§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.44 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill comes to us from another place where, despite a few criticisms, some of which were met by Amendments, it received a warm, general welcome. The Bill has three main purposes. The first is to give local authorities a number of well-precedented powers in the field of public health and safety. The second is to replace the system of prescribing and relaxing building bye-laws by a system of building regulations. The third is to bring under local authority control some effluents at present not under their control.
The firt point concerns the largest part of the Bill, in fact, the whole Bill except for Clauses 4 and 11 and Part V and is comprised of Clauses giving well-precedented general powers, all drawn from local authority Acts, to local authorities in connection with public health and safety. Local authorities have not really had any substantial increase in their general powers in this field since the Public Health Act of 1925, because the Public Health Act of 1936 was primarily a consolidating Measure.
Since 1925, new needs have cropped up. A number of these have been met by local authorities in their private Acts by new Clauses. Other local authorities have copied these new Clauses and a volume of precedents has been built up and some of these Clauses have achieved the respectability of graduating into the Book of model Clauses published under the authority of the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Lord Chairman. It is not altogether fair to local authorities that they should have to petition Parliament for powers which have been shown to be generally good. Nor is it altogether fair to Parliament that we should be required to scrutinise local authority Bills which, on this account, have been made unnecessarily long.
As recently as 1959, the Joint Committee on the Promotion of Private Bills 890 recommended that the Government should, at least every ten years, gather together into a public Measure a number of these new Clauses that have been found to meet general needs. This is the purpose of the bulk of the Bill now before the House. Most of the Clauses concerned are, as I say, well precedented. A number of them are model Clauses and, if and when the Bill becomes law, the number of 120 model Clauses will dwindle by 41, which are reproduced in the Bill. But they are not reproduced verbatim, because when we come to put a general power in the hands of local authorities, in general terms, we must make sure that it covers the widest form of need and that it harmonises with other legislation.
Most of these powers fall within the interest of my right hon. Friend, while some of them concern others of his right hon. Friends. Part III of the Bill which deals with the prevention and notification of disease concerns my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. Clauses 74 and 75, which are concerned with pleasure fairs and roller skating rinks and seaside pleasure boats, are within the sphere of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I can assure the House that no one of these Clauses, except perhaps Clause 76, should cause any political controversy.
I hope that the House realises the wide variety of subjects that are covered by the Clauses, which are difficult to summarise in a Second Reading speech. Those subjects range from rags to rinks, from cellars to chimneys, from skiing to skittles, and from pigeons to parks. The most commonly occurring subject is drains. These Clauses can be discussed in Committee, but I will try to answer any questions of principle involved. This part of the Bill is, I am sure, useful and will be widely welcomed by local authorities.
Clauses 4 to 11 intend to substitute for the present procedure of prescribing and relaxing building byelaws a new system of prescribing and relaxing them involving building regulations. But I would like to emphasise that there is absolutely no intent to alter in any way the powers of enforcement. Responsibility for enforcing them at present rests on local authorities who discharge these responsibilities ably and effectively and there is 891 no intention whatever to alter the responsibilities or the powers of enforcement. The Bill alters the procedure for prescribing and relaxing what are now building byelaws.
The present procedure is that no fewer than about 1,400 different local authorities have byelaw-making powers but they can only make byelaws subject to confirmation by my right hon. Friend.
All byelaws have to be renewed every ten years. The last review was in 1952–53. There can be absolutely no relaxation of any individual byelaw without the consent of my right hon. Friend, and if a local authority is unwilling to seek the consent of my right hon. Friend the applicant for relaxation has neither redress nor appeal.
It is true that about 70 per cent. of local authorities have adopted my right hon. Friend's model set of byelaws and the rest of the local authorities have bye-laws in rough conformity, but it is, nevertheless, also true that this machinery for prescribing and relaxing byelaws is cumbersome, time wasting and can lead, in some cases, to inefficiency. It maximises the work in local authority offices and in my right hon. Friend's Department, as well as in the offices of architects, engineers and all those concerned with the construction industry all over the country.
Every ten years a new set of byelaws has to be adopted by each one of 1,400 local authorities who may choose to adopt my right hon. Friend's model with OT without variations. Every ten years each one of those 1,400 sets has to be scrutinised and considered by my right hon. Friend and in due course confirmed with or without variation. Every ten years every one of these 1,400 byelaws has to be printed in a different local version and then distributed by each local authority as its own local version of the byelaws.
No designer in any part of the country can take it for granted that the bye-laws to which his building has to conform will be the same in one area and in a neighbouring area. In between the ten-year reviews, there is bound to be some delay in the adoption of new techniques, methods and standards of construction. Even if the developers of a new technique persuade my right hon. 892 Friend to vary his model byelaws, it may be years before all the 1,400 local authorities in the country are equally persuaded and have gone through the process of adoption of the variation, have had it confirmed and included it in the reprint of their own byelaws.
There is no procedure by which an applicant who cannot persuade the local authority to seek the relaxation by my right hon. Friend of any particular byelaw to make an appeal against that decision. This cannot be a sensible system for a country which is short of labour and which is particularly short of staff in local authorities. This cannot be a sensible system for a country so utterly dependent as we are upon technological change.
The Bill, therefore, proposes a much simpler mechanism. The proposal which is to be found in Clauses 4 to 11 is that my right hon. Friend should have power to make a central code of building regulations, and to revise it constantly as need may be, on the advice of a building regulations advisory council which this Bill will empower him to set up. The Bill provides that the regulations shall be laid as a Statutory Instrument and shall be subject to the negative Resolution procedure of this House.
My right hon. Friend is aware that some local authorities have expressed fears that existing local variations from the current model building byelaws will disappear when building regulations are made. I cannot, of course, give any undertaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend that any particular existing local variation will be preserved in building regulations. Uniformity is generally desirable, and if building byelaws were not being replaced by building regulations it would certainly have been necessary to have a further close look at the continued need for these variations in the light of revised model building byelaws and of local conditions.
But let me make it absolutely clear that my right hon. Friend has no desire to enforce uniformity where the general provisions of building regulations do not fit local conditions, and he will be ready to examine proposals for variations which will be directed towards some local need. He is specifically empowered by Clause 4 (2) to make regulations which may make different provisions for 893 different areas, and the Government included this provision in the Bill because it is recognised that special local circumstances may require special treatment. In fact, the position about local variations is not being materially altered by the Bill.
At the moment, a local authority has to make its case to my right hon. Friend for any variation from his model set of byelaws, and in future a local authority will have to make its case to my right hon. Friend for any variation of the standard code of regulations. I hope that this will put the minds of hon. Members at rest on this point and will dispel any lurking fears that my right hon. Friend has some predisposition to reject out of hand all suggestions for local variations regardless of local circumstances and need.
I have already stressed that the enforcement procedure will be left where it is now, in the hands of local authorities, but I should finish my description of this part of the Bill by explaining that two substantial changes are being proposed in the present system of relaxing byelaws. The Bill empowers my right hon. Friend to reserve to himself the right to relax those building regulations which he thinks might cause particular difficulty. But for all the rest, the Bill proposes that local authorities, without the confirmation of my right hon. Friend, shall have the power on their own to relax the other building regulations.
As a corollary to this, any applicant for relaxation, who is refused relaxation by a local authority in the case of a building regulation, for which it has power of its own to give relaxation, will have a right of appeal to my right hon. Friend. So much for Clauses 4 to 11.
Now I turn to Pant V, which deals with the powers of local authorities over some effluents at present exempt from their control. The House will be aware that by the Public Health (Drainage of Trade Premises) Act, 1937, local authorities were given general powers over trade effluent. Their consent since then has been needed for the discharge of any trade effluent into their sewers. Local authorities were then given powers to impose conditions on any such discharge and to make charges for any such discharge.
894 There is, of course, a system of appeal to my right hon. Friend. But the 1937 Act exempted from this control all trade effluents which had been lawfully discharged at any time during the twelve months ending 3rd March, 1937. Moreover, the effect of this part of the 1937 Act is that a trader may on every day of the year discharge, if he wishes, up to the maximum discharge made on any single day in that qualifying year, and the local authority is obliged to receive the effluents either free of charge, if that was the agreement made before 1937, or at the charges operating in that year.
A little while ago my right hon. Friend invited the Sub-Committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee that has been sitting under Sir Frederick Armer to consider the position. This Sub-Committee under Sir Frederick Armer had on it members from industry, local authorities, river boards and from the technical world. That part of its Report which refers to this subject was unanimous and was unanimously endorsed by the parent committee.
The sub-committee came to the conclusion that it would be wrong that this perpetual exemption should continue or that local authorities should have to go on indefinitely dealing with these effluents on pre-1937 terms. The subcommittee thought, on the other hand, that it would not be right to withdraw exemptions altogether—that is to say, to take away the right to discharge—hut it considered that such discharges should be dependent upon new consents which would enable local authorities, subject to a right of appeal, to fix reasonable terms.
Naturally, as a result of this recommendation there were differing reactions. Local authorities, on the one hand, regretted that the advice had not been to abolish the exemption altogether. On the other hand, and equally naturally, industry did not welcome the idea of higher charges. But my right hon. Friend was satisfied that the analysis of the position by the sub-committee and its solution was a just one, and he has followed its recommendations in Part V of the Bill.
I should only add, to explain one other change in the situation, that by Part V of the Bill some kinds of non-domestic effluent, especially agricultural ones, and 895 especially those coming from scientific research establishments which have not in the past ranked as trade effluents, are now to be brought within that class and thus under local authority control.
Those are the three main purposes of the Bill. The Bill does not apply to Scotland, to Northern Ireland or, apart from one minor Clause, Clause 70, to the administrative County of London. It draws heavily on the experience of local authorities, which have, through their associations, been very fully consulted. It is a useful and constructive Measure in a long line of such Public Health Bills, and I heartily commend it to the House.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The Parliamentary Secretary expounded the Bill very clearly. I shall be concerned mainly to draw attention to certain matters on which we hope to be more fully informed at later stages about the Government's intentions. The Bill was said by a noble Lord in another place to have had a tempestuous passage there. From a reading of the debates in another place, I think that there was not what we, in this House, should have regarded as a tempest, but perhaps standards are different there; nor is this really a very tempestuous subject.
I take, first, the subject of building byelaws. There is no doubt that a procedure such as that described in the Bill is necessary and desirable. I gather that the Minister will have power to make his code of building regulations apply to either England and Wales as a whole or to parts of England and Wales, but from the way the Parliamentary Secretary phrased it I gained the impression that, in general, there would be one code and that it is not proposed to have two or three different codes for different parts of the kingdom.
I have in mind, for instance, the desirability of requiring that building in certain parts of the country should be done with local materials. The Cotswolds is an obvious example. I imagine that that will be the kind of matter which the Minister will have to consider when drawing up his code of regulations and making provision for local variations. I believe that this new arrangement to have, subject to variation, one 896 code of regulations instead of 1,400 sets of byelaws will be welcome to local authorities and, even more, I imagine, to architects and builders.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that the Bill does not, with certain exceptions, apply to London. He referred to Clause 70. I think that Clause 78 also applies to the County of London. This is a small Clause which provides that the registration authority for a canal will no longer have to make a report to the Minister regarding canal boats. It is desirable to cut down the Minister's unnecessary reading, and I presume that what has happened is that such reports have not been found to be necessary nowadays. Perhaps we shall hear more about that later.
I believe that the reason given by the Government spokesman in another place for the Bill not applying to the County of London was that the whole question of the future government of the Metropolis is now under consideration following the appointment of the Herbert Committee and the appearance of its Report. I accept that it might not be wise to legislate in these matters for London in the present situation, but we cannot go on indefinitely saying that we should not legislate about this, that or the other for the Metropolis because we are all waiting to know what the Government's proposals will be for the government of London.
For all the local authorities in the Metropolitan area this is a matter of increasing anxiety. If the uncertainty continues much longer, they will have great difficulty in recruiting or, indeed, in retaining staff. I thought it right to take this opportunity to remind the Government that it will be desirable before long for them to make their proposals known to the House. It would be desirable for them to arrange a debate in the House before they formulate their proposals. This is a matter of great importance, and it might be wise for the Government to be fully acquainted with views on both sides of the House before they proceed. I hope that that will be done.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member will appreciate that that really must be as far as I can allow him to go on the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. It was as far as I thought it right to go. I hope that the Parliamentary 897 Secretary will draw the matter to the attention of his right hon. Friend.
I presume that, when the code of regulations is made, all existing byelaws will cease to have effect. The Bill explicitly takes away from local authorities the power to make byelaws. I could not find that it explicitly repeals—if that is the right word for byelaws—the existing byelaws, but I dare say that there is some legal device by which that comes about. I presume that the code will completely replace all existing byelaws.
When the new scheme is in operation, the Building Regulations Advisory Committee to be set up under Clause 9 will be a body of great importance. I hope that we shall hear how the Minister sees its composition. It will have to have professional advice, advice from people experienced in building, and so forth, and, I presume, it will have to have within its membership people acquainted with local authority work. The Parliamentary Secretary did not say anything about how the Minister sees the size and recruitment of that committee. It will be a matter of very great importance in the working of the relevant part of the Bill.
I turn now to the extremely miscellaneous part of the Bill which collects from local experience byelaws which have been found to be sensible and workable and makes them part of the general law of the land. It would be unsuitable to discuss those matters on Second Reading because, by their nature, they are a string of Committee points, but I wish to mention one or two to give notice that there are certain matters which we shall wish to examine in more detail in Committee.
Clause 12, which deals with sewers, requires that when a sewer is constructed owners of property the value of which is raised as a result of the construction of the sewer must contribute to the cost of construction. As a principle, that is perfectly reasonable. Normally, owners will be liable to be charged one half of the cost of constructing the sewer divided proportionately according to the yards of frontage which each property owner has. I am not sure that it would necessarily be true in every case that there would be such a close relationship between the cost of constructing a sewer and the benefits 898 which a particular owner of property might derive from its construction.
We may wish to look at that matter more closely. On the one hand, if a public authority does something which confers a special benefit on a private person, it is right that the private person should make a contribution; but there is the countervailing principle that, after all, the construction of sewers is a collective responsibility of the community. One ought to relate the contribution which a private person makes to the special benefit he derives out of it in contradistinction to the benefit which everyone in the community gains from there being a proper system of sewers.
I welcome Clause 27, which will give a general power to local authorities to enter upon an ugly neglected site and tidy it. They will not necessarily have to prove that it is dangerous to health, but simply that it is a threat to amenity. I am not certain whether the Clause is so worded to ensure that they have the power not only to clear it up in the first place, but to ensure that it remains clear and decent thereafter.
I think that, with recollections of certain passages of the Housing Bill, we notice with interest Clause 33, which states that a local authority can reject plans for the erection of dwellings if they do not make provision for bathrooms. It does not say that the authority must reject them, but that it may do so. I wonder to what extent nowadays plans to erect dwellings which do not make provision for bathrooms are put before local authorities. Surely it cannot be a very common occurrence. I should have thought that it ought to be the invariable rule at this stage of the twentieth century that plans of that kind should be rejected. However, there may be reasons why the rule should not be as general and inflexible as that.
If I may invade the domain of the Ministry of Health for a moment, I see that in Clause 40 a medical officer of health can request any person to discontinue his work because otherwise he may spread infection. The lawyers may have a different interpretation of the word "request," but it suggests to the layman that the person concerned can either comply with the request or not, as he 899 sees fit. It is fairly common, in legislation of this kind to use the word "require" and to make provision as to what should be done if there is not compliance with the requirement. I do not find such provision in the Clause.
There was a good deal of excitement in another place about the management of parks. I think that it was on this subject that the tempest blew up. I should have thought that the Bill as it stands has the balance about right. It is not unreasonable that a local authority should be able to say that certain parts of its parks are to be set aside for the use of, say, a tennis club, football club, or the like. Clearly, if it did that to excess, it would impose a serious injury on the main body of its ratepayers. However, there is a check on that in local public opinion.
This, unlike building byelaws, is a matter which can properly be left to the discretion of local authorities. If we pass the Bill. Parliament will put a fairly wide limit on the exercise of their discretion. I do not think that there is any great danger that local authorities will be in the habit of earmarking excessively parts of their parks and open spaces for this purpose.
Similarly, I think that we may trust the discretion of local authorities in the matter of how many pigeons and starlings which they should dispose of. The knowledge that they will not be liable to proceedings under the Larceny Act for getting rid of other people's pigeons will, no doubt, be of reassurance to them.
I suppose that the most difficult part of the Bill is Part V, concerning trade effluent. I am not altogether happy with this as it stands. As I understand the present law, if a trader was discharging effluent into a local authority's sewer during the year ended 3rd March, 1937, he can go on discharging it without permission and without charge. The law is at present so framed that, by a misjudgment or oversight on Parliament's part, sometimes the amount of effluent which he can discharge is very considerable and that Parliament gave greater powers in this matter to traders than it intended or that, on reflection, it would have wished to give.
The effect of the Bill is that traders in that position shall be able to con- 900 tinue discharging effluent without getting consent, but it more sensibly restricts the amount which they can discharge. It also enables the local authority to charge them for so doing with the oversight by the Minister to ensure that the charges are not unreasonable. All that seems to me fair and sensible. But what about a local authority which has entered into an agreement with a trader which allows him to discharge effluent for a charge fixed at the time that the agreement was made but with no clause in the agreement under which it could be brought to an end?
As a result, some local authorities are having enormous quantities of effluent discharged into their sewers and they cannot alter the charge which they make from a figure which was agreed, perhaps, thirty years ago. I know that the view of the Armer Committee was that an agreement is an agreement, that if people make an agreement they must stick to it and that if they do not put a clause in it to enable it to be terminated so much the worse for them. The Armer Committee did not use those words, but that is the inevitable implication of an agreement.
I do not know that Parliament is in a position to take so stern a view of local authorities, because it is fairly clear that when Parliament passed the 1937 Act it did not say what it really intended to say and produced in some ways an unfair and undesirable result. I doubt whether we should go on holding local authorities to the terms of agreements which were sometimes made a long time ago in circumstances very different from those of today. That is a point which will need fairly close examination in Committee.
I wish to refer to one other point which seems to me a little curious. I think that the regulations concerning safety, decency and cleanliness at fairgrounds and places of entertainment are reasonable, but I do not see why Clause 74, which gives a local authority power to provide for that, should not apply to any entertainment the profits of which are devoted to a charitable purpose. I should have thought that, if a person was burnt to death in a tent because there had not been satisfactory rules about making safety arrangements, it would be very poor consolation to him to know 901 that the fête was being run for a charitable purpose. I may not have understood properly how the Clause will work, but that is how it appears to me to read.
We can have a quite enjoyable Committee stage on the Bill. It is a very useful Bill which should make administration easier for builders, local authorities and everyone concerned with its subject matter.
§ 12.18 p.m.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
I should like to be the first on these benches to congratulate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for being in charge of a major Bill. It is one of considerable size and complexity. My hon. Friend is also to be congratulated on his very neat and concise exposition of a subject which is of fair diversity and considerable scope. I shall deal with a number of points made by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), because I found myself in agreement with quite a number of his observations. There is no doubt that the Bill had a fairly close examination in another place and was altered in shape. Many new Clauses were introduced and there were an amazing number of Amendments.
When I make a speech in this House, I usually try to make it in a reasonably logical sequence, but a Bill of the miscellaneous character of this one presents difficulties. One likes to start at the top of the problem with which we are concerned with the building regulations, but in this case the building regulations are not the top of the Bill because it goes above buildings into the air and covers such interesting fauna as pigeons and house doves. Then it descends gradually, by a cursory look at litter bins and at verminous premises, into the sewers, and eventually it sails out on a calm sea, I hope, of well-treated effluent in a pleasure boat fitted with an effective silencer.
That gives the House some idea of the very wide range of subjects covered in the Bill, and it draws attention to the fact that local authorities have very heavy and large responsibilities in the administration of legislation which we send down from the House. This is the third major piece of legislation on local government which has been dealt with 902 in this Session, and other pieces of legislation affecting local government have also come before us. It is fair to pay a tribute to those men and women who give up their time to serve the local authorities in a voluntary capacity as councillors. I think that if we do not have regard, as the Local Government Commission is enjoined to do, to the effectiveness and particularly the convenience of local government, and particularly that of the local representatives, we shall not get those local representatives to come forward and serve the public in a voluntary capacity. I hope that the Bill will be studied outside the House because of its wide implications and because it puts even more responsibilities on all in local government, both the voluntary representatives and the officers in local government.
May I turn to the Bill and mention, first, the building regulations. I was extremely interested in the explanation given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and one point which he stressed particularly was that uniformity is generally desirable. But he omitted to tell the House that the London County Council area is not covered within these new building regulations. The hon. Member for Fulham rightly drew attention to the fact that the Herbert Commission's Report had been available to the House for several months and that if we go on waiting even for discussion of that Report, far less for its implementation, in order to move on and to bring about standardisation or even minor reorganisation in local government, we may wait for a very long time.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government might look again at the ambit of these building regulations, because it might well be desirable for them to apply to the L.C.C. area as well as to the rest of the country. It is well known that today the area administered by the London County Council is not the same as Greater London. Half a century or more ago it was, but it is certainly not the case today.
I quote from what was said by the Minister of State in another place about this matter on 24th November:London has its own building by-laws, and I think it better to leave that matter until 903 the Report of the Royal Commission has been fully considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House Lords, 24th November, 1960; Vol. 226, c. 893.]I am not satisfied to leave that matter until the Report of the Royal Commission has been fully considered. I think that it is a matter which we could tackle in a piecemeal manner; it is not a central part of reorganising local government but a question of building bylaws, and I feel that we could make progress with this factor in this Bill and thereby, if I may suggest it to the Parliamentary Secretary, make the task or reorganising local government in London rather less onerous when it is tackled.
I think that we should know a little more about the new building regulations advisory committee. We want to know what will be the composition of the committee. We know that local variations will be possible in respect of the regulations which will be made, but will there be regional sub-committees of this committee, and if there are not to be regional sub-committees, will there be regional representatives on that committee? I put those questions to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
The Minister of State, speaking in another place on 24th November about this matter, spoke in general terms, as follows:It is my right hon. Friend's intention to appoint a Committee whose members will have expert knowledge of all aspects of building operations and the administration of building controls."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th November. 1960: Vol. 226, c. 867.]If I may say so, that was rather a glimpse of the obvious. I suggest that it will be necessary to have representatives from various areas of the country specifically attached to the building regulations advisory committee.
In another place certain new and important Clauses were introduced in the Bill, and I want to say something about Clauses 12, 13 and 14 and the Second Schedule, which I believe together are colloquially known as the Romford Clauses. I welcome those Clauses which make it possible for local authorities to obtain contributions from developers towards the cost of sewerage, but when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that most of the Clauses of the Bill are well precedented, I take him 904 up on these Clauses, because I understand that fourteen local authorities have these Clauses in their own private Acts of Parliament but that only two of them have used these powers up to date and that those two have done so to a very minimal extent.
I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham that we shall have to have a very careful look at Clauses 12, 13 and 14 and the Second Schedule. They are extremely valuable but they need close examination. I consider it right that developers of urban property should make a financial contribution to the local sewerage authority when it places a sewer across the ground which they are about to develop, because they are being given a service without which it would be impossible to develop that property.
I turn to Part V of the Bill, which I think is almost a Bill in itself; it is a most important Measure. I know that it has been welcomed by the local authority associations and that it implements a part of the Armer Committee's Report. I should like to pay a tribute to Sir Frederick Armer and his Committee for their excellent Report, which has formed the basis of Part V of the Bill. I had the privilege of meeting Sir Frederick only the other day, and I am sorry that he came under such very heavy fire from representatives of a university which, incidentally, I did not attend. I feel that Sir Frederick deserves a great deal of credit for the splendid work which he has done in making available to us a Report which is so clear and lucid that the Government have been able to proceed with the implementation of that Report within one year.
I studied the history of the Public Health (Drainage of Trade Premises) Act, 1937, and I found that the Report which was the precursor of that Act came out ten years earlier and that it took the Government of that day ten years to implement that Report. The Government today are to be congratulated on moving so swiftly in a matter of very great importance—namely, the reception of trade effluent into sewers. This part of the Bill, if implemented, will be a major contribution towards the clean rivers policy to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing 905 and Local Government is so deeply committed.
Only this week I came across an example of where forward-thinking legislation of this nature influences local authorities. I had a letter from the Clerk to the Borough of Ellesmere Port telling me that that borough proposes to make a new treatment plant which will give a full treatment to the effluent of that rapidly growing borough. In his letter the clerk wrote:Local authorities should give a lead in helping to prevent the pollution of rivers.I feel that that is a magnificent example by a local authority which is growing in size and in scope every day, and it is to be congratulated on this forward-thinking policy which, as I said, has been encouraged by the Government's swift action in this instance.
The Association of Municipal Corporations, of which I have the honour at present to be a vice-president, welcome wholeheartedly in particular Part V of this Bill, but it has a few detailed observations, and I think that in view of the fact that the Committee stage may come upon us fairly swiftly it would be advisable, as the hon. Member for Fulham did, to give a few detailed observations now on this Part V.
The Association of Municipal Corporations is satisfied in the main with Clause 54, but it does not think it goes quite far enough. I readily admit that the Bill does follow the Armer Committee's Report, paragraph 113, but on a comparatively recent occasion I was able to influence my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to follow my line in respect of a certain measure and that line was a departure from the recommendations of the Armer Committee. I am not unhopeful that on this occasion I shall be able to influence my hon. Friend once again, and I hope very much that he will be induced to depart a little from the recommendations of the Armer Committee's Report. I refer to a matter which the hon. Member for Fulham has referred to, and that is the question of the indeterminable pre-1937 agreements.
The history of the evidence which was given to the Armer Committee was that there was very little trouble with regard to local authorities concerning 906 those pre-1937 agreements many of which date back to just after the First World War. The Association of Municipal Corporations, in its evidence at that time, did not refer to these indeterminate agreements because so far as it knew at that time there was only one of the indeterminate agreements which was causing one local authority considerable concern, but since that time the evidence which has come to the Association of Municipal Corporations shows that there are 10 local authorities at least which are affected by these indeterminable agreements.
I am fully aware that there should be a sanctity about contracts, but, nevertheless, times have changed very materially since the period after the First World War, and the Association of Municipal Corporations—I wholeheartedly support it in this matter—does think that it would be desirable for Parliament to give permission for these contracts to be varied in respect of charges only. It has no desire that these contracts should be varied as to the conditions of receiving those effluents into sewers, but it does think that as many circumstances have changed so much since the nineteen-twenties it is reasonable that contracts should be reopened in respect of charges, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of what I have said. I cannot say that I am hopeful that the Government will introduce a new Clause to cover this matter, but if they should omit to introduce a new Clause I may possibly be able myself to put right that omission.
I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that there is a slight flaw in Clause 55. This Clause deals with discharges which have been discontinued for a period of two years. I am advised by the Association of Municipal Corporations that should a discharger make even a small discharge for a period of one day through another discharging point during this period of two years then indeed the two years' period would not be determined in the way in which it should be determined under Clause 55.
I would make a passing reference to Clause 56 (1, e). The local authorities want to have knowledge as to the nature and composition of a discharge as well 907 as of the volume and rate of a discharge. It is customary in this form of legislation to let the local authorities have the maximum information and I hope that my hon. Friend will look at this comparatively small but, I think, important matter between now and the Committee stage.
It has not been possible to deal with this Bill in what I call a logical manner, and I must pass now to a miscellaneous Clause, Clause 75, which, as I understand, comes under the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to convey a message to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State regarding Clause 75 and the byelaws as to seaside pleasure boats. This was another Clause which was introduced in another place. I cannot quite understand why so many Clauses which were, in the words of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, well precedented, were introduced in another place and were not in the original Bill.
I am speaking here as Governor of the Fisheries Organisation Society, a body which is responsible for the interests of inshore fishermen. Doubt has already been cast upon the definition of the words "pleasure boat". I do not think there is any definition of the words "pleasure boat" in this Bill. I think it is important that those words "pleasure boat" should be clearly defined, because it might well be that bye-laws could be made in respect of what are thought to be pleasure boats but which are in fact fishing vessels, and many fishing vessels do occasionally take parties of holidaymakers out for a day's fishing, but are, in fact, fishing boats within the ordinary meaning of that term, and I hope very much that by reason of byelaws made under Clause 75 that genuine fishing boats will not be included within those byelaws because it might have a very considerable effect on engine design and certainly the silencer designs of those boats, recognising that they are very often extremely noisy. The bulk of their work is done very much more than 1,000 yards from the shore and those byelaws should cover only seaside pleasure boats which can be operated within 1,000 yards of the shore.
908 I would ask my hon. Friend another question regarding Clause 75, and that is the definition of "seaside". Does "seaside" include the shore bounded by estuarial waters as well as waters which are outside the estuaries of our rivers? If it does include estuarial waters, I should like to know from my hon. Friend why this Clause does not go a great deal further, because considerable nuisance is being caused at the present time by pleasure boats which are operating on our rivers, particularly lakes—
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to mislead the House, and I may myself not be at my best this morning, but surely the Clause says "seashore" and not "seaside"? The marginal note says "seaside" but I can find only "seashore" in the Clause itself.
§ Mr. Temple
—for that, but the point to which I want to draw the attention of the House is that in another place doubt was cast upon these words and a considerable debate took place, and I should like an explanation of the words which I have brought to the attention of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
I should like to bring to the attention of the House matters of considerable importance which are, in my view, omissions from this Bill. These points have been brought to my attention by the National Farmers' Union of which I am a member and the Rural District Councils Association of which I am a vice-president. They are both public health matters and they both conern major roads. We are all aware that traffic is building up to an amazing extent on the roads of our country, and to cope with this increase of traffic the highways authorities are creating, very wisely, a number of lay-bys and I think that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, when he is stimulating further provision for "clearways", will thereby stimulate the construction of laybys.
909 A great deal of damage to farmers has come about by reason of the fact that adjacent fields have been used as public conveniences and also because litter and rubbish have been thrown into the fields. Dealing first with the provision of public conveniences, in 1959 and 1960 approaches were made by the National Farmers' Union and the local authority associations to the Government Departments concerned regarding these matters. In 1960 a joint conference of the County Councils Association, the Urban District Councils Association, and the Rural District Councils Association was held to consider the matter of the provision of public conveniences along busy traffic routes. That conference ended by asking the Government for amending legislation.
All of those who use our roads are familiar with this problem. When travelling along the highway I have often bought a gallon of petrol at a filling station solely in order to visit that station for another and quite different purpose. But long-distance lorry drivers are in a very different position. Their fuel tanks are filled say in Glasgow and they come down to London on one tankful of derv fuel. They frequently pull in at lay-bys in order to rest or to eat their meals. During that period, necessarily, they wish to go into the fields for other purposes. If the gates are wired or locked they cannot get into the fields by the normal form of access and they either have to climb over or break down the fences.
This matter has had the consideration of all the local authority associations. They have had a conference about it and I very much hope that we are going to hear that the Government propose to introduce a new Clause to cover the matter. I will not go into more detail now concerning it because I know that the Government are fully seized of the problem. The National Farmers' Union and the Rural District Councils Association believe that the Bill is a suitable Measure for implementing legislation on this point.
With regard to litter, Clause 50 clearly deals with the provision of litter bins and the clearing of them. It was expanded slightly in another place, but, in my view, it still does not go far enough. Immense damage is being done to the farming community, both to their machinery and to their stock, by rub- 910 bish which is thrown over the fences, particularly from lay-bys to which I have already referred.
Only the other day I saw in a field of mowing grass an empty crate which had contained milk bottles. When the farmer's mower came along to mow that grass it would necessarily have suffered severe damage. Nearly all of us have seen the enormous number of bottles which are thrown over hedges and which cause serious damage to stock.
I would seek to give the owner or occupier of land power to make representations to the highway authority concerned, with the appropriate power of appeal. If that plea were accepted on the part of the owner or occupier of the agricultural land then it should be deemed to be incumbent on the highway authority to provide proper receptacles at lay-bys for litter and rubbish.
I have endeavoured to cover a miscellany of matters, all germane to the Bill. I wish to conclude by congratulating the Government on the Measure. I know that the local authorities all want the Bill to be passed as quickly as possible, and it will certainly be my endeavour, if I am nominated to sit on the Standing Committee dealing with it, to help the Government get it through quickly. I realise that if the Bill can be got through quickly it will save the local authorities a great deal of work in seeking to insert standard Clauses into their private legislation. I wish the Parliamentary Secretary the very best good fortune in steering this important Measure through the House.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I intervene for only a few minutes to emphasise to the House some of the points which have already been dealt with, rather well I think, by the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). I agree with much that he has said. It is appropriate, perhaps, that, as the hon. Gentleman represents Chester and I Leicester, the connections between the two towns should be expressed on a public health matter.
Part V of the Bill will confer on local authorities some very valuable additional powers to deal with trade effluents discharged into their sewers by industrialists. These additional powers, as 911 the House is well aware, were recommended in the final Report of the Trade Effluent Sub-Committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee—the Armer Committee—on whose Report this part of the Bill is based.
I happen to be connected with the Association of Municipal Corporations which has given very careful consideration to this matter, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). The Association has asked me—and I have considered its points very carefully—to bring to the notice of the Government some of the matters referred to by my hon. Friend. I was not here to hear the whole of his speech as otherwise, perhaps, I should not have spoken in the debate at all. I only intervene in case he did not mention some of the points which I wish to raise. It may be that I shall have only to underline what he has already said.
As the House knows, the Public Health (Drainage of Trade Premises) Act, 1937, permits traders to discharge, without the consent of the local authority, into the sewers of the local authority trade effluents of the same nature and composition as they discharged at any time during the year ended 31st March, 1937. Clause 54 will empower local authorities to make charges for the reception of these discharges, and in that respect it is welcome. The Association feels, as I do, that the Clause should enable local authorities to make charges, or to increase charges, for the reception of such effluent where indeterminable agreements were entered into before the Act of 1937 was passed and which bind the local authority for ever to receive effluent either for no payment or for a fixed payment.
The Armer Committee, in paragraph 113 of its final Report, says that it is unreasonable to expect local authorities to continue to deal with these pre-1937 effluents under financial arrangements made in 1937 or earlier and that they should be authorised to make reasonable charges for treatment and to vary the charges from time to time—and I quote—except where there is a contract.Clause 54, of course, gives effect to this recommendation. We have evi- 912 dence, however, of cases where because an indeterminable contract is in force serious loss is being caused to small authorities, and we feel that it would be reasonable if Clause 54 were extended to enable perpetuity agreements entered into before 1937 to be reopened and to enable a variation of the charge to be made.
We seek this power only in relation to agreements entered into before 1937, at which date, of course, local authorities were put on notice as to the provisions of the Act. The power is only sought in relation to charges and not with a view to varying any other conditions of the agreement. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman will take that matter into consideration because, there again, it may be possible to do something by way of putting down an Amendment to cover this point.
I wish also to refer to Clause 56. The recommendation in paragraph 116 of the Armer Committee is followed and power is to be given to local authorities to require traders to install inspection chambers and meters on premises hitherto exempt from control. I gather that the point has already been made—
§ Sir K. Joseph indicated assent.
§ Sir B. Janner
I shall not pursue it further, because the Minister is obviously aware of the point. I ask him to be good enough to deal with it. I endorse what has been said.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I welcome the Bill and congratulate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on the very clear way he has explained it. As I have worked with local byelaws for thirty years, the House will not be surprised to learn that I welcome the "new look".
I do not think that the public generally have appreciated how building costs, building research and the general thinking of the building industry have been restricted by the 1,400 separate regulations, some dating back many years. The Parliamentary Secretary did not refer—because it is not directly in the Bill—to the London Building Act, 1857. An industry which has had to work under such conditions is very pleased to welcome this Measure.
913 I want, first, to comment on the term "building regulations" which the Minister has adopted. I am a little apprehensive about it, because in the industry we have building regulations dealing more directly with health and safety. I wonder whether "new look" is the right terminology. I wonder whether "national building code" would not more directly indicate what is expected.
I realise that the purists in the Department will remind me that "code of practice" is a term which has been used for a number of years and is a formula more than a legally binding arrangement. Against that, I would point out that our code of practice is a formula of good building practice, and I see no reason why this should not be added to the national building code. We shall also be following what is happening in other parts of the world where building restrictions and rules are known as national building codes. To take the purist even further I referred to the term in the Oxford Dictionary. It describes "code" as the systematic collection of statutes and bodies of laws so as to avoid inconsistency and overlapping. That should summarise what we are after.
I join other hon. Members in their concern about how the Building Regulations Advisory Committee is to be constituted. I would urge my right hon. Friend to make certain that he has on it really practical men with long experience in the industry who know the practical points of building. I suggest that he would naturally include some of the learned bodies—the architects and the engineers—and I ask him to consider including representatives of the National Federation of Building Trade Employers, even on a regional basis, as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) mentioned. I am certain that the building trade operatives can also make a contribution.
I am very concerned at the time all this will take. We are in the middle of one of the busiest times in the history of the building industry. The Parliamentary Secretary showed most clearly how necessary it is to amend the regulations. He has shown that he is aware that appeals against local byelaws can be instituted only by local authorities. I speak from long practical experience 914 here. It is very difficult to get local authority surveyors to go through the machinery necessary to amend a byelaw to deal with some of the more modern practices. As the law stands now—it will be amended by the Bill—there can be no appeal by a building owner, an architect or builder. If a local surveyor decides that a proposal is not worth while, he can turn it down and there is no appeal.
The committee will do extremely well if it manages to draw up the code of regulations for the industry within five years. I know that the Ministry has optimistic views about this, but before its optimism gets out of control I should like to remind it of the time it took to draw up the standard mode of measurements, one of the first standardised measures in the building industry. I would also remind it that it took six years to draw up a simple code in Canada. I believe that the code of regulations will not come into operation until six or ten years' hence, by which time building progress may be past its peak.
Consequently, I urge the Minister to give consideration, in relation to the Bill, to how building owners and builders can appeal direct to him for variations, deviations and relaxations in exactly the same way as they can today under the London Building Act.
The need for this is shown by the number of waivers granted annually under that Act. The question has been raised whether the London Building Act should be revised to embody the provisions of the Bill. I do not think it is appreciated by the public that the whole system of building inspection and control is quite different in the London area. There is, therefore, I think some argument for leaving it as it is for the time being, but I hope that at a later date the two systems will be combined.
There are one or two points in connection with the Bill which I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could clarify. I draw attention, first, to Clause 4 (5) which reads:Building regulations may include such supplemental and incidental provisions as appear to the Minister to be expedient.I may be a novice in reading legal documents, but the subsection appears to me to give extraordinarily wide powers. I 915 should be grateful for reassurance on that point.
My second point relates to Clause 12, and it has been referred to by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I feel that we have here a matter which needs looking at very carefully in Committee. I appreciate what has been the object of the Parliamentary draftsmen in drawing up the Clause. Nevertheless, I am worried about it from the point of view of farmers in my constituency. I feel that as the Clause stands a farmer may be charged a disproportionate amount for having a sewer in one of his farm roads. I appreciate that subsection (12) of the Clause gives a right of appeal, but farmers are very busy in their ordinary daily work and do not fully appreciate what right of appeal they may have.
There is another point on subsection (6) which may be a Committee matter, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester has said, the Committee stage may come upon us quickly. I think that the average estimate needs to he thought about. The subsection says:the estimated cost per yard of a sewer having an internal diameter of nine inches constructed in the street or part of the street at a depth of seven feet.I realise that the object of going for the average cost is that an owner shall not have to pay an unfair amount of money. But it is the average cost at a depth of 7 feet in what—rock, sand or water bearing soil? That needs clarification.
The hon. Member for Fulham made some reference to how far the abolition of byelaws applied. I was struck by this when I came to Clause 49 where the Bill refers to the local authority having the right to introduce byelaws under the Highways Act, 1959. I think that it would be helpful to the House if we could have an explanation of what is meant by byelaws. Are we talking about abolishing building byelaws or street byelaws? In my experience, a good deal of unnecessary cost has been incurred by unnecessary specifications by county councils concerning streets.
One other point to which I should like to refer is that we have had for a number of years the extraordinary situation that a Government Department can go 916 into a local authority's area and build a school in disregard of the byelaws. Yet a new town, which is a Government sponsored organisation, has to comply with the byelaws. We have, therefore, a situation which would, I think, have provided Gilbert and Sullivan with a theme for an opera. The Government are prepared to give relaxation to their own Departments but not to the new towns that have been so successful.
I think that all hon. Members would congratulate the Minister of Education on the way in which he saved money in building schools. Surely the standard produced by the Minister of Education should be available immediately. It should not be necessary to wait six or seven years for the provisions of the Bill to become operative. This should be allowed right away, at a time when the building industry is at the peak of its production. Let us have the savings which eminent architects have estimated at a minimum of £10 million a year.
Today, the nation cannot afford to waste a moment when we have the possibility, by passing a law in this House, of saving £10 million a year.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I welcome the Bill, and particularly the new procedure for building regulations. We need a much greater improvement of the relaxation procedure which has been described by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and dealt with so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). It is significant that building regulations must always lag behind advanced building practice. Naturally the building regulations have to be safe to cover the work produced by all architects, but there are certain architects who are obviously working on very advanced procedures and there should be for them some means of relaxation of the regulations. For example, the rules for timber construction of multi-storey buildings are extremely severe and some relaxation of them is required.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe mentioned, local authorities building for educational purposes do not have to comply with the byelaws and can go ahead with the work. But for private enterprise this is forbidden, unless the local authority applies 917 to the Minister for a waiver. As my hon. Friend said, there have been a great many waivers. In the London County Council area this is certainly so. I have seen mentioned the figure of 1,700 waivers for wood construction, which shows what a valuable means of construction this is.
Most local authorities do not wish to apply for a waiver and that is the end of the matter. The architect can go no further because he has no means of appeal. I therefore welcome the new procedure. This is extremely important, particularly in the case of timber construction, because of the improvement in speed of erection and in cost. It is estimated that there is a 15 per cent. reduction in cost by using timber construction. This, applied over £70 million a year worth of construction, means that £10 million a year could be saved to the country by this new procedure.
Then comes the question: how long will it take for these building regulations to be produced? As my hon. Friend said, it took five years to produce such regulations in Canada. South Africa started seven years ago to produce its regulations and has not finished them yet. I should like the Minister to give some indication of how long he thinks it will take to produce them. We have heard it estimated that it will take about ten years, but this country cannot wait that time. Therefore, I think that there should be some new procedure to cover the gap. This could be done quite simply by an Amendment to Section 63 of the Public Health Act, 1936, introducing appeal procedure.
At the moment, an applicant submits a proposal to the local council and it says, "We are sorry, but it is not in the model byelaws; consequently we shall not permit it." The applicant says, "It is being used elsewhere." The council says, "We are sorry but we cannot be bothered to apply to the Minister for a waiver." That is the position at the moment. If an appeal could be made to the Minister for one particular type of construction and if the Minister allowed it and then notified all the local authorities of his decision, that would encourage local authorities in the future, in order to avoid an appeal, to apply for a waiver. Possibly 918 the Minister might go so far as to delegate authority to grant a waiver for a particular type of construction which has already been approved. This would get over the difficulty straight away. If there is to be this appalling length of time in getting the regulations, I would ask the Minister very seriously to consider introducing this procedure.
Clause 76 makes the registration of hairdressers and barbers compulsory. It seems to me to be totally unnecessary that every hairdresser's establishment in the country should have to be registered by its local authority, even though the local authority is satisfied with the whole of the hairdressing establishments in its area. The local authority will have to open up a register and employ people to keep it, and it may not wish to make the byelaw at all. I do not believe that it should be compulsory. Certain local authorities already have this power. I know that in some parts of the country there are hairdressing establishments which need supervision, but I suggest that in the majority of hairdressing establishments conditions are extremely good. This procedure should be solely permissive, so that local authorities are not compelled to register all hairdressers. We have constant complaints that local rates are going up. Here is an example of placing additional burdens on local authorities which they may not wish to have.
I welcome this Bill. I hope that it will not be steam-rollered through Committee, because I ask my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to give an undertaking that a number of points which can be improved will be improved.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I was very glad to hear, towards the end of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), references to Clause 76. If I do not prefer to follow him closely at the beginning of my speech, he may rest assured that I shall return to that Clause at the end of my remarks.
I normally look upon myself as being released on Fridays when the last day for Private Members' Bills has passed, but I was surprised to receive yesterday a communication drawing attention to this Bill and its size. It has 85 Clauses 919 and five Schedules, and is very comprehensive indeed.
I am sorry that I was not able to take part in some of the earlier discussions which took place privately. Had I done so, probably I would not have had to refer to the matters which I want to mention today. Those of us who take an interest in Private Bills—as many hon. Members do—for some time have been very concerned at some of the powers that have been sought by local authorities, and we have stated time and again that we consider that these powers should be given to local authorities by a Government measure.
For that reason, I welcome the idea behind this Bill. I think it is wrong that time and again when local authorities have promoted Private Bills we find that they have put in various Clauses which, to many hon. Members, are wrong and should not be applied for by a local authority but should be given by a comprehensive Measure of this nature. For that reason, I welcome the Bill and hope that the few criticisms I have of it will not convey that I disagree with it in general.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) spoke about effluent charges, and his remarks are very worthy of consideration by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. But before I refer to that subject I should disclose that I have a personal interest in this matter. I think it is quite right that the question of effluent charges should be looked into and that they should, to a great extent, be standardised. I am not in favour of our rivers being polluted, but it would be extremely hard in some trades if one particular business were allowed to discharge effluent free while others were subject to heavy capital and annual charges, in order to meet the more modern procedure for keeping our rivers clean and decent.
The hon. Gentleman had a point in suggesting that the rights that some businesses have to discharge effluent free, or at a very low cost, should be looked into. The charges should be standardised out of fairness to those businesses which have to meet the comparatively heavy charges of ensuring that they do not pollute our river system. Thus, I commend that point to my hon. 920 Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope that when he replies we shall hear his views.
I want to refer to one or two Clauses, same of which I do not understand and some of which I consider rather objectionable—one in particular. Clause 37 troubles me a little. This gives power to a justice of the peace, if he is satisfied by the medical officer of health for the district, to order someone to be medically examined, if that person is alleged to be suffering from a notifiable disease.
One has to be very careful about giving this power to justices. I believe that, during the war, there were certain regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act whereby, in the case of certain diseases, there was the power to force people to have a medical examination. I believe that in certain cases venereal diseases could be dealt with in this manner.
If it is desirable that the State should interfere with the liberty of the subject in this way, then we should give very careful consideration to it. I do not know whether the list of notifiable diseases can be extended by order, because I have not had the time or the opportunity to look up the Act, but if that list can be extended by order then that procedure is probably satisfactory because, in due course, the order will be thrashed out on the Floor of the House if Members think it desirable. On the other hand, I should like to be told if the list is restricted.
I do not believe that Clause 37 succeeds in doing what I believe was in the mind of the Parliamentary draftsman when he drew it up. Although it gives power to force a persons to be medically examined, it gives no power, as I understand it, to force that person to have treatment. I thought that it would be essential, if the Clause was to have any weight at all, that one could not only force a person to be medically examined but one could also force him to have treatment. I should like to hear my hon. Friend on that aspect.
The next Clause to which I turn—I do not propose to take more than a short time—is Clause 41, known as the "goldfish" Clause. This concerns dealers in rags and old clothes offering inducements to children for bringing them such 921 garments and goods generally. They are prohibited, I understand, from giving any payments to the children—which I always think is a mean outlook. I do not know what lies behind it, but I think it reasonable for a merchant to give 2s. 6d. or so to a boy who brings him stuff.
In order to get round that prohibition the dealers have been giving away such things as goldfish and bowls, and I wonder whether it is really necessary to have Clause 41. I would have thought that it could be left out. It is a rather grandmotherly bit of legislation.
Clause 74 gives the local authorities power to make byelaws for regulating the hours of pleasure fairs. The Clause goes on to describe the kind of pleasure fair. It says:… the entertainment to which this section applies are the following—(a) circuses;That seems reasonable.(b) exhibitions of human beings. …I do not know whether the House of Commons comes in that category:(c) merry-go-rounds, roundabouts, swings, switchback railways;(d) coco-nut shies, hoop-las, shooting galleries, bowling alleys;(e) dodgems or other mechanical riding or driving contrivances;(f) automatic or other machines. …Clause 74 (4) says:Nothing in this Section … shall apply to …(c) an entertainment which is not run for profit and is not carried on for more than seven consecutive days. …And then adds:(d) an entertainment the profits whereof are devoted to a charitable purpose.I wonder whether these provisos are adequate. It seems to me that they are providing for a church fête. But what about a Labour fête. What about a Conservative fête? This definition should be looked at again, because all these entertainments are run for profit. But the profit may not be for an individual, the object being to raise money perhaps for a political party. It is a recognised method of raising money for political parties and I would have thought that they should be excluded from the provisions of the Clause, just like the other entertainments to which I have referred.
§ Mr. MacColl
Does the hon. Member mean excluded or included? I see his argument for saying that there should be a distinction, but it does not follow logically that they should all be excluded.
§ Mr. Williams
I am grateful to the hon. Member for enabling me to make myself clear. They should be excluded from the byelaws which are made under the Clause. They should be allowed to operate in the same way as an entertainment the profits whereof are devoted to a charitable purpose. A short Amendment on that basis should be acceptable during the passage of the Bill in Committee.
The most controversial Clause of all—Clause 76—is a good old hardy annual in Private Bills. It is always stuck in. My hon. Friends and I who examine these Bills at great length invariably throw it out unless by chance the Bill happens to be promoted when, for some reason, we are absent and are not able to deal with it. I do not believe that there is any reason why this Clause should be in the Bill.
In the past, there have been repeated attempts to secure supervision of hairdressers. There was at one time a Hairdressers' Registration Bill, which was introduced in May, 1949, and was mainly the brain child of Mr. Sparks, who is no longer a Member of this House. It was a comprehensive Bill to set up a council to supervise the whole of the hairdressing trade, with powers to make regulations, and so on. That is not suggested under the present Bill, although it contains power to secure the registration of hairdressers.
I wonder whether this weighty measure is really needed. I am always against any unnecessary legislation. I am usually against some stuff that other people regard as necessary, but that is another question. I certainly think that we should legislate as little as possible. I do not regard it as in the public interest that all hairdressers should be forced to register with the local authority, with the added expense that will be involved and irritation to the local authority if the Clause is passed. There will be the expense of issuing byelaws and of inspectors to make visits to ensure that all the byelaws are complied with.
923 Subsection (3) of the Clause states thatThe local authority may make byelaws for the purpose of securing—(a) the cleanliness of premises registered under this section and of the instruments, towels, materials and equipment used therein, and"—this is worse—(b) the cleanliness of the hairdressers or barbers working in such premises in regard to both themselves and their clothing.What does all this mean? Does it mean that a hairdresser must change his underclothes every day? It is a fairly heavy sort of Clause to stick in the Bill. I hope that if representations are made to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee, he will agree to take out the Clause, or, at least, to amend it considerably. It will stop many people from carrying on the trade of hairdressing.
What will happen in army barracks, where, very often, soldiers cut each other's hair? What will happen in factories, where, very often, one man who has a little skill at cutting hair runs this activity as a sideline during his luncheon hour? Must he be registered with the local authority, subject to supervision and instructions about his clothing and what he must and must not wear? This is an unnecessary Clause, and I hope that in due course my hon. Friend will agree to its removal.
In general, I welcome the Bill. It does what many of us who have been engaged in Private Bill procedure have been pleading for over many years. It standardises many of the Clauses which are put in Private Bills and which have caused us much irritation. I hope, however, that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will consider whether it is possible to meet the points which I have raised.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
The presence of the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health on the Government Front Bench reminds me that I seem to have seen her all too recently this morning. I am tempted to ask how her human tissues are. Mine certainly are in a rather dilapidated state. I have not found this an easy Bill to grasp. It is varied. Some of the things in it seem extremely important and others less important.
924 We have all been helped by the speech of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams), and I am sure that we can all look forward to being helped by him in the detailed examination of the Bill in Committee. The hon. Member spoke with interest on Clause 74. The byelaws apply to fairs which are a nuisance, insanitary, unclean, disorderly and unsafe. The hon. Member immediately said that it might refer to Conservative fêtes. The hon. Member knows better than I do—
§ Mr. MacColl
I would not quarrel with the hon. Member if he suggests that it may be found necessary to reduce these restrictions somewhat. No doubt, the hon. Member will make his case on that in Committee and we will be able to consider it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) showed unusual optimism in suggesting that the Parliamentary Secretary would make a comprehensive statement in Committee on the registration of canal boats under Clause 78. My experience of Committees is that if by the time Clause 78 is reached anybody is capable of doing anything, it will be an unusual Committee, particularly after we have heard the hon. Member for Exeter again at length on Clause 76.
It is clear that the Bill will require a lot of hard work in Committee. It will be useful work. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham in suggesting that pigeons do not present difficulties. I can only say that when I was leader of a political party on a local council the only two occasions upon which the party discipline completely dissolved and I was wholly unable to control my friends were on the questions of whether dogs should be on leads on recreation grounds and whether pigeons should be killed. Both the management of recreation grounds and the killing of pigeons are included in the Bill. It may, therefore, arouse great passion. I agree, however, with my hon. Friend that it is right and proper that these matters should be decided by local councils. That is what local councils are for, and they 925 should be given as much discretion as possible.
The hon. Member for Exeter referred to the registration of hairdressers. "Registration" is a word that struck a chord in my mind. It made me wonder whether I had gone off on to the wrong Bill. I commend to the hon. Member some of the speeches by his right hon. Friend the Minister on the subject of registration of houses in multiple occupation. The hon. Member will find there many good arguments and good Amendments on the subject of registration which he might apply in the context of the Bill. That would enable him very well to develop his points in Committee.
I should like to see the extent of building regulations widened, not necessarily their toughness, but so that the problem of maintenance of building standards is approach in a rather wider manner than under the existing regulations. Whether that is possible, I do not know. It always seems to the layman that the trouble about building regulations is that they control a great deal of detail which does not seem of very great importance, and that they fail all too often to maintain building standards and amenities of buildings, the design of buildings, and prevent the kind of thing which is generally known as jerry-building. If we could have a more positive approach to building regulations, I think it would be a great advantage. Whether it will be possible to do anything like that in Committee I do not know.
I join with my two hon. Friends who have spoken on this Bill in welcoming it. I think it is a valuable consolidating Measure, which has introduced one or two very important new proposals, of which I think the standardisation of building regulations is undoubtedly one of the most important. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that we will help him to get the Bill through as quickly as possible, but I should say that, after all, if the Government introduce a Bill of 85 Clauses covering the variety of things which the Bill covers at this time of the Session, Parliament would not be doing its duty if it did not give it a very careful and very detailed examination, and that we must try to do at a later stage.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am very glad that the Bill has had such a general welcome, and equally glad that the House has had a number of most valuable and constructive speeches indicating the sort of matters that are likely to be raised in the Committee stage.
I should like straight away to echo the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who, as usual, made one of his most valuable speeches, in saying how much the House appreciates the work of all those who either serve on local authorities or are employed by them. I know that the House will hope that the Bill will in some measure ease their task. I have been interested to hear the comments made on Part III, and the House will have seen that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health has been here listening throughout these comments.
I know that when we come to the Committee stage, we shall look forward to discussing with her help the points that have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) on Clauses 37 and 41, and by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) on Clause 40, as well as any other points in connection with Part III. I hope that the House will excuse me from dealing with these specifically Ministry of Health matters today.
I turn now to the various questions asked or suggestions made on the miscellaneous provision in the Bill. I know that, again, the House will excuse me if I do not pursue the Committee points but limit myself to dealing with the general matters of principle which have arisen.
First, both the hon. Member for Fulham and my hon. Friend the Member for Chester spoke about the Romford Clauses—Clauses 12, 13 and 14, which have owed much in their drafting to the advice of a Joint Committee of both Houses which considered the need for which Romford had originally sought to legislate. The hon. Member for Fulham was anxious that the contribution to be made by a frontager should not exceed the benefit that he would get in a case where the cost of providing a sewer for his house might be more than the benefit he received. I would draw his attention 927 to that part of the Clause which gives the owner the right to ask the local authority to remit part of any contribution in respect of that situation if he thinks that the cost is disproportionate to the benefits which he has received, and, in default of agreement with the local authority, there is a right of appeal to the magistrate's court. That is provided in Clause 12 (8).
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman will notice that, under Clause 12 (8), that can only be done if it is considered that the payment is too much for a particular reason—by reason of the extent of the frontage of those premises.I think that the wording of that subsection would need to be widened to make the point I want to make.
§ Sir K. Joseph
We will certainly look at that in Committee. On the same point, my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) was worried about the effect of this Clause on farmers. I hope that he is not worrying himself unduly and thinking that the frontage of a farm would be the frontage to be taken into account. The frontage which would be taken into account would be that of the farmhouse.
The next point was one raised by the hon. Member for Fulham, in connection with Clause 27. He welcomed the power given to local authorities to require or to carry out the improvements of derelict buildings and sites, which is only a prompter way of dealing with powers that already exist in the Public Health Act, 1936. He asked what power there is in the hands of local authorities to secure the maintenance of any improvement which has been carried out. This is rather a difficult matter. There are powers in Section 33 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, though they have not been found very easy to work, and perhaps this, again, is a point to pick up during the Committee stage.
Some hon. Members referred to Clause 33, and asked whether there were many cases of plans being put to local authorities for dwellings without bathrooms, and it was said that there should be no discretion given to the local authority so that it should be bound to reject any such plans. The discretion is given be- 928 cause there are situations in which a complete bathroom is not necessary even today for each dwelling. The flatlets for elderly people, in which sometimes there is one bathroom shared by two or more flatlets, is a good example. There are also cases that will come under Clause 33 (1, b), in which a dwelling is the result of a conversion, and where, perhaps, there is not room for a complete bathroom, but only for the provision of sanitary facilities in a lesser form. We are not dealing with improvement grant arrangements and whether they would qualify for an improvement grant, but with the local authority's byelaw powers.
The hon. Members for Fulham and Exeter drew attention to the essentially Home Office business, which is the exemption from the byelaws of charitable and similar fairs under Clause 74 (4) and, in particular, subsection (4, d). This would be a very fruitful matter for discussion in Committee, when we shall be able to look at the whole matter, and particularly the definition of what should be exempt. Perhaps it would help the House if I pointed out that the whole of Clause 74 is directed towards those sorts of fairs and establishments which are least likely always to be run in a reliable and orderly manner. Pin-table saloons and amusement arcades are the sort of establishments for which the byelaws are primarily intended in this part of Clause 74. And one can normally assume the sort of body that would be exempt under Clause 74 (4) could be relied upon in every case to conduct itself in an orderly way.
On Clause 75, my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester asked some ticklish questions about the definition of "sea shore" and "pleasure boats". The sea shore, I understand, is the land between high and low water, but we shall have to discuss pleasure boats in Committee, because I have not got the right kind of definition for my hon. Friend. On another suggestion of his about lay-bys, I will ask my right hon. Friend to consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. I am not altogether sure whether the Bill is a good place to deal with any need which is shown.
The star billing in the miscellaneous provisions was won by Clause 76, in relation to which the invective of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter was 929 rather blunted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), who also spoke on the same subject. This Clause was introduced in another place. The Government will listen to any arguments as to its necessity which are advanced in Committee.
Two things need to be said at this stage. First, it is not made mandatory on all local authorities. Subsection (11) leaves the question whether to use these powers to the local authority concerned. It says:This section shall come into force in the district of a local authority on such date as the local authority may resolve".Therefore, the local authority is given power to decide whether to invoke the Clause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter keeps a lynx eye on all these matters. Perhaps some of this happened before he came on the scene, but I can tell him that there are no fewer than 71 local Acts which contain powers of this sort and 224 local authorities are concerned. However, the Clause was introduced in another place and the Government will be very ready to listen to arguments from both sides in Committee.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
Was it introduced by the Government in another place or was it introduced by a private Member?
§ Sir K. Joseph
It was introduced by a private Member from an Opposition bench. I think that it was supported by three noble Lords on the Opposition side. It was then introduced without further discussion.
I turn now to the byelaw part of the Bill; that is, Clauses 4 to 11. I was very glad that the House heard the warm welcome given to this part of the Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe, who speaks with great authority and experience on this subject. A number of useful and interesting questions were asked. I was asked, first, what my right hon. Friend's ideas were at this stage about the composition of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. My right hon. Friend will consider what has been said in the debate, but at the moment he is tending towards a relatively small committee which must certainly contain people of relevant experience in the 930 local authority and construction fields, but which will rely for its detailed suggestions on the consultation procedure contained in Clause 9 (3). Interested bodies will be free to put forward ideas to the Advisory Committee. The committee will also have the advice of the Building Research Station.
The hon. Member for Fulham asked whether byelaws will be brought to an end automatically when the Building Regulations come in. I draw his attention to paragraph 8 (2) of the First Schedule, which provides that all building byelaws are to be repealed on the appointed date. I was also asked about local materials. Regulations will mainly be drafted in terms of performance rather than of actual material. Every effort will certainly be made to avoid excluding any particular local material.
§ Mr. Costain
The industry will welcome that. For far too long we have been working on specifications which pay no regard to performance. This is a great step forward.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am glad to accept what my hon. Friend says, but I cannot guarantee that every single regulation will be on a performance basis. However, that is the main intention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe made a very shrewd point when he asked whether the name of the regulations might not be confused with the building regulations which have something to do with safety. I know that my right hon. Friend will wish to consider that point, though I cannot give any undertaking today. I think that my hon. Friend was wrong in reading any sinister intent into Clause 4 (5), which merely gives my right hon. Friend the power to define the sort of forms and details of regulations which will be necessary.
My hon. Friends the Members for Hemel Hempstead and Folkestone and Hythe both spoke very gloomily about the time lag that they fear may occur before building regulations are produced. They spoke of a period of five to ten years and somebody totted up the losses to the economy which might result on their assumptions. I do not want to be too optimistic, but my right hon. Friend certainly hopes to beat that time scale easily. My hon. Friend the Member 931 for Hemel Hempstead has done a lot of research on this. He produced figures showing that South Africa, Canada and other countries have taken five years to do this job.
My hon. Friend may be encouraged by the fact that the Scots hope to publish their draft regulations very soon indeed, although the Building (Scotland) Act was passed only in 1959. The preliminary work done by the Scots will give us a good start and we hope—I say this after careful examination—to beat the predictions of my hon. Friends by a substantial margin.
§ Mr. Allason
Will my hon. Friend agree that even three years, as in the case of Scotland, is much too long? [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not three years."] It will be three years from 1959 to 1962.
§ Mr. Costain
All we are asking for is that the building owner shall have the right to appeal. If he is given the right to appeal against the existing byelaws, it will be an enormous help to the Committee in producing new regulations. The Committee will be able to understand what the industry and building owners want. It will help and not hinder progress.
§ Sir K. Joseph
There are several things to be said about this. I think that they can usefully be said in Committee. Last year, 544 applications for consent to relaxation were made to my right hon. Friend, so it is not as though no applications have been made. The efforts of my right hon. Friend's Department would be better directed towards hastening the work of producing regulations than dealing with a large number of new appeals in the future, if a large number were involved. But we can discuss all this in Committee.
I turn now to Part V, which deals with trade effluents.
§ Mr. Temple
My hon. Friend has not said anything about the London area. Will he comment on my observations, and those of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), about bringing the L.C.C. area within the ambit of the proposed building regulations?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I struck that passage out of my notes because Mr. Speaker pulled up the hon. Member for Fulham just after he made that point. I will 932 see to it that my right hon. Friend is aware of what has been said, but I think that his view will remain that pending the Government's decision on what to propose about London government—my right hon. Friend is well aware of the danger of any long delay in this—it would not be sensible to take a view about one of the matters involved namely, building byelaws and regulations. I undertake to bring all this to my right hon. Friend's attention.
Only three points of substance were made on Part V. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter suggested that charges for effluents should be standardised. I do not think that this is a maintainable proposition. Costs vary widely. So does the composition of effluents. The sensible way is to give the local authority discretion, with my right hon. Friend as the appellate authority to investigate cases in which charges seem unreasonable.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
In some cases no charges at all are made in competitive industries. I agree that conditions may vary from place to place, but surely some reasonable scheme could be worked out.
§ Sir K. Joseph
My hon. Friend knows that there is a history to this. We are faced with the main point of what are called the indeterminable agreements. I shall come to that point shortly.
Before doing so I want to dispose of a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester. He wondered why Clause 56 did not mention the nature and composition of the effluent instead of the "volume and rate". It was thought by both the Armer Committee and my right hon. Friend that it would not be fair to subject what are now exempted effluents to the control which can properly be exercised over non-exempted effluents. The Bill will control, and will put under local authority control, the rate and volume of what are now exempted effluents and make them subject to a charge.
It was decided deliberately to omit the nature and composition of that control, because the Armer Committee said that it thought that it would be unfair to abolish altogether the exemption from what are now exempted effluents and make them subject to what would be consent procedure.
§ Mr. Temple
In Clause 56 (1, e) there is a reference to giving information. There is nothing concerning the control of effluent. My point was that it was reasonable to give local authorities this added information.
§ Sir K. Joseph
But this would be quite a burden for what are now exempted effluents. We can pursue the point during our Committee discussions.
As my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester will be aware, in Clause 58 the nature and composition features as one of the obligations of information to be given by what are now non-exempted effluents.
I come to the main point made by a number of hon. Members regarding Part V, that the indeterminable agreements impose an unfair burden on local authorities. I must remind the House that these agreements were freely negotiated. I admit that some local authorities concerned may regret the terms they offer. But the Armer principle seems to my right hon. Friend to be right, unless it can be shown by a number of examples to produce a preposterous result.
I omitted one small point. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester spoke of what he thought was a defect in Clause 55. My right hon. Friend is aware of this defect and will be putting down an Amendment at a later stage to remedy it.
I hope that I have met most of the points which have been raised, although, of course, I should be the first to agree that the subject has by no means been disposed of. I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham that we can look forward to enjoyable Committee proceedings on the Bill. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead that there will be no question of steam roller- 934 ing. We are most anxious that the Bill should be properly examined in the Committee and that it should emerge even better than it is now. I am glad that the House has given the Bill such a warm welcome. I hope that it will go through its remaining stages and be still more improved.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).