Unfortunately I was not able to be present for the Second Reading of this Bill, and I should therefore like to make one or two remarks on how it affects my constituency of Chelsea. I will group these few remarks under the three heads of noise, traffic and inconvenience, and I shall not take up the time of the Committee for more than a moment or two.
With regard to noise, I was glad to read what the Lord President said in his Second Reading speech, namely, that a great deal of trouble had been taken in considering this problem and that he did not think any material inconvenience would be caused. It is good to start off like that because the Committee will realise that, unless trouble is taken, a great deal of inconvenience may be caused to people living in that part of London.
We have not yet had precise details of the hours of opening of the Festival Gardens. There are two points on that. The first is on how long they stay open at night? All people do not go to bed at the same time, young children may be kept awake; there are also five hospitals quite near the neighbourhood of Battersea Park. My second question relates to Sunday openings, and in this connection all I need say is that there are some 10 churches in that part of London.
Then, as regards traffic, there are two points of substance. The normal public transport becomes very congested in that area during the rush hours, and I am sure that the Minister of Transport would not want the residents of Chelsea, going to and from their normal daily tasks, to be held up for any length of time or to have to undertake long detours. The other point concerns congestion of vehicles in the streets. There are a number of narrow streets around the neighbourhood and I hope that the diversions of traffic to Battersea Park will be made early and at some distance from the actual site. Anyone who has been in the neighbourhood of Sloane Square when the Chelsea Flower Show is in progress will understand my meaning. That show, of course, lasts only a few days, but the Festival Gardens will continue for some months.
My third point is inconvenience. I apologise for harping on this question once more, but it is a matter of great importance locally. A vast organisation is being put virtually on the doorstep of many people and I hope that every step will be taken to see that they are disturbed as little as possible. I refer particularly to that part of the park which is not being taken over. I hope that during the period in which the Festival Gardens are being set up, and when they are in progress and during their removal, the remaining part of the park will be left alone as much as possible.
My last point concerns the possible deficiency of £100,000 which the gardens may involve. The Lord President has said that he hopes that that deficit will not be incurred. That is a very good way to start. Let us try to run the Festival Gardens with the idea that there will not be a deficit. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked, why not run the gardens for a matter of years instead of months so that the deficit might perhaps be covered. As was said by the Lord President, that proposal was originally considered but was not approved locally; but I hope that if ever the question is again considered of running the gardens for a number of years rather than months, the local authorities of Battersea and Chelsea will be the first to be consulted and asked for their views.
I should like to refer to another small point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon: namely, traffic on the river. I hope that this is a matter which the Minister will watch very carefully to ensure that the right types of boats are used and that there are strict regulations to prevent overloading. Everyone will agree that it would be tragic if the Exhibition were to be marred by, perhaps, a very serious accident on the river in which a great number of lives were involved.
As the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) indicated, his comments would have been more appropriate on Second Reading, when most of the points which he has raised were, in fact, dealt with. As he was not then present, however, and as he has a very intimate and direct constituency interest in this problem, it is only right that I should repeat to him the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council that all the matters to which he has referred—and they are, we appreciate, material points—will be kept constantly in front of the Exhibition authorities. The Lord President indicated that we have not reached the stage when all the details of times of opening, and whether or not there is to be Sunday opening, have yet reached determination; but, obviously, the comments and views of hon. and right hon. Members will be taken into consideration. With regard to the traffic arrangements, I do not in any way pretend that within that particular area they are not very difficult. Originally, Battersea Park was considered with a view to being the site for the main Festival, but the traffic difficulties of the area are one of the reasons why this suggestion was dropped. On the question of river transport, the hon. and gallant Member will be aware that for the first time I, as Minister of Transport, am taking powers in the Bill to deal with this problem. Hitherto it has not been sub- jected to any guidance or control from the Ministry. We appreciate that the Exhibition will encourage a very substantial increase in this traffic and it is very desirable that we should take the necessary precautionary measures. Generally speaking, I endorse what has been said by the Lord President, and I assure the hon. and gallant Member that we shall bear his comments in mind.
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
I did not intend to speak in this discussion but, in a sense, these problems affect me in the same way as they affect my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), because I happen to be a resident of the neighbourhood bordering on his constituency. If it is in Order to do so, I should like to ask the Minister to take two very important points into consideration. We already have a great congestion of motor bus transport which, for some reason best known to the authorities, is sent to Westminster from the North of London for parking; and the area around Victoria Station, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman, is one of the greatest traffic centres in the world.
I very much hope that when the Festival schemes are being considered, the most careful consideration will be given to the question of the parking of motor buses from distant parts. It is my view that they should be removed a long way away. I must not give away any secrets, but I understand from a near relative of mine—that, I believe, is the Parliamentary term for one's wife—who is a member of the Westminster City Council that discussions are already proceeding between that body and the traffic authorities. If the Minister would give an assurance that the points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend will be taken into consideration my neighbours and I will be very pleased.
I hope that nothing which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) has said will in any way detract from the merits of the Chelsea Flower Show. That show is by far the most distinguished, interesting and honourable thing that has ever happened, or ever will happen, in connection with Chelsea. The very fact that it takes place in the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend brings him immense distinction. It is an event which he certainly ought to attend.
I am quite sure that my hon. and gallant Friend had no intention of running down the show because of the slight inconvenience which it causes to that neighbourhood, but I want to make it quite plain that the example of Chelsea in having its show on the opposite side of the river to the Festival gardens might well be a good thing. I hope that the Chelsea Flower Show, which will always be much more distinguished than the other show, will not be in any way harmed but will instead be encouraged.
I should like to ask some questions on this Clause. The Clause says in the first paragraph:
the Company shall, as soon as may be after the appointed day, do such things as are necessary to reinstate to the satisfaction of the County Council the sites of the gardens.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) referred to the other part of Battersea Park which is not being used for the Festival Gardens. In that other part will be a great crowd of people, possibly trampling down flower beds, damaging trees, breaking park benches and so on. Is anything laid down that that part of the park shall be reinstated, because that is a piece of ground in Battersea Park which may be damaged, although it is not included in the Festival Gardens?
I think the Committee are entitled to know what is to happen in Battersea Park. Are we to have swingboats there, or illuminated gardens, or gin palaces—
I now wish to ask for fuller information about what the Festival Gardens are to contain. Up to date we have not been told what is to happen, but I think hon. Members on all sides of the Committee would be interested to know. I was asking whether there are to be illuminated gardens, gin palaces, switchbacks and so on. I hope the Minister will tell us what is to take place.
I also wish to ask who is to be on the committee to run the show in Battersea Park—
With respect, Major Milner, this Clause refers to the authorisation of works and the works will have to be carried out by someone. I am asking what is to be the composition of the committee to carry out the works. If I may ask that very briefly, I want to know whether it is to be the whole council, or a sub-committee called the Battersea Committee, or the fun fair committee, or the Festival Committee, or whatever it may be.
I should like to carry the questions put by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) a little further. On Second Reading I was very much impressed about the character of the recreations in Battersea Park. We were a good deal reassured by the Lord President of the Council and we were told by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who, I believe, is a member of the committee, that a great deal of attention was to be given to the flowers, the general laying out of the gardens and the beautification of the park. So far as that is so I have no hesitation in supporting the project wholeheartedly, although at one time I had hesitation. I should like to know, however, whether there are to be riotous recreations, such as switchbacks, Aunt Sallys, coconut shies and so on; and an assurance on that point would be gratefully received by many hon. Members.
The execution of works in the Festival Gardens to which the Clause refers, will undoubtedly involve a good deal of disturbance in the adjacent part of the park, because one cannot entirely transform the Festival Gardens without having a lot of planting and so on in the adjoining part of the park. May I ask the Minister for a reply to the questions which have been put on that point, as to whether the adjacent part of the park will also be put in order?
Clause 4 seems a little alarming to me because of the innuendo in page 3, lines 45 and 46. It seems that in the minds of the promoters something will happen in Battersea Park which ordinarily would not happen, something which ordinarily would not be allowed, or permitted—some irregularity, some impropriety, some indecency, something which in the ordinary case would be forbidden by bylaws. The explanatory memorandum rather reinforces this view when it says:
Clause 4 authorises the execution of works and the carrying on of the Company's activities notwithstanding that they would otherwise be actionable on the ground of nuisance.
This seems an unusual provision in a Bill and apparently indicates that power is to be given to lower the standard of propriety. Is the Festival to be a kind of Bacchanalian revelry, because that is the implication which these doubtless innocent words convey to me? I feel it my duty to satisfy my curiosity on the matter.
I wish to put to the Minister the tremendous importance of the protection of the gardens from destruction during the time the Exhibition is being held and their reinstatement. We all share the apprehension of the dreadful effects of an invasion of Scotsmen in Battersea Park. As one of the few hon. Members who really know Battersea Park and admire the skill in which it has been laid out and maintained, I ask if the Minister will see that there shall be one or two senior park keepers in whom may be vested powers to fine on the spot those people who do wilful and careless destruction.
I think it would be quite a mistake to assume that the London County Council will withdraw from their responsibilities in regard to Battersea Park. I cannot say that the park keepers will have magisterial powers, but they will certainly be there for the purpose of seeing that the conduct of the users of the rest of the park is normal. In addition, I know that they intend to have park keepers present for the purpose of regulating traffic.
In regard to the point about impropriety, I want to make it clear that Clause 4 does not refer to the standard of conduct of individuals visiting the amusement park. It refers rather to a legal device and its effect on the works carried on there, or some of the amusements which might take place, or to the process of carrying out work. The whole undertaking could be held up if anyone took action for the purpose of getting an injunction. It is clear that Parliament in organising this national festival, does not want the whole thing to be reduced to chaos by the action of some individual. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) dealt with this at some length in his contribution to the Debate on Second Reading. If hon. Members read the Clause they will see that every step is being taken to protect the legal rights of the individual as far as a claim to damages is concerned, if he is able to establish such a claim, and the only purpose of this provision, we are legally advised, is to prevent the whole thing being held up by some action for an injunction.
The idea that the Festival Gardens Company will open a series of gin palaces and projects of that description in the amusement park is quite out of the question, especially when one considers who are the 15 persons who comprise that company, whose names were asked for by the hon. Member. The Chairman is Sir Henry French, and the other directors include Lord Aberconway. I have just heard references to the importance and the standards of the Chelsea Flower Show, and as everyone knows Lord Aberconway is the president of that. He. representing the Royal Horticultural Society, is one of the directors of this company. Then there is Sir Charles Cochrane, the theatrical manager and producer and Lord Latham, Chairman of the London Transport Executive. There are three members representing the L.C.C., two representing the National Amusements Council and four representing the Festival office. I suggest that personnel of this description represent a substantial guarantee to Members of this House that the amusement park will be conducted on a sensible and reasonable basis.
I should add that the total acreage which it is proposed to use for Festival purposes is about 37. Only approximately 7 acres of this will be devoted to what one might describe as amusement purposes; the other 30 acres will, so far as the information I have and the plans which I have seen indicate, be laid out as additional attractive gardens of a pleasant and enjoyable character, which will be features of the Exhibition. I cannot say whether there will be switchbacks or in detail what there will be in the amusement park, but I feel that if we are to have an amusement park it would be absurd to exclude any form of entertainment of that kind. While that may not appeal to the hon. Gentleman, we have to realise that an undertaking of this kind must cater for a variety of tastes. Provided that it is kept within reasonable bounds and does not become a nuisance to other people, I do not see that we can limit the powers of the Festival Company.
There seems to me to be an important legal point involved here which I do not think was dealt with on Second Reading. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to indicate that in order to prevent a person from bringing an action on the ground of nuisance and so holding up the whole proceedings, the law of nuisance is so to speak to be excluded so far as the operations dealt with in this Clause are concerned. It is stated in the Clause that a claim can be pursued if a person "proves" certain things. I do not know what the word "proves" means. Perhaps some of my hon. and learned Friends on these benches may be able to answer the question as we have no Law Officer present. To whose satisfaction has loss, etc., to be proved—to the satisfac- tion of the court, supposing he brings an action; or has it to be proved merely to the satisfaction of the company?
Supposing a person felt himself aggrieved, and said, "I have not received compensation" and went to law, what assurance have we that the interpretation of the court of the words in the Measure will not be that they mean "proves" to the satisfaction of the company and that as the appellant or the person who has gone to court has not been able to prove it to the satisfaction of the company, he is not entitled to any damages. I should like to know what is the legal interpretation of "proves."
I do not know whether I ought to admit an interest in this matter. Like many others, I speak as a great lover and constant user of Battersea Park and as an inhabitant of Chelsea. I love the park, but at the same time, this Bill having received a Second Reading, I do not want to oppose in toto a Clause of this kind. But I think that the Clause goes a good deal too far for a reason which I shall give to the right hon. Gentleman in the hope that the Government may consider the objection sympathetically and at a later stage put the matter right. I understand what is in the mind of the Government, namely, that they do not desire the remedy of an injunction to be available, since that might hold up the Exhibition altogether. That was the reason given a few minutes ago by the right hon. Gentleman.
As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, however, there are two remedies in the ordinary way in the case of nuisance. By far the more effective remedy is the one which he wishes to avoid, namely an injunction, which might hold the project up altogether. I think that the Government have attempted to retain the remedy of damages. Although I hope that with the more skilled advice available to him the right hon. Gentleman will answer the question which has just been put to him by my noble Friend the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), I am under the impression that the remedy in damages is left by the Clause.
Where I think that the Government have gone too far is in having excluded the remedy of injunction not merely while these works are being erected and for the duration of the Exhibition, but afterwards; they have guarded against anybody having the remedy of injunction should these works be continued under Clause 3 which the Committee has recently considered. I refer to it only to illustrate the effect that Clause 4 can have. I think that I am right in saying, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to look into the matter, that under the Clause which the Committee has just accepted without amendment it will be possible under subsection (2, a) for some of these works which may be a nuisance to be continued for an indefinite period. I cannot think that the Government wish in that case to deny the inhabitants of Chelsea and Battersea the remedy which otherwise they would have under the law of an injunction to prevent that nuisance continuing.
It seems, therefore, that Clause 4 goes too far. I have not thought fit to put down any Amendment because I am speaking to the Committee after this Bill has been given a Second Reading by the House, and I desire to approach the matter sympathetically from what is now the common desire on both sides of the Committee. I hope that the Committee has appreciated that this is a serious point. While there may be excellent grounds, in order to avoid delay, in excluding the remedy of an injunction which might hold up the works necessary for the Exhibition, there is really no ground whatever for excluding that remedy, should it be decided or attempted to make a nuisance permanent after the Exhibition is over.
I cannot think that that can be seriously disputed. In the case of a nuisance by noise, which is the most probable nuisance which we have to consider, the remedy of injunction is the only effective remedy. I need hardly say, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it from me, that I am not assuming either in any body set up in connection with the Festival or in the L.C.C. an indifference to the well being of the people of Battersea or Chelsea, but I say that we are doing a very serious thing indeed if we exclude the remedy of injunction, not merely for the period before the Exhibition takes place and while it is taking place, but for any extension of the use of the works which may be possible under Clause 3.
I should not like the right hon. Gentleman to think that I am in any way opposed to the ordinary appurtenances of an English fair. One of the most hair-raising experiences of my life—and I use the adjective advisedly—was when with my daughter I was in the front row of a vehicle making the most appalling assents and descents on a switchback at the White City. I suggest that that kind of recreation is in its place in some localities and out of place in others. The right hon. Gentleman has said that only seven acres out of the 37 are to be specifically devoted to amusement. I am concerned that what goes on in that seven acres shall not seriously interfere with the enjoyment of the people using the other 30 acres, if there are to be the attendant noises from roundabouts, switchbacks and possibly shooting galleries, and the rest of it, together with the glare at night.
All that may be admirable in certain places but it will be out of place in Battersea Park, and will seriously interfere with the enjoyment of visitors to the park as a whole. I would like the Committee who are controlling this, if they read the report of this Debate, to know that there are some hon. Members who hope they will take into account and consider the interest of the park as a whole, and not isolate that particular seven acres.
The right hon. Gentleman put both the purpose and the power of this Clause completely fairly, but there is one matter on which at any rate I am uncertain. By this Clause we authorise the setting up of what may be a noisy state of affairs and we deprive the people living nearby of what, as has been rightly said by my hon. and learned Friend, is the only effective remedy, that is, procedure by injunction. In order that we may judge the Tightness and wrongness of doing that, I consider it is relevant to know how near to dwelling houses it is intended that these works should be erected.
I think that there is some weight in the point made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris), that it would affect the people using the park, but what is much more important is the effect on people living near to these works. It is intended that these works shall be open in the summer, the time of the year when people are inclined to have their windows open and would therefore be more susceptible to noise than at any other time of the year. If these works are to be erected near dwelling-houses and if, as it must be in order to be a success, the fair is open during the evening time, it may produce an intolerable state of affairs for people who have the good or the bad fortune to live near. It would relieve my mind if the right hon. Gentleman could give some indication of the distance between these proposed works and the nearest dwelling-house.
I wish to put one point to the right hon. Gentleman regarding the matter of an injunction. Everyone would agree that we do not want an injunction between now and the time that the show is on. But what does alarm the ordinary person such as myself, is that when it is over there is apparently no power of getting the matter put right again. I should like an assurance that this power against injunction will lapse when the Exhibition is over. Such a power is the only real defence in these matters, and should be given back to the neighbourhood as soon as possible.
I wish to make clear what I meant when I said that senior park keepers should have magisterial powers. I use the parks a great deal and I can assure the Minister that we shall never get rid of the nuisance caused by thoughtless and vicious persons until they can be fined on the spot. They could be given the option of going to court. It is a practice not unknown in other countries, and it has got rid of this abominable nuisance of the careless destruction of flowers and plants, and also of the depositing of litter which is such a hideous eyesore.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) has modified his original proposal, but it is still too dangerous for me to consider. In reply to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), I would say that the siting of the amusement park will be as far as possible from habitations.
No doubt between now and other stages of the Bill the hon. Member will look at the plans and may be able to satisfy himself on that point. I would assure the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) that the case has to be proved to the satisfaction of the courts and not of the company, although there would be an opportunity for the company and the claimant to come to some agreement.
I wish to thank the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) for raising the point which he did. I understand that Clause 4 does not apply this power to a building retained permanently. It is confined to the period of the Festival. I recognise, however, that it is a valid point although no one has contemplated that it should continue after the period of the Festival. I recognise also that within the powers of Clause 3 the London County Council has the right of retaining certain buildings, and if the nuisance should be directed to anything of that kind then the matter is one which should be looked into. I can assure the hon. and learned Member that between now and the Bill reaching another place it will be further examined.
I have a question to ask which I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to answer as completely and as satisfactorily as he answered the other question which I put to him. I am open to conviction—this is not a party matter and we are discussing it on a non-party basis—but under this Clause it appears to me that we are giving exceptionally wide powers. As anyone acquainted with the entertainment industry will be aware, the most stringent regulations are laid down, both through the law of the country and also in some cases by local building regulations, to prevent the erection of buildings which are unsatisfactory from the point of view of safety and the question of fire, or of a possible stampede in the event of people being alarmed. Such regulations are far more stringent in this country than in any Continental country I know, and, as I understand this Clause, it gets round the whole of that elaborate provision.
The company can produce these entertainments—about which we have been told singularly little. I do not know who is to carry out the public performance of stage plays, or who will give the cinematograph exhibitions, but I do not wish to raise that point now. Apparently, however, under this Clause it is possible to get round all the elaborate precautions laid down for the protection of the public; and anything which the company says is fit to be erected for the purpose of providing entertainment can be erected. Has there been any such provision in any Bill, public or private which has previously come before Parliament? I do not see why it is necessary. Surely any entertainment which is to be given should be subject to the ordinary law of the land. For example, what about Sunday entertainment? Does this get round the Sunday Cinematograph Act and other Acts? We want more information on this point than was given during the Second Reading Debate.
I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord has said. This is a matter which deserves consideration. The Minister of Transport has not the advantage of having either of the Law Officers with him at the moment to advise him on this matter. I hope that he will take an early opportunity of investigating the position. It seems that here the entertainments, which are in the nature of those being provided by the State, are being put above the law which applies to the ordinary person who provides such entertainment. It is rather unfortunate that when the State enters this field of activity it should take to itself privileges which are not accorded to those who are in ordinary business. I should have thought that above all the State ought to be the first to set a good example.
Order. The hon. Member who is at the Table must resume his seat. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to take a book to his seat if he wishes, but he is not entitled to read it at the Table.
I was saying that I should have thought that the State should be the first to set a good example in these matters. As the noble Lord pointed out, this exempts the company which is acting on behalf of the State from statutes and regulations which are part of the ordinary law for the safety of people attending this sort of function. The noble Lord asked whether any similar provision had been made on a previous occasion. I can only recall one myself, and that was earlier this year when we were discussing the Licensing Act. The Home Secretary will remember that we had a discussion about a provision which exempted licensees in the new towns from certain requirements of the ordinary law which had to be observed by the ordinary licensee.
It seems singularly unfortunate that that should happen twice in one year and that we should find that, immediately the State begins to enter into the provision of facilities of this kind, it begins to set itself above the law. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take legal advice about the matter so that the Committee may be fully informed of the effect of this Clause if it is passed without Amendment. The Minister should himself set the standard which he expects the subjects to follow. It would be most unfortunate if we were to pass a provision which imposes one standard on ordinary people and another standard on some business which is run by the State or by somebody on its behalf.
This Clause interests me because it discloses quite clearly a position which has been rather ambiguous to some of us in the past. In Battersea Park it is evidently the intention of the company to produce stage plays, dancing, entertainments, boxing, wrestling and cinematograph exhibitions under somewhat unusual circumstances. Clause 6 deals with such buildings as may be erected in connection with these entertainments. It has this curious condition.
If the buildings are of such a character that the London County Council desires to retain them after the Festival is over, they shall be retained. If they are of such a character that the London County Council does not desire to retain them
the Minister shall secure that such works are removed as soon as may be after the appropriate date.
I should like to know what the effect of that provision will be.
If I represented the London County Council and if I were desirous of securing certain interesting buildings for the use of the council in Battersea Park, I should build them of the most permanent quality and thereby become empowered to retain them. If I desired to retain them, I should make it worth my while to see that they were retained. The Minister would have no power.
It may be that I am completely mistaken, but I suggest that the Clause seems to encourage the London County Council to make certain permanent structures for wrestling, boxing, dancing cinematograph exhibitions and stage plays. It encourages the council to do this because if it does, it has the power to say whether or not they will continue to exist. If it does not build them in this complete and exhaustive fashion, then the Minister will have power.
If a Bill were being produced for the complete transformation of Battersea Park from what it is into what some people have said it may well be—a fun fair—this Clause seems to indicate that these aims are being sought to be achieved in a subtle fashion. I hope that I am mistaken, but I cannot get away from the perfectly clear statement in Clause 6 that if the council does not want them, the Minister shall remove them, but if the council wants them, the Minister shall be powerless.
When we discussed Clause 4 the Minister was good enough to admit that there was a point which he would look into in order to ensure that the exceptional exemptions, which are given in some places from the common law, and in other cases from statutory law, shall not affect the rights of persons interested after the Festival has ended. I think that here I am with my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe). A similar position may arise as regards the London Building Acts.
It may be one thing to hasten on the building of the necessary works by exempting those concerned from having to apply for various permissions under the London Building Acts, though I think that is rather a curious commentary on how long it takes to obtain these various consents if applications are made by ordinary people at ordinary times. But the bigger point is how long it would be proper that any building which was not in accordance with the London Building Acts should be retained notwithstanding its non-compliance with those Acts. I think that a not dissimilar question to that which the right hon. Gentleman said he would look into on the last occasion arises also on this Clause.
I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I can imagine that the explanation is that it would be unreasonable to apply to temporary buildings in Battersea Park the restrictions that apply to permanent buildings generally. If that is so, could the Minister say whether the temporary buildings in Battersea Park will be freed from restrictions which fall on the temporary buildings put up by a private purveyor of entertainment elsewhere? Is there to be a distinction between the buildings in Battersea Park and those which might be put up elsewhere?
I should like to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). As the Minister knows, we have had special reasons for hurrying this Bill through certain of its stages, not only on the Floor of the House. This has been done because it has been accepted that it is absolutely necessary to get on with the work. We have here a very peculiar situation. There will be certain buildings erected, and, so far as I know, no one in this Committee, and probably no one else outside, knows exactly what they will be like. For practical purposes it will be left to the London County Council to decide whether they shall be permanent or not, without there having been available to us any of the ordinary powers of objection and without any knowledge of the buildings being placed before us, as is the case with a Private Bill.
For that reason, it is most essential that something should be done to amend this Clause so that it is no longer the case that the L.C.C. is the only authority which will have any power to decide the matter. I do not agree that the responsibility for this decision should be left with the L.C.C. The Minister himself should say whether certain buildings should remain or not, but the L.C.C. might be given an option of saying whether they wish to take them over or not. If they do not wish to do so, then the buildings must go, but it should not be within their power to say that they will retain any particular building.
The danger of that situation was illustrated clearly by one of my hon. Friends a few moments ago. As the Clause stands, they will have the decision that will enable them to acquire vast buildings not paid for out of their own rates, but paid for by the ordinary taxpayer. That being the case, I feel strongly that, before this Clause leaves the Committee, we should have an assurance from the Minister that the deciding voice in this question of the permanency or otherwise of certain buildings should be that of the Minister, and that the decision should not rest entirely with the L.C.C.
I quite agree that in a Clause of this description, providing exemptions which apply generally to citizens, it is desirable that we should look with particular care on their effect. In this case, I consider that there is no real difficulty. There is no dispute between the London County Council, the local authorities, and the Festival authorities. Generally speaking, it is the desire of the Festival authorities that they should conform to and go through the normal procedure regarding buildings and entertainment licences. It became clear after consultations had taken place with the L.C.C. and others that the local authorities considered that they could not deal with these plans in the time available. The only way out of the difficulty was to provide exemption from the provisions of the London Buildings Acts, 1930 to 1939.
As a matter of fact, one cannot take out a licence for any entertainment until a building is erected, and, as the local authorities in this case and under this arrangement will not be authorising the buildings in the normal way, they could not accept the responsibility for the licensing of the entertainments, so that there followed automatically the two sets of exemptions which had to be taken together.
It would be quite wrong to assume that because, for timing reasons, that procedure has had to be adopted, any buildings that are erected will be below the standards that would normally prevail if the proper machinery or procedure had been followed, and the Government have conveyed to Lord Ismay, the president of the Festival Council, the view that they will expect in every way the normal standards to be followed. Arrangements have been made with the L.C.C. for their experts to be associated with the Festival office in order to see that these standards are observed, and arrangements have also been made with the Ministry of Works to give similar assistance. There is no question that any buildings that are erected will be below the standard that would be required if the normal procedure had been followed.
With regard to the retention of the buildings, that is a matter which the London County Council itself will determine. I do not see any objection to that, and, if any capital has been expended on a building which is later found to be of permanent value and advantage to the amenities of Battersea Park, there seems to me to be no purpose in pulling that building down or destroying it. That is a matter for the L.C.C. to decide with the Festival authorities at the end of the proceedings. Those buildings which they do not require will be removed and the park reinstated in its original form.
I hope that this explanation will allay some of the anxieties which have been expressed on these matters, together with the assurance that every reasonable precaution will be taken to see that, whilst these exemptions are granted, they will not in fact result in a lowering of the standard that normally prevails.
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the point which my hon. Friends and I put to him. Our real objection is that the body which has the final power to determine whether buildings shall remain or not is the L.C.C. We should prefer the Ministry to make that final decision.
I hope I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, because what he said does not seem to me to make sense. As I understood him, he said that it was not possible to keep to the ordinary process of law because time did not allow of these buildings being built to the required standard; but he went on to say that, in fact, they would be built in compliance with the normal standard.
I did not say they would not be built in accordance with those standards, but that the time did not permit of following the normal procedure to ensure that in the ordinary way.
In that event, I did misunderstand the right hon. Gentleman, and it does make a little more sense now, though it is still not entirely satisfactory. The particular point of which I am thinking concerns the provisions already laid down dealing with the showing of cinematograph films. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that very high standards have been set for such buildings on account of the very high inflammability of the films. Can we be assured that no building will be used for the showing of films which falls below the standard which has been laid down for the private exhibitor, who has a very heavy burden placed upon him?
I am sure that follows.
It is right to place on record, without in any way being offensive, which I do not want to be, that we go from extreme to extreme, and that the House of Commons in Committee is now passing a Clause conferring a power which has never yet been given to any public or private authority. In the ordinary course, before people can produce entertainments they have to erect the building and get permission. I think passing this Clause indicates the present state of affairs in this country. [Interruption.] I do not see anything funny in that. A law has been passed to protect the interests of the public in circumstances such as fire and stampede, and that law is being broken this afternoon. I do not think that is funny, and the public will regard it as rather serious. I am not prepared to oppose it now, but I should like it to be placed on record that we have created a very considerable precedent this afternoon.
I must make it perfectly plain that there will be no question here of evading the regulations or conditions which are normally provided against fire or stampede or matters of that description. It must be accepted that these standards will be applied to any buildings erected by the Festival authorities.
A good deal of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I thought, was made on the assumption that Clause 6 (1) applied to the works executed in Battersea Park, but if he will look at subsection (3, b) he will see that it says:
subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to works in Battersea Park.
I think that what we are doing in this Clause is not only serious on the grounds given by my noble Friend, but also attains a very high level of obscurity. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consult his advisers. I do not profess to have examined fully the legal implications of this Clause, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to amend it so as to make quite obvious what is meant and to meet some of the points of criticism that have been made.
I wish to follow up the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman to my noble Friend a few moments ago that all the safety requirements laid down in the relevant Measures would, in fact, be carried out in this connection. That is a very valuable and important point. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not regard it as offensive if I say that it would be better to have it in the Bill. Is there any objection to adding at the end of this Clause some proviso to the effect that although exemptions are given, the necessary standards shall be maintained? Such a statement would quiet the anxieties to which this matter has given rise, and as the right hon. Gentleman has said that that is what is going to happen, there could surely be no objection to doing that.
Before we leave this Clause I wish to say that I still strongly object to it. I have as much respect for the London County Council as anyone, but I must say that all the proceedings as far as this is concerned have gone through at great speed, and many things have been done in the Bill which actually do not give the ordinary individual the usual power of objecting to, say, buildings, or anything of that kind. That has been done through sheer goodwill towards this Exhibition. The right hon. Gentleman knows that better than I do.
That being the case, I think that as we have given this tremendous power to the London County Council to put up these buildings, there should be some possibility of ensuring that if after the Exhibition, such buildings are found to be generally objectionable in some way or other, it shall not remain entirely with the London County Council to decide what shall happen to them. It would be much better if there was a provision in the Clause giving the London County Council the option of taking them over. Obviously, they would not take them over if they did not meet the ordinary requirements, but the Ministry should have power to see that, if necessary, certain buildings are removed. I think that such a provision should be in the Clause, although I thoroughly dislike the Clause.
I wish to ask a question about subsection (2), which deals with regulating the use of vessels. Can the Minister say whether the Company themselves will run these vessels or whether Tom, Dick and Harry are to be allowed to come along with little craft and ply for hire, and take people from the main Exhibition to Battersea Park? It would obviously be much better if the Company were to run their own vessels, and if they do so, what type of vessels are they going to use? The Dutch have the most wonderful river buses in the world. They run down the canals and through the harbours, and can stand rough weather. I suggest that if we are short of vessels, we ought to pay attention to the Dutch market for our requirements in this direction.
I must admit an interest. I take great pleasure in "mucking about" in a small boat on the Thames. Although there is a certain amount in this Clause which I welcome, regarding the permanent retention of landing stages which may be a real improvement to London, there is one point I wish to raise with the right hon. Gentleman because it very much concerns his Department. One of the reasons why he is in charge of this Measure is, of course, because he is concerned with transport.
I am a little surprised that under subsection (2) the London County Council is to be the authority making and enforcing the bylaws concerning these landing stages. I should have thought that in the event of their being made permanent, the right hon. Gentleman might well desire that the Port of London Authority, which is, of course, the authority which has charge of Cadogan Pier on the opposite bank, should also have something to do with the management of and the regulations concerning the piers and landing stages on the south bank. The right hon. Gentleman may wish to look into the question whether he really desires to exclude the Port of London Authority from being concerned with the landing stages on the south bank when, of course, they are the authority for those on the north bank.
I think it is an excellent thing that these landing stages are being built, and I have only one doubt concerning them. If they are being constructed for permanent use after the Festival is over, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that the position of the landing stages will be such that the amenities of Battersea Park will not be adversely affected in any way. I appreciate that they must be in a certain place in the river in order to get the maximum depth of water, but I should like the Minister to give an assurance that they will not adversely affect the amenities of the Park.
Having regard to the interest declared by my hon. and learned Friend the junior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) in traffic on the Thames, having regard to the recognised and greater interest of my hon. Friend the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert), and having regard to the fact that this House will have few opportunities for showing favours to University Members, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not grant University representatives exemption from all regulations connected with landing stages on the Thames during the period of the Festival.
With regard to the point put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey), I should think that the piers would represent a permanent advantage to Battersea Park. In my view, they would certainly have the advantage of enabling residents in other parts of London, who always have a difficulty in going from north to south on our existing bus and other traffic routes, to do so without changing. It would also provide an opportunity after the Exhibition for many people to visit Battersea Park. No doubt the Festival period will encourage tens of thousands of people to visit the Park who have never yet done so, and will make it more popular than it has ever been before.
In reply to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) concerning the powers of the London County Council, I would point out that in Clause 7 (3) the London County Council and the Port of London Authority are brought in, and that in subsection (5) the Minister of Transport will be the confirming authority for the by-laws concerned. As the hon. and learned Member is aware, it is the practice of the Ministry of Transport in all these matters to use the local authority or established statutory bodies for carrying out the work. They are familiar with and responsible for all these arrangements. All that this Clause does is to provide additional powers for the Minister to make grants for the construction of these piers. It is not desirable or equitable that, for Festival purposes, these bodies should have to incur the whole cost of the construction of the new piers.
As I indicated in the Second Reading Debate, the traffic on the river will be very considerably augmented, and from the safety point of view and to avoid traffic chaos it is desirable that the Minister should have powers for the purpose of regulating the traffic. As to whether any Tom, Dick or Harry will be able to run a water bus, or whether the Company will conduct these operations, I should like to make it clear that the Company will not have power to conduct these operations. The Company is quite a passing factor, created merely for the purpose of running the Festival Gardens for six months; but the water buses—and my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson) has played a considerable part in popularising the traffic on the Thames—are run by watermen who run their own craft and are experienced River Thames operators. It is desired to see that the service comes under partial control and that the vessels used are of a standard which will ensure the safety and the comfort of their passengers.
I am very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that there will not be too many rigid controls so far as these craft are concerned. It would be undesirable to lay down that we should have official water buses only, particularly if they were to be run by the London County Council. I should prefer to see them run by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) so that he could come up with his little party and land in the ordinary way. We do not want everyone to be restricted to using official buses and things of that sort. There is too much of that sort of thing. I am glad that the Minister is moving so steadily to the Right and giving private individuals their chance.
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. The purpose of these regulations is to prevent persons like the hon. and learned Member from "mucking about" on the Thames.
Unlike some of us, perhaps my hon. and learned Friend is not so well versed in the English language, and he sometimes uses words wrongly. What I am saying is that the ordinary person who may live further up the Thames should be able to come to the Exhibition and use his own boat to get there. That is what I thought was the purport of the Minister's reply.
There is a very large number of watermen on the Thames; I used to know some of them. Some of them have a most remarkable power of language, and it would be a pity if they did not have the opportunity of showing that the English language has a very considerable range. Just as some people live up the river, so there are people living down the river who should be able to come in their own boats and visit the Exhibition without all the rules and regulations for which some people would appear to wish.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly called my attention to Clause 7 (5), which I had noticed, and to subsection (3) which he thought met my point. I do not want to be too dogmatic, but without further examination I am a little doubtful whether it does meet my point. I want to be quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman's legal advisers have considered what will be the position of these landing stages if, as is hoped, they are retained and remain permanent after the Exhibition is over. The Minister will see in subsection (3) the words:
… landing stages in the River Thames (not being festival landing stages) …
I only draw his attention to those words because I am not quite certain that he has brought in the Port of London Authority in the way in which I am quite certain he wishes to bring them in, in the event of the landing stages being kept on permanently after the Exhibition is over. I have no doubt that he will look into the point, and I will leave the matter there.
There is one small point which I should like to bring to the notice of the Committee arising from this Clause. Clause 8, as hon. Members will observe, makes provision for grants towards the expense of constructing additional landing stages, not being Festival landing stages. It makes no provision for any contribution towards the cost of operating or maintaining such landing stages. The point I wish to make is that there is nothing in this Bill which affects the rights, powers or obligations of the Port of London Authority in regard to the provision or maintenance of landing stages when all this is over. The powers of the authority are preserved. The question of the allocation of expenditure which may be incurred hereafter on such of these landing stages as may be permanent can be discussed at the proper time, but there is nothing in the Bill which lays down anything in that respect or which affects in any way the existing powers and the responsibilities of the Port of London Authority. If I did not make this point, I might hereafter be accused of having allowed the Committee to part with this Clause through a misapprehension.
I find some confusion in the fact that while "the Company" means "any company," "the County Council" means "the London County Council"; "the exhibition" means the exhibition, "the gardens" means the gardens, "the Minister" means the Minister. But "the Company" means "any company." I do not want to be hypercritical, but it would seem to me, with some knowledge perhaps of finance, that if the Festival Gardens Company referred to in the Financial Memorandum, paragraph 1, had any little difficulties, I would rely upon the definition in Clause 11 and get rid of the inconvenient company, because the Minister has powers to form another company. It seems a little invidious. Is the Minister not satisfied with the constitution of the Festival Gardens Company, and does he wish to be able, if necessary, to contract out by using "any" company?
I am sure the Minister or the Home Secretary or someone on the Front Bench wishes to reply because we have in this Clause one of the worst absurdities which has ever been produced in a Government Department. With the exactitude which we always expect from him, or from any hon. Member from north of the Tweed, my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) has pointed out the position. Are we to be left in a position in which we pass this Clause with the knowledge that, under the Clause, if any old body of people call themselves together and consider themselves a company, they can act in this way? Surely the Minister can give us some reply? We may have misinterpreted the position or it may be a misprint, for there are lots of misprints in Bills. We almost need to have a third House to correct Government misprints Can we have some answer?
We have references to further landing stages and to landing stages authorised by paragraph so-and-so. Why should, it not be "the company authorised by"—and then the particular reference in the Bill? Why "any company?" Why not the company authorised by the Act?
I thought I had made quite plain earlier, when I read out the names of the Festival Gardens Company, that that has been very definitely determined. I know that in legal matters these descriptive words are often put in. I do not know whether they are now unnecessary words, inserted in case the company had not been formed in time or in case the company will not be formed in time, but I thought I had made it quite plain earlier that the personnel of the company, the directors, have been determined. Invitations have been sent out and accepted. If there are any words to be tidied up, that can be done in another place. As far as I know, everything is in order and there is no question of "any old body" of persons, as one hon. Member suggested, other than the directors.
Why on earth could not the Minister have said that when he was asked? I object when the Minister sits there and compels Member after Member to press him for an answer which, apparently, he knows all the time. It is a frightful waste of time and I wish the attention of the Lord President could be called to it.
Does not that explanation make it still more incomprehensible that it should still be called "any company"? The Minister says the board has actually been appointed. It is certainly not "any company"; it is the authorised company. Could not the Minister assure us that he will adopt words of that kind at a later stage?