HC Deb 14 April 1967 vol 744 cc1578-83
Mr. Sandys

I beg to move Amendment No. 51, in page 21, to leave out line 14 and to insert: 'Subject to the provisions of subsections (7) and (8) of section 14 and subsection (9) of section 16 of this Act, Parts I to III of this Act, except subsection (1) of section 2'. This is a drafting Amendment, but I think I ought to explain it. Its purpose is to take account of the special provisions made elsewhere in the Bill for the commencement of Clauses 14, 16, 17 and 18. The effect of Clause 26(2) as amended is that, with the exception of those several provisions and of Clause 2(1) which would take effect immediately, Parts I to III of the Bill would come into force one month after the passing of this Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Sandys

I beg to move Amendment No. 28, in page 21, line 17, to leave out subsection (3).

Clause 26(3) is no longer needed, since the Clause now makes no provision for orders.

Amendment agreed to.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

At the end of a week during which there has been fierce conflict in this House and at elections outside, it is very refreshing today to be debating the final stage of a Bill which has had such very wide support among all political parties, local authorities, civil societies and so many individuals throughout the country.

Once again I should like to express my thanks to the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the hon. Members for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State, Scottish Office, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, to the officials of those Departments who have done so much work in connection with this Bill, and to the Parliamentary draftsman for his invaluable assistance in the preparation and shaping of the Bill at all stages.

I am grateful to hon. Members in all parts of the House for their co-operation and I wish particularly to thank my cosponsors who have done so much more than many co-sponsors, who often do no more than put their names on the back of a Bill. My co-sponsors have devoted much time and thought to the planning of the Measure and to the study of the many suggested Amendments which we have received from numerous different quarters.

I should also like—and I am sure the House will support me in so doing—to take this opportunity publicly to acknowledge the debt we owe to the staff of the Civic Trust—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—who have played such a major part in thinking out and drafting this Bill.

I believe local authorities will welcome this Bill and will endeavour to implement its purpose with energy and imagination. This Bill, like all planning legislation, provides new duties, new powers and new penalties, but I trust it will do more than that. I believe it will give a new stimulus to all who try to improve the surroundings in which they live. I hope that it will help to inspire among our people a livelier sense of civic pride.

2.18 p.m.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

On behalf of the Government I commend this Private Members' Bill wholeheartedly to the House. I am certain that there will be no dissenting voices on either side.

I recognise that it is an unhealthy thing for the Government and the Opposition to agree too often, and certainly during all the time that I have been in Parliament I have never witnessed such a peculiar situation as we had in the Committee. I have served on many Committees as a back bencher and as a Minister, but I have never seen such a unique performance as we had in the interesting Committee stage on this Bill. The Ministers were totally isolated for a time. Their back benchers had gone over to the private Members' side, which was to be expected. It is a sobering thought for the Government to recognise this, and to inquire further into their own practices and see whether they can be even more helpful than they intended to be. This has been refreshing for Ministers, but I hope it is not an experience that many of us will endure again.

As I said, it is unhealthy for the Government and Opposition to work together too often, but there are occasions when we can work together. We are grateful to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for his kind remarks and for the appreciation which he expressed to the officials and draftsman at the Government's disposal who have done a great deal of work. We have worked in partnership and the Government are glad of the outcome.

The appearance of our towns and countryside impinges on the lives of every one of us. I do not think it is too much to say that this Bill is, in fact, a Magna Carta of its own style and kind. I commend it to the House and I thank the right hon. Member for Streatham for the energetic and helpful way in which he has taken the Bill thus far.

2.20 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke

The Bill contains a number of things for which many of us have striven for many years in the House. I echo all that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said about the co-operation which we have had on the Bill from people outside and inside the House.

There is, however, one person who has been missed out in all these congratulations, and that is my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham. I am sure that I speak for all my hon. Friends—and I am sure that I carry hon. Members opposite with me in this—when I say that the Bill would not have got thus far if it had not been for his perseverence. In spite of all the other activities which he pursues inside and outside Parliament, I hope that he will be able to spare time in future years—and I hope that we shall have him with us for many years—in pursuing the objects of the Bill and other related matters, because only if people like him give their time, thought and energy to these matters will Parliament get on with the job. We all admire him for his persistence and congratulate him on having got the Bill this far. I am sure that their civilised Lordships in another place will look on it with nothing but favour.

2.22 p.m.

Mr. Cordle

I associate myself with everything that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said about the great assistance which we have received from all quarters on the Bill—the Government, draftsmen, Civic Trust, and so on. I should like particularly to mention Mr. Peter Robshaw for his great personal assistance on the part of the Bill which was the subject of a Bill which I introduced. I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for allowing me to introduce the part of the Bill which stems from the small Bill I introduced on 18th February dealing with the disposal of abandoned motor cars.

2.23 p.m.

Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

I join in the congratulations to the sponsors which are now in order. I mention particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). Various people have been concerned with this matter for some time, but to my certain knowledge he has been concerned with it for more than 12 years. I am sure that it was with this in view that 12 years ago, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, he encouraged and was active in the formation of the Civic Trust. If the Government timetable had permitted, there might well have been a Government Bill on these lines. However, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is a legislation factory, and this Bill did not find a place in the pipeline.

My right hon. Friend's interest has been continuous. I think that the size of the Bill and its complication is almost unique for a Private Member's Bill. It owes a very great deal to my right hon. Friend's experience as Minister of Housing and Local Government and his ability to get the best out of his collaborators on both sides of the House—those behind the Ministerial desks, permanent civil servants and officials of the Civic Trust. He has produced a Measure which we all hope will be effective and which, judging from the debate today, gives every promise of being effective.

The Bill is a justification for some thing about which many of us were doubtful. When my right hon. Friend was lucky enough to draw first place in the ballot for Private Members' Bills, some people felt that, since he had had a great deal of experience of legislation, he might have ceded it to someone who was less experienced. But he took advantage of it, and he was wise to do so. The country will benefit from that to the utmost. In congratulating the sponsors of the Bill, and the Government for their receptive attitude to it, I pay special tribute to my right hon. Friend and congratulate him on having seen the labours of at least 12 years properly requited.

2.26 p.m.

Mr. Channon

I have learnt that those who wish to support a Bill must at this stage confine their remarks to the minimum, otherwise they defeat their own purpose.

I should like to add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and to say how inspiring it has been to see the Bill pass through its various legislative stages with such good will and co-operation on both sides of the House. It was ironic this morning that it should be the Minister of State at the Scottish Office who, in his new Clause, should propose applying the Local Authorities (Historic Buildings) Act, 1962, to Scotland. I had the honour to introduce that Measure. When I tried to get through the Money Resolution, it was the present Secretary of State for Scotland who tried to obstruct me. I am, therefore, glad that the Minister of State has been more progressive than his right hon. Friend.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham, ably assisted by his fellow sponsors, has produced a really worthwhile Bill. The Civic Trust has been of immense help to hon. Members on both sides of the House. It has given them useful advice, has helped with drafting and has produced many ideas. It is greatly to the Government's credit that they have been willing to help so constructively throughout the Bill's stages.

We have managed to deal with about 75 Amendments in only three and a half hours. Speedy progress has been made on the Bill at all stages. Certainly we on this side of the House feel that we have had a very good 24 hours, and perhaps this is the best bit of it. I join other Members in saying that the Bill will make a great improvement in our standards and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham deserves the congratulation of people inside and outside the House for all the work which he has done, not only on the Bill, but for so many years.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.