HL Deb 03 May 1951 vol 171 cc712-8

5.3 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I have it in command from His Majesty to acquaint the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the contents of the Bill, is pleased to give his consent, as far as His Majesty's interest is concerned, on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, that the House may proceed therein as they shall think fit. I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. —(The Earl of Listowel.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 7:

Felling directions

7—(1) If it appears to the Commissioners that it is expedient in the interests of good forestry or for purposes connected with their duty under section one of this Act that any growing trees should be felled—

they may give directions to the owner of the trees requiring him to fell them within such period being not less than two years after the directions have become operative as may be specified in the directions:

Provided that, in considering whether to give any directions under this subsection, the Com-missioners shall have regard to the interests of agriculture and the amenity or convenience of any farm or dwelling-house or park occupied therewith or of any land held inalienably by the National Trust, and shall take into account any advice tendered by the Regional Advisory Committee for the conservancy in which the trees are growing

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in the proviso to subsection (1) after "park" to insert "usually." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment has been put down to meet a point that was raised on the Report stage by the noble Lords, Lord Kinnaird and Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, and also, I think, by other noble Lords, during the discussion on Clause 7. This Amendment makes it absolutely clear that, even if a park has been let by its owner to a farmer for the grazing of his livestock or for other agricultural purposes, the amenity value of timber standing on the part of the park that is let will have to be considered by the Forestry Com-missioners before they are able to issue felling directions. That is an object that I think we share on both sides of the House. Therefore, I shall be grateful for the approval of your Lordships to this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 28, after ("park") insert ("usually").—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends who took this matter up on the Report stage of the Bill, I should like to thank the noble Earl for his suggestion, which is obviously designed to meet the point raised. In view of the extreme definiteness of the noble Earl's assurance that this Amendment does meet the point, I hesitate to question the matter. I do not profess to be a lawyer but, quite frankly, I have taken some legal advice on this matter and I cannot see how the Amendment meets the point and makes the position, as the noble Earl says, "absolutely clear." No one could contend that land occupied by a farmer who has rented that land from the land owner is, in fact, occupied in connection with the dwelling-house. How the word "usually" alters the situation, I really cannot see. It may be let for a considerable period to a farmer, but you cannot then contend that it is "usually occupied therewith" in connection with the dwelling-house.

It seems a very small point but, in fact, it is not. It is most important at this moment, particularly when we are desirous of seeing every acre of land in this country used for its proper purpose of food production, that the land owner should feel perfectly free to let his land to a farmer who may well know how to make better use of it than the land owner himself, without depriving him of the protection of this clause. I should like the noble Earl to give us an undertaking that if, in fact, I prove right, and this proposed word of his does not meet the case, then his right honourable friend in another place will deal with the matter. In this House we do not like manuscript Amendments on Third Reading, and therefore I will not propose an alteration now. I should, however, appreciate an assurance on the lines I have indicated.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, may I say one word on this matter? I do not profess to have followed this Bill in detail but, in spite of the explanation given by the noble Earl opposite, I have a little difficulty in understanding how his Amendment does meet the point. I assume, of course, that he and the Government in another place mean the point to be met, and sooner or later we shall find the right words. May I ask the noble Lord to tell me what exactly is the application of "therewith"? The clause speaks of any farm or dwelling-house or park occupied therewith. Does that mean the park occupied with the farm, or does it mean only the park occupied with the dwelling-house? It is not very easy to be sure from the words used. If what is meant is the park occupied with the dwelling-house—the mansion house—I suggest that those who assist the noble Earl might consider whether it would not be better to say "the park occupied with the dwelling-house," because otherwise the matter is not very clear.

Of course, in respect of an estate with a mansion house, a park and farms which may or may not be let off, it is obvious that the occupier of a farm that has been let is not the person who is the occupier of the mansion house; the landlord and the tenant are different occupiers. I assume that the case to be considered is where, although the park surrounds the mansion house, as it happens the park (or part of it, I suppose), has been let off to somebody else. I must say that I feel some difficulty as the language stands. I should not have thought that to say "the park usually occupied therewith" was a very appropriate phrase. Ought it not to be "the park that is associated therewith." It is not a question of the nature of the tenure which the law recognises, because of course the tenure of a tenant is the tenure of an occupier, and the tenure of a landlord is not the tenure of a different occupier—he is both owner and occupier. I cannot think that this word "occupied" is a very happy word, and without wishing to say any more now, I should have thought, in the interests of doing what is meant to be done, that it was worth considering whether some such phrase as "associated with the dwelling-house" would not be a better way to describe it.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, may I add just one point? I think everybody wants the Forestry Commissioners to take into account those trees that have obviously been planted for amenity purposes round a farmhouse or a dwelling-house. I think we are all agreed that that is what we want done. I agree fully with my noble and learned friend Lord Simon in saying that "occupied" is the wrong word. If we leave this word in, and if the landlord now has his park in hand and it is in the interests of agriculture that he should let it to somebody else (perhaps because he has reached such an age that he cannot manage it himself), he will be losing the advantage of these words. If he lets it off to a better agricultural advantage he will have ceased to be the occupier of it. That is a point which I should like the noble Earl to study. I think everybody wants to do the same thing, but I think the word "occupied" is wrong; and that it should be "associated." The avenue leading up to a dwelling-house, although it may be farmed by somebody else, is, of course, part of the amenity of that house. That is the kind of thing that we want taken into consideration, whether it is farmed by the landlord himself or is let out to somebody else. If the noble Earl will give us an assurance that that is what is intended, I have no doubt that the appropriate word can be found in another place.

5,14 p.m.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to all noble Lords who have spoken. Looking even more carefully at this clause, as I have done since I heard what the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, said, I do feel, speaking, of course, entirely for myself, that there may be an ambiguity here which ought to be cleared up. I can assure noble Lords that the wording will be looked at again, because the intention is that "therewith" should refer to the dwelling-house. The point must be made absolutely clear, and I can assure the noble and learned Viscount that those words will be looked at again; and if it is possible to remove this ambiguity I am certain that it will be done in another place. I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, that the amenity of the farm or dwelling-house is covered by the earlier part of this clause. If he will look at the words, he will see that they are: the amenity or convenience of any farm or dwelling-house. This is something to which the Commissioners must have regard before they make up their minds about a felling direction; so that point is covered. But what we are considering in this Amendment is the amenity value of the standing timber for the park, not for the house; so, in any event, whether the parkland is let or not, any timber that is within sight of the farm or mansion, or is part of the pleasure ground, is covered in the clause as it stands.


By whomsoever it is occupied?




Will the words cover the situation where a portion is let off and a portion is retained?


I assume that the pleasure grounds would not be let. They would be part of the immediate surroundings of the mansion, and they would not be let off for arable or other farming purposes. But any part of the park that is further from the house, and which is let for livestock or whatever it may be, would of course come under consideration from the point of view of preserving standing timber for amenity purposes, and from the point of view of the value of the sightliness of the park itself. That is the point we are on. I can immediately give the undertaking for which the noble Earl has asked. I will certainly see that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture is asked (I will do it myself), to look at this point and see that the words that we have included really mean that even if a park is let for grazing purposes, or whatever it may be, any standing timber there must be considered from the point of view of its amenity value for the park, quite apart from the question of the dwelling-house, before the Commission decide to make felling direction. I think the noble Earl may feel reassured to some degree by this fact: I am told that the great majority of these leases are short leases, very often for a period of one year—at any rate, they are not leases for a long period—and there is no doubt that in all such cases the wording as it stands is adequate. But I will gladly accept the noble Earl's proposal that I should look into the matter and ask my right honourable friend to take legal advice, in order to introduce the appropriate wording in another place.


My Lords, the noble Earl has given us that assurance, for which I thank him. I speak again only by leave of the House, but is this an appropriate moment to ask the noble Earl to deal with the point about policies which was raised at an earlier stage of the Bill, and particularly as to whether policies are included in the word "park."


I am obliged to the noble Earl for giving me this opportunity to say something on this point which raised a great deal of discussion during the last stage of the Bill, especially among noble Lords from Scot-land. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Kinnaird, who is not here at the moment, was particularly interested in this matter. I have gone into it again, as I said I would, and I have taken further legal advice. The advice I have received is that the customary interpretation of the word "park" includes a policy. If we were to put the word "policy" in this Bill the effect would be to cast a doubt upon the interpretation of the word "park" in existing forestry legislation. I think that no one wants policies to be thought to be excluded from parks in existing Statutes. I hope that noble Lords, with the assurance that the word "park" does include the Scottish expression "policy," will be disposed to accept the present wording.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this is a consequential Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 20, line 33, leave out ("under section four") and insert ("by him in pursuance").— (The Earl of Listowel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments (privilege) made: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.