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Clause 57—(Proceedings Consequent On Review Under Last Foregoing Section)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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I beg to move, in page 45, line 40, after "and," to insert:

"where any representations are so made and not withdrawn shall either—
  • (a) cause a local inquiry to be held, or
  • (b) afford to the persons by whom the representations were made an opportunity of being heard by a person appointed by the Minister for the purpose;
  • and after considering the report of the person appointed to hold the inquiry or to hear representations the Minister."
    Under the Bill as drawn, and as now amended, the local authorities have to make a survey of their areas within a certain period in order to decide to which part of the open country access should be afforded, but the Bill provides no means by which persons interested can make representations against the decisions of the Board. This Amendment enables such representations to be made and for a local inquiry or hearing to take place if those making the appeal so desire.

    10.45 p.m.

    In the Amendment now before us and in the First Schedule, where it applies to orders designating national parks, public path orders, and other orders, there is parallel procedure. In one case there will be a local inquiry which will be in public, and, alternatively, there will not be a local inquiry in public, but a private hearing of representations by interested persons. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend for an assurance that here, and particularly under the First Schedule, when any point of considerable public interest is involved, a public local inquiry will be held. I hope that that will be the normal procedure, and that it will not be the procedure that, if somebody makes a representation, he will be heard in private so that those opposed to the representations will know nothing of what is going on until the matter is all over.

    It is the intention to hold a public local inquiry in any case where the objections are of public interest; but the procedure here is not designed by me. It is contained in previous legislation, and is designed to ensure that one does not have to go through the expense of the long procedure of a public inquiry when justice can be done by a hearing; that is the description—a "hearing." I would say, however, that where a hearing does take place, both sides will be heard. I assure my hon. Friend that there is no question of hearing one side only, and then making a decision, or of hearing both sides and then deciding separately. Both sides will be heard together, and where a local public inquiry is not considered necessary, there will be a hearing.

    Amendment agreed to.