HC Deb 25 May 1950 vol 475 cc2276-9
Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I beg to move, in page 3, line 47, at the end to insert: Provided that the powers given by this subsection shall not be exercised until after complying with the provisions of the Schedule to this Act. I think we have exacted, or shall have exacted from the Government by the end of the day, a number of important concessions on the Bill, but there remains one thorny question which, so far, neither the Minister nor the Solicitor-General has given any indication that he will concede. This Amendment ties up with the Amendment to page 12, line 5 of the Schedule. It relates to the question of rights attaching to persons who have already experienced the use of grids to have those rights upheld through the procedure of the Schedule. We still attach very great importance to this question. In Committee the Minister said: If the character of the land changed, if there was no need for the grid and if the highway authority came to the conclusion that its purpose no longer existed, why should the highway authority be put to the expense and trouble of advertisements, inquiries, objections and appeals to the Minister when all they are doing is restoring to the users their original rights?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1950; Vol. 475, c. 1432.] We maintain that the right hon. Gentleman there is taking the purely transport point of view. He should not forget that he has a dual rôle. He is Jekyll and Hyde, or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say Castor and Pollux. When he deals with user of transport's right on the road he is Castor; when he deals with the rights of agriculture he is Pollux. He has forgotten the rôle of Pollux today.

In spite of farming areas being developed as housing estates or having, in any way whatever, lost their character, there still remains some right to agricultural interests to have a grid remain in place. Where the highway authority comes along and takes the view that that grid is no longer necessary, we think those rights should be upheld through the procedure of the Schedule. I cited in Committee the precedent, or what is almost a precedent, which exists in the Schedule, paragraph 1 (d), stating: whether it is unnecessary that a by-pass should continue to be maintained for use in connection with a cattle-grid which has not been removed. I sought to point out to the Committee that if a by-pass is removed and the complaints associated with the removal of the by-pass are subjected to the Schedule, and appeals lie ultimately to the Minister, for much the same kind of reasons in reverse the removal of a grid ought to carry a right of appeal to the Minister.

If someone objects to the removal of a by-pass because he still wants to drive his animals through clear of any gridded interference, his rights are upheld; he may also want to complain about the removal of the grid which contains his animals and prevents them from straying. One can imagine a housing estate where the houses are most or less enclosed bordering upon a piece of common land, and animals are free to wander on the outskirts of the enclosed land and come down to some main road. A grid has formerly been upon that road to prevent the animals from straying upon the highway. The highway authority then removes the grid and local landed interests will be affected and will have a right of complaint. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) raised a most important point on the last occasion about the effect on persons who have made a financial contribution, and we have heard nothing from the Minister on that subject.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)

I have looked into this matter and I regret that I do not see any case for accepting the Amendment. I am sure that no highway authority which has already gone through the whole of the procedure and consultations, and accepted the need for the establishment of a grid, would conduct itself in such an irresponsible way as to remove the grid if the need for it still remained. That being so, it does not appear to me to be neces- sary in this case to put the authority to all the trouble and expense of the procedure in the Schedule if the circumstances have so entirely altered that the grid is not necessary.

The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), in presenting his case, referred to the point relating to costs that was raised by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory). I shall be meeting that point later on. It will be met by subsection (2) of the new Clause which I shall move on the Report stage. I think I admitted on the last occasion that I had not examined that point, but I think I have now met it. The farthest that I am prepared to go—and I hope it will settle this issue—is this: I am prepared later on to consider whether I should introduce the same procedure of consultation in this matter. I am sorry that I cannot accept the Amendment, but between now and the consideration of the Bill in another place, I will see whether some wording can be introduced which would ensure at least consultation with the interests that are likely to be affected before a highway authority actually removes the grid. I hope that will be satisfactory.

5.15 p.m.

Sir Austin Hudson (Lewisham, North)

I am a little disappointed with the Minister's reply, although I am glad he is prepared to consider whether he can introduce some method of consultation. I think really that he is jibbing. He referred to the expense to which the highway authority will be put, but if one looks at the Schedule one sees that all the authority would have to do would be to publish in two successive weeks in one or more local newspapers circulating in the locality … a notice to let people know that this grid was going to be removed. If under paragraph (2) no representation is made, or any representation is withdrawn, the appropriate authority may proceed to determine the question. All that my noble Friend is asking is that in the case of the removal of a cattle-grid, that notice shall be given, and that if anybody has any objection he can adopt the procedure as specified in the Schedule. I do not think my noble Friend is proposing to press the matter now, but I hope the Minister will take into consideration what I have just said.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

I felt that the Minister's reply was somewhat disappointing and, to a degree, unsatisfactory, but in view of the clear point which he has made, I hope this matter will not be pressed very far. I should, however, like to say this. Having read what took place in Committee, I observe that the right hon. Gentleman put forward another argument which I felt had very little validity, and I hope he will forgive me if I mention it now. He said: When we are infringing the rights of the public or of individuals, as the case may be, it is understandable that we should take precautions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1950; Vol. 475, c. 1432.] What we are suggesting in this Amendment is that rights may have grown up in the course of a long period of time—rights not only of the local authority but of those people in the surrounding district who have found the cattle-grids of some value. Therefore, those sort of rights should be equally considered as well as the rights of the local authority and the administrative convenience, as it appears to them, of not having to go through the procedure of the Schedule. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look at this matter again between now and the consideration of this Bill in another place. Possibly he may see his way to recommend that our suggestion shall be considered and approved.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

We can hardly expect all our points to be met in full—we have so many of them—and, as the Minister has promised to look into this question again before a later stage of the Bill, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.