HC Deb 12 April 1957 vol 568 cc1429-37
Mr. Maddan

I beg to move, in page 2, line 16, after "charges ", to insert: by the proper officer of the appropriate council".

Mr. Speaker

It seems to me that this Amendment, the Amendment in line 19, and the Amendment in line 22, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan), all go together. Perhaps one discussion could cover them all.

Mr. Maddan

I agree, Mr. Speaker, The three Amendments go together.

These Amendments are intended to secure that when the New Streets Act, 1951, is in force in a rural district the entries in the local land charges register which are required by Clause 3 of the Bill should be made in the same register as are the entries relating to private street works charges. The fact about the rural districts is that the county councils are, in the ordinary way, the highway authority in a rural district and they are, of course, the local authority under the Private Street Works Act, 1892. The county council may delegate its functions to the rural district council and it does, in fact, often do this.

The situation then arises that if the 1951 Act is in operation in the whole or any part of the rural district, the proper officer of the rural district council will register the entries in the local land charges register for the rural district. In all other cases, the proper officer for the county will register the appropriate entries in the local land charges register for the administrative county. The effect of these Amendments is that anyone making a search in the register will find the entries relating to the New Streets Act, 1951, and those relating to the Private Street Works Act in the same register.

It will be remembered that, both during Second Reading and in Standing Committee, we discussed at considerable length the value to purchasers of property, and to solicitors conveyancing property, of being able to inspect quite simply and from a single source the situation concerning the charges and allied matters relating to any plot of land or house which it was intended to purchase. The Amendment will ensure that in the case of rural districts the person who is buying or the solicitor will have to go to only one source.

Mr. Royle

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. R. Bevins)

Perhaps I might conveniently say a word at this stage. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) has been addressing himself to three of the Amendments to Clause 3, and I should like to say a brief word about them.

The House may remember that in Standing Committee I advised the Committee that in the Government's view there were certain objections to using the land charges register for the purpose of the Clause. Briefly, those objections were that the land charges register is designed as a register of permanent restrictions and prohibitions on the use of land, whereas the matters dealt with in the Clause and which will require to be registered are, in general, not restrictions, nor are they of a permanent nature. I reminded the Committee that a report of a Committee on local land charges in 1952 had recommended that matters of this kind should not be brought into the land charges register.

The House will appreciate that from the Government's point of view those were objections of principle, and I suggested to the Committee that the object of my hon. Friend and other hon. Members might be achieved in a different way. The Committee did not, however, accept that advice, and, therefore, my right hon. Friend thought it only right to assist in the preparation of this and other Amendments which will make Clause 3 more workable than it was at an earlier stage of the proceedings. It is on that basis that I certainly recommend to the House that we should accept this and the allied Amendment in connection with Clause 3.

11.15 a.m.

The Government's objection to the Clause, although one of principle, could hardly be described as one of great national importance. The Committee, with completely free and unfettered judgment, was not persuaded by the advice I tendered to it, and I am sure the House will agree that in those circumstances it is right for us to seek to improve the Clause as it stands in the Bill.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Can the promoter of the Bill—the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan)—or the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what will happen if the officer of the rural district council does not register with the county council as he is now ordered to do by the Amendments? When persons concerned with the possible conveyance of the land subsequently search the register, if there has been negligence by the person now charged with the duty in a rural district, they will not find the information that they desire.

Mr. Maddan

The answer, I think, is that there is an obligation in these circumstances upon the officer of the rural district, in exactly the same way as there is in the urban district or borough or county councils, and that that obligation has to be carried out. The same must be true a thousand times a day concerning various duties that have to be performed by local government officers. If the proper officer does not carry out this task, I take it that the normal processes of the law would apply.

I cannot say much more, because I had assumed that if and when the Bill became an Act it would be complied with by the local authorities in the rural districts as well as by the others.

Mr. Ede

I would like to remind the hon. Member that people sometimes forget and all sorts of negligence occurs. Apparently, no penalty is imposed by the Statute on anyone who neglects this important duty. I suggest that when the Bill gets to another place the hon. Member should ask whatever noble Friend of his is then in charge of it to consider the matter.

Mr. Bevins

The position is broadly as my hon. Friend has described it. Speaking offhand, I am not at all sure whether it would be appropriate to import into the Bill some sort of penalty provisions for neglect on the part of a local authority. It is, however, a point that is worthy of consideration and we will look at it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 19, leave out from "1925" to end of line 21.—[Mr. Maddan.]

Mr. Maddan

I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, at the end, to insert: the following, whether occurring before or after the passing of this Act, that is to say". The effect of the Amendment is to ensure that the registration of charges under the New Streets Act, 1951, is made in the local land charges register whether they have taken place in the past or in the future. It is obviously necessary that this should be done if the register is to be complete and of any use for the purposes of which we have been speaking.

This is not likely to raise any difficulty with local authorities because they must anyhow keep in their offices for administrative purposes full records of this information on the deposits which have been required under Section 2 of the 1951 Act. The whole point of Clause 3 is to bring this information into the open where it can be conveniently inspected, but it does not demand any new information. I am assured that the local authorities will not find this a burdensome task and will be able to undertake it. I draw the attention of the House to the very last Amendment on the Paper, an Amendment by which local authorities will be given some extra time in which to do this work relating to both past charges and to future ones.

Mr. Royle

I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Royle

I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, after "Act," to insert: (d) notices served under paragraph (e), paragraph (f) or paragraph (h) of subsection (3) of the said section one exempting a building from that section; (e) resolutions passed under paragraph (k) of subsection (3) of the said section one exempting a street or a part of a street from that section. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if it would meet your convenience and that of the House if I were to be allowed to speak now on all the Amendments in my name on the Paper?

Mr. Speaker

I think so. I take it the hon. Member is referring to his Amendments:

In page 3, line 15, at the end to insert: and at the end of the said subsection (3) the following words shall be inserted:— '(k) in a case where the local authority, being satisfied—

  1. (i) that more than three-quarters of the aggregate length of all the frontages on 1433 both sides of the street, or of a part of the street not less than one hundred yards in length and comprising the whole of the part on which the frontage of the building will be, consists, or is at some future time likely to consist, of the frontages of industrial premises, and
  2. (ii) that their powers under the appropriate private street works code are not likely to be exercised in relation to the street. or to that part thereof, as the case may be, within a reasonable time,
by resolution exempt the street, or that part thereof, from this section. (4) Where a sum has been paid or secured under this section by the owner of land in relation to a building proposed to be erected thereon, and thereafter a notice is served under the last preceding subsection exempting the building from this section, or a resolution is passed under paragraph (k) of that subsection exempting the street or part of a street on which the building will have a frontage from this section, the local authority shall refund that sum to the person who is for the time being owner of the land or shall release the security, as the case may be. Where the said sum was paid, and after the payment thereof but before the service of the said notice or the passing of the said resolution, as the case may be, the land in respect of which it was paid was divided in two or more parts each having a frontage on the private street in question, the sum shall be treated for the purposes of this subsection as apportioned between the owners thereof according to their respective frontages'". In page 5, line 29, at the end to insert: (5) In section six of the principal Act, the words "and the payment has not been refunded, or the security released or realised, under subsection (4) of section one of this Act, or under section four thereof." shall be inserted at the end of subsection (1). In page 6, line 1, after "Act," to insert: (a) after the definitions of "building bye-laws" and "owner" there shall be inserted the following definition— 'industrial premises' means premises used or designed or suitable for use for the carrying on of any industrial process within the meaning of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and includes premises used for purposes ancillary to the carrying on of any such process;

Mr. Royle

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am much obliged.

The House will have gathered that this is a very complicated Bill, and the Amendments now being considered are also of a very complicated nature. While I hope to be brief, I feel it is necessary that, for the sake of the record at all events, a reasonable explanation should be given as to what is intended.

It was a Bill introduced by an hon. Friend of mine, the late Mr. John Kinley, which became the Act of 1951, and that Act, the principal Act, made it compulsory for anyone proposing to erect a building with a frontage on a private street either to pay or to secure to the local authority a sum in respect of the cost of street works. However, it provided for exceptions to that, and they are named in Section 1 (3).

During the Committee stage of this Bill I sought to add a new Clause to the Bill which would have added a new exception to those already in the principal Act. What I proposed was the exemption of large industrial estates. Most hon. Members can envisage the kind of estate I mean, and I could not cite a better example than the great Ford estate in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker). The firms on those large industrial estates invariably make themselves responsible for the making up of the roads upon the estates.

The new Clause which I proposed in Standing Committee was resisted by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan), the promoter of the Bill, and also by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am sure that they did not oppose it on principle, but they were not prepared to look at certain words in that new Clause, in which I used, for example, phrases like "mainly industrial." They felt that those words were not as clear as they might be. Accordingly I withdrew the new Clause then on the understanding that there would be consultations to see whether the principle of that new Clause could be written into the Bill in different words. I should like to express my thanks to the hon. Member for Hitchin and to the Parliamentary Secretary, and, if I may, to the Ministry officials also, for the assistance that they have given me. These Amendments are the result of those consultations.

We are at the moment involved in a procedural complication, and it is this. I am asking the House at this moment to accept an Amendment to Clause 3 in anticipation of what I hope the House will agree to do about Clause 5. This is, I admit, a most unusual set of circumstances, but I am afraid that it is inevitable because of the complications of this legislation.

The Amendment on page 3, line 15, is designed to put into the Bill—and into the Act—my suggestion of adding industrial estates to those exceptions enumerated in Secton 1 of the principal Act. I understand that that Amendment, in its present words, is in principle acceptable to the hon. Member for Hitchin, and, I think, to the Ministry. I am seeking to use the Bill, as the hon. Member for Hitchin is, but in a different way, to amend the Act of 1951.

I come to the Amendment on page 5, line 29. This is an Amendment to Section 6 of the principal Act, which gives the majority of frontages the right to require a private street to be made up or taken over. That Section does not operate unless in at least one case a deposit, or alternatively a security, has been given. My Amendment makes it clear that the Section will not operate unless in at least one case the deposit has been paid and not refunded or the security realised or released. It is an Amendment consequential upon that in page 3, line 15.

I come to the Amendment in page 6, line 1. This is altogether different, and introduces into Section 10 of the Act of 1951 a definition of the words "industrial premises." The Amendment applies the definition of "industrial process" in the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and it makes it perfectly clear what type of industrial premises and estates I have in mind.

My Amendment in page 3, line 15, would alter Section 1 (3) of the principal Act. It is necessary, therefore, to amend Clause 3 of the Bill to ensure that full details of all transactions shall be entered, as has already been said by the Parliamentary Secretary, in the local land charges register, which would always show, at a glance, we hope, the extent of deposits or securities given or repaid, and also the notices served, and the resolutions passed by local authorities on these matters. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that perhaps there has been a slip here in so far as it would be necessary in these matters where the local land charges register is involved that there should be some sanction, perhaps, to ensure that all these particulars are entered.

My Amendment in page 2, line 28, adds two new paragraphs. Paragraph (d) would cause the other new exceptions put in by the hon. Member for Hitchin to be entered in the local land charges register. Paragraph (e) brings in paragraph (k) which is contained in my Amendment in page 3, line 15, of the Bill to amend Section 1 (3) of the principal Act and brings my new exception into the local land charges register.

I know that it seems as though all these Amendments are the wrong way round, but I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and the House that if the House agrees with that all we are trying to do then by the end of this debate the horse will actually be in front of the cart.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I beg to second the Amendment.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Maddan

I should like very much to welcome this group of Amendments. When the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) raised in Committee the question of industrial premises, I do not think there was a single member of the Committee who felt that the principle of what he was trying to do was anything but right. As he has said, some of us had doubts about the precise wording of the Amendment which he was then seeking to move. I think the proof of how very complicated this subject is can be seen in the fact that four separate Amendments have to be driven into the Bill backwards, like parking a large automobile in the crowded streets which we now have again.

I think that this series of Amendments fits in very well with the general purpose of the Bill, which is to tidy up and make more workable and practicable the New Streets Act, 1951. I hope that the House will not only accept the Amendment which we are now formally discussing but will also accept the other Amendments which go with it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 32, at end insert: (3) In this section "the appropriate council"—

  1. (a) where the matter in question relates to a street in a borough or urban district, means the council of that borough or district;
  2. (b) where the matter in question relates to a street in a rural district, means the council of the county comprising that district, or, where the council of the rural district are discharging the functions of the 1437 county council under the Private Street Works Act, 1892, as agents for the county council, means the council of the rural district.—[Mr. Maddan.]