HC Deb 16 November 1944 vol 404 cc2178-84

Lords Amendment: In page 20, line 39, at end, insert: (2) A local planning authority may be authorised, by an order made by the authority and submitted to the Minister and confirmed by him, to appropriate for the purposes of this Part of this Act any land for the time being held by them for other purposes being land to which this Sub-section applies, that is to say, land which is, or forms part of, a common, open space or fuel or field garden allotment (including any such land which is specially regulated by any enactment, whether public general or local or private, other than land being Green Belt land as defined in the Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act, 1938): Provided that an order under this Sub-section shall be provisional only and shall be of no effect until confirmed by Parliament, except as mentioned in the previous Sub-section.

1.29 p.m.

Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, after "regulated," insert: or the use of which for any purpose other than those of open spaces is prohibited.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in Order to move Amendments to the Lords Amendments?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker


Dr. Thomas

I do not in any way wish to hinder the progress of the Bill, indeed, it is my intention, I hope, to help its administration and possibly avoid some friction which might arise unless note is taken of this particular matter. Many towns are making their schemes in regard to future planning and it will necessitate, in the case of many of those towns taking in a small portion of public land, very small portions probably, in many cases for the widening of the highway and possibly, on some occasions, for building purposes.

We all know that land of equal consequence will be substituted if possible, but the difficulty arises not only with my own Corporation, but probably with many Corporations with private Acts of Parliament relating to these public lands. If I might cite the instance which I have in mind, the Corporation of Southampton, perhaps it will be to the point. The public lands of Southampton are regulated under the Southampton Marshlands and Markets Act, and Section 72 definitely prohibits the use of those public lands far any other purpose than as parks, gardens, pleasure grounds, and so on, for the inhabitants of Southampton and for those who come there. The other place have inserted a new Sub-section which I think is intended to enable the Corporation to obtain an Order from the Minister authorising them to appropriate land which forms part of an open space for the purposes of Part of the Bill which includes development. However, the new Sub-section says this: … including any such land which is specially regulated by any enactment, whether public general or local or private. … The word to which I would draw the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is "regulated." The reason for these words, I believe, is that a general Act of Parliament does not override a local act unless by express provision or by necessary implication. It will be noted that the word "regulated" is used, and I am a little doubtful whether it may be said that Section 72 of the Act of Parliament regarding the Southampton Marsh and Markets regulates the use of public land. What it does is to prohibit the use of those lands except as open spaces, but there is a difference in my opinion between "regulating" and "prohibiting." The Marsh and Markets Act with regard to Southampton common and waste land says: … No part thereof be at any time taken or used for any other purpose than that of the public pleasure. I do not want to press my Amendment unduly if the right hon. Gentleman will give me an assurance that it is a mere drafting Amendment. I suggest, in order to avoid contention later, that he should assure me there is ample legal cover in the Bill in regard to this matter, because it is important and might lead to a great deal of trouble in the future. I do want the Corporation to have this particular power, and this question applies, probably on account of many private acts of Parliament, to many other corporations which will want to develop their towns after the war.

1.33 p.m.

Mr. Craven-Ellis (Southampton)

I rise to support this Amendment because Southampton has had a very severe "blitzing," and it necessitates a very broad plan for the purposes of redevelopment. In order to make Southampton's re-development scheme of the standard we desire Southampton to have, there will have to be some encroachment upon these public lands. The word "regulated" does not seem to us to give the opportunity to carry out the plan already designed. It is important that Southampton should in no way be restricted from this reasonable course in its redevelopment scheme from this point of view also, that Southampton is the gateway to England and is also the largest passenger port in the British Empire. I put those two points forward to support and strengthen my contention that the word "regulated" should have as wide an interpretation as possible; otherwise we may find that the Southampton Marshlands and Markets Act may restrict the development of the plan which has already been designed.

1.35 p.m.

Sir Robert Tasker (Holborn)

I only intervene for a moment because, while one realises the importance of Southampton, which is not only a borough but a county, there are other difficulties which I foresee. In Holborn we have Gray's Inn subject to town planning and Lincoln's Inn exempt, and there are many private Acts of Parliament which give power even to individuals, such as the new building erected a few years ago on the Embankment under a separate Act of Parliament. I would invite the Solicitor-General's attention to the fact that, so far as I see it, this Section will not provide for clearing away what will ultimately prove to be an obstruction. We ought to consider whether there are not certain private Acts which should be repealed, and I ask the Solicitor-General to consider whether this Bill is as comprehensive as it ought to be.

1.36 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

May I first deal with the point which concerns the hon. Members who sit for Southampton (Dr. Russell Thomas and Mr. Craven-Ellis)? I should like to assure them that the words "specially regulated," in my opinion, cover land which is regulated as respects the way in which it may be used, or which is restricted to a particular kind of use. In my opinion it covers the Southampton case, and the words have been drawn with that case in mind, and in order to cover it. I think that is as specific and as clear as my hon. Friends could ask.

Mr. Craven-Ellis


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. Speaker has already ruled that this is not a Committee stage, and we cannot have continual interruptions of Ministers.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

I wish to ask the Solicitor-General a question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, Am I prohibited from doing so?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may ask one question, but it must be clear that we cannot prolong this stage by having a series of questions or supplementary speeches.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

The whole substance of this Amendment rests upon one word which has been expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is the whole point. The hon. Gentleman has made his speech and he should have made his point then. I will allow one question but we must not go beyond Mr. Speaker's Ruling.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

Thank you, Sir. Can we interpret the word "exclusively," which is in the Act of 1862, to have the same interpretation as the word "regulated"? When I look up the dictionary, I find the two explanations are entirely different.

The Solicitor-General

I have told my hon. Friend, and I can only give the House the best of my legal experience and knowledge, and the view that the Government has accepted after giving the gravest consideration to the point—I have told him quite specifically that, in my opinion, land which is specially regulated includes land which is restricted to a particular kind of use, even if the word "exclusively" is put in to enforce the restriction. I hope I have met my hon. Friends. My intention was to do so, and to tell them—which is all that I can do—that, to the best of my knowledge, the Southampton case is adequately covered.

With regard to the wider point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn (Sir Robert Tasker) I think that that is not a point on the word "regulated," so much as a point on the Amendment. I will say one word with regard to the Amendment, if I am permitted, when we come to that, and perhaps when I have explained the purpose of the Amendment, the fears of my hon. Friend will disappear.

Dr. Thomas

In view of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, I am reassured, and I do not wish to press it further. I trust his assurances will prevent any contention later on and be not only valuable to Southampton but other corporations. Therefore I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment to the Lords Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

1.41 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

This Amendment is designed to meet certain difficulties in the way of getting into the hands of local planning authorities, for the purposes of their redevelopment and planning functions under the Bill, open spaces which already belong to them but are in their hands for the purposes of their function relating to open spaces and the like. There are two difficulties. The first is that the Section, without this Amendment, only permits of appropriation in a case in which the land in question is not required for its existing purpose, and it is very difficult to say whether you can ever predicate that of an open space. The second is the special statutory provision, of which I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Dr. Russell Thomas) for giving so clear an example, with which I have tried to deal.

The Amendment aims at removing these difficulties, and it will be noted by the House that it leaves the Minister subject to Parliamentary control. As I said, my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn has raised the question of acquiring the Inns of Court. Apart from my personal interest as one of the Benchers of Grays Inn —which I ought to declare to the House as in that sense, I suppose, I am a registered proprietor of that part of his constituency—I would suggest to the House that it is rather outside the field of this Amendment which deals with open spaces and the like, but that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has noted his point, and so shall I, and we shall both keep it in mind.

1.44 p.m.

Mr. Woodburn

Will this power to purchase land in exchange be exercised rigidly, and only the exact quantity of land allowed in exchange, or will this be interpreted with common sense? There should be reasonable justification in the new planning to give a rather bigger open space than merely replacing the open space sacrificed in the old area. The question is, Is it just an exact measurement?

1.45 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

With the leave of the House, I will answer my hon. Friend's question. That is certainly the spirit of the intendment of the Act. The only procedure I can think of is that of someone using the Attorney-General to try and prohibit them going beyond the Statute. I hope my hon. Friend will not hold me too tightly to every legal possibility that may emerge, but my view is entirely in support of the intendment of the Statute.

Question put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments, to page 21, line 16, agreed to. [Special Entries made.]