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

Volume 478: debated on Friday 20 October 1950

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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.