lord Ross, told us that, in pursuing his researches into the part of the Bill dealing with pipes, he actually went to Hillhead, because we know how seriously he takes his duties in relation to your Lordships' House. In fact, it also did not escape the hawk-eyed reporter of the Daily Express, who apparently reported that the noble Lord attended a press conference of the candidate there who rejoices—at least, to some—in the name of Fozzie. Apparently, he is not allowed to speak much.Nanny [that is the secretary of the Scottish Labour Party] hits daily with two garrulous child minders, whose job is to rabbit on and on leaving little time for questions. Meanwhile, Fozzie sits beaming with all but a dummy stuck in his mouth."Yesterday's two child minders—Mrs. Janey Buchan, the MEP for Glasgow, and Baron Ross of Marnock, the former Labour Scottish Secretary of State—were the most unstoppable yet.They droned on to such an extent that the first of us to get a word in asked: Mr. Wiseman, this morning Mr. Roy Jenkins described you as the silent candidate.… Given that we now have precisely 45 seconds left of this Press Conference do you not think he has a point?'".What acid-dripping hack of the press could possibly accuse the noble Lord of droning on and on?
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.