§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is a further clearing-up operation to deal with outstanding Defence Regulations. The party opposite did something when it was in power to get rid of some regulations and to codify others into statutes. When we came into power in October, 1951, a lot still remained to be done. There were still 215 Defence Regulations in force. Now, only 42 remain, and five may well go if the Bill is passed.
Three months ago the House had a full debate on the Franks Report and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General then said that the Government's attitude had been to accept [...] many of the Franks' recommendations as possible and, where we could not for one reason or another accept any particular proposal, to find an alternative method which complied with the spirit of the Report.
This is the first major Bill which seeks to implement the pledges made in that debate by the Government. Like all Measures that have to do with land, the appearance of the Bill is somewhat formidable and consists of complex legal passages. It affects, apart from the three Service Departments, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Power and the Post Office. Doubtless many hon. Members will have points to raise about its provisions and such points will be explained by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General when he winds up. The Bill will obviously need considerable study in Committee.
In moving the Second Reading, my purpose will be to enlarge upon the broad principles of the Bill and its main features. Its object is to bring to an end Defence Regulations relating to land and to make permanent the provision for the much more limited power needed for defence purposes in time of peace. Broadly speaking, the Bill is concerned 37 with the use of land and not with its acquisition for defence purposes. This was the purpose of the Defence Regulations which the Bill abolishes.
There are two exceptions to this, where the Bill does deal with acquisition. They are Clauses 13 and 19, which give power to the Minister of Power and the Postmaster-General to acquire land for defence purposes. The powers of temporary acquisition which those two Ministers hold will disappear with Defence Regulation 51. The Service Departments have powers to acquire land under the Defence Acts, and since it will be necessary for the Minister of Power and the Postmaster-General to acquire land for oil installations for defence and for the defence communication system—I will come to the details of the matter later—those Ministers are empowered under the Bill, to acquire land for specific defence purposes under the Defence Acts.
The Government considered whether, since to this extent we are touching upon the Defence Acts themselves, the opportunity should not be taken to revise the whole field of the Defence Acts. A glance at paragraph 13 of the First Schedule will show hon. Members how much longer and complex an already lengthy and complex Bill would have been if that had been done. The Government decided to attack the problem in two stages. The Bill is confined to abolishing emergency powers and replacing them statutorily by smaller peace-time powers. The Government intend later to set about the more formidable task of bringing the Defence Acts up to date.
So much for the generalities of the Bill. It may be helpful if I now run through the main purpose of the Clauses and groups of Clauses.
Clause I brings to an end the Defence Regulations relating to land. Most important of these are Defence Regulations 51 and 52. The latter permits land to be used by Her Majesty's forces while the owner or tenant is still able to make use of the land himself. It will come to an end by 9th December next. After that date, there will be no use of land under that regulation. Defence Regulation 51 enables Departments to take possession of land temporarily, that is by requisition, for sole possession. Under 38 existing post-war legislation there is the power to retain land held under this regulation for two years after the regulation comes to an end. That is principally to enable the Department holding such land to clear it up before disposing of it.
During these two years, that is up to December, 1960, the Department will have to make up its mind what land it requires in the long term—that land will be purchased—and what it can dispose of. That which it disposes of must be cleared up. Hon. Members will appreciate that on a lot of the land concerned there are unexploded missiles and that it takes time to clear the land up. That does not mean that the Department will not be able to dispose of a lot of the land it holds before December. 1960. It merely means that it has the power to hold on to it until the end of 1960, if that be necessary.
Will the Services have to hold on to large areas of land at the end of the day? They will need a good deal of land for installation, accommodation and firing ranges, and for that type of training which does great damage to land and property. If training is to be realistic in modern conditions the Army must have occasional access to large areas of land. There are two ways to ensure this: either for the Department to own those large areas, or to have the power to make occasional use of them. It must not only be considerably cheaper, which in itself is an advantage, but it must, surely, be in the national interest that as much land as possible be in the hands of the landowners and farmers, with the Service Departments making occasional use of it, rather than that the Departments should own these vast areas for which the Services have only an occasional need.
Clauses 2 to 6 are designed to give the Services right of access, to obviate the need for them to own vast tracts of land for which they would have only occasional use. In Clause 6 and in subsequent Clauses there are safeguards for the interests of the private individual; I shall refer to them in one block later in my speech, if I may.
The biggest single use which the Army makes of private land occurs during major manœuvres, when these take place in this country. Only once since the war, in 1951, has that happened, and most 39 major exercises—of a division and upwards—have taken place in Germany. None is planned at home at present, but we shall need to be able to hold them in the future, particularly when we have a large proportion of our fighting formations at home.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Army does not own sufficient land at the moment to carry out such manœuvres, and that, therefore, it has to use private land outside that in its own possession?
§ Mr. Soames
Not for major manœuvres. The hon. Gentleman will see how we cannot possibly own so much land as that, when I come to explain how big an area those manœuvres would cover.
The manœuvres were held in 1951 under the powers of Defence Regulations which are now to come to an end. We shall be left then with the Military Manœuvres Acts, 1897 and 1911, which are badly out of date. For instance, mechanisation has brought much greater mobility, and the explosive power of modern weapons demands wide dispersal as a normal military tactic. In 1911, manœuvres involved one county. In 1951, they involved six counties. It is plain that the Military Manœuvres Act, 1911, as drawn up to meet the requirements of an Army in those days, would have considerably to be amended if it were to meet the requirements of modern times.
The old Acts had one very valuable feature which is to be retained. They provided for the setting-up, prior to major manoeuvres taking place, of an independent body, the Military Manoeuvres Commission, charged with ensuring that, when necessary and practicable, limitations should be put on the use of land for manoeuvres, and that the minimum of damage was done. The composition of the Commission as laid down in the 1911 Act would not enable the Commission to carry out these functions nowadays, so it must be altered. In the 1911 Act, it is provided that half the representatives on the Military Manoeuvres Commission should come from the local authorities concerned and that the other half should be local landowners appointed by the Secretary of State for War.
40 Today, a different composition is needed, including members drawn from organisations representing farmers, forestry, landowners and amenity interests, as well as representatives of the local authorities. The chairman is to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Four members will be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, four members by the Minister of Housing and Local Government—of whom one will be the nominee of the National Parks Commission—and three out of a total of 12 will be appointed by the Secretary of State for War. I shall say something of the duties of the Commission when I come to the subject of safeguards.
Apart from major manoeuvres, which are a comparatively rare occurrence, the Army and the Royal Marines need to use land for smaller and more frequent exercises. Most of this training—certainly the training which does damage to property—will be done on the Department's own land; but if exercises are to be realistic nowadays they must include long approach marches, with bivouacking on the way and the defence of those bivouacs, and we must hold signal exercises involving communications over a much wider area of land than that held by the Department. Clause 6 is designed to give power to the Service Departments to make use of land other than land which they own, to enable them not to own too much, and at the same time to give safeguards to private interests.
Clause 7 provides the power to make byelaws over sea areas for defence purposes. The need for this Clause is brought about by technical changes in the use which is made of sea areas for training. The power rests upon the Military Lands Act, 1900. When this Act was drawn up, sea ranges were needed for artillery ranges, and artillery ranges required that the Department had to own land on which the sea abutted. Things have changed since then, and what we need sea ranges for today is for bombing practices and air to sea firing.
In these circumstances, one does not need to own the land which abuts upon the sea area. However, under the 1911 Act, the Air Ministry today, if it is to have these ranges, has to own a great deal of land which it does not need. The purpose of the Clause is to enable the Ministry to rid itself of land it does not 41 need and still be within the law when using these areas for practices.
Clauses 8 to 11 are of interest to the Air Ministry with its airfields and radar installations. Clauses 8 and 9 deal with the closing of roads for defence purposes. When this Bill is enacted, the power to close roads will rest upon the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. But there is a snag here, for the existing powers of that Act, under Section 49, can be applied only when the need for closure of a road is brought about by development—I use the word "development" in the sense in which it is used in the Town and Country Planning Act; that is to say, for the runways to be extended, buildings to be put up, or something of that nature.
There are, however, occasions when an airfield is not altered in any way, but the innovation of a new type of aircraft, which, perhaps, does not gain sufficient height at the end of a runway, may make a road at the end of the runway dangerous to use. It might be necessary to close such a road for safety's sake without there being any development. The object of Clause 8, briefly, is to enable the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to close a road without development, and it enables him also to close roads temporarily when it is clear that the closure need be for only a short time.
Clause 9 is a complicated provision.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again; the reply we are to have from the Government later will be a legal reply, I understand. What is, I think, of concern to most of us is this. The modern Army being what it is, with so much of its manoeuvres, we understand, to be done with conventional weapons and so much with atomic weapons of one kind and another, is there sufficient land available in Britain to meet the requirements of modern manoeuvres?
§ Mr. Soames
The Army must change realistically, according to the weapons which exist at the time, as I said before. I was referring to the closure of highways, and we have now got back to the earlier Clauses. It is essential that the Army should be trained in the state of movement and dispersal demanded by the weapons of modern times. Certainly it is possible for most realistic manœuvres 42 to be held in these times, but they will need to cover a much wider area of land than before. It is quite possible and it will be done.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Is it the intention that these highways shall be closed mainly for the safety of the people using the highways or the safety of aircraft taking off, or as a measure of security to stop the public getting near the installations?
§ Mr. Soames
It is for both. If there is a pile up between a motor car and an aircraft, neither will like it. It is a safeguard for the public and for the Services.
Clause 9 is somewhat complicated. It empowers the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to clear up the temporary closure of highways still outstanding. There are a number of these. The difficulty is that the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945—which gives the Minister of Transport power to provide substitute highways for one that is closed by an order—does not allow him to revoke or amend such an order once it has been made.
Therefore, we have the following situation. Let us take an airfield with a runway down the middle and a roadway going across it which, some years back, was closed because it crossed the airfield; and the Minister of Transport made a new order for a road to be built round the head of the airfield to join up the road. Suppose the order has been made, but the road has not yet been built; and, meanwhile, the airfield has been extended to take more modern types of aircraft. If that road were built, it would still be within the airfield. As the law now stands, that order cannot be amended. Either nothing is done about it at all or the road is built. The road has to be built before another road can be made in a place where it is needed.
Clause 9 enables the Minister of Transport to cancel an order which has been made before and to make a new and realistic one so that the road can take a wide sweep round the airfield and join itself up again. That is more or less the position. We hope that Clause 9 will enable the Minister of Transport to clear up all these outstanding temporary closures.
43 Clause 10 provides powers which will be necessary with the ending of Defence Regulation 50, which empowered the Air Ministry to have removed dangerous obstructions at the end of runways and in the approaches to runways, in the funnels; and provisions for compensation are included.
Clause 11 has the same effect as Clause 10. However, it refers not to airfields and runways, but obstructions to the efficient use of radio and radar equipment, which also previously came under Defence Regulation 50.
Clauses 12 to 18 are concerned with the storage of oil for defence purposes and of its movement by pipeline. The Clauses themselves are somewhat complex, but the object, which can be simply stated, is to enable the Government to maintain and extend where necessary the reserve system of protected oil tanks and pipelines built during and since the war. The Requisitioned Land and War Works Act covers the pipelines up to 1948. This Bill applies that Act to pipelines built since then.
Clause 13 permits the Minister of Power to use the Defence Acts for the purpose of acquiring land for storage tanks of oil for defence purposes. The Bill also provides a new arrangement for way-leaves for pipelines. Under way-leave orders Ministers will have the right to lay, maintain and use oil pipelines which are part of the defence network. The orders will be registered in the register of local land charges and regulations will be made regarding them which will give protection to persons affected. Compensation will be paid both for depreciation and for damage and disturbance arising from these way-leave orders.
I need say little about Clauses 19 and 20. Clause 19 gives the Postmaster-General power for the compulsory acquisition of land where necessary for the defence communication system which he had under the Defence Regulations and which would disappear were this Bill not to be enacted. Clause 20 enables him to maintain and use certain deep telecommunication lines which connect deep level defence works with the normal Post Office network.
Clause 21 gives access to Departments where it is necessary to lay a pipeline. 44 For example, it is necessary to have access to the land for the purposes of surveying.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
Would it not be a good plan to insert the words "in co-operation with the owner," so that it will not come at an inconvenient time and disturb, for example, seeding?
§ Mr. Soames
It would depend where the words are, but that is a point which could be raised in Committee.
§ Mr. Soames
It means the Minister who has the power to purchase the land.
I now come to the safeguards set out in the First Schedule and which we propose for private owners and tenants. These are in line with the spirit of the Franks' Committee's Report. Wherever the use or acquisition of private land is concerned under this Bill, owners and tenants will be told what the Minister's proposal is and that they have the right to object. Should they object the Department concerned would then try to resolve the differences. If this is not achieved the individual will have the statutory right to be heard by an independent person appointed by the Lord Chancellor in England and Wales, by the Secretary of State in Scotland and by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland.
Rules of procedure for these hearings will be laid down and there can be recourse to the courts on points of law. These safeguards refer to Clause 6—that is, the use of land for minor exercises. Clauses 10 and 11 refer to the removal of obstructions around airfields and radar installations. Clauses 13 and 19 deal with the acquisition of land by the Minister of Power and Postmaster-General. Clause 14 deals with the way-leave orders for pipelines.
Hon. Members will have noticed that the statutory right is limited to a hearing in private. It is the intention that hearings should be in public, whenever possible. But since we are dealing with defence matters—and in many cases there will naturally be occasions involving security and the hearings would then have to be in private—it is not possible to have a public hearing as a statutory 45 right. However, it is, as I have said, the Government's intention, whenever possible, that the hearings should be in public. This procedure does not apply to owners and tenants in major manœuvres. Where these are concerned, the safeguards are provided by the Military Manœuvres Commission. First, an Order in Council under which the manœuvres will be held is drawn up to show precisely the areas in which manœuvres are planned to take place.
The draft of the order will be laid before both Houses of Parliament and will be subject to an affirmative Resolution. Before these Resolutions are taken—indeed, many weeks before—copies of each draft order will be made available to the local authorities in the area all the way down to parish councils. Publicity will also be given to it in the local Press. Consequently, anybody who fears that the manœuvres will damage his land will have ample warning and the opportunity of discussing matters with others concerned in the area, including, no doubt, his Member of Parliament, It may well be, therefore, that at the stage of the affirmative Resolution in the House, particular interests will he underlined and discussed.
Private owners and tenants will have a further opportunity to make representations when the Military Manœuvres Commission is set up after the Order in Council has been made. The Commission will issue instructions which will cover the avoidance of damage and disturbance and also state what land within the area approved by the Order in Council must not be used by troops. The Commission will produce a draft of these directions and these will be made available for inspection by the public. Representations can then be made to the Commission by anybody affected. For this purpose, the Commission must hold at least one public inquiry.
Private owners and tenants will, therefore, have two opportunities of drawing attention to any special points affecting their land. Apart from that, the mere existence of the Military Manœuvres Commission, with its independent and representative membership, constitutes in itself a substantial measure of reassurance.
46 It is conceivable, though not probable, that the Commission will go so far in designating areas which must not be used by the troops for the manoeuvres as to frustrate their very purpose. If this should ever happen, it is clearly essential that the Secretary of State for War shall have power to vary the Commission's directions to the minimum extent necessary to prevent the frustration of the manoeuvres. The Bill provides for this and adds that if this should happen, the Secretary of State must lay before both Houses of Parliament a copy of the document by which he requires the Military Manoeuvres Commission to vary its directions.
The House will, I think, agree that both when major manoeuvres are concerned and on the other Clauses relating to the use of land, these are comprehensive safeguards for private interests which it would be hard to improve upon. The House and the country will be glad to see the end of the Defence Regulations. Unless the Services were to own an inordinate amount of land, there has to be legislation to enable them to make use of land under ownership for training purposes. At the same time, the Government are anxious that private individuals whose interests are affected should have the statutory right to object and to be heard impartially.
It is in the belief that the House will feel that the Bill achieves both those desirable aims that I express the hope that it will receive a unanimous Second Reading.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
We are grateful to the Secretary of State for War and for his clear explanation of the Bill. It is, as he said, a complicated Bill and I am sure that those of us who read it beforehand now understand it far more since the right hon. Gentleman has spoken.
As the Minister emphasised, the Bill deals with the use of land. Acquisition is dealt with in only two Clauses, Clauses 13 and 19. So far as the Bill re-enacts military Measures of Victorian times, we should look at it very carefully. I have discovered, on looking back through HANSARD, that it cannot be said that the Military Manoeuvres Acts of either 1897 or 1911, both of which are, in part, reenacted in the Bill, received adequate discussion in the House of Commons.
47 In 1897, the Second Reading occupied only 15 or 16 pages Of HANSARD and nearly all the speeches were from Irish Members suggesting that the Bill should not be applied to Ireland. The other problem, which I discovered, was raised in the debate in those days was that there were many sightseers following the troops around on manoeuvres and that it was the sightseers and not the soldiers who did the damage. Much has changed since those days. In 1911, the Second Reading debate occupied only three minutes, at 4 o'clock in the morning.
So far as the Bill gives to ordinary citizens more rights and safeguards against the Government Departments, it will have our support. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) will be putting some questions, which I hope the Attorney-General will answer, on the application of the Franks principle and the safeguards that the Minister mentioned at the end of his speech. So far as the Bill is clearly drafted, we certainly welcome it. It is more clearly drafted than many recent Measures. That is especially true of the First Schedule.
Although I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his clear explanation of the Bill, I am sorry that he did not tell us more about the Government's policy on holding land for military training. I know that he could not be expected to say everything in half an hour, but it is important to get some idea of the Government's policy. The last White Paper on the subject was as long ago as 1947 or 1948. I know that the Government's defence planning is unsettled—we have seen that in South Uist—but we should have had more information about the situation today.
The right hon. Gentleman's Department was kind enough this morning to give me same figures over the telephone of the latest holdings of land by the War Office—that is to say, holdings either by ownership or by lease. The figures show that in England the War Office holdings amount to 1.47 per cent. of the land; in Wales, 1.07 per cent.; and in Scotland, 0.24 per cent.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I am sorry, not offhand. If we had an idea of the holdings of land by all the Service Departments, for one purpose or another, we would be in a better position to deal with these supplementary requests for additional land for certain exercises.
In any event, the tendency, surely, will be for less and less land to be required as the pattern of our defences changes. Nuclear armament is likely to result in smaller requirements of land. There will be less requirement for airfields with large runways. Generally, fewer ranges of all kinds will be needed and most of them will be out over the sea, as at South Uist. In addition to nuclear rearmament, future developments in conventional aircraft such as vertical takeoff, will require smaller airfields.
I happen to be one of the two Members of the House who are members of the Nature Conservancy. The behaviour of the Service Departments concerning the land they use for training varies greatly. I do not mean that one Department is good and another bad, but when they are good they are very, very good and when they are bad they are terrible.
Let me illustrate this by citing two examples, one from the War Office and one from the Air Ministry, in which, during the past year, the Service Departments went out of their way to be helpful and co-operative. Not only did they achieve their military results, but they did good work for the Nature Conservancy.
The first example is that of the Army at Braunton Burrows, in Devon. The War Office, while having its military operations there, helped the Nature Conservancy with an experiment to determine how certain grasses could be used in shifting dunes to bind the land together. The War Office has been doing it during the last five years and this year it has been possible to make an assessment of the results. Thus, while the land was being used by the War Office for training, an important scientific experiment has been conducted at the same time.
Another example of a good relationship between the Nature Conservancy and a Service Department occurred within the last year on the Island of St. Kilda. Early in 1957 the National Trust took 49 over St. Kilda and the Nature Conservancy leased the island and provided a warden to protect the unique wild life there. Then along came the Royal Air Force with 200 or 300 men with plans for setting up certain permanent technical installations for tracking guided missiles to be fired across the ocean from South lust 40 or 50 miles away.
When the Air Force men arrived, their plans, both for the construction of a road or for the siting and construction of the installations, would have caused very great damage not only to the wild life, but also to the archæological and historical sites. However, the task force commander and the Nature Conservancy officer got together and reconsidered the plans. Changes were made. As a result, it has been possible for the Nature Conservancy's Report for this year to say, in page 53:… the most striking result of the St. Kilda project is that it has shown how, given good will and determination to help on both sides, a major Services' operation and ethnological and wild life research can go forward side by side in perfect harmony.I commend that sort of co-operation to the Service Departments. I have said that there are examples to the contrary, whether through carelessness or ignorance or selfishness or inefficiency.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the handing over of certain areas when they had been cleared. We had a serious accident in one of those nature reserves which was handed back as cleared, because, in fact, it was not cleared. I know that the Army cannot be certain about clearance, but these nature reserves which are handed back as cleared require the most careful examination beforehand. The one I refer to was not cleared and one of the workers had his hand blown off.
There can be ignorance in Service Departments at the bottom or at the top. There was the case of Leading Aircraft-man Robert Burns, who was convicted just before Christmas. He had been stationed in the Shetland Islands. He robbed a nest of some unsual eggs, only to find that they were eggs of one of the rarest nesting birds in the whole of Scotland. He was liable to a £300 fine, but was, in fact, fined £5. But the damage was done.
I thought for a moment that the Attorney-General was saying to me that 50 the Service Department could not be blamed for that. Of course, one cannot blame the Air Council entirely, but if men are posted to remote areas then they should be reminded from time to time that when they go off duty they may find unusual eggs. They should be warned.
There is also ignorance at the top in the Departments, as is shown by the story of the geese. Many years ago it was found that swans on bombing ranges increased in numbers if they were bombed. That was contrary to the naturalists' forecast. One section of people at the Air Ministry said that it was because picnickers kept off bombing ranges and much less damage was done to the swans by an occasional bomb than was done by picnickers. The Air Staff had the theory that the swans is obviously good for geese." They by being bombed. This theory was written in as part of the accepted opinion of the Air Ministry.
Then, a few years ago, there were complaints from naturalists that certain geese were liable to be affected if land was used as a bombing range. The Air Ministry thought, "What is good for swans is obviously good for geese." They thought they knew better than the naturalists and enormous damage was done to those geese. I think that that was in the Severn area. Geese do not react like swans.
I have mentioned examples of carelessness and ignorance. Selfishness and inefficiency may also play their part. What are the Services going to do about common lands which they have taken? They must not be selfish. What progress has been made towards releasing them, or giving greater access to them or in providing alternative open spaces?
I know that there are many firmly installed military units on these common lands. I believe that Farnborough is on common land. If the land cannot be released the Service Departments should give greater access to it, and if greater access cannot be given they should do everything possible to provide alternative open spaces.
As for inefficiency, my illustration applies also to common lands. In evidence before the Royal Commission on Common Land, the Director-General of the Nature Conservancy gave it as his considered opinion that the War Office 51 appeared to make no surveys at all of possible training grounds for weekends, for tank training particularly, near large cities. What happened, instead, was that the Army seemed to regard any land which was not cultivated as being waste land. If it had growing crops it was clearly cultivated land, but if not the Army regarded it as waste land and charged on to it with tanks. They were liable to do great damage not only to the fauna and flora, but also to the public's enjoyment of open spaces.
The right hon. Gentleman told us about the Clauses relating to major manoeuvres, and we shall have more to say about that at another stage. Meanwhile, I would put this consideration to him. Perhaps these Clauses are up to date from a lawyer's point of view, but, like one of my hon. Friends who intervened while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, we want to know whether they make sense militarily. The Secretary of State told us that there have been no major manoeuvres on this scale in this country since 1951. They have been held in Germany. Are we preparing for these manoeuvres to be held over here now, if we withdraw more of our troops from Germany? It does see an important question, because we are not accustomed to manoeuvres. Seven years is a long time. We require careful study to see what can be done and whether these proposals will be militarily effective while not disturbing the countryside more than is necessary.
Another important question is: does the Bill safeguard the rights of private citizens as much as it sets out to do? Does a farmer have to forecast whether his field will have a certain type of crop in twelve months' time? That may sometimes be possible, but not always. Is not the machinery over elaborate?
§ Mr. Soames
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman on this question. The Order in Council will be laid probably at the end of October and discussed before the Christmas Recess. The Military Manoeuvres Commission will be set up in January and it will have its deliberations and investigations during the spring, and we hope to get its report about May—that sort of time. Of course, the crops will be in by then.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for helping me on that point.
As to the machinery of the Manœuvres Commission, it is expressly laid down that there will be two committees, one for England and Wales and one for Scotland. I understand that Scots law is different from English law, but in military planning should not the emphasis be the other way round? Should we not regard this island as one unit? The Commission should have common membership of four-fifths with co-option, as appropriate, of Scots people who are versed in Scots law or of English and Welsh people versed in English law and other particular interests? I require a good deal of convincing that when considering military matters we should go out of our way to emphasise the difference between England and Wales on one side and Scotland on the other.
May not this elaborate machinery also cause the War Office to indent for an area wider than is really necessary to make sure of having enough? Over-insurance is a well-known practice in Service Departments. Many hon. Members have paraded at six o'clock in the morning for something which eventually took place at nine o'clock. There is a danger here of over-insurance. I should like to know how it will be guarded against.
As to the powers in Clause 3 to require the use of land for limited training purposes, I can understand the use of land for transit to military areas, but is it envisaged that the Clause will be regularly invoked for land which is near to an existing War Office training area? I refer to areas such as the 20,000 acres in Norfolk and the others in Senny-bridge, Redesdale, and so on?
Everyone in the Eastern Counties knows the nuisance of the stopping up and diversion of highways, which are dealt with under Clauses 8 and 9. Whether the highways are blocked up for reasons of security or for the greater safety of the public and Service, the inconvenience is enormous. The barricade seems always to cut across some road to the village, to the "Dog and Duck," to the local lovers' lane or to the best poaching area. Certainly, in Lincolnshire, these barricades appear to go right across established routes. Even 53 in a city there is trouble enough when a road is blocked, as I know in connection with a bridge in Lincoln with which I had something to do. People resent having to make greater detours when roads are blocked.
The machinery for closing the highway must be flexible enough to allow closing on certain days or for certain hours. In other words, there must be a great deal of local give and take. It is so much easier for the Service Department to say that a road is closed and then forget about it. It is important that, where possible, the Service Department should say, "We do not use it on Sundays or Saturdays," and, if security is not involved, to have the road opened during that period. The Department, for instance, could open a road during certain hours of the day to allow farmworkers to take the shortest route to work, even if it was necessary, on their return, for them to go the long way round.
Clauses 10 and 11 deal with the prevention of obstruction of airfields and of interference with the operation of electrical apparatus. It is, of course, dangerous to have high trees, towers or factory chimneys or certain buildings near airfields, as, alas, we have seen in the last few days. But trees and towers must not be moved without careful thought. If they are clearly visible, allowance can be made for them. The Secretary of State for Air knows North Weald, where wireless towers have been standing for many years, but they are clearly visible. Every pilot knows that they are there and the operation has worked well over the years.
I do not know enough about the replacement of the metal parts of buildings to avoid interference with electrical installations, but it is an alarming thought that, under Clause 11, all metal parts of buildings may have to be pulled out and replaced by plastic materials. Among the objects described by the Clause areparts of buildings or structures, being parts made wholly or mainly of metal, which, without appreciably affecting the subsequent use of the building or structure in question, can be either removed or replaced by parts made of other materials.I should like to have some further information on this.
As to the acquisition of land for oil installations, for which provision is made in Clause 13, we must be sure 54 that this is done only as a last resort. The Government must examine every possibility of using disused railway lines and canals which would not necessitate new and expensive works. There are even areas where pipelines could be laid at the side of railway lines which are still in use. [Interruption.] I should be glad if my hon. Friends would shut up. I can hardly hear what I am saying. My point is that compensation for disturbance to people and property in the case of railways and canals has already been covered a hundred years ago. The House and the Government should consider that point.
On this side of the House we accept the general principle of the Bill. We shall look at the Bill closely in Committee. It may be a formidable Committee, and we have heard the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) putting his name forward for a place on it. I trust that the Bill will take a long time to find its way to Committee. Those of us who are concerned with defence are fully occupied at this time of the year with White Papers, Service Estimates and debates and discussions in Committee Rooms and in the Chamber on defence matters. It is difficult enough for Service Ministers to find time to deal with these things, but it is even more difficult for us on this side of the House, who have no Civil Service to help us.
As far as the Bill re-enacts certain Victorian legislation we shall have to look at it closely, but as far as it protects the public from the Service Departments we shall give it support. We shall examine it to see whether the general public, through local authorities, the National Parks Commission and other bodies, can have their objections thoroughly examined. We must see that the safeguards in the Bill are more than complicated paper schemes.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) that this is a Bill which we can support in principle, because most of us on this side of the House agree that it is right and proper that our Armed Forces should have adequate weapons and means of training. The Bill brings up to date the old Defence Acts and will give the Armed 55 Forces authority to requisition land for training.
It is training to which I want especially to refer. We did not hear very much from the Secretary of State about the Army's future requirements, and how the Government view the future for the Army and the sort of numbers which they hope to have. He said that the Bill will repeal certain Victorian enactments, but there are still many hon. Members opposite, especially on the Front Bench, who think of the Army as it was in the Victorian age.
We have not had a debate on manœuvres since the war. Indeed, I do not know when we last had one. I was on manœuvres during the war and I found it an extraordinary experience. I was in the "Red" Army and we were fighting the "Blues". I never quite knew who the "Blues" were and at the end of the manœuvres I did not know whether we had won or lost the battle. I was afterwards told that we had won, but I was also told that I had been observed and shot three times.
I did not learn very much from those manœuvres. Afterwards, we had a discussion in which many important officers took part. I expressed a not very popular point of view to the effect that my experience in the manœuvres which we had just endured was of such a character that I believed that if we had met a real enemy most of us would not have been capable of firing a shot—we would have been taken prisoner of war immediately—because we were so exhausted.
The whole purpose of the Bill is to enable the Armed Forces properly to acquire land for training, and presumably that training will take the form of manœuvres, because we do not want any more land for other purposes, as the Government will no doubt admit, bearing in mind that the Government have said again and again that we have to have a small Army which will be mobile and efficient and, in the main, armed with nuclear weapons.
I remember a debate some years ago when one of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors referred to a new gun which we had, the Corporal, which was said to fire an atomic shell. I can understand the need for that in this modern world, 56 but I wonder how that gun is tested and what facilities are available for soldiers to learn about guns of that calibre and type. The whole subject of modern training intrigues me. The day of the mass movement of men with rifle, Sten and Bren has gone. I do not accept the theory that in a modern, major war the Army will be required to do many of the things which were a necessary part of the task of infantry men in the last war.
I am not complaining too much about this matter. The Secretary of State did a very good job of explaining this very difficult Bill. He explained it in simple terms which a person like me could understand. However, there was one important aspect which he did not discuss. We are entitled to know what sort of manœuvres the War Office envisages for the Army of the future. In any future war we shall not see thousands of men creeping up on an enemy, who is not supposed to know they are coming, putting down a smoke screen and then fixing bayonets and charging. That day has gone, but the presentation of the Bill did not suggest that training is as up to date as it should be.
The only other comment I have to make about manœuvres is on the Secretary of State's statement that the last time we had manœuvres in this country—I suppose before the war—six counties were involved.
§ Mr. Soames
I said that we have had manœuvres in this country only once since the war and that that was in 1951, when six counties were involved.
§ Mr. Mellish
I should have thought that for manœuvres today that vast amount of territory would not be required.
The part of the Bill which I welcome especially is that safeguarding those who own land. That is always a very important matter. We on this side of the House are always being charged with being bureaucrats and with not being concerned with the interests of the owners of land and with believing that the State is all-important. I have never supported that view and I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln that it is right that we should safeguard those whose land we take.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I want to ask one or two questions about Clause 8, which deals with the stopping up and diversion of highways. As I understand the position, the Air Ministry acts for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation in matters concerning airfields, where, as Clause 8 (1, b) says,the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is satisfied that, for the land to be used so efficiently without danger to the public, it is necessary that a highway should be stopped up or diverted.Would that apply in the ordinary case of a civil airfield coming under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation? It would not appear to come within the ambit of the broad lines of the Bill, but it might be of considerable importance.
My next question deals with the position of common land. I understand that a Royal Commission is considering this matter, but that it has not yet reported. It is within my knowledge that difficulties arise, quite formidable difficulties, in connection with common land which is required for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation not only for aviation purposes, but also for the ordinary road requirements of that Ministry. How far does the Bill help in that matter, and how far is that matter outside the purview of the Bill? Apart from those comments, I think that this is a good Bill, which will be extraordinarily helpful.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I join in congratulating the Secretary of State for War on the way in which he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. He made it clear that the Bill deals with only part, perhaps only a small part, of the problem which we all want to see cleared up. He made it clear, among other things, that some of the major problems of the review of the Defence Acts would have to come later. He said that if the Government had tried to introduce their proposals in full, it would have been a very much longer and more difficult Bill.
We all recognise that and I dare say that we are very grateful for the contribution we have, but, nevertheless, many of us are disappointed that very many of the matters with which we wanted the Bill to deal do not come strictly within its 58 purview. The right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) raised some of the wider issues which are implicit in the Bill, and I want to make one or two comments about the way in which the Bill may affect some of these wider issues, especially in regard to amenity interests.
It is very necessary for us to have a fresh statement of the Government's attitude about the use of land for military purposes. I appreciate the difficulties involved in laying such a White Paper at the moment, but I hope that the Government will realise that there is an urgent need for it. As my hon. Friend pointed out, a White Paper of this kind has not been produced since 1947 or 1948, and it is important that we should have the correct figures in our minds. My hon. Friend gave us the percentages of land held in different ways—either under full ownership of the Service Departments or under various forms of special powers, and a more detailed statement from the Ministry of Defence giving us a rather clearer idea of where we stand would be very valuable.
We are all grateful for the fact that the Service Departments have been reviewing their land holdings and, in some cases, have found it possible to withdraw from certain areas. That is true of some of the moorland areas of Yorkshire, and I am sure that many people are grateful for that. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that, at the same time, it has been found necessary to make proposals for the more intensive use of other areas. However, we all accept the fact that as long as training requirements continue to exist provision must be made for the needs of the Armed Forces.
I am wondering, however, whether the proposals set forth in the Bill will in any way assist the Defence Departments in their survey of the areas they hold. Will the Bill make Service Departments more anxious to acquire land by purchase, or will it encourage them to dispose of land which they possess because their needs for it are adequately covered by means of the more temporary arrangements under the Bill? If the War Office already has land in its possession—even though it is used only very occasionally—might not the War Office be tempted to hang on to it rather than allow it to be brought within the purview of the 59 provisions of this Measure, which might involve it in quite a lot of difficulty in regard to the special applications that would need to be made.
We have fought a losing battle for many years in respect of certain areas in the North of England—on the Border—and have tried on many occasions to limit the use of the area by Service Departments. This is a very big training area. At present, we are faced with the unhappy prospect of a more intensive use of this area in future. I join with others who have already spoken in questioning whether that attitude is an up-to-date one, quite apart from anything else. Given the new provisions of the Bill, cannot the War Office reconsider the possibility of relinquishing its ownership of limited areas within this very wide area in Redesdale, and applying for the use of those areas upon specific occasions when they are actually needed for training purposes.
The Bill deals only with occasional minor exercises, although these will be relatively frequent compared with major manœuvres, in respect of which the provisions of the Bill are rather complicated, it is questionable whether we shall have major manœuvres in this country for many years to come, and the proposal is, therefore, very much in the air. The most recent example of major manœuvres was in 1951, and many of us have doubts as to the suitability of this country for such manœuvres and whether they make sense in modern terms.
Pending the review of the Defence Acts—which we understand is still going on—can we have an assurance that this Bill will not affect the procedure laid down by the 1947 Town and Country Planning Acts in respect of planning clearance for the permanent lands used by the Services? There is some anxiety as to what the position will be in that respect. As far as I can see, the Bill does not affect the position under the 1947 Acts, but it would be as well if that point were cleared up. It is certainly felt that the old Defence Acts are out of date, and that steps should be taken to clear up the position.
Comments have been made about representation upon the proposed Military Manœuvres Commission, and the 60 desirability of having some representation of the voluntary bodies chiefly concerned with amenity interests. Provision is made for the National Parks Commission to make nominations, and this should be fairly satisfactory, but perhaps we could have some comment about that.
Although no specific provision is made for it in the Bill, we have had some discussion about the restoration of land held by Service Departments. This is a matter of very great concern both to amenity and agriculture interests. The question arises as to the conditions under which proper restoration can take place. In many cases it seems as though the Service Departments leave the owner of the land to carry out the clearance of those structures which have no possible value—concrete foundations, odd bits of decaying buildings, and so on. All the valuable materials are stripped, and the farmer is left with a revolting mess which somebody has to clear away if any pleasure is to be derived from the land.
When land is given back to a private owner it may be that he receives some form of compensation. Some financial provision is made, but a farmer may not think the compensation sufficient to make it worth while for him to finish a clearance job. There have been cases recently of groups of good-hearted young people who have done a fine job in clearing areas voluntarily. That is a fine thing to encourage, but we should not have to call upon voluntary efforts of that kind if there is here, as there should be, a remaining responsibility upon Service Departments to complete their work. I am wondering whether Service Departments cannot be called on to examine the question of the condition of land used for military purposes, especially for airfields, and see that it is more adequately and fully restored to the condition in which it was previously.
In parts of Wales and Pembrokeshire, and elsewhere, areas have been utterly ruined by the revolting state in which they have been left. The Minister, who introduced the Bill in such sympathetic terms, will, I hope, give these matters his consideration. Much can be done by co-operation between those concerned with amenity interests and the War Department. At times, a minor boundary alteration might mean a lot to the 61 people in the area and could be achieved at very little cost to the War Department. We appreciate that discussions have taken place in many areas and valuable concessions have been made. But that practice is not universal, and the Service Departments should do more to ensure that the greatest possible effort is made in this direction. While we appreciate the improvements which the provisions in this Bill will bring about, there are many problems yet to be solved.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I sympathise with the concluding remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) regarding the restoration of what amounts to war damage by our own forces. I remember particularly a case in the Island of Tiree, half way across the Minch, where we were walking along a stretch of beautiful white sand when suddenly we observed a hump on the horizon which had not been there in the years before the war. When we asked a local person what it was, we were told that it was "Allison's Dump". I have never been able to trace Allison, but it is very easy to trace his dump, one of the many eyesores which our Forces have, unfortunately, left in various parts of the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) talked about the confusion in which he found himself during a military exercise on one occasion because he was not quite sure whether he was one of the "Blues" or one of the "Reds". I hope I may be forgiven if I do not carry that confusion into this debate, because, from recent experience of the operation of this type of legislation I feel rather more critical than some hon. Members may have reason to be.
I have a number of questions to put to the Secretary of State for whose "performance"—if I may so put it—at the Dispatch Box this afternoon we offer our congratulations. He gave us an excellent exposition of the meaning, content and the broad intention of this Bill, so far as he was allowed to give its intentions, with a lucidity which is not always available to us from Ministers; but I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to tell us a little more about what it is intended 62 shall be done with the land to be acquired under these extensions of powers and re-enactments. It would seem to become increasingly important that this House should exercise a careful scrutiny over every aspect not only of Government policy in general, but of military policy in relation to the acquisition and use of land, and the interference with the liberty of the subject. Particularly is that so where it is of a permanent character, as, of course, it will be under some of the provisions in this Bill.
Presumably in a few days' time we shall have a Defence White Paper put before the House. In the meantime this little Bill is being rushed along. I assume in anticipation of the changing needs and requirements of the Forces under the revised policy and the new military programme which must arise out of the new conditions of today, which will be referred to, no doubt, at length in the Defence White Paper. The Bill itself arises out of the need of land for the forces for training and also, I imagine—this is rather important—for the siting of up-to-date installations.
There will be a need for installations not simply on land which already is in the possession of the Armed Forces, but on other land. It would be interesting—and it is extremely important, that we should know—whether more land or less land will be required for the purposes of these new type installations. So far as one can gather, indications of the intentions of the different Services seem to show that the Navy will make ever smaller demands. Indeed it will make demands which are commensurate with its new role of a defensive submarine force under N.A.T.O., the "strike force" being, apparently, to a large extent the function of the Americans.
The Air Force, so far as one can judge, with the fighter force gradually passing out and much of the bombing force becoming out-moded, will demand less and less land for its purposes. The main demand for land will, thus, remain with the Army whose mobility and the range of whose weapons make increasing rather than smaller demands upon the land of this country. For ballistic missile bases as such, it is hard to estimate exactly what will be the tendency; whether it will be towards smaller areas of land or towards greater acreages.
63 I consider that this Bill should be viewed against the background of those new types of weapons, manœuvres and training and the new type of warfare which is envisaged. In turn, these being the instruments of our foreign policy, in the event of war, it will have to be scrutinised against the wider background of N.A.T.O. requirements and, above all, the pursuit of peace through international negotiations. It is important to view it in that way; because the moment may be approaching, as we hope it is, when the demands for land acquisition by our Army, either compulsorily or otherwise, permanently or temporarily, will diminish, or ought to with every agreement reached.
So far as one knows, we are at the moment using the wrong terms when we refer to "defence" requirements. In fact, all the meaning of that term has largely gone by the board. We have had to abandon conventional coastal defence, and anti-aircraft defence in conventional form, and we shall in time have to abandon the old fighter services and rely more and more on guided and ballistic missiles. Therefore, demands for land must relate directly to the need for guided missile bases and their use.
It would be helpful if we could get some indication from the Minister of what the trend here is to be. Will it be towards more demands for land in areas where the Forces are already established, or will it be towards demands for land in new areas, scattered throughout the country, and, presumably, mainly along the east coast? It is important that people should know that now; not only the farmers, to whom an hon. Member referred earlier, who must forecast and plan their sowing and other agricultural requirements for the years to come, but everybody else who has to live and make a livelihood in those areas where it is possible that these installations may be.
We know the Government have decided that the bases are to come. We know that from the very fact that America is not at the moment in possession of the inter-continental ballistic missile and that she must depend on the intermediate range missile and that she must, therefore, have bases in Western Europe and that this country must provide some of them. It is important that we should have an indication as soon as possible where those bases will be and 64 how far they will encroach on agricultural and other land.
These are the things which people are asking now, and it is exceedingly important that we should have some indication about them. These are the realities that people are asking about. They are not only asking whether the period of conscription is to be two or three months less or longer. That is not the only vital question at the moment although, of course, it is important. There are far more vital questions than that now. People are not only concerned with Forces' pay and with matters of training; they are concerned with the effect on the whole economy and life of the country of the establishment of these bases in our midst and what they will mean in terms of defence and in terms of creating an enhanced magnetism for attack. Therefore, if we can have some indication of that trend, whether it is always to be more land or less land and encroachment, that will be of considerable help.
It would be a great pity if it were contemplated, and if we were to support the intention, that we should make available large areas of land which may not, in fact, ultimately be necessary for the purpose of establishing ballistic missile bases before we had made every endeavour to try to reduce international tensions and reach international agreements. For, as the land is taken over and adapted, and as the millions of pounds are spent on the creation of the bases, they are all the time becoming technically and militarily obsolescent. Every Minister knows that and every hon. Member on both sides of the House completely agrees that that is so.
It seems a pity that we should be committing ourselves to these encroachments and to these demands for land and for controls of all kinds over the civilian population in time of peace when it may well be that these bases will be so obsolescent that they will represent in a few years' time only a memory of waste of millions of pounds in labour and resources. Land once sterilised in this way, with massive concrete foundations, to which my hon. Friend referred, and which are always left behind when the military leave, with the great tarmac approaches and systems of roads leading to nowhere but to these installations, is wasted for all time and for all development.
65 It is important, then, that we should be careful about taking decisions through the military authorities to set up bases which may soon be completely obsolescent. We know that the first to be established are being built to accommodate the American Thor intermediate range ballistic missile. Experts in this country are not happy—nor are many of the Americans—because it has been estimated by a number of military authorities that within six years at the most these bases will be completely out of date. The millions of pounds spent on them will have been completely wasted and the land involved will have been sterilised, because these bases will not be able to accommodate the type of missile being designed in this country and which it is expected to introduce here in a few years' time.
Could we have some indication of what total area of land will be required by the forces for all purposes? I have seen estimates of all kinds. As to the ballistic missile bases, I have seen a fairly authoritative estimate that round about eighty acres will be required for the actual launching station. Even eighty acres is not to be sneered at in any one area, when one thinks of the steady shrinkage of good agricultural land in the country through airfields, housing estates, industrial estates and dozens of other highly necessary and socially desirable establishments of all kinds. Every encroachment is agriculturally undesirable and can only be excused on the grounds of the utmost national necessity and urgency.
Apart altogether from agriculture, there is little land that we can afford to sterilise from better social use than that to which the Forces sometimes put it. Apart from the eighty acres of the launching stations—or whatever the technical term may be—it is understood that there must also be taken, if not into exclusive use, certainly brought under the auspices of the Service Departments, a very considerable "clearance area" round the bases.
I have seen a number of estimates ranging from five to ten square miles to an estimate of an area with a radius of fifty miles, which was quoted by a military correspondent quite recently in the Weekly Scotsman. It is rather important that we should have some indication of 66 what launching site land is involved and what wider area round about the actual missile base land required will be affected, and to what extent restrictions will be placed upon the free movement of people in and out of those areas. Is it five square miles, ten square miles—or an area with a fifty-mile radius that is to he the clearance area round the actual bases?
One has to remember that for the dispersal of the missiles themselves there has to be a fair allowance of land. For the roads and approach systems more land must be taken. There must be underground space for various needs, room for electrical plant, for homes and encampments, for electronic installations, for buildings of all kinds, for fuel stores—for widely dispersed fuel stores—for the telecommunications system and all such things. It is rather important that we should have some better indication than we have so far been given and possibly could have been given in what was the opening speech by the Minister this afternoon regarding what is to happen in those areas; and where the bases are to be.
I have had some experience of a protected area. It can cover a very great part of the country indeed. The one I have in mind covered in the last war a big part of the West Highlands and the whole of the Outer and Inner Hebrides. Within that area there was, of course, a restriction placed upon the movements of everybody coming in and going out. They had to have permits and pass through security posts, and to be checked in various ways. There was a censorship upon mails coming in and going out of the area and also many other civil and military restrictions. It is important that we should know all these things now so that, when they come, they will not come as a complete shock to the community—the Services, who must operate them, and the civilian population as well.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us where the bases are to be. It may be that a security umbrella wilt have to overshadow the whole issue Indeed, it may be that the right hon Gentleman has not the power to decide that; because one learns, perhaps inaccurately, that this is not a decision which will be taken by the British Government, but by General Norstad, on behalf of N.A.T.O., who will indicate 67 generally where the bases are to be in Britain. The British Government will then proceed merely to select and to prepare the sites for the bases in his chosen areas.
There may or may not be truth in that, but it is highly possible that there is truth in it, because we have had another relinquishment recently of British sovereignty in favour of the extension of American sovereignty in respect of the custody of the nuclear warheads of the ballistic missiles. We should like to know whether or not this decision on siting bases is to be shared by N.A.T.O. through General Norstad, or whoever is at the time the commander-in-chief; and I should welcome a reply on this point by the hon. Gentleman who is, I understand, to reply to the debate.
For all these reasons, reasons of the agricultural interest, of amenity, industrial development, and of possible restriction upon personal freedom through the establishment of these bases and the clearance of land for the rocket ranges, it is important that we should have further information. Further, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if the Services are to take full responsibility in event of attack and provide for the protection of water supplies and transport services as well as for the decontamination of the civilian population who might be affected. Are they to take responsibility for maintaining power and gas supplies, food supplies, and, if it is possible, the decontamination of land affected by nuclear attacks? These, again, are matters for which, if the Services take over large areas of the land of this country and are in sole control of it, they must also be responsible, along with the local authorities.
One can imagine only too easily the complete collapse of what one might call the social cohesion of a community—the end of the organised local services—and a panic-striken struggle for individual survival in the case of a nuclear attack. It should be made clear that the Services, when they take over areas of this kind, will also take full responsibility for the maintenance of those local services which may well become far beyond the capacity of the local authorities in the event of war.
68 There are so many things on which one has only half-information or half-knowledge, derived from reading everything in the Press, from N.A.T.O. sources and others, and now from what are popularly known as "leaks" on the other side of the House and from other official places, that one cannot with confidence ask some of the questions which, nevertheless, are in the people's minds at present. But there is one other major matter to which I should like to refer.
It is the question of deciding what line is to be taken, and what procedure is to be operated in regard to objections and public local inquiries from now on. I admit at once—and I am glad to see it in the Bill—that there is a liberalising and humanising of the objection procedure which will allow the individual owner or occupier and other individuals to lodge objections and be fully heard. It may well be that the proceedings will be in private, but the intention of the Bill, as I understand it to be expressed in it, is that wherever possible they shall be in public. That is certainly a relief to me and to my constituents, because we have had a most extraordinary example of what I can only call bungling through by the Ministry of Defence and by the Air Ministry in respect of the first major guided missiles and Army training range that was to have been established in the Western Isles. Its strange history can briefly be related something like this:
On 27th July, 1955, the Minister of Defence of that time—I think he was the fifth or so since 1951, and he is now the Foreign Secretary—announced that a rocket range was to be built in the Outer Hebrides. He said there would be much local employment and that it would bring permanent benefits for local people. A few days later, the South Uist landlord objected, and said that he had no information that the site for the rocket range had been selected and that he himself had had no chance of objecting formally.
In the middle of August, the Secretary of State for Scotland went on to say that most of the islanders agreed to the range in the national interest, and that only a small area of land was needed. The Minister of Defence said that there would be close local consultation and that full opportunity would be given to lodge and hear objections. A month later, Rockall 69 was annexed by the British Navy and became part of the Commonwealth, to the great: delight, I have no doubt, of the seagulls on Rockall. A few days later it was stated that the Ministry of Defence had had no objections of any kind from anybody. Then, the Ministry of Defence further said that, if there were objections of substance, a full public local inquiry would be arranged.
We were then told about the acreage involved—1,200 acres was to be the maximum amount of land required in South Uist, I think Lord Carrington said publicly, and grazing land was not affected. In fact, anybody who knows South Uist will know that if we were to take any 1,200 acres it must include grazing land.
In April, 1956, Lord Carrington said that the permanent staff would number 600 and that the total strength of the range would be about 2,000 people. In June of that year, the Ministry of Defence said that the range would be a strip of land of 1,700 acres, but a month later, in the Inverness County Council's planning Committee, Lord Lovat said that theproject will mean opening up the country, with the development of roads, schools, housing and modernisation.In the summer of 1956, the Air Ministry intimated that they were going straight ahead, that no appeals had been lodged. but in January last year, Air Commodore Levis, the Air Ministry Director of Guided Missile Ranges, said that a £15 million contract was likely to be placed in a month's time and that operations would start in the summer of 1958.
In February, 1957, Lord Mancroft made it known that the preparatory work was under way and that the R.A.F. were constructing a deep water wharf and that 3,000 men were to be employed on the range. Also in February, the Air Ministry made it known that 30 crofts were to be either wholly or partly taken over and 500 acres of common grazing would be denied to the crofters. A few days later, there was a representative public meeting in South Uist at which a unanimous demand for a local public inquiry was made—the same demand which, in the meantime, had been made repeatedly by hon. Members on this side of the House for a long time.
70 In April of last year, Colonel Caddy said before the Scottish Land Court in Uist that 4,000 people, including wives and families, would come to the Islands and that 1,140 would live in South Uist. He added—and this was the expert at that time representing the Ministry at the inquiry—that he did not agree that in twenty years' time the range would he obsolete, despite the advances in the development of guided missiles. It has not taken twenty months since then, and that is one more example of the reliability of expert military opinion.
In July, 1957, Lord Mancroft claimed that something like 90 per cent. of the people accepted the scheme, and many of them actually welcomed it.
Meanwhile, people were still demanding a public local inquiry, and I myself pleaded for it in this House. Only one or two organised scientific societies and Inverness County Council were able to obtain any sort of hearing. To the rest, a public local inquiry was flatly denied. Indeed, 170 hon. Members of this House signed a Motion which was put on the Order Paper demanding an inquiry, and other attempts were made to call attention to the matter, such as my own speech on the Air Estimate last year. All were rejected in the haste to start the scheme.
By July, 1957, 25 local workmen on the range were suddenly paid off. In August, the Scottish Land Court authorised the Air Ministry to use 1,860 acres of South Uist for the proposed rocket range. In the middle of October, another 60 men were paid off. Still the Air Ministry said that there was no question of even reducing the scale of the scheme; it was to go ahead as already announced. Then everything was confusion. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Air Ministry admitted that month that the rocket range project was under review; while the War Office was declaring that the Army was going ahead with its plans for the use of the site and intended to start operations in South Uist in the summer of 1958. In the same month, on the 28th, the R.A.F. formally took over Benbecula Airport as part of the new rocket range.
Abruptly, on 31st October we were told that the whole rocket range project was being reexamined in the light of the need for national economy and of the latest 71 developments in defence. This, after the guided missiles experts, on whom we are depending for the defence of this country, had said that not for twenty years would the range and its installations be obsolete, in spite of the advance of science and the technical progress in guided and ballistic missiles.
Is not that a sorry history of bungling and incompetence in the first major effort that we have had to build a guided rocket and training range of this kind? If that is what is to happen in the future, there is not much use in introducing this Bill, or indeed even in introducing to the House an eighth Minister of Defence, because I think there have been seven already since 1951. It certainly was one of the most shocking examples of waste of time, resources and money, at a time when the country was so desperate that we were defaulting on the American and Canadian loans and borrowing from our defeated enemies in Germany. I hope civil interests will be better safeguarded. I hope that the people affected by these acquisitions of land, whether temporarily or permanently, whether for minor or major manœuvres, will have better protection and timous guidance. I hope, also, that the country will have better guidance than we got from the experts in connection with the strategic and technical effectiveness of the rocket range I have mentioned.
There are other ways of dealing with the complaints of the local people which are still being urged upon the Minister at the moment. I should like to see the Government being a little more generous to the people who have lost their homes, their livelihood and their land. It has been left to the rather rigid conservative valuations of the Scottish Land Court. The Minister must know that under the 1947 provisions there is power to do something more than simply paying the exact amount that is decided by the Court. Additional payments can be made. There is a specific power, which I shall be glad to show the Minister, by which that may be done.
If a public body like the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board can pay secretly large sums—hundreds of thousands of pounds—to private individuals for alleged interference with their fishing rights, undertaken in the interests of great 72 public developments, why cannot the War Department be a little generous to people who have lost their all and their prospects, and say, "Not only will you have the miserably conservative compensation of the Land Court, but you will have a gesture of generosity from the War Office as well"?
There are many things that one could say on that and other matters, and the night is yet young; but a number of my hon. Friends wish to speak and possibly to get home early thereafter. However, there would be no excuse if one did not ask the questions which are in people's minds. The ballistic missile bases and support training I regard as the main purpose in future of the acquisition of land. This must be so, because it is surely related to the most up-to-date weapons, strategy and means of defence. Therefore these bases are the things which are mainly involved in the purpose of this Bill. It is absurd to say that we should be consoled by the suggestion that employment will be brought to the local people.
I do not for one minute believe that suggestion. These bases will, if anything, drive away the industrialists who might otherwise set up factories. They will not make life more tolerable or happier for the people. These places which are affected will become a magnetic target for attack as soon as a war should break out. As soon as some telecommunication signal is sent by some inflamed Turk at a missile station near the Dardanelles, we shall be involved in it, and involved totally and beyond return. The offer of money or jobs cannot compensate for these things.
It is important for people to know how they will be affected by the Bill. Small as it looks, it contains wide powers. One only has to look at it carefully to see what almost any Minister can do in certain circumstances. When one looks through the Bill and sees its real significance, it becomes apparent that it encroaches seriously on many points of our national life.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I appreciate the difficulties of the Secretary of State for War when introducing this Bill, of trying to maintain a balance between his prime responsibility, which is the efficiency of the 73 forces under his control, and the needs of the rest of the nation. I must say that he made a pretty good job of introducing the Bill but, listening to the debate as it has gone on, I think it might have been more for the convenience of the House if the Attorney-General had introduced the Bill and if the Secretary of State had wound up, because most of the questions which have been asked and which need answering must be dealt with by the War Office and not by the Attorney-General. However, we thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has introduced the Bill and for putting us in possession of more facts than we had at the beginning.
I should have thought that the widening of the scope of the debate is necessary, because the Bill as it stands is a machinery Bill and yet it covers and can be made to cover many of the circumstances which have been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan). Whether the Secretary of State likes it or not, there is going to be a streamlined Army in the future, whether by force of circumstance or by design. I should have thought it in the interests of the Army to streamline now its use of land and to take as little land as is absolutely necessary for its requirements, rather than to have bases here and bases there, spread all over the country, mostly in inaccessible parts.
We have also to remember the committed use of land for agriculture, large water undertakings, hydro-electric schemes, atomic power stations and building activities, as well as the interests of the amenity sections of the community, such as the ramblers and so on. It is clear that we have not got unlimited land. It has been eaten into far more than any of us would like by these activities which of themselves are necessary. Therefore, the War Office should make sure that it can account for and make a case for every acre of land which at the moment it has in its possession or which under the Bill it wishes to acquire in the future. I should have thought it an essential part of the right hon. Gentleman's task to make sure that the acquisition and retention of land by his Department was kept to an absolute minimum.
It is important that we should debate this matter now, because it is only right 74 that in peace time the Defence Regulations and the powers associated with them should be abolished. The War Office in peace time should have less power than it had in war time or immediately afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman can rest assured that if there were an emergency we should be only too glad to give him absolute powers to do the job. In the meantime, when we are living in peace—or shall I say in a state of not being at war?—the War Office should have fewer powers than we should otherwise give to it.
Another reason which has been advanced for the necessity to scrutinise the Bill carefully is that it seems to reveal a state of mind in the War Office which is at least twenty or thirty years out of date. In talking about large-scale and small-scale manœuvres we are thinking in terms of the period between 1918 and 1939, and not in terms of 1958. I should have thought that the pattern of our military thinking should now be changing as the pattern of our military weapons is changing. What was satisfactory and desirable in the interwar period is no longer compatible with modern military thinking. Who could imagine for one moment that we could have large-scale military manœuvres in this country today with the congestion and chaos that they would bring to our state of life in peace time? The whole idea is completely ludicrous, and I cannot accept the case that was sought to be made out for including Clauses 2 to 5 for giving facilities for manœuvres in this country, unless we are contemplating not having them in Germany, which would then make some sense.
Here again, surely we must consider the main purpose of our training. The only reason for which we could have limited manœuvres in this country would be to carry out the various police force occupations and obligations which we have throughout our Commonwealth territories and so on, or at the behest of the United Nations. I should have thought that experience has shown that training for this sort of thing can take place very well indeed in those countries. After basic training in this country, further training in Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya and so on has been carried out with great effect and with greater value to the soldier than would be the case if 75 training were carried out in the artificial conditions of this country.
I should be sceptical of giving greater powers to the War Office, unless we could have more indication of the kind of purposes for which the War Office needs land. As I said, the pattern should be changing and the emphasis should be upon giving up more instead of taking more land. While I am on this point, it would be helpful if we could be told how much land the War Office has in its possession. Has it made a reappraisal of its needs and decided already what it can give up and what it must have? I am sure that there are large areas in the country, sparsely populated and needed only very rarely by the War Office, which could be transferred by sale or release to someone who could make much more continued use of them.
There is a case for greater concentration in peace-time manœuvres. Is it really necessary today for the War Office to have installations in the South such as those at Aldershot and on Salisbury Plain and to duplicate them in worse conditions at Catterick, Barnard Castle and other places? Should we not be thinking of concentration in those areas? I am sure the troops would be very glad to see one got rid of—I refer to Catterick.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
No, but Catterick happens to be nearer to my constituency and to the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), although his home is nearer to Aldershot.
I come now to the relationship between the establishment of missile bases and the provisions of this Bill. We really ought to be told at this stage whether it is the intention of the Government to acquire fresh land to establish missile bases and, if they do, where that land is to be and how much of it they want. There are so many conflicting reports at present—that there are to be only four bases, that the only land so used will be that already in the occupation of the Service Departments, at airfields, and that the sites are to be only on the North-East Coast. Apparently Scotland is out of the race, but I cannot see why we should have 76 these sites on the North-East Coast, or in Yorkshire. It does not seem to matter whether a missile base with a range of 400 miles is inland, or on the coast. I should have thought that Streatham Common, in the constituency of the Minister of Defence, would be a good place.
I want to be told where they are to be. What is the purpose of not saying where they are to be? Who do the Government think they will fool by keeping them secret? How can one keep a great, towering missile base out of public view? Is all this secrecy for the purpose of concealing facts from a potential enemy, or to keep our own people in ignorance? The more our people were taken into confidence and had the purposes explained to them, the better would be the results. In all cases where it is decided to establish missile bases I hope that before the site is agreed upon there will be the utmost co-operation, collaboration and consultation with the local authorities affected.
That brings me to the question of stopping up roads and so on. We know that sometimes it is necessary to divert a road round the perimeter of an airfield so as to make room for extended runways and so on; but I hope that we shall not see powers misused—as I think they would be—in order to keep people away from possible sites on security grounds. I do not think people can be kept in ignorance of what is going on. It would be very foolish to try to do so.
The public interest has also to be protected, but I cannot see where that comes in under this Measure. The individual owner has a right of appeal and of being heard, and so on. In certain circumstances where land is required, while the owner may not be unwilling for it to be acquired, his views may conflict very much with local plans and community interests. I hope that those interests will be able to protest and to get a hearing just as much as an owner. There are interests in common land, the National Trust, National Park land and so on which may be jeopardised if this Measure is fully used. We should have a far greater idea of the purpose behind if before we give it a Second Reading.
On the main point, we have to settle responsibility. Here I come to what seems a remarkable muddle. This is the 77 Land Powers (Defence) Bill, but, when I read the names of Ministers backing the Bill, I notice that the name of the Minister of Defence is not there. Surely, he is the Minister in a position to join all the plans together and make a sensible whole of them. We can see a situation arising in which the Air Ministry will be going one way, the War Office another and the Admiralty and the Ministry of Supply in yet other directions. If the Minister of Defence does not co-ordinate all those plans it may be that far more land will be used than is necessary. It may be that land in the hands of the Air Ministry could be used by the War Office, and vice versa. By now we ought to know which Minister is to be responsible for acquiring and using land for missile bases.
This question arises from an experience I had last week. I was trying to get some information as to which Minister would be responsible for establishing missile bases on the North-East Coast. I put a Question to the Minister of Defence as I thought he was the right person of whom to ask it. The Question was transferred to the Secretary of State for Air, but it was not reached. I received a Written Answer from the Secretary of State for Air referring me to a previous Question answered by the Minister of Defence. That kind of muddle should be cleared up.
I hope that we shall have information on these points from the Attorney-General. If we are to get the most use from our limited resources it depends on collaboration, consultation and cooperation between the Service Departments and their civilian counterparts.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) complained about muddled thinking in this Bill, but I must say that there seemed to be rather muddled thinking in his own remarks. In the opening of his speech, he said that we were living in times of danger and emphasised that point, but, almost in his next phrase, he said that the time had gone by for having military manœuvres in this country.
§ Mr. Speir
On the old scale, maybe. I agree that it is desirable to limit the use of land for training purposes, but the 78 fact remains that we still have very considerable Army manœuvres in this country, particularly in my constituency. A large part of my constituency is taken up by artillery ranges and an even larger part is used for autumn manœuvres. It speaks very well for the Service Departments that, although they use those large areas of Northumberland, I have heard hardly any complaints in recent years, either from local authorities or from owners or occupiers of land, about damage to property, and whenever I have taken a complaint up with the War Office it has been dealt with very quickly and helpfully. In the one case of a fatal accident caused by an explosion, the Department was generous in the terms of compensation.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that there is a very real desire for War Office restriction of the actual boundaries of the range and to give as much public access as possible?
§ Mr. Speir
I can accept that. I have been in touch with the War Office about that particular range, the Redesdale Range, in the Upper Coquet Valley, to which, I believe, the hon. Gentleman is referring. Only the other day I had a letter from the War Office saying that because other training areas in Britain are being reduced in extent or abolished altogether it will be necessary for the Redesdale Range to be used a little more than it has been used in the past, but the public may be interested to know that the letter went on:It is estimated that on an average during the normal training season (mid-May to the end of October) the range will be used only half a day a week more than at present and that the use made of the range at week-ends will not be increased at all except on special occasions.The letter ended by saying:The Department feels that military requirements will be satisfied without prejudicing the local public amenities.I think that that is a very fair statement of the position. Most of the land comprising the ranges is adequately stocked and properly farmed.
If the Secretary of State for War could only teach Army drivers to drive a little more carefully and slowly, the public in Northumberland would have very little ground for complaint. Unfortunately, the number of accidents, particularly late at night, caused by Army personnel is 79 very considerable. I should be out of order, I think, if I dealt with that subject now, although I see that the heading to Clause 8 is "Stopping up and diversion of highways." Certainly by the number of accidents which they have caused in the area of the Redesdale Camp in recent years Army personnel have given an immense amount of trouble to the police and to the public in the area, and I hope that we shall have less ground for complaint in that respect in the future.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
After listening to the debate, I wonder whether the title of the Bill should not be altered from Land Powers (Defence) Bill to Land (Defence) Powers Bill, because from both sides of the House we have heard of the need to examine closely what the Ministry's intentions are. We enjoyed the Secretary of State's exposition of the Bill at the beginning of the debate, and we hope that he gave us as fair an assessment of the powers which the Government are seeking as it was possible for him to give.
Having listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), however, and his sad story of the delays and the secrecy of the Government about the missile bases on South Uist, I begin to wonder whether we shall be free from debates and questions on the results of the Bill for the next few years.
I can quote instances from Cornwall where the Ministry has been uncertain about its own proposals. An example is Cleave Camp in North Cornwall, which is situated in the very remote parish of Morwenstow, a beautiful wild stretch of cliff and moorland. This was first taken during the war by the Ministry. A year or two ago more powers were sought, but before the contract had been completed the Ministry abandoned the camp.
When he was Under-Secretary of State for Air, the Secretary of State had a good deal of correspondence with me, answered several Questions and was kind enough to grant me an interview about the building of 230 service houses in the middle of Mawgan airfield. The county council and the planning committee objected to the siting of the houses, holding the view that they were too far from 80 Newquay to be of much use if the Ministry at any time abandoned the airfield. In the end, the Ministry stuck to its point of view and refused to budge, even though the cost of erecting these houses must have been about £500,000. A few weeks later the Ministry abandoned the project altogether, although the airfield is still in commission.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) referred to abandoned military camps for which the Ministry has paid compensation and where there are unsightly buildings. He said that there was no clause in the compensation arrangements for the removal of these unsightly objects. I have such a case in my constituency of land which in the end was acquired by the National Trust. The National Trust acquired at Carvannel land adjoining five miles of its coastline to the west, and then had no money with which to remove unsightly concrete buildings and ironworks. It had then to let the land for farm purposes—cliff land which had not been used for centuries—in order to get the money to pay for the removal of these derelict military buildings. There may be legal difficulties about this kind of problem, but it ought not to be beyond the wit of the Attorney-General to devise some means whereby a repetition of this kind of thing can be avoided.
The Ministry owns thousands of acres on Dartmoor. Does it need as much land on Dartmoor or can it not give some of it up? Surely in these days of streamlined armies it is not necessary to retain as much of Dartmoor as the Ministry owns today. These are common lands. Reference has been made to the Ministry's requisition of agricultural land, but the commons and the moorland are of equal value to our overcrowded island with any agricultural land. In these days when agricultural efficiency is increasing to such an extent that we now have a surplus of some agricultural products, there is all the more reason for trying to keep our open spaces, moorland and common land as lungs for our population.
Mention has been made of manœuvres, and I am glad that a manœuvres commission is to be set up. I hope that it will take into account the problems of areas in the south-west of England, in particular, which are holiday areas, in order 81 to ensure that military manœuvres are not held in the height of the holiday season. To hold them at such a time would not only cause misery to the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the south-west of England but would also spoil any advantages which the troops might hope to gain from the manœuvres.
I also hope that very careful consideration will be given to the representation on this commission to ensure that it includes people from the Nature Conservancy, the Council For the Preservation of Rural England and the National Parks Commission.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) referred to rare birds' eggs which had been filched in the North of Scotland. That suggestion was received with some levity in the House, I am sorry to say, but although there may be only few of us who pay great attention to that kind of thing, it is nevertheless important. It is all the more important because three or four years ago the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) introduced the Protection of Birds Bill, which consolidated legislation of this kind over the past two centuries. The House gave very careful consideration to the Bill, which is now an Act, and I am glad to say that in some parts of the country where violations of the Sections of the Act have been proved, magistrates have taken a serious view of them. I hope, therefore, that the Ministers concerned will see that where men are stationed in places where there are rare birds, or rare flora, warnings are given to them to take care not to destroy things which are of such amenity value to the community as a whole.
I was rather interested in the reference made by the Secretary of State to the fact that the Military Manœuvres Bill of 1911 was given its Second Reading in only three minutes. There was then a Liberal Government in power, but perhaps the Liberal Party of today pays rather more attention to the matters covered by this Bill than it did then to the earlier one.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
'There seem to be three explanations of this Bill. The first is that the Government, due to a lack of more constructive Measures, have served us up with this Bill in order to fill in time. The 82 second is that the Defence Services are thinking ahead in terms of acquiring land for rocket bases. The third explanation might be that in certain quarters of the War Office there is a feeling that there might be certain redundancies there and that they should, therefore, produce something to show activities to justify their existence.
I am not quite sure whether the answer is not a combination of the first and third of those explanations, because, if this Bill were regarded as a major contribution to defence, one would have expected the Minister of Defence to take a mild interest in it, whereas not only is he not here but he has not bothered to put his name to the Bill. The only redeeming feature seems to be in paragraph 2 of the Financial Memorandum:These expenses will be small.That is some consolation.
I hope that some attempt will be made to answer the very pertinent questions put, in particular, by my hon. Friends the Members for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) and Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd). What are the manœuvres to be about? Are we to move large masses of men in the wide spaces of Scotland? There are several passages referring to Scotland which seem to indicate that there are, after all, some further designs on that country. The interest that Scotland is taking here is that no representative of the Scottish Office is present.
If this Measure is looking ahead to 1961, or 1962, it is pertinent to ask where we are to get the men to manœuvre in the wild, open spaces of Scotland. What is the present recruiting position in Scotland? I recently put questions as to how many men have lately joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the H.L.I., and the figures I received read something like five in October, four in November, and three in December—progressively decreasing.
The latest figures appear to show that in a month's time the number of Army recruits from Glasgow and the West of Scotland will be able to fill the back seat of Lord Montgomery's motor car. If that is the number of men joining the Army, it looks as if something about the size of the average football pitch will be sufficient for the manœuvres. If 83 there are no soldiers joining up—and there is every reason to believe that they are not joining up—what is the purpose of these provisions?
The answer may be that we are to be forced, when voluntary recruiting has broken down, to recruit for the Army by a continuation of National Service. If it were the Government's intention to continue National Service and, by that means, get the numbers required for manœuvres—by calling up unwilling recruits—this Bill would be understandable, but, according to the latest authoritative statement in another place, it is not the Government's intention to continue National Service after 1961, 1962 or 1963. That being so, why do the Government attach major importance to this Bill when there is likely to be a very small number of soldiers by 1962?
In spite of that situation, we get this elaborate Bill with provisions for the distant future. I hardly think that the Government are so far-sighted that all this is concerned with the acquiring of a new kind of base in Scotland. As far as we can judge, we are not likely to have the position of South Uist repeated on the east coast of Scotland—or perhaps we are.
Before we give the Government power to acquire land, either in the west of Scotland or in the east of Scotland, we are entitled to have some idea of the purpose for which the land is to be used, because it would mean taking away a certain amount of agricultural, forestry, grazing and other land. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles has given a very detailed catalogue of the day-to-day improvisations and blunders connected with the South Uist scheme. I feel that in this Bill there may be a very sinister long-term purpose connected with the latest type of military thinking, such as was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees.
Do these provisions for Scotland mean that the Government are toying with the idea of acquiring more land on the northeast coast of Scotland? I ask because parallel with this idea of the need for land for military bases there come, day after day, reports of the development of atomic submarines, which are to be used to fire missiles with atomic warheads. Therefore, if we are to have bases on the 84 north-east coast of Scotland, we will be placing them at the nearest point at which they may be expected to be destroyed by the Russian submarine fleet. According to the Liberals in Scotland, the answer is that our defence rockets should be fired from vessels at sea. If that idea is incorporated in our defence strategy, why do we need to have new and elaborate plans and proposals for acquiring more land?
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees say that the missile bases would not be placed in Scotland. I do not know whether that is due to some later thinking on the part of those responsible for defence strategy or because of the strong opposition which has grown up in Scotland against missile bases.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
As I understand the position, it is quite possible for the Government to requisition land in Scotland for any purpose they like. Do I understand from the hon. Member that he wishes that Defence Regulations should be cancelled and not be replaced in any form, even in the modified form proposed in the Bill?
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member puts his finger on the difficulty. If the military authorities now have all the powers they require for missile bases, what is the purpose of the Bill? I am trying to get from the Government a clear, concrete reason for the Bill. The opposition in Scotland may have caused the Government to change their point of view. I hope the strategy will not now be that land should be acquired near Stockton. I hope there would be the same volume of public opinion and sense of danger in the northeast of England or in the south-west, even in Cornwall, as in Scotland. If the idea gets about that the Government are now taking new powers for acquiring missile bases, the opposition which I hope has been successful in Scotland will immediately appear in other places. I do not think that the Government would dare to adopt the tentative suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees and put missile bases on Streatham Common or near any big industrial area.
The more I look at the Bill the more inexplicable it is in its application to defence problems in the rocket age. We 85 read in the White Paper about the country being destroyed in three days and that there are proposals for evacuating as many as 1,500,000 people to other parts of the country.
There is an explanation in today's Daily Express why Scotland is not likely to be chosen for the acquiring of land for this purpose. It is that ballistic missiles fired from the north-west of Scotland would have to pass over neutral territory to reach Russia. We are told hat Sweden has protested. The Government find themselves in the difficulty that they would be breaking international law by sending up a hydrogen bomb on a rocket from the north-west of Scotland. Those geographical exactitudes do not rule out missiles from England.
If we are facing a complicated problem of international law, could we not solve our problem of acquiring land by becoming a neutral country and abandoning the ideas of Victorian and pre-Victorian military strategy? Nothing in the Bill is relevant to the problem that is oppressing the minds of the people, how to defend the country in the event of a hydrogen war. I remember before the last war that Mr. George Bernard Shaw described our manœuvres as rehearsals for something that was not likely lo come off and which, if it did come off, would not be like the rehearsals. The Bill is irrelevant to the defence problems of the country. We ought to examine it meticulously in Committee to find out what the Government have in mind.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
One or two hon. Members have asked why the Minister of Defence has not seen fit to put his name to the Bill. When we read the Long Title and see the simple nature of the Bill, and how inoccuous it appears, we cannot very well expect a Minister of senior status like the Minister of Defence to put his name to it. The Bill provides forthe termination of certain emergency powers and to make certain provision in substitution therefor; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.Those are all simple words. The Minister of Defence would seem to have very little connection with that type of provision.
As the debate has proceeded we have learned that, even under that simple 86 statement, we can deal with birds' eggs, the birds that laid them, the land on which they were laid, the sea on which the birds float, with missile bases, sea bases, and almost the entire scope of the defence of the country. The Bill seems to progress when we look at the Financial Memorandum, which tells us a little more, but not as much as we would wish. Almost every paragraph in the Financial Memorandum tells us that the expenses will be small. It says, in paragraph 2:these expenses will he small.in paragraph 6it is not expected to be large",and, in paragraph 8this expenditure will be small".One would think that the Bill was to cost nothing at all, until we began to read paragraph 7, which deals with the acquisition of land. There we find:The expense of acquiring such land from time to time cannot he predicted.We are now dealing with landlords, the people who own the trout, the salmon and the grouse. When we deal with them we just cannot predict what it will cost. It may be £100,000 and it may be £500,000. Yet this bill is essential for the defence of the country.
When we progress a little further we see the Bill in another aspect altogether. In Clause 21 we come to what seems to me to be the most comprehensive part of the Bill. If the House will bear with me I will read it. It comes under the heading of supplementary and general provisions, and says:Where by virtue of any of the provisions of this Act any duty is to be performed, or any power exercised …by any Minister. At that point I interrupted the Secretary of State for War. He told me that the indefinite article "a" meant "any".
So where the duty is to be performed, or the power exercised by any Minister.any person duly authorised in writing by that Minister may, at any reasonable time, enter upon any land, other than land covered with buildings, for the purpose of surveying that land in connection with, or with proposals for, the performance or exercise of that duty or power …I do not imagine that any more complete power could be conferred upon any Minister of State. Under Clause 21, he can do any "blinking" thing he likes at 87 any "blinking" time he likes, in any "blinking" part of the country he cares to choose.
It was, I thought, a simple Bill, though I must confess that, when the Secretary of State was introducing it, he referred so often to manœuvres here, there, and in the next place that I thought he was introducing a Bill dealing with the City of London, where many manœuvres, I am told, are said to go on. By "City" I mean a certain place of which we can all think. I hope that we shall have a further word from the Attorney-General about Clause 21 and the enormous powers—powers, almost, of a dictator—which it seems to confer on any Minister of the Crown.
A good deal has been said about the need for land. As I have already said, we do not know what price is to be paid for that land. The question has been put by one of my hon. Friends: how much land has the War Office already? Furthermore, how much of that land in the hands of the War Office or any other Department of the Government does the United States of America possess or rent? It would be worth while to know what part of our country still remains in our hands to defend.
The question of missile bases in Scotland has been raised and reference has been made to the amount of land necessary for this purpose. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, there have been all sorts of rumours in Scotland, and a very strong note of protest has been struck by the trade union movement, by the Labour Party and by Christian organisations in Scotland that it should be proposed to devote so much of our land to missile bases, particularly when most people believe that the missile base is not really a form of defence at all. In fact, when one comes to read Clause 7, it seems that the Government are now abandoning the idea of the missile base in Scotland, perhaps for the reason given by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) or, perhaps, more for another reason altogether.
In the Scotsman of 19th December last, we were told that theSoviet Navy, now second only in strength to that of the United States, is designing under-water satellites. They are projected as atomic powered submarines large enough to carry 88 intermediate range ballistic rockets with a radius of over 1,500 miles.Now that the Soviet Navy is developing a missile to be used in that way, is the seeming change of front with regard to land-based missile bases in Scotland a reality? Have the Government changed their minds about it? Are they proposing not to have those bases now, and are they thinking of the submarine as the launching site and making provision for that in Clause 7, which deals with the use of sea areas for defence purposes?
I do not want to repeat what has been said by my hon. Friends about the agitation created in Scotland at the mention of establishing missile bases there. If the Government have now departed from that idea, are they prepared to say so tonight? They can depend upon it that, if they intend to use the harbours, walks and sea inlets on the western coast of Scotland for submarine bases, then the protest provoked by that will be just as great as the protest evoked by the thought that land bases were to be established in Scotland.
It is not that Scotland is not prepared, if necessary, to play its part in defence, but there is no reason, in my view and the view of many of my colleagues, why this useless form of defence should be established in Scotland, particularly at a time when we may be able, through talks and by agreement, to reach a solution of the difficulties which compel us to act along these lines in matters of defence. I hope that when the Attorney-General replies he will say something about Clause 7 and, more particularly, about the enormous powers conferred by Clause 21.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)
Anyone connected with Norfolk must be worried when he sees that the Government are taking additional powers, or powers in substitution for others, to acquire land and deal with the problems which arise when land is acquired, whether for battle training purposes, airfields, or missile bases.
I have had correspondence from constituents expressing the hope that Norfolk, which already accommodates so many forms of defence installation, will not be expected to accommodate missile bases. Hon. Members from Scotland seem to think that they have won a battle and that none 89 will be established north of the Border. If that is to mean that five are to be elsewhere on the East Coast, we feel just as strongly that they should not be established in our locality.
So far as the existing establishments are concerned, there is the Stamford battle training area. As a member of the county council, I was engaged only last week in a committee dealing with the alternative roads round that area. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this area was acquired in 1942. We have not yet the alternative roads for local traffic which would replace those which are inside the area. Will the Bill enable a speedy decision to be made when an area is acquired so that we shall be able, in less than fourteen years, to have alternative arrangements made for the convenience of those who use the highways?
There is also the question whether better use is made of the land inside battle training areas. I was interested to notice the other day, in another committee on which I serve, that the War Office was asking permission to build shepherds' cottages. If that means that more sheep will be accommodated and grazed on the battle training area and fewer troops used, that is a very good thing. But I would like to know whether the fullest use is made of the land for grazing or for cultivation in addition to its use by the War Office.
I do not object to shepherds' cottages, but it was an extraordinary thing that in the course of using this area for battle training a large number of cottages were destroyed. Other cottages within the very area in which those cottages were destroyed are to be built. As I say, if it means the better use of that land for grazing purposes, I am in favour of it; but I would like to know whether it is possible to make better use of the land in addition to having it for training purposes.
May we have decisions about the stopping up of highways with regard to a number of airfields in Norfolk? Our difficulty as a county council is that one highway is crossed by an airfield. Temporary arrangements are made, and people normally using those areas constantly have to go 10 miles further on every journey. They do not receive any compensation. It is an extra expense and an inconvenience to them. When an effort is made to plan a road around the 90 airfield to get what is thought to be a final decision, it is found that somebody else has already come along and said, "The runways are not long enough, and that planned by-pass is not far enough out." Then everything comes to a stop again.
Ought we not now to be able to decide which of our airfields will be required for the next ten or twenty years? If there is one that is close to a built-up area, would it not be better to close it for flying purposes and use some of the others which are not of such great inconvenience to the people in the neighbourhood? There are constant complaints about the St. Faith's airfield and the by-passing of it. A decision cannot be arrived at because of alterations in the plans by the Air Ministry or somebody else. Cannot we have a speeding up of the decisions by the Government as to which airfields are to be retained in Norfolk and which are to be used for a number of years, so that we can settle the highway policy for the county to the convenience of the people who need to use the roads?
If the Attorney-General tells us where the missile bases are to be, I am sure that all those concerned will say, "We do not want them anywhere near our base." It was just the same in the days preceding the war and in the early months of the war, when hurried defence measures had to be taken. None of the people concerned wanted it. We know that we have to live together. Those who go out of civilian life into the Services are part and parcel of the community, and we recognise them as such. What they are doing is for the defence of the community.
I share the views of my hon. Friends who say that we should hasten the discussions with a view to avoiding the use of missile bases. We should try to bring about an understanding between the nations of Eastern and Western Europe so that this new and more horrible form of warfare need not be an established part of our defences, and these bases need not necessarily be constructed. If they are bases for defence, they are also targets for attack. The form of warfare that might now be indulged in, with atomic warheads in the rockets, is of the greatest consequence to the people in the areas where these bases can be constructed.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
The debate has ranged over a wide sphere. The Secretary of State, if I may say so, with the greatest of clarity and precision, put us early in possession of the purposes and framework of the Measure which he introduced. It is a Measure which can be described as "enabling" in character, but my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite naturally evinced great anxiety to acquire any information that may be at the disposal of the Government regarding the manner in which these powers are to be used. The amenity aspect, the agricultural aspect and the Nature Conservancy aspect of these defence measures, was, very naturally and properly, stressed. Hon. Members on this side, in particular, put questions—which I hope the Attorney-General may be in a position to some extent to answer—affecting their own constituents especially, and also affecting the wider scope of the Government's plans in general.
We ranged from subjects beginning with rare eggs to long-term strategy. We dealt with the missile bases and future conscription and, quite naturally, the general scope of the defence precautions which this Bill embodies were considered in the debate.
I should like to put certain questions, although I hope not to burden the Attorney-General unduly with further questions in addition to those already addressed to him. The last large-scale manœuvre in this country was, I think, in 1951, although there have been other manœuvres in Germany. The Secretary of State, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), referred to what he projected as a timetable for the making of manœuvre orders. As I understood him, he said that later in the year an order might be made, the Manœuvres Commission might be appointed before Christmas, and the order finally approved before April—or, at any rate, before the period of urgency from the agricultural point of view had begun.
I did not quite understand the Secretary of State, and I and, I think, the House would like to know whether he was referring in general to the sort of time-table which would be laid down for the making of the new orders, or whether 92 he was telling the House that one is to be laid later this year which is to follow the exact time-table that he described. I rather understood the right hon. Gentleman to be saying simply in general terms that that would be the kind of framework to be used when a manœuvres order was made. The House would like to be enlightened and informed precisely as to whether the Secretary of State was talking of a particular intended manœuvres order or whether he was speaking generally as to the sort of procedure that would be followed in the future. I shall be grateful if the Attorney-General would tell us about that.
Having asked that general question and, in a sentence, endorsed the desire of my hon. Friends for information on the various questions they have put, I should like to turn more particularly to the provisions of the Bill and put my questions concerning the Bill itself. In its first five Clauses, it deals with the procedure to be followed when manœuvres orders are made for the purpose of conducting large-scale manœuvres. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, in that respect the Bill supersedes the procedure which was laid down by the Act of 1897 and the later Act of 1911. It would be a great help if the Attorney-General could point out what are the salient differences in the procedures.
I know that an important change is the composition of the Manœuvres Commission. A striking characteristic of it as embodied in the Bill is one which is in consonance with the recommendations of the Franks Committee: namely, that the Commission is to be presided over by an independent chairman appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Apart from the chairman, the composition of the Commission obviously will represent far wider interests than was the character of the composition of the Commission set up under the 1897 Act.
I should like the Attorney-General to tell us, in a few words, what was the experience under the older Commission. What were the defects which have induced him to change to the system now contained in the Bill, and why does he think that the new system will work better in relation to the modern framework of our military manœuvres and military training and the maintenance of 93 our institutions than the former procedure?
After all, the former procedure contained powers in the Commission to lay down the limits beyond which the manœuvre was not to be carried. In other words, the Commission in the past could lay down protective qualifications designed to safeguard property and land from any ill effects from the conduct of the intended manœuvre. What the present Bill does is to cancel the former provision, which was contained in Section 5 of the 1897 Act, and substitute for it in Clause 4 (2) what does not seem to be very different from the provision previously contained.
The Clause in the Bill enables the Commission to lay down certain specific requirements relating to the conduct of the manœuvre. It is certainly open to consideration whether Section 5 of the 1897 Act was, in fact, far more comprehensive and effective to achieve its purpose of limiting the scope of a manœuvre than is Clause 4 (2) of the Bill.
I should very much like the Attorney-General to tell us why the old system has been abandoned and the new one adopted. I am not for one moment suggesting that there may not be an extremely good reason—I have no doubt that there is; but it would be of help if the Attorney-General would state in what respect the old system was found to be deficient and why it is thought that the new system will be superior in its outline.
Having skimmed over the first five Clauses and asked the Attorney-General a question or two, I should like to pass to Clause 6. That is the Clause which enables the measures to be taken that are necessary to initiate small-scale manœuvres. I notice, however, that in subsection (2, a), among the various activities which may be carried out on land acquired for a short period of time in pursuance of the Clause, is a power tocarry out … work on, over or below the surface of the landwhich is acquired for the temporary purpose of the short-term manœuvre.
For the purpose of the short-term or minor manœuvre, there is to be no Manœuvres Commission to lay down bounds beyond which the manœuvre 94 must not go. There is, apparently, the general power to carry out workson, over or below the surface"—in other words—at least, if no qualification is introduced—to make substantial changes in the nature of the ground which is used for the purpose of the manœuvre. I do not know why that is.
I notice also—my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) touched upon the point—that there is no provision whatever in the Bill requiring the authorities who make these changes in any way to restore the ground after the short-term manœuvre has been carried out. In this context, I should like to put a question to the Attorney-General.
Under the provisions of Clause 4 (3) of the Bill in relation to the major manœuvres—and, I suppose, similarly in respect of the minor manœuvres—the officer conducting the manœuvre is empowered, and, indeed, enjoined, to give certain directions and those under his command have to carry out those directions, which have, broadly speaking, to conform to the plan laid down by the Manœuvres Commission.
What is the position in law of the officer and those to whom he gives the directions in the event of damage following? Is he personally liable? Can any of them be under any personal liability? What is the law with regard to them? That applies to the main military manœuvres, but I suppose that by parity of reason it would apply also to the minor military manœuvres. Any information that the Attorney-General can give on that point will be welcomed by the House.
I should like to spend a moment or two on Clause 7, which enables the appropriate Minister to make byelaws concerning sea areas. In the first place, it is news to me that a byelaw can be made with regard to an area far out to sea and I take it that it cannot.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I am obliged to hear that. Can it go up to 500 or 1,000 miles out from the British coast? It would seem that that is somewhat extraterritorial in character and prima facie it would import a new doctrine in law.
§ The Attorney-General
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was astonished, I thought, that a byelaw could be made to extend out to sea. If the emphasis is upon how far out to sea it goes, I would say that a byelaw can only be effective up to the limit of territorial waters.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I imagined that the right hon. and learned Gentleman must have intended something of that sort. The point I am making, to which I should like him to address his mind, is that Clause 7 relates to "an area of sea" and is not, in fact, limited to an area of sea within territorial waters. It is conceivable that there is an error in drafting. If there is, I draw it to the notice of the Government. If there is not, no doubt the Attorney-General will be able to explain where I have gone wrong. I should have thought that in any case the Clause is not very happily drawn in that it does not contain any limit of distance in the extent to which these byelaws can be made. No doubt it will be a great source to my own profession and that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but whether it will make for clarity among non-lawyers, I somewhat doubt. However, far be it from me to complain too violently about that.
I should like to turn for a moment to Clause 10. There I have a somewhat similar—I will not say complaint—criticism, at any rate, to offer about the drafting. That is the Clause which enables the Minister to take steps to dispense with objects which interfere with his defence installations. I would call attention to the somewhat wide and indefinite scope of the word "vicinity" in the last line in page 13 of the Bill. What the Minister may do is to require that the occupier of the land shall remove or dismantle an object which is in the vicinity of the installation. What is "in the vicinity" and what is not? Are we to find ourselves under this Clause, too, with a rich and fruitful source of litigation? Or is it desirable that some greater degree of precision should be introduced by an Amendment in Committee on the Bill?
The Government use the word "object" of what may be the subject of a requirement to remove it. When we look at the definition we see that it is extremely wide and includes cables, wires, walls and moveable structures. A 96 building is made of wails. It is true it also has a roof. I have to suppose that there is a building a hundred miles away and that in relative terms a hundred miles away may be regarded as "in the vicinity" of the installation and that that building might be a gigantic medieval castle. It would be very odd if there were an order for "removing, reciting, or reducing the height of" a medieval castle. I will be more modest in my painting of the picture and say that the object may be only one mile away. However, it seems to me that the wording of that Clause is somewhat indefinite in its terms. I should have thought that was a matter we should want to look at very closely in Committee. It does seem to me to be very widely drawn and that we should want to look at it again.
I would in that context suggest that perhaps it is a little drastic and harsh in character. The Minister, if the occupier of the land does not comply with his behest, may enter and do the work himself. All he need do is to give him seven days' notice and the person entering on the land produces written evidence showing his authority; and the occupier, if he fails to comply, is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of £20 if he obstructs. I should have thought that when we are constructing our criminal provisions in Bills we should like maximum clarity so that the person charged knows whether or not he has committed an offence. I pray in aid that argument to reinforce the statement I have already made to the Attorney-General and to the House that the wording of that Clause will really require some reconsideration. It would seem undesirably wide in scope.
Clause 11 is a similar Clause, except that it relates to electrical installations which could be interfered with, and electrical apparatus. The definition of an object which might be the subject of an order to remove it is even much wider there and, as some of my hon. Friends have pointed out, includes a metal structure of a building. It only includes it, however, if, being part of a building, it is a metal structure which could be removed without appreciably affecting the subsequent use of the building or structure.
What happens if people disagree as to whether it does or does not appreciably affect the use of the building? Who is to decide that? It is, perhaps, difficult to 97 choose more precise language, but again, while lawyers, no doubt, may rejoice it may cause a layman some grief, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I should regard it from the side of the layman, much as we may dislike it. I hope that the Attorney-General will consider the justice of my plea to him in that regard, especially as he knows the difficulty with which I managed to voice it.
I ask the House to turn for a moment to Clause 15 (3, a), which seems to me to contain a somewhat surprising provision, if I have understood it correctly. Perhaps the answer is that I have not, and I should be grateful for enlightenment. The subsection in terms enacts that:The Treasury may make regulations … for requiring the Minister"—in this case, Lord Mills—by whom the order was made to keep in good repair any pipeline or works laid or constructed under the orderand to take steps, and so on. No doubt the many precedents which exist have escaped me; but they have escaped me. I cannot remember a Bill which has enabled the Treasury to direct that a member of the Cabinet is to do this, that or the other, or to refrain from doing it.
I should be very grateful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would tell me whether I am right or wrong in supposing that there is no precedent at least enabling the Treasury to make an order directed to a member of the Cabinet telling him what he is to do. Perhaps that is a new and convenient method introduced by the present Government, but it does not at first sight commend itself to me. I do not know whether it commends itself to other Members of the House who have considered it. I should be grateful if the Attorney-General will give some thought to that. It seems a little hard on the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, burdened as he is with rather exceptional difficulties at the moment.
These are the main comments I would make on the Bill. I would supplement them by one final comment which is one which again is designed to elicit certain information.
"Defence purposes" is defined in Clause 24 (1), and that definition, I think, is reasonably clear, but Clause 19 is a Clause which enables the Postmaster-General to acquire certain land. One of 98 the headings under which he can exercise that power and acquire the land is is he satisfied with respect to it that theinstallation in question is or will be used wholly or mainly for defence purposes"—which, as I have said, are defined—or forms or will form part of a system essential for the defence of the realm.Again, unless it has escaped me that phrase is not defined. It seems to me to be a very wide phrase, unless one can find somewhere else some precise definition of it. Any factory which can be engaged in the manufacture of an enormous variety of industrial products may be regarded as to a greater or lesser extent essential for the defence of the realm. Any factory in which a large or small article of machinery is made, I should have thought, might well fall within the definition of a factory essential for the defence of the realm. Surely there must be some limitation on the scope of that phrase, and if there is no limitation to be found either in this Bill or in some other legislative enactment, surely it ought to be incorporated in the Bill. We hope that the Attorney-General will look at that matter, too.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I am glad my right hon. and learned Friend has come to that question. I hope that he will follow it up. Clause 19 applies to the acquisition of land, and so does the Third Schedule. The provisions of the Third Schedule apply when an order is made under Clause 13. Under Clause 13, Part VII of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, applies. According to that, a notice in the London Gazette alone is enough, without notice individually to the people affected. I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to comment on that, and I should like the House to be aware of it. I am sure that in Committee my right hon. and learned Friend will consider the position to see that it is properly safeguarded.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I am sure that the Attorney-General will be grateful to my hon. Friend, as I am, for calling attention to another urgent consideration which requires to be dealt with in Committee.
I put these points because it seems to me that they are appropriate, in conjunction with the other points put in the debate, for the purpose of eliciting the 99 Government's present reactions. It is conceivable, though perhaps most unlikely, that the Government have not taken them all into account. I should be grateful if, in dealing with other points put to him, the Attorney-General will also say a word or two in advance touching the way in which the powers provided in the Bill are to be exercised, so that we may be guided in our attitude in preparing any Amendments for the Committee stage.
We have made it clear in debate that we accept the general purposes of the Bill, particularly as it is designed, as the Secretary of State for War has told us, to achieve two purposes which we think are commendable. One is to embody the recommendations of the Franks Committee into permanent legislation. The second is to dispense with the necessity in which the Service Departments might otherwise find themselves of having to acquire land when they wish to use it only for temporary purposes.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) began by saying that the debate had covered a very wide field, and with that I entirely agree. It has ranged from concern expressed by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) that members of the Royal Air Force should not think that all their geese were swans, to questions of recruiting raised by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). It has ranged from South Uist in the north to the heart of Dartmoor—and I was not sure where that was—in which the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) took such interest, although I think that he does not represent that part of Dartmoor which is commonly known as the Moor.
§ Mr. Hayman
Is not an hon. Member for one constituency entitled to refer to a place in another hon. Member's constituency?
§ The Attorney-General
I was not in the least disagreeing with that, but I was trying to fix the particular point in which the hon. Member took such an interest.
§ The Attorney-General
I was not touching that point at all.
Until the right hon. and learned Member for Newport spoke, I do not think that many points arose in relation to the effects of the Bill. Perhaps that was due in some part to the publication of the White Paper, Cmnd. 352, which accompanied publication of the Bill. That is a somewhat unusual departure, but no comment has been made on it so far in the debate, except by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I hope that on a complicated Bill of this sort hon. Members on both sides of the House found that White Paper useful and convenient. It may well be that it has lightened my task in winding up the debate.
This is a very complicated Bill, but I will deal with the criticisms made by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport. Its terms have been very carefully considered, and, if I may say so in praise of the parliamentary draftsmen, in my view it has been very well drafted. That does not mean, of course, that in Committee we may not find between us improvements which can be made.
I emphasise that this is an important Bill not only because it affects the powers of the Service Departments, but also because of its impact on the public interest in different localities, and because it affects the rights of so many individuals and so many interests, whether they be in common lands or otherwise. One of the most important features of the Bill is the improvement which it makes to secure that those affected by the actions of the Service Departments, and other Departments under the Bill, have adequate notice of what is proposed and a proper opportunity of putting forward their objections.
The Bill secures that there will be full consideration of these objections. I hope that I shall not weary the House if I indicate with a little more precision exactly what the machinery is and how it arises. In so doing I shall not only cover the point put by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), but also satisfy public opinion that in the preparation of the Bill there has been real consideration for the interests of those who will be affected in one way or another.
The right hon. and learned Member for Newport dealt with Clauses 2 to 5 as 101 though they formed one compartment, and it is convenient to take them in that order. First, he asked whether, in his reply to a question, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War was indicating any particular proposal for a particular manœuvre of the biggest type. The answer is, "No." He was giving a broad indication of the likely timetable. It is important to bear in mind what that is. Clause 2 makes clear, first, that there must be an Order in Council. That Order in Council, under Clause 2 (1, b) has to specify the period during which the manœuvres are authorised, that is to say, not less than nine months after the date on which the Order is made. That is the first step.
The Order in Council has to specify and define the area within which those manœuvres are to take place. Then there is the appointment of the Manœuvres Commission, and that is much more suitably constituted for the task which a Manœuvres Commission is now likely to fulfil than a Manœuvres Commission under the old Act of 1897. In those days, and perhaps up to the First World War, the manœuvres under that Act did not occupy a great deal of territory. There was not the same rapidity of movement as there is today. If manœuvres are to take place in this country in future, I understand that much more territory will have to be used if they are to be at all realistic and effective for the training of troops.
My right hon. Friend referred to six counties. If we are to have a Manœuvres Commission dealing with six counties, it must be and should be a body constituted differently from a Manœuvres Commission set up to deal with manœuvres in one county or perhaps two. The right hon. and learned Member for Newport asked what were the broad differences between the 1897 Act and the present Bill. I will pick them up as I go along, but that is one difference, and it is important.
Then the Manœuvres Commission has to make directions as to the use or nonuse of the land within the area specified in the Order. Clause 5 provides that the Commission has to send a draft of the directions and a copy of the order to every local authority. The local authority has to give publicity to the order and to the draft, and then representations can be 102 made to the Commission. It is mandatory upon the Commission, where those representations are made, to hold at least one public inquiry, and, if it thinks fit, two or more public inquiries into those representations. It has power to make alterations in its directions to give effect to those representations. That is a much better procedure than that under the Military Manœuvres Act. 1897, which provides merely that the Commission shall hold at least one public meeting to hear any objections to the draft order and shall consider all objections made. Of course, there has to be the reserve power to the Secretary of State which is contained in Clause 5 (5).
The power to make representations is likely to be a much more effective way of protecting the amenity interest, the ornithological interest and the interests of all concerned in the land which is comprised within the area covered by the Order in Council. I feel sure that the House will welcome the fact that all those concerned will have an opportunity of making their representations known.
I will deal with the question of whether an officer who gives certain directions is liable in law or not. The Bill picks up Section 6 of the Military Manœuvres Act. 1897, which is fairly wide in scope and which provides that full compensation shall he madefor any damage to person or property or interference in rights or privileges, arising from putting in force any of the provisions of this Act, and whether or not occasioned by the acts or defaults of the authorised forces….That is very wide and there is no doubt that where injury is suffered or damage is done by bringing into force an Order in Council under the Bill, full compensation will be paid.
Attention was drawn to the power contained in Clause 6 (2, a) tocarry out any work on, over or below the surface of the land for those purposes …Those are very limited purposes, indeed. The land can be used only for not more than a continuous period of 72 hours after seven days' notice and not more than six times in the year and there has to be an interval of 15 days between each use, so that the use of an individual's land will be very limited. Of course, if troops are to camp for the night, 103 it may be necessary to dig a trench or two as part of the exercise.
Here again, the provisions for compensation under the Military Manœuvres Act, 1897, are attracted. The protection for the individual in the making of an order under this Clause is provided in Part I of the First Schedule. I draw the attention of the House to that Schedule, because it is different from earlier Schedules under other Acts which cover much the same ground. This Part of the first Schedule applies not only to orders under Clause 6, but also to action under Clause 10, with regard to interference with defence interests; action under Clause 11, with regard to interference with electrical apparatus; under Clause 13, where it is sought to acquire land for any installation; and under Clause 14, with regard to way-leaves; and Clause 19, which the hon. Member for Leek mentioned and which refers to the acquisition of land by the Postmaster-General.
Part I of the First Schedule applies in all those cases and the House will see that before making an order the Minister has to provide a draft describing by reference to a map the land to which the order applies and then to serve that on every owner, lessee or occupier of any land—except tenants for one month or any period less than one month.
The Schedule goes on to say what must be in the notice and where the map can be seen. If no objection is made or if all objections are withdrawn, the Minister can make the order, either in the form of the draft, or with modifications. What is new is that he cannot make it with modifications unless he complies with paragraph 6 of the first part of the First Schedule, which requires that the owners, lessees or occupiers should be served with the notice making the modifications and should either consent thereto or not object thereto within a stipulated period, or that the modification should arise out of the inquiry.
This new system put forward for the first time in this part of the Schedule is an improvement on the existing system for the protection of the rights of individuals and for affording them opportunities for making their objections known and their 104 voices heard. All that has to be complied with before any order can be made under Clause 6 and the other Clauses to which I have referred. That answers hon. Members opposite, who said that there would be no Manœuvres Commission for occasional use. It is not necessary for a special commission to be appointed for occasional use when there is this degree of protection and a large measure of compensation obtainable.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the question of byelaws, which arises in Clause 7. This applies to an area of sea, tidal water or shore and, as my right hon. Friend explained, the difficulty arises because the power exercisable under the Military Lands Act, 1900, is limited to sea abutting a particular area of land. If we did not amend that Act, a great deal of land would have to be acquired solely for the purpose of acquiring power to make byelaws over sea areas and for no other object, and there was obviously a very strong argument for amending that Act in the way that Clause 7 does.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked how far those byelaws will extend. They will obviously apply within the territorial waters and will also apply to British shipping outside. We can expect British shipping to conform to our byelaws. I need not go into that matter any more, because the case for altering the existing law under the 1900 legislation, that is to say, for avoiding having to purchase part of a shore is clearly established and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the 1900 legislation sets out all the machinery which has to be followed before byelaws can he made.
I turn next to the Question of highways, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye). My hon. Friend asked whether the power of stopping up highways under Clause 8 (1) was analagous to any similar power of the Ministry of Transport in relation to a civil airfield. The answer is that if the aerodrome belongs to the Minister of Transport or the Minister of Supply highways can be stopped up by an order which is subject to the special parliamentary procedure under Section 28 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949. In other cases, 105 highways can be stopped up only under the terms of Section 49 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—and then only when development is involved.
I did not follow the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) about common land. No doubt he will have opportunities to elaborate his point in Committee. We are probably all concerned to preserve the right to enjoy common land. The Bill makes no mention of common land, nor does its powers in relation to that land differ from its powers in respect of other land. Any question whether common land should be used for this or for that purpose will no doubt be raised at the public inquiries which take place.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West asked whether the provision of alternative roads could be speeded up. I know that he had one aerodrome in mind. The difficulty is that the requirements of the Air Force differ from time to time. Somebody may design a new aircraft which needs a longer runway than we ever thought an aeroplane would want, and it may take time to decide whether to try to make aerodrome A fit for the aircraft or use aerodrome B. In view of the changing needs of aircraft, I am assured that it is not very easy to proceed very speedily in these matters.
One of the difficulties which has caused the insertion of Clauses 8 and 9 is the fact that, whereas in the past a highway was closed on condition that an alternative road round the end of the runway was made, in many cases such a condition has now become quite inoperative, because the runway has already been extended beyond the line along which the alternative road was to go. Under the present law there is no provision for varying an order as to the construction of an alternative road. The Bill provides power to do that, and I hope that it will consequently result in some acceleration of progress in dealing with the provision of alternatives to highways which have already been stopped up.
The use of the word "vicinity", in Clause 10, was criticised, and the Clause itself condemned for lack of precision. It is very difficult to be precise in one's language in this matter; indeed, there are occasions when one cannot be. I remember hearing an argument as to the precise meaning of the word "adjoin- 106 ing". We want to make the language as precise as possible, and in this case it isany object … on land in the vicinity of the airfield is in such a position … as to interfere … with".That definition must be interpreted reasonably. However much modern transport may improve or change in type, no one would regard an object a hundred miles away as being in the vicinity of an airfield nor, I would have thought, would a medieval structure come within the definition of subsection (2). It is hardly likely to be a moveable structure. In this context, walls are very clearly distinguished from houses, and such matters.
The Clause is subject to the provisions of Part I of the First Schedule. That is the safeguard. If an order is made the owner who removes these objects will receive full compensation, and if he does not do it it is only right that the Minister should have the power to enter upon the land and do it himself. The same observations apply to Clause 11. I shall certainly collaborate with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in a desire to improve both Clauses, but I do not think that much can be done in limiting them if they are to achieve the purposes for which they are intended.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that Clause 15 (3) provided a novel power to the Treasury to direct a Minister to keep in good repair pipe-lines established with money produced by the Treasury—and originally from the taxpayer. This is not a power to give directions; it is a power to make regulations—and under Clause 23 those regulations must be by way of Statutory Instrument and, therefore, subject to a Prayer. I shall certainly consider whether the form is right, and whether the regulations should be made by the Treasury, but I am quite sure that the House agrees that the object of the provision should be achieved if possible.
Clause 19 was the last to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman drew attention. One of the problems is that the Post Office may have put up an installation for defence purposes, and that part of the area required cannot be secured by agreement. I am advised that in the case of communications it is necessary to construct various small installations at different places along the route, 107 and that there is not much room for manœuvre. Along the line of communication instruments or stations have to be erected at certain regular intervals.
I do not want to go into any more detail than that, because I should probably get it wrong, but if it is not possible to put up a certain link in the long chain of these types of instruments the whole line becomes unusable. The object is merely to use these powers in order to ensure the completion of systems which are essential for the defence of the realm, and nothing else. It is quite right that a system put up with that object alone should have some use made of it when it is not required solely for that object. It is not possible to provide a definition in any detail of what is meant by the familiar phrase,the defence of the realm.I think that I have covered most of the points which have been touched upon in the debate. As I said at the beginning of my speech, other interesting questions have been raised to which, frankly, I am not competent to reply. Many of them seem questions which it would be appropriate to debate on the Air Force or Army Estimates, but which hardly come within the compass of this Bill. I hope, therefore, that the House will forgive me if I do not attempt to answer them. If there be any point which does come within the content of the Bill and which I have overlooked, I will endeavour to answer it.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) referred to the restoration of sites in temporary occupation. I referred to sites used for a longer occupation. That matter could be outside the scope of this Bill, but my right hon. and learned Friend referred to sites which were temporarily occupied and perhaps the Attorney-General would deal with that.
§ The Attorney-General
If the sites are not restored by the people who used them, that will enhance the sum payable in compensation under Clause 6. If 108 they are left unrestored, the owner may restore them and claim the expense of the restoration in compensation. If they are restored, the compensation will be so much reduced.
My right hon. Friend appreciates the kind remarks made by hon. Members on both sides of the House about the manner in which he has explained this extremely complicated Bill. He is also grateful for the response it has received, and will welcome any assistance during the Committee stage discussions to help make this as perfect a Measure as possible.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).