HL Deb 28 February 1978 vol 389 cc367-94

2.57 p.m.

The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Aberdare)

My Lords, there are four Private Bills down for Second Reading this afternoon and in moving the Second Reading of the first of them, that is the Cheshire County Council Bill, I think it might be useful if I make an observation on all four of the Bills. I suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House if we had one debate and that any of your Lordships who wish to speak, either on a point that is general to all four Bills or particular to one of them, should do so in this first debate; then I would move formally the Second Reading of the remainder of the Bills. I would hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, would agree that it might be best if we were to discuss all his Instructions in the same first debate and then that he should move them individually when we have passed the Second Reading of each Bill.

First, as to the background and purposes of these four Bills, the Local Government Act 1972 established new local government areas in England and Wales and, in Section 262, enacted the repeal, with certain exceptions, of provisions contained in Private Acts at present in force in those areas or parts of them. The powers conferred by those Private Acts will cease to have effect in Metropolitan counties at the end of 1979 and in other counties elsewhere at the end of 1984, unless they have been re-enacted by fresh legislation.

This proposal of the 1972 Act has considerable merit, for at present there exists throughout the country a mass of local private legislation which differs from one local authority to another and is very difficult for the ordinary citizen to comprehend. The 1972 Act provided a unique opportunity for a thorough revision of all local legislation, and from 1984 on local legislation will be well documented and much more readily understandable by the public.

Some of your Lordships will doubtless recall the proceedings on the County of South Glamorgan Bill, which occupied the House both in Committee and in debate for a significant period in 1975. That Act was the first Private Bill promoted to retain provisions repealed by the Local Government Act 1972, and the four Bills to which the House is being asked to give a Second Reading this afternoon are further examples. All four of them have as their main purpose to re-enact with Amendments and, in some cases, to extend certain local enactments already in force within the area for which the newly-constituted authority is responsible. The Cheshire County Council Bill contains 115 clauses; the County of Merseyside Bill, 165; the West Midlands County Council Bill, 182, and the West Yorkshire Bill, 119.

As my predecessor, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said on moving the Second Reading of the County of South Glamorgan Bill, such Bills, which deal with a very large number of topics affecting a great many people, must be scrutinised by Parliament with special care so as to ensure two things: first, that the general law should not be changed unless a compelling local need can be shown for variation; and, secondly, that whatever is passed into law should be, so far as possible, of the standard of draftsmanship that Parliament requires of Bills for Public General Acts.

To meet this latter requirement, the Chairman of Ways and Means in another place and I asked the Parliamentary Agents concerned with the promotion of these four Bills to collaborate and produce a set of clauses dealing with topics common to two or more of these Bills. The drafting of these common clauses was discussed last year by my Counsel and the Agents, and I should particularly like to thank the Agents and the local authorities for whom they are acting for their willing co-operation in this major exercise. The result is a group of 85 clauses which are common to two or more of these Bills. These are published and available in the Printed Paper Office, and are called General Powers Bills: Common Clauses.

Some of these common clauses are opposed by Petitioners and will be referred to a Private Bill Select Committee. It is, of course, normal for opposed clauses to be referred to a Select Committee, but usually one Select Committee deals with one Bill. In this instance, the Select Committee will be dealing with Petitions common to two, three or four Bills; in other words, it will be dealing with subjects rather than with individual Bills. This, it seems to me, is the only logical way to tackle the problem of these four Bills. Opposed clauses that occur in only one Bill will, as usual, be considered by other Select Committees set up for each Bill, and in due course I shall be asking the House to approve the necessary procedural Motions to set up these various Committees; that is, one on the opposed common clauses and four Select Committees, one on each of the Bills, to cover the opposed individual clauses of each Bill.

However, there is also a need for the powers conferred by the unopposed clauses to be approved and, in order to consider them with the necessary care, I propose that, following the precedent set by the County of South Glamorgan Bill, they should be referred to a small Select Committee, consisting of myself and two other Members of the House and advised by my Counsel. Here, again, in due course I shall ask the House to agree the proper procedural Motion. I should like to stress, in particular, the importance of the special procedures to deal with the common clauses, because I believe that if Parliament is to find time to deal not only with these four Bills this Session, but with the large number of similar Bills which will follow in later Sessions, some form of procedure based on the common clauses is essential.

Finally, I should like to say something regarding the Instructions which the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has on the Order Paper, which are directed at a provision which occurs in each Bill seeking to restrict parking in private gardens of heavy commercial vehicles, boats and caravans. His Instructions relate, in particular, to boats. I can see no procedural objection to the acceptance by the House of these Instructions, since they do no more than reinforce the points which will be made by several Petitioners against this section of all four Bills. These Petitioners include the Ship and Boat-Builders National Federation and the Royal Yachting Association. Even if these Instructions were not on the Order Paper, or if they were not agreed to by the House, the Select Committee would have to be satisfied by the Promoters of the necessity for this provision. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Aberdare.)

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be most grateful to the Chairman of Committees for introducing and explaining the procedures to be adopted regarding these four very major Bills. I believe that in all they weigh nearly 3 1b., and are a very substantial burden as regards the number of hours of examination and very careful preparation by all those local authorities concerned. The reason why this debate is taking place in this form this afternoon relates, in particular, to the Instruction. But I should like to stress to your Lordships that some of us felt that it would be a very great pity if the normal procedure for Private Bills were adopted; that is, that the Second Readings took place on a formal basis in the House, and the Bills were either accepted or rejected without debate. We believe that concentrating on a particular item will give an opportunity to your Lordships to consider other matters raised within the purview of these Bills. At the same time, I should also like to express my gratitude not only to the Chairman of Committees, but to the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerk of Private Bills, all of whom have assisted me in this procedure.

What is set out on the Order Paper looks a little formidable at first sight, until one has the benefit of examining the little Companion to the Standing Orders—and such an invaluable aid and guide it is on these occasions! As the Lord Chairman has outlined already what we propose to do, it would be quite superfluous of me to repeat it in any detail. But I think it goes without saying that the work on these Bills, and on many other Bills which are given to Committees upstairs in your Lordships' House, will mean an enormous amount of preparation and discussion away from the Floor of the House. I should like to stress that, in the case of these four Bills, there are no fewer than 54 Petitions, 11 of which are concerned with the common clauses—the document to which the Lord Chairman referred. I should like to say about the common clauses that this seems a most ingenious and beneficial way of proceeding, benefiting the Parliamentary Agents of the local authorities concerned, and also saving an inordinate amount of time—which otherwise would perhaps be spent unnecessarily—for other local authorities which follow the course of those four authorities with which we are concerned this afternoon.

We refer to Section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972, from which, of course, all these four Bills derive. That Act, if I may be allowed to remind your Lordships, states that, All local statutory provisions to which this subsection applies shall cease to have effect in metropolitan counties at the end of 1979 and elsewhere at the end of 1984, which does not give very much time for all this to take place. I should like to stress what has already taken place in these four metropolitan counties. What has been done already was an enormously difficult task. Those four metropolitan counties have visited their archives and vaults and taken the entire schedule and catalogue of their local legislation, covering in many cases more than 150 years. They have gone through it all, and scheduled those Acts which they believe are superfluous at the present moment. This is a very large task indeed.

If I may refer to the West Midlands County Council Bill, I see that no fewer than 87 whole Acts, orders and continuation orders have been or are about to be repealed and that there is a total of 88 partial repeals of Acts and orders. It would be tedious to deal with other county councils. Nevertheless, Cheshire County Council, the first one with which we are concerned, has no fewer than 58 Acts and orders wholly repealed and 108 partly repealed.

It would be impracticable this afternoon to go in any great detail into more than perhaps two or three different topics. The Instruction refers especially to a situation which occurs in all four Bills. I believe that an issue of principle is raised, which I shall not go into in any great detail, that concerns what we term the parking of boats in gardens. This matter was raised in the case of the County of South Glamorgan Bill which was referred to, and we believe that there is some reference to it in existing legislation. Nevertheless, in the County of South Glamorgan Bill to which the Lord Chairman referred, I understand that this provision was absent. Therefore one can say that in existing legislation the parking of boats in gardens clause has been both precedented and then written off.

Our view on these Benches is that an unfortunate situation would arise if this precedent were to be adopted in all metropolitan counties. The Lord Chairman has referred to the fact that all local legislation will tend to be very much better scheduled and that local authorities will have it in a more readily available form. Hence, it is much more important that in the case of the very first local authorities concerned the lines should be straightened out, the ruffles removed and the situation made clear from a basis of principle.

Your Lordships will be glad to hear that I do not intend to make a very long initial speech. However, I believe that it is important that we should consider the questions raised by this Instruction. Attention is drawn to whether there is a discriminatory interference by local authorities with the rights of the individual and also to whether the powers sought are suitable for inclusion in a Private Bill. The powers are wide. In the case of all four of these local authority Bills, a prosecution sanction is to be applied. In the case of legislation of this kind, we believe that this sanction should not be there.

Finally, may I refer to the situation as a whole. We believe that, with these four metropolitan county council Bills, your Lordships are undertaking a major legislative programme at a point in the Session when we are already becoming well aware of the Scotland Bill. Nevertheless, thanks to the very active preparations made by the Lord Chairman and his staff, noble Lords will be able to undertake these Bills with their usual vigour and satisfaction.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I rise very briefly to reinforce the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys—a concern which is shared by the boating industry in general—with regard to the possibility, under the Bills in question, of local authorities prohibiting the parking of boats over a certain size limit in private gardens. I am not unaware of the concern felt in boating circles about these proposed measures. Although I do not have a boat, I am a yachtsman and feel that I should declare an interest.

The Bills vary in their restrictions and penalties for parking boats in gardens. I feel that this is not particularly good. There should be more standardisation with regard to certain counties. I can foresee difficulties arising whereby a person who already keeps a boat in his garden moves to a different county and finds that he is not allowed to keep a boat in his garden. I believe that there is no provision under the Bills to warn a person about whether such a prohibition is in effect in the new county.

In most cases today, the parking of boats in private gardens could be considered to be a normal occurrence. Indeed, it could be argued that the use of a garden for the parking of a boat is considered to be part of the normal amenities afforded to a person for the enjoyment of his property. Generally speaking, those who keep their boats in private gardens can be divided into two groups. There are those who keep their boat on a trailer and tow it away every weekend to different locations. Visiting different areas is in itself part and parcel of their general enjoyment of boating. Then there are those who bring back their boats to their gardens during the winter, either through choice, because they enjoy the convenience of overhauling their boats in their gardens, or through necessity, due to the lack of winter moorings and storage facilities in boatyards. There is also the question of vandalism if somebody should leave his boat at a mooring during the winter. The incidence of vandalism has been high during the last few years. Then there is the question of the weather in the winter, which might do damage to a boat.

Many of the boats—I think probably the majority—which are kept in gardens fall into what I should like to call the small motor cruiser area: that is, a small motor boat having a cabin containing perhaps a couple of bunks but which certainly could not be construed as a boat that would be lived in, which is the type of boat that is prohibited under the clauses contained in the Bills. In fact, should one of these orders come into effect, the only boats which would be allowed to be kept in gardens would be comparatively small, open dinghies without their masts up, and would even exclude some of the larger types of open racing dinghy, which is not right. In fact, if prohibition orders were to be made, I believe that the proposed limils would be a little arbitrary and could lead to all kinds of measuring and policing difficulties.

I believe that the machinery for registering a complaint which could give rise to a prohibition order is a little clumsy and might lead to the unnecessary canvassing of support by the person complaining, support which could come from somebody who was living in a different street from that which is affected by the boat in question. I also think that the prohibition order, if invoked—and it could, at the council's whim, involve a whole area and not just one particular street—would be more likely to discriminate against those who live in houses with smaller gardens, where a boat would be more obvious than in a larger garden. Boating today is a pastime enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and I do not see why the enjoyment gained by those who are perhaps not so well off should be so unnecessarily prejudiced in this way.

We are faced with far too much legislation today. The wide enabling powers envisaged in these Bills with respect to the banning of boats from private gardens are, I consider, unnecessary in relation to the amount of nuisance caused. I support the Instruction moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support the Instruction tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, which refers to the parking of boats. I believe this matter needs very careful scrutiny by the Select Committee. I suppose I should declare an interest; I am a member of the Royal Yachting Association and have been a lifelong dinghy sailor. I accept that most of the points I shall raise will be looked at very carefully by the Select Committee, but I believe it is important that they should be raised on the Floor of your Lordships' House so that more people should be aware of the powers these county councils intend to take in this clause.

First and foremost, I believe the clause infringes on the liberty of the individual. If an Englishman's home is his castle, I cannot see why he cannot keep a dinghy in his ditch. I accept that in a crowded isle we have to have restraints, but not, surely, on small boats in gardens. I accept that before the county councils can make such a ruling they have to fulfil very difficult conditions, not least that a complaint has to be made by neighbours. I submit that if neighbours did make such a complaint it would cause bad feeling. We surely have enough trouble around without causing more. Alternatively, neighbours may feel that they do not want to take such action because of bad feeling, in which case no action would be taken; so I suggest it is, "heads I win and tails you lose".

I would also draw your Lordships' attention to the insidious creeping legislation that this clause could invoke. If councils got the power to stop boats being parked in gardens, as the clause is written in the Cheshire and West Yorkshire Bills this could include garages and back gardens. What would be the next stage? The West Midlands Bill included horse boxes, but I gather they thought better of it and have withdrawn the whole clause. This does not mean to say that in future some county council could not include horse boxes, and maybe cars, carrycots and prams.

Apart from the reasons concerning individual liberty, I believe the provisions regardings the preventing of the parking of boats in gardens to be impractical. The clause says "habitual". What does "habitual" mean? Are we to have a gang of snoopers looking around our gardens and garages to see if we have a little dinghy, 15 ft. long and 4 ft. 6 in. high? Then should this snooper—no doubt paid for by me through the rates—find that I am committing such a heinous offence, he takes me to court. In all four counties I am convicted of a criminal offence. In Cheshire I can be fined £200, but next door in Merseyside I can only be fined £50. In Cheshire and Yorkshire I catch it if my boat is in the garage or back garden, whereas in Merseyside I can keep the boat in the garage but not in my front garden. The law is complicated enough without going into all these problems.

Anyway, what happens if the county boundary goes through my house? How is the snooper to know if my boat is a boat? Will he bring a tape measure? A boat is not a boat if it is under 5 metres long and 1½ metres high. Also, what happens to a person who moves from one house to another house in another county with a dinghy, and there is a restriction on that street or area? How will he find out? I am sure the vendor will not advertise such a clause. This, I suggest, is another trap for the unwary layman.

I would conclude by reminding your Lordships that sailing, particularly dinghy sailing, has been since the war one of the fastest growing participant sports. I emphasise "participant" because I believe it must appeal to your Lordships. The result of this has been, and I hope it will continue to be, that more and more people will keep sailing dinghies. I hope that instead of leaving them in the club and dinghy park, which this clause would encourage, where they can be vandalised and be a responsibility to our overworked police and many voluntary officers of sailing clubs, they will be taken home, parked in the garden, repaired, painted and generally embellished with what they call now "go-fast gadgets", providing endless fascination for the owner.

I remind your Lordships that British dinghy racing is a success story; apart from providing industry, which even manages to survive the vicious 25 per cent. VAT, it employs many, which seems very important nowadays. We have a remarkable record for winning medals, not only at the Olympics but also at all the world dinghy championships. These clauses would seriously hinder such success, because it is in the garden that the dinghy sailor looks after his boat and titivates it. I therefore hope that your Lordships will support the Instruction moved by my noble friend Lord Sandys, that the Select Committee will see their way to altering the clause radically, and, in particular, will ascertain, in the words of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, whether there is a compelling local need for such a clause.

3.27 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

My Lords, I greatly welcome this Bill, as it relates to the County of Cheshire. It is not quite the same county that I knew when I left it four years ago, because since then they have cut off the Wirral peninsular and the East side of Stockport, Hyde, Stalybridge and Duckinfield, but at least there is still a County of Cheshire, which there would not have been if earlier proposals for local government reform had been accepted; we should have had no county to debate this afternoon.

I was Bishop of Chester for 18 years and lived in the City of Chester during that time. I formed a very great affection for the county and the City, and a great admiration for the Cheshire County Council, which is, I believe, one of the most enterprising and one of the most efficient of all the local government bodies in this country. So this Bill, I think, reflects the efficiency and the idealism of the Cheshire County Council for what is a very beautiful and remarkable county.

Much of the Bill concerns the city of Chester itself. Some sad things have happened there. One of the first battles that I ever had to fight in your Lordships' House was to try to prevent the closing of the Chester Assay Office, for precious metals had been assayed in the City of Chester since Saxon times. I lost that battle, unfortunately, but I did witness the very real sense of responsibility which the City Fathers have for the City of Chester. Indeed I am grateful to the Bill for driving me back to look at the splendid Chester Study in Conservation prepared under Government auspices by Mr. Donald Insoll. That set a very high standard of development for the City of Chester.

The Bill deals in particular with four very remarkable characteristics of the City of Chester—the River Dee, the Roodee, The Rows and The Walls. The River Dee is not only very beautiful but also very historic. Whether the legend is true that it is the place where King Edwin was rowed by six Saxon Kings, it is not for me to say, but it seems certain that King Edwin assembled his fleet there which later on was to subdue Anglesey and the Isle of Man. It was navigable by ships of considerable size in comparatively modern times, as is illustrated by the presence of a church in the City of Chester dedicated to Saint Olave, which showed that the Norsemen came regularly to the City of Chester. It has a magnificent river front and there are always the dangers which are associated with water and waterfronts. The powers that will be given to the city here to preserve and to improve the amenities will mean that Chester will have one of the finest water amenities of any city in this country.

Similarly, noble Lords who know Chester will remember the remarkable space known as the Roodee. This needs to be controlled if only for the fact that those who are fond of horse racing want the Chester meeting, which is run on the Roodee, to continue. The city has the unique quality and amenity of The Rows, the shops built on top of one another. No one knows their historic origins but they are a very remarkable feature, of great interest, and they bring many tourists to see them. They are also amenable to weather and to wear of every kind and there have been some rather sad instances of neglect. Therefore, if these are to be preserved it is important that there should be full powers in order to see that the stonework and the woodwork are properly provided for.

Finally, there are The Walls. I think Chester is the only city where, except for one very short space where you have to use your imagination, you can walk completely round the city walls. Here again, the inevitable ravages of time are at work and it is very important that the city should have the powers to see that the stonework is properly kept and that the walkway is made safe for pedestrians.

Much of the Bill also concerns the County of Cheshire. As I said, it has a very fine record of providing amenities for its citizens. I think particularly of Tatton Park, which was acquired by the county after the death of Lord Egerton of Tatton and which provides a most interesting and splendid house to which crowds of people go throughout the year. Cheshire was also an initiator in providing amenities for holidaymakers, such as picnic areas off the main road. I had the privilege of being a member of the committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Cobham, which studied the opportunities for sport and recreation. We were greatly impressed by the evidence which we had from the Cheshire County Council of the way in which they had provided places off main roads where motorists and walkers could enjoy themselves and see the countryside. One of the things which was borne in upon us in that committee was that so much of this depends on the initiative of local authorities. Therefore the powers that are given to the local authorities in this Bill will, I am sure, be very wisely used in this instance.

I could not see whether there is any direct power given in the Bill to the county regarding its waterways. Possibly this belongs to another authority and is therefore not appropriate in this Bill. One of the main features of the County of Cheshire is its magnificent waterways—the Mersey, the Dee, the River Weaver, the Manchester Ship Canal and a fascinating series of canals generally. One of the most remarkable instances of Victorian engineering is the Anderson Lift outside Northwich which takes barges from one series of canals down and puts them into the River Weaver. One of the saddest things that happened while I was in Chester was the destruction by fire of the marvellous series of wharves and locks created outside Ellesmere Port by Telford. There was therefore destroyed one of the greatest achievements of the Victorian industrial engineers.

The County of Cheshire is particularly concerned with this provision to which the prayer of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, is directed. Because there are so many waterways there are a great many boats and people who enjoy their time on the river. With my own personal interest in matters aquatic, I enter into this area of dispute with some diffidence, but I hardly think that the gruesome picture drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley—a name I may say greatly honoured in the County of Cheshire—will be fully justified. There is the other side of the picture. We have to think of the freedom of the neighbours of people who park very large boats in their garden, and whereas I have every sympathy with those who wish to do so there is another side to the story, and I am sure that the committee when it comes to examine it will have to take that into account.

There is one slightly sinister and ominous area of this Bill because it is dealing with the opportunities for the provision of employment. One does not normally think of the County of Cheshire as a place where there will be high unemployment, yet in certain areas with a high density of population there is a very real fear of what may happen in the immediate future years. Thus in Ellesmere Port and in Halton, which is part of Runcorn New Town, and in Chester itself it is reckoned that by 1986 some 50,000 to 80,000 new jobs will be needed in order to accommodate the school-leavers. That is why early in this Bill the county seeks to have powers for public works which will provide employment for young people.

Finally, there are one or two matters which are causing anxiety to certain interested bodies and organisations. First, there is Clause 30, regarding the regulation of processions, and this is of much concern to youth organisations such as Scouts, Guides, the Church Lads Brigade, the Boys Brigade and the Salvation Army, who are apt in their practice on certain occasions such as Sundays to march through the streets with their bands playing. On the East side of Cheshire they observe what is largely a Lancashire custom of walking at Whitsun and they would not want to conic under the restraints of police control. I am told that there are Amendments which will probably meet this problem, but I hope that those who are responsible for the scrutiny of the Bill will remember the number of entirely healthy and innocent organisations that have marching with flags and bands as part of their life and do not want to be restricted.

Again, in Clause 35, the Salvation Army is particularly anxious about possible restrictions on bands and music in buildings, because a lot of their worship is concerned with the making of a joyful noise to the Lord which might come under the constraints of this Bill if it is not worded very carefully. Here again, I believe that there is an Amendment which will meet the needs of organisations that are interested. Finally, there is Part VIII which regards the control of night clubs and cafés. Again, the Salvation Army and other charitable organisations very often have premises which are open between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the supply to the public of refreshments for consumption on or off the premises. In terms of the Salvation Army it means the provision of food, soup kitchens and so on, for people who are down and out.

Such organisations would not want to be restricted in doing their charitable work and I hope that those who scrutinise the Bill will bear in mind the very important work that is done by charitable organisations. However, these are mere matters of detail in a Bill which commends itself by being both easy and interesting to read. Knowing Cheshire as I do, I have every confidence that these powers will be used wisely by those to whom they are given and for the benefit of a very beautiful and distinguished county.

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to speak in general terms on all four Bills, but I should like to say how interested I was in the fascinating account of the ancient City of Chester which was given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. I sincerely hope that the Cheshire County Council Bill will give full satisfaction to that city.

I should like to confine my remarks entirely to those parts of these Bills which deal with the parking of boats in gardens of dwelling-houses, and to add my support to the Instruction on the Order Paper. However, first I must declare some interest in this matter because not only have I been a member of the Royal Yachting Association for many years—and, as your Lordships know, that association is one of the Petitioners against these clauses in the Bills—but I own a small sailing boat which would come within the scope of these clauses. I must say that I have no plans at present to lay up my boat in my garden during the winter, nor have I any connection with any of the four counties promoting these Bills.

The clauses concerned are, in my opinion, unsatisfactory from two points of view, and I should like to deal briefly with each. First, the regulations will discriminate against one particular form of recreation which is gaining in popularity every year and will cause hardship and extra expense to those many yachtsmen who already own small boats and who wish to lay them up for the winter at home.

The regulations, which are all unanimous on the subject of size, all concern boats of not more than 5 metres in length and not more than 1.5 metres high or, to put it in plain English, 16 ft. 4 in. long and 4 ft. 10 in. high. In the case of a cabincruiser—that is, a boat which is partially or totally enclosed—in many cases the size is even smaller than the one that I have described. There are many such small cabin cruisers on the market and the definition of a cabin cruiser is anything that is suitable for human habitation. Of course, going afloat on a river or a canal, or even at sea in the summer months, can be done in an extremely small boat.

This is exactly the size of craft which could be trailed home behind the family car and then stored at home during the winter months. It must be done in many cases because not only is it impractical to keep a boat on its summer moorings during the winter, but the commercial boat parks around our coast and islands are in short supply and very expensive. Furthermore, for many yachtsmen it is a matter of pride and pleasure to lay up, maintain, repair and then repaint, re-varnish and fit out their boats for the next season; and where is it more pleasant to do that than in one's own garden?

It is often said that we are becoming a nation of spectators, and yet here is an active and ever popular pastime which gives pleasure and recreation to thousands. Indeed, the Royal Yachting Association now represents 1,400 yacht clubs and 56,000 individual members, and, if I may say so, it does so with great efficiency for which very many of us have a great deal to be grateful.

My second reason why these clauses are unsatisfactory is that, although they will affect many people, they are being introduced piecemeal across the country. Even in the four Bills which we are debating this afternoon there are wide differences, as has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley and also by my noble friend Lord Greenway. In the case of the County of Merseyside the summary conviction for this offence—if that is indeed what it is—is £50, whereas in the other three Bills it is £200. In all the Bills, with one exception, the relevant clause contains the right of the offender to appeal to the magistrates. The exception is the County of West Yorkshire, in which there appears to be no right of appeal to a magistrate. Most of the clauses make it an offence to park a boat in the front garden only, but West Yorkshire includes the whole garden, both back and front.

Some of the Bills refer to curtilages of dwelling-houses, which I think must include a garage or a shed. Yet a 16 ft. boat could easily be stored in one of those without any inconvenience to anyone. I looked up in a dictionary the definition of a curtilage. It is described as: An area attached to and containing a dwelling-house and its outbuildings.". Here again there is very wide variety among the Bills as to whether a given number of neighbours living within a limited area of the offending boat must initiate a complaint or whether that can be done exclusively by the council concerned.

I appreciate that local authorities will wish to have powers to control such matters, and that to park a very large boat in the front garden will cause inconvenience to neighbours, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said. However, I wonder whether he has given any thought to the fact that perhaps his rowing boat may also be limited—I believe he is a very keen oar.

I feel that these clauses as drafted go far too wide, and if enacted will infringe the rights of householders with gardens and will impose hardship and unnecessary expense on those who enjoy this means of recreation. Therefore, I am pleased to support the Instruction moved by my noble friend Lord Sandys, that the Select Committee dealing with these four Bills should give special consideration to those clauses in each Bill which deal with the parking of boats in gardens of dwelling-houses.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, all noble Lords who have spoken so far have referred to the common clauses regarding the parking of boats in private gardens. I have only a small sailing dinghy which does not come within the ambit of these clauses. However, my sons have a rather more sophisticated racing dinghy, which I believe is about 5 centimetres over the specified length and presumably they could find themselves breaking the law. I wish to speak very briefly on these common clauses, but not as regards boats—as regards caravans. I should perhaps declare an interest because I am a member of the Caravan Club and indeed own a caravan which, when it is not in use during the summer months, is parked in a courtyard alongside my home.

If the clauses relating to the caravans parked in private gardens are put into effect let us consider the ensuing difficulties for owners who, by necessity, have to park their touring caravans on their own land. That surely is not a privilege that they enjoy, but must be a right, which I think has existed for years and which, with respect, I consider should continue. First, they would find a great shortage of suitable storage facilities. In fact, I would consider it almost impossible to find a storage park, and even if one could do so it is bound to be expensive. If one has space in one's own garden or property, surely that is an expense which one should not be expected to bear.

Again, in many instances, storage parks are, by their very nature, inadequately supervised with the consequential risks of vandalism and theft. As a rule, caravans that are parked in people's gardens are used primarily at weekends and for holidays. If a family wants to go away for a weekend and they do not have their caravan at home, first, they have to collect it from the park, wherever that is, and then they have to load it with all kinds of things. Backwards and forwards they go, and it is quite a hazardous task if they have to leave their caravan on the road outside. The same thing happens when they arrive home on the Sunday evening. It then has to be emptied. Mum puts the children to bed and dad has to tow it 20 or 25 miles to its park. Surely that is a hardship which they should not have to bear. I am certain that in those circumstances they would soon give up their caravan. One other point bothers me as regards these clauses. I understand that objectors will be given an opportunity to be heard by a person appointed by the council, and the council would then consider the evidence given. But—and this worries me—there is then no right of appeal.

We must appreciate that caravanning is becoming increasingly popular. There are a number of reasons for that, not least of which is the fact that it is a wonderful family recreation, enabling people to get away from the cities and towns to enjoy, as a family unit, all the pleasures that the countryside has to offer. Surely that is a good thing. It is unthinkable that people who have strived and saved in order to equip themselves for this family pastime—this family enterprise—might find themselves victimised for so doing. Should not people be encouraged rather than discouraged to enjoy with their families happy, wholesome, country pursuits?—for sadly our cities are becoming more and more disturbed as each year goes by.

If your Lordships give these Bills a Second Reading and they go before a Select Committee, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and implore that the Committee examines these clauses carefully. Apart from the aspect of rights of the individual, which is obviously of paramount importance, in so far as they relate to caravans, hundreds of people could be denied family recreation and holidays of their choice. I consider that that would not simply be regrettable; it could well be a tragedy.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, want to refer to a new point, one which concerns neither boats nor caravans. I should like to speak about Clause 50 in the Merseyside Bill, which has the formidable title of "Powers of search and arrest". From the wording of that clause I deduce that its purpose is to effect an extension to Merseyside of Section 66 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, known familiarly as the "Powers of stop, search and detain". If properly used, those powers are not oppressive and they are a most valuable method of gaining information about criminals and their movements—something never more important than it is today. And, if so, there may be a case for extending these powers to cover the whole country, in which case I submit that it should be done by a Government Bill.

But I do not think that powers such as these should be extended to other areas in a piecemeal fashion. That would not seem to me—and I suggest that most noble Lords would take the same view—to be the best way to legislate. It may be that the Liverpool Police have had these powers for some time, and so it could be represented that this is no more than a re-enactment, which would make a big difference. But surely under the Bill as drafted there must be an element of extension, because today's Merseyside is much greater than the pre-reorganisation Liverpool police area.

I notice that under Part XV of the Bill there are clauses which are applicable to parts of the area only. It may well be that Clause 50 should be redrafted and maybe there is a case for re-enacting this power so as to cover Liverpool prior to the reorganisation—or, indeed, Liverpool and Bootle where the powers were previously in effect—but we should not extend them greatly without careful scrutiny. The police generally have other and similar powers under the Vagrancy Acts, the Town Police Clauses Act and under the common law, but none of those covers quite the same ground as Section 66 of the 1839 Act.

I hope that the Committee will look closely into this clause, not with any idea of depriving the Merseyside Police of useful power—because today we certainly cannot afford to do that—but with the object of ensuring that the principles involved are studied and the most acceptable solution sought. We should also not forget that the Statute Law Revision Committee is about to look into this very area of our law, which may make it untimely for us to extend this power—even if there is merit in it—to other areas at this time.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the House for not having put my name down to speak. I have been away for some time and I noticed something in the Bill on which I should say a few words as I live in the West Midlands area. I wish to take only about two or three minutes of your Lordships' time. I did not know that the noble Lord, Lord Wise, would raise the issue of caravans, but I entirely endorse what he has said, because the Bill deals mostly with people who live in streets. Were I a lawyer and dealing simply with the semantics of this clause, I could wheel a horse and cart through the entire clause because it deals only with people living in streets.

If a noble Lord has a lodge and the entrance to the noble Lord's great and vast property is at the end of a street in which my poor brother lives, and he can see his Lordship's horsebox through his bedroom window, which is less than 100 metres away, am I entitled to challenge the noble Lord because he is destroying the amenities of the humble street in which my brother lives? I consider from the loose way in which this clause is worded that I could do so.

Nevertheless, what is a street? Is a street an avenue? If I happen to live in an avenue where they are cutting down the elms, can I be challenged as a local bumptious councillor about having a horsebox? In fact, I would not have a horsebox; it would be a box for my greyhounds. But as an old collier am I entitled to have a greyhound box here? I used to see the greyhounds run by my uncle on the race-course in Caerphilly many years ago. That does not appear in the Bill. I should think that I could.

Consequently, what is a boat? I have a big rubber dinghy with which I have a lot of fun. Might I hang that up as a collier's bath used to be hung up on a hook outside the back door? Furthermore, my house is adjacent to a canal and I have had a piece cut out of the canal to run into my garden. It is in the definition of "curtilage" that the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, looked up so carefully, but on my curtilage the canal comes within 20 yards of my back door, and there I have a boat. Who will waddle up and charge Davies of Leek because he is destroying the amenities around the district? In other words, where are we going?

Today we live in a world that loves to pass legislation and debate the right of entry to which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, referred. Consequently, I completely endorse the constructive criticisms that have been made. I promised not to delay the House and I have been exactly three minutes. I think that this noble House should look carefully at this legislation and uphold the constructive criticisms that have been made today.

4. p.m.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, I, too, must apologise for not having put down my name as a speaker, but I have only decided to speak since I came into the Chamber this afternoon and heard the discussion that was going on. I am a resident of West Yorkshire—I have been all my life—and I want to stress that this West Yorkshire Bill which is before us today is very important indeed not only to the metropolitan County Council of West Yorkshire but to the five metropolitan district councils who also support everything which is in this Bill.

I shall speak for only about two minutes. I understand that we are discussing the Instructions which are to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys. He will be instructing the Select Committee to look carefully at the clauses relating to boats, caravans, and heavy commercial vehicles. I am quite certain that the Select Committee will look carefully at all the clauses in all the Bills because they always do. Therefore, if we accept the Instructions which the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, is giving, I hope it will not be construed that all Members of this House are in agreement with taking out all these clauses completely, because I think there are two sides to this matter.

First, so far as the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council Bill is concerned, it is not only concerned with caravans and boats but also with heavy commercial vehicles. I would say to my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek that there is all the difference in the world between a heavy commercial vehicle and his little rubber dinghy that he might have been hanging at the side of his house. I also want to stress that it does not say in this clause that all boats, all caravans, and all commercial vehicles are to be prohibited. I think that that would be unreasonable. It would be very unreasonable to prohibit all boats and caravans from every front garden of every street, but it would be equally unreasonable to allow in all circumstances every caravan, every commercial vehicle and every boat which everybody wants to put in their front gardens because in considering freedom there are always two people concerned. There is the person who wants to do something, and the person who has to put up with whatever it is the other person is doing.

All that this clause says, if passed, is that we shall be giving powers to the local authorities to consider each case on its merits. I would put to noble Lords that householders still need permission to build a garage in their gardens. If that is so, it is not unreasonable that there should be some control—I do not say all control—on these other vehicles which might be put in front gardens. I understand that this Instruction is going to be accepted. While the House might accept it, I do not want it to be construed that all of those who are accepting it agree with the point of view which has been put; that is, that every boat, every caravan, and every commercial vehicle shall be allowed regardless of the circumstances.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, I should like particularly to draw attention to the second half of the Instruction of my noble friend Lord Sandys. It is important that clauses which are common to all four, or even to two or three, of these Bills are eventually enacted by Public Bills. It would reduce the weight of these Bills, to which my noble friend Lord Sandys has already drawn attention, and also have the advantage that things of this kind would be universal throughout the country, and people who moved from one area to another would not find themselves up against restrictions and regulations which only apply to the county to which they have moved.

I hope that the Lord Chairman, who has already drawn attention to the common clauses in the Bills, will bring what pressure he can on the Government to introduce legislation to make Public Bills of very many of these common clauses. Many of them are perfectly suitable for Public Bills. It would not only reduce the difficulty and complexity of these particular Bills but also help to reduce the complexities of the ones we are bound to get before 1984.


My Lords, I too, like other noble Lords who have spoken recently, must apologise for not having put down my name to speak in this debate. I did not do so for two reasons. First, I was not sure I would be able to get out of the door last week when I was preparing what I might have said and, secondly, I thought that the point that I was going to raise, which was an agricultural one, would be fully covered, particularly from these Benches. I am referring to the West Midlands County Council Bill, Clause 12, the power to use lands for agricultural purposes, which of course is not common to all the four Bills we are discussing this afternoon.

It is an accepted precedent in the horticultural industry anyway, in which of course I should declare an interest in this debate, that local councils in the shape of their parks departments are normally expected to have a nursery and to fulfil certainly many of their plant requirements from that nursery, and that this is a perfectly right and proper thing to do. Unfortunately this Bill extends such powers as may be needed to fulfil this, as can be seen in lines 14 and 15 on page 9 of the Bill, where it says that the councils wished not only to grow horticultural produce but also agricultural produce, and also to dispose of them through the normal wholesale trade channels.

I would say, from my point of view anyway, that this is surely a case of a council going into business. Is this something that we in Parliament should allow? Obviously the horticultural trade is rather up in arms about this, and I should think that one of the Petitions to which the Lord Chairman referred is undoubtedly one from the National Farmers' Union. I should like to take this opportunity of bringing to your Lordships' attention this particular, though I agree rather narrow, point.


My Lords, I would not have attempted to take the time of the House had it not occurred to me that I am probably the only person in the Chamber now who sat on the Select Committee under the late Lord Reading on the Kent County Council Bill a good many years ago. It took us some time because there were over 400 clauses. But a point which we made as firmly as we could, and therefore we were not entirely popular with the Government Department concerned, was that it was quite wrong that you should include in local government Bills any matter which ought to be dealt with, if dealt with at all, by a proper Government Bill. It was the business of the Government Department to weed the garden, to keep in touch with the local authorities, as of course they do, to see that anything for which there was a general demand was included in a Government Bill—an amending Bill to whatever Act it might be—and not to pretend that it could not be done because there was no Parliamentary time, since that is not a matter for a Government Department but a matter for Parliament itself. For these reasons, I should like to reinforce what the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, said, and hope that when the time comes someone will look at what we said on the Kent County Council Bill, and see that the mistake is not allowed to occur again.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful indeed for all your Lordships' contributions to the debate on these four Bills. Perhaps in particular I might be allowed to welcome back the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, after his illness. I thought he showed how effective a short speech could be. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for moving his Instructions in a reasonable and moderate way. He made one point that I should like to reinforce, and that was the value of the work that your Lordships do on these Select Committees. I know that this is going to place a burden upon many of your Lordships, especially at a time when the Scotland Bill is going through the House, and also when so many of you give up such a lot of time anyway on other Committees. I think particularly of the European Community Committees. I am extremely grateful to your Lordships, and I hope you will volunteer willingly for this additional chore.

Most of the remarks that have been made this afternoon have related to the Instructions in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, concerning the parking of boats in gardens. It would be improper for me to comment on the merits of this proposal and I certainly do not want to enter into an argument with the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, as to when a boat is not a boat. I shall leave that to the Select Committee because, as I explained in my opening remarks, this is one of the provisions which is opposed in all four Bills and it will therefore go to a Select Committee considering the opposed common clauses, and their consideration will be reinforced by the fact that, if these Instructions are passed by the House today, they will have to consider those as well.

Your Lordships may also be interested to know that the Select Committee will have available to it the Hansard of today's debate, so all that noble Lords have said today will be available to the Committee, and that it is normal for such a Select Committee to make a special report in the event of an Instruction being moved. I hope that that will reassure noble Lords who are concerned about these provisions regarding boats.

The noble Lord, Lord Wise, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, also spoke on these clauses but on the subject of caravans rather than boats. I can assure them that this provision is also opposed by, among others, the Caravan Club and the National Caravan Council, so that, once again, these will go to the Select Committee considering the common clauses and will be carefully considered in the light of everything that has been said this afternoon.

The right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of London, in a most eloquent and interesting speech about Cheshire and the City of Chester drew particular attention to those clauses which deal with processions, bands, music, night clubs and cafes. As he correctly said, these are clauses which are opposed, by, among others, the Salvation Army, the Scouts Association and the Girl Guides Association, so again they will go to a Select Committee and that Committee will be able to consider the whole matter in depth. I may add that I am sure that the Promoters of these Bills have every sympathy with the points that were made by the right reverend Prelate, and I am informed that that are considering whether they can introduce some form of Amendment at the Committee stage which would meet the points he brought up.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, referred to a point which was different from anything else that has been raised—namely, the question of police powers in the Merseyside Bill. I am grateful to him for having, from his deep knowledge of police matters, drawn attention to this particular subject. This is not a clause that is opposed—there is no petition against this clause—and therefore it will go to the Committee which is considering the unopposed clauses; and, as I am to be the Chairman of that Committee, I can assure him that we will give all that he said the most careful consideration and will look at this clause very carefully.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, found another provision to which to refer which had not been touched on before—Clause 12 of the West Midlands Bill—and this, too, is unopposed; the National Farmers' Union has not put in a petition against this clause, but I can also assure him that we will look at it when it comes to considering it as an unopposed clause. I thank the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman; I have no influence whatever with the Government, but there are Government spokesmen here and I am sure that they will have taken to heart what both noble Lords have said.

On Question, Bill read 2a.


My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should give special consideration to Clause 26, in so far as it relates to boats, to satisfy themselves—

  1. (1) that it does not constitute an unnecessary and discriminatory interference by local authority with the rights of the individual nor impose unjustifiable hardship on any individual now or in the future resident in the area; and
  2. (2) that the powers sought are suitable for inclusion in a Private Bill and that the question of amenity is one which ought to be treated, if at all, as a matter of criminal sanction rather than of planning law.—(Lord Sandys.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and Bill committed to a Select Committee.