HC Deb 31 January 1949 vol 460 cc1431-4
Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I beg to move, in page 25, line 38, at the end, to insert: (c) by any other local authority or person appearing to the Minister to be affected by the Scheme. This Schedule deals with how an order is to be made and which sort of inquiries ought to take place before an order is made, and it is laid down in paragraph 3 that if an objection is made which is reasonable there is to be a local inquiry. Then in paragraph 11 certain bodies are given the power to bring the matter before Parliament under the special procedure. A highway authority, part of whose road is being incorporated in a special road, can take advantage of that procedure, as can a navigation authority affected by the building of a bridge which results in interference with navigation rights.

The effect of this Amendment would be to give local authorities the same status as either the highway authority part of whose roads is incorporated or a navigation authority. On the face of it, this seems to me to be a reasonable suggestion. It may well be that a local authority through whose area a special road runs, may not, in fact, be the highway authority part of whose road is being taken over, but it may be vitally affected by the creation of one or two special roads. After all, the building of these roads, if and when they are built, will have a rather dramatic effect on various places. They will affect the location of industry in future and transport costs as between different places.

I should like to give one example. Take the Manchester Ship Canal. At the present time rates are fixed so that they are roughly equivalent to the rates of unloading at Liverpool and the transport from Liverpool to Manchester. If suddenly someone starts reorganising the whole of the transport system of that area and introducing special rates—because these roads will give remarkable results in the reduction of transport costs and in the changeover from rail to road transport—it may have quite a big effect on the interests of some of these big local authorities. In such circumstances, local authorities ought not only to be consulted, but they should have the right to take advantage of the Parliamentary special procedure. If the Minister considers this matter he will probably concede that point of view.

I do not think it ought to be left to an accident whether at an appropriate moment a bit of an existing highway is taken over and, therefore, the local authority should have the status of appearing at the hearing. That kind of thing ought not to determine the matter. We should see that local authorities, which are large, responsible bodies and are vitally affected by these things, enjoy the same privileges as a navigation authority. There is too much tendency to take matters away from local authorities and refuse to give them consideration or take them into consultation. The local authorities should be consulted in this matter, and I hope the Minister will see his way to accept this Amendment.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do not think there is much I need add to what has been said, but I would urge this further consideration upon the right hon. Gentleman. He may say that if a lot of local authorities availed themselves of this procedure schemes will be held up from the prolonged investigations which would result. I do not think there is any weight in that argument. The effect of this procedure may be protracted and it may be expensive so that the local authority is not likely to incur costs which will be a burden upon the ratepayers unless the case is indeed a very serious one.

My constituency will be affected by one of the first special roads to be made. Many local authorities will be affected, too, and I believe that they can play, and want to play a very useful part in the construction of these new roads. It is desirable that they should have the right of using this procedure in the same way as if each of them was a highway authority. I cannot think there is any real danger in accepting this Amendment. As my hon. Friend said, it gives the local authority a status that they should have and does not put them in an inferior position to the highway authorities. I hope we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he is able to accept this Amendment in principle if not in wording.

Mr. Barnes

With every desire in the world to meet the view of the hon. Gentlemen, particularly with regard to their local authorities, I must say that this is a dangerous Amendment. It will widen the opportunities for special Parliamentary procedure right beyond its legitimate bounds. After all, under previous Amendments and during discussion I have been urged to clarify and to simplify the situation, but here I am asked to widen the situation so that any local authority, however remote its interests may be, can demand the special Parliamentary procedure. That would lead to a reduction of the importance of this Parliamentary procedure within the Parliamentary machine. It is appropriate for a Minister or specific authority, as authorised under the powers of any Act, in carrying out their duties, to take the powers, obligations or liabilities of any other statutory authority, and under all the precedents that I can see with regard to previous Acts governing highways it is limited in this respect.

Therefore, I should be disinclined to widen it in the way which is now suggested, especially as these provisions do not in any way supersede the practice and the machinery for a public inquiry. The hon. Member for Monmouth stated that some local authority might consider that the interests of the authority would be affected by the construction of a special road, but that does not appear to be so, for the Bill does not in any way alter their status and liabilities.

I hope the hon. Member wants me to take his Amendment seriously. The point I was making was that if a local authority's liability or statutory requirement is affected, they could avail themselves of the Parliamentary procedure. If it is a matter of interest, I do not see that that case is different from the way the construction of any road affects the interests of any authority or person, whether a farmer or a business man on the side of the road, a local authority or some café proprietor. The public inquiry appears to me to be the machinery by which to discuss the problem of interest, if it should be affected. Therefore, as both categories are properly provided for in the Bill and in past legislation, I regret that I am unable to accept the Amendment, and I hope that the hon. Member for Monmouth will not press it.

Amendment negatived.