§ Considered in Committee [Progress,12th June].
§ [Colonel CLIFTON BROWN in the Chair.]
§ NEW CLAUSE.—(Power of local authorities to construct air-raid shelters in streets.)
§ Subject to the provisions of this Section, the local authority may provide a public air-raid shelter on any highway and may for that purpose construct works in or on the highway or land adjoining the highway and affix appliances to any building or wall adjoining the highway.
§ (2)In the case of a highway for the maintenance of which a highway authority other than the local authority is responsible, the local authority shall not exercise their powers under this Section without the consent of the highway authority.
§ (3)At least fourteen days before exercising any powers under this Section the local authority shall—
- (a)serve upon the occupiers of any land or building adjoining the site of the proposed shelter a notice stating their intention to exercise the powers and specifying the general nature of the shelter;
- (b)affix a similar notice in a prominent position upon the site of the proposed shelter; and
- (c)cause a similar notice to be published in a newspaper circulating in the area of the authority.
§ (4)The local authority shall not, in the exercise of their powers under this Section, interfere with any mains, pipes, apparatus or works belonging to public utility undertakers unless they have given to those undertakers not less than fourteen days notice of their intention so to do and the local authority shall repay to the undertakers the amount of any expenses reasonably incurred by them in or in connection with any removal, diversion or alteration of the mains, pipes, apparatus or works which may be reasonably necessary in consequence of the construction of the shelter; and if the local authority cause any damage to any such mains, pipes, apparatus. or works they shall repay to the undertakers the amount of the expenses reasonably incurred by them in making good the damage.
§ (5)The local authority shall pay to any persons having an estate or interest in any land or building adjoining the highway on which a shelter is constructed under this Section such compensation, if any, as may be just in respect of any depreciation of their property caused by the construction of the shelter.—[Sir J. Anderson.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.1138
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The Committee will remember that during the previous stage, in Committee, there stood on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) and certain other hon. Members, a Clause which was accepted by the Government in principle on the understanding that the wording would be examined before Report and that a Clause in a modified form would be put down for consideration at the present stage. The Clause which I now move corrects what we thought to be certain defects in the original draft. For example, the original draft Clause was limited to highways of 20 feet or less, and it was felt that the criterion for determining the class of highway that could most appropriately be used in the manner contemplated by the Clause should not be width or lack of width but rather traffic value. Therefore, the limit of width has been omitted. Secondly, the Clause provided for seven days' notice to every owner, lessee or occupier. That touches the point that we discussed in Committee at considerable length yesterday on another Clause. Such a provision might have covered all sorts of people who could not readily be traced and who might turn up at a later stage and claim that because they had not been notified everything done must be undone. In view of the discussion yesterday I am sure the Committee will agree that the Clause in its new form is an improvement in that respect.
The scheme of the new Clause is as follows: First, there is no limitation on the width of the street that may be used; that matter is left to the discretion of the local authority. Secondly, if the shelter authority is not the same as the high way authority, the shelter authority can not exercise their powers without the con sent of the highway authority. Thirdly, 14 days before exercising any powers under the Clause the local authority must serve a notice, stating their intentions, on the occupiers of land and buildings ad joining the site, and must affix a notice on the site and insert a similar notice in a newspaper circulating in the district. The Clause also provides that the local authority shall not interfere with mains, pipes, and so on of public utility under takings unless they have given notice, 1139 that they must repay the reasonable expenses of the removal of the pipes, and that they must also repay to the under takers the amount of the expenses reason ably incurred by them in making good any damage. Finally, the local authority must pay to any persons having an estate or interest in any land or building ad joining the highway such compensation as may be just and reasonable in respect of any depreciation of property caused by the construction of the shelter.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
This clause is in principle a necessary Clause, and, as the Minister has said, the principle of it was, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), I believe on behalf of the Corporation of Liverpool. There are, however, one or two points which I wish to raise and which perhaps apply particularly to London and may conceivably apply in exceptional cases to county districts outside London. First of all there is a general point which I think applies to everyone. My recollection is that the law as to building lines and their maintenance is largely determined by the actual buildings which exist at any moment on a street, and that if a building is permitted to or does in fact encroach beyond the general line of buildings, thereby it might be argued legally that a new building line is established and that private owners of property or those wishing to develop it may be considered entitled to advance the building line. I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division and the Liverpool Corporation would not wish that to be an incidental result of this new Clause. What they want is the right to put a structure for A.R.P. purposes on the highway, but not thereby to interfere with amenities or development or to affect the rights of owners of property. I think that is a point which ought to be covered in some part of the Bill, unless the Lord Privy Seal can give us an assurance that it has already been met. I hope the Lord Privy Seal will encourage local authorities, if they are making an encroachment on the highway which, but for the emergency, would probably be considered undesirable, to make every endeavour to avoid interfering either with reasonable amenities, or with the flow of 1140 traffic. If an administrative eye could be kept on that point from Whitehall, either by advice to local authorities or in some other way, so that the consideration of amenities will be taken into account, I think it would be in accordance with the wish of the Committee.
Apart from these general considerations, the only point which I wish to raise applies particularly to London, though it may conceivably affect some county districts outside London. The Clause provides that where the shelter authority is not the highway authority, it shall consult the highway authority before the projection is decided upon. In the case of London, the shelter authority is the metropolitan borough council, and the highway authority is the metropolitan borough council, but the building regulations authority is the London County Council. I am sure the Council would not wish to be "sticky" about this matter, but, in view of their great responsibilities in connection with the administration of the London Building Acts, perhaps there should be some arrangement for consultation. If that can be done administratively all right, but if it should necessitate an Amendment in the Bill, that is another matter. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman or the Minister of Health, whose Department is particularly concerned with building regulations, can give us some assurances on those points which, I think, are not unreasonable. As to the general purpose of the Clause, I think it very reasonable and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) on his success in persuading the Lord Privy Seal to present it.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
In regard to the first point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I confess that it had already been brought to my notice, but that I have not been able to go into it fully. I can only say that, before the Bill takes final shape, I shall see to it that his point in. regard to the building line is thoroughly examined. His next point concerns the nature of the interference with the highway involved in the administration of the Clause. He expressed the hope that everything possible would be done to ensure that works were not carried out which offended unreasonably against the amenities of the neighbourhood. I think he can be assured that, as far as it is possible to do so consistently with carrying out the purposes 1141 of the Clause, this will be done by administrative arrangement. In all these cases the local authority will expect to receive grant for these works. They will, there fore, have to come to the Department, and I can promise, on behalf of the Department, to keep a vigilant eye on this aspect of the matter. As regards the special position in London, as I have indicated these schemes will have to come to the Department and it should be easy, as a matter of administrative arrangement, to ensure that the London County Council is consulted in all proper cases. I have had a word with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and I am glad to be able to give that assurance on the matter.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
It may be that the last two points can be met by means of inspection and control and by the common sense of the local authorities, but on the question of the alteration of the building line, in connection with which a precedent is being set, would it not be more effective if the right hon. Gentleman saw to it that, in another place, words were inserted to deal with that point?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I did not mean to suggest that I proposed to deal with that point by administrative act. If I think that there is any danger as regards that matter, it will be dealt with in another place.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan
Those of us who represent Liverpool are very pleased at the acceptance by the right hon. Gentleman of this proposal, and in view of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) may I say that our idea is not that of interfering in any way with amenities. If arrangements can be made which will improve matters from that point of view and enable these facilities to be given we shall be very grateful, as long as the principle is accepted. There is one point on which an Amendment will be moved later by my hon. Friend the Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby), but with that exception, we are satisfied with the Clause.
§ Mr. McEntee
Sub-section (2) of the proposed new Clause provides that in the case of a highway, for the maintenance of which a highway authority other than the local authority is responsible, the local authority shall not exercise their 1142 powers without the consent of the highway authority. If the highway authority does not give that consent, is there any appeal against their decision? Again, Sub-section (5) provides for the payment of "such compensation as may be just." Who is to determine what is just, and is there any authority to which an appeal can be made in that case also?
§ Sir J. Anderson
In regard to the first point, if the highway authority objects that is conclusive, subject to any powers of persuasion that may be exercised. That is the scheme of the Clause. As regards compensation, the Bill provides for that in the compensation Clause, and it will be determined by an official arbitrator.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirby
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 14, after "upon," to insert "or as near as possible to."
May I, as a representative of Liverpool join with my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) in expressing our pleasure at the acceptance of the Clause? We are very well satisfied with its terms except on the one point with which this Amendment deals. The Clause requires a local authority to affix, 14 days before exercising these powers, a notice upon the site of the proposed shelter. There may be difficulties in doing so, in certain cases and in certain classes of streets and in order to avoid difficulties we ask that the rather strict wording of the Clause should be modified by the introduction of these conditional words, which are self-explanatory.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross Taylor
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 21, after "do," to insert:nor in any case in which those undertakers intimate in writing to the local authority within fourteen days after the receipt of such notice their intention themselves to carry out any reasonably necessary removal, diversion or alteration of their mains, pipes, apparatus or works and proceed forthwith to complete such works with reasonable despatch.1143 The object of the Amendment is to give express powers to public utility undertakers to carry out such alterations to mains, pipes and other works as may be rendered necessary by the erection, by a local authority, of a public air-raid shelter on the highway. It may be argued that this power is implicit in the new Clause, but in order to prevent misunderstanding the power ought to be made explicit. The principle of the Amendment has already been agreed to in respect of the construction by local authorities of air-raid shelters on land other than high roads. It is obviously desirable that the work of altering mains and cables, which is of a technical nature, should be done by those who are experienced in it. There are many precedents for such a provision in private Acts.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
At the request of the Metropolitan Water Board I support the Amendment. The board desire me to point out that in the case of water mains particularly, it is undesirable that they should be removed by people other than the board's own staff.
§ Sir J. Anderson
This Amendment has a familiar ring, and I think I can, without further ado, advise the Committee to accept it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made:
§ In line 23, after "any," insert "such."
§ Leave out from "alteration," to "and," in line 25.—[Mr. Ross Taylor.]
§ 4.28 p.m.
Colonel Sandeman Allen
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 31, at the end, to add:(6) The powers of this Section shall not be so exercised as to obstruct or render less convenient the access to, or exit from any premises belonging to any public utility under takers and used for the purposes of their undertaking.This Amendment is moved on behalf of docks, railways and canals under takings who fear that the comprehensive powers in the Clause might be so exercised as to interfere to access to or exit from their premises. They are given no power to prohibit or to impose conditions on the construction of air-raid shelters. 1144 The associations concerned appreciate the desirability of adequate protection being afforded to the general public against air raids, but they regard it as equally important that nothing should be done to interrupt or interfere with transport facilities. Their functions in that respect would be seriously interfered with if local authorities were to place public air-raid shelters in certain streets, for example, in small streets affording access to docks. This Amendment is based on a provision in the Fire Brigades Act. The Ministry of Transport have "vetted" the Amendment and, I am empowered to say, have approved of it. I hope that my right hon. Friend, if he cannot accept the Amendment, will at any rate relieve the minds of these public undertakers, as to their position in this matter.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I suggest that these words are far too wide. I appreciate the point about obstruction, but "render less convenient" is a very wide term, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accept those words.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I was going to say that, while I fully appreciate the force of the argument put forward on behalf of the public utility undertakers, first, those undertakers are not the only people who may be discharging important functions that might conceivably be prejudiced by the provisions of the Clause. Secondly, as the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) suggests, the pro vision in this suggested Sub-section is very wide indeed. I think the Committee will agree that this matter is one which could safely be left to reasonable consideration, and I hope the Amendment will not be pressed. I can give my hon. and gallant Friend the assurance that this is a matter which is recognised as one to which close attention should be paid in the administration of the Clause.
§ Amendment to the proposed Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in Committee and on re-committal), considered.