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Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister may be surprised to learn that I did not believe that he needed my permission to issue guidance on this clause. My amendment was designed to tease out the guidance that the Secretary of State might issue. The Minister has been helpful in explaining what he believes will happen in the joint update between Defra and the CIEH.

I offer one qualification to the way the guidance has been formulated: it does not take into consideration the views of the residents. That has been the case

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throughout our discussions on the nuisance of noise. The right reverend Prelate mentioned it yet again in saying that there should be a balance between the need to regenerate a community and the needs of the local neighbourhoods which surround the developments. That is where we have not got the balance right. Although the environmental health officers are best competent to say what constitutes a nuisance, if the views of local residents are ignored there will not be harmony between them and the developers.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, perhaps I may try to be a little more helpful. It will be important, particularly for local authorities as custodians of the policy and its enforcement, to have a view on the issue. I will undertake to ensure that the LGA is consulted in the development of guidance. I am sure that it would be in any event, but it is worth putting that on the record. The interaction between the local authorities as custodians and the local communities will be very important. However, one could ably argue that environmental health officers, because of their frontline jobs, are in touch with public opinion on these issues.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Ministers additional reassurance is most helpful because the LGA will be in touch with local residents. It will feel the electoral pressures of people who are dissatisfied with the arrangements that are made.

However, I do not accept the Minister's assertion that this is always an issue and always will be. There can be a balance of interests between the developers and local residents, even in a place such as Brighton of which he has considerable knowledge. That is no less the case in other places which do not spring to mind as great hot spots of entertainment; for instance, the cities of Derby or Bath. Many cities in England and Wales were formerly quiet cities where people went for the kind of entertainment to be found in, say, Bath. I do not want to typify Bath, but people went there to visit the Pump Room, the theatre, and so forth and did not expect to find large crowds of noisy revellers on the streets at 3 a.m. preventing them getting to sleep in the hotels.

That is the balance we must strike. The Minister's comments today may be of some reassurance to those who are suffering from the blight. I am therefore most grateful to the Minister for considering my proposal. I do not intend to press the amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 61 [Sale of aerosol paint to children]:

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 17:


    Page 48, line 18, leave out second "an" and insert "a large"

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 17, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 18 and 19. We are grateful that on Report the Minister was helpful to my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith and accepted that 16 was a more appropriate age to limit the sale of aerosol spray cans than 18. At the Report stage, I tabled amendments which sought

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to deal with the problem in another way, but in order to save your Lordships' time, I did not move them. However, your Lordships now need to consider whether the sale of far smaller aerosol paint tins to youngsters still needs to be prohibited. Some companies, such as Humbrol, produce smaller-sized aerosol cans of 100 millilitres that are used for model-making and other arts and crafts. Aerosol cans of that size would be fairly ineffective for graffiti and, indeed, a 100-millilitre can of spray paint would hardly do very much for the "street cred" of graffiti artists.

The distinction between smaller-sized cans and the larger ones of 300 millilitres or more, which are commonly used for graffiti, is therefore important. It seems to me to be unnecessary to prohibit the sale of smaller-sized aerosols to those who are under the current agreed age limit. Doing so would adversely affect and demotivate children who are creatively inclined and who engage in constructive pastimes, such as arts and crafts.

The proposed amendment would allow those under the age of 16 who use aerosol spray cans lawfully to continue to be able to buy them. The amendment works by providing prohibition only for large spray cans defined as being over 125 millilitres. That would leave the smaller cans outside the scope of the Bill. I am sure that the Minister will find my amendment very attractive—even irresistible. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not like to upset the noble Earl but my speaking note states "Resist". It could probably simply say "Resist" and leave it at that. I find this a somewhat incredible amendment. As it stands, Clause 61 seeks to outlaw the sale of aerosol spray paints to children in order to reduce incidences of graffiti. As the noble Earl explained, the amendments would limit the coverage of the clause to large aerosols only.

I confess that I cannot see the logic of the noble Earl's argument. Surely small aerosols are just as well suited—perhaps even better suited—to criminal damage as large ones. They can far more easily be concealed about one's person. I should have thought that the smaller aerosol can would probably be attractive to someone who was determined, as graffitists appear to be, to exercise his art—if one can call it that—more or less anywhere. I do not believe that the average graffiti artist is too worried about his street cred, other than ensuring that people can see the effect of his activities.

I also wonder how the noble Earl would see his proposal being policed. I believe it is extremely hard to see a way in which the amendment could work in any practical sense. If it were amended in this way, I cannot see that the clause would any longer take the tools of the graffiti trade, if it can be described in that way, out of the hands of children.

Therefore, on grounds of practicality and logic, I cannot see any place for this amendment in our Bill. I understand what the noble Earl is saying but I do not

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believe that the effect of his amendment on Clause 61 would be to provide a serious disincentive to young people in general to use Humbrol paints. Young people have used those paints for many years in the way in which I used them as a child without needing to indulge in acts of graffiti. Therefore, I cannot support the amendment and I hope that the noble Earl will withdraw it.

Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, does he not realise that 125 millilitres is no more than the size of a large glass of wine? One cannot cover very many walls with that volume.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if one carried a few of those cans, I am sure that one could make a pretty fine mess of a wall without trying too hard.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I had a sneaking feeling that the Minister would come up with an argument along the lines that he has articulated. However, a youngster could also buy a king-sized magic marker pen, and the damage that such pens do is much in evidence on the Tube system. Perhaps the Minister would say why we are not banning those.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if people use marker pens to deface public space and cause criminal damage, of course they can be dealt with if they can be caught and apprehended. We are trying to ensure that we deal with the issue of spray cans and nip that problem in the bud. But I believe that the order of damage that can be caused by their use is also somewhat wider.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful for the careful consideration that the Minister has given to my amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 not moved.]

Clause 66 [Aggravated trespass]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 20:


    Page 51, line 9, at end insert—


"(b) after paragraph (c) insert—
"(d) of causing obstruction or disruption to the general community""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, last week we were all treated to reports—and some of us experienced the consequences—of a man who climbed up a crane on a site near the Tower of London. According to reports in The Times, he caused losses to the community at large of many millions of pounds and cost the police 10,000 per day. We know that the congestion consequences of that action were huge. A major gateway to the City of London was blocked for three days and the traffic back-up caused immense frustration and vexation to many people. The man in question has come down, thank heavens—he was bound to in the end—and he has been charged with causing a public nuisance and a danger to public safety.

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The difficulty that I seek to overcome is that there is a lack of definition of the offence of causing a public nuisance. It is a common law offence or it is defined under various other Acts—for example, the Environmental Protection Act, which clearly would not be relevant in a case such as this. If ever there was a case of aggravated trespass, this was it. However, Clause 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 states:


    "A person commits the offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land"—

we have deleted the words "in the open air"—


    "and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in . . . does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect . . . of intimidating those persons . . . so as to deter them . . . from engaging in that activity . . . of obstructing that activity, or . . . of disrupting that activity".

I doubt whether the man who climbed up on the crane had any intention of doing any of those things. Apart from the fact that he probably knew that he would attract some television cameras and some amusement, I do not suppose that he had really thought of the consequences of what he was doing. Therefore, I believe that it would be helpful to add a paragraph (d) to the subsection of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act from which I quoted so that the section would then read,


    "does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect of . . . causing obstruction or disruption to the general community".

Although the wording of my amendment may not be perfect, I believe that it would make it plain that if someone did something which caused general chaos, there would be a clear section of the law under which he could be charged. My attempt was to try to define that. I may well have failed. I have no doubt that the noble Baroness will tell me that I have, but I believe we should give the matter some consideration. There is no doubt in my mind that we should make it very clear that if someone undertakes the type of enterprise with the consequences that I have described, he should be well aware that there will be clear adverse consequences for him personally. I beg to move.


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