National Archives 2003-04-01

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Ordered three files to start with—MT 39/294, MT 39/295, and MT 39/145—but both are quite thin and it seems it will be necessary to order more.

MT 39/295

This deals with the Motorways Bill 1924. It is largely duplicative in content of MT 39/38 and MT 39/41, but contains a lot of nuances, including the difference between the Motorways Bills 1923 and 1924 (the latter was pushed as a Public Bill, introduced by Sir Leslie Scott apparently, rather than as a Private Bill), and the true stance of the Manchester LAs WRT the bill. Apparently the Manchester LAs would much have preferred the Bill to be Private, rather than Public, as they did not feel Public Bill procedure allowed enough opportunities to incorporate the safeguards they wanted (such as rating of the motorway). Much of the text is worth reproducing.


S. Department DGR Finance Department

Motorways Bill, 1924.

I attach, for your consideration, copy of this Bill which has been introduced in the House of Commons by private Members.

The Bill follows generally the lines of that introduced last Session with two important exceptions.

Firstly, in this Bill there is no mention of any particular motorway scheme, so that there is now no question of the Bill being a Private Bill under the guise of a Public General Bill.

Secondly, instead of the proposal in the former Bill that the Minister should cause an inquiry to be held before making an Order, this Bill by Clause 2(3) makes a proposal for the constitution of parliamentary Committee, which is quite novel, and seems open to serious objection on constitutional grounds.

It is apparently intended, though not expressly provided, that the Committee to which an application for an Order is to be referred by the Minister, shall consist of Members of Parliament.

Apparently the Committee is to be given uncontrolled discretion to grant or reject the application, and to settle the terms of the Order. The Minister’s only function in the matter is to provide the necessary machinery for making an Order.

As an Order when made in the terms settled by the committee is to have effect as if enacted by Parliament, the result, if Clause 2(3) became law, would be that Parliament would have delegated legislative functions virtually to the Committee, though nominally to the Minister.

It cfan hardly be suggested that the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1899 is in any way analogous. Under that Act Commissioners appointed from an extra-Parliamentary panel by the Lord Chairman of Committees and the Chairman of Ways and Means, report to the Secretary for Scotland on an application for a Provisional Order. The Secretary for Scotland makes the order with any necessary modifications after considering the commendations of the Commissioners and of Government Departments concerned, and the Order requires confirmation by Act of Parliament.

This Bill apparently extends to Scotland would therefore supersede the provisions of the Act of 1899.

On Clauses 2(1) (2) and (4) and 3 of the Bill the notes on the corresponding clauses of the former Bill, which accompanied my minute of the 29th November 1923, are applicable.

[unreadable signature—LL something or other]

for the Treasury Solicitor.

18th April, 1924.


[Minute sheet, unreadable signature again]

This Bill has Labour and Liberal as well as Unionist backing. The general policy of toll roads seems questionable but that is perhaps primarily a matter for R. If this principle were accepted, I think that the position of technical responsibility for orders with no real control, which this Bill proposes to vest in the Minister is objectionable.

FC Greene [?] [surname is unreadable] 22.iv.1924.


The Treasury Solicitor. (Ministry of Transport Branch.) Copy to S Department. Copy to DGR

Motorways Bill, 1924

Finance Department concur generally in the comments on the above Bill contained in your minute of the 17th April.

The possible reaction on the Road Fund in the event of the proposals in the Bill becoming law calls for consideration and it is felt that if any considerable number of persons who had paid motor taxes were to run their vehicles largely upon motorways pressure would probably be brought to bear either to obtain some remission of taxation in respect of such vehicles or a grant from the Road Fund in reduction of the tolls payable for the use of the motorway.

Mr. Beresford, of the Treasury, spoke to Mr Hurcomb about this Bill some days ago and was promised that the Treasury should have a note of any points which affected the Exchequer or the Road Fund. Perhaps, therefore, you will send him a copy of the brief prepared in regard to the Bill.

(sgd) RH Hill

28 April 1924


RS 1078

The Minister

Copy to the Secretary Copy to Finance Department

Motorways Bill, 1924

In reply to your request for my views upon this Bill, I have the following observations to make for your consideration:

First, as pointed out by the Legal Department, the whole scheme of the Bill from the point of view of procedure appears to me to be quite unconstitutional.

Clause 2 empowers the Minister to make an Order for the construction of Motorways but any application received by him for an Order must be referred to a Special Committee consisting of three Members of the House of Commons and three Members of the House of Lords, together with a Chairman to be appointed from Members of either House. This Committee, if they approve the application, are to prepare a Draft Order. The Minister is to make the Order in the form settled by this Committee and the Order is then to have the force of an Act of Parliament.

I know of no precedent for such a procedure. The decision of this Committee of the two Houses of Parliament is to become Law without being submitted to the two Houses as a whole, in other words, this is legislation by a Committee of Parliament.

It is true that under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, Commissioners are appointed from an Extra-Parliamentary Panel by the Lord Chairman of Committees and the Chairman of Ways and Means to report to the Secretary for Scotland on an application for a Provisional Order. The Secretary for Scotland makes the Order with any modifications he may think necessary, but such order requires the confirmation of Parliament.

This Bill pourports to apply to Scotland tand therefore would apparently supersede in this respect the provisions of the Scottish Act of 1899 above referred to.

Secondly, the position of the Minister under the Bill appears to be a most invidious one. He apparently is a mere automaton, that is to say, when an application is received he must refer it to the proposed Special Committee over whom he has no control, on which he has no representation, nor indeed apparently a right to be heard so as to express his views. The Committee, if they approve the proposal, draft the Order and send it to the Minister. The Minister is then bound to make the Order in this form and cannot alter it in any way. The Order then becomes Law, it bears the Seal of the Minister and prima facie, therefore, he is responsible for it, although from start to finish he, in fact, can have nothing to do with it.

Thirdly, apart however from constitutional questions and questions of procedure, it seems to me to be very undesirable that powers to make Orders for the construction of Motorways should be thrown upon any Minister. The construction of these Motorways are quite different matters to those normally dealt with by Provisional Orders, in effect they are to be precisely the same as Railways. They involve very large interference with the subject and with Local Authorities. For example, for the Minister to empower a Company by Provisional Order to construct a North-Wst Motorway say, from London to Birmingham and confer powers to acquire the whole of the necessary land, seems to be to be highly undesirable and I venture to suggest that this is essentially a matter which should be dealth with by Private Bill where the matter can be thoroughly threshed out before the appropriate Committees of Parliament. Further, the construction of these Motorways must necessarily involve very important questions of principle.

[marginal note—reads: “DGR appears to have forgotten that railways are dealth with in this manner.” Unreadable initials]

If powers for the construction of Motorways are to be given in this manner, there can, I think, be no answer to the construction of new Railways being similarly authorized.

[marginal note, same handwriting—reads: “No answer needed—habitually done.” Same unreadable initials]

Fourthly, these proposed Motorways must necessarily, as I understand it, be Toll Roads and it is, I think, a matter for very serious consideration as to whether in the year 1924 what, in effect, is a reversion to the old Turn-Pike Roads, should be permitted, particularly bearing in mind the objection to the old Turn-Pikes and the efforts that were made, ultimately with success, to get rid of them. I think it may well be contended that such a step would be putting back the hands of the clock.

Fifthly, all Highways of this country are communal, and the construction of these Motorways would necessarily involve the placing of very important Road Transport Arteries in the hands of private capitalist enterprise, to be operated for profit.

Sixthly, I am not surprised to find that considerable support to the construction of these private Motorways is given by Local Authorities. The object of their support is obvious, viz: that they think that the construction of these Toll Roads will relieve their Highway rates, as no doubt they would. Once such Roads, however, are permitted, it seems to me that there will be very little inducement to Local Highway Authorities to maintain their Highways, and some of them may have a tendency to think that if they only let their more important roads get sufficiently into disrepair a private Undertaking will construct an alternative motorway to take the traffic and thereby relieve the Highway rates.

Upon the above grounds, it seems to me to be undesirable that the proposals of this Bill should receive your support.

[sgd] Henry P Maybury

28th April, 1924.

• The file contains two separate drafts of Gosling’s memo (CU 650), either quoted in a previous file or slated for reproduction through scanning. One draft is an original, allegedly—but in fact not—matching the CU 650 filed elsewhere. The other is an updated version, containing Gosling’s parliamentary question and answer (11/3/1924) explaining that the Trade Facilities people have said they cannot recommend a guarantee. (The document in question, in this file, is captioned SG 1009. It was to be sent to the Lord Privy Seal to allow him to answer LAs’ resolutions in favor of the LBM, and the civil servant responsible for drafting the Minister’s suggested response suggested that the LPS be sent CU 650. This, however, did not happen, and no note was made of it, so instead SG 1009—which is not identical to CU 650—was sent instead.)

Full text of SG 1009:


S.G. 1009.

Motorways Bill, 1924.

The real problem in this matter is whether roads maintained by tolls should again be made part of the transport facilities of the country. Neither the present Government nor the late Government have ever faced up to this. The proposals put forward by the Northern and Western Motorway Company broke down on the question of finance and the Cabinet gave the following decision: (Cabinet 18(24), Conclusion 17) . . . “While assistance by means of the Trade Facilities Act machinery has been open to the promoters of the Northern and Western Motorway as to any other commercial venture, the promoters have been unable to satisfy the Trade Facilities Committee as to their share of the cost of the undertaking and it must now be understood that the scheme has no Government support.”

In practice this Department has not attempted to prevent the construction of a road merely because it was to be a toll road and Parlimanetary powers have recently been obtained for one between Swanage and Bournemouth, but, before the Government could approve of the creation of such an important undertaking as a toll road between places such as Manchester and Coventry, very careful consideration would have to be given as to what its attitude should be with regard to the recrudescence of a system of tolls.

For very many years the highways of the country have been free and the policy at present is to remove, whenever possible, such tolls as still exist on, for example, bridges. To encourage the creation of a large and important toll road would be viewed by many people as a serious retrograde step.

A considerable amount of support has been collected from Local Authorities, presumably under the impression that they are going to be relieved of certain highway charges in their locality by the creation of a road which will be constructed and maintained at the expense of someone else. In fact Local Authorities might even go further and think that if they were to allow their more important roads to get into disrepair a private company would come along and relieve the highway rates by constructing a toll road.

To deal with the Bill itself, it provides for an arrangement which Parliament is scarcely likely to approve, namely, the handing over to a small Committee of powers which are proper to the whole House.

From a purely departmental point of view there is no objection to the extension to motorways of the practice which at present exists for Light Railways. This provides that the Minister may grant an Order if he is satisfied on all points, but that if he considers the scheme is of such magnitude as to demand the special sanction of Parliament, he can suggest that the matter shall be brought forward as a Private Bill. This course of promoting a Private Bill hs always been open to the Promoters of any motorway scheme but requires considerable financial resources. In the case of the roadway which was proposed, namely, Coventry to Manchester, the promoters quite failed to satisfy the Government through the trade facilities Act committee that their scheme was financially sound.

• Question: who or what is the Lord Privy Seal? Was JR Clynes MP the LPS at this point?


Manchester and District joint town planning advisory committee. Town Hall Manchester 28th May, 1924


My dear Sir Henry,


I received your letter on my return from London.

The representations to be made by the dputation may be itemized as follows:

It is considered,

1 The Motorways Bill ought not to be taken through Parliament as a Public Bill as this procedure does not offer the best facilities for affected parties endeavouring to obtain protective clauses. 2 The appointment of a Committee of both Houses of Parliament to cfonsider any application for an Order under the Bill does not properly meet the case, as the passing of the Bill might be construed as establishing a prima facie case for the Order. 3 A Bill authorizing an undertaking by a body of persons trading for profit should be promoted as a Private Bill. 4 The Bill as drafted is entirely insufficient as dealing with a proposal which might have very far reaching effects throughout the country, so far as road transport is concerned. 5 Any such Bill, if proceeded with, should contain protective clauses to local authorities on the lines suggested by the Joint Committee and supported and amplified by the Association of Municipal Corporations. 6 The construction of a Motorway is in effect equivalent to the construction of a railway and the advent of regional development schemes throughout the country has brought forward the importance of obtaining proper protection against any proposals which make possible the construction of what in railway practice prove to be serious barriers across the country and prevent except at excessive cost to the taxpayers and/or ratepayers, the free road and building development of a region. 7 Any bill authorizing such a proposal should provide at least for a local authority or Group of Local authorities being able to proceed with and carry out any development schemes without additional expenditure due to the construction of a motorway. 8 The reintroduction of toll-roads into this country requires full consideration as by the establishment of Regional Development Committees regional roads will be properly established ultimately which it is considered will seve the traffic needs of the country better than a few motorways.

The main representations are given above and the persons constituting the Deputation will be

Alderman Thomas Turnbull, DL, JP, Chairman of the Joint Committee. Councillor Harold Shawcross, Deputy Chairman of the Joint Committee. Mr SH Morgan, Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Rochdale CB Mr R Bruce, Chief Surveyor to the Joint Committee.

Yours faithfully

(sgd) PM Heath

Sir Henry Maybury, DGR MOT London, SW1

• In the end the MinT rather than the LPS received the Manchester deputation. A letter from Heath acknowledging the change in plans (not meeting with the LPS or the PM, but the MinT as responsible govt minister) contains the reference code RS 1009, indicating that RS 1009 (similar to that quoted above, but with the addition of the parliamentary question of 11/3/1924) had been sent to the Manchester people.

• Exchange of letters with the Trade Facilities people, as well. WJ Sainsbury of that committee writes to JR Brooke of MOT, saying Sir Wm Plender (of the C’ttee) was offended by an article he had seen in one of the financial papers. Brooke writes back, saying that C’ttee couldn’t complain as the comment was an extrapolation from something publicly quoted in the HOC. The offensive clipping is as follows (dated 18/6/1924, as is Sainsbury to Brooke; Brooke to Sainsbury dated 19/6/1924):


Motorways Bill

Railway opposition

In view of the fact that th Motorways Bill is down on the order paper for second reading in the HOC today, the railway companies have issued a statement giving their reasons for opposing the Bill.

The companies assert that under the guise of temporary relief of unemployment the real object is “to obtain Parliamentary recognition of the necessity for immediate construction of the Northern and Western Motorway, and generally of the principle that the provision of toll-bearing motorways is in the public interest.”

The immediate scheme is for a motorway from Coventry to Salford via Birmingham and the Potteries—part of a larger scheme for a motorway from London to Liverpool. Such a scheme, the companies contend, should be dealt with in the ordinary way by Private Bill and dealt with on its merits.

The scfheme, the companies state, has “not only failed to secure the support of the private investor, but has been examined by the Trade Facilities Committee and considered to be commercially unsound.”

• Letter of opposition from the Rural District Councils assn.

MT 39/145 appears to have been ordered before—probably misremembered the file no: suspect I wanted MT 39/146, the file dealing with the CSS motorway plan. Never mind. Checking that it’s not what I want, and then returning it.

Yes—MT 39/145 is definitely a seen-before file. However, also note that a sheet dating from 1937 includes cost computations for a LBM worked as a toll motorway. Plus extract from Alness minutes of evidence 24/5/1938 containing McLagan’s pleading for a LBM rather than a Lancashire m’way; plus, the huge difference in per-mile cost between LBM and Lancashire m’way was due more to the higher no of bridges per mile in Lancs.

MT 39/294

Contains zero additional material; most material it contains already included in MT 39/38 or MT 39/41. However, initial letter from Treasury Solicitor regarding the 1923 Motorways Bill (13 & 14 Geo. V, Bill 216), which was introduced by Mr JR Clynes (hence explaining Clynes’ involvement—he’s probably not LPS), which the Treasury Solicitor expected to be reintroduced in the coming session with changes (as of 29/11/1923, and it was in fact reintroduced, probably in early part of year). Apparently the 1923 bill was not considered because it was introduced toward the end of the session.

MT 95/531

This is a totally dumb file—dealing with flooding allegedly caused by Bridstow Bridge, which carries the M50 over the Wye. A tenant farmer, Lane, working a dairy farm owned by Charles Clore, in the floodplain adjacent to the bridge, claimed that the bridge (designed as a three-span overcrossing structure with abutments on embankment, with few if any “flood arches” (culverts) caused the river to back up and flood his cowsheds. He was paid £150 for flooding which happened in December and January 1960 (not affected, apparently, by the presence of scaffolding which did block part of the river but was removed between the December flood and the January flood), on the understanding that MOT’s position would not be prejudiced if other landowners filed for claims. Lane, Clore, and their eventual legal representatives asked for remedies, which could include raising the floors of the relevant buildings by 6” (an expensive proposition since one of the buildings housed electrical milking equipment—DRE estimated at £2,330), by building embankments around the buildings which could transfer the flooding elsewhere, or by digging new culvert under the motorway (super-costly). Ministry asked the Wye River Board for its opinion. River Board didn’t have enough data to form an opinion because one of their chief engineers, Major Croker, had been involved in a car accident, was still in hospital, and was scheduled to retire end of that year anyway (this began happening at MOT level middle of 1963, resolved around middle of 1964 or early 1965); flood levels were probably based on the 1947 flood, but Croker not around to ask; their nearest metering station was miles away, so they couldn’t tell how high the river was at flood stage; blah blah blah. MOT commissioned the Hydrological Research Laboratory, part of the DSIR, to do a study for £650, and then wound up forking out for an aerial survey to generate a 1’ contour map when it turned out Wye River Bd didn’t have the data/OS didn’t have it/nobody had it. Aerial survey originally estimated at £450 (based on cost of survey for M4 around Maidenhead), but County Surveyor got tenders and the lowest was £726. Treasury approval for £1,100 total expenses for the HRL study and the estimated cost of the aerial survey had already been obtained, but Ker (the MOT civil servant responsible for solving this problem) had to go back and beg for an additional £300, getting concurrence from the District Valuer, the Treasury Solicitor. In the end the £1,400 was paid, the aerial survey was done, the HRL reported (after much complaining about MOT’s delay in passing info to them from the River Bd, District Valuer et al. and a threat to hike the “cost structure,” made by Kestner, the HRL contact), and conclusion: bridge had caused water to back up about 6” higher, about 1-2” more than the consultants (Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick, or SWK) had indicated would happen at the inquiry into the CPO, so should Ministry pay for floors to be raised 6”? In the case of one building with 6’6” headroom, this would have taken headroom below acceptable values, and meant raising the roof as well. In the end (not totally sure, not worth checking), the MOT decided to bury the report, stick to its guns, and not pay compensation on the basis that the bridge had not increased the frequency of flooding (flooding apparently considered an equal nuisance regardless of the height of the floodwaters, up to a certain point). (Checked anyway, and I remembered right.) AM Ker, the MOT person in charge of this, was AsstCHE. Complete waste of an AsstCHE’s time IMO, but they felt it was very important to avoid setting a precedent WRT claims, so they spent 2/3 as much showing that they didn’t have to pay money as they would have paid if they had just decided to compensate for a worst-case scenario which turned out to be only moderately awful.

Oh, and the County Surveyor for Herefordshire (the co surveyor involved in this dispute) tried to gouge the MOT for an admin charge involving the aerial survey—said it should be covered at the 6% Major Improvement rate rather than a smaller 2% admin-only charge. Ministry’s negotiating position was to stick with the 2% rate, with 4% as a fallback position, but even they were disgusted with the pettiness at this point.

MT 39/465

The main burden of this file is the Maidstone BP and it is an extremely important file because it shows that the MOT had conceptually accepted the idea of a long length of road with full grade separation, even if it proved impossible to proceed with construction before the war. Chronological scope of the file is given as 1934 to 1954, and it was to remain closed until 2005 (I wonder how I got to see it?).

Stiff fingers plus the extreme length of this file, which in turn meant I spent a great deal of time going through it without writing notes on the contents or leaving quite enough time to do so, mean that I will have to do a “brain dump” later, and try to get through MT 39/146 before I go. It is enough to say, however, that in 1931 the Kent County Council tried to get an indication from the MOT of what percentage of grant it was likely to give for a Maidstone bypass; the MOT asked for plans and specs first; the County Council furnished a conceptual design by 1936, but was overtaken by the Trunk Roads Act 1936, which gave the MOT the A20 through Maidstone and the responsibility for any bypass facility; then it was felt the design had to be upgraded to trunk road standards. By 28 June 1937, the design had evolved into one calling for all accesses on the level except for a cloverleaf at the A229 (?) Chatham road, which was felt to be busy and likely to become more so, with about 4000 AADT. A roundabout only was proposed for the A249 Sittingbourne road, because its AADT was about 1000. But in a Public Inquiry held (under TRA 1936 provisions) in the autumn of 1937, the design was uprated to flyovers (several roads having no connection to the BP due to very low traffic volumes and availability of alternative routes to the BP) over the entire length, with roundabouts at the termini, and cycle paths down both sides. HEA, then the DRE/London, even recommended 30’ carriageways but was told to provide 22’ initially instead, and leave enough room in the median for subsequent upgrade to 30’, because the line was unlikely to be built up with that level of grade separation. (Grade separation = credible access control.) Result was that by 28 June 1938, MOT HQ staff was asking for very detailed justifications of the radical increase in the specs of the road. HEA supplied a very cursory one. Treasury officials were less easy to convince when sanction was sought in autumn 1938; it was necessary to give them Traffic Engineering 101 (design of junctions) in a long, elaborate letter which went through many drafts. In early 1939 the Treasury succumbed to the MOT’s browbeating, grudgingly approved the requested £774,000, and said that full grade separation would be sanctioned in future only if specific justification were given.

Then the war happened, and put survey, land acquisition, and final design into a sort of suspended animation. The project had been parcelled into multiple sections, apparently defined on an “independent utility” basis with each junction having access to the BP itself being a section terminus, and land acquisition for Section I and final design for Sections I and II took the BP through the war. During the war HEA advertised contracts, which were worth about £500 aggregate, for reproduction of the final design plans (24 sheets for Section I and 59 sheets for Section II) so that they could be dispersed all over the country, and many months’ worth of work would not be lost if the original set of plans was destroyed in a bombing raid. (HQ drafting and HMSO didn’t have the staff to keep the repro in-house.) The next blow to the Maidstone BP happened when HEA was kicked upstairs, first as Deputy CHE (DCHE) (Major Cook’s deputy) and then as CHE. HN Ginn, his successor as DRE/London, insisted on modifying the design details, to prevent the road from becoming geometrically obsolete once it opened. Change in design to motor road standard, rather than AP BP, was also considered, along the general lines of the economies HEA had suggested might be possible in his 1942 appreciation to Cook in MT 39/556. HEA said he had suggested it initially, in about 1937 or so, but been turned down because the cycle traffic figures were a bit too high (200+/day on most stretches with quite a lot of turning traffic estimated). Also, major design modifications were suggested, to eliminate hogbacks, hump bridges, bad vertical/horizontal curve coordination, etc. and it eventually became clear that it would not be possible to make the modifications while staying within the ROW already acquired. Fresh orders would have to be made, etc.