HC Deb 28 March 1923 vol 162 cc512-4

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable local authorities under certain circumstances to maintain, repair, and protect war memorials vested in them. I ask for this permission in consequence of the state of the law on the matter at the present time, and because of the fact that in various parts of the country there are a large number of memorials of the Great War which have been erected by private subscription and handed over to-parish councils, urban councils and boroughs, and the question how these memorials are to be protected from time, from weather and from misfortune has become a practical matter. In the vast majority of eases to-which this refers, the memorials are on public thoroughfares, and in places of public resort. Every year and every month that passes some of those who gave to the erection of the memorials: die, and unless there is some protection given, and the law is made available for such provision being made, these memorials may perish long before anyone-would desire that they should The law at the present time in reference to this matter is by no means clear. In the rural parishes, the parish councils have power to receive all kinds of property for the benefit of the whole parish, and to incur certain expenditure in the maintenance of such gifts. How far that would apply in the case of crosses, cenotaphs and tablets which have no use apart from their memorial value is by no means certain. As regards towns, large or small, there is no analogous power, and it is very doubtful whether they could use any of their resources for the upkeep of these memorials. The case was met during the War in a few instances by Departmental action, but. I am sure that this House-would prefer that the law should be made perfectly clear, and that whatever authority is necessary should be set up in. an Act of Parliament, so that it can be understood.

The proposals of this Measure, briefly, are, that every local authority which represents any positive community, like a parish or a town, should be authorised to maintain, repair, and protect these memorials, subject to very careful financial restrictions. These restrictions are that in the case of a rural parish an amount not greater than that raised by a penny rate is to be spent in any year, with the sanction of the county council, and that in regard to towns of all sizes, they can spend whatever they think proper, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Health, in a way analogous to what is now done in regard to loans. In the case of Scotland, it is probable that the existing law is adequate, but the Bill is so drafted that it would be possible, in Committee, on the Scottish Office looking into the matter, to add a Clause applying to Scotland that precisely analogous condition. That is what the Bill is for, and I hope it will commend itself to the judgment and sympathy of the House that these memorials should be protected. We live at a time when in this, as in most countries, greater care is taken than ever before to preserve memorials of antiquity and to prevent the destruction of memorials which relate, it may be, to old unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago. If so, is it not well, with regard to memorials of that great War, so recent, and in which this country lost so many of its children, that the same protection should be given, and given by us, the rest of whose lives must be passed under the shadow of that War?

Question, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable local authorities under certain circumstances to maintain, repair, and protect War Memorials vested in them," put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Ryland Adkins, Captain Bowyer, Major Burnie, Brigadier-General Cockerill, Mr. William Graham, Major-General Sir Robert. Hutchison, Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Watts-Morgan, Mr. George Thorne, Mr. Turton, and Colonel Wedgwood.


to enable local authorities under certain circumstances to maintain, repair, and protect war memorials vested in them," presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Monday, 9th April, and to be printed. [Bill 78.]