HC Deb 04 May 1934 vol 289 cc630-47

The authority who would be responsible for the maintenance and repair of a street if it were repairable by the inhabitants at large shall have the like rights under section twelve of the Gasworks Clauses Act, 1847, as are thereby conferred on the persons having control or management of the street.—[Mr. G. Peto.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.31 a.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This and the other new Clauses are the direct results of our discussions in Committee. There is nothing new about them. On the Committee stage the Minister said with regard to this particular point: I quite realise what it is that he is anxious about under the second part of his clause, and I think consideration might be given to that point. It may be that the best way of meeting the difficulty would be to extend the right which we have by Clause 2 of this Bill conferred upon the authority which will ultimately be responsible for the maintenance of the road, if it is ever taken over, to include power to secure the reinstatement of the street. If my hon. Friend is agreeable, we will look into that point, and see if we can meet him on the next stage of the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 12th April, 1934; col. 140.] That is exactly what this Clause does. It extends the power of a local authority over a private street to see that it is properly repaired. An Amendment on the subject was put forward in Committee and the reason why I move this new Clause instead of accepting the promoter's Amendment, which was intended to meet my views, is because the Clause gives us rather wider scope. Every supply company have powers in their charter to break up a long list of scheduled streets, which include all the streets they are likely to want to break up. Clause 2 deals only with unscheduled streets, that is to say, with streets which may be made later on and are not included in the schedule. When someone in an unscheduled street applies for electric light then Clause 2 takes effect. It is my anxiety to make certain that this private street shall be properly repaired after the electricity supply company have laid their cables. The owner of a house in a private street is responsible for the upkeep of the roadway in front of his house until the street is taken over by the local authority. The electric supply company may leave the road in bad order after they have laid their cables, but it would not be worth while for Mr. Smith, living at No. 7, to bring an action against them on account of a pot-hole opposite his house, because there may be a perfectly good bit of road in front of house No. 9, although opposite house No. 11, again, there may be yet another pot-hole.

One cannot get a road put in order under those conditions; there must be some one authority to see that the work is properly carried out, and the only authority to do that is the local authority. Therefore, I move this new Clause to give the local authority power to see that the road is properly repaired, and, if it is not, to charge the undertakers with the cost of repairing it. I would like to go further and put a duty on the local authority, but that would involve a good deal of legislation. This Clause, at any rate, gives them the power, and I hope that later on the Minister will see that they have also the duty, of seeing that the work is done. I hope that the promoters of the Bill will accept this new Clause. I know that my legal friends do not believe in administering partial justice, and, if they are going to do justice in some directions, they might as well do justice in the others.


I beg to second the Motion.

The New Clause appears to be only reasonable after the evidence that has been given about the difficulties caused when streets have been broken up and need to be put into good repair. The New Clause would strengthen the Bill in every way.

11.37 a.m.


I want to ask the mover of the New Clause to explain the effect of Section 12 of the Gasworks Clauses Act of 1847. I am very anxious about this. In Gateshead last year this very thing happened, and it is going to cost our rates £27,000 to put it right. I am not sure whether it happened in a scheduled street, but the street had not been properly paved. The contractors sub-contracted and the sub-contractors broke up the road and caused a terrific gas explosion which wrecked a house and caused a lamentable loss of life. I would like to know from those responsible for the New Clause or from the promoter of the Bill, with his abounding legal knowledge, more about Section 12 of the Act of 1847. Such an accident might happen anywhere, as it happened in my constituency, to my great regret and to the regret, I am sure, of all hon. Members.

11.38 a.m.


I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. G. Peto) for referring to me as having administered justice. I have not yet attained that position. It would be extremely useful to add this Clause to the Bill. Instead of a series of people taking proceedings in order to have a road put into repair, the local authority would be authorised to take the necessary proceedings themselves, and thereby perhaps avoid a multiplicity of litigation. In the circumstances, I shall be glad if the House will add the Clause to the Bill. With regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay), the Section of the Act of 184V authorises adjoining owners and people who have houses on a road to take steps to see that the work of relaying the street is properly done. If it. is not properly done, they can take their proceedings, as individual owners, to ensure that it is properly done. The object of the hon. Member for Bilston in moving the new Clause is to enable the local authority, if it has to get the work done properly, to act having regard to the fact that a certain number of local owners of houses are all under a grievance about the matter, notwithstanding that they may not be qualified under the Gasworks Act to initiate the procedure.

11.40 a.m.


I hope that the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the new Clause will not be offended if I say that the arguments in favour of it appear very plausible. I do not know exactly what the new Clause means, but I will ask a question of the hon. and learned Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Thorp). Suppose that a private undertaking rips up a road. If the road has already been taken over by the local authority, I take it that the Clause means that the local authority will have power to sue the private undertaker if he does not make good that road.




I will put another question. Suppose that the road is not scheduled and the local authority have not taken it over. The purpose of the new Clause is to give the local authority power to take action on behalf of the inhabitants of that road against the private undertaker to make good that road. Is there not a danger of saddling the local authority with the expenses of litigation or with the expenses of making good the road that has been broken up? Hon. Gentlemen shake their heads.

I am a little suspicious of the new Clause, and, before we dispense with it, the Minister might come to our aid and explain exactly what it means. I am in a quandary, because, although I am a little suspicious of the Clause, I find the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) is opposing it, and I am more suspicious still when he opposes anything. He throws me into the arms of my first set of opponents, and later on I may find myself supporting the new Clause if it is opposed by the hon. Member for South Croydon.

11.43 a.m.


Let me read Section 12 of the Gas Works Clauses Act, 1847. It says: If any such delay or omission as aforesaid takes place in regard to the reinstatement of the street, the person having control or management of the street, bridge, sewer, drain or tunnel in respect of which such delay or omission may take place may cause the works so delayed or omitted to be executed, and the expense of executing the same shall be repaid to such persons by the undertakers. The purpose of the proposed new Clause is to enable a local authority to enter a street that they do not own and to carry out certain works there.


Would the street which they do not own be within the area of the local authority?


Yes, the local authority would own that street if they had formerly adopted it. If the street has not been adopted, the various frontagers are the persons who own the street. Each individual frontager can require the local authority to put the street in the front of his house into a proper condition.




Can require the undertakers to do it.


I am sorry. I should have said that they can require the undertakers to put the street in proper repair, if the undertakers feel that they cannot do it themselves. What the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. G. Peto) is concerned about is that there may be a large number of frontagers, and it may be difficult for them to act in concert, and, therefore, he wants to give the local authority power which they do not possess by transferring to them the rights of the owners of the streets. I can see a certain advantage and convenience in it, but it is a definite invasion, nevertheless, upon the owners of the street that someone can go and make up that street in a way in which they may not want. The new Clause is not in a satisfactory form, and, if it were read a second time, it would require an Amendment to provide that the local authority shall only so act if required to do so by the persons who own the street, or the majority of those persons. A Clause giving the right to invade private property in this way, although it may have certain conveniences for this purpose, establishes a new precedent, and would need to be examined very carefully.

11.45 a.m.


The Debate on this Clause shows how far we are stretching the procedure of the House in dealing with matters of this kind. This particular Clause is not one of any great moment, but, if it were put into the Bill in this way, it would only add confusion. Speaking as one who has broken up some 1,000 or 2,000 miles of streets under all conditions, I have never yet had a case in which private owners were involved where there was any dispute between the owners of the street and the undertakers. In the Act of 1882 and subsequent Acts, but particuarly in the Act of 1882, very careful provision was made, and on the whole it has worked very well. There is great danger of introducing difficulties which may not be realised by the House at the moment, such, for instance, as in some cases putting a burden on the local authority which the local authority is totally unwilling to assume. I suggest that, when a proposal is made during the Report stage of a Bill on a Friday which may change the general statute law of the country, in connection with a matter of this kind, of no great importance but still very irritating to the parties concerned, both local authorities and undertakers, the Minister ought very carefully to consider the proposal before he agrees to accept it.


Surely my hon. Friend is aware that this is no new precedent. It is taken from the Gas Works Clauses Act, 1847; it is not introducing any new revolutionary doctrine.


It is transferring certain powers to local authorities. If they have them already, why insert the Clause in the Bill?


They have them for gas, but not for electricity.


The form in which they are applied is being changed, and that changed form is being made applicable to electricity.

11.49 a.m.


I am doubtful about this proposed new Clause as it is at present worded. It would give a new power to local authorities. The position under the Act of 1847 is that where you have a private street, very often only made up to a small extent, and public undertakers come in and dig it up, they can only be required to replace it in the condition in which it was before they started dealing with it. That is their liability to the owners, and no more. This Clause, however, would give the right to the local authority to go in and do the work of repairing that road. Constantly there are very grave differences between the views of private inhabitants on each side of such a street and the views of the surveyor to the local authority as to the manner in which the road ought to be made up, and I think that on many occasions, if this power were exercised by the local authority, they would come in and, in making up the road, put it into substantially better condition than it was in before. They would then seek to recover the cost from the electricity supply undertaking, and the latter would say, "You are trying to involve us in substantially more cost than you ought," and probably there would be litigation between the two parties. Assuming that the electricity supply undertaking is right, and the local authority has done too much work, what is going to be the position? Is the cost of making up this private road to be borne by the ratepayers or by the prviate owners? I think, with great respect to the Movers of the Clause and the promoters of the Bill, that the wording of the Clause needs substantially more thought before it is put into the Bill in its present form.


Perhaps, with the leave of the House, I might explain that all these powers were granted to the electricity industry by the Act of 1899, which incorporated the Gas Works Clauses Act.

11.52 a.m.


This proposed new Clause is really, as has been pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and others, a matter of very great importance. It would give to the local authorities a new power to enter upon private property for the purpose of putting a road right, and we have to decide that definite principle one way or the other when we are considering whether this Clause should be accepted or not. It may not be a new principle, but at any rate it is new as regards its insertion in this Bill, and it ought to have been dealt with at its proper stage of the proceedings.

I should like to ask the Minister of Transport a question. Every one of us is agreed that a great traffic problem is raised by the Clause, namely, the problem of the breaking up of roads and streets. If anything is common knowledge in this country, it is that there is a tremendous lack of co-ordination between the people who break up streets. I am sure it is not the fault of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. G. Balfour), who has acknowledged that he has broken up hundreds of thousands of miles of streets, or whatever the figure may be, but who is always anxious to help everybody. This is a problem which the Minister of Transport is trying to solve. I look upon the Clause not only from the point of view of whether it is giving a new right to the local authority, but from the point of view of whether it is going to help the Minister of Transport, the local authorities, and other people to get over the really abominable state of affairs in which you see, when a street has been broken up and put back at great expense, the Post Office or some other authority coming along shortly afterwards and doing it all over again. It is a huge inconvenience to traffic, and an appalling, ghastly waste of public money, and I want the Minister to explain whether this Clause would help him out of that difficulty. Obviously he has looked into it from that point of view, because it is one of the major problems of his Department. I raise the question because it is only very rarely that we get a chance of going into the matter, and it is relevant to this Clause.

We cannot pass a Clause which is going to make confusion worse, and I think the House is justified in expecting the Minister to give a clear definition as to how his own Department would work out this problem of the lack of co-ordination in the breaking up of streets and its con- nection with the traffic problems of the day. If the Minister could give a satisfactory explanation, we might perhaps accept the Clause. It is a pity that on a new Clause of this kind neither the promoter of the Bill nor my hon. Friends who have moved the Clause should have said one word about helping the public out of the very great difficulty to which I have been referring.

11.54 a.m.


Before the Minister gives us his advice, I should like to ask another question. Those of us who are accustomed to local government administration will know the situation that arises in connection with the Private Street Works Act. A street which is occupied by private owners remains for some time in a more or less derelict condition. Then the local authority steps in and says that the street must be put in order, and applies the Private Street Works Act, after giving the appropriate notices. When that has been done, the local authority has the right to recoup itself from the local owners for the expense that it has incurred in putting the street in order. What would be the effect of this Clause on that situation? As I understand it, the Clause would give the local authority power, after a street had been dug up, to put it back into the condition in which the undertaker found it, but in that situation would the local authority have the right to recoup itself for any expense that it had occurred in the matter? That question was put to the promoter of the Bill, but I did not gather that he replied to it, and I should be very glad to know what precisely is the position in that regard, and whether the local authority, once it has stepped in and undertaken this work, would be committed thereafter to maintaining the road in proper repair.

11.55 a.m.


This provision is not designed to enable the local authority itself to put the street in order, but to enable the local authority to take proceedings and compel the undertaker to put it into repair. It would not involve, when the road was made up as it should have been, that it is taken over by the local authority in exactly the same condition as it was before, but the local authority would be in a position under the Public Health Acts to take it over and give the necessary notice to make it up.

11.56 a.m.

Lieut. Colonel HEADLAM

This Clause is the result of a good deal of discussion that took place in Committee, when the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. G. Peto) and others considered that private persons would be put at a disadvantage when dealing with electricity undertakings. The kind of road in contemplation is a new road where development is going on and an electrical installation is being put up. The hon. Member for Bilston pictured large pits dug in front of the houses and the undertakers not filling them up satisfactorily, or leaving bumps on the ground. I was very anxious to see that that kind of thing should be stopped. The Clause merely enables a private individual to have the assistance of the local authority in forcing the undertakers to reinstate the road in a satisfactory way. I do not think the provision is at all dangerous to anyone; indeed, on the whole it is a useful addition to the Bill and is in the interest of consumers generally, and I recommend the House to accept it.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer my question whether it helps in the co-ordination of the various people who have power to dig up streets?


That does not arise on the Clause at all.

11.58 a.m.


In all this Debate we have not yet had a single example of

the need for the Clause. If it is common knowledge, it must be extremely easy to produce cases of need. One hon. Member has said that in all his large experience he has never known the least difficulty to arise and, if the undertakers do not do their duty, the householders can compel them to do it. Before we pass this Clause we ought to know if there is a case for altering the general law on the ground that grievance has actually arisen. The Clause is in no way confined to undertakers within the scope of the Bill. I suppose it will also refer to gas undertakings. Is there any case in the long experience of gas undertakings in which there has been need for a local authority to intervene, and is it appropriate that in an electricity supply Bill the law should altered relating to gas undertakings. To me as a layman it seems a very doubtful point, and I am merely asking for information.

12 n.


The Minister says it is intended to give the local authority power to force the undertakers to do the work, but the Act of 1847 does nothing of the kind. Section 12 of that Act allows the private owners of the frontage to cause the work omitted to be done to be executed, the expenses of executing the same to be repaid to such persons by the undertakers. This Clause, if passed, authorises the local authority to go in and do the work and gives them a right of action against the undertaker.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided : Ayes, 76; Noes, 35.

Division No. 237.] AYES [12.1 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) McEntee, Valentine L.
Banfield, John William Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McGovern, John
Batey, Joseph Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McLean, Major Sir Alan
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Mainwaring, William Henry
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Grundy, Thomas W. Maitland, Adam
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Cape, Thomas Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Moreing, Adrian C.
Carver, Major William H. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Clarke, Frank Hepworth, Joseph Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Howard, Tom Forrest North, Edward T.
Cooke, Douglas Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Palmer, Francis Noel
Crossley, A. C. Hums, Sir George Hopwood Penny, Sir George
Daggar, George Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Percy, Lord Eustace
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Ker, J. Campbell Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Dobbie, William Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Edwards, Charles Lindsay, Noel Ker Ray, Sir William
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Logan, David Gilbert Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Rickards, George William
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Selley, Harry R. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Smith, Tom (Normanton) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Sutcliffe, Harold Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.) Wilton, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd) Mr. Geoffrey Peto and Mr. A. C.
Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L. Womersley, Walter James Reed.
Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) West, F. R.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Scone, Lord
Broadbent, Colonel John Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Magnay, Thomas Tate, Mavis Constance
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Denman, Hon. R. D. Morrison, William Shephard Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Moss, Captain H. J. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Emmott, Charles E. Q. C. Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Remer, John R.
Grimston, R. V. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) TELLERS FOR THE NOES-
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Runge, Norah Cecil Mr. Spens and Mr. Herbert
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Williams.

12.9 p.m.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 2, after the word "shall," to insert: if requested by the persons or a majority of the persons having control of the street. My objection to the new Clause is that it will give the local authority the right against the wishes of the inhabitants to interfere with the way in which the street is to be reinstated after it has been excavated by the authorised undertaker, but, if these words are inserted, the rights of inhabitants in the street, who are the persons having control of the street, will be protected. I think that the purpose of the Amendment is perfectly clear, and I therefore merely desire to move it.


I beg to second the Amendment.

12.10 p.m.


I do not quite understand the Amendment, requested by the persons or a majority of the persons. There must be a majority of the persons in the first instance. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I cannot conceive a street of less than three houses involved in a case of this kind, and I think that the wording of the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman is unnecessary.


I can give cases where whole streets belong to one or two persons, and, as there may be difficulties, I have tried to cover every conceivable case by my wording.


The hon. Gentleman has in mind, therefore, the ownership of a street by one individual, or a street where each house is owned by the individual tenant. I can see the point, but I have one doubt about the Amendment. The owner of a whole street may not be in tune with the wishes of his tenants and he may be a shareholder in the private electricity undertaking. Consequently, the tenants might always be having the street ripped up and never repaired merely because the owner of the houses was in league with the private electricity undertaking. As I have said on previous occasions, I am instinctively opposed to everything which emanates from the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). On this occasion, too, I feel that my instinct is correct, and I think that the movers of the new Clause ought to oppose the Amendment for the reasons I have given.

12.11 p.m.


I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) will not press this Amendment, because, Mr. Speaker, you have already pointed out that an enormous number of Amendments have been put down on the Paper, and, if we have manuscript Amendments, it will only make a mess of the whole Bill, and we want to see the Bill passed in an effective form. The Amendment does not really make sense. The Clause says that "The authority who would be responsible … shall have the like rights", and the manuscript Amendment says, if requested by a majority of the inhabitants. You either have the rights, or you have not.

12.12 p.m.


The Amendment which has just been moved appears to be in direct contradiction of the statement made by the Minister. He was prepared to accept the Clause, because it gave him some control to see that the road was put back into something like its pre-disturbed state. Here the Minister will have no control at all. The road will be left in a bad state after it has been ripped up. I hope that the Minister will definitely oppose the manuscript Amendment.

12.13 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I cannot say that what my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) has said is in direct conflict with what I said, because I think the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) misunderstood my remarks. This does not refer to the Minister at all. However, I do not think that this Amendment is required. Indeed, I think that it is wrong and will not improve the Clause at all. The frontagers may own the street, and it might well be that a street in part construction would not get repaired at all in such circumstances. I can imagine a case where there might be two houses on a new road, and it would be very difficult to get a majority to go to the local authority. It might be a very difficult problem. I honestly think that the words are not required, and personally I shall vote against them if the Amendment is forced to a Division.

12.14 p.m.


I think that the words are very much required. I have often found that if the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway says that a thing is wrong, it is invariably right. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) really proposes to give some sort of power to the inhabitants of the street, but the Amendment ought perhaps to be re-worded so as to include "inhabitants or owner." That alteration, however, can be made in another place. The idea at the back of the Amendment is that, where the majority of the people in a part of the street which is disturbed wish the distubance to be put right, they can make a direct appeal under the Clause. Surely that is only fair. The Amendment clearly points out that these people should have this right in regard to the street which they use more than anyone else. Naturally there is a bitter attack on it by my hon. Friends here, because they think that it is doing something to help private enterprise and private individuals.

The Amendment is perfectly good commonsense, and is in perfectly good form so far as one can tell, and I ask Members on this occasion not to be guided by the Minister, who, I think, has hastily come to a conclusion without proper consideration. I know that there are many Amendments which I find it difficult to follow, and I am sure that with his greater skill he must have smaller difficulties where I have very great ones. It is absolutely essential that we should have something in the Bill to show people that they have this definite right. For that reason I hope that my hon. Friends opposite will support the Amendment. I shall certainly vote for it in the Division Lobby. It can be easily adjusted in another place if the wording is not exactly what it ought to be.

12.17 p.m.


I think that the Amendment is not only unnecessary but dangerous to private individuals, whose rights the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is so anxious to safeguard. Let me give a case which may arise, and, in fact, arises almost any day. A number of plots are sold in a private street, and, it may be, half a dozen houses are built at one end. The other plots are not built upon until some years afterwards, and the result is that these half dozen people cannot get the street in front of their houses put right, because the other people have no interest in it. Consequently they have to wait many years until the remainder of the street is made up. Even from the point of view of private enterprise, the hon. Members for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) are entirely wrong. Let me say, as one who prefers public enterprise to private enterprise, that I myself am a private owner. [HON. MEMBBBS : "Shame!"] I may say that my house is still heavily mortgaged, and in any case I have the interest, which anyone has, of the ordinary owner or part-owner of a house.

12.19 p.m.


The hon. Member on the Front bench opposite expressed some doubt as to whether you could visualise a street with only two or three houses. I happen to be the owner, with one other person, of a private road. For my part, I certainly do not wish to invoke the aid of the local authority. I feel that these words will give some limited protection, and restore the position in which we desire to find ourselves.

12.20 p.m.


I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) will not persist in this Amendment, which, I think, is put forward under a misapprehension. In the case of two owners in a street this Clause would never be brought into operation, because they could exercise their rights under the Gasworks Clauses Act. It is only where there are a comparatively large number of owners that this would be put into operation. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is extremely anxious that there should be some body which would have some form of control over people who can open streets and not restore them to the condition in which they were before. He thinks that there should be a sort of private Parliament held in every street and a vote taken, ayes one way and noes the other, in order to ascertain

whether the local authority should be authorised to take proceedings. Of course, in a case where there were only one or two owners, it would be a very simple matter for them—


Where is the dividing line?

12.22 p.m.


Under the present law a street is torn up by a supply company, who put it back, and the people in the street are perfectly satisfied with the state in which it is put back. Along comes the surveyor of the local authority and says that they do not like it, and, under the Clause, that gives the local authority, without any reference to one, a dozen or 5,000 people in the street, the right themselves to do a whole lot of extra work and then sue the private supply undertaking for the cost of it. That is what we want to guard against, and it is necessary that the right given by this Clause should be limited, so that the local authority would not be allowed to incur that expenditure both to the supply undertaking, and also, probably, to the rates, unless a majority of the frontagers in the street say that they are not satisfied with the work of the supply undertaking, and request the local authority to exercise its powers.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Clause."

The House divided : Ayes, 65; Noes, 59.

Division No. 238.] AYES. [12.24 p.m.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Remer, John R.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Rickards, George William
Bottom, A. C. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Ropner, Colonel L.
Broadbent, Colonel John Horsbrugh, Florence Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Ker, J. Campbell Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Carver, Major William H. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Scone, Lord
Clayton, Sir Christopher Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lindsay, Noel Ker Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Strauss, Edward A.
Eales, John Frederick McLean, Major Sir Alan Summersby, Charles H.
Eillston, Captain George Sampson Magnay, Thomas Tate, Mavis Constance
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Maitland, Adam Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Moss, Captain H. J. Withers, Sir John James
Gluckstein, Louie Halle North, Edward T.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Raikes, Henry V. A. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grimston, R. V. Ramsden, Sir Eugene Mr. Herbert Williams and Mr. Spent.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Ray, Sir William
Attlee, Clement Richard Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Cape, Thomas
Banfield, John William Cadogan, Hon. Edward Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofrie
Batey, Joseph Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Clarke, Frank
Cooke, Douglas Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Cove, William Q. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Selley, Harry R.
Crossley, A. C. Lawson, John James Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Dagger, George MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Sutcliffe, Harold
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) McEntee, Valentine L. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Dickie, John P. McGovern, John Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Dobbie, William Mainwaring, William Henry Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Edwards, Charles Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. It. Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Horsing, Adrian C. Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Wilmot, John
Groves, Thomas E. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hortf'd)
Grundy, Thomas W. Palmer, Francis Noel Womersley, Walter James
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Penny, Sir George Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Howard, Tom Forrest Procter, Major Henry Adam TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Mr. A. C. Reed and Mr. Geoffrey
Hums, Sir George Hopwood Runge, Norah Cecil Peto.

Motion made, and Question, "That the proposed Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.


On a point of Order. In view of the very heavy defeat of the promoters of the Bill on a very fundamental principle, I should like to ask what is their position now.


That is hardly a point of Order.