HL Deb 21 July 1931 vol 81 cc954-78

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, before the Third Reading of this Bill is moved in your Lordships' House I would venture, with your Lordships' permission, to make a short personal statement. Long before your Lordships did me the honour to invite me to undertake the duties of Chairman of Committees in your Lordships' House I was a Petitioner against this Bill. Naturally, when I undertook the duties with which your Lordships have entrusted me, I at once wrote to the solicitors who are managing the opposition with which I was concerned and asked them to dissociate me as far as possible from any participation therein. Of course I could not quite dis- sociate myself from it. I had been one of the 82 Petitioners and I have naturally to pay my share of the expenses of the Petition, which I undertook to do, I think it was last January.

It seemed to me that in those circumstances—very peculiar circumstances, of course—I should take no part whatever in connection with the Bill while it was passing through Parliament. So I asked my noble friend Lord Stanmore to undertake in connection with this Bill all the duties which are usually performed by the Chairman of Committees in connection with Bills when they are passing through your Lordships' House. My noble friend was good enough to agree and my noble friend Lord Marley was good enough to move the Second Reading of the Bill when it came up from another place. I thought I ought to make this explanation to your Lordships and, through your Lordships, to my friends in Surrey in order that they might be perfectly clear as to my position in regard to this particular Bill, in which, of course, I am personally concerned.


My Lords, may I be allowed to ask the noble Earl one question? He said that he petitioned against the Bill. I should like to know whether that means that he petitioned against the whole Bill or part of it. I am very anxious to know whether he petitioned against the dumps clause.


It was the petition of the 82 Surrey landowners. I have not followed it very carefully but I think the whole thing was settled in another place.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Stanmore.)

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 67:

For prevention of ribbon development.

(4) (a) After the date of the first publication of any such resolution it shall not he lawful without the consent of the Council to construct form or lay out any street communicating with or any means of access (whether private or public) for vehicles or foot passengers to or from any main thoroughfare the subject of such resolution or to erect any building within two hundred feet from any part of any such main thoroughfare except for the purpose of finishing the construction or erection of any street means of access or building begun or of carrying out any contract entered into before that date. Any consent of the Council under this subsection may be given subject to such conditions as the Council think fit to impose and any conditions so imposed shall be binding upon any successor in title to the owner lessee or occupier of any land to which they relate.

THE EARL OF MIDLETON moved, in subsection (4) (a), after the first "Council," to insert "which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld." The noble Earl said: My Lords, I think the House will understand that in moving this Amendment I have no desire to appear to cast any reflection on the Committee of your Lordships' House who sat upon the Bill. Nobody knows better than I do the entire confidence which the Committees of your Lordships' House enjoy both with the House and with the public. I am aware also that in moving an Amendment on Third Reading I am taking a course which is not as usual as some other courses in your Lordships' House; at the same time it is one which it is impossible at times to avoid. In this particular case the Bill was carefully gone through and negotiations took place between some who were affected by it.

As your Lordships are aware, the measure consists of 110 pages and covers an enormous field of action. On one particular point, the question of bypasses, a Petition was originally lodged and negotiations took place. If there was any dereliction in not further going before the Committee I am afraid it must be put down to the fact that the original proposals of the County Council were so autocratic, so wide, so serious and, I would say, so novel, that I do not think those who negotiated with them were aware how great was the innovation proposed even after the Council had abandoned part of their proposals.

The original proposal, before the matter came to the Committee of which my noble friend was Chairman, was, I think, that the County Council should take any land which they required for the by-pass. As far as I am concerned I fully realise that the rights of landowners must give may in such cases entirely to the interests of the public. But your Lordships will realise that in a crowded county like Surrey these matters have to be watched meticulously. The County Council proposed not merely to take any land that they required for the by-pass, but to take adjoining roads wherever they thought proper and to sterilise in each case 200 ft. on either side of the road. On that land no landowner, whether large or small, could any longer build anything without their leave or make any access to the road without their leave, even though in many cases such land was cut off from the existing roads. As the result of negotiations, before the matter came to this House, I think, they dropped the question of taking the adjoining road and they kept the by-pass question alone.

It may be said that before moving this Amendment I ought to have gone before the Committee and have been represented there at very great expense in order to make the proposal which I now make and which, I think, your Lordships will consider a fair one. But I say frankly that until I saw that bypass being carried out, as it is being carried out by hundreds of workmen, I did not appreciate how serious was the effect of the provision which makes it impossible to obtain access on either side or to put up any buildings. I do not know whether your Lordships can visualise what it means to make a road a great deal wider than this House right across property in that private neighbourhood and then to say: "No erection whatever must be put up except with our leave for 200 ft. on either side of the road."

I will take an obvious case which has occurred, and which I saw for the first time a fortnight ago. I mention it because I think my noble friend might complain that his Committee has not had the advantage of hearing the points. A neighbour of mine has built a house on which he has expended £45,000. It is not very far from the existing road. The County Council have, by their by-pass at this moment, cut right through his garden, and taken off 120 feet. I am not complaining of that. No doubt they may have to give him some compensation. After having built his house, he desires to live there and enjoy the quiet. He objects to seeing from his front window a continual procession of traffic such as he would see if he were living in Piccadilly, but if he desires to put up a wall to shut off the traffic he cannot, according to this provision, do it without the leave of the County Council, because he cannot build on his own ground.

I will take another case. This is the case of a house with a park and an avenue to it of a few hundred yards. The County Council have acquired the right to go right across the avenue, to cut down a number of trees, and to make a complete change between two lodges which keep the place private. That is inevitable. But the owner wants to move his gates so as to keep off the public from coming into his private grounds, which are now invaded by the by-pass. He cannot even move his gates, or put up a lodge, because it is within two hundred feet of the by-pass. That is the second case. The third case is more serious from the agricultural point of view. A fortnight ago I saw a number of fields cut in half which before had had access to a road, but now there is no access except by the by-pass. But that access the owner is not allowed to use without the consent of the County Council; so that a farmer may be forced to go a long way round if the authorities of the County Council are unreasonable in these respects.

I do not want to say, and I do not ask your Lordships to believe, that I have any personal apprehension that the present authorities of the County Council may be unreasonable in these respects, but I must say, so far as points have been put to them up to the present, they have not been in a hurry to give the permission desired. But this is a public question, and I do object—and I shall ask your Lordships to divide on the objection—to any public authority having absolute, autocratic power without appeal. I speak with some knowledge on this subject. I served for twelve years in the War Office, and during the whole of that time, under Lord Wolseley and Lord Roberts, large tracts of land were being taken under the Defence Act for public purposes connected with the Army. Every single case came ultimately to the Minister to decide whether he would use these powers, and what consideration he would give to the private individual whose amenities might be threatened or destroyed. Look at the pressure. The pressure was all in favour of using the powers. The military authorities, quite rightly, wanted to make their money go as far as possible. They were not going to be swayed as regards a line or angle of fire by the fact that a man had put up a house recently for his own enjoyment, even though they might have gone a few hundred yards further one way or the other. All I can say without taking up the time of the House, is that not once or twice but dozens of times I have had myself to go down and view the site in order to avoid, which by the stroke of a pen I could do, the very easy thing of saying, "Oh, proceed."

Of course there is some appeal in those cases, but the appeal between a private individual and a public Department is not a fair one. It is a most one-sided one, especially for a small man. A public Department has the taxes at its back, the County Council has the rates at its back. A public Department has one check upon it which the County Council has not, because in the last resort the House of Commons may take up very seriously a question of oppression by the Minister, and many such cases have been taken up. The County Council is only responsible to its own ratepayers; it is not responsible to this House. I might bring forward a Motion in this House, and the House is not bound to listen to a complaint which nobody here has the power to deal with. Therefore I appeal to your Lordships to allow some form of appeal. When a statutory authority is involved an appeal lies to the Minister if the county council are held to have acted unreasonably. I should have liked a similar appeal. I had an interview with the authorities of our County Council last Friday, and I said to them, "I am ready to move to insert any appeal which you desire to the Minister." They did not approve of that. Then I said, "To a jury." They did not approve of that. Finally I suggested, "To a judge." They did not approve of that. The only alternative was to leave them unfettered power.

What I will ask your Lordships to do is to put in Clause 67 the gist of the Amendment which will give to private individuals the same rights which are given to public authorities later in the clause. The clause will then read as follows: After the date of the first publication of any such resolution it shall not be lawful without the consent of the Council which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld to construct form or lay out any street communicating with or any means of access (whether private or public) for vehicles or foot passengers. Your Lordships will see that does not prevent the County Council building their road wherever they like. It merely prevents their giving an absolute order as to means of access, or as to construction of buildings without the power to any of those affected to appeal to any authority in order to restrain them. In that matter also your Lordships will see that they still occupy a very commanding position, because the appeal will be between a private individual at his own expense and the County Council with the whole control of the rates. If my noble friend feels the matter ought to have been brought before his Committee earlier, I regret that that course was not taken, but I can assure him that the matter itself developed during the period that the Committee was sitting, and I can assure him also that those concerned, large or small landowners, are extremely fearful of the effect which this very drastic provision will have. I therefore beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Page 40, line 43, after ("Council") insert ("which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld").—(The Earl of Midleton.)


My Lords, as Chairman of the Committee, I should like in the first place to correct a misapprehension under which my noble friend seems to labour. My Committee had nothing whatever to do with this clause, for it was settled before it came to us, or it was an unopposed clause, which of course would be dealt with in the Lord Chairman's Office. We had really nothing whatever to do with it. I am bound to say that my noble friend has made out a very good case, and it is quite possible, if it had been brought before our Committee, we might have decided in his favour. As one who often presides over these Private Bill Committees I should like to say that I wish the noble Earl had seen his way to come before the Committee. I do not think that the course he has adopted, although it is obviously adopted in perfect good faith on his part, is a good course to adopt. I think, without explaining matters, that it is liable to abuse, and in any case I think it is unfair to the promoters of this Bill. Therefore, I hope that the course which he has found necessary to take will not be taken by other noble Lords.


My Lords, I hope that what we have just heard from the noble Earl will not be acted upon and that the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, will adhere to his Amendment. The noble Earl talks of this being unfair to the promoters, but the point is that unfairness may be inflicted on private owners of land. I need not reiterate what was said by the noble Earl so forcefully as to the power given to the County Council of depriving owners of land on either side of arterial roads of the full value of their land to a depth of 200 feet. I should like your Lordships to notice the reasons given in the Bill. In the marginal note to Clause 67 it is stated that it is to prevent ribbon development. I do not frequent these arterial roads very much, but I would ask any of your Lordships who have been along one of them whether there is anything more hideous than an arterial road?

I know it is a stunt in the newspapers now to disclaim against ribbon development, but any form of houses would be better than the hideousness of these roads. I read recently a report of a speech by the Minister of Transport in which he said that by-pass roads had one value—that of preserving the more rural villages, which were avoided by these roads and so would be preserved in their old charm and beauty. Therefore, I think he recognises that there is nothing more deplorable than going along these arterial roads. Why then should ribbon development be declaimed against? It is supposed to offend the æesthetic interests of motorists, but is it not pure cant to talk about the majority of motorists caring a scrap about the beauty which they are passing? Forty or fifty miles an hour is the average speed on these great roads, and they have no time to look at anything. So far from this being a disfigurement of the country I maintain that any building on these roads would be an improvement.

In any case it is not a sufficient justification of the proposal to deprive owners of the value of their land for such a wide margin on each side of the road—practically about seventy yards. That means that a man will be prevented from building a house within seventy yards of the road. My idea is that if I had to build a house on one of these roads I should like to build up to the road and have my garden behind, but in these cases a man will be forced to build his house or bungalow or whatever it may be at that distance from the road and have his garden alongside the road subject to the noise and smell of motor traffic. I think my noble friend's Amendment is only too moderate. The appeal which he proposes should be given to the owner is in my opinion inadequate. I hope, however, your Lordships will give support to his Amendment. It is a mere act of justice and I do not think it will be to the detriment of the public.


My Lords, I think my noble friend Lord Lamington does not quite appreciate the motives of the Surrey County Council in promoting this clause. During the last ten years, hundreds if not thousands of miles of new roadways have been made, including a large number of wide by-pass and arterial roads—great, big, straight, broad roads leading miles and miles across the countryside. Ex hypothesi, the authorities—the local authority on the one side and the Ministry of Health on the other—have tried to take these expensive roads through the least inhabited and least occupied parts of the counties for various unanswerable reasons. What has been the result? That miles of frontages have been created on private property which previously had no frontages of any kind whatever unless perhaps to a farm accommodation road.

When my noble friend Lord Lamington talked about these roads removing and lessening the value of the land he must forgive me for saying that he has got the wrong end of the stick. The added value to the agricultural land of landowners created by these new arterial and bypass roads has been something stupendous. Frontages have been made for miles. I think Lord Lamington said that he did not motor much. I wish he would, because then perhaps he would speak from a rather different point of view. What is happening is that these new frontages are being presented to the landlords and it is the landlords who are making and authorising ribbon development at the expense of the authorities—firstly, the local authority, and secondly, the Ministry of Health. That is why this ribbon development is growing apace. This Council and other authorities say that if they make these great roads they are entitled to control the frontages of them, because it is their road passing the land of the private owner, who has contributed nothing except his ordinary rates to the cost of the road. Is that unreasonable? Surely not.

Lord Lamington approves of ribbon development. Ribbon development is bad planning. When you go along these great 60-feet roads like the new West Road out of London you see frontages occupied the whole way along that road four times as broad as your Lordships' House—frontages occupied by trumpery little second-class dwellings. That is utterly wrong. It is fundamentally bad town planning. It is not in the interests of the motoring population, as Lord Lamington thinks, that this should occur. An authority makes a great new road and the frontages every 20 yards or so are occupied by bungalows. Each of these bungalows, or cottages, or whatever they may be, has a right of access to the road, and the owner as a rule exercises his right of leaving his little car or his cart outside. So you get all sorts of little cars that can stand every 20 yards down this great road. That impairs and reduces the value of the road. It happens on both sides. It limits the value of the road and thereby wastes the money spent on the road.

The noble Lord, Lord Lamington, seems to think it is quite a good thing for houses to be spread out in a long line. I think it is an anti-social treatment of housing. I think the community ought to live in community style—in a village with a social centre—instead of being spread out in a long line, which is the most expensive way of allowing the building of houses. Instead of their being grouped round a centre, with drainage and light and power provided at a central point, they are strung out along the road, and the road has to be dug up every time any one wants a new telephone or an electric wire put into his house. I hope that apart from the merits of this Amendment your Lordships will not allow it to go down that ribbon development is a good thing. It is not. What we want is more orderliness and discipline in town planning rather than less.


My Lords, as Acting Chairman of Committees I am less concerned with the merits of this Amendment than with the irregularity in procedure in moving an Amendment at this stage of the Bill. The Bill has been through the House of Commons and through your Lordships' House, and it is before Parliament for the last time before receiving the Royal Assent. Opportunities for the noble Earl to petition for the amendment of the Bill have occurred in the House of Commons and later in this House. On either of those stages it would have been open to the noble Earl to press for his Amendment to be inserted by the Committee, when its merits would have been examined in the way provided for under the Standing Orders, justice would have been done to everybody concerned and all would have had their say. In the ordinary course the promoters have a right to expect that, when they have got their Bill through the Committee stage in both Houses, they will have no more opposition to meet, and it is a very unusual practice for the House to accept an Amendment on Third Reading against the wishes of the promoters. It will be recognised that there can be no finality in Private Bill business unless the ordinary procedure provided for under the Standing Orders is followed. I think it is very difficult for me, as Acting Lord Chairman, to advise your Lordships to consider this Amendment on its merits.


My Lords, I feel that the difficulties that have been pointed out by the Acting Lord Chairman are very great and, at the same time, there are points of important principle involved in this Amendment which apply not only to Surrey but to other counties as well. I know that Lord Crawford is a very great authority on town planning and, of course, I should entirely agree with him that any measure which promoted ribbon development would be a very bad one. But the compulsory powers that are being granted by Parliament to various bodies to exercise over private property are now reaching very formidable proportions, and I think that if you place electric pylons in a man's garden, bisect his property with an arterial road and cut up his farms into small holdings, not to mention the additional taxation forecasted in this year's Finance Bill, you will put a very high test on his patriotism if you ask him to co-operate in what remains of the amenities, probably to his own financial disadvantage.

A case occurred the other day in the county to which I belong, where the making of an arterial road was projected through a village, greatly to the distress of the inhabitants, and after agitation in the Press the project was dropped. I am not sufficient of a lawyer to know whether the effect of this Amendment would be to encourage ribbon development. If that is so, I would not support it, but I do feel that you are on the one hand inviting landowners to co-operate in preserving the amenities and on the other hand putting them to great inconvenience. I feel that one ought to have some rational procedure in regard to town planning.


My Lords, may I be allowed to make a point which I think has not yet been made quite clearly to your Lordships? It is that the point taken by my noble friend Lord Midleton was in the Petition in the House of Commons, but the representatives of the landowners were so satisfied with the concessions that the County Council had already made that it was not pressed, and the clause was practically agreed in the House of Commons. Accordingly it came before the Committee of this House as an unopposed clause, and passed through. That is the true history of this clause, and I do not know how my noble friend, among the eighty-two landowners concerned, omitted this consideration. At any rate, the landowners were so well satisfied that they did not present their ease in the House of Commons when they appeared before the Committee.


My Lords, I think I ought to make clear the point of view of the Government on this matter. Before doing so, I want to assure the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, that the attitude of the War Office towards private owners of land in connection with arrangements between the two must have changed very considerably since his time. We give the utmost consideration to the point of view of the private landowner in every case.


I did not say that. I only said that the pressure was enormous on the other side not to show consideration in individual cases.


I can assure the noble Earl, that whatever the pressure may be on the other side., at the present time absolute fairness is the rule in the Department over which I have the honour to preside in the War Office. On the point of procedure, I need hardly say that the Government gives its entire support to the case put by the Acting Lord Chairman, and we feel that this Amendment ought not to be approved by your Lordships' House. In regard to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, of course we agree with him entirely in being opposed to ribbon development. There is no doubt that it is, as fie rightly says, bad town planning and makes for difficulties for local authorities and to expense in such matters as drainage, lighting and so on. After all, the right way to deal with these things is to have side roads leading into the main road, and at the end you can have the communities who are living besides the main roads.

But there is an argument against the Amendment which, I think, has not yet been brought up. I refer to the fact that the clause itself does contain an adequate safeguard for landowners. It is expressly provided in subsections (6) and (7) of this clause that any person who proves that his property is injuriously affected or that in relation to his property he suffers loss or injury may claim compensation. That, of course is a safeguard which will make councils careful in the line that they, take in this matter. On the whole, the Government feel that there is not sufficient reason for altering the Bill as proposed, especially in view of the fact that it has passed the Committees of another place and of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, before we go to a Division, I hope I may be allowed to say one word to dispel the anxiety which may have been caused by the observations of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford. There is no question on the part of those whom I represent of any sympathy with ribbon development. The whole question is whether the communities and properties of the country are to be in the uncontrolled power of the county councils, whether there should be no appeal to anybody and whether individuals, who are weak, should not have the same remedy as is given to the corporations, who are strong—namely, to appeal if they can prove that consent is unreasonably withheld. I can honestly say that I do not think there is anybody concerned with the by-pass who does not wish to give at least proper weight to all national considerations. There is no desire whatever to obstruct what is being

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

LORD JESSEL moved to insert the following new subsection in Clause 94: ( ) Any authority, body or person who wishes to deposit or dispose of refuse in any place within the county and who is aggrieved by—

  1. (a) a decision of the council or of the local authority of the district withholding or withdrawing a consent under this section, or
  2. (b) the conditions attached to any such consent, may within twenty-eight days after the date on which written notice of the decision of the council or the local authority is given, appeal against the decision or conditions to the Minister of Health whose decision shall be final."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am quite well aware that in rising to move

done or to ask for unfair terms. But it is obviously perfectly futile to say that you can compensate a man if you make the residence which he has built for a particular purpose quite useless, and if you expose it day by day to the whole of the traffic of a by-pass going at forty or fifty miles an hour. I think this is so serious a question, and will be raised by so many others, that I would ask your Lordships to follow me into the Lobby.

On Question, Whether the proposed words shall be there inserted?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 34: Not-Contents, 23.

Sutherland, D. Stanhope, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Faringdon, L.
Dufferin and Ava, M. Bertie of Thame, V. Farrer, L.
Linlithgow, M. FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Goschen, V. Hastings, L.
Bradford, E. Hailsham, V. Howard of Glossop, L.
Lauderdale, E. Jessel, L.
Lucan, E. Ashton of Hyde, L. Lamington, L. [Teller.]
Midleton, E. [Teller.] Bayford, L. Luke, L.
Munster, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Remnant, L.
Peel, E. Strachie, L.
Poulett, E. Cornwallis, L. Templemore, L.
Selborne, E. Danesfort, L. Wynford, L.
Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.) Mersey, V. Monkswell, L.
Ullswater, V. Passfield, L.
Parmoor, L. (L. President.) Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Arnold, L. Sanderson, L.
Reading, M. Ashcombe, L. [Teller.] Snell, L.
Doverdale, L. Stanmore. L.
De La Warr, E. Hanworth, L. Trenchard, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Marks, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) [Teller.]
Marley, L.
Strafford, E. Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)

this Amendment I shall be exposed to somewhat severe castigation by the Acting Chairman of Committees, in the same way as my noble friend Lord Midleton; indeed a noble friend behind me says that I ought to be treated much more severely. On the other hand, I think it is right that these Parliamentary stages should exist, so that opportunities may be given for admissions that even the wisest Private Bill Committees have failed to give contentment. I am aware, having served in another place as Chairman of Private Bill Committees, what very serious objections there are at this stage to moving Amendments of this kind. The very name of this Amendment, which is one dealing with dumps, is not a very savoury one. I am myself greatly against dumping, and I should be led away to voting against myself if I did not give the reasons for this Amendment. This Amendment is of great importance as regards the health and sanitation of a great city. It affects the whole populace of the administrative County of London.

It is calculated that, there are at least one million tons of refuse to be taken away from London per annum, and what on earth are we to do with it? We can not send it all down the Thames, nor can we burn it in the localities themselves, and it is almost impossible to get rid of over one million tons of refuse per annum. Therefore it is necessary to find some other place outside London. The County Council of Surrey are not very much affected in this matter, because they are only touched at one point, and that is by the Borough of Wandsworth. But what we are afraid of is that if this precedent is set other county councils will follow suit and it will be impossible for London to find an outlet for this refuse at all.

I should like to point out that the question of dumping was considered last year by a very important Departmental Committee set up by the Minister of Health to consider the whole question of London cleansing. Evidence was submitted to that Committee by the County Councils of Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex. While asking for a right to prohibit dumping—with which I quite agree—both Essex and Hertfordshire agreed that there should be a right of appeal against the decision, and the Middlesex County Council was the only authority to ask for an absolute veto. Moreover, these three County Councils, and the Buckinghamshire and Kent County Councils, at a conference held in September, 1929, passed a resolution asking for the right to prohibit dumping of refuse, but agreeing that a right of appeal should lie to the Minister.

I know that some noble Lords who are not well acquainted with this subject think that when you have dumped refuse into a place it is very disagreeable and insanitary. That is the case if the authority that is dumping does not take proper precautions, and we saw the other day, as regards the County of Hertford, that no less a person than George Bernard Shaw wrote to the newspapers and greatly complained of the nuisance in that County. When the matter was examined into it was found that the local authority concerned had not taken the necessary precautions to get rid of the nuisance. I believe that has now been done and there is no nuisance at all. I should like also to point out that Bradford has made great use of these dumps and has even made one of them a site for housing some of the working classes and that site is perfectly sanitary. If your Lordships read the Departmental Committee's Report you will see what a very interesting problem this is. In Bradford they utilised the valley, filled it up with the dump, and the place is quite sanitary.

I should like also to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this matter has been dealt with in another place in the Standing Committee on the Town and Country Planning Bill. In that Bill it is now understood that schemes dealing with the prohibition, regulation, control, deposit, and disposal of waste materials will be dealt with, and all those schemes have to get the sanction of the Minister. I am sure the noble Lord who so ably presided over this Private Bill Committee, and whose experience we all greatly respect, will tell your Lordships that this matter ought to have been brought before the notice of the Committee earlier. I might explain that the London County Council is not the authority for looking after these matters. The authority is vested in twenty-eight borough councils, who are responsible for the cleansing of the streets and the dumping of refuse. There is also a Standing Metropolitan Joint Committee. If a question does not affect a particular borough council they are not going to take much trouble over it, and that is unfortunately what has happened. The Standing Metropolitan Joint Committee is not a statutory body, nor has it any right or power to spend any money. I believe the Borough of Wandsworth did bring this matter up and did appear before the Private Bill Committee, but this question was not raised by Wandsworth, because I believe it does not dump in Surrey at all. But my main point is that if the Surrey County Council, which, after all, is very little affected, or likely to be affected, is given this right, we shall have all the other county councils all round us imposing a veto, and I am sure your Lordships who live in London will not enjoy living on what may be a cesspool.

Amendment moved— Clause 94, page 62, line 27, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Jessel.)


My Lords, I confess that I heard with some surprise that my noble friend was going to take the unusual course of inviting your Lordships to reverse a decision which had been unanimously arrived at by your Lordships' Committee, and I was the more surprised because, after an experience of seventeen years, I do not think I ever remember a case in which the opposition was so feeble or so easily dealt with; nor can I ever remember a Bill where it was more impossible for a, Committee to arrive at any other conclusion than the one they did arrive at. This Bill was before the House of Commons with this clause. It was opposed in the House of Commons, it was passed in its present form. In the other House they were foolish enough to give their reasons for that decision, in ours we do not. The Chairman there said: "This is a local matter, there is no need for an appeal."

The clause went through the Third Reading in the House of Commons unopposed, and it came before your Lordships' Committee. The Ministry of Health opposed it, and Mr. Goddard, who represented them, cross-examined some of the witnesses, and a supplementary report was put in. Now, I attach the highest value to the reports of these Ministries. They are very often helpful and illuminating; but, in this case, somewhat to my surprise, when, as it appeared to us, the cross-examination of every witness had failed to break him down at all, and when every clause in the Ministry's report had been dealt with by counsel, and I invited Mr. Goddard to answer for the Ministry, to my astonishment he said he had nothing further to say. There was no appearance against the Bill by those people, local boroughs or others, who, wishing to dispose of their refuse cheaply, send it to their neighbours to be dumped on their territory.

I did not really quite follow my noble friend's explanation. It is quite true that Wandsworth did appear, but they did not appear against the Bill. And I can only assure your Lordships that, on the presentation of the opposition to this clause, it would have been impossible for any one of your Lordships to have voted differently from the way in which the Committee did. I do not want to go into any detail. Your Lordships understand, I think, why this clause is brought forward. You realise that Greater London, like a gigantic octopus, is stretching out tentacles in every direction, drawing into its embrace more and more of the rural areas. Local authorities are, perhaps tardily, awakening to the fact that it is necessary to preserve their amenities and protect their beauty spots, and this Bill is an effort of the Surrey County Council to protect its amenities. The Surrey County Council do not object to dumping, but they wish to control it.

I do not know whether your Lordships have had the good, or bad, fortune to see one of these big dumps from close at hand. If you go to Dagenham or to Rainham, you will see what looks like a miniature range of mountains burning and emitting smoke and fitful flame. A natural volcano may be a very picturesque thing, but a volcano which is manufactured of filth and refuse, which vomits smoke and smell, which breeds countless hordes of rats, and is a forcing house for myriads of flies and other vermin, is not a picturesque object. It is aesthetically a monstrosity. It is physically offensive. It may be injurious to health. In any case, it is not a phenomenon which ought to be obvious to us in our present-day civilisation. The Surrey County Council do not wish to prevent dumping, but they say that they have a right, in protecting the amenities of the areas they administer and the comfort of the people who dwell therein, to take measures to prevent this dumping where it is injurious. They have brought this clause forward with that intention. They say that an appeal is not necessary. They go further and say, with due respect, that if there were an appeal the Ministry in the circumstances is not an ideal tribunal to act as a court of appeal.

It is a curious thing that the policy of the Ministry of late has been to deprecate appeals and to leave the last word to the local authority. It is a curious fact that in this very Bill it was proposed on another point to give the Ministry an appeal but the Ministry asked to have that appeal left out. The County Council say that if they are to act without an appeal in other matters, then on a matter which concerns the amenities of their people and concerns them only it is right that they should be able to act without an appeal. I was very much surprised to hear my noble friend quoting from the Report of a Departmental Committee of last year as an argument in favour of an appeal. That Departmental Committee was composed of representatives of the London County Council, the London Boroughs and the City Council—the very authorities who want to dump, who have to dump, and who hope to continue to dump. And we are asked to take their recommendations. If you asked a child what it would do with a sugarplum it would say: "Eat it." If you asked a local borough what it would do with its refuse it would say: "Dump it." Really I think that is the main point.

I am bound to say, however, that there is another point which strikes me. I do not think I should have come all the way from Scotland to defend this clause on its merits. There is another side of the question which appeals to me much more. I said that it was a very rare and unusual course to try to revise the decision of a Committee of your Lordships' House. Happily, I say it advisedly, it is very rarely done. Your Lordships appoint a Committee knowing that the Committee will hear the evidence and report upon it. Your Lordships know that their decisions will be fairly given and your Lordships endorse those decisions without question. Private Bill legislation is, perhaps, the only legislative function left to your Lordships under the Parliament Act. Noble Lords who serve on Committees upstairs do not serve in the limelight. They are encouraged to serve because they know that their work is practical and that the decisions upstairs have more lasting and permanent effect than, under the present dispensation, can be hoped for even from the most brilliant debates in your Lordships' House.

The Committees of your Lordships' House enjoy the confidence of your Lordships. I have been continually told outside by those best able to judge that there is no tribunal before whom justice can be better obtained than a House of Lords' Committee. Your Committees have done, and are doing, good work. There is only one thing that can prejudice their credit and destroy the confidence of their members and make them unwilling to serve. That is if, without due cause, their decisions are challenged and revised in your Lordships' House. The noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, was most zealous in protecting and supporting his Committees. I am sure that the noble Earl who has succeeded him will be equally anxious to do so. It is unfortunate that in this case, as he has told you, he is unable to take part in the debate. I regret that he cannot do so. I regret also that my noble friend has brought forward this Amendment, but I confidently believe that your Lordships will reject it not only on its merits but because you do not wish to reverse the unanimous decision of a Committee which you appointed, which carefully examined the question and then decided in the way they have done.


My Lords, I should like to say a word on the general question. I confess I am not familiar with the dump which the Borough of Wandsworth has placed in this County.


I do not think it has.


There is one dump.


There is one dump in the County of Surrey belonging to a metropolitan borough. I say that I am not acquainted with it, but one knows what dumps can become. I know one in an eastern county. The first time I saw it it looked like a long low range of higher ground rising from the plain. As I got nearer I was conscious that it was something indecent because I smelt the horrible sort of half-sweet, half-bitter stench which arose from it, and then the local people told me that it breeds the two foul and unpardonable things this country breeds—one is the common fly and the other is the common rat. These disgusting things to the tune of 1,000,000 tons a year are placed upon the Home Counties by the Metropolitan authorities. It is unpardonable.

My noble friend Lord Jessel said he was afraid of this Amendment not because it affected Surrey very much or the Metropolitan Boroughs very much, but because he feared it would become a precedent. I greatly hope it will be treated as a precedent by all the Home Counties and, indeed, by all the other counties which are affected by similar dumps from large metropolitan centres. The fact is that it is high time we took a comprehensive view of this dumping question. The twenty-eight or thirty authorities who are responsible for dumping now should see if they cannot combine in some big scheme for the disposal of the refuse of this great City far away from our shores, so that they will get rid of it in what, jointly treated, might be a more economical manner and in doing so save the counties from these terrible inflictions.


My Lords, I do, not think I need say more than that it is the custom of your Lordships' House to support your Private Bill Committees. The Committee to which you referred this particular Bill was a strong one, presided over by the most experienced Chairman in your Lordships' House. I think that Committee most carefully considered the questions that came before them, and the matter dealt with in this Amendment was one of those questions. I think there can be no doubt that once more your Lordships will decide to support your Committee.


My Lords, I only want to say a few words upon this matter as an old member of the London County Council, and as one very familiar with this question in the past. I have heard an eloquent speech from my noble friend behind me on this subject, but I think the attitude of my noble friend Lord Crawford was possibly a little selfish on this subject. You have your counties around London, and you say that they are to be sacred, and that there is not to be a dump in them for all this London refuse. Have you really realised what it means to deal with the millions of tons of this stuff in London? You might be put to enormous expense in having these incinerators to deal with it in London. Then we are told: "Oh, take it down the river, or send it out to sea." I have never heard a suggestion made with such levity in this House before. There is a great deal of refuse already taken down to the sea, and dumped there. I think if noble Lords realised the immense expense that would be placed on London by a system of the kind suggested they would be a little more sympathetic to the suggestion which has been made by my noble friend Lord Jessel. One other proposal has been made, and that is that some joint scheme should be agreed upon by the twenty-eight boroughs to deal with their refuse. I dare say it would be a very good thing if they had a scheme, but what is the good of their having a scheme if afterwards they are to be debarred from putting it into effect by the denial of opportunities for disposing of the refuse. I realise all the difficulties that have been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Wemyss in regard to reversing in any way the decision of the Committee, but I do confess that I have in this matter a good deal of sympathy, as an old Londoner and as one well versed in these matters, with the Amendment which has been brought forward by my noble friend Lord Jessel.


My Lords, very briefly I feel I ought to express the opinion of the Government on this matter. I hardly think that the claim that because the procedure of the House is that if a Committee has decided upon a matter it cannot be changed, has much validity, in view of the fact that your Lordships decided by a majority, ten minutes ago, to reverse a decision of the same Committee.


I am sure the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting him. The Committee had nothing whatever to do with it. It never came before us. It was an unopposed clause.


It was before the Committee of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords. The Ministry and the Government have very sincere sympathy with the feelings of the Surrey County Council in this matter. Nevertheless we feel that we should express our opinion that this must be considered as a community matter, as a matter in the interests of the whole community and not only of one county. After all, if Surrey is to be able to refuse to have any dumps, it merely means that Essex and other counties will have to have more dumps, so we are not as a community gaining anything, whatever may be the gain of Surrey in the matter. There are many other eases in which appeal to the Minister lies, or in which the councils have not got a final veto. On the question of laying sewers in other districts there is a right of appeal to the Minister; and on such matters as complaints of nuisance under the Public Health Acts there is an appeal to the Courts of Justice, so that this question of appeal is not anything new. It is generally felt by the Ministry that it would be a fair thing to agree to this Amendment, and at the same time it would provide a means of safeguarding the public interest if the right of appeal were allowed. I am merely stating the Ministry's point of view, and therefore the Government's point of view, in this matter, and I do not wish to press it any further.


My Lords, the debate which we have had this afternoon shows, I think, very clearly the undesirability of this House constituting itself into a Committee for the purpose of hearing these appeals. In order to avoid that procedure, this House as well as the other House sets up Committees to whom it entrusts semi-judicial functions for that particular purpose, and it seems to me extraordinarily undesirable that this House should take upon itself the duties which it has already committed to others. To begin with, we do not hear the evidence, we do not see the witnesses, we are not furnished with affidavits, and we have no sufficient means of judging of the merits of the case. Our decisions must be arrived at upon ex parte statements without cross-examination, and I do feel most strongly that the House ought to support the temporary and unsalaried Lord Chairman in the view which he takes. We all know that the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, is one of the most experienced of our Chairmen, who sits every year, and his decisions so far as I am aware have always given satisfaction. I think it would be a most regrettable thing if, without any evidence, without hearing any witnesses and simply upon the ex parte statements which we have heard to-day, we were to reverse a decision to which he and his Committee unanimously and deliberately came.


My Lords, by leave of the House, may I say a few words? I am afraid a great deal of heavy artillery has been aimed at me this afternoon, and a great deal has been stated about the proceedings of Committees of which I am just as well aware as noble Lords who have spoken. May I point out that there was no petition at all from anybody, and, as I have already explained, the only evidence given before this Committee was that given by a representative of the Ministry of Health. Nobody came from any of the boroughs concerned, owing to the defective machinery to which I have already referred. I only moved this Amendment as a protest—the question of Surrey in itself is a small one—against the general contention that this great City of London is not to be allowed to dump anywhere, not even on the river. It was for that reason that I brought forward the Amendment, and for no other reason. As I have now ventilated the matter, I will not put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.