HC Deb 27 July 1960 vol 627 cc1669-75

Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 2,5, at end insert new Clause "B": (1) This section applies to any land in the area of a rural district council which is or forms part of a common, not being land falling within any of the following descriptions, that is to say—

  1. (a) land to which section one hundred and ninety-three of the Law of Property Act, 1925 (which relates to the rights of the public over certain commons and waste lands), for the time being applies;
  2. (b) land which is subject to a scheme under Part I of the Commons Act, 1899 (under which schemes may be made for the regulation and management of certain commons);
  3. (c) land as respects which a site licence is for the time being in force.

(2) The council of a rural district may make with respect to any land in their area to which this section applies an order prohibiting, either absolutely or except in such circumstances as may be specified in the older, the stationing of caravans on the land for the purposes of human habitation. (3) Without prejudice to the provisions of section one of this Act, any person who stations a caravan on any land in contravention of an order under this section for the time being in force with respect to the land shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds. (4) It shall be the duty of a rural district council to take all reasonable steps to secure that copies of any order under this section which is for the time being in force with respect to any land in their area are so displayed on the land as to give to persons entering thereon adequate warning of the existence of the order, and the council shall have the right to place on the land such notices as they consider necessary for the performance of their duty under this subsection. (5) An order under this section may be revoked at any time by a subsequent order made thereunder by the rural district council, or may be so varied either so as to exclude any land from the operation of the order or so as to introduce any exception, or further exception, from the prohibition imposed by the order. (6) Where the whole or a part of any land with respect to which an order under this section is in force ceases to be land to which this section applies, the said order shall thereupon cease to have effect with respect to the said land or part; and where an order ceases under this subsection to have effect with respect to a part only of any land, the rural district council shall cause any copy of the order which is displayed on that part of the land with respect to which the order continues in force to be amended accordingly, (7) The provisions of the Schedule (Further provisions as to orders relating to commons) to this Act shall, subject as therein provided, have effect with respect to orders under this section. (8) In this section the word 'common' includes any land subject to be enclosed under the Inclosure Acts. 1845 to 1882, and any town or village green."
Mr. H. Brooke

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

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

I must inform the House that this Amendment involves Privilege.

Mr. Brooke

I do not know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it would be convenient to discuss with this new Clause the proposed new Schedule A on page 6 of the Amendment Paper, which is related to it.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the House so wishes.

Mr. Brooke

The proposed new Clause and the new Schedule together look bulky, but, in fact, they redeem a pledge which I gave in Committee. The question was raised—I am not sure that I did not raise it myself first—about provisions concerning the stationing of caravans on commons. The reason why special provision is needed in that case is that, at any rate with certain commons, there may be no occupier who could be said to cause or permit…the use of land as a caravan site", to use the words in Clause 1.

As the whole of the licensing provisions in the Bill presuppose someone who is the occupier they would not be applicable to commons of that character. Yet I think that it was unanimously agreed in Committee that there ought to be effective means to control the stationing of caravans on commons of this kind. Fortunately, we have not got to go deeply into the law on common land in these Amendments, but the House will appreciate that a common may range from a small village green to a very large tract of country.

The new Clause is comparatively simple, and I will seek to explain it. First, it applies only to commons which are not already subject to the restrictions in Section 193 of the Law of Property Act, 1925. That Section applies mainly to urban commons and that is why this new Clause refers to rural districts and does not extend its provisions to urban districts. There is no need for that because of Section 193. It also does not apply to commons subject to schemes of management under the Commons Act, 1899. That, too, includes provisions for the control of caravans, so that there is no need for us to make fresh provision here.

What the Clause does is to enable a rural district council to make orders which will prohibit the stationing of caravans on commons in its area subject to any exceptions which may be specified in the orders. The procedure for making the orders is set out in the new Schedule. It includes prior consultation with any statutory conservators of the common and public advertisement of proposed orders. It provides for objections to the making of an order by the lord of the manor or other owner of the land. When an order has been made, notices must be posted on the land to inform the public of its effect. Contravention an order will be an offence punishable by a fine of up to £10.

The House will see from subsection (1) of the new Clause that it will not apply to any land which has a caravan site licence under the Bill—that is to say, it fits right up against the provisions in the Bill but does not overlap them. It adds to them. This proposal, which seemed to provide the most satisfactory and efficient way of ensuring control over the stationing of caravans on rural commons, is complementary to the licensing system in the rest of the Bill which, as I have said, presupposes the existence of an identifiable occupier.

It is the hope of the Government that this new Clause and Schedule, fitting in, as I have explained, to the other provisions of the Bill and also fitting into the existing statutes which will provide for control over the remaining commons, will thus effectively fill a gap which there certainly would otherwise be, as we all perceived in Standing Committee, in the application of the Bill to caravans on common land.

I am sorry that it is a rather complicated subject. I would willingly explain the matter at greater length if the House should so desire, but it has been examined in another place and the Government seek the assent of this House because, unquestionably, something of this kind is needed, and we believe that we have fashioned an instrument that will provide an effective control where there is no occupier, as there may not be in the case of common land.

Mr. C. Hughes

I think that the House will generally agree this is a necessary Amendment The Minister is to be congratulated on producing what is, after all, a relatively simple and clear Amendment out of the difficult maze of legislation on this subject. I do not wish to detain the House, but I have one question which I hope the Minister will be good enough to answer.

Am I right in thinking that, if there are several commoners, as there are in the great majority of cases, some who use the land and some who do not, and one of these commoners objects to an order, than the council is precluded from proceeding with the order if there is one objection? It is my experience that one does find the occasional commoner who is capable of making a frivolous objection. As I understand, if one commoner does object to public use being made of common land, the only way of getting use made of it is by introducing an Act of Parliament. I had an experience of that kind myself.

Is that the power of veto which is referred to, and is that the provision under the Commons Act, 1899? If that is so, it really will weaken the power of a rural district council to carry out the provisions the Minister intends. Perhaps he will be good enough to explain that point.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St.Marylebone)

I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has met the position as regards common land. It was I who raised it in Standing Committee, and. indeed, my attention, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), was drawn to the matter when we were going over Dunmail Raise, in the Lake District. The chairman of the planning board there pointed out a place which was common land and which was causing the planning board considerable difficulty. For that reason I raised the matter in Standing Committee, and I am sure that the whole House is extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for the very comprehensive way in which he has dealt with the matter.

As far as I can see, the Amendment certainly will meet all the difficulties which, it seemed to me, would arise if nothing were done. I wish just to express to my right hon. Friend my appreciation and that of those of us who felt that there was a gap in the Bill for the way he has filled it.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I am grateful to hon. Members for what they have said, particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield). I recall now that he was the first Member of the Standing Committee to draw attention to the omission of provisions far commons from the Bill. I am particularly glad that he feels that this new Clause and Schedule will cover the matter satisfactorily. I am grateful, too, for what the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) said, and I would just like to try to answer his question. It really relates to subparagraphs (1) and (2) of paragraph 4 of the Schedule.

The position is this. If an owner of a common objects to the proposal to make an order, then the council may not proceed with the order. That accords with the lord of the manor's power of veto as regards schemes of regulation under the Commons Act, 1899. In practice, of course, it is unlikely that the lord of the manor, or other owner of the common, will wish to object to the making of an order. It is difficult to conceive of any circumstances in which he would, unless he was satisfied he had alternative existing powers of control which rendered further powers of control unnecessary. There may, however, be objections by other persons, and I think that that was what the hon. Member for Anglesey had particularly in mind.

An objection by anybody other than the owner is dealt with in subparagraph (2) of paragraph 4. If objections are made by anyone other than the owner, then the order must be referred to the Minister. The Minister then has a duty to consider the objections and, having considered them, he must reach his decision. He must either confirm the order or vary the order so as to make it less restrictive or refuse to confirm it. Nobody except the owner has power of veto.

Mr. Ede

I take it that we are considering now only the new Schedule A, not Schedule B. Has the right hon. Gentleman given any attention to what would happen when, under the processes of the Local Government Act, 1958, what was an urban common is found in a rural district? It may even be a common that is in a borough at present, and the borough may become what is known in that Act as a borough included in a rural district. Some of the protection which is there now may be lost. Will it be part of the duty of the county council, in making the review of the county districts, to include in the order the necessary provisions to preserve the existing protections of the urban common when it is put into a rural district and ceases to be an urban common?

Mr. H. Brooke

If I may speak again, by leave of the House, I think that I can only take the responsibility today of explaining this now Clause and Schedule, and I should hesitate to explain what might be the effect of Section 193 of the Law of Property Act if a common which had been in an urban district and had been under the provisions of that Act were, through the operation of a county review, transferred into a rural district. What I can assure the House is that, if the common at the time in question, whether now or in the future, is in a rural district, then the rural district council will have power under this new Clause to make an order. I think that is the one thing about which the House, in connection with this Bill, will wish to be satisfied.

Mr. Short

I hope the Minister has satisfied himself about relying on lords of the manor not vetoing the orders. Is he aware that some lords of the manor are making a great deal of money out of caravan sites on common land and that he cannot be certain by any means that they will not veto orders made by rural districts? I should have been much happier if he had applied the same rules to objections by a lard of the manor, the owner of the soil, as he is applying to other objectors. I hope that he will watch this point.

Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]