§ (1) The Council may in any park garden or open space belonging to or controlled by them set apart provide lay out and maintain such rifle-ranges lawn tennis courts croquet lawns bowling greens and grounds for cricket hockey football and other games and recreations as they may think fit and may provide apparatus and equipment (including lockers and other conveniences) for use in connection therewith.
§ (2) For the removal of doubts it is hereby enacted that the Council shall have and shall be deemed as from the first day of November One thousand nine hundred and fourteen to have had power to allow subject to such conditions as they may think fit rifle-clubs and others set apart provide lay out and maintain rifle-ranges in any such parks gardens and open spaces as aforesaid.1413
§ (3) The Council may do all such acts and employ such persons as may be required for any of the purposes referred to in this Section and may make such reasonable charges as they may think fit for the use of such rifle-ranges courts lawns greens and grounds (so far as the same are specially laid out and maintained for the purpose) and of such apparatus equipment lockers and conveniences and may make and enforce conditions by-laws or regulations with respect to such rifle-ranges courts lawns greens grounds apparatus equipment lockers and conveniences and for regulating the use thereof and the conduct of persons using the same or resorting thereto.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words, "lawn tennis courts, croquet lawns, bowling greens, and grounds for cricket, hockey, football, and other games and recreations."
The effect of my Amendment is to take away a power which is sought to be conferred by the Bill. The Clause gives two powers. It gives power to lay out grounds in public parks for rifle ranges, lawn tennis courts, croquet lawns, bowling greens, and grounds for cricket, hockey, football, and other games and recreations, and in a subsequent Sub-section it gives power to make charges for these purposes. The effect of my Amendment would be that it would strike out that power and would only leave power to erect and make charges for rifle ranges in public open spaces. The objection to this very wide power which is sought to be given by the Bill are obvious to anyone. It is highly undesirable that a large amount of space in public parks should be taken up for such purposes as football, cricket, and lawn tennis grounds at an expense which no doubt must be incurred, and which is sought by this Bill to be put upon tenants who would pay the amount necessary to secure the ground. That is an undesirable use of the parks, and it is an undesirable power to give to the county council to make charges to people for these rights. There are ample means for people who can afford to pay for them for getting such ground in and around the neighbourhood of London. It is an undesirable state of 1414 affairs to give the county council power to use public parks for that purpose and to make charges for the use of the ground.
Mr. PERCY HARRIS
The powers of this Clause have been passed by the Local Legislation Committee, but the council has agreed to make some further amendments to meet the objection that has been taken to the Clause. I feel it necessary to point out that the council is not asking for any powers which are not possessed by many local authorities in the country. My hon. Friend has objected to certain powers which are either possessed by Cambridge or which are available for Cambridge if it likes to have them, because under the Public Health Amendment Act, 1907, which is an adoptive Act, not applicable to London, local authorities can get the very powers which are asked for in Sub-section 1 of this Clause. Under this Act local authorities can get power to set apart ground for the purposes of cricket, football, or any other game or recreation, and to exclude the public from the part set apart while in use. Why should London be refused powers which are available for local authorities throughout the country? Under the same Act local authorities can get power to provide apparatus for the purpose of games, and charge for it. Again, why should London not have that power? I understood that the main objection to this Clause was the proposal to make a charge for the use of the ground. There are any number of precedents for that. Leicester, for example, got powers in 1913 to lay out and maintain bowling greens, lawn tennis courts and croquet lawns, and "to make such reasonable charges for the use of such ground and the apparatus used in connection therewith as they may from time to time prescribe." Derby has power to do the same thing with regard to ground used for the purpose of cricket, football, or any other game or recreation. They also got power to make such further charge as they may think fit for the admission of the public thereto while so set apart.
There are any number of precedents which I could quote for these powers which are now asked, but an objection was taken to the full extent of the powers asked for, and this is not the time for any needless discussion, the council has agreed with the London Playing Fields Committee, which originally raised the 1415 objection, to strike out the powers so far as they relate to cricket, hockey, football and games of that sort, and to limit the power to rifle ranges, lawn tennis courts, croquet lawns and bowling greens. I have a letter from the London Playing Fields Committee, saying they raised no further objection to the Clause provided the Amendments of which I have given notice are moved on behalf of the promoters. Therefore I hope the House will not refuse these powers to the London County Council when they have been granted to any number of municipal corporations. I might give examples of what the municipal corporations are doing in the matter. Take the case of bowls. I have a list of various corporations which are actually making charges for bowls—corporations like Birmingham, Croydon, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and West Ham. I have also a list of corporations which are making charges for lawn tennis. In the same way with croquet. Why should London be refused these powers? I do not think my hon. Friend gave any reason. The reason why the council is asking for these powers is, in the first place, that very special expenditure is required in connection with some of these grounds. For example, the average capital cost of a bowling green is £25, and the average maintenance runs to £10 for a rink, or £60 for a green. It does not seem unreasonable that some small charge should be made for the use of these grounds. Then there is the demand at present for better grounds. That is an additional reason why some small charge should be made.
There may be some difference as to whether or not it is desirable to make charges for these grounds, but that surely is a matter for the local authorities and for the ratepayers. Surely it is not reasonable for Parliament to say, "We will give these powers to Derby, Leicester and other corporations, but we will not give them to London." I am sure if these powers are granted to the London County Council they would be used in a reasonable and moderate manner, as they have been by other local authorities. The administration of parks and open places by the London County Council will bear comparison with that of any other town for the generous way in which they have treated the people using them. What they have done in regard to providing grounds for games has met with the entire approval of the people 1416 of London. If this were stopped I feel sure there would be a volume of indignation. The Council has done a tremendous business in the matter of games. They provided last year 435 cricket pitches, on which 13,157 matches were played. They provided 309 football grounds, on which 13,263 matches were played; and they also provided 530 lawn tennis courts, 50 hockey grounds, and 121 bowling greens. I think they have done a very good work and one which is approved by the people of London. I ask, therefore, that the powers which are already possessed by many local authorities should be given to the London County Council. I propose to move Amendments, of which I have given notice, in order to carry out an agreement with the London Playing Fields Association, and as we have satisfied that body I hope my hon. and learned Friend will not think it necessary to press his Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Mr. Whitley)
After the statement made on behalf of the London County Council I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will not press his Amendment. The Amendments that stand later on the Paper embody an agreement arrived at between the Playing Fields Association and the London County Council, and I think under the circumstances they represent a very reasonable settlement. The things that will remain in the Clause are those that take up only a small area of the parks, and those that in particular require special attention to the turf for the upkeep of that small area; also the parts which are used by the older people and not by children. It seems to me that the proposal of the London Council Council is a very reasonable one and might be accepted.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I do not intend to press the matter on a night like this after what the hon. Member has said. I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitley) is not putting it quite fairly. The powers in the Amendments which have been offered by my hon. Friend are to give power to lay out such grounds, and not only that, but to charge for accommodation in connection with those grounds. Of course, that is a serious matter from my point of view. I should not have raised that point had that particular Amendment not been raised here to-day. The effect of the Amendment is that you give ample powers to charge for cricket and football grounds. If you let these grounds and make a 1417 charge for storage for posts, etc., and the necessary accommodation, such as lockers and so forth, you are in effect charging rent for the grounds. That is the real crux of the matter, and that is the real reason of my Amendment. However, after the hon. Member's appeal, I shall not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "lawns" ["rifle ranges, lawn tennis courts, croquet lawns"], insert the word "and."
§ Leave out the words "and grounds for cricket, hockey, football, and other games and recreations" ["croquet lawns, bowling greens, and grounds for cricket"].
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "including lockers and other conveniences."
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I think some explanation is required in regard to this Amendment. It is really this Amendment that I am opposed to more strongly than anything. If you are going to charge for lockers and other conveniences for the purpose of cricket and football then I think the whole benefit of the Amendment that my hon. Friend has moved is taken away entirely. I think he will agree with me that I am putting a proper construction upon his present Amendment. If this Amendment is carried you will have the power to charge for conveniences and lockers in connection with cricket and football grounds, and as it is alleged they have power already the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend is illusory unless he strikes out this Amendment.
The hon. and learned Member is very suspicious. If the county council should desire to get rent for ground by making excessive charge for a locker then they could do it by making an excessive charge for apparatus. It is only a power they might apply, but I do not know that it is an obligation on the part of those using the ground to take a locker or to take apparatus. I think the hon. Member must trust a public body to act reasonably in this matter, and just as other local authorities who have these powers have exercised them reasonably I think that he can trust the London County Council to act reasonably.
§ Question put, and agreed to.1418
§ Further Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), after the word "therefore" ["for use in, connection therewith"], insert the words "and lockers and other conveniences for the purposes aforesaid and in connection with other games and recreations in such parks, gardens, and open spaces."
§ Mr. BRUNNER
I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words, "courts, lawns, greens, and grounds" ["rifle ranges, courts, lawns, greens, and grounds"].
I have received from the hon. Member who is in charge of the London County Council's affairs in this matter (Mr. Percy Harris) an assurance that the public will not be excluded from looking on at these games as is frequently the case in connection with certain local authorities in other parts. I understand from him that the charge will not be a profit rental but only a reasonable remuneration for the cost of laying out the grounds. On behalf of the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society I may say that we are content to leave it at that, but if the county council had not promised to make this only a small charge for the cost of laying out the grounds, it would have been a breach of faith with the donors of many of these grounds, who have given them to the public absolutely without condition. I wish to put this statement on record, and if the statement is put on record I do not wish to press the Amendment.
We have not the smallest intention to exclude the public. As a matter of fact, the public find the games a very great attraction. If that were not so it would not be possible to get so much of the parks set aside for the purpose of games. Our intention is only to make a small charge towards the upkeep of the grounds. I think, therefore, I have met the point raised by the hon. Member.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Further Amendments made: In Sub-section (3), after the word "lawns" ["rifle ranges, courts, lawns"], insert the word "and."
§ Leave out the words "and grounds" ["lawns, greens, and grounds"].
§ Leave out the word "grounds" ["lawns, greens, grounds, apparatus"].