HC Deb 20 May 1897 vol 49 cc903-7

(1) The Council may set apart for cricket, football, golf, and other games portions of any park or place of public resort or recreation for the time being belonging to or held by them (other than the recreation ground known as the Happy Valley), and may purchase or take on lease additional lands and lay out and improve and set apart the same, or any portion thereof, for the like purposes, so, however, that all lands so set apart shall be open to the public when not in use for such games.

(2) The Council may make bye-laws for regulating the use of any lands so set apart, provided that no bye-law which shall restrict any existing right to military user shall have effect until approved by the Secretary of State for War.

(3) The Council may erect, provide, and maintain on any such lands set apart for games and recreation any pavilion or pavilions, building or buildings, or any refreshment or other room or rooms or conveniences connected therewith.

(4) The Council may make, or authorize others to make, such charges as the Council may deem reasonable for admission to such pavilions and buildings or refreshment rooms or other room or rooms or conveniences connected therewith, or may let on lease for any term not exceeding five years, any such pavilions or buildings or refreshment rooms or other room or rooms or conveniences connected therewith.


moved in Sub-section (2) to leave out the words "any existing right to military user" in order to insert the words "the military user in case of national or local emergency."


said that, as a member of the Police and Sanitary Committee before whom the Bill had come, he objected to the proposed Amendment. When the Bill originally came before the Committee it contained the words now sought to be inserted, and they were informed that they were inserted in it at the instance of the War Office with the consent of the promoters of the Measure. The difficulty in which the Committee found themselves placed was that if they retained the words in the question they would be either sanctioning an important alteration of the law or be making a declaration of the existing law. In the latter case, of course, the words now sought to he inserted were absolutely unnecessary, and, moreover, the Committee were directly prohibited from making such a declaration by a Resolution of that House. On the other hand, if by retaining the words they would be making an alteration in the existing law, and would be conferring new powers upon the War Office, they believed that such an alteration of the law should be effected by means of a public Bill and not by a clause in a Private Measure. It was on that ground that they had struck out the words which it was now sought to reinsert. The House was aware that the Police and Sanitary Committee, although not absolutely bound to do so, felt themselves constraned to act upon certain rules of procedure, under one of which they would not allow to be introduced into a Private Bill any proposal to alter the general law of the land, unless the peculiar local circumstances were such as to induce them to make a change in that law. The question before the Committee, therefore, was, was there any peculiarity in the local circumstances of Llandųdno as would entitle the War Office to have powers over the open spaces of the district other than those which they had over such open spaces in the country generally. The Committee had come to the conclusion that there were no such special circumstances in the case as would justify them in giving the special power asked for by the War Office. Had the Committee acted otherwise than they did, what reasons could they have given to the House in their Report for making this change in the general law of the land in this particular Private Bill? It it were thought desirable that the War Office should have these special powers over open spaces all over the country, the right hon. Gentleman should bring forward a public Bill upon the subject, and not seize upon the opportunity for giving them in reference to a particular locality afforded by the introduction of a private Bill. The Committee objected to the promoters of private Bills being compelled, under the threat of having their measures opposed by the War Department, to assent to any terms which the War Office might choose to impose upon them. In one instance the Under Secretary for War had written a letter to the Chairman of Committees instructing him to take such steps as he thought necessary to require a Select Committee appointed by that House to introduce into a private Bill such changes in the general law of the land which were desired by the Department without any special reasons being given for that course being adopted. On these grounds, on behalf of the Committee of which he had the honour of being a member, and also in defence of the privileges of that House, he felt it to be his duty to oppose the Amendment, and if the right hon. Gentleman pressed the matter he should be compelled to divide the House on the question. ["Hear, hear !"]


said that the hon. Gentleman opposite had endeavoured to make a great deal out of what was, after all, but a very simple question. The various local authorities frequently came to that House, asking for powers to deal with open spaces in their districts, and the War Office thought it only right that in such cases power should be reserved to the Department to use the lands so dealt with for military purposes in case of local or national emergencies. The hon. Member complained that the War Office had been asking for special legislation by means of this Bill. There was no demand for special legislation at all; on the contrary, the clause had been accepted by the promoters of the Bill; as had been the case in other similar Bills. The contention of the Department was that it was necessary to reserve power to the War Office to use open spaces in case of national or local emergencies. The mayor of a town might telegraph for troops for the purpose of assisting the police in the maintenance of local order, and the troops sent in compliance with that request might find themselves without shelter and without any place but the streets to remain in. Such a state of things would be most inconvenient from every point of view. It was, moreover, usually of importance that the troops should be so placed as to be out of sight of the public and out of the range of missiles which might be thrown until their services were actually required. As there were in most instances no barracks in which they could obtain shelter for the night, it was both desirable and necessary that they should be encamped on such open spaces as were available for the purpose. In his opinion, the Committee had taken a very narrow view of their functions in connection with this matter, and had struck out these words against the wish of the promoters. He hoped that the House would insert the Amendment he had moved in the Bill. ["Hear, hear !"]


said that, although he agreed that the War Office should have power to make use of open spaces for military purposes in times of local or national emergencies, he thought that such power should be conferred by a public and not by a private Bill. He believed that under the common law of the land the War Office already possessed such a power in the case, at all events, of national emergencies, and that in any case the Department would not hesitate to use the lands if necessity required. If the hon. Member opposite divided, he should vote against the Amendment. ["Hear, hear !"]

MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

hoped that the House would not accept the Amendment. He objected to pressure by the War Office being brought to bear upon small localities to consent to the insertion of such clauses in their private Bills. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)

said that those who represented small districts were sure to give way to pressure from the War Office in order to smooth the way for their Bills. He trusted that the House would support the decision of their Committee to strike out these words. ["Hear !"]

MR. W. JONES (Carnarvon, Arfon)

suggested that the matter should be postponed until fuller information on the matter could be laid before the House.


thought that the objections to the proposal of the War Office had been very much exaggerated. The War Office was not asking for additional powers. The Town Council was doing so, and the War Office proposed a limitation in the public interest. If this Amendment were rejected and the War Office required to use the lands under its common law right, it would be met by a bye-law having the force of an Act of Parliament unless it could prove the state of things at the time of passing the Act. Inter arma silent leges, and no difficulty ought to be put in the way of the troops in cases of emergency.

Question put "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes, 96; Noes, 124.—(Division List No. 211.) Words inserted.

Bill to be Read the Third time.

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