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Allotments Bill

Volume 477: debated on Monday 17 July 1950

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Order read for consideration ( as amended in the Standing Committee).

Bill re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendments to Clause 6, page 3, lines 40 and 42, and Clause 6, page 4, line 6, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Thomas Williams.—[Mr. T. Williams.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

Clause 6—(Exclusion Of Land Let Under Emergency Powers, &C)

10.2 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 3, line 40, after "to," to insert:

"any parcel of land attached to a cottage, and the said provisions, other than those of section two, shall not apply to."
This Amendment and the next two Amendments on the Order Paper can be taken together, since they deal with the same subject.

During the Committee stage an Amendment was moved to ensure that allotment holders of land occupied by local authorities, say, a park or a playing field, which had been let as allotments under Defence Regulation 62A, should be entitled to compensation for growing crops and manure at whatever time of the year the tenancy came to an end, just the same as an ordinary allotment holder under Clause 2 of this Bill. The Amendment also sought compensation for disturbance, as laid down in Clause 3. It was made clear by the supporters in Committee that the same principles should apply to land requisitioned under Regulation 51. I readily undertook to reconsider the whole question between then and the Report stage after the submissions of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee.

There is something to be said for putting these allotment holders in the same position as ordinary allotment holders as regards compensation for crops and manures if the tenancy is terminated during the winter months. In common with others, they were appealed to crop not only for summer vegetables but also for winter vegetables, and so it does not seem unreasonable that, if their tenancy should be terminated during the winter months, they should enjoy the benefits under Clause 2. On the other hand, there seems to be no valid reason why compensation should be paid for disturbance under Clause 3. They knew from the beginning that when the Regulation expired or the land was required for its original purposes, they would have to give up that land.

However, I think it is fair to provide compensation for growing crops and manures at whatever time of the year the tenancy is terminated, and this series of Amendments sets out to achieve that. I am sure these Amendments represent the feeling expressed in all parts of the Committee and I hope, therefore, that the concession granted by them will be readily approved.

We had some discussion during the Committee stage on this point. It was raised from both sides of the Committee and we are glad that the Minister has seen fit to meet us considerably in the way we want. We understand that the three Amendments fulfil the purpose we had in mind of the inclusion in Clause 2 of provisions which are binding upon temporary allotment holders. We are grateful to the Government for meeting us in this way.

I also welcome the concessions which have been made. I want to put one point to the Minister. I have had strong pressure from the allotment holders in my constituency regarding the two dates which appear in the Bill concerning the termination of allotments. Do the concessions now announced mean that if seeds, manures and other things are on the allotments at the time of the determination of notice in the spring compensation will be paid?

Yes, that is the importance of the Amendment. Whereas previously, if the tenancy was terminated between April and September, a person would secure compensation for growing crops and unexhausted manures, in the new circumstances he will be able to receive compensation for growing crops or unexhausted manures throughout the whole 12 months.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 3, line 42, leave out from "1939" to "and" in line 43.

In page 4, line 6, after "Act" insert:

"apart from section two thereof."—[Mr. T. Williams.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended ( in the Standing Committee and on re-committal), considered.

Clause 10—(Rents To Be Charged For Allotments Let By Local Authorities)

I beg to move, in page 5, line 14, to leave out "twenty," and to insert "twenty-five."

I apologise that because of a technical hitch the Amendment was not brought forward at an earlier stage. It is a very simple matter and I quote only one case in support of it; that is the case of a: urban district council which has some 500 allotments, of which 400 are at rents over 20s. This may seem to some people to be a high rate, but in the case in question they are extremely good allotments and are provided with standing pipe water, and so forth. Under the present completely satisfactory arrangement the rents are paid annually, half in arrear and half in advance.

If the Bill becomes law the situation in the district to which I am referring will be that that arrangement, which, I repeat, is satisfactory, will become illegal and will, naturally, lead to difficulty. The collection of these small rents at intervals of less than a year is uneconomic. They could, no doubt, be collected three-quarters in arrear and one-quarter in advance, but that is not a very tidy solution. I suggest that the Amendment would result in administrative convenience to a good many people and hardship to nobody.

Since this will undoubtedly save a good deal of bookkeeping and collection expenses, I am glad to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12—(Abolition Of Contractual Restrictions On Keeping Hens And Rabbits)

I beg to move in page 6, line 4, after "authorise," to insert:

"(a) the erection, placing or continuation on any land held by a local authority for the purposes of the Housing Acts, 1936 to 1949, of any such building or structure which in the opinion of the local authority detracts from the amenities of the neighbourhood; or (b)."
The purpose of this Amendment is to enable gardens and the erections put on gardens for keeping hens and rabbits to be controlled as to their structure, the material used and, in particular, to preserve the amenities around the house and on the rest of the estate in which the house is situated. As hon. Members will know, in this country there are a number of large municipal housing estates. Most of the authorities take great pains to maintain the amenities on the estates, sometimes by by-laws and sometimes by the terms of tenancies.

Hon. Members have seen, as I have on many occasions, garden areas, not merely of municipal but of privately owned estates, completely spoiled by the hotch-potch of huts and buildings put up for the housing of rabbits and chickens. In many cases also attention given to keeping them clean and the avoidance of obnoxious smells and so on has not been by any means excessive, and sometimes a great nuisance has been caused to neighbours. We want to make sure that power is provided in the Bill to enable authorities which build houses under the Housing Acts to control the erection of such buildings on housing estates.

Of large estates, I know best those of London County Council which has no less than 82,000 houses with gardens in addition to other tenements and blocks of flats. There must be power to control the erection of some of the contraptions in which rabbits and chickens are kept and to see that they are properly built and not too ugly or noxious to the health of the district. The object of the Amendment is to ensure that that power is given.

I have been told that there is power in the Bill to do this already, but my advice is that that is rather doubtful, and I hope the Minister will say something definite on that. It ought to be clearly laid down that on large housing estates built under the Housing Acts, which are growing larger as the years go by, there should be provision to ensure that the backs of the houses look as nice as the fronts. We ought to avoid the bad practice which we used to see in large cities like London of Queen Anne fronts and Mary Ann backs and to see that that does not come back again in our social life.

10.15 p.m.

I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to assist me in this matter by accepting this Amendment. When the Measure dealing with Scottish allotments was before the House provision was made in it for the kind of protection which we are now seeking by means of this Amendment. I hope that in the interests of good health and the tidy backs of these new housing estates, the Government will accept the Amendment.

I beg to second the Amendment.

In Committee we had a keen and very amusing discussion on this point. There were proposals that not merely hens and rabbits but cockerels, guinea fowl and pigs should be permitted on these allot- ments. The final decision was that permission should be limited to hens and rabbits. I have been surprised at the strength of feeling in the urban areas that even this might spoil the appearance of housing estates and allotments. I have had communications not only from my own borough council but from the Association of Urban Councils strongly opposing the proposal. I wish to support as strongly as I can this Amendment, which at least aims at securing that where allotments are invaded by hens and rabbits they shall be kept under such conditions that the amenities of the place shall be maintained.

The next Amendment is not selected. The one which follows that is beyond the scope of the Clause and should have been put down as a new Clause. It is the Amendment, in page 6, line 7, at end, to insert:

"(2) (a) The council of any county borough or county district may by notice require any person who by reason of the provisions of this section keeps hens or rabbits to comply with such terms and conditions as may be stated in the notice as to the manner in which any hens or rabbits are to be kept including terms and conditions as to the site construction size and appearance of any building or structure erected placed or maintained for the keeping of hens or rabbits.
(b) Any person aggrieved by any requirement of a council under this section may appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction.
(c) The procedure upon any such appeal shall be by way of complaint for an order and the Summary Jurisdiction Acts shall apply to the proceedings.
(d) The time within which any such appeal may be brought shall he twenty-one days from the date on which notice of the requirement was served and for the purposes of this subsection the making of the complaint shall be deemed to be the bringing of the appeal.
(e) A person aggrieved by any order determination or other decision of a court of summary jurisdiction under this section may appeal to a court of quarter sessions."
Therefore, that Amendment might be discussed while we are discussing the one which is now before the House.

I am grateful for the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), which shows that the L.C.C. are not standing alone in this matter. There was a time before the war when in the control of its estates the L.C.C. exercised a very reasonable discretion. It allowed its householders to have such hutches and hen coops but required that there should be submission to them of a standard of materials and design, etc., which would preserve the amenities of the neighbourhood.

During the war that power of the council to control the amenity aspect of the erections in the gardens lapsed, and it was during that time that on our large estates, such as Becontree and St. Helier, we had the experience which has led us today to ask the Minister to be good enough to look very carefully at the position, perhaps not in exactly the way that we have suggested in this Amendment, but to assure himself that local authorities are not being deprived of a reasonable power to see that their estates are tidily and properly kept for the benefit of the other people living on the estates.

The Council will still have power to control the erection of other buildings such as coal sheds, bicycle sheds, etc., that will be in the garden, and under their tenancy agreements there is nothing to take that power away from them. It seems to be a little inconsistent that they should have no control whatever over these similar erections in the gardens. I would also remind the House that in most of these cases there is no possibility of the erection of fences and screens for the buildings. As any hon. Member who has seen these estates will know, the back gardens are open to the view of all who pass by, and particularly to next-door neighbours and people across the way.

If I had to choose between the Amendment now before the House and the Bill as it stands, I should choose the Bill, because I do not wish to go as far as the hon. Member who moved this Amendment. I regret that we cannot discuss the Amendment in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale), which I think would meet the case more easily. My objection to the Amendment as moved is that it does not provide any possibility of appeal against the decision of the local authority. That is what prompts me to believe that the Bill is more carefully drafted than the Amendment.

I realise that many local authorities are anxious about this point, and most of us who have the interests of good town planning at heart do not wish to see unmitigated excrescences on these allotments. There are some local authorities, however, who are not so easy to please in this matter. It is only reasonable justice that owners of allotments who have taken pride and trouble to acquire materials to erect buildings in which to house poultry and rabbits should be allowed to appeal against an arbitrary decision of a council which perhaps does not like any of these erections on their allotments.

I quite realise that the desire of the Mover of the Amendment is probably a right one, but I feel that the limiting effect of the words of the Amendment goes beyond what he really intended. We start the Clause by saying of "any land" that:

"it shall be lawful for the occupier of any land to keep"—
and so on. When we come to this Amendment we talk only about land, "held by a local authority." If it is right to legislate for land held by one class of owner, surely it is right and just to legislate for land held by another type of owner. If we are attempting to draft this Amendment into this particular Clause we should, quite apart from the merits of what is said in detail in the Amendment, apply the same measure of justice to those other owners of land.

For instance, all the land which is covered by the Clause is not always under the control of the local authority as regards ownership. It might well be that some of the land would be in the ownership of a private landowner. If we were to pass this Amendment, the private owner would have no redress or control, whereas the local authority would have full control; and I do not think that is within the meaning of the opening words of this Clause. If we start a Clause by referring to "any land" and any owner and then contract out and say that only local authorities who own land are to have certain rights, we run the risk of perpetrating a grave injustice as against different owners.

The point already made about right of appeal is of added importance when we consider that the private owner is already debarred, if we accept this Amendment. If one section has the right of appeal, all other sections must have it also. I cannot help thinking that, on reconsideration, even the mover of the Amendment would find that it is far too wide. Though I see the idea behind it, I think that the Bill would be better as it stands.

I am sure we all agree that the purpose of this Amendment is entirely good. It is for the preservation of amenities. All hon. Members want to see amenities preserved wherever possible. All the same, I have grave doubts about this Amendment, because, if it were agreed to, we should be putting too great a burden on the individuals who compose the local authorities who have to carry out this duty. Therefore, this Amendment should not be accepted.

It would be much better if my right hon. Friend would agree at a later stage to introduce some national standard of amenity which local authorities could apply. If he would do that, there would no longer be any difficulties, and local councillors who did their duty by trying to preserve amenities would have the benefits of that policy brought home to them at the next election. It would be far better if they were able to say, "This is the law as laid down by Parliament and we have to administer it" rather than, "We think this—therefore, you must do that." The obvious answer to that is, "Very well; we do not vote for you at the next local election." Local councillors zealous for the preservation of amenities would be greatly assisted by some national standard such as I have suggested rather than by this Amendment, the purpose of which, however, I entirely approve.

It is not very often that I have the privilege of being able to agree with the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) but as no party considerations come into this Bill, I find that I entirely agree with him. We all want to ensure the preservation of amenities and to see that the machinery for doing that is as fair as possible for all concerned. I do not think that we have got this Clause right yet, and I ask the Government to give further consideration to it during the passage of this Bill through another place.

The form of words in this Amendment is rather wide. It leaves out the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. I. L. Orr- Ewing). Although on the Order Paper it may be put in a wrong form, I should have thought that the right kind of compromise was something in the nature of a new Clause based on the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Mr. Kaberry), which I understand is not to be selected because it is not in the right form. I ask the Government to reconsider this Clause. In addition to the points already raised, I have one to put which concerns more the Ministry of Town and Country Planning than the Ministry of Agriculture. We are not yet happy about a statement made to the Committee upstairs on this matter.

10.30 p.m.

In Committee an Amendment was put down to give local authorities power to make by-laws regulating properly the exercise of the rights of keeping hens and rabbits conferred by this Clause. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning contended that our Amendment was unnecessary and, in particular, stated that one paragraph dealing with the removal of buildings and structures detrimental to the amenities of the neighbourhood was covered by the Town and Country Planning Act and that a further paragraph relating to materials used for the construction of buildings was covered by Section 53 of the Public Health Act, 1936.

Since the Committee stage, my hon. Friends have made investigation into this point and we are still not happy that that is in fact the state of the law. Although it is clear that Section 53 of the Public Health Act, 1936, gives local authorities power to control all materials used for building where the materials are short-lived, this power applies only where plans of a building are in accordance with the building by-laws deposited with the local authority. But it is not the case that the plans of every building must be deposited with the local authority, because under Section 27 of the Public Health (Amendment) Act, such things a tool-sheds and other small buildings are omitted from the necessity of being covered by the by-laws. Many structures coming under Clause 12 will be of such a character and so situated that building plans will not have to be submitted and Section 53 of the Public Health Act will not apply at all.

Are we right in that assumption? If we are, we believe that this Clause requires further thought during the passage of the Bill through another place. As it is drafted now, local authorities may have no power to require plans to be submitted to them. We accept at once—and I think this is agreed—that except where structures are erected within the curtilage of a dwelling house—the Minister of Agriculture talked about this in Committee—the local planning authority may require a planning permission. But for the reasons I have stated, buildings and structures within the curtilage escape control altogether—and this brings up the point raised by the hon. Member for Westonsuper-Mare. They would be exempt from Town and Country Planning control under the recent Development Order and might escape by-law control for the reasons I have tried to explain to the House.

The matter is extremely technical, but I believe we all want to get the same answer in the end—to protect our amenities in the simplest possible way in the interests of our national life. That being so, I hope that the Minister will say that he will consider this point again before this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. Lindgren)

I should like to deal first with the point in the Amendment raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson). The power of control in regard to use, maintenance and regulation of council estates is fully provided for in Section 84 (1) of the Housing Act, 1936. There is full power for making by-laws, and the tenant has protection against a local authority—there are a few of them—which might want to make some regulation or by-law which might be unreasonable for the tenant. These by-laws have to be approved by the Minister of Health at the time. We feel that, so far as council estates are concerned, councils have full authority under the existing Housing Acts, and in the main they use it. There is only one point that arises, and I did not hear it brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham in his introductory speech; it was due, no doubt, to his desire to be brief. It is the case where a local authority has houses in another authority's area, and has not the power to make by-laws under the 1936 Act. Of course, the authority in the area in which these houses are built has the general by-law power.

My hon. Friend has a long experience in local government, and an experience, which while associated with London, has extended to a general knowledge in practice and theory of local government. I believe that, with regard to out-county building, where there is a lack of control by the authority responsible for the buildings, my hon. Friend will agree that this small Bill dealing with the keeping of poultry on allotments and in back gardens, is not the place to deal with perhaps a big problem which applies to the whole of England and Wales. Surely that is a matter to be dealt with under a general local government powers Bill rather than in the Allotments Bill. Even then, I contend that the local authority in the area where the houses are built has ample powers under the Public Health Act, 1936. There are Sections 79, 80, 81 and 92—all of which deal with nuisances likely to arise from the keeping of animals.

The hon. and gallant Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale) questioned whether or not the powers in regard to Section 53 of the Act were as extensive as I had contended they would be. Although the 1936 Act was passed by a Government for which his party was responsible, it was a very extensive Act. The Parliamentary draftsmen who drafted it seem to have caught up in one Section or another with some of the things they missed earlier. So, if Section 53 does not cover the point, there is in Section 58 power for the local authority to require the removal of dilapidated or ruinous buildings which would detract from the amenities of the buildings.

It does not cover fences. It is, in fact, a control on buildings. If a building be injurious to the safety of a fence on someone else's land, in my opinion—and I am not a lawyer—it would be dealt with under Section 58, which gives powers to the local authority for the preservation of amenities and protection of property.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether under Section 58 he can deal with erections which are merely on the ground without any foundation?

With all due respect, that is nothing to do with this Amendment. If it is not anchored to the ground it is not a building. That is not my fault; that is a lawyers' definition of a building. If a person wants to avoid this Regulation, he can put the erection on wheels, and then there is an evasion. But so far as my Ministry are concerned, from the point of view of planning there is ample power within the existing Housing Acts and Public Health Acts for local authorities which desire to protect the amenities of a district to do so.

My advice agrees with the advice given to the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale), namely, that there is serious doubt whether the Town and Country Planning Act and the Public Health Acts do operate to protect the amenities of a large housing estate as regards the back gardens. I should like the Minister to deal with that, and I hope he will say that he will look into the matter and see whether something can be done to meet this point.

From the point of view of my Ministry, my advice is that this is quite definite. I would draw attention to the opening part of Clause 58 of the Public Health Act, 1936, which says:

"Any building or structure or part of a building or structure …"
My advice is that that amply covers all the points which were raised in Committee and which have been raised this evening. Therefore, I ask the House to reject this Amendment.

The last point, which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond, Yorks, was in regard to the General Development Order, which relieves from the need to seek planning permission buildings within the curtilage of a house, a procedure which has been irksome to some folk. We feel that that is justifiable. In consultations which my right hon. Friend had with the local authorities' associations before that was agreed to, an undertaking was given to them that if there were widespread abuse of the freedom given from planning control through this General Development Order, we were prepared to consider it again, and even to restore express control under the 1947 Act. But having looked at development generally, and noted the good sense shown by local authorities and by householders generally, our feeling is that it will not be necessary to do that. If it is, we are prepared to restore the control requirement. In the light of that, I ask the House to reject this Amendment, or that the Mover shall withdraw it.

The hon. Gentleman argues that the structures are covered by the Public Health Acts and the Town and Country Planning Act. I can appreciate that that is the case in regard to a chicken house which is anchored to the ground; but a rabbit hutch is not normally anchored to the ground, and it can be obnoxious.

It is covered by Sections 79, 80, 81 and 92, which control the keeping of animals and deal with the nuisances likely to arise through the keeping of animals. If a nuisance does arise. the sanitary inspector has the right to deal with it. and with such things as an accumulation of manure. I am advised that there is ample power in the 1936 Act to deal with nuisances. Frankly, there is not power to deal with some peculiar objection by a neighbour to someone living next door keeping rabbits; but as regards nuisances, or the causes of nuisances, there is ample power for them to be dealt with.

10.45 p.m.

I think that the Parliamentary Secretary has given us an explanation which has put many minds at rest; but this discussion on the difference between a "building" and a "structure" is important because there are some local authorities who are a little reluctant to deal with structures, while they will pass by-laws dealing with buildings. It is the structure rather than the building, which causes offence. The real point would seem to be that the Allotments Society themselves are particularly worried about this. They say that the old Acts are not being used in any way effectively. The Society are doing their best to clean up all the allotments, and I ask the Minister whether he will approach the Society direct and say what powers the local authorities have, so that the Society can go back to the various local authorities to see whether anything can be done to help them. They do want to clean up these sites.

I would only add one small point; it is that, so far as the Metropolitan Boroughs are concerned, they are just as interested as anybody else and it is very dangerous to rely on a relief from threat of nuisance. It is a very expensive thing to prove. The second difficulty is that during the war local authorities did allow people to keep these animals in conditions which would certainly amount to a nuisance; and this makes it all the more difficult to say that people are now keeping them in a way which constitutes a legal nuisance.

Would it not be wiser for us to include some provision whereby local authorities would have control on housing estates, which are probably the most important, but also on private estates? These moveable, or semi-moveable, structures can be piled up to great heights; I have seen them, as other hon. Members must have seen them, reaching above the walls of backyards, affecting the amenities. These amount almost to a nuisance, although not to a legal nuisance.

I agree that there may always be a case which is not dealt with either in Sections 58, 88 or 92 of the Act; but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning must have satisfied most hon. Members that the law is there if applied by the local authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) is concerned about the London housing estates. I am perfectly certain that adequate power remains for the exercise of control over these estates, but I shall be very happy to have a talk with my hon. Friend, and if he is still in any doubt, I will try to clarify the position for him. Perhaps he will now feel disposed to withdraw the Amendment.

If we are going to leave this matter as it is, could the Minister assure us that he will look into the question of the re-definition of the word "nuisance"? If we accept his definition as it is, we would have to go rather far.

In view of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, who has promised to look at the point with which I am sure the whole House is concerned, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time." [ King's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]

10.51 p.m.

This Bill has been welcomed from all sides of the House and, I think, all hon. Members are agreed that it is a good Bill. I want to mention just two things; one is a suggestion and the other is a criticism. The suggestion is about the Horticultural Advisory Service, which has proved an extremely useful service to all farmers, and, indeed, should be equally useful to those who use allotments. Technically, or theoretically, that service is available to all allotment-holders, but I have heard complaints that it is very difficult to get advice when it is wanted on allotments. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will do all in his power to encourage allotment-holders to use that Advisory Service, and possibly to advertise the fact in the papers that it is available.

Secondly, I want to criticise Clause 12 of this Bill. When it was in the Committee stage as Clause 11, I voted against an Amendment moved by my own party to include pigs, but although I want to see hens and rabbits kept wherever they are suitable I want to be absolutely logical and state my objections to hens and rabbits being allowed on land regardless of existing agreements, as well as pigs, which have now been turned down. It seems to me that for the Government to over-rule any agreements which may have been made between landlord and tenant, or, indeed, between a local authority and a tenant, is all wrong.

It must be reasonable in war-time when it is utterly essential to produce more food, but in so-called peace-time it shatters the whole sense of security. Indeed, if landlords or local authorities find that their land is wanted for allotments and that hens can be kept on it, they may well refuse to let the land for allotment purposes because, after all, it is well-known that hens do encourage rats and many of the local authorities are against allowing hens in gardens. The principle of over-riding agreements is wrong, and I am wondering what is coming next. Is it going to be garages or aviaries or machinery, or what?

The local authorities do not want this Clause and the Minister himself, during the Committee stage, speaking against the keeping of pigs at that time, said that we should not impose permanently on local authorities something which they resent. That is exactly what he is doing now with regard to hens and rabbits. It would be right for local authorities to allow hens and rabbits on allotments if they want to, but the Bill says that whether the local authorities want it or not, everyone has power to keep these hens and rabbits. Not only the local authorities do not want it, but the National Allotments Societies do not want it: the Council for the Preservation of Rural England does not want it; and yet the Minister goes on with this Clause which, I believe, the great majority of the people do not want.

The argument is that it has done no harm in the past and therefore let them carry on. If it has done no harm in the past, my contention is that agreements will continue to be signed up for the future. In the few cases where it has done harm in the past, agreements will not be signed and the community would benefit thereby. It would be better to leave it to the good sense of the local authority and the private landlord instead of going over their heads in a very unEnglish fashion, to say no matter what has been included in contractual agreement, hens and rabbits can be kept anywhere that can be thought of.

I am wondering, Mr. Speaker, whether, as far as your garden outside your house is concerned, and in spite of any agreement you may have with the authorities of the Palace of Westminster, if this Bill is passed you will be able to put up a hen coop or wire netting and keep hens on your lawn. That would surely detract from the amenity value of the Palace of Westminster. If it is essential in these serious times to ensure that hens and rabbits are kept in gardens, then it would have been much better to have extended the Defence Regulations for a year or two, instead of making this legislation permanent. Better still, why not give more feedingstuffs to the farmers and let them produce the hens and rabbits that are so badly needed?

The principle of the Clause is entirely wrong. I was encouraged when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale) suggested that it should be looked at once more, and I hope that when the Bill reaches another place serious consideration will be given to omitting the Clause entirely.

10.57 p.m.

Although, like other hon. Members, I welcome the Bill, I endorse the appeal of the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams). It does not seem to me that there would have been any danger to the Bill, nor would its real intention have been limited, if an option had been given to local authorities to grant permission to keep animals of this kind. I should like my right hon. Friend to say why he has not seen his way to do this. I understand that the suggestion has been made that such a step is impracticable. I cannot see how that can be so, because options already exist for a large number of matters. Surely, we want to encourage local authorities to preserve such optional powers as are necessary and wise.

I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend whether, even now, it is not too late for him to appreciate the strength of the argument of the hon. Member for Tonbridge. Bearing in mind the representations which have been made by the allotment holders and local authorities, surely some means could be found by which the option to grant permission where necessary could be given to the local authority, so that those who know best the circumstances of their own locality can exercise this power.

10.59 p.m.

Clause 12 reminds me of the notice that is put up outside clubs, restaurants and hotels which says "No dogs allowed"; but that does not prevent one from taking in a goat or a baby elephant. Furthermore, during the Committee stage it was debated that the word "hen" in Clause 12 does not legally cover the cockerel. The cockerel is very much more objectionable than the hen, however, in the noise that it makes. I am not trying to be flippant, but there is quite a distinction between the hen and the cockerel, and I should like the Minister to clarify Clause 12 a little more in relation to the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) and the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen).

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.