§ Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 11, leave out 'thereof' and insert'of their intention in that regard'.
With this we may discuss the following amendments: No. 3, in page 2, line 12, leave out 'thereof' and insert 'of such intention'.
No. 4, in page 2, line 16, after 'representation', insert`and give notice to the person making it and, with a note or copy of the representation, to the frontagers (or to the other frontagers if it was a representation by a frontager) of the authority's decision as regards whether or not to proceed with the addition or deletion following the representation'.No. 5, in page 2, line 26, leave out 'persons' and insert `frontagers'.
No. 6, in page 2, line 27, leave out 'proposed addition or deletion' and insert'a decision following a representation'.No. 7, in page 2, line 27, leave out ' (a)
No. 8, in page 2, line 28, leave out`if that addition or deletion is subsequently made'and insert`within 28 days of such notice'.No. 9, in page 2, line 29, leave out'by summary application to the Sheriff'and insert`to the Secretary of State'.No. 10, in page 2, leave out lines 31 to 33 and insert`and, where that decision requires the addition or deletion to be proceeded with, shall be given effect to forthwith by the local roads authority.'.No. 11, in page 2, line 33, at end insert—'(5A) A decision of which notice is given under subsection (4) above shall not be given effect to until the 28 days mentioned in subsection (5) above have expired or, if the matter has been referred under the said subsection (5) to the sheriff, until the summary application has been disposed of or abandoned.'.No. 55, in clause 13, page 14, line 16, leave out 'they all' and insert`the requisite number of the frontagers so'.No. 56, in page 14, line 16, leave out 'their behalf' and insert 'behalf of the frontagers'. No. 59, in page 14, line 33, at end insert—'(9) In subsection (4) above, "the requisite number" has the same meaning in relation to the private road and the land fronting or abutting the road as it has in section 1(6) of this Act in relation to the road and land mentioned in that section.'.
§ Mr. Craigen
I am sure that the Minister will be responsive to the objective of the amendments. Their purpose is to ensure that the frontagers should know the score about the local authority's decision on whether to add or delete a road from a list. During Second Reading I said that the valuation roll was a useful means of ascertaining ownership. As the Minister is aware, the Highland region expressed concern about ascertaining 319 ownership in certain parts of that region. The amendments will ensure that owners are notified of a local authority decision. A time limit is imposed within which objections must be registered in certain respects. It is reasonable that people should be informed of any decision where that time limit does not apply to other aspects of this clause.
We believe that the Secretary of State, rather than the sheriff, would be a more appropriate person to determine appeals, and I shall go into more detail about that later. As the clause stands, any appeal would be heard by the sheriff within the specified time limit.
Amendment No 55 relates to the requisite number of frontages. It allows a local authority to require that a private road is brought pp to a specific standard. Subsection (4) contains a provision for the authority to do the necessary work subject to reimbursement of its costs by the frontagers. That provision is useful because, quite often, frontagers do not want to become directly involved in seeking tenders and supervising contracts.
Problems can arise when seeking the unanimous approval of all frontagers. Indeed, in the Highlands there would be a great problem in identifying the frontagers. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has suggested that "requisite number" would be an appropriate amendment to insert in clause 1. However, since the amendment was tabled COSLA has suggested that "simple majority" would be a more straightforward term than "requisite number". I do not know whether, at this late stage, such a change could be achieved. I am mindful of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) about the number of amendments tabled. Indeed, my heart sunk at the beginning of the week when I saw the sheer volume of amendments with which we must deal.
COSLA's suggestion was designed to clarify that we are talking about a simple majority in relation to the requisite number. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to the amendments.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
The hon. Gentleman said that he would speak later about the appeal procedure. It might be helpful if I mentioned the Government's attitude to amendment No. 9. It can be argued that the sheriff has better local knowledge than the Secretary of State when considering individual cases. He will weigh all the evidence before any decision is made.
With the proviso that the Government are not inclined to accept amendment No. 9, the hon. Gentleman has made an excellent case for the other amendments. They are in response to points made by COSLA, and the procedure would be simplified by them.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendments made:
§ No. 3, in page 2, line 12, leave out 'thereof' and insert 'of such intention'.
No. 4, in page 2, line 16, after 'representation', insert
'and give notice to the person making it and, with a note or copy of the representation, to the frontagers (or to the other frontagers if it was a representation by a frontager) of the authority's decision as regards whether or not to proceed with the addition or deletion following the representation'.
§ No. 5, in page 2, line 26, leave out 'persons' and insert `frontagers'.
No. 6, in page 2, line 27, leave out 'proposed addition or deletion' and insert
'a decision following a representation'.
§ No. 7, in page 2, line 27, leave out `(a)'.
No. 8, in page 2, line 28, leave out
`if that addition or deletion is subsequently made'
'within 28 days of such notice'.—[Mr. Craigen.]
§ Mr. Craigen
I may have confused you, Mr. Walker, but I did not hear you mention amendment No. 9. I am sorry that the Minister cannot accept the point of the amendment. We thought that the Secretary of State rather than the sheriff should deal with this matter, simply to bring some uniformity to the scene.
I find it interesting that the Minister said that the sheriff would have more local knowledge than the Secretary of State. I spent many a long hour on the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and others, and we were constantly told that the Secretary of State for Scotland knew all about the local authorities when it came to rate-capping. It is unfortunate, for those ironic reasons that the Minister is unable to accept the point of amendment No. 9. Perhaps he will have a think about it.
§ Mr. Maxton
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is difficult to accept that the sheriff knows better than the Secretary of State in this matter. Increasingly, in all the legislation in which we have been involved since I came to the House, the sheriff has had more put on to him. By the education Acts we have shoved appeals on to the sheriff, by local government Acts we have shoved appeals on to the sheriff, and now divorce matters are to be dealt with by the sheriff, which of course he can handle.
Time and again we ask the courts, and the sheriffs in particular, to take on burdens. It is impossible for them to have the knowledge to carry out this duty efficiently. Therefore, they will have to seek advice. They will not be able to get that advice from the local authority, because the appeal is often to some extent against the local authority. The sheriffs will therefore have to go to the Scottish Office experts on roads for advice. That being so, would it not be simpler and more even-handed if everyone went to the Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
The point about uniformity has been made by COSLA, but I repeat that it is appropriate for the sheriff to consider individual cases, to discharge the matter quickly. The answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is that we are not imposing an extra burden on the sheriffs. These matters have been decided by sheriffs since the passage of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892, and there is no particular reason why the procedure should be changed.
Amendments made: No. 10, in page 2, leave out lines 31 to 33 and insert
'and, where that decision requires the addition or deletion to be proceeded with, shall be given effect to forthwith by the local roads authority.'.
No. 11, in page 2, line 33, at end insert—
'(5A) A decision of which notice is given under subsection (4) above shall not be given effect to until the 28 days mentioned in subsection (5) above have expired or, if the matter has been referred under the said subsection (5) to the sheriff, until the summary application has been disposed of or abandoned. '.—[Mr. Craigen.]
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 2, line 36, leave out 'lands and heritages' and insert 'land'.
With this it will be convenient to take amendments Nos. 13 to 18, 66 to 69, 72, 91, 101, 140, 141, 143, 144, 146 to 153, 155, 184 to 188, 212, 216, 233, 234.
§ Mr. Stewart
These amendments are technical and drafting amendments, the majority of which change the term "land or premises" and "lands and heritages" to "land".
§ Mr. Maxton
I always get slightly worried when Ministers say that amendments are technical, particularly when we have a list of amendments as long as this. Many of us would like to know—the explanation does not have to last more than a couple of minutes—why this change is taking place.
§ Amendment agreed to.
With the leave of the Committee, I shall put together the Questions on amendments Nos. 13 to 18. The Question is—
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Walker. I had understood that the purpose of these debates was that when arguments were put to Ministers there should be an opportunity for them to reply. However, we seem to be proceeding to a decision on these amendments when we have not yet had the opportunity of having even a succinct, three-sentence reply from the Minister.
If the Minister does not move quickly enough, that is not my fault. A few minutes ago the Committee was complaining about the enormous volume of work before it. I am merely seeking to ensure that business moves along expeditiously. If the Minister wishes to reply, I shall of course call him.
§ Mr. Wilson
Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. I accept your explanation, particularly as we know that this is a rather slow Minister.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
I am grateful for the opportunity to explain the amendments to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton). The Bill as drafted includes the terms "land or premises" and "lands and heritages" and "land". If these terms, which for all practical purposes are synonymous, are retained in the Bill, the courts would naturally assume that we meant something different, and would try to interpret them differently. In fact, the terms are identical, and therefore we propose to delete the terms "land or premises" and "lands and heritages" and insert the word "land" throughout the Bill.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)
I am just a little intrigued. I was not going to intervene and I had taken little notice of this tangle of Government amendments, but the Minister's explanation has puzzled me more than the amendments. As I understand it, the Minister is saying that lands and heritages are the same thing, but the courts might be expected to make some kind of false differentiation between them because both phrases are in the Bill, and might be allowed to remain in the Act. Therefore, to guard against that possibility of ambiguity, the amendments have been moved.
The Minister will be aware, as I am, that "lands and heritages" is a phrase that crops up in Scottish statute time 322 and again. I am curious to know whether we are now setting a precedent. Is he saying that from now on the term "lands and heritages" will disappear because lands equals heritages and therefore the word "heritages" is redundant in the law of Scotland? I had always understood that there was a distinction between them, and perhaps he will say a little more about this. He is changing the face of Scottish law, apparently under the argument that he is not changing the substance. If there is no difference between "lands" and "heritages"—I thought that there was a distinction —he should say a word or two more about it.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
I have no such vaunting ambition to change the law of Scotland as that expounded by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). In the Bill as drafted there are these different terms. The simple thing is to replace them with one single term "land", and that is the purpose of these amendments.
§ Mr. Dewar
We had perhaps better leave this point, but I warn the Minister that in all the Scottish Bills that are to follow in the years ahead of us both I shall be looking wih great care to see whether the words "lands and heritages" appear. I promise the Minister that there will be endless amendments based on this authoritarian, ex cathedra pronouncement.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
I had understood that the word "heritage"—the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has just confirmed this —implied that the land had been inherited. I take the opportunity wholeheartedly to welcome this movement on the part of the Government to do away with this anachronistic term. Henceforth, land in Scotland will be known only as land. I have no doubt that in due course we shall do away with the concept of inherited wealth and inherited land.
§ Amendments made: No. 13, in page 2, line 38, leave out 'include' and insert 'includes'.
§ No. 14, in page 2, line 39, leave out 'lands and heritages' and insert 'land'.
§ No. 15, in page 2, line 42, leave out 'front or abut' and insert 'fronts or abuts'.
§ No. 16, in page 2, line 42, leave out 'have' and insert `has'.
§ No. 17, in page 2, line 44, leave out 'lands and heritages' and insert 'land'.
§ No. 18, in page 2, line 45, leave out 'front or abut' and insert 'fronts or abuts'.—[Mr. Allan Stewart].
§ Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Craigen
I had hoped that the Minister would outline why he feels that the proposed changes to the clause will be beneficial to the roads of Scotland.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
The clause sets out the general powers and duties of local roads authorities in Scotland. It codifies the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878 and several subsequent Acts, including the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1892. The variety of terms for roads employed in Scottish roads law has led to difficulties in interpretation, especially since the reorganisation of local government when the former burghs ceased to exist. Under the clause, the multiplicity of terms is to be replaced with "road", as defined in clause 144. The requirement for local roads authorities to keep roads listed is being rationalised, the current requirement being different under 323 various Acts. There is a particular difficulty between the previous burghs and the landward areas. These are the main provisions in the clause.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.