HL Deb 14 July 1983 vol 443 cc899-901

3.40 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

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

Moved, That the Bill he now read a third time.—(Lord Aberdare.)

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, it was I who moved the Instruction to the Select Committee on the opposed provisions of this Bill on 15th March last year. It is on that Instruction that the Select Committee has produced the Special Report which is now before the House. In view of that, I think it is suitable for me to express grateful thanks to the Select Committee for having gone so carefully into this tedious affair of the Burnley dogs. In particular, I think one must mourn the passing of Lord Hinton of Bankside, who was the Chairman of the Select Committee. For 10 days the Select Committee listened to counsel and petitioners on these clauses in the County of Lancashire Bill related expressly to the restrictions in the borough of Burnley upon the use of parks for the walking of dogs. I draw the attention of the House particularly to paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Special Report.

I am not going to dwell upon the unhappy saga of this affair that has bedevilled community relations in Burnley over the past six years; but I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that it is now over 12 months since the compromise embodied in the report of the Select Committee was reached upstairs. In June 1982 the promoters and the petitioners, in front of the Select Committee, reached a compromise agreement on certain parks which were to remain closed and others which were to be open.

This Bill now goes to another place and the prospects appear to be that the Bill will not complete its way through Parliament for quite some time to come. Certainly it will not begin on its way there until after the Summer Recess, so here we have the settlement of a dispute between the borough council and a considerable section of the community of Burnley, which is now the basis of a compromise, continuing to be unresolved. Surely, when this House exercises its authority as a conciliatory body on private Bills, something can be done to offset the apparently unavoidable delays which private Bills encounter in going through Parliament. It is a good job these private Bills are carried forward from one Session and from one Parliament to another, otherwise they would never get through. The prospects of this Bill getting through in the months to come are not very favourable.

What do we expect the citizens to do? They have compromised themselves on this and the local authority have done the same. Why cannot the settlement that was reached over a year ago be brought into operation? What is stopping it? I know that to do it means anticipating the provisions of this Special Report which, if carried by the House, would alter the Bill; but I should have thought that all was now set for a peaceful and harmonious transfer of the arrangements which caused so much trouble in Burnley to the new régime of reconciliation there. Although it may not be the duty of this House to deal with the consequences of its own slow and cumbersome procedures, it may be that a Minister of the Home Office could take notice of the fact that we have this stalemate position in Burnley at the present time. Surely the order that caused all the trouble could be amended by agreement between the local authority and the Home Office, and so release this land, as agreed upon over a year ago, for the benefit of the wider community.

Therefore I appeal to whomever it may concern who will listen to this, either in Burnley or in the Home Office, or both, because the trouble here is the unenlightened way in which statutory notices are published by local authorities on the instructions of the Home Office. That is where the trouble started: nobody knew what it was all about until the order came into operation. So I do believe that it is somebody's duty to ensure that this business is now moved forward, and I make this very strong appeal to those concerned this afternoon.

When all this was going on before the Committee upstairs—the hours and hours that this Select Committee spent on a dispute which should never have come here at all—I was divided between a feeling of shame for community relations in Burnley and a feeling of pride in the patience of noble Lords, Members of this House, who sat and listened day after day for 10 solid days to what was said about the dispute in Burnley. It is, I suppose, a triumph for the democratic parliamentary procedure but—my goodness!—what a reflection upon the wisdom and sagacity of Lancastrians. If that is what they do, give me Yorkshire every time.

Lord Aberdare

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for those remarks which were full of his usual pithy sentiments. I will not enter into the controversy between Yorkshire and Lancashire; but, seriously, I am grateful to him for the thanks that he has offered to the Select Committee. Many of your Lordships give up your time on these Select Committees—I do not know how we would manage if you did not—and I am very grateful to the members of this particular Committee.

I am very pleased that the noble Lord mentioned the sad death of the Chairman of the Committee, Lord Hinton of Bankside, because although he was obviously very distinguished in his own life as an engineer, he was always ready to give up time to take the chair of Select Committees in this House, and we shall certainly miss him.

A noble Lord: Hear, hear!

Lord Aberdare

My Lords, as to the position on the compromise that has been reached, I believe it really applies to Scott Park, which is the one area where the Committee agreed that dogs should in future be allowed. Obviously the Committee themselves accepted that this would not take place until the Bill became law: this appears in paragraph 7 of their report— that the byelaw banning dogs from Scott Park would he revoked as soon as the Bill is enacted,". On the other hand, I see the force of the question of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby: why do they not act immediately and allow the dogs into Scott Park now or get some amendment of the present byelaw? If I may be allowed to draw the attention of the local council to what has been said, I hope that will go some way towards satisfying the noble Lord's point.

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.