I recall that in the 1990s I had practical experience of such an occasion, when the European Union introduced its own sanctions on Serbia. It introduced a directly applicable regulation in exactly the territory on which this country had already legislated under the United Nations Act 1946. I recall that the case in which I took part challenged the domestic legislative regime on the basis that it occupied territory in which the European Union had legislated and that the two regimes, minutely analysed, could not be seen to be compatible. Not only were they not compatible in their substance, but they were incompatible in the sense that it is well-established case law in the European Court of Justice that any legislative activity by the European Union must take precedence and primacy not only in the substance of its impact and effect but in its appearance. In other words, the legislative authority of any particular action in a member state, once the European Union has legislated,

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must be seen to emanate from the European Union. To that extent, it is an extremely intolerant legislative authority.

That means that one must examine extremely carefully—I see that the Secretary of State for Justice is doing so as regards the market abuse framework—whether the introduction of European Union law into a sphere that is already occupied by domestic legislation will cause such a complicated unintended consequence. I recall that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry at the time was poised with an order to lay before the House in case the Lord Chief Justice in the Court of Appeal accepted the arguments that I and others were advancing. He was ready to go that morning, because of the chaos that would have ensued had the domestic legislation been struck down as incompatible with the European Union’s legislative action.

It is extremely undesirable that that should happen and, having listened to the various balances that have been struck by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash), who is so often proved, even after many years, to be right, I prefer the analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone. The Commission has a cavernous maw into which legislation is sucked into a black hole along with our rights, prerogatives and spheres of sovereignty. I am strongly concerned about the consequences for this Government if they continue with their policy of opt-ins, as was observed by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed a few moments ago.

When a country opts in to a sphere of competence of the European Union, it does not opt in merely to a different wording or to some dilute or mild consequence of that kind. It opts in lock, stock and barrel to the hegemony of the European Union institutions, by which I mean the European Court of Justice, the Commission and the rest of it. That might attract complacent smiles on the Opposition Benches—and even on the Government Benches—but just think of what legislative territory is already included. Firearms control—which has not been mentioned so far, but which is covered by a series of European directives—organised crime, VAT, drug trafficking and money laundering are all covered by extensive directives and directly applicable regulations. There is not a Crown court in this country that is not, as we speak, preoccupied with such trials. If we opt in, we are opting in to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and enabling it to examine our procedures in our Crown courts and see whether they comply with the minimum rules that this policy will set down.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I have listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman and I agree with everything he has said so far. Does he agree that the most iniquitous thing about all this continuing opting in and moving into an ever-closer European Union for this country is the fact that the British people have never given their permission for that to happen? Does he agree that that is what we should really be arguing for now?

Mr Cox: I do agree. The fundamental underlying principle that should exercise all Members of this House when it comes to criminal law powers being assumed by a supranational organisation is that what is or is not criminal, and what is or is not an action that puts an

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individual citizen of this nation beyond the pale of the criminal law, should be a matter for this House. It is to this House that citizens of this country entrust the moral judgments that underlie decisions about what should be criminalised and what should not. We are directly accountable to that citizenry, whereas the institutions of the European Union are not. That is why I have come to this debate to sound a note of caution and warning. That is also why, having listened to the different expressions of caution that have been so well made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who chairs the Select Committee on Justice, I prefer the analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone.

There is no doubt but that a vast field is already occupied by the European Union, and if we see a panoply of institutional responsibility and jurisdiction introduced into the criminal law, we will be exposing our procedures, our rules of evidence and our very jury trial itself to challenge in the European Court of Justice as not complying with the minimum rules set down. That might not happen this year or the next, but the European Union thinks in terms not just of one decade, but of decades and decades; it proceeds slowly. That is why, like Cassandra, or like Balaam’s ass, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone so often stands in our way—or indeed, like the angel that prevented Balaam’s ass from going on, he beckons to us and indicates that we would do well to think very carefully before we simply approve policies of this kind without understanding that there is an underlying caution that we should always exercise.

1.51 pm

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): First, I commend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt), for coming to the House to debate this subject transparently and openly because it is one that demands scrutiny. I echo the warning in the excellent speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox), because today, as the Prime Minister leads efforts to scale back the overweening and often arbitrary role of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, we might well remind ourselves that prevention is better than cure.

The document before us has all the hallmarks of a massive and substantial power grab from Brussels in the area of EU criminal law. We might have ad hoc opt-outs, but the direction of travel has very serious implications for this country. The clear ambition in the document is for a pan-European code on what the Commission calls “Euro-crimes”, backed by EU penalties and jurisdiction. The document talks about giving

“full judicial control to the European Court of Justice”

in Luxembourg.

The aim is for a uniform European justice policy by any other name. One has only to look at the detail in the document, which seeks—I quote these words for the sake of accuracy, to show that this is not just scaremongering—

“approximation of definitions and sanction levels”

for serious crimes. It aims for “common minimum rules”, including common EU punishments. The document reeks of the Soviet style EU double-speak to which we have become accustomed. On one hand it accepts the

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national “diversity” of the traditions of justice across the continent, including our own, but in the same sentence it calls for “consistent and coherent” EU criminal law. Ultimately, that is a circle that cannot be squared.

What areas will the new Euro-crimes cover? It is one thing to call for direct practical co-operation between national authorities on counter-terrorism and serious crime, although we do not need more legislation in that regard, but the document would expand EU law into environmental crimes, employment offences, data protection, fisheries offences, traffic offences, financial market behaviour—I wonder who that is aimed at—and, of course, at the top of everyone’s list of priorities, protecting the euro.

Britain has opt-outs, but we are still affected by the massive increase in EU law in the field of justice and home affairs. With cross-party support, the House has unanimously called on the Government to renegotiate the European arrest warrant—the Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), presciently predicted that I would raise this issue—because it is resulting in far too much rough justice for far too many innocent citizens. As we consider the ambitions for EU criminal law, I should like to know from the Minister where that issue is on the UK agenda and where it is on the EU agenda.

The UK has also opted in to the draft European investigation order, which would allow European investigators and prosecutors to direct UK police forces to pursue leads and collect evidence. That is a threat to the liberty of our citizens, and is the last thing that hard-pressed police forces need right now. What progress has been made on limiting the risk of abuse of such wide powers and on ensuring there are safeguards that comply with British standards of justice? On a more fundamental level, why is the EU expanding its competences before it has corrected the current defects?

This issue is a prelude to the decision to be taken by June 2014 on whether Britain should opt in or out, wholesale, of the pre-Lisbon justice and home affairs legislation. If this document is a taste of what is to come, it demonstrates all too well the magnitude of that decision. This is a fork in the road: it is time to decide whether Britain will retain our unique justice system and common-law tradition. This is one of the most serious constitutional challenges the House will face in this Parliament, and I am confident that Ministers will weigh the consequences of that decision very carefully and ensure that Parliament—consisting of the elected and accountable law-makers for this country—will have the opportunity to debate and vote on that crucial decision.

1.56 pm

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): It is a privilege, as ever, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab). My concern is about this kind of extension of the whole European project. We see it creeping on further, out of taxation and all the other measures with which we are familiar, into the criminal sphere. I find this policy document highly objectionable in many areas. First, I find objectionable the statement that

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“EU Criminal Policy should have as overall goal to foster citizens’ confidence in the fact that they live in a Europe of freedom, security and justice”

That is not the point of European criminal policy. Rather, it should be the criminal policy of each individual member state. The EU, by trying to say that its policy is somehow about these principles and that citizens look to it for the execution of those principles, is overstretching and overselling. It is also misreading the situation, given that it is so far removed from people and has done so little to instil confidence.

The document also says—this is more in line with where things should be—that

“the EU can tackle gaps and shortcomings wherever EU action adds value.”

I take a pragmatic position on this. I do not think that one should say, in a knee-jerk reaction, that the EU should have nothing to do with anything, or that we should embrace everything it says as messages and tablets from heaven written in stone that we should accept, honour and obey. We need to look at things on a case-by-case basis.

Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an excellent argument. Within the bundle of documents before us is the draft insider dealing and market abuse regulation. That is an area in which I worked before entering the House. Does he agree that with cross-border activity such as market abuse, which in the 21st century can be committed anywhere in the world and have an effect on another territory, there is an argument that the EU has a role to play in setting out sanctions for such behaviour?

Charlie Elphicke: My hon. Friend helps me to move to my next point. The policy applies not just to market abuse. It also applies to

“terrorism, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime.”

The list is packaged in the manner of “Do you like hospitals?” or “Do you eat food to live?”. It has been put together with breathtaking cynicism and in a way that would make even a push poller blush. We know what this is really about. It is about starting with something that everyone can accept so that they say, “Oh, yes, that’s a good idea,”. That puts the principle in place before things are moved forward. The document says, “We then want to move forward into other areas,” as my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton just said.

Let us look at the issue of market abuse. Why can we not have the market abuse rules in the criminal law of our own nation? Why do we need to have minimum standards across European law if we do not necessarily want to opt in? We are being told that there is no such thing as—

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Charlie Elphicke: In a moment.

We are being told that it is a misdescription to talk about a Euro-crime, but on page 9 the document states, under the heading, “What is the possible content of EU minimum rules on criminal law?”:

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“The definition of the offences…Regarding sanctions, EU criminal law can require Member States to take effective, proportionate…criminal sanctions for a specific conduct.”

So if we touch on the issue of definition of the offence, and add on criminal sanctions, there is a risk that what we are actually talking about is, in effect, or could be seen as, a form of Euro-crime. I hasten to add that I do not necessarily regard that as a bad idea.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: If we were to have this co-recognition of crimes and action, would it not make more sense to do it with New York rather than with Brussels, because there is much more international financial trading in New York and London than there is in Europe?

Charlie Elphicke: That is a very fair point.

Nicky Morgan: I will be brief because I know that time is limited. My hon. Friend asks why we need to have rules in the UK if we already have rules across Europe. The point is that, as I understand it, the proposal would bring the rest of the EU’s rules on market abuse up to the standard that we already have in this country. New York already has those standards. This is an improvement, bringing the rest of Europe along with us.

Charlie Elphicke: The European Union is doing this anyway. The central issue is whether we opt in. This is really a shadow debate for the whole issue about opting in. The letter sent by the Home Secretary to some colleagues on 21 December 2011 talks about the whole issue of the opt-ins. There are 133 directives, regulations and so on where opting in could take place.

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): My hon. Friend refers to the central issue. Is not the central issue that raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox)? If we are going to criminalise people in this country, or indeed in any other member state in the EU, by law, then those who have passed those laws need to be accountable to the citizens to whom they apply, and that is not the case in relation to the European Commission or the other EU institutions, which are not accountable, in any real sense at all, to the people of this country.

Charlie Elphicke: I completely agree with my hon. and learned Friend, and that is my central point too. It is not for the European Union to start defining crimes; it is for individual nation states to do so.

There are areas where we should consider opting in. For example, I intervened on the Minister and talked about the issue of drugs. Let us look at the measures in the list provided by the Home Secretary. On one side, it talks about co-operation between customs authorities and business organisations on combating drug trafficking. Good. That is what we should have—cross-border co-operation. As the representative of Dover, I know that that is really important and makes a difference. Another 1996 justice and home affairs measure that was proposed, concerns

“the exchange of information on the chemical profiling of drugs to facilitate improved cooperation between Member States in combating illicit drug trafficking.”

Good. Yes, we should do that.

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However, the dividing line for me is the 1996 JHA measure No. 750, which concerns

“the approximation of the laws and practices of the Member States of the European Union to combat drug addiction and to prevent and combat illegal drug trafficking.”

When one considers the approximation of laws and the issue of codification and requiring member states to treat everything the same way, one is rapidly moving into the area of a common criminal law—Eurojust, the European arrest warrant, the Euro-investigator, Europol and Euro-crimes. If we are to take that route, my point is simply that we should engage the country as a whole and have a proper, open discussion about what is going on, not try to spin it.

There are some cases where a common criminal law may be appropriate, particularly in the cross-border context; in others, we might conclude that it is not the right way to proceed. But to draw up a cynical list of everything that everyone would agree are the most heinous crimes known to mankind, in order to get the principle and then to extend it later, is something that we have seen with the European Union time and again. It is the fundamentally wrong thing to do, and it would be the wrong thing for us to do in terms of the opt-in or opt-out debate. I believe that when we have that opt-in/opt-out debate over the next two years, we should ensure that we include the country as a whole and have a proper, national discussion.

2.4 pm

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I am very glad that the European Scrutiny Committee recommended this European Commission document for debate because it shows, once again, the ambition of the European Union. We have heard before—it is in the treaty of Rome—the line about ever-closer union. We often hear from the great and the good in this country that we do not need to worry about what the document says because it is not happening yet; it is not so important; these good and great people are not necessarily talking about it yet. And then it creeps in and it happens.

The ambition of the Commission’s document is exceedingly great, and the policies that it has already adopted are important. We notice, in the package of papers before us, that in 2009 the European Commission announced, under the Swedish presidency, that it would have more broad provisions guiding the Council’s criminal law deliberations. So, for three years already, the Commission, the presidency and the Council of Ministers have been looking at what they should be doing with the criminal law provisions and how they should affect us. We in this country are indeed protected by our opt-ins, but we have to bear in mind that once we have opted in, we are subject to qualified majority vote. So it is a once-and-for-all decision—we say, “Yes, we are going into that,” but then the people of this country, as hon. Friends have said, have no further ability to change that law; it becomes a matter bound in to European Union competence.

Let us look, as some of my hon. Friends already have, at the ambition of the European Commission in this area, at what it thinks more common criminal law will do, and how broad it is in its definition of the criminal law. We hear from the Front-Bench spokesmen that common criminal law will be used in rare cases, for

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important crimes. That is not actually what the European Commission seems to say. Page 11 of the package of documents says:

“EU criminal law fosters the confidence of citizens in using their right to free movement and to buy goods or services from providers from other Member States through a more effective fight against crime and the adoption of minimum standards for procedural rights in criminal proceedings as well as for victims of crime.”

That sentence—that bullet point—from the European Commission covers an incredibly wide set of crimes. They could be anything to do with the free movement of people, or the provision of services throughout the European Union. It then provides for minimum standards of procedure. That affects all sorts of basic points of the criminal law in this country. Will the procedure allow for trial by jury? It does not establish that. Does the procedure outlaw double jeopardy, which we basically still protect our citizens—our subjects—against? It does not say that. It says that it is aiming for these

“minimum standards for procedural rights”

and the rights “for victims of crime.”

The European Commission goes on to say:

“Common rules strengthen mutual trust among the judiciaries and law enforcement authorities of the Member States. This facilitates the mutual recognition of judicial measures as national authorities feel more comfortable recognising decisions taken in another Member State if the definitions of the underlying criminal offences are compatible.”

That means that we have to align our laws with other member states in the European Union. There may not be an immediate proposal to do that, but it is what the European Commission has in its documentation, it is what it wishes to do, and we know from experience that what the European Commission starts out with often comes to be the case.

Who can forget that wonderful moment when Lady Thatcher stood at the Dispatch Box and there were three proposals from Mr Delors, and Margaret Thatcher said “No! No! No!”? Each one of those three has now become an established part of the European family that we know and love.

What is the time scale? That again is set out by the European Commission in its package of documents. Page 18 says that it has a

“vision for a coherent and consistent EU Criminal Policy”

by 2020. So the European Commission wants us, in eight years, to have established that uniformity.

As we have discussed, the proposal includes things that are open to wide interpretation, such as computer crimes. Even an alarm clock is now computer-controlled, so even if you were to steal an alarm clock—[ Interruption. ] Of course, you would not steal an alarm clock, Madam Deputy Speaker, but if some brigand were to do so, that might be deemed to be a computer crime. The description is therefore set wide, as it is for

“serious infringements of road transport rules”.

If someone were to park on a red route, at what point would it be a matter for the European Union?

The Commission has set out an extremely ambitious communication, which I am glad that the House is debating. It knows clearly its route of travel and where it wants to end up, which is, ultimately, a single European

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state. No British Government have ever been in favour of that, yet every British Government since 1972 have ceded more powers to the European Union to create a superstate. It is important to debate the proposal at an early stage of its formation so that the Government can be robust and aware of the problem, and so that they can refuse opt-ins that, step by step, lead to the ever-closer union that has been the EU’s policy since it was founded.

2.11 pm

Mr Blunt: I shall try to respond to the contributions made in the debate, the tone of which has been reasonably consistent, certainly among my hon. Friends sitting behind me. I had rather hoped that the tone of my opening remarks had made it clear that the Government were in a similar place on the issue as the European Scrutiny Committee.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) gave us the benefit of seven minutes’ consensus during which he managed to avoid expressing an opinion on Euro- crimes and the use of language in the document, which the Government, like the European Scrutiny Committee, feel is unhelpful.

I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) for notifying me that he could not be in the Chamber for the conclusion of the debate, because he is chairing a Committee of the House. I quite understand why he cannot be here. I think it was a slip of the tongue on his part when he put “breathtaking complacency” and “Government” in the same sentence; I was grateful that he then corrected himself to make it clear that he was referring to the Opposition and the hon. Member for Hammersmith. My hon. Friend subsequently talked about the Government’s support for his Committee’s position and the tone of my remarks about Euro-crimes.

Much of the tone of my hon. Friend’s speech will have been familiar to hon. Members. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), the Chair of the Justice Committee, asked whether he was trying to conjure up a spectre. I sometimes think that it is not so much a spectre that is conjured up in European Union debates as a dementor, given that there is a chill in the air and hon. Members who receive a dementor’s kiss have the soul sucked out of them and find themselves hooked on this issue in a conceivably unhealthy way. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone has consistently and properly pointed out the possible ramifications of such communications from the European Union, and Conservative Members returned to that theme time and again. I therefore want to reinforce the fact that a solid defence of our position underpins the debate and that we are equipped with the scepticism that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and other hon. Friends expressed.

The way in which the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, began his speech was evidence to support the truth of the Matthew Parris theory that Parliament is full of schoolboys and schoolgirls who were bullied during their time at school and then take extended revenge on their school mates. I will leave others to draw their own conclusions on where the “Slaughter, Vaz” quip to which he treated us puts the hon. Member for Hammersmith on the scale of bullies or the bullied.

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The right hon. Member for Leicester East confirmed the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed that no one is calling for a comprehensive system of European criminal law, despite what can be adduced from the Commission’s communication. Given that the right hon. Member for Leicester East is a former Europe Minister, I might have anticipated that he would take the position that he did. On human trafficking, it is clear that the point is around the need to address structures and systems, but we have also opted into law in that area. I take his point about data and assure him that data protection is being considered in the coming days by the European Union and the Council of Europe.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed reminded us that we have a duty to keep up with cross-border crime and the development of new crime patterns. We have chosen to opt into various measures under the Lisbon framework, so that we keep pace on crime, as appropriate. He drew attention to what we face in 2014 with the 133 measures that were adopted pre-Lisbon. Of course, we will not make any premature decisions and we will consider carefully the practical implications of all the options. The Government are committed to holding a vote in both Houses before they make a formal decision. We will conduct further consultation on the arrangements for the vote, especially with the European Scrutiny Committee, the Justice Committee and the Committees of both Houses that consider home affairs. We will make a formal announcement on the process in due course. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) was also clear about the substance of the decision that we will face in 2014.

I listened carefully to the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed about UKRep engaging with Select Committees to give them notice of any European Commission business coming down the track in which they might like to take an interest. One must tread carefully with such things, given the question of what is the prerogative of the Executive and what is that of Parliament. We would not want to get to a position at which it was seen that the Executive were seeking formally to engage parliamentary bodies on their behalf. His Committee’s role is to hold my Department to account, and it is for Parliament as a whole to hold the Government to account, so I will reflect on his suggestion and invite my ministerial colleagues in the Foreign Office to read his remarks and consider whether there could be a satisfactory way forward.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) reminded us, in his usual stentorian tones, about the dangers of the intrusion by others into a mature legal system. Hon. Members will have noted his learned warning about the effect of opt-ins. He made it clear that he shared the general approach taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and set out the underlying caution that we should always exercise on such matters. I hope that he understood from my opening remarks that that is precisely what we do. I believe the present arrangements enable us to do that, not least the oversight exercised by this House and the European Scrutiny Committee.

As well as making points about the 2014 decision, my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton reinforced the general remarks made by my hon. and learned

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Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon and asked about our current position on the European arrest warrant. The EAW was the subject of a review by Sir Scott Baker, to which the Government will respond in due course.

In tone, the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) were similar to those of other hon. Friends, but I thought that the intervention made my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) made quite clear the case, which he acknowledged, that we need to take a case-by-case approach, as the Government have pledged to do. As the hon. Member for Dover, he commended the co-operation on drugs trafficking, but there is a basic problem with the proposition he advanced: either we will find measures, on a case-by-case basis, where it is appropriate and in the interests of the UK to co-operate at European Union level, and we will proceed on that basis as we do now; or he and others will present that to the House as a cynical list establishing the principle of where we should co-operate, in order to open up the possibility of our being compelled to co-operate on matters where we are not compelled to do so. In his presentation of the process, however, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) neglected to remind the House of the existence of the emergency brake. If all else fails—if we have opted in, taken part in the discussions and voted but have been outvoted on certain measures—and the matter is serious enough to constitute a fundamental assault on our criminal jurisdiction, we can exercise the emergency brake under the Lisbon provisions and thereby establish an opt-out.

I thank the House for this debate. It is clear that the Government and the European Scrutiny Committee are of the same view: we consider that European legislation in the field of criminal law should be contemplated only as the last resort and only where action at the European level is absolutely necessary. We also clearly agree that European Union criminal law proposals should have regard to the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and, importantly, necessity based on clear evidence. Those principles are vital. The European Commission’s communication makes it clear that, although it seeks to develop a consistent approach to the use of criminal law, those principles continue to form part of the considerations even of the Commission—to echo the tone of some of the speeches made today.

The Government will continue to examine the content of European Union criminal law proposals and our participation in them on a case-by-case basis, entirely in line with the coalition agreement. In line with our commitments to Parliament, we shall also continue to engage with the European Scrutiny Committee on any EU criminal law proposals, as they come forward. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to .


That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 14613/11, relating to a Commission Communication, Towards an EU Criminal Policy: Ensuring the effective implementation of EU policies through criminal law; agrees that the primary focus of EU criminal law should be tackling serious crime with a cross-border dimension; and further agrees that the general principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and necessity based on clear evidence must be respected when deciding whether to propose criminal sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of EU policies.

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London Local Authorities Bill [Lords]

Further consideration of Bill , as amended

Clause 5

Street litter control notices

2.24 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I beg to move amendment 15, which is, leave out clause 5.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): With this, it will be convenient to consider amendments 16 to 20, 3 and 4.

Philip Davies: I begin by apologising on his behalf for the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), in whose name the amendments stand. He asked me specifically to apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), the Bill’s sponsor. I assure him that our hon. Friend has not lost interest in the Bill, but decided—questionably, I think—that it was more important for him to listen to the Prime Minister’s speech on reforming the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg than to be here for this debate. I am not sure that that was the correct decision, but I am sure that he will be able to justify it to the Bill’s sponsor at a later date.

As you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch had begun to move the amendment when he was cut short the last time the Bill was debated in the House. I will not repeat the remarks he made then, but it might help the House if I recap his main points. The amendment would remove clause 5, which states:

“Section 94(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (street litter: supplementary provisions) shall apply in Greater London as though for ‘commercial or retail premises’ there were substituted ‘premises other than dwellings’”.

Thus, only in London, that provision would apply not just to premises such as retailers and takeaways, but to all premises that are not dwellings. The main thrust of my hon. Friend’s argument was that that related to people smoking outside buildings because of the smoking ban, and the resulting litter.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): Does my hon. Friend believe that litter such as dropped cigarettes and chewing gum is covered by existing regulation and local authority powers?

Philip Davies: That is correct. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch touched on that in his speech—he omitted to mention other things that I shall discuss today—and expressed the view that the clause was a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) is right: there are plenty of other regulations that could apply.

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): To help my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), the current regulations do not apply to public buildings. Retail and commercial buildings are covered, but public buildings are not, and the purpose of the provision is to extend coverage to them.

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Philip Davies: I am sure we are all grateful for that clarification. The point I think my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans was making and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch would have made were he here is that people who smoke outside a building and deposit their litter on the street are guilty of an offence under existing provisions, without the Bill coming into play, and can be prosecuted. He made the point that many places provide containers for smokers’ litter and that the problem, if it did exist, applied equally across the country and there was no justification for a London-only provision.

Mrs Main: The authorities in St Albans have always had the problem of not knowing exactly where the people who have dropped litter came from, but that is why they have always believed that, if they so chose, they could enforce litter regulations outside any premises. It is not necessary to see a person coming out of a premises. The local authority targeted the culprit—the person who dropped the litter—rather than the premises.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure she agrees that existing legislation is sufficient to tackle the problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green to justify the wide-ranging powers that clause 5 would give. He said that he saw a difference between takeaways, which sell products in packaging designed to be taken out of the shop and disposed of, and offices or buildings where smokers happen to congregate outside the front door to have a discussion over a cigarette. I am not entirely sure I agree. Just because a takeaway sells a burger and puts it in a wrapper for people to eat at their convenience does not mean that it should be held responsible if a customer drops the litter somewhere where they should not. I believe in individual responsibility, and the responsibility should lie with the individual who is doing the littering. That should apply equally to what happens outside a takeaway and to smoking outside an office, but my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch made that distinction.

2.30 pm

Those are the points that my hon. Friend made about amendment 15. I apologise for rushing through them, but I thought it appropriate to recap so that we can move on to new material. I agree with the thrust of the amendment. We have more legislation to deal with this even than my hon. Friend acknowledged in his brief contribution before he was cut off. Anti-littering legislation has been updated since the introduction of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to which he referred, and which is cited in the Bill.

The Bill seems reluctant to mention that the legislation has been updated. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 extends the offence of littering to all open spaces, which calls into question why any further legislation, including the Bill, is necessary. Section 18 of that Act states:

“In section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990…(offence of leaving litter), for

subsections (1) to (4) substitute—

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he throws down, drops or otherwise deposits any litter in any place to which this section applies and leaves it.

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(2) This section applies to any place in the area of a principal litter authority which is open to the air, subject to subsection (3) below.”

Presumably, that applies to all London local authorities, just as it applies anywhere else. Section 18 continues:

“This section does not apply to a place which is ‘open to the air’ for the purposes of this Part by virtue of section 86(13) above if the public does not have access to it, with or without payment.”

Effectively, if it is private land, that provision does not apply. Section 18 continues:

“It is immaterial for the purposes of this section whether the litter is deposited on land or in water.”

It is therefore even more comprehensive than my hon. Friends may think. It continues:

“No offence is committed under subsection (1) above where the depositing of the litter is…authorised by law; or…done by or with the consent of the owner, occupier or other person having control of the place where it is deposited.”

Given that the local authority does not authorise people to drop litter—they do so without its consent—that measure can be invoked by London local authorities if they see fit. Section 18 continues:

“A person may only give consent under subsection (4A)(b) above in relation to the depositing of litter in a lake or pond or watercourse if he is the owner, occupier or other person having control of…all the land adjoining that lake or pond or watercourse; and…all the land through or into which water in that lake or pond or watercourse directly or indirectly discharges, otherwise than by means of a public sewer.”

That provision makes it clear that the owner of the premises outside which the litter is dropped is not authorised to give consent to anyone to drop litter; they are not giving permission for them to do so. The owner of the takeaway or other shop is not saying to their customers, “Oh, by the way, when you want to get rid of your burger wrapper or your chip paper, just drop it outside—it’s not a problem.” The law makes it clear that they cannot do that, so why on earth my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green wishes to make those people responsible for what others are doing outside on the public highway, when they already have the powers to enforce a ban if they so wish is beyond me.

Mrs Main: Will my hon. Friend, or other hon. Members in the Chamber, suggest any offence that would not be covered by existing legislation, but which would be caught by the Bill?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point. This part of the Bill—indeed, the whole Bill, although I will not be diverted on to that, Madam Deputy Speaker, but will stick to the amendment and clause 5—exists for the convenience of local authority officials. That is the thrust of the provisions.

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is extremely unfair to local authorities in suggesting that the clause exists for the convenience of officials. In fact, it is designed to ensure the best use of public money. He will be aware that local authorities have experienced substantial reductions in their budgets, so is he happy that they would have to expend even more resources to enforce the legislation when the clause offers a perfectly appropriate alternative way of ensuring that there is not an accumulation of litter outside public buildings, and would benefit the local community? It seems a good use of public money, and—

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Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I remind the House that interventions must be brief.

Philip Davies: I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said. He may think that all this is for the benefit of council tax payers and local residents, but I do not agree. Businesses pay lots of money through rates and so on, and they expect a service in return. The Bill wants businesses to cough up for the council to provide services. At the end of the day, the council can say, “By the way, even though you have coughed up for services, we don’t want to provide you with any services. We’ll get you to pay extra on top for anything that you might ever want to use.” That is an unfair system. If the hon. Gentleman is advocating that we scrap the rates that businesses pay and hold them responsible for anything that goes on, I might have a bit of sympathy, but he is trying to have the best of both worlds.

It seems as if we are doing this for the benefit of council officials who do not want to spend time trying to identify the individual responsible because they file that under “Too difficult”. They want to make businesses generally be responsible for anything that goes on anywhere near their premises—in that way, they can crack the problem and do not have to do anything.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I have been listening carefully to my hon. Friend. This is the first occasion on which I have debated the Bill, and I am puzzled on two counts. First, if the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) is right that there is a means of reducing the burden on local authorities, presumably, at the expense of businesses, why should that be the case? Secondly—and forgive me for mentioning this, Madam Deputy Speaker—why should such a measure apply in London when there is no such provision in the rest of the UK? The legislation cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) covers every other metropolis in England, so why should London receive special treatment?

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and gets neatly to the nub of the issue in the clause and the Bill. If this is such a big issue—the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) may even think that it is a big issue in his part of the world—the problem exists to the same extent across the country. If we are going to introduce measures to tackle it, regardless of whether it is a problem or not, the solution in the House is to introduce legislation that applies to every single local authority. If the problem is as the hon. Gentleman describes it—and perhaps he will try to square the circle—why should the measure apply only in London, but not in any other part of the country, including his own?

Chris Williamson: The hon. Gentleman is allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. If local authorities in other parts of the country wish to have that power, I have no objection to that. The Bill is a good step in the right direction, and goes some way towards ameliorating the impact of the huge reductions in Government funding for local authorities.

Philip Davies: That is very interesting. The thrust of the Bill and of the clause is to address problems unique to London. Apparently, that is why we need the Bill:

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because of the huge volume of tourists and visitors, local authorities need all those extra powers. The hon. Gentleman slightly let the cat out of the bag when he said that this is nothing to do with London, but the thin end of the wedge. This is a test case so that we can roll this out throughout the country. If that is the point, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman, and perhaps even the Bill’s sponsor, that he goes back to square one, starts from scratch, and if it is such a big issue, introduces a Bill, perhaps with Government support. We have yet to hear from the Minister whether he supports these matters applying only in London, or whether he thinks they should apply elsewhere. If the Minister thinks that they should apply in the rest of the country, I suggest that he scraps this legislation, votes it down and brings in legislation that applies everywhere.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend makes a powerful argument. I am listening with increasing concern because this appears to be nothing about solving a particular problem to do with offences; it is about cutting costs for local authorities, in which case, as my hon. Friend argues, it should apply nationwide. It appears that the rationale behind the clause is nothing to do with offences at all, but to do with cost-cutting.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend might want to advance that argument, but I am not entirely clear whether the Bill is simply about cost-cutting. I know that that is what the hon. Member for Derby North would have us believe, but I think that it is slightly more sinister and that it is about the amount of powers to be given to local authorities and their officers.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Might the provision be not only cost-cutting, but cost-increasing? Some of the buildings that will be included are public buildings, so the charge will simply be taken from a local council to another public authority, but the local authority already has the means of street cleaning, whereas the public authority in a building may not.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Given that local authorities are playing not with their own money but with other people’s, they may not be so bothered if they were caught up in the regulations. It may be businesses that were more concerned and therefore dealing with the problem better themselves. My hon. Friend touches on a good point because no business will attract customers if the area around its shop is in a terrible state, full of litter. I suspect that this is a solution looking for a problem, because most businesses will want to ensure that the streets close by are free of litter. They are probably doing that already, so my hon. Friend may well be right. The measure may well end up applying only to other public buildings, and the local authority may find itself in some accounting exercise where it is passing invoices from one department to another, which makes everyone unhappy apart from the person who is supplying invoices for the local authority, and it will not benefit the council tax payer, but give them an extra cost. My hon. Friend may well be on to something there.

I was slightly sidetracked, particularly by the hon. Member for Derby North. I made the point that the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 already

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took the law beyond the Environmental Protection Act, and I gave an example of that. But it does not stop there, because section 21 of the 2005 Act extended street litter notices to any vehicles that act as commercial or retail premises, which was another giant step of mission creep down this particular route. On street litter control notices, which is precisely what this clause deals with, the 2005 Act says:

“In section 93 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990…(street litter control notices), after subsection (3) insert—

‘(3A) A vehicle or stall or other moveable structure which is used for one or more commercial or retail activities while parked or set at a particular place on or verging a street is to be treated for the purpose of this section and section 94 below as if it were premises situated at that place having a frontage on that street in the place where it is parked or set.”

So we have already had an extension of the provisions that the hon. Gentleman seeks to extend further. The Act continues:

“(3B) In subsection (3A) above, ‘vehicle’ means any vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads.”

That may well be burger vans or ice cream vans. That has already been covered in that legislation. The Act continues:

“(3) in that section, for subsections (8) and (9) substitute—

‘(8) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, he fails to comply with a requirement imposed on him by a notice.

(9) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (8) above is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.’”

Those are already the laws of the land. This is the law that applies throughout the country. Why on earth it should be extended just for London is beyond me.

2.45 pm

One of the petitions put forward against the Bill noted the objections of the Society of London Theatre. It could see that it was effectively another stealth tax on its activities. People leaving a theatre might drop their tickets or cigarette butts, but clearly that is not the fault of the theatre. If those people drop their litter, surely it should be the responsibility of the local authority to collect it as part of their normal street-sweeping exercise.

Of course, the Bill would extend that to theatres. I should have thought that it was in London’s best interests to try to encourage the cultural attractions that we see in this city. Certainly, people who come to London from Shipley very much welcome going to the theatre. It is one of the great attractions of London. Many theatres are struggling. Not all are hugely vibrant commercial enterprises. Some of them keep going through good luck, graft and the generosity of many benefactors. Why on earth anyone would want to see some of these places closed down by putting extra requirements on them is beyond me.

Mr Gray: My hon. Friend was advancing a persuasive argument until his last point. That this duplicates existing legislation is a perfectly sound argument for not allowing it to be done. I am a strong supporter of the “polluter pays” principle, and surely there is some argument for saying that if the theatre or the burger bar is responsible, they should pay for clearing up the mess.

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Philip Davies: I will agree with my hon. Friend on the first half of his point, but disagree with him on the second. If he follows the first half through to its logical conclusion he will disagree with himself on the second half. He said that he believes in the “polluter pays” principle, and that is a perfectly sound basis upon which to start. There may well be some exceptions, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) will think of some. But in this case, the polluter is not the theatre. Just because the theatre issues a ticket to a customer does not mean that, when that ticket finds itself on a London street, it is the theatre that is the polluter. Surely my hon. Friend would accept that the polluter is the individual who dropped the litter, not the theatre. My hon. Friend is a very sound man, and I am sure that he believes as much as I do in individual responsibility. If so, he must accept that this is the responsibility of the individual, not the theatre.

Mr Gray: On reflection, I will disagree with myself and redisagree with the disagreement that I made against myself a moment ago, if my hon. Friend will forgive me for doing so. He is of course quite right. If the person who drops the litter is the person who pays the fine, as happens under the existing legislation without this clause, the polluter indeed pays. However, if the institution from which the polluter emerges pays, that is an entirely different principle under environmental law.

Philip Davies: I accept that. The point is that surely the problem would be worse. If individuals felt that they would not be held responsible for their actions but would get off scot-free, and that the theatre would take responsibility, we might end up with more litter, because individuals will feel free to throw it willy-nilly, knowing that they will not be pursued.

Mike Freer: My colleagues seem to be rather obsessed with the views of the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association, but they have withdrawn their objections and petition. They did not object on this particular issue but on a different issue—and, as I say, their petition has been withdrawn.

Philip Davies: I am grateful for that update. They are obviously more easily impressed than I am with what my hon. Friend tells them. I am sure that his powers of persuasion worked wonders on them. I look forward to him speaking at length in this debate so that his powers of persuasion may work on me, and I may be able to withdraw my amendment.

Mrs Main: Is not the problem the fact that this would effectively carve up the streets in front of public buildings and ultimately make them responsible for the streets? Who can say whether a Mars bar wrapper—sorry, Mars!—lying on the street outside a theatre was dropped by someone going into the theatre having ejected it from their pocket, or someone coming out of the theatre having eaten it on the premises? The point is that the person who dropped the sweet wrapper is responsible for the litter, not the theatre, even though it is in front of the premises.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. She introduces a new aspect, because if we follow this through to the logical conclusion, it may not be the individual but the

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retailer who is responsible. And then perhaps we should go the whole hog and say that it is not the retailer who is responsible but Mars, because it put the product in a wrapper that could be dropped. My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green may well be thinking about amending the Bill further so that retailers are not held responsible, but instead Mars would be held responsible for any Mars bar wrapper found anywhere on the streets of London, because it should not have produced a chocolate bar in a wrapper.

Mrs Main: I have to “fess up” and declare an interest: my husband worked for Mars for a long time, which is probably why the example sprang into my head. I in no way wish to imply that Mars bar wrappers—Snickers is also a Mars product—are more likely than other wrappers to end up on the floor.

Philip Davies: It was important for my hon. Friend to make that point, because otherwise she might have been in trouble tonight, and her endless supply of free Mars bars could have been at risk.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech about who is responsible for litter and its collection. Taking the principle that the polluter should pay, I trust that he will support the principle that the measures taken must punish those who drop litter in the first place.

Philip Davies: I do not want to get sidetracked—as I am sure you do not, Madam Deputy Speaker—but the whole thrust of my argument is that the legislation already in place is perfectly sufficient to allow that to happen. My hon. Friend says that the polluter should pay. That is all very well, but local authorities come to the Government, and to council tax payers, saying that they need all this money to do this and that, and to ensure that the streets are kept clean, and all that kind of business, but on the other hand they are surreptitiously trying to say that they will take all the money from the Government and from the council tax payer for fulfilling this obligation, but then, quietly on the side, they will then try to pass the responsibility on to someone else. If those local authorities want the funding for keeping the streets clean, they also have to take on the obligation to keep them clean. They cannot have one without the other.

Esther McVey (Wirral West) (Con): I am listening to the debate with great interest. The Liverpool BID—the city centre business improvement district—includes around 650 businesses that have come together because they want to make the environment cleaner, above and beyond what is happening on the streets. They have taken it upon themselves to cover even bigger areas and are funding it. However, there have been possible links between increases in the amount of work they want to do and a potential reduction in business rates, because they think that that is work the council is not doing. They would also like to do competitive tendering with the council, thereby also reducing their business rates. If my hon. Friend is concerned about loss of money, this could be a sure way to lose money through the business sector.

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Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That sounds like a good initiative. In fact, I think that there are business improvement districts in London. I am not entirely sure if they work in exactly the same way as it does on Merseyside, but they are certainly there. It seems to me that my hon. Friend proposes a far better solution, if there is a problem, which could not only get the support of the local authority, because it would then not have to deal with the problem that it does not think is its responsibility, but local businesses, which I might add probably do a far better job clearing it up than the local authority, because they would feel that they are improving their local area and making a contribution, but are not, in effect, paying twice. My concern is that the Bill is trying to get them to pay twice, once for their rates and once for sorting the problem out.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I wonder whether that establishes a general principle that it is much better to get a free market solution whereby companies come together to make things better, rather than draconian sanctions being imposed from on high.

Philip Davies: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey) will welcome his support for her argument, because he is absolutely right.

We know what needs to be done, because we have plenty of recommendations and evidence that would eliminate the need for clause 5. In June 2006 Environmental Campaigns—ENCAMS—produced the report “What is the Situation with Cigarette-Related Litter in England?”, which set out some recommendations. We know from the sponsor of the Bill and the explanatory notes that clause 5 is intended to tackle above all else, but not exclusively, the new phenomenon of smoking outside, because of the ban on smoking in public places. On research and monitoring, ENCAMS recommended:

“An accessible, repeatable monitoring methodology could be developed to measure the quantity of cigarette butts in the environment, and therefore better understand the impact of interventions.”

One of the problems is that we appear to be going down the route of putting forward legislation without fully appreciating the nature and scale of the problem. On education and communication, ENCAMS recommends:

“The successful ENCAMS cigarette-related litter campaign could be repeated in the future, to build on the momentum it has generated. The learnings from the 2006 campaign should be built into the 2007 campaign”

and campaigns in future years, and:

“Additional communications campaigns could be developed to target specific stakeholder groups in areas where cigarette litter tends to accumulate.”

This is a far better solution and it would target where there is a problem—and cigarette litter tends to accumulate— rather than having a blanket policy that applies everywhere, whether or not there is problem.

On ashtrays and infrastructure, ENCAMS recommends

“ENCAMS existing list of ashtray suppliers could be further expanded and developed to include a description of the characteristics and price of ashtrays. This could be complemented by a set of best practice guidelines to provide advice on the type of ashtrays that are suitable in different contexts.”

On enforcement, it recommends

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“Ways to increase enforcement levels could be investigated, such as further training programmes for enforcement officers and street wardens.”

It seems to me that the report was not blaming the non-dwellings. ENCAMS seems to be saying that it is the councils that need to raise their game.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I wonder whether it is not rather an unsatisfactory principle that something that was perfectly legal should be made illegal but then increasingly unpleasant, and draconian penalties are introduced for people who are doing something that used to be legal, having been forced to do it less comfortably. I simply do not think that is the right way to legislate.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a tyranny over people who were once able to enjoy a particular way of life indoors who have been forced outside, through no fault of their own and no fault of the premises from which they have been kicked out. Most premises used to offer some kind of smoking room or a place where smokers could go. The legislation has forced them to put those people out on to the streets. It would be a rather perverse kick in the teeth for them, having been once inconvenienced, now to have to pick up the tab—excuse the pun—for a piece of Government legislation. My hon. Friend is right that it would be perverse to go down that, route based on the history of how this situation has come about.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): There is clearly a problem in how that relates to public houses, but as I remember from my time as chairman of a licensing authority, it is possible to deal with some of the current problems through the licensing system, through conditions on licences. For example, councils could look at their licensing policy. If this is such a great problem, and clearly people feel that it is, is my hon. Friend aware of any local authorities that have tried to address it through their licensing regime?

3 pm

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point, and he knows far more about those matters than I do, so I certainly bow to his superior knowledge. Other local authorities will have to deal with these issues through licensing and other imaginative schemes that he will know from his time as a councillor in Hull, because the Bill applies only to London. So even if we pass this Bill, his local authority will still have to go down such routes, because the benefits, if they are benefits, of the legislation will not apply to it anyway.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and many local authorities, my own included, are working on the issue positively in order to encourage people to stop smoking, given that it has now become more inconvenient to do so, and in order to consider what provision, such as bins, they can make so that people dispose of litter sensibly. Local authorities are already helping with the strategy; they do not need new legislation on the littering aspect.

Philip Davies: I absolutely agree.

The ENCAMS report went on to discuss cleaning and stated:

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“Efficient, cost effective cleaning equipment that targets cigarette butts would complement preventative measures, especially at the start of an education campaign. Furthermore, the fundamentals of streetscape design could be considered to discourage and prevent the impacts of littering, especially in those areas where cigarette litter accumulates.”

Most importantly, it concluded:

“Ultimately, the reduction in cigarette litter is likely to be more significant in England if the identified solutions are implemented in a targeted, coordinated fashion, with strong partnerships between stakeholders.”

ENCAMS’ conclusion seems to be compatible with the approach that my hon. Friends the Members for Wirral West and for North East Somerset advocate, and surely that is a far better route to go down than clause 5, which is officious and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset said, might not even help with the problem but make it worse.

We have also had a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report, after the ENCAMS report, on how local authorities can prevent cigarette litter, and DEFRA proposed seven similar guidelines, with

“advice about how to prevent and reduce cigarette litter based on international and local experience. They are:

“1) Ashtrays—choose the right ashtray to suit your context and needs; 2) Signage—provide clear, consistent anti-littering signage; 3) Cleansing—clean up littered cigarette ends; 4) Partnerships—work with local organisations; 5) Leadership—walk the talk and be a leader in your community; 6) Educate—change the cigarette littering behaviour of smokers; and 7) Enforcement—use the legislation and powers available where appropriate.”

Those points are similar to the ones that ENCAMS made, and, given that outside this place there seems to be a consensus developing on what should happen, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will not go against that report by another Department, which proposed a solution very different from the line taken in clause 5.

Interestingly, in the DEFRA report, “Enforcement” was listed as the last thing to do. It was the last resort: once everything else has failed, enforcement should be the final path; it should not be leapt to as the first solution. Furthermore, the report says:

“Enforcement—use the legislation and powers available where appropriate.”

It suggested not that new powers of enforcement were needed, but that what should be used were the powers already available to local authorities, so I see little evidence from anywhere to suggest that clause 5 is required. That is why it should be deleted.

We do not need to look too far to find out how we can solve, without clause 5, the problems that the Bill’s promoters have—perhaps rightly—identified, because Braintree district council reduced cigarette litter by encouraging smokers to use portable ashtrays. A campaign was launched to raise awareness, and the council purchased 1,000 portable ashtrays. Media coverage was so successful that it had to order a further 400 ashtrays, and in addition the company supplying them found five local newsagents that agreed to sell the product. One shop in Braintree sold more than 200, and follow-up interviews with ashtray users showed that smokers continued to use them and welcomed a means of disposing of their cigarette butts responsibly. More importantly, cleansing staff noticed a general reduction in the number of cigarette butts on the streets.

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My hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset advocates a free market solution to the problem, so I hope he agrees that what happened in Braintree was a far better, and truly free market, solution to the problem that the Bill’s promoters have identified.

It is not just Braintree that has found ways of dealing with the problem, however. An interesting idea worked successfully in Australia, so my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green might wish to run it past all his local London authorities. In 2004 Toowoomba city council wanted to reduce smoking-related litter throughout the city, so it ran a small-scale campaign within the council to change the cigarette-littering behaviour of staff before trying to change the behaviour of the public, which in itself makes the interesting point that perhaps London Councils should start closer to home with its solutions to the problem, rather than by interfering with everybody else.

A clean-up was carried out around Toowoomba council buildings, and official and unofficial smoking areas were identified. The number of stubs was counted during the clean-up so that any reduction could be monitored as each measure was introduced. First, all employees were exposed to educational material—a process that continued throughout the campaign—and just that one measure alone reduced the number of littered stubs from 1,849 to 1,164. After one month, all employees who smoked were offered pocket ashtrays—similar to what happened in Braintree—and 150 were given out, producing a further reduction to 966 littered stubs. The following month wall-mounted ashtrays were installed in the smoking areas, and that saw the amount of littered stubs fall to 753—a 41% reduction in cigarette litter in total.

Following the success of the campaign, and with the knowledge that the council was leading the way, a city-wide public campaign to reduce cigarette litter in Toowoomba was carried out.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I wonder whether my hon. Friend would describe that initiative as “nudge” theory. That means getting people to do things by gently pushing them in the right direction, rather than through what we have been discussing—the heavy hand of the state crashing down.

Philip Davies: Absolutely. That is very much the case.

The point of these examples, and the lesson that we should learn from them, is that people can be helped to produce a solution themselves. It would be far better if the Bill were proposing measures that helped people to sort out the problem themselves, rather than introducing a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Mrs Main: I am extremely interested to hear the Toowoomba and Braintree examples. Does my hon. Friend know whether the authorities in London have explored the idea of copying any of those examples before resorting to legislation? Is he aware of any pilot studies that have been carried out and evaluated which led them to the conclusion that the only way to solve this potential problem, which they perceive as a problem, is to encourage more regulation and legislation?

Philip Davies: I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes a good suggestion, and I am not aware of any local authorities in London having learned from those

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ideas or tried to apply them first. Perhaps the Bill’s sponsor can shed more light on that, but I certainly encourage them to use legislation as a last resort, because at the moment we are using it as a first resort, and there are plenty of examples of other measures working just as effectively, if not more so.

In addition, over the past couple of years Keep Britain Tidy has campaigned to change the public’s attitude and behaviour towards dropping cigarette litter. Last year, campaigns in June and September helped reduce cigarette litter by 33% and 23% respectively, so again, we have other measures. The reduction occurred without any new legislation and without the clause before us being inserted into legislation. All this proves beyond doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is absolutely right to suggest that there is no need to extend street litter notices. That is why I very much support his amendment 15.

Amendment 16, which is where my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch was cut off in his prime, would delete clause 6, which is on the use of turnstiles at public toilets. This is the exciting provision—the one that we were all waiting for. Clause 6 states:

“Section 1 of the Public Lavatories (Turnstiles) Act 1963 (abolition of turnstiles) shall not apply in respect of a public lavatory or public sanitary convenience controlled or managed by a borough council.”

The effect of clause 6 is summarised in the explanatory notes:

“Clause 6 amends the application of the Public Lavatories (Turnstiles) Act 1963 in Greater London. Section 1(1) of that Act provides that every turnstile in any part of a public lavatory or public sanitary convenience controlled or managed by a local authority or in any entrance or exit of such lavatory or convenience had to be removed six months after the 1963 Act obtained Royal Assent. It also provided that no turnstile should be provided in the future. Clause 6 disapplies those provisions in Greater London.”

It is timely that we have just got on to this matter because my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), who has just arrived, has a particular interest in public lavatories. I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea. I hope that he will forgive me for couching it in those terms. What I am trying to say, in a rather ham-fisted way, is that he knows more about this subject than I do, not that he shows a particular interest in it. Anyway, I will leave it there.

Mrs Main: Flushed with success, one might say. I sat on the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government when it produced a report on the provision of public lavatories. One of the recommendations, as I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, was that the 1963 Act should not only be upheld, but that, according to all the information the Committee received, it should be extended wherever possible. We recommended that all private premises, such as train stations, be encouraged to remove their turnstiles at the earliest opportunity. Anything that goes contrary to the recommendations of the 2008 Select Committee report would be retrograde.

Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North, she is clearly far more of an expert on public toilets than I am. I have no idea why the Select Committee decided that that was the most pressing matter to inquire into and report on. Perhaps she can enlighten me.

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Mrs Main: I am more than happy to enlighten my hon. Friend. We received numerous submissions of evidence from people with disabilities and from organisations such as Help the Aged. People felt that the lack of access to good, well-functioning toilets often curtailed people’s right to access fully all aspects of life. Many groups said that it was vital to improve accessibility to toilets because, even under the current regulations, they did not feel that it was good enough.

Philip Davies: That is very helpful. I do not know whether the local authorities concerned or the sponsor of the Bill have read the evidence sessions or conclusions of that inquiry. I do not know whether they have spoken about this Bill with the groups that felt so strongly in that inquiry. I suggest that they should have done so before they even thought about bringing forward clause 6.

The Public Lavatories (Turnstiles) Act 1963 prohibits the use of turnstiles

“in any part of a public lavatory…controlled or managed by a local authority”.

According to the Government’s strategic guide, that requirement was in response to public concern about the safety and access problems of turnstiles for the general public, specifically for people with disabilities, people with buggies and pushchairs, and pregnant women. It would be helpful if the Minister clarified whether the Government still believe in that Act or whether they feel that it should be repealed. If they believe that it should be in force, surely they believe that it should be in force in London just as in any other part of the country. I look forward to his clarification of the Government’s position.

As my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans said, the Communities and Local Government Committee took evidence on this matter in preparing its twelfth report of 2007-08. I feel slightly ashamed to talk about it in her presence, because she might put me right on a few things. As she said, the report was critical of the use of turnstiles by private providers of toilet facilities. Richard Chisnell said in evidence to the Committee:

“To see people queuing up with luggage, and families trying to get through a turnstile and put money in a coin-operated slot before catching a train is pitiful in Britain in the 21st century.”

3.15 pm

The Committee’s conclusion stated:

“We recommend that all providers of public toilets consider modern access-control methods as an alternative to traditional turnstiles.”

The Bill therefore runs in direct—

Mike Freer: Perhaps I may help my hon. Friend.

Philip Davies: Please do.

Mike Freer: The Bill is not in direct contravention of that recommendation. “Turnstile” is a legalistic term. It does not specify the sort of turnstile that would have been used in 1963. If Members visit any tube station in London, they will see the automatic barriers to which my hon. Friend is referring. That is what is meant by a turnstile under the modern definition.

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Philip Davies: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification. What he says is all well and good, but how does he know exactly what kind of turnstile will be put in place by these local authorities? He may well envisage a modern system of access to a toilet, but some local authorities may use the repeal of these provisions to install something that neither he nor I think is appropriate.

Mike Freer: I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. The point is that since 1963, we have had the Disability Discrimination Acts and the Equality Acts, which prevent the use of the kind of turnstiles that he is worried about. Because of those Acts, the kind of automatic barriers that we see in tube stations will be what are used under the Bill.

Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification, but he is not taking into account the evidence that was given to the Communities and Local Government Committee. It is not only people with disabilities who are a major worry in relation to clause 6, but people with buggies or pushchairs and people with a lot of luggage. There may well be other people who will be affected.

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Another important point, besides whether there are turnstiles, is that far too often toilets are closed or left in a bad state by the local authority.

Philip Davies: That may well be true. Perhaps local authorities ought to sharpen up their act before they try to pass such legislation. The point is that these toilets will be closed to even more people if we have clause 6. If people have a lot of luggage or a big pushchair and cannot get through the turnstile, they will not be able to get in whether the toilet is open or closed. For some people, these toilets will be closed permanently.

Mrs Main: Having served on the Communities and Local Government Committee, I know that the report presents only a snapshot of what was said to us. In evidence, organisations such as the Changing Places consortium argued that nothing should be put in place to stop people having free, easy access to toilets. Some people have urge incontinence. The issue is not whether there is a bar in place, which can be sorted out fairly quickly. For some people, any obstacle will make it almost impossible to use public toilets. Whatever is envisaged by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green, it cannot possibly open access to toilets, but must surely close it down in some way, shape or form.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Again, I bow to her superior knowledge from her time on the Select Committee. She has heard more evidence about this matter than I have. I am merely reading the report and giving a flavour of the recommendations.

When I worked for Asda, for a number of years I had the privilege and pleasure of being responsible for the facilities and services that we provided to our customers with disabilities. After car parking and the abuse of disabled car parking bays, the biggest issue that was raised by our customers with disabilities was the accessibility of the toilets. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for

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Finchley and Golders Green that we ignore at our peril the difficulties that people with different disabilities experience in accessing toilets. There is no one category of disability whereby we can have one kind of turnstile and people think, “Well, that’s fine, everybody can get through that.” We should appreciate that lots of people have different types of disability that make different types of equipment difficult for them. Instead of having turnstiles that will no doubt catch out people with one or another type of disability, we should be making toilets as accessible as possible for everybody so that their disability is not affected.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Because the disability discrimination laws would apply, the problems of access that the hon. Gentleman is highlighting should not apply to turnstiles. Furthermore, the fact that these turnstiles allow for the mechanical collection of charges should mean that there will be more, not fewer, public toilets.

Philip Davies: We absolutely do not know that, and neither does the right hon. Gentleman. I will come to that later.

Mrs Main: The question of how much people are prepared to pay to use a public toilet facility was also covered in the report. In fact, the charge could never reflect the true cost of using public toilets. Any such surplus funding will not be available to fund new public toilets—that came out loud and clear. There will always be a cost to a local authority, and unless the charges were totally prohibitive they would never generate enough funding to generate new toilet facilities. That argument cannot be considered as part of the justification for this measure.

Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who displays her expertise once again. As regards not knowing how much people are prepared to spend to go to the toilet, I always thought we knew they were prepared to spend a penny, but perhaps that is somewhat out of date.

The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) mentions the Disability Discrimination Act, which has been used as cover by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green. Under that Act, the service provider is obliged to make reasonable adjustments, not to make everything wholly accessible to everybody. A local authority that is denying access to a person with a disability because their disability does not fit in with the equipment that is on display may well argue that it would be unreasonable for it to change its entry system because it would be disproportionately expensive in relation to the one person it helped—in other words, that it would be an unreasonable adjustment. My hon. Friend would be misguided if he put all his faith in the Disability Discrimination Act, because it does not do what he seems to think it does.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: If the Act allowed for turnstiles that everybody could get through, why should that not apply to the whole country? Why are we using a private Bill to repeal a public Act? Surely this is a rather dubious constitutional procedure.

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Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If the problems that the Bill seeks to address exist, they cannot possibly be unique to London—they must apply equally around the country. I would go so far as to say that it is an abuse of private legislation for someone to try to tackle something that applies equally across the country by passing a piece of legislation that will apply to only their part of the world. The whole point of private business is to deal with problems that are unique to the place to which it applies.

Bob Blackman: Does not that fly in the face of my hon. Friend’s argument given that we, as a Government, are pursuing the agenda of localism? Localism is all about local choices and local decisions, and the people of London—London councils across the board—have taken the view that this is a power that they want. In addition, does he believe that it is right for local authorities to collect money through charges for the use of public toilets?

Philip Davies: I do not want to get sidetracked by charges in toilets, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I am sure that if I went down that route you would soon pick me up and tell me to keep on the straight and narrow. I am tempted by my hon. Friend’s deliberate attempt to get me into trouble by leading me out of order, but I will resist.

My hon. Friend appears to have given up on his former valiant defence of the reason for this measure and has now played what he believes to be the trump card of localism. Perhaps he thinks, “If all else fails, bring out the localism card.” I have two points to make about that. First, the purpose of Parliament is that we are here to defend the freedoms of people right across the country, and wherever we see those freedoms being infringed, it is our duty to try to do something about it.

Secondly, one could just about use the localism principle to sustain an argument that in Shipley, to pick a place at random, the local authority should be able to do what it wants with its public toilets because even though we have on our doorstep Saltaire, which is a world heritage site and a fine place that I advise all hon. Members to visit, the centre of Shipley does not have a great number of tourists. That is regrettable. If people wandered down from Saltaire, which is only a mile or two away, they could soon be a tourist in Shipley, but it does not tend to happen. In London, however, the exact reverse is the case. These regulations will not only apply to Londoners because London has the distinction of having a large number of visitors from every part of the country. When my constituents, who know that local authorities cannot put turnstiles in toilets in their local area, come and visit London for a weekend break or a week’s holiday, they should be able to expect that the law of the land that applies in their part of the world applies in London too. It would be completely bizarre if all those people travelling down to London for a weekend were caught unawares by such draconian legislation. How on earth could they be expected to know that London has a completely different regime on all these matters of basic freedoms from that which applies in other parts of the country?

Andrew Percy: This power is not about localism unless it is provided to all local authorities in England. If we do not do that, we end up doing what a lot of my

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constituents think happens down here because they feel that this place is all about London—or all about Scotland, because we are hearing a lot about independence—but not about the regions. I bet my bottom dollar that we would not have much chance of getting a North Lincolnshire or an East Yorkshire local authorities Bill through this place.

Philip Davies: If my hon. Friend did try to introduce such a Bill, I would probably be standing here speaking against it in the same way. I put that warning shot across his bows. However, he makes a good point. If we believe in localism, we should at least give every local authority a fair crack of the whip by allowing it to have the same privileges that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green is seeking for London. Whichever way one looks at it, there seems to be no justification at all for saying that London can do something that nowhere else can. That appears to be grossly unfair.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend is being extremely generous in giving way.

One of the important points that came out of the Communities and Local Government Committee report was that tourism, and therefore access to toilets, was vastly important in London, but that signage towards toilets and toilet cleanliness were often poor, that that needed addressing, and that many tourists did not have the right change to access turnstiles. People have trouble finding toilets because of poor signage, and then potentially have trouble getting into them if a fee has to be paid.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right, and it has been a delight to have her in the debate this afternoon. She has been able to shine a light on the Committee’s report, which I must confess had escaped my attention until I started examining the Bill. I am ashamed to admit that I missed it, but because of her we have been able to enjoy the benefits of it.

It is not just the Communities and Local Government Committee that has looked into the matter. The Department for Communities and Local Government, the Minister’s own Department, produced a strategic guide called “Improving Public Access to Better Quality Toilets” in 2008. I know that it was produced under the previous regime, but I would be interested to know whether the Department still subscribes to its strategy on better-quality toilets.

3.30 pm

In her foreword to the DCLG report, Baroness Andrews stated:

“A lack of accessible and good public toilets affects not only the quality of our town centres, parks or bus stations, it also reduces the dignity and quality of people’s lives. After all, they are one of the basic facilities that residents and visitors alike depend on. Good quality provision instils confidence in public facilities as a whole, helps to inspire positive impressions, and contributes to many other important aspects of life. Whether it is families with small children or older people, it is important that people have the confidence that the facilities they need are available when they are out and about. People rightly expect accessible, clean, safe and well maintained toilets.”

I agree wholeheartedly. The emphasis of that foreword appears to be on accessibility, yet the Bill would undo all the great work that has been achieved.

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In passing, I say that my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans mentioned the Changing Places initiative on getting better toilet access for disabled people, which I very much support because I know the problems they face. As Changing Places knows, I have campaigned for a wider roll-out of accessible toilets. It would be bizarre if on the one hand we had charities such as that campaigning for better access and, on the other hand, passed a Bill meaning that there was worse access to public toilets.

The then Minister with responsibility for disabled people, the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mrs McGuire), stated in the DCLG guide:

“Access to high-quality public toilet facilities plays an important part in all our lives, but as Minister for Disabled People, I frequently learn about the particular impact that a lack of such facilities can have on many disabled people: preventing or restricting their opportunities to take part in everyday activities like shopping and leisure pursuits. That is why I welcome this Guide, which I hope will act as a stimulus to the provision of improved public toilets and, consequently, overcome a further barrier to disabled people’s active participation in our society.”

I would be grateful if the Minister made it clear whether his Department still supports that view. Interestingly, the Camden quality of life panel concluded in April 2007:

“Customer expectations of council services continue to rise and the increasing population of older citizens will mean that even more people will require toilet facilities that are accessible, clean and safe. This issue will not go quietly away.”

That supports the general thrust of the Communities and Local Government Committee report mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans.

Public access to toilets is important for local shops and businesses, too. Businesses operate to turn a profit, and customer footfall is the lifeblood of the retail and leisure sectors and of town centres. Yet however alluring the window display might be and however good the sales pitch, people need first to be drawn to the area and kept there. People respond to and recognise areas that show a strong, grand image and a sense of civic pride, and in which it is obvious from the street furniture, the local environment and signage that people are welcome and their needs are understood and catered for. Businesses operate as part of communities and hold as much of a stake in supporting local community amenities and promoting civic pride as local authorities themselves.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a powerful case, and I am sorry that I missed the opening part of it due to my commitments on the Committee corridor. Has he seen annex D to the DCLG report? It is about the community toilet scheme promoted by the London borough of Richmond upon Thames, which encourages businesses to allow members of the public to use their toilets while they are out and about.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. Clearly, he has been diligent, as always, in reading that report. He may well be sorry that he missed the opening part of the debate; we missed him, too. We are pleased that he has made it.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend alluded to tourism. I do not know whether he is aware of the comments of Peter Hampson, who, at the time of the report that my hon.

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Friend mentioned was director of the British Resorts and Destinations Association—BRADA. He opined that the

“provision of toilets becomes absolutely fundamental…most journeys start and finish with people going to the loo.”

He observed that toilet provision was fundamental to any major tourist destination, and that it was crucial to get it right. The proposal is, as Thomas Crapper might have said, a bad way forward for our toilets. Facilities cannot be good if people have to pay every time. Some elderly people and people with young children need to use the toilet very frequently. The proposal must be a no-no for most cities.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right. We all know how important toilet facilities are. When we go to a restaurant, we probably judge it as much on the provision, cleanliness and accessibility of the toilets as on the service or the quality of the food. I am as sure as my hon. Friend that Thomas Crapper would be turning in his grave if he thought that we were even contemplating the clause.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I must disagree with my hon. Friend —for the first time in his excellent speech—on the way he judges restaurants.

Philip Davies: I suspect that my hon. Friend visits far better quality restaurants than me. If I had his means, I am sure that I would, too. However, I have to go to establishments where sometimes you take a bit of a risk when going to the toilet.

Mrs Main: Not only restaurants pride themselves on their toilets. I was privileged to visit the Isle of Mull a few years ago. There is a little toilet block in the middle of nowhere, which two ladies tend beautifully. It has daffodils, other flowers and pictures, and they take pride in it. Many communities and restaurants take pride in their toilets, and I agree with my hon. Friend that that is a mark of a premises and a community.

Philip Davies: Despite the fact that my hon. Friend also probably goes to far better quality restaurants than I do, I am pleased that she agrees with me. However, I do not want to get sidetracked. I was in danger of that—my hon. Friends were leading me astray—but I must return to the matter in hand.

Swindon borough council conducted a report on environment and leisure in 2007. A councillor stated:

“We have been surprised by the strength of feeling in relation to this issue”—

that is, toilets. He went on:

“Our toilets are a matter of significant inconvenience in terms of location, accessibility and condition, which impacts upon public health, the image of the town and limits the quality of life for many people.”

It is important that we focus on the importance of such matters to local residents and to visitors. Given that London is such a centre for tourism, we ignore that at our peril.

The Department for Communities and Local Government report reiterated the need for easy access to toilet facilities for older members of the public.

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A 2005 survey by Changing Lives, nVision and Future Foundation showed that

“people aged over 55 and families with children are most inclined to take holidays and short breaks in this country. At the same time, these groups are more likely to place a higher value on being able to access a toilet.”

Given that most of those people who take a short break in this country are more than likely at some point to go to London, it would be perverse to allow the clause to apply to London alone.

The Department for Communities and Local Government report concluded:

“Being able to access a toilet is a fundamental need for any visitor. Tourists need more local information, more signposts. They cannot simply go home, into work, or their local pub to use the toilet. Tourists choose their destinations carefully, drawing on their previous impressions, talking to friends and family, looking up feedback on the internet. Sense of destination—the extent to which it has met a visitor’s needs and made a strong and positive impression—is therefore vital to secure repeat trade and sustainable economic development.”

Would it not be a shame if people’s experience of visiting London, which should be fantastic, was ruined by the simple problem of being unable to get into a toilet when they needed one because turnstiles had been erected?

We should also bear in mind that we have the Olympics this year in London, which has led to other sporting events, such as the world athletics championships. We are told that they are the great opportunity to showcase London and to boost the tourism industry in this country. We are told how important public toilets and their accessibility are to tourism, tourists and visitors. Would it not be bizarre, when we are spending all that money to attract more tourism to London, to do something that would adversely affect it?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The hon. Gentleman is obviously well briefed—he has certainly flushed out a lot of the subject that he wanted to flush out—but I am worried that he is beginning to pad out the debate on this measure. He may wish to speak to other measures, and it might help his good self to move on a little. I am sure that we have heard about turnstiles and the toilet break quite thoroughly, and a lot of hon. Members have managed to intervene.

Philip Davies: If you will allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall conclude on the issue of toilets by saying simply that the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides formed an inconvenience committee, which produced a report—[ Interruption. ] This is the final thing I want to say on toilets. The committee described what it considered to be the perfect public toilet. It said that the perfect public toilet should be “free”—that is perhaps not much to ask in a world-class city—

“with sufficient cubicles for men and women so that large groups can use them without lengthy queues…clean and well maintained…safe and well lit…appropriate access aids such as hand rails on stairs, plus separate facility Cot wheel chair users…hot and cold water and soap for hand washing…Hand drying with paper towels as well as the hot air machines…Attendant on duty…Litter bins for disposal of hand towels…Nappy changing room…Feminine hygiene provision…Information and health education…Early morning and evening opening hours…sitting area for people to wait…and…Machines offering various necessities”.

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That is it. You will have heard, Mr Deputy Speaker, no mention of turnstiles in that description of the perfect British toilet. I therefore do not know why on earth we would want to introduce them.

Bob Blackman: I am almost tempted to say that people would choose to live in such a wonderful place as opposed to just using it for the purpose for which it is intended. Will my hon. Friend say who will pay for that wonderful service if it is free of charge for the general public?

Philip Davies: I do not want to go on further about public toilets, suffice it to say that I hope my comments have shown that such things should be the responsibility of local authorities.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: To go back to an amendment to which my hon. Friend spoke earlier, that could be a matter of free enterprise. Groups of concerned citizens could come together to improve the trade in their area and ensure that there are convenient public conveniences.

Philip Davies: That is right. My hon. Friend proposes a good solution, but however they are paid for, local businesses pay rates and expect services in return. Such facilities are important in attracting people to a location. The local authority will benefit from those just as much as local businesses.

Andrew Percy: It is not just businesses that pay rates and expect services; people pay their council tax to their local council for such provision. They see their council spending millions of pounds over a budget period on communications and other stuff, but they expect basic stuff such as public facilities to be provided for them to use for free. That is what most of the council tax payers my hon. Friend and I represent want.

Philip Davies: I suspect my hon. Friend is right. It is no good local authorities going to the Government or the council tax payer and saying, “We need ever increasing amounts of money to pay for this, that and the other, and one of those things should be toilets,” and then saying, “By the way, we’ve got all the money in from the Government and the council tax payer to provide toilets, but we do not want to provide them free of charge.”

Mrs Main: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Philip Davies: I really ought to press on and get to the other amendments. I do apologise to my hon. Friend.

I will deal with amendments 17 to 20, as they go together. Amendment 17 would delete subsection (1)(a) of clause 7, which deals with charges for permitting the use of objects, and so on, on the highway. Subsection (1)(a) refers to

“the cleansing of streets in which permitted activities take place so far as that cleansing is attributable to permitted activities”.

Basically, amendment 17 would prevent local authorities from being able to charge restaurants, theatres and so on for having to clean the streets outside such venues. Amendment 18 is a technical amendment, consequent on amendment 17, and would delete “and” in clause 7(1)(a).

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3.45 pm

Amendment 19 would leave out clause 7(1)(b), which refers to

“any reasonable administrative or other costs incurred in connection with the administration of Part VIIA of the 1980 Act (provision of amenities on certain highways) in relation to relevant permissions”.

That would prevent councils from charging shops and restaurants extra for administering the cleaning of the streets outside their venues. Amendment 20 would leave out clause 7(1)(c), which refers to

“the cost of enforcing…the provisions of Part VIIA of the 1980 Act so far as it relates to permitted activities…section 130 of the 1980 Act (protection of public rights) in relation to activities which are capable of being authorised by a relevant permission but are not…the law in relation to obstruction of the highway in relation to activities which are capable of being authorised by a relevant permission but are not.”

The explanatory notes state that clause 7

“would allow London borough councils to take into account additional considerations when setting the level of charges in relation to cases where they have given their permission under section 115E(1)(b)(i), namely where they have given permission for the placing of objects on the highway where doing so will result in the production of income. A typical example of when this might happen is where the Council has given permission for a restaurant to place tables and chairs on the highway. Clause 7 would enable the council, when setting the charges, to include in their calculations reasonable costs in the aggregate incurred in relation to the reasonable administrative or other costs incurred in granting permissions, additional street cleansing costs arising from activities for which permission is granted, and additional enforcement costs.”

My amendments would remove the provisions in clause 7 that would allow councils to charge extra for the cost of enforcing the cleaning. Presumably local authorities agree to let businesses have street furniture on the highway because they think that doing so is a good thing for their local residents. If so, why do local authorities not let those businesses just get on with it?

Andrew Percy: In a previous incarnation, I was a licensing chairman. We were keen as a local authority to encourage businesses to use street furniture because we thought that it took away many of the problems that we were dealing with. It improved antisocial behaviour and saved us money on some of the problems we faced on the streets at the time. Street furniture was therefore something to be encouraged. Rather than charging businesses for it, we were keen for them to have it.

Philip Davies: I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. I am sure that there are lots of benefits for local authorities from businesses doing that. The point is that if having street furniture is so good for the local authority and the local residents, surely the council should be encouraging businesses to have it. However, clause 7 would only discourage businesses from putting their street furniture out on the high street, because the local authority will clobber them if they do so.

Mrs Main: In another incarnation, I was on the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government when it published a report on markets. The sense of place that my hon. Friend has described was actively encouraged in that report, because of that sense of the community meeting and coming together. Indeed, Leicester has overhauled its market, giving the community a greater sense of space and place by creating the sort of

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piazza feel that he has described. I cannot think that it would be helpful to incur additional charges for encouraging something that is for the benefit of the local community.

Philip Davies: I am sure that my hon. Friend is right; indeed, I recall attempts, whether successful or not, to try and develop a café culture in this country. It appears to me that clause 7 is designed to try and thwart such a café-style culture, and I do not really understand why we would want to do that.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I think that it is much worse than that; this is a fundamental attack on the rights of property. The explanatory notes state:

“Subsection (2) of section 115F provides that except where the council are the owners of the sub-soil beneath the part of the highway in relation to which the permission is granted, the charges may not exceed the standard amount”.

That is, the council may charge only reasonable costs. That means that a council would be able to charge someone for doing something on that person’s own land, which must be wrong.

Philip Davies: I commend my hon. Friend for being so eagle-eyed; I agree with him wholeheartedly on that point.

One of my problems with the Bill, and with this clause, is that they appear to intend to damage small businesses. We are in a terrible economic situation at the moment, and we know that small businesses are the engine of economic growth, so why on earth would the House want to pass measures that appear to have been designed to clobber small businesses? That is completely beyond me. These kinds of extra costs and bureaucracy are meat and drink to big businesses. I used to work for a large multinational company, and although these extra requirements were sometimes an irritation, we could afford to employ legions of people to deal with them. Many small businesses are struggling in the current climate, however, and they do not have the financial capability to deal with all the extra regulation and costs that the Bill seeks to impose on them. There seems to be a mindset that owning a small business is a licence to print money, that everyone who owns one has millions of pounds in the bank doing absolutely nothing, and that it is the job of a local authority to extract as much of that money as possible from them.

Mr Gray: My hon. Friend is speaking with great passion from his own libertarian standpoint, but I have to admit that, unless I have got this wrong, I shall have to divert from his stance. Is he seriously suggesting, for example, that cafés and pubs should be able to place their furniture on our high streets and throw litter on the ground in the sure and certain knowledge that the local authority would clear it up at its own cost? Surely the “polluter pays” principle should pertain in such circumstances. If a café has chairs and tables on the street, is it not reasonable to expect the proprietor, who is making a profit out of the enterprise, to take responsibility for clearing up the mess?

Philip Davies: I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) addressed that point. His local authority actively encouraged this kind of activity because it helped to keep the streets clean and tidy. The best thing I can say about the clause,

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which I am seeking to delete, is that it is a solution looking for a problem. My hon. Friend made it clear that there is not a problem, and that more businesses should be encouraged to make use of street furniture.

Andrew Percy: Powers already exist to deal with any problems with street furniture. This can be done through the planning system or the licensing system. It can also be done using environmental or antisocial behaviour legislation. The tools already exist to deal with people who are creating a problem but, generally, businesses are just trying to make a living and to do the best for their customers and their communities. If local authorities need to tackle any problems, they can do so using existing legislation.

Philip Davies: I absolutely agree. Plenty of legislation is available to local authorities if they feel so strongly about these matters. Surely it should be our principle that we use existing legislation first, before introducing any more.

Mr Nuttall: The answer lies in section 93 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which relates to clause 5. I suspect that this formed part of my hon. Friend’s remarks before I arrived in the Chamber.

Philip Davies: Absolutely; I totally agree with my hon. Friend.

The proposals would also affect certain hard-pressed theatres, and the petitions from the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association made it clear that their members were already making their own arrangements for the cleaning of pavements in their local areas, and that the basis for an additional charge had not been made clear. We seem to have the ridiculous situation in which businesses could potentially be charged three times for this work: once through the payment of their rates, for which they expect a service in return that they are not being given; a second time through paying to do it themselves, as the local authority is not doing it; and, now, for a third time, they could be faced with the proposed extra charge to deal with any ensuing problem. Businesses are in danger of being charged three times for the same service, which cannot be fair in any shape or form.

We must introduce some common sense into these rules. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green will make it clear which, if any, of the amendments he will accept.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend is making a very powerful point. There is also the possibility, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) said, that areas of London will positively and actively encourage people to use the street space to ensure that the public realm is more attractive for tourism and so on, which will mean that the charges are waived, but, in theory, in other parts of that authority other people could be charged for exactly the same activity. Surely that is inequitable.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend is right.

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I want to bring my remarks to a close, because I am sure that other people have points that they want to raise. I said earlier that my hon. Friends the Members for Bury North and for St Albans knew far more about public toilets than I do, but let me end with the final two amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, amendments 3 and 4. We can cover them very quickly.

Amendment 3 leaves out lines 10 and 11 of the preamble on page one. It would delete:

“It is expedient that the range of premises in London in respect of which street litter control notices can be served should be extended”.

That is consequential to my amendment 15, which would delete clause 5. If the amendment were accepted, we would need to leave out those lines from the preamble. Amendment 4 also amends page 1 and the preamble and it leaves out lines 12 and 13, thereby deleting:

“It is expedient that London borough councils should be able to install turnstiles in public conveniences”.

As those who have been following the debate closely will know, amendment 16 seeks to strike out clause 6, which relates to imposing turnstiles in public toilets. The amendments are merely consequential so, on that note, I will allow others to let me know their thoughts on the amendments.

I hope that I have been able to make the case that the provisions as they stand are very un-British. It is our responsibility in this House to protect people’s freedoms and to improve the Bill by accepting the amendments.

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): I can give an assurance that I will not be speaking for nearly two hours on this subject; I am sure the House will be relieved to know that. However, I urge hon. Members to oppose the amendments proposed by the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). Let us recap: every single London borough is in favour of the Bill—

Andrew Percy: Where are the MPs?

Chris Williamson: I shall come on to that point, but let us be clear that every London borough, of every political persuasion, favours the Bill. Surely it is not the role of this House to frustrate the will of the locally elected people who have come together and proposed what I consider to be a perfectly reasonable Bill, which I would have hoped could pass through the House without the objections and the—I believe—spurious arguments that have been put forward to suggest that it will lead somehow a diminution of British freedoms. It is complete nonsense to suggest such a thing.

Andrew Percy: If the hon. Gentleman thinks these provisions are so great, why does he not come to the House and propose a similar Bill to apply to Derby? Does he think they should apply to Derby, and if they should apply to Derby as well as to London, why is there not a Bill for the whole country?

4 pm

Chris Williamson: Here we go again with another red herring from a Member who does not represent a London constituency. Let me address his question about where the London MPs are, because it is pretty significant

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that not one of the Members opposing the Bill is from London. We see the hon. Members for Shipley, for Christchurch (Mr Chope), for St Albans (Mrs Main) and for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg)—

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We cannot have five Members on their feet trying to intervene at once.

Chris Williamson: I shall give way to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray).

Mr Gray: I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, who poses an interesting constitutional conundrum: that because a group of local authorities is in favour of something—at least he believes that to be the case; I have not seen any evidence of it—this House should not have the right to consider that matter. Surely it is only reasonable that we, as the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom, should have the right to say whether we believe something to be correct and a good thing, even if every local authority is unanimously in favour it.

Chris Williamson: The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly valid constitutional point, but I thought that his party was in favour of localism and wanted greater local determination on the ground. Indeed, the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) made that point earlier.

Mrs Main: The hon. Gentleman will have to excuse me, but I find it vaguely insulting to hear that my constituents in St Albans, 50% of whom travel into London, will have no concerns about things that may be imposed in London. He might be aware that under the previous Government, much to my chagrin, St Albans was designated as part of the north London arc for planning purposes. To say that I am not concerned about what happens in London is quite specious. We are concerned because many of our constituents will visit London and use the facilities.

Chris Williamson: I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me, but I did not say she was not concerned about London. I merely pointed out that it was rather significant that every MP who has stood up today to oppose this Bill represents a seat that is not in London. I find that an extraordinary thing for Members from outside London to do, given that every London borough favours the Bill, and it has already undergone considerable scrutiny in this House and the other place. It was scrutinised by a Select Committee, to which the hon. Member for St Albans has referred, and there was a three-hour debate on Second Reading. For goodness’ sake, how much more scrutiny does it require?

Philip Davies: That is what we are doing at the moment: scrutinising the Bill. The hon. Gentleman seems to be implying that the Bill relates only to London citizens and residents, but it does not; it applies to anyone who comes to visit London. I do not know what people in Derby do, but people in Shipley certainly come to visit London; many of them do, and I suspect that people from Derby do as well. The Bill will apply as much to his constituents as to anyone who lives in London.

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Chris Williamson: That is a fair comment, but in our system of local government, people in London elect the councils to represent them and to take care of boroughs’ interests. I repeat that every one of those boroughs has come together in support of the Bill, which has already received considerable scrutiny. Also, many of the provisions in the original Bill have been amended or removed. Indeed, the Bill has been weakened by the removal of some measures—for example, on houses in multiple occupation and on food safety—again on the specious ground that they somehow diminished British freedoms. That argument is complete nonsense; nevertheless, the House has had its say, Members’ views have been considered and various amendments have been agreed to. Therefore, in view of the scrutiny to which the Bill has already been subjected and the fact that it has already been considerably modified, I hoped that we could proceed with greater speed today and agree the remaining provisions of the Bill, which is still worth supporting.

Mrs Main rose

Chris Williamson: I can see that the hon. Lady is desperate to intervene.

Mrs Main: Before the hon. Gentleman moves away from the fact that not a single London MP has spoken against the Bill, I note the absolute paucity of Members on the Opposition Benches, and the fact that not one London Member from the Labour party is standing up to defend the Bill.

Philip Davies: It is a big issue in Durham.

Mrs Main: It may be a big issue in some of our constituencies, when our constituents visit London, and we are making those points, but no Opposition Members are prepared to stand up and make any comments whatever; they are not even in the Chamber.

Chris Williamson: If the hon. Lady studies the record, she will see that Members from London on both sides of the Chamber have spoken in previous debates—when, as I have said, the Bill received considerable scrutiny—and made their views well known. So I think that is a fairly unreasonable point to raise.

Andrew Percy: I want to probe the shadow Minister further on the issue of MPs who do not represent London not being allowed to vote on the Bill.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think I have heard enough from both sides. We ought to be discussing the amendments rather than that sort of detail, and I am sure the shadow Minister wishes to deal with them.

Chris Williamson: Thank you for that guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was aiming to get to the substance of the Bill, but have been deflected somewhat by interventions from Conservative Members. However, I did not say that Members from outside London should not be allowed to vote on the Bill at all; nothing could be further from my mind.