HC Deb 25 May 1950 vol 475 cc2291-5
The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 13, line 48, at end, to insert: Provided that the powers conferred by this paragraph shall not be exercised, on land off the road which is occupied, except with the consent of the occupier. This is designed to meet a point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) during the Committee stage. It was to the effect that the notices, which the Schedule provides for, should not be put upon land off the road if that land is occupied unless with the consent of the occupier. It was felt that possibly a notice might be put in front of the windows of a house. or something of that sort, and a local authority should not be able to do that and block a window, except with the agreement of the occupier of the land. The Amendment meets this point.

Colonel Clarke

I am grateful to the Minister for having considered this point, but I would point out to him that in answering me on the Committee stage he said that he had no objection to the point I had raised, but he wished to make sure that my Amendment contained the appropriate wording and expressed a desire to examine it before he accepted it. I said: Of course, it may be better to improve the wording without changing the sense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1950; Vol. 475, c. 1473.] I am suggesting that this Amendment does somewhat change the sense because the Amendment I moved referred to "owners and occupiers." The Amendment now before us refers to "occupiers" only. I think that has to a very considerable extent altered the sense. I do not want to go into the question of owners being treated as of less importance than they should be, but I think that it may be very difficult if the man who actually owns the house has no say in this matter, and his tenant is allowed to do something which in the owner's view is inimical to the amenities of the area and offensive to himself. I notice that in an Amendment moved earlier by the right hon. Gentleman, to which we agreed, owners and occupiers are referred to. I suggest that it might be possible for this matter to be further considered on a later stage of the Bill.

The Solicitor-General

This was a point which we considered, but, after all, the occupier is the person primarily concerned. It is not as though we were talking about a permanent structure which might affect the interests of the owner. This is simply a notice which is temporarily put upon the land and is then removed, and I do not think that it would be in anyone's interest if the owner had to be sought out—and it may be difficult to ascertain who he is and to find where he is—when he is not in any material sense concerned about the temporary notice being put on the land. The person whose amenities may be affected is the person actually in occupation and enjoying the land. For that reason, we think that it may be a disadvantage to everyone concerned if the entirely unnecessary procedure of finding out the owner has to be gone through, when probably the owner would not be concerned in the least with the putting up of a temporary notice on the land.

Amendment agreed to.

5.53 p.m.

Mr. Barnes

I beg to move "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I want to take the opportunity of thanking hon. Members in all parts of the House for the way in which they have assisted me in getting this Bill through expeditiously, and for the improvements which have been made in it. I remember very clearly that when the Bill received its First Reading it was greeted by loud and ironical cheers on the other side of the House. Discussions in Committee and on the Report stage have shown that, while probably there are many Measures introduced into this Chamber which affect much wider interests than this Bill, nevertheless, under the present circumstances of this Parliament, it is a very useful contribution towards providing certain facilities that are needed in the countryside. I should like, therefore, to acknowledge the value of the assistance which I have received in getting it through.

5.54 p.m.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I am glad to respond in the same spirit. The essence of good legislation is that it should be the result of give and take on both sides of the House, and we certainly have had this on this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the Bill having been received with jeers I do not think that that has ever been the case. I know that the party opposite claim it as a major piece of legislation in this Parliament.

From the point of view of draftsmanship this is a Bill of "purest ray serene." It is a well-drafted and well-examined Bill, and in that respect very much better than some of the gigantic, hasty, and ill-considered Measures of the last Parliament, for one of which the right hon. Gentleman was himself responsible. The right hon. Gentleman's own character has actually changed in five years. He has enhanced his good humour and his intelligence. I cannot think what the reason can be, unless it is the numerical power of the Opposition. To the connoissuer of legislation as to the connoisseur of art, this Bill is like the discovery of a well-painted miniature in a garret of wasted and desolate canvases.

There are a number of subjects which we have not been able to deal with by legislation, and I do not think that it is outside the bounds of order to refer to them. The right hon. Gentleman has given us many concessions. We have achieved prior consultation with local interests, the sharing of cost between local authorities and landed and farming interests, compulsory by-passes, the alternative siting or grids. Last but not least, the right hon. Gentleman has built better than he knows because he has invaded the obsolete doctrine of non-feasance. I am told that the Law Society are already getting busy about making this small provision generally applicable throughout the whole range of the English law.

We have failed to get the right of appeal on the removal of a grid, but the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to say that he will, in some respects, meet us on this in another place. There still remains the question of the need for flexibility in the size and cost of grids. We have not been able to lay down anything in a Bill about this, but I think that £200 to £300 as the cost of a grid is excessive. I know that in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), who is not present, a grid was put down before the war—and a very satisfactory one—for £10. It must be the case that in many of these rural roads it will be possible to put down grids which are relatively inexpensive, even if we have to go up to very high figures for those on the main trunk thoroughfares. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's regulations under the appropriate Clause will cover the question of the cost of the provision of these grids.

There is still some lack of provision for assistance on unclassified roads, but that may come in time. Indeed, I am quite certain that we shall have to pass amending legislation on this subject within two or three years because, as the result of the establishment of these grids, there will be greater wear and tear on the secondary roads throughout the country. If the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) is right in saying that the farming community ought to suffer a diminution in their money power for the next few years, they will be the first to come along and complain that they cannot keep up these roads in the countryside.

Mr. Paton (Norwich, North)

Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the noble Lord on Third Reading to discuss things that are not in the Bill?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I thought that the hon. Member was going a little wide of the Bill.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, who seems so passionately anxious to get on with the next Bill, I must ask him to possess his soul in patience while we have a final word on this subject. These are matters all subject to regulations, specifically provided for in Clause 10 of the Bill, and they will follow from the legislation in which the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Paton) has taken no interest at all, in spite of the fact that he is a county Member of Parliament.

Mr. Paton

I am not. There are no county divisions in Norwich.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Perhaps there ought to be. May I say one final word about the repair of fencing, in cases where grids are being put down on common land and open land in general? Fences have deteriorated in the past because of the straying of animals and because of the ease with which they can go down the roads. Now the right hon. Gentleman, quite rightly, will provide for the establishment of grids on these roads, which will necessitate the keeping up of fences leading up to these grids.

I ask the Minister, in his regulations, to empower the agricultural executive committees to issue warnings and instructions to farmers and to give them all possible advice and assistance in keeping up the fences, as they will have to do under the Bill. We are very glad on this side to have been of assistance to the right hon. Gentleman in the passage of this Measure, which will do something to increase food production, to facilitate the use of the roads and to bring urban and rural interests into ever closer harmony.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.