§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I should like, if I may, to emphasise the fact that the Bill which I am recommending to your Lordships' approval this afternoon is an absolutely non-party measure. It is promoted jointly by the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council. It is true that there is a Labour majority on the London County Council, but it is equally true that there is a Conservative majority on the Middlesex County Council. It therefore looks as if this was one of the rare and welcome occasions on which Socialists and Conservatives are able to join hands in the public interest. I hope your Lordships will consider this measure entirely on its merits as a method of improving the transport facilities in the London area.
The project of improving the western exits of London has been under consideration by the authorities concerned for over twenty years, and the need of such an improvement has become particularly urgent in recent years. This has been due partly to the fact that 225 some important new arterial roads have been built on the outskirts of London. I refer to the Chertsey By-Pass Road, to the Great West Road, and to the North Circular Road; and these roads cannot be fully utilised by traffic until they are extended eastwards. It has also become even more urgent than before on account of the appalling traffic congestion in Hammersmith Broadway, Hammersmith Road, and King Street. I need not labour this point with your Lordships. I think there is not one of your Lordships who has driven out of London in a westerly or south-westerly direction who has not experienced the inconvenience of the traffic blocks that cannot be avoided in these roads or at the junction between Hammersmith Broadway and King Street. In order to meet these requirements this Bill contemplates the construction of a new arterial road, nearly four miles long, from the end of West Cromwell Road to the eastern terminus of the Great-West Road.
In order to undertake this big task it is indispensable for the authorities concerned to acquire the necessary powers from Parliament. In the first place, they have to get authorisation to purchase the land and properties through which the road will have to run, and Part II of the Bill deals with that aspect of the problem. Again, they must have authorisation to embark on the engineering operations entailed by the construction of the road itself, and this demand is embodied in Part III of the Bill. Part IV concerns the financing of this project. The whole new road will cost a little over £2,500,000, and 60 per cent. of this sum is to be found by road users all over the country and will come out of the Road Fund. The remaining 40 per cent. will come from the rates that are raised in the areas concerned. That covers very broadly Part IV of the Bill. Those are the main provisions contained in this measure. I have done my best to outline them very briefly and to avoid describing any provisions, however important, in detail.
Let me say in conclusion that this is a measure that has been agreed upon after the fullest possible consideration by all the principal authorities and interests concerned. It is supported by the London County Council, by the Middlesex County 226 Council, and by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, and your Lordships will recollect that this Committee has on it representatives of all the local authorities and of all the traffic authorities in the London area. It is also supported by the Government and by the Ministry of Transport. Besides—and perhaps this is the strongest argument of all—every alternative scheme that any person or body might wish to propose, and every material modification of the present scheme was brought before a Select Committee in another place. Learned Counsel, arguing with customary eloquence, was able to put these objections in full so that they could be considered for seven or eight days by the Committee. The shape of the present Bill is the shape which this Committee agreed unanimously that it ought to have. I therefore sincerely hope that your Lordships will see your way to give the measure a Second Reading and thereby put on foot operations that will construct a road which will redound to the credit of this great City. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD DICKINSON had given Notice that he would move the rejection of the Bill, and also that, in the event of the Bill being read a second time, he would move. That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred, to insert provisions whereby if any land at present open to the public is taken for the purpose of the Bill the promoters shall provide for the use of the public in the neighbourhood of the land so taken such other land as the Minister of Health shall consider to be reasonably equivalent to it.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for taking up your time with regard to this Bill. I am much obliged to the noble Earl who has moved the Second Reading of the Bill for the clear and excellent way in which he has stated what the Bill proposes to do. Unfortunately, he has not referred to a certain feature of it to which a great many people object and in reference to which I have ventured to put down a Motion. Perhaps I had better say at this stage that, after consultation with the Chairman of Committees, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I have been
advised to alter the actual wording of that Motion in this way:
That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred that as a condition of approving of the Preamble of the Bill the promoters should give an undertaking to seek powers to provide for the use of the public in the neighbourhood of the land taken, such other land as the Minister of Health shall consider to be reasonably equivalent to it.
I will explain why it is necessary for me to trouble your Lordships with this Motion.
§ The Bill, as has been stated, has gone through the House of Commons, and in the House of Commons it was thoroughly investigated by a Select Committee in the ordinary way. Among the petitioners against the Bill was a collection of societies and individuals who appeared in order not only to oppose the Bill but also to draw attention to the fact that the Bill does offend against a principle which has been recognised by Parliament already on several occasions—namely, that when it is proposed to take a public open space and to make use of it for the purposes of an improvement it shall be obligatory upon the promoters to provide some other alternative piece of land in compensation for that which is taken. I may add that the process of investigation which went on in the House of Commons will not, so far as I understand, be possible in this House, because those who spoke on the side of the open spaces associations cannot afford the necessary money for the purpose of appearing before a Committee of your Lordships' House. Therefore it is possible, indeed I think it is almost certain, that unless this question were raised here it would not be raised at any other stage in your Lordships' House.
§ I speak as Chairman of one of those societies, the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. That is an association which was founded more than half a century ago by the late Lord Meath, and during that time it has done a very great deal of work in providing open spaces, saving plots from being built over by builders, safeguarding disused burial grounds and such like places of rest, and also parks and open spaces in and around London. In doing that it has necessarily had to arouse public opinion and also to collect considerable sums of money. It has succeeded in obtaining for the public the use of some hundreds 228 of open spaces of different kinds throughout London. The money with which these open spaces have been purchased has been raised for the express purpose of the land so acquired being permanently assured for the recreation of the public, and it is certain that enough money could not have been raised if it had been thought that in some future year that particular use of the land would be departed from and the land taken for other purposes.
§ In this particular case there are two important open spaces to which this society and others have contributed in the manner I have described. They are Chiswick Park and Homefield Recreation Ground. I will refer to them again later, but I mention them now because I think the very fact that the society over which I have the honour to preside and the other society with which I am well acquainted have contributed to secure these grounds, gives me a certain justification for addressing your Lordships as I do this afternoon. In the last fifty years these associations have with the assistance of Parliament established a very important principle and I want to appeal to your Lordships to maintain that principle in this case. When first the County Council came into existence attention was drawn to the fact that the commons in the neighbourhood of London were being cut up into slices by railways passing into and out of London. There was a case of which I had experience where the Midland Railway Company proposed to take the old St. Pancras Churchyard for the purpose of its business. That company was compelled by Parliament to provide money for the provision of open spaces in the neighbourhood.
The principle has been embodied in many Acts of Parliament. For instance, in the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, Section 19 (1) provides:
Where an order…authorises the acquisition of any land forming part of any common, open space, or allotment, the order, so far as it relates to the acquisition of such land, shall be provisional only, and shall not have effect unless and until it is confirmed by Parliament, except where the order provides for giving in exchange for such land other land, not being less in area, certified by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to be equally advantageous to the persons, if any, entitled to commonable or other rights, and to the public.
It is further provided by that Act that a metropolitan common or any land dedicated to the public use is to be similarly protected. That general principle having been established, I venture to say that the promoters of this Bill ought to have borne it in mind.
§ I do not think for a moment that any private undertaking bringing in a Bill of this kind would venture in these days to omit a provision to this effect. Unfortunately we now find ourselves faced my far moe formidable opponents in public authorities. I could give numerous examples of cases in which public authorities have proposed to take for other purposes land dedicated for use as open spaces. The most recent case, as your Lordships will remember, was the proposal of the London County Council to utilise thirty acres of Hackney Marshes for the building of houses for working-class people. That was challenged by societies and individuals and it was decided by the Courts of Law that neither the County Council nor the Ministry of Health had power to take this action. Nevertheless, the County Council introduced a Bill in the present Parliament for the purpose of enabling them to utilise this land without making any compensation by providing land in the neighbourhood of equal area to be used as an open space. Fortunately, public opinion was so strong and the societies interested agitated so successfully that the County Council have been persuaded to provide an approximately equal area in the neighbourhood to replace the land that they are taking for houses. Highway authorities at the present time are our arch enemies. We find them everywhere taking little bits of greens or open spaces for the purpose of widening the roads or improving traffic facilities. Their justification for so doing is of course the public need, but we hold that the public need is for open spaces just as much as roads, and that therefore the authorities should find some better way of providing roads than by taking open spaces.
§ This particular Bill is a very striking instance of what is being done in that way. In a distance not exceeding one mile there are affected by this Bill no fewer than seven plots of land unbuilt upon, all of which are more or less of 230 value as open spaces and more or less of a public character. There are two public recreation grounds, two churchyards, two schools the playgrounds of which will be affected, and one institution. I do not want to exaggerate the effect of this Bill and I must say that some of this land is very slightly affected. Nevertheless, all this open ground is affected to an extent which I think is of public interest. There is, for instance, the case of St. Paul's School. That school, as most of your Lordships will know, has a magnificent playground edged by a double line of very fine trees. This new road is to cut off that line of trees and cut off a section of the cricket and football grounds. That proposal has been vigorously resisted by the authorities of the school, and from the general public point of view I regard it as an encroachment on an open space. In the case of Homefield Recreation Ground there will be a very serious encroachment. The new road will cut through the middle of the recreation ground. The recreation ground now is about ten acres in extent. It is proposed to take about two acres for the road and the remaining ground will be cut into two plots of about three or four acres each. That will leave it practically useless for the purpose of the recreation of the public.
§ This interference with open spaces would, in my opinion, justify the Bill being thrown out but I do not ask your Lordships to do that. I quite recognise that a Bill like this must be thoroughly considered by a Committee of your Lordships' House and that your Lordships will not reject on Second Reading a Bill of this character. At the same time I consider that there is no other opportunity for your Lordships to decide whether the principle I have referred to shall be applied except this occasion of which I am now taking advantage. All I ask is that if these pieces of land are taken for the purpose of roadways, compensation shall be given by providing approximately equal areas of land somewhere in the neighbourhood. There is little doubt that it is possible to do this. During the discussion before the House of Commons Committee, Counsel for the promoters actually suggested a plot of ground immediately contiguous to this Homefield Recreation Ground which it was said would be suitable as an alternative. Unfortunately, however, 231 it transpired that this would add to the cost of the scheme some £60,000, and accordingly, when the matter came before the Committee of the House of Commons, the Committee considered that they were not justified in compelling the Minister of Transport to pay this additional sum. I submit that this was a very unjust decision, because this land is now being got for nothing, and got for nothing because years ago people were generous enough, and sufficiently anxious to provide for the recreation of the public, to subscribe their money and to buy this land to prevent it from becoming building land. To say now that this land is to be taken without any compensation seems to me to be extremely unjust.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, because this is a very important point? Do I understand him to say—I think my ears must have deceived me—that the Middlesex County Council and the Minister of Transport together are going to take this bit of land without paying any compensation at all?
§ LORD DICKINSON
Yes, there is no doubt about it—the recreation ground. There is no compensation, because, in the first place, there is no one to compensate. You cannot pay the public the money, you can only compensate the public by giving the authorities money to buy another recreation ground in the vicinity. That is the principle upon which we are all so anxious to persuade your Lordships to insist on this occasion.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
Would the noble Lord allow me? This is a friendly interruption, and I only want to get this clear. I am told by him that, when land has been dedicated to the public, the County Council together with the Minister of Transport can come and take it away for nothing for road widening. It is well known that if the land belongs to a private individual they have to pay for their road widening. Have I correctly interpreted the position?
§ LORD DICKINSON
Yes, that is what they are proposing to do by this Bill. By the law they could not do it. In fact, as I have already pointed out to your Lordships, if they were to carry out this road improvement under the ordinary law and not under a special Act, they would 232 be bound to provide such an area as the Minister—I think it was the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in the case I quoted; I am not sure it is not the Minister of Health at the present moment—would decide to be adequate compensation for taking away the land. But they are not doing this; they are bringing in a special Bill of their own by which they will not pay—I am quite prepared to be corrected by the noble Lord opposite, but I understand they will not under this Bill be compelled to pay a penny to anybody. That is the reason why we are asking that they should be compelled to provide another space in lieu of that which is taken.
I might just point out, too—though perhaps I am repeating myself—that these open spaces have been bought by public authorities and private individuals for an express purpose to be permanently secured for ever, and in order to give the spaces permanent security they have generally been made subject to Acts of Parliament. So far as I know, even this recreation ground is subjected to an Act of Parliament. At any rate there is no doubt that whoever holds this ground—I am not sure whether it is the Middlesex County Council or whether it is the Chiswick Borough Council—holds it on the distinct understanding that it is never alienated from that purpose but devoted to the recreation of the public. Your Lordships are asked now by this Bill, if I am not using too strong language, to endorse what I consider to be a breach of trust. They have no right to propose to convert this land, considering the conditions under which it was obtained, and the least we can do at the present moment is to insist that if the land is taken the public shall not suffer but shall have something adequate put in its place.
I apologise for keeping your Lordships. I shall not detain you very much longer, but I should like to add this. We have a practical reason for asking your Lordships to take this course. In and around London, as your Lordships must be aware, the unbuilt-on areas have been disappearing very rapidly indeed. I am informed that it was officially stated by some Committee of the County Council that within the last ten years 21,000 acres of unbuilt-on land have been covered with buildings and 233 that at the present moment within that area there only remain 7,700 acres of unbuilt-on land. I quite admit that the growing population needs new houses and new roads, but the more houses it has and the more roads you make, the more places of recreation and rest and, if I may say so, safety from traffic the public require. We ought now to be doing all we can to increase the number of public gardens in London, and that, I regret to say, is not being done. There have been grandiose schemes for making a green belt outside London while there are thousands and thousands of children in London who have no other playground than the streets. In my opinion it would be far better even to turn to increasing the number of open spaces in London than to increasing them outside. At any rate it is a very strong argument, I submit to your Lordships, for refusing to allow a single open space, a single acre of recreation ground, in London to be utilised for any other purpose than that for which it was intended. In any case we ought to insist that in a Bill like the present one this decision should be made. The Motion which I have therefore put before your Lordships I have already read. I trust that your Lordships will think it right to give such instructions to your Committee that they will see that proper compensation is given if this land is to be utilised for the new roadway. I therefore respectfully move my Amendment.
Leave out (" now ") and at end of the Motion insert (" this day six months ").—(Lord Dickinson.)
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I think the Amendment is, That this Bill be read a second time this day six months, but in the usual manner to which your Lordships are accustomed my noble friend has taken his two proposals together, and if your Lordships permit I should like to follow his example. I hope, and I think the noble Lord would not disagree, that your Lordships will send this Bill to be examined by a Committee. I think in every case that anybody who occupies the position which your Lordships have done me the honour to entrust to me, when asked for an opinion, has always urged that a Private Bill should have an opportunity of being argued before a Committee of this 234 House. Therefore I trust you will give the Bill a Second Reading and allow it to proceed upstairs. As regards the Motion which the noble Lord has put down in the event of the Bill being read a second time, it is quite accurate, as the noble Lord has told your Lordships, that I ventured to draw attention to the fact that his original Motion would not be possible for certain technical reasons, such as the giving of notice, and so forth. I do not think the Committee could put such a clause in the Bill, but the practice of giving an undertaking is well known to your Lordships and has a similar effect. The effect of accepting the Motion would be to give an instruction, a mandatory instruction, to the Committee that they should insist upon compensating land being given for any land taken.
That, if I may venture to say so, is rather a strong measure. This Bill has been before a Committee of another place, and it has had very long and careful consideration, and I think it would be perhaps rather a strong order for your Lordships, by instruction on the Second Reading, to tell a Committee of this House to override a Committee of another place. The promoters, or anybody, would say, and I think justifiably, that a great deal of trouble was taken in another place, that the matter was argued and carefully heard on both sides, but that the House of Lords instructed their Committee to override the decision of the Committee of another place merely after a Second Reading debate. I think that would perhaps be regarded as a somewhat strong order. I do not in the least desire that this Bill should not receive the earnest consideration of a Committee. I think it should, and that the Committee should go into the matter and come to such conclusion as they may think desirable on the evidence submitted to them.
For that reason I would venture, with your Lordships' permission, to suggest, if my noble friend agrees, that the instruction, if you wish to send an instruction to the Committee at all, should read in this way:that as a condition of approving of the Preamble of the Bill, the Committee shall consider the desirability of requiring an undertaking from the promoters that they will provide for the use of the public in the neighbourhood of the land taken, such 235 other land as the Minister of Health shall consider to be reasonably equivalent to it.That, as your Lordships will see, gives the Committee power to reject or to accept the decision of another place, and I think it would be only right that the Committee should have exactly the same powers as the Committee of the House of Commons had in considering the Bill.
Now I come to another question. Whatever decision the Committee may come to, at least if it comes to a decision to support the Committee of the House of Commons, I think it should be made clear by your Lordships in this House that such a decision to acquire land without giving compensation is one which is based upon exceptional and peculiar circumstances, and is in no way to be taken as a precedent in future for the acquisition of land. I think I am right in saying that never before has land been taken without compensating land being given in exchange, and I think that if this particular acquisition of land is made it should be registered that it cannot be used in Committees of this House or of another place as a precedent for further transactions of the same kind. I hope your Lordships will consider the suggestions which I have made, that the instruction should not be made absolutely mandatory, and also that it should be made perfectly clear that if the Committee decide to report in favour of the Bill that decision should not be made a precedent for future use.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, I would like to make a few observations in support of what Lord Dickinson has said, and also with reference to one other point which I hope may be considered by the Committee. There are two particulars which I think one must consider in a proposal such as this. One was dealt with fully by the noble Lord—namely, the fact that this proposed road would diminish the available open spaces, which is a very serious proposition where we have a crowded population. Another consideration is the fact that this road infringes some of the most up-to-date principles which ought to be in the mind of anyone promoting a great arterial road, because it will not allow of the freest movement of traffic, and unnecessarily endangers human life. Nobody who has to travel out of London 236 by motor car would deny the need for having more exits out of London, particularly in the West. I was not much influenced by the fact brought forward by the noble Lord in moving the Second Reading of the Bill that Conservatives and Socialists are agreed upon the Bill. I have known them to be agreed on unwise proposals as well as to disagree. I do not think that that should influence us unduly.
I will not traverse the ground which has been already dealt with by Lord Dickinson—he has explained to your Lordships the proposal to take this land without compensation—but I would like to emphasise one point. Not only would the road, if made as now proposed, deprive the public of certain open spaces, not only would it deprive the public, as I understand it, of two disused churchyards, now used as open spaces, but it would also seriously damage a great public school—St. Paul's School. It would take away one out of three grounds now used for Rugby football and at least three cricket pitches. I merely mention the fact because it has not been referred to, and I support entirely all that the noble Lord has said already about the damage done to playing fields and open spaces.
Let me turn to another point which I hope will be considered by the Committee. This arterial road, I understand, proposes to follow the line of an existing street. Now there is an alternative whereby a new exit from London could, by bridging over a railway, be built parallel to the proposed road. If this alternative were adopted the present street would still be available for the public, and in addition there would be this new arterial exit out of London, and it would have many advantages. The present proposal has the disadvantage that it goes through many cross-roads. It has another disadvantage in that it goes past the fronts of houses; that is to say, it would once again in the course of its transit seriously endanger the lives of many children who are constantly going out of houses on to high roads. If the alternative which I have in mind were adopted there would not be that danger. If the new road were carried on a bridge over the railway it would pass behind the backs of houses instead of in front of them. There would then not be the 237 danger of children running on to the roads; nor would you have the butchers' and bakers' cars drawn up in front of houses, thereby impeding the through traffic.
I understand that there are two objections, which I think are relatively unimportant, which have been brought forward against this alternative proposal. One rests on the ground of expense and the other on the ground of delay of time. If we are really going to provide London with the most up-to-date arterial road and exit, I do not believe that we should be held up merely because a few extra months might be required in fully examining—which has not yet been done—this alternative. As regards the expense, I understand that it will not really be very serious, considering the magnitude and importance of the roadway proposed. So I suggest that when this Bill goes before a Committee the Committee will bear in mind, first, this possible better alternative exit out of London and, secondly, the points which have been brought to your Lordships' attention by the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, I feel bound to say something on this occasion, because this Bill, which adumbrates a scheme which has long been before the County Councils of London and Middlesex, has received a great deal of attention from all parties concerned, and I wish to emphasise the statement that has just been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that this is not a Party matter on the Councils concerned. The great point I wish to make is that this Bill as at present drawn is quite contrary to the practice required in the past and contrary also to what is laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932.
I should like to quote part of one paragraph of the Third Schedule of that Act, which says:Where a scheme or an order made in connection with a scheme authorises the acquisition or appropriation of any land forming part of any common, open space, or allotment, the scheme or order, so far as it relates to the acquisition or appropriation of such land, shall be provisional only, and shall not have effect unless and until it is confirmed by Parliament, except—This land is subject at the present moment so far as London is concerned—and I believe also Middlesex—to a town plan. That is to say, a resolution has been approved by the Minister of Health whereby this land is to be town planned. It is true that at the moment there is no such scheme in being, although I understand there is a scheme in preparation for that section of the land under this Bill which lies within London. If this Bill goes through as it is now proposed, that town planning scheme would have to be promulgated under a great disadvantage—namely, that Parliament had consented to these open spaces being very materially spoilt, notwithstanding the fact that Parliament has already passed an Act laying down that compensation should be given for land taken for an improvement. But there are other objections besides that. The London County Council at present is very rightly doing all it can to preserve land from being built upon by contributing to the expenses of neighbouring authorities who can help to keep land unbuilt upon in and around London, and it seems to me that this Bill as drawn goes quite contrary to that principle, which is a principle which anybody who is interested in the better planning of unbuilt-on land would agree is the right and proper method, in order to protect the future from the mistakes of the past.
- (a) where the scheme provides for giving in exchange for such land other land, not being less in area, certified by the Department, after consultation with the
238 Department of Agriculture for Scotland, to be equally advantageous to the persons, if any, entitled to rights of common or other rights and to the public; or
- (b) where such land is required for the widening of an existing highway and the Department, after consultation with the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, declare that the giving in exchange of other land is unnecessary either in the interests of the persons, if any, entitled to rights of common or other rights, or of the public."
Then again, both Councils concerned have to provide playing fields for their schools, and yet without any apology they are going right through a school football playground. There is also the case of Chiswick, but as that has been referred to I will not dwell upon that. But I do feel it is a mistake to give the Bill a Second Reading without some guidance to the Committee that the principles already approved by Parliament for the whole country should be followed in this Bill. As one who has been responsible for a good deal of town planning 239 in London and in Greater London, I feel I should not be doing my duty if I did not almost implore the House to have regard to those very important principles which have been laid down in the past, and which ought not to be made of no effect by either a Private Bill or a Public Bill. But whether it is possible for this House to do all that it would wish to do, seeing that this Bill has already been through another place, I am not sure. Obviously it would mean more expense, but I suggest that if it does, even so you would have to acquire land for open spaces in the near future anyhow, and you might just as well incur the expense for keeping open spaces rather than destroying them and finding new ones. It is a serious matter when you take land away from an old-established institution like St. Paul's School. The great cry to-day is for more land for youth. It is in everyone's mind that a great appeal has gone out to the public at the present moment to enable more land to be added to that which exists for playing fields for the young. It seems to me that this Bill goes right against that principle and against the appeal that has been made to the public. May I suggest that when an appeal like that is before the public, important public bodies ought to take notice of it and try to put something in such Bills as this which will support the appeal which is before the country to-day? With these few remarks, I feel I must support the proposal of my noble friend.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, before the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, speaks for the Government, may I ask one question of Lord Dickinson which I think is of some importance? I understand that a major part of the playing ground of St. Paul's School will be taken for the use of the road.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
Anyhow, a part of the land is to be taken for the use of the road. Normally, unless there was legislation, the County Council would have to pay St. Paul's School for the land taken away even though they could find a suitable area to give them in exchange. I am amazed at the audacity of the County Council in coming to your Lordships' House and saying: "Payment always has to be 240 made when land is taken for road widening without legislation, but we would not like to pay this large sum to St. Paul's School, therefore we are promoting this Bill."
§ LORD DICKINSON
I must have explained myself badly. When I spoke of no compensation I was referring to the parks. Compensation no doubt will be paid to St. Paul's School, but I doubt whether compensation will be paid for the churchyards.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
If I may try to dissipate a misunderstanding, I would like to make it perfectly plain that the ordinary machinery of compensation when land is taken over compulsorily by a local authority would be used by the County Council in both cases—in the case of St. Paul's School recreation ground and in the case of the Homefield Recreation Ground. I should like to make that perfectly clear in case there may be misunderstanding.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH)
My Lords, I think it would be right if I were to state the Government's view with regard to this Bill now. The Government support the Bill warmly. It is common ground, I think, that some scheme of the kind embodied in this Bill is absolutely vital from a traffic point of view. It is essential that we should create a new traffic artery leading out in a south-westerly direction from London. This matter has been given very full and very careful consideration by all the bodies concerned. As your Lordships have already heard, it has the support of the London County Council and the Middlesex County Council, who are the promoters, and of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee as well. Therefore I doubt whether there will be any one in your Lordships' House who would disagree with my proposition that some scheme of this kind is inevitable. The various proposals which have been made have been considered by the various authorities, and they have definitely come to the conclusion that the proposal embodied in the present Bill is the most suitable one from every point of view. It is undoubtedly the most suitable one 241 from the traffic point of view because it deals with certain problems into which I shall not attempt to go now but which, until now, have caused a good deal of trouble. Then it is also the cheapest of the three alternatives that have been seriously considered. I believe that the scheme referred to by my noble friend on the Cross Benches—the scheme of carrying this road over the top of the District Railway—would probably add something like one million pounds to the total cost. I am not suggesting that these are over-riding considerations.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
I think I am right in saying it is just over £2,500,000. It is also the best scheme from the point of view of interference with general amenities. I am sorry that the noble Lord in moving his Amendment referred to those who were on the side of open spaces. I believe every one of your Lordships is on the side of open spaces in London or in any other thickly-populated area. Speaking for myself, I sympathise very warmly indeed with those who are jealous of every square inch in a district such as we are dealing with which is at present devoted to recreation purposes. But the fact obviously remains that if we have to undertake big schemes of this kind, as indeed we must, it is inevitable that there should be some kind of interference with amenity and, perhaps, with open spaces as well. As I see it, the object ought to be to do what you want to do—that is, to effect the improvements that you want to effect, with as little interference as possible with these particular amenities. I do not intend to go into the details of the provisions of this Bill. Personally I do not think it is necessary, nor would it be of any advantage for me to do so at this stage, but a certain amount has been said about the Home-field Recreation Ground to which I think I must refer out of courtesy to your Lordships and in order to provide some information and to correct some confusion of thought which seems to exist.
It is perfectly true that, in so far as that recreation ground is concerned, the Bill will result in one acre, not two acres, being taken out of ten, which is the total area of that open space, for the purpose of building this road, and it will also cut 242 off a portion of about three acres from the other part; but I ought to point out that it is not going to cut right across the middle of the recreation ground. As a matter of fact these three acres are already cut off from the remainder of the ground at the present moment in that they are devoted to tennis courts, and even now, I think I am right in saying, there is netting up along the line which it is intended this road should take. The noble Lord said that as far as he knew no compensation of any kind was going to be paid for this acre of land which it would be necessary to take in order to carry out this scheme. I do not think that is quite the position. The position is this, that the Homefield Recreation Ground belongs to the Chiswick Urban District Council, and the Middlesex County Council have assumed that if a claim is made for compensation for that particular area of land, they will pay to the Chiswick Urban District Council a sum of money which is to be based on the valuation of the district valuer. I do not think it is strictly correct to say that there is to be no compensation whatsoever.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
I am going on to that, but I want now to apply myself to the larger principle which was propounded by the noble Lord, and that was that whenever you take an area of open space that has been devoted to recreational purposes there should be some equivalent compensation in some other area in the vicinity or contiguous to the area actually affected.
§ LORD DICKINSON
I said in the shape of land. The question of money compensation was raised by my noble friend below me.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
That was the point I was taking. With regard to that there are certain considerations which, I repeat, are not in my view by any means overriding ones. I do not want to prejudge the details of the Bill, but there are considerations which are of some importance in a matter of this kind. The first is that since this measure was first under consideration some additional 68 acres have been added to the open spaces of that district by the acquisition 243 of the park of Chiswick House, and towards the acquisition of that land the Middlesex County Council provided a sum of £58,000. Furthermore, as a matter of fact, the Chiswick district is by no means badly off so far as open spaces are concerned; indeed, it is far better placed so far as open spaces are concerned than most parts of London or other congested districts. There is this consideration as well, that when this Bill was being considered in another place the Middlesex County Council made it quite clear that they would be prepared, if Parliament placed the obligation upon them, with the help of a grant from the Road Fund to acquire certain property contiguous to the Homefield Recreation Ground with a view to throwing it into that recreation ground. That would have cost a sum of £52,000. This matter was completely considered in the Committee of the House of Commons, and that Committee definitely decided that they did not think that in the circumstances that was necessary.
The only point I want to make is really this, that in those circumstances I think it would be wrong for your Lordships, by accepting an instruction such as the noble Lord suggested, to tie down the Committee which will be appointed to examine this measure. I think that it should be left free, just as the Committee in the House of Commons was left free, to examine this particular question and to come to its own conclusion about it. No doubt other important suggestions that have been made to your Lordships by various members of your Lordships' House will also be considered. I want to point out that the offer, if I may use the word, which has been made by the Middlesex County Council with regard to this particular piece of land that I was referring to still holds good, and it is for Parliament to decide whether they wish to put upon the promoters of this Bill an obligation such as that. I think that a very good compromise has been suggested by the noble Earl the Lord Chairman in regard to this particular matter. He has suggested that the instruction should not be a mandatory one, but rather that it should be an instruction to the Committee that they should consider the desirability of requiring from the Middlesex County Council an undertaking of that description. That seems to me a very fair compromise. It 244 is one which the Government are prepared to support and which, I understand, the mover of the Second Reading of this Bill is also prepared to support. In those circumstances I hope that your Lordships will give the measure a Second Reading and accept the solution which has been suggested by the Lord Chairman.
LORD BALFOUR OF BUBLEIGH
My Lords, I must apologise for not having been here earlier in this debate, but I was detained by public business elsewhere. I understand that we are asked to agree to a Motion which is not on the Paper. I am not quite clear about it. I would like to ask the noble Lord who has suggested it whether it is now too late, for instance, to petition against the Bill, or whether the obtaining of this instruction in your Lordships' House is the only way of ensuring the principle which he is anxious to preserve. I do not know if the noble Lord can answer that question, but I think it materially affects what is now before your Lordships.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, if I have got correctly the sense of what my noble friend said, he asked whether the only way in which this matter can be brought before the Committee was by moving an instruction in your Lordships' House. I gather that no petition has been laid which deals with this matter; therefore if some instruction is not given to the Committee to consider it I doubt if it could be raised before the Committee. I believe that is the case, and, therefore, if your Lordships wish it to be carefully considered by the Committee, I think it would be necessary for the House to give this instruction. I think I am right in saying that, if that is what the noble Lord asked.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, in view of what the Lord Chairman has said it seems to me essential that your Lordships should give an instruction to the Committee. I am bound to say I was a little disappointed to hear what the noble Earl representing the Government said. He said that every one of your Lordships was in favour of this principle of open spaces, and then proceeded to add what I think can only be described as a little nibbling. Both the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Listowel) and the noble Earl on the Government Bench (the Earl of 245 Plymouth) are inclined, in spite of their devotion to open spaces, to nibble. It is only an acre or an acre and a bit, but it is this process of nibbling which I think your Lordships ought to resist. It may be that Chiswick is fairly well supplied with open spaces; but I doubt if the defender of the Bill would say that even in Chiswick the open spaces are adequate. It is quite certain that in the whole of London they are very far from being adequate.
I regret this practice of the Transport Authority coming along with a scheme without sufficient regard to open spaces and to the other interests affected. It does point to the need for the much more coherent plan of which we have heard from time to time in your Lordships' House. On this occasion I think the best course is for your Lordships to give such an instruction to the Committee as will ensure that this principle of the preservation of open spaces is adhered to. We had a good example of the force of opinion behind that principle in the Hackney Marshes controversy the other day, and I think your Lordships will make a very great mistake if you part with this Bill and send it upstairs without some instruction which will safeguard the open spaces principle.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, in replying to those who have spoken on this question I will only detain you for as short a time as possible. I am assuming that the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, has accepted the terms of the Motion suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and that is the issue on which your Lordships will be asked to vote. My task is much simplified by the statement of the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, who I think answered exceedingly effectively the objections raised by Lord Dickinson when he said that this Bill would cut into the open spaces of London. Let me say that the promoters of this measure, in common with every member of your Lordships' House, are infinitely anxious to preserve as far as possible these playgrounds that are to so large an extent a safeguard for the health of the young inhabitants of the London area. It could only be under an imperative necessity that they would trespass, to however small an extent, on any open space.
246 The tiny fraction affected by this Bill has had the fullest consideration before a Select Committee in another place. For eight days every argument against the acquisition of these small parts of two open spaces—the playground of St. Paul's School and the Homefield Recreation Ground—were put forward by eloquent and learned Counsel. I therefore hope very much, as your Lordships have only been discussing this Bill for an hour and twenty minutes, that a step not taken after eight days full consideration by a Committee in another place will not be taken by your Lordships. I hope that your Lordships will consider that the matter is one which requires further time before a final decision can be taken. I hope, therefore, very ardently, that your Lordships will be guided by the advice of the noble Earl who so often points the way in matters of procedure, and will support a proposal that will enable this whole question of open spaces to be discussed and considered in detail when this Bill passes to another stage. In view of that I hope that the two Motions on the Order Paper will not be pressed.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, is going to move some instruction to the Committee, but as I sense the feeling of the House we do not want to give a mandatory instruction to the Committee to do something, but we do want to bring to the notice of the Committee the necessity of considering the matter. Would not that be accomplished if we amended the instruction standing in the name of Lord Dickinson by leaving out "insert provisions whereby" in line 3 and substituting "consider whether if"? It would then read "That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred to consider and"—
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
I do not want to interrupt unnecessarily, but a Motion is in the hands of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in the form suggested by the noble Earl, the Chairman of Committees. I think that really meets the case.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, in form we are 247 discussing the rejection of the Bill. When that has been disposed of, if the Bill is read a second time, the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, presumably will move an instruction in such form as he sees fit and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, will then move an Amendment to it. It is not inconvenient to discuss the whole thing at once, but it is inconvenient to discuss the exact wording of an Amendment which has not been moved.
§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I will withdraw my opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill. At any rate that will simplify matters.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed: the Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.
§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I will now move an instruction to the Committee in the form suggested by the noble Earl:That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred that as a condition of approving of the Preamble of the Bill, the Committee shall consider the desirability of requiring an undertaking from the promoters that they will provide for the use of the public in the neighbourhood of the land taken, such other land as the Minister of Health shall consider to be reasonably equivalent to it.I am quite willing to accept the noble Earl's suggestion and move it in that form.
Before that is put, may I ask whether that will enable the Select Committee to consider the alternative route referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor?
§ Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred that as a condition of approving of the Preamble of the Bill, the Committee shall consider the desirability of requiring an undertaking from the promoters that they will provide for the use of the public in the neighbourhood of the land taken, such other land as the Minister of Health shall consider to be reasonably equivalent to it.—(Lord Dickenson.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.