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Mr. Skinner : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have the list of 19 amendments and it is more than a little difficult to find out where one ends and the other begins. I discussed the matter with the Clerk who was in the Chamber earlier. He had a list, and I suppose that he left it for the next Clerk. He marked the precise amendments. The amendments are different in terms of the part of the Bill to which they relate, so we should discuss them separately. The first amendment reads :
"In the Preamble, page 1, line 4, at end insert--
(2) By the Isle of Wight Act 1980 it was provided that the said section 5 should continue to have effect notwithstanding the provisions of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972 :' " The other amendments are completely different.
We managed to deal with two or three amendments at the same time when we considered the International Westminster Bank Bill. That was a comparatively minor Bill compared with this one, which covers a whole range of powers for the local authority. For the life of me, I do not see how we can have a general debate on the granting of powers relating to acid house parties, rallies and so on without hearing from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. It is like considering together 15 schedules to a Government Bill. Each amendment should be considered separately.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : It is customary to debate the amendments together, and a number of them hang together. I am sure that with its usual ingenuity, the House will find no difficulty covering all the points that need to be covered. It would be better to debate the amendments that are now before us.
Mr. Nellist : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) and for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that it is difficult to decipher all these pages of amendments. My point of order is very practical. You will note that the first amendment says :
"In the preamble, page 1, line 4, at end insert--"
and then it says :
"Section 5 should continue to have effect notwithstanding the provisions of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972 :' " I know that this is not a Committee stage, but were it the Committee stage of a normal Bill, it would be incumbent on the responsible Department to provide for hon. Members who intended to take part in the debate an explanatory memorandum so that we could understand what other legislation is being referred to.
Can you explain to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whose responsibility it is to provide us with sufficient copies--for the 150 or so hon. Members who obviously want to take part in the debate, or they would not be listening to me so patiently--of extracts from legislation such as section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972 as would enable us to see precisely how the Lords amendments affect existing legislation?
Column 1281asks, but, if we get on with the debate, he might get answers to the questions that he is asking. We shall now continue with the debate on the Lords amendments.
Mr. Nellist : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not trying to be difficult. There are about 100 hon. Members in the Chamber, and I do not think that one has a copy of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972. Those of us who want to take part in the debate want to know whose responsibility it is to supply copies of it. None is available in the Vote Office. I have been there, and the only thing I can get hold of is a copy of the Lords amendments. Whose responsibility is it to provide other bits of information so that we can get on with the debate?
Mr. Redmond : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) would have got up and explained the Lords amendments and how they affect the Bill that was discussed in Committee.
It emerged in Committee that the desire to control crowds and facilities for them was the main reason for the Bill. Since then, Conservative Members have said that that was not said. The Vote Office was unable to give me a copy of the Lords amendments until quite recently. If we had had copies this morning, when we asked for them, we could have examined the amendments and decided whether to support them. We have not had much time to consider the amendments, so I ask the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, once again, to give us the benefit of the knowledge that he should have gained as the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight.
The House should not pass any measure that would be detrimental to the people of the Isle of Wight. Hon. Members should consider the amendments more carefully.
Mr. Harry Barnes : My hon. Friend said that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) should explain the amendments. Some of the amendments appear to be technical and only alter words here and there. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight should take us through--I have had to number he amendments myself--amendments Nos. 10, 5 and 12, which make major changes.
Mr. Redmond : I accept what my hon. Friend says. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight had an opportunity briefly to explain the Bill on Second Reading. He failed to do so ; it was moved formally and accepted. We cannot allow things to continue in that way. I remember that the Local Government Act 1972 was huge. One needs it to hand to understand the implications of the first amendment. It is all very well for hon. Members to say that I should have checked it in the Library, but to have done so I would have needed the Lords amendments in my hand this morning. I have grave reservations about whether the amendments should be made because I am not sure of their implications. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight should explain the implication of the amendments.
Column 1282Wight Act 1980 waived the provisions in section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972. It is beyond me to understand which part of those Acts is changed by the amendment. I believe that it is beyond hon. Members, because no one has sorted it out.
Everything is as clear as mud, and fully to understand the Bill one should have the relevant documents. Given the substantial changes that the amendments would make, the Bill should return to Committee.
Mr. Redmond : I am sure that, just before I fall asleep, hon. Members will hear me cough. When they hear that, they will think, "He is heading for noddy land." Interruptions tend to disrupt the flow of one's speech.
Does the hon. Member for Isle of Wight intend to explain? If he will do his job efficiently and thoroughly, I am willing to sit down to let him explain. However, I am convinced that there will be silence from him.
Mr. Michael Welsh : The first Lords amendment deals with a point only four lines into the Bill, which is nearly unbelievable. I cannot get to the bottom of the matter. The local authorities want the power to control large overnight assemblies in the open. Does that mean that if there is a boy scouts' jamboree, they can control it, but if there is an acid house party, they may have no desire to control it? I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could explain the meaning of the first Lords amendment, which applies so early in the Bill.
Mr. Redmond : In the debate on the International Westminster Bank Bill, my hon. Friend questioned the judgment of the people who had produced the legislation. I should love to be able to say that everything is crystal clear so that the House can make a decision. Unfortunately, I cannot do that. I was not with their Lordships when they produced these amendments. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight should intervene to allay our fears. In wanting to control large assemblies, do the local authorities want to control acid house parties, Nazi or National Front gatherings--to which reference was made earlier--or boy scouts' jamborees? The latter are also large organised gatherings, and many lads and girl guides enjoy them. I am not a suspicious man, but what has transpired over the past few months has turned my trusting nature into one of suspicion. I now question everything. People can put over things quite nicely. We know that everyone wants to say, "We had a good day," and go home to bed and have a good night's kip.
Mr. Nellist rose--
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to "Erskine May", which states : "The Speaker has also stated that it is the custom for Members to wear jackets and ties."
Column 1283I have raised this matter several times with Mr. Speaker. He has ruled that he will not call Members who are not properly attired for the Chamber.
Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I clearly heard you call the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). It is the third time in the past half hour that you have called him. We are in danger of a precedent being set as not only is he not wearing a jacket when you have called him, but he has his shirt sleeves rolled up. Will you please ask him to withdraw from the Chamber until he is properly dressed, or not call him again?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I know that Mr. Speaker has dealt with this matter on a number of occasions. He has requested normal dress in the Chamber, but he has never said that it is an absolute condition for an hon. Member being called. He has merely deprecated abnormal dress. I call Mr. Nellist.
Mr. Nellist : Can my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) assist me? I am having difficulty with the first amendment. My hon. Friend will see that on his Amendment Paper it says that the amendment seeks to insert at the end of line 4 on page 1 : "By the Isle of Wight Act 1980 it was provided that the said section 5 should continue to have effect notwithstanding the provisions of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972." The Bill says :
"By the Isle of Wight Act 1980 it was provided that the said section 5 should continue to have effect notwithstanding the provisions of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972." I have read those words four times in the past two minutes and, to me, they are indentical. I cannot understand why we are being asked to discuss an amendment that is worded exactly the same as a provision of the Bill when it emerged from Committee. Can my hon. Friend explain that, or will he ask other hon. Members to explain it? If not, it is a waste of time.
Mr. Redmond : I shall do my best, but I am quite willing to give way to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight if he wants to explain what the Isle of Wight Act 1980 says. A lawyer would understand. Like most legal documents, one would need to be a Philadelphia lawyer to understand the amendments. Many Members are in the legal profession and will no doubt jump up to clarify the position.
As I understand it, when a Bill is presented to the Clerks' Office, they have a natter and a discussion. If everything is in order, the Bill is clarified, the proper procedures and notifications take place and the Bill then goes into Committee where those who support or oppose it can discuss it. They can listen to a barrister or a Queen's counsel--I am not sure which but, by God, they can talk. The Bill is then presented. After that, the Bill comes to this House and, if it is not amended, it goes to the other place. It then arrives back here duly amended.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Does my hon. Friend accept that I may have misled the House earlier when I complained that the Bill that we received from the Vote Office needed to have these amendments incorporated?
Column 1284The Bill should come from the Vote Office as it came out of Committee. Our problem is that we do not have the original Bill as it went into Committee. For my hon. Friend to see what has happened, we have to read the schedule, which sets out the provisions as amended. The difficulty is that we do not have before us the Bill in the form in which it went into Committee, which would have been helpful. However, it is not available at the Vote Office.
Mr. Nellist : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In all seriousness, will you consider having the Bill withdrawn from debate, by whatever technical means may be necessary? If the Vote Office cannot supply us with the necessary paper work for us to consider the Bill properly, it is an injustice to all concerned with the Bill for the debate to continue. Will you consider having the Bill withdrawn from debate?
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have had threats from Conservative Members. They are saying that if they do not make progress on this Bill, they will take it out on another Bill. That is not the way for the House to proceed.
I was elected to this place to try to do the best for the people of Don Valley. Rightly or wrongly, I will try to do that. It may displease Conservative Members if I want to represent my constituents ; that may be a little foreign to their natures. However, I will represent them to the best of my ability, whether or not that pleases Tory Members.
Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark) : Does the hon. Gentleman accept that although he and I are here to represent our constituencies, we are not here to scupper whatever they want to do in the Isle of Wight? Can we not get on with the Isle of Wight business?
Mr. Redmond : I hope that we are not scuppering the Isle of Wight Bill. I hope that the residents of the Isle of Wight get their Bill. However, we hope that that Bill will be good and will be beneficial to the Isle of Wight and to the people who live there so that they can enjoy the benefits of the Bill for centuries--unless another private Bill is introduced. I am not against the Bill. I just want to ensure that the people of the Isle of Wight, their children and their children's children can enjoy the benefits of a good Bill. I am not sure whether the Lords amendments will meet that end. That is why I want clarification from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. However, it appears that he is more in the dark than I am.
Column 1285been amended in Committee. We are not discussing Lords amendments to the Bill because no one has a copy of the Bill. We have only the amended version. The Bill is another piece of paper. Is this the procedure that we should follow? My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) is more knowledgeable than I on these issues and I hope that he can answer my points.
Mr. Redmond : Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North should sit in on these Committees and he would be able to say whether we should be discussing Lords amendments now. After the Bill has passed from the Private Bill Office and has been explained and discussed, my hon. Friend may understand what is happening. Unlike my hon. Friend, who is suspicious, I am trusting. Unfortunately, that trust has turned sour.
Whether hon. Members like it or not, I want to search for the information so that I can say whether an amendment is okay. It is different to reach such a decision because of the lack of information. Lawyers, and there are plenty of them in here, have stacks of books containing case history after case history to help them make decisions. If a private Bill is bad and we decide to kick it out, who rectifies that mistake? Is it left to the judicial procedure or is the approval of the House required to make the necessary amendments? The Bill and the Local Government Act 1972 are no mean documents, but reference is also made to other documents, and so it goes on.
If hon. Members want to intervene or make sedentary interventions I shall gladly give way, as I did a moment ago. I should be happy if they clarified the position about the amendments.
The amendment on page 2, line 6 talks about four months. I should have thought that it would have been in the interests of the Isle of Wight authorities to be flexible about the time scale. To organise an event properly may take two years, two months, two days, 24 hours or even an hour. The Government usually work to the shortest possible time scale when considering private Bills.
It is important that consideration is given to the Lords amendments. I will sit down happily if the hon. Member for Isle of Wight explains the amendments. I am not sure that he will do so. By my probing I hope to provoke some comment which will enlighten our proceedings. I shall not vote against the amendments if it is proved that they are good for the people of the Isle of Wight. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight has said that they are beneficial to those people, but he should get up and prove that. I will happily accept the Bill if people tell me what certain things mean, why it must be altered and why there is such a rush to get it through on the nod. I do not like to be criticised for trying to find out those answers. I am opposed to acid house parties. That youngsters want to attend such parties is a terrible indictment of our nation. We should provide better means to keep those youngsters away from such parties. We are concerned, however, to ensure that we do not take steps to stop all large gatherings as that would would be an infringement of civil liberties.
Column 1286We must consider the amendments carefully and I hope that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight will get up to explain them.
Mr. Barry Field indicated assent.
Mr. Field : The original Bill was passed by the House in 1971 as a result of between 80,000 and 100,000 young people attending a pop festival on the Isle of Wight. My predecessor Mark Woodnutt sought the support of the House in endeavouring to obtain legislation to regulate and control such a large gathering on the island. That was partially effective, and the pop festivals have subsequently been replaced by scooter rallies in which 5,000, 6,000 or 7,000 individuals arrive on the island for a bank holiday weekend. They congregate on one particular site--usually a rented field. As I have already said, the Bill's purpose is to ensure that proper notice is given by the organisers of such an event, to ensure that sanitation, fire engines, police and St. John Ambulance are present to ensure that the young people enjoy themselves in an orderly and safe way. After amendments had been passed in the House, an event took place which 6,500 young people attended on their scooters. There is some evidence to lead us to believe that the organiser pocketed a considerable amount of money. The beer tent charged a high price for a can of lager. Various elements on the site-- which the local police have said were definitely National Front supporters- -stoned the fire engines, burned down the beer tent and generally ran riot. I am sure that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) will know that the Isle of Wight has the highest percentage of any county council in the country of over 75-year-olds who live independently in their homes. They were clearly terrified. The behaviour of the individuals was appalling. A small caucus of the youngsters, not the majority, came from the National Front to disrupt what would otherwise have been a perfectly reasonable weekend for the other young people.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett rose --
Unfortunately, when charges were brought against the organisers in the local magistrates courts, the magistrates had to conclude that they could not proceed with the charges because the original Act was defective. I hope that, tonight, the amendments will win the support of all hon. Members.
As the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) has already mentioned, the local Labour party on the Isle of Wight supports the Bill, as does the Social and Liberal Democrat party despite the fact that its members are absent tonight. That is an appalling indictment of the party when we consider that that is the only county council in the country which it controls.
I hope that we may yet obtain the support of Opposition Members for these reasonable amendments, so that next time a charlatan organises an event on the Isle of Wight, overcharges young people and does not abide by the proper regulations which ensure that such events are reasonably organised so that young people can enjoy themselves in a proper way and undesirables are kept out, we shall be able to bring a prosecution. The fines would be quite substantial.
Column 1287Nobody would say that this is an unreasonable piece of legislation. I am sad that Opposition Members, whom I have got to know quite well, seek to hold up this perfectly reasonable legislation. Therefore, I beg to move, That the Question be now put.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : For a long time, I have contended in the House that private legislation is not appropriate to deal with matters such as this. The point made by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) well illustrates that. The private Act was put on the statute book with every good intention of dealing with a problem that had arisen on the island, but its drafting turned out to be defective. It is clearly the responsibility of the House to ensure that we do not produce an Act this time which is equally defective. We do not want an organiser of one of these events to be able to drive a coach and horses through the measure.
It would be much more appropriate to bring forward a Government Bill which could be carefully scrutinised and amended. That would result in a better chance--although not a certainty--that the legislation could deal with the problem
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Isle of Wight would take us through some of the problems with these amendments. First, this Bill will apply only if the organiser believes that more than 5,000 people will turn up at an event. What would happen if two people organised two separate events in two separate fields in fairly close proximity? If 3,000 people turned up at each event--
Mr. Barry Field : That is exactly what happened when the Hell's Angels arrived on one site and the scooterists on another. The situation was fraught with danger, and we wanted to keep the two groups, apart for obvious reasons.
Mr. Bennett : How would this Bill keep them apart? Perhaps I have misread the Bill, but as long as each group can reasonably assume that not more than 5,000 people will show up, the Bill will not deal with the problem. I do not see how it will be possible to adjudicate--
Mr. Bennett : The point of scrutinising the legislation in this House is to make sure that it will work. I would be happy to go to the Isle of Wight, but we must ensure that the problem does not arise again.
Back in 1971, a problem arose in the island, and all this time later it appears that the legislation of the time did not solve--
Mr. Field : The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The original legislation helped with solving the problem, but subsequent amendments have since been shown to be defective when it came to prosecuting the organisers.
Column 1288human nature or activities, so the Isle of Wight might have to come back for more legislation in future if confronted by acid house parties, for instance.
"An assembly to which this section applies is an assembly in the county in the open air at which there are reasonable grounds for believing that there are more than 5,000 people present at any time not being an assembly held-- ".
It is an offence if the defence cannot show that the organisers have
"reasonable grounds for believing that there would be more than 5, 000 people present".
Who is to decide? Someone may say, "I am sorry, judge, but I thought only about 4,000 people were going to turn up. I am sorry that there were 6,000 or 20,000." That is the effect of the Bill. I am certain that the Bill would need to come back to the House. 1.45 am
Mr. Bennett : I accept what my hon. Friend says. I am sure that he has also gone to meetings, hoping that a certain number of people will turn up. One is often a little disappointed. On other occasions, a much larger number of people turn up. That is one of the problems with this legislation. The figure of 5,000 obviously denotes a big event, but it creates some difficulties.
Mr. Michael Welsh : We sympathise with the Isle of Wight and the trouble it has had with big parties. However, no city or town should suffer such trouble. If trouble is stopped in only one area, it will be exported somewhere else unless we have a Bill which applies to the whole United Kingdom. Such a Bill would be debated fully and would put an end to all trouble throughout the United Kingdom. Is that not what we wish?
Mr. Bennett : My hon. Friend makes a point which I have made on several occasions. These issues should be covered by Government legislation. The sooner we get private business sorted out, the sooner we can avoid proceedings such as these.
Debate adjourned.-- [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Debate to be resumed on Monday 13 November.
That the Lords amendments be considered on Monday 13 November.
Order read for consideration of Lords amendments.
That the Lords amendments be considered on Monday 13 November.