Mr. T. THOMSON
I beg to move, in page 7, line 14, after the word "of," to insert the wordsThe Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1919, and.Some considerable doubt has arisen on the part of various local authorities as to how far the Minister proposes to interfere with the rights given them under the 1919 Act. I do not think anyone suggests that the recalcitrant authority or one that is lax in putting its powers into force should be protected, but insofar as this Bill makes provision for the waiving of the building of houses owing to excessive cost and other reasonable grounds, the local authorities are anxious to know whether they are clearly protected against the authority of the Minister in compelling them, under any circumstances, to go on with their schemes. Can the Minister, therefore, assure the Committee on that particular point?
§ Mr. A. GREENWOOD
The hon. Member is doubtless aware that there is a proposed new Clause appearing later on the Paper, in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Captain Elliot), not exactly in a form which we should be prepared to accept, which would meet the point raised. There never was, of course, any suggestion that local authorities, which have never expressed any desire to build houses and have not put forward a building programme, should be released from every obligation. That was never suggested by the Municipal Corporations Association, but the particular claims of the local authorities which are referred to can be met, in a manner of which I am certain the hon. Member will approve, when we come to the later proposal.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), although he usually- explains his Amendments elaborately, has not explained this Amendment, and I should have thought there was something more in this matter than he brought out. I may have made a mistake, but I understand that he wishes to insert something with reference to the Town Planning Act, se that that Act shall not be entirely lost sight of. Even if a local authority does not think it its duty to carry out the wishes of the Department, at the same time the planning of a town or a district 992 should certainly be maintained, if possible. We have got quite enough slums being added by the schemes which have been put into operation during the last four or five years, and we do not want any more. We do not want to give either the local authorities, or the Minister, or his Department, power to abrogate successful arrangements, and especially schemes for the development of towns and districts, thought out many years ago by competent men. If the stress of present-day affairs should lead us to abrogate those schemes, we might regret it hereafter.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I am sorry that, in my desire to save the time of the Committee, I was not as explicit as the hon. and gallant Member desired. There was no wish at all on my part to suggest that any of the duties resting upon local authorities with regard to town planning should be in any way abrogated. I am glad of the assurance that the Parliamentary Secretary gave. I do not know whether it is out of order to ask him in what particular form the Government propose to deal with this question. If he could indicate that, I should be the more prepared to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
Later on the Paper, a new Clause appears in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Captain Elliot), and the Minister is prepared at a later stage to insert an Amendment in somewhat similar terms to allow, in reasonable circumstances, the local authorities discretion with regard to building or not building, provided however that local authorities who do not promote building schemes, or who under the 1919 Act are declared in default, shall not be able to ride off by any Amendment under this Bill, and he enabled to get out of their responsibilities. Here are the words which we propose to insert at a later stage:The local authority, in carrying out any proposal for the purpose of this Act, shall have power to determine the number of houses which they will build in any particular period. subject to the importation of a maximum limit by the Minister, and should the local authority find it necessary to suspend building operations on the ground of excessive cost, or on any other reasonable ground, the suspension shall not be treated as a failure on the part of the local authority to fulfil their obligations as to the preparation of schemes under the Housing Acts, or their obligations under any such scheme.993 In view of that, I hope the hon. Member will withdraw his Amendment.
That fully protects the position of local authorities in this matter, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.