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Earl Attlee: What is to stop a 19 year-old from purchasing a case of 12 cans of aerosol paint and then selling them to his 18 year-old friends for a modest profit?

Lord Whitty: He would then be selling them and be caught by the same provision as covers sale in a shop.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Before we leave the matter, this has been a useful discussion. I should point out that there is nothing to stop the 19 year-old from going out to buy a case of spray cans and creating the graffiti himself. Of course, that is a separate issue; there will be those who are irresponsible enough to do that, but I should like to think that most young people are much more responsible than the Bill implies.

In his response, the Minister hinted—I say no more than that—that he may reconsider the age limit in the clause. I take that as modest encouragement and withdraw my opposition to the Question that the clause stand part, although I may well bring back a proposal on another occasion.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 [Unlawfully deposited waste etc]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 196A:

The noble Baroness said: The amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 197 to 199. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has tabled Amendment No. 197, he and the Government share Amendment No. 199, and the Government have tabled Amendment No. 199.

I join the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in objecting to seeing the Government set local priorities. The noble Lord approaches the issue by proposing the deletion of subsection (1) of proposed new Section 59A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It seems

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that we can stop the Secretary of State issuing directions about the categories to which local authorities should give priority for the purposes of Section 59 of the Act only if we remove all of new Section 59A. That is a rather long way of saying that we should leave it to local authorities. Why do the Government have to intervene yet again? I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld): If Amendment No. 196A is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 197 or 198 due to pre-emption.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, with interest. I am bound to say that she has taken the right approach. The logical thing would be to remove subsection (4) entirely. The provision involves micro-management and interference with local authorities on a grand scale—if micro-management can be on a grand scale.

I am encouraged that the Minister supports one of my amendments in that at least she must acknowledge that there is an element of overkill in this part of the Bill. That means that there is at least a case to answer. Given that apparently the Government are prepared to concede part of the case that I have made, will they consider looking at the wider case made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and accept her amendment rather than ours? In any event, I am happy to speak in favour of this group of amendments.

Lord Hylton: I welcome the Government's Amendment No. 199 about collecting information on what has worked. That may give me a little comfort, because the Explanatory Notes refer to,

    "better detection of the perpetrators of the crime".

The problem is that usually there are no witnesses. In one local case in Somerset, we managed to find an envelope in the rubbish giving the address of the perpetrator—that worked. But in other cases fridges have been dumped by the side of a highway with little chance of discovering who did it. We would all be grateful if the Government could say more about how they intend to make the provision effective in practice.

Lord Whitty: This has become a complex group of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to my Amendment No. 199, which relates to the collection of information so that we can devise better strategies for identification, prosecution and prevention. Most people would welcome those powers. However, the amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, would delete the powers of the Secretary of State to give direction to the Environment Agency and the Local Government Association about which problems of waste, fly-tipping and other offences should be concentrated on.

Both the Local Government Association, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, normally cites in support of her position, and the Environment Agency, favour those powers to give clarification to what is

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currently a voluntary arrangement between the Environment Agency and local government whereby there is a division of responsibilities. Broadly speaking, the Environment Agency is supposed to deal with the fly-tipping of hazardous waste and serious environmental crime, and local authorities are supposed to deal with incidents involving non-hazardous waste. There will need to be clarification of that position and what is done to pursue it which can be in the Secretary of State's direction. I therefore resist any attempt to remove those powers from the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 196A and 198 would remove the power to require data. Being opportunistic, I will accept Amendment No. 198 in order to clear the way for government Amendment No. 199, which is a rather better requirement for data than the original Bill. I resist Amendments Nos. 196A and 197 and accept Amendment 198. When we come to it, I shall move Amendment No. 199 to give the Government and all the agencies concerned the basis on which to move forward to deal with what we all recognise to be a horrendous and growing problem for both urban areas and the countryside.

Baroness Hamwee: There is indeed a problem. When I was a local councillor, at the lowest end of the scale, I was constantly irritated by the problem of bags of rubbish that used to appear at the same point on the road. Clearly, trades people were dumping rubbish to avoid paying for its collection. However, they were always smart enough to remove any envelopes from the bags.

Listening to the Minister explaining the provisions, I now read the clause quite differently. I would not be so impolite as to say that the amendment clears up some unclear legislation, but his explanation came close to suggesting that. If that is the case, I am far more sympathetic and will stop seeing conspiracies. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 197 not moved.]

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 198:

    Page 46, leave out lines 12 to 16.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 199:

    Page 46, line 20, at end insert—

"(4A) In section 71 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (c. 43) (obtaining information from persons and authorities), after subsection (3) insert—
"(4) The Secretary of State may, by notice in writing, require a waste regulation authority or waste collection authority in England and Wales to supply to him, or to such other person as may be specified in the notice, such information as may be so specified in respect of—
(a) cases where the authority has exercised any powers under section 59 above, and
(b) cases where the authority has taken action under any other enactment in respect of any deposit or other disposal of controlled waste in contravention of section 33(1) above.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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10.30 p.m.

Clause 59 [Public assemblies]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 200:

    Page 47, line 17, leave out ""2"" and insert ""10""

The noble Lord said: The Bill says:

    "In section 16 of the Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64)(which defines 'public assembly' for the purposes of the power in section 14 of that Act to impose conditions on public assemblies), in the definition of 'public assembly' for '20' substitute '2'".

That is a fascinating extension of the law. If two people meet on the corner of a street, they are a public assembly for the purposes of the Public Order Act 1986, as amended by this Bill. That cannot be reasonable, so we have suggested that the figure should not be two, but 10, which might just about be a "public assembly". In the days of my youth, we had things such as young farmers' clubs and all sorts of other young people's groups. All of them would be public assemblies under the definition in the Act and would, technically, be susceptible to immediate intervention and control by the police. I cannot believe that that is right, so we tabled the amendment to explore precisely what the Government mean by the provision.

I cannot for the life of me see how one could define a meeting between two people as a public assembly. On occasion, we have discussions in the Bishops' Bar on the most outrageous subjects that would be an offence under a good many Acts of Parliament, I suppose, as part of the normal day-to-day conversation in this place. That is not what this is all about either. I am fascinated by this and look forward to hearing the Government's explanation. I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, but I ask the Government, "Why stop at two? Why not go down to one?". If the police have suspicions that two people meeting together in a public place may, in the words of Section 14 of the 1986 Act, cause,

    "serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community",

they might entertain the same suspicions about one individual. They could prevent that individual engaging in activity that would result in serious public disorder by issuing him with a notice requiring him to observe certain conditions, if he challenges the right of the police to prevent him walking on the public highway or doing anything that, the police think, will cause serious public disorder, damage to property or disruption to the life of the community.

In reducing the number to two, do the Government have a specific case in mind? If they do, we should hear about it. There was intimidation, for example, at Huntingdon Life Sciences, and people engaged in assemblies on the premises of that company with a view to intimidating employees and causing damage to property. Is this clause the right way to deal with such cases? There are already provisions on the statute book, such as those in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, that could have been used against those individuals.

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We must hear from the Government about the circumstances that they have in mind in which two people could constitute such a threat. Why does not the principle apply equally, if there is only one person?

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