HC Deb 05 February 1948 vol 446 cc2008-10
Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 3, line 19, to leave out from the beginning, to the second "of," and to insert: in the application of the said section fifteen of the Act of 1945 to any highway under the foregoing subsection and for the purposes. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I may discuss together both this and the next Amendment, to leave out from "period," to end of line, and insert: up to the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and forty-eight. We have had considerable discussion on this Clause already, and I do not propose to repeat anything I have said earlier, but I do suggest for the consideration of the House that it is unnecessary that this wide power by regulation of closing and permanently stopping up highways and footpaths which have been stopped up illegally—but which could have been stopped up legally under the Defence Regulations—should be continued until 1952. That is the effect of the last two lines of Clause 3. Surely, that is unnecessary.

I need not remind the right hon. Gentleman of the pledges given by the Home Secretary on this point, which are quite contradictory of this Clause. Surely, if there are some cases where footpaths have now factories built right across them—footpaths which could have been closed under Defence Regulations which are no longer in existence—the necessary action can be taken to stop these footpaths up without keeping this power until 1952, until the Transitional Powers Act ceases to be in force. I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to say that this is a really reasonable Amendment; that Section 15 should only be continued for the purposes mentioned in Subsection (1) of the Clause; that in any event the power of using this method of stopping up highways and footpaths should terminate by 31st December, 1948; and that thereafter Ministries, like anyone else, like any other body which wants to deprive the public of rights of way, should have resort to the well-known and old-fashioned method of applying to quarter sessions for an order.

Mr. Digby

I beg to second the Amendment.

9.0 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

In my view, this Amendment resurrects the question which we discussed at considerable length during earlier stages of this Bill. I find considerable difficulty in answering the hon. and learned Member without repeating the arguments which I have used. I feel that I must repeat, at any rate, one of them, and I submit that it is perfectly conclusive upon the point made. Once it is accepted as a matter of principle—and the House has now accepted it—that the general powers for which we have asked should be continued up to December, 1952, it follows, as a matter of logical necessity, that we should have the particular powers contained in Section 15 of the 1945 Act for the same period, for the very reason that they are simply incidental to the other powers, the life of which is being extended.

It is quite unreasonable to say that land may be acquired, which has a path running across it, but that, although it may be retained or acquired till December, 1952, there shall not be for the same period the incidental powers given by the 1945 Act with regard to stopping up paths and highways, whether or not they have been formerly stopped up under a Defence Regulation. The two things hang together, and I ask the House to agree that it is entirely unreasonable to accept in principle the view that we should have the major powers for an extended period of time, while at the same time being deprived of minor and incidental powers without which we cannot make effective use of the major powers.

The other argument, that we should resort to the more cumbersome procedure of stopping up highways, has already been discussed at considerable length, and I hope adequately. As I pointed out before, it takes months to stop up highways by that procedure, and the procedure we propose to use is the very procedure devised by the 1945 Act. Why, when extending the powers given by that Act, should we reject the very machinery which that Act provides to implement them? The two things go together, and I ask the House to say that there is no solid ground for this Amendment when the main principle of the Bill has already been accepted.

Amendment negatived.