HL Deb 02 March 1961 vol 229 cc242-6

3.50 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. —(Lord Brecon.)


My Lords. I think it is as well that a word should be said before we part with this Bill in this House. It has had rather a tempestuous passage in here—unusually so, because the Government were defeated on one Amendment and ran away on another. I think the Bill is all the better for those Amendments. I should like to thank the noble Lord for the courtesy with which he conducted the proceedings of the Bill on Second Reading and in Committee, and for the concessions that were made.

There is one point I wish to make, and that is that the main purpose of this Bill was to incorporate in a public measure a number of clauses which had appeared in Private Bill legislation. Some of us were not particularly enamoured of the clauses it was intended to incorporate in a public measure, but we were faced with the difficulty that they had already appeared in a large number of Private Bills and had been approved, and it was rather late in the day to object to their appearing in a Public Bill when the need for that bad been so clearly demonstrated. I am making no objection to that. I think it is a fair point to make, and it may well be that, having regard to the facts, many of these clauses had appeared in so many Private Acts that the time had come when local authorities who wanted similar powers should not be put to the trouble of having to incorporate them in their own private legislation. But it brings up the point that we ought to be much more careful as to what we approve in private legislation.

It is a fact that a clause which is approved once constitutes a precedent for a similar clause in another Bill, and I am afraid that, whatever may be the theory, in practice this House is helpless. We are not in a position to go through every Private Bill and look through every clause to see whether it creates a precedent we do not like—that is the duty, of course, of the Private Bill Committees, and I am sure they do their best—but it indicates the need for even greater vigilance to see that these clauses do not constitute a precedent which this House may not wish to follow in public legislation. Subject to that, I welcome the Bill. I think it is a great improvement in our legislation, and I hope that it will have a successful passage in another place.

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to ask for clarification on one point. The noble Lord will remember that I expressed a fear that under one clause of this Bill public authorities might be able to take away rights from the public by giving to a club or persons exclusive use of recreation facilities. The noble Lord has kindly written to me on this matter. I asked him whether, when he moved his Amendment, he could use the word "facility" instead of "space", as "space" was the word in the noble Lord's Amendment. Will the noble Lord, for the Record and, I think, for outside, clarify the point that when he talks of "space" the Government mean that the general facilities within recreation grounds shall be reasonably available to the public?


My Lords, I should like to be associated with what my noble friend Lord Silkin has said in regard to the action of the Government in helping to make this Bill, as we think, a better Bill than when it was introduced, and our appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, who handled this measure in a way which was most helpful to us all. I should like to add one point to what my noble friend Lord Silkin has said in regard to Private Bill legislation. While, of course, I agree that we ought to be careful of anything in a Private Bill which may be held to establish a precedent, I think my noble friend will be as fully aware as I am that progressive authorities have often embodied in Private Bills which receive the approval of both Houses of Parliament provisions which might be called experiments in social legislation—a try out of various schemes.

In the history of social legislation, I think the part played by Private Bills promoted by progressive authorities has been a great one, and frequently what has been put forward on behalf of a progressive local authority ultimately becomes the general law of the land. I am sure my noble friend will know that as well as I do. Subject to that, I feel that we ought always to be very careful where we are going with Private Bill legislation. May I conclude by saying that we feel that this Bill leaves this House a better one than when it was introduced? For that we are grateful to the Department and to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, for the way in which he has handled the Bill.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank noble Lords for the kind words they have said, but I do not think they require a long speech from me at this moment. I would thank all noble Lords on both sides of the House who have contributed to the discussions in the earlier stages of the Bill. I greatly appreciate the care and time which noble Lords must have devoted to the examination of the Bill which, as I freely confess, is not an easy one to understand without a great deal of study.

A number of Amendments were proposed, and to all of them I gave careful thought. Where I felt unable to accept a suggested Amendment, I tried to explain the reasons either in debate or by letter. But I was more than happy to agree to a number of the proposals, and there is no doubt—and I agree with all noble Lords who have said it—that the Bill has been considerably improved by the consideration which your Lordships have given to it. The noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Conesford made notable contributions which I should like to acknowledge, though I do so without forgetting the other Members of your Lordships' House who made valuable and constructive suggestions.

The clauses in the Bill which are completely new and unprecedented are those in Part II dealing with building regulations, and those in Part V on trade effluents. These have generally commended themselves to your Lordships, and their main principles were not, I think, questioned at any stage. There are, however, one or two points still to be tidied up in connection with Part V. I promised to consider again Lord Hawke's case for requiring local authorities explicitly to take account of the value of by-products in fixing charges for receiving and disposing of effluents. I can assure him that the point has not been forgotten. There was also Lord Jessel's request that some minimum period should be prescribed between the time when a local authority fixes a charge or condition and the time when they can review and vary it. The House will recall that there were some discussions going on between interested bodies on this point, and it was desirable to know the outcome before deciding whether anything should go into the Bill. I fear this means that the point must, like that raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, wait for consideration in another place.

I said when explaining this Bill on Second Reading that it did not appear to be a very exciting measure. In some respects I was mistaken, because some of the clauses, even though well precedented in local Acts, nevertheless attracted a good deal of comment. I have particularly in mind those dealing with the management of parks and open spaces, which aroused considerable discussion and interest among your Lordships. I promised on Report stage to give further thought to a point on what is now Clause 51. That clause permits local authorities to allow sports clubs to use pitches in parks. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, suggested that there was still a possibility that these powers might be exercised in a way detrimental to the interests of the general public. I have, as the noble Lord has said, since written to him about this, and I hope that he will accept, as covering the point he has in mind, the Amendment I moved at the Report stage and which now forms the last four lines of subsection (3) of Clause 51. We have been talking about space earlier this afternoon. This is a very small part of the space which includes everything that is in the park; that means, the ground and the other facilities that you and I have in mind. For the rest, I am glad to think that your Lordships have been able to accept with equanimity a Bill which deals with such diverse matters as dangerous buildings and infectious diseases, street lights and litter bins, by-laws for barbers and bylaws for pleasure boats, pigeons and canal boats, drains and dodgems.

On Question, Bill read 3a.

An Amendment (privilege) made.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.