That the draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section. 10 of the Gas Regulation Act, 1920, on the application of the Langley Mill and Heanor Gas Light and Coke Company, Limited, which was presented on the 15th July and published, be approved."—[Sir Burton Chadwick.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section 10 of the Gas Regulation Act, 1920, on the application of the Great Yarmouth Gas Company, which was presented on the 15th July and published, be approved."—[Sir Burton Chadwick.]
I beg to move, in line 4, at the end to add the words,
Great Yarmouth, called Caister, which is, of course, a country village adjoining a town, and I have been asked by my constituents to oppose only two sections of this Order, this otherwise entirely harmless Gas Order. The Sections are Section 7 (1, b), and Schedule 1, Part 2, which refer to a site for a gas works. Can I just for a moment detain the House by stating the position of affairs? The village of Caister is one of the oldest villages, I take it, in my constituency. It was originally started at the southern end of a line of fortifications which were put up by the Romans to protect a peculiarly defenceless part of the coast of England, and, if I may say so, local tradition says it was one place where the German fleet was expected to land if it made any attack at all. In mediaeval times there was a large natural estuary which extended from Caister, on the one side, to a place called
Burgh Saint Peter. On the other side it was about seven miles wide, and the whole of the commerce of Norwich, which in the time of Edward IV was the second largest town of England, used it. This little village has had a continuous history, which many a town much bigger would be glad to have had, right from the beginning, 1,600 years ago, and in the Middle Ages there was a castle, which remains to-day. I daresay many of my friends would like to know who was the gentleman who erected that castle, It was the home, if not the possession, of the man who in an amorous letter to two married ladies, describes himself in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" as
Your own true knight, by day or night,
Or in any light, with all his might,
For thee to fight,
I do not want to weary the House, but Caister is now more or less an old-world fishing village. It is famous all round for the gallantry of its lifeboat, and for the many seamen that it sends every year into the Navy. This little village, as I say, at the present time is a mile and a-half north of Yarmouth. There has been put up quite a collection of lodging houses, villas, bungalows and houses of that sort. It is an incipient health resort.
It is proposed to put up a gas holder. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] I do not say shame. I quite admit it is necessary to have gas, but I say that you can erect this at some distance away, and not quite close to schools, houses and churches. It is to be near a school. What I am asking the House to do is to allow the Yarmouth Gas Company to put this gas holder at some distance away. I quite admit that they might be picturesque objects. I quite admit, I have admitted it in the House, that these gas-holders are modelled upon the Temple of Vesta in the Forum at Rome. There is no prejudice against this class of building in Rome. All I am asking the House in this matter is to take out Section 7 1 (B) and Schedule 1, Part I, of the Order. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is likely to reply. He and I have discussed this matter, and I must say that he has shown great fairness and courtesy, and that also applies to others with whom I have come in contact in connection with this Order. My constituents, I admit, have come very late into the field in their opposition to this particular proposal, and that is why they are making this appeal to the House. I ask the House to keep out the Sections I have suggested, or to modify the Order in such a way, that the site of this building should be moved, and so that the village should be saved from having a gasholder in close proximity to schools or houses.
I should like to support the appeal that has been made by my hon. Friend. I cannot expect to achieve the picturesque language in which he has indulged, but I put it to the House that some of us think that this small township should have this building moved to an equally suitable site, where it will not be objectionable to the place.
This is an Order to authorise the Great Yarmouth Gas Company to extend their limits of supply, and to construct a gas-holder on a site at Caister belonging to the company. The gasholder is required for the purpose of affording a supply of gas at a proper pressure in Caister and the outlying parts of the new area of supply. As the hon. Member has said, the matter has been thoroughly examined into and thrashed out. Notices of the application were duly given in accordance with the Gas Regulation Act. Out of the 122 persons upon whom notice was served, objections were received from only seven persons. One of these was from a gentleman who said, to place a gas-holder on the site suggested would be an object that would attract an enemy, and be bombed by an enemy, and for that reason he objected to it. No objections were lodged by the local authority, by any person responsible for the development of building land, or for the management of the school in the vicinity of the new site. A local inspection of the site was made by an officer of the Department, at which the objections were fully explained and discussed. In view of all this I am afraid that I really cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
I do not want to keep the House, but the object of our Parlia- mentary procedure is, when a matter of this kind comes up, to ensure that where a comparatively small township is concerned it should be heard. Representations should be made in the early stages of the matter, but then, small townships are not, perhaps, sometimes sufficiently vocal, when their interests, it may be, are likely to be prejudiced. It is not until the later stages that local opinion awakens to what is being done. There is no more desirable thing in any township, perhaps, than the erection of gasworks or a gas-holder, but if such an erection is to be put up where there are houses, and particularly where there are public buildings such as schools and churches, we might give the matter some further consideration. I do not know the place. I have never been there in my life, but my hon. Friend the Member for Eastern Norfolk (Mr. Neville) has just shown me the map and explained exactly what has happened. Here is a small township outside a seaside town, close to the sea. It is only a little village, but it is right up against dwellings and public buildings that this emblem of modern development is to be erected, quite obviously to the prejudice of those who live in the vicinity. I think it would be a pity to divide the House, so I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should withdraw this Motion to-night—seeing it is mute an important point—and the matter can be raised again after, it may be, some alteration has been made. If my hon. Friend does not feel disposed to do that: I think this is one of those instances in which the House ought to protect small localities, and I ask the House to divide against this Order.
I would like to add one word of appeal to the hon. Gentleman to respond to the request which has been made to him. I think the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Neville) made out a very strong ease indeed, and as a Member of a small minority I am bound to say that I enter into the feelings of the people of this-place who are going to have their locality disfigured by this monstrous thing.
I see what the feeling of the House is, and I am going to make this suggestion to my hon. Friend, that he should allow this Order to go through on the condition that if within three months those interested, either the local authority or anybody else, are able to provide a site which will be a suitable—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I would be willing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]—to delay the operation of this Order pending such examination. If he would be willing to agree to that I think it is rather a reasonable way out.
On a point of Order. Are we not in this difficulty, that if this Order is passed to-night it becomes statutory in its authority, and that no amount of persuasion from my hon. Friend could prevent the party concerned putting into operation the powers given in this Order?
May I express the hope that the Minister will postpone this Order? Our procedure is intended to deal with cases of the kind which have come before us to-night. Authorities embark on costly Parliamentary proceedings in support of their claims to undertake various works in the locality, and it is an expensive business for small people to enter opposition to them, and here we have a procedure which enables us to protect these little people and to have their grievances investigated. Surely this work could be carried through in a way which would not damage the amenities of Caister. I urge the Minister to look into the matter a little more closely, and hold the Order up pending a report on the whole proceedings.
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
I made a suggestion with the object of meeting the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Neville), which I thought would give an opportunity for some arrangement to be come to. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I do not wish to endanger the whole position for the gas company. I see what the feeling of the House is, and I am rather surprised at it, but there it is. Rather than endanger the enterprise of the gas company I think it would be better to postpone the Order.