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Public Utilities Street Works Bell Lords

Volume 478: debated on Friday 20 October 1950

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

As amended, considered.

Clause 1—(Purposes Of The Street Works Code, And Works The Execution Of Which Is To Be Regulated Thereby)

11.6 a.m.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 33, after "court," to insert:

"over or in which there is a public right of passage."
A similar Amendment was discussed during the Committee stage, in response to which the right hon. Gentleman said that he would look into the point. This Amendment has been tabled merely to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the result of his researches confirms the view he expressed during the Committee stage.

I wish to inform the House that the Attorney-General is otherwise occupied and is not sure whether he will be able to attend this Debate; otherwise, he would have been pleased to answer this Amendment. The matter has been considered very fully, and my right hon. and learned Friend is quite sure that the definition of "street" in subsection (3) in no way extends the existing powers of statutory undertakings.

In view of that most satisfactory assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3—(Settlement Of A Plan And Section To Be A Condition Of Execution Of Major Works)

I beg to move, in page 6, line 14, at the end, to insert:

(7) An authority or managers to whom a plan and section of works are required by this section to be submitted or furnished may accept, as or in lieu of a plan and section thereof, any description thereof, whether in diagram form or not, which appears to them to be sufficient, and references in this Act to a plan and section shall include references to any such description so submitted or furnished to the form of which the authority or managers have not objected within the time limited by the next succeeding section for objection in form to a plan and section submitted.
I think it was the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who first raised this point. I think the Amendment meets the major point of the discussion we had during the Committee stage.

This Amendment meets the point of the Amendment I proposed during the Committee stage, and it meets it in a much better way. We are obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for dealing with the matter, and the many people who may have to go through this procedure will be obliged to him for providing this short cut.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4—(Procedure As To Plans And Sections, Etc: General Provisions)

I beg to move, in page 8, line 30, after "applies", to insert:

"(other than a diversion to which the Minister on whose behalf the works are to be executed consents)."

This Amendment, which concerns the problem of the lateral movement of oil pipes, goes as far as the Government are able to go in meeting the points raised during the Committee stage. It is not necessary for me to stress the importance of the Defence aspect. There was, no doubt, anxiety that the needs and requirements of dock and harbour authorities and similar bodies might be unreasonably affected. This point has again been reconsidered, and we are putting forward an Amendment which enables that to be done provided the Minister of Fuel and Power, who carries the responsibility for the decision, agrees. My own Department, for instance, is the parent Department in docks and harbours, and in view of this Amendment consultations are bound to take place between the Departments. We are satisfied that we have met this in the only practical way that we could.

This Amendment has been put forward to enable the right hon. Gentleman to meet a point which was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Nield) and myself, and we are very gateful to him for considering it. I do not wish to make heavy weather of the matter, but there is one point I should like to mention. Is the Minister satisfied that this Amendment gives an adequate safeguard against any unreasonable insistence on maintaining a proposed oil pipe line to the detriment of the possible extension of a dock?

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Defence aspect, and I must draw his attention to the fact that there is also a Defence aspect to be considered in relation to docks. We would have preferred to see our Amendment accepted, but as the Minister has been so generous we do not wish to embarrass him in any way.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power assures me that he would always consider sympathetically any matter of that kind.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5—(Procedure As To Plans And Sections Etc: Provisions As To Works In Controlled Land)

I beg to move, in page 9, line 10, to leave out "twenty-two days," and to insert "one month."

During the Committee stage, the Attorney-General said that he would look into the question of the period specified in this Clause and in the First Schedule in response to a most eloquent appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). It is quite clear that the period of 22 days and one month in the First Schedule are closely related, and it appears to my hon. Friend that there was some force in the argument that the time of 22 days would possibly be better if it were a little extended. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he would consider this point, and I merely move this Amendment in order that we may learn the results of that further consideration.

This matter has received further consideration from the Attorney-General. Under paragraph 4 of the First Schedule highway authorities must, before issuing an authorisation, give notice of their intention to do so to the owner of the controlled land. This notice is an immediate one, and may perhaps be only a day's notice, but the landowners are given a month in which to start legal proceedings in the courts if they question the highway authority's powers to issue the authorisation.

I am authorised to say that the rights of private landowners are in no way affected by the fact that the highway authorities could, within the 22 days available, make the control available by authorisation. The private landowners can still go to the courts, and challenge the validity of the authorisation within the one month prescribed, and their rights would in no way be affected by the fact that the authorisation had already been issued and the undertakers had started work. In view of the discussion we had previously on this matter, and the re-examination that has been given to it, I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to accept the assurance and, if I may say so, let experience decide who is right between these various legal opinions.

In the light of that explanation, and in the hope that difficulties will not arise over this matter when the Bill comes into operation, and, also, in the further hope that if they do arise the right hon. Gentleman, if he is still sitting on that side of the House—which is extremely unlikely—will do something about, it, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6—(Works Not To Be Begun Until After Notice To Authorities And Managers Concerned)

11.15 a.m.

I beg to move, in page 11, line 15, to leave out subsection (3).

This Amendment is identical with one which I put down on the Committee stage, and the two points which I raised then were not, I think, fully appreciated by the Minister at the time, because he was engaged elsewhere and only came into the Chamber in the middle of my speech. The first point is what is intended to be the test of whether works have been substantially begun, as referred to in line 17? The second is whether or not the second notice is really necessary, supposing there is a temporary impediment which prevents the work commencing as it is intended it should commence. I hope the Minister has looked at this matter between the Committee stage and now, and will tell us whether he is prepared to consider the Amendment again or make some other arrangement.

I can assure the hon. Member that this matter has been fully reconsidered in all its legal aspects and I am advised—I understand the Attorney-General concurs—that the interpretation would depend in every case upon the facts of the situation. It is impracticable to give any definition in the Bill, because this is apparently one of those issues which, in the final resort, must be determined in the courts. That is the reason why I have not been able to bring any Amendment forward at this stage to give effect to the view which the hon. Gentleman expressed in Committee.

It may well be inevitable that some matters are incapable of precise definition, but, at the same time, it is regrettable that the Minister should have to leave the matter to the decision of the courts instead of trying to find a way of clarifying the matter now. The Parliamentary timetable being what it is, there is probably nothing that can be done about it, but, nevertheless, it is regrettable that we should have to leave the matter as it is and I only rise to record a mild protest about it.

I ought to point out that the Bill has been under consideration for a very long time and that negotiations have been going on. We have made considerable progress, but we cannot possibly hope to solve every problem in connection with it. This is a substantial step forward.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 7—(Requirements As To Mode Of Executing Major Works, And As To Reinstatement)

I beg to move, in page 14, line 11, to leave out from second "the," to "either," in line 12, and to insert:

"area reinstated and made good."

This Amendment deals with the discussion we had in Committee on subsidence. The Attorney-General promised that he would look into this matter, and the Amendment clarifies the position.

I appreciate that the reason for the alteration of this wording is to make it clear beyond all doubt that the subsidence or deterioration in question must be related to the part of the street in which the work has been executed. The object of the Amendment is to make it quite clear that the absolute liability which the Clause imposes for subsidence or deterioration does not include a liability if there is a general subsidence not due to the execution of the work.

Certainly. That was the point which the hon. and learned Member raised specifically, and that is what we are meeting in this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 40, to leave out from "had," to the end of line 41, and to insert:

"allowed reasonable time for examination by the undertakers of the area in question."

This Amendment also deals with the problem of subsidence on the lines of our earlier discussion.

I think that this is an attempt to meet the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who drew attention to the fact that there could be no election by the street authority to execute reinstatement. As a result of the Amendment, the undertakers will not have the opportunity themselves of executing the work—that is being taken out of the Bill; but I suppose it will still be open to the undertakers to agree with the street authority, where subsidence has occurred, that instead of the street authority making good and charging the undertakers with the cost, the undertakers should themselves be able to execute the works. I am not at all sure that the effect of the Amendment might be to prevent that happening.

I should be glad of the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that the alteration of these words does not mean that the undertakers will always be prevented from doing the work of reinstatement themselves at their own expense. They may think that they could do it equally effectively and, perhaps, cheaper than the highway authority.

I do not think that the Amendment opens the position quite as far as that. The point which I thought the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) was pressing was that in the case of subsidence the undertakers should be at least able to satisfy themselves that the works were being done properly in regard to costs and matters of that kind by having full rights of inspection and examination. I was not aware that the hon. Member desired to go as far as is now suggested. The Amendment enables the highway authority to remedy the subsidence themselves, still at the expense of the undertakers, but the undertakers will have the opportunity of inspecting the subsidence before the highway authority do the remedial works.

May I put a question to the Minister, because I do not think I made myself clear? I do not take the least objection to the addition of the words which the right hon. Gentleman proposes. The only point I am raising concerns the words it is proposed to leave out. Quite apart from the position which would arise, supposing the street authority were doing the reinstatement, under the Bill as it stood the undertakers could, if they wished, do the reinstatement themselves at their own expense.

I raise this point because I think it would be a pity to exclude the possibility that, where subsidence occurs, the undertakers should not be able themselves to make good. I am not at all sure that the effect of leaving out these words will not be to cast the duty always on the street authority to make good and to deprive the undertakers of the opportunity of doing the work themselves. I hope it is the position that, notwithstanding the deletion of these words, it will still be open to the undertakers to agree with the street authority that the undertakers themselves should do the work.

Certainly. If the highway authorities agree with the undertakers, that can be arranged. There is nothing in the deletion of these words that in any way alters or affects that arrangement. Apparently I misunderstood the hon. and learned Member. I was rather concentrating on the point raised by the hon. Member for Truro, which, I thought, had been fully met; I did not want to go beyond that. I can, however, give the assurance that if the undertakers get agreement with the highway authority, there is nothing to prevent a practical, commonsense arrangement of that kind.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10—(Protection For Transport Authorities (Right To Execute Works And To Be Paid Costs Thereof))

I beg to move, in page 17, line 7, after "given," to insert:

"the Transport Authority shall and."
When I raised this point, rather perfunctorily, on the Committee stage, the Minister said he did not think it was an Amendment to which he could entirely agree, although he promised to look into the matter. Has he looked at it again, and, if so, is he prepared to accept the Amendment?

I beg to second the Amendment.

I suggest that it might be convenient to discuss at the same time the next Amendment, in line 10, to leave out "them or it," and to insert:
"such works or reinstatement and making good."

I understand that both these Amendments were discussed together on the Committee stage, and it will be in order to do so now.

The second Amendment is a question only of grammar. One construction of the Clause as it stands is that the transport authority shall execute the undertaker. A construction of that kind needs to be eliminated.

I have given further consideration to the first of these Amendments and regret that I must adhere to the decision I made in Committee. I am further supported by the considered opinion of Parliamentary counsel who, after re-examination of the matter, are not only satisfied that the Amendment would not improve the position, but that it would be wrong and affect substantially the transport authorities when they make an election.

The effect of the Amendment would be that while undertakers were excluded from carrying out all the works which the transport authority had elected to execute, under subsection (1) the transport authority would be required only to do "any" of those works and not "all" of them. The Clause must, as at present, make it quite clear that the transport authority are under a duty to do all of the undertaker's works which he has elected to do and not such of them as he chooses. I am able to accept the second Amendment. We have, therefore, reached at least 50 per cent. agreement.

My hon. Friends will be delighted that they have got the right hon. Gentleman now to accept the second Amendment and remove every possibility of an increase of capital sentences by the transport authority upon the undertakers.

11.30 a.m.

I have taken note of what the right hon. Gentleman said although, I admit, I am not entirely convinced, as I felt that the wording as it stood was inadequate to carry out the purposes for which the Clause is designed. However, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: Leave out "them or it", and insert:

"such works or reinstatement and making good."—[Mr. Hay.]

I beg to move, in page 17, line 31, after "necessary" to insert:

"either—
(a)."
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) did not succeed on the issue that he raised, but he is succeeding very fully on this Amendment. Together with the next Amendment I shall move it is a clarification of the Clause.

I should like to express appreciation to the right hon. Gentleman for meeting so adequately the point that we made in Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: After "or", insert "( b)" .—[ Mr. Barnes.]

I was not proposing to call the Amendment next on the paper, in page 19, line 22, at the end to insert a new subsection (6).

On a point of order. The Minister said that he would consider this Amendment before the Report stage.

I understood that the Amendment was withdrawn, after Debate, without any undertaking.

No, Mr. Speaker. I would point out, with respect, that I can give you the reference, which is to column 1941 of HANSARD for 17th October.

I beg to move, in page 19, line 22, at the end, to insert:

(6) Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding subsection, the transport authority and not the undertakers shall be liable for damages arising from negligence in or nuisance arising from the execution of works or reinstatement and making good by the transport authority and shall be so liable in respect of any failure to reinstate and make good after the election by them so to do has taken place.
There was a rather curious discussion towards the end of the Committee stage when this Amendment was withdrawn on the assurance that the point would be further considered. I am putting it forward now to hear the result of that further consideration. I moved the Amendment in Committee with the view of making it quite clear that whenever a transport authority or a sewer authority had exercised their right of election to reinstate the surface of the road, then the common law liability of the undertaker towards third parties for injuries sustained by falling into the hole, for example, when it was unlit, should be extinguished. The Attorney-General drew my attention to two reported cases which he thought satisfactorily declared the law to be as he suggested it should be. I said I would look at those cases. I have done so and so far as they go they are definitely authorities for the proposition which the right hon. and learned Gentleman advanced.

On the other hand, they are both decisions of the Divisional Court on an appeal from the county court and so not decisions of very great authority. Although I await the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in view of his further examination, I still incline to the view that it would be desirable to insert a Clause something on the lines of this Amendment so as to put it quite beyond doubt that that would be the position where a right of election was exercised. There can be no higher authority than a Section in an Act of Parliament. A decision of a Divisional Court on other Acts and not on this one might conceivably be upset in the Court of Appeal. I do not think that that would be so very likely, but I would like to eliminate any such possibility. I hope that even now it is not too late to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to put in a Clause of this sort for the avoidance of doubt.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I feel that it is wise for the House when legislating to make it clear wherever it can exactly what the law is. We have had a number of other points arising on the Bill which we considered obscure and we have tried to clear them up. Now we have the Government saying that the point which we have in mind is already covered by the common law as decided by the Divisional Court. We ought to make it clear beyond doubt, for the benefit not only of lawyers but of other people who will have to operate the Bill. I strongly support the plea of my hon. and learned Friend that the Minister should not close his mind entirely to accepting the Amendment.

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will regret his inability to be present this morning to hear the further considered views of the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller). I do not confess to be able to enter into the legal problem of whether it is desirable to insert a Clause that might arouse deep legal difference of opinion. It would be difficult to do, even if we had unlimited time. With an eye on another place that is a risk that I cannot take. I sincerely hope that I shall not be pressed to do so.

In view of his probable absence the Attorney-General asked me to state that he has carefully reconsidered this matter—his language is quite definite—and is satisfied that the Amendment is entirely unnecessary. His words are that it is:
"so unnecessary that if the words proposed were inserted in the Bill the court would be driven, in order to assign any meaning to them, to read into Clause 10 some meaning which is not intended, the nature of which it is impossible to foresee."
I am not an authority upon legal interpretation and expression but to me, in my simple way, that seems to be a very definite point of view. In the circumstances, I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, whatever their views may be, to waive them on this occasion and to seek a more suitable opportunity to work this problem out. I am, of course, unable to accept the Amendment and I trust that it will not be pressed.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that on this side of the House we think this is a good Bill and that we shall not do anything at this late stage to impede its prospects of getting to the Statute Book. Therefore, we are not proposing to press the Amendment. I would like to add that the concluding passage on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, when he read out words which appeared to make it conclusive that the Amendment would not go into the Bill, do not cover the point which I raised both on Committee stage and here, that it would be desirable to have a Clause for the avoidance of doubt.

If it was so expressed as I suggested then there is no doubt at all that the insertion of a Clause on those lines would not give rise to the difficulties which the Parliamentary draftsmen appeared to apprehend from the existence of this Amendment. I can only reiterate that if our fears appear to be well founded I have full confidence that when we have the opportunity, quite soon, we shall rectify this small defect in the Bill.

I hope that the Minister will be under no misapprehension as a result of what the Attorney-General has told him about the rules which the courts use in interpreting Acts of Parliament. I would say, with all humility, because his experience in the profession is so much greater than my own, that I feel some doubt about the categorical way in which the Attorney-General has stated the rules of interpretation in relation to a Clause of this kind; because the first and most fundamental rule that all the courts go upon in interpreting Acts of Parliament is that express provisions of an Act of Parliament are required to over-rule the common law.

I do not agree with the learned Attorney-General that the courts are always looking into Acts of Parliament to see whether Parliament is trying to change the law. If anything, it is the reverse. Moreover, as has been pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend, frequently the courts accept provisions in Acts of Parliament merely for clarification. I think the suggestion made by my hon. and learned Friend would have been a useful clarity provision, and would have precluded the possibility of litigants being tempted to try to get these two cases of the divisional courts overruled by going to the Court of Appeal and then to the House of Lords on some other matter. Things being as they are, as we say, the matter must be left as it is, but candidly, I feel that it is somewhat regrettable.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 15—(Time For Taking Effect Of The Street Works Code, And Exclusion Of Other Statutory Provisions)

I beg to move, in page 23, line 32 at the end, to insert:

"which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."
On Committee stage the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) pointed out to me that while I have power under Section 15 (2, b) to make orders by statutory instrument, I have made no provision to enable the House to pray against them. In this Amendment I have met that point.

I should thank the right hon. Gentleman for this Amendment. It means that if the right hon. Gentleman or his successors seek to do something by statutory instrument to which objection can be taken, hon. Members of this House will have the opportunity of discussing it in the House. I am sure that the conduct of hon. Members on this side of the House has made it quite clear that we do not put down Prayers on the Order Paper unless they are extraordinarily well justified.

Amendment agreed to.

11.45 a.m.

Clause 22—(Undertakers' Right To Payment For Works Made Necessary By, And Obligation To Facilitate, Road Etc Works)

I beg to move, in page 31, line 40, after "works," to insert "may."

It will probably be convenient if we discuss this Amendment together with the next Amendment in page 32, line 3, namely, after "shall," insert:
"afford to the undertakers reasonable facilities for supervising the execution of the authority's works and shall pay to the undertakers concerned an amount equal to any cost reasonably incurred by them of supervision for which the promoting authority is by this section required to afford facilities and where the execution by the undertakers of any undertaker's works or the taking by them of any other measures is rendered necessary for the purposes aforesaid, the promoting authority."
These are Amendments of a substantial character and raise a point worthy of some consideration. If I may remind the House, because we discussed this fully on Committee Stage, the object of these Amendments is to give to undertakers, and in particular to water authorities, similar rights to those conferred by this Bill on sewer authorities and on transport authorities. Under the Bill as it now stands, where the works of a transport authority or a sewer authority are affected those authorities have the right of supervising the execution of the works by the undertaker and of saddling the undertaker with the cost of such supervision. I understand that the reason for giving these rights to transport and sewer authorities is because certain undertakers have, for instance, the right of breaking open sewers. I understand the reason that a similar right has not so far been granted to water authorities is because undertakers have not the statutory authority to open a water main.

At the same time, it appears to me to be almost as important to secure that a big water main should not be deprived of its support by virtue of the operations of an undertaker; and that where the works of undertakers are so close to the line of a water main that the support of the main might be affected, the water authorities should then have a similar right of sending someone to supervise the work of the undertakers and a right of recovering the cost of such supervision from the undertakers. I consider it desirable that water authorities should at least be given by this Bill the right of supervision in those circumstances, and also, as I said in the Committee stage, it might be right to give the undertakers whose works are likely to be affected by the operations of other undertakers the right of supervision at the expense of the undertakers who are performing the work. That would cover the whole field of operations, but it is a matter of principle and I should be interested to hear the views of the right hon. Gentleman, because he said during Committee stage that he would give further careful consideration to this question.

I hope I have made it clear that really there are two questions here. The case is pretty strong for the water authorities whose mains might be affected by being deprived of support, but I am not at all sure that we should not in principle extend the right of supervision to all undertakers whose works may be affected by the operations of other undertakers.

I beg to second the Amendment.

Almost as soon as the terms of this Bill were made known I was approached by a water authority who expressed the opinion that it seemed a little unfair that if they carried out repairs to one of their mains near to a sewer they had, at their own expense, to afford to the sewer authority the possibility of supervision; whereas if the sewer authority did work to a sewer which was near to a water main which might be damaged the water authority had no corresponding right. The water authority felt there ought to be reciprocity.

During the Debates in Committee, and again now, I fully appreciated the importance with which the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South invests this matter. I therefore considered the problem with every desire to meet him if any improvement could be accomplished. But I found on inquiry that this matter represents fairly firm agreement between undertakers and the highway authorities and interested parties. So far as I can gather, no undertakers including the water authorities, have raised this point in negotiations. If therefore I begin to extend the protection or facilities provided for transport and sewer authorities to another class of undertakers I run a grave risk of upsetting the general arrangements and agreements which surround that type of problem.

I am informed that, together with the code in Part II of the Bill, the Bill already achieves largely what the Amendment proposes if not more than that. If differences arise beween undertakers and the promoting authorities about the way in which the promoting authorities are to do work which affects the undertakers' apparatus, which in this case would be the water supply pipes, the arbitrator can impose conditions on the promoting authority, including the right of the undertakers to supervise the work and to take any other reasonable measures for safeguarding their apparatus at the expense of the promoting authorities.

Therefore, while I had every desire to meet this point, if to do so would be acceptable, and would not in any way upset the balance of the negotiations, I think, from what I have been informed, that the Amendment would upset that balance. As the undertakers themselves have not pressed this issue in the negotiations, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not, although he feels strongly upon it, press me on this occasion to accept his Amendment.

I gather from what the Minister has said that if he accepted this Amendment, it would mean upsetting the agreement that has been reached—

I would remind the House that this is the Report stage, the Bill having been considered in Committee of the whole House, and not even the Minister has the right to make a second speech on an Amendment. As the atmosphere is so harmonious, I have allowed a good deal of latitude, but it must not be taken as a precedent.

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. My intention was to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment, but I went a little too fast. I had intended to preface my request by saying that I gathered from what the Minister said that acceptance of this Amendment would lead to difficulties in matters on which agreement has been reached. I now understand that it is clearly contemplated that the arbitrator will, in the appropriate cases, have the power to impose the condition that the water authorities shall have the right of supervision at the expense of the promoting authority. Even though it would appear from what has been said by my hon. Friend that not all water authorities are quite content with the position, I would, in the circumstances, and because we wish to see the Bill reach the Statute Book, ask leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 32, line 41, after "require," to insert:

"otherwise than with the consent of a Minister within the meaning of that section."

This Amendment deals with the problem of the lateral shifting of the Government oil pipes, which we have discussed.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 24—(Time For Taking Effect Of The Code In This Part, And Exclusion Of Other Statutory Provisions)

Amendment made: in page 37, line 12, after "instrument," insert:

"which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."—[Mr. Barnes.]

Clause 28—(Restriction On Breaking Up By Undertakers Of Maintainable Highways Recently Closed Or Re-Surfaced)

I beg to move, in page 41, line 22, to leave out from "line," to the end of line 24.

During the Committee stage I raised the point that as this Clause is drafted there appears to be an unnecessary discrimination so far as service pipes and service lines are concerned. The Clause provides that works relating only to a service pipe or service line or an overhead telegraphic line or an overhead electric line are exempted from the provisions of the remainder of the Clause, which restricts the powers of undertakers to break up streets which have recently been resurfaced. There is the qualifica- tion, which by my Amendment I seek to leave out of the Clause, that exemption does not apply in the case of a service pipe or line which is new to certain premises, or which, in other words is intended to provide a new supply.

I asked the Minister the reason for the discrimination. I pointed out that it might quite easily happen that certain works were required to be done to a surface pipe or line which might not come within the statutory category of works defined in this Bill as emergency works but which might be urgently necessary. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has looked at the point, and that he will tell us what is the result of his consideration.

I can give the result of that consideration. This matter again represents a part of those naturally intricate and balanced negotiations that have taken place between the public utility authorities and public authorities which come under the heading of undertakers. The outcome of those negotiations represents a practical agreement with which they are all more or less satisfied, and we do not anticipate any difficulty.

Perhaps I ought to refer further to the case of an undertaker who has to carry out work in a thoroughfare or street or highway which has just been repaired and resurfaced. Repairs and maintenance are today an exceedingly expensive item, and one of the purposes of this Bill is to try to get some economy by intelligent, friendly and harmonious co-operation between the interests involved. Even if such an undertaker does not have to take up the carriageway it must of necessity take up paths, cycle tracks, etc., and the work will necessitate gear and equipment being about. In these days, when our traffic problem and matters of cost have become so difficult, we must do all we can to reduce them to a minimum. In this matter I find that those concerned are really satisfied as practical men that they have what they desire. In those circumstances perhaps the hon. Member will see fit not to press his Amendment at this stage.

If I may have the leave of the House, I would say that the point which I have in mind and which the Minister does not seem to have appreciated, is as follows. Resurfacing takes place after the carrying out of certain works in a street, service pipes or lines which are essential to the houses having been laid. Suppose a service pipe goes out of order a month after resurfacing has taken place. It might not be held that the repair of that pipe was an emergency work within the meaning of the Bill. In that case the poor householder is left in a most unsatisfactory position, and as the Clause stands there is no provision to enable anything to be done at once to that service pipe to put it right, and there has to be a wait of 12 months. I hope that point, which is a serious one, has not been overlooked.

By leave of the House, may I say that I should not like it to go forth that bodies of the description concerned, which are used to a situation of that kind, would allow such a situation as the hon. Member envisages to prevail. If a person entitled to a supply was without a supply, that matter would be covered in a practical way, probably by emergency provisions. I can hardly imagine those undertakers so interpreting a situation that they could not meet an emergency if a particular supply had failed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34—(Notices, Etc, And Reckoning Of Periods)

12 noon.

I beg to move, in page 45, line 32, after "person," to insert:

"resident or appearing to be resident."
We discussed this in Committee, and this is the suggestion of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.

I would just like to say "Thank you" because this Amendment adopts a suggestion which I put forward. I originally tabled an Amendment to insert the word "resident" after "person" in this Clause. The Attorney-General then moved an Amendment to insert the word "responsible" before the word "person," and I then further suggested that we should have both words. It now emerges that the word "resident" is to have the words:

"or appearing to be resident"
added on to it. I think that is a further improvement, and I am grateful to the hight hon. Gentleman for making it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 36—(Application To Scotland)

I beg to move, in page 47, line 21, to leave out from beginning, to "there," in line 27, and to insert:

"for head (c) of subparagraph (1) of paragraph 1."
I hope that my Amendment on this question of Scottish application will be accepted. If so, I think it covers the further Amendment on the Paper.

This Amendment is, I understand, consequential on the Amendment made to the First Schedule on the Committee stage, and as such we welcome it.

Amendment agreed to.

12.3 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

In moving the Third Reading of this Bill, I wish to say that its consideration in another place and in this House has been such a happy experience of mine that I think it rests upon me at this stage to express my fullest appreciation to all the bodies that have entered into these negotiations and enabled the Bill to be drafted largely on a framework of agreement. If the negotiations were long and protracted, it was not because I lacked the co-operation of the interests concerned. They have covered a vast range of interests. The interested bodies—the suppliers of the public needs—carry very large responsibilities. Their powers are embodied in statutes of this House that date back many years and represent a very complicated legislative series of powers and statutes to be brought together.

That work has been patiently carried out. It has been helped immeasurably by the Report and recommendations of the Carnock Committee, but it is interesting to note that, with all the previous examination, when we actually came down to the problem of putting it into legislative form in order to give effect to the very simple public purpose upon which the Bill rests, namely, that all these bodies which serve the public should cooperate together in carrying out their specific duties in order to cause the minimum inconvenience to the public, we found it was not quite so easy.

I must confess that when I started on this Bill I hardly anticipated the highly technical and complicated and comparatively large Measure that has emerged in the process. Its consideration in another place has been exceedingly helpful, and I had hoped that in these latter stages of this Parliament, it would not have been necessary so severely and thoroughly to overhaul the Bill. I recognise that I have placed a good deal of demand on the patience and consideration of the House in asking for all the stages to be passed in such a short time. I wish to express my deep appreciation to all the bodies concerned who have consulted and worked with my Department to bring the Measure to this stage, particularly the Parliamentary draftsmen. I do not know whether I am in order in thanking the other House, but I appreciate the assistance obtained from hon. Members, most of whom are here this morning to see the Bill through its final stage.

12.6 p.m.

I, for my part, and on behalf of my hon. Friends wish to express our appreciation of what the right hon. Gentleman has said and to congratulate him upon his success in getting this Bill to its present stage so speedily. He has referred to it as a "happy experience," and I can assure him that on the rare occasions on which this Government introduce a good Bill they will, of course, always find it a happy experience. This Bill, in fact, marks the culmination of something like 20 years of labour of various bodies. Therefore, it would not be right that this occasion should be passed without a word or two being said about it.

I hope that the Bill will serve a very useful purpose. It is a most complicated Measure; indeed, I can only think of one other Measure which is perhaps even more complicated, the Town and Country Planning Act. But, in spite of the com- placations in this Bill, which must cause many headaches to any layman trying to digest them, I hope that in practice it will prove much easier to operate than the consideration of its Clauses would lead one to suppose.

It will serve a useful purpose if all the bodies affected by it approach it in a good spirit, and I hope that, sooner or later, someone will try to translate the language in which these Clauses are written into language more easily comprehendable by the persons who have to rely on the statutory provisions. That, I think, would be a most useful task, but I hardly like to suggest that it should be added to the labours of the Parliamentary draftsmen for whose efforts we are always grateful.

In conclusion, I wish to say that we welcome the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman and the officials of his Ministry upon whom a great burden has fallen in trying to work so speedily in order to ensure the passage of this Bill. We should like to express our thanks to them for the careful and detailed consideration that they and the Attorney-General have given to the suggestions put forward from this side, suggestions all aimed at still further improving the Bill. I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me in saying that although we have dealt with this Bill very speedily in this House, we have, at the same time, improved it still further, even though when it left another place, it was perhaps thought that all possibilities of further improvement had been eliminated.

Both sides of this House have tried to make this Bill as good as it can be made. I do not suppose for one moment that it achieves perfection, though I hope that serious defects will not emerge, but if they do, perhaps we can get an amending Bill through as speedily as we have got this major Measure through.

12.9 p.m.

Although I have taken a very detailed interest in all the legislation introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport in the last five years, I must confess that I have not been successful in grasping the details of this Bill as I hope, perhaps, I was able to claim with regard to other Bills. Indeed, with regard to this Bill I have enjoyed little more than the holding of a watching brief.

I am glad that the Minister paid tribute to my hon. Friends for the work which they have done on this Bill. He will recollect that before we rose for the Summer Recess he asked them if they would apply their minds to the Amendments which they thought necessary, and I know that some of my hon. Friends did a lot of hard work on this matter during the Summer holiday. Of course, it has borne fruit. I hope I am not introducing a spirit of discord if I observe that we might have had a little more help from the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman. Except for two short interventions from the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale) I do not think we have had any help from them at all.

The Minister of Transport has perhaps been fortunate above all other Ministers in being given Government time to introduce useful road legislation, quite apart from the more controversial legislation which he has introduced. The legislation covered by this Bill, the Cattle Grids Bill and the Special Roads Bill is, of course, legislation which will introduce interesting experiments. It will be most necessary to see how this Bill works out in practice because Parliament has not often tried to give detailed direction on the carrying out of such a multitude of overlapping public duties as we have attempted to give for the carrying out of this Bill.

There is no doubt that it will be a pity if the Ministry of Transport do not regard the Bill as essentially experimental. If they regard the Bill as the last word on the subject, the chaos which we all agree exists with regard to street works at the moment will not be swept away in a few years. I venture to predict—I know it is a brave thing to do—that as a result of the experience of the application of this Bill the Ministry of Transport will be asking for a better Bill replacing the present one in perhaps 10 or 15 years time, and I rather hope it may be so.

I have some faith that a degree of the present tremendous dislocation of traffic and of industry which takes place as a result of the present digging up of streets will be mitigated. I think, however, that in regard to London and the great cities, even this Bill will do very little to ease the hold-ups which take place. This morning as I stepped out of the house where I stay in London when Parliament is sitting, I noticed within a distance of 20 paces no fewer than eight different manhole covers. Under the streets there must be a most complicated system of works to be attended to. It is not just a question of taking up the pavement if one wishes to attend to these works. It is necessary to go into the streets; it is not possible to tackle the work in the same way as the Bill envisages in the open country. Although one would like to have high hopes as to the work which this Bill could do in the large cities, I think we should be cautious before we raise such hopes in the public mind. At any rate, I hope these few words of mine are justified in giving such blessing as I am in a position to give to this Bill on Third Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.