HC Deb 25 June 1958 vol 590 cc435-8
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)

I beg to move, in page 8, line 5, to leave out "to other land".

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that the previous Amendment in my name had been selected, namely, in page 8, line 5, to leave out from the first to "to" the end of line and to insert "destroy the weeds".

Mr. Speaker

I did not intend to call that Amendment, but the hon. and learned Gentleman can discuss the point of it on this one.

Mr. Hare

The Amendment I have moved is designed to remove doubt. It makes it clear that we can require an occupier to prevent weeds from spreading even on his own land and that we need not, therefore, wait until there is a risk of weeds spreading on to somebody else's land. It was the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who, during the Committee stage, was worried lest the words "other land" meant land in the occupation of some other person. This was not what we intended and this is the means by which I hope we can clear away the doubts in his mind.

Mr. Paget

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for moving this Amendment. The old Corn Production Act has provided for about thirty years that there is a duty to one's own land and that a man has not got the right to neglect his land and allow it to become infested with weeds. It seemed to me to be a marked retrogression to return to the proposition that a man might abuse his own land to any extent so long as his weeds did not spread on to the land of a neighbour.

4.15 p.m.

That has been corrected in a measure, but I still prefer the words of my Amendment to those used by the Government. As far as I can see, the words used by the Government seem to give a kind of squatter's right to existing weeds. Apparently, the pre-notice weeds are all right and one can leave them as long as one likes; it is only the post-notice weeds which are involved and one has to deal with the situation that the weeds do not spread further.

I cannot see that the words I suggest are not sufficient. I suggest that instead of using the words "to prevent the weeds from spreading to other land", we should insert "destroy the weeds". I cannot see that my words are weaker, because I cannot think of any method by which one can destroy weeds without preventing them from spreading. Certainly, my words are inclusive of the words used by the Government. I would have thought they were more simple, that they deal with the existing weeds, and that they do not provide the comic situation of squatter's rights for weeds.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will say that he will look at the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. The Minister would not have had an opportunity of considering it when he put down his own, and the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend is certainly more offensive to the weeds.

Mr. Hare

This is rather a question of dialectics. It is a very complicated subject. As the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) realises, I had considerable sympathy with the two points he raised in Committee. This is not quite as easy as he suggests. If I comment on what he said, it may be helpful to the House.

In Committee, the hon. and learned Gentleman argued that the Clause should give power to require the destruction of weeds, apparently because he regarded this as more drastic than the power to require weeds to be prevented from spreading. That is really the purpose of his Amendment which has not been called. I must point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that some weeds, when they reach the seed bearing stage, can still spread their seed even if they have been destroyed by being cut down. In short, killing the weed does not necessarily prevent it from spreading. Therefore, I believe that my words are stronger in our common aim than are his.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Willey

I beg to to move, in page 8, line 19, to leave out "fifty" and to insert seventy-five".

It will probably meet the convenience of the House if I say that the following Amendment to line 21, after "hundred". Insert "and fifty" is of a similar character. These Amendments deal with penalties. The matter was raised in Standing Committee when the Minister said that he had an open mind. We are now putting forward a compromise suggestion which I hope will be acceptable to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. T. Fraser

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is quite right in saying that we had a useful discussion on this subject in Committee. We were all rather open-minded in that we realised that it was extremely difficult to decide what should be the fair level for penalties of this kind. I gather that the hon. Member has done some thinking. I have done a little thinking, too, and I do not see why we should not agree. I am prepared to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Willey

I am so dumbfounded by the fact that the Government have at last accepted an Opposition Amendment that I cannot adequately express my gratitude.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 8, line 21, after "hundred", insert "and fifty".—[Mr. Willey.]