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Schedule 3

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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Repeals

Amendment made: No. 2, in page 14, leave out lines 37 to 39.—[ Mr. Arthur Davidson.]

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported, with amendments; as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

>Ministers Of The Crown Bill Lords

Order for Second Reading read.

12.27 a.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill consolidates the various measures concerning the manner in which functions between Ministers of the Crown can be redistributed and the alteration of the style and title of such Ministers and other provisions relating to them. The principal Act consolidated by the Bill is the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act 1946.

This is purely and simply a consolidation Bill. It does not create any new law. The Joint Committee has certified that it is purely and simply a consolidation Bill.

12.28 a.m.

I have been asked again to say that the Opposition welcome the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[ Mr. Coleman.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.

Ministerial And Other Salaries Bill Lords

Order for Second Reading read.

12.30 a.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a simple consolidation Bill. As the Long Title states. it consolidates the various Acts which relate to the salaries of
"Ministers and Opposition Leaders and Chief Whips and to other matters connected therewith."
No salary is raised or. for that matter, lowered by the Bill. The Bill represents existing law.

I have been asked to say once again that the Opposition welcome the Bill.

12.32 a.m.

The Consolidation Committee has not clarified the Bill. When consolidating legislation, it should make matters clearer. We are paying the Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard £5,000, and we should use a modern title to give some idea of the function—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not allowed to discuss the merits of any of the clauses. He must simply deal with the question whether consolidation should take place.

I see no reason why consolidation should not proceed. However, the Committee should have directed its attention to the question of introducing clarity and in particular of getting rid of some of the old titles which apply to the Whips. Consolidation is necessary and the Bill should proceed, but in future, when consolidation is being effected, one factor which should be borne in mind is the question of updating Acts so that people understand them. I understand that that is one of the functions of consolidation. Such titles as

"Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard"
do not serve the interests of consolidation because they do not attain the function of clarification.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that this was a straightforward question of consolidation and that no salaries were increased or lowered by the Bill. I am sorry that some of them are not lowered by it because some people mentioned in the Bill lecture workers on the dangers of high wage claims—

Order. The hon. Gentleman has strayed again. He does not often stray, but when he does he must come back within the boundary. We must confine ourselves to the question of consolidation.

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

When the Consolidation Committee considers these matters, it might be useful if it were to report not only, and perhaps preferably, to this House, but to the Government to see whether the House should consider consolidation measures which make provision for salaries which help to prop up the other place—

Order. It may help the hon. Gentleman if I tell him what "Erskine May" says on this question:

"On the Second Reading of a consolidation Bill the only question that can be discussed is whether the law should be consolidated by the Bill in question or should be left expressed in a number of different statutes."
Any reference to the contents is out of order.

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for giving us a brief explanation of the Bill. Consolidation measures should not simply slide through unquestioned and unexamined, because it is important that this House should remain the chief examina- tion centre for legislation. Therefore, I support and thank the Minister.

Question put and agreed.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[ Mr. Coleman.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported without amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.

Adjournment

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Coleman.]

M63 Extension, Sale

12.38 a.m.

It is unfortunate to commence an Adjournment debate on a night when we have discussed so much Scottish business, because, with great respect to the Scots, they seem to talk for a long time.

I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking in this Adjournment debate because it gives me the opportunity of highlighting the complaints I have received from residents in Arnesby Avenue, Sale. When most of those people bought their houses some years ago they enjoyed a pleasant and quiet outlook. All of that has been altered with the opening of the M63 motorway extension in the autumn of last year. While most people accept that motorways are necessary, nevertheless it is also accepted that people whose lives are affected by the opening of motorways are entitled to consideration for any loss of amenity.

I have had a meeting with some of the residents in the Arnesby Avenue area. They feel strongly on a number of points. Their main complaint is that the noise factor is much worse than they expected. They also fear that in the summer, which will be the first summer since the motorway extension was opened, the traffic on it will increase substantially, thus causing them even more aggravation and nuisance.

I realise that there is a statutory right to double-glaze each living room or bedroom exposed to noise at or above the level specified in the noise insulation regulations. However, I draw to the attention of the Minister the fact that people in this area are still in doubt as to who will be entitled to double glazing. What is causing them concern is the fact that dwellings eligible for double glazing must be publicly identified not later than six months after the opening of a new road. In the case of the M63 motorway extension, that date should have been the end of March 1975. We are now in the middle of April, and to the best of my knowledge the dwellings have still not been identified.

I find it difficult to understand why double glazing is provided only for living rooms and bedrooms. I should have thought that kitchens would also qualify because most housewives spend most of their time in kitchens. This restriction causes a great deal of annoyance to those affected by motorway noise. I hope that the Minister will deal with this point.

Residents are anxious to know whether the mounding which some of them have behind their houses can be extended towards the landscaped area near Priory Wood. I am informed that the low-lying area involved has already been purchased by the Department of the Environment. I mentioned this to the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, and he wrote to me on 14th January last stating that some mounding had already been carried out by the motorway contractor at the rear of Arnesby Avenue and further west in the area of Cow Lane. He said:
"These mounds were formed by using surplus material excavated from the route of the motorway. There is now no more material available from this source, so that if the two mounded areas were to be connected, material would have to be brought in from some other source."
He explained that that would be a rather expensive process.

Apparently the recreation and roads committee of the Greater Manchester Council is discussing a proposed water park on the other side of the motorway, and it is assumed that if this project goes ahead there will have to be a great deal of excavation of land on that side of the motorway. Will the Minister con- sider the prospect of using the material that is excavated for infilling to the rear of Arnesby Avenue?

My concern is to ensure that the Department of the Environment considers carefully all aspects of this problem with a view to ensuring that noise nuisance from the motorway is kept to a minimum. I raised with the Under-Secretary the question of providing screen fencing alongside the motorway. If that could be done it would perhaps be more economical but equally effective as an alternative to mounding. The Under-Secretary stated that the provision of any such fence would be unacceptable on road safety grounds as it would interfere with forward visibility on the motorway. No one in the area finds that explanation satisfactory.

There is the case of the motorway screening which exists in the Perry Barr area of Birmingham on the M5-M1 link. I am told that a few years ago there were many complaints in that area about the nuisance caused by noise from the motorway. The fencing has done a great deal to help deaden the noise. If something similar could be provided at the rear of Arnesby Avenue, I am sure that the people living there would welcome it. The Under-Secretary made great play of the importance of road safety, and we all accept how necessary road safety is. The entrance to this motorway is at the bottom of the garden of one of my constitutents who lives in Arnesby Avenue. There is no crash barrier at this section. My constituent contacted the authorities and was told that provision had been made for a barrier if one was necessary.

I find that a rather stupid reply for any authority to give, because my constituent quite rightly asked whether he was to understand that an accident had to occur from one of the 10 lanes of traffic which pass on this section before any action would be taken in providing a crash barrier. If road safety is so important that screen fencing cannot be provided, it is very strange that nothing at all has been done to provide a crash barrier on this particular section.

My constituents are also anxious to know how they go about claiming compensation for depreciation in the value of their property caused by noise and other nuisances. For example, they tell me that they also get a great deal of pollution from fumes. They feel that the situation will worsen as more and more cars travel on this motorway.

The purpose of the Land Compensation Act 1973 was to try to ensure that people whose homes were adversely affected by the building of a motorway in their locality were compensated. Despite the existence of this Act, I find that people tend to be rather cynical as to whether they will receive any compensation or, if they receive compensation, whether it will be adequate.

Most of us would, no doubt, say that motorways are a good thing because they make communication so much easier—always provided, of course, that a motorway is not near to our own homes. It is very sad when people who have bought their own homes and improved them over the years, making them as comfortable as they possibly can, suddenly find, through no fault of their own, that their whole life-style has been changed. These people had a life of comparative peace and tranquility, but they now have to put up with a great deal of noise and nuisance which is not of their making.

No doubt it is very easy for some to say that people living close to motorways must learn to live with the problem. It is always easy to hand out advice when one does not live with the problem. It is always easy to be sympathetic if one is not plagued by noise from one of these motorways.

All that the people in Arnesby Avenue are asking for is a fair deal. What I am hoping tonight is that the Minister will be able to be a little more forthcoming than his hon. Friend and fellow Under-Secretary was in his letter to me in January. What the people of Arnesby Avenue are hoping for is that tonight the Minister will be able to give practical advice on how something can be done to alleviate the noise with which they have to live. Whether this is done by mounding or by screen fencing is not particularly important. The important thing is that something has got to be done.

My constituents feel that the Department of the Environment has not acted as speedily as it might have done over the measures which can be taken to reduce noise levels. To the residents of Arnesby Avenue who are affected by the motorway, this is a very worrying situation. In his letter to me of 14th January the Minister's hon. Friend stated that the Land Compensation Act 1973 was to provide a better deal for people who suffered as a result of works undertaken for the benefit of the community. We accept that motorways are for the benefit of the community, but we must also accept the fact that these benefits to the community as a whole often cause a great deal of inconvenience to some members of the community.

Therefore, I await with interest the Minister's reply. I remind him of the old saying that actions speak louder than words. All I can hope is that as a result of this debate the residents of Arnesby Avenue will feel a great deal happier about the future.

Has the hon. Gentleman reached agreement with the Minister? Mr. Speaker has ruled that an Adjournment debate applies only to the hon. Member who has raised the matter unless agreement has been reached with the Minister and the others concerned.

12.50 a.m.

I was trying to be generous, but I am afraid that such agreement has not been reached. Therefore, it would be out of order—

I should like to thank the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery)—I hope that the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Fox) does not consider it a discourtesy that I have not allowed him into the debate, but it is a specific constituency problem—for bringing to the attention of the House the problems facing his constituents in Arnesby Avenue, Sale, following the opening last September of the M63 Sale Eastern and Northenden Bypass.

I am always delighted to reply to an Adjournment debate. Today we have been discussing the Budget and many matters of national concern. One of the great glories of the House of Commons, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, is that we can now discuss the specific problems of particular constituents which, very properly, the hon. Gentleman has raised on this Adjournment debate tonight.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I and my colleagues in the Department are well aware of the serious human problems which can be caused to those whose living conditions are changed by the building of new roads. I share his concern that everything possible should be done to ensure that those who are obliged to live close to these roads—or, indeed to other forms of new public development —should not suffer unduly as a result.

It cannot be disputed that the opening of the Sale Eastern Bypass has made conditions considerably worse for the residents of Arnesby Avenue. Before the motorway was built, their houses overlooked open land. Now there is a six-lane motorway passing behind their gardens on an embankment, together with a slip road climbing up from an interchange just to the east of the avenue. The edge of the carriageway is between 50 and 150 yards from the houses hacking on to the motorway.

Before turning to the specific case of houses in Arnesby Avenue, I think it would not be amiss to make some general mention of the approach which is now being adopted by my Department and by other public authorities with the object of relieving the problems which can be caused both during and after the construction of public works, and to review briefly the legislative provisions now in force designed to minimise these disruptive effects.

I think most people would agree that very significant steps forward have been made over the past year or two towards improving the lot of those who, against their will, happen to find themselves neighbours to new public works of one kind or another. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Conservative Government introduced the Land Compensation Bill. I was privileged to be an Opposition spokesman on the Bill, and we gave full support to the Government when that legislation was introduced.

Many of the improvements which have been introduced stem from the invaluable work done by the Urban Motorways Committee, many of whose recommendations were given statutory force in the Land Compensation Act 1973. This Act also introduced notable improvements in compensation provisions, including a right to compensation for the first time ever for people who are not directly affected by new works but whose property loses value because of its closeness to the works when in use.

The Urban Motorways Committee advocated a new approach to highway building and proposed in its report, among other things, that the environment should be preserved as far as possible by the selection of the line and the design of the road and by remedial works on land adjoining it. Many of the potentially intrusive and objectionable features of new roads can be avoided by careful design, which can remove at source much of the nuisance and disturbance caused to the immediate surroundings during the construction and subsequent use. This is the general approach by the Department in the planning and design of new road schemes.

Of course, we have to recognise that it is simply not possible, because of physical and financial limitations and the like, to eliminate entirely features which are visually intrusive or which result in disturbance to neighbouring areas. Even where these features remain, however, much can be done in the way of "cosmetic" treatment—for example, by skilful earth mounding or the provision of fences which can both hide the new development and lower the level of noise and other disturbance imposed on the surroundings. The Land Compensation Act gave public authorities powers to carry out these sort of works and to buy any land which might be needed.

Here again, there are bound to be cases where there is simply no scope for this kind of cosmetic work, and even where barriers or screens have been provided there may still be occasions when these cannot be fully effective and there remains a serious problem of disturbance. In particular, the provision of screening measures will often be neither practical nor effective against disturbance problems during the construction period. It will never be realistic to expect to carry out major new projects in developed areas entirely without noise and disturbance—in some cases, very severe disturbance. But the Land Compensation Act at least gives public authorities powers which can be a great help in minimising the problem during the construction period. These include powers to double-glaze properties seriously affected by construction noise, to pay the expenses of temporary accommodation away from the works for periods when disturbance is exceptionally bad, or even to buy properties in cases of prolonged and serious disturbance.

What of the situation once the works are completed and come into use? That is the question that the hon. Gentleman is raising tonight. Despite the best efforts of public authorities to reduce disturbance, first, by designing to avoid obtrusive or objectionable features and secondly by carrying out whatever protective screening may be practicable, there will inevitably still be many cases where noise and disturbance exceed an acceptable level. In these cases there is now an absolute statutory right to the insulation of bedrooms and living rooms of residential properties subjected to increased noise above a certain level.

The hon. Gentleman properly asked about kitchens. The regulations were introduced in 1973. A kitchen, as a kitchen, tends to be a somewhat noisy place, whereas a person can expect to enjoy quietness in his living room and certainly in his bedroom. There should therefore be special provision for those rooms, but that is not necessary in the kitchen where, because of cooking and so on, there is normally a higher level of noise. The regulations were introduced by the previous Government. I can see their reasoning for them, and that is why the kitchen is considered separately from the living room and the bedroom.

As I mentioned earlier, there is now also a right to compensation for those whose property suffers a significant fall in value because of the physical effects of the use of the new road. In the most extreme cases where, despite all the provisions I have described, the use of the new road affects the enjoyment of someone's home to the extent that he could not reasonably be expected to continue to live there, public authorities can as a last resort buy the property.

All road schemes which were in the course of being designed when the Land Compensation Act came into force, and any on which design work has since started, have been subjected to the new approach to design from the earliest days of preparation. In these cases proposals for screening measures, for the insulation of properties against construction noise and so on being considered as part of the normal design process and will be implemented before or as part of the road contract works.

The position on the Sale Eastern Bypass was, of course, somewhat different. This was one of the large number of roads which were actually being built when the Act came into force. While it was obviously not possible to introduce major design changes in these schemes, the Department at once put in hand investigations to see what screening measures, if any, could effectively be introduced, in accordance with the principles of the Act, so as to reduce the noise levels which these roads would inflict on their surroundings. Similar consideration had to be given at the same time to all the Department's roads which had then recently been opened to traffic.

I am afraid that the sheer volume of work which this has involved over the past 18 months or so has meant that the Department has not yet been able to carry out the appropriate screening measures for every scheme which had to be looked at retrospectively. In the case of the Sale Eastern Bypass we are only now approaching final decisions about what screening can usefully be done.

As regards Arnesby Avenue, after a very thorough examination of all the possibilities we have reluctantly been forced to the conclusion that it will not be practicable to provide either extra mounding or screen fencing as a means of reducing outside noise levels. There is just no material easily available which would readily enable the Department to extend the limited mounding which was provided here during the motorway contract. Any extension of the existing mounding would have to be at a considerable height to provide a worthwhile reduction in the noise problem, and this would now involve bringing in a very large volume of material from outside sources. The cost of this would be prohibitive.

As far as a screen fence goes, one of the problems in this area is that a large part of the fence could not be positioned in the usual place at the back of the motorway hard shoulder. This is because the fence would interfere seriously with the forward visibility available to drivers on the motorway and the slip road and would thus seriously prejudice the safety of road users. This means that a long section of the fence would have to be positioned part way down the embankment. If it was to be effective against noise, the fence would have to be a minimum of 10 ft. high, increasing to something like 18 ft. high opposite the western end of the avenue. A fence like this would reduce outside noise levels to some extent, but many houses would then lose their entitlement to double glazing. Furthermore, a fence of these proportions would in my view be environmentally disastrous.

We have been forced to conclude, therefore, that the only answer to the problem here will be to insulate the many houses in the avenue which are statutorily entitled to double glazing against the noise from the motorway. I know that this will not help matters in the gardens of the houses, but on the other hand conditions will be very much quieter inside than if the outside noise levels could be reduced but the houses had then to be left uninsulated.

As the hon. Member has rightly pointed out, the Noise Insulation Regulations of 1973 provide that, where there is a statutory entitlement to double glazing, the responsible authority is required to make offers to the owners of affected properties within six months of the opening of the road. In the case of the Sale Eastern Bypass, this period expired on 26th March of this year, and I must straight away express my regret to the hon. Member's constituents that it did not prove possible to meet the statutory timetable in this case. The hon. Member will, however, appreciate that it is possible to establish which properties are eligible for double glazing only once decisions are taken on what can be done in the way of screening to reduce the outside noise levels.

As I have already explained, the enactment of the Land Compensation Act created a transitional problem because of the large amount of work involved in giving retrospective consideration simultaneously to all newly-opened roads and those, like this bypass, which were already being built. This is what has caused delay.

However, the Department expects to be in a position to make offers to all the affected residents during the course of the next two months and the double glazing will be carried out as soon as possible afterwards. In areas along the bypass where it will be possible to carry out effective screening measures, contracts for the erection of the screen fences will be let just as soon as this can be arranged.

I can well understand the annoyance and impatience which the hon. Member's constituents will feel at having to wait longer than we would all wish for the relief of the problems being posed by the new motoway. While apologising to him and to them about this, I think that it is worth while remembering that people in this situation now have the assurance of some kind of relief, and that this was not the case two or three years ago.

I hope that I have satisfactorily answered some of the points that the hon. Gentleman raised, in particular the point that clearly worried him and his constituents about the date of 26th March when the time limit would normally have ended. I hope he will feel assured that the glazing provisions will continue, although it was not carried out within that six-month period.

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman did not have notice of this, but can the Department look at the question of the crash barrier beside the garden at the entrance to the motorway? This is also causing concern. Perhaps the Department can consider this and write to me.

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He mentioned that point but I did not cover it. Certainly this matter will be looked at. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Carmichael) is away on ministerial duty and in his absence I am replying to this debate. I shall put to him the point about the barrier and see what can be done about it. My hon. Friend will certainly write to the hon. Member on this issue.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at six minutes past One o'clock.