MPs back council conveniences

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THE campaign to force councils to provide a minimum number of public lavatories - under present law they have no duty to provide any - reached the Commons yesterday when Jon Owen Jones, Labour MP for Cardiff Central, introduced a Ten-Minute Rule Bill laying down a standard of one per 550 women and one per 1,100 men, writes David Nicholson-Lord. Most councils come nowhere near these levels.

The measure, which has cross-party backbench support, was given an unopposed formal First Reading but stands no chance of becoming law because of pressure on the parliamentary timetable. Mr Jones told the House: 'To those who would argue that these matters should be left to the discretion of individual councils, I say that the recent record of local authorities suggests that the priority they give to this public service is very low indeed.'

Tonight, the BBC 1 programme Here and Now will broadcast the results of its surveys which show that some cities have closed up to three-quarters of their public lavatories over the last decade, forcing people to urinate in the streets.

It found that the 180 local authorities responding had closed a total of 789 public lavatories in the last 10 years. The North-west was the worst hit, with Manchester closing 75 per cent of its lavatories, leaving only 20 open.

Birmingham has closed 46, about 30 per cent, since 1984.

In South Yorkshire, people have clubbed together and reopened lavatories at their own expense - buying pounds 1 shares.