HC Deb 25 June 1936 vol 313 cc1985-2002

(1) If the Secretary of State is satisfied, with respect to any building, structure or erection in the vicinity of an aerodrome to which this Section applies that, in order to avoid danger to aircraft flying in that vicinity in darkness or conditions of poor visibility, provision ought to be made (whether by lighting or otherwise) for giving to such aircraft warning of the presence of that building, structure or erection, he may by order authorise (subject to any conditions specified in the order) the proprietor of the aerodrome, and any person acting under the proprietor's instructions,—

  1. (a) to execute, instal, maintain, operate, and, as occasion requires, to repair and alter such works and apparatus as may be necessary for enabling such warning to be given in the manner specified in the order; and
  2. (b) so far as may be necessary for exercising any of the powers conferred by the order to enter upon and pass over (with or without vehicles) any such land as may be specified in the order:

Provided that no such order shall be made in relation to any building, structure, or erection if it appears to the Secretary of State that there have been made, and are being carried out, satisfactory arrangements for the giving of such warning as aforesaid of the presence of the building, structure, or erection.

(2) Every such order as aforesaid shall provide for requiring the proprietor of the aerodrome to which the order relates to pay to any person having an interest in any land affected by the order such compensation in respect of any damage which that person may suffer as a consequence of the order as may, in default of agreement, be determined by a single arbitrator appointed by the Lord Chief Justice.

(3) The ownership of anything shall not be taken to be affected by reason only that it is placed in, or affixed to, any land in pursuance of such an order as aforesaid; and (subject to the provisions of the next following Sub-section) so long as any such order in respect of an aerodrome is in force, no person shall, except with the consent of the proprietor of the aerodrome, remove, alter or interfere with any works executed, or thing placed in, on or over any land in pursuance of the order.

If any person contravenes the preceding provisions of this Sub-section, he shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds or to both such imprisonment and such fine; and every person who obstructs a person in the exercise of any of the powers conferred by such an order as aforesaid, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.

(4) Nothing in the last preceding Subsection shall operate in relation to any building, structure or erection, so as to restrict the making of any repairs or alterations of the building, structure or erection, provided that—

  1. (a) notice of the making of the repairs or alterations is given as soon as may be to the proprietor of the aerodrome, and
  2. (b) the giving of warning of the presence of the building, structure, or erection in the manner provided by any order under this Section in force in relation thereto is not interrupted.

(5) Any order under this section may be revoked or varied by a subsequent order made by the Secretary of State, but the revocation or variation of any such order shall not affect the previous operation thereof.

(6) In this section—

  1. (a) the expression "aerodrome to which this Section applies" means any premises which, by virtue of an Order in Council made under Part I of the principal Act, are for the time being licensed as an aerodrome for public use but does not include any premises belonging to the Secretary of State; and
  2. (b) the expression "proprietor of the aerodrome" means, in relation to any premises used or appropriated for use as an aerodrome, the person carrying on or entitled to carry on the business of an aerodrome in those premises.—[Sir P. Sassoon.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.3 p.m.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)

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

I hope I may be allowed to appeal to the Committee to bear in mind the very considerable extent to which this Bill is being and has been modified to meet the wishes of hon. Members as expressed in Committee. The Clauses relating to trespass and wages, both of which were adopted in Committee and which appear now as Clauses 12 and 35 of the Bill, were put forward originally by private Members. Two new Clauses, one referring to the power of local authorities who maintain aerodromes, and the other to the giving of warning of obstructions near aerodromes, are put down in response to the proposals of hon. Members. Two additional Sub-sections which it is proposed to add to Clause 1 are being added in compliance with hon. Members' requests. The same remark applies to the modifications of Clause 2 which appear in my name on the Order Paper and to a new Sub-section which it is proposed to insert in Clause 4. Finally, the provisions in regard to the limitation of liability in Part III of the Bill and the Second Schedule have been modified in important respects to meet representations made in Committee.

In asking the Committee to give the Government credit for meeting hon. Members' wishes to the material extent that, I have outlined, I would also like to express my appreciation of the very great help we have received from all sides of the House during the consideration of the Bill. The Clause, a. Second Reading of which I am now moving, is moved with the object of meeting a general desire that in the interests of safety there should be some legislation to provide for the illumination of obstructions in the vicinity of aerodromes, so long as that legislation does not put the burden of the cost of illumination upon the shoulders of the owner of the obstruction. The effect of the Clause is that if any building, structure or erection is, in the judgment of the Secretary of State, dangerous either during the hours of darkness or under conditions of low visibility, to aircraft making use of a licensed aerodrome, and if the proprietor of the aerodrome cannot come to some amicable arrangement with the owner of the obstruction for the lighting of it, the Secretary of State will have power to authorise the proprietor of the aerodrome to enter and light the obstruction at the aerodrome proprietor's cost. There is also provision that if it is not possible for an amicable arrangement with regard to compensation to be reached between the two parties, the whole matter shall be referred to arbitra- tion so that a settlement which is fair to both parties may be arrived at.

The Clause provides for the possibility of some other means than lighting for the giving of satisfactory warning of obstructions, and I think the Committee will agree that that is a wise precaution in view of possible future developments. It specifies no radius within which the obstruction must be so as to come within the compulsory lighting or warning provision, nor does it lay down any minimum requirements as to the height of the building which would make it subject to the provision. This is also a precaution which the Committee will approve, because the height of a building is not always the sole criterion and very often the situation of the obstruction is equally important. The difficulty of providing for any radius is seen now, because the international regulation for the lighting of obstructions in the vicinity of aerodromes is being amended to raise the former limit of 500 metres to 1,000 metres; and other such changes may occur in the future. It is not advisable therefore to specify any radius in the Statute. Any obstruction which is in fact dangerous to aircraft using the aerodrome and which cannot therefore, in the nature of things, be very far distant from it, will come within the terms of the Clause. In all cases in which a local authority's or statutory or public utility's building or erection is concerned, the Secretary of State Will of course consult with the appropriate Government Departments before approving an order. I hope the Committee will agree with the proposed new Clause as I think it complies with the requirements expressed by hon. Members in previous discussions.

4.11 p.m.


I think the Committee as a whole wishes to acknowledge the degree to which the Government have met criticism at various stages of the Bill, but I want to assure the Under-Secretary that so far as the Labour party are concerned we are not completely satisfied with these words, and we reserve to ourselves still the right to express a number of views that may be regarded as of a dissentient character, and perhaps to carry certain Amendments to a Division. I rise to put two points shortly. The new Clause seems to me to be extremely involved. We must all recognise the desirability of providing measures of safety in the case of night flying and under conditions of low visibility. The first question I ask is, in what way is it proposed to deal with the question when you have built-up areas to consider? There may not be very many such areas in the country but there are at least two near London. I refer to Croydon and Hendon, where it is not only a question of single buildings but—


This provision does not apply to Hendon or Croydon or to any aerodrome in possession of the Secretary of State. It applies only to licensed aerodromes.


That, of course, takes away a good deal from the substance of my question. But in other parts of the country where licensed aerodromes exist on rising land the point is one that the Under-Secretary might consider, and he might communicate his views to the Committee upon it. Another point is this: This Clause provides very considerable penal arrangements in respect of people not carrying out its provisions. I suppose that it is retrospective so far as existing buildings are concerned? It seems to me to be rather a foolish system, rather the wrong way of going to work, to allow buildings to be put and then to provide power to execute, instal, maintain, operate and, as occasion requires, to repair and alter such works and apparatus. I do not suppose it will be possible or even desirable to have building restrictions in this Bill, but I do suggest that this method of leaving so much to the judgment of the Secretary of State ought to be modified. Could there not be some machinery for consultation with the local authorities on their building by-laws with respect to future buildings? Cannot local authorities at any rate have some idea of what principles are in the mind of the Secretary of State on this important question?

4.13 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Sir MURRAY SUETER

I want to ask one question. Under this Clause is there power to compel electricity companies to put their high tension cables underground instead of on pylons near these licensed aerodromes? At Felixstowe the other day I saw an aeroplane fly into one of these high tension wires. Has the Secretary of State power to make electricity companies put their cables underground where there may be danger to the flying man?

4.14 p.m.


I am sure that the Committee would desire to reciprocate the few kind words that the Under-Secretary spoke to us at the start of his speech. I think we have convinced him that he has a Bill that is really worth while, and that he has been put in charge of one of the star turns of the Session, though he may not have realised it when he first took up the Bill. I can only say that we recognise that during the Committee stage the Under-Secretary has met us on many points. While he has not entirely satisfied us, he has shown a desire to meet this side of the House that is very welcome. With regard to the point now before us, I want to carry on the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). It is evident that when an aerodrome is laid out, unless we are very careful we shall be involved in the kind of difficulty that confronted us the other night when we had this kind of point raised on the Birmingham Corporation Bill. I suggest that there should be some clear understanding, if not in the Bill, at any rate in the administration of the Secretary of State, between the owners of licensed aerodromes and town planning authorities, because it will be a very nasty thing if a licensed aerodrome is laid out in what is now practically virgin country on the edge of some big town or city, and then, within the danger zone, buildings are allowed to be erected. I think there should be very close co-operation between the Secretary of State and the Minister of Health in this matter, that there should be some understanding between the two Departments in regard to the compensation for which the local authorities will be responsible, if they sterilise the land, or restrict its use, or in any way interfere with its free use by existing owners, and that that compensation should be borne by the proprietors of the aerodrome in whose interest the restrictions are imposed.

I can only say that I join with the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) in asking that there shall be some arrangement made between the Secretary of State and the Central Elec- tricity Board for dealing with such things as the 132,000-volt lines that are strung about the country at the present time. I am not sure of their great advantage to the public and that they may not constitute in the near future one of the most serious hindrances to the free development of aerodromes in appropriate places. There again I hope there will be the closest co-operation between the Secretary of State and the other Government Departments which have to deal with these matters. While I think the Committee ought to allow this Clause to be read a Second time, I hope we may have an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State that the co-operation to which I have referred has been considered and will remain a matter of primary interest to his Department.

4.18 p.m.


Perhaps it may save time if I say a few words now, because it is not my intention to seek to move the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in my name. I am not quite satisfied that the drafting of this Clause is as good as it might be. We had a declaration from the Under-Secretary of State that there should be consultation between the Secretary of State and the appropriate Ministry so far as public utilities are concerned, but I would like to make a few observations on the Clause as a whole. When we examine it, we find that it is a rather extraordinary Clause. That we should take proper precautions that people are not involved in unnecessary danger is quite fit and proper, but, it is rather an extraordinary thing that we should confer upon the proprietor of a licensed aerodrome, which is not anything of any great importance when all is said and done, the right to go to the Secretary of State, who, in turn, may authorise them to trespass on the land of all the people round about and decorate their buildings with all kinds of coloured lights that he may think fit. It is the most glaring invasion of private rights.

I remember, when we had an Electricity Bill before this House some two years ago, the amazing indignation that came from the benches opposite because there was in it a Clause enabling a local authority or an electricity undertaking to fix brackets to the walls of people's houses in order that they might have a con- venient way of hanging the wires conveying electricity. That was thought to be an intolerable invasion of private rights, and so violent was one hon. Member opposite that in the end that Clause was knocked out as a gross invasion of the rights of private property. The Labour party, in the interests of private property, had the Clause knocked out. Here we are conferring upon a gentleman who runs an aerodrome—the fact that it is licensed does not necessarily make it an important institution—the right to go wandering, as the Secretary of State may authorise, all over people's property and putting up lighting fittings of the kind he thinks fit, without any consultation or any "By your leave." Quite honestly, it may be necessary to have certain powers, but really we ought not to have a long Clause like this appearing on the Paper—it is true that the Under-Secretary of State said it was in response to pressure—which, in the text of the Bill, would occupy nearly two pages. It comes to us on what is really the Report stage, though technically it is the Committee stage, without any of that opportunity which exists in advance when a Clause of this importance appears in the Bill as originally printed.

I cannot see anybody putting up an aerodrome near my house, and, therefore, I cannot see them coming to my small garden to hang up a lot of lights, so that I have no particular self-interest in this matter, but I can visualise circumstances in which an aerodrome is to be put up in what is already a substantially built-up area and the proprietors proceeding to decide on what buildings they are going to place a series of warning lights. The real question at issue should be whether the aerodrome should be allowed to come there at all, having regard to the fact that large numbers of other people are already in possession and that there is no particular reason why their rights should be interfered with. If this were a question of national defence, I might be more impressed, but, so far as I can understand, it has nothing to do with national defence.


In case of national emergency every one of these aerodromes will be of national importance.


I should be nervous about the national defence if I thought that casual aerodromes which are normally used for other purposes were to be used for war purposes, because there would be no stores or equipment such as would be required. If, on the other hand, the primary purpose were that of national defence, I should vote quite cheerfully for this Clause. I understand these aerodromes will be used by fewer than 750 aeroplanes, belonging to private people consuming in the aggregate about a thousandth part of the petrol consumed in this country by the owners of motor cars, and really we ought to be quite certain about what we are doing, representing in principle, as it does, a very grave invasion of the rights of property, which do not have many defenders in these days. It is only to be justified, in my opinion, if there exist very urgent grounds of national necessity, and if this kind of Clause is necessary because aerodromes have been situated in the sort of places with which the Clause concerns itself, that is an indication that these aerodromes have been wrongly situated. I cannot imagine any aerodrome in these days being deliberately placed in the kind of situation envisaged by this Clause, and I really, therefore, think we ought to look at the Clause with very great care before we finally commit ourselves to the decision that it should be read a Second time.

4 25 p.m.


I think the Under-Secretary of State was fully justified in putting forward the view that the Air Ministry has done everything possible to meet suggestions that have been put forward from all parts of the House, and I fully appreciate that he has tried very hard to incorporate in the Bill many ideas put forward during the debates. We are not completely satisfied, but there may be further opportunities for discussing individual points. With regard to this Clause, I think it might go a very great deal further, but I think we ought to give it a Second Reading. I am not so concerned as is the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) about what he calls this gross invasion of the rights of private property, the right of a man to do what he will with his own.


It is a case or the right of an aerodrome proprietor to do what he likes with somebody else's own.


This Clause is a very great improvement on the form of the Clause before, which laid it down that these lights had to be put up at the expense of the private owners outside. It is quite right that the aerodrome owners should be the people who should have to do that. I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State to give us a definite assurance on this point: It is clearly of the utmost importance, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) pointed out, that there should be close co-operation between the town planning authorities and the people who are going to license aerodromes, and it will be more important in the future than it has been in the past, because if you license an aerodrome which may now be absolutely isolated, in a few years' time all the land around may be covered with buildings of a considerable height, and I think we want to take a far-sighted view of the development of aviation in this country and try to agree, as I imagine could be done without any further legislation, upon joint action and consultation between the Air Ministry and the town planning authorities. I hope my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say something on that point.

4.27 p.m.


My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) is such a powerful advocate of private interests that sometimes I think he allows his enthusiasm to carry him too far. It is not here a question as between the private interests of the owner of a house and the private interests of the owner of an aerodrome. On the one hand, you have certainly the liability cast on the owner of the house, but, on the other hand, look what a great service the great airway services are rendering. It is not only for the benefit of a few private owners of aerodromes; it is for the benefit of one of the most important things in the modern world, namely, air transport, which surely is entitled to impose these very reasonable obligations, at the expense of the owner of an aerodrome, on the owners of surrounding buildings.


What important air transport has my right hon. and gallant Friend in mind?


All air transport is important. It is important now, and it will be far more important in the future. I am afraid my hon. Friend, whom I admire, is not air-minded and does not see the way the world is moving. Not to impose a trifling burden on the owners of property to protect the air services and the lives of those who travel by air, and also to protect the money that is invested in air services and aeroplanes, does seem to be to be carrying private interest a good deal too far.

4.29 p.m.


I find in the returns on the subject that licensed civil aerodromes amount in number to 99, 44 being private and 55 public aerodromes, whereas the Royal Air Force aerodromes number 30, and aeroplane stations are 20, so it seems to me that what we are considering here is more a question of real basic accommodation for civil aviation than anything else. I know, however, that should certain events that would necessitate these aerodromes being used for national purposes take place, there would be no hesitation in taking them over for national purposes. I went last week-end to a place where it had been rumoured that there was likely to be an aerodrome. All round the area little jerry builders have been putting up houses such as should not be allowed if it were known that an aerodrome was to be constructed. There ought to be a certain amount of open space outside the border of aerodromes. There is also a rumour now that the owners of the houses will get compensation because of the noise and inconvenience which will be caused when the aerodrome is working. It is such thinks as these that have to be foreseen. The attaching of a light to a building is a small thing in comparison.

A point has been raised in regard to pylons and the wires that they carry. In 1926, when the electricity Bill was being discussed, I stressed the importance of this question in relation to aeroplanes. Technical men will tell you that there is great difficulty in insulating 5,000 volts when it is near the earth. Some of the text books published recently say that wherever you have over 500 volts near the earth there is no material that will completely insulate it. The air gives the nearest approach to insulation. If something is to be done in regard to these wires, which are a serious danger to air transport, the Government will have to make provision now. If they do not we shall come up against some serious snags in relation to claims for compensation. I hope that before the Clause passes some kind of guarantee will be inserted in order to protect both sides in this matter, because the public are interested in the pylons and the wires, whereas the airmen do not want them.

4.33 p.m.


I find myself in complete disagreement with a good deal of what has been said in this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) spoke as if he imagined that all night-flying aeroplanes are run by private owners, while my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said that there were a number of air services running at night up and down the country. So far as I know, the only night services in England are those that operate between Croydon and the Continent. The difficulty is that we have no night ground organisation in this country, with the exception of that of Government aerodromes, and I doubt whether, according to the actual law of the land and of the law of Continental night flying, even that would pass if it were carefully examined. As a whole, we are years behind countries on the Continent in the facilities we give for night flying. This new Clause is but a small start in that direction. We have in this country great difficulties in flying through fog. We have probably a worse fog belt than airmen of other countries have to contend with, and we have other difficulties because of the small country in which we live.

It is certain that if we are to develop night flying services, which will be of such enormous importance to this country, we are bound to have obstructions within a reasonable range of aerodromes properly lighted. With the new methods of landing in fog a large area is necessary, and the aerodrome, both inside and outside, must be free of obstruction. The least we can do is to cause something to be done to the obstructions, either by lighting or by some other means, which will warn pilots when they are near them. That is the reason this new Clause is a great advance from the point of view of night flying in this country.

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon when he belittles the value of aerodromes which have been put up at enormous expense by private enterprise, through which the owners are losing thousands of pounds a year, and which, as my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows full well, are of enormous potential military value to this country for its protection. My hon. Friend really over-states his case when he belittles work of that sort. I believe that this new Clause will seldom be used. My experience shows that if you go to somebody who is responsible for an obstruction, and you say to him, "This obstruction is causing danger to the life of your fellow-countrymen; will you allow us to put a red light on top of it?" the permission is given. I have never known a case where it has been refused. Although the Minister is taking powers to do it, I do not think that, save in very exceptional circumstances, the powers will ever be put into operation. I congratulate the Minister on the Clause.

4.37 p.m.


The Committee will appreciate that it is something in the nature of a paradox when I rise to support the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) but I am in-dined to support his point of view this afternoon. When I was a boy I always understood that an Englishman's home was his castle, but evidently that is not so now. The observations of the hon. Member for South Croydon should have some weight. It was only because the Committee brought pressure to bear on the Under-Secretary that he brought in this Clause. The first idea was for the proprietors of aerodromes simply to put their red lights or warning notices wherever they liked, without saying "by your leave." The Under-Secretary has met that point in this new Clause. The arguments that have been made this afternoon by certain hon. Members might just as well have applied when railways were being built. Those who wanted to run railways through the land of this country had to pay very heavily for the right to do so. Therefore, why should not owners of aerodromes, who are concerned with what is only another form of transport, pay adequate compensation for putting their warning notices on private property? In the Orders that the Minister may be called upon to make, will he put in some provision to compensate an owner for any damage that is done to his property by reason of a warning signal being placed on it? Subsection (2) says that compensation shall be made to the owner of the land. Does that also apply to any hereditament which is not land?

4.40 p.m.


I would like to ask the Minister three questions. The first is connected with the old story of the gasholder at Heston. I have raised this question on innumerable occasions and I have been given the same answer, namely, that the Minister has no power to do anything. If this new Clause passes, will he have the power to insist on a light being put on that gas-holder, although it is more than 2,000 yards away from the outside edge of the aerodrome? The second question reinforces the question which has been asked with regard to the cables that carry the grid. Will the Minister have power to insist that, where these cables pass within 2,000 metres of an aerodrome, they are adequately lit? The third question is with regard to payment. I understand that under this proposed Clause the owner of an aerodrome, whether an individual, a company or a municipality, has to pay the cost of installing and maintaining the lights. I visualise a case where the owner, possibly a municipality, is not prepared to spend any more money because the aerodrome has lost a great deal of money. In a case like that is it possible, where there is some obstruction, for the Minister to step in and instal a light and maintain it?

Captain F. E. GUEST

At the risk of being out of order, I would like, while aerodromes are being discussed, to urge the Minister to press municipalities to build more aerodromes, for we are so short of them at the present time.

4.42 p.m.


I would like to emphasise the point which has been made, that one of the most effective ways of meeting the question of safety is not only to light the obstructions, but to prevent unnecessary obstructions being created in the vicinity of aerodromes. Co-operation between the Air Ministry and the town planning authority is essential to meet that object. I am afraid that a town planning authority is unable to lay down any conditions for any part of its area unless it has a town plan for the whole of its area. That is a serious obstacle. Town planning is still in its infancy in Great Britain, and it is at places where town planning has not made very much headway that many of the new aerodromes are to be established. It would be a more effective Clause if the Minister had consulted the Minister of Health to find out whether it would have been possible to arm town planning authorities with powers to lay down conditions where aerodromes are being established. I agree that this new form of transport ought not to be cluttered up with restrictions and limitations such as were imposed on railway transport, and from which we are still suffering. I am afraid that we have gone too far in the Bill to make such an Amendment, but perhaps, if it is possible, the Minister will consult the Minister of Health to find out whether some such restrictive powers could be conferred on town planning authorities so that where they had no town plan they could impose a partial plan in the vicinity of an aerodrome.

4.45 p.m.


The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) voiced an anxiety which has been expressed by several speakers as to the position of aerodromes in future in relation to town planning. That is a very important consideration, although it goes a great deal beyond the scope of this particular Clause, but I would remind the hon. Member that when an aerodrome is decided upon by a local authority an application for a licence must be made to the Secretary of State.


Or a private aerodrome? A local authority has not got the right to town plan the land in the vicinity of the aerodrome unless the whole area is town planned, or unless it is the owner of the land.


The local authority has to get a licence from the Secretary of State, and in considering the application he will, of course, bear in mind the whole question of town planning in the neighbourhood and act in close consultation with the Ministry of Health or any other Department that may be concerned. As we have found ourselves confronted with the necessity of making Regulations of this kind because of what has occurred in the past we shall try to avoid similar difficulties being created in the future. I therefore give the assurance that in connection with the grant of licences for aerodromes in the future the Air Ministry will consult with all the appropriate Government Departments.


Does that cover not only town planning regulations but the ordinary building regulations? That is a point which I had in mind when I spoke first.


There will be consultation not only with the appropriate Government Department but with the local authority too. That is as far as I can go in meeting the apprehensions of hon. Members on that point. The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) raised the question of pylons, a most important one from the point of view of safety. We have been in consultation with the Ministry of Transport for some time now to see how and in what directions the danger arising from pylons in the neighbourhood of aerodromes can be avoided. The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) joined with the hon. and gallant Member in this discussion and displayed a wide knowledge, among his many other accomplishments, of all the technicalities of voltages and electricity, and put forward some important points. This Clause will not, of course, give us the power to compel the Ministry of Transport to put underground all cables now carried on pylons, but it will give ample possibility for pylons in the vicinity of an aerodrome to be lit, as indeed they are at certain places—near Dagenham and elsewhere.


Will it give the Ministry power to insist that pylons are lit not only near aerodromes but also when they are on definite air routes, such as the route from London to the Continent?


No, this Clause does not go as far as that. The hon. Members for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) and Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) raised the question of the invasion of the rights of private owners. I sympathise to a certain extent with the attitude they have taken up, but one must not look upon this problem as concerning only users of aeroplanes and the owners of aerodromes, because there is also the question of the safety of people living in the neighbourhood of aerodromes. If the putting of a light on a building will prevent an aeroplane, when there is low visibility, such as is only too often the case in this country, from colliding with a house, the owner of the house and those who live in it will benefit just as much as the owner of the aeroplane. The Secretary of State will naturally be very careful to see that a licence is not given for an aerodrome in a locality which is unsuitable, and a proviso has been specially inserted in the Clause to meet such a contingency.


I agree that we must take reasonable precautions not only in the interests of those who travel in aeroplanes but of those who are on the ground, but my point was that reasonable compensation ought to be paid to private persons if we are taking away their rights. Does the observation of the right hon. Gentleman apply to buildings as well as to land?


What I have said applies to any person having an interest, and that, of course, would include the leaseholder. I was very glad to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) the tribute which he paid to people up and down the country who have given a national lead by establishing aerodromes. Although we have had certain criticisms this afternoon I think I can fairly say that this Clause does go a long way to meet the desires of hon. Members in all parts of the House.


Can the right hon. Gentleman answer my question about the Heston gasholder?


The position at Heston is exactly where it was when I spoke about it last, and as that was not so very long ago I do not feel too ashamed to say that. As my hon. Friend knows, there are certain technical difficulties. We are trying to overcome them. We are very anxious that that gasholder should be illuminated, and I hope it will be illuminated as soon as possible. This obstruction is a good deal larger than most obstructions, and while I do not say that puts it in a different category from the others, it is distinctly an obstruction which ought to be lit in the interests of safety. I would also deal with the point which my hon. Friend put as to its distance from Heston Aerodrome—whether it was too far away to come within the terms of this Clause. As I said in my opening remarks we have been careful not to specify any distance in the Clause, because an obstruction which is some distance from an aerodrome may be as dangerous as one which is close to it.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Bill reported.

Bill, as amended, in Committee and on re-committal, considered.