§ Captain Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 5, after "circumstances," insert:or that access to the area has been or wag restricted for a prolonged period as a result of war circumstances.The reason for moving this Amendment, as I stated the other day, is because the Bill as it stands is confined to areas described as evacuation areas, and there are others such as the Isle of Wight and those described by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) which have suffered the same misfortunes and disabilities as the evacuation areas. Therefore I think these words should be included in the Bill in order that justice may be done to all these areas which have suffered as the result of the war.
§ Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
In supporting this Amendment, I add a plea that areas to be included under the Amendment should be included very 2154 sparingly, because there are definite reasons why certain areas should receive special consideration. One is, that in certain areas there was a moratorium, and in those areas there was almost compulsory evacuation. My hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment represents the Isle of Wight, which is in a special category, because there have been very reduced travel facilities to and from that island in war time. I certainly think the Isle of Wight should be included but if we throw the Bill open to all those areas from which there has been voluntary evaculation, the value of the Bill might be destroyed by including so many areas that the special benefit extended to the defence and evacuation areas would be lost. I ask, therefore, while supporting my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald), that the Government should look twice before including areas other than the Isle of Wight.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
I have every sympathy with, and support cordially, the Amendment moved by my hon. and gallant Friend. I feel that the Isle of Wight should certainly he included and should receive the full benefit given in the Bill to those areas which have not only had moratoriums but also evacuation. I rise merely to ask one question of my right hon. and learned Friend. I take it that Clause 3 with the addition of this Amendment will still apply only to areas where there has been a moratorium. The Isle of Wight had a moratorium. I take it that Clause 1 lays down two conditions—the moratorium area and evacuation. Clause 3 removes one of the conditions, namely, evacuation, but leaves as an essential condition that there has been a moratorium.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I have been turning to Clause 1, with a view to ascertaining whether the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) was quite correct in what he said about a moratorium. Can my right hon. and learned Friend make up his mind on that point now?
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) is not right. I will explain it when I come to it.
§ Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks
I am very grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend because it saves pursuing that point on which I was anticipating joining issue with my hon. Friend. I also do not entirely agree with the fears of the hon. and gallant Member for Eastbourne (Major C. S. Taylor) and, if the Committee will allow me for a moment, to refer to the terms of Clause 3 and the Amendment, I think that his anxieties will be dispelled. Clause 3 provides that:Where it appears to the Lord Chancellor, as respects any area which has not been declared an evacuation area for the purposes of the Defence (Evacuated Areas) Regulations, 1940, that extensive and prolonged evacuation has taken place in the area as a result of war circumstances…We want to add there:or that access to the area has been or was restricted for a prolonged period as a result of war circumstances.The introduction of those words precludes the possibility of the provisions becoming entirely applicable to any bombed area throughout the country because, in the vast majority of those areas, there has been no restriction for any prolonged period on the access to those areas. Therefore, the Amendment which we are seeking to move is an entirely limited one, and it is intended to clear up any minor difficulties which would, in fact, be major difficulties in the localities concerned. I have in mind particularly two urban district areas, neither of them very large. They are next door to one another with only a small part of a rural area between them. One is within the area as defined by Clause I.
I will not trouble the Committee by going into detailed figures which have just been published, but that particular area covered by Clause 1 sustained throughout the period of bombing a total of about 100 high explosive bombs and considerable damage. The adjoining urban district area, which is not covered by Clause 1, sustained approximately 300 high explosive bombs and substantially greater damage. Therefore it is to clear up that particular sort of trouble that we have in mind the introduction of Clause 3, because these two are urban district areas which were definitely affected by circumstances arising out of the war, in so far as access was prevented to them. They were within certain military defence zones and it was impossible for people in businesses, 2156 such as those of hotel and lodging-house keepers, to carry on their businesses. The object of this Amendment is to clarify the position and to assist the local authorities whom this Bill is largely intended to help.
§ The Attorney-General
I might, perhaps, clear up a slight misconception in the mind of my hon. Friend, the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). Clauses 1 and 2 lay down a code of adjustment for areas which, having been declared evacuation areas, have, in law, a moratorium in respect of certain debts. Clause 3 enables the Lord Chancellor to apply that procedure to areas which have not been declared evacuation areas and, therefore, have not had, in law, a moratorium in respect of the specified debts. The reason for it was, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) pointed out, that there has been a certain arbitrariness—I do not use the word in any offensive sense—in delimiting the actual defence areas. In many cases people are perhaps hardly aware that the boundary runs where it does run and, therefore, not only have conditions been the same in certain adjoining areas, but everybody has gone on more or less as if there had been a moratorium, although there was not in law.
It was realised that in order to get the best and fairest procedure for such areas it was necessary to treat them as if there had been a moratorium, and give somewhat wider adjustment powers in addition to the ordinary adjustment powers of the principal Act, as amended. As drafted, the Bill laid down the test of extensive arid prolonged evacuation. My hon. and gallant Friend wishes to add:or that access to the area has been or was restricted for a prolonged period as a result of. war circumstances.My hon. and gallant Friend has in mind his own constituency, the Isle of Wight. We accept those words. I do not want to be regarded as prejudging any question of any particular area, but it is right that there should be words which make it clear beyond any doubt that the Isle of Wight can be considered for the operation of Clause 2. It will not be altogether an easy question to decide whether what has happened really makes it fairer to introduce a national moratorium or not, but as conditions in the Isle of Wight have 2157 been exceptional, and have produced great hardship it is right that there should be power given to the Lord Chancellor to consider whether it may not be necessary to extend Clauses 1 and 2 to that and similar areas, if there are any, in order that a fair adjustment may be made.
§ Mr. Loftus
If the test is extensive and prolonged evacuation, would not that technically apply to the whole of the County of London? Would it not be better if at the commencement of the Amendment the word "and" was used instead of "or"?
§ The Attorney-General
I am sure that would not be right. There are two classes of exceptional areas. There is the Isle of Wight and there may be nowhere else quite like it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]There may be no other place where the main cause of disaster may be refusal of access. With an island like the Isle of Wight refusal of access was easier to enforce, and it had a most disastrous effect on the life and prosperity of that area. The other case is the opposite, where people are told to get out, and I think the word, "or," will enable one set of circumstances or the other to be considered.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clauses 4 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.