§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
§ Clause 1 [Prohibition of use of land as caravan site without site licence]:
LORD CHORLEY moved to add to subsection (3):
Provided also that where no lease, tenancy or licence has been granted in respect of any land the person in charge of any caravan thereon shall be deemed to be an 'occupier of land' for the purpose only (and not further or otherwise) of any prosecution under subsection (2) hereof.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. I must apologise for not having been able to bring this matter up at the Committee stage, but unfortunately one of the associations of local authorities which is particularly interested in this matter got into touch with me rather late in the day.
§ The point arises in this way. This Bill, of course, adopts the method of control over the owners of sites in question, using the word "owners" in a wide sense. The earlier legislation, and more 368 particularly Section 269 of the Public Health Act, 1936, which is repealed so far as this aspect goes, although not so effective as the Bill which is before your Lordships now, had the advantage of enabling not only the owner of the land on which the caravan is placed but also the man who actually keeps the caravan there, or has the control of the caravan there—the caravan owner himself—to be got at in cases where he was occasioning a breach of the law.
§ That provision has been found, as I understand it, very useful by quite a substantial number of local authorities which are concerned with the control of these caravans. The point is that often there is a small piece of land on which a man may keep his caravan and it is extraordinarily difficult to trace the owner of the land. It may take weeks, if not months, to identify him, and may cause a great deal of expense and difficulty. In the result, if the Bill before your Lordships goes through in an unamended state, it may lead to a situation in which a number of people are breaking the law but cannot be brought to order because the ownership of the land on which they have placed their caravans cannot be proved, or cannot be proved sufficiently quickly, to enable steps to be taken against them. Therefore, this Amendment has been drafted in such a way that, in a case where no lease, tenancy or licence has been granted in respect of any land, the person actually in charge of the caravan can be got at by his being deemed to be the occupier of the land in question. In such circumstances, a local authority which is concerned to see that the law is enforced will be able to enforce it against the caravan-owner rather than against the landowner himself. I hope that I have been able to make the object of this Amendment sufficiently clear. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 11, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Chorley.)
My Lords, it seems to me that there is a great deal to be said for the Amendment which has just been moved by the noble Lord opposite. There have been many great estates in this country broken up during the last fifty years, and the breaking up of a big estate almost invariably leaves little bits 369 of land with no real owner, or certainly with an owner who is very difficult to find. I think, therefore, that there is a good deal of substance in what the noble Lord opposite has said, and I hope that the Government will think well of this Amendment.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD (EARL WALDEGRAVE)
My Lords, I am quite clear as to what is the purpose of this Amendment, which is to enable local authorities to control the stationing of caravans on pieces of vacant land which have no known occupier, or whose occupiers are, for some reason, quite unable to exercise effective control over the land. I know that certain local authorities have had difficulty in this respect. I know that one particular urban district council, the Yiewsley and West Drayton Urban District Council, have experienced a great deal of trouble in dealing with unsatisfactory gipsy settlements in this respect, and that they have hitherto had to rely on their powers of control under Section 269 of the Public Health Act, 1936, although these powers were not fully effective owing to the free limits allowed by that section. Be that as it may, under this Bill they will no longer he able to use those powers, for, as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said, Section 269 of that Act will be repealed by this Bill in so far as it relates to caravans.
I think I must be frank with your Lordships and admit that, apart from the new clause dealing with rural commons, there will be nothing quite ready to take the place of that section of the Public Health Act, 1936. There will be nothing which would apply a sanction to the caravanner, as distinct from the occupier of the land. This matter was most carefully considered when we were drafting the "commons" clause, but it was not found practicable to add a special provision to deal with this problem, such as it is (because I do not think it is a very great problem), of caravans which may be stationed on vacant or unoccupied land. We were unable to draft a clause to cover these cases, largely because of the very serious difficulty involved in defining the kinds of land to which it should apply.
370 But, my Lords, there are other powers available to local authorities to enable them to meet this small case, apart from those in Part I of this Bill, and apart from those in Section 269 of the Public Health Act. The stationing of caravans on any land is subject to planning control—subject, of course, to the tolerances allowed under the General Development Order. These tolerances will be limited in future much more limited in future—for, as I have told your Lordships before, it is proposed to amend the General Development Order of 1950 so as to bring the tolerances for caravans under that Order broadly into line with the exemptions from licensing under this Bill. Further, the provisions for planning enforcement are being strengthened by Part II of this Bill. The planning authorities will therefore have more effective control over new caravan settlements of this kind in future than they had before, even though that section of the Public Health Act is being repealed. In addition, of course, local authorities have powers under Section 268 of the Public Health Act to deal with any insanitary conditions or other nuisances on caravan settlements; and these powers are not affected by the Bill. I mentioned the case of the Yiewsley and West Drayton Urban District Council, who have had this problem. In their case, there are also special powers for the control of moveable dwellings under the Middlesex County Council Act, 1944. Those powers will not necessarily be affected by the provisions of Clause 27 of this Bill, which provides for the repeal or amendment of local Acts which are "superseded by or inconsistent with" the provisions of this Bill; because there will, of course, be full consultation with the county council and the local authority concerned before any such provisions are repealed.
This Amendment, however, would not, as I see it, apply only to vacant land. It would in all cases, as drafted, make the caravanner the "occupier" of the land for the purpose of Clause 1 unless he held a lease, a tenancy or a licence from the real occupier; and surely, my Lords, this would run completely counter to the general policy of Part I of the Bill, which throughout applies to the real occupiers of the land. The Bill is concerned with the use of the land as caravan sites; it 371 is not directly concerned with the caravans. This Bill applies to the use of land as caravan sites, and the licensing requirements are applied to the occupier of the land as being the person best able to control the use of the land in this way. The transfer of the liability from the occupier to the individual caravanner, if your Lordships accepted this Amendment, would tend to weaken the powers of control. It would encourage the "blind eye" technique on the part of occupiers, and would add to the difficulties of enforcement. I presume that it is not the intention of this Amendment that each and every caravanner should have to obtain a site licence—a requirement which would obviously present tremendous difficulties. If that is so, I have to advise your Lordships that the only effect of this Amendment would be to make trespass by a caravanner a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £100, and we feel that this would be quite unnecessarily severe.
The Government's view, my Lords, is that it would be extremely inadvisable to attempt to deal with this small problem, where it arises, in this Bill, since that might well result in uncertainty and also, possibly, in undue hardship to the caravan users concerned. It would surely be better to rely on the powers of control available under the planning and the public health legislation. I hope your Lordships will not wish to press this Amendment; because I am bound to say that, as drafted, it is quite unacceptable to Her Majesty's Government.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I must say that I find the noble Earl's answer a most unsatisfactory one. It may be that this Amendment is not completely satisfactory to meet the case, which he himself has admitted is a real one, but the local authority to which he referred has been using the section which is to be repealed to raise about 20 prosecutions a year. This shows that, even in this one case, there has been a substantial use of the section which is going to be swept away and no longer may be taken advantage of. I feel that the noble Earl's own explanation of the possible alternatives indicates how lame and unsatisfactory the alternatives are. That is certainly the view of the local authorities which are concerned and which, I understand, have 372 been in touch with the Ministry. I should not have thought it beyond the wit of the able lawyers who advise the noble Earl's Department to work out some method of handling this problem.
It think it is obvious from the noble Earl's answer that we are going to remove an effective section from the Act without putting anything effective in its place. I am not in a position to ask your Lordships to divide on this, but the noble Earl's answer is far from satisfactory, and hope that before the Bill becomes law some method of handling this may be devised. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2:
§ Exemptions from licensing requirements
§ 2. No site licence shall be required for the use of land as a caravan site in any of the circumstances specified in the First Schedule to this Act and that Schedule shall have effect accordingly.
§ 3.12 p.m.
VISCOUNT GAGE had given Notice of two Amendments to Clause 2, the first being at the beginning to insert "(1) Subject as hereinafter provided," and the second to add to the clause as a new subsection:
(2) The foregoing subsection shall apply to land allocated for Green Belt purposes in a redevelopment plan approved under the Act of 1947 or designated a National Park or an area of outstanding natural beauty or scientific interest under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, only if planning permission required under the Act of 1947 for such use has been granted by the local planning authority on consideration of an application in that behalf or by the Minister on appeal or is deemed to have been granted under section seventeen of this Act.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I put down these two Amendments, not in much hope that they will be accepted, because I am certain that I shall be told that I have used the wrong words; that I seek to put the new subsection in the wrong place, and that it does not carry out my intention. But at least it gives me an opportunity of making an appeal to my noble friend Lord Waldegrave to do something to lighten the extraordinarily complicated burden of responsibilities that have been put on local authorities under this Bill. No doubt your Lordships will agree that in whatever they do 373 local authorities are simply endeavouring to carry out the intentions of the Government and of Parliament and have no discretion other than that given them by Parliament.
§ Although some of the things I may say may appear trivial, the duties to be placed on local authorities are of a somewhat trivial kind. But trivial duties take just as long to perform as more important ones, and if local authorities get encumbered and their officials bogged down with detailed work, it will have an effect on their other and more important functions. I should like to remind your Lordships of some of the duties placed on them under this Bill. In certain cases there is a duty to provide caravan sites, but for the most part the duties are concerned with control.
§ Perhaps I may illustrate what I have in mind by taking the sort of case that frequently arises. One receives a letter from an angry ratepayer, or group of ratepayers, complaining that their view has been obstructed by caravans and that the caravanners in some respects are anti-social, and that if this sort of thing continues the value of their property will be depreciated. And the letter will probably end up with some rather sarcastic remarks about the amount of ratepayers' money that goes into town planning and "what are we getting for it?" If a council receive such a letter, we have to try to ascertain the facts, and we have to do so with some care, because if there is any breach of the law we must find what section of the Act has been breached, particularly where any enforcement procedure is in mind.
§ First, we have to consult our own lists of licensed caravan sites. That is easy. But if it is not in our list, it may be one that has been exempted by the Caravan Club. That may not be so easy to discover, but we can trace the owner by his certificate of exemption. If he has a certificate, we have no direct power of intervention, but unless the Caravan Club is going to guarantee to keep all the 2,000 sites it has in mind to authorise under the Bill, I suppose it will fall to the local authorities to see that the rules are being observed, particularly if there is any complaint. That means that before we exercise our right to complain to the Minister, we have to see that there are not more than five caravans in 374 a certified area and that they are all recreational caravans.
§ If the site is not on the Caravan Club list, we have to see whether it comes under paragraph 3 of the First Schedule, under which not more than three caravans can be stationed in an area of less than five acres, and we have to find whether any caravans in the vicinity are in the same ownership. Then we have to see that the number of days on which the caravans have occupied the site have not exceeded 28 in any 12 months. Of course, it is possible that there has been an abuse of some of the exemptions: that somebody has permitted more than one caravan to be on his land, and permitted it to stay for more than two nights, on land which is exempt if not more than two caravans are there and if they stay only two nights. Or somebody may take advantage of the exemption permitted in the curtilage of his house.
§ There are several other exemptions which may be abused, but I shall not trouble your Lordships with them, because I think I have said enough to suggest to your Lordships that one would have to be a chartered surveyor, or a solicitor, or a private detective, to see that all these rules were carried out according to the letter of the law. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave said frankly that he had to concentrate very hard to understand this Bill in order to explain it to your Lordships' House. I think that he had a special schedule made and, metaphorically, put a wet towel round his head. I have sympathy with the noble Earl, but I hope that he has sympathy with the local authorities who have to implement all these obligations placed on their shoulders by Parliament. I would at once accept, as I shall no doubt be told, that although this sounds a great deal, a lot of it derives from the past and it has been administered without difficulty. That is no doubt true; but we have more exemptions in this Bill than ever before, and I imagine that we shall have many more caravans as the years go by. Certainly I would not guarantee that because certain things have not happened in the past they will continue not to happen in the future, and I doubt whether, with the best intentions in the world, we can deal with more than a few flagrant cases.375
§ All I ask is that the Government should endeavour to make our task a little easier in these special areas—the Green Belt areas, the National Parks and areas of high landscape value—where, as I have said on a previous occasion, great sacrifices have been made both by private persons and ratepayers and taxpayers simply in the interests of amenities. All I ask is that somehow—I do not care whether it is done in the Bill or in the General Development Order or in the agreement which have no doubt the Minister will come to with the Caravan Club or some other parallel organisation—these organisations should inform us in advance of the sites they propose to exempt and give us some opportunity of commenting on them before they are finally authorised. With that information, if anything should happen that is likely to promote a public outcry—which, in the first place, is almost certain to be directed against us—we shall have had warning. I do not think that what I ask for is unreasonable.
§ Then I should like an assurance on another matter, which I agree it might be a little more difficult to give. Here again I come within the special areas: not to the exempted organizations, but to that paragraph of the Schedule which refers to the concession that a farmer may be allowed to have three caravans on his land, provided they do not stay there for longer than 28 days in all and provided the acreage restrictions are observed. It seems to me that the total number of caravans in any given area of country does depend, to some extent, on the size of the ownership, and that if the land were broken up into small ownerships—and I agree that this is most unlikely to happen on the tops of hills or in various well-known areas, but it might easily happen in the green belt area—you might get quite a number of caravans into one square mile. I do not know whether my arithmetic is correct, but I work it out that the maximum number possible under this formula might be 300 or over 300; and if 28 days were properly spaced out they could be there for most week-ends of the summer, and that would be perfectly legal.
§ The Minister has considerable powers under paragraph 3 (2) and paragraph 13 of this Schedule to vary, or, indeed, to 376 wipe out altogether, areas of these concessions. I hope—and here I trust that I shall not shock my noble friend Lord Silkin—that the Minister may be induced to give a fairly unequivocal assurance that he will do so if proper representations are made to him. It will not be a popular thing for him to do with some of the owners of these sites, because there is quite a lot of money in them. If, on the other hand, he shows much hesitancy about this, I think there will be a somewhat cynical feeling among the remainder of the community that it really is not much use trying to preserve anything. There will no doubt be a good deal of loose talk, and we shall be told that, if it is going to be taken over for a nuclear power station, or for a grid system, or even for caravans, what is the use of going on trying hard to preserve beauty.
§ I may say that, if my noble friend has it in mind to make a sympathetic answer to me on this point, it will affect my personal attitude towards the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh later. But I am not at all sure that, if the noble Earl's Amendment is accepted, it will not mean some alteration in the wording of paragraph 3 (2) of the Schedule; because if the Minister has it in mind to reduce the areas below three acres—which he could do under that paragraph—we might get a "pepper-potting" all over quite an important area. We have often in this debate been asked to trust the Minister, and that I am quite prepared to do. But I feel that the success or otherwise of these restrictions will depend a great deal on the co-operation between the Minister and the local authorities, and that we have some right to know what his general intentions are. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 16, at the beginning insert the said words.—(Viscount Gage.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the noble Viscount, in moving his Amendment, said that his attitude towards a later Amendment will be dictated by the way in which the Minister deals with this one. I had intended being a little unkind to the noble Viscount, but I am so anxious to get the later Amendment accepted that I will refrain and make a kinder reply. He complained of something which, in my view, is quite without 377 foundation—namely, that more and more duties are imposed on local authorities, and that the duties imposed by this Bill are going to be so burdensome that it will be difficult for the authorities to carry them out. My experience of local authorities (and although it is perhaps riot quite so great as the noble Viscount's, it is almost as great) is that they are constantly asking for more and more duties to be imposed upon them. When representations are made to us in this House or to the other place they are to insert something in a Bill in which they are interested to ensure that more and more precautions are taken. If the views of local authorities were always listened to their duties would be multiplied considerably. But that is just by the way: this is a little discussion which the noble Viscount and I might have outside the Chamber, because it has no bearing on the Amendment he has moved.
The Amendment asks virtually that there shall be no caravans in the areas of outstanding beauty, in National Parks or on Green Belt land. Admittedly the noble Viscount says, "not without planning permission" But if local authorities were required to give planning permission in every case of an individual caravanner wanting to stay for an odd day or two in these areas, it would in practice mean that the whole purpose would be frustrated; because, as the noble Viscount well knows, it takes months to get planning permission, and the caravanner would therefore have to make his plans many months in advance of the date when he wished to spend an odd night at one of these places. For all practical purposes the Amendment is eliminating any possibility of these areas being used for such purposes.
I made a speech on Second Reading in which I asked that we should not say positively that National Parks or areas of outstanding beauty should in no circumstances be occupied by caravans. I have as great an affection for National Parks generally as anybody in this Chamber. I do not often boast about my past, but I am the author of the National Parks Act. It was my Act, and I am very proud of it. I would wish to do nothing to destroy the beauties of the National Parks or to affect peoples' enjoyment of them. But I deny that you necessarily spoil a National Park by hav- 378 ing odd caravans in places where they can appropriately be put. After all, even the noble arid learned Lord, Lord Birkett, would not suggest that every square yard of a National Park is so lovely that it would be quite inappropriate to have a single caravan on it. There are places where obviously one would not put them—for instance, places where they would be within sight of large numbers of people over long distances. But there are secluded places where they would do no harm. They would not offend anybody, and it would be a great convenience to caravan users.
By definition we have agreed—I hope that we have—that the caravan user, if he does no harm, is as much entitled to consideration as any other person. This is not a Bill to eliminate the caravan user or to make life more difficult for him if he is using his caravan in a proper case. But throughout the passage of this Bill the attitude of some noble Lords has been that the whole purpose of the Bill is to drive the caravan off the road and off the countryside.
THIS EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but honestly what does he think is the use of making Green Belts or National Parks if he is going to litter them with caravans? He knows perfectly well that if one caravan goes there others will follow, and before you know where you are it will be no longer a Green Belt or National Park worthy of the name.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am glad the noble Earl has made that interjection, because I am sure he would not wish to distort what I was saying. I probably did not express myself as I intended. I yield to nobody in my desire to maintain the beauty of the National Parks or the Green Belts. The littering of these places would, of course, be utterly wrong. This Bill ensures that they will not be littered, and I am supporting the Bill. The noble Earl shakes his head. I wonder where he disagrees with me. I will give way if he will tell me what he disagrees about.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
One caravan will lead to another. If you allow one or two caravans into the Green Belt, it is the thin end of the wedge. Before you know where you are, that Green Belt will not be worthy of the 379 name. I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I feel so strongly on this matter.
§ LORD SILKIN
I see the noble Earl's difficulty, but he is mistaken when he says that one caravan leads to another. This Bill controls the numbers very rigidly and tightly. The whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure that one caravan does not lead to another. You have such restrictions as one caravan to five acres. You have restrictions as to the number of nights they may stay. You have all sorts of restrictions in this Bill, about which I am not complaining. All I am saying is that, in practice, this Amendment lays down the doctrine that in no circumstances is any caravan to be allowed in a Green Belt, in an area of outstanding beauty or in a National Park. Control them by all means. Take every step you can to ensure that they do not multiply; that the place is not littered with them, or that they are not in the wrong places in these areas. That we can do under the Bill. But to say, as the Amendment says, that they must not be there at all, is a thing I protested against on Second Reading and I protest against it again to-day.
My Lords, I apologised in advance for the wording of my Amendment. I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has had the experience of having to apologise after his Amendment has been torn to pieces by my noble friend. I took the precaution of saying in advance that I was certain that would happen. Perhaps he will remember that in my speech I asked only for two small things. I asked for an assurance that the authorities giving these exemptions should consult local planning authorities before the exemptions became effective. That is the first thing. Secondly, I asked for some general statement of the Minister's policy with regard to these other exempted sites in areas of particular beauty, such as those the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, and I have in mind. That is all I ask for, and I hope that the noble Lord will not be misled by the wording of my Amendment, which I agree is probably very bad.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I do not see how the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, 380 says that there are not to be any caravans at all in National Parks. I cannot see where he gets these words from the Amendment. It is concerned simply with organisations like the Caravan Club having to be in touch with the controlling authority.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I will answer the noble Viscount first, and then my noble friend. I always took the precaution of apologising for the drafting of my Amendment because I knew in advance that it was quite impossible for any private Member to draft an Amendment correctly. So the noble Viscount is quite wise, and I shall not hold him to the wording of the Amendment. But I must hold him to the intention of the Amendment. What is behind it? Behind it all is the fact that it requires planning consent to be obtained for those particular areas. Although the noble Viscount did not emphasise that point in his speech, that is what the Amendment says, and I must assume that he intends what the Amendment means. If all it means is that there shall be the proper concentration, and that the planning authorities shall know about the particular sites that are exempted, of course that is a most reasonable request. I have no doubt that administratively such an arrangement could be made. Indeed, anything which will facilitate administration by county councils (and let me say that the noble Viscount's own county council is one of the best administered in the country, probably because he is a distinguished member of it) is to be welcomed. I am sure the noble Earl who is to reply will agree with that.
But the Amendment goes much further, and that is what I was addressing myself to. To my noble friend I would say that the wording of the Amendment seems to me quite clear. It says that this subsection shall apply only if planning permission required under the Act of 1947 for such use has been granted by the planning authority. I take that to mean—I am ready to be corrected—that you cannot have a caravan in one of these areas unless you first get planning permission. What I was pointing out was that in practice it means prohibiting the use of caravans altogether. I say "in practice", because you are dealing with people who want to stop a night or two on the way. They cannot 381 tie themselves down to a particular date, or even necessarily to a particular place. If they cannot rest at one of these approved sites—and I would remind the noble Earl who interrupted that they must be approved sites; they cannot go anywhere—without first getting planning permission long in advance, in practice they cannot go at all. So while I hope that the noble Viscount will get the assurances for which he asks, I hope that he will not get the Amendment.
§ 3.40 p.m.
My Lords, in replying to these two Amendments—because I take it that we are dealing with the two Amendments as one—I must say that I agree with the noble Lord. Lord Silkin, that the noble Viscount went a little wide in moving them. I do not object to that, however, and he will perhaps forgive me going a little wide, as this is the last opportunity we shall have of discussing these points. I should just like to say that I do not think it is quite fair to give too much play to the remark made that I had put a wet towel round my head to understand this Bill. I would point out to the noble Viscount that I am neither a lawyer nor, indeed, a departmental Minister concerned with this Department. But at very short notice I frankly had to do quite hard work to try to understand this Bill. But I notice that the noble Viscount has no difficulty whatsoever in understanding this Bill, and, if I may say so, in misunderstanding some parts of it. With his experience of local government matters he was trying, I think, to wring your Lordships' hearts a little too extravagantly on the difficulties that would be involved here. I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has answered that point very well.
If we can perhaps at long last turn to the actual Amendment—the new subsection—it is clearly a variant of the two Amendments which the noble Viscount moved at the Committee stage; and at that time, he was, and I think probably he still is, most concerned with the exemptions in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the First Schedule. I gather that that is what is chiefly worrying him. I am not going to be too rough and tear the drafting to pieces too much, but I am bound to say that this Amendment does, of course, apply to the whole of Clause 2 without qualification, and so would make 382 all the exemptions in this Schedule conditional on planning permission, in the case of the sites in those areas. This Amendment is to the Government as objectionable as were the previous Amendments that were put down at Committee stage. Clause 2 of this Bill and the First Schedule are concerned with exemptions from licensing, and not with planning control. Whether or not exempted sites will require planning permission will be determined by the revised General Development Order to be made by the Minister under Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. As I have already reminded your Lordships, the General Development Order made in 1950 is to be revised and brought more into line with the licensing conditions of this Bill as regards caravans.
To turn again to this Amendment, many of the exemptions in the First Schedule already have the general planning permission given by the General Development Order, so that to this extent the Amendment would be of no effect. This is true of the exemptions for night stops, in paragraph 2; the exemptions for holdings of five acres or more, in paragraph 3; and in the case of sites managed by or approved by exempted organisations, in paragraphs 4 and 5. They already have planning permission in the terms of the General Development Order. The Amendment would not make any of those sites subject to planning control; that could be done only by an amendment of the General Development Order. I think that the question of these two particular types of site in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Schedule have been most in the noble Viscount's mind. I wonder if I could elaborate a little more about that. I think I can give the noble Viscount the assurance he is asking for: that before giving certificates of exemption to any of the organisations under paragraph 12 of the Schedule, the Minister would most certainly expect assurances from them that they would collaborate closely with the local planning authorities over the location of any caravan sites they themselves proposed to establish. Perhaps I may remind the noble Viscount of what the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack said during the Committee stage—I have really repeated his 383 words. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 225 (No. 101), col. 92]:… in practice the Minister would expect any organisation to which he gives certificates under paragraph 13 of the Schedule to collaborate with the local planning authority over the location of any caravan sites they propose to establish. There will be no misunderstanding about this; it is already the practice of the Caravan Club to obtain the agreement of the planning authority before themselves opening a caravan site.It may be convenient if at this stage I quote from one of the publications of the Caravan Club which has been put into my hands; I am very encouraged, and I think your Lordships will be encouraged, to see the terms in which this organisation takes its responsibilities. In a paragraph entitled "The Exemptions" it says:The Club has always viewed any privileges or exemptions enjoyed by its members under the Public Health Act, 1936, and the General Development Order, 1950, as being intended to give them adequate freedom on tour and on no account as a means to establishing sites which should be the subject of normal permissions and licences. The Club has, in fact, never opened a site itself without the agreement of the local authority with which it would always wish to co-operate to the full.Later on in this pamphlet I notice this statement—they are talking about an approved sign which they would like to put up on caravan sites—The Club will not issue a sign to any site unless its local Site Inspector has first reported favourably on it and then, even more important, the local authority, through the County Planning Officer, has raised no objection.This is an organisation which has a certificate of exemption. If this organisation can impose upon itself obligations of that kind, and freely admit its responsibilities, I think that my right honourable friend will be entirely acting within his rights and reasonably if he requires any other organisation to whom he may be requested to grant exemptions to deal with the matter in the same way. He will have the ready answer, "Other organisations can take this attitude, and it is only if you take this view of your responsibilities that I shall grant an exemption". I think that should be a comfort to some of your Lordships who are nervous about this whole matter, that that is the sort of terms on which we shall go to work.
As regards the very much larger numbers of smaller sites which are exempted 384 under paragraph 5, it is proposed that any organisation which may wish to take advantage of this exemption should give the local authorities lists of the sites in their areas as soon as they are compiled. If there are any complaints or objections from the authorities they will be attended to, and if necessary the certificates for the sites concerned will be withdrawn. I want to emphasise that the certificates under paragraph 5 of the First Schedule will in any case be valid for not more than twelve months, and will need to be renewed annually. Of course, under paragraph 12 of the Schedule the Minister can withdraw the certificate of exemption from the whole organisation if it is not "playing the game" in this matter. So far as this particular organisation, the Caravan Club—which is an exempted organisation at present—is concerned, quite a large number of these approved sites are already in existence and are known to the planning authorities. They have hitherto been exempt from licensing under the Public Health Act, and have also had the general permission given by the General Development Order. I understand that the planning authorities have been quite satisfied with these arrangements in the past, and that the sites have never given rise to complaints. To this extent, therefore, there is nothing new about paragraph 5 of the Schedule. The certificates will be issued mainly to these existing sites, and from past experience there is nothing to suppose that the exemption will cause any difficulties in future.
But I must remind your Lordships that there is this further safeguard in the Schedule against any danger that the exemptions might result in too many caravan sites in the National Parks or any of the other sites to which the Amendment refers. I have already referred to paragraph 13 of the Schedule, which gives the Minister power to withdraw all or any of the exemptions in paragraphs 2 to 10—that is, the whole lot of the exemptions except paragraph 1—not only in any area, but on any specific piece of land. I think it is important that we should realise that these exemptions can be withdrawn on the application of the local authority. I hope the noble Viscount will be comforted when I tell him that it is not intended that this power should be used 385 only if it is found that a particular exemption has been abused. There may well be a case for curtailing or suspending the exemption in a particular area if it is found that the caravan sites are becoming too thick on the ground, and that the establishment of further sites ought to be limited. If this is typical (and I think it is fair to say it should be typical, because this is the kind of organisation we are going to exempt), may I quote again what these people—the Caravan Club—say about that particular point. This particular organisation says, under the paragraph headed "Organised Touring Sites":A strictly imposed limit to the duration of any one stay would ensure the touring character of these sites. Such sites are essential in areas, such as Borrowdale, where sporadic caravanning has reached 'saturation point', so that, while the 'static' or 'seasonal' man must in any case be kept out, even the bona fide tourist should be directed to a recognised touring site established to serve the area.I feel that if that is the sort of line on which we are going to deal with the exemptions—and indeed it is—there should be no undue fears.
Therefore, to sum up, my noble friend asked me if I could assure him on two specific points. First, would there be information available to the local authority on this subject? There will be. Secondly, there is the assurance under paragraph 13 that all or any of these exemptions can be withdrawn and will be withdrawn not necessarily only by reason of abuse, but if "saturation point" has been reached. Surely that is the other point that will help him. I feel that this should go far to satisfy the noble Viscount and other noble Lords who may have been genuinely worried about this, and I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed.
My Lords, I asked my noble friend to give me two or three assurances. I think he has given them; but he has done so with such elaboration and so many safeguards that I almost felt that I was engaged in a Foreign Office discussion. But I think that what he has said is that we shall be informed and be given previous knowledge of these sites, not only those that are going to be run by the Caravan Club but those that they are going to authorise. Then I think he said, with regard to areas of outstanding natural beauty, 386 that the Minister would be prepared to consider most carefully sites which are not run or authorised by exempted organisations. Any farmer can establish them, and my point was that there were a great number of farmers who, if they were tempted to use these sites, could cause the position to become undesirable.
I am not absolutely certain whether I have got an assurance or not on that, but clearly I am not going to get anywhere by pressing this Amendment. I can only trust to my noble friend, who I know has the interests of these places just as much at heart as I have, to see that the local authorities, who themselves have asked for these assurances, will be satisfied with them. Lord Silkin was talking about the powers that local authorities at any rate should ask Ministers to give them. I would agree that that is all true; but perhaps it is a change to find that in this particular case the authorities are asking for simplification of their task and not for a further elaboration of it. I do not think I have anything more to add. I must take what the noble Earl has, said as answering my request for assurances, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5:
§ Power of local authority to attach conditions to site licences
§ 5.—(1) A site licence issued by a local authority in respect of any land may be so issued subject to such conditions as the authority may think it necessary or desirable to impose on the occupier of the land in the interests of persons dwelling thereon in caravans, or of any other class of persons, or of the public at large; and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, a site licence may be issued subject to conditions—
§ 3.57 p.m.
My Lords, this is a paving Amendment for Amendment No. 6. Perhaps our discussion should take place on Amendment No. 6. I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 3, line 41, after ("or") insert ("subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section").—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD BIRKETT moved to add to subsection (1):
Provided that no such condition shall be inconsistent with the terms of any permission granted by the appropriate planning authority.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the Amendment which stands in my name and those of my noble friends Lord Chorley and Lord Winster raises the same point which I ventured to raise on the Committee stage of the Bill, although on the Committee stage I raised it in a rather different form. I do not propose to repeat the observations which I made in moving the original Amendment, but perhaps I could put the point simply and shortly in a sentence or two. The local authority must have knowledge that planting permission has been given by the planning authority when issuing the site licence under Clause 4 and Clause 5—which is the clause giving local authorities immense power to attach conditions to the licences. What I sought to do at the Committee stage was to have the conditions laid down by the planning authority written into the Bill, so that those conditions would prevail in any circumstances. Difficulties were raised because of the powers given to the local authority under this particular clause and it was felt, particularly in respect of Clause 5 (1) (d), that the powers there given to local authorities:
for securing the taking of any steps for preserving or enhancing the amenity of the land, including the planting and replanting thereof with trees and bushes".
really put the powers which the planning authority had exercised into the hands of the local authority afresh.
§ One of the matters we desired to raise was that in the National Parks particularly, and most especially in the Lake Country, it was very necessary, if it could be achieved, that the decisions of the planning board and the conditions laid down by that board should he carried into effect. It was felt, therefore, that the words on the paper, providing that no condition shall be inserted by the local authority which is inconsistent with the terms granted by the planning authority would secure what particular planning boards in local areas want. I do not propose to take up any more time, for that is the simple point.
§ We desire to say that, particularly in National Parks, decisions which are laid down by the planning authority in the form of conditions shall not be altered by the local authority when that authority come to issue a site licence. It 388 would seem to me that the provision that there shall be no condition inserted by the local authority in the site licence which is inconsistent with the terms of the planning authority is very reasonable; and I hope very much that it will be accepted. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 4, line 16, at end insert—
("Provided that no such condition shall be inconsistent with the terms of any permission granted by the appropriate planning authority.")—(Lord Birkett.)
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, has put the case, as one would expect, cogently and lucidly. I will not go over the quite long discussion we had on a somewhat similar point in the Committee stage of this Bill. The point, shortly, is that the control which the noble Lord has in mind, to be exercised by the planning authority over caravan sites in National Parks, may not in any way be weakened by the site licence issued by the local authority under the Bill. That is the noble Lord's point and there is no disagreement about it. Indeed, the Bill already recognises that planning control must be the governing factor in the licensing of caravan sites. We have only to turn to Clause 3 (3) to see it stated in a way that is clear even to me, as a layman, thatA local authority may on an application under this section issue a site licence in respect of the land if, and only if, the applicant is at the time when the site licence is issued, entitled to the benefit of a permission for the use of the land as a caravan site granted under Part III of the Act of 1947 otherwise than by a development order.Thus the licence can be issued only if the applicant has planning permission.
It is certainly not intended that the licence conditions should in any way have the effect of relaxing or overriding any existing planning conditions, least of all in the National Parks. I am advised that legally that could not be. The noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack said, in the Committee stage, that whatever conditions were attached to a site licence, the planning conditions would always remain effective and enforceable. Perhaps it would be convenient if I were to remind your Lordships of the words used by the noble and learned Viscount when he gave us 389 the benefit of his advice on that point [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 224 (No. 100), col. 1265]:I want to make clear at once, by reinforcement of what my noble and learned friend has said, that in any case there need be no fear—nor can there be—that the conditions of a licence would in any way undo or set aside any planning conditions applying to the same site. Whatever may be said on the licence, the planning conditions would remain effective and could he enforced, if need be, under planning lawI am bound to say therefore that I am advised that this Amendment is unnecessary to ensure that licence conditions should not be less stringent than the planning conditions—which, no doubt, is the main purpose of the Amendment. In any case it would be difficult to frame such a provision with any degree of certainty, in view of the wide variety of matters which might be dealt with in planning and licensing conditions, without endangering the validity of the licensing conditions. I must point out to the noble and learned Lord who moved the Amendment that clearly the inconsistency works both ways. The Amendment as drafted uses the word "inconsistent". The licence conditions might sometimes, and with good reason, be more stringent in certain respects than the planning conditions under Clause 5 (1) (d) to which the noble and learned Lord has referred, which deals with the amenity of the site itself—what one might call the internal amenity, rather than the external amenity; because the licensing conditions might require that more trees or bushes should be planted than had been called for by the planning authority. It might be said that this was inconsistent with the planning conditions.
The licence might put a lower limit for the number of caravans on the site than had been specified under planning permission. This should seldom happen, but it might happen, for example, in the case of a site for which planning permission was granted many years ago, when the permission specified a maximum number of caravans which to-day would be judged excessive having regard to the model standards which, of course, may not have been in existence when the original planning permission was given. It would not necessarily he right that conditions imposed by a planning permission then should continue to hold the field, 390 regardless of standards considered appropriate to-day. But if the planning conditions were more restrictive than the licensing conditions they could still be enforced, unless and until they were set aside or modified by the Minister on appeal.
A provision requiring consistency in all respects between licensing and planning conditions might, therefore, result in a weakening rather than a reinforcement of the powers of control. Without such a provision, on the other hand, there would still be no weakening of control; both the planning and licensing conditions would remain fully effective. Reasonable consistency between the two controls would be a matter of good administration; and it is the intention of my right honourable friend to give definite guidance to planning and licensing authorities on this subject in the Circular on the Bill which he will be sending to them. I would suggest to the noble and learned Lord that, on two grounds, this Amendment would not improve the Bill. First, as I have tried to argue, it is not strictly necessary; and secondly, in some cases (although they might not be more than rare) it could operate, as drafted, in the opposite sense to that which is intended.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should just like to get the point quite clear. Is the noble Earl saying that if the site licensing authority attempt to lay down conditions which are less severe than those of the planning authority they will be inoperative, but if they lay down site licensing conditions which are more stringent they will be operative?
§ LORD BIRKETT
My Lords, I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Earl for the very sympathetic way in which he has dealt with this matter. I am bound to say that the second point he raised, that we might get a local authority that was more stringent than the planning authority, had not occurred to me, and I think his point is quite valid. As to the first point in which he 391 quoted the noble and learned Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack, all I should like to say, with the great possible respect, is this. When we try to enforce anything in the courts or before any tribunal we are reminded that it is not exactly what the noble and learned Viscount said that matters so much as what the Act of Parliament says. It was our desire, therefore, that we should have inserted in the Act of Parliament the gist of what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said upon the last occasion.
But I do not propose to take up more time. It is a little difficult, and it is difficult to get consistency, I agree. The planning authority can be appealed from to the Minister; the local authority can be appealed from to the magistrates. One can conceive a situation arising in which the local authority put into the site licence a condition inconsistent with the permission given by the planning authority and its being upheld by the magistrates. It would make it very difficult indeed to follow the rather cumbersome method of enforcement laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. I am perfectly conscious of all those difficulties. But, at the same time, the noble Earl said that the Minister would consult and give opportunities for consulting between the local authority and the planning authority; and perhaps, in those circumstances, the end we desire to be achieved will be achieved. Therefore, with gratitude to the noble Earl for the way he has dealt with this matter, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.13 p.m.
My Lords, this Amendment, which I now beg leave to move, goes some of the way, if not all the way, towards meeting the points made in the Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, about the scope of licence conditions under Clause 5 (1) (b) of the Bill. I do not think I need elaborate the Amendment; I think it is pretty clear as drawn. It simply makes it clear that conditions may not be imposed to control materials used in the construction of a caravan, a point which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was worried about at a previous stage.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 4, line 16, at end insert—
("( ) No condition shall be attached to a site licence controlling the types of caravans which are stationed on the land by reference to the materials used in their construction.")—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, of course I am grateful to the noble Earl for having gone 25 per cent. of the way. I think I sought to impose four limitations; the noble Earl has given me one of them. There was one which attracted a good deal of discussion in this House—I do not know whether it was so important—the one in my Amendment that the local authority should not be able to attach any condition as to the colour of a caravan. The case was made that if caravans went from the area of one local authority to another which had different views about what were objectionable colours, life would be made very difficult for the caravanner. I have no Amendment down to this Amendment to add a provision regarding colour, and therefore I gladly accept the Amendment as it stands. I still think there ought to be some limitation on the local authority's power to make requirements about colour, and I should like to consider the matter between now and Third Reading and see whether I cannot put down an Amendment to this Amendment to add the question of colour. I shall make some soundings and see how strongly people feel about it.
My Lords, if I might be allowed to speak again to this Amendment—would that be the wish of the House?—I would say that I did not raise the question of colour because it was not actually in the Amendment, but I thought it likely, or possible, that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, might wish to raise it. I am bound to say, on this question of colour, that we have been considering it again in the light of the views expressed in Committee; and I am bound also to say that we are still of the opinion that it would be a mistake to exclude entirely the possibility of imposing licence conditions about colour.
There is no question of introducing a general colour bar or artistic dictatorship by local authorities. It would, of course, be quite wrong for any local 393 authority to insist that all caravans coming into their area should be such and such a colour. No sensible local authority, I am sure, would do such a thing. But the appearance of caravan sites does matter. It matters very much in the National Parks and other areas of great beauty, where we all want to make sure that the sites harmonise, rather than clash, with their surroundings. This does not mean that there must be a drab uniformity. One of the charms of the English countryside is, I think, the natural variety of its form and colour. But there should be some means of restraining the use of really lurid or violent colours, because one can imagine places where this would be altogether out of place. That is what is intended. We do not want local authorities to attempt to regulate colours of caravans generally, but only to be enabled, when necessary, to prevent caravans by reason of their colour—if it is an outrageous colour—from being an eyesore.
My right honourable friend will be quite prepared to make this perfectly clear to local authorities in the Circular he will send along in due course; and I think that this, with the good sense of the authorities concerned, of which the noble Lord is aware, should prevent any unnecessary use of this power. I think, having had permission to say these few words about colour, I may perhaps have enabled us not to have to deal with the matter at the third and last stage of the Bill. I hope I have convinced the noble Lord that we are not quite so bad (to use a colour phrase) as we have been painted.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, if I may, with permission, say one short word, it is that I have the greatest respect for the good sense of local authorities on the whole. But when there are a dozen people, and particularly ladies, on a committee trying to sort out whether a colour is lurid or not, I think they lose all sense of proportion and one is liable to get certain decisions which could be very burdensome. There have to be on a committee only one or two awkward ladies with particular views about colour for you to find that their views will dominate the committee, and, as the noble Earl knows, "de gustibus non disputandum". I should prefer to have some words in the Bill which would provide that colour was not to be the 394 subject matter of a licence. But, as I said, I should like to think about it and see what happens on Third Reading.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
My Lords, might I ask the noble Earl, if it is the case, as he has said, that his right honourable friend will ask the local authorities not to have a colour bar, why it cannot therefore be put in the Bill? I raised this subject before, and I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, then thought that I was an awkward woman on the subject of colour; but, after all, in the case of a good many local authorities the men might also have views on the subject of the colour of caravans coming into their area. As I said last time, I can see that a scheme may be desirable if a caravan is stationary, but if a caravan is moving, then on its journey across this country it may have to be repainted several times if there are any awkward men or women on the local authorities.
§ LORD MACPHERSON OF DRUMOCHTER
My Lords, I hope there is nothing in this suggestion to prevent the Scottish Highlander from painting his caravan with the colours of his own clan tartan. If the Campbells go into Macdonald country with an objectionable tartan on their caravan, we might get trouble or disorder; so this is perhaps a bigger subject than we thought. I certainly think that the Minister's proposal is the better way of dealing with the situation.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I am wondering whether, in the course of the noble Earl's consultations with the Minister, consideration might be given to the Minister himself taking power to ban certain objectionable colours—for example, vermilion—and to make this a national prohibition. There seems to be something contrary to the essential mobility of a caravan—even on a permanent site, a vestigial mobility attaches to a vehicle—in allowing local authorities to make different regulations, however reasonable they may be. It seems to me that it would be more logical and altogether more convenient to the general public if the Minister himself took powers, which we are quite sure would be wisely and sensibly used, to ban certain colours, rather than to leave this subject to the local authorities.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, before the Minister answers that point, I think that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, has really shown how extremely difficult it is and how very dangerous it would be if that suggestion were followed, because he quite calmly mentioned objectionable colours—"vermilion, for example" Fortunately, in this context I am colour blind, so it would not matter to me whether caravans were painted vermilion or not, but I can imagine that some people are passionately fond of vermilion. It is therefore very dangerous if we are going to do things of that kind. While I was listening to my noble friend talking about difficult ladies on committees dealing with matters of colour. I could not help thinking that the most difficult persons in matters of colour are doctors. They will argue about the colours of wards, if you allow them, for a whole twelve months. This is one of those subjects on which it is almost impossible to get agreement as to what is objectionable and what is not objectionable. I therefore foresee considerable difficulties if this matter is made really rigid.
My Lords, there is just one point about these colours that most noble Lords seem to think objectionable, and it is a point for which I am grateful whenever I encounter them: and that is that on the roads you can see them further away than you can see any normal colours. I therefore should be sorry to see abolished those colours which seem to have been designated.
My Lords, I really ought not to speak again, but we have had quite a lengthy debate on this subject, and I hope that your Lordships will think that these words should not be specifically excluded. Your Lordships must remember that the word "colour" is not in any of these clauses now, but we are not seeking specifically to exclude it. And I think that, in view of the careful way in which this matter will be handled, colour should not be specifically excluded. I would remind your Lordships, if I might just say this one more thing, that if such a provision is included, in an exceptional case, in a licence, there is in Clause 7 of this Bill a right of appeal against licensing conditions, and that should be a sufficient safeguard.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.396
§ Clause 19 [Conditions requiring reduction in number of caravans on existing sites]:
§ 4.25 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment to Clause 19. The first part of the Amendment is designed to meet the point made by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, who in Committee thought that the clause seemed to give too wide a power to impose conditions for reducing the numbers of caravans on existing sites. This Amendment makes it clear that conditions may not require the number to be reduced below the number considered appropriate for the site having regard to the model standards. The second part of this Amendment will remove a further possible doubt about the effect of the clause which came to light when the foregoing point was being examined. The effect is simply to make it clear that the requirement that the local authority must be satisfied about suitable alternative accommodation will apply not only to conditions imposed under this clause out also to conditions limiting the number of caravans on an existing site under Clause 5 where these lead to the displacement of people living on the site. It is clear to your Lordships, no doubt, that the last part of Clause 19, from unless in line 3, will follow on after the words in the Amendment. With that explanation, my Lords, I beg to move.
Page 12, line 1, leave out from ("that") to ("unless") in line 3 and insert ("the conditions shall not be framed so as to require the reduction of the number of caravans below the greatest number which can in the opinion of the local authority, and having regard to the said standards, be properly stationed on the land.
(2) Conditions restricting the total number of caravans stationed on a caravan site, other than conditions of the description in paragraph (a) of the foregoing subsection, shall not be attached to a site licence in respect of an existing site").—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Conditions to secure termination of use of existing site]:
My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment, consequential on Amendment No. 7. I beg to move.
Page 12, line 28, leave out from ("conditions") to ("may") in line 29 and insert ("imposed for the purpose of securing that the number of caravans on the existing site are progressively reduced").—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 12, line 29, leave out ("that") and insert ("subsection (2) of the last foregoing").—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
My Lords, this also is a drafting and consequential Amendment, like the other two. I beg to move.
Page 12, line 32, leave out from ("that") to ("as") in line 34 and insert ("the use of the existing site").—(Earl Waldegrave.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 24:
§ Power of local authorities to provide sites for caravans
(5) A local authority shall, in the performance of their functions under this section, have power, where it appears to them that a caravan site or an additional caravan site is needed in their area, or that land which is in use as a caravan site should in the interests of the users of caravans be taken over by the local authority, to acquire land, or any interest in land, compulsorily.
§ 4.28 p.m.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON moved to add to subsection (5):
Provided that, except in the case of land which is in use as a caravan site, a local authority shall not be authorised to acquire compulsorily under the provisions of this section any land or any interest in land unless and until the Minister is satisfied that the local authority are unable to acquire by agreement any land or any interest in land in their area.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, while this Amendment still seeks to limit a local authority's powers of compulsory acquisition, it is a compromise on my earlier Amendment which I put down on Committee stage. The noble Earl who is in charge of the Bill objected to the original Amendment on the ground that it would prevent a local authority 398 from taking over an unsatisfactory site and improving it unless it was found impossible to acquire another site by voluntary agreement. On reflection, I feel that that criticism is probably quite a reasonable one, and so I have put down this other Amendment—which is, as I say, a compromise. This Amendment will leave a local authority free to acquire existing sites compulsorily if necessary. In effect, it will mean this: if a caravan site was unsatisfactory—if it was insanitary or improperly run—it could be taken over and cleaned up, tidied up, and made efficient. That would be to everybody's advantage, to the advantage of the caravanners and of all the local inhabitants as well. Such a site could be acquired compulsorily. But a new site could not he taken over compulsorily until the local authority had satisfied the Minister that all avenues of voluntary agreement had first been explored.
§ I feel that with this Amendment I am meeting the Government half-way, and it seams to me to be very reasonable. I think that this is only fair to the many people who live in our countryside and who love our countryside—and let us not forget that, after all, they are in the majority. We all have the greatest sympathy with caravanners. Yes, I have—the noble Lord opposite shakes his head—it is a wonderful way of enjoying a holiday. We must not forget, however, that 60 per cent. of caravans are static and their owners look on them as houses. I cannot help thinking that the more the Government encourage local authorities to spread caravans over their areas, the less likelihood there is that they will build permanent houses. It is only natural. It is going to save the Treasury a lot of money. It almost savours of collusion between the Government and the local authorities—of course, I do not mean that seriously.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, may I interrupt to say that I regard caravans and the increase in the number of caravans as a nuisance that I should like to stop?
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, I am very glad to hear the noble Lord say that. I think that what I propose is only fair to the people who live round about and to tourists, from the motorist down to the humble cyclist 399 and pedestrian, who do not want to see all our beauty spots littered with caravans. Nobody spoke a truer word about caravans than the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, when he said the other day [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 225 (No. 106), col. 78]:It is so easy for two to become three, for twelve to become fifteen, and for a hundred to become a thousand … They spread as germs multiply in an appropriate medium.The local authorities do a grand job of work, but they vary. I know something about them, because I have been chairman of a local authority. And we cannot expect local authorities to be experts on aesthetic questions. They are much more concerned about expediency: they have to find people somewhere to go. That is their job, and they are not so much concerned about amenity. So long as a site is amenable to a caravanner that is all that matters to a local authority. But it may matter very much to those who live round and about and to the tourists. I think that this Amendment is an additional safeguard to the amenities of our land. I feel strongly about this matter, and I am sure that other noble Lords will agree that I have met the Government half way over this question of compulsory purchase. I hope that the Government will try to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 15, line 11, at end insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Haddington.)
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of my noble friend's Amendment. I imagine that the Government will say that this form of compulsory acquisition has never been used in the past; that the present system has worked all right with other matters, such as roads and houses, and that we ought to trust to the sense of the Secretary of State for Scotland or whoever is responsible down here. But I feel that there is a first time for everything. Caravans are different from roads and houses. In the case of a road you have to purchase compulsorily a bit of land if the owner will not sell, because you have to make a road in the straightest way possible; and if you want to build houses without enormous expense, some places are obviously more suitable than others and may have to he bought compulsorily. But with caravans, provided 400 that the place has reasonable access and it is not too expensive to bring the amenities there, I cannot see why one site should not be as good as another. I think that this Amendment would be a safeguard against local authorities' saying that they want a caravan site when the person who owns the land does not. It may be that the owner bought the land especially to keep the view uninterrupted, or to stop a house from being built on the other side of the road. And whereas a house is a static thing, which cannot be moved, he might have a red caravan in front of his window one day and a blue one the next. For all these reasons, I hope that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I should like to support the principle underlying my noble friend's Amendment. I think that one of the more regrettable trends at holiday resorts nowadays is the development of caravan sites. One sees them all over the country. Though there may be a case for caravan sites for residential purposes, due to the shortage of permanent accommodation, I feel that it is a regrettable development at seaside resorts. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who knows that part of the country, may agree with me that the area between Castle Bay and Swansea Bay is a delightful spot. What has happened here goes to show what one local authority will allow, for between these two bays there is a most objectionable part which can only be described as a sort of shanty town, like Bidonville at Casablanca, although in the majority of cases local authorities would not allow such a development to take place.
Local authorities may allow themselves to be talked into buying new land to provide caravan sites, to the detriment of the general appearance of the area, and I cannot see that there can be important grounds for giving local authorities compulsory powers. If it is a question of permanent accommodation, or of taking over land already used as a caravan site—perhaps because it may be unhygienic, or for some other reason—there may be a case for compulsory powers, but in the case of new land and of a site for holiday purposes, I think that it would be extremely unfair if the local authority were permitted to purchase it compulsorily. I sincerely hope 401 that the Government will agree to the principle underlying this Amendment of which I am strongly in favour.
§ 4.40 p.m.
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that the increase in the number of caravans is a standing reproach to whatever Government happen to be in power in the country. Every Government since the war have prided themselves on what they have done for housing, and all their efforts have been quite inadequate for the demanding population. The great increase in the number of caravans is the outward and visible sign of that. One of the results will be that our roads will become quite inadequate. But, quite apart from that, by encouraging it the Government rather set on one side their duty in regard to housing. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill. I should like to make one suggestion. Every Government, so far, have utterly refused to give a grant to houses built by private enterprise commensurate with the grants given to local authorities, so that a large part of the housing of this country is a monopoly of the housing authorities. If grants of that kind had been made, I venture to suggest that private enterprise would have overcome the demand for housing in the country. That is really at the back of this question of caravans, and I entirely side with the noble Earl who moved the Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, anyone listening to this discussion would assume that what we are really talking about is whether we do or do not like caravans. But that is not the issue at all. Those of us who have read the Bill and tried to understand it have said over and over again that one purpose, among others, of this Bill is to provide for a recognised need. It is our duty as legislators, when we find that there is a need for something that is not objectionable in itself—and there is nothing wrong with a person living in a caravan—to provide for it, so long as it does no harm to anybody else. The Amendment seems to me to he entirely misconceived, just as the earlier objections of the noble Earl in talking about littering the countryside with caravans were misconceived. Clause 24 has a quite limited purpose. It enables local authorities to acquire land which is in use as a caravan site or 402 which has been laid out as a caravan site; and that is all. It gives them the power to buy existing caravan sites, for the reason, I imagine, that they are badly conducted or are unsatisfactory. It seems to me, therefore, quite misconceived to suggest that before they can do that they must make sure that there is no other land in their area which they can buy by agreement. They do not want the other land; they want the land of the existing site. I should have thought that if the noble Earl appreciated that point he would not desire to press this Amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, for giving me this nostalgic feeling about the Mumbles. I used to know the area extremely well many years ago, and I regret that it is no longer what it was. But one of the purposes of this Bill is to ensure that that sort of thing does not happen. The Mumbles was one of the loveliest spots in this country. We want to ensure that this unregulated and uncontrolled caravan development takes place not in a haphazard way but in an orderly and seemly manner. If this Bill becomes law, I can assure the noble Lord that desecration of areas like the Mumbles could not take place.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
Could I just mention this point? Clause 25 (5) says that where it appears to a local authoritythat a caravan site or an additional caravan site is needed in their areathey can compulsorily acquire land. That applies equally well to new land where there is no caravan site, does it not?
My Lords, I think it would be a mistake if it went out from this House that every noble Lord on this side objects to caravans, because caravans fulfil an urgent need in the community at the moment in two respects. The first is that they provide people in temporary jobs with a place where they can lay their heads in areas where they would not have the remotest chance of getting a house probably for 403 the next ten years. The other is that they provide a reasonably cheap form of holiday for people with families who cannot possibly afford the present charges of hotels and boarding houses. Naturally, we want to tuck caravans away in the holes of the country and that sort of thing, so that they do not become what some consider to be an eyesore. And I do not admit that they are an eyesore; I saw a great many in Cornwall and they do not spoil Cornwall. I do not wish it to go on record that we do not approve of these two uses—namely, for temporary housing and for holidays within the reach of the purses of the people.
§ LORD AMHERST OF HACKNEY
My Lords, there is one small point about which I am a little doubtful. I cannot see that there is anything in this Amendment which says that the land which the local authority is able to buy by agreement is suitable land on which to put cavavans. A local authority might want to buy a suitable site for caravans. If this Amendment passes, it seems to me that there might be a hilltop in full view of everywhere which they could acquire by agreement, and in another position a swamp which they could acquire by agreement. If they could acquire either of those places by agreement, presumably they would be prevented from acquiring the suitable place by compulsory purchase. Is that correct?
My Lords, if I am asked that question, I should say that it probably is correct; but I do not think the noble Lord need be alarmed, because I hope to be able to persuade your Lordships that this would not be a suitable Amendment to accept for many and other reasons. We have ranged widely over this subject and the discussion on this Amendment has become almost a general debate on caravans. I feel that I must make one or two general remarks in reply to some of the things that have been said. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hawke for having corrected what was rapidly becoming the impression, that your Lordships are hostile to caravans. That, I think, would be an undesirable impression to go out from this House at this stage of the Bill. Another point that I think I must mention is that there is no intention of asking local authori- 404 ties to encourage people to go into caravans rather than into private houses. Under Clause 24 (5) the local authority will be able to acquire a caravan site only if they can prove a need. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was not quite accurate in his first remarks in saying that they had power to acquire only an existing site, because they have power to acquire other land for a site if they can prove the need.
I appreciate that the noble Earl, in moving this Amendment, has tried to meet some of the criticism that was made when he moved the earlier Amendment—namely, the criticism that it would have made it virtually impossible for the local authority to acquire the existing caravan site compulsorily. Even so, I am bound to say that I am afraid the Amendment, as drafted, would still create serious difficulties. I think the form of words proposed would place far too severe a restriction on the local authorities' powers of acquisition. The Amendment would make the power of compulsory purchase dependent upon the local authority's being able to obtain any other land by agreement. This is a test—I put it to your Lordships—no local authority would ever be able to satisfy. If the test were to be the availability of other suitable land—the point my noble friend Lord Amherst of Hackney so cogently put—and at a reasonable price, the Minister responsible for confirming the Order would need to investigate the suitability of all other suitable sites in the local authority's area. They would have to find out the owners' willingness to sell and the price they were prepared to accept.
That is unreasonable. The Minister would have to do this in all cases, whether there were objections to the compulsory purchase order or not. This, I put it to your Lordships, is a burden which no Minister could be asked to undertake. As it is, any compulsory purchase order under this clause would require a confirmation by the Minister. The owner, and any other persons with an interest in the land, has a statutory right of objection to the order, and it will always be open for the objection to be based on the ground that some other land could better be used, and the Minister would have to consider that kind of objection.
405 There really is no need to go further than this. The noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, said that we have to start somewhere, and that he realised I should probably say that in no other procedure of compulsory purchase power have we such a restriction in powers. Indeed, it is perfectly true that there are not such restrictions, and this is not the place or the time—if ever it is the time—to start. There is no need, we feel, to introduce this further restriction for caravan sites alone. I hope that your Lordships will resist this Amendment, because it would, in our view, damage the Bill and make the clause very nearly unworkable.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply, but I am afraid it is extremely unsatisfactory to me. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have supported me so conscientiously on my Amendment. I may be obstinate, but, with the greatest respect to the learning and knowledge of the law of the noble Lord opposite, all the blandishments have failed to convince me that there is not an important principle at stake—a principle that everyone who respects the freedom of the individual should stand by—which is this. The compulsory purchase powers should be to a certain extent limited, so that all the people who want to enjoy the beauty of the country, who may be the people who live round about or the people who go to visit, may have a square deal—I put it as bluntly as that: a fair deal. Or shall these powers be unlimited so that the local authorities can acquire land
§ wherever they like? If this clause goes through as it is, any local authority can have carte blanche in their area to say, "We want a caravan site here" or "We want it there." They will have compulsory powers to acquire it.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, it will be subject to confirmation by the Minister, if there is any objection.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
I am quite aware of that. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, said that what is in the Act of Parliament is what counts, and that is absolutely true. This can be argued in a court of law, but if you are not going to use these powers, do not put them in.
My Lords, what will be in the Act is in the interests of the users of the caravans, which is a very different thing from getting a site wherever they want, or from having carte blanche.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
That is what I complain of. Everything in this Bill is biased, as far as I can see, in favour of caravans, and little thought is given to the other people who live in the country. I feel so strongly about this that, if the noble Earl will not accept the Amendment, I should like to test the opinion of the House on it.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 56.407
|Atholl, D.||Elliot of Harwood, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Haddington, E. [Teller.]||Robins, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Saltoun, L.|
|Boston, L.||Merrivale, L.||Stonehaven, V. [Teller.]|
|Ailwyn, L.||Douglas of Barloch, L.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)|
|Airedale, L.||Fortescue, E.||Latham, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Lawson, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Gage, V.||Lucan, E.|
|Amwell, L.||Gosford, E.||Luke, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Granville-West, L.||MacAndrew, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Greenhill, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Grenfell, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Burden, L.||Hampton, L.||Newall, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hawke, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Henderson, L.||Onslow, E. [Teller.]|
|Crook, L.||Home, E. (L. President.)||Pakenham, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Digby, L.||Iddesleigh, E.||Rea, L.|
|Rusholme, L.||Stansgate, V.||Waleran, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Stonham, L.||Williams, L.|
|St. Oswald, L.||Swinton, E.||Winster, L.|
|Silkin, L.||Taylor, L.||Wise, L.|
|Sinha, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ First Schedule [Cases where a caravan site licence is not required]:
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH moved, in paragraph 3 (1), to leave out "five" and insert "three" [acres]. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I was very glad to hear the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, speak of his sympathy with the caravanner. I was particularly glad to listen to the speech in which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, spoke of the holiday caravanner, with whom indeed both he and I have the greatest sympathy. I was glad to hear him say that the holiday caravanner does not spoil Cornwall. For my part, when I see a caravan, with a man, his wife and family, in a beauty spot my reaction is not to say, "This is desecrating a beauty spot". At least, while that may be my first reaction, my later one is to think, "Well, here is a man getting a healthy, happy holiday with his children which he could not otherwise afford." And it is on behalf of the holiday caravanner, not the permanent site man but the holiday caravanner, that I have put down these two Amendments to the First Schedule.
§ I am seriously concerned about the future of holiday caravanning under this Bill. Let us see what provisions we have made for the holiday caravanner. In the first place, he may go to a licensed site. I have many friends who are connected with licensed holiday sites. They all tell me that they have to turn away a vast number of applicants who wish to go to these Sites for their holidays. They start booking, I believe, in the autumn, and within a month or two they have to reply to applicants that they cannot give them a site. Very well, my Lords. Will that position improve? No doubt some local authorities will take their powers under this Act seriously. Some local authorities may even exercise their powers to establish new holiday caravan sites. But those authorities will, I believe, be in the minority, and even in the small minority. Many local authorities view holiday caravanning with a jaundiced eye. We may 408 be certain, and we may be glad of the fact, that many local authorities will close some of the unsatisfactory sites, and we may confidently expect that many authorities will reduce the numbers on caravan sites in many cases—no doubt the Mumbles is one of them—when the density of caravans to the site is altogether excessive. I can therefore hold out very little prospect to the individual holiday caravanner of finding a site licensed by a local authority.
§ It will be said that he can join the Caravan Club; and the Caravan Club, for which I have the greatest respect, will be busy finding and licensing new sites to which the caravanner can go. But that will all take time. I suspect that a good many years will pass before the Caravan Club has got round to licensing a sufficient number of sites. But when those sites are licensed they will, first and foremost, and for practical purposes, be reserved to Caravan Club members. Naturally, if the Caravan Club is going to take all the trouble involved in finding sites and ensuring that they are fit in all respects to license it will expect its members to have most, if not all, of the benefit from those sites.
§ It may be—I daresay it is—a good thing for a man who wants to have a caravan holiday to join his official organisation. But I do not think that it would accord with public policy, or with our practice in other matters, to bring any sort of compulsion on a man to join his recreational organisation. We should consider it most unjust to take any steps to force a motorist to join the Automobile Association or the Royal Automobile Club. We should think it most unfair to give too many privileges to an organisation. In the second place, the Caravan Club has a subscription of two guineas—a rather serious consideration for the type of man for whom I am asking your Lordships' sympathy. What else can he do? He may take advantage of the First Schedule to this Bill, and perhaps he may be lucky enough to have a friend in whose garden or curtilage he may have a holiday under paragraph 1 of the First Schedule. But I imagine that those cases will be most rare. He may take advantage of paragraph 3. I want 409 to make it just a little easier for a man to take advantage of paragraph 3 of the First Schedule, which lays down that an unlicensed site may be occupied by not more than three caravans at a time for not more than a total of 28 days in the year. Those seem to me perfectly reasonable restrictions and should, I suggest, be quite sufficient to prevent the commercial exploitation of unlicensed sites.
§ But there is a further provision: that the site must consist of five acres all in the same ownership. I can see little reason for that provision. No one can say that the three acres which I propose in substitution for the five acres involves any kind of overcrowding. It would amount to one caravan per acre. Surely that is a wide enough distribution of caravans. Indeed, I may be asking for too small a reduction in the acreage as from five to three, but I am conscious that we in this House must not ask too much; and, frankly, I was angling for the sympathy of the Liberal Party with their traditional interest in three acres. The provision of three instead of five acres is surely more consonant with the number of caravans to the station. The restriction of the site to five acres appears to lack any real reason or sense. If it is desired simply to prevent more unlicensed sites from being opened, then I say it should be done by some other means than by an irrational restriction. What is the Bill doing? It is drawing a distinction between the owner of five acres and the owner of three acres—attaching a privilege to landed property. Surely we cannot seriously think that Her Majesty's Government could be proud of a distinction so contrary to the spirit of the time. I beg to move.
Page 32, line 25, leave out ("five") and insert ("three").—(The Earl of Iddesleigh.)
My Lords, I think that my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh has quite a good point here. I can see no particular reason why five acres should have been selected, though no doubt there is some technical reason that we shall hear in due course. Nor should I have thought that three caravans at any one time, scattered over three acres, could be described as an undue density of caravans per acre. I should have thought that this particular Amendment would be valuable in alleviating one difficulty that I see under this 410 Bill—namely, the provision of what one might call staging sites. As we have heard, it is perfectly possible for a man to book in advance a site by the sea, perhaps, in the West country, by writing the preceding Christmas; but the actual conditions on the roads at the time when he sets out will determine whether he can find it reasonably possible to get there before nightfall. The small staging site en route provided by a farmer who is allowed to take in just a few caravans, is a most valuable amenity. At the same time, I think that for the smallholder—the man with a few pigs and chickens and an odd three acres—this revenue from passers-by must be of great value. I do not know that my noble friend pointed out that under Clause 13 the Minister can stop this at any time on any site.
There is one subject on which I am afraid I am rather ignorant, and perhaps my noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary will enlighten me—namely, the subject of rates. I should have thought that if people are going to make money out of these sites they should be rated on them. I am not sure whether they are at the moment. The idea of making every man join a club in order to be able to get a site in a recognised park is probably most convenient administratively, but I should have thought it was rather near the closed shop, and I am a little surprised that Her Majesty's Government should be so keen on that.
Finally, I would take this opportunity of asking my noble friend one question that has occurred to me throughout all these discussions: what is a caravan?—because all kinds of strange things can be towed behind a motor car, and I do not know that there are any restrictions on camping in line with the restrictions on caravanning. It may well be that in years ahead people will have to take themselves out of the technical description of caravanners and into that of a camping party, in order to be able to find space.
My Lords, listening to these discussions on the very precise conditions to be attached to caravans, I cannot help feeling a sense of unrealism. As I said earlier, I believe local authorities will have enormous difficulties in seeing that these precise conditions are observed. I do not believe for a moment that they will 411 be enforced, except very rarely, in flagrant cases. I believe restrictions would be more easily enforced on 5 acres than on 3, and therefore, generally, I am opposed to this Amendment. My noble friend, Lord Hawke, has pointed out that the Minister could remove from any area this concession for the establishment of small caravan sites. He did not point out, however, that in this Schedule the Minister also has power to reduce the area to which this concession applies.
Earlier, when I wished to put into the Bill something in which the Minister had discretion, I was reproved by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for trying to tell the Minister what to do. I believe this is trying to tell the Minister how he should apply this provision in paragraph 3(2) of the First Schedule. It may have been my fault that I did not understand, but I felt we did not get a very clear assurance from the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, on the policy of the Minister in areas of special landscape value and National Parks. If this Amendment is carried, the position will be that the general restrictions applying to caravans will be those in relation to 3 acres; and further, unless there is an Amendment to the Schedule, the Minister will have power to reduce that area still further. In the circumstances I have not been entirely satisfied on these special areas, and as I feel that, in any case, whatever restrictions may be laid down will not be strictly observed, I should much prefer to see the Bill as it stands.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
My Lords, if the Amendment is adopted it will mean that there will be more caravans over a given area, because there will be more of these small, unoccupied areas on a particular holding.
THE EARL OF HADDINGTON
That may or may not be a good thing, but in some ways it is dangerous, because nowadays there is a great inclination for farmers to let out small areas of land which they are not using or cultivating. If they find that more profitable than cultivating the land, then we are likely to have more caravans than sheep on our farms, which would be a bad thing for the economy of the country.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will resist this Amendment. They have resisted Amendments which were calculated to preserve the National Parks and areas of special natural beauty. I believe the effect of this Amendment would be completely the reverse. Undoubtedly, it would prove very damaging to these particular areas. The only way of preserving National Parks is by the very careful siting of the caravan sites by the local planning authorities; and I do not think there can really be any doubt about that. In fact, much care and attention has been put into this matter in some of the National Parks, and to allow these, so to speak, incidental establishments—small caravan sites in the manner provided in the Schedule—I believe would be altogether dangerous. If the area is to be reduced from 5 acres to 3 acres, obviously it is going to be more dangerous.
I do not think the noble Earl is right in saying that it is impossible for caravans to get into properly surveyed and licensed sites. A Member of your Lordships' House has established, within five miles of Lake Windermere a quite substantial caravan site, admirably situated, for the purpose of taking these holiday makers; and he has had one application. The noble Earl has said that it is impossible to get into these sites, but that is not so. It may be very difficult here and there, but I am quite sure that in many parts of the country, if not in most parts, there is no particular difficulty. I feel it is essential that the properly surveyed sites should be mainly relied upon for this purpose, and I consider that this particular Amendment is dangerous from the point of view of preserving National Parks, green belts and other areas of special natural beauty.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I feel, that the great thing here is that the bigger the area the less we worry others by allowing even one caravan upon it. If, therefore, the noble Earl is worried about the staging stations for caravans travelling, perhaps, to the Coast—which I agree are a very important consideration—then we must make every effort to see that there are convenient sites for them. I should have thought it was much better to allow many more caravans on a bigger area, if necessary, 413 because it is the first caravan to which people object. It is not the second, third or fourth caravans which cause the trouble, but the first caravan which arrives and obstructs the view and causes trouble with noise, and so on. I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will resist this Amendment. But if it is a serious problem, perhaps they will consider, at the next stage, putting down an Amendment to increase, by two or three, the number of caravans allowed on a particular site. This would appear to me to have much the same effect in the long run.
My Lords, I have certainly given this matter a good deal of thought since we discussed it on the Committee stage and I doubt whether it is necessary for me to go over all the arguments again. I would suggest that in the absence of a strong case being made out for altering the Bill in this particular, it might be wise to make no alteration in the minimum size at this juncture. I am well aware that I indicated on the Committee stage, that if your Lordships were strongly in favour of this change, my right honourable friend would not see any great objection to it; but I must admit that I do not come to this alteration of the size with any enthusiasm.
I am inclined to think that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, slightly over-painted the picture in saying that there is no room on licensed sites and that people would have to be a member of a "closed shop"—the Caravan Club—before they could get on to a site; and that, because the sites were all filled up, we must reduce 'the acreage. I wonder whether that is not a little exaggerated. My noble friend Lord Hawke also raised the point. I should not like any impression to go out from this House that we were in favour of a "closed shop". I have quoted the Caravan Club because it is an exempted organisation which seems to us to conduct its affairs reasonably, and which might be a guide to other such organisations; but that particular organisation is not mentioned in the Bill and it is by no means the only organisation which could be so used. It was simply to guide your Lordships (those who were not familiar with it) as to the sort of behaviour and the sort of organisation we should like.
414 I would advise your Lordships to give full weight to the doubts which the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, expresses. He, after all, is very skilled and experienced in these matters; and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, speaks for the amenity societies, as well as other noble Lords. I am very much afraid that I am not in a position to give your Lordships any strong guidance on this matter. It has been gone over very carefully in another place and on Committee stage here; and as the Bill now stands for this particular exemption under paragraph 3 of the Schedule the figures stipulated are not less than five acres, not more than three caravans and not more than 28 days in the year. The Amendment would be needed only if we thought we were likely to be short of caravan sites and therefore we should reduce the area to three acres. But if the noble Lord who has moved this Amendment strongly presses it I should not object. However, I think it only fair to say that I personally, on consideration after the Committee stage, would vote against it in the Lobby.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, before we decide what to do about this Amendment I should just like to say one or two things about it. It is very difficult, of course, to say that five acres is wrong and that three acres is right. The case for it would be that there is a shortage of accommodation. In my view there is a shortage of accommodation. We may not find that shortage in some places, but in other places we do. I can certainly speak from my own personal knowledge. In the South of England there is a considerable shortage of facilities for the casual caravan owner or for the person who wants to take a caravan holiday. It may be that, before the noble Earl would advise the House to accept the Amendment, he would want some evidence of it, and I think that evidence can be provided. I do not think there would be any difficulty in satisfying him that there is a shortage in many parts of the country, but particularly in the South of England. Furthermore, I would suggest to him that the caravan habit is a growing one—there is no doubt about that. There will be more caravans next year than there are this year; and the following year there will be even more. I think 415 it would be wise not to make it too difficult for people who want caravans to find provision for using them.
My noble friend, Lord Chorley, as usual, with his "King Charles's Head" about National Parks, dwelt entirely on the National Parks aspect. But this is not a National Parks problem. He himself admitted that so far as the Lake District was concerned by saying that very few people wanted to go to the Lake District in caravans. That is very nice, but this is a problem in places other than in the National Parks. Before the noble Earl finally rejects the idea, I think that he ought to keep an open mind, and if it can be shown that there is a real shortage of caravan accommodation in many parts of the country then I think that he ought to be prepared to relax this five-acre provision and come down to three. I shall not be able to establish—and nobody can—any mathematical relationship between five and three, or that the shortage would be removed. But I think that if there is this shortage something ought to be done to meet it.
May I say to the noble Viscount that he need not worry if his council are going to be concerned with only the flagrant cases. It is much easier to detect a caravan on a smaller area than on a large one. They are a very live council, and I am quite certain that if there are any flagrant contraventions of the provisions of this Bill they will be on to it soon enough. But I do not think, with respect to him, that that ought to be the main consideration. It is important, of course, but the main consideration is: are we making provision in this Bill for what has become a recognised demand? Are we making it too difficult to meet that demand? In my view we are, just a little. Therefore, I should have been disposed to accept the Amendment. But I think that the noble Earl has made a point that perhaps we have not satisfied him that there is this great shortage, and therefore I should prefer the noble Earl not to press his Amendment at this stage, provided that we can put it down again on the Third Reading and that we shall not be taunted with having put it down a third time.
My Lords, if I may intervene at this point, with permission, to speak again on this Amendment, may I say that we had an abortive 416 discussion in Committee on this matter. If we are to have an abortive discussion to-day on Report, shall we really have very much more evidence on Third Reading, which I believe is either tomorrow or the day after, of this Bill? Do your Lordships not think that it would be better if we tried to make up our minds about this difficult problem to-day?
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, may I say that I hope the provision in the Bill as it stands will remain. This, after all, is an exception to the need for licensing. If there were to be this shortage for which it would be necessary to provide, that would be an argument for licensing more sites: it would not necessarily be an argument for more exceptions to the need for licensing. I am concerned with a particular aspect of amenity. It is not in a National Park but let me mention what it is, so that all Members may see the importance. There are some very beautiful reaches of the Thames where, for obvious amenity reasons, no housing would be allowed along the banks. Nevertheless, it is perfectly possible to ruin those reaches, some of the most beautiful on the Thames, with a few caravans. I do not say that no such site should ever be licensed; but I do say that there should not be unnecessary exceptions to the need for licensing. Very few caravans on a site that may be no more than three acres can do a great deal of damage to the beauty of the Thames and to its enjoyment not only by the people who live in the area but by all who use the river as well.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
My Lords, this Amendment deals with a small matter of machinery. Where an order is made withdrawing any exemptions in paragraphs 2 to 10 of the First Schedule, the Bill as drafted will require the order to be advertised in a local newspaper at least three months before it comes into effect. This Amendment requires any such order to be advertised also in the London Gazette or Edinburgh Gazette, as the case may be. This arrangement corresponds with existing arrangements for publishing Article 4 directions under the Town and Country Planning General Development Order. The Amendment is necessary since the 417 revocation of licensing exemption might affect national organisations, touring caravanners, et cetera, as well as people living in the area concerned in the order. I beg to move.
Page 35, line 7, leave out from beginning to first ("in") in line 11 and insert ("and, except in the case of an order the sole effect of which is to revoke in whole or part a previous order, the local authority shall, not less than three months before the order comes into force, cause a notice setting out the effect of the order and the date on which it comes into force to be published in the London Gazette, or, if the land is in Scotland, in the Edinburgh Gazette, and").—(Earl Waldegrave.)
Page 41, line 35, after ("taken") insert ("and").—(Earl Waldegrave.)