HL Deb 14 December 1936 vol 103 cc788-826

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Erne).

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Transfer of trunk roads to Minister of Transport.

(3) If the Minister is satisfied that it is expedient to construct a new road or improve any road with a view to superseding any part of a trunk road by the creation of a new route for through traffic, he may after serving upon the council of every county within whose area the part of the trunk road to be superseded, or the route which is to supersede it, is situated, notice of his intention to do so, and, after considering any representation made by any such council within three months after service of the said notice, and after holding such local inquiry, if any, as he thinks fit, make an order providing that—

  1. (a) upon such date as may be specified in the order, the route which is to supersede the part of the trunk road shall, by virtue of this Act, become a trunk road; and
  2. (b) upon the first day of April next following the date on which the Minister serves upon the councils aforesaid notice that the said route is ready to be used for the purposes of through traffic, the part of the trunk road to be so superseded as aforesaid shall become a county road.

LORD SALTOUN had given Notice of two Amendments to subsection (3)-to leave out "such" ["such local inquiry"] and insert "a public," and to leave out "any, as he thinks fit" and insert "so requested by any such council." The noble Lord said: Under the subsection as it stands the procedure that the Minister gives notice of his intention to make, improve, or supersede a trunk road. He may then hold a local inquiry if he thinks fit, and three months after his original notice he may make an order. The object of my Amendment is to make sure that if the county council wish for a public inquiry they can obtain one. During the passage of this Bill in another place the Minister, speaking on this clause, stated that there was adequate provision in the Bill for public local inquiry, but a little later on he stated that there was provision for a local inquiry "if necessary." When we come to look at the Bill itself we find that "if necessary" means if the Minister himself thinks it necessary without any other party having any voice in the matter at all. I cannot sometimes restrain my admiration of His Majesty's Government for the way in which they advance dictatorship, making Ministers more and local absolute and irresponsible. Here the local authority, the county council, will be the body which in most cases would wish for a public inquiry, and it is precisely county councils who are prevented from having an inquiry except by the good will of the Minister. For the Minister there is certainly adequate provision for a public local inquiry, because he can have one if he wants to, but the county council can do nothing.

I do not suppose that if this Amendment is accepted county councils will make an ill use of the privilege. After all, under Parliament, itself the county councils are the most important and responsible assemblies in the country; they have a very high record of public service, and I cannot imagine that they would ask for a public inquiry unless they had very good reason for wanting one. The county councils have an intimate knowledge of local conditions which can be of great use to the Minister if he cares to avail himself of it. I know what is, I think, one of the most dangerous corners upon the road between here and the Moray Firth; it is a slight bend in the road a mile or so south of Forfar. Anyone surveying the road would probably pooh-pooh the suggestion that such a place could be dangerous, but there are few places on the road which experience has taught me to approach with greater caution. The county council must know all about that corner and such information is just the kind that is brought out by public inquiry.

Moreover, the clause provides for the return to the county councils of those roads which become useless to the great trunk road system by reason of the fact that new roads providing shorter cuts or better ways by means of by-passes have been provided instead of them. In many cases that may be no disadvantage, but in some cases it may be a great disadvantage. In some cases the new road is one that will be used practically to the exclusion of the old road, and the county council may not wish for the road, which, of course, they will have to maintain. It may be said that there will be less traffic for such a road, and that the county council therefore will not have much expense in maintaining it, but I would like to remind your Lordships that traffic is not the only thing which causes wear and tear to roads. Rain, frost and vegetation play a part almost equally great, so that the county council may fully claim that the burden cast upon them is inadequate to the advantage received. I have no doubt that I shall be told that wherever the county council ask for a public inquiry the Minister will certainly grant it. If that be so, there is no reason for not putting it in the Bill, and if it is not so even a single exception would produce a very widespread sense of grievance. I know that county councils are very much interested in this question and I venture to hope that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 9, leave out ("such") and insert ("a public").—(Lord Saltoun.)


I think there is no difference between the noble Lord and myself on this, because he has quite rightly stated what would be the practice of the Minister. There is no possible question of engaging in any arbitrary action on this matter. The Minister would, of course, serve notice on the county council and always consult that body. I am prepared to give an undertaking, and it is an undertaking the Minister, I understand, has already given to the County Councils' Association, with whom, of course, the Bill has been very fully discussed, that in any case where there is a difference of opinion between himself and the county council he will hold a public inquiry. But I would rather not insert this Amendment in the Bill for this simple reason. As drafted by the noble Lord it would mean that once an objection has been lodged there would always have to be a public inquiry. What very often happens, as my noble friend probably knows, is that in discussion with the Ministry a local authority puts forward certain variations. It is not a case of saying that there ought not to be a by-pass at all, but that the by-pass ought to be in a slightly different form. The Minister readily accepts suggestions and then the matter becomes entirely agreed between them. By the Amendment as it appears on the Paper the Minister would always have to have a public inquiry once an objection had been lodged, although the parties had come to terms. I am quite sure it would be agreed that that is the last thing we want. I hope the noble Lord will be content with the assurance, which I give absolutely on behalf of the Minister, that the Minister will not override objections by a local authority after full consideration without holding a public inquiry.


My noble friend seems to think that the present Minister of Transport is going to be there permanently. His undertaking does not bind his successor. I think this is a very harmless Amendment, and I hope my noble friend will press it to a Division.


Really I hope that we shall not waste time by dividing on this matter. We all mean the same thing. I shall be quite content to have an Amendment made on Report, but this Amendment really will not do. This Amendment would force an inquiry, with cost to the local authority, even when the local authority and the Minister are in complete agreement. That would be foolish and extravagant and a waste of time. I can see the point of the noble Viscount, that the undertaking I offer can only bind the present Government, and I shall be perfectly prepared to have a Government Amendment put down at the next stage to carry out the spirit of the undertaking I have given, so that there shall be a public inquiry if a substantial difference of opinion exists.


May I say, in reference to that, that we should like to see in the Amendment which the noble Viscount suggests—which I personally should be quite content to leave to him to frame—a provision that if a local authority ask for a public inquiry thy shall be entitled to have one?


Perhaps my noble friend will consult the noble Earl, Lord Erne, as to the form of the Amendment.


I am quite content to accept the noble Viscount's promise and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Modification of 25 & 26 Geo. 5. c. 47.

(4) Where an application is made for the consent of the authority under Section one or Section two of the Act of 1935 in a case where the Minister is required to be consulted, the authority shall, within fourteen days of the date of the application—

  1. (a) send to the Minister sufficient particulars thereof, and
  2. (b) serve notice on the applicant that the application cannot be granted except after consultation with the Minister.

VISCOUNT ELTISLEY moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "date" ["date of the application"] and insert "delivery." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment—


I will accept this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 5, leave out ("date") and insert ("delivery").—(Lord Eltisley.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5:

Delegation of road functions to local authorities.

5.—(1) The Minister may by agreement with the council of any county, or of any borough, or urban district, delegate to the council all or any of his functions (including functions under the enactments mentioned in Part I of the Third Schedule to this Act) with respect to the maintentenance, repair and improvement of, and other dealing with, any trunk road:

LORD ELTISLEY moved, in subsection (1), after the first "district," to insert "the population whereof is twenty thousand or upwards." The noble Lord said: I can only hope that the noble Viscount will be kind enough to accept this Amendment as readily as he did the last one. The clause as it now stands would empower the Minister of Transport to delegate his road functions not only to county councils but to any borough or urban district council however small. To this proposal the County Councils' Association, on whose behalf I speak, are strongly opposed. They take the view that it is not in the interests of uniformity—the achievement of which is, after all, one of the principal purposes of the Bill—that small authorities should be entrusted with powers over classified roads. The Association have always entertained very definite objections even to the right of urban authorities with a population over 20,000 to claim the right of maintenance and repair of county roads. They believe that giving local authorities of this character such a right of claim is altogether out of date and should not find a place in modern highway administration. The Bill so far from remedying the present state of affairs, goes further by enabling the Minister to delegate powers to any urban authority whatsoever. It would be difficult to imagine anything less calculated to ensure either technical uniformity or economy or sound administration.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 22, after ("district") insert ("the population whereof is twenty thousand or upwards").—(Lord Eltisley.)


May I support the noble Lord in this Amendment? For a very long time county councils have felt that it was very risky—I do not say this with any disrespect—to entrust the repair of roads to very small district councils. When the county councils became road authorities they were empowered to delegate their powers to district councils, but all the time they have felt that some limit should be put to the kind of council to which powers could be delegated. I well remember that when the Bill to restrict ribbon development came before your Lordships' House last year and I moved an Amendment dealing with this very subject, I was told that it would conflict with the Act of 1929. I feel very much that some very careful limit should be put on the size of districts when powers are delegated to district councils. We feel very strongly that small district councils have not the means to carry out the duties which it is proposed to delegate to them. The task of keeping roads up to the proper standard is very different now from what it once was. Small district councils have not the engineers or expert advisers or the means of carrying out repairs, and in the end the cost of the work would be greater than if it were done by the county council. Therefore I hope this Amendment will be accepted.


I submit that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. Clause 5 is an enabling clause. It enables but does not compel the Minister to delegate his functions with respect to the maintenance, repair and improvement of any trunk road, by agreement, to the local authority. The clause also specifies the statutory conditions which must be contained in the agreement. The noble Earl who has just spoken suggested that all local authorities would not have the means to maintain the road. That point is covered by subsection 2 (a), which says that the work to be executed and the expense to be incurred shall be subject to the approval of the Minister. In addition to that the clause says that there shall be a condition in the agreement that the road shall he kept in repair in the manner required by the Minister, that if it is not so kept in repair the Minister may serve notice on the local authority, and if that notice is not complied with the Minister may take steps to carry out the work. It is a further condition of the agreement that all work shall be done to the satisfaction of the Minister of Transport. It seems to me that it does not matter much about the size of the district. The real point is the existence of the trunk road in the area of the local authority, the local authority to act as agent for the Minister. The Minister will be able to supervise the work and see that repairs are properly carried out. I am really surprised at the noble Lord who has just spoken on behalf of the County Councils' Association, because under the Local Govern- ment Act, 1929, the county council is given a similar power to delegate those powers to any local authority without limitation. Why the Minister should have lesser powers than the county council I cannot understand, and I hope your Lordships will reject the Amendment.


I also hope that the Government will not accept this Amendment. Towns and districts containing a population of more than 20,000 do not alone possess all the virtues. I am voicing the opinion of the Association of Municipal Corporations, who hope that this Amendment will not be accepted. At the present time certain county councils already delegate powers over their roads to boroughs with a smaller population than 20,000. I agree with the last speaker when he says that there are plenty of safeguards if the district or the borough does not carry out its duty properly in regard to these roads: the Minister of Transport will not allow the matter to go any farther.


As your Lordships will have become aware, this Amendment stages the old battle between county councils and urban district councils and other authorities, a battle which was waged in your Lordships' House when the Act of 1929 was here. My noble friend Lord Malmesbury said that he then moved an Amendment in order to cut out the municipal and other corporations, and that he withdrew it because he was told that it would be inconsistent with the broad policy. I think he does himself an injustice; I think he withdrew it because it was not really a very fair Amendment. Your Lordships have decided this matter on the, Act of 1929. Exactly the same arguments were advanced on both sides then. The county councils said: "You ought not to allow any rights to the smaller authorities; all those rights ought to be vested in us." The other authorities said: "Well, we have done the job pretty well in the past; why should we be cut out if we are competent to do it?" That is all they are asking for here. During two years you have to maintain the status quo. Unless the status quo were maintained during the initial period, we might get into awful chaos. After that there is a complete discretion in the Minister. What is proposed here is surely the s fair thing: it is to give the Minister exactly the same discretion to use or not to use the smaller authorities that the county councils themselves have.

May I point out to my noble friend who moved this Amendment a fact of which I am sure he must be ignorant? He spoke as if the county councils never us these local authorities if they could possibly help it. That is not so at all. This is not a case of "claiming"; I know the case of claiming. The test is this: where a county council is absolutely free to do the road work itself or to employ one of these smaller local authorities, what has happened? There are no less than seventy-seven cases under the Act of 1929 where the county council has voluntarily employed and arranged with the smaller local authorities to do the job.


Are those classified main roads, may I ask, or by-roads?


Not only classified main roads. The seventy-seven cases include 299 miles, not only of classified roads, but also of roads that will become trunk roads under the Schedule to this Bill, which are at this moment being maintained by voluntary agreement between the county councils and these other authorities. I think I have said enough to show that no case has been made out for varying the decision arrived at by your Lordships in 1929 as regards the relationship between these two bodies, and I hope my noble friend will not press his Amendment.


In view of the course which the debate has taken, I do not want to re-open the old battle, and I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5, agreed to.

Clause 6:

Miscellaneous provisions as to functions in connection with trunk roads.

(3) Where the Minister considers that it is expedient that any road across a trunk road should pass under or over the trunk road, he may for that purpose construct a bridge under or over the trunk road, and such connections between the trunk road and the other road as he considers desirable, and may also construct approaches to any such bridge or connection; and for the purposes of this Act the construction of any such bridge, connection, or approach shall be deemed to be an improvement of the trunk road:

Provided that—

  1. (a) the Minister shall not construct any such bridge, connection or approach except after consultation with the council of the county in which the road across the trunk road is situated and. where that road is vested in some other council, also with that council; and
  2. (b) any such connection or approach, other than an approach to a bridge carrying a trunk road, when constructed, vest in the council in whom the road across the trunk road is vested, and shall be deemed to be part of that road, and that council shall be responsible for the maintenance and repair of any such connection or approach vested in them.

(5) The Minister may cause to be placed on or near any road in the vicinity of a trunk road such traffic signs as are in his opinion necessary for the control of traffic entering or leaving the trunk road, and may enter any land and exercise such other powers as may be necessary for that purpose.

(8) The council of any county may contribute towards the costs incurred by the Minister in the construction or improvement of any trunk road in respect of such construction or improvement or in respect of any improvements to the amenities of the road or of land abutting on or adjacent to the road and the council of any borough or urban district may contribute towards the costs incurred by the Minister in any such construction or improvement, if the construction or improvement is in the nature of a town improvement.

THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE moved, at the end of subsection (3), to insert "other than the embankments thereof and retaining walls (if any) which shall be maintained and repaired by the Minister." The noble Lord said: The clause to which I have tabled this Amendment deals, in subsection (3), with the provisions that the Minister makes for safeguarding the crossings of the trunk roads, for doing away with the danger points of what we know now as crossroads. For that, reason he takes power to erect bridges either to carry the trunk road over the other road or to carry the other road over the trunk road. The trunk road assumes a parallel existence to what we experience in railways in this country. The procedure which has hitherto been the custom with regard to railways is that the railway company has been responsible for the upkeep of the road and bridge crossing the railway. I am not pressing that parallel, because I feel quite strongly that the maintenance of a road once made is much better in one hand than in two.

The Amendment which I have tabled seeks to secure that no extra unfair burden is placed on the local authority by the construction of these bridges, their approaches, and the embankments which must be necessary to take those approaches up to the bridge. An extra burden is imposed in construction and there may be an extra. burden in maintenance. The Minister by the Bill undertakes and is responsible for the burden of construction, but once they are constructed, according to the Bill, he hands over to the local authority the responsibility of maintaining these embankments and approaches. The Amendment which I propose is that at the end of the subsection there should be inserted the words: other than the embankments thereof and retaining walls (if any) which shall be maintained and repaired by the Minister. That is to secure for the local authority fair treatment, and to prevent an extra burden being placed upon the rates through the construction of these over-crossings or under-crossings, as the case may be. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 6, at end insert ("other than the embankments thereof and retaining walls (if any) which shall be maintained and repaired by the Minister.")—(The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.)


This, of course, as my noble friend will appreciate, is an Amendment which involves Privilege, but I want to deal with it, if I may, entirely on its merits. The proposal, as he has very fairly put it, is this: Where you get a bridge made And an approach that is obviously in the interest of the trunk road and of the local road which is going towards it, the proposal in the Bill is that the Minister should bear the whole cost of the construction of the bridge and the approaches and, indeed, everything that is done, and that thereafter the Minister will have—I think I am right—to maintain the bridge itself; but the local road that passes over is maintained by the local authority and the approaches to the bridge are maintained by the local authority. Here is a case in which work is undertaken which is in the interests both of the trunk road and of the local road as well, and I should have thought that the fair thing to do was to divide the expenditure reasonably between the two: that is to say, to put upon the Minister and upon the general taxpayer—which is really rather a fairer way of putting it, if I may venture to say so—the obligation to pay for the whole of the capital cost and then to leave it to the local authority to maintain the road that has been constructed. I think that the thing about which my noble friend is anxious is the possible risk that once these embankments that come up to a bridge have been constructed, they might give way and the local authority might be involved in doing a repair which ought not to have been necessary if the road had been properly constructed in the first instance.

I understand that the regular practice in all these contracts which are placed with contractors for making bridges and approaches, is that they are to be under an obligation to maintain the works during the first year, when there may be a slip or subsidence. I want to be perfectly fair in working out the course that we wish to pursue—namely, that where capital expenditure is involved it shall be borne by the taxpayer, and where maintenance is involved it shall be borne by the county. In order to ensure that no obligation will fall upon the county because the work has not been properly done in the first instance, I am prepared to give an undertaking that the Minister—that is, the taxpayer—shall bear any cost which is necessary to ensure that these approaches are satisfactorily maintained for three years after the road is constructed. I think that that should give a complete assurance to a county that if the work has not been quite well done they will not be landed with any obligation. I am prepared on behalf of the Minister to accept the obligation during the first three years, and I hope that that will satisfy the noble Earl.


I recognise that the offer of the noble Viscount goes a long way to meet me, but the point really is that I feel that the capital work should be the responsibility of the taxpayer, and I should have preferred as my Amendment advocates that that capital work should be definitely the responsibility of the Minister. However, in view of the fact that the noble Viscount has given an undertaking on behalf of the Minister to accept three years responsibility, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DARCY (DE KNAYTH) moved, in subsection (5), to leave out "near" and insert "on land abutting on." The noble Lord said: I will not detain your Lordships very long, but my Amendment is really to substitute for the word "near" the words "on land abutting on." It is little more than a drafting Amendment, but the point is that the word "near" is not very precise. If any of your Lordships had had the misfortune to take lodgings at the seaside you might have found that the word "near," or the words "within a stone's throw of the station," were not quite so precise as you would like in an Act of Parliament. You may also remember the expression "the Near East," which will tend to show your Lordships how elastic can be the interruption put upon such a word as "near." I know that it is possible to say that people are not going to trespass very far in pursuit of this object, and that there is no purpose in any one going any considerable distance away from a road, even if it should be construed in any way as being "near," which is merely saying that the word is unnecessarily wide. I think the Government will have got all they want in a slightly altered wording of the clause.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 15, leave out ("near") and insert ("on land abutting on").—(Lord Darcy (de Knayth).)


As the noble Lord has said, this is almost entirely a question of drafting. We both mean the same thing. The object is to give the Minster power to erect one of those funny looking signals which tells you there is a school or a level crossing at hand, and he is going to put it, naturally, in a place which is most conveniently near—that is, as near the road as possible. The noble Lord wants me to substitute for the word "near" the words "on land abutting on." We prefer to keep the word "near" because it is the word used in the Road Traffic Act of 1930, which provides that the highway or bridge authority may cause or permit traffic signs to be erected. If we deliberately took a different word in the case of the Minister I think we should induce the Courts to believe either that we had been very muddle-headed people—I am sure they would not be so disrespectful—or that we deliberately intended that the Minister's power should be different from the power of the local authority. That is the last thing that we want. I think we had better stick to the same words for both Acts of Parliament for one and indeed the same duty.


In the circumstances I will withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My next Amendment is in subsection (5), at line 19, after "any" to insert "such." It is not quite consequential.

Amendment moved,— Page 11, line 19, after ("any") insert ("such").—(Lord Darcy (de Knayth).)


I thought it was consequential, but I will have it looked into and if necessary I will put down a formal Amendment on the Report stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

THE EARL OF ERNE moved, in subsection (8), to leave out "in respect of such construction or improvement or" and insert "including any costs incurred." The noble Earl said: This is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 42, leave out from ("road") to ("in") in line 1 on page 12 and insert ("including any costs incurred").—(The Earl of Erne.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7:

Transfer of property and liabilities.

7.—(1) When a road becomes a trunk road then, subject to the provisions of this section, of the property which immediately before the date on which the road became a trunk road was vested in the former highway authority for the purposes of their functions in relation to the road or in any local authority for the purposes of functions in relation to the road under any of the enactments mentioned in Part I of the Third Schedule to this Act, there shall, as from that date, be transferred to, and vest in, the Minister, by virtue of this section, the following property, that is to say—

  1. (a) the road and any land (not being land vested in the former highway authority for the purpose of being used for the storage of materials required wholly or partly for the maintenance, repair or improvement of other roads or land acquired for the improvement or development of frontages or of land abutting on or adjacent to the road);
  2. (b) all other property (except materials to be used for the maintenance, repair or improvement of the road) including the unexpended balances of any grants paid by the Minister to any such authority for the purposes of their functions in relation to the road but not of any loans raised by any such authority for those purposes; and
there shall also as from that date be transferred to the Minister by virtue of this section all liabilities incurred by any such authority for the purposes aforesaid (except loans and loan charges) and not discharged before the said day.

Loan ELTISLEY moved, in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), to leave out "but not" and insert "and also the outstanding portion." The noble Lord said: The purpose of my Amendments (of which the other two are consequential) is to bring outstanding loan charges within the liabilities to be transferred to the Minister. The proposal in Clause 7 to exclude outstanding loan charges is a complete reversal of the principle adopted by Parliament when roads were transferred from the district councils to the county councils by the Local Government Act, 1929. The Ministry now take the view that the two cases are quite different, the former being, so they allege, merely a transfer from one pocket to the other of the same individual, whereas the new Bill represents a transfer from the ratepayer to the taxpayer. This argument, however, is fallacious, as the 1929 Act must inevitably have resulted in saddling the ratepayers in some county districts, where outstanding loans did not exist, with the borrowings of other areas in the same county. The Association of County Councils appreciate that the position in regard to outstanding loans varies considerably throughout the country, but they are nevertheless of the opinion that those authorities which have relied wholly or in part upon this method of meeting their capital expenditure would justifiably resent the exclusion of loan charges from the proposed transfer.

In this connection it must be borne in mind that this system has been resorted to mainly by the less wealthy counties who could not otherwise have undertaken important works, and by those whose heavy programmes have necessitated, despite their greater resources, partial recourse to borrowing. We have some deplorable cases where main trunk roads run right through a county and do not touch the towns of that county, arid the county's resources are very small indeed. There is an instance in Huntingdonshire where the only two or three towns in the County are not on the main road and the whole of the traffic is virtually through traffic. That County has had to borrow very heavily in order to make the road up to the required standard. It is understood that the total of these loans is now approximately £2,500,000 involving an annual charge in the neighbourhood of £150,000. Of course this is not a very important financial factor in relation to the large expenditure contemplated under the new proposals, but it is a matter of considerable consequence to certain counties.

Incidentally, I suggest that in the event of the non-transfer of the liability for loan charges, highway authorities will be discouraged, as regards roads which may eventually acquire trunk road status, from embarking upon works for which they would be obliged necessarily to raise loans. Further points are that continuing liability for existing charges will materially weaken the ability of some of the poorer counties to spend adequate sums on the roads remaining under their control; and that in many cases the physical road benefits resulting from loan expenditure are far from exhausted in the case of many of these roads, so that they represent a very definite asset, which it is only fair that the Minister should be called upon to meet.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 38, leave out ("but not") and insert ("and also the outstanding portion.")—(Lord Eltisley.)


I should like to support this Amendment. There are very difficult cases under this subsection. I have in mind the case of a county council looking after a piece of one of the roads which is to come under this Bill, a trunk road, where it was suddenly discovered that a large bridge over a rather turbulent river was utterly unsafe. Heavy traffic had to be diverted for miles round and the question came up before the county council—Shall we or shall we not start to build this bridge, or shall we do nothing, in which case the Ministry of Transport will certainly have to pay the lot? The county council applied to the Ministry of Transport and asked: "If we start this bridge shall we be recouped?" The Ministry of Transport said that they did not know and they would not say. The county council, trying to do the fair thing, started the bridge, and the point is that they will actually have spent some money which undoubtedly they will have to take cut of capital; that is to say, issue a loan. Yet had they chosen the line of least resistance, they could have left this bridge alone and allowed the Ministry to do it when this Bill became an Act. There may no doubt be many other cases of work which is now in process of being done where local authorities may be rather hard hit if this clause remains unaltered.


Your Lordships will naturally appreciate that this is very obviously an Amendment involving Privilege. I mean that the proposal made by my noble friend is one to put another £2,500,000 upon the taxpayer, and I ought to tell your Lordships, who naturally will take whatever decision seems proper when I have put the circumstances before you, that this was actually proposed in another place and that an Amendment, which was broadly in the same sense, was rejected. This has been advanced as a case where the Government, the taxpayer, is acquiring an asset. Quite frankly, I do not think that that is at all the way in which this question can be approached. What the taxpayer is doing under this Bill is not buying an asset, but relieving ratepayers of a liability to the tune of £700,000 a year. I could not help being reminded, when my noble friend was speaking, of an observation made by a very distinguished ex civil servant who is now a member of your Lordships' House, who, having heard a financial disquisition from Mr. Lloyd George, who was then Chancellor of Exchequer, as to the unpredictable benefits which would proceed from a certain proposal which Mr. Lloyd George was advocating to his officials at the Treasury, said: "I understand that liability, when properly envisaged, becomes an asset." This is more or less the same proposition.

The fact remains that if we accepted this Amendment we should be saddling the taxpayer with £2,500,000 of further liability, in addition to the liability which he is accepting under this Bill. If this Amendment were carried, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in any negotiations which he conducts with the local authorities who are being relieved of certain liabilities under this Bill would, I think, quite inevitably bring into those discussions the fact that the sum he was dealing with was not merely a sum of several millions under this Bill but that we had added another £2,500,000 to the taxpayers' bill, which of course would have to be taken into account in the negotiations about adjustment of the block grant in the next quinquennial period. Both on that ground and on the question of the incidence as between counties it would work extraordinarily unfairly.

My noble friend said that quite recently counties have done this thing in a different way. Some have borrowed, some have paid out of revenue. He said the poorer counties and also counties with great programmes had borrowed, and rich counties had done it out of revenue. It is not quite true. Let me take two counties, both of which manage their business extremely well—Middlesex and Devon. Middlesex has done the great bulk of this work by borrowing at a low rate of interest. I believe the County of Devon has done practically the whole of its expenditure out of revenue. Devon is a place where, I should think, a great deal of the road traffic is the traffic of tourists passing through and is probably serving other people besides the inhabitants of Devon. Your Lordships will observe how unfair this proposal would be as between those two counties. Middlesex would be relieved of all this loan expenditure. Devon, which has done the whole thing out of revenue, would not get a cent. But then when it comes to the negotiations which take place between the Government and the local authorities as to what ought to happen with regard to adjustment of block grants and so on, it will be said: "Well, let the taxpayers assume this additional liability that has got to be brought into account." We have taken the fair course, which is to treat the whole of this business as relieving the ratepayers of the duty of maintenance in the future, relieving the ratepayers of about £600,000 or £700,000 of expenditure in the aggregate, and taking over, not an asset, but a very serious liability. I hope my noble friend will not press this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Power to hold inquiries and obtain information.

10.—(1) The Minister may hold an inquiry in connection with any matter as to which he is authorised to act under this Act, and the provisions of subsections (2), (3), (4) and (5) of Section two hundred and ninety of the Local Government Act, 1933, shall apply to any such inquiry as they apply to local inquiries held under that section but as if for references to a department there were substituted therein references to the Minister.

LORD ELTISLEY moved, in subsection (1), to omit the reference to subsection (4) of Section 290 of the Local Government, Act, 1933. The noble Lord said: Under Clause 10 power is given to the Minister to hold inquiries in connection with any matter which arises under this Bill. Under this proposal the Minister could initiate an inquiry and the costs of such inquiry could then be saddled by the Minister on the local authority. The purpose of this Amendment is to avoid action of that kind being taken.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 10, leave out ("(4)").—(Lord Eltisley).


I am sure my noble friend would agree that he would not propose that in every case the Minister should pay. That shows how difficult it is to draft an Amendment. The practice which is followed at present, and with which the county councils are familiar, is that if the Minister directed an inquiry to be held which was really for his purposes then he would pay the whole of the costs. If the inquiry is obviously on a matter of local interest— for example, there might be an application put in by a local authority that a speed limit should be removed, and, on objection taken by local inhabitants, an inquiry might be held—some part of the expenditure, at any rate, in the future as in the past, ought to fall on the local authority. I do not think it is possible to draft in this case any words which are better than we have got here, which leave a discretion as at present. But this is perhaps a case where an undertaking is of value, where an undertaking can be given to the local authorities that the present practice will be maintained—namely, that in a case where the Minister is conducting a formal inquiry really for his own purposes the taxpayer would pay the cost, and where the inquiry is purely of local interest, the local authority would pay all or part of the cost. Each case will be decided on its merits, and that undertaking I am prepared to give.


As I understand, the Minister is giving the assurance that he would not expect any local authority to contribute to the cost of an inquiry held solely at the instance of, and for the purpose of, the Minister. I am very glad to receive that assurance, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to insert the following new clause after

Clause 10:

Provisions as to certain orders made by the Minister.

". Any orders made by the Minister under any of the following provisions of this Act (which give power to alter or modify enactments including the First Schedule to this Act) that is to say:—

shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat after any such order is laid before it, praying that the order may be annulled, it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done there-under or to the making of a new order."

The noble Lord said: This is the first of a series of Amendments to try to persuade His Majesty's Government to honour the findings of the Donoughmore Report. The object of the proposed new clause is to retain some measure of control by Parliament over alterations in Acts of Parliament, whether public or private. Delegation of powers to Ministers to alter Acts of Parliament is one of the chief points dealt with by Lord Donoughmore's Committee on Ministers' Powers, and I propose to read to your Lordships two extracts from that Report. On page 59 the Report says: There can be no doubt of the extreme convenience, from the point of view of those charged with the duty of bringing into effective operation a far reaching measure of reform, of a dispensing power such as that contained in the so-called 'Henry VIII Clause.' But again the argument of convenience may be pushed too far. Even though it may be admitted that Parliament itself has conferred these powers upon Ministers, and must be presumed to have done so with the knowledge of what it was doing, it cannot but be regarded as inconsistent with the principles of Parliamentary government that the subordinate law-making authority should be given by the superior lawmaking authority power to amend a statute which has been passed by the superior authority. It is true that the power has been sparingly used and that it has been used with the best possible motives. It may also be that the exercise of the power has not, in practice, given ground for complaint. None the less, it is a power which may attract the hostility and suspicion of persons affected by its exercise, who, if they are aggrieved by a particular exercise of the power, are tempted to impute to those who exercise it motives which do not in fact exist.

Then again, on page 65, the Report says: The use of the so-called 'Henry VIII Clause,' conferring power on a Minister to modify the provisions of Acts of Parliament (hitherto limited to such amendments as may appear to him to be necessary for the purpose of bringing the statute into operation) should be abandoned in all but the must exceptional eases, and should not be permitted by Parliament except upon special grounds stated in the Ministerial Memorandum attached to the Bill. The Henry VIII Clause' should (a) never be used except for the sole purpose of bringing an Act into operation"— that is not the case here—and (b) be subject to a time limit of one year from the passing of the Act. I hope after what I have said that the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill will see his way to accept my Amendment. Perhaps it would not be out of order if I told the noble Viscount that I have be m in communication with two or three noble and learned Lords who support memorally, but who unfortunately are unable to do so physically because of previous appointments.

Amendment moved— After Clause 10 insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


With some of the general principles that the noble Viscount has enunciated I should find myself in complete agreement. Frankly I dislike legislation giving very wide discretionary powers to Ministers where I think the thing ought to come before your Lordships' House. Your Lordships will accept that from me because your Lordships may remember that in the Air Navigation Bill, which we passed towards the end of the summer, there was power to make a number of orders, and I deliberately inserted provisions which in one or two important cases required the positive Resolution of both Houses of Parliament before an order became operative and a large number of other cases required an order to lie. Therefore, in telling your Lordships that important questions ought to be brought before Parliament so that we may have an opportunity of accepting or rejecting them, I really have taken very good care to practise what the noble Viscount has preached. But that does not mean that every order which is of purely local importance ought to come to your Lordships' House. After all, what we have to decide here is whether your Lordships want all orders mentioned in this clause to lie here for twenty-eight days in case any one wants to pray against them.

Would your Lordships just observe—I must in fairness to my noble friend Lord Bertie take them in detail—what they are. The first orders under Clause 1 (5) are the orders which have to be passed before the appointed day, which is April 1 next year. They are the orders—I think I am right in this—which enable the Minister in the case of a by-pass road which is in course of construction by a local authority, and which everybody agrees ought to be the trunk road and not the road for which that is a substitute, to be sure that the by-pass or the diversion which is already under construction shall come in and become the trunk road. I am sure your Lordships would not want all those orders if they are to be effective, and they have to be effective before the 1st April, to come here.

The next is under Clause 1 (6), a clause your Lordships have already passed. That is a clause which gives the Minister power to correct a misdescription in a road. If your Lordships turn to page 21 and the next twelve pages following in the First Schedule to the Bill, you will see that there is a description given of all the trunk roads. That Schedule is now before your Lordships to move Amendments to if you so desire. There are one or two on the Paper. But if it is found, as it may well be, that in this welter of names which find their place on twelve pages of roads, some actual mistake or misdescription has occurred in the name of a road—and there will be no dispute about it—I am sure your Lordships would not wish an order, which merely said the road was wrongly described and that it ought to have been called "something something road" instead of the words in the Schedule, to have to come here. Those are two.

The next is an order dealing, for example, with somebody applying to make a bridge across a street. The Minister becomes the highway authority. If an order is not made notice will have to be given to the Minister and to the local authority who would, in those cases, make an order to say that the application should be made to the Minister and not to the local authority. That obviously is for the convenience of the people living in the district. There is only one power that might be considered to be of something more than purely local importance, although it is essentially local. It is the power given to the Minister under paragraph 6, of the Fourth Schedule. There the Minister is the approving authority for proposals under the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act of 1935. We are not taking away any of the powers of the Minister in relation to that Act.

A case like this, however, might arise. A local authority makes a planning scheme which is a reasonably satisfactory scheme under the Town and Country Planning Act—I remember how very keen your Lordships were that that Act should work as effectively as possible—but the scheme put forward by the local authority does not provide for the means of access to the trunk road. It is a very local matter, I agree. Where the Minister thinks that the broad plan of the local authority is a very good one and he wants to approve it, he has power to do so under the Act as it stands; but if in the interests of safety, which was so much emphasised by noble Lords in the last debate, he feels it would be his duty to say, in approving it, "I want to make certain modifications so that the entrance to the trunk road for people who are developing their land must be in a particular manner; that is not wholly covered by the plan, and it is essential for entrance by people to the trunk road," I think it would be universally accepted that he ought to have that power. He would not want to have to hold up all the good work of the local authority and every town planning scheme in order to get them to put their own particular road in their order. Therefore he would make what I may call a subsidiary order dealing with this very local matter, which he thinks he ought to make in the interests of safety.

I have gone rather carefully into this, because I thought I ought to look at all the particular provisions in which it is thought right that the Minister should have power to make orders. I believe I have summarised them correctly to the Committee, and I think your Lordships will see that they are matters of very local interest, matters in which, of course, the Minister makes orders at present without any consultation with this House because he is either approving or disapproving the action done by this or that local authority or road authority. I do not think your Lordships really want to make use of the Donoughmore Report in order to make us bring here masses of small orders which we should never have dreamed of bringing here apart from the passage of this Bill. In view of what I have said I hope my noble friend will not press the Amendment.


I quite follow the point my noble friend has just made with regard to the changes in subsection (1), but surely paragraph 6 of the Fourth Schedule goes a good deal wider than anything he has touched upon because it says: Where, upon being satisfied that by reason of the provisions of any enactment other than the said Act"— that is the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act—he finds himself embarrassed or in a difficulty, he makes an order. That surely goes far beyond the question of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act and it gives him power to vary anything that stands in his way— by reason of the provisions of any enactment other than the said Act or of any order, scheme or resolution made or passed under any such enactment … The wording of the paragraph is rather obscure. The sentence is extremely long. I do not know whether I have apprehended it properly, but certainly it is not clear on the face of it, and I suggest that the noble Viscount should look into it before the next stage of the Bill.


I will be very glad to do that. I have mastered this thing as well as I can. I once was a lawyer, but I frankly confess that I find the Schedules a little difficult to follow. While I agree with my noble friend that on the face of it the wording looks very wide, I am advised that the sort of case I have put, of access to a trunk road under the planning scheme is all that would be in fact affected. I will look into it, however, and if I find that I have in any way misled the House I will make it plain, and there will be an opportunity, if necessary, to make some alteration.


I recognise that it would cover the cases mentioned by the noble Viscount, but I submit that it might cover a good many others also.


I will look into that.


Often when I have heard an answer from the Front Bench it has seemed that it was a watertight one, but next morning after reading in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full report I have seen that it was not the answer I had thought it was. Therefore I propose to study in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow what the noble Viscount has said, and in the meantime I withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Application, to Scotland]:


The three Amendments standing in my name are drafting Amendments. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Page 15, line 22, after ("in") insert ("subsection (2) of Section three and ")

Page 15,line 23, leave out ("references to the council of") and insert ("reference to")

Page 15,line 25, leave out ("town council") and insert ("burgh").—(The Earl of Erne.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE moved, after subsection (6), to insert the following new subsections: (7) Subsection (3) of Section one of this Act shall have effect as if in paragraph (b) thereof for the words 'the part of the trunk road to be so superseded as aforesaid shall become a county road' there were substituted the words the Minister shall cease to be the highway authority for the part of the trunk road to be so superseded as aforesaid.' (8) When in pursuance of subsection (3) of Section one of this Act as modified by the last foregoing subsection the Minister has ceased to be the highway authority for any part of a trunk road, the highway authority for the said part shall be such local authority as would have been responsible for the maintenance and management thereof, if the road lad never become A trunk road and the provisions of any Act regarding the functions of local authorities in relation to the said part shall have effect accordingly.

The noble Earl said: The new subsections which I propose shall be inserted are rather lengthy, and they illustrate the difficulty of explaining in legal language what one wants to say. The purpose of my Amendment is that if a trunk road is "detrunked"—to invent a, word—and if it is further declassified, it shall then revert to the authority which would have had it prior to its being classified. That is really what is meant by these new subsections which I propose should be added. Under the Local Government Act, 1929, the county councils were given responsibility for ill classified roads in small burghs in Scotland. Under this Bill, if it stands as drafted, if a trunk road in a small burgh is "detrunked" and thereafter declassified it would become the responsibility of the county council who would really have no interest in it whatever. That is the simple reason for putting forward this Amendment. It is intended to bring this Bill into line with the Local Government Act, 1929. I am sorry it needs so many words to do so, but I should like to acknowledge the assistance which I have had from the Ministry whom I have consulted and who are really responsible for the wording of the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 13, at end insert the said new subsections.—(The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.)


The disgusting verb which the noble Earl has used—I hope "detrunked" does not appear in the Bill, and that the word will never be used again—naturally prejudices me against him. It is really a disgusting word, but I believe he has got hold of a rather good legal point, if I may say so, here. What I understand is the purport of this Amendment is to ensure that when a portion of a trunk road is superseded the position will be precisely the same as it would be under the Act of 1929 were the trunk road a classified road. I congratulate him on having improved on the phraseology of the draftsman of the Bill. I am advised by those who understand the question that this long Amendment of his does more correctly express the intention than the shorter words used by the draftsman, and therefore I gladly accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next three Amendments are drafting Amendments. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Page 16, line 30, after ("five") insert ("of this Act")

Page 17, line 7, at end insert the following new subsection— ("(11) Nothing in subsection (1) of Section seven of this Act shall be construed as transferring to the Minister any dwellings for road workmen provided or erected by a county council in pursuance of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Section three of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1908.")

Page 18, line 30, after ("Schedule") insert ("to this Act").—(The Earl of Erne).

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13:


13.—(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, the following expressions have the meanings hereby respectively assigned to them, that is to say:— Improvement" has the same meaning as in Part II of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909;

THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR had given Notice of an Amendment to leave out the definition of "Improvement" and insert: 'Improvement' includes the widening of any road, the cutting off the corners of any road where land is required to be purchased for that purpose, the levelling of roads, the treatment of a road for mitigating the nuisance of dust, and the doing of any other work in respect of roads beyond ordinary repairs essential to placing a road in a proper state of repair.


My noble friend the Marquess of Aberdeen has had to go to Aberdeen in the performance of his duties as Lord-Lieutenant and has asked me to take charge of this Amendment. I do not know in what words he would have commended it to your Lordships. He merely gave me a general brief indicating that he dislikes legislation by reference. I certainly think that when it comes to a definition of terms legislation by reference is really impossible. I cannot help recalling what happened when I was at school. Sometimes little boys instead of putting the translation under a Greek phrase in their grammar books would put a reference to a succeeding page. When you turned to the succeeding page you found a reference to another page, and another page, and another page. At length, if you pursued the clues, you would find in some part of the grammar book the correct translation which you were expected to learn. That may be all right for little boys at school, but venture to think that when you are dealing with the Statute Book that is not a proper way to legislate.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 32, leave out from ("Improvement") to the end of line 34 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Saltown.)


I have every sympathy with the objection to legislation by reference if it can be avoided, and I can well understand that my noble friend was not able precisely to explain what was the effect of the Amendment he was moving. Let me enlighten him. The effect of the Amendment would be to exclude from the definition of an improvement four types of things which have been laid down by Statute to be improvements since the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, was passed. That, I am sure, is the last thing he wants to do. In common parlance what we want to say is that we want an improvement to be anything which Parliament has declared to be an improvement since the first Act was passed. I am told that we have got to say it in the form in which it appears in this Bill. Since the Act of 1909 was passed there have been three or four other Acts all dealing with things by reference, and therefore there are in fact five definitions of "improvement." We want the word "improvement" here to cover all improvements, and I am advised on the highest authority that this is the correct way of doing it. I hope that the time will come when all the Highway Acts are put into one, so that anybody who looks up the word "improvement" will be able to see what it means, but I am told that as the case stands now the drafting is correct.


Surely the effect of the words in the Bill is to restrict the meaning of the word "improvement" to what was understood by it in 1909. I submit that with deference, but it looks like it.


I thought so too, but I am told that it is not so. This Fill says: 'Improvement' has the same meaning as in Part II of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909. If one looks at the Act of 1909 he will see that an improvement is something as there defined or as the definition may by subsequent Act of Parliament be amended. I am assured that this does cover all kinds of improvements, but I will gladly have this verified by the draftsman and make sure that we are shying in this case what we mean. If my noble friend looks at subsection (3) of this clause he will see that it reads: Except where the context otherwise requires, references in this Act to any enactment or to any provision of any enactment shall be construed as references to that enactment or provision as amended by any subsequent enactment including this Act.


If that be so, what is the use of referring to the Act of 1909, when a great deal has been added to it since? I defy any layman to construe this definition of an improvement, and I do really submit that it is a very bad case of throwing a cloud of obscurity over the unhappy person who wishes to understand the Act. I know that my noble friend has a most luminous mind and I hope he will disperse the obscurity before the Report stage.


I should have thought as an ordinary layman that if the word "improvement" is to be taken to mean what it is defined to mean in the Act of 1909 as amended by four other Acts that should be so stated, but I understand that is implied in subsection (3), However, if we can make it a better piece of drafting we will try to do so.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

First Schedule:

Roads which become Trunk Roads by virtue of this Act.
Name of Trunk Road. General Description of Route. Ministry of Transport Classification Number.
LONDON—EDINBURGH—THURSO Edinburgh—Kirkliston—Linlithgow—Polmont—Falkirk—Larbert—Bannockburn—Stirling—Bridge of Allan Dunblane—Greenloaning—Blackford—Auchterarder—Perth—Dunkeld—Ballinluig—Pitlochry—Blair Atholl—Dalwhinnie—Newtonmore—Kingussie—Aviemore—Carrbridge—Tomatin—Inverness—Beauly—Dingwall—Evanton—Invergordon—Tain—Kincardine—Bonar Bridge—Golspie—Brora—Helmsdale—Dunbeath—Latheron—Wick. A.9
Wick—Watten—Thurso. (Scrabster Pier.) A. 882

THE EARL OF ELGIN AND KINCARDINE moved, in the general description of the London—Edinburgh—Thurso trunk road, to leave out "Linlithgow—Polmont—Falkirk — Larbert — Bannockburn—Stirling—Bridge of Allan—Dunblane—Greenloaning—Blackford" and insert "Queensferry—Inverkeithing—Cowdenbeath — Kinross — Glenfarg—Perth" and to substitute "A90" for "A9" in the third column. The noble Earl said: This is a fundamental Amendment. It is one to which I referred on the Second Reading of the Bill and in which I was encouraged by the answer given to me by the noble Viscount who answered for the Government. He invited me definitely to put this Amendment down on the next stage of the Bill in order that he might be better instructed. In introducing the Bill the noble Earl who spoke for the Government quoted the Minister of Transport as saying that the reason for the Bill was that there should be a network of roads selected broadly as indispensable alike in peace and in war: Most of the roads are roads which in earlier years have been chosen in co-operation with the highway authorities … and to them special rates of grant from the Road Fund have been made,… To these roads an addition of approximately 700 miles has been made in order to make the general skeleton more complete. My point was that the skeleton, although it might be said to be more complete, was ill essence wrong.

Casting one's eye over the skeleton as shown in the map one sees, broadly speaking, two main roads from north to south, one taking the East Coast route and the other taking the West Coast route. These two roads arrive at the North of England, say at the points of Newcastle and Carlisle, as the two most important northerly towns, and then proceed into Scotland. The road from Carlisle has three legs, one of them going to Edinburgh, one to Glasgow, and the third also leading to Glasgow via Stanraer and the West Coast. The Newcastle route, being on the East Coast, proceeds via Berwick to Edinburgh. After Edinburgh there is only one route to the north, and that is going west. I ventured to say on the Second Reading of this Bill that this selection of a road going west in order to get north was obviating the natural, historical and economical route which proceeds north by Queensferry, Inverkeithing and Glenfarg to Perth.

I should like, if I may, to substantiate those three points. I think that the noble Viscount who responded to my question doubted whether a route going by Queensferry could be properly classified as a trunk road. I should like to remind him that this road, if it was not called by that name in ancient times, has none the less been a royal route from before the Norman Conquest. In the year 1058 it formed the route by which Princess Margaret went to join her husband-to-be, Malcolm Canmore, at Dunfermline, and it is from her that the ferry—Queensferry—is named. Therefore it has, as your Lordships will admit, the value of having been a royal historic road for a great deal longer than many of the roads which appear in the Trunk Roads Bill. Further, historically the road from Edinburgh to Queensferry is shown on an atlas dated 1654 produced by Blaeu, and the road northwards from Queens-ferry, although it does not appear on that particular sheet of Blaeu's map, must have been used as a royal and historic route for the passage of kings and of the King's subjects to Perth, where in those days the kings were crowned at Scone.

That deals with the early history of this road, but turning to more modern times I find that the route is referred to in a report given by John Pollok to the Right Hon. William Adam, who was Preses of the Committee of the Great North Road Trustees in the year 1832. The report by Mr. Pollok was drawn up for Mr. Thomas Telford and also for Mr. McAdam, and is dated July 27, 1832. It begins with the following words: Agreeably to your instructions I have examined the Great North Road from the North Queensferry to Kinross. as also the branch road— from Burntisland to Cowdenbeath. Here it is recognised as the Great North Road. There were Great North Road trustees; they called for an official report, and here is the official report, dealing with this road characterised as the Great North Road. At the end of the report appears an abstract of the expenditure recommended then for bringing this road into repair: Abstract of the before-mentioned probable estimate for repairing and keeping in repair, from the 1st of September, 1832, to the 1st of June, 1833, the Great North Road from the North Queensferry to Kinross Bridge:

"First Division, about five miles from the North Queensferry to the fifth milestone 536
"Second Division, about five and a half miles from the fifth milestone to Blair Adam Bridge 342
"Third Division, about four and a quarter miles from the Blair Adam Bridge to Kinross Bridge 214
Total £1,092"
I would point out for the Minister's consideration the economy with which these repairs were done in the year 1832!

That deals with the historic point which I wish to emphasise, but I also stated, and I will state again with emphasis, that for economic reasons this road which ought to be adopted by the Minister, in establishing the skeleton and network of roads which are important in peace as well as in war, is forty-five miles long as against seventy miles for the route which he chooses for going northwards from Edinburgh to Perth. The character of the road from Edinburgh to Queensferry is absolutely of the very best, as I think everyone who passes over it will acknowledge. In fact, it is so much better than that which the Minister has characterised as a trunk road that many passengers who now wish to go to Linlithgow and Stirling choose this road, A 90, for their egress from Edinburgh and cross over to the other road by a by-road at a considerable distance out of Edinburgh. Beyond that point it keeps the same characteristics, and although on the north shore of the Forth it is not quite so broad or quite so magnificent, there is no doubt that the Great North Road running up through Fife and Kinross to Perth is in a very high category and is very highly esteemed by motorists. That result has been achieved without one of these extra grants which have been given to the special roads which have been selected at previous dates by the Minister for special grants.

I do not wish in any way to criticise the Edinburgh-Stirling road, but it is in no way superior to that which I suggest should be substituted for it, although—and here I am tempted to make this observation from some remarks kindly made by the noble Viscount himself—it will become, and is becoming, more important owing to the erection of a new bridge across the Forth at Kincardine. For all that the Great North Road has been supreme, and I think both for historical and economic reasons there is full justice for moving that this road be substituted as linking up vitally the East Coast route from north to south in Great Britain. Surely it is obvious to any one in laying out this network of important roads that you should not select one channel-I hesitate to use the term "bottle neck"—in the centre of the interior anatomy of the body as is being done at Stirling. The East Coast route and the West Coast route are being brought together at one bridge at Stirling, and I suggest that for every reason there is ground for suggesting that the East Coast route should be adopted instead of this concentration in the centre.

I ventured, therefore, to put this vital Amendment on the Order Paper, in the hope, from what the noble Viscount said on the last stage of the Bill, that he would consider with the Minister the question of this East Coast route, and I do not wish the Minister to be deterred from the consideration of this route by the other question of whether or not he would be called upon to construct a bridge at Queensferry. That is not material to the point. The road was there, as I have shown, from before the Norman Conquest, and it will remain in common parlance the Great North Road. On it we have in the small County of Kinross, Loch Leven, which is also of historic interest, and the Mecca of every trout fisherman. Surely, with all these advantages, historic, natural and economic, the Minister cannot refuse to accept my Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 10, columns 2 and 3, leave out from ("Kirkliston") to ("Auchterarder") in line 16 and insert:—

("Queensferry—Inverkeithing — Cowdenbeath — Kinross — Glenfarg—Perth. A. 90")
—(The Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.)


I am sure the Committee will have been glad if an unintentional encouragement of mine has drawn such an interesting historical disquisition from the noble Earl, and I certainly should not challenge him on any of the tours that he has taken us from the Norman Conquest onward. In deciding which is to be the trunk route in Scotland, have we not to consider what is the density of the traffic upon the competing roads to-day, rather than in the days when he and Sir Patrick Spens were walking on the sands? We find that the number of vehicles on a given day was 1,376 in the case of the "royal road," as the noble Earl has called it, and 2,745 vehicles on the road which we propose to place in the Schedule to this Bill.


Can the noble Viscount give us the date of those figures?


The date was 1935—the last census that was taken.


That is from Edinburgh to Perth.


Yes. Surely those figures speak for themselves. I have waited by that ferry absolutely determined never to take the royal route again, if I could help it, and I very nearly lost a good day's shooting. There are also people with commercial appointments who are similarly affected by delays with the ferry. There is no early prospect of a bridge being constructed across the Forth, and I should be misleading your Lordships if I were to suggest that there was. Therefore we are moved to take advantage of the route by which the bulk of the traffic goes from Edinburgh to Stirling and on to Perth. While the noble Earl pretended that he was being very modest in offering us a shorter route, he concealed inadvertently the fact that the very next Amendment on the Paper in his name would restore to the Schedule all that part of the road which goes through Stirling onward to Perth. He admits that the Western part of Scotland would have to have that as a trunk road. Therefore the proposal which he made would give us a less convenient route to Perth, and so far from giving us a shorter mileage, it would give the taxpayer an extra thirteen miles to pay for. Apart altogether from the question of Privilege I think most of your Lordships will agree that a case has not been made out for this alteration.


I cannot think the noble Viscount will expect me to accept his statement that the route I have suggested is less convenient, or rather, more inconvenient. Personally, I use it several times a week. I find the ferry service extremely efficient. The noble Viscount was perhaps kept waiting before the new ferry service was in operation. I am afraid that if I have been unable to persuade the noble Viscount by what I have said in proposing the Amendment, I shall be unable to persuade your Lordships if I ask yon to divide. I therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I do not propose to move my other Amendments to this Schedule.


The next Amendment is a drafting one.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 22, leave out from ("Macduff") to the end of line 23.—(The Earl of Erne.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule:


Modification, in relation to Trunk Roads, of certain enactments relating to functions of Highway Authorities.

Enactment conferring powers and Modification.

The Roads Improvement Act, 1925 (15 & 16 Geo. 5. c. 68)—cont.

Section 5—cont.—In subsection (8) the words "and any question whether or not consent so required is unreasonably withheld shall be determined by the Minister after consultation with the Minister of Health" shall be omitted.

The Road Traffic Act, 1930 (20 & 21 Geo. 5. c. 43)—

Section 47.—Subsections (4) and (8) shall not apply.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME had given Notice of Amendments to make the reference to subsection (8) of Section 5 of the Roads Improvement Act, 1925, read as follows: In subsection (8) for the words 'by the Minister after consultation with the Minister of Health' there shall be substituted the words on appeal in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts by a Court of Quarter Sessions'.

The noble Viscount said: Section 5 of the Roads Improvement Act, 1925, gives powers to local authorities to prescribe building lines on roads. Subsection (8) was inserted for the protection of public undertakings such as railways, waterworks, electric supply or the generation of electricity, by providing that the powers under that section should only be used with the consent of the statutory undertakers, "such consent not to be unreasonably withheld," and in case of dispute gives the Ministry of Transport power to decide. The present Bill proposes in the case of trunk roads transferred to the Ministry of Transport to limit the protection seriously, leaving the question of whether consent is unreasonably withheld so to speak in the air. This is undesirable. It may lead to disputes or to undue pressure upon the statutory undertakers by a Minister who is anxious to carry out some pet scheme. The Amendment therefore proposes an appeal to Quarter Sessions for the continual protection of statutory undertakers, and Quarter Sessions is a tribunal which is well accustomed to dealing with such questions.

Amendment moved— Page 35, line 20, after ("8") insert ("for") and leave out from ("words") to ("determined") in line 23.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My noble friend had misunderstood the effect of the provision. It is not to take away altogether from the statutory undertakers the right of appeal to the Courts. As a matter of fact the position to-day is that if there is a dispute between the highway authority and the statutory undertaker the Minister is the court of appeal, and if the Minister decides in favour of the highway authority then the statutory undertaker has to submit. The Minister under the Bill is not retaining for himself the right to decide whether the statutory undertaker is being reasonable or not. He has to approach the statutory undertaker, and if there is a dispute between them and the statutory undertaker persists in his refusal to agree to terms, the only way by which the Minister could proceed would be to go to the High Court for a declaration that the statutory undertaker was being unreasonable in refusing to agree to the proposal, whatever it was. Therefore, so far from the statutory undertaker being put in a worse position than he is to-day, where the Minister is arbiter between him and the highway authority, he is in a better position, for it is the High Court which will decide.


I do not doubt that what the noble Viscount says is the case and that the High Court would eventually be the final authority. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to add to the reference to Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930: and the following provisions shall apply in substitution: 'If any objection to the making of the order is made in writing to the Minister within fourteen days after the date of the order and is not withdrawn or if after the order has been in operation for a period of three months objection to the continuation of the order is made in writing to the Minister and is not withdrawn a public inquiry into the matter in dispute shall be held by a person of experience in the control of road traffic appointed in default of agreement between the Minister and the objector by the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and after the person so appointed has made his report on the matters inquired into by him the Minister shall give effect to the recommendations contained in the report.'

The noble Viscount said: This relates to Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which gives power to a local authority temporarily to prohibit or restrict traffic on roads. The Second Schedule of the Bill provides that subsections (4) and (8) shall not apply. These subsections authorise the Minister to act as judge between the highway authority who wish to restrict the use of the road and the road user who wishes to have it kept open. The Minister now takes the place of the highway authority and he ought not to be able to act as both applicant and judge. The appointment of another person to decide in place of the Minister follows the precedent in Clause 3 (4) of this Bill.

This is the passage to which I would call attention: … and notwithstanding the provisions of any enactment as to the determination of disputes in connection with the execution of any such works arising between the statutory undertakers and any authority, any such disputes arising between the statutory undertakers and the Minister shall be determined by an arbitrator to be appointed, in default of agreement, by the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. I have been asked to move this Amendment on behalf of the British Road Federation, which includes among its members the Omnibus Owners' Association, and of course they are vitally interested in such a matter of this.

Amendment moved— Page 36, line 6, after ("apply") insert the said words.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


I could not possibly accept this Amendment. I think it is reasonable that in a dispute between the statutory undertakers and the Minister there should be an appeal to the High Court. I shall be able to meet the noble Viscount at a later stage on one or two Amendments where there is a question of the ordinary individual or the commercial firm wanting to acquire certain rights over a road, but I really do not think in the public interest this Amendment is a reasonable one. For observe what it is. This is a case where it is the duty of the local authority to make an improvement, and it follows necessarily that in order to make that improvement in the interest of traffic it should be done as quickly as possible, and the highway authority has to close up part of the road while the work is in progress. That is happening every day. At present if anybody is aggrieved by the action of the local authority he can appeal to the Minister—certainly if the thing goes on for more than three months.

Supposing somebody says: "I do not want the repairs in front of my house," he could hold up that improvement against the interests of the whole township and the whole of the travelling public while complaint was lodged and the matter went to the arbitrator. I submit that that would really be an unreasonable power to give to an obstructive individual. The thing has worked perfectly well in the past. I understand that the only applications which have come forward at all have been one or two applications about bridges, where obviously you have to provide alternative accommodation while the bridge is being repaired, and in practically all these cases the Minister will be using the local authority as his agent to make the roads. I submit that this Amendment is really unnecessary.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third Schedule: