HC Deb 24 May 1939 vol 347 cc2452-4

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Highways Act, 1835, a local authority may, with the approval of the Minister, provide public air-raid shelters in any highway of a width of twenty feet or less within the area of the local authority subject to the provision of any such shelter not interfering with the functions of any public utility undertaking, unless previous written consent, so to interfere, is given to the local authority.

(2) A local authority may affix to the property abutting on the highway any fixture, fitting, or part of a public air-raid shelter as in the opinion of the local authority is necessary to enable an effective shelter to be provided.

(3) Where a local authority intends to provide air-raid shelters under the powers conferred by this Section seven days' notice of such intention shall be served on every owner, lessee, and occupier (except tenants for a month or less period than a month), of any building abutting upon the part of the highway in which it is intended to erect such shelter but not beyond the points where such part of the highway is intersected by any other highway.

(4) Any such owner, lessee, or occupier of any premises as aforesaid injuriously affected by the exercise of the powers conferred by this Section, shall be entitled to compensation therefor of such amount as he shall agree with the local authority or, failing agreement, to be determined under Section fifty-nine of this Act.—[Mr. Logan.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.42 p.m.

Mr. Logan

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

We have a difficulty in Liverpool in discussing this problem because we have not the powers which we seek to get by this new Clause. It is necessary in a congested area that these powers should be in the hands of a local authority. In ordinary circumstances we would have to apply to quarter sessions in order to close a street, but in order to meet an emergency we want the power to be vested in the local authority. This Clause will give us the power we require.

10.43 p.m.

Mr. Kirby

The situation in the overcrowded districts of large cities is a difficult one for the local authorities. The type of shelter which has been provided for use in gardens is unsuitable because in the congested areas there are no gardens, and very often no back yards, basements or cellars. It, therefore, becomes necessary, if we are to protect the people, to build shelters above ground. One of the things we wish to do is to provide such shelters in the narrow streets in which there is not much traffic. We find that we have no power to close the streets in order to prepare for the erection of shelters unless we go through a lengthy court procedure under the Highways Act, 1835. We bring this new Clause before the Committee in order to do away with that unnecessarily lengthy legal delay. This applies not only to Liverpool but to all local authorities situated in similar circumstances. I would point out that notice must be given to owners, lessees and occupiers, and provision is made for the payment of compensation in case of loss or damage. That being so, I think it should be acceptable to the Minister and the Committee.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

This is an interesting proposal and it calls for sympathetic examination. The problems referred to by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) and the hon. Member for the Everton Division (Mr. Kirby) are not unknown in my own city of Glasgow, and anything we can do to facilitate the erection of shelters in big towns ought to be undertaken. At the same time I think it would be a pity if the Committee were to insert the Clause here and now, because there are points which require further consideration. A 20-foot street is mentioned, for instance, and the question of access arises, and I am not certain whether full provision has been made for that case. I think also there are a certain number of gaps in Sub-section (3). I make the offer to the hon. Members that I will accept the Clause in principle if they can see their way to withdraw it now, and we will arrange for a new Clause to be brought up at a later stage to give effect to what they have in mind. I think that is a fair offer, and if they can accept it I shall certainly take all steps to carry through the undertaking.

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Logan

We were fully aware when we brought forward this Clause that it was of a highly technical nature and that there would be some difficulty over questions of drafting. I am willing, and I am sure my colleague will be, to accept the offer. We are only anxious to do the best we can for Liverpool and other cities and boroughs in the like position. I beg leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.