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London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 26 April 2007

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Citation and commencement]:

moved Amendment No. 1:

1: Clause 1, page 2, line 30, leave out paragraph (b)

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps notwithstanding the lateness of the hour I might be allowed a few introductory words. The promotion of a private Bill can be a long and tortuous process. Noble Lords may be surprised to learn that it was back in July 2005 that the House passed the Second Reading of this Bill.

A Bill of this nature is likely to attract opposition from a variety of quarters, and indeed that has been the case. When it was introduced, and as it remains, this Bill is the largest general powers measure promoted by local authorities in this House for very many years. Perhaps that may go a long way to explain why it has taken so long to reach this stage. The subject matter of the Bill is very wide-ranging in nature, dealing with matters as diverse as hostess bars, portable advertisements and overgrown gardens, and many other issues.

Opposition to the Bill came from a variety of quarters, including government departments. Originally, 26 petitions were deposited against the Bill and altogether there have been some 17 government reports on it. But I am pleased to report to the House that constructive discussions between the promoters and at least some of the petitioners and government departments led to amendments being made in Committee that have proved acceptable.

Not all petitioners were equally satisfied. The Select Committee, assiduously chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, and her colleagues—I see that my noble friend Lady O’Cathain, who was also a member of that Select Committee, is present—sat for 11 days in March 2006 and heard arguments from petitioners on a number of subjects. One of the most contentious, which noble Lords will remember was raised by a number of noble Lords on Second Reading, was that of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Noble Lords will no doubt be pleased to learn that the Select Committee decided that those particular provisions should be struck out and they do not appear in the Bill before us this evening. The Bill was then considered by an Unopposed Bill Committee in June last year over two days, and since then it has been awaiting this stage.

Noble Lords may be interested to know why that long delay occurred because there were further discussions between the promoters and various bodies concerned with Part 4, which deals with second-hand dealers. That innocent phrase includes the whole of the London trade in arts and antiques. My noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, who apologises for not being present, proved to be a doughty champion of that trade.

With that in mind, I shall now describe briefly the various amendments that are grouped with Amendment No. 1. These amendments reflect the decision of the promoters of the Bill to withdraw Part 4, which deals with the registration of second-hand dealers. Although that part is well precedented in other Private Acts, it attracted very strenuous opposition from the British Art Market Federation, which petitioned against the Bill and appeared before the Select Committee. It was only after that stage had been completed that the promoters became aware of the opposition of no fewer than four government departments; namely, the DCMS, which had the interests of the art market at heart; the DTI, which raised concerns about internet dealers such as eBay; the Cabinet Office better regulation unit, whose remit is to ensure that regulation is required only where necessary; and, perhaps most importantly, the Home Office, which objected to the fact that the police were to be given powers under Part 4 to carry out investigatory and enforcement activities. Given that the main purpose of Part 4 is to deal with the market in stolen goods, the promoters came to the view that without police powers the legislation would be largely fruitless. They considered the great weight of the opposition against them and came to the conclusion that it was so great that, had Part 4 survived this House, it might well have fallen in another place. We look forward to seeing how the Government take forward the whole issue of the registration of dealers in second-hand goods in the light of the consultation exercise, which I understand is to be undertaken by the Home Office.

I express my gratitude to the members of the Select Committee who argued, on balance, that the part should stay. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville for withdrawing the amendments that he tabled at the request of the BAMF. Amendments Nos. 1, 3, 28 to 38 and 44 all involve the removal of Part 4. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving us the opportunity to have this Third Reading. I will speak briefly to set out the Government’s position on the Bill and on the amendments being tabled by the noble Lord today.

This is a private Bill and, by convention, the Government officially take a neutral line on such Bills, although perhaps with this one we might be stretching the definition of “neutral”. I am pleased that it has finally been able to have its Third Reading today, nearly two years after its Second Reading. I understand that an enormous amount of work has been put into the preparation of the Bill, and the discussions between the petitioners, the departments and its promoters have been taken very seriously. I pay tribute to all those involved for engaging so positively. The amended Bill is now a much more appropriate piece of legislation as a result of its scrutiny by the Select Committee and Committee on Unopposed Bills and the considerable negotiations that have taken place.

As the noble Lord indicated, when the Bill was first introduced there was considerable concern from many departments about specific provisions, which my noble friend Lady Andrews drew attention to when she spoke on behalf of the Government on Second Reading. I welcome the promoters’ positive engagement with departments over the past couple of years to address those concerns. I am pleased that the amendments being moved today address all of the Government’s remaining concerns, especially, as the noble Lord has highlighted, the withdrawal of Part 4 of the Bill about the registration of second-hand dealers in London, on which several departments had expressed concerns.

That means that the Bill is now much narrower in scope than originally intended, and I understand that that will have been a disappointment to the promoters. Nevertheless, it should still be very useful legislation, enabling boroughs to tackle more effectively a wide range of local problems in London, from unsafe portable adverts to mail-forwarding scams. It is a tribute to the noble Lord that he has persisted with the promoters to bring the Bill to this stage. I am happy to support this group of amendments and other amendments today.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind remarks. I am sure that the promoters will also be grateful for her concluding words. They have worked extremely hard at this, and they deserve praise.

I will say a word about the Committee on Unopposed Bills. It is one of those unsung services that Members of this House can perform from time to time with enormous value to the public weal, but for which there is never any publicity or kudos awarded. The promoters of the Bill, the whole House and I are deeply indebted to the noble Baroness and her friends, who spent so long examining the Bill, including a visit to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which I am sure they enjoyed.

My Lords, as the chairperson to whom the noble Lord referred, perhaps it is appropriate to say that, although it was hard work, it was an invigorating, informative and, at times, extremely entertaining 11 days’ effort on our part. It is an entirely good thing that the Bill has survived in some form and that many of the promoters’ intentions have been preserved. Much in the Bill, even in its unreformed state, was well worth the effort.

I should also record my personal thanks to my fellow committee members, although they are not all in their place today. They worked extremely hard.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 2:

2: Page 2, line 31, at end insert “and

(d) section 90 (mail forwarding businesses),”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 4, 40 and 41, all of which relate to Clause 90, on mail-forwarding businesses. The clause will introduce a registration scheme for such businesses in London. Its purpose is to assist trading standards departments in local authorities to fight the growing problem of mail-order scams, where people respond to advertisements by sending money to box numbers, only to find that they are being ripped off. The amendments are technical in nature. They serve two purposes. The first is to allow the London borough councils to bring the clause into effect on a date that they choose. This is a common-sense amendment because it enables them to ensure that they have all the registration documents in place first and that they are geared up to enforce the clause properly.

The second amendment introduces a transitional provision that will ensure that existing mail forwarding businesses are given a period of grace during which they can make an application for registration without fear of prosecution by the council when the provision first comes into effect. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendments Nos. 3 and 4:

3: Page 2, line 36, leave out “Part 4 and”

4: Page 2, line 36, after “section 88” insert “and section 90”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 3 [Appointed day]:

moved Amendment No. 5:

5: Page 3, line 28, leave out “said notice” and insert “notice in the London Gazette”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 8 to 23, 26 and 39. I do not intend to go through all of them in detail. They are minor drafting points that have been picked up since the Committee stage. One of them is a self-inflicted wound by the promoters. In the intervening period, the organisation’s name has changed. What once was the Association of London Government is now the London Councils; that has been reflected in Amendment No. 45. This gives me an opportunity to declare an interest as a joint president of London Councils, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Portable advertisements]:

moved Amendment No. 6:

6: Page 5, line 23, leave out “either” and insert “any”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 7. Clause 5 deals with a problem that was originally peculiar to Westminster and the West End but is now spreading to other London boroughs. The number of portable advertisements now being displayed in Oxford Street alone is out of control. As your Lordships will know, the display of advertisements is strictly controlled under town and country planning law but a loophole now enables “board guys”, as I understand they are called, to stand in the street holding sometimes enormous placards on heavy metal bars in quite inappropriate places. Clause 5 would bring the display of these advertisements under the control of the local planning authority.

The amendments are technical and have been requested by and agreed with the Department for Communities and Local Government. I hope that they are not controversial. They are intended to ensure that the offence of unlawful display does not, for instance, extend to the carrying of plastic bags with traders’ names on them or the wearing of T-shirts with company logos on them. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 7:

7: Page 5, line 29, at end insert “or

(c) that the advertisement was displayed on an item used wholly or mainly for purposes other than advertising.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Railway undertakers: provision for purposes of section 11]:

moved Amendment No. 8:

8: Page 12, line 6, leave out “736 of the Companies Act 1985 (c. 6)” and insert “1159 of the Companies Act 2006 (c. 46)”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 13 [Advertising: seizure]:

moved Amendment No. 9:

9: Page 12, line 35, leave out “number” and insert “mark”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 18 [Defacement of buildings]:

moved Amendments Nos. 10 and 11:

10: Page 17, line 25, after “undertakers)” insert “of the said Act of 1995”

11: Page 17, line 26, after “(4)” insert “above”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 23 [Regulations relating to receptacles for waste: enforcement]:

moved Amendment No. 12:

12: Page 21, line 39, leave out “his” and insert “the recipient’s”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25 [Powers to require removal of waste unlawfully deposited]:

moved Amendment No. 13:

13: Page 24, line 33, leave out “736 of the Companies Act 1985 (c. 6)” and insert “1159 of the Companies Act 2006 (c. 46)”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 26 [Civic amenity sites]:

moved Amendments Nos. 14 to 21:

14: Page 26, line 2, at end insert “(in this section referred to as the “person responsible”)”

15: Page 26, line 11, leave out from second “the” to end of line 12 and insert “person responsible”

16: Page 26, leave out lines 15 and 16 and insert “person responsible”

17: Page 26, line 23, leave out from first “the” to end of line 24 and insert “person responsible”

18: Page 26, line 32, leave out from second “the” to “on” in line 33 and insert “person responsible”

19: Page 26, line 35, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

“(b) a written statement that the accused was the person responsible on that occasion is produced to the court; and

(c) the statement purports to be signed by the accused,”

20: Page 26, line 39, leave out “statements” and insert “statement”

21: Page 26, leave out lines 40 and 41 and insert “person responsible”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 32 [Application of section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to vegetation]:

moved Amendment No. 22:

22: Page 30, line 32, after “apply” insert “in Greater London”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Interpretation of Part III of Act of 1990]:

moved Amendment No. 23:

23: Page 35, line 13, leave out “so” and insert “they do”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 39 [Exemptions for news vendors and persons providing refreshments, etc. under Act of 1990]:

moved Amendment No. 24:

24: Page 35, line 33, leave out subsection (2)

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment I will discuss Amendments Nos. 25, 27 and 43. The Bill contains a large number of clauses that amend the existing street trading licensing regimes in all the London boroughs, excluding the City. One of the proposed amendments was to alter an exemption that is enjoyed by news vendors who sell their newspapers on the street, provided that the news-stand or cubicle that they use does not exceed a certain size. These are the sort of booths that we all find in the street and from which people sell papers such as the Evening Standard. When I was a young man, there were three papers: the Star, the Evening News and the Evening Standard. Now, there is only one such paper that you pay for.

I should emphasise that the exemption does not have anything to do with those who distribute free newspapers in the street, of whom there are now very large numbers. That activity is the subject of other private legislation in London, which has now been taken up by the Government nationwide under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.

The Bill as it stands would remove the exemption for news vendors in cases where they were located within a certain distance of London Underground or mainline railway stations. I understand that, when the Bill was deposited, some London boroughs were of the view that they had no power to deal with these news vendors, even if there was a perception that they were causing a safety risk. On further reflection, and after some positive discussions with the representatives of Associated Newspapers, it has been decided that the provisions are not required at this time. These amendments remove them. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 49 [Transitional provisions]:

moved Amendment No. 25:

25: Page 42, line 34, leave out “news vendors and”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 51 [Interpretation of Act of 1999]:

moved Amendment No. 26:

26: Page 43, line 17, leave out “so” and insert “they do”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 52 [Exemptions for news vendors under Act of 1999]:

moved Amendment No. 27:

27: Leave out Clause 52

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 64 [Application of Part 4]:

moved Amendment No. 28:

28: Leave out Clause 64

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 65 [Interpretation of Part 4]:

moved Amendment No. 29:

29: Leave out Clause 65

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 66 [Registration of dealers in second-hand goods and premises]:

moved Amendment No. 30:

30: Leave out Clause 66

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 67 [Information to be kept by registered dealers in second-hand goods]:

moved Amendment No. 31:

31: Leave out Clause 67

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 68 [Offences under Part 4]:

moved Amendment No. 32:

32: Leave out Clause 68

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 69 [Exemptions under Part 4]:

moved Amendment No. 33:

33: Leave out Clause 69

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 70 [Application to existing dealers in second-hand goods, etc.]:

moved Amendment No. 34:

34: Leave out Clause 70

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 71 [Renewal of registration]:

moved Amendment No. 35:

35: Leave out Clause 71

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 72 [Power to enter premises and inspect and seize goods and documents]:

moved Amendment No. 36:

36: Leave out Clause 72

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 73 [Service of notices, etc. under Part 4]:

moved Amendment No. 37:

37 Leave out Clause 73

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 74 [Resolutions]:

moved Amendment No. 38:

38 Leave out Clause 74

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 86 [Temporary sleeping accommodation: powers of entry, search and seizure]:

moved Amendment No. 39:

39: Page 66, line 18, leave out “goods” and insert “relevant items or documents”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 90 [Mail forwarding businesses]:

moved Amendments Nos. 40 and 41:

40: Page 71, line 21, at beginning insert “On and after the appointed day,”

41: Page 73, line 18, at end insert—

“(15) Subsections (16) and (17) below apply to any person who carries on a mail forwarding business in a borough on the date on which this section comes into force in that borough.

(16) Until the period of four weeks commencing with that date has expired, subsections (1) and (6) above shall not apply to the person in question.

(17) If an application for registration under this section is made in respect of the mail forwarding business during that period, the person in question—

(a) may lawfully continue to carry on the business as a mail forwarding business; and

(b) need not comply with the requirements of subsection (6) above,

until the council issues a certificate under subsection (2) above or the application is withdrawn.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Part III of the London Local Authorities Act 1990 (c. vii) as having effect as amended by the London Local Authorities Act 1994 (c. xii), the London Local Authorities Act 2004 (c. i) and this Act]:

moved Amendments Nos. 42 and 43:

42: Page 78, line 32, leave out “so” and insert “they do”

43: Page 79, line 32, leave out from second “receptacle” to “does” in line 34

On Question, amendments agreed to.

In the Preamble:

moved Amendments Nos. 44 and 45:

44: Page 1, line 14, leave out paragraph (5)

45: Page 2, line 14, leave out “the Association of London Government” and insert “London Councils (formerly the Association of London Government)”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned at 5.34 pm.