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Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, if all those powers already exist, why are they not used, and what guidance might the Government have given local authorities to encourage them to use the powers?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I ought to declare an interest in that my partner is a planning lawyer. I know that guidance on those matters is issued and updated from time to time. Obviously, local authorities must think carefully about how they use the powers. From my own experience, I am not aware of any deficiency in the enforcement powers. It depends very much on the circumstances of each case. One is aware that difficulties can arise from time to time.

To return to the point that I made earlier, I look to the Local Government Association to draw out any persistent problems. If there are deficiencies, the noble Lord is right to draw them out. However, I am not sure that this is the right place to seek to remedy them.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I can see why the Government should think that this is not an appropriate place to seek to put the matter right. I am grateful for the Minister's reply and the support of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is right to draw out the difficulties that exist; they are a great problem for everybody who tries to deal with the issue. The matter must be dealt with either by fresh guidance to local authorities to use existing powers or through a device such as a new clause. It may be that this is not the appropriate Bill for such a clause and that one should be included in a planning Bill.

The present situation is unsatisfactory. It is all very well to expect the Local Government Association to deal with the matter, but such problems occur one at a time in specific local authorities. It is therefore difficult to get the bulk of local authorities to take a specific interest in the problems of one local authority at any one time. Speaking as an old hand in local government, I am all too aware of that—as will be the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton.

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I was grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. We will never know the scale of the problem because the unofficial sites that we are discussing are not subject to any normal regulation, control or counting. That is the very reason that they are able to exist. I agree with him that the penalties suggested are on the severe side. However, as the Minister would say in these circumstances, "These are maxima".

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the unofficial sites are counted together with all sites in the January and July surveys undertaken by local authorities on behalf of the ODPM. The results of those surveys are available on the ODPM website.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord because that answers the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. It is most helpful. It is quite clear that we are not going to get any further with the matter tonight and it is far too late to start messing around, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 117:


    After Clause 68, insert the following new clause—


"CAUSING DANGER ON HIGHWAY PAVEMENTS AND OTHER PUBLIC PLACES
After section 163(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—
"( ) A person travelling on a highway pavement or other public area that is paved, employing anything riding on wheels, without due consideration for the needs of others must stop on being required to do so by a constable in uniform.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment would amend the Road Traffic Act 1968 to take account of a phenomenon that I suspect did not exist in any serious form when the law was passed. However, there is an increasing problem nowadays with roller-skates, skateboards and rollerblades being used on pavements and other places. One possible solution would be to agree this amendment to the Road Traffic Act so that a person travelling on wheels on the pavement—or any other paved area—without consideration must stop. They would then presumably be subject to all the other penalties that exist in the Highways Act. It mirrors what is said about traffic that is committing an offence. Presumably, other powers in the Act would be relevant. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord should be congratulated on his persistence on this matter, if not the precision of his amendment. I do not think that it is effective in its purpose because it does not create the new offence. I will deal with it as a matter of principle.

As we have said before, the Government certainly understand the concern behind the noble Lord's amendment. Skateboarding and roller-skating can cause great delight to those undertaking the activity. I have never been able to get on to a set of roller-skates and stand up, but I have seen my children do it.

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However, we must recognise that such actions cause irritation to pedestrians in some specific local areas where it is done in an inconsiderate, dangerous and irresponsible manner.

The new clause would not ban all use of roller-skates on footways but, oddly enough, it would still have the effect of moving users from footways to roadways as they tried to avoid the risk of committing an offence, which we pointed out at an earlier stage in the Bill. These devices are not designed for use in traffic and displacing them on to roads would obviously be dangerous for both skaters and other road users. There are already sufficient powers to make by-laws to deal with this kind of nuisance, which would be a more precise way of tackling the problem.

Section 235 of the Local Government Act 1972 enables local authorities to enact by-laws with regard to skateboarding and roller-skating which can prohibit these activities in specific locations or regulate them throughout a district area. Already several local authorities have employed this provision to make it an offence to skateboard or roller-skate in designated areas, punishable by a fine on summary conviction.

Sufficient powers already exist, if there is a problem, and I urge local authorities to use the by-law route. I also urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

9 p.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that by-laws prohibiting an anti-social activity are not, by themselves, enough? They require enforcement. Obviously, a constable is capable of enforcing such laws, but would it not be an ideal task for the new community support officers?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my brief does not cover that issue, but that seems to be an eminently sensible suggestion. The noble Lord is right: enforcement is the key. By-laws have usually been carefully worked out in consultation with the police. I expect that a local authority seeking to get a by-law in place would want to talk urgently to the local police service to ensure that enforcement was possible. I would urge them to do exactly that.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, for his response. I should point out that Section 163(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 does not create the offences that the noble Lord is complaining about. It deals with the right to stop cars and bicycles on the highway, if an offence has been committed. The offences are all created elsewhere. The amendment would add a little subsection to that section.

I shall think about what the noble Lord said. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 118:


    After Clause 69, insert the following new clause—

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"PART 8A
HIGH HEDGES

COMPLAINTS TO WHICH THIS PART APPLIES
(1) This Part applies to a complaint which—
(a) is made for the purposes of this Part by an owner or occupier of a domestic property; and
(b) alleges that his reasonable enjoyment of that property is being adversely affected by the height of a high hedge situated on land owned or occupied by another person.
(2) This Part also applies to a complaint which—
(a) is made for the purposes of this Part by an owner of a domestic property that is for the time being unoccupied, and
(b) alleges that the reasonable enjoyment of that property by a prospective occupier of that property would be adversely affected by the height of a high hedge situated on land owned or occupied by another person,
as it applies to a complaint falling within subsection (1).
(3) In relation to a complaint falling within subsection (2), references in sections (Procedure for dealing with complaints) and (Remedial notices) to the effect of the height of a high hedge on the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of a domestic property shall be read as references to the effect that it would have on the reasonable enjoyment of that property by a prospective occupier of the property. 26 (4) This Part does not apply to complaints about the effect of the roots of a high hedge.


(5) In this Part, in relation to a complaint—
"complainant" means—
(a) a person by whom the complaint is made; or
(b) if every person who made the complaint ceases to be an owner or occupier of the domestic property specified in the complaint, any other person who is for the time being an owner or occupier of that property;
and references to the complainant include references to one or more of the complainants;
"the neighbouring land" means the land on which the high hedge is situated; and
"the relevant authority" means the local authority in whose area that land is situated."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it gives me more than the usual delight to move this amendment. In effect, it will introduce a whole new Bill into the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. Rarely can there have been an occasion in your Lordships' House that has been greeted with such gratitude, delight, enthusiasm and warm support.

I shall not go on at great length. In the past few years, we have seen Private Member's Bills pushed through both Houses. They have attracted broad support, but, frustratingly, they have never found their way on to the statue book. This evening is an evening for paying tributes. It is difficult to leave people out, but I must congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, on her persistence and her imagination. I also record my gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for tempting me, at the previous stage of the Bill, to encourage the finding of a solution. We have found that solution. Stephen Pound MP must also be congratulated on his sterling efforts. My noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting should be congratulated on his sterling efforts at an earlier

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stage. My noble friend Lord Rooker should be congratulated on encouraging incitement of the issue in exchanges across the Dispatch Box. My noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton and John Taylor MP also deserve congratulation. They all do.

High hedges are an anti-social problem. I am motivated by lots of things, but I have a confession to make: my mother grew a leylandii cypress hedge in the 1980s, when she was getting, shall we say, a little eccentric. She thought that her neighbours were snooping on her. I had to make a tactical intervention to ensure that the thing was trimmed back to a reasonable height. Eventually, the hedge was removed. I thought that it was a profoundly anti-social act on her part, and we had something of an argument about it. So, I appreciate from personal experience how unpleasant a problem it is and how much anti-social activity and strife between neighbours it can lead to. So I am very happy for these amendments to be introduced. They will grant relief to many citizens who have suffered greatly from the problem. I am told that when we had a consultation on the issue, the department received one of the largest ever responses, which does not surprise me at all.

In dealing with the government amendment, I must deal, too, with Amendment No. 119 to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, which requires some precision in addressing.


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