§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Perkins
I beg to move, in page 3, line 21, to leave out "forty-two," and to insert "forty."
I am merely moving this Amendment, which stands in my name and the names of several other hon. Members, in order to get an explanation from the Undersecretary why nothing is to be done at Heston Aerodrome for the next three years. Why should we wait until 1943 to see this aerodrome put right? My hon. and gallant Friend may tell us that this sort of thing takes a great deal of time, that they have to cut down a lot of trees, that they have to close a lot of roads, rebuild a lot of roads, pull down old hangars and build new ones, build a new rectory and, finally, level the ground. He will tell us that that cannot possibly be done for at least three years. If this work was required for the defence of London, for the Royal Air Force, we should not have to wait three years for it. Hon. Members in whose constituencies aerodromes have been built know perfectly well that almost in a night these aerodromes are built. In six months the aerodrome is completed. Because this aerodrome is wanted for civil aviation, we are told that there is no hurry, and 2360 it may perfectly well be postponed. The real fundamental reason is the outlook of the Air Council towards civil aviation. As the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) said the other day, they are like a cow looking at a passing railway train, and saying: "Wonderful, but it has nothing whatever to do with me." Everyone knows that in the past and now the Air Council are not in the least interested in civil aviation.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Eckersley
In supporting what my hon. Friend has said, I should like to congratulate the Air Ministry on the admirable aerodrome that it has made, and it will be a great deal better when these new plans are completed and this new ground has been taken in. I cannot see why the work should not be done before the end of 1943, and I would appeal to the Under-Secretary to-night to give us an assurance that, although he may not accept this Amendment, if it is pressed, at least he will do his best to get the work going a little earlier. I hope that I am right in thinking that he may be in negotiation with the London Passenger Transport Board for the provision of proper transport facilities to the; aerodrome. If that be so, the delay may be worth while. If that is not the case, then I express the hope that he will take that matter into consideration during the years to come. I hope, however, that it will not be a question of years but of months. I trust that when the work does start the Under-Secretary will consider not only the actual area itself but the taking of powers in every way to ensure free approaches on every side. There are obstructions near to the present Heston Aerodrome, and if the aerodrome is enlarged to its proposed size, those obstructions may become more dangerous, in view of the low approach of modern aircraft. I hope he will hurry the work along as quickly as he can.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
I should like the: Minister to answer two questions, which arise as a result of the evidence given before the Select Committee in respect of Heston. I should like to know, in the first place, whether arrangements have been completed in respect of the land for the rectory, and what has been done with regard to the tenants who are being dis- 2361 possessed. So far as I can gather, the Air Ministry and the reverend gentleman concerned have been waiting upon the Select Committee, one with the object of trying to get a bit of public path and the other with the object of trying to fob the reverend gentleman off with a bit of waterlogged ground. In the meantime, two urban councils, meeting on different dates, and one joint committee, meeting once a quarter, have met without knowing what the position was, and having no particulars of the result.
I would remind the hon. Member that we are discussing the Amendment and not the Clause.
I have no objection if we discuss the Clause with the Amendment, but perhaps it would be better if the Amendment were withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Montague
I think it will be the more convenient course to have a general discussion, because there is not much more arises in the Bill than the points that are raised in the Amendment, and those I am raising now. It appears to me that both the Air Ministry and the reverend gentlemen were waiting in order to get the best of the bargain. Everybody was in doubt as to what the situation was, and a tremendous amount of red tape was in operation in consequence. I should like to know why the arrangement that was suggested and eventually accepted by the reverend gentleman, to make about 100 or 150 yards of road to enable him to get to the place that he was prepared to accept, when he had found that he could not get his own way about the public path, was not suggested before, so as to prevent this extreme delay.
I realise the difficulties of the Ministry and the great amount of time and attention that has been paid to dispossessing the rector of the parish, because of the fact that by law the rector must live in his parish. It was amusing to see the hordes of witnesses and counsel engaged on this matter of dispossession, but very 2362 little was said, except by myself on the committee and one other Member from this side of the House, about the other dispossessed persons—the workmen who were living in cottages. We had a promise made by the Air Ministry that everything would be done that could be done and that they would be as zealous as possible in trying to get these workpeople settled in decent homes. The difficulty of the problem arises from the past. There are houses which have been for a long time old houses let at an uneconomic rent, and the difficulty is to get new places for the people. The local councils are not ready for them, they do-not know where to put them, and they have plenty of applications in their own central areas. But in any event, it is really a hard thing to expect poorly paid labourers to have their rates doubled, and that is the least they can expect, because; the Air Ministry must get them out in order to extend the aerodrome. I hope the Under-Secretary will clear up these matters, because we feel that they are quite as important as the spiritual duties of the rector.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)
I am quite ready to respond to the appeal to give information on the subject of the rectory and the tenants. As the Committee is aware, the Select Committee inserted a new Clause which provides, first, that the Secretary of State is to acquire a site of three acres suitable for a parsonage and a garden and offer it free of charge to the rector, and if there is a difference as to whether the site is suitable or not there is provision for arbitration. Secondly, that the rector is to have compensation-on account of the acquisition of the existing rectory on the basis of the Air Ministry bearing the cost of building a new rectory and laying out the gardens as near as possible equivalent to the existing ones. Negotiations are now going on with the Department and with those concerned. We naturally accepted in the spirit as well as in the letter the Clause which has been inserted in the Bill, and we anticipate no difficulty in performing the requirements of the Clause, provided that land is available and that there is a willing seller. It would only be if land were not available, or, alternatively, if the price for such land as was available 2363 was put up against us to such a figure that we who are responsible for the expenditure of public money could not contemplate the purchase at that figure, that we should have difficulty in fulfilling the requirements of the Clause. If that should be the case we should have to come to this House and ask for a special Bill to be passed to enable us to have compulsory powers to acquire the necessary land, as such compulsory powers as we have are limited to the acquisition of land for aerodrome purposes.
I make that reservation as to the possible difficulties in order to issue a warning to anyone who feels that they can put up the cost and hold us to ransom, as it were, that we have at our back those powers. But the negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily, and I anticipate no difficulty in obtaining an alternative site for the rectory
§ Mr. Montague
What does the Undersecretary mean by "progressing satisfactorily?" All that he is now saying we knew already. I want to know whether anything further has been done. Has the land been acquired? Have the councils concerned agreed upon the roads? Things ought to have gone much further than what the Under-Secretary has indicated. The negotiations were going on when the Select Committee finished its work, and I think that by now we should know whether the difficulties have been got over. The difficulties were largely the result of the desire of the Air Ministry and the other person concerned to get the best bargain they could without letting anybody know to what they would be willing to agree.
§ Captain Balfour
I cannot go beyond saying that negotiations are proceeding, and it would be quite inadvisable while the negotiations are proceeding to give any sort of statement that they are going to be successfully concluded. I do not anticipate difficulty, and, after all, we have had but a comparatively limited space of time since the Bill passed the Select Committee. It takes a little time to negotiate with those who possess land, whether it is the local authority or some private owner, which can be offered as a suitable site. The rector has the right to consider whether it is a suitable site.
§ Captain Balfour
No. The rector has the right to consider whether it is a suitable site or not and I do not think we can expect the rector through his legal advisers to decide as to whether it is a suitable site or not in the time since the Bill came from the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Montague
Do I understand this to be the position? The extension of the aerodrome will go on according to the specified programme whatever happens with regard to the rectory? In other words, if you are not able to find an alternative site in the time he will have to take lodgings somewhere else until you do?
§ Captain Balfour
That is the position. The paramount need for developing this airport was granted by the Select Committee, who did not stipulate that the rector must be offered alternative accommodation before the scheme can go forward. But we accept the Clause in the spirit in which it was put in, and we shall endeavour to do the fair thing by the rector as well as by the public purse. The hon. Member asked me a question about the tenants. Here, again, since the Second Reading of the Bill and during the time that the Bill has been in Committee, good progress has been made in the examination and solution of this problem. Of the 80 or 90 tenants who were outside the Bill and whom we said we would deal with as if they were inside the Bill, nearly 20 of them have found accommodation elsewhere, and the present number whose problem of housing has to be solved is 61. A further examination has shown that we have no need to evacuate any tenants until September, 1939, and then only 12 families. These we can house in a block of flats which are our property and we shall do so at the existing rents. We shall also facilitate the removal to the new accommodation. The occupants of a cottage required in March, 1940, for the site of the new road can be accommodated in flats on the same basis at the existing rent, and we shall facilitate their removal. All the remaining tenants can stay until September, 1940.
Generally, we have warned the tenants of our intentions and we have given them as long as possible to make arrangements, and we have left them free to terminate their existing tenancies at an earlier date if it is convenient to them. The matter 2365 of the permanent rehousing has been taken up with the three local housing authorities. The hon. Member knows that negotiations with local authorities are not rapidly concluded, but we are in negotiation with them with a view to providing such accommodation as shall be required. A house-to-house survey is going on in order to ascertain precisely the tenants requirements and the amount of accommodation in the area in which they prefer to live. Generally, we anticipate no serious difficulties and the Committee may rest assured that all possible steps will be taken to abide by the statement which was made on the Second Reading of the Bill. That is the position as regards the tenants which I trust the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) will not consider unsatisfactory.
I now turn to the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) withdrew. I am glad he withdrew it, because we should not have been able to accept it. I think he himself should welcome its non-acceptance because it is quite objectless as an Amendment. It suggests that the power of acquiring land compulsorily shall cease in 1940. It is a normal practice in all Bills for compulsory powers of acquisition of land that the powers should extend for a period of three years from the time the Bill is passed. The Select Committee accepted that period of three years. The Amendment would not embarrass us at all because our notices to treat will all be served before 1939 is over.
If the objective of the Amendment was to speed up the Heston Scheme I am afraid it would not be served by the acceptance of the Amendment, because speeding up is a matter for the administrative action of the Air Ministry. Our programme has been drawn up to complete the airport in the shortest possible time. The reason why we cannot complete until 1942 is that the aerodrome must continue in use owing to our traffic requirements, and the ground takes time to consolidate after the removal of buildings. Grass after sowing takes a certain time to become established and even all the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud cannot overcome the processes of nature. Temporary buildings have to be provided to cover the interim period. The permanent airport buildings cannot be 2366 planned and built in a style worthy of the main airport of the country in a few months.
If the hon. Member for Stroud quotes cases of Royal Air Force acquisition of aerodromes I would point out that a great deal of temporary hutting can be provided in those cases, but that would not suffice in this case. Alternative roads have to be built before the existing roads are closed. Our programme for completion in 1942 has been carefully calculated and provides no margin at all for any serious hitch or hold-up. It is sufficient to say that no one is keener than I am to speed up construction of the airport. I have reviewed this programme and cannot see that we can complete the programme in a lesser time than I have stated. We are losing no time at any stage. If the hon. Member for Stroud wishes, I will, at some later date, give him full details of each stage, month by month. I believe that this is an airport which will be one of the finest, if not the finest, in the country, and will be a credit to the country.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
I should be obliged if the Air Ministry would remember, in clearing this site, that the rector has in his parsonage grounds six acres and that he uses some of it for a garden and another part as a playing-field. If they can give him six acres, the same amount as he has in his own rectory grounds which are now to be taken over, I should be much obliged. Also, in the present parsonage house he has a very large hall used for all sorts of social entertainments connected with his work. I hope that the Air Ministry will give him sufficient money to have a rectory and hall exactly the same as the present rectory, and will also give him sufficient money to lay out the garden properly as a rectory should be laid out.
§ Captain Balfour
The hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) asks if we shall give more than the three acres the Bill stipulates. I cannot say as to that. We are under an obligation to provide three acres.
§ Sir M. Sueter
The Clause says, "approximately three acres." You are not bound down to three acres. "Approximately" may be three, four, five or six acres.
§ Captain Balfour
This is a difficult point. I should have thought that three acres of garden was ample as regards upkeep. Regarding putting back a hall such as that in the present parsonage, so that it can be used for recreational purposes, it is stipulated in the Bill that we bear the cost of building a new rectory and laying out gardens as near as possible similar to the present ones. Therefore any facilities in the present rectory will have to be provided in the new one. If there is any dispute there is the further safeguard for the rector of arbitration.
§ Mr. Eckersley
Could my hon. and gallant Friend give us any idea whether there is any possibility of the London Passenger Transport Board giving any rail facilities to the new airport?
§ Captain Balfour
We are in negotiation to see whether that can be done. The capital cost of a special line would be enormous and the institution of the line must, to a considerable extent, depend on the revenue likely to accrue. It may be that civil aviation will grow to such a degree that if a line is not instituted at the outset the London Passenger Transport Board, in years to come, will come clamouring for one to be provided.
§ Clauses 2 to 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.