Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
The Local Government Act showed that Parliament saw the importance of this matter, by enacting that the district councils not only had the power to reclaim such land, but that it was their duty to do so.
The power and duty, however, have been quite ineffective owing to the overpowering influence of the landlords, their agents, or their tenant farmers, who are always well represented on these Councils.
It therefore seems necessary on such an occasion as is now afforded by this Bill, which will not only authorise the formation of new roads, but the improvement and widening of existing ones, that the Authority established for this purpose should have power to enquire into all such cases of illegal enclosure as may be brought to its notice, to hear evidence on both sides, and, when such enclosure is proved, to reclaim the land for the public.
The law on this question is perfectly clear, and it has been laid down in a well-known case by a Court of Appeal (1) That the whole of the space between the fences of any public road, [[p. 113]] however wide this may be, is just as much public property as the metalled part of it; and (2) that land that has ever been public property is always so, notwithstanding any lapse of time since it was illegally enclosed.
Although it may possibly be ruled that this matter is beyond the scope of the present Bill, it yet affords an excellent opportunity for any of our members who are interested in this subject, and who are M.P.'s to have it discussed on the second reading, and if possible an amendment moved in Committee.
Even if it does not result in any action now, it will show the whole body of our members and the public that the intentions of Parliament in this matter have not been fulfilled, and thus show the necessity, by amendment of the Local Government Act, or in some other way, of putting a stop to such encroachments and reclaiming the land as well as any improvements on it without compensation.
Will you be so good as to communicate this suggestion to any members who you think will act upon it.