HC Deb 31 January 1949 vol 460 cc1406-22

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 11, line 16, to leave out from first "land," to "required," in line 18.

I hope I shall not be out of Order in saying a word or two on this Clause, before seeking to put before the House the purpose of this Amendment and its effect. This Clause seeks to extend the power of the highway authority under Section 13 of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935. Under that Clause the highway authority could acquire land within 220 yards from the middle of the road for two purposes. Where it was necessary for the construction or improvement of the road was one purpose. The second was for preventing the erection of buildings detrimental to the view from the road. This Clause carries out quite a different object. First it seeks to give the highway authority power to acquire land beyond the limit of 220 yards from the middle of the road for the carrying out of any works. I am sorry that there is no lawyer on the Government Front Bench at the moment, because I should like to know whether it is the view of the Government that the expression, carrying out of any works is equivalent and means entirely the same as the phrase in the 1935 Act: the purposes of the construction or improvement of the road. I should have thought that the form of words in the 1935 Act would have been adequate to cover the construction of such things as "fly-overs" and so on, to use the modern jargon. It is a phrase which was used by the Minister during the Committee stage. That is one purpose which this Bill seeks to add to the power of the highway authority under the 1935 Act. If the meaning of the phrase: carrying out of any works is the same as the meaning of the other phrase I have quoted, so far the only extension of the power of the highway authority is in its power to acquire in excess of 220 yards from the middle of the road. But then this Bill goes on to say that the land may be acquired beyond 220 yards—and indeed up to 220 yards as well—— …for the provision of service stations or other buildings or facilities to be used in connection with the construction of a special road, or the use or maintenance thereof. That is an entirely new purpose which, in some respects, would appear likely to negative the second purpose of the 1935 Act of maintaining the view from the road.

The serious feature which this Amendment seeks to remove from the Clause is the fact that, apparently, it is left solely to the highway authority to decide whether land should be acquired for one or other of these purposes, whatever distance it may be from the special road. It will be seen that the authority have to form the opinion that it should be acquired, and then the necessary steps can be taken to acquire it compulsorily. It does not seem to me to be right in these days, that one should give the overriding power to the highway authority in this respect. Today the Minister of Agriculture answered Questions relating to the acquisition of good agricultural land. The same problem will arise in the case of agricultural land which is sought to be acquired some distance from the special roads for any of the purposes mentioned in this Subsection. I should like the Minister of Agriculture to have a much bigger say in determining whether or not such land should be taken from agriculture for the purpose of creating a picnic centre or building a cafe or hostel.

I do not contend that it is not most desirable that there should be facilities adjoining a special road whereby traffic can be taken off the special road when it is necessary for it to stop. Watling Street runs through the length of my constituency. Often I have to travel along it at night. The road is used very heavily at night and I know that one of the chief dangers of using it, particularly on a foggy night such as those which we experienced last week, is that of some vehicle stopping, possibly with a defective tail light, and some other vehicle running into it. While one recognises that danger and the desirability of taking off the road, traffic which must stop, there must be a check upon the extensive power of acquisition which this Subsection appears to give to the highway authority.

By this Amendment, we seek to take out the words: (including land lying more than two hundred and twenty yards from the middle of the special road) which in the opinion of the authority is… I do not think that the first part of that is really necessary to this Measure. The meaning would be unaffected by the deletion of those words. What is really important is that we should leave out the words: in the opinion of the authority is. If we leave out those words, we take away from the highway authority the power, notwithstanding any representations made to them in the interests of agriculture, to say that any land may be seized for any particular purpose. During the Committee stage, the Minister indicated that he would re-examine this matter to see whether the subsection could be improved. I am sorry to say that so far the problem appears to have defeated him. Perhaps we shall be told once again by the Parliamentary Secretary that one can safely leave this matter for consideration in another place.

I hope that we may get some satisfaction today by the acceptance of this Amendment which would merely result in enabling the view of agriculture to be better heard before agricultural land, which may be very good, is taken away. There is no limit to the distance which the land may be away from the special road. The Minister said during the Committee stage: It gives power to go beyond the 220-yards limit where land is required for the building of a cafe or a hostel. There is no reason why such a building should be immediately on the side of the main road. It should be taken back some distance and placed in surroundings more congenial to it."—[OFFICTAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 7th December, 1948;c. 123.] Surely, it would be most unusual to have to take a cafe or hostel back a distance in excess of 220 yards for purely amenity purposes. If it has to be taken back that distance, presumably there will have to be another access road to the cafe and the total loss of agricultural land may be extensive. The main point of this Amendment is to ensure that proper consideration shall be given before more agricultural land is compulsorily seized by removal of the sole determination of that question from the power of the highway authorities.

Mr. Renton

I beg to second the Amendment.

It seems to me that there is a point of substance and a point of form in this Amendment. I do not think there is very much difference of opinion between the two sides of the House on the point of substance. Obviously, special roads have to be reasonably spacious. If they are to be restricted too much, then obviously they would be less effective than if they had good verges, but that is not to say that the Minister should have unlimited powers of acquiring land on either side of these special roads. After all, if he were to take the 220 yards on each side, plus the width of the road, which may very easily be 100 feet or more, especially if there are verges in the middle of it, he would get a strip of land taken up by his special road stretching for miles into the countryside and about a quarter-of-a-mile in width. In addition to that, outside those strips, he might wish to have spaces for parking, roadside cafes and almost anything. It can be conceded on both sides that, first, there must be some spaciousness, and, secondly, that there must be some kind of limitation.

I now turn to the point of form, and here I feel bound to say that the Clause as it is drafted does not appear to be quite as clear in its meaning as it might be. I must confess that I have been very confused by the insertion of the words in brackets. They are not properly words of limitation, though they might possibly be words of guidance. When we are making laws, we generally try to be specific, and we try or should try to define precisely the powers which are being granted by Parliament. Those words in brackets do not do that; indeed, they merely confuse the issue. I should like to endorse what my hon. and learned Friend has said about allowing an authority, by the mere act of giving its opinion, to decide the matter finally. The people who should define the issue finally are the arbitrators or courts, who will have to decide in controversial cases, whether or not the land is being properly acquired.

Mr. York (Ripon)

I rise to support my hon. Friends. On this side of the House, we are concerned to prevent the special road authorities from taking more land than is absolutely essential. Of course, we know that, when the planners get together, they try to present a perfect picture, in this case of the perfect road, with all its amenities, its cafés and hostels, its lay-bys and the things represented by all sorts of curious terms which we have heard while discussing this Bill.

What we are seeking to do is to curb the impetuosity of the planners and make certain that they are unable legally to acquire any land unless they have an absolutely essential need for it. It is becoming more and more obvious and more and more serious, that the depredations which are being made upon the agricultural land of this country is increasing. If it is not the Minister of Transport grabbing land for special roads, it is the Minister of Health grabbing land for reservoirs or the Minister of Town and Country Planning grabbing land for new towns, or the War Office grabbing even more and more land for their training areas for troops. So it goes on, and the present Government seems to be unable to curb the acquisitive instincts of these Departments and trying to get them to act reasonably, in view of the rate at which the very limited land of this country is being used up.

4.45 p.m.

Here we have another case of the land-grabber. We have heard the arguments before concerning how little land is going to be taken for these schemes, but I am not impressed by that argument. If we take away one acre of agricultural land, it simply means that we are unable to feed two people from the land of this country, and we are becoming increasingly aware that it is essential that we should feed not fewer but more of our people from our own land. When we consider the various uses to which the powers sought in this Clause may be put, we come up against a shock. I seem to remember from my study of this Bill, that perhaps trees or woods may be required for the purpose of a screen, either to protect an amenity or a section of landscape, or for the purpose of combating dazzle or something like that.

That brings me to the second consideration. Here is this new road authority being set up, and being given a most curious collection of powers. The road authority, as we are to understand it from this Bill, may also be a housing authority or a forestry authority, and I presume it may even become an agricultural authority, if it grabs a large enough area of land and begins cultivating the bits that it does not want. There is a whole series of machinations in which this special road authority may engage, and the purpose of this Amendment is to see that that authority is tied down and prevented from going on land which it does not require.

If the special road authority is to be given unlimited scope for expansion, by providing hostels, acquiring woods or even mountain tops or scenery rights, it will need a special staff. In addition to wasting land, it will waste manpower, because everything connected with it will need a special staff in order to cope with the special difficulties which will arise. From every point of view, it is essential that we should limit the Minister in his powers of acquiring land for these and similar purposes. I think it is also quite reasonable and possible that we should limit the Minister so that he cannot acquire land except for certain functions, which I think should be laid down in the Bill. For those reasons, I strongly support the arguments put forward by my hon. Friends.

Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)

I am rather at a loss to understand how the Amendment is going to meet the case which the hon. Members who support it have put forward. It seems to me that, even if these words are left out, the authority would be able to do precisely what the hon. Members say they ought not to be allowed to do. I think it is only as a matter of clearing up the position, so far as the Bill is concerned, that the words are at all applicable. I speak subject to correction by my right hon. Friend, but, if the Clause is amended in the way proposed, there will be no real difference in its effect.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the words in line 22 have no meaning?

Mr. Janner

In any circumstances, there would be the opinion of the authority [Interruption.] Indeed, there would; at any rate, that is my view. I think that is the only way in which we could cope with this situation.

Mr. Barnes

The main burden of the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), of the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) and of the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) appears to be the fear that this would represent the absorption or the taking over of a greater amount of land than was necessary. The hon. Member for Huntingdon said he recognised that a special road had to be reasonably spacious. That appears to me to be an incorrect assessment of a special road or motorway.

When I introduced the Bill, I emphasised the fact that a special road will occupy less land than an all-purpose road. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that, on an average, it will probably occupy about 10 per cent. less land than the normal all-purpose road. That being so, I do not think it is quite right to approach this problem of a special road from the point of view that it will eat into the land reserves of this country more than did our previous road policy.

The second point I wish to emphasise is that a special road would not, of course, be built unless, first of all, a case were made out for an entirely new road. As to the type of traffic with which one is seeking to deal, it is assumed that certain special roads will take the through. fast-moving and heavy traffic off our existing roads, and that, therefore, there will be an economy in that respect. That being so, I wish to repudiate at once the general theme running through the advocacy of this Amendment, that it is a plan to economise in agricultural land.

It is desirable that I should deal with amenities and facilities in connection with the amount of land required for the construction of a new road. I think it follows of necessity that, if the special road is to occupy less land along the route, it becomes necessary, in order to avoid the danger to which the hon. and learned Member for Daventry referred when there is a limited road surface—the danger of parking—to take that traffic off the special road when it comes to its resting or parking point.

Anyone who has travelled the main trunk highways of this country through the night, as I have, will be aware that heavy lorries congregate at well-known places and occupy a considerable area of ground. More often than not, they are strung out for some distance before a café and on either side of the road. When we are thinking in terms of providing facilities necessary on long-distance roads of this kind, it is desirable that we should make provision for the removal of vehicles from such roads when drivers are resting for refreshment, or purposes of that kind. But to impose an arbitrary limit of 220 yards would appear unnecessarily to hamper the design of the road and the facilities which should go with it. I do not anticipate that these parking places will be along any particular route; I do not consider for one moment that they will represent much additional land, but that is not the sole reason why I refuse to accept this Amendment.

I find after very careful consideration, that I am unable to accept this Amendment because I do not think that, in the matter of a special road, a case has been made out for this limitation. We must bear in mind the special purpose of a motorway, which is to allow traffic to move easily and speedily along it. That being the case, important junctions dealing, probably, in some instances, with a considerable volume of cross traffic, will have to be taken either over or under the special road. Whilst in a discussion of this kind, one cannot pick out any particular spot, nevertheless, one is generally familiar with the different contours of our countryside and with the peculiarities of any particular piece of the countryside at a given junction. It might mean that in picking up the side roads it would be necessary to go far beyond the 220 yards limit.

One should bear in mind—and it is not an unfamiliar situation—that a section of the highway may be completed and that then, for some reason or other, work on it may have to stop. It may be necessary to complete the link with a part of the existing road system. Therefore, from whatever angle one views this problem, it appears to me that the characteristics of a special road introduce features which are different from the problem of an all-purpose road where access can be made as readily and as easily as one wishes. Therefore, whilst I had every desire to meet the wishes of the mover and his hon. Friends with regard to the point of view urged by them in this respect, I really cannot see what advantage is gained by a limitation of this character. To my mind it is quite beyond any possibility that the highway engineers——

Mr. Manningham-Buller

With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think that he appreciated the purport of the argument I was putting before him, and I should be grateful if he would say something about it. I was waiting because I thought he was coming to it, but it now appears that he is concluding his remarks. I have never suggested that there should be an arbitrary limit; not one word of mine suggested it. I pointed out the fact that the first part of the sentence with which we seek to deal is unnecessary. The point I raised, and to which I attach great importance was the matter of allowing the highway authority to be the sole determining authority as to what land should be taken. The words: In the opinion of the authority"——

Mr. Barnes

That is not the meaning as I read the Amendment.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Indeed, it is. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at our Amendment, he will see that we propose to leave out the words: In the opinion of the authority. They are part of the words which should be left out, and the whole burden of my speech can be summed up very shortly. While it may be necessary to take some land somewhere away from the special road, we should not allow the highway authority to have the sole right of determining what land should be taken. The Minister of Agriculture and others interested should have a say about that.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Barnes

The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the Minister of Agriculture should have a say. He always does have a say. The hon. and learned Member has not moved that the name of the Minister of Agriculture should be inserted here, and when that point was previously raised, I explained why it could not be inserted here. Nevertheless, it is no use the hon. and learned Member assuming that the Minister of Agriculture is not consulted. He is consulted; but the body which must be responsible for drafting the highways scheme in this case, if it went beyond 220 yards, must be the highway authority. The responsibility must rest upon the highway authority. Of course, discussions would take place with the Minister of Agriculture and with the Minister of any other Department concerned, but I fail to see that the responsibility should be removed from the highway authority which, after all, is the body which will construct the road and must make out its case for the approval of the Minister, in consultation with other Departments.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's arguments have been directed to the Amendment. I agree with much that he has said, but it did not seem to me to bear any relation to the argument which has been addressed from this side of the House. If I might first of all deal with the Minister's arguments, and then say a few words about the Amendment, it may give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to consider this important matter a little further. He said that the burden of our argument was that more land would be taken. That was not the burden of our argument. The burden of our argument was that powers are given for the taking of land, and the test is the opinion of the authority. Nobody suggests that the Minister will seize a lot of land unnecessarily, but the reasonableness of a Minister is never a safe test for legislation, no matter to what party the Minister belongs.

Then the right hon. Gentleman said that a special road will not be built unless it is proved to be necessary. Of course, it will not be built unless it is necessary. It is very costly to build. But that is no reason why there should be no limit on the power to take land on either side. The Minister referred to parking places. I agree entirely that we cannot have parking places, or "lay-bys" or whatever awful word is used for them nowadays, immediately beside the road, but that is no reason why this Bill should contain power whereby if, in the opinion of a highway authority, a parking place is required a mile away from the road, they should take the land. Some limit ought to be imposed.

The right hon. Gentleman will see that the first effect of this Amendment is to leave out the words: (including land lying more than two hundred and twenty yards from the middle of the special road). I want the right hon. Gentleman to say the purpose of those words. They add nothing to the Bill. They include land which is less than 220 yards and they include land which is more than 220 yards from the middle of the road; so that if the words were not there at all it would make no difference whatever to the powers under the Bill. If there are words which mean absolutely nothing, it is a good thing to leave them out of the Bill altogether.

The second group of words which the Amendment seeks to leave out are: which in the opinion of the authority. Of course, the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) is absolutely wrong in the point which he submitted. I am surprised at the hon. Member having put the point. The words in the opinion of the authority are vital, because once those words have been included, all that has to happen when land is taken is for the authority to say, "In our opinion, it is necessary." From that moment no further argument can take place.

Mr. Janner

Who does the hon. Gentleman think will be the authority who will ultimately decide what land is required, when the Clause itself says: The power of a highway authority under Section thirteen of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935, to acquire land for the purpose of the construction or improvement of any road shall, in relation to special roads, include… certain powers?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If I am asked to define the final arbitrator, it will be the courts of this country. All that need happen is that someone should go to the courts and say, "In the opinion of the highway authority, this is necessary."

The matter goes somewhat further than that, because under an Amendment which was moved today when the Bill was recommitted, the words have been somewhat altered. It is no longer necessary to say that, in their opinion, it is necessary to take land for the carrying out of any works. Those words have been excluded, and the far wider words, "purposes of," which need not include works at all, have been inserted. A highway authority can say. "It is necessary for our purposes, either for the purposes of an order under Section 3, or for the provision of service stations, or for other buildings or facilities in connection with the construction of the special road or the use or maintenance thereof."

The provision can scarcely be wider. In fact, this Clause as at present drafted gives power to take land anywhere outside a special road. At any stage an authority can say that in their opinion it is necessary for facilities to be used in connection with the construction of a special road, the provision of service stations or anything they like. I think the right hon. Gentleman realises that this is going much too far.

I now come to the purpose of the Amendment. The Amendment is surprisingly generous to the right hon. Gentleman, because it does not set an arbitrary limit on the distance which he can go from special roads. Personally, I think the Amendment is almost too generous. It removes from the Clause the unnecessary words to which I referred, and also the words: which in the opinion of the authority. Therefore, if the matter is challenged, it is necessary for somebody to show that it is necessary for the purposes of an order under…Section three. I think that is a very reasonable safeguard to apply to the actions of the Minister or the highway authority.

I do not wish to be too dogmatic about this. If the Minister likes to deal with the matter in some other way and say that he would prefer not to be open to so much challenge, I think he ought to impose a territorial limit to his activities on either side of the road; it may be half a mile or whatever limit he thinks best, but I am sure that we cannot allow this Bill to go through Parliament in such a form so that in the opinion of a highway authority almost any piece of land or any house or anything else can be seized at any distance from the road because somebody decides that the road has to be a special road. In those circumstances, I hope the Minister will go some way towards meeting our point.

Mr. Joynson - Hicks (Chichester)

I have been listening with great attention to the Minister, because I thought he would clarify the point at issue. The point at issue is that we are here dealing with a Bill called the Special Roads Bill which the House is under the impression is intended to be a Bill authorising the creation of special roads. The provision which we on this side of the House are trying to limit is a wrecking provision. It is designed so that, if used to the full limit, it will wreck all the land requisitioning Acts which have been passed by Parliament in all time. It authorises the highway authority, who for the purpose of this special road will be the Minister, to acquire land for anything for which he may think it desirable to acquire land. His opinion will overrule that of everybody else and will be unchallengeable.

I make no prophecy or allegation about the right hon. Gentleman, but if he were at some time to go gay and become so exhilarated at the thought of his special roads that he went further than at the moment we anticipate he will go, he could perfectly well say, "Here we will have a lay-by and we will carry on half-a-mile in that direction." If he then found a pleasant wood he could say, "We will have a suitable parking place here." Then he could go on until he found a village where he could say, "This is an admirable recreation centre to he used in connection with the special road." He has the power to acquire the village. In the end, by these devious means and by his over-riding right of land acquisition, he could carry his special road all over the countryside. In practice there is virtually no limit at all to what land the right hon. Gentleman could acquire under the powers contained in this Clause.

The right hon. Gentleman said—and I appreciated this to the full—that the land actually to be acquired in connection with a special road will probably be 10 per cent. less than would be necessary for a corresponding general purpose road. That, however, is not what the Bill says. Notwithstanding that intention, the Bill gives him power, practically speaking, to take unlimited quantities of land. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to come to the House and say that his intentions are honest and honourable, but we do not know who may be operating this Bill, if it becomes an Act of Parliament, in 10 years' time. It is most unlikely that any special roads will be built before that time. It is, therefore, the duty of this House, in passing legislation of this sort, to put into the legislation limits of such a kind as to enable, but not to hamper, the authority in the job it has to do. It is not the duty of this House to give all-embracing powers to one individual, not only to the Government but to the Minister, for the time being, as the highway authority for the special road. It is not their duty to give him carte blanche to enable him to do whatsoever he will on the certificate that "in his opinion" it is suitable for this particular purpose.

I strongly urge upon the House that the powers we are being asked to grant, and which this Amendment would succeed in limiting, are far greater than it is either necessary or desirable for any Minister to have. They are far greater than is necessary for the purpose for which the Minister is seeking them. If the Amendment were accepted, it would still leave with the Minister all the powers which are necessary.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. H. Strauss

I rise to reinforce what has been said by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft). I think the difficulty in this matter is that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary cannot conceive that any powers for a purpose which they think desirable can possibly be excessive. The possibility that, if they have some honest intentions in their minds for the public good, it may nevertheless be possible to concede grossly excessive powers for that purpose is something which really does not cross their minds.

I want to deal with only one part of the wording which we propose to leave out. There are some words, in brackets, in which some of my hon. Friends failed to find any purpose. I can conceive that those words have been used because of the earlier reference to the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act and my criticism is not devoted to those words. It it devoted to the further words, which in the opinion of the authority I think the excessiveness of the powers taken will become apparent to the House if two facts are borne in mind—two facts which I think have not yet been mentioned. The speeches we have heard from the Front Bench opposite have all spoken of a new special road being constructed, but of course we are not necessarily concerned with a new road at all. It may be an existing road which is appropriated. That is the first point I ask the House to bear in mind. The second point is that land includes buildings. If that is borne in mind it will be seen that buildings can be acquired under this Clause. If the only requirement enabling it to be acquired is the opinion of a highway authority, that clearly shows that there is an excessive power and lack of proportion which I am sure the Government, on further consideration, would not desire that the Bill should contain.

There is another point upon which I would not express an opinion without looking the matter up. It seems to me at least possible that common land could be taken under this paragraph.

Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)

Much common land has been taken before now.

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) quite rightly says that too much of it has been taken already. I hope, therefore, we shall have his support in the Amendment we are moving.

Mr. Alpass rose——

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Member will have his chance later. I ask the Minister whether I am correct in suggesting that land in the paragraph which we are now considering would include common land. It would certainly include buildings and in the Statute the only requirement would be that it must be required in the opinion of the authority. That really is not good enough. It may be that better Amendments could be devised for the purpose we are seeking to achieve, and which I think the House would wish to achieve, but if the Minister tries to defend this Clause as it stands, I think he is trying to defend the indefensible.

Mr. Barnes

If I may have the indulgence of the House I should like to deal first with the point about "in their opinion." The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) stated the position quite clearly. If hon. Members will look at Section 13 of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935, they will see quite clearly that we are following the precedent of that Act. It says: Any highway authority may acquire any land within 220 yards from the middle of any road the acquisition of which is, in their opinion, necessary for the purposes of the construction or improvement.…

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Would the Minister read the next part of that Section, because if he does, he will see that in that connection the opinion is to be exercised for quite a different purpose from that in this Bill. The argument which he is seeking to put forward, based on the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935, does not hold water when we come to these particular powers.

Mr. Barnes

That is a matter of opinion and I do not accept that view at all. If I were to accept this Amendment and follow the line of the argument of hon. Members opposite, I should merely be transferring the responsibility in this matter from the Minister to the law courts, because that would be the only way of testing an issue of this character.

I rose to deal with the point which the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) submitted to me at the conclusion of his remarks. He said he did not wish to deal with this matter in an arbitrary sense. He thought we should be willing to consider some limits. Following the discussion of this subject in the Committee stage, I entered into correspondence with the hon. Member with a view to trying to get an agreement on the question of limitation, if that were the main concern of hon. Members opposite. Of course, I naturally wanted it to be sufficiently wide to meet contingencies. I would remind hon. Members again that I submitted models at an exhibition to show the type of construction and alteration that will be necessary with the special roads. I was anxious to get an agreement on the question of the limitation of these powers, but I was unable to do so. I find that the restriction of 220 yards from the middle of the road will, in my view. be inadequate for the special roads.

If hon. Members withdraw their Amendment now, I shall be prepared still to try to reach a reasonable and agreed settlement of this matter. I am unable to accept the Amendment tonight, but will pursue the course of seeing if it is possible to obtain a sufficiently wide latitude that we think will meet the reasonable contingencies, and to remove the fear—which I agree is a reasonable one—that Ministers may roam all over the place to satisfy fads and fancies.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his concluding words, and I hope he will succeed in finding some form of words which will be satisfactory to both sides of the House. I do not think that there is much difference in objective between us. However, we on this side of the House think it is wrong that a highway authority should be the sole judge in its own cause. We think it is wrong—we can almost call the Minister of Agriculture to our side after what he said at Question time today—that the Minister of Agriculture should come in only on the consultative level and should not exercise greater weight. He ought to have some power of deciding these matters in conjunction with the Minister of Transport. They should not be left only to the highway authorities. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will examine that very carefully. In view of what he has said, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave. Withdrawn