§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Commons Registration Bill, has consented to place Her interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a. —(Lord Mitchison.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. On this Motion I should like to say, if I may, that I gave an undertaking on the Report stage to make an Amendment on lines I indicated in some detail at the time, and that undertaking will, I am afraid, as I foresaw at the time, have to be carried out in another place. I need hardly assure your Lordships that it will be carried out. A question was put by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in connection with that undertaking with the following effect. The undertaking was that during the period after the final registration of common land and pending the ascertainment of an owner where no owner had been registered, the registration authorities should be given power to stand in the shoes (if I may use the phrase) of the true owner in order to institute or carry on criminal proceedings, in effect for the preservation of the common land and common rights over it.
Lord Molson's request was that it should also be considered whether in those circumstances the registration authorities should not have power to carry on civil proceedings of a similar character. Your Lordships are well aware that the common notice "Trespassers will be prosecuted" is a little misconceived; they are in fact amenable to civil remedies but not as a rule to criminal ones. That matter has been considered, but the provision is difficult to draft. It is still under consideration and we hope to be able to do something to meet the views of the noble Lord, Lord Molson.
We are also considering whether it may be possible to give this power and duty not merely to the registration authorities but, in certain circumstances, to other local authorities, too. Registration authorities, as your Lordships will remember, are the county councils and the councils of county boroughs; and the question that we are considering is whether something can be done to assist the county district councils in this respect. This is very much a matter in which it is desirable to have agreement—cordial, I hope—between the local authorities concerned. There is 430 some prospect of getting it, but I can say no more. Your Lordships will appreciate that in all those circumstances it has taken time to try to reach a solution satisfactory to all concerned, and the undertaking I gave will therefore have to be carried out in another place.
My Lords, may I make one final observation, at the risk of repeating what I said at an earlier stage of the Bill? I have seen a good deal of this Bill, both before it came here and during its passage here, and I am quite certain that the commons of this country and the large areas of ground that they represent are a matter of general concern to Members of this House, as they are to the public at large. It is up to all of us in this particular matter to do what we can to remove a considerable degree of confusion and resulting misuse or lack of use of part of our common heritage in this country. Therefore, this Bill seems to me, at the end of the day so far as we are concerned here, and I hope it will seem to your Lordships too, to be something which properly calls for the cordial co-operation of the elected local government bodies who will have to play a considerable part in putting it into effect.
It will, I believe, stand or fall by the degrees to which it gets that co-operation, from county councils and county borough councils as registration authorities, and from those who can help them in the researches they will have to make and the work they will have to do. If that is the common view of Members of this House, as I think it is, I feel sure that all of us will do what we can, in the areas where we are particularly interested, perhaps those where we live, to see that that co-operation is given and supplemented by the individual co-operation that from your Lordships may indeed be valuable.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I think it would be ungracious if I did not say a few words of thanks to the Government on the attitude they have adopted.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if I might interrupt the noble Lord, before your Lordships can pass the Bill there is the question of the privilege Amendment to be dealt with.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I owe the House an apology, as I do also the 431 noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, as I ought to have moved that the privilege Amendment be agreed to. I do so now. I beg to move.
Amendment (privilege) moved—
Page 12, line 41, at end insert—
("( ) Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds, or vary the amount or incidence of or otherwise alter any such charge in any manner, or affect the assessment, levying, administration or application of any money raised by any such charge.").—(Lord Mitchison.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will now move his Motion that the Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Mitchison.)
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, as I was saying, I think it would be ungracious if I did not say a few words of thanks to the Government for the way in which they have responded to the numerous Amendments that I moved on the Committee stage. I feel that, as a result of what the Government have done in the way of putting down Amendments, most of the points I raised on Second Reading have been to a greater or less extent met, and I hope that, as a result, this registration Bill will result in the rights of commoners and the owners of commons being, registered and ascertained for all time, and that with the co-operation of the local authorities, upon whom so much depends, it will not result, as is of course always possible under a registration Bill, in the extinction of some rights which are valuable and which will be of increasing value to the ever-growing population of this country.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.