HC Deb 19 November 1936 vol 317 cc2061-5

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide that the Minister of Transport shall be the highway authority for the principal roads in Great Britain which constitute the national system of routes for through traffic; to make consequential amendments in the law relating to highways; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such sums as may be required:

  1. (a) to be paid into the Road Fund for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the Minister under the said Act in the maintenance, repair, and improvement of the roads which by virtue of the said Act become trunk roads, not being roads within the administrative county of London or within any county borough or large burgh in Scotland, or in the construction of any road intended to supersede any road specified as a trunk road by the said Act (whether as originally enacted or as subsequently amended), and such of his expenses in other dealing with trunk roads as may be determined by him with the consent of the Treasury; and
  2. (b) to defray any other expenses of the Minister under the said Act, not being expenses in the construction of trunk roads."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Mr. Hore-Beliska.]

11.2 p.m.


I understand that this is the last opportunity we shall have for discussing the question of the inclusion of the county boroughs in this Money Resolution, and that, by the Rules of Order, it will be impossible to discuss it at any later stage. For that reason, while I apologise for addressing the House at this very late hour—[Interruptionl]—hope, Sir Dennis, that I may have your Ruling whether it will be possible to discuss on the Committee stage the inclusion of the county boroughs. If we can, I shall certainly not delay the House now, but I understand that it would be out of order.


I cannot give a Ruling on that point now. The hon. Member must wait for the stage on which he would wish to raise it.


I understand that such a discussion must be out of order on the Committee stage because we are saying now that the money is only to be used on roads not being roads … within any county borough. As this is the last opportunity of discussing that matter, and as the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary on this point was extremely unsatisfactory, I hope that we shall have further details on this subject. The Parliamentary Secretary has just said, on the Second Reading of the Bill, that roads within county boroughs must of necessity be largely of local value. The fact is that the modern road, and the trunk road within the area of a county borough, is usually a by-pass. It is the policy of the Ministry of Transport, as we have learned, to order the by-pass to be within the area of the county borough. If the Minister adheres to that policy, and if he is still going to order the by-pass to be within the county borough, it will mean that the rates of the county borough will go up, and that the Minister, by the wording of this Financial Resolution, will escape all liability for the road within the county borough. I am certain, in view of the extreme importance of the trunk roads—


The hon. Member is aware I think that he cannot move an Amendment in the sense in which he presumably desires, because it would be increasing the charge beyond the King's Recommendation, and therefore he cannot discuss the point in detail. As that is the case, he may be satisfied to oppose the Financial Resolution. I do not think he can now argue the subject matter of an Amendment which would be out of order.


I accept your Ruling, Sir Dennis. I was only giving the reasons why I should have to oppose this Financial Resolution. I thought I should give my reasons in sufficient detail so that the Minister might reply, but if you say I must not go into any further detail, I accept your Ruling. The Ministry's attitude on the question of the county boroughs will, I think, awake a feeling of grievance in the county boroughs of the country. We must either have a change of policy by the Ministry, after the Trunk Road Bill is passed, so that the bypasses shall be without the boroughs, or we shall have to oppose this Financial Resolution at this stage.

11.4 p.m.


I should be very sorry, after so amiable a discussion as we have had, to allow any hon. Member to go home with a sense of grievance. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill, I explained that we were making a great breach with the customary practice prevailing in this country for many centuries, in removing from the localities to the State highway functions which have always been exercised locally. We were emboldened to take that step because the county councils themselves asked us to do so. The county boroughs, which fall into an entirely different category, made no such request. I am sure my hon. Friend will see the inconvenience of entering into a private city and taking control of one thoroughfare situated somewhere within its boundaries. It is not quite so simple a proposition as taking charge of what is admittedly a highway leading right through the countryside. Had we been made aware that there was any desire whatever for the county boroughs to be considered when we were discussing this Bill with the county councils, of course we should have responded immediately, for our relations with them have never been marred by any ill will, so far as I know, at all. But from first to last the Association of Municipal Corporations have not only not asked to come in, but they have raised no objections to being excluded.

In these circumstances it would be rather a hazardous venture on behalf of the Government casually to accept suggestions made in the course of a Debate in this House, and to bring them holusbolus into the Bill at this stage. They have been perfectly well aware that this Bill has been under negotiation for a very long time, they have made no suggestion of the kind put forward by my hon. Friend, and, whatever his feelings may be, I hope he will not press his point, because, whatever he may desire, it would be a little late in the day suddenly to make the financial readjustments which would be required. Perhaps he could continue his propaganda for a few years, until the corporations themselves come to the Ministry and ask for a new Bill.

11.7 p.m.


I understand that, though the county boroughs as a whole do not want to come in, there may be one or two which later on would like to come in, and, although I think the Minister is quite right in drafting the Bill so that they can be excluded generally speaking, I think it is a pity that the Financial Resolution would rule out the possibility of any Amendment to the Bill whereby individual county boroughs, where it might be convenient, should be permitted to come in under some appropriate procedure later on. That is one point which I know an hon. Member who cannot be here now would have raised if he could have been here. The other question I wish to ask is whether it would be possible to move Amendments to the Schedule in order to bring into the Schedule trunk roads which are not at the moment specified therein. As I read the words of the resolution: repair and improvement of the roads which by virtue of the said Act become trunk roads, I am of opinion that it would be in order to move Amendments to add certain roads to the Schedule which are not now specified in it. I am speaking now of county roads, and not of county borough roads. I should like to be quite certain, before we part with the Resolution, that it will be in order to move that certain roads be added to the Schedule.


If the hon. Member is addressing that question to me, I think the real answer is that he should address it to me, if I am in the Chair, during the Committee stage of the Bill. I am not prepared to give a Ruling formally on the point now, but I may say, knowing the hon. Member's experience and his ability to judge these things for himself, that probably, if he considers the matter very carefully, he would be able to draft an Amendment which would be in order.


I appreciate your difficulty in giving a Ruling now which would bind you when you are sitting in another capacity. On the other hand, unless this point were raised now, if at the time you should have to rule in a contrary sense we should be in rather a difficulty. I gather, however, from the hint at the end of your remarks, that we should probably be reasonably safe, and, therefore, I will not press the point further.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.