HC Deb 06 February 1951 vol 483 cc1598-600

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Captain Duncan

This Clause deals with the question of provision of cattle-grids by local authorities under the Highways (Provision of Cattle-Grids) Act and the contribution which may be asked from a person. Last week-end I received information that certain farmers in my constituency had asked for cattle-grids to be provided and the county council have agreed to provide them, provided the owners pay the whole of the cost. I want to make quite certain that if there were an improvement scheme and the farmers put in for half the cost that would be half the total cost and that the word, "contribution" is the right word in this connection.

I do not want to stress the matter, but I would like the Minister to look into the question of whether the owners have to pay the whole cost and that they will be eligible, and not only eligible in the case where the local authority pay half of the cost and the owners the other half.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

I very much hope the Minister, or the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, will be able to reply to the specific point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan). I hope very much that we shall have a few words explanatory of the Clause and its whole genesis. I am delighted to see it in the Bill because I remember very well the considerable fears expressed, particularly by Scottish hon. Members, when the Highways (Provision of Cattle-Grids) Bill was going through the House, about the embarrassed situation in which people, particularly in Scotland, might feel themselves placed as a result of the passage of that Measure.

As my hon. and gallant Friend has said, this is very good confirmation of the fears expressed at that time. The Clause, of course, does make some provision by way of alleviation for a certain class of people who will be called upon to provide cattle grids, only where an improvement scheme under the Bill has been approved. It will not cover the whole class of persons involved in the cattle grid proposals, but it will provide a certain amount 'of alleviation for people affected by this Bill, and I am delighted that that should be the case. It must be remembered that many people who will be affected by the provisions of the Bill, will not be merely occupiers of their farms or lands, but in many cases they will be owners who are not occupiers. They will be called upon under any improvement scheme, if necessary, to make these improvements. I am glad there is some recognition of that, although it is eight months since the Highways (Provision of Cattle-Grids) Act was placed upon the Statute Book.

I do not suppose I shall have very much sympathy from the other side of the Committee and I see the right hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Kirkwood) looking at me. He will not sympathise particularly with those persons who, under this Clause, are merely owning the land and not occupying it, or working it. Let me assure him that many persons in Scotland do not approach this subject from quite such a prejudiced angle as he did, and invariably does. As the Under-Secretary knows, the County Councils' Association were very seriously perturbed about this matter at the time of the passing of the Highways (Provision of Cattle-Grids) Act.

Although this Clause gives some alleviation it does not go the whole way. Although he would not be entitled to one-half of the cost of the amount approved by the Minister, the person would be entitled to one-half of the amount payable under the agreement, in other words, only 50 per cent. of what he will be called upon to pay. The Clause should be incorported in the Bill—and I am certain that it will after you have put the Question, Sir Charles—but I hope the Under-Secretary, when he replies to my hon. and gallant Friend, will be so good as to tell us why the Government include the Clause in the Bill and if this is to be taken as a death-bed repentance in regard to the provision of cattle-grids.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.