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Clause 44—(Power To Stop Up And Divert Highways, Etc)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 7 July 1947

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I beg to move, in page 50, line 11, after "permission," to insert:

"or to be carried out by a government department."
This Clause provides that the Minister of Transport, if he is of opinion that development is necessary, may make an order stopping up or diverting any highway. This Amendment enables my right hon. Friend to make an order enabling development to be carried out by a Government department.

I wonder whether, for the purposes of record, the Secretary of State can make a statement on the position of planning authorities where Government Departments carry out development? I understand that there are arrangements under which no Government Department can carry out development without reference to the Scottish Office, and I am not sure if the planning authorities are to have an opportunity of making representations before other Departments step in and carry out development. I should like to know what the rule is to be in future. Will there be an opportunity for planning authorities to object before other Departments come in and commence operations?

I can speak again only with the permission of the House, but I would like to say that it is my intention that there shall be the closest consultation between Government Departments and my own Department and the local authorities and planning authorities. In Committee we discussed a case in which there was a little slip-up, but I think that I sent a letter to my hon. Friend explaining the whole position and pointing out that I had already given instructions to see that, as far as possible, there would be no slip-up in future in dealing with this. It is my intention that there shall be the closest consultation between my Department and local authorities before anything is done, if that is at all possible.

The incident which the Secretary of State for Scotland has quoted is by no means an isolated incident, and consultation, in spite of his assurance is, in fact, still not taking place. May I cite to him an in- stance which has taken place quite recently, on 3rd July, in which a substantial building has been erected in the grounds of the coastguard station at Heswall, without the knowledge of the local authority, by His Majesty's Office of Works? That building, in the view of the local authority, will constitute a great danger in view of the fact that it completely blinds a dangerous corner. That is perhaps a minor incident, but it shows that the consultation on which the Secretary of State is relying, and which we consider to be very important, is in fact still not taking place. I would like to draw his attention to this, and to ask that we may have some assurance that, in fact, local authorities will be consulted and that he will see that machinery exists for consultation before Government Departments proceed in the way I have indicated.

May I say one word on the incident referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison)? The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) has already raised this issue; so much so that I frankly confess that my officials have been quite perturbed. They have again spoken to me about the matter, and have asked me to say that they will go into the matter with the hon. Member whose business it is. Speaking broadly, and without committing myself in any way, I must say that if the facts are true, it is not a thing which the Secretary of State would welcome. He does give an assurance that he intends to see that the provision is carried out properly and thoroughly, and that he will make what representations are necessary to see that an incident of this kind, if the facts are correct, is not repeated.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 51, line 19, at the end, to insert:

"(5) Regulations made under this Act by the Minister of Transport may provide for securing that any proceedings required to be taken for the purposes of the acquisition of land under Subsection (3) of this Section may be taken concurrently with any proceedings required to be taken for the purposes of the order under this Section."
The object of this Amendment is to enable regulations to be made by the Minister of Transport authorising pro- ceedings for the compulsory acquisition of land under Clause 44 to be taken at the same time as proceedings connected with the making of an order stopping up highways under this Clause. A similar provision enabling proceedings for the acquisition of land to be taken concurrently with consideration of the development plans is also contained in Clause 41 (6) of this Bill.

This seems to me to be a most odd proceeding. You are to take at the same time proceedings to determine whether an order shall be made and proceedings to acquire land to carry out the order. How can you determine whether land will be required until you have determined wether the order is to be made? I cannot see how it is possible to conduct these operations concurrently, and the same point arises in regard to a subsequent Amendment which we will come to later. I cannot see how it is possible to begin operations for acquisition of land without stultifying the whole procedings in connection with the making of the order. Of course, if you are going to adopt the attitude that anybody who objects to the making of an order is just "blowing off steam", and that naturally the Minister will ride roughshod over everybody, whatever a person may say, then I can see there can be concurrent proceedings, but you cannot have concurrent proceedings without admitting that the whole proceedings for the making of the order are just a farce. Is he really saying that? If he is not, I cannot see how the question can come forward.

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is stressing this too much. It is not for that purpose, but merely to enable the Minister of Transport to make a report expeditiously.

Amendment agreed to.