HL Deb 03 July 1963 vol 251 cc990-4

8.6 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I hope that this will be a somewhat less contentious measure than some of those we have recently been discussing. This Bill has been introduced by a Private Member in another place, and it passed its Second and Third Readings there without opposition. Its main object is to extend more generally some of the provisions that have appeared in Private Acts. Your Lordships will no doubt agree that it is very common practice, where a measure is in Private Acts and has been found useful, that it should be extended more generally, because it is very desirable to save the expense of Private Bill legislation.

Your Lordships may think it surprising that a Bill of this character should be introduced by a Private Member. But although I am not familiar with the procedure in another place, I do understand that occasionally a Private Member, if he is allotted a place by the ballot, sees fit to use his opportunity to introduce relatively non-contentious legislation. I do not know whether or not your Lordships will consider this Bill contentious but, so far as the Government are concerned, I think it is an agreed measure, and it is certainly an agreed measure so far as the associations of local authorities are concerned.

It is a somewhat technical Bill, but I think I can give two assurances about it. In the first place, the principle, if not the exact wording of every clause, has already been approved in some Act of Parliament already passed, with one exception; and that is in Clause 8, which deals with a very limited and technical matter of corporate land held by municipal corporations. The second assurance I can give is that, except again in one Clause, there is no extension of the principle of compulsory purchase. That exception is limited again to a particular class of land—namely, derelict land. Again, the principle involved here is a slight extension of what has already appeared in other legislation.

If only for the purposes of the record, I think I should make some reference to the clauses, although if there is any criticism of the Bill because of its rather heterogeneous nature, it might be more suitable to make that criticism on the Committee stage rather than on Second Reading. The first clause is a somewhat technical clause. It enables authorities to acquire land by agreement for the purposes contained in any local Act. It seemed to me, in a private capacity, a little surprising that authorities should have power to exercise functions on land without having the power to purchase it. But, again, it is a technical point which I do not think raises any new principle whatever. I would repeat that this refers only to acquisition by agreement.

Clause 2 enables a local authority to carry out development for the benefit or improvement of their area. I would again stress that this does not enable them to do anything which has hitherto been outside the scope of local authority functions. These powers have been given in a large number of Private Acts, and they will follow the model clauses which have been issued. There is nothing in them to suggest that a local authority can disregard planning law. The Minister is given certain powers to safeguard the interests of owners in the vicinity of any proposed local authority development.

Clause 3 is, I think, self-explanatory. It is very common to-day for local authorities to prepare joint schemes in matters of comprehensive redevelopment, and this is the application of the same principle to smaller areas. Clause 4 is an extension of this power to make advances in particular cases. Clause 5 contains the power to erect garages and to construct hard standings, which has already appeared in Private Acts. I am sure it is generally agreed that the provision of facilities for parking cars off the highway is a development which should be encouraged.

Clause 6 is probably the most important clause. That deals with the problem of derelict land. There is a considerable acreage of derelict land in this country, and, with the present demands on land, that is something which we cannot afford. Local authorities already have powers, under Section 89 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, 1949, to deal with derelict land, but they have found them in practice to be subject to certain limitations, and they have not been as widely used as might have been expected. The object of this clause is really to re-draft in some minor degree the relevant provisions of Section 89 of that Act, and to remove those defects, in the hope that local authorities will make wider use of those powers. Clauses 7 and 8 deal, as I say, with this limited and technical question of corporate land, which I could explain if necessary. Clauses 9 and 10 are really machinery clauses; and Clauses 12 and 13 contain certain safeguards for seeing that the purposes of the Bill are not abused. My Lords, I hope that, with that brief explanation, I may move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Viscount Gage.)

8.12 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the lateness of the hour, and of the still later hour of our proceedings last evening, I do not propose to delay your Lordships long. From this side of the House we welcome this Bill. It is true, as the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, has said, that practically the whole of the provisions within this Bill are already in existing legislation and have passed through Parliament in Private Acts. The Private Bill procedure is quite expensive to local authorities. Very largely, it is the major authorities only who can afford it, and any Bill such as this, which extends the opportunity for doing good work within the field that it covers without the necessity to embark upon the Private Bill procedure, we should welcome. My Lords, we welcome the Bill.

8.14 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not think me discourteous if I limit my remarks to saying that Her Majesty's Government welcome this Bill and hope that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.