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Ms Buck: The licensing regime would permit such a person quite freely to perform outside the licensed area, provided that he or she did not fall foul of other provisions such as those prohibiting obstruction of pavements. The regime would therefore not place undue restrictions on people in the circumstances that my hon. Friend describes.
Mr. McDonnell: The legislation would enable the local authority not only to define the area, but to say that, within that area, it will not grant a licence to a particular person whom it believes to be not fit and proper.
I appreciate the need for that type of provision in the regulation of activities such as the sale of alcohol. Such a provision is entirely understandable in that case, because alcohol is a dangerous substance that could be distributed widely by those who are not fit and proper people and who are seeking to attain dubious objectives. But who is not a fit and proper person to play the tuba? Does such an instrument become a dangerous implement in the hands of some people, but not in the hands of others?
Perhaps we need to address the issue of how we define a fit and proper person, especially as we may be setting a precedent. The issue of the definition of "nuisance" is a thread running through the Bill, and I believe that it could be setting us up for future legal action.
I resent another intrusion on people's basic human rights. I accept that the Bill, as amended today, will be passed. However, I am also sure that it will result in an appeal to the magistrates courts and, subsequently, the Crown court. I believe that we are establishing a costly bureaucratic procedure to deal with a matter about which there has been only a limited number of complaints.
What worries me most is that we shall be handing over to a police constable, an officer of the council or even a contractor the opportunity to halt someone who is playing a musical instrument, to arrest him, and, if he continues playing, to take his musical instrument. In various designated licensed parts of London, we are about to see battles involving officers and contractors wrestling instruments from buskers. There will be the turbulence of the trombone in some parts of central London, and the battle of the bass guitar in others. Do we really envisage the legislation resulting in physical force being used to rip instruments from the hands of buskers?
Perhaps we shall hear of a police constable appearing in the witness box and explaining that, "As I was proceeding in a northerly direction through Leicester square, I happened to hear the tune of a trombone. I immediately arrested it." The legislation will make the situation even worse than that. If the arrested busker cannot pay the fine, the instrument gets it. The instrument will be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. Subsequently, the instrument will either be melted down or sent away for a period of detention, possibly--I would probably support this--at a school in the London borough of Hillingdon, perhaps in my constituency.
I simply feel that the Bill goes a step too far in extending a bureaucratic procedure to deal with a fairly natural activity. Although I shall not be voting against the Bill, I believe that the London boroughs will have to use it with a relatively light hand. As previous London authorities legislation may have been used to the disadvantage of individual Londoners, I think we need to send that message to the boroughs very clearly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock would be concerned if I did not make the point that the Bill is another piece of private legislation that has not been certified by a Minister as complying with the Human Rights Act 1998. Parliamentary procedure provides that private legislation does not require such a statement. I am sure that my hon. Friend would want me to say, as many hon. Members have said before, that this type of private legislation should be fully subject to the provisions of the 1998 Act and that it should require that statement.
Mr. Davey: I welcome the vast majority of the Bill's provisions, which I believe will assist in the daily workings of London's local authorities. It will help to ensure that London's local authorities can do their job--as parking authorities, street-cleaning authorities and licensing authorities--without being impeded by legal loopholes.
The Bill will also enable local authority contractors or employees to issue penalty charge notices by post if they have been unable to affix a notice to the vehicle. Parking attendants are often faced with various obstacles in performing their duties. Although parking offences may seem to be a relatively minor civil matter, it is ludicrous that parking attendants should not have an alternative way of issuing notices to those who perpetrate them. It is a sensible provision.
The Bill's provisions on bus lanes are particularly welcome. Like the hon. Members for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) and for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), I spent many happy hours as a member of the Standing Committee considering the Greater London Authority Act 1999, where we debated many transport issues.
Mr. Davey: For me, listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), those were particularly happy hours. His insightful analysis of London local government, of the need for improvement in London government and of the Bill's proposals on London government made them happy hours indeed.
When we were having those discussions, we very much focused on transport and on the legislation's provision for a new body entitled Transport for London. That is now established and working. Its main responsibilities at the moment--before the signing of the public-private partnership contracts, after which the responsibility for the London underground will be transferred to it--are various highways and the operation of London buses. One of the major problems that has faced London buses for many years has been the enforcement of bus lanes. It seems ludicrous to many people who have fought long and hard to improve transport in the capital that the recent case has prevented bus lanes from taking on their strategic importance in the life of this city. Bus lanes can encourage people back on to buses by making them a reliable and fast means of transport.
I welcome the fact that amendment No. 12 was passed without opposition, as will those who run Transport for London. Without that amendment, much of the work that they are about to carry out would be severely hindered. I had thought, before I read the remarks of a Conservative councillor on the ALG, that that important amendment had all-party support and I am pleased that the Conservatives in the House did not oppose it. That would have gone against the spirit of the cross-party consensus and the need to get London moving. The amendment even had the support of an Evening Standard editorial, so it really is a consensus measure.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington mentioned his concerns about the licensing of buskers. When I heard about the new power, I shared many of his concerns. The royal borough of Kingston, along with the London borough of Westminster, asked for the change, so I inquired why it had made those representations. I am reliably informed that serious problems have been experienced in parts of Kingston town centre, which is a busy shopping area. There are large crowds on Saturday mornings outside the Bentalls centre in Claremont street and, occasionally, buskers get in the way. That is not to say that busking is not welcomed by people who shop in Kingston town centre. I have often seen large crowds gathering round both musical and performing arts buskers, enjoying the entertainment. That is welcome because it creates a happy, relaxed atmosphere in the centre of Kingston. [Interruption.] I shall not pursue the sedentary comment by the Whip, tempting though that might be.
Mr. McDonnell: I agree that that concern exists, but other powers are available for use in such cases, including those dealing with obstruction. If too much leeway is given in legislation--for example, as it was in legislation on the distribution of leaflets some years ago--it can be misused. Several of my constituents were arrested three months ago for handing out animal rights leaflets under legislation rushed through the House some years ago.