HC Deb 18 May 1950 vol 475 cc1447-52
Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I beg to move, in page 7, line 15, to leave out "or by-pass," and to insert "by-pass or traffic sign."

This is a small Amendment designed to secure that in agreements for the use of land for the provision of grids or by-passes the necessary and obvious traffic signs will also be taken care of. I cannot think that the Minister will boggle at this proposal. Some of the traffic signs may be fairly important structures which have to be read from a distance, and perhaps they are heavy in consequence. When the land is required and agreements are entered into it is surely right that these signs should be included in the other categories already dealt with.

The Solicitor-General

There are rather serious difficulties in the way of accepting the Amendment for the following reasons. In Clause 6 (1) the provisions of Section 48 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, are made applicable for the purpose of the provision of traffic signs. The provisions of that section confer upon the authority which is to put up the traffic signs all the necessary powers with regard to entering on land which it could require for the purpose of putting up the signs. The Amendment provides that those same powers can be taken by agreement. They are already possessed under Clause 6, and it would cause a great deal of confusion if the Bill provided that the same powers could be taken by agreement when they are already conferred irrespective of the existence of any agreement. That objection makes it impossible to accept the Amendment for it would leave the position extremely uncertain and it would be impossible to determine what was the intention of the Bill.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The argument of the Solicitor-General is conclusive, and, as the Minister has been so gracious in promising further consideration on this Bill, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. J. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 7, line 23, at the end, to insert: and by way of contribution towards expenditure incurred by the person making the agreement. The Amendment is designed to cover possible legal charges which may fall on someone in the event of some little disagreement in regard to the acquisition of land. It is a small matter, and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept it.

Mr. Barnes

I have not had time to go into this point. If the hon. Member will withdraw his Amendment, I will undertake to examine it between now and the Report stage and see to what extent it can be met.

Mr. Morrison

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman says, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 25, after "England," to insert "or Wales."—[Mr. Barnes.]

Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

I have sat very silently all the afternoon, but the Committee will recall that on Second Reading I said that I should be very vigilant during the Committee stage. I am very grateful for what the Solicitor-General has said about responsibility for injury in regard to grids and particularly the publicity with regard to the girl who twisted an ankle. Welsh Members of Parliament are very grateful to the Minister of Transport for breaking the ice after long drawn out controversy and bringing Wales into Bills. I hope that the Solicitor-General will make it his business to see that when Bills come before the House of Commons "Wales" will be next to "England" so that it will not be necessary for my colleagues and I to put down Amendments. We welcome this great Amendment very much.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Bowen (Cardigan)

I support the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). I hope that the fact that the Amendment which was originally in his name and now bears the name of the Minister himself indicates a change of heart in the proper quarter. The fact that the expression "England" has been used in statutes for many years so as to include Wales has been a cause of considerable annoyance and irritation to the people in the Principality. As far back as 1515 the Legislature chose to include in an Act the phrase "England includes Wales," and this has been repeated during the present Parliament. I have been tempted to put down an Amendment to insert the words "Wales shall include England" which would be equally logical. To add insult to injury, in 1747 the phrase——

The Chairman

We are in 1950 now and, with respect, the hon. Gentleman's wishes appear to have been fully met by the Government, and that being so it should not be necessary for him to proceed further.

Mr. Bowen

If I may crave your indulgence for a moment, Major Milner, the use of expressions such as "England includes Wales" and "England includes Wales and Berwick-on-Tweed" in the past was not only a cause of irritation but was symbolical of the attitude of Whitehall towards Wales. I hope that the fact that the Minister has seen fit to put his name to the Amendment indicates that in future Whitehall and the Ministries of the Crown as a whole will recognise in legislation that Wales is a nation entitled to separate treatment in relation to her own problems.

Mr. Barnes

I put the Amendment down for the purpose of facilitating the business of the Committee. I did not realise that I was providing such a triumphant victory for Wales. The Amendment has been brought forward in order to meet the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) on Second Reading, and I hope that the Committee will now approve the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Consequential Amendments made.

Mr. Barnes

I beg to move, in page 7, line 42, to leave out "or county borough," and to insert "borough or county district."

This is a procedural Amendment. I understand that this meets the more usual practice today.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

It looks to me as if by some inadvertance or failure to specify which county is the one referred to in line 42 "a county council" is being effectively excluded, which cannot be the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not ask him to disentangle the matter now but perhaps he would look at it and see if the form of his Amendment is correct or if a change should be made on the Report stage.

Mr. Ronton

My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) has made a point of substance to which the Solicitor-General might give attention. A further point is that the Minister, in moving the Amendment and, presumably, in order to justify it, described it as a "procedural Amendment." I am not quite sure what that meant, but in any event the Amendment alters the original meaning of the Clause. As originally moved, the Clause referred only to "a county council" or "a county borough council," whatever that may mean, and the apparent intention of the Amendment, if rather more sense can be driven into it than it bears, is to extend the effect of Clause 9 (5) to district councils, which, I believe, are sometimes technically referred to as "county district councils." If that is intended, well and good, but it would be useful if this point could be cleared up.

Sir T. Dugdale

Are we to take it that is right?

Mr. Barnes

As far as I can see the Amendment would make it read intelligently.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

We could settle it if we knew whether the right hon. Gentleman wanted to register these agreements with the county councils or not. If he does not, perhaps he will tell us why? If he does, the words proposed to be left out effectively prevent that.

Mr. Barnes

We register the agreements in the register of local land charges of county registers at the present moment. That is the purpose of this Amendment. As I understand it, this is the normal practice, but if there is any doubt about it in the mind of the noble Lord, I will certainly look into it more closely between now and the Report stage to see if there is any defect in this Amendment.

Mr. Hay

I think the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension about this and perhaps he has been wrongly advised on the point. Local land charges are registerable either with county councils or with county borough councils, and only in rare cases are they registered with rural district councils. The circumstances under which the Amendment is put forward are to clear up a procedural point. May I refer to the actual wording of the subsection if we insert the Amendment? It will read like this— it shall be registered in the prescribed manner in the register of local land charges by the proper officer of any county borough or county district council in whose area the land … I do not think that is what the right hon. Gentleman intended—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe my noble Friend was right when he said that the county council is completely omitted here, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman looks at it again and possibly leaves the matter over until Report stage.

Sir A. Hudson

Is it not correct that there are three people as the subsection is amended? It leaves out the county borough but leaves in the county, the borough and the county district.

Mr. Hay

No, it is the county borough.

Mr. Barnes

I think my best plan is to leave this at the moment and to undertake to look at it between now and Report stage. Therefore I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In page 8, line 21, at the end, to insert: , but with the substitution for the reference to the Forestry Commissioners of a reference to the appropriate authority."—[Mr. Barnes.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.