Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Sections 120-139

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Tuesday 18 February 2003

120. MR LEWIS: It is an offence of criminal damage.

121. CHAIRMAN: Particularly on the underground.

122. MR LEWIS: That is criminal damage, yes. It is interesting that somewhere else in the GLA Report there is also a recommendation to the courts, if the GLA can make such recommendations, saying please take this a bit more seriously. One of the problems is that the courts tend to deal with these offences rather leniently.

123. CHAIRMAN: Right. We have done 18. Clause 19 now.

124. MR LEWIS: 19. This is the first Clause where we have a Report. I just wonder if it might be an opportune moment if the representative from the Home Office introduces himself and gives his name.

125. MR SANDERSON: Mark Sanderson, principle officer, Home Department.

126. MR LEWIS: While we are at it I will introduce Michael Miles from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. I will introduce him properly when I come to his evidence.

127. CHAIRMAN: Right.

128. MR LEWIS: My Lord, in your black ring­binder there are a few documents behind tab number 1 which are intended to be used in relation to this Clause. Mr Miles has also brought along some more photographs for you to look at as well, and another document with some figures, which I apologise for bringing so late. There is nothing complicated in you will need much analysis.

129. My Lord, this clause makes certain amendments to section 12 of the London Local Authorities Act 1995, which I briefly alluded to when discussing the previous clause. In your bundle there are a number of documents in section A which relate to clause 19. First 1(a) is a typed version of section 12 of the 1995 Act and how it would look if clause 19 were passed.

130. Section 12 provides the councils with two distinct powers. First is to enable the council to enter property and remove graffiti if they have been requested to do so by the property owner. In such cases they are also able to make a charge to the property owner. That is cases where they have been asked to do so.

131. The second power in subsections (1)-(6) of section 12 enables the Council to serve a notice on the property owner requiring him to remove the graffiti. The notice will state that if it is not done within a certain period, 28 days, then the Council will be able to enter the property and remove it themselves; but on doing so they would not be able to charge the property owner.

132. There are two main purposes behind clause 19. First of all, it removes the restriction on the ability to charge, which I have just described. The second effect is to extend the provision so as to include, for the avoidance of doubt, plant and apparatus, which will therefore bring in things such as telephone boxes, electrical switching gear and other street furniture which is not currently covered.

133. The latter of these two, i.e. the extension to apparatus and plant, has not met with opposition from the Department. So, subject to what I will say later about the transport operators, I will move over that particular part. In respect of charging, however, the Home Office have reported by saying that the clause would impose a burden on the victim of the crime.

134. The Promoters recognise this philosophical argument, but they wish to put their arguments to your Lordships through the evidence of Mr Miles.

135. First, though, I would like to draw your attention to an important amendment which goes a long way we hope to meeting the concerns of the Department.

136. If you look at clause 12 which is proposed to be amended, document 1A, you will see a new subsection (6A) is introduced. This will have the effect of excluding residential property from the charging provision. The councils recognise that there is a distinction to be drawn between commercial and residential property owners in this regard.

137. Secondly, you will note that on the same page a new subsection (6D) ensures that councils will draw up a code of practice on the way in which charging provisions will be used.

138. Your Lordships will be interested to note that the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies, who undoubtedly represent a large number of local residents in London, withdrew their petition against this clause after being informed that these amendments were to be made.

139. Before I turn to Mr Miles I should briefly mention the new clause 19A on page 10 of the Additions Apart to the Bill. These recognise the special status of post boxes, and give the Royal Mail, as I believe they are called these days, additional notice periods in respect of their post boxes, and also other universal postal providers when they come on board. Also clause 19B on the next page, which provides additional protection to the railway and waterway undertakers. This is the point Lord Elton raised. You might be surprised to see additional protection has been given to railway undertakers when so much graffiti is found on their land and on their apparatus and plant.

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