New Clause. — (Highways.)

Orders of the Day — War Damage Bill. – in the House of Commons on 12th February 1941.

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  1. (1) No payment shall be made under the preceding provisions of this Part of this Act in respect of war damage to a highway maintainable at the public expense.
  2. (2) Payments shall be made by the Commission to highway authorities in accordance with, and subject to the provisions of, a scheme to be made by the Treasury in respect of war damage to such highways as aforesaid occurring during the risk period, and contributions towards the expense of making such payments shall be made by the councils of counties and county boroughs at such rates and in such manner as may be provided by the scheme.
  3. The contributions aforesaid shall he expenses for general county purposes as well in the case of the London County Council as of the councils of other counties.
  4. (3) The contributions aforesaid shall be payable by five interim annual instalments, becoming due in the year nineteen hundred and forty-one and each of the four subsequent years and a final instalment.
  5. (4) The provision to be made by the scheme in relation to the contributions aforesaid shall be such as to secure, as nearly as may be, by reference to estimates of the relevant amounts—
    1. (a) That the aggregate of the contributions shall bear to the payments made under Sub-section (2) of this Section the same proportion as the net receipts of the Exchequer under the provisions of this Part of this Act other than this Section (calculated in accordance with paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Sub-section (5) of Section sixteen of this Act) bear to the payments in respect of war damage made under the provisions of this Part of this Act other than this Section (calculated as aforesaid); and
    2. (b) That each interim instalment, and the final instalment, to be paid by the council of any county or county borough shall hear to the aggregate of the corresponding interim instalments, or of the final instalments, as the case may be, to be paid by all such councils, the same proportion as the rateable value of the property in the area of that council as appearing on the first day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine (or, in the case of the London County Council, the sixth day of April in that year), in the valuation list in force on that date bore to the rateable value of the property in the areas of all such councils as so appearing.
  6. (5) The scheme may provide for the payment by the Minister of Transport, with the approval of the Treasury, to the councils of counties and county boroughs in Great Britain of grants in respect of the contributions to be made by them under this section not exceeding in the aggregate in the case of any council one half of the contributions to be made by that council.
  7. Any grants paid by the Minister of Transport under any provision made by the scheme under this Sub-section shall be defrayed out of the Road Fund.
  8. (6) The scheme may provide for the making by the Commission to highway authorities of payments in respect of war damage to roads, not being highways maintainable at the public expense, in cases in which works for the making good of war damage thereto are executed by such authorities and where a payment has been, or is to be, made under the scheme in respect of any such works, the cost thereof shall not be the subject of a payment under the preceding provisions of this Part of this Act.
  9. (7) Nothing in the three last preceding Subsections shall be construed as limiting the generality of the power conferred on the Treasury by virtue of Sub-section (2) of this Section to make by the scheme such provision as to the payments and contributions therein mentioned as appear to them to be requisite.
  10. (8) A scheme made under this Section may be amended by a subsequent scheme made thereunder.
  11. (9) A scheme made under this Section shall be embodied in an order which shall be laid before the Commons House of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made and shall be of no effect until it has been approved by a resolution of that House.
  12. (10) The fact that works have been executed on a road by a highway authority as mentioned in Sub-section (6) of this Section, or that a payment in respect of such works has been made under the scheme, shall not be treated as relevant for the purposes of the determination of any question arising as to whether the road is maintainable at the public expense.
  13. (11) In this Section—
  14. The expression "highway authority" does not include the Minister of Transport;
  15. The expression "highway maintainable at the public expense" means a highway repairable by the inhabitants at lame or by a highway authority, and includes any bridge or viaduct carrying a highway being a bridge or viaduct which is repairable by the council of a county, county borough, metropolitan borough or county district, by the Common Council of the City of London, or by the inhabitants of any locality;
  16. The expression "road" includes a footway and a bridle path, and includes any bridge or viaduct carrying a road; and
  17. The expression "bridge" and "viaduct" respectively include the approaches thereto and the abutments thereof.
  18. (12) In the application of this Section to Scotland—
    1. (a) Any reference to a county borough shall be construed as a reference to a large burgh within the meaning of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929; any reference to a county district shall be construed as a reference to a small burgh within the meaning of that Act; and for the purpose of any contribution payable under this Section a small burgh shall be deemed to he included within the county in which it is situated; and
    2. (b) Any reference to the rateable value of the property in the area of a council shall be construed as a reference to four-fifths of such rateable value.
  19. (13) References in this Section to councils of counties shall be construed as including references to the Council of the Isles of Scilly, but contributions made under this Section by the said Council shall be general expenses.—[Captain Crookshank.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It is the intention that a detailed scheme should be presented to the House with regard to highways, and that scheme would, of course, not be effective until the House had approved it; but we think it is as well to include in the Bill some principles upon which the scheme would be drafted. The most important point is in Sub-section (4), which lays down how the contributions are to be raised from highway authorities. The authorities for this purpose will be county and county borough councils, and not the smaller authorities, in order to make sure, by taking the larger authorities, that there is no double payment of contributions. The manner in which the contribution will be levied is, briefly, that the total to be contributed by the highway authorities in respect of war damage to highways shall bear to the payments made under Sub-section (2) of the new Clause the same proportion as the total contributions bear to payments under Part I of the Bill when expressed over the whole field. Sub-section (5) of the new Clause deals with grants out of the Road Fund, and Sub-section (6) deals with the case where a highway authority may find it necessary on traffic grounds to do work on a road which is not, in fact, a highway maintainable at the public expense. The effect of this Sub-section is that the cost of repairing war damage in those cases would be met from the Exchequer and not operate to increase the contributions payable in respect of the highway authorities, those contributions being related in their to to payments by the War Damage Commission.

As the scheme will have to come before the House later on, I do not suppose hon. Members would wish me to discuss the details at any length now, but perhaps it would save time if, with your permission, Colonel Clifton Brown, I said a few words about the Amendments to the new Clause which are on the Order Paper. The first Amendment, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), seeks to ensure that there Shall be consultation with the local authorities before the scheme is introduced. As the scheme has to be approved by Parliament, it is most likely that when it is brought forward the first question which my hon. Friend will ask is whether the authorities have been consulted, and I should be sorry for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and myself if we had to say "No." Obviously, they will be consulted, and I do not think it is necessary to put that provision in the Bill, since it is a matter of common sense.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

On a point of Order, Colonel Clifton Brown. Do you intend to call my Amendments or not? I should like to have an opportunity to reply to the statements that are being made by my right hon. and gallant Friend.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

I think I shall be able to satisfy my hon. Friend. Although I cannot imagine either the Chancellor or myself putting ourselves in the position of having to say that we had not consulted the local authorities, if it would give my hon. Friend any satisfaction, we have no objection to inserting the words of his Amendment. The second Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend would insert in line 9, at the end, the words: and the Treasury shall keep a separate account of all payments and contributions made by virtue of this Sub-section. There must be some limit to the unnecessary words that we put in the Bill, and, therefore, I hope my hon. Friend will not bother with this Amendment. With regard to my hon. Friend's third Amendment, in line 29, he wants us to insert, instead of retaining in the Sub-section the arrangement which there exists—that the contributions of particular councils should be levied on a proportion of their rateable value in 1939, which seems to us to be a reasonable way of dealing with the matter—a provision that the contributions should be levied on "such proportion as shall be prescribed by the scheme." Perhaps my hon. Friend will explain this Amendment, as I am not quite clear what he has in mind, but the arrangement in the Bill seems to us to be a reasonable way of getting fairness between the authorities. If my hon. Friend knows of any better method, perhaps he will explain it. The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) proposes that the power to make payments out of the Road Fund shall be mandatory on the Minister of Transport. These payments will be made, but I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment, for the reason that all payments out of the Road Fund now are on the basis of "may," and it would be importing a slightly new idea into this Bill, and into this Bill only, if the provision were made mandatory.

The other Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Peckham seek further definitions of viaducts, subways, and so on. While these particularise and go into details, there is no reason why we should not accept them, but we make an exception of the Amendment to line 77—to leave out "abutments thereof," and insert: piers and abutments thereof, and any works connected with, or ancillary to, the bridge or viaduct. We would prefer that there should be no reference to piers, not that we have any objection to them as such, but because such a reference might cast doubt on the meaning of other Statutes which deal with bridges without referring to piers. If it came to the payment of compensation I cannot see that there would be any danger that the compensation would not became payable. With this exception, the series of Amendments in the name of the hon. Member would be acceptable to my right hon. Friend. The purpose of the Amendment in the name of the hon. baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir G. Broad- bridge) is to cover four bridges which have not anything to do with the London County Council. My right hon. Friend is willing to accept this Amendment. I hope that with these explanations, and bearing in mind that the scneme will come before the House, hon. Members will approve the general principles laid down in the new Clause.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 6, after "Treasury," to insert: after consultation with such associations of local authorities as appear to them to be concerned. May I thank my right hon. and gallant Friend for his adverse criticism of my Amendments before I had moved them? It was rather a question of giving judgment before he had heard the evidence. That does not always save time, and indeed saving time is not necessarily the best way to make law. The County Councils' Association wish to assert that they are not in agreement with the principle of the new Clause. They believe that highways are of such a national character that the repair of war damage to them should be a national obligation, and that the cost should not be placed on the local authorities. I am not going to question that now. The Association will be willing to do all they possibly can to assist in the formation of any scheme which is foreshadowed in the Bill, but they want to be sure that they will have consultations before the scheme is brought forward. We have had statements made that there will be consultations, but experience has shown that it is very much better if it is put in the Bill. My right hon. Friend has said it will be put in the Bill, and I thank him for saying so.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I beg to move as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 29, to leave out from "councils," to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert— such proportion as shall be prescribed by the scheme. In our opinion, it is debatable whether the rateable value of 1939 would be fair to some authorities. There are two principles which could be adopted. The first is that of the rateable value of an area, and the second is the cost of maintaining the roads in an area. I do not wish to come down on either side; it is a debatable point, and has not been decided upon by the Association. They would prefer, as the question has not been decided by them, that the question should be left Open, so that that point can be debated when the scheme is being considered. That is the reason why I am moving this Amendment. We believe that some areas which are less able to pay will be more liable to suffer damage, whereas other areas of high rateable value may have no damage done. We do not think that that is fair as between authority and authority, and therefore I ask that the matter should be left optional, so that they shall have the right of determining later on.

Photo of Mr Francis Douglas Mr Francis Douglas , Battersea North

I desire to support the Amendment, which covers a very important aspect as far as the County of London is concerned. I hardly think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have taken this fact into account. In London we have only 1½ per cent. of the total length of highways in the country, whereas we have 20 per cent. of the rateable value. It does seem a little unfair that the County of London should be required to pay one-fifth of the contributions which are to be made by local authorities under this scheme when they have only 1½ per cent. of the total length of highways. In order to be fair, I must admit that their roads have to be of a better standard in order to stand the extra strain of traffic. But even when taking that into account there seems to be a very strong disproportionment between contributions. I ask the Chancellor to accept the Amendment and to allow us to have some consultations before the scheme is made in order that we can try to find an equitable method of apportionment.

Captain Croakshank:

Of course, this question does not affect the Government one way or the other—the question of the proportion between the different local authorities which together they have to pay by way of contribution. If the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) prefers to leave it open, instead of, as we suggest in the Bill, of employing the rateable value basis, so that local authorities may come to some amicable solution, my right hon. Friend sees no objection.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 35, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall".

If the right hon. Gentleman can give a definite assurance that "may" is equivalent to "shall", I will not press the Amendment.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I can give that assurance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 38, after "exceeding" to insert: subject as hereinafter mentioned in this Subsection.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

What the Subsection does is to empower the Minister of Transport to make grants to the Road Fund in respect of contributions not exceeding 50 per cent. The Amendment appears to me to be due to confusion of thought, because this has to do with the part of the contribution which the Minister of Transport will be making owing to the fact that they are national highways. But exceptional war damage is going to be met by the War Damage Commission in full. The question whether there is much damage or not does not arise. From the compensation point of view the damage will be made good. I think my hon. Friend will see that the Amendment is misconceived.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made to the proposed new Clause:

In line 70, leave out "or viaduct," and insert "viaduct or tunnel."

After "highway," insert "and any pedestrian subway or pipe subway."

Leave out the second "or."

In line 71, after "viaduct," insert "tunnel or subway."—[Mr. Silkin.]

Photo of Sir George Broadbridge Sir George Broadbridge , City of London

I beg to move, as as Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 73, after "London," to insert: by the Corporation of London as trustees of Bridge House Estates. As the Bill stands, the definition would not include the four city bridges—Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. The Amendment will meet that deficiency.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed new Clause, in line 77, after "thereof," to insert: and any works connected with, or ancillary to, the bridge or viaduct. I take it from the right hon. Gentleman that the words "piers and abutments," which I had in the Amendment as printed on the Paper, are unnecessary and might conflict with other legislation. On that assurance I am moving the Amendment in an amended form.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made to the proposed new Clause:

In line 77, at the end, insert: the expression 'tunnel' includes the approaches thereto and the abutments of such approaches, and any lifts or other works connected with, or ancillary to, the tunnel;the expression 'pedestrian subway' includes the stairways thereof, the approaches thereto, any public convenience constructed therein, and any works connected with or ancillary to the subway;the expression 'pipe subway' means any passage or covered way under a road constructed or adapted for the reception of, and affording convenient access to, any mains, pipes, tubes, cables, wires or apparatus, and includes any works connected with or ancillary to the subway.For the purposes of this Section any embankment, embankment wall, or retaining wall supporting a highway, and the sides of, and any retaining wall supporting, any cutting enclosing a highway, shall be deemed to form part of the highway.

In line 77, after the words last inserted, insert: (12) For the purposes of this Section, the London County Council shall be deemed to be a highway authority as respects any highway repairable by the Council and as respects any bridge, viaduct, tunnel or subway repairable by the Council, whether the highway thereon or therein is or is not repairable by the Council."—[Mr. Silkin.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill."

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

A good many of the local authorities have had an assurance given them by the Exchequer and the Ministry of Transnort under Circular 223 that the whole of their additional expenditure in connection with roads arising out of war damage will be made good to them out of Exchequer funds. I hope that nothing in the Clause will take away from the local authorities the benefits of this Circular. I think that, on the whole, they would rather rely on their rights under the Circular than on anything contained in this new Clause. There is a further point which the Chancellor will appreciate. The finances of the local authorities will be put in the difficult position as a result of this Clause. Authorities will be in a difficulty in making the necessary provision in their rates for the right amount in respect of contributions. Many of them will have big contributions to make and it will make their finances exceedingly difficult. I do not know what the solution is, but I have no doubt that the Chancellor has taken that point into consideration. I think it is right that we should take note of this matter because the finances of local authorities will be in considerable chaos as a result of this Clause.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

The circular referred to by the hon. Member was not one from my Department, and perhaps he will communicate with me about it.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.