Clause 32 - Sale of aerosol paint to children

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 20th January 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

This is an opportunity for a small discussion. We welcome the provision enforcing the ban on the sale of aerosol paints to children under 18. I am sure that the Minister would wish to pay tribute to the many railway companies and others that have made massive investment, particularly on railway properties, in non-graffiti-stick materials. They are coming up with carriages and stations where graffiti paint will not take effect.

At present, local authorities rely on section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 to make advisory visits to retailers to seek assurances that spray paints are not being, and will not be, sold to children. Will the Minister confirm that, under clause 32, there will be a more positive and rigorous control to make sure that the sale of aerosol paints to children under 18 is indeed prohibited? Will the enforcing officer of a local weights and measures authority be different depending on whether we are talking about a unitary authority or a county or district authority?

I understand that it is difficult to give a precise figure for the percentage of graffiti committed by under-16s, but it is believed that they account for well over 60 per cent. of all graffiti, so the provision is potentially extremely important. 

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising those points. This is an important decision because it will assist in the enforcement of the law. Anyone who has experienced some of the worst incidents of graffiti in their area has a strong wish for the issue to be tackled. Most of us have constituency experience of the problem.

The weights and measures authority is the district council in a two-tier arrangement, and in a unitary authority it is clear who is the authority. The requirement for them to consider and take stock of what is going on, on a regular basis, and then to reflect the need to tackle issues through a programme of activity, is set out clearly in the provisions. Proposed subsection (2) clarifies that, where appropriate, a variety of different measures can be taken. The bringing of prosecutions is important, but

''the investigation of complaints in respect of alleged offences'', examining not just the offences themselves but what is going on in an area, is also important. The subsection also provides for

''the taking of other measures intended to reduce the incidence of offences under that section.''

That takes into account the issues of educating the public, alerting parents to what is going on in their area, adopting measures through schools, and alerting retailers to the possibility that not all their customers may be legitimate, in terms of breaching the restriction on young people purchasing aerosols. It should be said that the problem is not restricted to young people, but the hon. Lady rightly points out that there is a predominance of such activity at the younger end of the scale. I hope that that addresses the points that she raised.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.