§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, this is another Bill which certainly was uncontroversial in another place. It passed riot only with general approval but without a Division. The objects with which the Bill deals are, shortly, five. First of all it deals with the question of roadside tree-planting; then with the erection of road direction signposts and warning signs; with the freeing of roads and bridges from tolis; with the prevention of blind corners at cross roads; and with experiments connected with the improvement of the construction of roads and the testing of the effect of various classes of vehicles on roads and bridges. I do not suppose that any member of your Lordships' house will quarrel with the clause which enables trees to be planted along the rather bare and inhospitable looking new roads which have been recently constructed. I ought also to say that many trees have been cut down during the construction of those roads and it is very necessary that they should be replaced.
Clause 2 extends the meaning of the expression "improvement of roads," towards which the Minister may make grants, and refers to the additional purposes, to one of which I have already alluded, of planting trees along the sides of the roads; secondly, as regards the notices, warning signs and so on; and thirdly—a point which is rather more interesting—the making of grants in order to remove the thirty toll bridges which still remain on Class 1 roads and the eighteen toll bridges on Class 2 roads, apart from some on a number of roads of lesser importance.
Clause 3 deals with the acquisition of land in order to compensate open spaces or commons for land taken from them far the purpose of making roads running across them. Clause 4 enables the Minister, a county council or other 54 highway authority to serve notices upon the owners or occupiers of land, at a road junction, requiring them to remove or alter the height and character of any wall, fence or hedge thereon so as to conform with any requirements specified in the notice and restraining them from permitting any building, wall, fence, Or hedge to be erected or planted on the land. All these requirements, of course, are subject to proper compensation being made as well as to arbitration as regards the reasonableness of the requirements and the amount of compensation. Clause 5 is, perhaps, one of the most interesting in the. Bill because it enables experiments to be made, subject to the approval of the Treasury, for the construction, maintenance and improvement of roads and bridges and as to the effect of different types of vehicles on roads and bridges.
The expenditure upon highways at present is something like £40,000,000 year, and yet it is riot competent for the Minister of Transport or any other authority to carry out the investigations and experiments necessary to ensure that this very large sum of money is spent to he best advantage. With that last point I am sure your Lordships will be fully in sympathy. Those, I think, are the principal provisions of the Bill and I cannot imagine that they will cause any very great difficulty or heart searching to anybody. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, so far as that part of the road-using community for whom I speak is concerned we entirely welcome the Bill. Such a measure has long been needed. The power to plant trees alongside the highways is most valuable and I hope it will be freely exercised. May I suggest to the noble Viscount that he should suggest to the Minister of Transport, that it would be a very good thing if fruit trees were planted in such places? Anybody who knows the roads in Northern France will recollect that for miles and miles along those roads there are apple trees and pear trees, which are not only beautiful objects in spring and autumn but incidentally produce a good many apples and pears for the small boys of the neighbourhood and the passers-by.
55 In regard to the power to conduct experiments, I may remind your Lordships that several of the bigger counties have their own laboratories and are conducting very useful experiments indeed regarding the qualities of road stone, the various kinds of bitumen and the quantities used per mile of road, with the object of discovering the most useful sorts. Then there is a point in connection with Clause 4 that I would ask the noble Viscount to consider between now and the Committee stage. At the end of Clause 4 there are subsections preserving the right of railway companies and others not to have their buildings interfered with. Subsection (11), for instance, says:—…the expression 'wall' includes any partition of whatsoever material constructed…Railway companies and canal companies have protection for their buildings, as I have said, and I think that in the interests of ancient buildings that protection should be extended in respect of them. As the Bill stands to-day you can pull down any wall or anything of the kind if it necessary to do so. But the antiquarian interests of such an erection may be far greater than any other, and the benefits to be gained by preserving it from that point of view may be more than those to be gained by pulling it down. Therefore, I think it would be well if some provision could be made under which the consent of the Office of Works should be obtained in such cases. With that exception I entirely approve of the Bill.
May I say that the power to cut off dangerous corners already exists under the Highways Act of 1835 and it would seem that this Bill is only repeating, so to speak, powers which already exist. Perhaps the noble Viscount would consider that point. I hope that your Lordships will accept the Bill and that the noble Viscount will give consideration to the points I have raised between now and the Committee stage.
My Lords, I do not rise to oppose the Bill, but to call attention to Clause 4. I think I am right in saying that Clause 4 was incorporated in the Bill during its passage through another place by way of incorporating provisions suggested by the Roads Improvements Association to deal with blind corners and make improvements 56 where they are thought desirable. Clause 4 is, I think, altogether desirable and, although the wording is perhaps necessarily very long, it seems to carry out the objects aimed at.
There is one point which occurs to me and that is in the first subsection. Paragraph (a) of subsection (1) refers to the serving of a noticedirecting the owner or occupier of the land to alter the height or character of any wall (not being part of a permanent building), fence, or hedge thereon…It seems to me that it might be advisable to include the word "tree" after "fence," because the object is to preserve an unobstructed view, and it does sometimes happen that a tree which has grown, perhaps, originally eight or ten feet back from the road leans over the road at a corner, particularly if the road is on a dip and obstructs the view of the corner. It may be as well to take power to deal with trees, but if that is likely in any way to hinder the passage of the Bill I should not propose to move an Amendment. I should, however, be glad to hear from the noble Viscount whether he thinks we could include the word "tree." I am not sure that the words, as they now stand, would cover a tree, which is not part of a hedge.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am not quite sure whether it would and I will look into that point. The noble Lord behind me fears that ancient buildings might be removed. I would point out that arbitration occurs in those cases, but I will look into the point.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The question of fruit trees has been constantly considered by the Ministry of Transport.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole. House.
§ LORD STRACHIE
May I ask the noble Viscount whether he will state on what day the Committee stage will be taken?
§ LORD STRACHIE
Tuesday is a day on which a good many noble Lords will be somewhere else, and I suggest that it would be a very inconvenient day indeed.
§ LORD STRACHIE
As Tuesday will be very inconvenient for a good many noble Lords, could not the noble Viscount put it down for Wednesday?
§ LORD STRACHIE
I quite agree, but I would urge this upon the noble Viscount If it is put forward many noble Lords may be brought up from the country and find that it is down for the day after that on which they expected it would be taken, and there would be complaints about that.