§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Order of the Day read for the adjourned debate on the Motion for Second Reading of the Bill, moved on Wednesday, 7th February, by the Chairman of Committees.
THE CHAIRMAN or COMMITTEES (LORD MERTHYR)
My Lords, I wonder whether I might intervene very briefly to suggest to the House that the most convenient course this afternoon might well be that we should debate this Bill and the next Bill, the St. Peter's Church, Nottingham, Churchyard Bill, at the same time. The position is, of course, that there is an adjourned debate on the Second Reading Motion of the Bolton Bill, but as some of the points, though not all of them, in the two Bills are similar I thought it might be convenient, if your Lordships agree, that we should discuss all the points on the first Bill, and should proceed formally to pass the second, if that be the wish of the House. May I put forward that suggestion, in the hope that it might be a convenient course and save time this afternoon?
I shall speak very briefly because I had already spoken on the earlier Motion of the noble Lord, the Lord Chairman, when he introduced the Second Reading of the Bolton Bill. As the Lord Chairman has said, these two Bills are not entirely similar, though they both raise points which, to me at any rate, are somewhat disturbing. It is true to say that these Bills, which concern the liberation of burial grounds from the restrictions put on them by law, are nothing new; they have occurred again and again through the years. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that of recent years there has been something of a spate of them; and that has led me, and, I think, other Members of your Lordships' House, to consider the whole problem posed by this alteration of use.
My own attitude can be summed up under two heads. First, I feel considerable anxiety about the change of use of property which has been acquired by the community, given to the community by 1040 an individual, or purchased by the community for a communal use. It seems to me that such property must necessarily be treated somewhat differently from ordinary property. I am not one who would wish to anchor the past around the neck of the present, like the bird around the neck of the Ancient Mariner. None the less, I feel that where a community has, as I say, acquired or been given property for a communal purpose, we must be very vigilant when that purpose is changed. Again, I do not say that it is wrong that it should be changed, but I think that when a change is proposed it requires special consideration. I would suggest such property should be alienated or changed in its use only when the proposed change is one that would benefit a community as a whole.
My second point is concerned with planning. Both of these Bills have a model clause (in each case the penultimate clause) which makes the property involved subject to the Town Planning Acts—at least that is how I read it. I think, however, that there is a certain anxiety, because, as all your Lordships are aware, the effectiveness of action by planning authorities is constantly frustrated by economic facts. There are many things which planning authorities —no doubt this applies all over the country, though I know one authority better than others—would wish to do but which they are prevented from doing by the amount of compensation they would incur if they insisted on the plan they considered the most desirable. I am therefore anxious lest they may be forced by economic pressure, as it were, to vitiate their own plans and I wonder whether anything in these Bills might have the result of preventing free action by the planning authorities.
I wonder very much, particularly in the case of the Nottingham Bill, how the burial ground concerned is at present zoned. If it is zoned as public open space, as is usual, then it seems to me that probably the planning interest in the matter is satisfied, because I think that in that case the use of a permission to build can always be frustrated by the planning authority by reference back to the development plan on which these burial grounds would be marked as public open space. If, on the other hand, 1041 they are not so designated, I am very much afraid lest the local authority may find that the amount of compensation it will have to pay would prevent these areas being treated in a way which they believe to be to the public good.
This I feel more strongly about because, as I think I said on the previous occasion (I beg your Lordships' pardon if I am repeating myself, as I feel I am) these burial grounds, as indeed is evidenced by the fact that they are disused burial grounds, are in an old part of the town. We have this experience, of course, all over England, that the disused burial ground is the one which is near the centre, and these centres tend to be extremely congested areas and areas in which, therefore, these areas of open space, however small, are of infinitely greater value than their size would at first sight indicate. Therefore, I suggest it is very often, or would be very often, the desire of the planning authority to retain these open spaces.
Of course, if all that is wanted is to rearrange them for the better enjoyment of the public, then that is something entirely different. if, on the other hand, too, the planning authority has no objection to their development or even desires their development, or if, as I think is the case in the Nottingham Bill, there is provision for the giving up of some of the area for the widening of a road, then that is, it seems to me, all in the public interest. But if we are in fact by these Bills making the task of the planning authority more difficult, then I think that we must really think again and think very hard.
I do not know what kind of an answer I am going to get, and it is not my intention to-day to present your Lordships—and indeed it would, I think, though legitimate, be improper to present your Lordships—with a proposed direction to the Committee to which these Bills will be confided. But I should like to say that if the answer that I get is not satisfactory in my view, then I shall feel impelled to put on the Order Paper for a later date some direction to the Committee rather to this effect: that the Committee shall be directed to consider, especially in respect of Clause 5 in the St. Peter's Church, Nottingham, Churchyard Bill, whether the exercise of the powers proposed to 1042 be taken under this Bill would be in the public interest and whether the Bill does in any way frustrate or impede by financial considerations or in other ways the free exercise by the local authority concerned of its functions as a planning authority. I say this as a warning that if the answer I get does not seem to me to be satisfactory, this is a matter which seems to me to be of sufficient importance to bring up again to your Lordships' House.
§ 3.44 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWELL
My Lords, I do not intend to bore your Lordships with a speech, but as the Bishop immediately concerned I think that I ought perhaps to say just a word or two about the Nottingham Bill. I should have been in my place on the last occasion, but actually I arrived back from East Africa only that morning and I did not know the matter was coming up. I am not the promoter of this Bill. but if it should be passed by Parliament very heavy responsibility would rest on me with regard to the way in which the permissions contained in the Bill were exercised, and therefore I have had to go into it very carefully and, of course, to take the best legal and architectural advice that I could get. In consequence, though I have many qualms, I have found myself able to support the Bill.
The Bill involves important decisions both for the Church and far the City of Nottingham, and therefore I was very glad to find that your Lordships wanted to debate the Bill and to give it the benefit of your experience. If I may say so, I do not want to disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has just said. We are not thinking only about the Church, and I would never be a party to depriving the City of Nottingham of that oasis of dignity and beauty in the heart of the business area if I could help it. There has, of course, been careful consultation with the city before the Bill was drafted at all, and in the interests of the community itself I made certain stipulations before I was willing to encourage the incumbent to proceed with the Bill. But actually it was the City that started the whole business by wanting part of the land for road widening, and the Church had to do something.
1043 The only other point is that both to-day and on the previous occasion questions have been raised about the proposed new building on the churchyard site. May I just say this? On my own insistence the Bill contains a clause, Clause 6 (2), which brings any such building under faculty jurisdiction. That is all that Ecclesiastical Law could ask for, and that does at least give a certain power of veto even if it is confined to the Bishop and his chancellor; but of course it also gives opportunity for consultation with the best architectural opinion on what the council or anybody else would like. Though no human authority is infallible, not even planning authorities, I do think there are reasonably satisfactory safeguards in the Bill about those buildings. If, however, your Lordships think that they are not sufficient, it would surely be quite easy, if the House thinks right, to amend the Bill in Committee by inserting some clause to that effect. If your Lordships think that full value control ought specifically to be required, or any lesser state than that, then it would surely be easy for your Lordships to insert an Amendment to that effect on the Committee stage. In so far as that would give me rather stronger safeguards and a check on my own judgment, I should rather welcome it if it were done.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Faringdon has said, these Bills raise some important problems which I think it is right that we should discuss in your Lordships' House. To-day we are concerned with two of them; and there was a similar clause in the Manchester Corporation Bill, which we were discussing a week or two ago. I noticed it at the time, but I felt that we had already a sufficiently important assignment for discussion that afternoon without introducing then the question of disused burial grounds.
As the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has said, it is clear that we are likely to get more and more of these Bills, because there are many old and disused churchyards in the interior parts of cities and other built-up areas in which land values are very high. No doubt in many of these cases it would be most sensible, and in the interests of the community as a whole, that the land should be used 1044 in an economical way. I think that nobody would grudge to the Church, which on the whole spends its money reasonably well, at the present time at any rate, whatever may have been the case in the past, the opportunity of making use of this money in a more sensible way. The main matter which we had in mind at the beginning of these discussions was the one with which Lord Faringdon has dealt—namely, how far the provisions in the Town Planning Acts give control to the local planning authorities in respect of the use of land freed under Bills of this kind. I do not want to say more about that. I know that my noble friend Lord Silkin is also interested in this matter, and Lord Faringdon has made it quite clear. We are hoping that the Minister will be able to satisfy us on these points when he comes to express his opinion about them.
But in the case of the Nottingham Bill there is a quite different point which may from time to time be of importance, and it is the one to which the right reverend Prelate has referred: the historic and valuable architectural quality of the Church of St. Peter's in Nottingham. Nottingham is one of our most historic towns. As I understand it, it has two mediæval churches of considerable historic interest and architectural value, one of which is the Church of St. Peter which is the subject matter of the Bill before your Lordships to-day. It would certainly be a tragedy for Nottingham, which has only these two mediæval churches left out of a large number of fine churches which formerly existed in the town, if, as the result of the proposed building operations, either for additions to the church itself or to business premises, which I understand may be extended on to part of the land freed by this Bill, the architectural quality of the church were interfered with, possibly destroyed, certainly much reduced.
Undoubtedly, from information which has come to me, there is a good deal of anxiety about it in Nottingham itself. Indeed, I have been aproached by the Nottingham Civic Society to say that they are worried and anxious about the commercial building which I understand is the subject matter of negotiation if the Bill goes through. There is a chance 1045 of a branch of a well-known store purchasing part of the land on the South side of the church for the extension of their existing commercial accommodation in the city. Whether one ought to mention the name or not I am not quite sure—possibly not. They are a firm which has a good reputation in matters of this kind, and I am quite sure, from what I have heard, that they would be glad to discuss the whole problem.
But the Nottingham Civic Society would like to see the Royal Fine Art Commission brought into this. There is proposed in the Bill a biggish extension to the church itself by the church authorities, for the erection of a bookshop and other accommodation to use in the work of the church. Of course, if that can be done without any detriment la the architecture of the church it would be a good thing. I was most encouraged by what the right reverend Prelate said about the care which he had given to the matter and the architectural advice that he had obtained. But, after all, the Royal Fine Art Commission is the organisation which on this sort of occasion is properly brought in. I was not quite clear, from what he said, whether he would be prepared to support an Amendment to the Bill requiring that their advice should be taken.
I was encouraged by what he said about an Amendment to the Bill in Committee. As this Bill is not opposed, an Amendment of this kind must be made outside Parliamentary procedure by agreement between the Promoters and those who are interested. Then, if the Promoters are willing to accept some compromise of this kind, it can be put into the Bill by them. I was not quite sure from what the right reverend Prelate said whether he would support some plan of that kind. I greatly hope that his mind is working in that direction, because, obviously, with his support something of that kind might well be done. If it cannot be done, I, like my noble friend Lord Faringdon, reserve my right to try to do something at a later stage.
The only other point which I think one ought to make is: are we satisfied that we have adequate procedure for having matters of this kind brought to our attention? As Lord Faringdon said, and as I myself said at the beginning 1046 of my speech, we are likely to have more and more Bills of this kind. While, in many cases, as in the case of the Bolton Bill, probably no historic interest or architectural value is disturbed, in quite a number of them this may not be so.
It is interesting to note that one of the occasions on which there was a considerable dispute as to a mandatory direction—the history of which we were going into in connection with the Manchester Corporation Bill a week or two ago—was the case of St. Olave's, Southwark, where Lord Bryce moved a mandatory instruction because the disused burial ground there was a most important historical site, as well as being a little bit of open land in a congested part of London. By a large majority in your Lordships' House it was decided that that area ought to be kept open. But in that case, and in this case, and in other cases of the same kind, we rely on the vigilance of individual Peers or on the activities of local organisations like the Nottingham Civic Society to have these matters brought to our attention. I am wondering whether possibly the Lord Chairman of Committees, who takes these matters so much to heart and gives such conscientious consideration to them, might be able to invent some sort of procedure under which points of this kind could be specifically brought to our attention when the Second Reading of such Bills is moved. I am referring to Bills in relation to some matter which is of more than just mere local importance, but where great and valuable historic interests are concerned, as they are with these very fine mediæval churches, which are the heritage not only of the citizens of Nottingham but of the people of the country as a whole.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, the Promoters of the Independent Chapel Bill have asked me to say a few words on it. I have no doubt that, so far as Bolton is concerned, I can fulfil the two criteria which the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, suggested should be applied to Bills of this nature. There is a very distinct difference, I think, between the two Bills. So far as Bolton is concerned, the original trust setting up the chapel and the adjoining ground, which was used for burial ground, was created in 1047 the year 1809, and in 1854 burials there were discontinued. A short time after, in 1870, the original chapel was demolished and a new chapel was built, which took in all the area of the original chapel together with all the area of the burial ground. Whether or not this was a particularly sanitary thing to do is not a matter for us to decide. At all events, the good people of Bolton seem not to have worried about it in any way at that time or since.
By 1959 the circumstances in this part of Bolton had changed. It is a factor which all religious denominations have to consider that the nature of a particular area changes considerably with the passing of time, and I am informed that the church had been materially depleted in membership, that this part of Bolton was no longer the residential area it had been, that new areas were being built on what had been the fringes of the town, and therefore it was important that the Independent Communion, the Congregational Union, should cater for the people in the new areas rather than maintain chapels in the old areas where they were no longer required. At this time, in 1959, at a special meeting of the members of the church, the Lancashire Congregational Union Incorporated was invested as the trust corporation to deal with the particular property at Mawdsley Street.
After due consideration the Congregational Union decided to put the premises up for sale, and they were put into the hands of a firm of auctioneers in Bolton. At this particular moment they were advised that, by reason of Section 3 of the Disused Burial Grounds Act, 1884, there is a prohibition against the erection of any buildings upon a disused burial ground, except for the purposes of a church, chapel, meeting house or other place of worship. That meant they had to proceed with a Bill of this nature. One of the possible purchasers applied to the local authority in Bolton for permission to use the premises for other purposes, and on March 30, 1961, conditional approval was given by the County Borough of Bolton for the purposes for which this particular applicant desired to operate the land and premises. One of the conditions of the conditional approval was that the existing premises should be completely demolished and, 1048 of course, that detailed building plans should be submitted to, and approved by, the council before any development was undertaken.
Furthermore, your Lordships will recall that the Lord Chairman gave his view on this question at an earlier stage of this Bill, when he said that nothing in the Bill exempts the land from the general law relating to Town and Country Planning. I gather that that is also the Ministry's point of view, and, so far as they have any opinion on this matter, it is also the point of view of the Promoters. But if it is found not to be so, then the Promoters are very ready to agree to an amendment of the Bill during the Committee stage. My Lords, this Bill has also been considered by the Attorney General, whose report says that in fact he has no objection, subject to one Amendment relating to Clause 6, which Amendment, again in Committee, the Promoters are prepared to accept. It is an Amendment which does not at all deal with the substance of the matter; it deals with records of removals of human remains; and, as I have said, they are prepared to agree to that at the Committee stage.
Your Lordships will see that this is a very different case from the one which I think the noble Lords, Lord Faringdon and Lord Chorley, had in mind—that is to say, where there was an open space in the middle of a town. There is no open space; the land is covered by what one might call a derelict chapel, derelict in the sense that it is no longer being used for public worship. I would suggest to your Lordships that in these days it is most desirable that organisations like the Lancashire Congregational Church Union should have the power of disposing of chapels in areas where they are no longer required, in order that the funds may be applied to erecting, or helping in the erection of, chapels in areas where they are required.
The only other point to which I think I ought to draw your Lordships' attention is this. As I have said already, the planning control in this Bill is completely in the hands of the local authorities. In the other Bill, the Nottingham Bill, there is some restriction on the powers of the local authorities; but here there is no restriction whatsoever. The local authorities will have exactly the same powers 1049 with regard to planning permission for any building which may be erected on this site when the chapel is demolished as they would over any other piece of land in the country. I would suggest, therefore, in view of those facts, that this Bill should be given a Second Reading.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am sure we are all obliged to my noble friend Lord Faringdon for having raised this general question. I do not know how many cases of alienation of burial grounds we have had before us—I cannot think we have had a great many—but I think it is right that we should just spend a short time in seeing where we are going. Burial grounds constitute a form of open space, and before we build on them or alienate them for some other purpose I think it is right that the matter should be very carefully examined.
My noble friend went a little further. I think he indicated that any trust which had been formed for the purpose of public use should remain in public use for all time. That, I think, is stretching the doctrine a little far, because there is provision in law for the case where a trust has been constituted and its purpose has come to an end: it is open to interested parties to go to the courts and have the purposes of the trust changed, and the courts will readily do so.
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will excuse me. I should not dream of differing from him on that point, but, when you go to the courts for permission to alter the object of a trust whose original purpose has become obsolete, the courts will order you to use it for something similar; therefore, presumably, also for a charitable purpose.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, my noble friend is very familiar with the cy-près doctrine, but I think that does not conflict with the generality of what I am saying: that in the normal course of events you go to the court, and the court will carry out as best it can the purpose or spirit of the trust. In the case of burial grounds you do not go to the courts, because of the Disused Burial 1050 Grounds Act; you go to Parliament. It is for Parliament to make up its mind as to whether the alternative use which is being suggested is right. I should have thought that the right course was to leave it to the Select Committee to make its decision. I do not think that we can profitably in this House—
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, is the noble Lord right in saying that it will go to a Select Committee, if it is unopposed?
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, it is for the Chairman to answer that. I thought that it went to the Select Committee. The Select Committee, if it is unopposed, will of course have to do the best it can without the advice of those who might have had something to say on it. But I would trust the Select Committee to go through these Bills clause by clause, and I am sure they will be vigilant about any suggestion of depriving the public of any land of which it has the benefit. In my view, this is a general principle, and when you set up Select Committees to examine Bills you should have confidence in those Select Committees and not clutter them up with instructions and directions, but leave them free to make up their own minds on what is the right course to adopt.
I can understand that if there is a big question of principle involved it may cause this House to say that we ought not to give a Second Reading to a Bill. It may be that that question of principle was involved in a recent measure that came before us. I myself would have disputed that; nevertheless, I can understand noble Lords taking the view that in that case there was so vital a question of principle involved that it ought not to go to a Committee. But in the case of these two Bills no such principle arises, and I should have thought that the proper course was to let them go to a Committee. I hope that my noble friend will not carry out his threat to put down an instruction to that Committee.
The other question with which I am very much concerned is that of town planning. If these disused burial grounds are alienated, it is vital that the freedom of the local authority to form a judgment on how the land should be 1051 used shall be completely unfettered. It seems to have been taken for granted—I do not know on what authority—that that is the case. To take the Bolton Bill first, if noble Lords will look at Clause 7 of that Bill they will see that there is a provision there which says:This Act shall be deemed to be an enactment passed before and in force at the passing of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, for the purpose of subsection (4) of section 13 and subsection (1) of section 118 of that Act.Curiously enough, the other Bill contains exactly the same provision. It seems to be common form. I do not want to be academic about it, but these clauses in the Bills seem to say, in effect, that you must regard these Bills as if they were passed before the days of town planning. Therefore, I should have thought that there would be no jurisdiction on the part of the local authority to exercise its town planning powers.
Perhaps I may read to the House Section 13 (4) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and noble Lords may judge for themselves.For the purpose of enabling development to be carried out in accordance with permission granted under this Part of this Act, or otherwise for the purpose of promoting proper development in accordance with the development plan, a development order may direct that any enactment passed before the passing of this Act"—and that is what this Bill asks us to do; to assume that it was passed before the passing of this Act—or any regulations … shall not apply to any development specified in the order, or shall apply thereto subject to such modifications as may be so specified.I do not say that that is conclusive, but at least it enables the developers to argue that the purpose of the inclusion of this provision in the Bill is to oust the jurisdiction of the town planning authority. I can see no other purpose of putting in this clause and treating this Bill as if it had been passed before the days of the 1947 Act. I should hope, therefore, that with the strong expression of opinion from all quarters of the House that this land should be subject to town planning control, the Committee will very carefully examine this, and if, in their wisdom, they feel that the purpose of this clause is to deprive the local authority of its town planning powers, they may think 1052 it right to eliminate this particular provision. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, went so far as to say that he had been advised that the intention of the Promoters of the Bill was that there should be planning control, and that it was their belief that planning control had not been ousted. They have taken very good care to see that it was ousted, with this clause in the Bill.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, this was specifically stated by the Lord Chairman in this House on the 7th February. I must admit that, in view of that statement, I had assumed that there would be no objection. What he said was [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 237 (No. 33), col. 61]:nothing in the Bill exempts the land from the general law relating to town and country planning ",and it had not occurred to me that there was any doubt. If there is any doubt, I am sure the Government will give their view upon it.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I hope have at least aroused some doubt in the Mind of the noble Lord, by reading this clause in the Bill; and it is in the Nottingham Bill as well. I will not put it any higher than that it raises a very strong doubt, and, in my view, so strong a doubt that it ought to be eliminated and ought not to be open to possible legal interpretation hereafter. If one were trying to amend this Bill at this stage, or were discussing giving directions to the Committee, I would gladly have given such a direction, but, having raised the point and dealt with it, I am quite confident that the Select Committee, when they come to examine this Bill, will in fact consider this particular point.
§ 4.20 p.m.
My Lords, may I intervene before the noble Lord finishes his speech? May I interrupt now —I did not want to do so in the middle of his speech—on this one point of whether this Bill will go before a Select Committee? I think the noble Lord would like that point cleared up. Normally an unopposed Bill is not sent to a Select Committee, but there are occasions when, for various reasons, it is desirable to make an exception to the general rule and to 1053 send a Bill to a Select Committee. For example, if any of your Lordships (and I have in mind the noble Lord, Lord Chorley) wanted to move an Amendment to either of these Bills now, and if that Amendment was not agreed to by the Promoters, that, in my judgment, would be a sound reason for referring the Bill to a Select Committee—which, as I say, is not the normal routine. My Lords, by Standing Orders I am given the power to refer any Private Bill to a Select Committee, and I have quoted one example of the sort of case in which I would do so; but I wanted to inform the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that such a Bill does not normally go before a Select Committee because it is an unopposed Bill.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, since the noble Lord has merely interrupted my speech, may I ask him for his guidance on this? I did not want to put down an Amendment to this Bill, and in any event I do not know whether I should be in order on Second Reading, or what opportunity I may have of putting down any Amendment; but if he now tells me that this point would not have been considered in the normal course of events but would go by default, then I think that in this case the point ought to be considered by somebody and some ruling given before the Bill becomes law. I do not know whether or not, in spite of what he says, the noble Lord has jurisdiction to take these two particular Bills to the Select Committee on the points that have been raised during this discussion. If he has, that would satisfy me.
My Lords, if I may say one more word, this particular point of the planning law will, I understand, be dealt with by the Minister, who is to speak next. Therefore, I am not going to attempt to deal with that point. I am dealing merely with this question of the Select Committee, and I can only repeat that if, as a result of this debate to-day, I am of the opinion that points have arisen necessitating further discussion on one or more of these Bills, then I shall consider very carefully whether they ought to be referred to a Select Committee; and no doubt I should have consultations before coming to a decision.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, at an earlier stage in our discussion, and still to-day, some doubt has been raised as to whether the planning authorities will have jurisdiction over any development which is proposed upon the sites of these burial grounds. I am not surprised that doubt has existed about it, because the Bills are not drafted in a way which makes their interpretation particularly easy at first glance, especially those clauses which begin, "Notwithstanding anything contained in any enactment …" However, that is in fact modified by the second last clause in each Bill, which provides that they are to be interpreted as if they had been passed before the passing of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947.
My noble friend Lord Silkin has referred to one section which enables the Minister to make Orders, but the general provision is, I think, in Clause 118 of the Act of 1947, which says:For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that the provisions of this Act, and any restrictions or powers thereby imposed or conferred in relation to land, apply and may be exercised in relation to any land notwithstanding that provision is made by any enactment in force at the passing of this Act … for authorising or regulating any development of the land.So it seems to be clear that the planning authority will have unlimited power.
§ LORD SILKIN
May I interrupt the noble Lord? It is very interesting for him and me to have this legal argument about it, and, fortunately, it does not cost the Bolton owners of the churchyard any money; but if we had to have this legal argument outside, it might cost them a lot of money. I would ask this: what is the purpose of having a clause in a Bill saying that this must be interpreted as if it were passed before the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, if, as my noble friend is now telling us, it has no effect and it makes no difference, and if Section 118 of the 1947 Act, which can have no bearing on this because it is to be presumed that this was passed before the 1947 Act, is still in force? I just fail to understand it.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, I do not want to pursue this legal argument, but I feel satisfied that the position is as I have stated it. However, I do not object to that being investigated by a Select Committee. But 1055 the point I do want to raise is this. This question came before us originally at the instance of the Lord Chairman of Committees, who very properly thought it right to point out to the House that these two Bills, and also the Manchester Corporation Bill, were proposing to dispense with the restrictions which are imposed by Statute upon the use of disused burial grounds—and this is a very important point. If Bills are going to come before this House, and perhaps before the other place—I do not know, but there may be some there, too—at the rate of three a year, which Bills are going to dispense with the general provisions of our law relating to the use of disused burial grounds, and if they are going to go through, the question arises whether the proper means of dealing with this is not by an amendment of the Statute relating to burial grounds, and not by piecemeal legislation of this kind at all.
That is a point which somebody ought to consider, because it is not right that general statutory provisions should be negatived in this way as a rule. If there are some special and exceptional grounds for doing so in relation to one particular burial ground, then one can see that it is a matter for Private legislation: but if there are no really special circumstances relating to these burial grounds, except that they are in fact disused and they are in the centre of a town or city of considerable size, then it is, in effect, a means of amending the general law with regard to this matter, and it ought not to be done in this way.
§ LORD MAcANDREW
My Lords, may I ask the Lord Chairman this question? Many unopposed Private Bills get through this House without any discussion at all, and the same happens on Third Reading. If there is no Committee stage, are they not discussed by anybody? Are they never looked at?
My Lords, the answer is that every Private Bill, like every Public Bill, has a Committee Stage, but only opposed Private Bills have their Committee stage before a Select Committee upstairs. The others do not. But in the case of every Private Bill, the Preamble has to be proved by the Promoters, and therefore there is a Committee Stage for every Private Bill.
§ LORD MAcANDREW
I beg your Lordships' pardon; I thought the noble Lord said there is no Committee stage.
In the case of unopposed Private Bills, normally there is no Committee stage before a Select Committee upstairs, but there is nevertheless always a Committee stage. As your Lordsips can see time after time in the Minutes and Orders of the Day, they are referred to an Unopposed Bill Committee. If your Lordships will look at to-day's Minutes you will see about five Bills (that number is a guess) which have been referred to Unopposed Bill Committees. The noble Lord, Lord MacAndrew, will see that for himself if he looks at to-day's Order Paper.
A representative of the Promoters, on oath, proves the Preamble to the Unopposed Bill Committee.
If the noble Lord will look at to-day's Order Paper, towards the end he will see a Notice about forthcoming Committees, and he will see that six Bills have been referred to the Unopposed Bills Committee, and the dates of the meetings are set out on to-day's Order Paper.
§ LORD MAcANDREW
But, my Lords, whether it is an Unopposed Bill Committee or a Select Committee, who proves the Preamble?
My Lords, I thought I had just said. A representative of the Promoters is called before the Committee, and he proves on oath the Preamble.
§ LORD MAcANDREW
What I am trying to find out is who comprise this Committee, and where does the Committee sit in the case of an Unopposed Bill?
My Lords, the Committee is the Unopposed Bills Committee, and it sits in the Moses Room.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, before my noble friend replies, could he tell us whether the effect of Clause 5 would be to obscure unduly the southern aspect of St. Peter's Church?
My Lords, there is one small aspect of both these Bills which seems in danger of escaping notice. In both these cases these grounds represent the assets of a Christian body; the church in one case, and a chapel organisation in another. In both cases they wish to re-deploy those assets in directions where new assets are very badly needed—new churches, new housing areas, and so on. If, in the interests of the preservation of public space, these bodies are going to be made to maintain these particular assets as open spaces, it is putting on the church or chapel respectively the burden for providing public amenities which should more rightly and properly fall on the general citizens of those cities.
My Lords, for the noble Lord's information, it is always possible for the church authorities to hand over a burial ground to the care of the local authority.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I do not know- whether the noble Lord is going to deal with this point, but I should like to follow up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord MacAndrew. What course is open to us here if we feel that the attention of the Unopposed Bills Committee ought to be directed towards something that we have discussed, and how can we ensure that that is so? For instance, will this point which I have raised on planning be brought to the notice of the Committee; and is it open to the Committee to seek further information?
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to deal with that point in my speech in reply to the debate? It would save my interrupting too much, and I will try to do it then.
§ 4.35 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, fools rush in where angels fear to tread; and the longer this debate has gone on this afternoon, the rasher it has seemed to be to venture on to this contentious ground, where even some lawyers may have feared to tread. First of all, perhaps I should explain why it is necessary to seek these powers by Private Bill. Under the Disused Burial Grounds Act, 1884, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, building is prohibited on a disused burial ground except for enlarging a place of worship, and except in the case of a burial ground sold or disposed of under the authority of an Act of Parliament. That is why Private Bills are needed in these cases; and to that extent, at least, a communal property of this nature is subject, as the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has urged that it should be, to very special consideration.
There are, I think, two main questions at issue before your Lordships this afternoon. The first, and more general one, concerns the appropriate use of former burial grounds. The second, and more technical one, concerns the extent to which the redevelopment of former burial grounds should or should not escape the mesh of general planning controls. There is a third set of highly technical issues to which my noble friend the Lord Chairman of Committees will no doubt be referring in a moment.
On the general issue, my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government takes the view that it might well be desirable to put to other and appropriate use burial grounds which have ceased to be used for interments. This is surely better than that they should be allowed to become neglected and unsightly. But whether it is right to put any particular burial ground to some particular use, be it for open space or for some other form of development, and when is the right time to do this, are questions which, in my right honourable friend's opinion, must inevitably depend upon the local circumstances of each case. I shall be coming back in a moment, if I may, to 1059 the particular arguments regarding open space, which the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, deployed.
As regards planning controls, I feel that it would perhaps be useful if I were to give a word of general explanation before turning to the particular circumstances of these two Private Bills. In general, the authorisation of development by a Private Bill does not normally remove that Bill from the scope of town and country planning legislation. If, because of the drafting of the Bill, there seems any danger that it might be so, a common form saving clause for town and country planning is usually included, to leave no doubt that the development will be subject to planning control. These savings are to be found in Clause 7 of the Bolton Bill, and in Clause 9 of the Nottingham Bill.
On that, all I would say is that I entirely agree with what I understood to be the interpretation which the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, placed on those particular common form clauses. They are meant to make Section 118 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, bite. That, as I understand it, is their intention. Why it is done in that roundabout way I am not certain. All I can say is that this particular form of drafting was, I understand, worked out by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, presumably under the ægis of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, soon after the 1947 Act was passed; and that formula has been generally agreed and is used in Private Bills.
It is often the case, however, when a Bill authorises a specific project on a specific site, that the planning issue is the primary question that has to be considered by Parliament. A typical case, not unfamiliar to your Lordships, would be the proposal in a Private Bill for the building of a dam or the construction of a reservoir. In such circumstances, it would be manifestly absurd for the Promoters of the Bill, having obtained the approval of Parliament, probably after full and careful consideration by the appropriate Committee, to have to go back to seek a planning permission all over again from the local planning authority.
To meet this difficulty Class XII of the First Schedule to the Town and Country 1060 Planning General Development Order, 1950, provides that the permission of the local planning authority shall not be required for development authorised by a Private Act which designates specifically the nature of the development and the land upon Which it may be carried out. It reserves to the local planning authority, however, a jurisdiction in such cases over the design and external appearance of buildings and certain other structures, which are laid down in Class X, and their precise position on the site where they are to be erected. The effect of this—and, indeed, the purpose—is to avoid any clash between the decisions of Parliament and the decisions of the local planning authority. To the extent that Parliament is asked and is able to consider the planning issues involved in a proposal, they are removed from the jurisdiction of the local planning authority, with the exception I have just mentioned. Where the Bill is in more general terms, so that Parliament is unable to deal satisfactorily with the planning issue, or where it is unnecessary for Parliament so to do, planning permission has to be obtained from the local planning authority, who are free to deal with the application in the normal way.
In practice, I understand that the consideration by Parliament of the planning issue in any particular case has not presented any special difficulty. The Ministry for which I am speaking always consider the planning implications of any development proposed in a Private Bill of this nature and would, if necessary, refer to them in their report; and the local planning authority themselves could, if they so wished, petition against it. A prudent Promoter will, of course, discuss the matter with the local planning authority and put himself in the position of being able to assure the Committee on the Bill that the planning issue has been cleared with them. So much for the general principles involved here. I think that the two Bills before your Lordships' House this afternoon are, in fact, pretty good examples of the way in which these principles apply in practice.
Your Lordships will note that the Bolton Bill (if I may use that "shorthand" phrase) does not specifically state the nature of the development 1061 which is to take place on the site. The development, therefore, does not fall within the scope of Class XII of the General Development Order, and it is necessary, before it can take place, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made clear, for planning permission to be obtained in the ordinary way from the local planning authority. In fact, this has already been done on behalf of the trustees of the chapel. I am informed that the site is in an area zoned for business purposes in the Development Plan, and the Bolton Corporation have issued a planning permission for its development by the erection of shops, showrooms and offices.
The Nottingham Bill is rather more complicated, since the development proposed falls into three parts. As will be seen from the relevant clauses of the Bill, it is proposed that the southern part of the site should be used for unspecified development. In that respect, it is in precisely the same position in law as that to which the Bolton Bill refers. Any development carried out here on the southern part, to the south of St. Peter's Church, will, therefore, require planning permission from the local planning authority in the normal way. However, the western part of the site is to be used for street improvements, and the northern part for the building of a vestry, church hall and religious bookshop, or other suitable building to be authorised by the Consistory Court, as the right reverend Prelate made clear. Since on those parts of the site the form of development is specifically designated in the Bill, Class XII of the General Development Order will apply and the local planning authority's jurisdiction will be limited. However, my right honourable friend has looked into the position, as he and his Ministry always do, and he is informed that the Nottingham Corporation are fully aware of what is proposed in the Bill and of the extent of the jurisdiction which will be left to them. It is my understanding that the Corporation are quite content with the position. For his part, my right honourable friend sees no reason to object to what is proposed.
I think that there have been three specific issues raised by noble Lords with regard to the Nottingham Bill, and 1062 perhaps I may take them one by one. The first was the question of compensation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, referred. I am advised—and this applies to both Bills—that if planning permission were refused, or the developments sought were refused, no claim for compensation would arise, because there is no Part VI claim. Therefore, there need be no inhibitions on Parliament or on the planning authority in that respect.
Secondly, there is the important issue of open spaces, to which the noble Lord also referred. I would submit that that issue is also safeguarded in both these Bills. In the case of the Bolton Bill and that part of the Nottingham Bill where there is no specific designation of the proposed development, the planning authorities' full powers are in no wise impaired. Therefore, in deciding whether to grant permission, the planning authority can take full account of the need for open spaces and decide whether or not, in their view, these particular sites should be used far open spaces.
My Lords, it could be. I am afraid that I am not so intimately acquainted with the details of the site as the noble Lord certainly is.
My Lords, I would submit to the expertise of the noble Lord on that, but I think that what I was saying would apply to the one-third of the St. Peter's site, if the noble Lord will grant me that.
As for the position which arises when there is a specific designation, I think that the open spaces aspect is also safeguarded in two ways. In the first place, as I have already said, my right honourable friend if necessary consults the 1063 local authority concerned before reporting on any Bill, and he reports on any Bill which raises any issues considered worth reporting on. If that local authority were concerned with space which could be used if open space were being lost, and if my right honourable friend endorsed that view, then that consideration would be brought to the attention of the appropriate committee in the report of my Minister.
There is, of course, a second safeguard—namely, that if the local planning authority are seriously concerned about that particular issue they can petition against the Bill. There are, therefore, I would submit, two fairly firm safeguards, even when an area is specifically designated. Of course, I would not in any way minimise the importance of safeguarding open space wherever necessary. But in that respect, I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, that the target for open space which we aim to achieve for development plans is of the order of 6 acres per 1,000 population. Unfortunately, in heavily populated and urbanised districts that target figure is not always achieved. However, in the cases of both Nottingham and Bolton it has been exceeded: in Nottingham it is 6.2 acres and in Bolton 9.1 acres per 1,000 population.
My Lords, this is most interesting, and the House will forgive me if I ask the noble Earl a further question. Is that for the whole of the city of Nottingham or for any particular area? It makes a difference.
Yes, it does. It is for the whole city of Nottingham and for the whole of Bolton. I hope I have dealt with at least some of the points which have been raised in this debate this afternoon, but my noble friend the Lord Chairman of Committees will also be answering and dealing with the more legal aspects of this subject which more intimately concern him. There was one point put by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, on the question of the architectural merits of St. Peter's Church, Nottingham. The position there is that the local planning authority will in fact retain full control over the architectural details of all the development; and they will doubtless consider in that the ques- 1064 tion of the southern aspect which was put to me by my noble friend the Duke of Atholl.
If these Bills are now given a Second Reading, the Lord Chairman of Committees will be able to inquire into these matters more fully than is perhaps possible in a debate on the Floor of your Lordships' House. I am sure my noble friend will have taken careful note of what has been said in the debate this afternoon, and he will wish to bear this all in mind when he comes to examine the Bill. In addition, the Promoters of the Bills will no doubt come full prepared to answer any questions which he may wish to ask them, and a representative of my Ministry will be present also to answer questions on the basis of the information available to us.
In conclusion, I hope that what I have said will assure your Lordships that, in practice, the planning issues which arise in cases of this sort are properly resolved and are not allowed to go by default. It is, of course, very important that they should not do so. As regards the two particular Private Bills which your Lordships have been discussing, I should myself have no hesitation in recommending, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, did, that they be given a Second Reading, in the full confidence that before they are finally passed the Lord Chairman will have satisfied himself that the planning considerations which they raise will have been fully examined.
My Lords, before the noble Earl finishes, could he answer one short question? Supposing that the Nottingham Corporation had wished to withhold permission for the building on the portion of the site which it is proposed to sell outright, would any compensation have fallen to be paid or not?
I do not want to give inaccurate information on that point. It is my understanding that no compensation would have fallen to be paid, but I should like to safeguard myself by saying that it is merely my understanding.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, may I also ask the noble Earl a question? It is a little difficult to follow these things, especially as the noble Earl 1065 referred to the different portions of the Nottingham site by their orientation instead of by the colours which are mentioned in the Bill. Am I correct in deducing from his remarks that the two sites which are referred to in Clause 6 of the Nottingham Bill are given planning permission by the Bill, subject merely to the planning authority's having the right to look at details of the elevation and other features of the building to be put up? If that is the interpretation, it is a little unfortunate as a piece of drafting, because we have in effect got a triple negative into the Bill, in that the provision in the penultimate clause is apparently displaced by some words in this clause which say, "Subject to the provisions of this Act". It is an extremely complicated form of drafting, and I think somebody should try to devise a simpler method of doing it.
My Lords, I must apologise for confusing the noble Lord by using the points of the compass rather than the colouring given in the Bill. I am afraid I did that because in the map which I was looking at this morning the green portion was cross-hatched in blue and I found that even more confusing. In answer to the noble Lord's direct question to me, it is my understanding that the part covered in Clause 6 of the Bill, which is yellow and pink, would be subject to only the more limited form of planning permission which is covered by Class XII of the General Development Order, 1950. But that does not remove that part of the Bill from the general ambit of town and country planning, because Class XII forms part of the General Development Order, 1950, which flows directly from the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend one question?—and I am sorry to do so because he has had so many interruptions. Am I right in assuming that the land affected by these two Bills is entirely consecrated land, and that if these Bills get a Second Reading, then by Act of Parliament that land will be deconsecrated?
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWELL
A churchyard remains a churchyard, but some of the land concerned in the Bill is church property, although not consecrated ground. What is enclosed in the churchyard wall, however, will not be freed from consecration. I did not draw it up—it is very complicated —but that is my understanding of the matter.
§ 5.0 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to begin by echoing the words of the noble Earl who spoke for the Government when he said he was sure that I would look most carefully at the OFFICIAL REPORT of this debate and study all the points that have been made. I can give your Lordships an undertaking that that will be so, and that if there remain, as well there may, any points upon which your Lordships are not satisfied, I will consider what steps I ought to take in order to bring them further before the House.
Your Lordships will appreciate, if you study the Standing Orders on Private Bills, that there are quite a variety of steps which are open to me in order to effect this purpose. I can, for example, refer a Private Bill to a Committee of the Whole House, as I said I might do in the case of the Manchester Bill the other day. I can also refer a Private Bill, even if it be unopposed, to a Select Committee, and there are various other methods designed to ensure—and I think there are sufficient of them—that a Bill does not pass through the House and go to another place before it has been properly considered. All that is arranged having due regard to Parliamentary time. We do not want to take up unnecessarily Parliamentary time which might be devoted to Public Bills of greater importance. But I think I can assure your Lordships that careful attention will be paid to all these points.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, before the noble Lord proceeds from that point, may I ask him whether he will bear in mind that these two Promoters are in fact religious bodies, and that while, of course, every possible precaution in the public interest must be taken, if there is a cheaper course to take I would ask him to take it, because this has already put them to great expense and, 1067 as he knows, there is not a great deal of money provided to deal with questions of this nature.
My Lords, I will certainly give an undertaking to bear that in mind. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that it is a material point to be considered.
May I say next that I hope the House will be content if I rely upon what has been said by the noble Earl behind me in dealing with the planning points which have been raised? If that is not so, naturally I shall be glad to try to go into these afterwards. But the noble Earl has greater knowledge of them than I, and I hope your Lordships will be satisfied with what he has said. May I say only this about planning, referring to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon? I think he said that these Bills were making the task of planning more difficult.
My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I did not say they were making the task more difficult; I said that I wanted to be sure that they were not—at least, that is what I meant to say.
I accept the noble Lord's correction entirely. But if the noble Lord was minded to say that, I should like to point out this fact to him: in the case of both these Bills the planning authorities have not thought it proper to oppose them. They could easily have come here. They are not in the same position as religious bodies. Most planning authorities have sufficient funds to oppose a Private Bill if they think it necessary or desirable. I do not think it is altogether insignificant that neither of these planning authorities, each of whom has the care of a substantial town, has deemed it necessary to come to Parliament and oppose these Bills. They could so easily have done so had they wished.
I would again point out this. The noble Earl said that if there is something in one of these Bills that is objectionable on planning grounds, that can be, and very likely will be, dealt with by the Government Department concerned in presenting to this House their report on these Bills. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government will inevitably make a report on both of these Bills. 1068 The time has not arrived for the report to be received yet, but it can, and I have no doubt will, deal with any points which occur to that Department, whether they be in support of the Bill or against it. So there is that additional safeguard which should be not forgotten.
The noble Lord also mentioned that he had in mind possibly to move an Instruction to the Committee which deals with this Bill. I should like to say only this. There is nothing improper about that; there is nothing out of order about it. The noble Lord can certainly do so, if he so chooses. I did not want him to spring it upon the House to-day and ask the House to divide on his Instruction this afternoon: that would have been taking the House by surprise. On the other hand, it would be perfectly proper, if he thought it necessary, for him to put down on the Order Paper notice that he would move an Instruction to the Committee dealing with the Bill. That would be taken no doubt in a week or two; and, because the Bill is unopposed, there is plenty of time. It is for the noble Lord to say whether he wishes to do that or not. Perhaps he would have a word with me afterwards and we might discuss it.
Questions have been asked about the procedure for drawing the attention of your Lordships' House to Private Bills in cases where attention ought to be so drawn. Let me start by saying that of course there are a number of Private Bills with which the House does not want to be troubled. But, be it remembered, the proper machinery is gone through just the same in respect of every Bill. Earlier this afternoon I moved the Third Reading of a Private Bill, and I think that was one which falls into the category with which, as I say, the House does not want particularly to be troubled. Nevertheless, all the Rules are observed in passing it through this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said that he might want to move an Amendment with regard to the question of consultation with the Royal Fine Art Commission about the buildings to be erected in Nottingham. I should be glad to help the noble Lord on that, if he wishes to do it. If he would let me know exactly what he wants to do, I will undertake that in any event the Pro- 1069 moters will be consulted, and then it depends upon whether the Promoters are in agreement with him or otherwise. If the Promoters are in agreement with him, the matter is quite easy, and either an agreed Amendment can be inserted in the Bill in Committee or perhaps an undertaking may be sufficient. An undertaking given by the Promoters of Private Bills is often considered to be of equivalent value to an Amendment. But that is another matter which the noble Lord and I can discuss later on if need be.
Now I come to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I think he wanted to ask: what can the House really do to alter these Private Bills in certain circumstances if they are unopposed Bills, as is the case to-day? As I have hinted already, there are several things noble Lords can do. May I say that, as a last resort, if all else fails an Amendment can be put down and moved on Third Reading. There is a Standing Order which provides machinery for doing that and regulates it, which of itself proves the fact that it can be done. It is true that it is seldom done; nevertheless, there is that ultimate safeguard available to your Lordships if you cannot obtain satisfaction by any other means, and then you can test the feeling of the whole House by putting down an Amendment on Third Reading. I am not encouraging any noble Lord to do that, but I thought perhaps it might be helpful if I said that it could be done. That, I hope, is the main answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, with which I promised to deal now rather than earlier. The noble Lord thought that all these Bills were referred to Select Committees. I think I have explained already that that is not so in the case of unopposed Bills unless, as I have said, they are referred to a Select Committee by me for some good reason, which occasionally happens.
The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, if I may go back to his speech for a moment, said that he was not satisfied with this procedure for drawing the special attention of the House to certain Bills. May I remind him that on February 7 I made a statement under Standing Order 91 which is specially drafted to deal with just this point? If there is any purpose for this Standing Order at all, and I 1070 think there is, it is to do just that: to draw the special attention of the House to one or two Private Bills when occasion demands. As in the case of other things, it is not wise for me to draw special attention to too many Private Bills. If I do, the reaction of your Lordships is apt to diminish. I did, however, draw special attention to these two Bills, and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, was quite fair when he complained that there is an absence of machinery for so doing.
May I also remind you that in the case of every single Private Bill the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House, which are many and which have just been revised and brought up to date, are very strictly enforced. The Examiners examine every Private Bill and report at once if a single one of the Standing Orders is not complied with; and I should like to point out to the noble Lord that included in the Standing Orders are those made to ensure that any property owner or any individual who has an interest which may be affected by the Private Bill shall receive proper notice of it in good time. That is all in the Standing Orders.
I am saying this to-day because several times lately—I am referring to the debate on the Manchester Bill—there have been complaints that notice has not been served in sufficient time. I am satisfied —it is my duty to be satisfied—that these Standing Orders are strictly complied with; and if there are any of these Orders which, in respect of time or any other reason, are not satisfactory, they can be altered by the Standing Orders Committee or by the whole House. In respect of these two Bills I am satisfied that all the Standing Orders have been complied with.
The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, brought up the question of whether there should be public legislation dealing with the question of burial grounds. It is not for me to say what the answer to that question should be. It is a matter of policy, and public legislation is not within my province. But I should like to say this to him, if I may: that in the absence of public legislation, individuals and other bodies in the country are fully entitled to come to your Lordships' House and promote a Private Bill, which means that they are petitioning the Sovereign for an 1071 exemption from the general law. It has been recognised for centuries that Petitioners are entitled to do that, and that is just what the Promoters of these two Bills are doing this afternoon. The noble Lord is quite entitled to say to the House that this matter ought not to be dealt with in this way and that it ought to be dealt with by public legislation. So be it. But at the same time the Promoters are equally entitled to say: "If Parliament cares not to introduce public legislation, then we are entitled to come here and ask for this Bill."
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? I was not intending to make any criticism whatsoever of the Promoters of this Bill. They are fully entitled to do what they did. I entirely accept that.
I am glad. I was sure that the noble Lord appreciated the point, but it is an interesting one and I am not sorry it was mentioned. However, I hope the House will not allow that to prevent these Bills from having a Second Reading to-day. I hope I have dealt with the remaining points. Your Lordships may think this debate has gone on long enough—I do not know; but I hope that your Lordships will now be willing to give these two Bills a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and referred to the Examiners.