Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Sections 200-219

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Tuesday 18 February 2003

200. The photographs that have been placed before you are identified as being primarily of London Underground or British Rail properties and I think Mr Miles did indeed say he had reported them to Railtrack and was awaiting action. A lot of the graffiti in London, in particular, appears to be on public property in the form of Railtrack and London Underground and some measures need to be in place to address those. That forms the principal part of the concern the Government has.

201. The second part I would like to mention - and I am not sure if I am confused on this issue - is in relation to 6A which does not enable the council to recover expenses against domestic properties but they are still able to charge if they are requested to take action. I am not sure where the balance lies in this. I wonder if I could get clarification on that before I go any further.

202. MR LEWIS: In a sense, that is really what already happens anyway. The councils can remove graffiti and charge for it if requested to do so by whoever the property owner is - whether they are residential or commercial property owners. The distinction to be drawn is that here we are talking about those few cases where the property owner does not request the council to remove the graffiti and the council has to serve a default notice and, therefore, make a charge if the default notice is not complied with.

203. We are not altering that, really, in any way; the council will still be able to charge when asked to remove graffiti. It is only in the fall-back position where the exemption is being made for the property owners.

204. LORD ELTON: Can I ask the Promoters: if this preserves the status quo, in what sense is it necessary? If this is what already happens, why is it necessary to add to the legislation?

205. MR LEWIS: One of the reasons I have already explained, I think, is that in terms of commercial property ----

206. LORD ELTON: I am sorry, I am referring to domestic properties which is what I think you referred to.

207. MR LEWIS: Why is the exemption necessary? I am sorry, I am not quite sure if I have followed the question.

208. LORD ELTON: The charge was levied against you that this was something new. You have replied that this is what already happens. I understand you are saying that this is the case because of the exemption. In that case, the question answers itself.

209. MR LEWIS: Shall we go back to the beginning? Section 12, as it stands, enables the council to remove graffiti when requested to do so and make a charge for it. It also enables the council to serve the notice requiring a person to remove the graffiti and where the person does not do so enables the council to remove the graffiti themselves, but it does not enable them to make a charge for doing so.

210. LORD ELTON: That is the present position?

211. MR LEWIS: That is the present position. What we are doing is altering that second limb by enabling a charge to be made where a notice has been served requiring it to be removed.

212. CHAIRMAN: On commercial property, not private property.

213. LORD TORDOFF: What is the incentive, in that case, for a private owner to do anything other than to say "I am not going to do it, you get on with it"? If the situation is that you can go to a private owner and say "Look, this has to be removed, will you get on with it?" and he then has to pay £50, the incentive, surely, is for him then to say "No, I will not. You get on with it and then you will have to pay for it."

214. MR LEWIS: That is the position at the moment, because, of course, if the council points out to the residential property owner "There is graffiti and the council would very much like it to be removed and will do so if you ask us to do it, but we will charge you", then he could still say "No, you get on and do it yourself" because as the section stands at the moment no charge can be made in default. So we are not altering that at all. What we are altering, of course ----

215. CHAIRMAN: As far as residential owners are concerned, there is no change.

216. MR LEWIS: So the incentive, if you like, is not there already.

217. CHAIRMAN: The difference is that in future the commercial owner, when he is required to remove it, if he does not remove it the council will remove it and send him a bill, having already told him how much the charge is going to be.

218. MR LEWIS: Under the terms of the code of practice.

219. CHAIRMAN: The Home Office opposes that. Part of that is the change in the situation, is it not? The Home Office opposes that because it feels that commercial owners are victims of crime and therefore should not have to panic?

(Mr Sanderson) That is pretty much it, reinforced by the exclusions that have been retained by what appear to be some of the major recipients being excluded from the provisions of the Bill. We would like to see a common approach to graffiti across all premises.

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