HC Deb 24 July 1959 vol 609 cc1717-9

Order for Second Reading read.

12.38 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill re-enacts for Scotland the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, which received the Royal Assent on 16th July. This House assented to the use of this procedure when it concurred on 3rd July with the Resolution passed in another place on 2nd July. There was a precedent for the use of this procedure in the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act, 1947.

In accordance with the procedure the Bill was examined on 15th July by the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, which reported that there was no point to which it thought the attention of Parliament ought to be directed. The Joint Committee made one Amendment only, namely, to Clause 56 (3), the effect of which was simply to substitute the actual date on which the Bill comes into operation, namely, 16th August, 1959, for a reference in general terms to the coming into operation of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, to which the Royal Assent has already been given.

I think it is generally accepted that there is a need to re-enact the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, in Scottish form without delay for the convenience of those in Scotland who will have occasion to make reference to this piece of legislation in the course of the next few months. Representations have been received from many quarters that that should be done including the associations of local authorities and the Law Society. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) drew the attention of this House to a memorandum prepared by the Faculty of Advocates and circulated to Members of Parliament. In deference to these representations I gave an undertaking in this House on 23rd March that we would proceed to re-enact the Bill, as it then was, in Scottish form without delay.

I concluded by saying that we hoped to get the re-enacting Bill on the Statute Book at the earliest possible stage. When that Bill was given a Second Reading in the House the Secretary of State made a reference to the possibility of using this procedure and proceeding in this way. We are honouring that undertaking now, and I am sure the House, and Scottish Members in particular, will welcome the efforts we have made to do so, despite considerable difficulties, and will give us every assistance in getting the Bill through.

12.40 p.m.

Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised if I inform him that we do not propose to oppose this Second Reading. As a matter of fact, we could not do so if we wanted to because, as he has just announced to the House, this is re-enactment of a Bill on which the House has already decided. Consequently, there is very little to be said. It will, however, bring general satisfaction to Scotland.

We can regard it as a victory for the Opposition, because at every stage of the former Bill we pressed for a separate Bill for Scotland and the pressure was to some extent rather resisted. One feels that in recent years shudders have run through the corps of Scottish Ministers at the prospect of a major Scottish Bill going to the Scottish Grand Committee. They seem to visualise long processions of days in that Committee while my colleagues examine every line and word and comma, not only with the closest and most expert scrutiny, but with a skill in dialectics and debate which is, I think, unsurpassed in the long history of committee analysis of legislative minutiae. I think Ministers would often feel they would go to almost any lengths to avoid this ordeal.

However, although the original recoil from the advocacy for a separate Scottish Bill was almost a reflex action, the hue and cry for such a Bill was very powerfully reinforced by the impressive and stentorian group of voices from Scotland which the hon. Gentleman mentioned; advocacy in thunders from Parliament House and the columns of the Scotsman and local Government officials swelled the chorus, and the Government yielded gracefully and the case was conceded, and that is justified by the Bill before us, a Bill of 56 Clauses, nine Schedules and 90 pages.

We are glad to welcome it, although we disagree, of course, with many of its contents. But we have fought that battle. That battle has been decided in the United Kingdom Bill. It will be a very great facility to officials and members of the profession and to the general public in Scotland in the operating of the legislation and in its interpretation to find that they do not have to look up so many Scottish references and Scottish applications. I hope that the House will not only now give the Bill a Second Reading but will speed its passage through all its stages before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]

Committee upon Monday next.