HL Deb 29 March 1982 vol 428 cc1190-265

5.18 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Belstead.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 89B:

After Clause 22, insert the following new clause:

("Control of road-side sales.

—(1) Except as provided in subsection (4) below, no person shall, for the purpose of selling anything, or offering or exposing anything for sale, use any container or vehicle, or stall or similar structure, kept or placed on—

  1. (a) the verge, including any lay-by, of any road to which this section applies; or
  2. (b) any common land or unenclosed land of any description adjacent to, and within 15 metres of, any such road;
where the use of that thing for that purpose causes or is likely to cause danger on, or obstruction of the passage of traffic over, the road.

(2) This section applies to any trunk road and any principal road which is not specified in a control order under section 7 of the Act of 1976.

(3) Any person who contravenes this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50.

(4) This section does not apply to—

  1. (a) the use of any container, vehicle, stall or structure placed on private property by or with the consent of the owner or occupier of the property; 1191
  2. (b) the sale, offer or exposure for sale of things from or on, or on a container on, a vehicle which is used only for the purpose of itinerant trading with the occupants of premises, or which is used for that purpose and for purposes other than trading;
  3. (c) the sale, offer or exposure for sale of newspapers; or
  4. (d) anything done at a market in respect of which tolls, stallages or rents are payable.

(5) In this section:

"trunk road" shall have the meaning assigned to it by section 329(1) of the Highways Act 1980.

"principal road" means any highway classified as a principal road in accordance with section 12 of the Highways Act 1980.").

The noble Viscount said: I apologise to the Committee for putting down this rather lengthy amendment at this stage in the proceedings, but since our previous discussions on this Bill it has become apparent to me, and I think to many others in local authority circles, that there is here a loophole with which we should seek to deal. There is the possibility for highway authorities that roadside sales, which I have tried to define in this amendment, are a hazard. They have caused accidents and are liable to cause accidents, and should be controlled in some way or other. Highway authorities should have power to deal with them.

There is no objection in principle to selling things beside the road, and it is commonly and frequently done; but it has been known to cause serious accidents. People park on one side and run across to the other side to buy a newspaper, or an ice cream, or whatever. In the interest of public safety, the Association of County Councils, which comprises most, if not all, of the highway authorities of England and Wales, would like to see this clause inserted in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

The Government have no objection in principle to further provision to control roadside sales. However, there is a need to amend the drafting of this clause so as to avoid speaking in terms of an "obstruction of the passage of traffic over, the road", when it appears that an obstruction on the highway, irrespective of its effect on passage, is a nuisance. Also, it appears to be necessary for other changes to be made to fit the clause into the context of this Bill. I should therefore like to tell my noble friend that we would want to consider the clause in more detail with a view to a Government amendment being put down at Report.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

While not disagreeing with the noble Viscount—and I have not been approached by any organisation—I am a little concerned about the long distance lorry driver. Going along trunk roads in the country one finds that many long distance lorry drivers use the lay-by and take their hot bacon sandwich and mug of tea and their rest as part of the statutory rest time which the lorry driver has to take. I am concerned that perhaps that might be abolished by this clause.

We are all trying to get the long distance lorry drivers out of the towns, and this would limit the number of places where they would be able to pull up and take refreshment on their long journeys, bearing in mind the statutory duty on them to have a rest. I rise purely on those grounds to see that the facilities they have are safeguarded, bearing in mind that the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, I am sure, will want to preserve many of our old towns from the danger inherent in the intrusion of long distance lorry drivers. If this clause went through it might mean that they would have to come into the towns and there park.

Viscount Ridley

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. She is right to raise the problem of the long distance lorry driver. I think there is almost no Member of this House who has not occasionally used a roadside lay-by and bought a sausage, or something, in the course of passing by. There is no intention to prohibit this. Clearly we ought to have some means of control whereby the dangerous ones can be moved on. I shall not, but I could weary your Lordships with terrifying photographs of dangerous places where these things happen and where no control exists. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for the suggestion that this situation could be looked at and dealt with by a Government amendment, which would undoubtedly be better than anything I could produce. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 [Paving of yards and passages]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 23, line 11, leave out ("the owner of the building") and insert ("any person who is the owner of any of the buildings").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 24 [Building regulations]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 24, line 19, after ("which,") insert ("or").

The noble Lord said: This is also a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Control of demolitions]:

5.25 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 92:

Page 28, line 30, leave out from ("who") to ("shall") in line 32 and insert ("contravenes subsection (2) above").

The noble Lord said: This amendment will provide that any person who fails to give the local authority notice of intention to begin a demolition or who begins one before the local authority have served a notice containing conditions—or before expiry of the "relevant period", as defined, if no such conditions are given—shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of up to £500.

As the clause is presently drafted, the £500 penalty can only be imposed where the person carrying out the demolition has failed to notify the local authority of his intention to demolish. It does not cover the situation where, even though such notification may have been given, demolition is begun before the local authority have served a notice containing conditions—or before the "relevant period", as defined, has expired if no such notice is served. It is considered important that the local authority should have redress in such cases and the amendment is thus designed to remedy that defect. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 28, line 44, leave out ("the Public Health Act 1961") and insert ("this Act").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 94:

Page 29, line 1, after ("them") insert ("to have begun or").

The noble Lord said: The amendment will enable the local authority to serve a notice containing conditions on any person who appears to them to have begun a demolition to which Section 29 of the Public Health Act 1961 applies. As presently drafted, the clause allows the local authority to serve a notice containing conditions only on a person who appears to be intending to begin a demolition and not on a person who has already begun such a demolition. This amendment corrects that position by authorising a local authority to serve a notice in both circumstances. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Foot moved Amendment No. 94ZA:

Page 29, line 3, at end insert— ("( ) A local authority which becomes aware of circumstances entitling it to serve a notice under subsection (1) of this section shall consult with the relevant gas and electricity undertakers and, unless the authority is satisfied as a result of such consultation that there is no supply of gas or electricity to, in, under or through the building, shall serve such a notice and shall include in it a requirement such as is specified in paragraph (h) of section 29B(1) of this Act").

The noble Lord said: I should like to speak, with the leave of the Committee, not only to this amendment but to the four amendments which follow on it, B, C, D and E. I should like also to apologise to the Government for having put down this amendment so late in the day. The same applies to the amendment which I shall be moving a little later. The matter is probably so simple that the Government will not be embarrassed in any way by the short notice which they have had.

These amendments in my name are being put forward by me on behalf of the electricity and gas industries. It may be sufficient to say that a great deal of thought has been given to these amendments by those responsible for those industries. Clause 27 of the Bill is concerned with certain precautions which should be taken on the demolition of buildings. It is designed to strengthen and to amend Section 29 of the Public Health Act 1961. That intention is wholly welcome to those on whose behalf I speak. Their only feeling in the matter is that it does not really go quite far enough, certainly so far as electricity and gas are concerned.

This series of amendments is designed, first, to try to avert any unwitting or unintended damage to gas or electric installations in the course of demolition works and, secondly—and more importantly perhaps—to strengthen the provisions for public safety. I do not think it is necessary for me to emphasise to the Committee the considerable dangers which can arise with regard to electric and gas installations when buildings are being demolished. To make the point, I need to quote two short passages from a memorandum I have received from the British Gas Corporation. The first is: From time to time gas engineers have been called to sites where demolition works are in progress and have found the service pipe to be live with gas escaping from the severed service pipe. The attendant danger to demolition contractors' operatives on site and also to adjacent property is the risk of ignition or explosion of the escaping gas. Furthermore, if the live surface pipe is hooked out by a digger, serious consequences can flow from a possible fracture of the gas main to which the service pipe is connected".

The second quotation includes what I regard as two startling statistics: In the London distribution area of South Eastern Gas, which comprises six districts each with approximately 150,000 customers, in the period since 1st January of this year"— I emphasise that, since January of this year— in the Southwark district, there have been some 16 separate gas escape incidents involving demolition works; and in the Lambeth district during the same period there were 14 such incidents of gas escapes involving demolition works, and in each case no prior notification of the intended demolition works had been received".

I need not argue the seriousness of the matter, Clause 27 as drafted empowers a local authority to serve a notice on anyone intending to demolish certain types of buildings. That notice may impose on that person—whom perhaps I may call "the contractor" any of the requirements set out in the new Clause 29B; and among the requirements in that new provision is paragraph (h) which provides that a notice under Clause 29A(1) may require the person on whom it is served—that is, the contractor—to make arrangements with the relevant statutory undertakers for the disconnection of the supply of gas, electricity and water to the building.

The defect, if that is the right word, in that procedure, as we see it, is that the authority's power to include that requirement—the requirement of communicating to and making arrangements with the statutory under takers—is purely discretionary. Indeed, it is not obligatory on the local authority to serve a notice at all, and in that sense there could be an occasion when no notice of that requirement would be served on the contractor. The second defect, as we see it, of the clause as it stands, is that the electricity or gas board concerned will be put on notice of the demolition only if the authority has included in its notice the requirement under paragraph (h); or if, by chance, under another clause of the Bill, the statutory undertaker happens to be the owner or occupier of an adjoining building.

I think it would be sufficient, to explain what this series of amendments propose, if I read Amendment No. 94ZA: A local authority which becomes aware of circumstances entitling it to serve a notice under subsection (1) of this section shall consult"— that is, where the local authority becomes aware that some demolition work will take place— with the relevant gas and electricity undertakers and, unless the authority is satisfied as a result of such consultation that there is no supply of gas or electricity to, in, under or through the building, shall serve such a notice and shall include in it a requirement such as is specified in paragraph (h) of section 29B(1) of this Act".

That is designed to ensure that whenever the local authority is contemplating the issue of a notice to a contractor or to any other person, it shall consult—be under an obligation to consult—with the gas and electricity undertakers to make sure just what the situation is. I imagine that almost all responsible local authorities would be inclined to consult with the electricity and gas undertakers in any event. If so, then, if the amendment were carried, making it mandatory would not impose any additional burden on local authorities, because it is probably what they would do in any event. It would only seal up a possible loophole and make it obligatory and mandatory on every local authority in those circumstances always to consider and consult the statutory undertakers.

Amendment No. 94ZB is designed to strengthen paragraph (h), to which I have referred. As drafted, paragraph (h) requires the contractor to make arrangements with the statutory undertakers for the disconnection of the supply—I underline the word "supply"—of gas, electricity and water to the building. The amendment relates to making safe, additionally, any electric apparatus in or under the building, not merely the electrical or gas apparatus which supplies electricity or gas to the building. The object of that amendment will be clear without further explanation from me.

The remaining three amendments to which I am speaking relate to subsection (3) of the new Clause 29B. Subsection (2) of that new clause empowers a contractor, or the authority in certain circumstances, to break open a street in connection with a demolition. Subsection (3) as at present drafted provides that, in so breaking open a street, the contractor is not exempt from certain obligations under the Water Act 1945. The amendments, to put the matter briefly, simply provide that the contractor shall not be exempt from certain similar obligations in respect of electricity and gas. I hope that is sufficient explanation of this group of five amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

I, too, propose to speak to the group of five amendments. We feel that in practice it is unnecessary to require a local authority to consult statutory undertakers. Our concern is that consultation could prove inflexible and onerous, not to say time consuming. For example, in a great many cases a local authority will be aware, without needing to consult, that the services of statutory undertakers are likely to be affected, and indeed as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, himself very fairly said, it is reasonable to suppose that in such circumstances the authority will properly exericse its discretion under paragraph (h) of Clause 29B(1) and serve a notice containing the appropriate condition. Therefore it would perhaps be a rather costly waste of the time of both the local authority and the statutory undertaker to require consultation, and in some circumstances it could unnecessarily delay the start of demolition works. Similarly, there might be cases where it was patently obvious that no such services could be affected and there it would be pointless to require consultation.

However, in cases where the local authority is in doubt about whether gas or electricity services might be affected, there is nothing to stop the authority seeking the advice of the relevant undertakers. Alternatively, the authority has the power simply to go ahead and impose a requirement for the demolisher to make arrangements with the statutory undertakers in any event.

I should have thought that it is more satisfactory to leave the matter to the discretion of local authorities and to rely on them to exercise their powers responsibly, rather than to impose an inflexible and, as I say, a time-consuming requirement, which could place unnecessary burdens on all the parties concerned.

With regard to Amendment No. 94ZB, my observations are very similar, since surely it is reasonable to expect that an undertaker, on making arrangements, could ensure that a demolisher left electricity lines and apparatus, for example, electrically dead as part of any other arrangements in relation to the disconnection of the supply.

Having said that, I should add that we have thought carefully about the point that the noble Lord raises. For the reasons that I have just given, we think that what he proposes is not entirely necessary. Nevertheless, he has raised one or two points which ought to be thought about a little further, and we are considering possibly tabling on Report an amendment which would require demolishers in all cases to inform statutory undertakers of a proposed demolition. I think that that would go a long way towards meeting what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, is seeking. In regard to those amendments and the others to which he has referred, I would add that we are prepared to consider the matter with a view to putting down a suitable Government amendment on Report. Perhaps in the light of that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Foot

I never like to look a gift horse in the mouth, and certainly I should be ready to withdraw the amendment at this stage, but I hope that I am not precluded from making one or two observations on the noble Lord's arguments. He said, if there were a rigid system whereby on every occasion when a demolition is contemplated, the local authority must consult the undertakers as to whether there are any electric, gas, or water installations involved, that would impose a heavy burden upon the authority. I am afraid that I cannot at all understand that view. The amendment does not specify the way in which the consultations must take place. If it is a mandatory requirement that in every case where a demolition notice is contemplated, automatically the local authority must communicate with the statutory undertakers, the authority could do that perfectly well by lifting up the telephone if it chose.

The great advantage of making consultation mandatory is that it would avoid the exceptional case—and I realise it to be exceptional—where for some reason or another (perhaps because somebody has not thought of it) an inquiry is not made and then perhaps a fatal accident ensues. I should have thought that if one weighed one argument against the other there is an overwhelming case for making consultation mandatory and that in practice it would not impose any serious obligation on the local authority. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 94ZB, 94ZC, 94ZD and 94ZE not moved.]

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 [Protection of damaged buildings]:

5.46 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 94ZF:

Page 32, line 45, at end insert— ("(2A) In this section and sections [Buildings on operational land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers] and [Applications to court in respect of expenses of works] "building" includes structure. (2B) Subject to subsection (2C) below, in this section, the sections mentioned in subsection (2A) above and section [Appeals against notices] below "local authority" means a district council, a London borough council and the Common Council of the City of London. (2C) This section and the other sections mentioned in subsection (213) above shall have effect, in relation to a building in respect of which—

  1. (a) an undertaking that it shall not be used for human habitation is in force by virtue of section 16(4) of the Housing Act 1957 or paragraph 5 of Schedule 24 to the Housing Act 1980; or
  2. (b) a closing order is in force by virtue of section 17, 26 or 35 of the Housing Act 1957, section 26 of the Housing Act 1961 or paragraph 6 of Schedule 24 to the Housing Act 1980,
and which is situated in an area which in pursuance of section 40 of the Housing Act 1969 or section 49 of the Housing Act 1974 is for the time being declared by the Greater London Council to be a general improvement area or a housing action area, as if for the words "the local authority", in each place where they occur, there were substituted the words "the Greater London Council".").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should also like to refer to Amendment No. 95ZA. These are simply drafting amendments which deal with the definitions of the local authorities which are to be empowered to execute works under the clause. In relation to the Greater London Council, that council's powers are confined as at present to certain buildings (for example, in relation to which a closing order has been made) in areas declared by the council to be housing action areas or general improvement areas. I beg to move.

Baroness David

May I ask whether the Minister really was speaking to Amendment No. 94ZF?

Lord Bellwin

I was speaking to Amendments Nos. 94ZF and 95ZA.

Baroness David

Amendment No. 94ZF refers to, Buildings on operational land of British Railways Board—

Lord Bellwin

It is Amendment No. 94ZF; the noble Baroness is quite right.

Baroness David

I should like to ask the Minister a few questions. Amendment No. 94ZF is a new amendment, which is contained in the third Marshalled List, but was not in the earlier Marshalled Lists, as was the case with three other amendments, Nos. 94A, 95B and 95C. They were presented to us only this morning, and I should like to make a slight protest, since it is rather difficult to cope with new amendments within the short space of time between collecting the Marshalled List rather late this morning and talking about the amendments this afternoon. Since this is the third Committee day on the Bill it seems to me rather hard to include these amendments at this late stage. It is very difficult for us to master them and to find out what they are all about.

I should like to ask one or two questions. Amendment No. 94ZF states that "building' includes structure". Several amendments relate to British Railways' land and statutory undertakers' land. Amendment No. 95A proposes a new clause, headed: Buildings on operational land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers", which states: This Section applies to operational land—". Then in subsection (7) of the new clause in Amendment No. 95A there is the most extraordinary definition of "operational land". The first part of it is comprehensible to me, but then it goes on to say: not being land which, in rsepect of its nature and situation, is comparable rather with land in general than with land which is used, or in which interests are held, for the purpose of carrying on such undertakings". I do not know whether perhaps the Government can try to get the language a little clearer. They were in a hurry, too, I suppose; but it seems to me that the ordinary person having to cope with this provision will have a great deal of difficulty.

I should also like to draw attention to subsection (2C) of Amendment No. 94ZF, which I really do not understand, and I should be very glad to have an explanation from the Minister. It appears that very wide powers are being offered to the local authorities. I realise they can choose them, that they do not have to take them on; but why cannot British Railways and the statutory undertakers do their own work? I should also like to ask, who bears the costs? The Minister has not spoken already to Amendment No. 95C, so perhaps I had better keep my questions about that until later.

Lord Bellwin

I am glad the noble Baroness keeps those questions until a little later. Might I say that I entirely accept her point about the shortage of time in which to deal with amendments. I would also hope that she would accept from me that there have been times when I have sat on this Bench and been given manuscript amendments which were handed in five minutes previously and upon which one has been expected to make observations and comments. I am sure she will have the same sympathy with me as I have with her on this point.

Baroness David

If I could make one comment on that, it is one thing for the Government with civil servants behind them and another for us without them.

Lord Bellwin

I sometimes wonder about that. I gave an illustration recently, did I not?, in your Lordships' House of the kind of briefing one can get from time to time. Some may consider it helpful; some may not. Perhaps no more for the moment— and "Yes, Minister", indeed.

Quite clearly, on the drafting of these definitions I shall have to come back to the noble Baroness. I am sorry I cannot give a detailed breakdown of them at the moment. As she fairly says, she has difficulty in coping with these interpretations. I could easily give my own interpretations of these things as they seem to me, but I think it would be right and proper if I were to give them to her in a written form. Then it can be brought back again should anyone have concern about any particular aspects of it. Perhaps the noble Baroness might agree that, with that, we might move on. I take her point entirely, and will try to get that for her.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 94A:

Page 33, line 1, leave out from ("below,") to end of line 5 and insert ("before undertaking any works under subsection (2) above, other than works on land to which section [Buildings on operational land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers] below applies a local authority shall serve a notice that they propose to undertake works under this section in connection with the building on each owner or occupier of the building. (3A) A notice under subsection (3) above shall specify the works in connection with the building which the local authority propose to undertake.").

The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 94A go Nos. 94B, 94C and 94D. These really are simply drafting amendments, and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendments Nos. 94B, 94C and 94D:

Page 33, line 6, leave out ("as is referred to in subsection (3) above").

line 8, leave out ("carry out the proposed") and insert ("undertake").

line 14, at end insert—

("(4A) A local authority shall not undertake works specified in a notice under subsection (3) above before the expiry of the period of 48 hours from the service of the notice.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendments Nos. 94B, 94C and 94D en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 94E:

Page 33, line 14, at end insert— ("(4B) For the purpose of exercising the power conferred on a local authority by this section any person duly authorised in writing by the authority may enter—

  1. (a) the building in connection with which works are to be undertaken;
  2. (b) any land that appears to the local authority to be appurtenant to the building; and
  3. (c) any other land if—
    1. (i) it appears to the local authority to be unoccupied; and
    2. (ii) it would be impossible to undertake the works without entering it.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment will confer on local authorities power to enter buildings, and particularly land, to undertake works under the clause. It is thought proper that that power should not extend to occupied land which is not appurtenant to the building in question. It is considered that the power is essential for the clause to be effective. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.55 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal moved Amendment No. 95:

Page 33, line 21, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Baroness said: As it is written, the clause gives power to local authorities to carry out works to a building which is not effectively secured or is likely to become a danger to public health, and it spells out quite clearly that local authorities can recover the cost of carrying out works except where a closing order is in force under the Housing Acts or an undertaking has been given that the house will not be used for human habitation. In our view local authorities should also be able to recover their costs in closing order and undertaking cases.

We feel quite strongly that closing orders are made or undertakings given in situations where, for whatever reasons, owners have allowed their properties to deteriorate to such an extent that they are unfit for human habitation; and closing orders are most commonly made on tenanted property, in which case the local authority has a duty to rehouse the occupier within the provisions of the Land Compensation Act. In the majority of cases of this type they also make a home loss and a disturbance payment to the tenant; rehousing them becomes the responsibility of the local authority, and that rehousine, quite obviously, is another financial burden that the ratepayer has to undertake. Therefore, a closing order is not action which a local authority takes lightly.

I think it is important to remind your Lordships that case law shows quite clearly that unfit properties have to be dealt with by local authorities. Unfit properties are designated as unfit for human habitation, and therefore local authorities are under a duty to take action with regard to them. While that action might not always result in a closing order, if it does they come under the statutory provisions of the Housing Act 1957.

I know that on Second Reading Lord Bellwin was not very encouraging to the thoughts that we had on this amendment, and I remind him that he said to us then that he was not sympathetic to our argument because it was thought that such a power would impose an unfair burden on owners who had already lost the use of such buildings by virtue of the order or the undertaking. I do not agree with the point of view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, on behalf of the Government, because the owner does not always lose the use of the building. He has one, two or perhaps three alternatives that he can use in these circumstances. The house can be used for commercial or other non-residential purposes. The owner can apply for a grant—and the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, will know more about all the grants that are available than I do, but they are statutory under the Housing Act 1980.

Alternatively, after the tenant has been rehoused by the local authority the owner may repair the house, then secure the lifting of the order and sell it with vacant possession. There is clear evidence that in the London area this is a considerable loophole and that considerable profits accrue from this loophole. Therefore, what we would say is that overall closing orders and undertakings involve the local authorities in considerable expense; and involving local authorities in considerable expense means that the ratepayers have to pay. Therefore, it seems reasonable to me and to my noble friends that, in circumstances where an owner has allowed his property to deteriorate to the extent that a closing order is necessary, and where the building is also a danger to public health within the meaning of Clause 28, then the local authority should be entitled to recover its costs of removing that danger. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

It was because the local authorities could not recover their expenses in the kind of cases to which the noble Baroness referred that they were given power to take speedy action in Housing Act cases with no right of appeal for the owner. The noble Baroness will no doubt be pleased to hear me say that we are proposing that there be a Government amendment to give owners a right of appeal against an authority's notice of proposed works or against a demand for costs where no notice is given. This will remove any objections on those grounds to local authorities being able to recover their costs. Consequently the Government are content that subsection (6) be omitted from the Bill, and we accept the amendment.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I am overwhelmed. I appreciate the observations which the noble Lord made. In the Second Reading debate he was not so helpful. Perhaps in his re-reading of the debate I and my noble friends convinced him. I thank the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 95ZA:

Page 33, line 35, leave out subsections (8) and (9).

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6.3 p.m.

Lord Foot moved Amendment No. 95ZB:

Page 35, line 45, at end insert— ("(10) When a local authority give notice under subsection (3) above they shall at the same time send to the relevant gas and electricity undertakers a copy of the notice and, NN here subsection (4) above applies, the local authority shall give to the relevant gas and electricity undertakers such notice as is reasonable in the circumstances of the case. (11) Nothing in this section shall prejudice the rights of the relevant gas and electricity undertakers to enter upon a building in exercise of their statutory powers in that behalf but, without prejudice to any other obligation or liability arising in respect of any entry in the exercise of statutory powers, the said undertakers in exercising their powers of entry in respect of any unoccupied building shall ensure that it is not left less secure against unauthorised entry by reason of the exercise of those powers.").

The noble Lord said: This clause is concerned with the securing of unoccupied premises against entry and preventing them from becoming a danger to the public and to public health. The clause as drafted enables a local authority to undertake works with these objects in mind and the authority, as the clause stands, is under no obligation, before they set about shutting up premises in this way and making them secure, to consult with the gas and electricity undertakers before the premises are made secure. We think that there is a real risk in the isolated case if the undertakers are not consulted that a building might be bricked up or closed up while still containing live wires or other dangerous equipment, and it is possible that vandals or children, in spite of the efforts to secure the premises, might find their way on to the property to their great danger.

All that this amendment seeks to do is to require that the local authority, when they give a notice of intention to secure premises in this way, shall at the same time send to the relevant gas and electricity undertakers a copy of the notice; and where subsection (4) applies—and that is the case where the authority are acting in an emergency and must do the job right away—the local authority shall give to the relevant gas and electricity undertakers such notice as is reasonable in the circumstances of the case. I do not think I need trouble reading the other new subsection here. The effect of it generally is that if the undertakers go into premises to see the state of them and exercise their rights to enter the building under their statutory powers, they will, when they come out, leave the premises as secure as they found them before they went in. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

The Government cannot accept this amendment. It is thought that the requirement for local authorities to copy to the gas and electricity undertakers (but not, I notice, to the undertakers concerned with the supply of water) any notice they give under the clause would impose an unnecessary burden on local government at the present time. The local authority can be expected to consult on the matter if that was thought to be necessary. We do not think there is a need for a provision to save undertakers' rights to enter buildings in exercise of their statutory powers. The view taken is that nothing which a local authority does under the clause can prejudice the exercise of statutory powers conferred on statutory undertakers to enter buildings for the purpose of carrying out work to their apparatus.

Also, the proposed requirement on undertakers to ensure that buildings are not left less secure by reason of the exercise by the undertakers of their powers of entry would seem to extend beyond the scope of this Bill. Having said that, I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Foot, will take the point that the powers in the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954 seem to deal with the matter. That may be something he would want to look at. We cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Foot

I will look at that. I am completely ignorant of the terms of the Act which the noble Lord quoted. I am glad that I am not moving a third amendment because the noble Lord becomes less forthcoming the longer we go on. I am grateful for the answer. On this occasion, I shall not do anything other than to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 28, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill.

Baroness David

Some authorities seem to be worried that when a notice is served on somebody asking them to carry out works and they do not do it, there is no penalty that can be imposed in the Bill for that. Will the noble Lord comment on that so that we may think whether we might want to put down an amendment on Report?

Lord Bellwin

The question of a penalty or otherwise is one thing. The Government feel that the reason why (apart from the earlier reasons) we did not want to accept the noble Lord's amendment was because there were the powers in the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954 which we think cover the point. There should be no problem. One would want to look into that more carefully. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and the noble Baroness will do so.

Baroness David

If the person on whom the notice is served could do the work but simply refuses to do so, should there not be a sanction against that?

Lord Bellwin

I am not aware of any specific requirement in that way. One can have a look at it. That I shall gladly do.

Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 95A:

After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

("Buildings on operational land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers

.—(1) This section applies to operational land—

  1. (a) of the British Railways Board (in this section referred to as "the Board"); or
  2. (b) of persons (in this section referred to as "the statutory undertakers") authorised by any enactment to carry on an undertaking for the generation or supply of electricity or the supply of gas or water.
(2) Subject to subsection (4) below, before undertaking any works under section 28(2) above on land to which this section applies a local authority shall serve notice that they propose to undertake works under that section in connection with the building—
  1. (a) on the Board, if the works which they propose to undertake will be undertaken on operational and of the Board; and
  2. (b) in any other case, on the statutory undertakers on whose operational land the works will be undertaken.
(3) A notice under subsection (2) above shall specify the works which the local authority propose to undertake. (4) A local authority need not give any such notice where they consider that it is necessary to undertake works immediately in order to secure a building against unauthorised entry or to prevent it from becoming a danger to public health. (5) A local authority shall not undertake works specified in a notice under subsection (2) above before the expiry of the period of 48 hours from the service of the notice on the Board or the statutory undertakers. (6) In carrying out any works under section 28(2) above on land to which this section applies a local authority shall comply with any reasonable requirement which the Board or, as the case may be, the statutory undertakers may impose for the protection or safety of their undertaking. (7) In this section "operational land" means, in relation to the Board or the statutory undertakers—
  1. (a) land which is used for the purpose of carrying on their undertaking; and
  2. (b) land in which an interest is held for that purpose, not being land which, in respect of its nature and situation, is 1204 comparable rather with land in general than with land which is used, or in which interests are held, for the purpose of carrying on such undertakings.").

The noble Lord said: This new clause is designed to meet a request of the British Railways Board. It sets out a procedure for local authorities to follow before they execute works under Clause 28 (Protection of damaged buildings) of the Bill in relation to buildings that happen to stand on operational land of the British Railways Board and statutory undertakers. I beg to move.

Viscount Colville of Culross

If I may follow the point made by the noble Baroness about the definition in subsection (7), in requesting and obtaining this, the board and the statutory undertakers have obtained rather a good deal. If the land is not "operational land", then presumably my noble friend will confirm that the local authority would take action under Clause 28, as we have just been discussing it. There is no reason why any question of operational land should come in. If, however, it is operational land, then on the face of the clause the British Railways Board and the statutory undertakers have a perfectly reasonable concession in subsection (6) of this new clause in that they can ask the local authority, in carrying out the works, to do anything necessary to protect the safety of the undertaking.

If the board or statutory undertaking satisfactorily succeeds in persuading the local authority that the land is "operational land," and that there is a building on it that the local authority says is not effectively secured or is likely to become a danger to public health, then the local authority can go ahead subject to notice and to taking the necessary steps to protect the undertaking, but who pays? If it was not "operational land" under Clause 28(5) the local authority would be able to recover the expenses from the owner. If the board or the statutory undertaker successfully argues that the building is on operational land, then the poor old local authority cannot reclaim anything. So the board, merely by going through the argument that this is land—and therefore the definition becomes of great importance—which can be described as "operational" can get out of paying for something which everybody else in the country will have to pay for. What possible justification can there be for that?

This is a straight subsidy by the local authority for work done on buildings which belong to the Railways Board or statutory undertakings which ought to know better than to allow them to get into this state. Then the local authority has to deal with it, foot the bill and pay for any extra precautions to protect the undertaking. Is that really what the board have requested and the Government have intended to give them? If so, they have done jolly well.

Lord Bellwin

Clearly one will want to consider carefully what my noble friend says. I had longer speaking notes but felt it seemed fairly straightforward. Having listened to my noble friend, it sounds anything but straightforward. It would be only proper that I should say that we ought to look at this amendment again in the light of what has been said. The object of the whole exercise is to make it a better way to operate. If it should be that the points raised by my noble friend mean that difficulties will be caused, then we must reconsider this aspect. I will not press this amendment. I will gladly withdraw the amendment.

Baroness David

I am very pleased that the Minister has taken this line. We need some more explanation, for I was also going to ask: "Who pays?". It seems a great burden. I was delighted that the noble Viscount spoke first. It seems that quite a burden is being put on local authorities, and I am very pleased that the Minister is going to withdraw this amendment for the time being.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 95B:

After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

("Appeals against notices.

—(1) A person on whom a notice is served under section 28 or [Buildings on operational land of British Railways Roard and certain statutory undertakers] above may appeal against the notice to the county court. (2) No such appeal may be brought after the expiry of the period of 21 days from the date on which the notice was served. (3) The ground of any such appeal may be—

  1. (a) that the works specified in the notice were not authorised by section 28 above; or
  2. (b) that they were unnecessary; or
  3. (c) that it was otherwise unreasonable for the local authority to undertake them.
(4) If such an appeal is brought, the local authority
  1. (a) shall cease from any works specified in the notice which they have commenced; and
  2. (b) shall not commence any further works so specified except as provided by section (7) below.
(5) The court may make an order confirming or quashing the notice or varying it in such manner as it thinks fit. (6) An order under subsection (5) above may make such provision as to the recovery of expenses arising in connection with the works specified in the notice as the court thinks fit. (7) Upon the confirmation or variation of a notice the local authority may commence or recommence the works authorised by the notice as originally served or, as the case may be, as varied by the order of the court.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment previously. I beg to move.

Viscount Colville of Culross

With respect, a manuscript amendment is required to leave out: or buildings on operational land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers", because that clause is not at the moment in the Bill.

Lord Bellwin

In view of what I have said, my noble friend is right—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 95C:

After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

("Applications to court in respect of expenses of works.

(1) If a local authority seek to recover expenses incurred in undertaking works under section 28(2) above in connection with a building—
  1. (a) where the building is on land to which section [Buildings on operational land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers] above applies, from the Board or the statutory undertakers; or
  2. (b) in any other case, from an occupier of the building; and
  3. (c) they did not serve notice of their proposal to undertake the works under section 28(3) or [Buildings on operational 1206 land of British Railways Board and certain statutory undertakers] (2) above on the Board or, as the case may be, the statutory undertakers or that occupier,
the person from whom they seek to recover the expenses may apply to the county court for a declaration—
  1. (i) that the works undertaken in connection with the budding were unnecessary; or
  2. (ii) that it was otherwise unreasonable for the local authority to undertake them.
(2) No such application may be made after the expiry of the period of 21 days from the date on which the local authority first requested payment of the expenses. (3) If the court makes a declaration under subsection (1) above, it may make such order as it thinks fit in respect of the payment of the expenses incurred in connection with the works.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment formally.

Viscount Colville of Culross

I was not making the point that the whole of the clause ought to be deleted. It may well be in every other respect it stands perfectly well on its own rights. All I was saying was that as Clause 95A has not been moved and is not in the Bill, it is improper to put in another new clause which has a reference to that clause. Amendment No. 95C has references to other clauses—for instance, Clause 28(3)—to which we have no objection and that has already been passed. There is nothing wrong with that so long as—if my noble friend wishes to pursue it—he moves manuscript amendments to leave out the reference to the clause that he has not moved. It means two manuscript amendments in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) and paragraph (c) of subsection (1).

Lord Bellwin

I should prefer to reconsider these amendments and bring them all back together. That will be the proper way to deal with them. I have not the slightest doubt that what my noble friend says is technically correct. It will be as well, if we are looking at the other points, to look also at this.

Baroness David

The county court is referred to in Amendments Nos. 95B and No. 95C. In the main part of the clause—in subsection (7) page 33—it is the magistrates' court to which the person has to go to recover expenses. I wonder why it is the magistrates' court in one case and the county court in the other two cases.

Lord Bellwin

I do not know whether the noble Baroness is a magistrate. I am a magistrate—as I know many other noble Lords are—and normally it is a question of level. I would have thought that was the reason why there is one in one case and the other in the other. As the whole matter is being taken away we shall look at that. When we bring it back I shall make an observation on that to the noble Baroness.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Drumalbyn)

May I make a correction? There appears to be a mistake on the Marshalled List: I call on Lord Sandford, not Baroness Sandford!

6.20 p.m.

Lord Sandford moved Amendment No. 96:

After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

("Assistance to Industry.



.—(1) A local authority may, subject to the provisions of this section, incur expenditure which in their opinion is necessary for the purpose of providing support and undertaking measures for the economic development of their areas including the provision of finance for small firms carrying on or intending to carry on industrial undertakings, but a local authority shall not, by virtue of this subsection, incur any expenditure for a purpose for which they are, either unconditionally or subject to any limitation or to the satisfaction of any condition, authorised or required to make any payment by or by virtue of any other enactment.

(2) It is hereby declared that the power of a local authority to incur expenditure under subsection (1) above includes power to do so by contributing towards the defraying of expenditure by another local authority in or in connection with the exercise of that other authority's functions.

(3) The expenditure of a local authority under this section in any financial year shall not exceed the product of a rate of 2p in the pound for their area for that year or if some other higher amount is fixed by an order made by the Secretary of State shall not exceed the product of a rate of that amount in the pound for their area for that year.

(4) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (3) above may apply to all local authorities or may make different provision in relation to local authorities of different descriptions.

(5) Any such instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(6) The accounts of a local authority by whom expenditure is incurred under this section shall include a separate account of that expenditure, and section 228(4), (6) and (7) of the Local Government Act 1972, shall have effect as if any reference to the abstract of the accounts of the local authority included a reference to any such separate account as aforesaid.

(7) The product of a rate of 2p or any other amount in the pound for any area shall be computed for the purposes of this section by reference to the product of a rate of 1p in the pound for that area as determined for those purposes in accordance with rules made under section 113(1)(c) of the General Rate Act 1967.

(8) The power conferred by this section on local authorities shall be in addition to that conferred on them by section 137(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 ('power of local authorities to incur expenditure for certain purposes not authorised by any other enactment); and accordingly that section shall have effect as if this section had not been enacted.

(9) In this section, unless the context otherwise requires—"expenditure" shall not include any part thereof as may be defrayed by grant or other contribution; "industrial" has the same meaning as the Industry Act 1975; "local authority" means a county council, a district council, the Greater London Council, a London borough or the Common Council of the City of London; "small firm" means a person or body of persons (whether corporate or incorporate) employing not more than 50 persons.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 96 and to forgive the Public Bill Office and Her Majesty's Stationery Office for any ill intent they may have had. I think what has happened is that all that talk about sex shops at the beginning of the Bill put them off their stroke! I should like to start my remarks by welcoming the Government's consultation paper, which we will all have received, which has come out since I tabled my amendment and since the Second Reading of the Bill. I have in my hands an extensive critique of the consultation paper, a lucid exposition of my amendment, clause by clause, and quite a few points on which I should like to stress to the Government the importance of legislating in this Bill. I also would like to suggest one or two changes to what is recommended in the consultation paper. However, a little bird has told me that my noble friend on the Front Bench has some good news for us over this theme of local authorities' assistance to industry and commerce, and therefore I shall abbreviate those remarks and listen eagerly to what my noble friend has to say.

The consultation paper is particularly welcome, not least because it agrees at so many points with the terms of my own amendment, and that at least shows that two great minds are thinking like! I shall briefly go through my amendment. Subsection (1) contains what the Government say in their consultation paper is desired in this area; namely, a simple, broad, wide-ranging power for local authorities covering this whole field. The second part of subsection (1) seeks to prevent overlap and confusion between this new power and other existing powers. Subsection (2) provides for joint schemes between authorities and here my subsection (3) corresponds to paragraph 19 in the consultation paper; and there is a certain disagreement there between the size of the resources which should be made available to local authorities for this form of assistance. I will return to that in a moment.

Both my amendment and the consultation paper provide for some flexibility in this clause by way of an order made by the Secretary of State and that, I think, is highly desirable. Subsections (6) and (7) are technical clauses drawn from the existing Article 137, under which local authorities have power to do anything which is for the general benefit of their area.

Subsection (9) deals with a rather important point, which I will not go into at this stage, about net of grant and so on. The final part of subsection (9) defines the size of enterprises to which this clause refers. Here again, there is a small disagreement between myself and the Government. I have put "50" and they want to confine it to "25". That is a very short review, which if necessary I could elaborate upon, but I do not want to do that in present circumstances. The main point which I want, if possible, to secure before this Bill leaves us is that there is legislation in this Bill on this topic. The consultation paper raises our expectations on that point and I hope that my little bird is correct when it indicates that my noble friend may be able to give further assurances on that point.

The other matter on which I should like to spend a moment or two is the matter raised in paragraph 19 of the consultation paper and subsection (3) of my amendment; that is to say, the extent of the resources to be made available to local authorities—though not necessarily to be used—for the assistance they give in support of industry and commerce in their areas. The consultation paper prescribes the product of a halfpenny rate. This may be ample for the larger authorities such as Bristol and the metropolitan districts, but it is not really enough for the smaller local authorities that make up a large part of the membership of the ADC. I can understand the Government's reluctance to provide as much as two-pence for the larger authorities because in some cases that would be perhaps more than £1 million. I believe—and I hope that my noble friend will be able to give some assurance on this—that the Government, in turn, see the case for the smaller and more rural local authorities having a good deal more than would be provided for them if we worked to a figure of a halfpenny. It should not be beyond the wit of the Government to devise a formula that would meet the anxiety of the Government not to be too generous and the wish of the Association of District Councils to make proper provision for their smaller authorities. With that very brief introduction, I beg to move this amendment and will listen eagerly to what my noble friend has to say.

Lord Mottistone

I am advised in what I have to say by the CBI who, in principle, agree that some amendment of this sort is necessary; but there are certain aspects of it that they are unhappy about, and having heard about the "little bird" that my noble friend Lord Sandford has mentioned as to the fact that my noble friend on the Front Bench may have something to say about it, I think I should mention a few of the CBI's misgivings before he does so, in the hope that they will be reflected in any statement the Government have to make.

The quandary is demonstrated by the fact that we welcome co-operation between business and local authorities, but we do not want any excuse for an increase in business rates, for whatever reason. We support well-judged financial assistance for business, and especially for small businesses; but we are uncertain whether local authorities are really equipped to provide the necessary commercial judgment. As my noble friend Lord Sandford said, we believe there certainly ought to be different rules, quite apart from the freedom to use the rates, for small authorities as opposed to large ones. In general, we believe that the powers which are written into this amendment are very much wider than could be accepted by industry. The Government's consultative document, which is dated March, only came out this month. It calls for consultation, and we wonder whether the Government have been able to consult sufficiently widely to come to a decision as to what they should advise the House to accept as being the right balance within this amendment, or something similar to it. I hope those words of caution may in fact be reflected in what my noble friend has to say.

Lord Northfield

I do not join the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in entirely welcoming this consultation paper. I was glad that a consultation paper of some kind was issued, but I thought that this one had escaped the eagle eye of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, who is so familiar with local government, and so came out in rather a half-baked form, if I may say so. He must have let someone else in the department deal with it, instead of grabbing it himself before it leaked out.

The paper's difficulty is that, when it comes to its recommendations it is full of contradiction, if not schizophrenia. In paragraph 10, it uses resounding words: The Government agree with the Burns group's conclusion that local authorities also have a positive role to play in sustaining and fostering local economies in employment. How they can best do so will differ between one area and another within the constraints imposed by national economic and industrial policies. A local authority itself is the best judge of what is appropriate for its own local circumstances. Those are rcsusunding words of support for local government initiative. Then it ends with a few paragraphs saying that it is all to be contained within a ½p rate. This kind of schizophrenia results from not considering where we are. What the Government are hound to is the present statement on regional policy, and the noble Lord is sinking with the regional policy flag flying, just when everybody else is jumping off the ship.

The simple fact about regional policy is that more and more people are now aware of its limitations and weaknesses. If one looks at regional policy, which depends on defining assisted areas and then providing large cash grants in order to attract footloose manufacturing industry into the area, one sees that it is becoming more and more insufficient in present circumstances. For a start, only some service employment is covered by regional assistance policy and we know today that, with the change in the British economy, service employment is of more and more importance in the regions. We know, secondly, that the great danger with assisted area policy has been that branch plants are established in some of these areas and then, when any bad times hit the country, those branch plants are closed down and the company retreats to its headquarters. So often there are no decision-making activities in those companies in the localities.

Thirdly, it is a responsive service, not with any conscious help, looking for what is suitable for a particular area and helping to draw it in. The regional policy begins to operate only when an industry or a company begins to look for a location and approaches the Department of industry. Whereas what we in-increasingly realise is that the various districts that are suffering from high levels of unemployment need more and more to build a service which attracts the industries, which goes for self-reliance and growth and which has some relationship to the skills and opportunities of the area, according to a kind of understanding that local authorities often have of what can succeed and what will be most viable in those areas. That does not mean twisting arms. It just means preparing the ground so that private enterprise can flourish.

Lastly, the great disadvantage with regional policy as it exists at the moment is that the real difficulties of the economy are not just in the assisted areas. I ask your Lordships to look at the West Midlands and at the districts all over the non-assisted areas, which now have higher levels of unemployment and a greater need of industry than whole districts inside the assisted areas. So we have now reached the situation where regional policy is to a considerable extent out of date and needs reinforcing by alternatives. I am not saying that the policy should be cancelled. I am saying that it is not good enough by itself.

The alternative to this, which is really in the noble Lord's amendment, is that local authorities should have a very modest power to carry out their duties. This all comes from the reorganisation of local government in the early 1970s, when new district councils of much greater size, with a much greater sense of duty about the extent to which they are in charge of the welfare and the economic livelihood of the areas which they represent, came into being.

The chairman of the District Councils Association, in a foreword to one of their own publications about industrial development, said: The creation of jobs locally to alleviate unemployment and bring prosperity to our cities, towns and villages is a first priority for most of us". He was there talking about the district councils. So to shunt this off on to a ½p rate is rather derisory and ludicrous.

But in the end, and more important than that, there is no regional development agency in England—and I speak particularly about England—to help make up for the lack of direction and the lack of initiative in regional policy. So local authorities are increasingly left as the only bodies in England which are able to have that more purposeful look at their local unemployment and try to do what is best.

So we are back to the conflict between the 2p rate and the ½p rate. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said, some of the figures in many publications are quite ludicrous; and, indeed, I have a Question down tomorrow about some of them. But Radnor would be able to spend less than £10,000. Oswestry, in my own county of Shropshire, with 13 per cent. unemployment, would have £13,000 to spend. Alnwick in Northumberland, which is one of those most suffering from unemployment of 15.2 per cent.—and I know it very well—has a very deserving and go-ahead district council. But a 1p rate would give them £14,000. We are getting nowhere.

Many of us have had a letter from Chesterfield, stating that the present 2p rate of £236,000 would he reduced to £59,000, although their present sum is almost entirely taken up by existing initiatives—industrial grant schemes, helping persons to start small businesses, the Chesterfield training centre which trains bricklayers, stonemasons and so on, and which is partly funded by the Manpower Services Commission, and the proposed business advice centre. In a place like Chesterfield, £250,000 is not a great deal of money to spend on making the seed-bed ready for as much private small industry as is possible.

I agree with what the noble Lord will probably say. We do not want local authorities to have so much money that they go in for wasteful competitive advertising all over Britain, and all over the world, in order to attract big industry. But the amendment would not allow that. A 2p rate would not allow local authorities to do anything like that.

Finally, under the Government's proposals it is even more disastrous than the noble Lord has, perhaps, realised for a number of districts. Some of these districts are rural, and certainly not inner urban, but look at what will happen. Under the Government's proposals, the inner urban areas would not only have the ½p rate; they would also stick to the 2p rate, giving them a 2½p rate. So the poor district councils, which have 20 per cent. unemployment, will find even greater competition from some of the big boys in the inner urban areas in advertising and recruiting all over the world. So is a final inconsistency in the Government's proposals.

If it is true that this kind of campaign—I think that is the second small debate we have already had in this House on these arrangements—is making the Government think again, I shall be delighted. But I want to register the fact that if this had been left to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, in the first place, I do not think we should have had this inconsistent and contradictory consultation paper.

6.39 p.m.

Baroness Stedman

I, too, should like to welcome the amendment. A little bird has been very busy twittering around, and I hoped that we might have had a song from the noble Lord opposite, which indicated whether those twitterings were on the right lines. But, obviously, that is not to come yet. I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, about the difficulty in getting any economic regeneration in the smaller districts, where they have only the p rate. I should like to refer to Corby, which is very near to my area. Unemployment there is at the rate of 21.4 per cent. and a ½p rate would bring them in just over £35,000. In East Lindsey, which is also very close to me, a ½p rate would produce only £58,600, yet they have an unemployment rate of 22.7 per cent. Fenland, which is adjoining my area, have written to me to say that they would be in an impossible situation, since the training centre which they are operating with Manpower Services Commission money would have to count against their 2p expenditure entitlement under the Local Government Act 1972. If they were limited to a halfpenny rate, they could not even support the training centre, let alone undertake any other industrial projects. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, referred to Chesterfield. There they have an unemployment rate of 12.9 per cent. Something like £59,000 will go nowhere in an area like that.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, I come from a new town area. Most of us from new town areas have seen the provision made by the development corporations to attract industry into our areas and to provide unit workshops and land to help small businesses. But the life of the new town development corporations is now drawing to an end. As the new town development corporation fades out of existence, we shall want to see our own district councils able to take on the role of bringing about economic regeneration and job creation at the local level.

I accept that we have got the consultation paper and I hope that as a result of what is said today in your Lordships' Committee there will be some alterations to it. I believe that the Government completely fail to recognise how councils can help to act as local catalysts. They know and understand what are the needs of their areas far better than do civil servants. The district councils are, naturally, very concerned that they have to finance all their activities to help local firms, except for land, infrastructure and advance building, within today's very tight financial limits.

I believe that the central Government's task is to create a national and regional strategic framework so that they can help industry but that local authorities ought to be given a reasonably free hand to respond to their own local needs. There has been conjecture in some places over the past months that perhaps the Government ought to consider setting up an urban equivalent of CoSIRA, about whose workings the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, knows far more than I do. But that initiative has not been taken. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will support the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Tordoff

May I from these Benches join in supporting the amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, though with some slight qualifications. I do not want to get into the debate which we had the other evening on the Un-starred Question put down by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, but I hope that when considering this amendment the noble Lord the Minister will look again at some of the points which were made that evening.

There is a dilemma here. From what has already been said it is clear that a halfpenny rate is far too small for many district councils. Many of these places in rural areas have very high levels of unemployment. If the total number of people unemployed in those areas is not so high as it is in the inner cities, nevertheless, as a percentage of their citizenry, it is very high indeed. This weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time in Ilfracombe, North Devon, where the unemployment level is now, I believe, 28 per cent. In areas like that a halfpenny rate is clearly going to be of very little use.

What worries me about the amendment, to pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, are the words at the end of line 4: including the provision of finance for small firms carrying on or intending to carry on industrial undertakings". I have some worries about what is meant by "the provision of finance". As I think I have said before to your Lordships, I am worried about local authorities getting into the business of venture capital. It is not their job. They do not have the skills to decide between those ventures which are likely to be successful and those which are not. It may have been true some time ago that the banks were reluctant to lend money to small ventures, but I believe that the evidence now is that the position has changed and that it is much more possible for ventures which are likely to be in any way successful to get money from various financial sources. As I have said before, what is needed is a certain amount of collateral to support small industries—or, in a very few cases, a few hundred pounds to get an individual man "off the ground". However, I am a little worried about the phrase "the provision of finance".

May I also take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, from the point of view of the CBI: that large industries do not wish to be saddled with an increased rate. I should have thought that this might he more an area in which large industry would be prepared to pay money into the rates than many others. It seems to me that large industries should be prepared—and in many cases they are prepared—in a variety of ways to support small industries, for their own good as well as for the good of the community as a whole. It is more an area where I should have thought they might be prepared to pay slightly higher rates than others. In general, therefore, I support what has been said this afternoon, and I look forward to somebody singing from the Front Bench.

Lord Mottistone

Before the noble Lord sits down, would not he agree that large companies are now paying such enormous business rates that anything extra is thoroughly undesirable?

Baroness David

I should like, very briefly, to say that we on these Benches support the amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I should also like to say that we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, about the consultation paper. We do not think quite so highly of it as does the noble Lord, Lord Sandford.

May I ask a question about paragraph 17 of the consultation paper. It says that in England and Wales the local authorities for districts designated under the IUAA would however continue to be able to make use of Section 137. It seems to me not to be quite clear whether that means that just the 2p can be raised by the designated district. To take Nottinghamshire as an example, Nottingham is a designated district council. Could Nottingham raise the 2p, or could the County of Nottinghamshire raise 2p in all its districts, or could the county raise a 2p rate just for Nottingham?

I should also like to ask the Minister whether he would dissociate himself from the remarks made by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Industry at the Local Government Conservative Conference when he made it clear—so it is alleged—that the Government's proposals are intended to stop authorities like the GLC from pouring out thousands of pounds to their friends in the Marxist co-operatives.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I am somewha worried by the amendment, in particular because I happen to be a member of the GLC. At present, 2p means over £40 million. As I listened to other speakers describing the small amount which would be raised by 2p in their areas, I realised that we are facing quite different situations.

A noble Lord on the Liberal Benches mentioned that he did not believe that local authorities should be moving into venture capital, yet this is exactly what the GLC propose to do with their present £40 million plus. If this amendment were passed in its present form without any ceiling being attached to it, it could represent yet another £40 million plus. We are concerned—I am speaking for many members of the GLC when I say this—about the effect upon the ratepayers. In the case of, say, a shop like Selfridges, with rates payable per annum of over £1 million a year, 2p extra on top of that would be a very substantial amount. All businesses within the expensive areas of London are suffering badly at the moment. For enterprise capital to be provided to set up businesses in competition with many of the existing businesses in London could be harmful.

I would ask the Minister, if he is considering accepting the amendment, to consider placing a ceiling upon the amount which would be used by any authority, because we are not viewing this as an overall situation. We are seeing quite different situations in different parts of the country.

Viscount Colville of Culross

May I ask my noble friend two questions? As I understand my noble friend's amendment—and I appreciate that this may not be the definitive version, but nevertheless it enables one to discuss the matter—it seems to me that several noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have taken part in the debate may not have understood what the proposition is. My noble friend would help me greatly by explaining this quite clearly. First of all, we have the provision in subsection (8) which excludes the powers under this section for the purposes of Section 137. That means that, notwithstanding the powers to spend money under this section which will be a statutory provision, any local authority can still spend the full 2p rate on any project that it thinks fit, provided the project is not covered already by some other legislation. I believe that is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, was making.

There are in addition the inner urban area districts, which have the power already to use the money available to them under the Inner Urban Areas Act and, in addition, spend the 2p rate as if there was no Inner Urban Area Act passed, on exactly the same sort of project. Those local authorities already have the power to spend inner urban area money on this sort of thing and the 2p rate on it as well.

What is being suggested, as I understand it, in subsection (3) of this amendment is that all local authorities shall continue to be able to spend the 2p rate if they choose, in whole or in part, on giving assistance to industry and, in addition, they shall have the extra 2p rate which they are specifically entitled to spend on giving assistance to industry, whether or not any part of the "ordinary" 2p rate is going that in direction or on the provision of a training college or anything else. In other words, they will have a 4p rate; 2p of which will he completely at liberty and 2p of which goes to assisting industry. If the authority is an inner urban area authority, it will have the money provided under that Act as a third form of assisting industry. In those circumstances, is it not right, in view of the effect upon rates which has been mentioned by several noble Lords, to consider quite carefully this figure of 2p as a starting point? It would in effect be 4p in the hands of some local authorities if they wished to use it all for these purposes. Therefore, whether the halfpenny is right or not, will my noble friend tell me whether my analysis is correct or not, so that we can see what it is that we are talking about in total?

Secondly, there is the question of the provision of finance. I have had a number of dealings with local authorities in a professional capacity that I no longer hold, on the question of how they may provide finance to industry. One of the questions they always asked, was, could they guarantee bank loans? I have always told them, and perhaps my noble friend can confirm whether this is right or not, that under existing law they cannot do so. But the wording of subsection (1) of my noble friend's new clause must be such that it is at any rate arguable that they would be able to guarantee loans raised from the market for the purposes of setting up new industry.

This may or may not be a good thing, but I can see the most dreadful troubles coming if, having guaranteed a loan specifically under this new clause, with a limit to what it can spend under this new clause, the authority then has to pay hack the guarantee because the firm fails. What will happen to the rest of the authority's expenditure under this 2p rate and under the "general" 2p rate under Section 137? There may be a very large call in some years which will disrupt projects such as the college referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman. If these wider powers to underwrite private loans from the market are going to be built in, what safeguards are there going to be, so that other projects which are being financed out of the 2p rate, probably on a continuous basis, are not going to be prejudiced by the sudden failure of the firm which has been so guaranteed? If my noble friend can clarify those two points, it would certainly help matters very greatly.

6.55 p.m.

Lord Bellwin

As can be seen from the long discussion which has taken place—and which, I suspect, would have continued even longer were it not for the hour—this is a matter of considerable interest, and it is right that it should be so. As the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, said, this is not something new, something that is being raised all of a sudden. This has been going on for a long time. It has been brought to a head by the fact that in 1984, the powers which local authorities currently have will be coming to an end and therefore, something has to be done. The noble Lord was very kind in what he said about my own participation in the wording of the report; to the extent that I was not involved, he is quite right. But that would not lead me on to say that I did not think that the Burns Report, as it has come to be known, is other than a very helpful document. After all, it is what it says; no one has made the point sufficiently clearly that it is a consultation paper and, as such, it is open to anyone to comment upon it in any way they wish. As I said at the time of our last debate on this subject, the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, will, as on this occasion, make a very considerable contribution to our thinking.

I, too, like my noble friend Lord Sandford, do not intend to go into the depth that I might otherwise have done had we been going into the "nuts and bolts", if I may call them that. In many ways, the proposals that we have are not, in my view, ungenerous. Where the difficulty arises is in the points which have been made about the very small district authorities who, clearly, do have a problem. If there was a limitation they would be restricted; but it is also right to point out that at the present time, with the powers they currently have, out of a total of some £90 million available to them, they are taking up only £12 million. That may be a reflection of the interest they have taken hitherto or, in fairness, it may be that the problems have not been as great hitherto and are becoming greater only at the present time. One has to be objective when looking at this. Nevertheless, when talking about the totality of this amount of spending, the fact is that out of the sum available of £90 million, the amount being taken up at the present time is £12 million. Let us put that into the picture when trying to come to a proper conclusion.

The other points made were also very fair. My noble friend Lord Mottistone and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and certainly my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, raised a very important point too: the question of to what extent local authorities should be in the business of venture capital. There are question marks over this. There is a whole range, starting with the small authority which can give vital assistance to "pump priming", in getting a business going. I am sure everyone would accept that in the right circumstances and subject to proper supervision, such assistance can be most helpful. On the other hand, there is the extreme case mentioned by my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes. One cannot have a situation where every local authority, with access to millions of pounds, is suddenly going into business. The whole matter of accountability comes into this. We would be deluding ourselves if we were to say other than that we all know of cases where such a system could be abused. I will go no further than saying that tonight, but on another occasion, perhaps I might go further.

There it is. Without my going into great depth on what has been said, I hope, first, that everyone will accept that we are concerned, that we are not trying to say this is what we propose and on this we stand. It is not like that. We put out a consultation document. We are waiting for the responses to that. We recognise that there is a degree of urgency, because I know, from conversations with my noble friend Lord Sandford and others, including the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, that there are certain situations at the moment that are tending to hinder. The prospect of what might come forward is tending to create certain reservations in the minds of those who might put forward money and so on. We are anxious to get that out of the way as quickly as possible. That means that we accept that there is a need for some speedy decision. The consultation process is about to finish and we will pick it up very quickly and move on, but I hope no one would say that we can do other than await the response; otherwise how can one talk of consultation.

If I may comment on some of the specific points made, before I respond as the little bird to which my noble friend referred, I think I have covered most points. The noble Baroness, Lady David, asked about the 2p and who should have this. At the present time both the county councils and the designated districts would have the 2p. Again it is a matter of consultation and we would have to see. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, made a point about the regional policy. That is a point of view. I hear what he says and he knows that I have great confidence in his views on matters of this kind. In turn, I hope he will accept that there could be other points of view as well. I think on this we would probably agree to differ and perhaps try to persuade each other privately when we discuss it. So I will not tonight go into the matter of regional policy, slightly tempted though I am; I think that is for another occasion.

I would want to say this, and I hope no one would quarrel with me on this. There can never have been any Government in this country who have done, and are doing and intend doing, what we are doing to help small businesses. I say that categorically, not as a political point, but a point that it is fair to make. There are now over 60 measures we are bringing forward to try to help small businesses. How, therefore, can anyone feel that we are other than anxious, or consider that what we are proposing might go in the opposite direction. We are concerned and we are going to go on being concerned, and we are going to go on doing things to help small businesses. That is why what is being said by my noble friend's amendment is important to us, because we do not want it to have the adverse effect which he thinks it might have.

I think I should comment on the point my noble friend Lord Colville made when he asked: Can any local authority spend the 2p rate under Section 137 and would this mean that they would in addition have the additional money? My understanding is that they would have the additional money and we would then be talking about 4p or 4½p. We are at the stage of consultation, but that is as I understand it. I suspect that that would confirm to my noble friend Lord Colville that it is a matter for concern that has been expressed all the way round.

Let me say this in conclusion. I hope your Lordships will gather that we have taken all the points made here. We undertake to consider these very carefully indeed. In saying this I stress the urgency. I have stressed the urgency; I do not need anyone to stress it for me, so far as time is concerned. We have a Bill going through at the present time and we want to see how far we can get with that. I am, unfortunately, not able to be as forthcoming as perhaps one might like to be, but I give this absolute assurance; that we will take this away and consider very carefully what has been said. I cannot say what will happen at other stages of the Bill, but I hope I have said enough to assure your Lordships of the serious intent to take very seriously all that has been said.

Lord Sandford

I am most grateful to my noble friend and all those who have participated in this short debate, particularly those who have supported the general spirit behind this amendment. I was one who welcomed the consultation paper as an indication that the Government were now seriously applying their mind to this issue. I did say that I had a number of criticisms to make, but I forebore to deploy them on this occasion. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, for doing so, and there is more that could be said of that kind.

I would like to put this to my noble friend Lord Mottistone. Would he not rather see local authorities spending money in this area rather than in some other areas, and therefore would he not possibly welcome this clause? I hope he will consider and ponder the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. As to the number of different 2p's that could be spent, my intention, though I may not have been successful, was that the effect of subsection (1), the last few sentences, was to preclude the use of Clause 137 for assistance to industry once this amendment or something like it is on the statute book. Of course there is another possibility of spending 2p under the inner areas Act, but perhaps we need not go into that in great detail.

The guaranteeing of bank loans is one of the things that local authorities are able to do now under local Acts, but these are all due to expire in 1984. Noble Lords will realise quickly enough that any contract, a contract of employment, a contract for sale of land, a contract for the erection of buildings, anything of that kind depending on an Act which is going to expire in 1984, is not the slightest bit of good when you are asking bank managers to consider the contracts or solicitors to draw up documents. Powers vested in local authorities by local Acts expiring in 1984 are inoperable at present and more and more of them are becoming so. This illustrates the need for urgency, and I am grateful to my noble friend for taking the point.

Now that we have a consultation document it is important to see the way in which the consultation period and the parliamentary progress of this Bill interact. Thanks to the unwitting alliance of my noble friend Lord Nugent, with the sex shops, and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, with his dogs, this Bill has been conveniently delayed; I understand that the Report stage and the Third Reading cannot be taken until after Easter, which means that the Bill will go back into another place just as the consultation period is ending. So what we have succeeded in doing is to enhance the consultation period and bring the Government's mind to bear on this issue to a degree which the consultation paper on its own might not have done. I hope that will encourage my noble friend to stick to the assurance that he was on the point of giving, but did not quite give, that we shall see legislation in this Bill. Anyway, we can accept my noble friend's assurance and withdraw this amendment because we have one more stage; when we have enjoyed our Easter Recess we can come back again and we have the option of looking at the Government amendment, which I hope to see, or reintroducing this one if we do not see a Government amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Denham

I think this is probably a convenient moment to adjourn temporarily the Committee stage. I suggest we re-start the Committee stage at 8 p.m.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.10 until 8 p.m.]

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 97:

After Clause 28, insert the following new clause:

("Control of stray dogs.



.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, every local authority shall assume responsibility for the control and welfare of stray dogs within its area and for this purpose may exercise the power of section 3 of the Dogs Act 1906 with respect to the seizure, detention and disposal of stray dogs in its area.

(2) If a local authority inform the Secretary of State that in their opinion a direction should be made under this subsection because the small number of stray dogs or the ntaure of the problems of control or welfare caused by the stray dog population in the local authority area are such that the assumption of responsibility under subsection (1) above would not be justified, he may, after consulting such persons as he thinks fit, direct that the provisions of this Part shall not apply to that local authority.

(3) Where a local authority assume responsibility for the control and welfare of stray dogs under subsection (1) above, they shall perform the duties in Part I of Schedule (Dog Wardens) to this Act.

(4) Where a local authority assume responsibility for the control and welfare of stray dogs under subsection (1) above, they may appoint do wardens to enable them to carry into effect the provisions of this Act.

(5) Where a local authority appoint a dog warden under subsection (4) above, the dog warden may exercise the general powers set out in Part II of Schedule (Dog Wardens) to this Act.").

The noble Lord said: I hope that your Lordships, who have come back from supper suitably refreshed, will be able to join my two noble friends and myself in something of a legislative adventure. In moving Amendment No. 97 I ask your Lordships to consider at the same time 14 other amendments to make a composite whole. Your Lordships may say that this is another Bill—a Bill within a MI. That is quite true: it is one miscellaneous provisions Bill inside another miscellaneous provisions Bill. There has been nothing quite so bold since the Government themselves introduced sex shops into this Bill at the final stages of its progress through another place. On sex shops, the Government, under the cover of a clause of modest length, included Schedule 3 which takes up 12½ pages of small print. Nothing so audacious is proposed in the amendments which I submitted to the Committee just now. What we are proposing is something socially more useful: more pleasant to deal with; and of greater benefit to the community.

In debates of this kind I nearly always find a companion in an article in a most useful magazine called New Society. Your Lordships might find it useful as an aid to taking part in debates in your Lordships' House. On 26th June 1980 there was an article on "The rise in the domestic pet". It said that in Britain we are said to be pet mad, but we are not so animal-ridden as France and we are not so potty about pets as the Americans. With a feeling of being very much in the middle of the road on pets we can proceed to consider how we deal with the nation's dogs.

These amendments are really a revised edition of a Bill which almost went through another place. Sex shops scrambled through in the last day of the Report stage in another place. But people wanted to be so nasty to sex establishments that they really did not stop to consider what they were doing. However, as regards the Bill that contained these amendments, Members of Parliament spent a whole day debating a Private Member's Bill introduced by Mr. Jack Aspinwall, the Conservative Member for Kingswood, called the Dogs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Unfortunately, it came to grief that day. Although Mr. Aspinwall had been lucky enough to have a high place in the ballot for Private Members' Bills and had the first order of the day on a Friday, at the end of the day he failed to muster enough support to carry the closure and the Bill was talked out. That was probably due to some misunderstanding on his part and possibly some confusion in the minds of many other Members of another place who were asked to consider the Bill.

The Aspinwall Bill in another place, which was talked out on 19th February, had been trimmed from the structure of recommendations upon which it was based—and with which I shall deal a little later—in order to meet objections put to him by the Home Office that the Bill was rather unwieldy and had certain defects, and if it could be made shorter and simpler it would be more acceptable. So he did that, but when it came to the point, the Home Office Minister had no advice to offer Members in another place. He had not had time to consider all the implications or he had not had enough time to consult other departments. There was lame excuse after lame excuse for advising Members in another place that he had no advice to offer. That led to the Bill coming to grief.

So my noble friends and I have followed what I shall describe as the "Mansfield Law"—namely, if you want to do something grasp the first opportunity of any vehicle that will take you on your way. That is what the noble Earl said on the Deer Bill, and I thought what good advice it was. I had no idea how speedily I could follow it. Here it is: we have grasped at this Bill. It is a miscellaneous Bill; it is full of everything—street trading, the licensing of eating houses, the licensing of everything under the sun. A golden opportunity opened up to repair the damage done to our legislative process by the curious happenings along the corridor. I see no reason why your Lordships' Committee should not repair the deplorable defects in procedure which are attached to Private Members' Bills in another place. That is my introduction.

I now want to explain, in order to make the Committee's acceptance of my proposals so much easier and so much simpler, that both the Aspinwall Bill to which I have referred and these amendments, taken as a whole, are based on two independent reports on the subject of dogs in society. The first was a report of the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society, of which I was chairman. There is nothing more respectable than a report of a committee of which I have been chairman, especially on the subject of dogs, on which we spent a very long time and took a good deal of evidence. That advisory committee was composed of all the dog welfare organisations in the country. Anybody who was anybody on dogs was a member of the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society—JACOPIS for short.

The Labour Government knowing how important a task we were embarking upon, decided to set up their own show and appointed an inter-departmental committee which they called a working party. It produced the Report of the Working Party on Dogs. Our report came out in 1975; their report came out in 1976. Governments have been shilly-shallying on both of those reports ever since.

The Official Working Party on Dogs followed very faithfully indeed the recommendations that my own committee made to them. Therefore, the two reports came broadly to similar conclusions. Ever since 1976 JACOPIS and local authorities, which are very keen on all this, have been urging successive Governments to take action. Various delegations have met Ministers. But what it was that made it difficult for Governments to tackle this question I really do not understand: whether, politically, they were afraid that it was undesirable to raise the dog licence fee, or whether they thought that they ought not to be imposing additional responsibilities upon local authorities. There are quite a number of reasons why they said that the time was not suitable to take any action.

The recommendations of both the reports were, first and foremost, to transfer the responsibility for dealing with the problem of stray dogs from the police to local authorities. I need not enlarge on that recommendation; it was unanimous on both committees. It has been the keystone of the proposals ever since. As to the size of the stray dog problem, the Under-Secretary at the Department of the Environment told the House of Commons last November that there are probably about a million dogs generally on the loose in this country. We all know from reports of sheep-worrying, of accidents on the roads being caused by stray dogs and other problems, that there is considerable concern about stray dogs.

Both of the reports to which I have refrered recommended that the transfer of responsibility from the police to the local authorities should be mandatory—should be statutory and not optional. Mr. Aspinwall's Bill made it optional for the local authority to assume the responsibility for care and control of stray dogs. It was a responsibility which it could assume if it wished, but not otherwise. That was the Bill which was dealt with in another place.

As I have said, the two reports which I have mentioned were in favour of statutory transfer. Therefore, in these amendments we have provided for the transfer from the police to local authorities to be imposed on local authorities, with a proviso in subsection (2) that any local authority which feels that a direction should be made to exclude it from assuming this responsibility can make representations to the Minister who: after consulting such persons as he thinks fit, [could] direct that the provisions of this Part shall not apply to that local authority. So it would not be mandatory on local authorities which felt that there was a strong case for excluding them.

The second important respect in which the two committees were in agreement was the source fixing the dog licence fee and the amount. Both committees felt that the dog licence fee should be fixed by the Minister, who has powers to do so at present; that it should be a national contribution by dog owners, and the money would go to the resources of the respective local authorities. The Bill that was dealt with in another place and these amendments leave the fixing of the dog licence fee to the local authority, which, in deciding the amount, shall have regard to the cost that it incurs in running the scheme of dog wardens and other administrative expenses. In passing, I want to mention that two ministers who we saw from two Governments both suggested that it might be desirable to have the fee fixed by local authorities and not have a mandatory fee fixed centrally.

The working party suggested a fee of £5 at 1975 prices. That would be an increase from 37½p at the present time to £5, but, of course, we all know that 37½p was 7s. 6d. in the old currency and dates back to the last century. We know that no more than half the dogs in the country are licensed at present: and we also know that every dog licence now paid costs the state more to collect than it receives. Actually, if we want to save public expenditure at the present time, we should tell people not to pay any more licence fees for their dogs. But, of course, there is more to it than that. The committee of which I was chairman suggested that probably a fee of a little less than £5 might be appropriate in view of the fact that the police costs are already borne by the state, and in the transfer of their powers and work to local authorities, some contribution might be regarded as appropriate to the local authorities themselves.

The third important matter relates to enforcement of the payment of the licence fee and the display by the dog, like the motorcar, of evidence of the possession of a licence. The two advisory committees were not of the same mind on this proposal. The committee of which I was chairman was strongly in favour of requiring a dog to have a collar which should bear a disc issued by the licensing authority bearing the identity of the dog, the name and address of the owner and evidence of the payment of the licence fee. The official working party did not go as far as that, but entrusted the dog wardens with power to demand production of the dog licence from anyone in a public place with a dog. However, in our amendments now before your Lordships—Amendments Nos. 100 and 101—we include provision for the issue, with the licence, of an identity disc to be worn by the dog when in a public place. That seems to be the most satisfactory and complete way of ensuring that dogs have licences, and evidence of them will be worn.

As to the duties of local authorities and the principles and powers of the dog warden schemes, one might say that there is general agreement about the powers and duties of dog wardens. We include them in the amendments, but there are already quite a few dog wardens about in numerous local authorities. The only drawback for many local authorities at the moment is that, while they have the dog warden scheme, they cannot levy the dog owners an additional licence fee. Therefore, they have to provide for all this to be done out of other revenues and, under the law, they are not allowed to levy an additional rate greater than 2p to pay for services of this kind.

But I want to stress the fact that Mr. Aspinwall in another place trimmed his Bill in the hope that some progress could be made and an end brought to the dilatoriness of successive Governments on this question. He did the trimming, but he did not get his Bill. I stress the urgency of this matter. This Bill provides an opportunity to make progress on something upon which Governments have not chosen to do it for themselves. I think we should now insist on its being done.

I want to draw the attention of your Lordships to two grave dangers at the present time. One is rabies. I do not know whether we have really contemplated the panic and the shambles that there would be in this country if we had a serious outbreak of rabies. We would not know where half the dogs in the country were. We would not be able to trace the ownership of more than half the dogs in the country at the present time. It is desirable that we have to keep track of dogs in the event of an outbreak of rabies, otherwise some panic measures of slaughter, or impounding, anything in a situation of that kind, would be regarded as justified to meet the emergency that had arisen.

The other threat, the other danger, is a comparatively new one. Here I am not speaking for any society. Your Lordships must be aware of the financial problems of voluntary societies at the present time. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has had to seek, and obtain, a substantial subvention from the Government to carry out its work, especially in the removal of children to care and prosecutions for cruelty. Voluntary societies cannot be expected to carry the responsibility for enforcing the law indefinitely, or of undertaking duties which properly belong to the police.

The article in New Society, to which I referred earlier, says that something like 300,000 dogs are put down in this country every year. That is on top of over half a million puppies which are destroyed very soon after birth because they are not wanted. If the figure of 300,000 is anything near accurate, then the RSPCA alone destroy one-fifth of the total number of dogs destroyed in this country every year. That is a most distressing and unwelcome responsibility.

It is not the job of voluntary societies, who are there to save animals from cruelty and destruction, to have to undertake this large slice of killing of dogs which should properly fall on statutory authorities. This cannot go on indefinitely. I do not think that the careless, the heartless, and the positively cruel human beings should be able to rely for all time on the voluntary donations of members of voluntary societies to spare their rejected animals from a cruel fate. Noble Lords should pay serious attention to what I am saying in this regard.

It is about time that greater discipline was encouraged and, if necessary, enforced among dog owners and in the treatment of dogs in this country. I do not believe that the trouble that arose in Burnley would have arisen had we had a scheme of this kind in operation. I sincerely hope that this is not going to be regarded as just a piece of show business. It is not. We are in earnest. Nobody else is, and we are. I hope that your Lordships are going to be in earnest about this.

I conclude by indicating to your Lordships the mechanics of what I propose should be done. The keystone amendment is 97. That is the assumption of responsibility. That places the responsibility for stray dogs upon the local authorities, but it allows in subsection (2) local authorities that feel that it would be inappropriate for them to take that responsibility to represent to the Minister that they should be excused from doing so.

The duties which are assumed by local authorities if they take them under Amendment No. 97 are set out in Amendment No. 127A. The duties of the dog wardens covered also by Amendment No. 97 are set out in Amendment No. 127A and Part II of the schedule. I suggest that the matter should be decided on Amendment No. 97. I suggest that your Lordships can take Amendment No. 97 as being the key clause.

Are you in favour of this broad scheme of transfer from the police to the local authorities, to be accompanied by dog warden systems and all the other associated matters to make the scheme composite and workable? If so, then I submit to you that you can adopt Amendment No. 97 and then accept all the associated amendments in order to complete the picture. If Amendment No. 97 is rejected, then the whole fabric of the amendments that I am moving collapses. The associated amendments are 97, 98, 99, 100 to 104, 126, 127A and B, 128, 132, 135, and 136.

What a wonderful thing it would be to make progress in this Committee if your Lordships could swallow the lot as I have suggested, put these amendments into the Bill, and let us give these amendments a Committee stage on the Report stage of this Bill. There is nothing like taking opportunities as they occur, and the Report stage would offer an opportunity of replacing the Committee stage which these proposals failed to get when the matter was dealt with in another place. Or send the Bill, with all the amendments in it, back to another place where they can sort out these amendments, as they should have done had they dealt properly with the Bill when they had it. That, I think, is the neatest legislative job that has come before your Lordships' House for quite a long time.

My final word is that if the Government would provide time for the completion of the Second Reading of that Bill in another place, then we should be relieved of the responsibility of having to repair the harm that has been done so far. There are precedents for this. When I was in the Government we decided as a matter of policy that no Private Member's Bill that got a Second Reading under its own steam should be frustrated for lack of time. We got some contentious Bills through as Private Members' Bills because we gave the time for Parliament to reach a conclusion on a matter of wide public interest which needed to be attended to.

Indeed, on one occasion when the Sex Discrimination Bill Second Reading was talked out by the late Sir Ronald Bell, the indignation and pressure on the Government were so strong that the Conservative Government gave extra time for the Second Reading of that Bill to be completed and it then went forward to a Select Committee. Therefore, there are precedents for it. If the Minister cares to assure us that the Government are considering it and would like to do something to further the progress of that measure, then there is no need for us to spend time on it here.

Although I have taken a long time, I doubt whether there are many blocks of 15 amendments that have been moved seriatim in so short a total of time as I have taken on this series. Besides, this is a very important subject, a new slice of the Bill, and it is an opportunity which the Government should take. Seven years is long enough for Governments to consider recommendations on a matter of great social and canine importance. Here is the opportunity, now is the time; all we need is the will. Unfortunately, there is not much sign of will sometimes in your Lordships' House. But here is an opportunity, in the interests of dogs and those who own them; 23 per cent. of all households in Britain have dogs, and one in eight of those have two or more. Thus, this is not just something incidental, a sort of tram ticket affair. This is an important side of our social life and the amendments provide rebates for and exemptions from the dog licence fee in suitable cases. I am grateful to the Committee for listening so calmly to what I have said. I beg to move.

8.32 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel

In supporting the admirable speech of my noble friend Lord Houghton, I shall follow his good example and speak at the same time to the other amendments relating to dogs. They hang together because they are all part of a scheme for setting up a nationwide dog warden service run by district councils for the control of stray dogs. I wish to underline, as Lord Houghton did, the proposal to transfer responsibility for the control of stray dogs from the police to local authorities. The main purpose is not to relieve the police, although this is a responsibility with which they are often glad to part because the police already have too much on their hands; they are undermanned and over-stretched for their primary functions of maintaining law and order and traffic control.

In the past, it has surely been unreasonable to add to that burden, as we have, by making the police responsible also for the control of stray dogs. It is not surprising that they have been completely unable to prevent the damage that has been, and still is being, done by stray dogs that are not controlled by their owners, both in urban areas and the countryside, and I will give some examples.

The National Farmers' Union complain of the loss to farmers from injury to their animals from, for example, sheep worrying done by dogs, often hunting in packs. In the last year for which we have figures, 1978, nearly 6,000 farm animals were injured in that way, and of course many other cases were not reported to the police. In the three years between 1975 and 1978, the average annual figure for farm animals killed or injured by dogs was 10,000, and the situation, although entirely different, was no less serious in the towns.

During the years I have quoted, nearly 2,000 people were injured in road accidents in which dogs were directly involved. Every car driver—your Lordships will be among them—will remember seeing solitary dogs on main roads often trying on their own to get through the traffic. To that danger should be added the nuisance of the fouling of pavements and playgrounds by dogs that are not controlled by their owners. Another evil of the present situation, and not the least, is that the police are not even able to enforce the licensing laws. It has been estimated by the Department of the Environment, as my noble friend Lord Houghton pointed out, that half the dogs in the country have not been licensed. So the case for transferring police powers for control and law enforcement in this respect to the local authorities is really unanswerable. The police have not been able to, and cannot, discharge this responsibility.

So that local authorities may be able to do the job, they will require to employ full-time or part-time dog wardens, such as many of them, I believe up to about 100, do at the present time. Those wardens would take over from the police the job of catching and holding stray dogs and of enforcing the licensing laws. But they should be regarded by the local community in which they work as the friend and not the hostile or carping critic of dogs or dog owners, for their first duty on apprehending a stray dog would be to try to trace the owner and return the dog, and that would give the warden what would probably be a very suitable opportunity to explain the need for responsible dog ownership.

Local authorities would, of course, be obliged to raise more money to pay for and equip their dog warden service. We therefore propose in this series of amendments to give them power to fix a reasonable fee for dog licences in their areas at a level which would cover their costs and would take into account not only the provision of a dog warden service but the cost of collecting the licence fees and paying rebates to those entitled to a free licence. A higher licence fee would hardly be unreasonable, considering that the present fee has remained unchanged for over 100 years and is now, as my noble friend pointed out, at a level insufficient even to pay for the cost of collecting it; I understand that the cost of collecting licence fees is about £3 million whereas the Revenue receives about £1 million.

I think the Committee will also agree that some dog owners should be exempted from any payment. They should include the blind, those in receipt of supplementary pensions and the working dogs of shepherds and farmers, if the local authorities think fit. The Government should agree, on the facts, that the present state of affairs is a disgrace to us all; the public in town and country are not adequately protected against dogs that are not controlled, and the law is both out of date and, because of its non-observance, being brought into contempt. If the Government reply that this measure is premature and is not the proper way to introduce a major change in the law relating to dogs, which I suspect may be the Minister's reply, I would remind him that the defects in the existing law have been drawn to the attention of successive Governments repeatedly for many years but without the slightest positive response.

They have turned a deaf ear to pleas for effective action made in both Houses and have ignored the recommendations in the report of their own departmental working party, in addition to the working party of which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, was chairman; and their own report is already six years old. If they turn down our proposals in these amendments, as they have turned down other proposals in the past, and persist in refusing both to introduce their own legislation and to allow time for a Private Member's Bill in another place (which would be alternative ways of doing what we ask for) the least that they can do this evening is to tell the Committee how they consider that this serious social problem can be solved.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

Having all my life owned and trained dogs, from sheepdogs, to watch dogs, to sporting dogs, I support the amendments. The noble Earl who has just sat down made the very good suggestion that there should not have to be a licence and a licence fee for sheepdogs—and of course the present fee is absolutely absurd. But I think that there could be a danger here so far as sheepdogs are concerned. In an area in which, let us suppose, the local authority decided on a licence fee of £10, members of the urban public would say, "We can buy a sheepdog puppy and so won't have to pay a licence fee". But sheepdogs are not good dogs to have in urban areas because they require a great deal of work. They have to gallop miles and miles when they are working and have to be very well exercised. Therefore I would not agree with that suggestion of the noble Earl. I think that the same licence ought to be paid for all dogs, of all breeds.

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, with regard to the problem of stray dogs. They have become such a problem in the last 10 or 12 years This is because in towns many people pass a pet shop and see a lovely little puppy, and say, "What a lovely present!", thinking of their daughter or son. They buy the puppy, but they do not appreciate that a puppy chews up things, and grows, and has to be house trained. After a few months they probably grow tired of it. Then they want to go on holiday, and they say, "What on earth do we do with the dog?" So many people just abandon their dogs. There have even been cases of dogs being left locked up in houses, which is extremely cruel. Many people drive out on to a main road and simply abandon their dogs. That is a very dangerous thing to do. It can cause an accident in which a human being might be killed and in which the dog probably is killed. On two occasions I found on the road dogs which had been run over. They were still alive, and it was extremely distressing to see them.

With regard to the welfare of dogs, I agree that it would be better if the local authorities were given responsibility for stray dogs and if dog wardens were appointed. I recall the Bill under which traffic wardens were introduced. That relieved the police of much trouble and unnecessary responsibility. After all, the police are there to catch criminals, and I think it is quite wrong for them to be given added duties regarding stray dogs. It would be far better to have dog wardens.

With regard to the licence fee, I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that it would be far better if the local authorities set the licence fee, rather than have a mandatory licence fee fixed by the Government for all areas. If a local authority sees no use for dog wardens because it does not have stray dogs in its area—which could be so in certain country areas—there would be no point in having a high licence fee in that area, but in an area where there are a lot of stray dogs the licence fee ought to be at least £10.

There is also the question of rabies. If rabies ever came to this country—which God forbid!—it would be a great advantage to have stray dogs properly organised, which is not the case today. There is also the matter of sheep worrying, which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, raised. There is a lot of sheep worrying by stray dogs. People from the towns go into the country and let their dogs free for a walk. The dogs then savage sheep. I agree that dog wardens could not do anything about that, but they could be helpful in another way. People who do not understand dogs allow them to stray and the bitches get in pup. If there were dog wardens, they could advise the owners to have their bitches spayed, which is a very simple operation.

I support the amendments, since what is proposed would relieve the police of an unnecessary duty. It is not a suitable duty for the police. It would also be of help to dog owners, in particular urban dog owners, if dog wardens could advise them on how to look after their dogs and stop them from having endless litters of puppies.

8.49 p.m.

Lord Cottesloe

I shall follow the admirable example of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and speak to all 14 amendments together, since they create, or are designed to create, a complete and coherent system, but I hope perhaps that I shall not follow the noble Lord at such great length. The system which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, explained would consist of transferring to the local authorities responsibility for dogs, in particular stray dogs. It would alter the arrangements in respect of dog licences, and it would create an army of dog wardens throughout the country. I am quite sure that the proposed new clauses are put forward with the best possible intentions, but I am equally sure that they are thoroughly misguided, and I hope that the Committee will not accept them.

This is not in any way a party matter. I have no interest that I should declare to the Committee in this matter. I have a great interest in dogs in general and in stray dogs in particular; in particular because for the last dozen years I have been the chairman (an unpaid chairman) of the Dogs' Home, Battersea, a charitable institution, more than a century old, which every year deals with 18,000 dogs in the Greater London area, nearly all of them strays.

Under the Dogs Act, as your Lordships know, the responsibility for stray dogs rests at the present time on the police, who have to keep them for seven days to enable their owners to claim them, after which, if they are not claimed, they are free to dispose of them in whatever way seems best. Incidentally, that period of seven days was fixed many years before the present Dogs Act 1906, at the express instance of Queen Victoria, no doubt because the weekend is the only time when people who are at work all the week are able to go and search for and reclaim their dogs—a point which Lord Houghton's committee seem to have overlooked when they recommended that the period should be reduced.

In London, the Battersea Dogs' Home carry out the statutory duty of the Metropolitan and City of London Police under contract, the police making each year a payment under the contract of the ascertained cost of keeping for the seven days the dogs that they pass on to us. We collect the dogs as required from the 190 or so police stations in the metropolitan area, we look after them for the statutory period, and if they are unclaimed we find new homes for the great majority of them. We also keep dogs for people who are unable to look after them while they are in hospital or, it may be, while they are detained in prison.

These arrangements work smoothly and happily, and we have representatives of the police on our committee. The total number of dogs we deal with each year has remained pretty steady at about 18,000; but while the number of strays reclaimed by their owners is only about 15 per cent.—a figure which makes it clear, I am sorry to say, that many of the strays are what I may call deliberate strays; dogs turned out by owners who, for one reason or another, find they cannot manage to keep them—the number for which we have found new homes has in recent years been doubled (in January, we found new homes for more than 1,000 dogs) and the residue that ultimately have to be put down has been halved. Of course, many of the dogs that we receive come to us diseased and irrecoverable, but in principle we never, and in practice we very seldom, have to put down a healthy dog.

I am not well informed about the arrangements outside London, but in some cities I know the RSPCA operate a similar service. At all events, the arrangements in the metropolitan area work smoothly and efficiently, and I am entirely without doubt that a transfer of responsibility from the police to the local authorities—whether, in London, to the large number of metropolitan boroughs or to the Greater London Council itself—would prove very much more expensive and very much less efficient. It would, in fact, be disastrous. I say that as one who has had some experience of local authorities, not only as a ratepayer but as having served for ten years after the war on the London County Council, which was, if I may say so, a more efficient body than the Greater London Council which succeeded it, and for five years on the old Hampstead Borough Council, an infinitely more efficient body than the Camden Borough Council, which absorbed it.

I may add that while of course we must all agree that the police have very many more important things to look after than stray dogs, my friends in the police force tell me what I am perfectly sure is true, that even if such a transfer as is proposed were to be made, they would still have to do all the work. So the change, with its establishment of an army of dog wardens, who, if they were armed with the powers to exercise their functions effectively, would form a great new bureaucracy as much detested by the public as are the traffic wardens, would bring a new system which would be cumbrous, inefficient and very expensive, and there is every reason for the Committee to reject it.

There is, however, one facet of these proposals that I warmly welcome, and that is that the dog licence fee, set more than a century ago at 7s. 6d and now standing at the equivalent figure of 37½p, should be increased to a figure more realistic today. I think it should certainly be increased to £5, possibly to a figure higher than that—a figure that would be worth collecting and would make the dog-owner feel that he had something worth looking after. The distasteful pill of an increase in the fee might perhaps be sweetened by including a right, initially, to a free inoculation, or something of that sort.

I also warmly support the suggestion that all dogs licensed should wear collars with the name, address and telephone number of the owner, and a disc to show that the licence fee has been paid. But even here, over licences, the proposers of the new system have got it wrong. It stands out a mile that whatever the fee may be there should be uniformity throughout the country, as with other licences, and not one figure in one local authority area and a different figure in another. It does not need very much thought to see that that would produce such a host of local anomalies that it would in fact be a nonsense. So on every ground I hope that these amendments will be withdrawn, but if they are not I hope that your Lordships will defeat them, and defeat them decisively. in the Division Lobbies.

Lord Evans of Claughton

May I express general support from these Benches from the amendments put down by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton? I suppose I should declare an interest as a dog-owner myself—a neutered Jack Russell. May I also say that, as the noble Lord the Minister is probably as aware as I am, we are now in the season of the year when people are rushing about canvassing for the local elections, and the biggest single problem with which they are confronted (at least in the part of the world where I come from and where I was a councillor for many years) is dog fouling.

But there is a much more serious problem in urban areas about dogs, the lack of licences for them and the way they are turned out from homes after they have been given as Christmas presents to the children, and that is the packs of dogs that very often terrorise housing estates in urban areas. They terrorise housing estates in the part of the world in which I live, and I am sure that this may be the experience of others of your Lordships who live in urban areas. So I think there is a clear need for control of a more specific kind than exists at present.

I respect very much what the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said about the work that is done in the Battersea Dogs' Home and in various other organisations of that kind, but I think almost on his own confession the record outside the metropolitan area is, at best, very patchy. Some local authorities, like the one of which I used to be a member, do have dog wardens, but the Wirral Borough Council, with a population of 400,000-odd, had two part-time dog wardens, who could not do a very effective job in dealing with the problems presented by the number of dogs with which they had to deal. There seems to be wide agreement that, first, the dog licence should be very much increased over the absurd sum which is the present licence fee. I think it should be related to the cost of administering the service. If a local authority requires a large number of dog wardens, then in spite of the difficulty which, I recognise, would result from having different amounts in different districts, it might be more expensive to own a dog in an urban area than in a rural area. But that is probably a good thing because the more expensive it is to own a dog, the more careful the dog owner's will be in looking after them and not allowing them to disturb other people's lives. I take the point about the difficulty of having variable rates in different parts of the country; but where the problem is greater, the licence fee should be greater; and this would reduce the problem.

In the same way, I think that the owners of dogs that have been spayed or neutered should get a rebate on their licence fee because they are, in fact, discouraging the spread of the dog population and assisting in keeping it within limitations. I notice from the amendments that the age of attainment to qualify for a licence is six months. I think there is much to be said for introducing a puppy licence in addition to dog licences. Some of the greatest cruelty is done to very young dogs in the early days after they have ceased to be the overnight pets of children and are then thrown out while very young. There is a case for requiring either dog licences to be imposed earlier or that there be puppy licences, in addition.

I do not think this would result in a whole army of dog wardens. I think, that what would happen if we imposed a more economic dog licensing system, if we enforced that and if we had sufficient wardens to enforce it and took it from the police—which is a job they do not like doing—then, in a comparatively short time, the major problem of cruelty to dogs, of packs of dogs causing terror in neighbourhoods and the general cruelty to young dogs would disappear—not quickly, but would cease to be the major problem that it is today.

I support broadly the amendments put down by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton. I think that his proposal that we should regard the Report stage as a Committee stage for these clauses is a good one. Although I broadly support the amendments put down, like most of your Lordships, I would like to be able to think of improvements that might be done to the various amendments moved en bloc. We would support this as a useful and important measure particularly for people living in urban areas.

9.3 p.m.

Lord Irving of Dartford

These amendments bring together the interests of those aggrieved by the pets of irresponsible owners and those very responsible dog owners who want to keep their pets and to live at peace with their neighbours; and, therefore, I believe they ought to have a wide appeal. They are necessary because of the widespread nuisance caused by stray dogs, of which the police dealt with 20,000 last year alone—a job they do not want, and understandably, for they can act as little other than dog catchers. There is a much wider problem involved in the education of pet owners as well as in dealing with the results of the actions of irresponsible pet owners.

That is why a whole range of organisations interested in animal welfare have come together; JACOPIS, with which I and my noble friends are associated, the RSPCA, the National Farmers' Union, the Local Authority Associations and, particularly, the ABC, of which I am vice-president. The problem, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has said, is great and urgent. In 1978, the last year for which figures were kept, 5,738 farm animals were injured by dogs; in the years 1975 to 1978, 10,000 a year were bitten or mutilated by uncontrolled dogs in Great Britain. On the roads 1,950 people in 1978 were injured in road accidents where a dog was involved and 11 people were killed; in 1979, 1,761 were injured and 14 people killed. The RSPCA say that dogs can spread unpleasant diseases and can create a serious nuisance by fouling pavements. Many people fail to take out licences and the Department of the Environment report in 1976 said that 1 out of 2 were not licensed. Dog ownership is entered into far too lightly and many pets are abandoned. Apart from financing the dog-warden scheme, it would discourage this irresponsible purchasing of pets and their abandonment.

The question is how best to deal with the problem. We believe that transferring responsibility to the local authority from the police—I have been a member of a local authority for 30 years and am still a member—and giving them powers to carry out this function is the best way to deal with the problem.

Both the RSPCA and JACOPIS believe that this is the way forward; the ABC is prepared on behalf of local authorities to accept responsibility. They all believe that by this means standards are likely to be inculcated in the dog-owning public to the advantage in welfare terms of dogs in general. Why legislate? Some may say that this is not necessary. Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides the basis for the appointment of dog wardens. But the ability to incur expenditure in the interest of inhabitants is circumscribed by Section 137(4) which provides that the total amount of such expenditure may not exceed the sum raised by a 2p rate. Those of us involved in local government know that there are plenty of demands on Section 137, anyway.

There are a number of objections to this. Section 111 of the 1972 Act is a catch-all provision. Where there is a specific need known in advance by the local authority, we believe that specific provision ought to be made. Many councils do not believe that they have adequate powers. Why else resort to private measures in private Bills? There is concern, too, that the district auditor or an aggrieved ratepayer may challenge successfully the establishment of a dog warden scheme; and for a council it is one of the things relevant to the assessment of the needs and resources of its area. It transfers the burdensome responsibility of dealing with stray dogs to local authorities as local authorities under the Dogs Act 1906 do not have power to deal with stray dogs. It relieves the police of this requirement. This would be pointless unless the local authority had power or authority to enforce this legislation and new powers are essential to deal with the problem. It is not comprehensive, as was originally intended. It does not deal with the issues of breeding or sale. Nor is it an attempt to codify the existing legislation which runs from the Act of 1839 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It is a modest attempt to deal with the issues raised by stray dogs, by transferring to local authorities the responsibility for dealing with them by providing a warden service which will deal with this serious and growing nuisance and at the same time help with animal welfare, and particularly with the job of educating pet owners about how they can keep their pets without giving offence to others. I hope that tonight the Government will be able to give in principle at least support to this proposal, one which we believe is overdue.

Lord John-Mackie

If I may delay the Committee for one moment, first I should like to declare my interest. I am a farmer and a dog owner. The point has been made that somewhere round about 6,000 cases of dog worrying take place every year. Anyone who has seen—as I have—the result of dog worrying among a flock of sheep, especially at lambing time, will realise that some control of dogs is very necessary indeed. Whether this is the right method or not I leave the Government to decide, but I support some system of the control of dogs.

I agree that the licence fee must be a national, uniform fee. I do not think one can expect every local authority to decide on the licence fee. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, said that we should not rely on the RSPCA or the Battersea Dogs' Home; but there should be, I think, tremendous co-operation with the RSPCA. They have done a tremendous job in trying to control stray dogs. I understand they catch nearly half a million a year. They dispose of less than half of that number and have to destroy more than half of them. It is a big job and any council should co-operate with them.

Education is required. As has been said, it is amazing how many people think that a little puppy will remain that size, whereas it will grow—and I exaggerate—into a great St. Bernard. I blame pet shops a lot for this. There should be some control. I do not know whether there is any control from the Home Office of pet shops, but I think that the pet shops have a lot to blamed for regarding stray dogs.

When I was at the Ministry in the middle of the 1964–70 Government there was pressure from the NFU to have something done about dog worrying. It was left to me to see what could be done. I made the suggestion that first there should be an increase in the dog licence to £2. I remember an official at the Ministry saying: "What about the hounds?". I said that the last thing I would worry about— with all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Margadale—was the hounds each having a licence at a cost of £2.

This matter was brought up at a Cabinet Committee meeting. I put this forward and it was left to be discussed. It was decided that it was politically a bad move. We were approaching an election and we would lose votes if we made the dog licence £2. I thought that this was ridiculous. However, I was overruled. Funnily enough, two weeks ago this was being discussed—and I shall not mention by which party—and they said: "Do not do anything before the Hillhead by-election. As the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, said, do not make it a party matter and then we might get something done. As I have said, I tried to do something round about 1967–68, which is nearly 20 years ago, and nothing has been done. My noble friend Lord Houghton pressed the Government that now is the time, and I think something should be done.

I should like to refer to rabies. In my time at the Ministry we had an outbreak of rabies in one dog in the New Forest area. If we had had some control or some register of dogs at that period it would have made life a lot easier in trying to trace any animal that might have been in contact with the dog that had rabies. As it happened, the dog was caught in time. There seemed to be no connection and the rabies did not spread. But it is a very real point.

I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, thinks that dog wardens are in the same category as traffic wardens. I am sure they would be far more popular. As has also been said, there are a number of people who are disgusted with the mess made by stray dogs in parks and streets. If wardens did something to improve on that, I am sure they would be very popular instead of the other way about.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I will not keep your Lordships very long at this late stage, but in view of the fact that the whole of the amendments we have before us are asking that the local authorities should take over these powers, I think that before the Government take any decision they should make sure that the local authorities are consulted in great detail. It is all very well giving them powers, but the powers are likely to involve them in expenditure. We heard what the noble Lord said about Battersea: in Birmingham we have three very large homes for dogs and the only way the police can operate the Dog Licences Act at the present moment is by the co-operation of the voluntary bodies who will take the dogs from the police. But who will take the dogs from the local authorities if there are no voluntary bodies in the various localities?

I have quite a large knowledge of dog wardens because the Birmingham constituency I used to represent was an inner city area, and it will be found that people living in the city in what we call "slum clearance houses" tend to have big dogs that bark very loud; they have those dogs purely and simply on the grounds of safety because their homes are very easy to get into and are substandard, with all that that involves. Then, when the local authority rehouses them and puts them into these lovely multi-storey blocks of flats, the local authority says: "No pets are allowed".

Therefore, from my own knowledge of stray dogs I know what happens. It is not a question of just one or two dogs going down a motorway or two or three dogs chasing sheep, but as many as 40 or 50 in a pack going round the newer developments that have been constructed. I do not know whether we were very successful in keeping them down. We tried our best, but it is a difficult problem and all I would say is that if local authorities are being given powers which will involve them in expenditure they should be very seriously consulted. I raise no objections to the principle behind this, but it is consultation with local authorities that I am asking the Government seriously to consider.

Lord Collison

I think I am in order in speaking now—I had been hoping to rise before my noble friend on the Front Bench got to her feet. I would like just to comment that when the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned that this matter had been discussed a number of times before in this Chamber, I well remembered speaking myself on this subject several years ago. I spoke on it because, although I know the figures that have been given to us by the National Farmers' Union, I have also experienced the effects of sheep worrying myself on farms where I have worked. Of course, it is not a pleasant thing to observe or try to deal with when you see a dog with a sheep: to get him off takes some doing.

I also said when I spoke before to your Lordships that any dog can suddenly take on this proclivity for worrying sheep. I have a cousin who bought a so-called sheepdog, a collie, and the dog was perfectly house-trained; nobody could possibly have any objection to it. It would be taken for walks in the usual way; and then they brought this dog down to the country where I was living and working, and the first time the dog was taken out and let off the lead he immediately rushed for the sheep and began to worry them. Of course, it is not only sheep which are worried but other animals on the farm.

I do not want to detain your Lordships now, but the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, mentioned the problem of puppies. This is one of them—you never know. The noble Earl mentioned that this matter has been discussed before. So it has—many times—and I hope that we can get assurances from the Government on this occasion that something will be done about it.

9.19 p.m.

Lord Bellwin

May I first of all say that I have listened very carefully to all your Lordships who have spoken, and especially at the beginning to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. May I say that I admired very much, as I always do, his assiduousness and his articulation. He is always so persuasive, but I think he knows better than most, perhaps, that this is not an easy one to put over to your Lordships. May I say also that I unreservedly accept that the movers and the supporters of the amendment are, as he says, in earnest and that they feel very deeply about this matter. I think that should be made quite clear straight away.

In turn, those who have spoken in favour of the amendments would also accept that there are strongly held and differing views on the subject of dogs. It is evident that, despite the concern about dog nuisance problems, with which the Government are sympathetic, there are major differences of view about the extent and nature of the problems and about the right way of dealing with them. Clearly, this is reflected in the different approaches already employed at local level to deal with dogs. Although there are said to be deficiencies in existing local authority powers, much can be done and local authorities can assess local problems and priorities as regards action on dogs. If they have a dog nuisance problem, they are surely best placed to decide on the most appropriate way of proceeding, given local circumstances, and they can, and do, in my experience, take action under existing legislation when public annoyance and even distress is caused by dogs.

For example, local authorities use their powers to make by-laws, confirmed by the Home Secretary, in respect of fouling and dog control. In addition, some local authorities have made orders designating roads in their areas on which it is an offence to allow a dog without a lead. Authorities can also use their powers to make curfew regulations in respect of dogs to try to prevent cattle worrying. Other authorities have obtained powers, similar to those of the police, to deal with strays where they feel that they have a particularly serious problem of dog nuisance. While many authorities have already set up dog warden schemes, many others have not done so. Whether or not they do so must be a matter for local discretion, given local circumstances, local needs and local priorities. This is an area in which, traditionally, local authorities have been free to act as they see fit using all, or any, of their existing powers as necessary.

There has been discussion and observations have been made about the licence fee itself and its collection costs. Clearly, the fee now is derisory, but any alterations—and I do not think anyone would quarrel with this—must be made as part of a general revision of the law as a whole, in relation to dogs, which may one day or another take place. I regret that the Government have been unable to accord a high priority at the present time to overall consideration of the subject of dogs. It is for this reason that, as has been indicated before now, we have no plans for early action on follow-up to the working party's report on dogs. However, I note that the amendments appear to conflict with the recommendations of that report; for example, in proposing local determination of the level of the dog licence fee. Seemingly, they would create a very complex system involving both central and local government for dealing with dog nuisance problems.

It will be useful if I turn for a moment to the amendments and their ramifications. These amendments seek to place new duties on local authorities, and those duties are to be mandatory—not discretionary. Even the Aspinwall Bill was discretionary. Every local authority is to assume responsibility for the control, welfare, seizure, detention and disposal of stray dogs in its area, and to perform the duties specified in Part I of the schedule, entitled Dog Wardens. The duties set out in the schedule involve the local authority in surveying its area; for example, to determine the identity and location of stray dogs. A local authority will not be responsible for carrying out these provisions; if the Secretary of State directs that the provisions of the Act shall not apply. To arrive at this situation, a local authority would have to inform the Secretary of State that, in their opinion, a direction should be made, because the size and nature of the stray dog problem in their area does not, in effect, warrant their being obliged to carry out the requisite mandatory responsibilities.

I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, made the point so well about the powers and duties of local authorities. She, like me, and I am sure many others, has also had experience of this situation, which can be very difficult. I certainly want it to be dealt with by authorities in their own way, as they think best. It is their responsibility and they have the opportunities and the powers, if they wish to use them.

As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said, the licensing arrangements proposed in the amendments would, it seems, work in tandem with the system of assigning numbered registration discs to be worn by dogs in public places, and the licences issued would license a particular dog identified on the licence form by a full description, including any distinguishing marks. One can only guess at the amount of paper work which would be involved. In addition, the resource implications for local government of new mandatory duties or of getting rid of some of them, once acquired, have to be evaluated and very seriously considered. Finally, there is the question of need in relation to mandatory or discretionary powers. There are arguments favouring one or other approach, just as there are as regards a nationally or locally determined level of licence fee.

We do not consider that the package which the amendments present offers a satisfactory or practicable solution. In looking at the problem it is necessary to consider the position of dogs in society, both rural and urban, and see how all the problems of nuisance and control square up with existing legislation, of which there is an abundance. This is an enormous task.

It is appreciated that many of your Lordships have been concerned for many years about the control and welfare of dogs. For example, the Government are well aware of the activities of the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society, but I am sure noble Lords will recognise that there are a number of complex issues relating to dogs. I am sure noble Lords will also recognise that strong views are held on dogs, both for and against ways of tackling the problem. I would suggest that these cannot be solved here and now by creating a new and complicated piece of legislation. Furthermore, I would point out that the subject matter of the amendments does not meet the criteria for including it in the Bill. These proposals are not based on a sufficiently broad consensus of opinion. For example, they are not well precedented in post-April 1974 local authority Acts, which contain only some discretionary provisions concerning the control of dogs.

Disappointed though I know the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, will be (and, indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, and all those who have spoken as they have) the Government do not consider it to be appropriate to try to deal comprehensively with the issue of dogs—which, I say again, involves control of strays, dog warden systems and licensing arrangements—within the context of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who will certainly agree that there has been extensive discussion tonight of the matter, will feel that he does not wish to press the amendments. It is with that perhaps optimistic hope—but I never fail to be so—that I sit down, having presented the Government's position.

9.29 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

The noble Lord's expectation that I would be disappointed puts it mildly. He has just given us the classic prescription for Governments doing nothing. Why appoint committees to go into problems and then disregard the work that they do? And why not heed a good deal of public concern about this problem?

I was very surprised by the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe. I will make it my business to look up the evidence of the Battersea Dogs' Home to the working party in 1975. I am sure it will be worth while studying and I shall make it my business to find out what they said. They gave oral evidence to the working party, besides putting in a written document.

On local authorities generally, the impetus behind these amendments and the work which we are doing in this field comes from local authorities. Noble Lords do not know what is going on. What is going on at the present time are seminars and conferences with local authorities all over the country under the auspices of JACOPIS, and consultation with local authorities and police authorities—who are all behind the broad structure of the reforms which I have put to your Lordships' Committee tonight. I can assure my noble friend Lady Fisher of Rednal that not only are local authorities being consulted, they are making the running, because they want the additional powers that these amendments will give them. I must point out to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, that local authorities certainly do have dog wardens at the present time; they have taken the initiative.

The Bill that the Government could not make up their minds about in another place did not make mandatory the provisions in these amendments. As I pointed out, they were trimmed at the suggestion of representatives of departments in order to move the thing forward without imposing too heavy a burden upon local authorities, a burden that did not want them. We thought it was desirable to present to your Lordships a stronger Bill containing stronger recommendations, in order that your Lordships could see what the situation required.

Local authorities have no power to deal with the finances of the dog warden system; they cannot impose an additional levy upon dog owners. They cannot even make any money out of the existing licence. Do the Government really contemplate that the dog licence farce will go on indefinitely? What is the point of having a tax on dogs which is 50 per cent. evaded? The Government all go white when they think of the black economy and at the evasion of taxation in other fields, but apparently they can contemplate the wholesale evasion of dog licence fees. But with wardens, it is not a question of the dog licence fee but of knowing where the dogs are. They have no power to enforce the payment of the licence fee to any greater extent than is being done at present.

I am very sad about this, but when a noble Lord is as old as I am, the great thing is to live to fight another day. That is what I propose to do. I am going to beg leave to withdraw Amedment No. 97. I hope that I shall be spared the "Jack in the Box" operation of getting up and down to say "Not moved" in respect of the other 14 amendments. I should like to give notice now that I shall not move the 14 other associated amendments. To save me the risk of shortening my life by the action of popping up and down to say "Not moved", I hope that the Chair can accept that, and will let it rest there.

I will withdraw Amendment No. 97, but I will consult with my friends as to what we will do in the later stages of this Bill. I respectfully thank all those who contributed to this debate. I will take note of the criticisms and suggestions which have been made, and we may wish to incorporate them in some revised version of what we propose to do. The "Mansfield Law" states that one should stick to one's vehicle and progress if one can. That is what we propose to do.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 98 to 104 not moved.]

Clause 29 [Enforceability by local authorities of certain covenants relating to land]:

9.34 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 105:

Page 34, line 6, leave out ("become") and insert ("are").

The noble Lord said: Since Clause 29 replaces Section 126 of the Housing Act 1974, Amendment No. 106 is necessary to ensure the continued enforceability of covenants to which Section 126 applies. Amendment No. 105 is consequential on the previous amendment, No. 106. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 106:

Page 34, line 25, after ("section") insert ("or section 126 of the Housing Act 1974 (which is superseded by this section)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 107:

Page 35, line 13, at end insert— ("(4A) If a person against whom a covenant is enforceable by virtue of subsection (2) above requests the principal council to supply him with a copy of the covenant, it shall be their duty to do so free of charge.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment simply puts an obligation on the local authority, if so requested, to provide free of charge a copy of any enforceable covenant to persons against whom the covenant may be enforced, where they were not party to the covenant when it was entered into. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 108:

Page 35, line 14, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: This amendment provides for the omission of subsection (5). That subsection is unnecessary since Section 1(1)(d) of the Local Land Charges Act 1975 deals with the matter. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 109:

Page 36, line 13, at end insert— ("(10) Section 126 of the Housing Act 1974 (which is superseded by this section) shall cease to have effect; but in relation to a covenant falling with subsection (2) of that section, section 1(1)(d)of the Local Land Charges Act 1975 shall continue to have effect as if the reference to the commencement of that Act had been a reference to the coming into operation of the said section 126.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment provides for Section 126 of the Housing Act 1974 to cease to have effect and, in consequence of Amendment No. 108, ensures that covenants falling within subsection (2) of Section 126 will continue to be registered as local land charges. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 [Control of fly-posting]:

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 37, line 14, after ("borough") insert (" and as respects an area being or comprising the whole or any part of a National Park, the National Park Committee Joint Planning Board or Special Planning Board").

The noble Viscount said: I am afraid this is dull stuff after all the dogs, but I hope it will take a good deal less time than they did. This amendment refers to Clause 31 which as at present drafted enables district councils, which are the authority responsible for advertisement control under town and country planning legislation, to remove illegal advertisements. I think your Lordships will agree that this is a very valuable and useful new power to have, that unsightly advertisements should be able to be physically removed.

The Government have clearly linked this new function to the advertisement control system, and indeed the Minister in introducing this clause at Report stage in another place said that the new power is deliberately linked with the system of planning control over outdoor advertising. But I think I must introduce this amendment because district councils are not responsible for the control of advertisements in national parks. This function is exercised by the national park authorities. Your Lordships will recall that we have had numerous debates in previous legislation about the planning functions of national parks authorities, which are quite distinct from the functions outside national parks.

Of course, it can be argued that the physical removal of offending advertisements will be carried out by the staff of the district councils involved because they have such staff equipped to do it outside national parks. I am quite certain that it does not mean that the district council should have the statutory authority. That is why I move this amendment. It is, of course, possible for the national park authority to enter into an agency agreement with the district under the Local Government Act 1972 which allows the district to do this work for it. But it is right, I think, that where the control of advertisements rests the new power of control should also rest. I can only give one example, the Peak District, where there are at least 9 district councils, all of whom might have separate operations, and confusion could result. I think it would be much better if national park authorities responsible for the control of advertisements and the issuing of planning permission were responsible for the removal of offending advertisements. This is all the amendment seeks to do. I think it is a simplification.

I would only add that I have the support of the Countryside Commission, who are the Government's advisers in these matters, who say—and I think they are right—that it would make very good sense for control of such things to rest with the national park authorities and for them to deal with advertisement control.

Baroness David

The noble Viscount also has the support of our Benches. It seems quite right that the national parks, as planning authorities, should have this right of control as well.

Lord Beliwin

I understand that my noble friend's amendment is inspired by a suggestion that he has had from the Association of County Councils, with some support from the Countryside Commission. I have listened, as I always do, very carefully to what my noble friend said, and I know that officials in the Department of the Environment have listened just as carefully to the Association of County Councils, whose views on matters such as this we always respect. It is, therefore, with some regret that I say to my noble friend that, after this most careful consideration of the issues which this amendment raises, we feel that we are unable to accept it.

If I may say so, I think that the ACC have misunderstood the basic purpose of the new power given to district councils by Clause 31 of the Bill. It is not an additional power for planning control over outdoor advertising: that is why the clause is not drafted so as to give this new power to local planning authorities in England and Wales. If it were such a power, then I quite agree with my noble friend that it would be entirely appropriate also to confer the power on the national park authorities for England and Wales. Instead, what the clause does is to give district councils a new power to remove or obliterate a particular type of nuisance, namely: "fly-posting". This is consistent with other powers district councils already have—for example, in the Public Health Act 1936—to remove or abate various nuisances. Moreover, the new power has been carefully modelled on the example already set in three local Acts where district councils have been given a similar power in the areas of South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, and the County of Kent. These provisions have been thoroughly discussed with the local authority associations and nobody has suggested that the clause, as drafted is not workable in practice.

There is one further consideration which I hope that my noble friend will find persuasive. If a national park authority or one of the two planning boards, want to exercise this power, I am advised that it should be practicable for them to do so by means of an agency arrangement entered into under Section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 with the district council, once Clause 31 in this Bill has been enacted. I do not say that I would necessarily want to encourage this in all national parks because there may be reasons why it is not always appropriate. But the possibility is there and I commend it to my noble friend. I hope that, with those brief remarks, my noble friend Lord Ridley perhaps now appreciates why I cannot accept the amendment. But I think that what he wants can be achieved in practice by another route. I hope, for that reason, that he will not feel it necessary to press the amendment further.

Viscount Ridley

I am not at all persuaded by my noble friend the Minister. He does not seem to have answered any of my arguments as regards the amendment which is meant to simplify the Bill. However, it is not a matter of such importance that requires a Division. I just remain unsatisfied and I may raise the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.44 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 110A:

Page 37, line 15, at end insert ("or other unauthorised message").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 110A. The purpose of this amendment is to provide that the control by local authorities of fly-posting should be extended to include the spray painting or, indeed, the inscription by any other method, of slogans and expressions on walls and buildings. In my view, a powerful argument in favour of this inclusion is that these two forms of defacement clearly go together. If fly-posting is found to be offensive, then so surely, equally, is the scrawling on walls of slogans. I do not see how one can possibly be divorced from the other.

This clause has been drafted on an adoptive basis and I expect some local authorities will find no possible necessity to avail themselves of it. There will be no imposition on them to do so. However, on the other hand, certain local authorities in areas where the National Front is particularly active, in multiracial areas where the National Front makes a habit of scrawling its odious slogans on walls with one particular purpose, of course—of inciting racial and other forms of hatred—surely might well be grateful for the power to remove as soon as possible such provocative inscriptions before the sensitivities of too many in that locality have been inflamed.

As we all know, within our particular system there are very few measures at our disposal to control and counter the highly offensive, provocative manifestations of racialism, with all the ensuing inflammatory effects. So surely we should not let the opportunity provided by this Bill slip by without availing ourselves of this measure to stop walls being desecrated, by, as I say, these highly offensive racialist inscriptions. Therefore, for that reason, together with the fact that fly-posting and spray-painting go so naturally hand in hand, and that local authorities will be left at complete liberty whether or not to avail themselves of the power, it seems eminently reasonable and sensible to make this inclusion. I beg to move.

Lord Evans of Claughton

Briefly, I should like to support the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I support the principle and the concept behind it. I suspect that it will be a little difficult to enforce in the context of this permissive legislation, but in principle I still think that one should give a very clear message that the kind of graffiti to which the noble Baroness refers should be regarded—and I think can, under existing legislation, be regarded—as a breach of the law.

One of the things that I find most extraordinary is that the people who claim to love Wales the most and those who, no doubt, claim to love Scotland the most—and the nationalist parties are always telling us that this is their great basic belief—then go to enormous trouble to deface all the most beautiful areas of Wales with notices saying "Cofia Treweryn" and other Welsh remarks which, translated to your Lordships, remind us of the temporary defeat of the Welsh by the English in 1294, and things of that nature. It always strikes me as quite extraordinary that some beautiful areas of both Scotland and Wales are completely defaced by huge nationalist signs. It should, I submit, be fairly easy to identify who is responsible for that and, therefore, to do something about it, because whatever one's view are about one's own district or the way one's race has been treated, that position is not improved by defacing and destroying some of the most beautiful parts of those areas.

Perhaps the Minister can reassure us about the heading "or other unauthorised message". The political parties—and here I include all the political parties—particularly in country districts during a general election, and indeed sometimes a local election, go about defacing everything in sight—traffic signs, telephone boxes—with slogans of "Vote for John Jones, Conservative" or "Fred Williams, Labour". Of course, the Liberals never commit that kind of solecism. Would those kind of unauthorised messages also be included in the type of draconian legislation which local authorities are being invited to adopt? I hope that they will be.

Lord Bellwin

Of course, everyone shares the distaste for the spray-painting of slogans or other expressions on walls and buildings, and the Government no less than the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, the noble Lord. Lord Evans, and I am sure everyone in your Lordships' Committee. However, we do not think it advisable to extend Clause 31 to spray-painting, because it would then be brought within the statutory system of planning control over outdoor advertisements, thus giving it an additional importance which we feel is unwarranted. In practice most of these slogans or expressions appear on public buildings or other buildings, or street furniture, whose owner is either a public body or some other person or organisation who will not want offensive or defamatory slogans or expressions to appear on their premises.

In these circumstances, the Government do not think it would be advisable to create a presumption that it is the job of every district council in England and Wales to make staff available to remove or obliterate spray-painted slogans or expressions from premises for which the council have no responsibility. Furthermore, this is not a power that local authorities have sought in the rationalisation Bills that they have introduced into Parliament since 1974. We are not aware that they would in fact welcome this power. For this reason, we cannot accept the amendment. But having said that, certainly the principles behind what the noble Baroness has said are unquestioned.

Lord Mishcon

Would the noble Lord the Minister permit me to ask him to reconsider the nature of his reply? I say this because the inference from his remarks was that in fact this would give an importance to the spraying on the walls and so on which the whole subject did not deserve. Every one of us in this House is most anxious to see that a section of our community is not unduly insulted. Indeed, there was a debate in this House the other day when we were trying to deal with the causes of crime and public disorder.

I cannot think of anything more offensive, more inciting to young people who happen to have a different colour from our own, than to find on buildings—and they may be disused buildings, and therefore the owners are not there to try to remove it—an invitation, not always courteously worded, to return to their own country, with expressions like "niggers out" that all of us have seen defacing the walls of many of our districts in the metropolitan area, and, I have no doubt, outside it.

I sometimes try to put myself in the position of young people—citizens of this country—walking around finding those slogans and finding nobody to remove them. I suppose if they were to be seen trying to do something about it, they might even be committing an offence—it may be trespass, it may be something else. As my noble friend so properly said, this is an adoptive power. A local authority need not take it on if they do not want to. There are some local authorities, I feel sure, who happen to have as a large section of their population coloured citizens, and I believe that those authorities might wish to adopt this power.

Would the noble Lord the Minister at least say that he will reconsider the matter in the light of what has been said today, in the hope that at Report stage this amendment need not be put down again because the Government themselves will come out with a phrase—and I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Evans, said—which might be a little more helpful than the words used here, which I know have been given a lot of consideration but with which nevertheless none of us would be terribly happy? Obviously, if the message that "Jill loves George" came within this description—we have also seen that sort of thing scribbled on the wall—it would be hardly likely that we would be trying desperately hard to cover that situation.

Lord Bellwin

I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord said and certainly I shall discuss this with colleagues. The problems which it would present, as I suggested in my original remarks, are perhaps greater than we realise. However, I am so sympathetic with the intention behind what is proposed that I think the very least I can do is to say, yes, I will take it away to look at and consider it with colleagues. The Committee will understand that I am not able to go further than that, and that I cannot promise we shall be able to do anything. However, I understand what is being said and I shall take the matter away and we shall talk about it.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

I thank the Minister very much for that assurance. I hope he will be able to improve on his original answer and, in view of his remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 111:

Page 39, line 15, leave out ("held under a grant or presumed grant or") and insert ("the right to hold which was acquired by virtue of a grant (including a presumed grant) or acquired or established by virtue of").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment to remove any doubt as to whether markets held merely by virtue of the planning permission conferred by the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1977 might be exempt from the prior notification requirements of this clause. The amendment ensures that subsection (6)(a) exempts only markets which are held by right of a franchise or statutory authority. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.56 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 31, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness David

I have a few questions to ask about the clause. Subsection (3) says: A council shall not exercise any power conferred by subsection (1) of this section where a placard or poster identifies the person who displayed it or caused it to be displayed unless they have first given him notice in writing ". Would the Minister think it a good idea if that provision included the need for the address of the person or company to be given? A great deal of time could be wasted trying to find who the person was. I should be obliged if the noble Lord could at least comment on that. I should also like to know whether "A" hoards are covered by the clause; I am sure noble Lords will have seen such boards, for example, standing on the pavement outside shops. My final question is about leaflets being distributed outside schools, in particular leaflets which tend to stir up racial hatred. A new clause was proposed in another place on 3rd February, on Report, when the Minister, Mr. Raison, said: I have already told the House that measures under the existing criminal law extend to the distribution of literature that is likely to stir up racial hatred". He went on: We are considering whether the legislation is effective and I repeat my firm assurance to the House that we must get the law right and not use it simply as a vehicle to express sentiments which I fully accept are strongly and justifiably held". Has any further review been done on that and has any progress been made, because it is another point about which we are very anxious?

Lord Mishcon

Most of the discussion on this clause has taken place around the question of racial incitement, and we have covered flyposting, spraying and so on. But a major reason for incitement is the marches which take place with one object only in view through certain areas, and that is to promote and provoke racial incitement. I appreciate that that may not come within the purview of this measure and I know that consideration is being given to the whole matter under the Public Order Act with a view to possible amendments to that. If the Minister could give an assurance that that is being actively progressed, it would be unnecessary for us to table amendments for Report of this Bill.

Lord Bellwin

With regard to the last point, I understand that this is part of the present Home Office review of the public order situation. Certainly the Government are very cognisant of the points made, and I am sure that the noble Lord, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady David, who touched on this aspect during her questions, know that we all want to achieve the same ends. It is a question of how we go about it. I am assured that this matter is part of the present review. With regard to the question about "A" boards, I am advised that we do not think that these are at present covered. We are considering the point about addresses, and we shall have to see how far we can get with it. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising that. I hope that those remarks cover the point raised on clause stand part.

Clause 31, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 111A:

After Clause 32, insert the following new clause:

("Work undertaken by local authorities and development bodies under certain agreements with Manpower Services Commission. 1980 c. 65

.—(1) The following subsection shall be added at the end of section 20 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980

"(4) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (1) above, in this Act "construction or maintenance work" does not include work undertaken by a local authority or a development body pursuant to an agreement made with the Manpower Services Commission after the passing of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisons) Act 1982 which specifies the work to be undertaken by the authority or body and under which the Commission has agreed to pay the whole or part of the cost of the work so specified.".

(2) The words ("(4)") shall accordingly be substituted for the words "and (3)" in the definition of "construction or maintenance work" in subsection (1) of that section.

(3) This section extends to Scotland.").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 137A and 138A. The object of this new clause is both straightforward and beneficial: to exclude from the regulatory provisions of the general legislation on local authority direct labour organisations (DLOs) work undertaken by local authorities in relation to certain agreements with the Manpower Services Commission. It would extend to Scotland as well as England and Wales.

The DLO legislation is designed to impose effective controls on local authority construction and maintenance work. It requires councils: first, to compete with private contractors for a proportion of their work, rather than to let their own employees undertake it; secondly, to achieve a prescribed rate of return on the capital they employ; and thirdly, to meet various accounting requirements. Manpower Services Commission schemes are entirely different. They consist of work which would not otherwise be undertaken by an authority. No purpose would be served in requiring an authority to earn a rate of return, or to go out to competition with contractors for such MSC-sponsored work. Both local authority and building contractors' representatives agree that these schemes are irrelevant to the DLO legislation and should be specifically excluded from it. Local authorities may otherwise be deterred from taking on adult MSC Community Enterprise Programme employees; and contractors will see no purpose in tendering for schemes which the authority itself must undertake if it is to take on these employees.

I can assure the Committee that the new clause will not create any loophole by which local authorities could claim to exclude from the DLO controls other construction and maintenance work undertaken by their DLOs as part of their normal work programme, on the specious grounds that it was part of, or associated with, a MSC-sponsored scheme. The amendment ties the exemption to work specified in an agreement between the authority and the MSC. Such agreements specify the work to be done, the maximum number of employees to be taken on, the recruitment procedures for these employees, and the maximum period of employment for each individual. This means that the only work that is specified in the agreement is that which is to be undertaken by CEP employees themselves, the number of which is also part of the agreement.

Amendments Nos. 137A and 138A are consequential ones. The first takes account of the extension of the new clause to Scotland. The second is an amendment to the Long Title of the Bill, so as to admit the new clause. I beg to move.

Baroness David

We welcome the new clause.

Lord Evans of Claughton

We warmly welcome the new clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 112:

After Clause 32, insert the following new clause:

("Power to attach conditions to permits for amusement with prizes machines

.—(1) The following paragraph shall be substituted for paragraph 9 of the Ninth Schedule to the Gaming Act 1968:

"9. On granting or renewing a permit in respect of any premises the appropriate authority may grant or renew subject to a condition limiting the number of machines to which Part III of this Act applies which may be made available for gaming on the premises together with such other conditions as are deemed appropriate".

(2) Paragraph 10 and sub-paragraphs 3(c) and 12(2) of the Ninth Schedule to the Gaming Act 1968 are hereby repealed and the words "or paragraph 9" in paragraph 22 shall be omitted.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is intended to give power to local authorities to attach conditions to permits for amusement with prizes machines—sometimes called gambling machines. To achieve this we aim to amend paragraph 9 of Schedule 9 to the Gaming Act 1968. The primary distinctions made by law in dealing with amusements with prizes is between, first, those premises used wholly or mainly for providing amusements, and, secondly, those premises, such as cafes and public houses, in which the amusements are no more than an incidental feature. Local authorities have adequate powers to control the second; local authorities have powers to adopt policies either not to grant permits (for example, in retail shops) or to restrict the number of machines which may be installed in such premises. We are here concerned at the lack of powers available to local authorities to control premises used wholly or mainly for amusements with prizes; that is, amusement centres or arcades.

The general background is that evidence on this was submitted by the AMA to the Royal Commission on Gambling, which reported in July 1978. They were supported by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Police Federation, the Justices' Clerks' Society and certain probation officers. All these very important groups asked that the existing controls over these places should be strengthened. The chief complaint levelled against them, and more especially against arcades in the larger cities, is that they tend to become resorts for prostitutes, of young people liable to be picked up for immoral purposes and of truanting schoolchildren.

The Royal Commission recommended a wide range of improvements in the existing arrangements, including Recommendation 259: Local authorities should be empowered to regulate illumination, advertising and window displays, and to apply limitations to the age of those admitted to the premises". Recommendation 260: Local authorities should also have power to require the display of notices and the provision of information on the premises about the conditions pertaining to the permit". Then there were other recommendations about the time that such places could be shut, and a number of others on the subject. There is grave concern that nothing has been done to bring these recommendations into operation.

In the last two years there has been a considerable proliferation of these premises, possibly a response to the growing number of the unemployed, but more likely, probably, to their being so profitable. The AMA recently conducted a survey of all metropolitan districts and London boroughs. The responses showed widespread concern. The sort of conditions that authorities considered most important related to hours of operation, provision of music, supervision of the premises, resort by criminals or prostitutes and the dishonest operation of machines, illumination and display of notices required by the local authority and admission of children.

Regarding age limits, authorities were generally in favour of a ban on unaccompanied children. Experience of voluntary bans on unaccompanied children varied, but several authorities expressed their dissatisfaction as to the inadequacy of voluntary bans. One referred to a case as follows. It appears that in May 1980, while interviewing a 15-year old schoolboy reported as missing from home, it came to the notice of the police that the youth had stolen his father's building society passbook and had made a number of withdrawals to the value of £350. The youth and three other youths attended at one of the particular premises and spent a large part of the money there. Significantly, the police say that since this offence they have made a check of the premises and found many youths frequenting them when they should have been attending school.

Another authority in the past refused a permit for amusement with prizes machines on the ground that, this council would have no power to control the admittance of children to the establishment". The applicant appealed to the Crown Court, and his appeal was upheld. In respect of this particular ground for refusal, the judge stated that Parliament had not seen fit to allow licensing authorities to make conditions with regard to juveniles. We are striving to change that, and if this amendment is passed we shall do so.

Another authority in whose area is a holiday resort point out that they have defined a resort area within which amusement arcade facilities are considered to be appropriate. Obviously, any policy on the admission of children must be variable to reflect differences in the nature and location of such establishments. Local authorities are aware of, and responsive to, local variations, and they should be trusted to implement their powers on a differential basis. They know the nature of their problems. We all know that children mature at different ages, and it is not always easy to identify those under 16; but control is more likely to be effective if a ban is in operation, as it is in the case of public houses.

Are the Government going to bring in a Bill to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission? A week or so ago I asked Lord Rothschild whether he thought they would, and he said he did not think there was any chance. Perhaps we shall hear tonight. We think it important that urgent action is taken to extend control over amusement arcades in the interests of young people and urban communities. The new clause sets out to empower at least the imposition of conditions to deal with such aspects as I have referred to, although the Rothchild Committee recommendation went far wider. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I am worried by the proposals put forward by the noble Baroness in this amendment because Schedule 9, which this amendment seeks to amend, specifically exempts from blanket controls premises used wholly or mainly for the provision of amusements by means of gaming machines. The reason for that is that the Government at the time that Schedule 9 was legislated felt that it might be possible if there was a blanket ban for the business concerned to be put wholly in jeopardy. Having said that, the Government are aware that some local authorities feel strongly that their existing powers to control the proliferation of amusement arcades are inadequate and the Home Office is in touch with the local authority associations on this matter.

Some constructive recommendations for amending legislation are now being considered but the Government are not yet in a position to put forward firm proposals. I am afraid that I cannot respond to the noble Baroness's direct question on whether there will be legislation to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Gambling, because that will he something which the Government must consider for a future legislative programme. I have to say on this amendment that I do not think it would be acceptable to give local authorities unlimited power to impose conditions proposed by these amendments and to remove the safeguards which Parliament thought it right to provide for the amusement trade. I repeat that we are now looking most seriously at recommendations for amending legislation.

Baroness David

I thank the Minister for that reply. I shall have to study it in relation to Schedule 9(9) of the Gaming Act. I am grateful for what he has said about the Government recognising that there is a problem and that some action is being considered. I was not quite sure whether the action was going to happen by Report stage or whether it would happen in separate legislation at another time. I should like to have the answer to that before I withdraw the amendment.

Lord Belstead

I regret to say that it is extremely doubtful whether it would be by Report stage. I have no briefing to that effect.

Baroness David

I shall withdraw the amendment and shall consider what I might do at the next stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.12 p.m.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 113:

After Clause 32, insert the following new clause:

("Occasional sales

.—(1) The council of a county or a London borough may resolve that the following provisions of this section shall apply to their county or borough; and if a council so resolve and within 14 days of the passing of the resolution give notice of the resolution by advertising in a local newspaper circulating in their area, those provisions shall come into force in their county or district on the day specified in the resolution.

(2) A resolution under this section may be rescinded by a subsequent resolution made in a like manner except that in relation to the time when it takes effect a resolution under this subsection shall take effect on such date as may be specified in it being any date subsequent to the making of the resolution.

(3) In this section, unless the context otherwise requires, "occasional sale" means an event at which articles are offered for sale to the public by one or more sellers in the course of a trade or business on premises of which the sellers are not in rateable occupation and which are not used by those sellers for the sale of those articles on more than 5 consecutive days or for 4 or more days during any calendar month.

(4) Subject to subsection (5) below, any person who intends to hold an occasional sale to which this section applies shall give to the local weights and measures authority not less than 7 days before the holding of the intended sale notice of his intention to hold it.

(5) Where any person intends to hold an occasional sale to which this section applies less than 7 days after forming an intention to hold such a sale, he shall give notice of his intention to hold it to the local weights and measures authority and to the owners of the premises on which the intended sale is to be held within 24 hours of entering into a contract to use any such premises or of issuing any advertising material concerning the intended sale whichever is earlier.

(6) A notice given under subsection (4) or (5) above shall be in writing and shall specify—

  1. (a) the proposed date, location, time of commencement and expected duration of the intended sale;
  2. (b) the name and business address of every person who it is proposed shall promote or conduct the intended sale; and
  3. (c) in general terms the type or types of articles to be offered for sale at the intended sale.

(7) If any person discloses to any person any information obtained by him in pursuance of this section he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200 except where the disclosure of information is made—

  1. (a) for the purpose of facilitating the performances of any functions under this section, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, the Fair Trading Act 1973, any Minister of the Crown or any enforcement authority; or
  2. (b) in connection with the investigation of any criminal offence or for the purpose of any criminal proceedings; or (c) for the purposes of any civil proceedings.

(8) Any person who promotes, conducts or assists in the conduct of any occasional sale shall—

  1. (a) for the duration of the sale permit entry on the premises on or in which the sale is held by any person duly authorised in that behalf by the occupier of the premises; and
  2. 1253
  3. (b) display in a prominent position or in the premises, and state on all notices, leaflets and posters distributed by him or on his behalf in connection with the sale, the full name and business address of—
    1. (i) himself; and
    2. (ii) every other person concerned in the promotion or conduct of the sale.

(9) Any person who contravenes any provision of this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200.

(10) Nothing in this section applies to—

  1. (a) a market held by virtue of a grant from the Crown or of prescription or under statutory authority;
  2. (b) a market wholly or mainly for the sale or auction of farm livestock or deadstock or the contents of a building; or
  3. (c) a sale by auction of the contents of a building the majority of which have been used by the occupiers of that building for not less than 12 months;
  4. (d) a sale conducted by persons who have been exempted in writing by the local weights and measures authority from notifying occasional sales subject to such terms and conditions as may be specified by the authority;
  5. (e) any event promoted or conducted by a body registered as a charity under section 4 of the Charities Act 1960 or exempted from registration by virtue of subjection (4) of that section or qualified for registration under the Recreational Charities Act 1958; or
  6. (f)any event held or for the benefit of a body existing for learned, educational, political or sporting objectives.

(11) Where an offence under this section committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or any person who was purporting to act in such capacity, he, as the body corporate, shall be guilty of the offence.

(12) Where the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its members the foregoing subsection shall apply to the acts and defaults of a member in connection with his functions of management as if he were a director of the body corporate.

(13) In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be a defence for the person charged to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.

(14) If in any case the defence provided under subsection (13) above involves the allegation that the commission of the offence was due to the act or default of another person, the person charged shall not, without leave of the court, be entitled to rely on that defence unless, within a period ending seven clear days before the hearing, he has served on the prosecutor a notice in writing giving such information as was then in his possession identifying, or assisting in the identification of, that other person.").

The noble Viscount said: I apologise for the length of this amendment, which is appalling to look at. I hope my remarks will be briefer. In recent years there has grown up a practice of holding one-day occasional sales promoted by itinerant traders. These sales are set up to promote the sale of a limited variety of articles and are advertised by leaflets distributed in the immediate vicinity. There is no doubt that there is a considerable number of reputable operators of these sales, and also no doubt there is a considerable number of dishonest ones. A survey recently taken of 22 county councils showed that in two years there were over 4,000 one-day sales which gave rise to 840 complaints relating to such things as unsafe and dangerous electrical goods being sold. These complaints resulted in fines totalling over £22,000 being imposed, with three suspended sentences. They relate to a number of Acts in the weights and measures field with which I will not weary the Committee.

From the enforcement point of view, one of the major difficulties is in establishing the correct name and address of the promoter responsible. All too frequently the name and address proves to be false. At the present time, there are outstanding in East Sussex alone seven summonses and four warrants which cannot be served for this reason.

Another difficulty is that the operators saturate an area with sales leaflets a few hours before the sale begins. The leaflets do not contain any name or address of the person promoting the sale. The first knowledge that the weights and measures authority have is the complaint which they receive the following morning, by which time it is too late.

Clause 32 of this Bill relates to temporary markets. It might be thought that this clause sets out to deal with the mischief which I have tried to outline. Unfortunately, this is not the case because these one-day sales are generally held in hotels, village halls, et cetera, and they will not be covered by the definition in subsection (6) of the clause. It is for this reason that I am moving that this further clause be added to the Bill.

The definitions in subsection (10) of my clause, exempted sales and other such worthy causes, have been extended in accordance with the suggestions made by the Department of Trade. For this clause 1 have considerable support from the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, the Society of Chief Trading Standards Officers—who are, not unnaturally, concerned with this matter—and also the National Chamber of Trade. I realise that in subsection (5) 24 hours may be too late for the notice that is required, but at least it would mean that the name of the applicant would have to become available and future enforcement must be possible.

It may well be thought, and perhaps many of the Committee do think, that the doctrine caveat emptor could be applied and that people taken in by these one-day sales have only themselves to blame. We may also feel that there has been much too much consumer protection legislation and unnecessary detail in recent years. I am persuaded by evidence from many county councils that there is a real problem here. Many people are being cheated by dishonest persons and the case is made out that this clause would be helpful to the enforcement of weights and measures legislation passed by Parliament. I beg to move.

Lord Drumalbyn

I should like to support my noble friend. This is a problem which has come my way in the past, mainly through the control of advertising. However, this is not a question of the control of advertising. It works in this way: the operator of the occasional sale has to give notice in some way or another. He can do this by advertising in newspapers or by distributing leaflets. The experience that I had was that the dishonest traders were prone to advertise at the very last moment so that the newspaper had no opportunity of checking the advertisement, or the traders distributed the notices of the occasional sale at the very last moment.

This is to some extent a question of educating those who are making premises available to these sales, be they hotels or halls. I know that it is felt that the only way to tackle this is to get these operators to notify the trading standards authorities, the weights and measures authorities, as soon as they contract to make the premises available. It is, I know realised that many of those who make the premises available are working on a voluntary basis, be they for church halls or other places of that kind, and it is not intended to expose people of that kind to undertake an obligation which, if they fail to fulfil it, makes them liable to prosecution. That is by no means necessary.

In this kind of field you have, on the one hand, to contrast the shopkeeper, who is by nature static and whose premises are regularly inspected—very often at least once a year—by the local weights and measures authorities and who is exposed to prosecution if he fails in any way to comply with his obligations under the various trading standards and weights and measures Acts. Why should those who have no static location and who move around, very often giving false names and addresses, be exempt from the weights and measures authorities who are there to protect the public? Why should they be immune because it is thought to be onerous to place obligations on those people who are letting the premises?

It is a perfectly simple matter and the weights and measures authorities are perfectly willing to undertake this. It is a comparatively easy matter—a question of identifying the hotels and the halls where sales of this kind are customarily arranged, and persuading those who do the letting to let them know when the sales are to take place. There is no need to attach any sanction to not being told, and in many cases it has to be admitted that any operation of this kind cannot give 100 per cent. coverage. But that is no reason for the Government not to allow local authorities to take steps which will, as far as possible, give protection to the public. That is what is being asked for in this amendment, and I should like to support it very strongly.

Lord Belstead

Of course, I take this amendment very seriously, moved as it is by my noble friend Lord Ridley and supported by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, but I am advised that one-day traders are already subject to the same statutory requirements as normal traders and that their activities are monitored by trading standards officers. Successful prosecutions have been brought against dishonest traders and I think this clause would be onerous to operate. As drafted, it is open to two main objections. In the first place, we think it would place unnecessary burdens on bona fide traders whose activities give no cause for concern. Subsection (3) embraces a number of such activities: for example, a demonstration of a product in a department store or an exhibitor selling his products at a reputable exhibition and also what is sometimes called party-plan selling.

Secondly, the clause could readily be circumvented by the unscrupulous trader. He may avoid the requirement to give notice by booking a hall for five days and then selling out on the first day. I will content myself with giving that single example. Since the clause imposes extra controls on the honest trader, without ensuring that the unscrupulous one is tightly enough regulated, I do not think this amendment will do as it stands. I do not know whether my noble friends would like to put their heads together, perhaps with me, to see whether there is a way forward. But as the amendment stands, we do not think that it is acceptable.

Lord Underhill

Before the noble Viscount replies, I raised this very matter on the Civic Government (Scotland) Bill because there was no item on this matter included in that Bill. I was told that the matter was receiving consideration by the Department of Trade in connection with this English Bill. I hope that the noble Lord's reply means that the Department of Trade have considered the matter and decided not to take any action, because, for all the reasons advanced by the noble Viscount, one has to protect the innocent people, and they are the people who are deluded by these one-day traders. If the Government consider that the amendment as drafted could be unfair to the honest trader, I hope they will take the amendment back and bring forward their own amendment which will tackle the unscrupulous person at the same time as protecting the honest trader.

Lord Drumalbyn

With great respect, I fail to see how it is unfair to anybody. How is the honest trader in any way disadvantaged by the trading standards authorities being informed of the time when he will appear in a particular town and occupy premises there? I cannot see any reason at all why that should not be done. So far as honest traders are concerned, they generally go back again and again to the same premises quite regularly. They will be well-known and, very likely, the weights and measures inspectors will not bother to visit them. But what one is trying to get at is the less reputable traders, to make certain that some kind of notice, at any rate, of their intention to have an occasional sale is notified to the local weights and measures authorities, so that they can protect the public.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to my noble friend for that extra advice. Certainly, I or my staff will look at what has been said, but I do not think that this is necessarily getting in a watertight way at the dishonest trader. That is one of the reasons which leads to the reservations which have been expressed for the Government by myself.

Viscount Ridley

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for their valuable support in what I think the Minister recognises is a genuine problem. I readily accept that the drafting of an amendment of this length is bound to be at fault in some way or another, and that it therefore needs altering. If my noble friend is seriously suggesting that discussions could be held to make this watertight, then I shall be very pleased to enter into talks with him before the next stage. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 33 [Power of local authorities to insure voluntary assistants]:

10.27 p.m.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 40, line 26, at end insert— ("( ) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that a local authority may make provision for sums equivalent to the sums mentioned in subsection (1) of this section by means of a fund established under paragraph 16 of Schedule 13 to this Act, and any sum so provided shall be treated in all respects as if it were a sum received by the local authority under a contract with authorised insurers in accordance with this section.").

The noble Lord said: I hope that I shall win your Lordships' prize for the briefest speech in moving an amendment. Employees are safeguarded against personal accident by many local authorities, by way of insurance funds which are established under paragraph 16 of Schedule 13 to the Local Government Act 1972. There is no doubt about the ability to do that and about the validity of the contract, because there is obviously an insurable interest. Here we are dealing with voluntary assistants and, therefore, there may not be an insurable interest, which I imagine is the reason for this clause.

If your Lordships will look at the clause, you will find that it deals only with a contract with any "authorised insurer", and the purpose of this amendment is to make absolutely certain that an insurance fund of the same nature as that which I spoke about before, set up by a local authority, would equally make the contract valid and would be permissible. If the noble Lord the Minister can give me that assurance—and it will obviously be on record—then we need not have any further bother. If he cannot give me that assurance then, quite obviously, one would have to consider putting down an amendment at Report stage. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

The difficulty here is that the amendment is open to two different interpretations, each of which will lead to unacceptable results. The first is that it would enable a local authority to establish a fund for the purpose of making payments to a voluntary assistant who has, for example, been injured, pending the receipt of a payment from an insurance company with whom, and for which purpose, the local authority had entered into a contract of insurance. The second is that it enables a local authority, irrespective of the new powers which will be conferred by Clause 33, to establish a fund to meet expenditure in the making of payments to voluntary assistants who are injured, killed or contract an illness as a result of the assistance which they offer to that authority. If the first interpretation is the correct one, the amendment is not desirable. A local authority might make a payment out of a fund to an assistant in the event of an injury—

Lord Mishcon

May I help the noble Lord the Minister, who is always so courteous. I am looking at the clock in the same way as he is. The purpose is not the first one that he is talking about.

Lord Bellwin

If the second interpretation is the correct one, then there are other difficulties. While a voluntary assistant doubtless plays a useful role in helping a local authority in the discharge of its functions, it should be recalled that a local authority has no statutory functions in relation to these assistants. They are what Clause 33 says they are—that is, volunteers. If a local authority has no statutory functions in relation to these assistants, how can it be argued that a fund which can only be established by an authority in connection with its functions can be established to meet expenditure in relation to persons in connection with whom it has no functions?

If my doubts as to the legality of such funds are well founded, then a declaratory provision of the kind now proposed will have no substantive effect. It is on this basis that we wonder whether the noble Lord wants to proceed with his amendment. Because of the hour it might be better for the noble Lord to study what has been said. If he would like to discuss it with me, then he knows I should be only too glad to do so, perhaps at a more relaxed moment.

Lord Mishcon

As always, the Minister is most courteous and helpful. However, I wonder whether he could shortly reply to this question (if he cannot, because of the lateness of the hour, then obviously we can do it by correspondence): I do not quite follow at the moment how the payment of an insurance premium by a local authority to an authorised insurer can be a proper exercise of a local authority power whereas the setting aside of its own insurance fund is not. If the noble Lord the Minister wants time to reflect upon that I shall understand, though if, with his usual agility of mind, he can answer immediately I shall be most grateful.

Lord Bellwin

I imagine that the point turns on the matter of a local authority's position in relation to the volunteer, but certainly this is a matter which we must take up separately. And, of course, I gladly undertake to do so.

Lord Mishcon

In view of the kindness of the Minister in promising to communicate with me upon this matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 115:

Page 40, line 35, after ("includes") insert ("(a)").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I will also speak to Amendment No. 116. Amendment No. 116 will extend, at their request, this clause to the Common Council of the City of London and to the Council of the Isles of Scilly. The powers of a local authority under the Local Government Act 1972 have been applied by order to the Council of the Isles of Scilly. This clause adds another section to that Act, and it is considered appropriate to apply the new section to that council. Amendment No. 115 is a drafting amendment consequential on the previous amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 116:

Page 40, line 37, after ("Act") insert—


  1. (a) the Common Council of the City of London; and
  2. (b) the Council of the Isles of Scilly;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 117:

Page 40, line 46, at end insert ("and includes any officer or member of a voluntary or other organisation which provides services or facilities of the kind provided by the local authority in pursuance of its functions or to which the local authority makes any financial contribution").

The noble Viscount said: This is a very simple amendment. Its purpose is to extend the powers of this very important clause to cover the probation and after-care committees which, as your Lordships know, work very carefully and in very close co-operation with county councils as social service authorities. They attach great importance to the insurance of voluntary assistants, which is effected by virtue of the provisions of various existing local Acts. The circumstances in which voluntary assistants in the probation service work and the types of work which they undertake are all such as to lead county councils to feel that insurance cover against personal accident, disease or sickness contracted while engaged in his or her voluntary work is highly desirable. I am sure there would be no complaint about that.

At present there is no statutory power for a county council to provide this cover for persons who are not employees of a local authority or voluntary assistants engaged in the work of a local authority as apart from that of the probation and after-care committee. As I have said, my amendment seeks to extend the powers of this clause to those persons. I understand that the Home Office have indicated that it is acceptable in principle and I hope, for once, that my drafting will be acceptable in practice.

Lord Bellwin

We are sympathetic to this amendment, in so far as it covers probation service volunteers but feel—I am sorry to have to say to my noble friend—that the amendment as drafted, much as I should have liked to accept it, goes far too wide. If my noble friend will withdraw it, the Government will consider introducing a suitable amendment at Report stage, which will be within the scope of the Bill. If so, it will extend the power to insure voluntary assistants to probation service volunteers only.

Viscount Ridley

I am extremely grateful to my noble friend and will withdraw my amendment on that assumption.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Lost and uncollected property]:

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 117A:

Page 41, line at beginning insert, ("Without prejudice to the provisions of any other enactment, whether passed before or after this Act, or any other rule of law.").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 117A, I should like also to speak to Amendments Nos. 117B, 118A, 118B, 119A, 120A and 123B. Clause 34 makes provision for the disposal of property which has been lost by its owner and been found on local authority premises, or which has been deposited with a local authority but not collected by the owner. Amendments Nos. 117A, 118B, 119A, 120A and 123B are consequential upon Amendment No. 118A. The purpose of Amendment No. 118A is to apply the provisions of the clause for the disposal of lost and uncollected property to property which has been abandoned or which constitutes a trespass by being left on local authority premises without consent.

Difficulties are frequently caused by property being left, sometimes in considerable quantities, on local authority premises by outgoing tenants, licensees, mortgagors and squatters, some of whom also leave owing money—for instance, the rent. The property has to be stored until arrangements can be made for the owners to collect it or until they agree to its disposal by the council, or such period of time has elapsed—which can be considerable—as will enable the presumption to be made that the property has been abandoned.

Particular problems arise from trespassing animals—for example, horses belonging to gipsies which have been found trespassing at Thamesmead and elsewhere. The Animals Act 1971 contains provisions enabling the landowner to deal with straying animals, but these provisions do not cover leaving animals behind on land as a deliberate trespass. The council has had to round up trespassing horses and require owners to pay the costs, including veterinary and stabling fees, but its right to dispose of the property if the owners refuse to pay is doubtful.

So far as the proposals contained in Clause 34 are concerned, there seems nothing in principle to distinguish between, on the one hand, lost and uncollected property and, on the other, abandoned and trespassing property. Bringing the latter within the provisions would be a help and save money for local authorities. Where a local authority takes possession of premises in the exercise of its powers as a mortgagee and finds there goods belonging to the mortgagor, it is sometimes possible to dispose of the goods under Section 12 of the Torts Act 1977: Bailees' power of sale.

The purpose of Amendment No. 117A in making Clause 34 apply without prejudice to any other enactment is to preserve for local authorities the ability to use the 1977 Act or any local Act of which they might avail themselves where the circumstances of the case enable the authority to do so.

Since the Bill was first presented to the House of Commons there has become available the judgment of the Court of Appeal on Parker v. British Airways Board, which shows that the finder of lost property can, depending on the circumstances of the case, have a better claim to the property than the occupier of the premises on which the property has been found. Subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 34 of the Bill provide for the vesting of lost property in the local authority, and, apart from what appears to be a discretionary power in subsection (8), there seems to be no provision for what might be a better claim to the property by the finder of it during the periods described in subsections (4) and (5), before the property vests in the local authority.

The purpose of Amendment No. 117A in making Clause 34 apply without prejudice to any other rule of law—for example, such as that to be found in the Parker case—is an attempt to provide some safeguard for the rights of a finder. The references to "keep" and "keeping" in Amendments Nos. 119A and 120A are necessary because "store" and "storing" where used in the clause do not seem appropriate in relation to the horses referred to in connection with Amendment No. 118A. Amendments 118 and 12313 are drafting amendments required by Amendment No. 118A. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Perhaps I should mention to your Lordships in taking this group of amendments that when we reach Amendment No. 118B, if that is agreed to it will not be possible to call Amendment No. 119.

Lord Bellwin

I, too, speak to this amendment and to Amendments Nos. 117B, 118A, 118B, 123A and 123B. This clause is intended to confer on a local authority a clear and uncontroversial title to lost property or property simply left on local authority premises by its owner, and it could defeat the object of the clause to make these provisions subject or without prejudice to any rule of law to the contrary. The remedy to the owner of property under this clause is the requirement on the local authority to serve notice on him, except where it is impossible to do so, requesting him to collect his property. Similarly, there may be a number of enactments which deal, for example, with lost property. However, the provisions of this clause are intended to confer the general power referred to on a local authority irrespective of any enactment to the contrary, except in three specific cases. These are (a) property found on local authority aerodromes or in aircraft on such aerodromes; (b) property found on public service vehicles; and (c) property found on any premises belonging to the London Transport Executive or under the control of the Executive. In all these cases special statutory provisions are made which are not affected by this clause; otherwise the clause will apply as mentioned.

So far as the amendments are concerned, with regard to property left on local authority premises either by trespassers or by outgoing tenants or licensees in the circumstances mentioned, it is considered that the clause already makes adequate provision. Under the clause property can come into the possession of a local authority for the purposes of the clause, either where it is lost by the owner on local authority premises or where it is left there without permission.

The position in relation to property left by mortgagors in cases where the local authority takes possession under the mortgage is different. The clause would not provide for such property, and we do not consider that it should. It seems unjustified for local authorities to have rights which are not enjoyed by other mortgagees over personal property left in houses. There seems no reason why the local authority as mortgagee in possession should not come to come arrangement with the mortgagor for the removal or disposal of property. I realise that these matters, like so many others, required consideration, and I am sure that the noble Baroness, if I know her, and I think I do, would like to do just that.

Baroness David

I suspect that to be a not very satisfactory answer. I should certainly like to look at it when it is in print and to consider what I should do. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 117B not moved.]

10.43 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 118:

Page 41, line 5, leave out ("such").

The noble Lord said: Perhaps I may speak to Amendments Nos. 119, 120 and 123 with this amendment. Amendment No. 118 is a drafting amendment, consequential on an amendment made to the clause in another place. Nos. 119 and 120 are also drafting amendments. Amendment No. 123 will, at their request, extend the clause to the Common Council of the City of London. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 118A and 118B not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 119:

Page 41, line 22, leave out ("they find property which has been lost") and insert ("property comes into their possession").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 119A not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 119B:

Page 41, line 40, leave out first ("the") and insert ("any").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 42, line 10, leave out from ("making") to ("and") in line 11 and insert ("inquiries for the purposes of this section or serving any notice under subsection (2) above").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 120A not moved.]

Lord Evans of Claughton moved Amendment No. 121:

Page 42, leave out line 15.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 121. I move this amendment with a certain optimism even at 10.45 p.m., because it is to restore to the Bill clauses, to cover lost property at aerodromes, which were in the original Bill in another place and were removed there, in what is now believed to be the false belief that such powers inserted in the original Bill were not needed because of the Civil Aviation Act 1968, Section 3; and the Civil Aviation Act 1980, Section 26. Those advising me and the other noble Lords involved in this amendment—and it has the support of the Joint Airports Committee of Local Authorities, the Association of County Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and, I believe, the Association of District Councils—feel that there is a serious doubt whether by-laws created under the Civil Aviation Acts can, in fact, vest the property in the local authority or in the aerodrome so that it can give good title to a purchaser.

Since this doubt exists, I would have thought that it would be appropriate to restore to the Bill a clause that was originally there and which would clearly give the same powers with regard to property left in airports as is given to other property left in other local authority premises. Therefore, it would seem to me that it would be useful, and a great saving in unnecessary administrative cost in proving title, if the amendment were accepted and the original clause restored to its pristine glory from its first period in another place. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

The effect of the proposed amendment would be, as has been said, to extend the provisions of Clause 34 to property lost at a local authority aerodrome or on an aircraft on such an aerodrome. I should remind your Lordships that, in their wisdom, various Governments have recognised that special problems arise at aerodromes which are not found in other walks of everyday life. In recognition of this, specific provision has been made for the regulation and operation of aerodromes and the conduct of persons while on aerodromes. In the case of local authority aerodromes, by-laws may be made—and, indeed, have been made—under the provisions of the Civil Aviation Acts 1968 and 1980. The latter Act relates specifically to property lost at local authority aerodromes and in aircraft at those aerodromes.

I think that you Lordships will agree that, in view of the existence of current legislation specifically designed to deal with the problem, it would be unnecessary, and indeed perhaps confusing, to accept an amendment which would have the effect of providing two pieces of statute dealing with the same issue in a different way. That is why the Government cannot accept the proposed amendment.

I would add that if the proposed amendment arises from concern that the 1980 Civil Aviation Act provisions do not extend to the vesting of property, or to the monies realised on its sale, then the correct procedure would be to seek an amendment to the provisions of that Act.

Viscount Ridley

I should like to add my support to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton. I asked him to move this amendment because his grasp of these matters, as a lawyer, is far greater than mine. But he did say—and I do not think that my noble friend quite answered his remarks—that there is doubt as to whether the existing Acts cover this problem. Therefore, if there is doubt, would it not be better at least to look at the whole subject again, to see that the doubt is removed in the interests of everybody concerned?

Lord Bellwin

Certainly I would say to my noble friend that I will gladly undertake to do that. I am advised that, in fact, there is no such doubt. But certainly I take the point and we shall look at it again. Should what my noble friend says be correct, then of course we would want to do something about it.

Lord Evans of Claughton

I may be a lawyer, but I think that the noble Viscount has a much more persuasive style with the noble Lord the Minister. The fact of the matter is that the Joint Airports Committee of Local Authorities, of which my own local authority is, much to its great expense, a member—it loses nearly £2 million a year on its airport—has carefully examined the model by-laws relating to lost property at airports which the Department of Trade has produced under the powers contained in the Civil Aviation Acts. It is the Department of Trade that has been insisting that in connection with the word "disposal" one cannot include a vesting of the property in the owners of the airport. If, then, they seek to create by-laws to enable them to dispose of property which is not vested in them, they might well find that they will have claims—perhaps spurious, perhaps fraudulent claims—which they cannot defeat, because they cannot show that the property is vested in them.

It may be all very well for the noble Lord the Minister to say that we should seek to move amendments to the Civil Aviation Acts, but he knows jolly well how difficult that would be for us to do. I should have thought that it might be a great saving in money and in administrative difficulty if the Government would, as I believe the Minister has now indicated, be willing to look at this to see whether they share the doubts that apparently the Department of Trade, the local authorities and the Joint Airports Committee have. If, as I gather from his assent and his happy, smiling face, he does say that, on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 122 not moved.]

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 123: Page 42, line 26, at end insert—


(c) the Common Council of the City of London;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 123A and 123B not moved.]

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 124:

After Clause 34, insert the following new clause:

("Port health districts and port health authorities. 1936 c. 49.

—(l) In section 2(2) of the Public Health Act 1936 (constitution of port health district under port health authority)—

  1. (a) for the words "(i) constitute a port health district consisting of the whole or part of a port "there shall be substituted the words" constitute a port health district consisting of any area, being a port or part of a port, or of two or more such areas, or consisting of such an area or two or more such areas together with so much (being either the whole or any part or parts) of the district or districts of one or more riparian authorities as (not being comprised in that area or any of those areas, as the case may be) is specified in the order"; and
  2. (b) paragraph (ii) shall be omitted.

(2) In section 3(1)(a) of that Act (which specifies the waters and land over which a port health authority is to have jurisdiction) for the words from "waters" to "so specified" there shall be substituted the words "waters and land within the port health district"o

(3) In section 41 of the London Government Act 1963 (port health authority for the Port of London)—

  1. (a) in subsection (1), after the words "Port of London" there shall be inserted the words "together with so much (being either the whole or any part or parts) of the district or districts of one or more riparian authorities as (not being comprised in the Port of London) may be specified in an order made by the Secretary of State";
  2. (b) in paragraph (a) of that subsection, for the words from "waters" to the end of the paragraph there shall be substituted the words "waters and land within that port health district";
  3. (c) in paragraph (c) of that subsection, for the words from "mentioned in paragraph (a)" to "so mentioned" there shall be substituted the words "and land within that port health district"; and
  4. (d) at the end of the section there shall be added the following subsection:—

"(4) In this section "riparian authority" means a riparian authority within the meaning of Part I of the Public Health Act 1936 as amended by subsection (3) of this section.".

(4) The amendments made by subsections (1) to (3) above shall not affect the validity of any order made under section 2(2) of the Public Health Act 1936, or under section 41 of the London Government Act 1963, before the passing of this Act; but the power conferred by section 9(2) of the said Act of 1936, or by section 90 of the said Act of 1963, to amend or vary orders shall include power to amend or vary any order so made so as to have effect in accordance with the provisions of the Act in question as amended by this section.").

The noble Lord said: The effect of this amendment is two-fold. First, the Secretary of State will be able to constitute one riparian authority port health authority for a port health district comprising the whole or part of one or more customs port. Prior to this amendment, only a joint board comprising representatives of two or more riparian authorities could be constituted port health authority for a port health district, consisting, of any two areas being ports or parts of ports. In large local authority districts, since local government reorganisation, the fact that customs port boundaries do not bear any relation to local authority boundaries has led to difficulties in the current programme of reconstituting port health authorities.

Secondly, the amendment clarifies that in order to carry out their functions port health authorities have jurisdiction over parts of the district of the riparian authorities. The amendment will ensure that the whole of the area over which the port health authority has jurisdiction will be the defined port health district. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Denham

I think that this is probably a suitable time to break off for the night. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.