§ Mr. HARDIE
I beg to move, in page 4, line 30, after the word "public," to insert the wordsand preventing the deterioration or injurious affection of the amenities of any part of their area.139 This is practically on the same lines as the previous Amendment, but instead of dealing with the question of health direct, we seek to insert these words. This is to deal with the question of fumes which travel underground and not in the air. We find them in places that are adjacent to petroleum spirit which is kept in bulk. As a matter of fact, wherever you get your ordinary roadside petroleum station, the practice is to sink two oil tanks into the ground and fill them up. When the ground is nicely made up, they think they have made them tight because they are underground, but it is very soon discovered that they are not tight. There was one case which occurred in Scotland recently where the leak was so bad that it entered the main sewage drain. What happened was that in all the pockets in that drain there was a collection of petrol fumes. It was only by sheer accident that it was discovered in time, for the moment it becomes alight at one point, it goes on making gas. That was found out by accident, but in other cases in the country where a leak takes place without getting into the drains, it gets into the fields, and the result is very serious for crops. This Amendment is to try to get protection against such things taking place.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am afraid the hon. Member is making rather too large a demand upon the House. I am afraid I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendment. It is an entirely new proposal which we are incorporating into an Act of Parliament. We are giving control to local authorities for the purpose of dealing with petrol stations but we are proposing to give that control for certain reasons and on certain conditions for the purpose of preserving the amenities of rural scenery or places of beauty or historic interest. I think we have got to be a little careful how we proceed in this matter. We have allowed petrol stations to be erected very largely all over the country. They are, I admit, horribly ugly. I agree that where you have beautiful rural scenery and places of historic interest, it is highly desirable that we should get some means of preventing their wholesale multiplication. 140 As far as I can see, public opinion at large is very much in favour of that. This Bill has been very carefully drawn, but it limits the powers of the by-law making authorities to stop the multiplication of these petrol stations or to limit their ugliness, to places where they will interfere with the amenities of rural scenery or places of beauty or historic interest.
The hon. Member now wants to go a great deal further, and to bring in all town and country districts where, he says, there may be crops injured by the fumes. I am afraid I should want a great deal more valuable information—not that I do not for one moment accept his knowledge—and information of a practical character as to any injury which is being caused, or is likely to be caused, to such districts by petrol stations being erected on the road side. We have got to remember that motoring is increasing, and is bound increase as the years roll on. The petrol filling stations have filled a very practical want; otherwise they would not have multiplied as they have done. Petrol stations are not built for amusement, but because they make money, and motorists want to get their spirit. The hon. Member is proposing to go a great deal too far, and I hope the House will agree with me, at all events in the first instance, that this is a new proposal in legislation which we have not tried before, and that we ought to go cautiously. We have gone as far as we can in giving powers to deal with the erection of petrol stations where it will preserve the amenities of rural scenery, places of beauty or historic interest. This Amendment covers a great deal more, and I ask the House and the hon. Member to be content with the Bill as it stands which goes a good long way, and is a great improvement, on the existing law.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Has the right hon. Gentleman or his party received any report with regard to the storing of petrol at Ardrossan or Salthills and its effects along the sea coast? I am not speaking of the population, but of summer visitors to those places.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I can say that I have not had any. The only report I had last year in regard to a Scottish watering place was that a dead 141 whale had arrived, and had stunk the the place out.
§ Mr. GILLETT
Personally, I very much regret the Home Secretary has limited the Bill to this extent, because I was hoping when I saw the Bill that it was going to tackle some of the eyesores we see all along the roads not only in the country but in the suburbs of London. Now I find that it is to refer entirely to parts of the country that do not in any way affect London. When you have a new industry coming into being, the sooner you tackle problems of this kind the better it is, and, therefore, the argument of the Home Secretary for only proposing to deal with a small part of the problem is a mistaken one. It would have been far better to have settled the whole problem at once. If you go to the suburbs of London and look at some of the centralised places, these petrol stations are some of the worst eyesores. I agree that they vie with the advertisement in regard to making places almost a public eyesore, but I do hope some day the House will deal with the advertisement problem. Meanwhile, I hope the Home Secretary is going to start, at any rate, with these stations. Now we are told, as far as London is concerned, that this Bill will be of no use whatever.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
No. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, there are lots of places of historical interest in London. One could not build a petrol station near Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London.
§ Mr. GILLETT
For practical purposes, the Home Secretary knows perfectly well it would be almost impossible to store it in the positions he mentions. Broadly speaking, I venture to assert this Bill is of no use whatever to London, and does not in any way remove the evil of which we complain. I very much hope my hon. Friend will adhere to his Amendment in order that the House may have the opportunity of saying that something should be done to try to remove what is becoming a perfect eyesore in many parts of London.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ There being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Ayes, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER declared that the Noes had it.142
§ The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. LOOKER: "In page 4, line 31, after the word 'Borough' to insert the words or urban district.'"
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman will remember that there was an Instruction to the Committee to deal with this particular point, and as it was necessary, in order to enable the Committee to deal with that point, it comes under this Standing Order, which says:Upon the Report stage of any Bill no Amendment may be proposed which could not have been proposed in Committee without an instruction from the House.Obviously, this needed an Instruction from the House and comes under this Standing Order. The Committee having dealt with it, the actual Instruction comes to an end.
§ Mr. LOOKER
Am I right in assuming that, where there is an Instruction to a Committee which is carried out by an Amendment being put into the Bill, under no circumstances is it possible to have an Amendment on report? As I read Standing Order No. 41, with great respect to your decision, it says this:Upon the Report stage of any Bill no Amendment may be proposed which could not have been proposed in Committee without an instruction from the House.I am not proposing to make an Amendment now which could not be proposed without an Instruction. I am proposing to make the Amendment pursuant to the Instruction that was given. I submit that under this particular Order, it is competent to move an Amendment oh Report to an Amendment made pursuant to an Instruction in Committee, especially when the words which are sought to be added on Report are quite consonant with the words of the Instruction.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The words of the Standing Order are perfectly clear, that in order to deal with this it is necessary to have the Instruction to deal with it in Committee. Therefore, this cannot be moved on Report, because it 143 was a question which needed an Instruction to the Committee to deal with.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Further to that point of order: May I ask whether the exact change that took place in the Bill in Committee was intimated to the House before the Instruction was given, whether the actual change that took place in Committee was embodied in the Instruction when the Instruction was given for a change to be made?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It is clear that, in order for the Committee to deal with it, it is necessary for the Instruction of the House to be given to the Committee to deal with it, and, having dealt with it, the Instruction comes to an end.
Lieut.-Colonel LAMBERT WARD
I beg to move in page 5, line 2, after the word "purposes," to insert the words:a council shall not be entitled to require any alterations which would impose additional expense on the owner or occupier of a petroleum filling station established at the time of the making of the bye-laws except on the condition that such expense shall be borne by the said council, and.Everybody agrees on both sides of the House that, during the past few years, most unsightly petrol-filling stations have sprung up, not only in the towns, but, where they are very much more unsightly, in the country, and it is high time that there should be some definite regulations for controlling the erection of these stations. The object of this Amendment is to prevent injustice, so far as is possible, being done to small men who have invested in many cases not only their capital, but their credit, in the erection of these petrol-filling stations. In the majority of cases, especially in the country, these petrol stations are owned by small men. It is not the same in the country as it is in the large towns, or even in the suburbs, where these stations are owned, or at any rate financed, by the big oil companies. In the country, most of these stations are owned by men who have sunk their capital in their erection. It is true that in the majority of cases they have either mortgaged their plant or received a loan from one of the big oil companies, but that will not prevent them, in the event of their failing to meet their engagements or their instalments from having their business foreclosed and being for all intents and purposes ruined.
144 This Amendment is moved to provide that, in the event of the county council deciding that a station is unsightly and should be done away with, compensation is to be given to the owner, or the alterations or improvements are to be done at the expense of the county council. This is not by any means an original suggestion. If it be found necessary, in the interests of public safety, that a wall which is erected on a blind corner should be done away with, or that a hedge should be cut down and a fence substituted, compensation is given to the owner of that wall or fence, or, failing that, the work is done for the owner. There is no great difference between that and the case of a man who has erected an unsightly filling station, because we must not forget that that station, before it was erected, had to be passed by the local building authority and by the local petroleum inspector, so that it complied in every respect with the law as it existed at the time when the station was erected. All I am asking in this Amendment is that legislation should not be made retrospective, but should deal entirely with stations erected in the future. In the event of the aesthetic sense of a county council being developed to such an extent that a petrol station must be altered, compensation ought to be given to the owner for the disturbance and for the additional cost put upon him.
§ Mr. LOOKER
I beg to second the Amendment. I think it would be extremely hard if small men who had embarked their sole capital in the provision of these filling stations were compelled not only to undertake further expenditure within a short time afterwards, but had the expenditure which they have already laid out thrown away owing to the subsequent passing of bylaws which they had no reason to suppose would be imposed. At the time when they put up the stations they complied with all the existing requirements of the law, and had every reason to suppose they had done all that the community required of them, and to put upon them the obligation of having to spend further sums within a period of two years, or an even longer period, would be inequitable in the circumstances.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I hope the House will reject this Amendment, for two 145 reasons which I will briefly state. If I remember rightly, the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment tonight moved a similar Amendment in Committee upstairs. I would point out to him that if the Amendment were carried it would make this Clause ridiculous and absolutely inoperative. The hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Colonel L. Ward) speaks of the hardships falling on small men, but I want to assure him that the owners of these petrol filling stations are not all small men, that a number of them are owned by large companies with a huge capital behind them. If a person spoils the amenities of rural scenery, and does it in the teeth of public opinion, the local authority is to have power under this Bill to require him to make an alteration in the design, but the hon. and gallant Member wants the local authority to compensate him. Let the House consider what that would mean. It would mean, in effect, that a local authority would never call upon anybody to make an alteration at all, because of the cost which would fall upon it.
§ Mr. DAVIES
As my hon. and gallant Friend says, it will not have the money with which to do it. I feel sure the House will have so much regard for the amenities of the rural scenery of our country that it will reject the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member, which would protect a man who has offended those amenities by setting up a petrol-pump station against the will of the public in that neighbourhood.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I rise to support the Amendment. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has said that they are not all small people who own these petrol filling stations, but that some of them are large companies, with plenty of capital. Is the fact that they are large companies any reason why they should be made to pay? Are they to be made to find the money while it is being pleaded that county councils cannot find the money? In this House we cannot pass laws to lay upon private individuals or upon companies' responsibilities which did not exist at the time when they erected these stations. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about removing a nuisance?"] They are not creating a nuisance. Those people have erected 146 something which was for the public service. They put up the pumps in those places in order to supply a public need, and now they will find out that in supplying that need they have, possibly, infringed a provision in an Act which we are only now proposing to pass. That is retrospective legislation of the worst kind, and I shall go into the Division Lobby in favour of this Amendment.
I desire to reinforce the opposition which has been offered to this Amendment by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), and I sincerely trust the Home Secretary will not give way and accept it. All who have erected these filling stations have erected them, probably, in the teeth of the opposition of the county council. [Interruption.] I have been a member of the Glamorgan County Council—
I am not speaking for Leith, I would not care to speak for Scotland, but I am speaking for one of the largest industrial counties in Great Britain, and that is the county of Glamorgan. I know the difficulties we have had with these people in the past, and I think the Clause as it now stands is generous enough to meet all those cases which will come within it. If they have erected these stations, then they are to be given two years or more in which to come into line with the requirements of those who are seeking to preserve the amenities of the district.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have only a word or two to say on this Amendment. I think the House ought to consider the rights of the public as well as the rights of individuals. Everybody has been talking about the abominable disfigurement of our country districts and places of historic interest by these petrol pumps. Only a few days ago I saw in the "Times" a letter from a well-known lady, Lady Oxford—I am sure this will appeal to the Liberal party—in which she said:Had everyone combined out of malice to dispose of the fine London buildings, and disfigure the quiet beauty of the lanes, the villages, and the roads of England, they could not have been more successful.Guy Dawber, who is the Vice-President of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and one of the most eminent 147 architects of the day, also wrote a letter to the "Times," m which he said:Throughout the whole of England"—I will call my hon. and gallant Friend's attention to this. It is not a mere question of public utility. These things might have been made just as useful as they are without being the abominable disfigurement they are. His letter says:This condition of things is, unfortunately, not confined to London, for throughout the whole of England, on every side, we see wholesale desecration of its charm and beauty by the substitution of buildings out of harmony with their environment. There is no town or village, at any rate in the home counties that is not disfigured and artistically injured by the erection of commonplace and vulgar buildings which jar with their neighbours and offend the eye.Surely they have a right to take that view, if this Amendment is accepted it would impose the expense of the alterations upon the local authorities, and you cannot expect the councils all over the country to pay for the cost of remodelling buildings. On the other hand, the cost of these alterations to the individual proprietors is not likely to be very heavy.
When this matter was discussed in Committee upstairs it was felt that it would not be right to pass a law sweeping out of existence all these stations, and it was decided to give the county councils powers to deal with any of these filling stations which they thought were unsightly. The owners of these filling stations have now had a run of two years and they know the kind of agitation that has been going on for some time. This Bill has been before Parliament for a long period. It will be another six months before the by-laws are made, and these individual proprietors will have another two years' grace after that. Consequently, they will be able to reap three years' profits on the filling stations before they can be called upon to make any alteration in the style of their buildings. Consequently, we are not doing any real injury to the community by saying to these owners, "We will give you a three years' run before ordering you to remove what is an eye-sore to the countryside." If a man erects anything that creates a bad smell which is injurious to health he can be compelled to remove it. If a man puts up anything else that is injurious to the community or dangerous, 148 he can be compelled to take it down. The people with whom we are dealing under this Bill have put up these erections wholesale all over the country, and they could certainly have been made much less objectionable. As they have chosen to put up erections which have spoiled the artistic beauty of the country scenery, and which have proved to be objectionable to the community, surely Parliament has a right to say that if a responsible authority like the county council makes by-laws dealing with this matter, and the Secretary of State approves of them; and if after that the county council considers that any particular pumping station comes within the terms of the by-laws, the county council should have the right to say to the owners: "You must take your petrol station away, or alter it so as to bring it into conformity with our by-laws." I think that is a healthy Conservative principle, and the Conservative party has always been in favour of the preservation of the artistic and rural amenities.
§ Amendment negatived.
Lieut.-Colonel L. WARD
I beg to move, in page 5, line 7, to leave out the word "two" and to insert instead thereof the word "five."
In the original draft of the Clause the period allowed for alterations was five years, but that was struck out in Committee and a period of two years was inserted. The object of this Amendment is to replace five years. After listening to the speeches made by the Home Secretary, one would imagine that along the roads of England the only unsightly objects were the petrol pumps. I cannot help thinking how inoffensive a petrol-filling station is when compared with the unsightly telegraph poles and wires which the Post Office authorities have erected all over the country. Nothing is said about the unsightly standards erected by electric power companies conveying power from one town to another. No one has suggested that the Post Office or these electric power companies should be compelled to place their wires and cables underground within a space of two years. The reason for this is that one is a Government Department and the other are powerful corporations. The owners of petrol 149 stations are an unorganised body of workers, and for this reason I think they require protection. It seems to me that it is most unfair to compel these small owners to make expensive alterations to their buildings, because in many cases that would only lead to bankruptcy.
§ Mr. LOOKER
I beg to second the Amendment.
If the Home Secretary cannot accept five years, I hope that he will be willing to accept some intermediate period, such as three or four years.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I hope the House will reject this Amendment as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed!"] If the Conservative party agrees, then I am quite willing to sit down.
§ Amendment negatived.