HC Deb 24 May 1939 vol 347 cc2376-9

6.44 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, in page 42, line 16, after "functions," to insert: or any public utility undertaking to which section twenty-eight of this Act applies. The series of Amendments standing in my name to this Clause is related to one point. It arises out of the operation of Clauses 27 and 28. Under Clause 27 a public utility undertaking have to prepare a report stating what measures they are taking or propose to take to secure the due functioning of the undertaking in the event of hostile attack. Under Clause 28, when the appropriate Department receive the report, they may issue a notice requiring the public utility undertaking to carry out the various schemes they have prepared for the functioning of the undertaking. That puts them in the same position as the local authority under this Clause, but the public utility undertaking have not the advantage in preparing their scheme and carrying out the notice which the local authority has in paragraph (b), Sub-section (1) of Clause 52. They are still hampered by the restrictive covenants and other things that may possibly be used to prevent them from carrying out the necessary works to enable them to comply with the notice served by the Minister. This has been the subject of prolonged negotiations between the Minister and certain parties whom I represent, and although I am not convinced that I have found the appropriate form of words I think the suggestion embodied in this series of Amendments would enable public utility undertakers to carry through with reasonable certainty the preparations for the various schemes they now have in hand, and I hope that the Minister may find it possible to accept the principle enshrined in the Amendments.

6.46 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

The hon. Member said that this matter has been under discussion for some time and, as he knows, I have always personally been in sympathy with the object he has in view, and, with the reservation that it may be desirable to look at the wording again before Report stage, I shall be prepared here and now to accept this Amendment and the consequential Amendments.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. David Adams

Personally I am not very happy about this Amendment. It seems to me that we are moving very rapidly in a direction which is contrary to the customary one, that is to say, that local authorities should not have their powers superseded by any public utility undertaking. To confer upon public utility concerns powers which have been specially given to local authorities appears to be an extravagant departure. I should be very much happier if the authority which this Amendment would confer upon public utility concerns were to be subject to the consent of the local authorities concerned. In that way the public interest might be adequately safeguarded, for it is to our local authorities that we must look to see that the interests of the community are carefully preserved. To confer upon a public utility concern, or a dock or harbour authority, rights to do that which ought to be the responsibility of the community is a very dangerous departure.

6.49 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

In all these matters it is a question of compromising between the preservation of the normal peace-time safeguards such as one finds in planning schemes and local bye-laws and the necessity for making without delay adequate preparations for the contingency of war. In saying that I was prepared to accept this Amendment I had regard to the manner in which, since the matter was first mooted in Committee, the proposal has been restricted and hedged round. As the hon. Member who moved the Amendment explained, it is all subject to the appropriate Department having served a notice on the public utility undertakings. In those circumstances it seems reasonably safe to accept the Amendment.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams) and I have sat in partnership through so many nights of Debate in this House that I regret that he should discover that I have so soon fallen from my high estate. He and I have so often indulged in comments on Members who were standing at this Box that I appreciate the spirit in which his remarks are offered to me, and I assure him that I reciprocate them in the spirit in which remarks which used to be passed back to us were made. The public are safeguarded by Subsections (2) and (3) of this Clause. The powers can be exercised only with the approval of the Minister, and at any time he can give the necessary directions that the normal state of affairs shall be resumed.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 42, line 19, after "authority," insert "or public utility undertaking."—[Mr. Ede.]

6.51 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

I beg to move, in page 42, line 20, after "functions," to insert: and (b) any local authority (as defined in the Act of 1937) may permit any other local authority having any civil defence functions to use, for the purpose of discharging any of those functions, any lands or buildings belonging to or under the control of the first-mentioned authority, and the provisions of this Sub-section shall have effect. This provision is desired in order to get over what might otherwise be a legal difficulty where one local authority has property within the area of another, and is perfectly willing that it should be used for civil defence purposes, but might not have the legal power to give consent in the absence of this provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 42, line 20, after "functions," insert: or taking measures specified in the notice served under Sub-section one of Section twenty-eight of this Act as the case may be."—[Mr. Ede.]

In line 25, leave out "power," and insert "powers."

In line 30, after "authority," insert "or, as the case may be, the local authorities."—[Sir J. Anderson.]

In line 30, after "authority" insert "or public utility undertaking."—[Mr. Ede.]

In line 33, after "authority," insert "or local authorities."—[Sir J. Anderson.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 53 and 54 ordered to stand part of the Bill.