HC Deb 01 June 1960 vol 624 cc1504-6
Mr. Marples

I beg to move, in page 19, line 17, at the end to insert: (4) An authority having power under the said Section eighty-one to provide off-street parking places may adapt for use as a temporary off-street parking place any land owned by them or under their control, not being, in the case of land so owned, land acquired or appropriated by them for such a parking place. This Amendment has been framed at the request of the Association of Municipal Corporations, and I should like to say at once how grateful I am to the association for its assistance. It shows what good co-operation and consultation we have had with the local authorities, even though there has not been a great deal of time for it. The local authorities have asked for this power, and I think that it is quite a reasonable request.

The position is this. Suppose a local authority had a slum site on which it proposed to rebuild; that it had cleared the site, but felt that the moment was not quite opportune to go ahead with the rebuilding. This Amendment provides that the authority can use that slum site as a car park, and carry out some remedial measures—perhaps bulldozing it level, or perhaps putting down bricks for hard standing. The local authority can convert the site for use as a car park, and not have to keep the space idle during the waiting period before rebuilding. Money can be spent on it and, at the same time, charges can be made.

The association pointed out that during, for example, another Pink Zone next Christmas, perhaps, there might be similar sites that could well be used for car parking. It seems wrong that a local authority having a site which was not being used for building flats, or whatever the purpose might be, should have to leave the land idle. I therefore hope that the Committee will agree that this is a very reasonable Amendment, and accept it.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

Naturally, I wish to support any Amendment that has been agreed between the Minister and the local authorities to make easier the life of the authorities. I have tried to understand the Amendment as drafted, but perhaps it is too much for a Member to expect to be able to do that. To me, however, the Amendment reads as though it is to apply only to land acquired by a local authority for a purpose other than establishing a parking place.

What happens if the authority has acquired the land to build an off-street car park but has not the money to proceed with that project at once? Does this curious wording preclude the authority from using that land for temporary car parking? It sounds an absurd point to raise, but the Amendment specifically says …not being, in the case of land so owned, land acquired or appropriated by them for such a parking place. All I seek is to be sure that even though the local authority has acquired the land for a car park it is not prevented from putting that land to such temporary use.

Mr. Marples

I can give the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) that assurance. I quite agree with him about the wording. The purposes of the Bill are quite simple, but I find the wording somewhat difficult. I confess to being in some difficulty. We do not all have the sagacity or training of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who made his fortune at the law and now gives us the benefit of his advice for nothing.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I was able to follow the right hon. Gentleman because of the example in my own constituency, where there is a good deal of slum clearance, and where such use is already made of the land. I presume that the purpose of the Amendment is to make it legal for a local authority to do that, but my local authority has been doing it for a long time. I am also aware that the Association of Municipal Corporations is anxious that the Committee should accept the Amendment, and I have very great pleasure in supporting it.

Mr. Benn

I am now in a slight difficulty, Sir William. I was about to accept the Minister's assurance, but then he told me that he does not understand the wording either. However, assuming that the Parliamentary Secretary knows what is going on, we are prepared to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), considered.