Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Sections 220-239

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Tuesday 18 February 2003

220. CHAIRMAN: This is under the exclusion of ­­­

(Mr Sanderson) Railtrack and London Underground.

221. CHAIRMAN: It is in the amendments we have.

222. MR LEWIS: My Lords, I do have something to say about that particular point but I do not want to interrupt now if there are other points which need to be made.

223. CHAIRMAN: Could I ask the Home Office, what happens if the owner of the commercial property just refuses to do anything about it?

(Mr Sanderson) That is a very good question. What I would suggest is, as I have been instructed to, a clause would be imposed. However, if your Lordships decide such a measure should go ahead there should be a universal approach to this matter rather than people who may be recipients of graffiti being excluded from it and taking very little action in doing so. That is the reception that we are being given, the smaller businesses could be quite angry.

224. CHAIRMAN: If they found that the Underground is not and Railtrack is not ---

225. LORD TORDOFF: Your main objection is to the exclusion of the various categories and notably the principle.

(Mr Sanderson) Our objection to the general principle remains. We go beyond that and say that if your Lordships accept that the charge can be levied in the committing of an offence is accepted there must be one approach across the board.

226. CHAIRMAN: You also say, "We would like to see some way of indemnifying local authorities against prosecution for accidental damage when they remove graffiti at their cost". Obviously that applies to the residential private property owner?

(Mr Sanderson) In particular to the street furniture, which was a particular issue. Our understanding was that the telecoms companies in particular are not very receptive to their properties being cleaned up without their permission.

227. CHAIRMAN: They would not have been done without their permission, would they?

228. MR LEWIS: No, but under the default powers they could be, yes.

229. CHAIRMAN: They would be notified.

230. MR LEWIS: Our point in response to that is they should jolly get on with it themselves. If they do not then we will move in and do it.

231. CHAIRMAN: They would be notified first and given the opportunity.

232. LORD TORDOFF: In those circumstances the difference is if the Home Office rule prevails you would not be able to charge them for doing it on their behalf?

233. CHAIRMAN: They could do nothing about it and leave it there until the council came long and dealt with it and they could not re­claim the costs.

234. MR LEWIS: Unless they asked the council to do it for them, which I suspect with the telecoms companies, and I may be wrong, that does not happen that often.

235. MR MILES: Extremely rare.

236. LORD ELTON: The Home Office sees a situation where a small shopkeeper is victimised and has an aerosol attack, as it were, is forced to clear it up or have it cleared up for him by the council and it recurs successively on number of occasions ­ we already discovered it is a very expensive thing to do ­ and there is nothing in the Bill as drafted to guard against the injury that this person would suffer as a result, in his view, at the hands of the local authority.

237. MR LEWIS: I hope that he would not think that the graffiti was caused by the local authority, of course it is caused by somebody else. First of all, I perhaps ought to say that Mr Miles did mention there are various ways of dealing with graffiti. I think he said he has recommended in many ways the best way of dealing with it is by simply painting over it, which presumably would not be too expensive for the property owner.

238. Secondly, part of the philosophy of the councils, which has not been mentioned, is that the property owner should, to a certain extent, at least be expected to take a certain amount of pride in his property and that he should look after his own property himself rather than rely upon the council. I do take your point and I suspect in the case of repeat targets it could be something that is dealt with in the code of practice. I am saying that without instructions, but there is a possibility for a movement in that direction I would think.

239. LORD ELTON: The Home Office objection was not about damage from repeat offending it was the indignation of seeing a bigger, richer concern next door being exempt from this charge.

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