HL Deb 19 January 1954 vol 185 cc293-6

4.27 p.m.


had given notice of his intention to move, That the Cwmbran New Town Compulsory Purchase Order No. 9 (The Garw), 1952, a copy of which was laid before the House on the 24tha of November last, be annulled. The noble Lord said: My Lords, since this Motion was placed on the Order Paper I understand that there has been a considerable amount of negotiation, and I am bound to say that there exists some misapprehension, not on the merits of the Order or the dispute between the two bodies, both worthy bodies, but, so to speak, on the mechanics of the Motions standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Ogmore. I understand that these two Motions have been put down for consideration in another place, and therefore, without prejudice to the rights of this House in matters of this kind, I do not propose to move my Motion this afternoon.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, as it would have fallen to my lot to respond, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to these two Motions on the Order Paper, perhaps I may be permitted to say one or two words upon them. I will try and be as impersonal as I can. I have, however, spent a fortnight in a thorough and intensive study of these Motions, in an attempt to make myself familiar with the details of this complex matter. I had even gone so far as to pay a visit, at my own expense, to Cwmbran to study the situation on the ground, a journey which has now obviously proved really unnecessary. If the noble Lord had been able to give me more than an hour's notice that the two Motions that have been on the Order Paper for nearly a month were to be withdrawn, he would have saved rue personally some inconvenience—but that is an argument which it would have been improper for me to advance in your Lordships' House. Whether he would have saved any inconvenience to other noble Lords in your Lordships' House who were intending to speak upon this matter, I know not, for I have not had the time, within an hour, to inquire. The reason that the noble Lord, Lord Burden, has given is that the matter is to be discussed in another place. Whether that is an adequate reason for withdrawing these two Motions at an hour's notice is, again, not for me to say—it is a matter for your Lordships. I should have thought that your Lordships' House would be able to discuss these complex things quite as well as another place; but again that is not for me to say.

All I want to say is this. These two Motions contain what is, of course, an attack upon the policies of the new town of Cwmbran and its Corporation, and thus, indirectly, upon my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government (whom I have the honour to represent in your Lordships' House) for giving the Corporation his support in this matter. A Petition lies upon the Table. The pros and cons of this Petition have been bruited abroad in the Press, and particularly in the Press of South Wales, because the people of Pontypool and Cwmbran are naturally keenly concerned in this matter. I will not say that "mud sticks," because it would be discourteous to the noble Lord to suggest that his Motion contains anything so unparliamentary as mud. But the Motion is an attack—a perfectly legitimate Parliamentary attack—and I think that such an attack, once levelled should not appear to go unanswered merely by reason of the noble Lord's being given permission to withdraw his Motion.

I should like to say, as shortly as I can, that had I been called upon to answer this case, I would have done so, I am sorry to say, at some length and in some detail, but, I flatter myself, to your Lordships' satisfaction. I should have advanced the argument that my right honourable friend the Minister has been wholly blameless in this matter, and has acted with complete propriety and fairness. I should not like the House to grant Lord Burden permission to withdraw his Motion without giving me the opportunity of saying these few words in defence of my right honourable friend, for fear that, by my silence, I should be thought to acquiesce for one moment in a possible accusation that my right honourable friend has been anything except wholly proper and wholly fair in his conduct. I leave the matter there. I have no personal complaint to make, but I should not like this attack on my right honourable friend to go by default.


My Lords, I should like to support what has been said by the noble Lord who has just sat down. It is only a short time ago that a Resolution was accepted that Motions on the Order Paper should not be withdrawn or altered except when full notice has been given. I am sure the noble Lord will remember that that Resolution was accepted by the House only a very short time ago.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, perhaps the House will allow me to say just one or two words in reply. In the first place, I was not intending to develop the merits of the case one way or the other, and if the noble Lord thinks that this Motion involves an attack on his right honourable friend, then I ask him to accept an assurance from me that that was in no way intended. In putting down this Motion I have only been concerned to see—and the same is true of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—that the mechanics, so to speak, provided under the Bill, should be complied with. This arises out of an accident, otherwise it would not be before your Lordships to-day. I ask Lord Mancroft to accept my assurance that in no way was I going to develop the case one way or the other, because, frankly—if I may express a personal opinion—I think that, on the merits, the case is against the rural district council, and in favour of the new town and the action that the Minister has taken.

I think your Lordships will agree, however, that a subject has the right, if he or she feels aggrieved, to come to Members of this House and ask for redress of any particular grievance, if the law so provides. As this is now being done in another place, I accept the position. It is because of something which was urged on me, and also because of the attitude of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, that I was induced two hours ago to agree to withdraw the Motion.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Burden. I am certain that there was no intention of doing anything deliberately to embarrass the Government or anything of that kind. But a number of noble Lords have been in Governments, and no doubt will be in Governments again, and they know the immense pressure under which Ministers work. This Motion, which has been put down, has involved the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in a very considerable amount of work. If they had been informed earlier through the usual channels that the noble Lord did not intend to move the Motion, it would have meant a very great saving of their time, and of the country's time. I therefore suggest that on occasions of this kind, when the noble Lord or any other noble Lord does not mean to move, they should let us know as soon as they possibly can and so save unnecessary labour.


My Lords, I think I can undertake, on behalf of the noble Viscount the acting Leader of this Party, that in future we will take all possible steps to avoid occurrences of this sort. I should like to say to Lord Man-croft that I regret very much that he has been put quite unnecessarily to a great deal of trouble. If my noble friend had been able to give longer notice of the proposed withdrawal of this Motion on this occasion, I am sure he would have done so. Once again, I express our regret at the unnecessary trouble which has been caused.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before five o'clock.