HL Deb 25 March 1914 vol 15 cc684-7


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading today has been before this House on one or two previous occasions, and does not differ very much from the last Bill except in one or two particulars which I shall briefly mention. Possibly some of your Lordships may remember that the Bill when first before you, contained several clauses with regard to registration, and that when the Bill was referred to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House the Committee reported against the registration clauses, and those clauses were subsequently dropped. The present registration clause which, at the instance of the County Councils Association, I have inserted, is not that which originally stood in the Bill. The original clauses provided not only for registration but also for supervision, and contained requirements for a licence. The present one, instead of being based as the former one was more or less upon the Canal Boat Act, is modelled upon the registration which is required in the case of motor-cars.

The County Councils Association conceive that it would be a very great help in dealing with these vehicles to have some kind of list of them and some means of identifying them other than the name-plate, which is constantly being changed— a liability which would not be possible in the case of a registered number. On this point the decision of the Select Committee was very much less strong than it was with regard to the previous provision dealing with supervision and requirements for licence. As far as I have been able to make out from their Report, the Committee were influenced chiefly by the fact that registration of any kind is a certain amount of trouble and inconvenience; but they had, as a matter of fact, little or no evidence brought before them o show that there were any particular objections to registration in this form. In fact, the majority of the witnesses generally agreed that registration in this form would be a distinct advantage. The fee that is required under the Bill for this registration is only half a crown. There is no particular stress laid upon this amount. It might just as well be less. It is not meant to be burdensome. The whole object of the clause is that there may be a list and the means of identification of these various movable dwellings.

The Bill, then, in its main feature goes on to provide as follows: Recognising the fact that the bylaws which, as the law stands at present, it is quite possible for any local sanitary authority to make, are amply sufficient for the purpose if they were only made and capable of being enforced, the Bill goes on to provide that by-laws if made by a local sanitary authority may be enforced by the county council, either with the consent of the local sanitary authority or in default of their taking action; and if no bylaws are made at all under the Bill, then the county council— in default of the local sanitary authority, when called upon, making by-laws—have the power of making them. The second clause allows a county council to declare certain places, on the score of health, improper ones for encampment, and I intend to move an Amendment when the Bill goes into Committee empowering a local sanitary authority to oblige the county council to make such an order in respect of places for which they desire to have orders made, and in default of their doing so they must hold a local inquiry before they refuse to make such an order.

The third clause embodies the chief feature of the Bill, and that is that a county council may acquire land for the purpose of providing camping places for movable dwellings; and in the event of their having provided a sufficient number of such alternative encampments in substitution for the places that are being used now by such movable dwellings, they may make an order declaring certain places, or open spaces generally, other than those which they have provided, as unfit for the encampment of movable dwellings. And those orders may be enforced by the Police and by summary convictions, not only with regard to open spaces, but even with regard to private lands, on the broad ground that their use for such purposes as temporary encampments is a disadvantage and a nuisance to the neighbourhood and ought consequently to be forbidden. Then there come the usual clauses exempting naval and military encampments and dwellings used by public authorities and for agricultural purposes. I think this comprehends what is in the Bill as now introduced.

I have never been able to understand during the considerable time that I have been interested in this matter why a man who lives in a movable dwelling should at once be considered free from all those restrictions, both sanitary and educational, which are imposed upon those whom one cannot but consider more orderly members of society who live in permanent habitations. I can assure your Lordships that there are in certain parts of the country tracts where open spaces meant for the benefit and the delectation of the public are rendered an absolute nuisance and source of terror to the neighbourhood by persons who live from time to time in dwellings of this kind, and whose breaches of good order it is almost impossible to prevent in consequence of their constantly moving about and the defective machinery by which law and order are enforced upon them, and that this state of things is one which the more permanent members of the community look upon as neither fair to themselves in regard to the burdens which are imposed upon them nor generally in the interests of the public. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.)


My Lords, it is not necessary for me to detain your Lordships at any length in expressing the general approval of His Majesty's Government of this measure. It is no doubt a useful Bill which will deal with a grievance more felt in some parts of the country than in others but which undoubtedly is felt as a real hardship in some parts, especially those near London. The Bill has been fully explained by the noble Lord and it is similar to the Bill which on previous occasions has been before your Lordships' House. The chief clause is permissive. It does not make any obligation upon county councils and I understand it has the approval of the County Councils Association, which the noble Lord represents in this House. In these circumstances I do not think it is necessary for me to do more than repeat the general approval of His Majesty's Government of this Bill, and say that it is possible that when we come to the Committee stage the Home Office may have one or two Departmental objections to make, purely on matters of detail, with regard to the system of registration proposed by the noble Lord. Otherwise we wish the Bill well.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not think that we are showing any disrespect to the noble Lord and the House in not entering into a debate upon this interesting subject at the present moment. There are two good reasons for not doing so. In the first place, there are important matters which your Lordships desire to consider immediately; and, in the second place, this Bill has been in its main outlines before your Lordships' House as the result of a Report of a Select Committee of which I had the honour to be chairman, and which Report received the assent of your Lordships. In these circumstances it is not necessary to detain the House at this stage with any discussion. I congratulate my noble friend that he has brought the Bill forward, and that it has been received so favourably by the Government.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday the 28th of April next.