Pear Shaped

Guilty Men

Sign the Petition

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 Section 23 inserted a section into the Environmental Protection Act 1990. 

The relevant 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.

Clause 23

Controls on free distribution of printed matter

As explained 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 which may be at odds with those of society and the Councils who have the power to 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 with 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 - Liberal Democrat

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.

Now either 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 enemies....?

Ms 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.

After 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.

For those of you not cognisant with the exiting spectacle of Guildford nightlife the gentleman alluded to is the well known businessman Mr Michel Harper

Michal Harper

When Tony 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

Guildford Las Vegas

Unfortunately, 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 bitterly opposed.

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 three 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 into politics. 

Local elections

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 election the Council moved from No Overall Control to Conservative Control by a tiny majority and mainly due to boundary changes...

local election results 2003

...it is 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 Sheridan Westlake.  A 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 stands for.

Trinity’s 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.

Cllr Sheridan Westlake
Borough 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 person. 

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 for all 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...

Mr Richard Mawrey QC, Barrister/Deputy High Court Judge, Henderson Chambers

 ...revealed a "....state 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."

Anyway ...unable to negotiate with Guildford Council about anything Mr Harper engaged in a series of legal actions against them.  Many 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.

Of course, 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 the expensive legal bills...

However, matters moved to slightly more than a joke early this year when the Council found an excuse to bulldoze a granny annex he had built for his 76 year old mother who suffers from cancer on the grounds it was a metre too wide and 4 too long rather than grant retropective planning permission or negotiate.  A blantant case of victimisation?  You might well think that...


... of 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.

George Fox

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 Quaker and 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 it's self as having no written creed or defined theological unity) seems so
consistently to find that the one subject on which most of it's members are consistently theologically united is that it is very naughty to have a flutter...?

But anyway, back to Hansard...

Nigel Evans

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 - Liberal Democrat

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.

3.45 pm
Nigel Evans

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 - Liberal Democrat

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 Micheal

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 political structures.

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.

One does 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 - Liberal Democrat

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. The stuff 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''.

In short 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 party ideals.

Alun Micheal

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.

In other 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 - Liberal Democrat

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 Micheal

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.

In other 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 - Liberal Democrat

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.

Clearly, of course, this "specific case" is taking exception to one of the activities of one of the parties - the Trinity party. 

What Ms 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. 

Though it 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 members each (estimates vary but I recently heard Miliband the Elder quote a similar figure for total Labour party membership) which if you cogitate on it as a proportion of the actual political posts available it pretty much works out at MPs, Councillors and their families and one or two oddballs. 

One must point out as well that although by it's own admission the Trinity party has "limited appeal" it's appeal is wide enough to generate this article.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

Sue Doughty: I beg to move amendment No. 75, in page 21, line 10, leave out 'and'.

Eric Forth

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 76, in page 21, line 11, at end insert

    '; and

    (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 '; and

    (c) post a notice of its decision on the internet for the duration of the order.'

Column Number: 145
No. 81, in page 21, line 40, leave out 'and'.

No. 82, in page 21, line 41, after 'land', insert '; and

    (c) post a notice of any revocation on the internet.'.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

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.

Having 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 self-important-unpotentates.

Alun Micheal

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 various circumstances.

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.

Alun decides that supplying alternative means of state subsidised promotion to replace the self-funded sort they are eliminating is a little over-zealous.

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.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

Sue admits 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'.

Eric Forth

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', insert

    'must be given in writing by an authorised officer of the authority and'.

No. 84, in page 22, line 11, after 'distribution', insert ';

    (e) by requirement to clear any litter resulting from the material distributed'.

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 printed matter,'.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

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.

So people 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 works.

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 give them.

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.

Sue 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. 

The answer is this - updating the 1990 act changes this from a measure to control flyering to a draconian law which can

create complete NO FLYERING zones!


Perhaps Sue know this but she's not letting on...

4 pm

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 innocent.

Alun Micheal

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''.

How witty.  Perhaps a nerve has been touched... there are after all less than 75 days now before 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 Michael's function

Nigel Evans

Mr. Evans: If at all.

Oooh satire!  Perhaps we misjudge Ms Doughty - perhaps she is trying to kill the bill?

Alun Micheal

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 ...


...to clear 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 raised.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

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:

"Consent need 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?

Sue seems more worried about the effects on employment than the possible censorship implications.

Alun Micheal

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.

Alun admits he hasn't got a clue how this is going to work in practice.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

Sue Doughty: In that case, as the Minister has clarified the position, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Anne McIntosh

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.

This would 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?

Having 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.''

It concludes:

    ''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 money!

Here's a graph of that:

Wolly Stats

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 Micheal

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.

So the 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 better particulars.

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.

Surely the processing of a piece of paper simply in order to be able to distribute another piece of paper is the definition of beaurocracy...

However, 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 politics... 


Perhaps that is the problem.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Of course, these laws though silly would not be terribly repressive on their own...

As 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 Robert Peel

Evening All!

It takes 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"

Litter Warden

- except of course for Rubbish Collectors and Bin Ben

The Working Classes

who's specific job involves dealing with litter and rubbish
as that would be taking things too far!

Matthew Green

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.

Mr Green 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 Elected Police Chiefs.  Yet insanely we now have Council Cheif Excecutives (many of whom are paid more than the Prime Minister) with direct power over "low level" policing thanks to this obscure law.  And no one 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 amendment.

Alun says dont worry - Councils will sort it all out.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

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 amendment.

Poets and Binmen - Not to issue fines!

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 arts.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

Sue Doughty: I beg to move amendment No. 70, in clause 19, page 16, leave out lines 13 to 16.

Eric Forth

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 to 7.

No. 89, in clause 23, page 25, leave out lines 8 and 9.

No. 95, in clause 48, page 44, leave out lines 42 to 45.

No. 96, in clause 48, page 44, leave out lines 46 to 48.

Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

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.

Again Sue 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 seriously.

...and comes up with the fantastic idea of a specialised policeforce entirely dedicated to monitering the promotional industries at the Tax Payer's expense.

3 pm

Alun Micheal

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.

Alun decided the solution is to give local authorities even more political power.

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


 - a previously popular 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.
Alun 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 - Liberal Democrat

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.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Anne McIntosh

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?

Very good 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 Micheal

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 the capacity to do so. Those are exactly the questions that it is sensible for us, having included the provision, to leave for them to decide.

As usual 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 to blame.

Matthew Green

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.

Matthew points out that Parish and Town councils hardly have any employees so no one will be available to enforce the nonsense.

Alun Micheal

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 right.

And Alun 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.
Again Alun's answer to any problem is to devolve the lack of solution to local government

Anne McIntosh

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.

Miss McIntosh too bemoans the lack of people available to monitor self promotion.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20 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 still included for completeness..

Clause 22

Failure to comply with notice: fixed penalty notices

Miss 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'.

The 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 Penalty Notices.'.

Miss 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.

Is 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.

Mr. 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.

If 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.

3.15 pm

Alun 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 a fine.

A 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 developed.

Mr. 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?

Alun 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.

Amendment 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 offence.

It 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.

This 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 point.

Miss 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 the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Although this bit is worth enlarging

Anne McIntosh

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.


Yes, having 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 everything...

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.

Clause 28

Fixed penalty notices: amount of fixed penalty

Anne McIntosh

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 parties'.
Presumably that doesn't include Promoters

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 interested parties.

Alun Micheal

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.

Anne McIntosh

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 for them.

Miss 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 Micheal

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.

Again Alun's answer to any problem is to devolve the lack of solution to local government

Anne McIntosh

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.

3.30 pm

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Anne McIntosh

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.

Miss 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.

Perhaps it 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. 

The Royal Automobile Club is one of the most expensive private members club in London boasting Squash Courts, Snooker Room, Gymnasium, a myriad of private rooms and much to the appreciation of Colonel Blimp...

Our thanks to the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent for permission to reproduce this classic David Low Cartoon

...five rooms of Turkish baths, each with varying degrees of heat and humidity.  

Our thanks to the British Cartoon Archive,
University of Kent record LSE1414A
for permission to reproduce this classic David Low caroon

They also have another club house in the country.

Turkish Baths

Before everyone with RAC roadside assistance pootles 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 rapidly dissolve.


She also seems to go on a lot of jollies to Royal Ascot at the invitation of The Tote.
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.

Despite the 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 than peanuts.

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 does not fit the crime. It may not give the right message to those who are flouting the law.

Yes, in Miss McIntosh's mind flyposting is such a heinous crime it requires an £8000 fine and disqualification as a company director.  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 Micheal

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.

Alun agrees with us that she is silly

Nigel Evans

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?

Mr Evans wonders why no one's interested in other forms of paper adverising... perhaps the answer is because this doesn't represent Entertainment?

Alun Micheal

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 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 Conservatives compared 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.

Clause 30

Fixed penalty notices: authorised officers

Anne McIntosh

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?

Miss McIntosh worries about who is going to train all these people ...

Alun Micheal

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 question indeed.

Anne McIntosh

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 Micheal

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, indicate the training that we expect people to have to be able to undertake that activity.

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 to

    ''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 required.

So virtually 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 favoured.

Matthew Green

Matthew Green: Does 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 to authorise 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.

Pear 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 Micheal

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.

Anne McIntosh

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.

One wonders what kind of probe - A Colonoscopy perhaps?

Alun Micheal

Alun Michael: The hon. Lady should note that that is permitted.

Anne McIntosh

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 became Bill


and then the Bill became law


All that 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

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?

David Amess

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 Government.

There were a couple of major news articles in the national newspapers commenting on the Bill. One said:

    "Only 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:

    "We 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 approves."

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:

    "It is essential that only properly trained officials are allowed to issue Notices."

It also says:

    "If the majority of Notices are issued against the more deprived members of society, their financial situation will only be made worse.

    The 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 crime'."

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 by

Lord Dixon Smith

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....

After an extensive preamble Lord Dixon-Smith comes to the piquant point of...

What does the Bill do? It provides a 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 to,

    "an 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,

    "any person who, in pursuance of arrangements made with the authority, has the function of giving such notices".

Clause 30(1)(c) refers to,

    "any employee of such a person who is authorised in writing by the authority for the purpose of giving such notices".

Who 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.

The Civil Liberties implications were also noted by...

Lord Greaves

Lord Greaves: 
There is a potential problem with the controls that will be available on the free distribution of printed matter. The exceptions are:

"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.




Sue Doughty - Liberal Democrat

Sue Doughty 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.

Michal Harper
Michel 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.

Trinity Party End...


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

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 deputies.

Eric Forth

Eric 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

Alun Micheal

Alun 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 McIntosh

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.

Colin Challen

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

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, Green Planning Solutions LLP.  If we ever have any plans we will be sure to consult them.

David Amess

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 "Drugs" 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.

Lord Dixon Smith

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.
Lord Greaves

Baron Anthony Robert Greaves remains Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food 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".

Otto Von Bismarck

A 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.