HC Deb 17 February 1970 vol 796 cc307-10
Mr. Wylie

I beg to move Amendment No. 44, in page 19, line 34, after "may", insert acquire land by agreement or compulsorily as is reasonably required".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. With this Amendment we may discuss Amendment No. 45, in page 20, line 3, leave out from beginning to end of line 4.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Wylie

The Clause gives the highway authority power to acquire land for the purpose of providing a new means of access. The limit of the acquisition is set at the distance of 800 metres from the middle of the highway or road. Obviously, the highway authority must take a wider latitude here than it would in other instances, such as the 200 metres referred to in others parts of the Bill, because the provision of an access may involve going further away from the roadway than would be necessary in the circumstances with which other Clauses are concerned.

Instead of specifying such a figure it would be better to refer broadly to such land as is reasonably required for the provision of an access. That is what is sought by these two Amendments, though whether they achieve it may be another matter. As amended, the Clause would read: The highway authority may acquire land by agreement or compulsorily as is reasonably required for the purpose of providing a new means of access—". This is a small Amendment which will certainly not be pressed if there are solid reasons against it.

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend has been very generous to the Opposition in his acceptance of Amendments. I felt a wee bit doubtful about his generosity, but this is a reasonably good Amendment and I hope that he may be persuaded to accept it. It makes for better English than the present Clause, bringing out clearly immediately after the word "may" what may be done, whereas the Bill, after talking about a new means of access speaks about acquiring land … by agreement or compulsorily within 800 metres from the middle of that highway or road. It is bad English; it breaks up the continuity.

I know that we cannot draft Bills with the kind of English we find in Robert Louis Stevenson, or even in Robert Burns's letters and writing of that kind, but we can try wherever possible at least to preserve continuity of thought and thus make the legislation more easily understood.

I also think that it is sensible to take away the 800 metres restriction. There may well be a good reason for providing access to a place such as a house or a farm substantially beyond the 800-metre range, and it would be a pity if it could not be provided just because of the 800 metres provision.

Perhaps some of my hon. Friends will try to bring additional pressure to bear on my hon. Friend to accept this reasonable, sensible Amendment.

Mr. Younger

I would be inclined to object to the figure of 800 metres rather more on the grounds that it would often be much too far from the centre of the road than not far enough.

The much better point is that we should not write into legislation such specific limits in any direction in a matter like road-making. Techniques change so much over the years that whereas 800 metres might or might not be right now it would almost certainly turn out to be wrong in perhaps 10 years' time. Therefore, I ask the Minister to take out the specific figure of 800 metres. Something on the lines of the Amendment would be much better.

Mr. Bence

It is very seldom that I support an Opposition Amendment. I remember that in the 13 years we were in Opposition we put down Amendments time and again asking the Secretary of State to do something reasonable, and rarely succeeded in having "reasonable" inserted. I support the Amendment because, knowing my hon. Friend and how reasonable he is and has been this evening, I think that this is the right time in history to introduce into legislation a provision that a Minister of the Crown shall act reasonably. I am a great admirer of my hon. Friend's reasonableness in all matters.

I had hoped that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) would spend more time on the Amendment, because he mentioned Robert Louis Stevenson and might have quoted a little from his wonderful essay "Travels with a Donkey".

When we are talking about access to roads and carriageways, especially where access to existing premises has been stopped or closed up, it is only right that we should put into the Measure a phrase cutting out all specific limitation and making the construction of such access dependent on what is reasonable in the given situation.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

In view of the four expressions of opinion from a reasonable cross-section of both sides of the House it is fair that I should seek to discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend and see whether we might make a change. Provided the Amendments are not pressed, I shall certainly discuss the question with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Wylie

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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