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

Volume 478: debated on Friday 20 October 1950

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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.