HC Deb 21 June 1963 vol 679 cc826-8

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, in page 4, line 15, at the end to insert "off the street".

The Clause concerns the provision of garage accommodation by local authorities, according to the marginal note, but it refers also to the construction of hard standings and the conversion of buildings into garages. As the Clause is worded it seems that the construction of hard standings could take place on the highway. There is nothing in the Clause which restricts this operation being carried on upon the highway. The first line in the Clause says: A local authority may within their area provide this accommodation. The roads within a local authority's area are within its area, and we can well imagine that a convenient place to construct a hard standing or a parking place for vehicles would be on the highway. We can imagine that a local authority might cast covetous glances at the pavement in some areas, and wish to use part of it to provide convenient parking places for motor vehicles.

In other Statutes there are elaborate provisions which apply when a local authority intends to turn a street into a parking place. If a local authority wishes to create a parking place in a street it must do so according to elaborate provisions, contained in the Road Traffic Acts, in respect of Ministerial consent, advertisements, public notice, and the holding of public inquiries, if any member of the public so desires. If Clause 5 covers the installation of parking places on the streets it is short-circuiting all those elaborate provisions which the House has already inserted into road traffic Statutes.

We can easily imagine a local authority deciding that a stretch of residential road should become a parking place for vehicles. When such action is taken it always greatly reduces the value of the adjacent residential property, as has been shown again and again in rating appeals, where the rating assessments of nearby property have been reduced because of parking places having been provided. Under the Road Traffic Acts there are full powers for inquiries to be held and for public notice to be given when such action is contemplated, but under the provisions of this Clause such action could be taken without a public inquiry and without the frontagers knowing that it was about to take place, and therefore without their having any chance of making their case and objecting, if they thought fit.

The Clause should be clearly restricted to the provision of accommodation off the highway and off the street, and some words such as those in the Amendment should be inserted so to limit this provision.

Mr. Corfield

I can assure the House that my advice is that, once again, these words are not necessary. On this occasion, however, they do a good deal less harm than some of the other unnecessary words which my hon. Friend has been so anxious to insert. In those circumstances I feel that I can happily leave it to the decision of my hon. Friend whether or not he wishes to press the Amendment. I can assure him that the powers which the Clause purports to confer do not enable parking places to be created on the street, any more than a local authority's housing powers enable it to obstruct a street by building houses in the street. Again, there is the long stop, should there be any doubt about it, of Clause 12(1), which ensures that these operations are still covered.

Mr. MacColl

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether these words are a term of art, and whether they have appeared in other Statutes? They do not seem to be a very happy form of lucid English.

Mr. Corfield

The words "off the street", yes. As far as I know they are not a term of art. I do not know whether they appear in any of the Orders made under the Road Traffic Act, but certainly I have never come across them before.

If I may, I will conclude by saying that I am satisfied that they are not necessary but that I do not think passionately that they will do immense harm.

Sir G. Nicholson

I am perfectly willing to accept this Amendment, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that it does no harm. Perhaps it makes the matter a little clearer.

Mr. MacColl

I suffer in another capacity from constantly having my English corrected by the hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson). I do not like to think that a Measure that is going to be known as the "Nicholson Act" for ever should have a really rather shocking piece of English language in it. I think it is undesirable to use a noun and an adjective when one does not have to. The expression "off the street", I think I am correct in saying, is a very ugly phrase and an unnecessarily ugly phrase, and it will be a stain on the Bill. Everyone will look back and say what a terrible man the hon. Member for Farnham was for having put it in his Bill. Knowing how punctillious the hon. Gentleman is about English, I should hate to see his reputation suffer in this way.

Amendment agreed to.