HL Deb 22 June 1950 vol 167 cc1005-18

5.4 p.m.

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Morrison.)


My Lords, before this Motion is carried, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the following facts. On the Second Reading of this Bill, which was only a week ago (the shortest possible time, therefore, has elapsed since the Second Reading) my noble friend Lord Morrison in reply to me at the end of the debate said: … perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to look into the suggestion which he has just made, and permit me to communicate with him in due course. The same applies to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk… Later on in his remarks the noble Lord said: With regard to any other points raised, if they are considered of sufficient importance, perhaps we may have consultations before the Committee stage and put down Amendments… I think my noble friend will agree with me that I have received absolutely no communications from him, and there have been no consultations. As this Bill contains a clause which has aroused strong objections throughout Scotland and which has nothing to do with allotments, I very much regret that consultations have not taken place before the Committee stage of the Bill. If we go into Committee this afternoon I should like to say that I may have some very drastic Amendments to bring forward—possibly mutually inconsistent Amendments—at the next stage of the Bill. I wish in these remarks merely to protest against the fact that there have not been any consultations. I do not propose to move an Amendment that we should defer this matter for a week, if the Government are anxious to get on with the Bill.


My Lords, nothing now remains for me to do except offer my sincere apologies to the noble Lord for my discourtesy and for failing to carry out my promise. I have no real excuse to offer. I can only say that my usual methods on similar occasions have been these: that, in art endeavour to the best of my ability to look after Scottish affairs in this House, I have tried to contact noble Lords concerned within the precincts of this House and arrange a convenient time for further discussion. This I have done whenever I have made a promise such as the one to which the noble Lord has just referred. I have not been fortunate enough to meet my noble friend in the precincts of the House during the past few days. Perhaps I may be allowed to add that, in view of what has happened on this occasion, I propose in future to abandon this somewhat haphazard method of redeeming my promises and to revert to the more orderly methods of communicating through the Scottish Office.


The suggestion was made on Thursday, the day of the week on which we generally conclude our business. There were still Friday, Saturday and Sunday when we might have done something.


My Lords, however long I speak I do not think I can make my apology any more abject than I have already made it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:

Exclusion of land let under emergency powers.

6. The foregoing provisions of this Act shall not apply to land let by a local authority under Regulation sixty-two A of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved to omit Clause 6. The noble Earl said: I am moving to omit Clause 6 chiefly because I want to know the purpose of its insertion—and I think that is a very good reason for asking for it to be omitted. So far as I can see, the effect of Clause 6 is to except from the benefits of Clauses 1 to 5 any allotments which have been leased under Regulation 62A. If those clauses are good—the Government appear to think they are, and I am not quarrelling with that—why are certain allotments to be excepted from them? It may he said that there are only a few allotments concerned, but that does not alter the fact that they should equally receive the benefits which will go to the many. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 6.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)


On looking at the report of the Second Reading of this Bill I see that the noble Earl said: … I am not quite clear about Clause 6, and why allotments which started under Defence Regulation 62A should be treated entirely differently from others… That, in effect, is what the noble Earl is repeating now. In comparing permanent allotments with allotments given under Regulation 62A the noble Earl is not comparing like with like. Under that Regulation local authorities were empowered to let for use as allotments land in their own occupation, such as parks, open spaces, et cetera. The allotment holders on this land will continue to be compensated under existing allotment legislation. They have known this from the beginning of their occupation. They have also been made aware that they would have to give up their tenancies as soon as the land was again required for its original purpose or as soon as the Defence Regulations expired. Many of them have already been given up. The allotment schemes in question were always understood by all concerned to be temporary schemes, and there is, in the Government's view, no case at this date for bringing these tenants under the provisions of this Bill and giving them new rights. I hope that this reply will make clear to the noble Earl that there are two separate classes of allotment and that those referred to in the present Bill are in no way comparable with the allotments which were given under Regulation 62A.


I beg to thank the noble Lord for his explanation. I imagine that that is what the Minister of Works was referring to the other day when he said: We are taking the view that it is quite time that the parks were cleaned up—that the parks were meant for the enjoyment of the people, that there is no necessity to keep any of them at all for the purpose of allotments. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 agreed to.

LORD MORRISON moved, after Clause 7, to insert the following new clause:

Amendment of section 1 (4) of the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1922

". Subsection (4) of section one of the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1922, (which excludes from the operation of that section land held by or on behalf of the Admiralty, War Department, or Air Council, and let as mentioned in subsection (1) of that section, when possession of the land is required for naval, military or Air Force purposes) shall have effect,—

  1. (a) with the substitution, for the words 'or Air Council,' of the words 'Air Council or Minister of Supply'; and
  2. (b) with the addition, at the end thereof, of the words 'or for purposes of the Ministry of Supply, as the case may be'."

The noble Lord said: This is a very minor Amendment. The purpose of this clause is to put the Ministry of Supply in the same position as the Service Departments. Noble Lords will know that since the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1922, was passed, the Ministry of Supply have taken over certain functions from the Service Departments. It is reasonable, therefore, that the Ministry of Supply should be placed in the same position as the Service Departments. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 7, insert the said new clause. ——(Lord Morrison.)


I appreciate that the Ministry of Supply have taken over some functions from the Service Departments, but may I ask why the benefits given in the first five clauses of this Bill are denied to the tenants of these Service Departments? I do not understand the principle. In many cases, I presume, it is because the occupiers of allotments are Service personnel. I do not know, but I suggest that that is the reason, and that they are posted and liable to go at short notice. But that is not the case with the Ministry of Supply, who are placed in an advantageous position.


As the noble Earl has just said, I presume, though I have no actual knowledge, that most of the occupants of these allotments are Service personnel, and that, the Ministry of Supply now having taken over certain parts of the duties of the Services, the same conditions continue to obtain as were in operation when the Service Departments themselves were directly responsible.


The noble Lord can guess as well as I can, but I should like to know what is the position. If the tenants are Service personnel then, instead of saying "for purposes of the Ministry of Supply," it would be simple to put in the words" for Service personnel." Would the noble Lord inquire whether the reservation in favour of the Service Departments is still really necessary? I know that it was in the former Act, and it means to say that an allotment holder can he turned out without any notice at all, instead of having twelve months' notice, as in this Bill. I should like to know, before the next stage, whether that is necessary.


I can see the noble Earl's point and I will see that he gets the information upon it. I am informed that a number of these Service personnel are still in possession of these allotments and are seconded to the Ministry of Supply.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

LORD MORRISON moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause:

Provision of information relating to allotments and award of prizes.

"For the purpose promoting the proper cultivation of allotments in their area a local authority may incur, or contribute towards, the expenses of—

  1. (a) the dissemination (whether by means of lectures, cinematograph shows, exhibitions or otherwise) of information on questions relating to allotments; and
  2. (b) the award of prizes in connection with the cultivation and maintenance of allotments."

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this clause is to give local authorities wider powers in the matter of incurring expenditure to encourage the allotments movement. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, will recollect that in the Second Reading debate he said: I feel tint more might be done by education, guidance and possibly research in allotment schemes, if we regard them as sufficiently important. Finally, what is most important is that they must be made attractive. The District Councils Association in Scotland have also made a request for this power. At present, local authorities have no power at all under the Allotments (Scotland) Acts to spend money on purposes other than the formation of allotments. In order that they may be in a position to take more active steps to encourage the cultivation of allotments it is considered desirable that they should be given specific power to incur expenditure on such matters as lectures, exhibitions and shows relating to allotments, and on the award of prizes for the best kept allotments. This clause provides for that. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Morrison.)


I should like to thank the noble Lord for this Amendment. It is a great improvement, though I wonder whether the Amendment should not go a little further. Certain local authorities would like to have further power—for instance, for the provision of certain equipment for allotments, particularly tools which could be made available to the allotment holders. However, I am not going to press that point. I am very glad to have the Amendment as it stands. I should just like to ask this. I suppose that the Amendment does not in any way extend the power of the district councils, which are to a major extent concerned, in regard to the levying of any rate. I take it that there is no intention of altering their powers under, I think, Section 142 of the Local Government Act, 1947. The noble Lord may be aware that the district councils are anxious to be able to extend—or to remove—the limit of the penny rate, for it is from that rate that their expenditure on allotments must be wholly provided. I would mention, in passing, that under another measure, dealing with substantially the very same subject, parish councils are having their allotments increased in respect of almost precisely the same matter. It is just that exception to which I should like to draw attention. For the rest, I am grateful for this clause, which is most important.


This does not involve any alteration in the rating system.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10:

Abolition of restrictions in feu charter, etc., on keeping hens and rabbits

10.—(1) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in any feu charter, feu contract, disposition, lease or other instrument affecting land, or in any contract or undertaking relating to the use to be made of any land, it shall be lawful for the occupier of any land to keep, otherwise than by way of trade or business, hens or rabbits in any place on the land and to erect or place and maintain such buildings or structures on the land as are reasonably necessary for that purpose:

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, in subsection (1) after "lawful" to insert: with the consent in writing of the person or persons entitled to enforce the said provision first had and obtained.

The noble Earl said: It would be idle to pretend that this is not a highly contentious clause. If I may, I will start by referring to a resolution which was passed on June 19 last by the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society at their annual conference. It was as follows: This Annual Conference of the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society, whilst welcoming the Allotments (Scotland) Bill, views with serious concern the provisions of Clause 10 (1) which allows the keeping of rabbits and poultry 'in any place on the land' in buildings or structures 'reasonably necessary' and notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary.' In the opinion of this Conference such a provision is diametrically opposed to the best principles of town planning and will seriously hamper the Society in its efforts to improve the appearance of allotments. Furthermore, the Society strongly objects to rights and privileges not shared by the cultivators of allotment gardens being extended to a section of the community for whom allotments were not provided, regarding the siting and erection of constructions on the same. Conference also regrets that no statutory provision now exists for the planning of allotments and recommends that the Town Planing Clauses of the 1925 Allotments Act should be re-enacted. I should like to ask this. In whose interest is Clause 10 included? If the noble Lord is familiar with the fact that the local authorities and this Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society are not pleased by it, in whose interest is this clause as at present drafted?

I am moving the Amendment which is on the Paper because it appears to me that the major objection to Clause 10 at the present time is that it gives no adequate powers of control, and particularly that it greatly interferes, or may interfere, with amenities. I want to make this point, which I made on Second Reading, because it appears to me that Clause 10 has nothing whatsoever to do with allotment gardens. I have read the description of "allotment gardens" contained in the 1922 Act, and it appears to deal entirely with the cultivation of vegetables and herbs. This clearly refers to something which deals with the keeping of livestock. If we are going to have that I suppose we shall have in due course to change the title of the Bill; but as it stands this is an entirely different matter, in face of the rest of the Bill which deals only with allotment gardens.

This is not a matter which need be too controversial, because basically I think we all want the same thing. In putting down this Amendment I have sought to suggest one solution of the problem as I see it, though I do not imply for one moment that it is the only solution. But what I have suggested is this—and it seems to me to be the major point. Nobody objects to anyone keeping chickens—I believe the word is "hens," so perhaps cockerels are excluded—and rabbits, provided that they are kept properly, and provided that they are kept under regulations by whatever authority is considered suitable to put them forward. The limitation placed here is: Provided that nothing in this subsection shall … affect the operation of any enactment … That means that any enactment by a local authority dealing with health or any other subject will control the way in which these livestock are kept. Most local authorities do not consider that provision adequate Moreover, so far as they can see, it does not give them any control over the type of erection which is put up, and they are most anxious to have that. Probably my Amendment in itself does not go far enough in that direction. What I am suggesting here is that it should be simply a matter that whoever has the power of enforcing the use of land can by letter authorise the keeping of chickens or hens. I do not know whether this is intended to apply to allotment holders; but I take it that it is. In the majority of cases, so far as they are concerned, it will be the local authority, although in some cases it will be a private individual. I am adding that if any person is aggrieved because consent to keep livestock is withheld, he may submit a petition to the sheriff. The sheriff is held in great esteem and I think his decision would be recognised as being highly reasonable.

So far as is possible, everybody wants to encourage the keeping of livestock in the right place to assist our food production. But that is the real danger, and I want the noble Lord to note carefully what the allotments society has said about bringing the whole of the allotment movement into contempt because it is too "scruffy," because it is too untidy—indeed, for the reason the noble Lord says he wants to keep allotments off the public parks. The allotment societies are most anxious that that should not be said of them, and I am quite certain that it is in everybody's interest that that should not happen. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 42, after ("lawful") insert the said new words.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)


At a later stage I want to oppose Clause 10 altogether and to give the Committee some reasons why I think it should not find a place in this Bill. I have put down a manuscript Amendment, and although I do not propose to move it this afternoon I would ask the Government to study it and its purpose, because the local authorities in Scotland object to the clause in toto. However, if they are forced to swallow the pill they wish to have control themselves. Failing that, I would certainly support my noble friend Lord Selkirk in his Amendment, because I think that if we cannot get the two things that I would prefer, at least his does give some measure of satisfaction.

I do not understand why at one sweep the Bill takes away from people who have a duly to perform to the public their rights and their power to perform that duty—I am talking about the feudal superiors on granted feu charters. I have many of these feu charters myself, and what happens is that when somebody does something which destroys the amenities of his neighbours they nearly always come to me and ask me to exercise the powers in the feu charters to get removed whatever obstruction is being caused. The reason they do that is that I am an impartial person, and if I act on the feu charter nobody can complain; whereas if they go personally to the Dean of Guild Court, or do something of that kind, they are immediately involved in quarrels with their neighbours, and very often feel that they are going to injure their businesses. I get nothing for doing it, but I do it just as many other people in my position do it. It is a very useful function, a kind of trusteeship in these matters, and it is done all over Scotland. For that reason, if I cannot succeed in my own Amendment, or if I cannot get this clause deleted from the Bill, I should certainly support my noble friend's Amendment. I am perfectly certain that in such a case the sheriff will hold the balance evenly. As my noble friend said, the sheriffs are probably the most respected authorities in Scotland.


May I again start with a confession? Since the Second Reading of this Bill I have been looking closely at Clause 10, and I do not feel entirely satisfied with the clause in its present form. Lord Selkirk said that it was highly contentious. He will correct me if I am wrong, but I think he also said that he was not absolutely certain that his own Amendment was as perfect as he would like it. That leads me to say that it will be generally admitted that this is not a political Bill, in any sense of the word, and therefore all that the Government are concerned about is trying to make the best possible Bill. There is no special interest to serve in this Bill; there is no conflict. We are trying to get a good Bill. Lord Selkirk confessed that he was not sure that his Amendment was perfect; I confess that I am not satisfied with the clause in its present form. Lord Saltoun had given notice of a manuscript Amendment which he has not moved, but which makes yet another suggestion.

Let me say that, so far as my information goes, the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, is open to objections. The combined effect of them would be that where an occupier of land wished to keep domestic hens or rabbits, and failed to get the consent in writing of any person entitled to enforce a provision against this, he could appeal to the sheriff. The Government are reluctant to accept Amendments designed to this end. As the Committee know, I am not a Scottish lawyer, but I suggest that the question whether and under what conditions the occupier should be free to keep domestic hens or rabbits is a question of principle to be determined by Parliament, and not a question of judicial interpretation appropriate for settlement by a sheriff.

The clause, as the noble Earl proposes to amend it, would in effect throw on the individual sheriff the burden, not merely of giving a judicial ruling but of determining a policy. No guidance would be given to the sheriff as to the considerations which should influence his decision. I suggest that it would be somewhat unreasonable to place this burden upon the sheriff. I have already admitted that there are criticisms of the clause as it stands, and that I should welcome further discussion upon them. I have an idea—I may be wrong—that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, might possibly agree. I do not know about the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun. It may be that he is not definitely sure that his Amendment is right. The position is a confusing one and I suggest that it needs to be clarified.

I wonder whether both noble Lords would be willing to withdraw their Amendments on a definite promise, which I am prepared to give, that I will arrange for further discussions with them both upon the clause as soon as possible and before the next stage of the Bill is reached. At these discussions I shall be prepared to submit certain amending proposals, and also to consider any proposals which the noble Lords may see fit to put forward on the lines either of their Amendments or in conformity with any new suggestions that may occur to them before the discussions take place. I make that offer because it seems to me that we are in a real difficulty here. I do not think that any of us are quite sure that the proposals which we are putting forward are designed to bring about just what we should wish in this connection. I, personally, should like to see certain alterations in the Bill. As I have intimated, I think that it needs further discussion, and I hope both noble Lords will be willing to accept my offer. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, in view of what I have said, will not persist in moving his Amendment for the deletion of Clause 10, but will agree to leave the clause as it stands now on the undertaking which I have given.


May I ask this? Is it intended that livestock should be kept on allotment gardens or is it not?


I do not want to commit myself as to what alterations might be possible in the light of the discussions which I hope will take place between us. I can only say, in reply to what the noble Earl has just said, that that is an open question.


I feel in a difficulty in this matter. I have strong reasons for wishing that the clause should be deleted. It is only faute de mieux that I put down an Amendment which local authorities in Scotland would accept in default of getting the clause deleted. They have strong reasons for wishing for its deletion which I have not yet touched upon in your Lordships' House. While I am prepared to refrain from moving my Amendment this afternoon, I should like to tell the House something as to why the deletion of the clause is sought.


I do not wish it to be thought that I am in any way trying to dictate to the noble Lord. He must take whatever course he thinks wise and prudent. I am acting on the assumption that it is generally admitted that this is not in any sense a political Bill, and that it is also admitted that we are not all clear as to exactly what we want in regard to Clause 10. With this in mind, I am suggesting that further discussions would be in the best interests of all concerned.


I take it that Lord Morrison would admit discussion on whether Clause 10 should stand in the Bill or not. I hope that the next stage of the Bill will not be fixed for such a date as to interfere in any way with our meeting and holding a full discussion on these matters. As my noble friend has already pointed out, this clause has nothing to do with allotments at all; it is a general enactment affecting all land in the country. In the view of local authorities it falls with particular weight upon the local authorities' unfenced housing-scheme gardens.


I was astonished to hear the noble Lord who speaks for the Government say that he did not know what he wanted. I asked him during the Second Reading debate just what it was the Government wanted, and I have asked him again to-day, but he has not given me an answer. I do not yet know what the Government want to do under Clause 10, but I am sure that the Bill in its present form is indigestible. I never said that my Amend- ment was perfect but I must say that I thought that the noble Lord's reply to it was fairly laboured. Sheriffs do have to determine questions connected with nuisance and, as a rule, they have no difficulty in making up their minds in particular cases whether there is some nuisance arising or not. In the circumstances, I am not going to press this particular Amendment. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, is willing to examine the position completely. There is nothing political about this point. Everyone concerned is anxious to do everything he can that will conduce to the utmost development of allotments. But there is not the slightest point in bringing forward proposals to which objection is raised both by the allotment societies and the local authorities. We wish to have the fullest interest and cooperation of both these bodies in helping the allotment movement. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.36 p.m.


I beg leave to move this second Amendment of mine, merely for the purpose of getting it on the record.

Amendment moved—

Page 5, line 9, at end insert— (2) Any person aggrieved by a refusal of or failure within a reasonable time to give a consent under subsection (1) of this section may appeal to the sheriff."—(The Earl of Selkirk.)


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?


On the question whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill or not, may I say that I did not understand definitely from Lord Morrison that in our discussions we shall discuss whether the clause shall be in the Bill at all. Will our discussions extend to that?


I expressly used the words "without prejudice." I said that the discussions would take place without prejudice.


That means that we shall discuss the whole thing?


I do not want to be dogmatic. I presume that there will be a Clause 10 in the Bill in some form or another.


My contention is that there should be no Clause 10 in the Bill. I think our discussions should cover that.


I do not quite understand why the noble Lord says there ought to be no Clause 10 in the Bill, because he himself has a Manuscript. Amendment on the Order Paper, the effect of which is that there should be a new Clause 10.


That is perfectly true. But the Association of County Councils in Scotland say that they do not want this clause. They strongly object to it. But they say, in effect, "If the Government insist on this clause, then we beg to offer this Amendment as an improvement." If we can discuss this point, my object will he to try to persuade the Government that Clause 10 should be deleted, for it has nothing to do with allotments at all. If it is not understood that we can discuss that, I must move my Amendment this afternoon. If my noble friend, Lord Morrison agrees that this may be a subject of our discussions, I shall not move my Amendment.


I do not know that I can add any more except to say that if, as a result of the discussions, all parties are agreed—and the Government, of course, will be one of the parties—that there is no need for Clause 10, then there will not be a Clause 10.


I am much obliged; that is all I want.


I cannot, of course, commit myself as to what may be done in respect of Clause 10.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Interpretation]:


This is purely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 32, leave out ("county council").—(Lord Morrison.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.

House resumed.