HC Deb 27 July 1960 vol 627 cc1660-5

Lords Amendment: In page 3, divide Clause 4 into two clauses, the first to consist of subsections (1) and (2); and the second to consist of subsections (3) to (7) inclusive.

Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Clause deals with two quite distinct subjects. The first two subsections deal with the duration of site licences and the other subsections deal with conditions which might be attached to site licences. It would make for clearer presentation if the Clause were accordingly divided into two separate Clauses.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In line 40. after "or" insert subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section.

Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This is a paving Amendment for the next Amendment, to page 4, line 16, to insert a new subsection, and perhaps it would be convenient to discuss the two together.

Hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee may recollect that there was some discussion as to whether the Bill, as worded, would empower local authorities, in the conditions attached to a site licence, to control the standards of construction of caravans. That was never the intention, and I think that it must be plain to everybody that that is a matter which can only be dealt with satisfactorily on a national basis. Indeed, I am aware that it is now being examined by the British Standards Institution. These two Amendments will put beyond doubt that the authorities will have no power to control standards of construction by licence conditions.

Mr. C. Hughes

As the Minister has said, there was a good deal of discussion on this point in Committee and on Report, and we were all agreed at the time that local authorities should have the power to exclude certain types of vehicles and structures. I think that the Minister himself mentioned old bus bodies, if I recollect rightly. I take it that now, notwithstanding this Amendment, that right is still vested under this Bill in the local authorities.

A further point is that the Minister has just said that the British Standards Institution is giving the matter its attention on a national level. Can we take it now that the Minister is keeping in touch with the Institution? I do not think that we should cut the local authorities out and leave the whole matter in the air. The House would like to be assured that the Minister is keeping in constant touch with the Institution so that we can have a national standard published as soon as possible.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Listening to the reply of the Minister in support of this Amendment, I wondered just what is to happen in regard to the construction of vehicles known as caravans until such time as we have some national standard introduced to control the construction of caravans. I wonder whether the Minister is aware that there is a tremendous development at present both of caravans and of caravan sites. Indeed, in my own part of Scotland, I understand that the authorities have been dealing with ten times as many applications for caravan approvals in the past year as have been dealt with since the passing of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which is an indication of the extent of developments of this type.

If we do not have any control at all of the materials to be used in the construction of caravans, how will it be possible for a planning authority, for instance, to protect the neighbourhood by ensuring that, before planning permission is granted, the caravans concerned come up to the standard of an acceptable modern design? As I see it, from the terms of the Lords Amendment, which have obviously been reinforced by what the Minister has said, until such time as the British Standards Institution lays down certain standards regarding the materials used in the manufacture of caravans, and unless at that stage we have a national policy, there seems to be little or no control to be exercised through the local authority over the type of vehicle which will receive approval and will come to be regarded as a caravan.

In my own part of Scotland we have all sorts of contraptions which have been fastened together, which are regarded as caravans and are sited in some place, and for which planning permission is sought. We have great difficulty in trying to control this development, and in trying to ensure that whatever is placed on a site will in no way injure the amenities of the district.

4.15 p.m.

We are not receiving a very great deal of encouragement by these Amendments, because the second Amendment is almost sympathetic to some of these proprietors, who are quite willing to construct any type of vehicle, irrespective of its value to the general community, and to regard it as a caravan for caravan purposes. It would seem to me that the Minister, in accepting the last Lords Amendment, should have been absolutely clear about its implications, and that he should give some assurance to the House that, in asking us to support the Amendment, he and his officers will certainly do all in their power to prevent the desecration of the countryside by all sorts of contraptions which may be called caravans.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance that there will be some control left in the hands of the local authorities when it comes to the granting of site licences for such contraptions. I should have thought that, to have that control, the Minister must have some regard to the nature of the construction, in order to effect the protection of the amenities. Can we have an assurance that there will be some control over the nature of the materials to be used in the construction of caravans, from the planning point of view, so as to prevent any further injuries to local amenities by irresponsible caravan proprietors?

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

I wish to raise one point which we raised on Second Reading and during the Committee stage as well.

Clause 4 (3, b) lays down that one of the conditions of the issue of a site licence may be for controlling (whether by reference to their size, the state of their repair or any other feature) the types of caravan which are stationed on the land;". I pointed out, both on Second Reading and in Committee, that the words "any other feature" would include the colour. Local authorities could make certain colours, such as green, cream, pink or blue, one of the conditions of the site licence.

As I see it, this condition which has been inserted—that no condition shall be attached to the site licence in respect of controlling the types of caravans stationed on the land by reference to the materials used in their construction—only takes away from "any other feature" the materials used, but does not detract from the possibility of a local authority specifying the colour of the van to be stationed on the site. I had hoped that the Minister would have brought forward an Amendment to omit this, because I think that it is a very retrograde step to give a local authority power to specify the colour of the caravan in the site licence.

Mr. H. Brooke

The point raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) was discussed both in this House and in another place, but on each occasion it seemed best not to withdraw entirely from the local authorities the power to include the condition relating to colour in their site licence. I should think that the power would be rarely used, but I can envisage a place of exceptional beauty which was a caravan site, perhaps in a prominent position in a National Park, and it might be considered desirable to require, under the site licence, that caravans in that place should not be of some extraordinary variegated colours which would catch the eye and spoil the enjoyment of other people. It seems rather different from standards of construction.

Regarding standards of construction, we must think principally of new caravans. Unquestionably, there is power in the Bill, with this Amendment included, for local authorities to control the standards of repair by site licence and also to exercise control against contraptions which one could barely call a caravan coming into a site. I think that the House would agree on that. But it seems rather unfair if a person buys a modern caravan and then finds that he is excluded from a site in a particular area because there happens to be a licence condition in force with which his caravan could not apply and could not be made to apply. So, here the approach has been different.

The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) asked that we should not lose touch with discussions which are going on. May I say that it was my Department which asked the British Standards Institution to take on this work. We are in close touch. We are represented on the technical committee of the Institution which is considering the standards and I can assure hon. Members that the work is going forward. I hope that it will reach agreed conclusions. There is no hostility to the idea among the caravan manufacturers, who realise the advantage of having British standards established. Hon. Members may be quite confident about caravans manufactured in the future. All we can do about the variety of caravans now existing, it would seem to me, is to empower the local authority to require a certain standard of repair, without enabling them to forbid a certain type of caravan from coming on to any of their sites simply because, in the past, when it was constructed it was not made in the way in which we should like caravans to be made today.

That is the plan behind the Amendment. If the Bill be enacted with the Amendment, it will retain for the local authorities all the powers which were given to them when the Bill left this House, with the sole exception that we have put it beyond doubt—as I think would be the wish of the House—that a site licence cannot contain a condition which would actually control the materials used in the construction of a caravan. In every other respect the powers of the licensing authority will remain undiminished.

Mr. Short

If I may speak again with the leave of the House, I would say that I am a little alarmed by one phrase which the Minister used. He envisaged an area of great national beauty, a National Park, and a caravan which would catch the eye. As I have explained many times, many of us consider that a spot of colour on the landscape which catches the eye is a desirable feature. When the right hon. Gentleman drafts the model conditions I hope that he will not put in any stuffy old-fashioned regulations about vans having to be painted a uniform colour—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot discuss model conditions on this Amendment. Some restraint is required to keep in order.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.