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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I am very unhappy with the amendments. I know that the noble Lord has a great interest in world squares. That is a good thing; I do not dissent from it. He said that Leicester Square is a success. As I understand it, it is managed by Westminster City Council.
Going back to my day, we had to remove the pigeon droppings many times every day from Leicester Square. It is an enormous problem in Trafalgar Square. When I was chairman of the local health committee we tried giving these feral pigeons contraceptive pills. Unfortunately they did not work, as we can see, and the pigeons developed a taste for them. We then paid
Pigeons are a great health hazard and people find them very unpleasant. There are some people who misguidedly believe that they are doing some great kindness by encouraging the birds. The only person who really wants to encourage them is the man selling the pigeon food. I was very sorry when the man who trapped the pigeons and sold them to restaurants was arrested and stopped from doing so. I thought that at least someone was doing something.
The day-to-day management of the square is important. I can understand the noble Lord's point that there needs to be permission to hold a rally or other event in the square, but it would be very practical if the day-to-day management of Trafalgar Square--and, to a certain extent, Parliament Square--was carried out by Westminster Council. What will happen if it is hemmed in by a big walled area surrounded entirely by Westminster with only the square as the exception? The situation has always been unsatisfactory in terms of the square's management and control. Nowadays, the authorities are better able to control the sale of illegal or unpleasant food.
Westminster has a very good licensing system. In my day the council would not issue anyone a licence--I do not know why they allowed illegal trading. The authority was absolutely opposed to licences. However, since then the system has been changed and licences are issued. Vendors must prove that they are of good character and they must meet the basic requirements. It would be much more practical for the council to deal with the problem. As I understand it, the Greater London Authority is intended to be a strategic authority rather than an operational one. If it embarks on setting up street cleaning services and other tasks--I take the noble Lord's point that such matters could be contracted--it seems to me that the process will be that much more circuitous and less efficient than if the day-to-day management was given to the local authority and all the other powers were retained by the council.
My noble friend made an important point on by-laws; how quickly would they be produced and would they be effective? Those points are important and can be dealt with fairly quickly. However, I am concerned to learn that yet another set of amendments will be brought forward. I am not happy with the ones before us, and if yet more are added, that will concern me even more. I am not in favour of the amendment.
Earl Bathurst: My Lords, with reference to the comments of my noble friend as regards pigeon droppings in Trafalgar Square, can the Minister confirm that if his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will be involved,
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for her welcome to the amendments. At the beginning of her speech she wondered whether they had died. It was not so much that the amendments had died, but that they were struggling towards birth. The litter--if I may describe the point in terms of animal husbandry rather than those of waste management--is not yet complete. For that reason, we shall have to bring forward further amendments at Third Reading.
The noble Baroness asked me whether the resources to be transferred from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will be moved on a continuing basis. The answer to that question is yes. In regard to the impact on demonstrations and rallies, the noble Baroness is right in thinking that the initial guidelines will describe the current practice for granting permission for such demonstrations. We all recognise that this is rather like Speaker's Corner. It is an essential part of our liberty in this country that there should be rallies and that there should be control of rallies only if there is real risk of public disorder. That is why the power to grant permission for rallies and demonstrations should not be given to any body other than a democratically elected authority.
The noble Baroness also asked whether the penalties for contravening by-laws will continue in their present form. I can confirm that the answer to her question is that they will. One of the reasons for issuing guidelines to describe current practice, to which the mayor shall have regard, is that, as the noble Baroness rightly observed, it can take a long time to establish new by-laws. At the instigation of Westminster City Council, the noble Baroness asked me whether the London Local Authorities Act could be used. However, that is a local provision and thus could not apply to Crown land.
The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, took me back to the 1970s and the situation regarding Leicester Square. It was because of the relationship between the Greater London Council, on which she and I both served, that it was possible to manage Leicester Square by agreement between Westminster and Camden Councils. But as the noble Baroness may have noticed, there is now no Greater London Council. That is why we have to make these different arrangements.
As to the day-to-day management of the squares, the amendments make it clear, and the Bill will make it clear, that contracting on issues such as cleaning and maintenance can and certainly will go outside. Other things being equal, it is common sense for them to go to Westminster City Council. But as some parts of the responsibility, including control of the statues, has to stay with the mayor, because these are of perhaps not strictly strategic but certainly London-wide importance and national importance--indeed, international importance--it seems better to make the transfer here and then to contract specific duties back to Westminster City Council.
The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, referred to the continuing involvement of the DCMS. It will be in the form of the guidelines which I described. The noble Earl can speculate as he wishes as to what those guidelines will contain. I was rather amused by his example of how to deal with pigeons. None of us has succeeded anywhere else in doing it. As for pigeons, the Secretary of State will have no continuing involvement. It will be a matter for the mayor. I am sure that the Secretary of State is very pleased to have that taken out of his hands.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, does he accept that I did not agree with the amendments? The approval I was showing was for the fact that I agree that Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square are of national importance. I certainly agreed with the noble Lord's comments with regard to that. I did not in any way imply that I believed that the amendment carries out something that is necessary or welcome in itself. The noble Lord will, I hope, have taken note of the dismay that I expressed with regard to the late tabling of the amendments and to the fact that they have been tabled in a half finished form.
Has the Minister also taken note of the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lady Gardner with regard to the fact that the House is not in a position at the moment to give proper scrutiny to the amendments because other matters are outstanding which will come forward next week? In view of those matters, will the Minister withdraw the amendment at this stage and simply bring back the amendments at a later stage on Monday when they can been seen in their complete form in the round with the other amendments to which he has already spoken today?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the last thing I would wish to do is to put any words into the mouth of the noble Baroness. I accept what she says about her reservations about the content of the amendments. I certainly agree with her that it would have been better if we had been able to produce all of them before that. However, these amendments are not in themselves defective. They are valuable. We made the decision that it was better to put them forward now for debate rather than to save all the amendments until the last ones were available at Third Reading. If we made the wrong decision, I can assure the House that it was made with the best of intentions--to ensure that there was as much proper debate as possible and that we gave notice of the content of the amendments which we will introduce next week. It was with the best of intentions that we took this action. In the circumstances I think it is best that we pursue these amendments now--on the basis that they are themselves complete and perfect rather than have them stillborn, if I may return to my previous metaphor.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I make a final plea to him to reconsider. Many amendments to the Bill have been put down and questions have been left unanswered because the amendments came in late and we did not have the
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may be aware that the Under-Secretary of State and the Chief Whip discussed with the House earlier the fact that many of the amendments that should deal with people working for the GLA have not even been drawn up. So far as Third Reading on Monday is concerned, those amendments will not be ready--which probably means that Third Reading will extend to Wednesday. There is no shortage of time. We have discussed the amendments at length and it would be much better policy for the noble Lord courteously to withdraw the amendments so that we can deal with the whole issue on Third Reading.
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