HL Deb 24 July 1962 vol 242 cc939-40

2.48 p.m.


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

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


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission may I intervene on this Bill for a very few minutes? I am the oldest, and in length of service by far the longest, of the Commonwealth War Graves Commissioners. During these last years the Commission has watched with great anxiety corporations taking and exercising powers to discontinue cemeteries, and to use the sites for other purposes. But until this Bill came before the House there had not been any Bill, we think, which was directed explicitly at cemeteries in which a number of war dead lie. In Northampton there are several cemeteries, one of which is being taken over, most rightly, by the Corporation. In this cemetery, some hundreds of war dead lie. Many of them, of course, were from Dominions, from the Colonies and from overseas.

As many of your Lordships know, under the Charter the Commission is responsible for looking after and maintaining all the Commonwealth war graves, wherever they are, whether in this country, in the Dominions and Colonies or in other places overseas. Therefore we have a duty imposed on us to safeguard to the best of our ability all these war graves which are, or may be, threatened under this Bill. In those circumstances we intervened and we have had inserted in this Bill Clause 28, a special clause designed to protect the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, so that no interference can take place with the war graves without the Commission's being informed, without our having an opportunity of suggesting the best way of dealing with the removal of monuments, headstones, or even of the remains of the dead themselves.

The Corporation, the Home Office and other Departments have co-operated with us in trying to get a really useful protection clause, and one which would be an answer to next of kin or relatives coming from overseas to visit the graves of their relatives and finding that the cemetery had ceased to exist and even that a building had been put up over the graves. We on the Commission are most grateful for the assistance we have had, and we hope that when, in the future, other local authorities (as we know they are proposing to do) come to Parliament for similar powers, they will accept the protective clause in this Bill, and that it may become a precedent for inclusion in future legislation of this nature.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments and passed, and returned to the Commons.