§ As amended, considered.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
In moving briefly the Third Reading of this Bill, I would like to thank hon. Members in all parts of the House for the assistance they have given—and the spirit in which they have given it—in framing a Measure the general principle 1498 of which has been generally agreed. I realise that the Ministry of Transport is now being entrusted with a delicate and difficult task; but whereas in the past I have been able to avoid certain questions put to me in the House about roads by saying that I was not the highway authority, I am now to become the highway authority in respect of 4,500 miles of the through routes of this country. It will be our endeavour to bring them to perfection, to improve them as avenues of communication, to give them all the features that modern roads should possess; but I warn the House, as I have already done, that there is bound to be a considerable lapse of time before these improvements can be put into operation on this vast system of trunk roads.
§ 6.19 p.m
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
I rise to give the Minister an opportunity of making Some more explicit statement than he did on Second Reading with regard to a problem which interests very greatly many of my hon. Friends on this side. I would like to ask him what he intends to do with regard to the problem of major bridges. In the course of his Second Reading speech and previous speeches, the right hon. Gentleman indicated—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The right hon. Gentleman is now dealing with a matter which does not arise on the Third Reading. He cannot deal with what is not in the Bill.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I did not intend to refer in detail to the matter, but merely wanted to point out the reasons we were not prepared to assent to the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman cannot discuss on the Third Reading what is not in the Bill.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I shall be delighted to see this Bill passed, because I think the purpose for which it is designed is a most admirable one, and because I think a Bill to place the great trunk roads of the country under one general administration has been proved by practice to be very necessary. There is only one comment I wish to make. In several places in the Bill there is a considerable alteration of a practice which has previously existed. For example, when independent highway authorities were in existence there were many occasions when they came into conflict with private rights and on other occasions, I will not say they came into conflict, but they got into situations in which there were differences of opinion with certain of the public utility authorities. In the main, when any such difference of view arose, matters were settled by a reference to the Minister of 1500 Transport. Since the Minister of Transport has become the highway authority for these great arterial roads, it is plain that unless some alteration is made he will become the judge in his own cause which, as everyone knows, is entirely obnoxious to the whole principle upon which English administration is founded.
In these circumstances I think it would be wise and prudent of the Minister to provide in the Bill some arrangement by which he would not be put into a very awkward and embarrassing position —an arrangement which would ensure that on occasions when differences arose between his personal opinion as Minister of Transport and any of the other interests, people would be assured that justice was entirely balanced. I am not for one moment suggesting that either the present Minister or any future Minister would be likely to deal otherwise than what he regarded as impartially with any such matters, but as you know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with your long practice of the law, even where there is what is called in law a challenge to favour, no matter how impartial the judgment may be, any decision may be upset by reason of the fact that the person was giving a judgment in which there was a challenge to his favour. In these circumstances, I should think the Minister of Transport would be willing to get over such an awkward position. I remember the words used long ago by Robert Burns in one of his poems:
When self the wavering balance shakes, It's rarely right adjusted.[HON. MEMBERS: "Richt."] I was quoting it to a more barbarian audience. I am sure the Minister would be anxious that he should not be saddled with any possible form of suspicion, or what we call in Scotland a backspang, from anybody who found he was aggrieved in such a matter. I hope the Minister will be able to give an assurance that he will be prepared to act in that manner, and that he will be able to find some method by which his judgment may be entirely removed from any personal bias towards the opinion which he has already formed. I hope that either now or in another place by some means an arrangement can be made in order to render these conditions satisfactory. I am certain the Minister will realise the importance of this matter, and I would like to have from him some definite assurance.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. TURTON
When the Minister introduced this Bill on Second Reading, I think we all felt that the Bill contained complete power to take away from the local authorities the maintenance of certain principal roads. I think we all paid far to little attention to one Clause that was, and still is, in the Bill; that is, Clause 2. When hon. Members reconsider this Bill in the light of that Clause, they will realise that along these roads —whether they are principal or not is another matter—whenever they get to a big town the Minister will have no power under this Bill—he has other powers—to get uniformity on them.
In my view, the problem of the roads at the moment is one that chiefly concerns the built-up areas. It is there that traffic is most dense, that more children are in danger of their lives and that by-passing is of first-class importance. If we pass the Bill in its present form, with Clause 2, all the very large towns will be excluded from the Bill. Even when large towns make a by-pass, with the extension of the boundaries of county boroughs, they will still be out of the Bill. I am very concerned about that provision in the Bill. Why has the Minister included it? He told us on Committee stage that his reason was that the Urban District Councils Association were against giving up their power to him.
§ Mr. TURTON
Yes, the county boroughs did not want to give up their powers to him. What will become of Parliament if anybody who does not want to give up powers to the Minister when he is bringing in a Bill which he claims to be as important as this succeeds? The West Riding County Council have written to all hon. Members saying that they do not want their roads to be taken over. In that case, why is not every road in the West Riding County Council excluded? Why does the Minister not listen to their views? It seems that the county boroughs have the ear of the Minister; whatever they say he is willing to carry into effect. That is a very bad aspect of this Bill. The Bill really stands or falls by what is in the Schedules. As in all cases of nationalisation, it depends on what one is going to nationalise. We have to consider whether all the roads that are in 1502 the Schedules should be in them. In the course of the Debates on this Bill the Minister has sought to justify the inclusion of roads in the Schedules.
There is one statement he made relating to two of the roads in the Schedules that I would ask him to correct now. He referred to the road in the Schedule which goes to Middlesbrough and the road to Hull and mentioned certain distances. He said that from Middlesbrough to Scarborough was 35 miles, and from Scarborough to Hull 25 miles. Some of us showed how uneasy we were at that statement because those distances are inaccurate. I have tested them by the Automobile Association's road map and I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman, being Minister of Transport, would go by road and would not fly to those places. The distances I find are 48½ miles from Middlesbrough to Scarborough and 42½ miles from Scarborough to Hull. In order to score on the Committee stage the Minister told us that it was 25 miles and he was very annoyed when we said that the figure was not accurate. Even as the crow flies it is 37½ miles from Middlesbrough and Hull. I think that shows that in that area there is a great gap in the map in connection with this Bill.
There are two other points which I wish to raise, and which concern me even more intimately. When I was speaking upon the Penrith-Middlesbrough road I submitted a certain suggestion, which my council had made most reluctantly, that that road should be excluded from the Schedule in return for another road. The Minister made a certain amount of play with that suggested exchange and described it as a "swap," a word which was never used by those who were making the proposals. I ask the Minister now to tell us who initiated the suggestion of that exchange which he ridiculed in the House. I hope he will answer that question because the local authority has been placed in a very difficult position by the ridicule which the Minister put upon that suggested exchange. If a higher 'authority initiated that suggestion there are only two roads in this Schedule which the North Riding County Council could exchange. One is the Great North Road and the other the Penrith-Middlesbrough road. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the Great North Road should be taken out of the. Schedule and it was left to them to 1503 decide whether they should offer the Penrith-Middlesbrough road and they did so most reluctantly. I hope the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will tell the House what is the truth about that suggested exchange.
The last point I want to raise concerns a statement made by the Minister at the end of his speech two days ago. Describing the activities of my hon. Friends and myself in advocating a view in which we believe, and which we consider to be in the interests of our constituencies and of the nation, the Minister said:I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton will on reflection appreciate that he does little service to the county …. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1936; col. 987, Vol. 318.]That was by advocating the inclusion of a certain road which I would be out of order in speaking upon to-night. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by that? Is it a threat? I want to know, because, as this Bill has taken a certain course, there is a road on which we shall have to ask for grants. If the Minister, by these words, is levelling a threat at my council, then I think it is a most monstrous statement to make to this House and one which is not worthy of the dignity of the high office which he holds or the distinguished Cabinet of which he is a member. [Laughter.] It is all very well for the Minister to laugh. The people in the local authority have to administer their roads, and remarks such as that cause grave disquiet and do nothing to uphold the opinion which they have of the Minister. In view of what I believe to be the ill-weighted arrangement in the Schedule, whereby roads in the South are getting an Advantage and roads in the North are getting none—this is brought to such a pitch that there are nine roads in this Schedule leading out of London and not one road going through or near the second capital of England, the city of York—in view of these things, I shall not be able to vote with the Minister on the Third Reading, and if a Division is challenged I shall be in the other Lobby.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE:
The catchment boards are very anxious about the effect of this Bill on some of their present powers. Under Section 64 of the Land 1504 Drainage Act they have certain powers as regards bridges over which trunk and other roads are carried. Sub-section (1) of that Section is as follows:It shall not be lawful for any person except by way of replacement or reconstruction of an existing bridge to construct a bridge over the main river of a catchment area without the consent (not to be unreasonably withheld) of the Catchment Board and unless the bridge is constructed in accordance with plans and sections approved by the Catchment Board.The restriction laid down by that Subsection is applicable to all highway authorities. Is the protection thus afforded to the catchment boards to be removed in the case of trunk roads, inasmuch as the Minister of Transport would apparently come within the wording of Subsection (4) of the same Section of the Land Drainage Act which says:Nothing in this section shall be taken to be in derogation of any provision having, the force of law by virtue of which the consent of any Government Department is required for the erection of a bridge over any waters, or by virtue of which any powers are exercisable by any Government Department in relation to such a bridge.When the Land Drainage Act was before Parliament the Trunk Roads Bill was not anticipated. It was not anticipated then, that the rights which catchment boards have as regards their bridges would be taken away under Sub-section (4). I understand that the Minister has already given a promise to the Catchment Boards Association but I would be glad if he could see his way to give a guarantee in the House, so that it should be recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, to the effect that even if the catchment boards do not get the full measure of protection provided for in the Land Drainage Act, they will at least be consulted in reference to bridges constructed to carry trunk roads over main rivers and also the approaches and any other works in connection with such bridges. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is primarily concerned with matters connected with land drainage and if, by any chance, it is not found possible to consult the catchment boards concerned, on any proposed action by the Minister in regard to bridges, I ask whether it would not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to consult with the Minister of Agriculture on the matter. I hope he will realise that there is a certain difference in regard to this matter between the catchment boards and other authorities, for 1505 this reason, that the catchment boards are charged with the drainage, and that he will be able to give a declaration on the lines of the letter which, I understand, he has already written on the subject.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Major Sir JOHN BIRCHALL
I desire, if possible, to obtain a definite statement from the Minister on the subject of the proposed bridge over the Severn.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Severn Bridge proposal does not come into this Bill, and it would not be in order to raise the matter on the Third Reading.
§ Sir J. BIRCHALL
I was not going to discuss the scheme, but merely to ask the Minister for a definite statement that any question of making that bridge and the approaches to it part of a trunk road in the immediate future would not be ruled out under the Bill. It is a question of great importance, and I think the Minister has not dealt quite definitely with it. If I could obtain a ruling from him on that point, it would give great encouragement especially to the depressed areas of South Wales.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I am rather sorry to have to raise the point of order, but is it not the case that a ruling has already been given from the Chair that it is out of order on this occasion to bring in any of the bridge schemes that were discussed during the Committee stage?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is exactly the Ruling which I have given. I have said that the hon. Member cannot raise the question of the proposed Severn bridge at this stage.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
I wish to ask a question about bridges which I think is in order, because the matter is dealt with specifically in Clause 6 (3), where the Minister takes power in certain circumstances to construct bridges under or over trunk roads. My point is one of interpretation. The Bill, of which I am very much in favour, is a little difficult to read because, of necessity, it contains a great many references, some of them of a rather complicated character. Assume that the Minister exercises this power under Clause 6 (3) and that, as a result, a bridge is to be constructed under 1506 or over a trunk road. The public utility authorities such as water authorities, gas and electricity authorities, and, it may be, tramway authorities, in certain cases may be involved in considerable difficulty if this happens, because their surface works and sub-surface works may be affected. I am not clear as to where they stand in relation to this Sub-section and whether the Minister may not be imposing upon them a very unfair burden without taking the necessary power to compensate them.
Some of my hon. Friends and I put down a proposed new Clause which, I understand, could not be selected because, in the form in which it is drafted, it could be taken to impose a charge outside the scope of the Financial Resolution or certainly a charge which a private Member would not be permitted to propose by way of an Amendment of this kind. But I think it is possible that what we desire may be achieved in the Bill as it stands. I hope that such is the case and that the Minister will be able to give us an assurance as to the correct interpretation of this Sub-section.
Another point concerns the same public utility authorities who at present are in a certain relationship to the highway authorities. The highway authorities can do certain things, and then the public utility authorities are entitled to compensation. I am not clear what the obligations of the Minister to those public utility authorities will be when he becomes a highway authority—I am not referring now to the bridges question merely but to the general question—and whether those obligations will be the same as the existing obligations of highway authorities. There is no reason why a municipality or a company carrying on a public utility should be placed at any disadvantage by a Measure which is not primarily concerned with them. I am sure there is not the slightest desire that the law should be altered as regards the relations between the highway authorities and the public utility authorities. As I find it, difficult to understand the significance of the Bill, I hope that the Minister will be able to calm my mind and give me some comforting assurances on the matter.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. G. STRAUSS
With many other Members of the House I am still worried 1507 about certain questions, which have so far remained unanswered. Members who represent county boroughs and those who have any knowledge of the traffic problem in London are not entirely satisfied that those areas will not be neglected as a result of the Government taking over the trunk roads. The Minister has given some very cogent reasons why the trunk roads, when they pass through county boroughs, should not be included in the Bill, but what we are worrying about is that the money which will be spent on the trunk roads under the Minister's control may be so much that when London or the county boroughs come along and ask for grants towards equally urgent, and possibly more urgent, road improvements in their areas, they will be told that the Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are very sorry, but there is not enough money left for them. It is true that we were assured by the Parliamentary Secretary that the Ministry of Transport had no intention of altering the present grant formula, but that is not the point. The point is whether, when we come along with big new schemes involving a large amount of money, we shall be told by the Minister that he has not sufficient money to contribute towards them and that, therefore, we must drop the schemes altogether. I hope that we shall get some assurance on these lines which will be more definite than those we have had so far.
I take it that when the Minister takes over the trunk roads he will be in the same position in this House as any chairman of a highways committee of a county council or county borough council; in other words, that he will have to be prepared to answer detailed questions about improvements of roads, the lighting of roads, and so on; that he will answer members of Parliament directly on any matters that they may bring up in connection with roads, particularly roads passing through their constituencies; and that he will not be able as he has been able in the past when Members have suggested road improvements, to say that it was not his function but the function of the local authorities. I would also like to ask him whether he contemplates issuing a report in the form of an annual report or a White Paper on his activities on the 1508 trunk roads. If he is taking over 4,5000 miles of trunk roads it will be extremely interesting—and I am sure that outside-the House there is a large section of the community which would be interested —to know exactly what has been done on the roads, what improvements have been carried out, and what plans are in contemplation. I hope that the Minister will be able to announce that he intends to make a comprehensive report once a year on the work he has accomplished on the trunk roads.
My main concern about this Bill is not the provisions, with which I agree, but the manner in which they will be worked. When the Minister has control of these roads, is he really going to use that control energetically and courageously to carry out the many long overdue improvements? I do not want to quote again, for I quoted it on Second Reading, the record of the Ministry of Transport in regard to road improvements and the money spent on them. I showed then that the Ministry's record was a bad one and that it had been spending comparatively little money, nothing like as much as the Labour Government spent in the period 1929–31 to improve the road system of the country. I fear that the same spirit which has slowed down road works during the last few years may still prevail and that after we have given the roads over to the Minister, we may he no better off and possibly worse off.
My fear is not just a wild and irresponsible one, but it is based on the ascertained activities of the Ministry of Transport during the past four or five years. When I made that criticism before, the Parliamentary Secretary said, "The hon. Member speaks as a member of the London County Council and we always look upon the county council as a very lethargic body." In order to prove his words he said that the county council had not yet sent in its five-year plan. To that I replied that we sent in our five-year plan very quickly. I have looked up the matter since, and I find that it was sent in within three months of its being asked for, that is to say, on 21st May, 1935. We sent in then all the schemes which we had in contemplation as far as was possible in view of the inquiry set up by the Minister himself into the London road position. There was, therefore, no justification for 1509 that statement. If the Parliamentary Secretary considers the present council lethargic in its road work, what epithet would he apply to the previous council, which carried out only one-quarter of the work of the present council? I am concerned as to the manner in which the Government will use the powers given to them by Parliament in this Bill, and if we could have some assurance that it is the definite intention of the Minister, once he has control of these roads, to do very much more to them than was done before, and that he really intends to use his powers boldly and energetically, I think that every Member on either side of the House will vote for the Third Reading with a lighter heart.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. AMMON
We shall not vote against the Third Reading of the Bill subject to the points which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) and others. We must naturally welcome the Bill as an advance in public service and ownership. There is a point I would like to raise in connection with the powers which the Minister assumes, and it arises in Sub-section (4) of Clause 6. I understand the Minister will have the power, if he thinks proper, to provide better illumination for the trunk roads. That means, I presume, that he will have to put down transformers in order to reduce voltage. Will the Minister be able in his new powers to consider the possibility of enabling villages or even farms to tap that lower voltage and so get a supply at a cheaper rate than they would have to pay if they got the current direct from the grid? This is a matter which concerns a good many people in the villages close to the trunk roads which the Minister seeks power to illumine if and when it is thought necessary.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I rise again only by the leave of the House, and as I have been asked for one or two declarations perhaps I may speak again. It would be a pity at this stage of the Bill to get into bitter controversy. That temper has been conspicuously absent from the Debates hitherto. I must, however, endeavour to answer the points that have been put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and 1510 Malton (Mr. Turton) and the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss), and I will try to do so with complete control. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton took exception to certain words which he alleged that I had used about him in the course of the Committee Debate. I can assure him that I did not take exception to his words, although perhaps I had far stronger reasons to do so. If he does wish to pick a quarrel with me, I hope that he will, at any rate, read the passage of which he complains. This was the passage:I hope. that my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton will on reflection appreciate that he does little service to the county"—That is where my hon. friend stopped. I went on to say:which, after all, has received something, to come down to the Committee and complain in almost every sentence of the great ignorance of everybody in the Ministry of Transport and of everybody who disagrees with him." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1936; col. 985, Vol. 318.]He will realise that the only sense in which I thought he did a disservice to the county was in assuming that the officers of my Department and the Parliamentary Secretary, who are in amicable relations with the county, should be described as devoid of knowledge of the subject with which they are charged to deal. That, I hope, will dispose of the matter because it would be futile to wander along this famous road to Scarborough now. We know almost every inch of it verbally as the result of the discussions we have had, and I must commiserate with my hon. Friend that his powerful advocacy has not succeeded in getting that road inserted in the Bill. I wish there had been some means of doing it, but in accordance with the principles which we have adopted, it was not open to me to yield to his coaxing—a modest word to use for the speeches of my hon. Friend. With regard to the hon. Member for North Lambeth, I do wish he would not come here and speak every time in a tone of complaint about my Ministry, endeavouring to put it into conflict with the London County Council.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The hon. Gentleman must grant to my hon. Friend the 1511 Parliamentary Secretary the right to retort in kind. If he makes charges that my Ministry is lethargic and that it is not as good as it was in the days of the Labour administration, he cannot resent the fact that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, with greater justice, says that the London County Council is not so good as it was when there was a Conservative majority.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The fact is we have a five-year programme of works—and it will include the major works to which the hon. Gentleman referred—which I think exceeds in magnitude anything that has ever been done previously. Of course, it takes years to accumulate the maximum expenditure on road works. If you initiate a programme you spend little in the first year and more in the later years, but if the hon. Member will look at our programme of schemes which have been submitted by local authorities, which now amounts to £140,000,000, he will realise that this is considerable. When roads are built, I desire them to be used equally by Socialists and Conservatives. They are a public utility and I do not wish to set political obstructions on them. Let us all, therefore, work for the same end. My Ministry has acceded to some of the requests made by the hon. Member's council, and I had thought that our relations were friendly, at least in the sense that the relations of the Government with foreign Powers are supposed to be.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
Except on one matter, and I do not know what that is. I was asked about bridges by the right hon. Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston) and by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Leeds (Sir J. Birchall), but I am not permitted to answer these questions because they were out of order. I will say that nothing in this Bill alters the position of bridges that are not included in the Bill.
§ Sir J. BIRCHALL
Are we to understand that there is nothing in the Bill by which the Minister can say in six or 12 months time, when an agreed 1512 scheme for the Severn Bridge comes along, "You should have produced this before the Bill was introduced"?
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
No, Sir, there is nothing in the way. I cannot say more than that. I was asked for a declaration by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), and I would say that it is hardly likely that I should desire to execute works which were unreasonable or detrimental to the legitimate interests of a railway or canal undertaking, because I am also a railway and a canal Minister besides being a roads Minister. I, therefore, will say that if there were some point in dispute on which the technical advisers of the railway company and of the Minister took different views, and which could not be settled in the usual way by a conference between the Department and the company, the Minister would be prepared to consider obtaining some further report, before coming to a final decision, by some engineer of eminence on whom we could agree. I hope my right hon. Friend will agree that in the absence of any provision in the Bill I have gone the whole way to meet him, because as far as I foresee there is not likely to be any controversy between the railway companies and ourselves. With regard to catchment boards, I will say that I would not construct a bridge over a main river of a catchment area without consulting with the catchment board concerned, and in default of agreement with them I would not proceed further without consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.
I was asked finally for a declaration about statutory undertakers. I realise that the Amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) were out of order, but I will say, first, on the point of compensation, that Clause 3 (1) states:all functions which … were exercisable by highway authorities as respects county roads, … and any functions of construction, maintenance, repair or improvement exercisable as respects that road by a local authority shall … be exercisable by the Minister … and all enactments relating to those functions shall have effect accordingly.It seems to me that, as I take over liabilities as well as assets, this provision would enable me to pay compensation to persons who are affected. I do 1513 not wish to assume any privileges which a former highway authority did not enjoy, nor should I be asked to assume any liabilities for which they were not liable, but, apart from that, the point of compensation is, I apprehend, covered in the sense I have just mentioned. I regard it as important that in the near future there should be a comprehensive settlement of the relations between highway authorities and statutory undertakings. The present position, laid down in many Acts, local and public, is not satisfactory, and as successor to the highway authorities I will inherit that unsatisfactory position. Let us hope that opportunities for discussion will arise, and that we may in due course have a consolidation Bill.
§ Sir PAUL LATHAM
In dealing with the speech of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), the right hon. Gentleman talked about distances from Scarborough to Middlesbrough and Scarborough to Hull. Has he any figures different from those which he gave on the last occasion?
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I do not see very much in the point whether the distance is 35 or 42 miles. I gave the figure I did on information supplied to me, which I trust was accurate. If it was not, surely we are not going to quarrel about it.
§ Sir P. LATHAM
The right hon. Gentleman will be liable to attacks for ignorance if the figures he gave are not accurate.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
My hon. Friend is far too courteous to call me ignorant. I realise he is trying to defend his hon. Friend, which is another instance of his courtesy. Let us assume that the distance is 42 miles. If that be so, and I made an error, I offer my humble apologies on the altar of my hon. Friend's good will, and I hope he will gather up this posy and take it back to Scarborough so that our relations may be sweetened. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) asked me whether it would be possible to tap certain lines so that cheap electricity might be available for lighting in rural areas. The Bill gives me power to enter into agreements with any lighting authority, and while I cannot be expected to say now in detail what we shall do, it is our intention to use the 1514 best means of getting the best lighting in any given circumstances on any road.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I realise the point about cheaper lighting, and what is the best in given circumstances, and I hope the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with what I have said on these points. I omitted to answer two queries by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss). One was whether Parliamentary questions could be addressed to me, not only about roads but about particular points on roads. Unfortunately— and I do not want to trespass beyond my functions— I imagine hon. Members will be in order in addressing such questions to me. That is one of the penalties of becoming a highway authority. The hon. Member also asked about an annual report. There is the Road Fund Report, which is an annual publication, but as I have to produce Estimates now, Parliament will require from me in the most convenient form whatever information is necessary in the discussion of my Votes. The Road Fund Report may not come out at the most convenient moment, but we will enter into that question and see what we can do to give Parliament the fullest knowledge. The hon. Member for South Croydon asked me whether under Subsection (3) it is explicit that where any road across a trunk road should pass under or over a road that I am constructing, there should be a bridge or crossing.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
The point was in relation to the sub-surface work of statutory undertakings. I do not know whether Clause 3 necessarily covers that point.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I do not think it does. I apologise to the hon. Member for not having taken a note of what his point was exactly, and I do not want to answer it without the fullest information or to dismiss it as unimportant. It can be answered in another place. It is the fashion to have perorations even in such a disjointed speech as this, so perhaps I may conclude by saying that I hope the prophecy of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will come true, and that the introduction and passage of this Bill will be remembered long after its critics, few though they be, are forgotten.
1515 Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed.