§ (1) Where in pursuance of a housing scheme to which this Section applies new buildings are constructed or public streets and roads are laid out and constructed in accordance with plans and specifications approved by the Local Government Board, the provisions of any building by-laws shall not apply to the new buildings and new streets carried out in pursuance of the scheme so far as those provisions ore inconsistent with the plans and specification approved by the Local Government Board, and notwithstanding the provisions of any other Act 1138 any street laid out and constructed in accordance with such plans and specifications may be taken over and thereafter maintained by the local authority.
§ (2)Where the Local Government Board have approved plans and specifications which in certain respects are inconsistent with the pro visions of any building by-laws which are in force in the district in which the Works are to be executed, any proposals for the erection therein of houses and the laying out and construction of new streets which do not form part of a housing scheme to which this Section applies may, notwithstanding those provisions, be carried out if the local authority are satisfied that they will involve departures from such pro visions only to the like extent as in the case of the plans and specifications so approved.
§ (3)The housing schemes to which this Section applies are schemes made by a local authority or county council under the Housing Acts, or by a public utility society or housing trust, and approved by the Local Government Board.
§ Major GRAY
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the wordsProvided that as regards the administrative county of London the Board shall not approve any plans and specifications inconsistent with the provisions of any building by-laws in force in the county, except after consultation with the London County Council, either on the general question of the relaxation of such provisions in connection with housing schemes or a relaxation with respect to any particular schemeThe Amendment is a very simple one, but it is one to which the London County Council attach considerable importance. The Clause under consideration provides that the Local Government Board may set aside by-laws framed under the Building Acts in respect of housing schemes submitted by a local authority, a county council, a public utility society, or a housing trust. Anyone of those four bodies may submit a scheme, and the Local Government Board may in regard to the scheme waive the local by-laws which have been framed by the local authority for the protection of life and property within that area. Now, in the great majority of cases outside this great city, the local authorities submitting the scheme would be the authority which has framed the by-laws, and would therefore be cognisant at once with the fact that the Local Government Board thought it desirable that certain of those by-laws should be modified. But the London position is a very peculiar one, so peculiar and so important that I think it justifies trespassing upon the patience of the House for a moment. In London we shall have no less than thirty local authorities empowered to submit schemes—the county council, the Corporation of the City of London and twenty-eight borough 1139 councils. Two of the borough councils have already submitted schemes, and probably others will be forthcoming. Now the borough council submits the scheme to the Local Government Board, but it is not the borough council which framed the bylaws under the Building Acts, nor is it the borough council which is responsible for the administration of those by-laws, but the county council has to frame and must administer them under powers conferred by Act of Parliament.
The Clause as it stands would enable the Local Government Board, on the consideration of a scheme submitted by one of the borough councils, to waive the bylaws, framed and administered by the county council, and there is no provision whatever in the Bill for even intimating to the county council that it is proposed to waive those by-laws and no provision for consultation with the county council. The by-laws may be waived, and, so far as the Bill is concerned, the county council may be in total ignorance of the fact that these by-law s have been amended. We have had the greatest difficulty—and I speak now as an old member of the London County Council, a body with which I have worked for the last twelve years—we have at times the greatest difficulty in maintaining the integrity of these by-laws in districts where it is very essential that drastic bylaws should be administered. I know we have sometimes felt that we should like to modify them when building ourselves, but we have realised that such a modification would open the door to applications from all sorts and conditions of people for a like breach of the by-laws. And may I remark—and I do it with all respect to the President of the Local Government Board —that I am inclined to think we know the needs of London in this matter quite as well as the Local Government Board is ever likely to know them, and indeed, in regard to some of the by-laws, it is undesirable that we should publicly proclaim the reason why we desire to maintain their integrity.
They are framed in some cases to prevent evils, and in some cases they have been administered in order to protect the public without allowing the public to know the reason for that protection. I must not go too fully, perhaps, into these details and weary the House, but during the last two or three years some of our experts on these building by-laws have been 1140 called into consultation with the Government in regard to certain matters, which have had to be done in public, and it has been most undesirable that the public should know anything whatever about it, seeing it has been in the interest of life and property. Difficulties of this kind may recur. At all events, it seems to us only reasonable that we should ask that where the Government propose to modify our by-laws they should first ascertain from us whether there is any real objection to such modification, or at least intimate that they propose to modify them.
There is another reason. In the second Sub-section of this Clause the difficulty is accentuated because the Local Government Board, having modified by-laws in connection with a housing scheme, it is there provided that the local authority may perpetuate such modification in regard to other houses and streets in that district which do not form part of a housing scheme. One of the London boroughs, having submitted a scheme and having secured on that scheme a modification of our building by-laws, may then proceed either to build other houses or construct other streets outside the housing scheme. with a like modification—and the whole of it, without any consultation with the London County Council, which is responsible to the people of London for their administration and for the protection of life and property in this great city. At the very least the county council ought to be consulted. In regard to Sub-section (2) of this Clause it seems to me that if there is to be a modification of the by-laws to enable houses and streets which do not come within a housing scheme, such modification should be made by the county council and not by the local borough council.
I trust that the Local Government Board will not adopt an unreasonable attitude. This is the first occasion on which I have spoken on this subject in the House. I desire to say that the London County Council is most anxious to co-operate with the Local Government Board in securing the very utmost benefit that can be derived from this Bill. But it does feel—what shall I say—a little hurt at what it regards as a neglect of, or disregard of, the peculiar position which London occupies. It is very jealous of the administration of its by-laws in the interest of the London public. It does not desire to see them set aside without good reason, and it suggests—as I do now on 1141 their behalf—that in such Bills the county council itself should be consulted by the President of the Local Government Board.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am unable to accept this Amendment. There are other Amendments which raise similar considerations, which want some of these matters based on statutory injunctions, consultations, references, advertisements, and all the rest of it, until the whole process becomes so cumbrous and complicated that you cannot get on. Therefore I am disposed to resist statutory injunctions of this kind if I can. But I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I am just as anxious to co-operate with the London County Council as they say they are to co-operate with us. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the London County Council knows the needs of London. I am glad to hear it. I therefore assume that when this Bill is passed they will co-operate with the almost cordiality with us in trying to do these things, because that is what we are out for. I do not myself, though I express no opinion about these particular by-laws, much reverence the "integrity," as my hon. and gallant Friend expresses it, of by-laws with any special degree of reverence. I think sometimes by-laws—and that is why this Clause is here—have prevented houses being built. They are sometimes arbitrary and unfair in their incidence. But he may be perfectly sure that we shall not go in for sanctioning the wholesale scrapping of by-laws or behave otherwise than like sensible people in discussing them with the London County Council, who have the administration of them. Of course, we shall do that. That, however, is quite a different thing from having a discussion on the issue and these various consultations and correspondence which consume time with all sorts of formalities. All this is what I cannot agree to. They are not really consonant with the needs of the time. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman may take it from us that if the London County Council is good enough to meet us and discuss general principles, we shall consider allowing relaxation in connection with by-laws. I hope he will find that in any matter where properly we should bring them into conference— and it is very easy to do it, day by day, over the telephone, as we do now, in fact— that we shall be accessible people. But I cannot accept the proposal that we 1142 should be under a statutory obligation to do this kind of thing in every case., however trivial.
§ Mr. LORDEN
I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman does not see his way to accept this Amendment. I have very great sympathy with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has proposed it, as he was from the first in difficulties in regard to his proposal. The curious part of the matter in respect to building in London is that wherever the London County Council have housing schemes they have gone outside the Building Act; therefore it is obvious that it is necessary, in the interests of housing, that there should be some relaxation. The Building Act, no doubt, has been a large source of the difficulty there is in the housing question at the present time. The London County Council's view of the Building Act was such that they have made it difficult in every case where any small relaxation has-been required in the interests of housing—in the beautifying of the houses very often. Therefore I am very delighted to think, that there the President has stuck to his, guns and will not accept the Amendment, of the London County Council, which undoubtedly would greatly restrict and greatly retard the building of houses.
§ Amendment negatived.
Mr. A. WILLTAMS
I beg to move, in. Sub-section (2), after the word "extent" [" to the like extent as in the ease of the plans "], to insert the wordsand subject to the like conditions and compensationsThe purpose is this: If the Local Government Board have approved of a scheme in a certain area for the building of. Houses in garden city order, then it is well know a that in such schemes you do not need back streets nor wide roads. You have gardens, and you have their houses built in pairs or fours, and you can get round them easily. As this Clause stands, after a scheme of that sort had been approved, the local authority could say, "We will exempt all building in our area to the same extent, and say you do not need back streets," and, instead of the wide front street, you would have a narrow one which would only be suitable with gardens in front. My suggestion is that the local authority should have power to do without the back street and the broad front street on the same terms and conditions as apply to the garden 1143 city scheme which has been approved, that is, they must put the same amount of open space and build in pairs or fours, and have gardens behind and in front of the houses. The by-laws should only affect houses built under the same conditions, and with the same compensations, promoting the health of the inhabitants which existed in the scheme approved by the Local Government Board.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My hon. Friend proposes that private owners in an area should be able to lake advantage of the relaxation of the by-laws under certain conditions, and I think that is a fair proposition. I have had his words investigated, and especially the word "compensations," which is not quite appropriate, and may be taken, to mean other things. I think it would be better if he accepted the addition of these words at the end of the Clause, "And that where such plans and specifications had been approved, subject to any modifications, like conditions shall be applied where this Sub-section applies." I think those words come in properly at the end of paragraph (3), and I suggest that they achieve the hon. Member's object, and are more suitable than those he has put on the Paper.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks the word" compensations "unnecessary," but it seems to me very important, because in some cases you allow houses to be built in a certain way on the condition that an open space is dedicated to the public, and with such compensation as that you may do certain things without injury to the public health, whereas without that compensation you cannot do it. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman's words will cover that point.
§ Dr. ADDISON
The word "conditions" would cover it, and the word "compensation" would be held to cover a good deal more.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to add(3) The power of making by-laws under Section one hundred and fifty-seven of the Public Health Act, 1875, and the enactments amending the same, shall extend to the making and enforcing of by-laws for limiting in the case of houses which do not form part of the housing scheme the number of houses per acre, 1144 provided that in making such by-laws the local authority shall have regard to any limitation prescribed by any housing scheme for the district approved by the Local Government Board.I hope this proposal will receive the assent of the right hon. Gentleman. The houses to be built under these schemes will be limited to not more than twelve houses to the acre under the local authorities and eight houses to the acre in rural districts. That is the general principle laid down in the White Paper issued in connection with these schemes. So far as other houses are concerned, built by private owners and speculative builders, they are not limited to the same conditions. The local authority has power under the by-laws to fix the width of the street, the height of the rooms, and the space for the back yard, but it has no power to say that there shall only be a certain number of houses to the acre. I submit that in order to protect the local authorities and the health and amenity of the district it is essential that the local authorities shall have the power to say that houses built by private enterprise shall be limited as to the number they may put to the acre, otherwise you will find the houses built by local authorities and those built by public utility societies will be limited to twelve houses to the acre, while a private owner can build adjoining houses twenty, thirty, or even forty to the acre.
This Amendment is the result of bitter experience in most of our urban areas. In my own district we have had houses put up in recent years, perfectly fit and complying in every respect with existing bylaws, but so far as the congestion is concerned they are at variance with our modern conditions for suitable houses. I hope the President will see his way to give this protection to local authorities, so that they can provide for the amenities of their district with houses built by private enterprise as well as those built by the local authorities. The President may say that under the Town Planning Act of 1909 local authorities may make town-planning schemes and fix the number to the acre, but I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House how many town-planning schemes have been passed during the last ten years; and I am sure he will have to agree that it has been a slow and cumbrous process, and I believe the number of schemes approved could be counted on the fingers of both hands. In this Act we are simplifying the means that have to be taken for promoting housing and town-planning schemes, but even under the 1145 simplified procedure I think local authorities, to avoid delay and save trouble, would find it simpler during the transition period if they had power to make by-laws which would limit private enterprise as to the number of houses they could put per acre to the same terms as public utility societies.
§ Dr. ADDISON
My hon. Friend who has taken a great interest in the framing of this Bill, has asked me to consider this proposal in a friendly spirit, and I have done so. Subsequently to the discussion in the Committee we inserted Clauses 39 to 41 in the Bill with regard to, first, compulsory town-planning by the year 1923, and also giving the Local Government Board liberty to call upon anybody to prepare a scheme on certain provisional lines. I still feel the difficulty which I expressed in Committee as to which leg we should stand upon. Should we require a simplified scheme of town-planning to be prepared, which would of course indicate the number of houses per acre? If that is the policy we are to adopt let us pursue it. I came to the conclusion that if we are going to accept the policy which was taken up in Committee we should pursue that and that alone. What will happen will be that we shall get hundreds of applications with respect to the by-laws, and in most eases the result will be that the authorities will rest content with this very simplified elementary arrangement, and not get on with the town-planning scheme in its proper form. I am afraid if you are going to proceed by a method of by-laws you must stick to that method, but if you are going to have town-planning, as is proposed in the later Clauses of the Bill, then you ought to adhere to that. One policy will conflict with the other. We must choose one or the other. The Committee has clearly chosen the town-planning policy, and I shall deal with that when we come to the Clause, but I do suggest it would really be destructive of procedure on the lines indicated in the later Clause if we adopt the policy embodied in this Amendment.
The town-planning schemes will not come into force until 1926, and my Amendment is intended to cover the transitional period.
§ Dr. ADDISON
But we have power to insist on town-planning schemes under the policy which we propose to adopt, and it 1146 will be possible, therefore, to avoid this. particular danger in the transitional period.
§ Sir P. GRIGGS
I agree with the Minister in charge of this Bill and I want to point to the position as it may affect some rural districts, just outside, for instance, a junction station, where land is not cheap, but should be obtained for its handiness and suitability. If you there-insist on only eight houses to the acre, you will certainly retard building. You want some liberty of action, as the Minister has-said, so as to prevent such retardation, for we are all anxious to get the housing accommodation increased as soon as possible.
§ Amendment negatived.
Amendment made: At end of Sub-section, insert the words
and that where such plans and specifications have been approved subject to any modification, like conditions shall be applied where this Subsection applies
§ Major GRAY
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to add the wordsProvided that in the application of this-Sub-section to the administrative county of London the expression 'local authority' mean the London County Council with respect to the matters within their jurisdiction and the common council of the City of London or the council of a Metropolitan borough (as the case may be) with respect to other matters.This merely removes doubt as to the. interpretation of the words "local authority" in this Clause. A similar doubt arose on the following Clause in Committee, and the Government accepted words similar the those which I now move. I am advised it is essential that they should be placed in this Clause as well as in the next Clause, in order that both the county council and the borough council may know which of them is the proper authority under this Act to discharge certain duties.
§ Mr. LORDEN
I beg to second the Amendment, which, I think, will make the Clause much clearer. There is no doubt that the local authority for this purpose-in London is the London County Council, and the Amendment will remove any doubt that may have existed.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I agree with the explanation given by my hon. and gallant Friend, and am prepared to accept his Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.