Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence

Evidence before the Committee (Questions 800-819)


800.  CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr Clarkson. Whilst that tidies it up inside the Bill, which is obviously very useful, quoting Mr Lester, he did say that no period of grace regarding a licence was now given by the DVLA, whereas in the past one always felt that there was a 14-day period of grace. Therefore, the query is whether what is being proposed here does not appear to be in tune with national law and I wonder whether that is in fact a legitimate position to adopt.

801.  MR CLARKSON: I believe it is in the sense that I think there is a 14-day grace period. Can I just take instructions on that last point as I think Mr Lewis is much more expert on these matters than I am.

802.  MR LEWIS: I am the parliamentary agent. To be honest, I am unsure of the position as far as the DVLA is concerned because the DVLA, I do know, has a separate power ----

803.  CHAIRMAN: I am only quoting Mr Lester.

804.  MR LEWIS: ---- Indeed, to take vehicles from the street and dispose of them under separate regulations. I am not sure, I have to say, whether this period of grace attaches to that legislation. It certainly is there in the existing Amenity Act, so in a sense we are preserving the position.

805.  CHAIRMAN: If it is already there, that is fine.

806.  MR CLARKSON: I am grateful, Mr Lewis. He drafted it, so he understands it. Unlike counsel, he understands it!

807.  Can I go to clause 16 if that would help the Committee. You are most assisted, I think, in understanding this if you go please to the unopposed clauses bundle where we have sought to do the work to show what it is that has been amended. (Same handed in). I have a Mr Miles from Fulham & Hammersmith to flesh out the questions that the Committee may be concerned about. These are the amendments set in the underlying London Local Authorities Act and I am only going to deal with the areas in bold because those are the proposed amendments.

808.  First, "12(1)(a) serve on the occupier of a premises, apparatus or plant", so that is brought in. Ditto under subsection (3), "apparatus or plant". Then the important section over the page is the recovery issue.

"Subject to such right of appeal as aforesaid, if the person required by the notice to remove or obliterate the sign fails to do so within the time thereby limited, the council may themselves remove or obliterate the sign", and here is the new material, "and, subject to subsection (6A) below, they may recover from the said person the expenses reasonably incurred by them in so doing." Now, that has restricted (6A): "The council may not recover their expenses under subsection (6) above in respect of a sign on a surface to which this section applies if the surface (a) forms part of a flat or a dwelling house or (b) is within the curtilage of or forms part of the boundary of the curtilage of a dwelling house."

809.  I will not read out (6B). That is saying that if there is a dispute about that, the time for it to be raised is not in the recovery stage, but it is before that. Then there is reference to sections 291 and 293 of the Public Health Act. Then (6D):

"No council shall exercise their powers to recover expenses from any person under subsection (6) above until a code of practice dealing with the exercise of those powers has been published by a joint committee."

810.  Then there is the run of apparatus and plant and that is brought in in the next section. That is clause 12 as amended.

811.  CHAIRMAN: Mr Clarkson, I have had it suggested to me that instead of you taking us all the way through it, whilst it would be immensely instructive, perhaps if Mr Blunt was just to put the limited areas of concern that he has got, you could reply just to those, rather than you galloping through the whole lot.

812.  MR CLARKSON: If I can, sir, could I just put Mr Miles in who is sworn just in case there is anything that the honourable Member wants to ask about it.


Examined by MR CLARKSON

813.  Who are you, first of all?

(Mr Miles) My name is Michael Miles.

814.  What is your job?

(Mr Miles) I am an operations manager for the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

815.  In which specific area?

(Mr Miles) I am responsible for street cleansing and, as part of that, graffiti removal.


816.  MR BLUNT: The first draft of this Bill that I saw earlier in the summer when I was selected to be on this Committee has been amended, but on the reading of that draft it appeared that you were seeking to recover costs from someone for their own home. If their own home was defaced, there would be the possibility of that?

(Mr Miles) Yes.

817.  And the change which has taken place over the summer, as far as I am concerned, though it may have taken place at another time depending on what versions of the Bill have been published, is that you have decided that it is unreasonable to expect to recover costs from someone whose dwelling house is defaced.

(Mr Miles) Correct.

818.  Could you take us through, Mr Miles, the consideration and the discussion on this. If someone owns a property over which they have no control over whether that property is vandalised by graffiti, by what principle is it appropriate not to seek the costs of someone in their dwelling house as opposed to someone who owns another building be it either a private business or another private interest? In terms of the discussion taking place about the rights of being able to recover money from someone who has no control over what is happening to them, are you able to explain to the Committee why you came to this conclusion over the summer having taken the forward position that you should recover costs from anyone?

(Mr Miles) I think during discussions it was decided that it would be unfair on private residents who may have difficulty in paying for constant graffiti on their properties to pay. It is a case of criminal damage and, therefore, the Council should not be asked to clear it. It should be up to the individual to pay for the removal themselves and protect their own properties. However, it was thought that for private individuals in private residencies who may be on low incomes, they would be exempt from this and the majority of problems we have in clearing graffiti are on statutory companies and businesses, Telecom, people like that, and they are our main concern. They are the people that we wish to clear up, London Underground, RailTrack, those sorts of areas.

819.  MR CLARKSON: Can I just interrupt because I think Mr Miles might have an example of how it has operated since the Bill has been published which touches on that last point.

(Mr Miles) Certainly. Since the Bill has been out, RailTrack have approached several London authorities in anticipation of what might happen and have agreed to fund the cleansing of their sites, certainly in Hammersmith and Fulham, and they are paying for regular maintenance and regular cleaning to stop the problem.

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