HC Deb 21 April 1959 vol 604 cc341-6
Mr. Blenkinsop

I beg to move, in page 255, line 28, to leave out "four" and insert "two".

The Parliamentary Secretary has a last expiring opportunity of showing just that very little degree of independence necessary to accept this excessively modest proposal. I am heartened by the fact that I may even have the good will to some extent of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine). I noted in examining the report of the Reading Committee that it did not regard this as outside its proper consideration. It merely decided that it did not think that it was necessary.

I think that this Committee has the right to take its own view. This is dealing only with the form of publication of the closure or diversion of highways. My proposals are twofold, first that the publication should not be so onerous as to require publication in four successive issues of local papers if at the same time notification can be made in the London Gazette, as is done with—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Robert Grimston)

Order. I take it that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East is discussing both Amendments together?

Mr. Blenkinsop

Yes, that is what I am doing. Provided that there is publication in the London Gazette, it is not necessary to have as many as four successive publications in the local Press, though it is a matter for the Committee whether that should be required.

I emphasise that it is not enough in these days to make provision for purely local publication. As I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary is well aware, there are many bodies, with considerable membership on a national basis, which take an interest in these matters. They cannot possibly be expected to read through all the local publications which there are throughout the country. Their only chance of taking note of proposals for the closure or diversion of a highway will be if it is published in a central organ such as the one proposed in my second Amendment.

This is common form in other respects. There does not seem to be any reason why it should be rejected. It cannot be regarded by the greatest stretch of imagination as an Amendment of substance. It can certainly provide valuable further notification to those very important voluntary bodies which set themselves out to try to keep in tounch with such matters.

We welcome and admire the amount of voluntary work done by central organisations such as the Commons, Open Spaces, and Footpaths Preservation Society and the Ramblers' Association. There are many other bodies who go to a good deal of trouble to look after footpaths and bridle ways, and it is anomalous that they are denied the opportunity of doing so in this regard.

10.0 p.m.

It is even more anomalous when one looks at some of the other provisions in the Bill. In the Seventh Schedule there are provisions for publication in the London Gazette. All that is being asked is that a procedure should be followed in this respect, as is provided for in the Seventh Schedule. I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that this will be appreciated by a considerable number of the members of voluntary organisations who are doing their best to try to preserve rights of ways, because "highways" include drove roads and many different types of roads.

I assure the Parliamentary Secretary, if I could have his attention in these expiring few moments of the time available, that it would give Members on all sides the greatest satisfaction if, in this very minute degree, he would be prepared to accept these Amendments. I cannot see how anybody could in the slightest degree be disturbed if these Amendments were made. I can assure him that a number of people would be grateful to him if it were done.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

Perhaps I could put in a word of support for my hon. Friend's Amendment. We are dealing with a matter which is, on any showing, within the narrow terms of reference of the Committee. As such, it is not open to the objection which the Parliamentary Secretary has indicated stands in the way of other Amendments which has been put forward which are not consistent with the fundamental consultative character of the Bill.

This point was not considered by the Committee. If it had been nobody would have taken the objection that it would make a substantial change in the law. It would have been rightly regarded as being well within the terms of reference. My hon. Friend has drawn my attention to the circumstance that the national bodies play a great part in English life in watching over the preservation of rights of way on footpaths and highways. These are national bodies of great repute and considerable importance and they cannot be expected to look in all the local newspapers. Their efforts would be very much assisted if this type of entry were made in the London Gazette.

My hon. Friend in his other Amendment indicates that if that concession were made and notices were published in the London Gazette, so far as he and people of his outlook are concerned it would be sufficient if the notices in the local papers were made on fewer than four occasions, and that two occasions would be sufficient.

My hon. Friend has brought to the attention of the Committee considerations and factors which have not been present before. He has brought forward an argument which appears to many of us to be a valid one on a point clearly within the terms of reference of the Committee and I should have thought it appropriate to consider seriously the acceptance of the Amendment or, at least, to indicate a readiness to consider it and have the matter referred to again on Report.

Mr. Nugent

I have listened with care to the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) and the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine). I confess that I had been persuaded by the argument set out in paragraph 77 of the Report of the Reading Committee, who, although the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill may not remember it, considered this point and concluded that the existing provision for public notice of these applications was sufficient. I had thought that that was probably the best view.

This is not, however a change of substance and, therefore, does not stand in the same light as the other Amendments which have been put to me tonight. I accept that the merits of the argument are good, that there are national associations who give their public service as guardians in these matters and that they may well miss notices in local papers. To change the law from four notices in local papers to two in local papers and in the London Gazette is such a small change that we might say, in the same spirit as the traditional story, that it is only a little one and, therefore, will pass notice.

I am fortified in that by having the backing of the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill, who was a member of the Reading Committee. I cannot help thinking that if the question had come up in the Joint Select Committee, it would probably have been recommended there as a trifling change to which no one would have objected.

Mr. A. J. Irvine

It is true, as the hon. Gentleman has indicated, that the matter was considered by the Reading Committee; I did not desire to suggest anything to the contrary. My recollection, however, is that the vital point that the interests of the national associations concerned in this matter would be better served by publication in the London Gazette was not brought to our attention.

Mr. Nugent

That is the vital point and I regard it as a good one. At least, it is a great pleasure for me tonight to be able to say, "Yes" for once, even if this is the final Amendment from the Opposition. Therefore, I shall be glad to accept the Amendment and I advise the Committee to do so.

Mr. Blenkinsop

In view of what I have said before, I should like merely to say how grateful I am for this last minute repentance and expression of good will. I am grateful for the support of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 255, line 29, after "publish", insert "in the London Gazette and."—[Mr. Blenkinsop]

In page 256, line 10, at end insert: 6. Subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Schedule, the authority on whose application an order under the said section one hundred and eight stopping up or diverting a highway was made shall pay to any statutory undertakers an amount equal to the cost reasonably incurred by them in or in connection with—

  1. (a) the execution of undertakers' works required in consequence of the stopping up or diversion of that highway, and
  2. (b) the doing of any other work or thing rendered necessary by the execution of undertakers' works.
7. If in the course of the execution of undertakers' works under paragraph 5 of this Schedule—
  1. (a) apparatus of better type, of greater dimensions or of greater capacity is placed in substitution for existing apparatus of wores type, of smaller dimensions or of smaller capacity, or
  2. (b) apparatus (whether existing apparatus or apparatus substituted for existing apparatus) is placed at a depth greater than the depth at which the existing apparatus was,
and the placing of apparatus of that type, dimensions or capacity or the placing of apparatus at that depth, as the case may be, is not agreed by the authority concerned, or, in default of agreement, is not determined by arbitration to be necessary, then, if it involves cost in the execution of the undertakers' works exceeding that which would have been involved if the apparatus placed had been of the existing type, dimensions or capacity, or at the existing depth, as the case may be, the amount which apart from this paragraph would be payable to the undertakers by virtue of the last foregoing paragraph shall be reduced by the amount of that excess.—[Mr. Nugent.]
In page 256, line 46, at end insert: 9. An amount which apart from this paragraph would be payable to undertakers in respect of works of theirs by virtue of paragraph 6 of this Schedule (and having regard, where relevant, to paragraph 7 of this Schedule) shall, if the works include the placing of apparatus provided in substitution for apparatus placed more than seven-and-a-half years earlier so as to confer on the undertakers any financial benefit by deferment of the time for renewal of the apparatus in the ordinary course, be reduced by the amount which represents that benefit.—[Mr. Nugent.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules 13 to 26 agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered; read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.