HL Deb 14 February 1961 vol 228 cc774-804

6.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, my motives in undertaking to introduce this Bill this afternoon are twofold. In the first place, I desire to assist the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Plymouth, the Promoters of this Bill, which in their view is of the greatest importance for the future development of the city and the interests of its citizens. In the second place, and speaking as a Devonian, I consider that the passage of this Bill is in the interests of the development of aviation in the South-West, and in particular of scheduled air services throughout the whole area. The latter is a matter to which I have drawn attention from time to time over the past ten years, both in your Lordships' House and in another place.

As far as the City of Plymouth is concernecl, the present position is that there is no proper airport at all. There is a small airfield at Roborough, the ground levels of which are all wrong. There is no hard runway, and it is quite unsuitable for modern aircraft. Before I proceed to my main argument, let me at once dispose of the suggestion that the present Roborough airfield could be extended and modernised as a possible alternative to the Harrowbeer scheme. Roborough can, in fact, be extended in one direction only; extra land would have to be acquired, and very substantial earth-moving operations would have to be undertaken. This would give one runway of 3,600 feet in length— smaller than one of the two principal runways at Harrowbeer, and incapable of extension to the length necessary to enable an aircraft of the type of, say, a Viscount to land. Moreover, the cost of converting it would be twice as much as the restoration of Harrowbeer Airport. I will not labour the point, my Lords; but, to put the matter briefly, if Plymouth is to have an airport, there is no practical alternative to Harrowbeer within a reasonable distance of the city.

I now come to what are the reasons why it is essential that Plymouth should have an airport. Plymouth is the regional centre for much of Devon and Cornwall, and it is the largest city in the South-West, with a population of 217,000. There is a further population of some 50,000 in the immediate neighbourhood. It is an active city, with a great tradition, and its outstanding record in the postwar years in the matter of planning and reconstruction after the appalling damage done by enemy bombardment is itself evidence of the city's determination to go ahead.

At the present time, the Royal Dockyards and Establishments employ over 30 per cent. of the male workers. This means— and there is already anxiety on this score— that if further steps in disarmament take place, there could be a large redundancy in the employees of the dockyards. The need for more and diverse industry is apparent also from the fact that the rate of unemployment in Plymouth is twice the national average, while earnings are approximately £3 below the national average. I would add that Plymouth is not now a designated area under the Local Employment Act, and it is therefore dependent on local effort to attract further industry. And this, my Lords, the City Council have been hard at work doing. They have been trying to get more factories to come to Plymouth, but they feel that nothing must be neglected in this endeavour to provide Plymouth with all the facilities which a modern industrial city requires.

An airport is certainly one such requirement. All one has to do is to read the statistics of air travel, both in this country and on the Continent, and indeed throughout the world, to see the trend of modern development. Plymouth cannot afford to be left behind. Owing to its isolated position, there is, in fact, greater need for improved transport in Plymouth than in many other parts of the country which are already well served in this respect. The Plymouth Corporation have been in touch with firms, both in this country and in the United States, with a view to attracting them to Plymouth, and on more than one occasion the matter of air facilities has been raised. I have a note here of one firm of American origin which went so far as to say that there were occasions when the shipment of their products by air was absolutely essential.

My Lords, I should like at this stage to say a few words about the wider issue of the need for scheduled air services in the West country. Such services existed, and were most successful, in the days before the war, when the Great Western Railway ran excellent services linking up many places in the South-West with the Midlands and elsewhere. To-day, the South-West is the Cinderella of the country in the matter of air transportation and, indeed, of communications in general; and such progress as has been made has been largely due to its own efforts. For example, the new magnificent toll bridge over the Tamar between Devon and Cornwall is not being built, as might have been expected, by the Ministry of Transport, but jointly by the Plymouth Corporation and the Cornwall County Council without any Government grant; and the same thing seems to be true in regard to the provision of air services.

British European Airways operate a small service from St. Just, near Penzance, to the Isles of Scilly. Up to now they have refused to consider the establishment of an air service linking the Isles of Scilly service with London. On the last occasion when I raised this matter in Parliament, and when I had gone into it with officials of B.E.A., I was told that such a service would not, at present, be economic. In view of the fact that there are at present over one million tourists visiting Devon and Cornwall each year, most of us in the West country would strongly dispute this assertion. I have constantly urged that a trial B.E.A. service, perhaps in the first instance for the summer months only, should be inaugurated. However that may be, there is the beginning of an interest among the independent air lines, and individual charter flights and some scheduled services are now being introduced and operated.

Those of your Lordships who have travelled in the United States and in parts of the Continent of Europe will well remember the internal air services, with moderate-sized aircraft, often known as "coach services", which operate between Boston, or Milan, and the smaller towns in the area. There is no reason at all why we should not have something of the sort operating from London, Exeter, Plymouth, Penzance, and linking up with the Isles of Scilly service. But, quite clearly, the existence of a modern airfield at Plymouth for the Plymouth traffic would be a very important feature of such a scheme.

My Lords, we are often told that we must wait for helicopters, and this matter has again been raised in connection with the Plymouth airport. But I think that all the technical authorities are agreed that neither helicopters nor vertical takeoff aircraft will be capable of competing economically with fixed-wing aircraft on medium flying distances for many years. To sum up this argument, there is an overwhelming need for regular air services through the South-West; Plymouth is an essential part of such a development, and would greatly help in making these services economical.

I now turn to Harrowbeer itself. This airfield was built during the war for the Royal Air Force. It has two principal runways, one 3,920 feet in length, and one 3,340 feet in length. It is capable of taking aircraft such as the Dakota, and its more modern successors. It is also capable of extension to 5,000 feet, which would make it serviceable for Viscounts. The land on which the airfield is situated is on Roborough Down, four miles North of the City of Plymouth. It will be necessary to enclose only about 200 acres for the airfield out of the 2,000 acres of Roborough Common. About 50 of these 200 acres are already covered with tarmac and concrete runways. The Bill gives powers of access over a further 74 acres in order to enable roads to be built round the aerodrome, if that should prove to be necessary.

I understand that the main objections which are likely to be raised to this Bill are two: first, that it is proposed to restore an airfield on common land; secondly, that it is in a national park. These are, indeed, the main grounds of objection in the two Petitions which have been deposited, and which would, of course, be fully considered should your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading this afternoon.

So far as the argument that the airport is on common land is concerned, it has been alleged in certain quarters that the Report of the Royal Commission on Common Land, presented in July, 1958, contained provisions laying down that it was undesirable that common land should be compulsorily acquired by Private Bill. There was a Committee in the other place which in 1958 rejected the St. Neots Urban District Council Commons Bill on the ground that the wide issues of general principle raised by the Bill should not be agreed to by means of private legislation. This has been quoted as an argument against action by Private Bill to acquire the common land needed for Harrowbeer Airport. My Lords, the facts are exactly the opposite. The Royal Commission Report was mainly concerned with the management and improvement of common land, and the St. Neòts Bill was an attempt to deal, in the case of one common, with the sort of problems which the Royal Commission were required to consider generally. It clearly would have been undesirable to pass that Bill if general legislation covering the same ground was imminent. The Plymouth Corporation Bill is quite different. It is similar to the many other Private Bills which Parliament has already passed authorising common land to be acquired for various public purposes.

In this matter, the Royal Commission did not recommend that any change in the existing procedure should be made. As a matter of fact, by a curious coincidence, some of the land which the Plymouth Corporation are seeking to acquire for the airfield has already been the subject of a compulsory purchase order. The Devon County Council, who are one of the Petitioners against this Bill, are already under an obligation to build certain roads across the site of the aerodrome by the end of June, 1962— and that, incidentally, is one of the reasons why it is urgent that Plymouth should get the rights to this airfield now. To do this, the Devon County Council have already had to obtain a compulsory purchase order, which has already been the subject of special Parliamentary procedure.

The second major ground of opposition is that the airfield lies within the area of the Dartmoor National Park. This has naturally caused concern, and it is, I submit, the only serious argument against the scheme. One is bound to sympathise with those who wish to preserve the amenities of our national parks, and particularly our own beautiful Dartmoor. On the other hand, there are certain aspects of this matter which require to be made clear. Roborough Down, on which the aerodrome stands, is separated from Dartmoor proper by the townships of Yelverton and Dowsland, and by enclosed farmlands, as well as by a main road and a railway. The loss of 200 acres lying right on the edge of the national park area, and outside the national park proper, out of a total of no less than 365 square miles of park, is surely not going to do any serious damage to the amenities of Dartmoor. Indeed, it might well be argued that the existence of an airport would be a means of improving communication with the rest of the country, and would enable many more people to visit and enjoy Dartmoor than do at present.

I would add that, as usual in the case of development in a national park which is authorised by a Private Bill, the Promoters would be required to engage a landscape consultant in order to advise them on the design and layout of their buildings and installations, and to undertake to remove the buildings if it should turn out that they are no longer required. There is no doubt that the Plymouth Corporation will be prepared to accept these conditions.

To sum up, my Lords, first, the City of Plymouth needs a modern airport for its future industrial development and for the interest and welfare of its citizens. Secondly, no other suitable site is available, except the old R.A.F. Harrowbeer airfield on Roborough Down. Thirdly, the establishment of a commercial airport at Plymouth is a necessary adjunct to schemes for the development of air services to the whole of the South-West, which will have to be undertaken in the near future. Fourthly, the argument that the acquisition of common land by a Private Bill is contrary to the recommend- dations of the Royal Commission on Common Land is fallacious. Fifthly, and finally, the objection that the airfield would lie just within the borders of Dartmoor National Park is illusory, for the general public making use of the amenities of the park (of course, your Lordships will appreciate that these are mainly the inhabitants of Plymouth) would not suffer to any appreciable extent, if at all.

My Lords, I have ventured to go into this matter at some length this evening. Whatever arguments there may be to the contrary, it seems to me perfectly clear that the proper place for them to be deployed and examined is before the Select Committee, where evidence can be heard. Therefore, I would urge your Lordships, having heard the general explanation which I have tried to give, to give this Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Colyton.)

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, it is not, I think, my duty or my function to act as an advocate either for this Bill or against it, but rather to do my best to assist the House on the constitutional and procedural aspects of this matter. It seems to me that to-day there are two alternatives before the House, as will be obvious to your Lordships. The first is to reject the Second Reading of this Bill to-day; though I am bound to say that I observe that no one had put down a Motion for the rejection on the Order Paper. The second alternative is to allow this Bill to go upstairs to a Select Commitee, which will perform a quasi-judicial function and which will have the advantage of hearing arguments on both sides marshalled by counsel and assisted by sworn evidence. If a Second Reading is granted to this Bill to-day, I think the fact that there are two Petitions against the Bill which will be heard upstairs will ensure that the issues will be properly joined and that both sides will be fully heard— I would submit, far more fully heard than could possibly be done on the Floor of your Lordships' House.

By giving a Second Reading to a Private Bill, the House does not necessarily approve the principles of the Bill. That, as I understand it, is the accepted constitutional position. It is almost an invariable custom, though not quite, to give a Second Reading to a Private Bill in your Lordships' House, unless what the Bill proposes to do in one part of the country is something that the House would not allow to be done anywhere. Apart from that, it is extremely rare, as I say, for the House to refuse a Second Reading to a Private Bill.

At this stage, may I quote from Erskine May? I am afraid that some of your Lordships will have heard this many times, but I think that it is relevant. I quote a short passage from page 1,008: It is unusual for the Second Reading of a Private Bill to be debated in the House of Lords. Where a debate does take place, however, the House has in recent years invariably upheld the principle that the decision of the Committee on the Bill should not be prejudiced by discussion on Second Reading unless the House has come to the opinion that, whatever the local circumstances may be,— pausing here, I would emphasise the words, "whatever the local circumstances may be"— the powers conferred by the Bill should not be allowed to the promoter. There is little more that I wish to say in this effort to assist the House, except this. If your Lordships give a Second Reading to this Bill to-day, and if the Committee upstairs pass the Bill, the House will still have an opportunity, should they so wish it, of rejecting the Bill. It is always possible to throw out a Bill on Third Reading. Again, it is not common, but there is no denying that it can be done. Therefore, if I may go so far as to do so, I would respectfully suggest that to-day your Lordships should allow all that the Promoters want to say about this Bill and all that the opponents want to say about it to be heard in the perhaps more easy atmosphere of the Committee Room rather than on the Floor of the House.

6.37 p.m.


I am sure that the House is greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, for the guidance which he has given to us, and to the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, for the way in which he introduced this Bill. I am bound to say that, having listened to both noble Lords. I feel rather more inclined to ask the House to reject the Bill than I was before. In the first place, the very powerful advocacy of the noble Lord, Lord Colyton— and it was powerful advocacy— rather tended to require those who take an opposing view to make their views known at this moment rather than allow the Bill to go forward. Furthermore, the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, pointed out that this Bill could be rejected on Third Reading. But it would be far more difficult to reject it on Third Reading, if we had allowed the Bill to go through on Second Reading; and if we had allowed the Committee to accept the principle, it would be far more difficult to decide that we were going to reject the views of our own Committee.

The noble Lord, reading Erskine May, pointed out that it was most unusual for a Bill to be rejected on Second Reading and that the main ground— indeed the only ground— for rejection was that what was asked for in the Bill would not be permitted anywhere else in the country. I should have thought that this was exactly the position. If a proposal came up in any part of the country to build an aerodrome in a national park, I should have thought that that was something that ought to be rejected, beyond any doubt. However, there is no Motion before the House— though that in itself is not fatal. Had we decided to press the matter, I think that it would have been right to give notice of rejection, so that noble Lords on all sides would have known that this was the issue before the House. Therefore I am not going to ask the House to reject this Bill on Second Reading, though other noble Lords may take a different view, and if they do, I will support them in the Division Lobby.

Having regard to the powerful advocacy of the noble Lord, however, I think the position of those who hope that the Bill will be rejected in Committee— and I make no secret of the fact that I strongly hope it will be rejected in Committee— should be made known straight away. I think the main point— the noble Lord stated it— is that this land is part of a national park. It is part of an area which Parliament has declared to be an area which should be preserved for the benefit of the people of this country and enjoyed by them; and though not regarded as sacrosanct, it is one of our most priceless heritages. It is invidious to compare one of the twelve national parks with another, and I do not propose to do that; but I would say that Dartmoor ranks high among the list of our national parks and is perhaps as greatly appreciated by the general public not only those in the neighbourhood of the Western country but the public of Great Britain, as a whole, as any of the national parks. Devon and Cornwall are national playgrounds which all of us have at times enjoyed and which I hope we shall continue to enjoy, and nothing should be done to deprive the people of this country of this great national playground.

The noble Lord says: "Well, it is only at the edge"; and I rather gathered him to say that these 274 acres which it is proposed to use for an airport were practically not in the national park at all. But this land is definitely part of the national park and is an area which has been included in the designated area. It was subjected to scrutiny at the time when it was decided to make it a national park. I think it is quite wrong to distinguish as between one part of a national park and another and to say that it is not so important: in fact, this is a very important part of the national park. It is enjoyed by large numbers of people living in Plymouth—it is, I understand, only about four miles from the City of Plymouth—and I feel that to suggest that it is not so important as any other part is quite fallacious.

Every time there is an attack on a national park some need is pleaded. Of course, nobody would dream of suggesting that they should be in a position of being able to deprive the public of a national park unless they could allege that there was some need. There is always a need. Sometimes there is a need for more sand and ballast; sometimes it is an overriding claim for industrial user; and in this case there is the need for an airfield. The noble Lord has not made out a case for an airfield for Plymouth. There are a large number of cities in Great Britain with a population equivalent to that of Plymouth and with a surrounding population in the neighbourhood of 50,000. If each of those were to demand an airport at the expense of one of our national parks, we should be in a very sorry way. As I say, I do not think the case of an overriding need for an airport at Plymouth has been made out.

Plymouth is one of the cities of this country which has suffered most as a result of war damage—I would put it in the first half dozen—and it has been foremost in preparing a plan for its redevelopment. It began in 1943, and was probably the most enterprising city in this country in preparing a plan. The plan was prepared by Sir Patrick Abercrombie. In the Abercrombie plan—which I do not suggest for a moment is sacrosanct, but it should be treated with the greatest respect—Sir Patrick says that he recommended that Plymouth's priceless heritage of Roborough Down should be restored and preserved as an open space for the use and enjoyment of the inhabitants of the city "— not for the use and enjoyment of those who want to travel by air, but of the inhabitants of the city. It would be quite contrary to the Abercrombie plan and the remarkable work that has been done in Plymouth if this part of the Abercrombie Report were to be disregarded.

Nor do I accept, even if a case were made out for the need of an airfield for Plymouth, that there is no other land available within reasonable distance of Plymouth for the purpose. That is the sort of point that is always made: that there is the need, and there is no other land available. But I would suggest that, even if those two points were established, you would have still to weigh up the damage that would be done to the cause of the preservation of our amenity and our open space in this country as against the advantages that would arise from! providing an airport for Plymouth.

I do not want to argue this case at length. I have agreed, speaking for my-self, that this matter should go to the Committee. But I want the Committee to be under no illusions as to the strength of feeling that exists in this House and in the country, as a whole, on matters of this kind. Only a short time ago the Government were defeated on an issue regarding open space. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, I would say that that was a less important question than the particular one of encroachment on this area. I am not going to weigh up two undesirable actions one against the other, but the Government were defeated, and that largely by their own supporters.


My Lords, may I just correct the noble Lord's memory on that? The Government yielded to the eloquence of my noble friend Lord Birkett, and a much lesser eloquence of myself and others, including the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on a previous occasion, and withdrew their opposition to my Amendment. They were not defeated. The issue on which I defeated them occurred earlier the same afternoon, but it was not on that issue.


I stand corrected. But the defeat was there hanging over their heads; the Government were under no illusions that if they put the matter to a vote they would have been defeated.


There I agree.


I am glad the noble Lord agrees with me. This is a matter to which we all, in all parts of the House and throughout the country, attach great importance. This Bill is being opposed by practically every amenity society in the country. I would say, finally, that we attach importance—and much more importance, I may say, than to the question of an airfield—to being able to attract people to this country. What is it that attracts them? It is the beauty of our island; it is places like Dartmoor, the Lake District and so on, which are in many ways unique. All countries have their unique pieces of scenery, and this is one of our unique treasures. If we gradually, under one pretext or another, let them go, this Island will cease to be a place which will attract people from abroad, and not only shall we suffer economically but we shall suffer spiritually as well. So I hope that, while taking account of everything the noble Lord has said in introducing this Bill, strong account will also be taken of the opposition, and the very powerful opposition, which exists to the proposal.

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Colyton on the clear, concise and fair way in which he introduced this Bill. It is with regret that I heard that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was not convinced entirely of the necessity for an aerodrome at Harrowbeer. When anyone suggests taking either a part of a national park or a piece of common land, many people react violently. I want to discuss for a few moments the two interests that are materially affected—the people who live and work in Plymouth, and the commoners themselves. During the 1939–45 war, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, no town was submitted to heavier or more continuous bombardment than Plymouth.


Yes, Hull.


I said "not more bombardment". They may have had as much. As the noble Lord said, Plymouth showed the greatest enterprise and resource, first in planning the rebuilding of their city, and then in rebuilding it. For that reason alone, one would have thought that the town would have been deserving of an aerodrome. But there are other reasons.

First of all, many other towns of a similar size to Plymouth have an aerodrome of their own, and they are not nearly so remote. As my noble friend Lord Colyton said, 30 per cent. of the working men of Plymouth are employed in the Naval Dockyards, and, as we all know, great changes are taking place every day in the weapons of war. The future of the Dockyards of necessity must be precarious. Surely, it is only right and wise of the Council of Plymouth to take a look at the future to see that, should the necessity arise, they will be in a position to attract industry to the town, and to ensure work for the very loyal men who work in these Dockyards.

I said just now that Plymouth was remote. It is 200 miles from London. It has a good railway service, but the fact remains that to get to Plymouth by train takes five or six hours. From Manchester, I understand that it takes nine hours. Therefore, if a man requires to go to Plymouth on business he must spend at least two days, or possibly three, and will obviously prefer to move his business to some town which he can get at more quickly. If there were an aerodrome at Plymouth, no doubt he could get there in two or three hours. It has been argued that the Exeter aerodrome would be a good substitute for Plymouth. But Exeter is more than 40 miles from Plymouth, and a man would take at least two hours to get there by car; and, in addition, he would have all the difficulty of hiring and arranging transport for himself. I feel that there is a strong case, both from the civic and from the economic point of view, that Plymouth should be enabled to provide its citizens with an aerodrome.

There are various estimates of the number of commoners on Roborough Down, but I am told that it is between 10 and 40. They have the right to graze sheep and cattle during the hay harvest on the 2,000 acres of Roborough Down. Roborough Down is a long, narrow stretch of land, and consists of 2,000 acres. It is proposed to put the aerodrome on 200 acres in the middle. Therefore, the commoners will still have no less than 1,800 acres. The most modern technique of grazing grassland is to put stock on for a short while, and then take them off. Surely, the commoners, if they grazed the Southern half for the first three weeks of the hay harvest, and then the Northern half for the second part would improve the grazing. They would have little or no loss. But I understand that the Corporation of Plymouth are willing, and indeed anxious, to give them compensation for any loss to which they may be subjected. I would suggest to the Corporation that they might have taken a leaf from the railways which, when they were built 100 years ago, gave various people various concessions. I feel that it would be a welcome concession to the commoners of Roborough Down if, for instance, a party of them each year could be taken by air to the Cup Tie. That would have the advantage that it takes place in April, before the hay harvest.

We in this country—and I am the first to admit it—owe a great debt of gratitude to the many people who have striven in the past, and are striving now, to preserve the beauty of our countryside. I am delighted to see here my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett, who has done so much, and I feel that the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Dalton, must be always grateful for being given the opportunity of giving legislative sanction to our national parks. We as a country are also indebted to my noble friend Lord Strang for the way in which the parks have been developed and carried on under his chairmanship. It must give all those noble Lords, and a great many people connected with the national parks, the greatest satisfaction that an increasing number of people each year are having the leisure and the opportunity to enjoy them.

My Lords, I should find it very hard to support this Bill if I thought that it would in any way endanger their great achievements. We in Devon are justly proud of Dartmoor. Dartmoor is a very big place, of 365 square miles, or 220,000 acres. The aerodrome will take only 200 acres—surely a very small price in amenities to pay for the very great advantages it will give the people of Plymouth, as well as, should there be need, a sense of surety, because there will be industry and employment for the men who work in the Dockyards there.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, I confess that I have been shocked by this Bill, simply by the one feature of it which has been referred to by so many speakers, the proposal to tear away some 200 to 300 acres from the national park for the purpose of this aerodrome. My noble friend Lord Silkin deployed at considerable length—and I shall seek not to repeat his arguments, though I found them very persuasive—the argument against even small beginnings, even small nibblings at our national parks as they now stand. I have known and loved Dartmoor from my boyhood on, and I was very proud and happy when it was duly designated as a national park. I did not find as persuasive as the argument of my noble friend the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, that this land was hardly inside the park at all and that its disappearance would not be noticed. I still feel—and I speak with some knowledge of the country, including the area around Yelverton to which he referred—that this would be a serious wound to this piece of uniquely beautiful natural scenery. Therefore I should need a great deal of persuading to persuade me to support the principal proposal in the Bill.

On the other hand, I say at once that I. for my part, and I am sure nearly all other noble Lords, will always listen to the voice of Plymouth with great sympathy and with a memory of the great battles through which Plymouth has passed. Not only in this last war but long before Plymouth has been famous in song and story. It fell to me, as President of the Board of Trade in the latter part of the last war, to join most helpfully (it was the Corporation and citizens of Plymouth who were helpful rather than I) in what has been already highly and rightly praised; the tremendous speed, audacity and efficiency with which battered Plymouth prepared to face the aftermath of war.

Of all the blitzed cities (and they were one of my special concerns at the Board of Trade) Plymouth undoubtedly got quicker off the mark than any other of the blitzed cities—I say that without any hesitation—both in presenting its plans and in beginning to execute them in times of great shortage and difficulties. If, therefore, geography had been different, and if it had not been Dartmoor, and if Dartmoor had not been near to Plymouth, the thought I have about all this would be differently balanced. But as is, greatly though I admire what Plymouth has done, confident though I am that Plymouth has before it a great future, and hopeful though I am that Plymouth will solve its unemployment problem in these new conditions, yet I cannot bring myself to support the principal proposal in this Bill.

As a comparatively new Member of this House, I am grateful to the Lord Chairman for his exposition of what I might call the procedural habits of the House in the past in relation to such Bills as this. In my still childish innocence in this place, after more than 30 years in another place having to give votes the overwhelming majority of which were determined by my Party Whips, I had instantly hoped when I came here that I should enter a place where I could give votes in accordance with my own individual sense of right and wrong and of the weight of the argument in particular cases. My inclination coming here to-day, my feeling being so strong upon this matter, would be to hope that I should perhaps at the end of the debate take part in a Division. But I have taken note of practice and I do not wish to be unreasonably iconoclast in anything I do. But I take note also of what my noble friend said. He said, as I understood it, that although he himself would not incite any noble Lord to divide against this Bill, yet he would not seek to dissuade them I am very grateful to him for that reassurance, and if, as the debate goes on—and I think there are some further noble Lords who wish to speak on this matter—out of those speeches there should anise a desire for a Division against the Bill then I shall join those who initiate such a manœuvre.

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, it must fall upon very grateful ears to hear from any speaker at this hour that he proposes to speak for only a very few moments, particularly if he has the power of making himself believed, because as a matter of practice it is usual for people to begin by saying, "I do not propose to take up much time", to appease their hearers, and then to take a considerable time to do it. But I intend to take a very few moments, for very good reasons, and the principal reason is that the arguments against the proposal of the Plymouth Corporation have been so fully and, if I may say so, so spiritedly stated by my noble friend Lord Silkin and by Lord Dalton that there is little need to say more. But I should like to enrol among those who oppose this Bill. I must confess that I was impressed very much at the outset by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, which was, if I may say so, a powerful presentation of this case and one which I felt ought to be answered at once; and if it was to be answered decisively I thought it should be by refusing a Second Reading to this Bill. But then when the Lord Chairman came with his calm, detached, judicial survey of the matter, saying, "Let it go to the Select Committee, for there all the detail can be examined with great care", I felt that there was much to be raid for that course. But, for my own part, I would make it perfectly plain that I should like to see this Bill defeated, and I do not mind how it is done.

I would say this to the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Lambert, who made such a kindly reference to me: that with the part of their speeches which was devoted to the interests of Plymouth I can quite well agree, and I think the House would well agree. Both from history and from all that they have done, they are entitled to say, "We should have special consideration and we feel we ought to have an aerodrome". In the ordinary way the local authority ought to be able to say, "This is what we want. We know the local needs better than anybody else and we do not wish to have our powers curtailed by anybody else". And I would agree up to this point: that if this proposal had not infringed what I think are two principles of great importance, then they might have had their aerodrome without any discussion. But what has happened in this case is that the Plymouth Corporation have done two things. They have said, first of all, "By this Private Bill we will deprive these commoners of their ancient rights". It is true that they say, "We will pay them compensation for taking their rights from them". And secondly, they have said, "And we shall erect this aerodrome in the national park". I quite agree with the previous speakers that that is the real offence which this Bill commits.

I was most interested in what Lord Silkin said. Perhaps I may repeat a quotation I made in this House the other day. It is a quotation from Milton: Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw Daily devours apace and nothing said". So here a little and there a little, the great heritage of the national parks is being eaten into by proposals such as the present proposal, and I think it is the duty of this House to resist it.

Lord Colyton, and I think Lord Lambert too, both made reference to the fact that there were two Petitions against this Bill, one from all the amenity societies in the country and the other one, singularly enough, from the Devon County Council. As to the proposal which Lord Colyton made about the necessity for the aerodrome, the necessity for this site, the economic future of Plymouth and so on, it is interesting to note that the Devon County Council were as much concerned, I should imagine, as the noble Lord with these considerations. Nevertheless, they go to the length of putting forward a Petition in which they challenge the contentions of the Corporation, and go on to say that the invasion of the National Park of Dartmoor ought not to take place.

For those reasons, I think that the House would do well to record now its abhorrence (if the word is not too strong) at this proposal. The National Parks Act, 1949, was hailed all over the country as something which was now going to guarantee to us the preservation of that which makes our country quite distinctive. Everybody, I think, is agreed that there is no countryside to match the English countryside, wherever you may go. You may go to other lands and see magnificent sights, but you can never get what we have in this country. When that Act was passed by the Labour Government—the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, had much to do with it—everybody who cared about our countryside felt more secure that the fairest spots in our land would be inviolate, preserved from the hand of the invader. But in truth and in fact, as the years have passed we have found to our painful cost that this really is not so—that there is here an invasion of a national park, there an invasion of a national park, and it has become quite common form in proposals of this kind to say, "Let us take the acreage from this land which was set aside solemnly by Parliament for the preservation of its natural beauty and for the enjoyment of the people of the countryside."

Finally, I should like to say that the chairman of the Yelverton and District Residents' Association wrote to me and spoke on behalf of 1,000 residents who are members of that society. He pointed out, with some force, as I think, that all those people who since the war had bought their houses in Yelverton and district had done so upon the assurance that here was a national park, that it was then free from the kind of considerations which applied elsewhere, and that this particular site which is now sought after by the Plymouth Corporation had been relinquished by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 1953. For all these reasons, I would venture to submit to the House that, whatever decision your Lordships may take—whether or not you will say, "We will not grant this Bill a Second Reading", which I think would be a difficult decision to make in view of the quotation from Erskine May and in view of the desire of the Corporation to have its case heard fully—I hope it will be felt that the House is quite free at any stage to mark its displeasure, even on Third Reading, by rejecting the Bill.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, the reasons for my taking part in this debate are both sentimental and practical. Early this century my grandfather was Member of Parliament for Plymouth; and Harrowbeer is but a few miles from Merrivale, and a stone's throw from Walkhampton. I have lived in Yelverton, where, in effect, the aerodrome is proposed to be sited, and I have also landed on Roborough airfield. But when considering this Bill I felt, like my noble friend Lord Colyton, that one should consider to a certain extent the economic prospects and future of the City of Plymouth.

As has been said, this is a city which in the past has been largely dependent, from an economic point of view, on the Naval Dockyard. In spite of a fact, as stated in Chamber's Encyclopœdia, that Plymouth has one of the finest harbours in the country, over the years it has seen a steady decline in the amount of freight handled there and in the number of passenger vessels calling there. Now no passenger steamship liner regularly calls at Plymouth. No doubt that is due to insufficient industrial incentives, a lack of adequate inland communications—in other words, it suffers from a certain remoteness, as I believe my noble friend Lord Colyton said. There is, therefore, a need for an expansion of the tourist trade. I think that Plymouth could be a perfect starting point for incursions into the whole of the South-West of England and further afield. There is a fear that, with our present streamlined Navy, employment in Her Majesty's Dockyard may be curtailed over the coming years.

There are at the moment certain light industries, but, as has been said, these are insufficient to provide adequate employment for the working population. However, since the war, due to the Corporation's efforts, various other industrial concerns have established themselves, giving employment, I understand, to about 5,000 persons. These firms are considering expanding. Towards the latter part of last year, I understand that twelve firms stated that they will be in a position to give employment, when they are set up, to 2,000 workers, and they hope to achieve a figure of 4,000 at a later date. But all this is insufficient to cater for the working population of Plymouth.

The Dockyard is still the major industry. It employs approximately 19,000 persons. I believe that almost similarly important industries are those of transport and retail trades employing around 18,200 persons. I feel, therefore, that Plymouth City Council should he commended for the steps they are taking to attract a far greater number of industrial firms to that city. It must he remembered, too, that there is at Plymouth a very high unemployment rate—I believe that it is double the national average. There is also a certain reserve of women who I understand are not employed at the moment, and there will be a considerable "bulge" due to children leaving school. They, too, will be seeking employment.

As has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Colyton, American industrialists interested in developing in Europe have been contacted on the spot. In other words, the Corporation's estates and development valuer went to the United States in 1955 and in 1960 to see whether American firms would settle at Plymouth. The facilities required to attract such new industrial concerns must surely include better communications. Here I think it is interesting to know that a £1 million scheme for the setting up of a regional technical college has been embarked on. An application has also been made to the University Grants Committee for the establishment of a university in Plymouth. think, therefore, that it can be said in all fairness that Plymouth is looking ahead and doing its utmost to cater for the youth of that area, for the city's economic wellbeing and also for the town's working population as a whole.

Surely your Lordships would not wish to hamper in any way the City Council's efforts to diminish the remoteness of the city from the main centres of population and industry. The nearest airports are both over 45 miles away, for I do not consider Roborough itself as an airport. It is at most an airfield with a very undulating surface. Having landed there I should call it a very bumpy ride when taxing or landing. As has been mentioned, it would have to be regraded, and it could be extended to provide a hard runway of 1,200 yards in length, only at a total cost, including the provision of normal facilities and equipment, of around £295,000. That is a considerable sum when, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Colyton. it would cost approximately half that figure to set up Harrowbeer as a commercial airport; and that airport would have two hard runways of greater length.

Having lived in Yelverton I would agree with what the Dartmoor National Park Handbook has to say: Yelverton is a sad note to end upon—it has developed as a dormitory suburb for Plymouth and it is a distressing example of semi-urban growth on a delightful site. So I do not feel that the setting up of an aerodrome at Harrowbeer—and Harrowbeer and Yelverton are close to each other—would materially affect in any way the beauty or otherwise of Yelverton. On the contrary, I think it would be neater to have a modern airport there, for the area at the moment has three runways, in varying states of repair or disrepair. There are also unattractive bomb-bays and the perimeter tracks and building foundations. I do not think, therefore, one can say that it is a particularly attractive area; for all these tracks, foundations, bomb-bays and so forth take up an area of 50 acres. At week-ends, learner-motorists and enthusiastic motor-cyclists use the perimeter tracks and the runways, so it can hardly be regarded as attractive common land or grazing land.

As for the national park aspect which has been touched upon by all speakers, I agree that this area is within a national park; but in fact it is only on the verge of it, right on the border. It is certainly not within the most attractive part of Dartmoor, which I should say is definitely that from Tavistock towards Exeter. Moreover, the area known as Roborough Down is enclosed by Harrowbeer, Yelverton, Axtown and Crap-stone. So I would respectfully submit to your Lordships that it is not as if we are considering an attractive area of land with miles and miles of beauty. In fact, Yelverton cannot be considered as a town of great attraction.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to draw attention to the Ministry of Aviation's Report of Inspection dated June 14, 1960. This comprehensive Report deals with the suitability of Harrowbeer aerodrome for development as an airfield to serve Plymouth and the surrounding district. I should like to quote briefly from this official Report. It says: In summary the aerodrome has effective dimensions which make it suitable for operation of aircraft up to DC.3 standards without extension and as such would be able to cater for the kind of associate service traffic anticipated in such an area for the next 10 years. Extensions to the aerodrome to provide a maximum run of 4,320 feet are within limits of practical engineering, and Viscount type aircraft at reduced weight could then use the aerodrome. Further on, the Report goes on to say: It should be borne in mind that several aircraft manufacturers have turned their resources to the development of a DC.3 replacement aircraft and two British types of replacement, the Handley Page Herald and the AVRO 748 are currently in production for B.E.A. and some independent operators. These, together with other aircraft, such as the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy and the Fokker Friendship, would be able to use Harrowbeer Aerodrome either in its present state or with the possible extensions. Therefore, my Lords, it would seem that the Ministry of Aviation are not condemning outright the use of this aerodrome. One final point, which speaks for such a scheme and which denotes the wishes of the people is the outcome of the poll that was taken at Plymouth on January 5 of this year. The outcome of this poll was a two-to-one majority in favour of this scheme. For all these reasons I sincerely hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading so that it can go upstairs for consideration by a Select Committee, and also in order to facilitate Plymouth Corporation's task of providing alternative and complementary forms of transport to the present not completely adequate road, rail and sea communications.

7.31 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Colyton moved the Second Reading of this Bill with his usual efficiency and persuasiveness. The detail into which he went, and others who subsequently supported him have gone, is a little embarrassing to those like myself who are utterly opposed to this Bill in principle but were, nevertheless, prepared, for reasons which I shall give, to let the Bill go to a Committee for further consideration; in other words, to allow it to have a Second Reading. For it might be thought, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, pointed out, that unless we replied in detail or else voted here and now for its rejection, we had not got the overwhelming case which we believe that we have.

Let me say at once, my Lords, that I regard it as a desirable practice of this House, and an almost invariable recent practice, that if we do not wish to allow a Private Bill to have a Second Reading we put a notice on the Order Paper to that effect. I had, I confess, been rather expecting that there would be such a notice on the Order Paper. But there is not, and, in consequence, I myself, if there were a Division at the end of to-day, could not support the rejection. I think that we should observe the practice, he normal practice, of this House; and since there is not a rejection Motion on the Order Paper we should allow the Bill to have a Second Reading. Nevertheless, t think the points of principle against the Bill are so vary strong that they should be stated, and perhaps some of them stated again, even after the admirable statement of my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett.

Much has been said about the area involved being in a national park. That, my Lords, is important. But equally important is the fact that it is common land and a Royal Commission have recently reported on that subject. There was a debate on that Royal Commission's Report in this House on December 7, 1958. and my noble friend Lord Waldegrave gave a very sympathetic reply, treating that Royal Commission's Report with the respect it deserved. And I have never heard that Report of the Royal Commission treated with anything except the greatest respect. May I quote one vital sentence in the chapter of conclusions? This is what the Royal Commission say: We have come to the conclusion that, as the last reserve of uncommitted land in England and Wales, common land ought to be preserved in the public interest. The public interest embraces both the creation of wider facilities for public access and an increase in the productivity of the land. Our recommendations are designed to carry out these principles. That is the statement of the Royal Commission, which has, I think, commanded general acceptance.

Those words and others in the Report have been interpreted by Select Committees of the other place as meaning that a Private Bill which infringed that principle could not be allowed to proceed. My noble friend Lord Colyton has men- tioned the case of 'the Bill of the St. Neots Urban District Council, on which a special Report was made by the Select Committee to the House of Commons. My noble friend Lord Colyton sought to distinguish that case. I would distinguish it by saying it was not nearly as strong as the present case in meriting direct rejection. But that case does not stand alone. In this very Session of Parliament the Tamworth Corporation Bill has been withdrawn after the existence of these objections, I understand, had been brought to the attention of the promoters.

My noble friend Lord Colyton mentioned that the Devon County Council had obtained a compulsory purchase order in certain parts of this land. Quite true. The compulsory purchase order was made to enable highway facilities to be provided in substitution for those disrupted by the aerodrome. But, in any event, the Royal Commission had no objection to compulsory purchase orders in certain cases under General Public Statutes. What the Royal Commission, I should have thought, made clear, if not expressly then by clear implication, was that common land should not be taken as it is sought to take it by this Bill, by a Private Bill. That is the principle to which there has hitherto been no exception at all. Apart altogether from the question of national parks, I think it is an overwhelmingly important principle that, especially after the Report of the Royal Commission, common land should not he taken away by private legislation.

Now I have said that I do not propose to challenge the Second Reading this evening. No Motion for rejection has been placed on the Order Paper and, therefore, in accordance with, at any rate, the recent practice of the House, the Bill should, in my opinion, be allowed to go to a Committee. I wish to make it as clear as it has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett that I hope this Bill will get no further than the Select Committee. I do not disguise that that is my hope and wish.

But the other thing which I wish to make perfectly clear is this. The principle that common land should not be taken away by private legislation is far too important a principle for this House to be committed on it by the view of any Committee whatsoever, no matter how careful and distinguished. In saying that this Bill should now go to a Select Committee, I wish to make it perfectly clear that, in my view, it should not be assumed by anybody that this House has abandoned that principle in any event. My noble friend the Lord Chairman of Committees read out a passage (and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin) which would have fully justified us, had there been a Motion on the Order Paper, in voting against this Bill on Second Reading. The fact that I, at any rate, do not mean to do so must not be taken as meaning that it will not be necessary to challenge the matter again, in certain events, if it comes before this House: because that principle—the principle of the immunity of common land from being taken away by Private Bills—is one on which this House will. I think, wish to be consulted, and I am equally confident that that will also be the view of another place. In the case of the other place, there have already been two Bills that have been either rejected or withdrawn.

My Lords, I propose to say nothing more in the matter. Had I wished to traverse the case made for the Plymouth Corporation I could have come armed to do so, but I did not intend to oppose the Second Reading but only to raise that one, as it seems to me, all-important point of principle. Perhaps I might be allowed, before I sit down, to say that I hope I have no less a respect and affection for the City of Plymouth than the other noble Lords who have spoken.

7.43 p.m.


My Lords, although it is late, I should like to take a few minutes adding my support to those who feel that this Bill is an infraction of national rights. I felt that it was really scandalous that the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, should, in effect, have put the purchase price of the Dartmoor National Park at £150,000 because, really, that is what it came to. The existing aerodrome could be made perfectly useful, as I understand it, for about £300,000, and it would cost £150,000 to put the Harrowbeer Aerodrome into good working order. That is to say, we are asked to sell our birthright, the national park in Devonshire, the Dartmoor National Park, for a paltry sum of that size. It seems to me that this is quite typical of the attitude of many people who come to Parliament and ask for powers (often, Government Departments are among the worst offenders) to take this heritage which my noble and learned friend, Lord Birkett has described in such glowing language, and which I am sure we all feel in our hearts ought not to be further trespassed upon.

I am sorry that we are not going to have a Division, I cannot see the point of a Second Reading on these Bills if we are not to be allowed to vote against them except on the basis of putting down a Motion. It seems to me that, in this particular case, the rejection of this Bill would be well within the principles which the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees read out from Erkine May. There are here two matters of quite obvious national importance; and, surely, matters of national importance ought to take precedence over local interests, however valuable those local interests may be to the inhabitants of even such a fine town, with such a great historic tradition, as Plymouth. We are asked here to make a serious inroad into a national park, which is an heritage of the whole of the people of this country. We are asked here to make a considerable inroad—what would, in fact, be the first inroad that has been made since the Royal Commission on Common Land reported—into an area of valuable common land.

The St. Neots Bill, which is the only occasion since that Royal Commission reported that anybody has had the hardiness to bring a Bill before Parliament which would affect common land, was a much less serious Bill than this one, with all respect to the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill. That Bill did not propose to take away permanently from the people the use of the land covered: whereas in this case we should have an aerodrome, with all the noise, all the clatter, and all the other urban aspects which go with an aerodrome of this particular kind. I should have thought, my Lords, that here we had two quite obvious matters of great national interest which made it essential that this Bill should be defeated. I am sorry that we cannot defeat it now because the general view of your Lordships is that it should go upstairs to be considered there. But if I am the only one in the House who votes against it on Third Reading, I will certainly be here, and I will certainly vote against it.

7.47 p.m.


My Lords, I venture to rise just to say a very few words, and I hope your Lordships will be indulgent to me. When I entered this House, had no intention of saying anything, but some of the speeches I have heard have, I think, conveyed a rather inaccurate description of this proposed Harrowbeer aerodrome. It has been described as something of an offshoot of Dartmoor, as if it were surrounded by villages and cut off from Dartmoor by these villages. The villages do skirt the aerodrome, but it is only a matter of two miles from Yelverton Aerodrome to Peak Hill—two miles running between marginal farms. Therefore, I think it is definitely part of the national park. Another point that I have not heard emphasised is the tremendous number of people that go to the aerodrome on Sundays and on Saturday afternoons. The place is crowded. It has great attractions. First, it has clear air—much better than muggy Plymouth. Secondly, the turf is very short, and there are many improvised games—cricket, rounders and so on. There are even sailing boats, and there are three riding schools. Therefore, to feel that it is not an important recreational centre of Plymouth would, I think, be entirely false. I am opposed to this Bi11.

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for the very kind words which he said earlier this afternoon and which I greatly appreciate. Having cracked the ice then, I hope not to break through now and get into very cold water with my noble friends Lord Colyton and Lord Conesford. I therefore hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I skate somewhat gingerly over the rather thin ice which is bearing me at the present time. I am sure, too, that you will not wish me to rehearse, on behalf of the Departments which I am representing, all the arguments for and against this Bill which the previous speakers in this debate have already deployed. But I must confess straight away that I thought my noble friend Lord Colyton made out a substantial case, prima facie, for the Bill.

His arguments rest, as I see it, mainly on the need for Plymouth to diversify and to expand its industrial base, and on the belief that the poor communications, road and rail, between Plymouth, London and the Midlands are a major obstacle to the attraction of new industry to the area. He and the other proponents of the Bill believe that an accessible aerodrome capable of taking fairly large aircraft would make Plymouth, and indeed the South-West region, more attractive both to the industrialist and to the tourist. And they further believe that Harrowbeer is the only site which really fills this bill.

On the face of it, I must confess there is a lot to be said for this view. Plymouth is certainly rather isolated. In a period when air travel within these islands is expanding fast, I feel it is only natural that the Council and the Corporation of Plymouth should wish to move with the times and to establish an aerodrome at the only site near Plymouth which would, I understand, be capable, if one runway were extended, of handling aircraft up to the size of the Viscount. Again, it is the policy of my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation to encourage local authorities to develop and operate aerodromes for their areas, and the City Council's proposals are, in this respect, in line with that policy. All in all, some of your Lordships and I say "some" advisedly—may well think that Plymouth should be congratulated rather than condemned for their enterprise in looking to the future and in trying to facilitate contact between their City and the rest of the country—indeed, the Continent.

However—and those who have listened to the debate in your Lordships' House this evening will know it is a pretty big "however"—although it may be for Plymouth Corporation to decide, in the light of local requirements, whether they need a bigger and better aerodrome, it is most certainly for Parliament to decide whether the advantages to the local community outweigh the very strong and serious objections which others have made to this proposal. Those objections are marshalled in the two Petitions to your Lordships' House, and have been very cogently reviewed in this debate by a number of noble Lords. There are, as your Lordships well know by now, numerous objections to this proposal.

Nevertheless, it seems quite clear to me that two are fundamental: first, is it tolerable or is it not tolerable to establish an aerodrome in a national park? Secondly, is it right or is it not right to alienate common land in this way and by Private Bill, especially in the light of the Report of the Royal Commission on Common Land?

On the first point I will say only this. I agree that it raises a principle of considerable consequence, and one which has been put with great force and persuasiveness by two noble Lords, Lord Dalton and Lord Silkin, to whom the national parks owe a very great debt. But to return to the principle, the idea of establishing an aerodrome in a national park is certainly, on the face of it, an unattractive one. As has been made clear in your Lordships' House on more than one occasion, there is a presumption here against any development in a national park. These are considerations which cannot, and should not, be lightly dismissed. I trust that your Lordships, by agreeing to the Second Reading of this Bill, will allow them to be properly weighed in the balance by the Select Committee against the other considerations which have been advanced. That Committee would have the benefit of the views not only of the Petitioners but also of the National Parks Commission, whose Chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Strang, sits, more or less muzzled, on the Cross-Benches at the moment. So much for the national parks argument.

My Lords, on the second point, the common land point, I am going to be even briefer. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Lambert, will forgive me if I do not make hay with him. I would only say that this is a subject of very great complexity, and I do not pro- pose to follow some of the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate into its labyrinths. But I should like to say this on behalf of my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture. In view of the provisions of existing legislation, the Minster thinks that common land should be taken for other uses only if a good case is made out. But he would not wish to oppose a Second Reading of this Bill on principle. He would think it right that the Bill should be referred to a Committee where the necessary special considerations should be given to it.

My Lords, to conclude. I feel that all your Lordships will agree that this short debate has shown that there are powerful and cogent arguments for and against this Private Bill, which has already aroused strong local controversy. The most that I would say, though I would say it with all the force at my command—but I hope with the diffidence which becomes a maiden at this Box—is that the Corporation of Plymouth appear to me to have a case which deserves a fair hearing. If your Lordships reject this Bill on Second Reading, the Council and the Corporation of this great City will not get that fair hearing. In the circumstances, I sincerely trust that your Lordships will follow the normal traditions of your Lordships' House, which were so clearly put at the start of the debate by the Lord Chairman, and later by my noble friend Lord Conesford; will reject the advice of the noble, and indeed learned, mutual inciters (if I may so term them); and will leave this matter, for the time being at least, to the dispassionate judgment of the Select Committee.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.