HC Deb 29 July 1935 vol 304 cc2401-5

8.33 p.m.

Captain HUDSON

I beg to move, in page 15, line 39, to leave out "forms," and to insert, "is required to be retained as."

This Amendment is proposed at the request of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing), who pointed out that a park might be a park in name and that the owner might put up a lot of horrible little houses and make it a housing estate. We are assured that this form of words will meet the case, and that as long as the park is retained as a park, it will be covered by this Clause.

8.34 p.m.


As the Mover of an Amendment which the Minister accepted in Committee, I was interested in this alteration. I would only utter the caveat that the Minister's wording originally was the wording of the Surrey Act, and it is a pity to have two Acts, the Surrey Act and this Act, with different wording. On the other hand, I accept the assurance of the Parliamentary Secretary that it will not make any real difference and will prevent a building estate being classed as a park.

8.35 p.m.


I, too, should like to say a word on this Amendment, because when I saw it on the Paper I was rather alarmed. I could understand what land which formed part of a park meant, but when it was to be "any land which is required to be retained as part of a park," I was not at all clear. The use of the passive verb raised in my mind the question "By whom is it to be retained?" and though I read through the rest of the Clause the conundrum is not answered. I am sure that the intentions of the Minister in bringing forward these words are sound, but as this Bill will have to go to another place for consideration of our Amendments I suggest that the Minister might consider whether these words are either grammatical or clear. They may be grammatical but certainly they are not clear, and I think it would be a great pity to have any more misunderstandings.

8.36 p.m.


I must thank the Minister for this Amendment. I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch (Major Mills). To me the words appear absolutely clear. After all, land which is not required to be retained as part of a park could not really claim to be part of that park in the sense that a park is an amenity to a house which it surrounds. I will not detain the House by going into the dangers and difficulties which might have arisen if this Amendment had not been proposed. I have been asked by several hon. Members, especially by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "Who would require the land to be retained" I think the circumstances are what would require the land to be retained as part of the park. The word "erquire" refers far more to circumstances than to any individual. I once again express my gratitude for this Amendment.

8.38 p.m.


I wonder whether the Minister could tell us the answer to the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman? Who does require—the owner, or some planning authority? It is not clear to me.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 13, line 40, leave out the first "or."

In line 40, leave out "of the."—[Captain Hudson.]

8.40 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 16, line 44, at the end, to insert: (5) The highway authority shall give to any person from whom they have purchased land compulsorily under this Section such reasonable facilities for communication under such land with adjoining land by means of drains, pipes, electric lines, ducts, or other apparatus constructed at the cost of the person requiring the communication as may be agreed between the highway authority and such person or, in default of agreement, determined by the Minister. In any case where any highway authority acquires land by virtue of the provisions of this Clause they acquire automatically any rights in, under or over that land. That is quite clear from the definition of "land" in Clause 24. In a good many cases lands have been acquired by persons or companies for the sole purpose of obtaining the right to lay pipes or cables or mains connecting one part of an industrial undertaking to another. In some cases these pipes or mains, have actually been laid. Pieces of land acquired for this purpose are often part of a right acquired to lay pipes, and they may extend over many miles, and it will be appreciated that the acquisition of such a right or series of rights, which may comprise in some places way leaves or at other places involve the actual ownership of the land, can only be accomplished after considerable negotiation and expense. The acquisition of land which would beak the chain would render the remainder useless, unless an alternative route could be provided, which might be expensive or might involve a long detour. Sub-section (6) gives an immunity from the operation of this Clause to statutory undertakers, except with regard to a very limited class of cases dealt with in the next Clause.

It seems to me unfair and illogical that no protection should be given to private industrial concerns, which have no means of acquiring these rights otherwise than by negotiation, while statutory undertakings are protected and can acquire their rights compulsorily. This Amendment does not seek of necessity that any owner should be given a free way leave over land, it does not propose that he should sell something and retain the greater part of it, but he should be given such reasonable facilities for communication as he may agree with the highway authority, or as may be settled by the Minister in default of agreement. Of course the highway authority or the Minister would be entitled to attach to any such agreement the payment of a reasonable rental and the repair of any damage done to the land by the laying of such pipes or cables.


I beg to second the Amendment.

8.42 p.m.


I have been reading this Amendment very closely while my hon. and gallant Friend has been moving it, and trying to discover the justice of it. A highway authority purchases land either with or without rights to lay pipes. It purchases the land and the land is then the property of the highway authority. It has paid the full market value for the land. That is the situation when my hon. and gallant Friend arrives with his Amendment, and says that the highway authority shall give to any person from whom they have purchased land reasonable facilities for communication under such land on such terms as may be agreed between the highway authority and that person. He says they should be required to give these facilities on such terms as may be agreed. But supposing there is no agreement. What is the meaning of the words that they shall be required to give such terms as may be agreed? My hon. and gallant Friend need not interrupt me; I am simply indicating to him that I could not, at this stage of the Bill, accept an Amendment in this form. In default of an agreement the matter is to be determined by the Minister.

That is the crucial phrase in this Amendment. The matter is to be determined by the Minister. When the highway authority seek an Order to purchase the land they must go to the Minister, who before confirming the Order must hear any objections, and may embody in the Order any conditions he thinks proper, for instance, conditions such as my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind for the conservation of any rights, as they may legitimately be called, or prospects, which a company may have of laying drains over the land to be acquired. At that stage my hon. and gallant Friend is not prepared to trust the Minister to make a fair adjudication, to say to the highway authority, "Well, you may acquire this land, but remember that X company have drains coming gradually along and eventually they will wish them to pass over this land." He is not prepared to trust the Minister to do that, but he is prepared to trust the Minister to make an agreement afterwards that this shall be done.

Those are the defects in this Amendment. The Amendment is not really required in this Bill. No change is made by this Bill in the procedure laid down for compulsorily acquiring land. The Minister is still bound to hear objections. There is no change in that procedure which has existed, certainly for the past generation, and probably for very much longer than that. Reliance has always been placed upon the Minister to protect any reasonable interest, and there is no change in the basis of compensation, which is also the usual basis. All that we are doing is to extend the purposes for which land may be compulsorily acquired from the existing purposes to certain other purposes; but the procedure remains and so does the basis of compensation. I do not think there has ever been an occasion on which that procedure has failed to do justice to objectors. In those circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friend who put the Amendment before the House will not find it necessary to press an Amendment which would place compulsory acquisition of land by a highway authority upon a different basis from what has hitherto, and I think satisfactorily, prevailed.


My right hon. Friend has so frankly and courteously explained the position, that I should like to show my trust in him by begging leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.