HC Deb 06 July 1934 vol 291 cc2211-5

11.10 a.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, at the end, to insert: ( ) Every such licence shall contain such provisions as the Board of Trade may deem expedient for protecting the amenities of the locality to which the licence relates against injurious affection by reason of the exercise of the rights granted thereby. This is a point which was not raised in Committee, but is nevertheless of considerable substance. It is in no sense a hostile Amendment, but is intended to make the Bill more complete. There are in the Bill substantial provisions, whether effective or not, for the safeguarding of amenities in cases where recourse is had by the concessionaires to the Railway and Canal Commission for the compulsory purchase of land. In those circumstances it is possible for all interested parties, whether the owners of the land, adjacent local authorities or the owners of adjacent land, to claim to make representations to the Commission; but in the event, which we understand the Government hope will be more frequent, of an agreement between the undertakers and the owners of the land, a voluntary agreement in which no recourse is had to the Railway and Canal Commission, there is no opportunity whatever given to other interested parties to put their case at any stage with regard to the granting of a licence for the work to be done.

During the Committee stage we were precluded, I understood, from raising this point in connection with the publication of the grant of a licence before it was granted. That would have been one way of dealing with it, but as the Government were not prepared to consider that we have moved this Amendment now in order that there may be machinery by which those interested, other than the two primary parties, that is to say, the actual landowner concerned and the concessionaire, may have a chance of putting their point of view with regard to the amenities. The Minister at the beginning of this Parliament was interested in the introduction of a Town and Country Planning Bill. I then thought that that was the worst Bill that could be introduced into this House. I have since learned that I did the Minister an injustice; he has now produced a worse Bill.

Under the provisions of this Bill, once the two principal parties are agreed, no local authority, no adjacent owner, no one outside has any say as to the setting up of oil works in a district. Such works may be entirely unsuited for the district; they may ruin amenities and be entirely experimental, may do incalculable harm and do no good from the oil point of view. We do not want to give powers to these people to stop production, but we do think that before work is started they should have the right to put their point of view for the amenities, just as much when it is an agreed purchase as when it is compulsory. I cannot see the logic of saying that if it is a compulsory purchase the outside interests should be considered, but that in an agreed purchase they should have no opportunity of putting their case. I am aware that certain interests supposed to represent the landowning interest have opposed these provisions. Quite frankly that leaves me cold. The Bill seems to me illogical and unjust, and I think that if this power is taken for the public good the public ought in all cases to have the right to give their views as to whether the powers should or should not be used.

11.15 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to second the Amendment.

I suggest that this is a proposal which might be accepted by the Government. I would point out that, so far, they have not made a single concession in connection with this Bill although it has been opposed by a considerable number of Members on this side of the House. This Amendment would in no way interfere with the object which the Government say they have in view in the Bill, and I suggest that the question of amenities ought to be considered in all cases and not merely in some cases.

11.16 a.m.

The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Ernest Brown)

I do not think that my hon. Friends have realised what would be the result of their Amendment. It would not carry out what they seem to desire. They ask that where there is a voluntary arrangement between a landowner and a a licensee the Board of Trade should take special powers to lay down special conditions about amenities. Surely when my hon. Friends talk as the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) did, about "incalculable harm" being done, they must see that what they are doing here is to raise a very special plea, namely, the plea that particular landowners shall have special protection in special cases, as compared with neighbouring landowners when voluntary arrangements are made, notwithstanding the fact that they already possess rights in this respect under the common law. At present if a factory of any kind is erected and if it is likely to cause a nuisance or in the phrase of the hon. Member to do "incalculable harm" then those concerned have their rights under the common law.

If, on the other hand, the narrower point is taken that since in cases of compulsion the Government have said that one of the factors to be taken into consideration by a court in forming a judgment shall be the effect upon amenities, then in cases of private arrangements between private persons the Board of Trade should lay down special conditions for the protection of amenities, surely the place for that is in the regulations. If the point which hon. Members have in mind is just that the work should be carried out in a workmanlike manner, or to secure a regulated flow of oil, with the minimum of disturbance to the amenities, surely the proper place to provide for that is in the regulations which will be drawn up before the licences are granted and will be placed before Parliament. I understand the anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury in regard to amenities and he has himself referred to a previous Measure in which this question was involved, but I would point out to him that the conflict between human activity and amenity is a very old one, and it is not merely an industrial but also a rural problem. There is a quotation on this point which I might recall from a very old Book: Where no oxen are the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox. Whether in rural or industrial life, wherever human activity takes place there must be a certain amount of soiling. The Government have done their best to protect amenities under this Measure, and I can assure my hon. Friends that the regulations will be drawn up in a manner which will secure, inside the common law rights, what both the Government and they desire namely the fullest protection for the amenities of the country.


I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that this matter would be adequately safeguarded under the regulations, but as I read Clause 6 and as I have been informed, the subjects which the regulations may prescribe do not include this subject.


I have said that in so far as the regulations deal with the work and the regulation of the flow and so forth, all of which of course has a bearing on this matter, this question will be covered by them. In so far as they do not deal with those matters, then everyone has rights under the common law equally. What my hon. Friends are asking is, that one partciular section of landowners should have an extra protection which their neighbours do not enjoy.

Amendment negatived.