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Spitting in Public

3.10 p.m.

Lord Blyth asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, rules to discourage spitting by spectators at sporting venues are a day to day operational matter for individual stadium management teams to determine. I understand that sports governing bodies discourage players from spitting at the field of play in view of the poor example it sets, in particular to young people.

Lord Blyth: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. It has become more common to see on television footballers spitting. The practice has certainly spread to players at Wimbledon, but I am not sure about cricketers. Spitting is capable of spreading tuberculosis, among other diseases. With diseases becoming more resistant to antibiotics, could not the Government have another word with the sports governing bodies because children see their heroes on television in sporting events and it would be better if they did not see them spitting?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the laws of football--Law 12, paragraph 18--make it an offence for players to spit at opponents and officials. Such action is deemed violent misconduct punishable by a red card. The Football Association has written to both the Professional Footballers Association and to all professional football clubs strongly discouraging, for reasons of common politeness, the practice of players spitting at the ground during play. However, tuberculosis and other diseases are unlikely to be spread by spitting.

Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge: My Lords, cricket has had three mentions this afternoon. Perhaps I may be allowed for one moment to stand and bask in reflected glory on the outcome of a great victory a few minutes ago.

The noble Lord is right in saying that spitting has crept into the game of cricket in a serious way. It is made worse by the fact that a moment of triumph is often accompanied by the most revolting spit into a close-up camera which is then replayed seven or eight times throughout the day. That has caused great offence, especially to coaches and those in charge of young people. The action that we have taken--writing it into the players' code of conduct--has been quite successful. Will the Minister consider asking those in government departments to contact not only the administrative bodies but also those who write the codes of conduct of players, so that it goes right to their hearts?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I certainly agree that spitting is an unpleasant habit which sets a poor example. The Government are certainly pleased that the sporting authorities are doing their best to stamp it out. But I have to say that it is neither a health hazard nor an environmental nuisance in the proper sense of the word.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a real public health danger in spitting if the spitter spits in the eye of the recipient, because meningococcal infection can be transferred that way?

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course I yield to the medical knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord McColl. The view of the Department of Health is that spitting is not a public health nuisance in general. I should have thought that spitting in the eye was quite difficult, even though it is a good Shakespearean simile.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, there used to be bylaws against spitting in public. Are they still in existence? If so, will the fines which relate to them be exacted? I remember as a child seeing signs stating that there was a bylaw which carried a fine of £5. Goodness knows what it would be today.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, like the noble Lord, I remember signs stating that spitting was forbidden and I remember spittoons. However, spitting has not been declared a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Home Office, on present advice, is not prepared to confirm local bylaws which would make it a criminal offence.

Viscount Long: My Lords, spitting is one thing, but spitting out chewing gum is another. Does the Minister agree that chewing gum is litter under the Litter Act? Have there been any prosecutions? If not, would it not be an idea for the Government to introduce a Bill to ban chewing gum altogether?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Viscount's question is, as he well knows, wide of the Question on the Order Paper. In general, I dislike chewing gum on the pavements as much as anyone else. However, it is undesirable to create new criminal offences, in particular when it is so difficult to identify those committing the offence.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, would not the noble Lord consider consulting the Chinese Communist Party, which alleges that through a campaign it has stopped 1,000 million people spitting in China?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I seem to remember that it also wiped out the curse of flies--or at least it claimed that it did--by collective action. I do not believe that it did so by bylaws or even by executions. Quite frankly, spitting is a very minor offence.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, however objectionable is the practice to which we have given grave attention, is it not less dangerous than body-line bowling if one disagrees with the verdict of the umpire?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have no idea.


Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the

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Legg Inquiry. That will be followed by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn, who, again with the leave of the House, will repeat a Statement on the immigration and asylum White Paper.

Lord Richard: Tributes

3.16 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, perhaps the House will allow me to intervene briefly in pursuance of what I hope the House will agree is important business as regards your Lordships in the ave atque vale department. Your Lordships will have noticed that there has been a change in the leadership of your Lordships' House and that we must bid farewell to the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing the noble Lord well in his retirement.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, the noble Lord and I have been associated professionally for about four years. I should like to place on record my extreme appreciation of the personal courtesy and cordiality which has always accompanied our relations. I hope that that cordiality will continue into private life and that we shall have the opportunity to continue lunching together at regular intervals, with his permission. I hope that the permission of his former political bosses will not this time be required in order for those agreeable occasions to take place.

On behalf of this side of the House, I thank the noble Lord for his leadership of the House since the election. Whatever our political differences may have been, I know none better. As regards his personal dedication to the cause of an independent second Chamber, on that he and I have always wholly agreed, whatever our differences may be about the means necessary to bring that objective into place. I very much appreciate the firm convictions which have always animated his statements in that regard.

Perhaps I may say once again that I am sure the whole House wishes the noble Lord a very happy retirement from official life. Such are the vagaries of politics that we can even venture the hope that one day he will return in some kind of official capacity. Certainly, the extraordinary variety of his service to the nation is such that to write him off at this stage may well be premature.

I also understand that we have to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, as successor to the noble Lord. May I give the noble Baroness a warm welcome from these Benches. I think I am right in saying, and I can say without fear of contradiction in your Lordships' House, that since becoming a Peer she has earned the respect and, indeed, the affection of the House as a whole. I greatly look forward to working with her in this House during the course of her leadership. It is no more than pious political hope which leads me to expect that tenure of her present distinguished position will not last beyond the next general election.

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Perhaps I should also "knock on the head" what I know she will find to be an unworthy reaction that I have heard in different parts of the House as a result of her appointment, which is that it is a final vindication for the hereditary principle. I think the House knows well enough the noble Baroness's firm support of her party's policies to realise that the fact that she is the daughter of a former Prime Minister is merely incidental and that she will strongly cleave to the policies set out in her party's manifesto.

I, too, greatly look forward to working with the noble Baroness. I know that she will pursue the great traditions of the leadership of this House that in everything except for purely party political matters the Leader of this House is Leader of the whole House. Certainly on this side of the Chamber we pledge our support and look forward to her guidance and advice during the months and years to come.

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