HL Deb 12 March 1997 vol 579 cc396-418

8.54 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. I declare my interest at the outset as a joint president, together with the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, who I am glad to see in his place—not perhaps his most accustomed—of the Association of London Government. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who is a vice-president of the ALG, has sent her apologies for being unable to take part in the debate. However, the Bill has her support and we look forward to hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood. The Bill therefore has cross-party support. It is the latest in a long tradition of Bills promoted by London local authorities; a tradition which goes back to the 19th century.

I concede at once that the Bill is a good deal longer than most; indeed, it may be the longest Bill yet with 112 clauses and 70 pages. Certainly it is a formidable Bill. However, I can offer your Lordships some comfort in that by the time the Bill reaches the statute book it will be considerably shorter.

One relatively simple explanation is that the promoters intend to drop Part VIII dealing with business improvement districts. I shall comment on that in a few moments. The second reason is rather different, but it is of some interest and importance. London local authorities have traditionally used their powers to promote private legislation because they have been waiting for central government to legislate but, for whatever reason, time cannot be found for Public Bills. Some of those present tonight may remember our debate on the London Local Authorities Bill two or three years ago. It contained some important provisions about air quality. After a long campaign, in which I am happy to say I and a number of other noble Lords took part, that whole provision was taken up in what became the Environment Act 1995. Therefore, the provisions in the London Bill were withdrawn.

The Bill reflects a comparable campaigning motive; the fraud provisions in Part II. Encouragingly, those provisions have proved successful even before they have started their parliamentary passage. The preparations for this local government Bill began in November 1995 and the Department of Social Security was consulted on a draft as recently as last summer. At that stage there was not a glimmer in that department—not a twinkle in the eyes—that there was going to be a Public Bill to tackle fraud. Yet, in November 1996 it was announced in the Queen's Speech that there would be an anti-fraud Bill. It began its Committee stage in this House yesterday. Of course, it is no coincidence that the Bill covers many of the same areas. If the government Bill reaches the statute book, as everyone assuredly hopes, it will include the new powers for local authorities in relation to landlord fraud. Again, I can predict that Part II of the Bill can be made considerably shorter. A few of the provisions will be necessary because, for instance, the government Bill does not deal with the question of fraud in the education grants system.

There is a third reason why London local authorities seek new powers through private legislation; namely, many of the problems that they face are more serious or are particularly severe in London. Parking is a good example and Part III of the Bill amends earlier London legislation on the subject. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords are not too daunted by the size of the Bill because quite a lot of it will be dropped, and perhaps more if we can reach agreement on some of the matters. Nevertheless, it is a big Bill and has attracted 13 petitions as against one in respect of the Bill that I moved previously.

I turn to the Bill. It is promoted by Westminster City Council on behalf of the other London boroughs and the Corporation of London, although the borough of Barnet has decided not to participate as is its perfect right. Part I contains major definitions and the commencement provisions. I do not need to rehearse them tonight, although it is worth noting that some of the provisions come into force in an area only if there is a resolution of the council to that effect; for instance, Part VII on the licensing of buskers and Clause 100 on the transfer of school crossing patrols from the police to the boroughs.

Part II deals with the prevention of fraud and now overlaps to a substantial extent the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Bill. Assuming that that Bill reaches Royal Assent, it will take many of these provisions into national legislation and the promoters will be happy to amend Part II accordingly. There are one or two points of controversy. However, the Post Office has petitioned against the power to prevent it redirecting mail to another address. The London authorities are prepared to discuss with the Post Office ways of ensuring that their provisions do not conflict with the Government's provisions in their Bill.

The Home Office objects to Clause 17 which relates to powers to require information about previous convictions, including spent convictions. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State already has powers to make equivalent provision himself by order and, as I have learnt, would consider a request by councils for regulations to be made. Here, again, it may be possible for the promoters to take out this part of the Bill, but I think that I would need a very clear assurance from my noble friend on the Front Bench as to whether the Government would take such a request from local authorities seriously and, if so, can she tell the House whether such an order would be made?

Part III of the Bill covers parking and, as I said, clears up a number of anomalies and practical difficulties which have arisen since the boroughs took over most of that task from the Metropolitan Police. The new powers include the power to use remote cameras, the power to issue penalty notices by post, and clarification of powers to enforce the rules against double parking. They also make an assault on a parking attendant an arrestable offence. Intriguingly, there has to be a power for local authority officers to remove items from vehicles which have been towed away. An obvious example of that would be a live animal or perhaps something perishable such as a Camembert cheese—leave that in the sun for an hour or two and you will not be able to use your car for a week. I am told that in one case—and this is even worse than a cheese—a dead body had to be removed from a van which had been towed away. So the Bill introduces many new powers.

Part IV concerns public health and gives London local authorities stronger powers to take action against the dumping of waste in open spaces and on the highway and requires alleyways to be kept clean. I am a little surprised to see that London Regional Transport and Railtrack have petitioned against the Bill as it might be used by the boroughs to force them to keep their land clean; exactly so. I imagine that many noble Lords share my dislike—indeed, shame—at the littered embankments and cuttings that have disfigured the railways in London for years. I, for one, look forward to seeing them cleaned up.

Part V deals with filming and I should perhaps address that in slightly more detail. It gives London authorities the general power to give assistance to film makers and to make reasonable charges; it will impose a requirement on film makers to give reasonable notice to the council of their intention to film on the highway or in a public open space in the control of the council; and it gives specific powers for authorities to close a highway for the purpose of filming. However, the latter power will be limited to a maximum of two 12-hour closures per month, except on specially-designated streets where there will be greater scope for closures. For those "special film streets", closure will be limited to no more than one 12-hour closure in any one day. For all streets, one day's notice will have to be given for closures of up to two hours and one week's notice for closures of a longer period.

The intention of all that is to help film makers and to give local authorities clear legal powers to help them. Recent cases in the courts have cast doubt on whether local authorities have such powers, especially the powers to close roads. Moreover, a recent government review of road traffic legislation proposed specific powers for local authorities to close roads for film making. Therefore, my honourable and right honourable friends in the Department of Transport recognise the problem.

However, the important point to make is that those provisions were drawn up at the request of, and in conjunction with, the London Film Commission, a body with both public and private sector support. The body was established, to promote and market London as a centre of excellence for film making". The purpose of the provision is to help the industry, although of course the boroughs have to take account of the interests of their residents which is why limitations on the frequency of road closures and requirements for notice have been included.

Given the fact that the main film makers were behind the commission and supported it—indeed, some of them were involved in the consultations—the promoters were surprised to receive petitions against such provisions; for example, from the BBC and the Independent Television companies. The noble Lord, Lord Hollick, has already expressed his interest in that respect to me. It is surprising because they were all sponsors of the London Film Commission! The commission made strenuous efforts to consult the television companies on the drafting and I am told that the agents for the promoters were in direct contact with the BBC. I have a horrid suspicion that this is an example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Indeed, the people talking to the London Film Commission must have been quite different from the people who decided to draft the petitions. The best way forward is clearly a meeting of all concerned and I am told that that has been arranged for, perhaps, a fortnight ahead. I can give the assurance that the boroughs are sensitive to the concerns of the film industry and certainly hope to reach agreement on the details of this part of the Bill. In that event, I hope that the petitioners will be prepared to withdraw their petitions.

There are other petitioners; indeed, some provisions are opposed by the Open Spaces Society. Again, the promoters will be very happy to discuss the society's concerns, though perhaps it is really only concerned with the temporary closure of open spaces. London Regional Transport and Railtrack have concerns. There, again, the promoters will be happy to discuss such concerns with them. London Regional Transport seems to want a special exemption for buses. I have to say that if a Jane Austen novel, a costume drama, was being filmed in a London street, I am not sure that it would add to the verisimilitude to have a posse of No. 11 buses going down the street half way through the proceedings. I think that some people might find that a little strange.

Part VI deals with licensing in London. When I say "licensing", I am talking about theatres, nightclubs, dance halls, music places, and so on. The provisions are complex and I shall not go through them in detail. However, the desired effect is to close a loophole. A recent court case suggested that while the withdrawal of a licence, or its amendment, is under appeal, the licence can run on even after the length of time for which it was originally specified. Clearly that is an abuse and, indeed, has given the unscrupulous licence holders every incentive to drag out the proceedings for just as long as they can, without paying the fee and without being subject to changes in the conditions.

Clauses 59 to 62 and 65 contain other amendments to London Local Authorities Acts to clear up anomalies and loopholes. Clause 64 is the clause that has perhaps attracted most public attention and has certainly generated some petitions. The purpose of the clause is to amend the legislation governing the licensing of sex shops—again to close a loophole. Noble Lords will remember that under the general law the legislation bites on shops which sell sex objects "to a significant degree". Unscrupulous sex shop proprietors can evade the controls by the simple device of stocking large numbers of, for example, Jane Austen novels or other materials—some of them even stock Bibles. But of course those materials are not sold at all; they are there merely to enable the legislation to be evaded. The overwhelming bulk of the turnover is accounted for by the sales of sex related materials. I should have thought that most people would regard legislation to deal with that as entirely desirable.

However, the petitioners against the clause are concerned that it will catch newsagents who stock what are called "top shelf' titles as they are known in the trade. I have discovered to my interest and concern that a number of noble Lords and noble Baronesses on both sides of the House know perfectly well what is meant by "top shelf' titles. The petitioners fear that this clause will bring newsagents under sex shop licensing controls. I can give a categorical assurance to those petitioners that it is not the intention of the promoters to catch bona fide newsagents with this clause. Moreover, the promoters are prepared to consider amendments to the clause if it can be shown that the clause as it stands would bring newsagents who stock a few titles on their top shelf under the sex licensing legislation. I do not think that the petitioners could ask for a clearer assurance than that. I should add that my noble friends in the Home Office have given their support to those provisions. Of course there are some people who would like to see newsagents remove all such titles from their shelves. We may hear something of that tonight. However, that is not what is intended by this Bill.

Part VII deals with the licensing of buskers. In this part there are powers available to boroughs which choose to adopt them to require buskers to be licensed. Boroughs can specify in a licence the hours when buskers can perform and can impose conditions to prevent obstruction and nuisance. There are powers for borough officers to seize the instruments of unlicensed buskers. That may be necessary in extreme cases. Many of us enjoy buskers. They can enliven the streets and they can be lovely, but of course we do not have to spend all day listening to them. If local residents or people working in an area find one or a group of such people outside their premises one can imagine that they would take a different view. The intention behind the clause is not to stop busking—although some boroughs make take the view that it is not appropriate in some areas—but to try to prevent the activity becoming a nuisance. I think our streets should be lively, and lively street entertainment is part of the fun of the city, but we should have regard to residents. That is what this clause is intended to do. Again there are objections to these provisions but the promoters will be happy to discuss petitioners' concerns.

I said earlier that we were proposing to drop Part VIII which deals with the establishment of business improvement districts. This would allow businesses in a particular area to elect to pay a little extra to receive some extra improvements or services. The Association of London Government has decided to remove this part because it is opposed in principle by two of its own authorities. Clearly a Bill of this kind needs to have the support of all authorities. There are others, notably the City Corporation, who would like to see this matter debated. There are advantages and disadvantages to business improvement districts. To this end, at the suggestion of the City Corporation, next Tuesday I shall introduce a Private Member's Bill on business improvement districts which will substantially reflect the intentions of the provisions in this Bill, but will of course apply them nationally. I hope that there will be time before we disperse for the general election to have a Second Reading. I think it is a subject which deserves an airing and so I need say no more about it now.

Finally, Part IX contains a range of miscellaneous provisions. I shall deal only with one or two that have attracted some attention. Clause 99 deals with nuisance from birds. This tends to be referred to as the "pigeon clause". However, it is not only a question of pigeons, starlings, rooks and a number of other birds can also give rise to nuisance. This provision will give London authorities powers to require the owners or occupiers of structures fronting on, or overhanging, the highway to take measures to prevent the roosting of birds if this is a source of nuisance to users of the highway. The most common nuisance is the danger posed to pedestrians who can slip on bird droppings.

The roosting of birds can present a public health risk. I see that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark is in his place. That does not surprise me because the clause has attracted petitions from the London Diocesan Fund, the British Railways Board, London Regional Transport and Railtrack. Those organisations, entirely understandably, are concerned about the potential costs to them of taking preventive measures. But pigeons in particular are a confounded nuisance and, I am afraid to say, the boroughs are unlikely to be able to offer much comfort because preventing such nuisance from birds is an issue of some importance to them and to their residents. Providing exemptions for some organisations and not for others would clearly be unfair so I fear that it is likely that the Select Committee to which I hope the Bill will go will be called upon to decide on the merits or otherwise of the clause.

Clause 101 deals with the transfer of churchyards. (We always seem to be tripping over the ecclesiastical authorities in these matters.) The clause will give boroughs powers to refuse to take over the maintenance of a churchyard unless the churchyard is handed over in decent order and they are paid a sum to cover future maintenance.

At present under the Local Government Act 1972, if a churchyard is closed, the parochial church council can transfer it to the local authority which will then be responsible for its future maintenance. That section of the Act has caused a good deal of trouble to certain London local authorities, in particular the London Borough of Redbridge, part of which I used to represent in another place, where a number of churchyards in a poor state of repair have been transferred in quick succession. Given the number of churchyards in the London area, this seems likely to become an increasing problem.

The London Diocesan Fund and others have petitioned against the provision. Their concern is the financial burden that is likely to be imposed on parish churches. However, the promoters have already had a meeting with representatives of the churches at which it was made clear that the principal concern of the boroughs is that churchyards should not be transferred unless they are in good order. It is the capital costs of bringing dilapidated churchyards up to scratch that is the real problem.

Following the discussions, the promoters are fairly confident that with good will on both sides a compromise can be reached which recognises the concerns of both parties. It is certainly their hope that this matter can be resolved before Committee stage.

I apologise for having spoken at such length, but given the bumper nature of the Bill, I am afraid that it was unavoidable. On that basis, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and I look forward to listening to the speeches of other noble Lords who have indicated that they wish to follow me. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Jenkin of Roding.)

9.17 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, as this is a private Bill it may be helpful if at this point I give the House the Government's view on it. I do not need to remind your Lordships that the Bill covers many different issues and several government departments are involved in the consideration of its proposals. Many points of detail have been taken up with the agents for the promoters, as have some points of greater substance. The agents are aware that the Government are concerned with some of the provisions in the Bill and the House might find it useful if I briefly touch upon those concerns.

As my noble friend Lord Jenkin told us, the Bill contains a number of measures to counter benefit and related fraud. That is an objective which I am sure we all share. However, it will be important to avoid duplication or conflict with provisions in public legislation. I have in mind in particular the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Bill which covers some ground similar to that in the London Local Authorities Bill.

Clause 17 of the Bill seeks to make certain posts within local authorities in London exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. The Government are not persuaded that such provision should be included in local legislation. First, this is an issue which is not particular to London but is one which may apply to many local authorities; and, secondly, there are other, better means of assessing the need for exceptions to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

My noble friend Lord Jenkin asked me particularly about Clause 17. I must tell him that the Government can give no promises on the inclusion of these posts within an exceptions order. But all applications will be considered on their merits against well established criteria. Therefore, I invite the promoters to apply to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary for inclusion of these posts in a new exceptions order.

The Police Bill that is presently before your Lordships' House contains provisions relating to criminal records, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will he considering applications for inclusion in a new exceptions order which will in due course be laid before Parliament.

On those clauses which seek to create an offence of assaulting parking attendants and park keepers, we have some concerns. These offences are already covered by the existing offence of common assault. Although it is not an arrestable offence at the moment, the Government have announced that they will make it an arrestable offence when a suitable legislative opportunity arises.

The Government also have serious concerns about Part IV of the Bill on grounds of both policy and principle. The promoters and agents are aware of those concerns. We hope that further discussions with them will help resolve the concerns that we have in regard to the waste management licensing provisions and the duty of care proposals.

The setting aside of national legislation by a local enactment in the manner proposed by Clause 63 is not deregulatory. It could only obstruct the efforts being made by government departments to eliminate fire safety provisions from local Acts where there is national legislation.

The proposals in Clause 64 are intended to reverse the burden of proof for the offence of running a sex shop without a licence and place the onus on those businesses to show that they are not sex shops. They are also intended to lower the threshold of the definition of what is a sex shop. The Government sympathise with the Bill's aim of enabling the law to he enforced against unlicensed sex shops but will need to consider the drafting of the Bill more closely to see whether it will have the effect which is intended.

We also have concerns about the provisions contained in Clause 101 which seek to restrict the existing rights of parochial church councils. We believe that they will have a detrimental effect on the maintenance of churchyards in London.

Apart from those matters, the departments are taking their usual neutral stance on Private Bills. A Select Committee will be in a far better position to consider points of detail and to hear expert evidence on them. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and allowed to proceed in the usual way to a Select Committee for detailed consideration.

9.21 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for introducing this Second Reading. I always enjoy the noble Lord's contributions to debates in this House and only regret that this evening I must take issue with him on two clauses of the Bill, for there are two clauses which, should they be enacted, will affect four dioceses of the Church of England: London, Chelmsford, Rochester and my own diocese, Southwark.

The vast majority of the clauses in the Bill are to be welcomed and do not directly concern us. However, Clause 99, dealing with nuisance from birds, and Clause 101, dealing with churchyards, have the potential to impose great expense on local congregations within the capital city.

My first concern is with the lack of consultation that occurred during the framing of those two clauses. Had consultation taken place, particularly through the Churches Main Committee, of which I am presently the Chair, I am certain that an agreeable way forward would have been achieved which would have preserved that sense of partnership so often displayed on matters where Church, local authority and central government matters are concerned. Such compromise would have saved your Lordships time and would have helped towards the more speedy passage of the remainder of the Bill through the parliamentary process.

However, that did not happen early enough—although I am pleased to hear that discussions have recently taken place. So we are faced as a Church with two problems. The first is in relation to the control of nuisance birds. The provision made in the Bill will require parishes to introduce deterrents to birds that will be costly and, on some of our buildings, unsightly. It will also lead to the possibility of dispute between the administration of faculty jurisdiction under the Care of Churches Measure 1991 and this Bill. Your Lordships will be familiar with the requirement for parochial church councils to obtain permission through the granting of a faculty by the chancellor of the diocese for any work undertaken on Church buildings.

I have no objection to pigeons. They are as much part of the created order as I am. But one control which Clause 99 ignores is that of controlling the feeding of pigeons in the first place. I am delighted to learn that Westminster City Council has indicated its intention to do something about it in Trafalgar Square, but it is a city-wide issue. For local congregations to have to bear the cost of a public health problem on behalf of the local authority seems completely wrong.

Secondly, I refer to the more serious situation created by Clause 101. At present a closed churchyard can be transferred by a parochial church council to the care of the local authority under Section 215 of the Local Government Act 1972, merely by giving three months' notice, though in practice it is usual to give up to 12 months' notice. Clause 101 seeks to place conditions on the transfer which would be onerous on a parochial church council.

Paragraphs (2)(a) and (b) of the clause present us with serious problems. The conditions laid down in the two paragraphs are that the churchyard be in decent order when transferred to the care of a local authority, including the boundary wall and fences; and that the parochial church council provides the local authority with an endowment to provide for the future maintenance of the churchyard after its transference.

The reason for the present situation in which churchyards can be transferred to the care of the local authority is that they have been provided by the Church for the local community—not just for those who worship in the parish church but for the local community—without cost to the local authority for as long as there has been room for burials and in many cases for years after that has no longer been possible. Churchyards tend to be transferred when congregations are just not able to maintain them any longer, through lack of manpower or because of financial constraints. It is recognised that churchyards are amenity spaces; that they provide wildlife habitats in urban areas; and that they contain and represent that sense of history that so often enhances the feeling of local community.

The requirement that churchyards should be in decent order when transferred appears reasonable and I hope that on the majority of occasions that is already the case. But the legislation in the Bill would prevent local authorities taking over responsibility for the churchyards that have been allowed to become overgrown or whose boundaries are in a poor state of repair as a result of factors beyond a parish's control. That would result in some churches and congregations being locked into a Catch-22 situation of not being able to care for their churchyard and at the same time being unable to transfer its care because they cannot maintain it to an acceptable standard.

The second section requiring a parish to give an endowment to the local authority on the transference of a churchyard is wholly unacceptable to the Church. It is simply inappropriate to ask a group of worshippers to find monetary resources to fund both the past and the present. I believe strongly that the Church, in providing areas for burial and so relieving local authorities of the necessity of having to do so in many places, should not have to bear for ever the cost of maintaining them. To require endowments is mean-spirited and denies the generous contribution that local congregations have made over centuries in providing churchyards for the local community.

Your Lordships will, I hope, recall that I began by regretting the lack of consultation in the drafting of the Bill. Clause 101, with a little care, could have been worked on to continue a real and harmonious relationship between local churches and their local authorities. The Bill is in danger of seriously jeopardising the future of our churchyards and harms that relationship in the process.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government—I am encouraged by what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said—will look again at these two clauses before an intolerable position is created for the parishes in London. I fear as well that, should the Bill as it stands become law, it will not be long before Clause 101 in particular is applied across the country, with devastating effects on our congregations in rural communities.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Cadman

My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for the way in which he introduced the Bill and for the detailed explanation he gave. I must declare an interest in that I have been a lifelong supporter of railways, a consequence of which is that I have a few shares in Railtrack Plc. Also, I had the pleasure and privilege of being a member of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House which considered the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill.

I know that this House does not customarily oppose Bills, particularly Private Bills, at the Second Reading stage. However, I have been asked by Railtrack to express its concern at some of the provisions of this Bill. In Railtrack's opinion, those provisions have not been given proper consideration as to the adverse consequences that will flow from them so far as the railway industry is concerned. Perhaps I may briefly outline Railtrack's concerns. There are three in particular.

First, Part IV of the Bill would confer on all London borough councils, except for the London Borough of Barnet, and on the City of London Corporation extensive new powers of entry to control waste on land belonging to third parties and situated in the areas of those councils. That land would include operational land of Railtrack, such as its station approaches, land comprising or adjoining station car-parks and its lineside railway land. While I recognise that in some places a problem exists, each council would have power to specify the standards and frequency at which that land should be swept and cleansed. Each council would be able to enter on that land to enforce those powers. However, the Bill contains nothing to ensure consistency in the standards and frequencies to be specified by any particular council. As a result, Railtrack could be put to considerable and unnecessary expense in complying with a patchwork of different standards which might be applied throughout almost the whole of Greater London.

As matters now stand, litter and refuse clearance on railway land is regulated by a code of practice issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 by a number of government departments, including the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport. The terms of that code are enforced by Railtrack under guidelines which it has issued to its managers.

Consultations were initiated in November 1996 by the Department of the Environment to produce a revised and more comprehensive code. Those consultations were concluded in late January this year and I understand that it is expected that the revised code will be issued in April this year. Railtrack believes that the code provides an effective means of controlling waste on a national basis and that there is no need for the patchwork of controls which would be introduced by Part IV of the Bill.

Quite apart from its other concerns, Railtrack greatly objects to council employees, who would have little or no knowledge of the hazards to be encountered on railway land, having powers to enter on that land. Apart from the danger which those employees might encounter, their entry on operational railway land would almost certainly cause delay or disruption to the services provided by the train operating companies.

The second concern of Railtrack relates to film making. Clause 48 of the Bill would enable the councils which I have just mentioned to close highways, including highways providing access to railway stations, goods yards and railway depots. What is more, a film maker would be given powers to erect barriers to regulate the movement of pedestrians or vehicles on highways. Such barriers could prevent or obstruct access to and from railway stations, goods yards or depots owned by Railtrack and other railway operating companies. Your Lordships will appreciate that, however desirable it may be that film makers should make use of London as a location for their films, the operation of the railways in Greater London must come first. In other words, Clause 48 should be amended to ensure that its provisions cannot be invoked so as to disrupt the operation of the railway system.

Thirdly, Clause 99 of the Bill would confer powers on those London borough councils to control nuisances arising from the nesting and roosting of birds on various buildings, including operational railway buildings and bridges which Railtrack has a statutory duty to maintain.

Naturally, Railtrack fully accepts that nuisances caused by nesting and roosting birds are undesirable. Railtrack has co-operated with those councils to enable the councils to take preventive measures against such nuisances; and I can assure your Lordships that Railtrack has every intention of continuing to co-operate with those councils to prevent such nuisances. Nevertheless, Railtrack is concerned that the powers being sought by the councils could conflict with Railtrack's existing duties with regard to listed buildings and other structures and to other statutory obligations imposed on Railtrack under local legislation. Once again, the requirements which could be imposed on Railtrack could be both patchwork and inconsistent with each other. What is more, there is no appeals procedure against the imposition of those requirements. Those are real concerns, especially in relation to the need to protect council employees from going on to highly dangerous operational railway lands and the attendant risk of delay and disruption to railway services.

Railtrack and other railway operators have deposited petitions against the Bill. I very much hope that, when the Select Committee considers this debate and those petitions, it will pay careful attention to the concerns of Railtrack and those other operators; and that, in consequence, amendments will be made to the Bill to deal with those concerns.

9.37 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding for bringing this Bill to the House on behalf of the Westminster City Council. I do not wish to delay the House for long, but I wish to thank the proposers of the Bill for including Clause 64 in Part VI on licensing. Clause 64 is intended to stop bogus bookshops in Soho and elsewhere from evading the purchase of a sex shop licence. I am sure your Lordships will agree that that is desirable.

The Bill proposes amendments to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 which says that a licence will be needed if a shop stocks, more than a trifling degree", of sex articles. I know there is some dispute about whether the clause will affect newsagents in the London boroughs so that they will need a licence if they stock pornography. But if one should walk into a newsagent with 40 different pornographic titles one may well wonder whether one has not inadvertently walked into a sex shop. If "more than a trifling degree" of their turnover comes from sex-related material, there may be an argument for making sure that they are licensed. For instance, I would not want to see the bogus bookshops turn into bogus newsagents as a means of getting around the legislation.

We know what the proposers intend by the phrase "more than trifling" but I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Jenkin can tell the House how it is intended to be applied so that the new provisions are not abused by either the local authorities or those running sex shops. I thank him again for bringing forward the Bill.

9.39 p.m.

Lord Mountevans

My Lords, in rising to express my concerns about the implications of Part IV of the Bill for the railway industry, I declare a non-financial interest as chairman of the panel which judges the Railway Station of the Year competition.

Some 7,000 miles of rail travel during January and February last gives one a fair idea of the way that the railway operators are tackling station litter and also the much more serious problem of trackside waste. It also enables me to congratulate King's Cross on becoming Station of the Year and thus gives me the opportunity to praise an earlier London Local Authorities Act which gave powers to British Telecom to cut off the phone lines of those ladies of the night who used station phone boxes as the preferred media by which to promote their wares. The impact of that legislation, which took three or four years, was particularly strong in the King's Cross area.

There are two dimensions to the litter problem on the railways. The first is litter left on stations by the great British public. We are, all too often, untidy, and stations, like many other places to which the public has access, have an additional problem arising out of the present security situation. Notwithstanding these facts, my fellow judges and I found that the train operating companies and Railtrack were doing a good job in keeping stations clean.

Much more insidious is the problem of trackside refuse and waste left by third parties on railway embankments, in cuttings or on other railway land. Extreme examples are cars which from time to time are left on the track itself, causing accidents—near Workington in 1990 and in the Cotswolds only last month. Travel by train and one will see televisions, mattresses, sofas, traffic cones, supermarket trolleys and other material which should be cut off at source by the local authorities. In one clean-up operation near Shrewsbury, British Rail removed no less than 34 tonnes of domestic refuse. Fly tipping is also a problem.

The Bill suggests that the solution lies in the boroughs entering the relevant land and cleaning up at the expense of the operators who, I presume, would be one or more of Railtrack, London Underground, the Docklands Light Railway, the train operating company or British Rail itself, which still has residual responsibilities. I cannot readily accept the proposal.

Railways are very dangerous places and access to their land is subject to strict safety controls. Amplifying what my noble friend Lord Cadman said, lineside access is forbidden to all except those in possession of a personal track safety certificate while such work can only be carried out under the supervision of staff certificated as competent to be a person in charge of the work. One such person killed in the line of duty is one too many. There is, alas, more than one such fatality each year; and that is with people qualified in the way I have just described. I doubt whether any local authority has such people in its employ.

My second objection is that the powers sought are unnecessary. Again, as my noble friend Lord Cadman said, the problem is already governed by a code of practice set up under the 1990 Act. I have some interest in this dimension of the Act. The code of practice gives the local authorities powers to compel the cleaning up of litter and refuse by means of abatement orders. Such orders can cover track, stations, forecourts, approach roads, car parks and, in the case of stations operated by train operating companies, track up to 200 yards from the platform ends, which seems to me fairly all embracing.

My third objection is more modest. Recognising the existing problem, the Department of Transport is already consulting Railtrack and other successor bodies to British Rail about the litter duty which applied under the 1990 Act to British Rail and how the duty can be transferred to the relevant successor bodies. My source for that is a Written Answer in another place (at col. 502 of the Official Report) on 3rd March. It seems to me that central government are already tackling the problem or are seeking to find a solution.

Lastly, I wonder whether the necessity for this legislative proposal does not smack of Argentina and the Falklands, if I may be very blunt. The local authorities are diverting attention from their own shortcomings by seeking to go elsewhere. I say that because if local authorities were fulfilling their waste collection and disposal duties properly a good deal of the material we are discussing, and which so upsets my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, would not find its way onto railway land in the first place.

9.44 p.m.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I too would like to thank my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding for his very helpful explanation, which I certainly appreciated because it gave me a lot more of the background to this Bill. In supporting it I should like to make a few scattered and fairly brief comments.

As regards Part II of the Bill, I was quite surprised that so much of it, particularly Clause 8, was not already part of the law. If a great deal of it is to be added by a central Bill, that would be very helpful.

As regards Part IV of the Bill, I would favour anything that helps to make this city a cleaner place to live in. Some capital cities overseas seem to have a higher standard than we do. I believe that the City of Westminster itself undertakes a lot of cleaning because I see many people cleaning the streets. But if the result is that the city becomes a cleaner place in which we can live, I strongly support that measure.

I turn to Part V of the Bill. If there is a dispute between film makers and residents, the question of notice, which my noble friend amplified, seems to be the answer. It is important to protect residents so that they know what is going to happen. If there is good communication between the local authority and residents so it is clear when highways are going to be closed for a limited time, then half the problem is overcome.

As regards Clause 64, which has been mentioned, I warmly support its principle. I hope that nothing will be done to change the effect of what the promoters intend. Whether the word "trivial" is right or not, I do not know. In answer to what my noble friend Lord Ashbourne asked, I take that to mean that if one sees three magazines of the "Playboy" type on a top shelf out of, say, 150 different magazines on display, I would regard that as trivial. That is what I assume the promoters mean. I hope that the law will so decide although I am well aware that very clever banisters are able to make nonsense of that sort of word.

The right reverend Prelate asked a question about Clause 99 and perhaps I may add a question of my own. The normal means of preventing pigeons from alighting is a strip of wire of some sort. I wonder whether that displayed on churches and other ancient monuments would come into conflict with the views of English Heritage. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Jenkin can answer that question when he replies.

As regards Clause 101, I did not quite understand from what the right reverend Prelate said why the deterioration of a graveyard can take place due to factors outside the responsibility of the relevant parish. I thought he was going to say that it was because only about seven people attended the church and they could not possibly afford it, but there may be other factors which the right reverend Prelate did not make clear to me.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

My Lords, one factor that immediately comes to mind is vandalism.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I understand that and I am grateful for that explanation. But I believe that it is still the responsibility of the owners of the graveyard to protect against vandalism. That is a problem which every public corporation has to cope with. The question of whether a local authority should pay needs further discussion and I shall not adjudicate on it. If there is a shortage of people in the parish then I hope that he will promote church plants into those churches that are having problems of finance. I warmly commend this Bill and I hope that it will go successfully to the Select Committee.

9.50 p.m.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for allowing me to speak briefly in the gap. I thank particularly the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for introducing the Bill. I should like to speak briefly to Clause 64 which relates to the licensing of newsagents. I believe that it is well known that soft porn is definitely part of the package which is supplied by wholesalers to newsagents. We all know that the Daily Sport and the Sunday Sport are registered as newspapers and can be sold by newsagents because they contain the minimum one-third national or international news.

My concern, and that, I am sure, of everybody in this country, is that boys and girls aged 10 or even younger deliver those newspapers and have the opportunity to flip through them. It is daring to do so. They want to be more "streetwise" than their peers. It is tremendous to be able to get from such newspapers the addresses from which hard porn videos are advertised. Of course, they can do that just as easily by going through unlicensed sex shops in such places as Soho or by using the Internet system, should they have access to it. I understand that schools are encouraged to present such technological advancement to their students.

Perhaps it can be understood why this Bill should be applauded by everyone in this country as well as in another place, and why all parties should agree to review the Obscene Publications Act 1959, when one recalls Dr. David Goldberg's report on London's mental health, which showed that this city, which the Bill hopes to clean up, has 70 per cent. of the AIDS cases that are notified nationally. I support Clause 64 and the Bill wholeheartedly.

9.52 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, I rise to my feet in place of my noble friend Lady Hamwee who normally speaks from this Bench on such matters. I am grateful for the comments made about that by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding. Like my noble friend, I support the main provisions of this Bill.

I notice that there is a certain restlessness on the Government Front Bench. Perhaps it is felt that the hour is late, so I shall be brief. I am enabled to do that because of the very full introduction to the Bill which was given by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and because other speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, who is temporarily out of the Chamber, have spoken so well. The noble Baroness made a good response on behalf of the Government.

I turn first to the anti-fraud provisions. An interesting debate, and one on which we have not yet touched, may concern those clauses which relate to fraud in the education sector, and particularly as regards nursery vouchers. Over the year nursery vouchers can amount to over £1,000 per child. It will be interesting to see whether the fears which have been expressed that nursery vouchers may become the subject of fraudulent dealing will be realised. As Bills generally take quite some time to go through not only your Lordships' House but Parliament as a whole, perhaps we shall learn later whether that fear has been proved real.

I am particularly interested in the enforcement of the waste control provisions. Although I listened with great attention to the noble Lords, Lord Mountevans and Lord Cadman, my feeling is still very much in line with what was expressed earlier—namely, that if the railway authorities and the operating companies do not want strangers entering their land to execute orders for cleanliness, it is up to them, as major landowners in this country, and in this city in particular, to ensure that their land is kept clean. The days when the rail authorities could exempt themselves from whole tranches of duties which others had to fulfil simply by saying that it was too dangerous, too difficult or too likely to interrupt their operations are now past. We need a cleaner town and country. I very much support these provisions and hope that a way can be found to take them forward into the final deliberations on this Bill.

However, I felt a certain amount of sympathy for the spirited defence of his parishes by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. There are problems here. It is important that these churchyards pass into public hands in relatively good condition. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, suggested in his introductory remarks—he will correct me if I am wrong—that if that was secure, less importance would be given to the need to provide an endowment. I believe that it is asking a lot of a parish to endow a piece of land for the indefinite future for upkeep purposes. I believe that that will give rise to a very interesting series of discussions, and a balance must be struck on that issue.

As to the nuisance from birds and so forth, here my heart is very much with the Bill rather than those who have voiced objections to it, interesting and understandable though some of them have been. If my tree overhangs a highway and somebody must enter upon my land to cut bits off it, I must pay for that because it is a nuisance that I have caused. It is generally recognised that if one causes a nuisance on a highway one is responsible for curing it. If there are simpler and cheaper ways of preventing the nuisance from birds, they should be given the greatest possible prominence. I appreciate the cost implications and fears, but I believe that a compromise can be reached.

I shall not speak any longer. There are many others in this House who know a great deal more about this matter than I do. There are many aspects of legislation or the opportunities and powers given to authorities in London which as a representative of another authority in the shire counties—I am not here in that capacity—I wish could be extended to my authority. I believe that London has often led the way in local authority legislative provision. I wish this Bill well. I would be interested in having a chance to take part in later discussions on it at Committee stage.

9.58 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I begin by warmly thanking the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, not merely for his presence and the duty he has performed, but for the excellent way he explained the Bill most fully—that is no criticism—so that noble Lords are well equipped to deal with it. I am also delighted to see the Government Chief Whip in his place, as he often is late at night. It is our intention to return him to the bosom of his friends as quickly as possible. I did not say "boozing". I did not realise that this debate was as important as it was until he decided to join us, and for that I am very grateful.

Of course, the House is familiar with the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, in local government, in London affairs and in this place. He and I have the great privilege to be joint presidents of the Association of London Government. My credentials go back more than 30 years to the time when I was the leader of a London borough. We are well familiar with the fact that a central body in London in effect is the vehicle that is used by all other boroughs. In this instance the lead borough is Westminster in whose name this matter is being carried forward. Nevertheless, the House will understand, as do those who follow these matters, that the Bill is substantially a response by the ALG to the needs and desires of individual boroughs about matters which require legislative change.

I have looked through my papers and I see that many other bodies have suggested to the ALG that they would like to use the Bill as a vehicle to promote their interests. That is the general situation. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, in a most apposite speech, when we speak on private measures from the Front Bench on either side of the House, we make it clear that while we may have individual views and experiences—the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is well experienced in matters relating to London local government—we are neutral. We do not participate politically. That is the present position.

The first piece of good news we received from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, was that it is the promoter's intention, on reflection, voluntarily to reduce the size of the Bill. That will make it a better Bill, because, as he said, it is large. No part of the Bill has escaped comment or criticism. The good news is that with a promoter such as the ALG, which is sensitive to the needs of the people concerned and is aware of our procedures whereby a Select Committee of Members of the House will take as long as is necessary to listen to the petitioners, there is every chance that when we get the Bill back here—whenever that might be—it should be in a form which is acceptable not merely to this House but to those who seek to influence the matter.

I wish to reinforce one or two of the matters that have been raised. There are clauses relating to fraud against local authorities. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that no one would oppose any measures taken nationally or in this Bill to deal with that problem. I am a little uneasy that matters which should properly be the province of national legislation will be legislated for in the Bill. I am not arguing against the need for the measures or querying the problems or the costs caused to local authorities, but one must be careful when defining the areas of demarcation which should exist. In Committee such matters will be teased out.

All of us in local government know that parking, street cleaning and nuisances are controversial. In general, the provisions contained in the Bill are an honest attempt to deal with known hurts and the distress caused to local people. I applaud the promoter's intentions in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, took great care and time to explain the clause that deals with the film industry. Like him, I looked at my papers. I am still puzzled as to how something which was promoted in effect by the consortium which is designed to be the voice of the film industry, and which, as I understand it, sought the co-operation of the ALG and Westminster to do so, is now questioning it. Clearly as a petitioner, it will be making its views known. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, referred to my noble friend Lord Hollick who of course has interests in that sphere. He drew my attention to the fact that what he said was undoubtedly a hot potato for the film industry. I look forward to hearing the outcome of the discussions.

The views that I was given are trenchant and are not merely idle criticisms. I am told that the proposal relating to regulating and controlling licensing notices is unnecessary. Someone wrote to me saying: I have worked in television for nearly 15 years. In all that time I have never known an issue to arise of there being a problem about us filming on a highway or public open space in London. Programme makers are not stupid people. We do not set up our cameras in the middle of the pavement in Oxford Street on Christmas Eve, and, if we did, as far as I am aware powers already exist to move us on for causing an obstruction. I cannot imagine not complying with a reasonable request to move". My correspondent goes on: Finally, there are serious civil liberties issues involved here. It is not for local authority bureaucrats to decide when and where the press should be free". All that makes for an interesting Committee stage. People are entitled to feel strongly, especially when their livelihoods are affected. That has been established on more than one occasion tonight.

I join the general support around the House for Clause 64, which deals with what are called sex establishments. I acknowledge the right of those who make a profit from such establishments to point out their objections. However, I believe that the intention of the Bill to deal with what could be an abuse is well supported and validated.

My noble friend Lady Nicol, who cannot be here, has drawn my attention to the observations of the Open Space Society. It raises concerns surrounding the provisions relating to the film industry and busking. They were dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. Its main concern related to Clause 101. I acknowledge the vested interests rightly and properly represented by the right reverend Prelate. The Bill seeks to turn around the 1972 legislation under which the local authority, whether or not it was able or wanted to, had to give three months notice as regards its liability to look after a redundant graveyard. We are looking at the situation 25 years later. If the argument is that parishioners are now less able to look after them, I can assure the right reverend Prelate that it is more difficult for local authorities to bear the burden in 1997 than it was in 1972. Local authorities have little cash.

I was pleased to note that a solution might be found as regards time. I understand that there has been a lack of consultation, but I know nothing about that. Clearly, better consultation might have produced a better clause, but I can see many ratepayers who, faced with the choice of accepting the liability, will say to their Members of Parliament and local councillors, "No, we will not". A problem then arises. Not far from here, Westminster Council has a history of disposing of churchyards and at what cost. No solution has been put forward in the Chamber tonight. Experience and a recognition of the problems of the Churches and local authorities should enable progress to be made.

Of course, the debate on churchyards is a grave issue—I could not resist that one, as the House will understand—and other matters will need to be considered. However, for my part, and I do not speak for my party in such matters, I am delighted to have the chance to speak. I congratulate the promoters, those responsible for London government, on the fact that they are genuinely trying to produce better legislation and a better London. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has done us a signal service in so very carefully taking us thus far. I hope that this repertory company will reassemble whenever the Third Reading takes place and that we will find a better Bill than the one now before us. However, I have to say at this stage that it is a pretty good Bill.

10.10 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I spoke at some length when introducing the Bill but I can promise the House that I shall be extremely brief in concluding, not least because I have to speak at a breakfast meeting at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning. I listened to the debate and am most grateful to all noble Lords who took part. Subject to one or two points to which I may refer, it is my impression that no matter was raised which could not be resolved by discussion or which could not properly be put to a Select Committee. I have to tell the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, that, having spoken on Second Reading, I do not believe that she will be eligible to sit as a member of the Select Committee. I hate to have to disappoint the noble Baroness, but I fear that that is a rule of the House.

The point that concerned me most was one that was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton; namely, the suggestion that there had been a lack of full consultation on the part of the promoters before the Bill was introduced. Like the noble Lord, Lord Graham, I have no knowledge of that and, therefore, I cannot comment upon it. However, I can say that if that is indeed the case—and I accept without question that that is the view that has been put to the right reverend Prelate and to my noble friend Lord Cadman—I regard that as a matter of regret. This sort of legislation is likely to make much more satisfactory progress if all those who will he affected have an opportunity not only to consider the suggestions in general but also to consider the drafting.

I was also concerned by the anxieties expressed by the right reverend Prelate. I am not sure that I am as worried about his concerns regarding birds as I am about churchyards. The latter is an issue of considerable antiquity and complexity. It is a fact that I was for some two years the Minister for churchyards. Indeed, I discovered that that was part of my responsibilities as Secretary of State for the Environment. It may be of interest to the House to know that that responsibility is now held by the Home Office. All I can say is that I congratulate my successors in the Department of the Environment on having got rid of it. However, I do realise that it is a complicated matter.

I have some sympathy, like others, with the worries of the right reverend Prelate about endowments. On the question of putting the churchyards in order, as I understand it, the discussions which will take place seem likely to reach a reasonable compromise. However, I have no doubt that those who are promoting the Bill will give careful regard to what the right reverend Prelate said about endowments. There must be many parishes for which such a prospect would make the situation totally impossible—as the right reverend Prelate put it, the catch-22 situation. Therefore, without having any authority, so to speak, to offer concessions on the matter, I have no doubt that the points will be considered.

I turn now to the question of birds. I was asked whether Clause 99 might result in works being requested to listed buildings. Clearly the London boroughs would wish to consult English Heritage in such circumstances. If an amendment is necessary to ensure that that happens, I have no doubt that that, too, will be considered.

The right reverend Prelate mentioned faculties and the need to get permission for works. That, again, is a matter where I tread with all the delicacy of an angel on the point of a needle because it is immensely complicated. I am sure that these matters must be discussed and there must be a proper understanding on both sides. There is a genuine problem with birds, not just pigeons as I have said, but also with sparrows. All those who are affected by that problem must take it into account. As we know, this problem is particularly acute in London; it is a scourge in London. I welcome what was said about the actions the City of Westminster is taking in relation to Trafalgar Square.

Reference has been made to the fact that it is the feeding of these birds which causes the problem. I am the chairman of a company and when I arrive at my office in the morning I am sometimes ashamed to find that someone—perhaps someone in a neighbouring restaurant—has scattered bits of bread all over the alleyway and there are hundreds of pigeons eating it. We must try to discourage that sort of thing.

As regards the provision in the Bill to deal with sex shops, I can only reiterate what I have already said; namely, it is not the intention to bring the ordinary newsagent who stocks a few "top shelf" titles within the ambit of legislation on sex shops. Like the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and others, some people might wish that newsagents did not even stock those titles. However, the real mischief is caused by shops whose prime purpose is to purvey sex objects. Licensing is necessary for those shops. In those cases a number of conditions can be imposed which materially reduce offence to the public, such as blank windows and various other measures such as warnings. However, in the last resort I suggest that in the final decade of the 20th century it is quite unrealistic to imagine that we can protect all people in all places for all time against the risk of seeing some of these publications. They are about and they are demanded. What is intended in this Bill is to regulate effectively the more serious cases. I think that would have the support of the vast majority of people.

My noble friend on the Front Bench did not go quite as far as I would have liked in relation to my request about giving details of convictions as regards certain posts as part of the battle against fraud, but she clearly indicated that if requests were made to bring those posts within the legislation they would be considered sympathetically and judged according to the criteria that apply to everyone else. I have no doubt that local authorities will wish to note her words carefully. I believe she has gone some way to meet the case that was made.

I should say a few words about the railways. Railtrack and London Regional Transport may in the end need to argue their case before the Select Committee. I detected if not old Labour certainly "old railways" in the attitude that nothing must ever be allowed to interfere with anything that the railways do. We all accept that safety measures must be put in place. Local authorities will be happy to discuss any questions of safety. The obvious solution is that railway companies should clear up their own rubbish. Of course they have not deposited that rubbish but, equally, local authorities have not deposited the rubbish that clutters the streets but they clear it up nonetheless. If rubbish is deposited on private property, as it were, the owners of that property should take steps to clear it up. I hope that Railtrack and London Regional Transport and the Docklands Light Railway—however, the latter is much less seriously affected by this problem for obvious reasons—will take this responsibility seriously and will be prepared to recognise the pressure that lies behind this measure and the desire that they should take steps to clean up their act. I find it shaming to come into London by train and to see the appalling refuse that litters the cuttings. It is not a good advertisement for London. I believe that legislation is needed to put matters right.

I hope that the Bill will be allowed to go to the Select Committee. I hope that it will be given a Second Reading tonight and that the concerns, all of which have been properly expressed and of which proper note will be taken, will be examined and argued over, with decisions reached. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, said, if the Bill requires improvements, they will be made and the measure will come back to the House at a later stage.

I hope that the Bill will be read a second time. I commend it to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past ten o'clock.