HC Deb 15 July 1943 vol 391 cc413-9

Lords Amendment. In page 8, line 21, leave out from "land," to "is," in line 22.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The question of Privilege arises similarly here.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 36, leave out from "or," to "matters," and insert "upon other similar."

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The question of Privilege arises on this Amendment also.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 38, at the end, insert: but except as aforesaid no compensation shall be paid under Subsection (2) of this Section in respect of any work carried out before the date on which the permission was granted, or in respect of any liability arising under a contract made before that date.

Mr. H. Strauss

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is designed to meet a point which was raised in this House in Committee. It deals with the case of cancellation of a permission already given. Such cancellation attracts certain compensation for abortive expenditure. It was desired to make it clear on the face of the Bill that abortive expenditure should not include expenditure which had nothing to do with the cancellation. The object of the Amendment is to remove the fear that the Bill as originally drawn might enable sums to be claimed as compensation for abortive expenditure which really have nothing to do with the cancellation because in fact the expenditure had taken place before permission to develop had ever been asked for. These words make the matter clear and carry out the wishes of the House.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The question of Privilege similarly arises.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 8, line 42, at the end, insert:

NEW CLAUSE (Interim protection of trees and woodlands).

(1) If it appears to any interim development authority that it is expedient, having regard to any provision proposed to be inserted in the scheme in accordance with section forty-six of the principal Act, to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands during the period pending the coming into operation of that provision, they may for that purpose make an order (in this section referred to as an "interim preservation order") with respect to such trees, groups of trees or woodland areas as may be specified in the order as as may for the time being be designated by the interim development authority in accordance with the order; and, in particular provision may be made by any such order—

  1. (a) for prohibiting (subject to any exemptions for which provision may be made by the order) the cutting down, topping, lopping or wilful destruction of trees except with the consent of the interim development authority, and for enabling that authority to give their consent subject to conditions;
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  3. (b) for securing the replanting of any part of a woodland area which is felled in the course of forestry operations permitted by or under the order; and
  4. (c) for the imposition of pecuniary penalties, recoverable in a court of summary jurisdiction, in respect of contraventions of the order not exceding the sum of fifty pounds and, in the case of a continuing offence, forty shillings for each day during which the offence continues after conviction.

(2) An interim preservation order shall not take effect unless it is approved by the Minister, and the Minister may approve any such order either without modification or subject to such modifications as he thinks fit, but shall not approve any such order unless it contains provisions satisfactory to him—

  1. (a) for securing that any person aggrieved by the refusal of any consent required under the order, or by any condition imposed upon the grant of any such consent, is entitled to appeal to the Minister; and
  2. (b) for enabling the interim development authority, upon the refusal of any consent required under the order, or upon granting any such consent subject to conditions, to make a contribution towards any damage or expense likely to be suffered or incurred by reason of their decision.

(3) Regulations shall be made under section thirty-seven of the principal Act with respect to the submission and approval of interim preservation orders and the publication of notices thereof, and the Minister, before approving any such order, shall take into account any objections made in accordance with the regulations and not withdrawn:

Provided that where it appears to the Minister that any such order should take effect immediately, he may approve the order provisionally without complying with the requirements of this subsection with respect to the consideration of objections, but any order so approved shall cease to have effect upon the expiration of the period of two months from the date of the approval unless within that period it has been confirmed, with or without modifications, after compliance with those requirements.

(4) The compensation payable under sub-section (1) of section eighteen of the principal Act in respect of injurious affection of property by the coming into operation of any provision included in a scheme in accordance with the said section forty-six shall include compensation in respect of any additional injurious affection of the property by the coming into operation of an interim preservation order under this section:

Provided that subsection (2) of section twenty-three of the principal Act (which specifies matters to be taken into account in assessing compensation under that Act) shall have effect as if the reference in paragraph (iii) of that subsection to a contribution made under the provisions of that Act relating to interim development orders included a reference to any contribution paid in accordance with the interim preservation order.

(5) Without prejudice to any exemptions for which provision may be made by an interim preservation order, no such order shall, while the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, 1939 and 1940, remain in force, prohibit or restrict the carrying out of any operations authorised by any government department in accordance with Regulations made under those Acts.

(6) The power to make interim preservation orders under this section shall include power to revoke or vary any such order by a subsequent order."

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

During our discussions in this House a very general desire was expressed by all sections of it that we should do something to preserve trees and woodlands in so far as it contributed to the amenities of a neighbourhood. I felt the strongest sympathy with that desire. My only doubt was whether it would be possible without consideration to deal with it, because the clearance of trees is not development in a technical sense. After some consideration this Clause has been added at the instance of the Government, and I think it does what the House generally expressed a desire should be done. Subsection (1, a) gives power to prevent the cutting down, topping, lopping or wilful destruction of trees and Sub-section (1, b) gives power to secure the replanting of any part of a woodland area which is felled in the course of forestry operations. I need hardly say that if replanting operations of an extensive character were put before me, I should unhesitatingly seek the advice of the Forestry Commission as to how that could best be done, and I am sure I could rely on their co-operation and advice so as to secure that that part of my duties would be adequately performed.

Sub-section (1, c) provides for pecuniary penalties. The proviso in Sub-section (3) of the new Clause gives me power to take action in the case of trees or woodlands which are threatened with immediate felling, without going through the obligations enjoined by the first paragraph of the Sub-section. It gives unlimited power to the Minister to stop proceedings until the matter is inquired into. That is essential to make the Clause work. There was general agreement in the House when the matter was discussed.

Colonel Sir George Courthope (Rye)

I should like on behalf of the Forestry Commission to say "Thank you" to my right hon. Friend and to the Government for arranging for the insertion of this Clause. It has almost exactly the same powers as those included in one of the model clauses in planning schemes which are already in force. We are very anxious that an interim development authority should have the same power of preserving groups of trees or individual trees or woodlands which are essential to the amenity of the countryside as the planning authority has under existing Acts. As far as I can see, the only difference is that there is a paragraph providing that there shall be no conflict between the planning authority and the Ministry of Supply Timber Production Department with regard to arty particular work. Subject to that difference, it puts all the authorities, interim and otherwise, on the same basis.

Mr. J. Griffiths

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Owen Evans) and I made representations on behalf of our Welsh colleagues to the sectional Board of the Ministry of Supply with regard to the preservation of trees in places, such as Devil's Bridge, which are a source of enjoyment to people all over the country. So far we have succeeded. I hope the Minister will keep a careful watch over the matter.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I should like to ask for information on the relation of the Timber Control with the local planning authority. If the Timber Control wishes to cut down a large number of trees, can the planning authority prevent its doing so? I would also draw attention to the penalties. I see that a penalty not exceeding £50 may be demanded. Does that mean £50 for a certain number of trees illegally felled or for a certain area affected, or what does it mean? As far as I can see, someone might make an enormous profit by cutting down a large number of trees and a £50 penalty might make very little difference. I hope we may be assured that it is £50 for a small number of trees or, if that is not possible, that there may be an increase in the maximum penalty.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The powers of the Timber Control are under Regulation 68 of the Defence Regulations, which require a licence for the cutting down of timber, but that licence is not required by the Regulation itself for the cutting down of timber not exceeding an aggregate of 1,000 cubic feet in any one month. So there is an area which is covered entirely by this Clause but not covered by the scope of the Regulation. As regards small fellings, which may be extremely destructive of beauty, even if small in extent, this is not affected by the Defence Regulation. In this war if it becomes necessary we must cut down everything, and the grim purposes of war may demand sacrifices of the severest character, but at the same time we ought to be vigilant that when we do cut down we do it from hard necessity and not from wantonness. This Clause gives power to see that that is carried out.

The question of penalties is rather more difficult. The maximum penalty imposed in the Clause is for conviction for any breach of the Order. I can imagine the hon. Member arguing that wholesale devastation of this character might be carried out in breach of the Order, but there is also a continuing penalty for every day that it goes on. There may be cases where the penalty would be inadequate, but if you tried to insert a penalty for each offence so severe that it would be prohibitive of the largest scale destruction, it would be putting into the hands of the justices a power to inflict the maximum penalty for trivial offences. I do riot think they would do it. But as Parliament very wisely always puts a maximum upon the penalties which Benches can inflict for breach of statutory offences, we think on a wide review of what is likely to happen these figures of £50 and 40s. are right. If there were anything of that character which I do not apprehend and if the matter were insoluble by any other legal process, such as an injunction against the act complained of we should, of course, have to consider again and see whether penalties of a draconian severity should not be imposed so as to prevent wanton destruction of timber.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

These penalties are to be imposed by a court of summary jurisdiction. I am wondering if there is not a possibility of taking important cases beyond such a court. That would probably permit of heavier penalties being applied in serious cases.

Mr. Morrison

I will remember that suggestion should it become necessary to reconsider the question of penalties.

Mr. Montague (Islington, West)

Is it actually possible for an owner of forest land to undertake demolition of a vast character without getting some sanction from the local authority?

Mr. Morrison

He requires a licence from the Timber Control to act in the first place. My hon. Friend's Question was directed to the powers of local authorities. If there is an operative scheme in existence the scheme itself might provide, and very often does, for the preservation of trees, but the importation of this control into the interim development stage is a new thing which we are doing now.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

This Amendment also raises a question of Privilege.

Lords Amendment: In page 10, line 4, at the end, insert:

NEW CLAUSE (Special provisions as to London).

"Where an interim development application made to the London County Council is referred to the Minister for decision under the