Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 Section 23 inserted a
section into the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
section of the EPA 1990 is 94B and schedule 3A - To give the power to
local authorities to fine promoters for littering
before it happens.
In order to exempt themselves from their own repressive flyering ban
laws much machination was done - this page is dedicated to those who
are to blame.
Controls on free distribution of
in previous Pear Shaped epistles on this matter the lunacy of this
policy is, of course, the philosophical conundrum of how on earth
anyone can draw a line between social activity that requires a turnover
to fund it and so resembles a business and business activity which
involves social organisation which is political and/or has political
aims in that it expresses the personality and ideals of the promoter
may be at odds with those of society and the Councils who have the
enforce the law selectively.
As the Bill progressed through the committee stages the lunacy, blatant
discrimination against ordinary people by the political class and
possible legal challenges on the grounds that it is philosophical
twaddle were expanded on at great length (but in very little depth and
no public consultation with those to be affected) by the House of
Commons Standing Committee (G)
The Pear Shaped Tardis has travelled back in time to the 20th of
January 2005 using the time vortex of Hansard to listen in on this
momentous (for the comedy circuit) discussion
Sue Doughty: I beg to move amendment No.
74, in page 20, leave out lines 25 and 26.
A situation that we have had in Guildford
illustrates the points on which we seek clarity. This is a probing
amendment that is, on the face of it, simple and straightforward,
although in practice there might be further complications. In the local
government elections of the year before last, a local business man
created his own political party. It was generally felt locally, and it
was entrenched in his manifesto, that he thought that the Conservatives
would give him a better planning deal than the Liberal Democrats. He
had aspirations to build a large casino and various other things.
In fairness to the Conservatives, I should say
that there is no indication that they had ever said that they would
give him a better answer on planning than the Liberal Democrats had.
However, the business man formed a political party—Trinity—that
campaigned in marginal wards to try to drive in a wedge, so that
Liberal Democrat seats would be lost. I bring the matter up because
that individual regularly takes the council to court for everything
possible. That is why I seek clarity.
That person runs a political party—from time to
time, as the need occurs—and is a local business man, pursuing business
interests. He may also be running a campaign to open a football
stadium, which may be connected with his desire to set up a casino. We
could have only a very blurred idea of what would go on his leaflets.
In other words, he might have one piece of paper, but be caught by
others when he is issuing leaflets for his very large nightclub in the
middle of Guildford—another thing that he gets up to.
Sue is being hypothetical, deliberately provocative and sarcastic here
(possible) OR ...this is a politican trying to frame legislation
not for the public good but to vicitimise their social and political
Doughty's suggestion that the exemptions for charities and politicans
be deleted either suggests that she thinks the whole section is
unworkable OR that she is trying to make it difficult for the
gentleman in question to go about his legitimate business of
advertising his nightclub while exempting herself and her own political
cronies from the draconian effects of their own socially repressive
legislation and leaving enough wiggle room for the Liberal Democrat
Party's business donors who finance their propaganda epistles to keep
funding more propaganda by placing advertisements within it because it
is actually very difficult to manufacture flyers on the industrial
scale of either of the main three political parties without a turnover
to fund it.
I know that
is a long paragraph but unlike those
speaking within the walls of the palace of Westminster we are not
immune to libel prosecutions.
re-reading the transcripts multiple times in an attempt to gain clarity
I am still genuinely unable to draw a conclusion as to Ms Doughty's
true motivation for the above statements and after a lot of cogitation
I have decided that we had better give her the benefit of doubt that
her intentions are good. She has at least raised the issue -
which is the purpose of parliament.
of you not cognisant with the exiting spectacle of Guildford nightlife
the gentleman alluded to is the well known businessman Mr Michel Harper
Blair came to power he promised the grambling and pub industry a
revolution in licenceing laws - with longer opening hours and a series
of supercasinos around the country. Mr Harper thought Christmas
had come early and pootled off to the sleepy dormitory town of
Guildford to make it more hip and happening - envisioning it as the new
Las Vegas of Surrey
undertaking these drastic social changes within the auspices of a
Conservative/Liberal Democrat Council were no simple matter.
While National government was on Mr Harper's side Local government was
If we were
to go into the saga of Mr Harper and his struggles with the local
Council over building frontage regulations and signage and planning
applications as he proceeds to open casino after nightclub in Guildford
town center in detail this would not be so much an article as much as a
volume novel. Suffice to say that as recounted above when Mr
Harper became frustrated in his plans by the council on discovering
that there was no overall control of the Council he decided to go
Contrary to Ms Doubty's satements (it took us some time to find the
actual ward results) ... Mr Harper didn't actually stand candidates in the
most marginal wards
available but he was definately attempting to split the vote and
play one side off against
the other... ? It is interesting that at the 2003 general
the Council moved from No Overall Control to Conservative Control by a
tiny majority and mainly due to boundary changes...
interesting to postulate what might have happened if Harper had chosen
the more marginal wards to field candidates in...
Here is a
typical extract from the Guildford Conservative Party blog by Cllr
fascinating document full of all the most important and pressing issues
faced by Guildford today:
The likelihood of a referendum on a
directly-elected mayor has created a lively debate on democratic
accountability and scrutiny in Guildford. Yet such scrutiny cuts both
ways. If the Trinity Party wants to run Guildford Borough through an
elected Mayor, we should quite legitimately ask what it is and what it
accounts, deposited with the Electoral Commission, reveal the Party has
just five members and has been bankrolled solely by Michel Harper and
Raschid Abdullah. The accounts even admit,
“the Trinity Party has limited appeal to
those other than its founders”.
Indeed, in the 2003 local elections,
they won a total of 902 votes across Guildford, having spent £8
per vote in election expenses.
It is a matter
of public record that Mr Harper is the director of Trinity Investment
Co. Ltd and associated companies, financing the controversial proposals
for a casino in Bridge Street and a stadium on the green space of Stoke
Park. Unsurprisingly, the Trinity Party also supports the development
of a casino and a stadium.
I do not
begrudge anyone’s right to take part in the democratic process or to
run his or her own business. But I question whether the Trinity Party
is motivated by the welfare of Guildford’s residents, or if it is just
the political mouthpiece for the lawful, but decidedly commercial,
interests of a small number of private individuals.
councillor for Merrow
While we are
on the subject of aggressive flyering and the Guildford 2003 local
elections it is interesting that these elections were so closely faught
that Sheridan Westlake's fellow Merrow cllr Anthony
Bays (by all accounts not the sharpest tool in the Conservative
box) was convicted of electoral fraud after this election. He not
only changed the postal votes of a 79-year-old woman and her dementia
afflicted husband but was thick enough to open her sealed envelope in
front of her and then deliver it to the Council offices in
I hasten to add that there is no evidence to implicate Sheridan himself
in any of this but it did lead to him being ruthlessly teased by
colleages at CCHQ via the http://order-order.com political
gossip website (brainchild of Guido Fawkes) ....
The Labour Party (in particular as the party of the dispossessed) has
always had a problem with "Getting the Vote
Out" ........so in 2003 Tony Blair decided to have some trial areas
postal voting. Mr Bays was not alone - the temptations
were too much for many people leading Richard Mawrey QC, sitting as an
electoral commissioner in Birmingham to remark Government claims that
guards against vote-rigging were in place...
not simply of complacency but of denial. There are no systems
to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud
will continue unabated."
negotiate with Guildford Council about anything Mr Harper engaged in a
legal actions against them.
of which cost the council huge sums of money (it
is estimated one such action cost the council close to half a million
£).. Elections too cost
the council huge sums of money so by trying to postulate new reasons
for new elections as above Mr Harper hopes to hurt the council which
will have to pay to fund them and the political parties who will have
to pay to run in them.
in many ways this was rather a fun game that benefited everyone.
Mr Harper was happy because by fighting the council over every little
thing all the way to the Europe he was becoming a local celebrity and
garnering the sort of publicity for his clubs that money cannot buy and
the local Conservatives and Liberal Democrat parties were happy to have
a local bogeyman who they could compete
with each other in
condemning. The only real loser was Taxpayer who had to fund
expensive legal bills...
course it could just be that Mr Harper is his own worst enemy, but it
is interesting that his "joke" Trinity party made a large enough impact
in the local elections for Sheridan to take time out of his many busy
jobs at CCHQ to enquire of the electoral commission who is funding the
party. 902 votes may not sound very much but bare in mind that
this constituency was at the time extremely marginal and should Mr
Harper have been able to duplicate anything like this result in the
upcoming 2005 general election he could have constituted a major
political migrane for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
On a slight
tangent one alse wonders if Mr Harper's difficulties in negotiating
things with the Liberal Democrats may have been exacerbated by the fact
that Ms Doughty is a Quakerand as such possibly
theologically opposed to gambling in principle? Certainly the
website public whip shows her as having an 88%
voting record against gambling permissiveness.
I have always found it amusing that the Society
of Friends (an organisation that almost by definition defines
as having no written creed or defined theological unity) seems so consistently to find that the one subject on
most of it's members
are consistently theologically united is that it is very naughty to
have a flutter...?
back to Hansard...
Mr. Evans: I seek further clarity on this
as well. I know that a number of people put out what could be termed
political leaflets outside election times. They contain advertisements
for all sorts of things, which I assume are to the benefit of those
parties. They would fall foul of this proposal would they not?
Sue Doughty: That is a very helpful
intervention. I believe that the answer is yes. If the Trinity party
were to put out printed matter containing a slogan, such as ''The best
thing for town planning'', ''Free drinks at The Drink on Wednesdays,
Thursdays and Fridays'' or whatever it might be, that would precisely
illustrate the problem.
Mr. Evans: I am not talking about people
who invent political parties, but about traditional political parties
that utilise advertisements from local business men. Without the
funding such parties perhaps would not be able to distribute their
political literature in the first place. I am thinking about the
Liberal Democrats as much as any other party.
Mr Evans is
clearly worried about the fact this legislation may infuriate some of
his party's traditional donors... or maybe he just doesn't like it or
thinks it's stupid...?
Sue Doughty: I quite accept that point. I
have seen such things on literature from the three political parties
that I regularly come across in addition to Trinity, which appears and
disappears on a regular basis. We tabled a probing amendment and
recommended a deletion because the position is untenable. We look
forward to the Minister telling us how we could get round the problem.
Alun Michael: I am sorry to break it to the
hon. Lady, but it is not always possible to solve every problem in
legislation. Legitimate political activity almost invariably has a
fringe. There is a great danger of trying to cut the fringes off and
damaging the mainstream of political activity.
I can understand the hon. Lady wanting to raise
her local issues and doing so with a probing amendment. If it were a
serious amendment, I would quite robustly say that it would be
unthinkable to accept it. The purpose of the exception is to ensure
that the human rights of individuals and their legitimate political and
democratic activities are not affected by the provisions.
When we started talking about the provision and
learning from the experience in London of trying to avoid excessive
free literature, I was worried that it might be difficult to phrase the
clause in a way that would protect rights. I believe that we have
achieved that protection. Consultation raised the same concern that
immediately came to my mind, which was that the control of free
literature distribution could impinge on the freedom of speech and both
religious and political canvassing.
By allowing the exemptions, we protect the rights
of freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and
religion. They are enshrined under the European convention on human
rights and, now, in our law under the Human Rights Act 1998. Even if
they were not enshrined there, most of us would say immediately that we
do not want to see a restriction on political and religious debate.
That would be implied by the proposed deletion from the Bill. We must
put up with some things in order to maintain the integrity of our
I understand what the hon. Lady means about
campaign advertisements. Somebody stood in one general election under
the title of New Labour before we wisely took control of Government and
inserted clauses to stop that sort of thing happening. As she might
imagine, I was in support of that measure when we started to draft it
at the Home Office.
We cannot solve all problems and we must be
careful that we do not go too far. I have sympathy with the hon. Lady.
Everybody involved in legitimate political activity must do all they
can to make it clear where the boundaries are. They should not seek
individual, personal or party advantage through these types of
intervention. This matter is down to the way we conduct ourselves. It
would be extremely dangerous to remove the exemption from the Bill.
wonder what "legitimate political activity" in this context is.
Surely the Trinity party (at whom this legislation would seem to be
directly targeted) does have a political aim? - More nightclubs and
casinos in Surrey. That is just as much a political policy as
invading Iraq or abolishing the 10p Income Tax Band. Let us not
forget that Cllr Sheridan
Westlake has a NO CASINO
policy! So it is
surely not wrong for there to be a party with a LOTS OF CASNIOs policy
- even if only 6 people are of the same mind, their party is fulfilling
a need ... a need for people to express their want of a Casino.
Sue Doughty: I have every sympathy with
what the Minister is saying. If it were a case of just trying to get
some clarity between the one and the other, I would
fully accept what he is saying. The reality is that the clause is meant
to deal with people who, for example, hand out literature outside a
nightclub every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
gets thrown on the ground. We are trying to work out the exceptions.
Given that the main line of business of the individual in question is
nightclubs and bars and the promotion of them, and that he is one of
those whom the clause will affect directly, his instant get out is to
say, ''Trinity party''.
the clause is aimed at Businessmen who promote their own entertainment
events but dont donate to any of the three main political
parties. Clearly and specifically the aim is to victimise
purvayers of adult entertainment with minds of their own rather than
Alun Michael: Perhaps I can assist the hon.
Lady. If someone purported to put out religious information or
political material but was not really doing so—in other words, if they
were promoting a business—it would be for the court to decide, as it
often is, on the boundaries. The fact that the Bill does not deal with
the question explicitly does not mean that someone can get away with
claiming to represent a political party.
words - I know it's unworkable but we've got to try!
Let them spend their hard earned in court trying to prove it's immoral.
Sue Doughty: I take that point, but I am
pressing for clarity from the Minister—because our debate will go down
on the record—in identifying what the court would do in such a case.
The person in question might say in his defence, ''Oh, no, it is
Trinity party; it is just that there is an advert for the nightclub.''
Those issues come to court eventually, and I predict such a court case.
As her feet
grow colder Ms Doughty wisely tries to cover her posterior. Of
course the Mr Harpers of Great Britain probably will end up taking the
Government to court over this nonsense eventually and generating huge
publicity for themselves and their venues in the process (completely
defeating the object of the legislation which is to deprive them of
publicity) because the Goverment simply doesn't have the guts to tell
people upfront it wants less nightclubs and casinos. It is only
ordinary people without large financial resources engaged in normal low
level social activity who wont sue back who will actually be caught in
the legislation's net...
Alun Michael: I offer a final thought; if
an individual claimed in defence that he was putting out political
material, it would be for the prosecution to show that that was not
true, and for the court to make a judgment. Often when such issues are
discussed in theoretical terms it sounds as if it might be easy for
someone to get away with breaking the law, but when the evidence is
looked at objectively by a court it becomes clear whether something is
on the wrong side of the line. We cannot solve the individual case that
the hon. Lady has raised this morning unless we table an amendment to
insert the formula ''political parties, except for'' the one that she
has a problem with. That would be making the Bill a little too specific.
words they did seriously consider drafting a bill to disadvantage any
lobby group with whom they have political issue and then thought "We
cant get away with that" but it is interesting that the legislation has
already been used against lobby and pressure groups such as Plane
Stupid and the WI even though it was "not intended" in that way...
Sue Doughty: I thank the Minister for that
clarification. I should not want to take exception to the activities of
one party more than another; the case was a specific one. The
Minister's comments about how the court might deal with the matter are
helpful. If he can provide any further clarification on Report we
should welcome that. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
course, this "specific case" is
taking exception to one of the activities of one of the parties
- the Trinity party.
Doughty means is she would not like to take exception to the activities
of one of the main political parties. Small groups of individuals
can go hang.
may be the
Trinity Party has limited appeal to
those other than its founders it is still a social organisation
with a political purpose and a registered political party. The
fact it only has 5 members is not the issue.
As a matter
of fact the two main political parties only have approx 180,000
vary but I recently heard Miliband the Elder quote a similar
figure for total Labour party membership) which if you cogitate on it
proportion of the
actual political posts available it pretty much works out at MPs,
Councillors and their families and one or two oddballs.
point out as well that although by it's own admission the Trinity party
it's appeal is wide enough to generate this article.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sue Doughty: I beg to move amendment No.
75, in page 21, line 10, leave out 'and'.
The Chairman: With this it will be
convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 76, in page 21,
line 11, at end insert
(c) post a notice on its proposal on the internet.'.
No. 79, in page 21, line 27, leave out 'and'.
No. 80, in page 21, line 28, after 'land', insert
(c) post a notice of its decision on the internet for the duration of
Column Number: 145
No. 81, in page 21, line 40, leave out 'and'.
No. 82, in page 21, line 41, after 'land', insert
(c) post a notice of any revocation on the internet.'.
Sue Doughty: These amendments are much more
simple. There is a typo in amendment No. 76; the first instance of the
word ''on'' should be ''of''.
We are interested in how people are to get the
information that they need about what information they can hand out and
where it is legitimate to do so. A lot of young people get involved in
handing out literature, sometimes for their own projects and sometimes
because they are paid to do it. It is a first port of call for them.
Sometimes they get together as a group—they may be students—and book a
club and promote their own night.
They tend to know what goes on by consulting the
internet, although they are less likely to read the local paper. They
might be helping to distribute fliers at a club, by standing outside
one that plays the same sort of music that they will play at their
event. They need to be able—particularly if that is happening not in
their council area but in the next borough or town—to understand what
is legitimate there and what is not. By far the easiest way for them to
find the correct information and avoid falling foul of the Bill would
be to consult the council's website.
emasculated promoters from communicating ideas on the street to members
of the public with paper Sue and Alun now try to figure out a way to
stop the result being that all social activity is emasculated and that
no one understands the rules because they are going to be applied by
via local government on the whims and caprices of minor
Alun Michael: I take the point that as
technology develops there are other ways of communicating information
that are distinct from the traditional requirements. However, I would
suggest that the matter is one of best practice. There is a requirement
to be met, so it would be minimum practice for information to be
provided on the local authority's own website. Otherwise, it is
difficult to know exactly where such information should be put, in
order to ensure that it is there for those looking for it. There are
other ways of communicating, such as press notices, local radio,
voluntary organisations and so on, all of which may be appropriate in
We ought to maintain a light touch, ensure a
sensible minimum requirement and encourage local authorities through
best practice increasingly to use other channels of communication, as
people begin to use them more and more. Of course, many people still do
not use electronic means of communication—I cannot think that there are
any in this Room, Mr. Forth, but you never know. Posting a notice on
the internet would be a perfectly reasonable supplement to the minimum
requirement, but not something that we would need to include in the
Bill, so I would ask that the amendment be withdrawn.
decides that supplying alternative means of state subsidised promotion
to replace the self-funded sort they are eliminating is a little
Sue Doughty: We are just concerned that
often young people do not read newspapers and that newspapers
themselves are sometimes extremely parochial. I take the Minister's
point that the matter is down to best practice and I hope that local
authorities will take note of the advice that he has provided. I beg to
ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
that she knows this isn't going to work but trusts local government to
act "sensibly". Not one professional promoter has been consulted.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sue Doughty: I beg to move amendment No.
77, in page 21, line 15, leave out '28' and insert '42'.
The Chairman: With this it will be
convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 78, in page 21,
line 19, leave out '14' and insert '28'.
No. 83, in page 22, line 5, after 'paragraph',
'must be given in writing by an authorised officer of the authority
No. 84, in page 22, line 11, after 'distribution',
(e) by requirement to clear any litter resulting from the material
No. 85, in page 22, leave out lines 16 to 20.
No. 86, in page 23, line 43, after 'may', insert
', after 28 days,'.
No. 87, in page 24, line 6, after 'person', insert
', or any such person under whose employ that person was distributing
Sue Doughty: Again, the amendments are
clarifying amendments. Amendments Nos. 77 and 78 concern the time
scale. The main problem is the 14 days for objecting to a proposed
order. In my area there is a weekly newspaper, but someone might be
away when it comes out and might not read the small print at the back
when they return and catch up with the news, as they are getting on
with their lives again. Such things take a while and people have to
ensure that they have seen the notice. That is why we want to extend
the period, to ensure that everyone has a chance to see the notice.
Once the proposal is discovered, the further extension to 42 days
proposed by amendment No. 77 will give people a chance to formulate and
submit any objections, which is a matter of practical expediency.
Amendment No. 83 proposes that someone who is
given consent to distribute printed matter in a designated area may be
required to provide written evidence of that consent. Although
paragraph 3(6) of proposed schedule 3A to the Environmental Protection
Act 1990 states that an authority can impose a requirement to provide
written evidence of consent on demand, the best way to avoid any
misunderstanding is to ensure that the authority provides written
consent in all cases.
will now be required to get a piece of paper in order to hand out
pieces of paper. Sue seems to be under the illusion that the
authority will always give consent to any reasonable request which as
we have explored extensively in another article is not how the law
Amendment No. 84 concerns clearing litter
resulting from material distributed. Given that the powers are designed
to tackle litter caused by printed matter, our proposal is to give
councils important additional powers over the limitations that they
could place on the consent to distribute matter in a controlled area.
Councils may wish to have that freedom, which amendment No. 84 would
Amendment No. 85 is a probing amendment. It
appears that councils are to be allowed full discretion on granting
consents anyway, so why is paragraph 3(4) of proposed schedule 3A to
the 1990 Act necessary? We would like the Minister to explain what sort
of people are being targeted. Is the intention to stop people who are
doing direct marketing for profit from gaining consent? That might be
reasonable, but we return to the issue of young people promoting
concerts, clubs, exhibitions and other events for all sorts of
purposes, perhaps as part of a college or school project. The
requirements on such young people are difficult—one strike
and they are out, in trouble for ever more because they made a mistake
when they were not up to speed. We would like young people to learn the
lesson and understand what the law is, but we think that the Bill as
drafted is a little heavy-handed.
brings up schedule 3A and
seems to realise that it can be potentially used to censor... she
doesn't seem bothered about the idea of local authorities censoring
promoters but she is concerned that social organisations will be caught
in the trap she is laying for "professional" promoters (and Casino
owners). You will notice that her question about the
reason for the need to update 1990 Act goes unanswered below.
is this - updating the 1990 act changes this from a measure to control
flyering to a draconian law which can
create complete NO
know this but she's not letting on...
Amendment No. 86 again concerns the problem of the
time scale and allows a reasonable period for a person whose name and
address is not known to contact the authorities to claim the printed
matter before it is destroyed.
With amendment No. 87, we are thinking about
vulnerable people, often young, who are employed to hand out flyers.
Those who work for direct marketing companies generally do so only for
the money. The job is not one that people do because they see a career
in handing out flyers. Basically, they want some pocket money. We are
concerned that such people might not know that they could receive a
fixed penalty. Somebody might give them a job handing out flyers about
a massive golf sale around the corner and then find it easy to take
advantage of them, avoiding liability themselves.
We should also bear in mind that such employers
might not be local. They might move from town to town running golf
sales, Persian carpet sales or other ad hoc events. Such people can
disappear and leave whomsoever they had hired for a minimum wage to be
fined and face the music. We are therefore concerned that the
provisions might be a little heavy-handed on people who are basically
Alun Michael: I do not want to be unkind to
the hon. Lady, but with regard to amendments Nos. 77 and 78 the slogan
that springs to mind is ''Liberals do things slower''.
witty. Perhaps a nerve has been touched... there are after all
less than 75
which Tony Blair will call the 2005 general
election. Mr Michael must get his legislation through the
Committee and the House of Lords before parliament is prorogued however
silly and unworkable it will be - otherwise what is his function?
Mr. Evans: If at all.
satire! Perhaps we misjudge Ms Doughty - perhaps she is trying to
kill the bill?
Alun Michael: I see that I have agreement
in some parts of the Room at least.
The problems that we are concerned about can build
up in a fairly short period. To extend the period from 28 days to 42
days as a minimum time between giving notice and the coming into force
of the designation order seems entirely out of proportion. It should be
borne in mind that the local authority has the capacity to revoke such
an order at any time. Indeed, it quite often happens that an order is
put in place but people then have second thoughts. However, the
proposals would prevent a local authority from acting reasonably
swiftly on the powers in the Bill. I will resist the amendment, because
the proposed increases in the notification objection time would hamper
the ability of local authorities to control free literature
distribution in an area that was already suffering from serious blight.
Amendment No. 83 is unnecessary because, taking
all the relevant provisions into account, it is clear that the
notification must be in writing. I also have problems with the term
''authorised officer'', because I think that it
assumes that amendments Nos. 88 and 89 have been accepted.
Amendment No. 84 would allow consent to be
accompanied by a requirement to clear any litter resulting from the
material distributed. That amendment is not necessary either, because
paragraph 3(5) of proposed schedule 3A to the 1990 Act would give the
local authority the power to impose such conditions as it considers
''necessary or desirable'' to protect the designated land from
defacement. That could include a requirement to clear litter produced
as a result of distribution. There is no disagreement with what the
hon. Member for Guildford is trying to achieve, but it is already
covered in the Bill.
This is the
section which allows local authorities to decide that it is ''necessary
or desirable'' for them to
impose a completely arbitarily rated ...
up litter that may never be created and pay council employees extra to
work anti-social hours (which to us are just working hours) to pick up
litter that has not been dropped yet and may never be.
Amendment No. 85 would remove the ability of a
local authority to refuse consent if a person had been convicted of an
offence or had been issued with a fixed penalty notice for distributing
free literature. If that amendment were accepted, it would remove from
the Bill the ability of local authorities to refuse consent to those
with a history of abusing those provisions. I cannot agree to that.
Local authorities are not required to refuse consent, but they should
have the right not to give it to individuals who have distributed free
literature illegally in the past, thereby completely disregarding the
requirements on them in law.
So if you
hand out leaflets in the wrong place you can be banned for all eternity
Amendment No. 86 would make changes to the
procedure for returning printed matter that has been seized from a
person who has committed a free literature offence. When the name and
address of a person is not known, proposed schedule 3A allows the
printed matter to be disposed of or destroyed by the authority, but
amendment No. 86 prevents it from doing so until 28 days have passed,
which means additional storage if there is a problem. The amendment is
unnecessary because the requirement to return the printed material
under section 6(4) and the ability to dispose of, or destroy it, under
section 6(5) take effect only at the conclusion of proceedings for the
offence or at the end of the period in which proceedings for the
offence may be instituted. That acts as a safeguard against the
material being disposed of or destroyed before the person from whom it
was seized has had the chance to apply for its return.
Amendment No. 87 would change the description of a
person on whom a fixed penalty notice can be served for a free
literature offence so as to preclude the employer of the person from
distributing the material. The hon. Member for Guildford is right about
the need to be proportionate; we are resisting the amendment because
the purpose of fixed penalty notices is to allow immediate enforcement
action against a person who distributes free literature. Anyone who
causes another person to distribute free literature, such as an
employer, also commits an offence under proposed new paragraph 1(2).
However, someone undertaking such activity should not be offered the
alternative of paying a fixed penalty; they should be prosecuted. The
proportionate response is to prosecute under that provision.
I think we
have a different understanding of proportionality
I hope that the hon. Lady will feel that she has probed the matter
appropriately and received suitable responses to the issues that she
Sue Doughty: I will not go through the
answers point by point, as time is short. I understand the Minister's
point on amendment No. 85. The clause states:
not be given to any applicant"
Is the Minister is saying that these things will
be proportionate and will not encourage councils to say that someone
who has done something once, for pocket money, will not be able to earn
pocket money occasionally again because they were in the wrong before?
Does the Minister expect councils to be sensible and proportionate?
more worried about the effects on employment than the possible
Alun Michael: I assure the hon. Lady that
that is what I am suggesting. It is difficult to write proportionality
into primary legislation, but I want to ensure that local authorities
have the power to deal with a repeat offender. The amendment would
remove that capacity.
he hasn't got a clue how this is going to work in practice.
Sue Doughty: In that case, as the Minister
has clarified the position, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of
Miss McIntosh: I want to press the Minister
for clarification on clause 23, which makes it an offence to
distribute, commission or pay for the distribution of free printed
material in an area designated by a local authority without consent. It
has been put to us that the existing powers available to Westminster
City council under section 4 of the London Local Authorities Act 1994
have proved insufficient.
suggest that Westminster Council's dislike of the open mike circuit may
be lurking at the bottom of the problem...
It seeks the Minister's agreement to
recommend that they be developed further to make them effective and to
enable their successful extension beyond London. The council believes
that the free literature distribution controls have proved to be
ineffective, because operators can continue to distribute free
literature from private forecourts, many of which are contiguous with
and largely indistinguishable from the public footway. Does the
Minister know about that problem, and will he look kindly on that
suggestion for dealing with it?
failed to contol public space the authorities now move to try and
control the dissemination of literature in private space!
I also run past the Minister the conclusion that
he reached on page 39 in his Department's regulatory impact assessment,
which sets out the quantification of costs and benefits. It states that
''the total set-up cost to local authorities would be between
£450,000 and £750,000; and taking account of the costs of
enforcement and the cleaning costs saved, on an annual basis there
would be somewhere between a net cost of £37,500 and a net cost
saving of £525,000.''
''This illustrates that it is not certain whether there would be a net
financial cost or benefit to this measure. However, it is important to
note that this is a power that Local Authorities would choose whether
or not to use. They would only do so where there is an overall net
benefit to using it and this is likely to be in
key areas where free literature litter is a particular problem and it
is a priority of the authority to deal with it.''
So no one
even knows if this will actually save a penny - it might even lose
graph of that:
That is quite a negative conclusion to draw, and
points to the fact that the Bill is very unlikely to meet its major
objectives. Will the Minister satisfy us on those two points?
Alun Michael: We certainly drew on the
experience in London when designing the legislation, and discussed it
with local authorities that applied the London provisions, as well as
with other local authorities that strongly supported the provision of
these powers more widely across England and Wales, so they are not
precisely the same as the requirements set down in the local government
legislation that gave the powers to London.
government discussed it with the government and no one consulted a
single person who wasn't in government. No wonder they need to
part privatise everything ...
I am always open to considering suggestions, but
the problem of forecourts to which the hon. Lady referred has not been
drawn especially to my attention. Perhaps she can give me further and
In general, the approach is not at all negative,
but extremely positive. It is to extend the powers and the range of
options available to local authorities with the message, ''If this
helps you, use it, but do not feel that you have to if it does not suit
your local circumstances.'' Local authorities have generally been very
supportive of the greater flexibility and simplification of various
parts of the Bill, which enable them to do what they have been doing up
to now but with fewer bureaucratic obstructions, at less cost and with
greater ability to nip things in the bud. That, of course, is what we
want to achieve.
processing of a piece
of paper simply in order to be able to distribute another piece of
paper is the definition of beaurocracy...
ours is not to
reason how requiring someone to submit a piece of paper to recieve a
piece of paper to tell one one is allowed to disseminate other pieces
of paper is less bureacratic than the old system of allowing people
personal freedom because we are not in
Perhaps that is the problem.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
laws though silly would not be terribly repressive on their own...
policemen are very busy people and are very expensive to pay and are
trained to use their powers with discretion and tact and thoughfulness
and to maintain good relations with the community as embodied in the 9
principles of Sir
Hendon Police College 28 weeks to train each full time policemen (they
train 2000-2,500 a year). They also train Special Constables who
work part time and cost slightly less (23-days to train) and who are
used to deal with the more low level crime.
We now take
you back in time futher in the Pear Shaped Tardis to earlier in the
same day when House of
Commons Standing Committee (G) decided that "litter"
(i.e. self promotion by non-state funded inviduals)
was such a pressing problem for society it needed virtually everyone
under Council control to become a "litter policeman"
- except of course
for Rubbish Collectors and Bin Ben
who's specific job involves dealing
with litter and rubbish
as that would be taking things too far!
Matthew Green: When the Minister is talking
about the people a council can authorise, will he make it clear that
the council cannot authorise its own elected members to issue fixed
penalty notices? There appears to be nothing in the Bill that would
stop a quality parish council giving the parish council chairman the
ability to issue a fixed penalty notice. I hope that that will be ruled
out in secondary legislation.
immediately and correctly identifies the potentially huge political
dangers of policemen under direct political control or people with
minor police powers who are also elected officials. Remember this
idea of politicians with direct police control "the police state" is so
controversial that senior top ranking police officers will resign
rather than go along with David Cameron's plans for Directly
Police Chiefs. Yet insanely we now have Council Cheif
(many of whom are paid more than the Prime Minister) with direct
over "low level" policing thanks to this obscure law. And no
has noticed. We like Mr Green. He is obviously a very
thoughtful and clever man as is shown by the fact he lost his seat at
the 2005 election.
Alun Michael: Again, that is the sort of
issue that we would cover in regulations. Undertaking executive duties
would be confusing. The possibility had not crossed my mind. An
individual might want those powers, but a council might take a rather
different view, but I will look at that point in relation to the
regulations. I hope that the hon. Lady will feel able to withdraw her
dont worry - Councils will sort it all out.
Sue Doughty: I thank the Minister for his
response. On the subject of whether dustmen should be able to issue
fines, I take his point about Sunday school teachers. I used to know a
dustman who was a poet: he worked as a dustman in order to give himself
time off to write poetry. Some of it was very good and some of it was
set to music by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. None the less, it did not
necessarily qualify him to give out fixed penalty notices. With the
Minister's assurances in place, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the
Sue is not
worried by the concept of devolving police powers to Council officials
so long as they are middle class and not involved too heavily in the
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sue Doughty: I beg to move amendment No.
70, in clause 19, page 16, leave out lines 13 to 16.
The Chairman: With this it will be
convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 71, in clause 19,
page 16, leave out lines 17 to 19.
No. 88, in clause 23, page 25, leave out lines 4
No. 89, in clause 23, page 25, leave out lines 8
No. 95, in clause 48, page 44, leave out lines 42
No. 96, in clause 48, page 44, leave out lines 46
Sue Doughty: I think we can deal with the
amendments fairly quickly. They are along the same lines as the
previous group and relate to the contracting out of powers to issue
fixed penalty notices to contractors and their employees—we are back to
the dustmen, I am afraid.
We are seeking greater clarity. The powers in
clause 48 are for dealing with offences relating to the collection of
waste, so we consulted the Environmental Services Association, which is
a body that often deals with waste collection and disposal. The ESA
made it clear that its members do not want to have the power for their
employees to issue fixed penalty notices. The association said that as
currently worded, clause 48(10)(b) and (c) appear to allow refuse
collectors, including employees of the association's members, to issue
fixed penalty notices.
is not worried by the principles of privatised policing only that no
working class people like bin men (who's job it is to deal with waste)
should be empowered to deal with one of the root causes of it...
Refuse collectors can have a role in offering
advice to householders about their legal responsibilities and informing
the local authority about badly littered areas. However, although the
association recognised that co-ordination between waste contractors,
local authorities and the Environment Agency could improve the
enforcement of litter laws, it felt that that job should be done by
full-time professionals employed by the local authority. The
association wants consistency, although it is supportive of the general
move and encouraged by the knowledge that the Government take the issue
up with the fantastic idea of a specialised policeforce entirely
dedicated to monitering the promotional industries at the Tax Payer's
Alun Michael: In so far as it is a question
of people who are appropriate and have the appropriate training in
issuing notices, I agree with the hon. Lady. We will make that very
clear in guidance. The problem with the amendments is that they would
prevent local authorities from authorising any subcontractor or the
subcontractor's employees to issue fixed penalty notices in respect of
various litter and waste offences on behalf of the local authority. We
feel that it is important that local authorities can decide on the
delivery of their services. The clause is consistent with that and with
the Government's freedoms and flexibility policy for local authorities.
decided the solution is to give local authorities even more political
Local authorities, let us remember, will not be
coming to this anew. They have a raft of experience of issuing fixed
penalties. We would expect them to authorise only those subcontractors
and their employees who are competent to undertake the work and for
them to have the appropriate training. Who then undertakes the work for
the local authority should be for the local authority to decide.
Alun is, of
course, famous as the originator of the ASBO
with the public policy which he is sure that local authorities will not
abuse if he gives them the power to make any idiot the local authority
can enoble a police empowered person who can apply the law selectively
and is under the direct
political authority of the Council and/or Buisness Investment District.
The clauses will give local authorities greater
power to take enforcement action, because they increase the number of
officers who can take action against offenders. I take the point
entirely that the job needs to be done professionally, but that does
not necessarily mean that only a full-time professional can undertake
such activity. What is important is that it is someone who is available
and competent to do the work and who has the appropriate training for
the specific issuing of notices. I am certainly at one with the hon.
Lady in what I understand her to be calling for. We will indeed
reinforce that in the guidance.
simply cannot get enough people involved in monitoring
self-promotion. He intends virtually everyone in a PPP to be a
self-promotion policeman - which they now are.
Sue Doughty: I thank the Minister for that
assurance. The amendment was designed to draw out those facts. We would
have no problem with people who are trained to do that job, even though
it is part of their other duties. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of
Miss McIntosh: I want to clarify a couple
of points. I understand that fixed penalty notices will either be set
by statute or be subject to a national framework setting maximum and
minimum levels. I hope that the Minister can confirm that the local
authorities that will have to implement the provisions will be
consulted before those levels are set. Does he intend to set out the
detail in regulations? I am sure that he will have received
representations that the fine levels are set too low to be effective.
Will there be a default level?
According to the Library research paper, the
default level is set at £75 in unspecified areas. Could the
Minister be more specific about that? The note states:
''The Bill enables local authorities to specify the amount of fixed
penalty to be applied to an area.''
Will the default level be across the board?
I understand that clause 19 will create a new
offence of withholding or giving a false name and address to a litter
officer. What fixed penalty will be applied to that?
Parish councils and community councils will also
be classified as litter authorities, which will give them the power to
appoint authorised litter officers. Litter officers will no longer have
to be employed by a litter authority. The Conservatives are champions
of parish councils; we are delighted to see them involved as far as
possible, but the Minister will recognise that parish council budgets
are necessarily small, so it would be of some interest to the Committee
to know how they are to be expected to pay. Who will the new litter
wardens be? Will they be volunteers for the parish council, acting as
litter wardens? What level of training will be given to them, and how
will it be paid for?
questions. Clearly no one has done any cost-benefit analysis and
there are just not enough people available to monitor self-promotion
full time. More need to be created on an industrial scale?
Alun Michael: I am grateful to the hon.
Lady for putting a number of questions, which I am happy to answer.
Some answers apply not just to clause 19 but to others. She is right to
say that some parishes are very small; indeed, I made that point
earlier. That is why this clause is permissive. There is no requirement
to undertake action, but if the parish council feels that something is
needed in their area, it is not totally dependent on the actions of the
district council in order to tackle the problem. Let us also
acknowledge that many parish councils and town councils have a lot of
experience in that area of activity. They undertake the running of car
parks and a variety of other roles in their localities, so they will
not be totally devoid of experience.
As I said, when I discussed the provision with the
National Association of Local Councils, it was very clear that it
expected its members to approach the matter in a common-sense way. It
said that it makes sense if there is a problem in their area for
councils to undertake such activities on their own behalf if they have
to do so. Those are exactly the questions that it is sensible for us,
having included the provision, to leave for them to decide.
Alun says local government will sort it out - which neatly absolves him
of responsibility ...local Government will get the blame. No one
will be sad enough to trawl through Hansard to find out who actually is
Matthew Green: Are not the only parish and
town councils that could take this on those that have employees? Most
of the smaller parish councils only employ a clerk to take the minutes
four times a year, and are unlikely even to be in a position to think
about taking action. Doing so is limited by the size of the council,
and that acts as a safeguard.
points out that Parish and Town councils hardly have any employees so
no one will be available to enforce the nonsense.
Alun Michael: The hon. Gentleman is right,
although I would not preclude the possibility of a number of councils
employing somebody jointly. I came across one example in one of the
national parks; a council had undertaken a positive initiative in
conjunction with a couple of other villages, and it was working very
well. They were proud of what they were doing. If people at a local
level think that it is important enough to put energy and their limited
resources into that, I am happy for them to do so. I am equally sure
that, to a great extent, the issue will be self-policing and
self-limiting by the capacity that people have. I would not entirely
rule out a small council, but in general terms, the hon. Gentleman is
points out they can club together to get a Promoter monitor
Most of the answers to the specific questions
asked by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) are
straightforward. Yes, we shall be consulting the local authorities, and
they will have an opportunity to comment, and levels will be set in
regulations. She is right to point to the default fine level of
£75. We want the flexibility for local authorities to go lower or
higher than that if they want to. With fixed penalties, there is almost
an element of self-regulation, in that if the fine is too high, people
will say, ''All right, take me to court then.'' If the penalties are
set at a level that people feel is inappropriate, we shall end up with
more litigation, which is not the purpose of a fixed penalty notice.
Whatever limits we set, I think that things will generally settle down.
Some councils will be able to be highly effective by exercising
flexibility. I do not want to put a figure on it, but we are certainly
not talking about anything like the level 3 fine, which is up to
£1,000. We are talking more about something in the order of
£75 or £100. As I say, I hesitate even to mention figures,
but I hope that that gives an idea of the order of fines.
Should an individual fail to provide a name and
address, they would be committing an offence and would be prosecuted
for it. A fixed penalty notice would not be issued to them if they
failed to provide a name and address; indeed, it would be difficult to
so do because the whole point is that a name and address are needed in
order to issue the penalty. The person would be taken down the
prosecution route. It is important to do that, otherwise certain
individuals who have little respect for authority will be tempted to
put up two fingers to a request to provide their details. I hope that,
with that explanation, the hon. Lady will feel able to support the
clause standing part of the Bill.
answer to any problem is to devolve the lack of solution to local
Miss McIntosh: I am most grateful to the
Minister; it is helpful to know the default level and its implications.
I should like to place on record the fact that many parish councils
will find such action beyond their abilities, but I pay tribute to
those whose councillors often act as wardens, giving flood alerts and
doing all sorts of activity that one would not normally expect of them.
McIntosh too bemoans the lack of people available to monitor self
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
deals with non-compliance and non-payment of fines which is
increadibly tedious so I have shrunk to a very small font but it is
included for completeness..
to comply with notice:
fixed penalty notices
McIntosh: I beg to move amendment No.
51, in page 19, line 13, at end insert
and that person shall be made aware that a failure to pay could
result in an increase in the penalty with its conversion into a court
fine and liability to prosecution for the offence'.
Chairman: With this it will be
convenient to discuss amendment No. 52, page 19, line 32, at end insert—
) There will be a right of appeal against the issuing of Fixed
McIntosh: The amendments follow on
closely from what the Minister said in his response to the debate on
clause 19. He confirms that there will still be recourse to the courts,
so these are probing amendments to elicit what facility there will
be—particularly where new litter officers are acting as enforcement
officers for the first time—to make an offender aware that a failure to
pay a fixed penalty notice could result in an increase in the penalty.
That penalty could be converted into a court fine and the offence
liable to prosecution. We are extending the range of litter
officers—that has just been confirmed—and many will be using these
discretionary and permissive powers for the first time.
the Minister convinced that there will be a
mechanism to ensure that an offender is made aware of the consequences
of their actions, either of not paying the fixed penalty notice or of
the ultimate threat of prosecution? Presumably the matter will still be
subject to the right of appeal to a magistrate. In the spirit of
helpfulness and co-operation that the Minister is coming to expect from
Conservative members of the Committee, I suggest that we insert that
there will still be right of appeal against the issuing of fixed
penalty notices. We feel that it is important to state that in the
Bill, rather than leaving it to pure chance. I hope that the Minister
will feel able to support the amendment.
Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): If
people do not comply with the law and do not pay the penalty, it is
only right that they be told that failure to pay could result in an
increase in that penalty. The clear example, which I think is punitive,
is the congestion charge. The charge is £5, but if someone fails
to comply, it automatically goes up to £50—10 times the amount
originally charged. Ten times the amount is quite punitive,
particularly when many people simply forget. I declare an
interest; on 23 December I forgot to pay. I am not bitter now; I am
almost over it, but not quite. I cannot think of another example where
a fine rises to 10 times the amount. [Interruption.] Crushing my
car might do us all a favour.
a person has broken the law and simply fails to
pay the penalty, they should know that they are likely to pay an
increased fine—whether it is £75 or £100. I hear what the
Minister says about wanting to get away from taking everyone to court
and that is why we are looking at reasonable fines. I fully understand
that. When people have dropped gum or litter but are not prepared to
pay the fine because they think that it is unreasonable, they will
clearly end up in court unless they have good cause. Court time will be
involved. People should rightly face an increased charge when they have
been convicted of deliberately dropping litter or gum and have refused
to pay the fine.
Michael: Again, this matter comes
under appropriate training and guidance and ensuring that all the
arrangements are in place. The hon. Lady made it clear that she wanted
to be reassured on those points. I am happy to give that reassurance.
It would be unthinkable that the notice should not include a warning of
what might follow were the fixed penalty notice not accepted. Amendment
No. 51 seems to be based on a possible misunderstanding. If a fixed
penalty notice is issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1990
and is not paid, there is no automatic increase and it is not posted as
fixed penalty notice offers an alternative to
prosecution. If it is not paid, the local authority may prosecute for
the original offence. That is not automatic; nor is any increase. If
the individual goes to court, they might get a fine that is higher than
the fixed penalty notice level. They might end up with a lower fine. It
is a matter of chance. It is also a matter of a lot more administration
and public money in order to reach the outcome. That is one reason for
setting the right level and for ensuring that magistrates have a good
understanding of the way that the local authority's policy is being
Evans: I hope that the Minister has
talked to the Home Office about this in view of the fines that are
doled out now for a number of offences involving drunkenness. Does he
know how many of those cases end up in court, or are the vast majority
paid as fixed charges?
Michael: I cannot give the hon.
Gentleman an answer off the top of my head. I am happy to check the
situation and to write to him. There is a degree of variation in
different parts of the country. That is where we come to the interface
between cultures and people's expectations and understandings. People
should understand, first, that they should not drop litter, and
secondly, that if they do so they will be fined. They should know what
the level will be. It has to act as a
discouragement. We are starting to move towards that.
No. 52 is not necessary because no one
is forced to accept a fixed penalty notice in the first place. If they
accept a notice and then wish that they had not, they can simply choose
not to pay it. If they choose not to pay, it is for the local authority
to decide whether to prosecute for the events that led to the issuing
of the notice. Either of those courses will result in the issuing
authority taking a decision on whether to prosecute for the original
is important to understand that clause 22
introduces fixed penalty notices for failure to comply with litter
clearing notices in clause 20 and street litter control notices in
clause 21. Local authorities will be given the power to set the level
of the fixed penalty in their area. That may be subject to limitations
in regulations made by the Secretary of State in England or by the
National Assembly for Wales. Where the power is not exercised, the
amount of the fixed penalty will be £100.
is a simple improvement in the way that fixed
penalty notices can be used to good effect at local level. I hope that
the assurances that I have given will satisfy hon. Members on that
McIntosh: We have had an interesting
and helpful little debate. In the light of the assurances and
explanation that the Minister has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw
by leave, withdrawn.
proposed, That the clause stand part of
bit is worth enlarging
Miss McIntosh: I seek a simple
clarification and make a request of the Minister. Section 90 of the
excellent Environmental Protection Act 1990—the Committee will recall
that it was introduced under the previous Conservative
Administration—provides for the designation of litter control areas.
Subsection (1) states that the Secretary of State may ''prescribe
descriptions of land'' that may be designated as litter control areas.
Under section 94, the Secretary of State may prescribe by order the
kinds of premises to which street control notices can be issued, but
they do not include the vicinity of office buildings. Therefore, local
authorities such as Westminster city council often cannot apply such
measures in cases where they would be most effective, such as when
smoking litter proliferates on the forecourt of an office building in
which staff are subject to a smoking ban.
Does the Minister accept that one possible
solution would be for the vicinity of offices to be added to the list
of types of land to which street litter control notices applied? Better
still, we could remove the need for the Secretary of State to approve
the scheduled types of land to which they applied. I hope that the
Minister sees what we are getting at. We have had more of a discussion
about chewing gum, but clause 27 and, in particular, clause 22
obviously apply in this case. Metropolitan and urban councils, such as
Westminster city council, arewith such areas in the vicinity of office
buildings, which the
Secretary of State may not currently deem to be premises.
banned smoking in
workplaces Miss McIntosh further pursues her obsession with the need to
ban people from doing things in privately paid for private spaces.
One has to wonder how much control this woman wants of everyone and
Alun Michael: I think that I can satisfy
the hon. Lady on that point. Offices are premises, so they are
potentially covered. That can be made clear by regulations; there is no
need to amend the Bill to do so.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 22 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Fixed penalty notices: amount of
Miss McIntosh: I beg to move amendment No.
27, in page 27, line 13, at beginning insert
'Following consultation with local authorities and other interested
Presumably that doesn't include
The purpose of the amendment is to seek
confirmation from the Minister as to whether there will be full
consultation with the local authorities concerned and with other
Alun Michael: I can confirm that we would
have to consult local authorities and other interested parties before,
in England, the Secretary of State and, in Wales, the National Assembly
for Wales, made any regulations in respect of the local authorities'
powers to vary.
Miss McIntosh: That is extremely helpful.
In the spirit of helpfulness, could the Minister further define who the
other interested parties will be? Will they include bodies such as
Network Rail, Metronet, Transport for London and Tubelines, which also
have to apply the graffiti-removing powers?
Our reason for tabling the amendment parallels our
reason for tabling an earlier amendment, which was suggested by, among
others, Network Rail. It was generally felt that provision for
consultation was written into the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and
that there would be scope to provide sufficient time for the removal of
graffiti. As with litter, the sums involved in removing graffiti are
very large, and the Minister will be aware of the work that is carried
out in that regard.
I simply seek confirmation, therefore, that those
additional bodies, and not just local authorities, will be consulted.
Many of us lose sight of the fact that it is not only local authorities
that are responsible for removing litter and graffiti. Evidence to the
Transport Select Committee highlighted the millions of pounds that it
costs Transport for London every year to remove graffiti from its
trains and stations, and we had similar evidence from Network Rail,
Metronet and Tubelines. It is incumbent on the Minister to confirm
whether consultation will extend to those bodies, because the policy on
graffiti removal affects them equally and has huge cost implications
McInstosh worried that there is no ability for local authorities to
fine people for flyering on the tube - I think I spot a potential loophole!
Alun Michael: The other interested parties
might well vary from place to place. For instance, the rail
organisations to which the hon. Lady referred might not be appropriate
interested parties in a town or village that did not have a railway
service. I say that not to trivialise the issue, but to explain why we
do not want to go into detail. We want common sense to apply in a
public consultation. That relates specifically to consultation with
local authorities, because they are the key organisations.
The clause is important because local authorities
will be given the power to set the level of fixed penalties for
graffiti and fly-posting. That will enable them to set the level in
response to local circumstances, and that fits in with our agenda of
giving local authorities freedoms and flexibilities. The same is true
of their power to accept reduced amounts for early payment, which
ensures that payments are made promptly, thus reducing the number of
cases requiring resolution in court.
I assure the hon. Lady that the amendment is
unnecessary because we shall ensure that there is full consultation on
all secondary legislation resulting from the Bill. I am tempted to
point out that the amendment covers only one regulation-making power in
the Bill and that it is not clear why that one has been singled out,
but that might provoke the hon. Lady to table another lot of
amendments, so I shall take it that this is a representative amendment.
With that explanation, I hope that she will withdraw the amendment.
answer to any problem is to devolve the lack of solution to local
Miss McIntosh: It has been an interesting
and helpful debate, and in view of the assurances that the Minister has
given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of
Miss McIntosh: I want to raise the
vexatious issue of persistent fly-posting and to tease out from the
Minister whether he believes that the clause and the £75 default
penalty that it sets will actually deal with that issue. Often, such
penalties are set far too low, and the cost to the offender is far too
cheap. In some cases, the penalties for those convicted of fly-posting
are so low that it is significantly cheaper for companies to fly-post
and pay fines than to pay for legitimate advertising space.
It is frustrating for city councils—again,
Westminster city council springs to mind—that they have no sooner
removed fly-posting, which is often part of the commercial operation of
a company trying to set up a business on the cheap rather than the
actions of an individual, than it is repeated. From March 2002 to March
2004, Westminster city council brought more than 60 successful
prosecutions for fly-posting against companies. The penalties varied
between £75 and £5,000, although that was an exceptional
one-off case. If we compare that with the cost of advertising space in
central London bus shelters, which ranges from £100 to £500
a week, we can see
why once a fly-posting campaign has been removed the company simply
goes back and repeats the exercise.
McIntosh seems to spend a
lot of time worrying about the whims and caprices of Westminster City
Council for someone who's constituency of Thirsk and Malton is in the
Vale of York at the other end of the country.
is the amount of time she has spent at the Royal Automobile Club in
Pall Mall for which she recieves complimentary
membership in return for her position on (and presumably lobbying for)
the Public Policy Advisory Committee of the RAC.
Automobile Club is one of the most expensive private members club
boasting Squash Courts, Snooker Room, Gymnasium, a myriad of private
rooms and much to the
appreciation of Colonel
...five rooms of
Turkish baths, each with varying degrees of heat and
Before everyone with RAC
off to Pall Mall to claim their free
Turkish bath I feel I should explain that RAC Motoring Services Ltd was
split off from the Royal Automobile Club in
1978 in order to keep out the riff raff and in 1991 the RAC Foundation
was split off as a separate charitable research and lobbying
organisation to keep it's political activities and commercial
activities separate... but despite the three organisations constantly
stressing their independence it is amusing that if you are an MP the
important social and organisational divisions between these structures
seems to go on a lot of jollies to Royal Ascot at the invitation of The
The Tote was created by an act of parliament in 1928 with the intention
to provide a safe, state-controlled alternative to illegal off course
bookmakers and to ensure that some gambling revenues were put into the
sport of horse racing ...and so has some vested interest in reducing
the number of Casinos and making life hard for Casino owners.
Labour Government's assiduous attempts at Privatising this National
institution (dating back to 1999) it
remains state run to this day because no one wants to buy it for more
Does the Minister accept that if fines remain
below the indictable offence threshold of £8,000, fly-posting
will continue to stand outside the range of offences that can lead to a
company director being disqualified?
Fines well above that level are
required if legal process is to provide a disincentive to fly-posting.
Fines for fly-posting need to be far higher to avoid that cynical
disregard for the law. There is general concern that the penalty
fit the crime. It may not give the right message to those who are
flouting the law.
Miss McIntosh's mind flyposting is such a heinous crime it requires an £8000 fine
and disqualification as a company
While the Pear Shaped Comedy Club in no way condones illegal flyposting
we would suggest that Miss McIntosh needs to "get real".... and has to
wonder if the concern is for the protection of public property or the
control of social activity?
Alun Michael: I think that I can satisfy
the hon. Lady on her points. Fines for fly-posting are a different
issue. Fixed penalty notices can be used only to deal with the people
who put up the posters rather than the principles or companies that
benefit from that activity.
The organisers of fly-posting or those benefiting
from it must be prosecuted. If they are convicted, they are subject to
a level 4 fine of up to £2,500. I am conscious of the fact that a
number of cities have developed good practice over recent times. I have
spoken to representatives of two or three in the course of the past
year. Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff are three that have sought to
identify where companies benefit from fly-posting, which looked too
trivial at the local level, and have gone to the main companies. A fine
of £2,500, if it is added to over a period of time, and the fact
that naming and shaming then starts to have its effect seem to have
encouraged a constructive dialogue between many of the large companies
that are involved and those who are instigating the activity. The case
of those who instigate or benefit from the activity and that of those
who carry out the fly-posting are quite different. That is where the
fixed penalty notice will come in. I hope that that will help to take
us some way in gaining agreement.
with us that she is silly
Mr. Evans: I cannot for the life of me
remember whether a matter that has concerned many people has been
included under other legislation—that is the insertion of cards—not
posters as such—in telephone boxes, where people advertise all sorts of
trades; I will not go into greater detail than that. Has that matter
already been covered, or will it be covered under this legislation?
wonders why no one's interested in other forms of paper adverising...
perhaps the answer is because this doesn't represent Entertainment?
Alun Michael: I hesitate to put on the
record my understanding, but I better had and I will then correct it if
I am wrong. I believe that that issue was dealt with under previous
antisocial behaviour legislation. I understand precisely the point that
the hon. Gentleman is making.
As far as the amount being set is concerned, if
one sees it in terms of the perpetrator rather than those who benefit
from the activity the level is proportionate. In any event, we are
trying to allow a degree of flexibility, which will be based on the
experience of local authorities. Local authorities told us that
fly-posting is more
of a problem in some places, where people benefit more from it. Urban
areas, larger cities and places such as Westminster obviously come to
mind. The flexibility allows for a differential depending on local
circumstances. With that explanation, I hope that we will gain the
support of the Committee.
Westminster Westminster - you'd think it was the only London
Borough. Could Alun (who represents Cardif South and Penarth) and
other MPs' obsession with Westminster as the baromoter for all inner
cities and London Boroughs be anything to do with the fact they all own
property there? Perhaps when Alun describes his house in Cardif
as his "2nd home" in his expenses claims this is not simply a matter of
financial expediency but emotional truth. I'm not saying that Mr
Michael's expenses claims were excessive but it's noticable that at the
general election he managed a swing of more than 6% to the
to the national average of 5% despite them spending nearly nothing
on this very safe Labour seat.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Fixed penalty notices: authorised
Miss McIntosh: I beg to move amendment No.
53, in page 27, leave out lines 40 to 42.
The amendment relates to a subject that the
Minister referred to earlier: authorised officers being given adequate
training. We seek to strike out from clause 30 for probing purposes the
lines defining an authorised officer as
''an employee of the authority who is authorised in writing by the
authority for the purpose of giving notices under section 43(1)''.
Will the Minister confirm whether, when that
authority in writing is given, there will also be provision for at
least a minimum amount of training in respect of the power to require a
name and address under clause 28 and the power relating to fixed
penalty notices? Will there be a specific direction as to how
authorised officers are to act in that regard?
McIntosh worries about who is going to train all these people ...
Alun Michael: For authorised officers under
any aspect of the clause, whether employees of the authority under
proposed new section 47(1)(a) of the 2003 Act, other persons under
paragraph (b) or employees of another person under paragraph (c), the
training would be exactly the same. They would be people who understood
what they were doing and who had the appropriate training. I wonder
whether the hon. Lady can help me. I do not understand why she wants to
delete the lines referring to employees of the local authority, which
would mean that an authority could authorise other people to undertake
the work, but not its own employees.
A very good
Miss McIntosh: I am really trying to
establish whether the police and officers of the Environment Agency
will also be involved in issuing fixed penalty notices. Can only an
employee of the authority do so, or can a police officer, community
support officer or an officer acting with the authority of the
Environment Agency do so? I understand that those persons, particularly
Environment Agency officers, would currently deal with the removal of
fly-posters. Will that continue to be the case?
Alun Michael: What the clause allows is
fairly clear. It defines an ''authorised officer''. First, it could be
an employee of the authority, but not just any old employee; it must be
someone who is authorised in writing for the purpose of giving notices.
As we have said, we will, in regulations or in guidance as appropriate,
the training that we expect people to have to be able to undertake that
The second element is on page 28 in proposed new
section 47(1)(b). The easiest thing is to read what it says. It refers
''any person who, in pursuance of arrangements made with the authority,
has the function of giving such notices and is authorised in writing by
the authority to perform that function''.
That draws pretty widely the category of those who
could undertake the work, whether the arrangement happened to be a
contract with a company or an arrangement with another public body or
even, conceivably, a non-governmental or voluntary organisation.
The third element is
''any employee of such a person who is authorised in writing by the
authority for the purpose of giving such notices''.
In other words, if an organisation does work for a
council—that would generally involve a contractual relationship—its
employees could be authorised to undertake the work. That seems pretty
comprehensive. Subsection (2) would give power to the appropriate
person—we come back again to the Secretary of State and the National
Assembly for Wales, respectively—to
''by regulations prescribe conditions to be satisfied by a person
before a parish or community council may authorise him in writing for
the purpose of giving notices under section 43(1).''
Those requirements would deal with the issue of
whom it is appropriate to allow to issue notices, and what training is
anyone who has any relationship to the Council can be
mobilised to persecute local promoters under the direct political
control of the Council allowing the law to be applied selectively and
potentially in such a way as to vicitimise the despised and benefit the
the Minister share my
bafflement that the Conservatives appear to want to allow councils to
enable virtually anyone but a council employee to issue fixed-penalty
notices? Paragraphs (b) and (c) would enable the council
somebody other than its employees to do so, but paragraph (a), which
the Conservatives would delete, is about council employees. I am
somewhat baffled, and I am sure that the Minister shares my bafflement.
Shaped shares Matthew Green's
As we said before Mr Green is a very clever man which is probably why
he lost his seat.
Alun Michael: The hon. Gentleman makes
robustly the point that I made more gently to the hon. Member for Vale
of York in an intervention. He is right, and I hope that she will
withdraw the amendment.
Miss McIntosh: I explained myself at some
length. I take it that Environment Agency officers continue to be
authorised to remove fly-posting because the Minister did not deny
that, although he was not terribly clear. My amendment was, to all
intents and purposes, a probing amendment.
what kind of probe - A Colonoscopy perhaps?
Alun Michael: The hon. Lady should note
that that is permitted.
Miss McIntosh: I presume that the Minister
means that the status quo will pertain. With that affirmation, I beg to
ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 30 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
And so the word
and then the Bill
remained was for local authorities
to try to
implement this nonsense
piecemeal over the next 5 years in the most
Having said all that it would be
wrong of us to insinuate that the potentially drastic loss of Civil
Liberties was forseen by no one. The Pear Shaped Tardis now takes
readers even further back in time to the 2nd reading of the bill when Mr Colin Challen
(who stood down in 2010 as
his constituency was abolished) asked Mr David Amess why so few
Conservative Back Benchers had bothered to turn up for the
debate. Suggesting that they had stayed away because they do not
want to be associated with the blunder of their Front-Bench team in
opposing the Bill?
Mr. David Amess: I doubt
that very much. I think that Her Majesty's loyal Opposition are
increasingly disgusted by the way in which Parliament is treated by the
There were a couple of major news articles in the
national newspapers commenting on the Bill. One said:
yesterday, there were two more additions to the depressingly long list
of ways in which we must now expect to be policed or regulated. An army
of busybodies is to be employed to issue fines to people who drop
litter. And, even more ingeniously, people who cause unnecessary 'light
pollution' are now also to be fined.
The public reaction
to this will be one of deep distaste. Most of us know how we should
behave if our lives are to be remotely enjoyable. We also know that
government has, or should have, better things to do than pass laws that
only aggrieve the respectable majority."
Another article from a national newspaper said:
have been forced into a kind of police state, in which regulation after
regulation is imposed to ensure we act in a way of which the Government
On the specific point of fixed penalty notices, I
was attracted by the Law Society brief which express reservations about
the further expansion of the use of fixed penalty notices. In Essex,
for example, we have a record amount of revenue from fines imposed as a
result of speed cameras. The Law Society feels:
essential that only properly trained officials are allowed to issue
It also says:
majority of Notices are issued against the more deprived members of
society, their financial situation will only be made worse.
level of a Fixed Penalty Notice does not take into account the means of
the recipient and could therefore have a disproportionate effect on
someone reliant on benefits. The Government must weigh the risk of
further social exclusion with its commitment to tackling the 'causes of
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and
Sidcup (Derek Conway), I think that we are entirely right to take this
opportunity to speak on behalf of dogs. I fully support the work of
Dogs Trust, undertaken under the leadership of its chief executive,
Clarissa Baldwin. I faithfully enter my black Labrador, Michael, every
year in the Westminster dog of the year show, and I am not yet
embittered by his failure to win on seven occasions. However, I do hope
that, in summing up, the Minister will address the points that Dogs
Trust has brought to my attention.
Some scorn was
also politely distributed in the direction of the bill during it's
final passages through the legislative duodenum of the House of Lords
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the
House will be grateful to the Minister for his clear exposition of the
Bill and for the benefits that he expects it to bring. There is
no doubt that in a sense it is a politically seductive Bill, provided
that you do not look too closely....
an extensive preamble Lord Dixon-Smith comes to the piquant point of...
What does the Bill do? It
revenue stream to local government from the fixed penalty notices—I
refer to a Defra figure, which the Minister will undoubtedly
recognise—which is a little short of £5 million per annum, as far
as it can be calculated. However, that is not really the purpose of the
fixed penalty notices scheme. It seems to me that the real purpose is
to provide a positive disincentive to people to chuck litter about,
dump their cars and so on. However, that relies on enforcement to be
effective. Who will carry out the enforcement? Clause 30(1)(a) refers
employee of the authority who is authorised in writing by the authority
for the purpose of giving notices under section 43(1)".
Clause 30(1)(b) refers to,
person who, in pursuance of arrangements made with the authority, has
the function of giving such notices".
Clause 30(1)(c) refers to,
employee of such a person who is authorised in writing by the authority
for the purpose of giving such notices".
are these people?
If they are not real people, they are nothing. I have given the
matter some thought. Perhaps the Minister will come up with something
more. I thought of environmental health officers but their work,
generally speaking, is not out on the street, and it is out on the
street that we need enforcement for these measures. Traffic wardens are
out on the streets. That is fine, so long as people commit offences
when the traffic wardens are around, which is mostly during the day.
The police might be appointed to undertake this function, as if they
have nothing else to do already. Community support officers are an
adjunct to the police nowadays and no doubt some reinforcement there
would help. However, the point I wish to make is that for fixed penalty
notices to have a disincentive effect someone has to see someone commit
the offence and book them at the time. That depends on having eyes on
the street, the cost of which is unknown.
Liberties implications were also noted by...
Lord Greaves: There is a potential problem with the controls
that will be available on the free distribution of printed matter. The
"Where the distribution is for political purposes or for the purposes
of a religion or belief".
Will the Minister
tell us what the definition of "political purposes" will be, and what
the definition of "belief" might be? It may well be that those
of us who hand out party political material for our sins—sad as we may
be—will be okay, but what
about people who are perhaps handing out material opposing a planning
development or opposing the building of wind farms? They are taking a
position on an issue that is not party political in that sense, but it
is part of the local democratic process. Will they be caught by that?
If they will be caught by it, there is a question of free speech.
was elected for Guildford in 2001 and had a wafer thin
majoriy of a mere 538. She lost the seat to the Conservatives'
Anne Milton in 2005 by a mere 347 votes and failed to win the seat back
again in 2010 after a massive 9% swing to the Conservatives left Ms
Milton with a majority of 7782.
Harper continues to try and run, open and promote casinos and
clubs in Guildford in the teeth of political opposition, law suits and
property demolition. Sadly the Trinity Party has been dissolved.
Sheridan Westlake continues to divide his time between being being
councillor for Merrow, being Special Adviser to the Secretary of State
for Communities and Local Government and coordinating CCHQ General
Election campaigns as Deputy Director of the Conservative Research
Department and continues to be if not one of the rising stars of the
party at least one of its subdwarfs.
Nigel Evans has been MP for the fairly safe Conservative seat of Ribble
Valley since 1992 and is now Chairman of Ways and Means - a senior
member of the House of Commons who acts as one of the Speaker's three
Forth, MP for Bromley and Chiselhurst ...most famous for his crass
ties and his ability to use filibusters (Sue?) to talk out silly
legislation, died of cancer
on the 19th of May 2006
Michael was moved from DEFRA Minister of State for Rural Affairs
and Local Environmental Quality to the DTI after the 2005
election. He lost his ministerial position in the Cabinet
reshuffle in May 2006 and was returned to the backbenches. He
continues to be Labour/Cooperative Member of Parliament for Cardiff
South and Penarth
Anne Caroline Ballingall McIntosh continues to be MP for Thirsk and
Malton having been first elected to parliament in 1997. Despite
being shadow spokesperson for Transport, Forigen Affairs, Work and
Pensions and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs she has thankfully
never held Ministerial office, having been carefully excluded from the
cabinet. The firmness of her views may reflect the safeness
of her seat.
Collin Challen announced that he would not contest the 2010
general election on 29 January 2007, in order to devote his time to
campaigning on climate change, thus letting Ed Balls contest the new
Morley and Outwood constituency, formed from a merger of parts of
Morley and Rothwell and Balls' also abolished Normanton constituency.
Matthew Green lost his seat to the Conservative, Philip Dunne, in the
2005 general election. In May 2007 Matthew stood down as the Lib
Dem candidate for Ludlow owing to the rapid growth of his new business,
If we ever have any plans we will be sure to consult them.
David Amess has been a Conservative MP since 1983, and was one of the
few Conservative MPs to support the impeach
Blair campaign and was
strongly against Labour's anti-terror
laws and the erosion of
civil liberties. He has never had a Ministerial or Shadow
Ministerial position - perhaps because of his appearance in the inamous
episode of spoof current affairs television programme Brass Eye
following which he went as far as to ask a question about "cake" in
Parliament, alongside real substances Khat and GHB. When his
local paper relentlessly pursued Mr Amess about his need to claim for a
second home in London despite living a commutable distance away he
famously hid in a hairdressers.
Baron Robert William Dixon-Smith was sacked as Shadow Minster for
Communities and Local Government after "accidentally" using a racial
swearword in a Lords debate which he later unreservedly
retracted. He remains a life peer.
Baron Anthony Robert Greaves remains Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for
and Rural Affairs and Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government
and a life peer. He "fervently believes the Lords should be
democratically elected by STV".
special mention should also go to all the members of the House of
Commons Standing Committee (G), the House of Commons and the House of
Lords who said nothing.