§ Order for Second Reading read.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
There is in this country a movement, general, spontaneous and very active, for the salvation of the English countryside from new dangers which threaten it. The Bill which I have the honour to introduce to-day is an effort, I think a first effort, to bring the forces at the command of this House to bear upon that urgent problem. There is on the part of everybody in the country a unanimous desire to do what can be done for the protection of the amenities of rural life. A single cry goes up from all, "Show us how and in what way we can protect and save the threatened countryside." This is an effort, though, as a first effort, necessarily imperfect, to give such answer as this House can give to that cry for help from the whole nation.
The need for protection for rural amenities has rapidly increased within the last few years. We are now approaching a crisis, indeed, are in the midst of a crisis, as to the fate of the countryside. There has been a long and very gradual process by which the uglification of the countryside has gone on. It began as long ago as the opening of the industrial era and the growth of the factory system, and the growth of population, which followed upon the entry of this country into its industrial manhood. Very slowly and gradually, that process of the destruction of the beauty and amenities of the countryside continued through the Nineteenth Century. With the dawn of the Twentieth Century, and certainly since the War, is it not the case that matters have more rapidly approached a crisis?
The invention of the motor, I suppose, has been largely responsible for the tremendous acceleration of the spoiling of the countryside. The private motor car, the motor omnibus and the commercial motor vehicle have all had the effect of spreading the town over the country and bringing an invasion of the greater ugliness of the town into the most remote and beautiful parts. In a vicious 1748 circle, with the increase of the motor system of the country, has been the improvement of the country's road system; undoubtedly it is the improvement of the roads to meet the needs of the motor cars, and then the multiplication of motor cars, in consequence of the good roads, that have accelerated the spreading of the population over the countryside and bringing the town, as I have said, into the country.
There has been another strong influence at work, and that has been the break up of great estates. I am entering upon no political contention in this. I think it will be commonly recognised that the breaking up of great estates, and agricultural depression generally, has been responsible, through the disappearance of good and honourable traditions of preservation, for another factor making for the rapid spoiling of the countryside, for the disappearance of old beauties, and for the appearance of new discomforts and ugliness. In that respect it is to be feared that the crisis which is upon us is only too likely to become more acute, because new ways are always being found for bringing the resources of the city into fresh regions of the country. In particular there is the approaching distribution of electrical power all over the country, necessarily another influence making for the wider spread of the population and the spoiling of amenities.
The evils which result from this growth of the urbanisation of the country are only too well known to all of us. There has been a striking pictorial demonstration of them in the exhibition in West-minister Hall arranged by some of the societies concerned. The deepest evil with which we have to contend is lack of forethought in the development of the countryside. Let me at the outset of this discussion make it as plain as it is possible for words to make it that there is in this movement which the Bill hopes to promote no thought, no shadow of a thought, of the arrestation of development. On the contrary, it is believed that we can assist development by bringing to bear a reasonable measure of forethought, in order to make sure that the development shall take place with sympathy for all that is best in the country's life, and not one side of it only. One of the sad results to the countryside of the higgledy-piggledy 1749 development which goes on at the present time is the deplorably stupid mixing of industrial, residential and commercial dwellings, in place of their reasonable separation so as to maintain the amenities of each group, and in all too many cases the utter disregard for common sense in the growth of new districts along the lines of great roads, resulting in that worst of unreasonable features of development, ribbon development. Another unfortunate result of lack of forethought in this type of development is the manner in which building is foolishly scattered, so as to waste the beauties of the countryside, instead of being reasonably concentrated. I shall not be misunderstood as advocating anything in the nature of overcrowding, because that is one of the principle things which we desire to avoid, by taking forethought. But the foolish dispersion of the ugly bungalows of modern times is responsible for much ugliness.
Then there is the dreadful unsightliness of many of the manifestations of the town as it invades the country—the unsightliness of advertisements, the unsightliness of buildings, no reasonable control over their appearance, and, in particular, with the growth in the use of machinery, the dreadful unsightliness of the machines of public utility which are exhibited without any decent covering: I refer in particular to petrol pumps. There is nothing more dreadful in the appearance of a modern residential district than the way in which we leave the most necessary organs exposed without any of those coverings which Nature, in her practice, is wont to give them. Added to these evils is another dreadful evil of thoughtlessness, that of destructiveness, the wanton disregard of the treasures not only of beauty, but of history—we hope to do something to strike a blow for their preservation.
Let me give an account of the actual Bill before the House. In doing so, I think it will be appropriate, when introducing a Measure which deals with this topic for the first time, to say a few words as to the origin of the Bill. This Bill represents the labours, for the sake of public welfare, of a very large number, in fact of the whole of the great societies which have given their 1750 work and their time to this subject. They include the Council for the Preservation of Rural England which is really, as it were, a society of societies, which co-ordinates the efforts of all the other societies engaged in the good work; the National Trust, to which we all owe so much for preserving places of interest and beauty; the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Society of Arts, the Commons Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, the Garden Cities and Town Planning Association, the National Union of Town Planning Councils, the National Playing Fields Association, the Scapa Society, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings and the Town Planning Institute. All these societies have given their assistance in the preparation of this Bill.
I sincerely hope that the House will not be inclined in any way to show that slight reaction which it is sometimes inclined to feel towards learned societies or societies which work for a public purpose. I do not think that reaction can be excited on this occasion, because these societies do not represent vague ideals or theories, but the modern experience of people who have been engaged in providing the Nation with a practical policy for saving its countryside they are the people with experience to whom we must look for help. Where so many people have laboured to make this Bill a useful Measure, it may seem invidious to refer to any particular individual, but I think it would be ungrateful if I did not mention the great assistance which we have received from a late colleague of ours in this House whom we greatly miss from our debates, and who devoted much of the treasures of his mind to this subject—I refer to Sir Leslie Scott. I am sure that all who know his great knowledge, his great abilities and his great ardour in the cause will not be surprised if I also make special reference in this connection to Sir Lawrence Chubb. The general idea of the Bill is to bring forethought to bear upon development, and in order to do that it will be observed that we have had to build upon existing foundations.
Hon. Members may perhaps feel a shade of disappointment when they are confronted with a Bill which seems to be 1751 rather elaborate in detail and rather broad in its application. Unfortunately, that is a condition of legislation in modern times. The days are long since passed in which you can legislate with the simple directness of an Elizabethan Act of Parliament. It is no use nowadays saying in an Act of Parliament, "Thou shalt not commit a litter." If Moses himself desired to legislate now to the effectThou shalt do no murder,he would have to do it by reference to 25 and 26 Pharoah, Cap. 6, Section 9. That is the only way in which we can advance on the lines of these reforms. The foundation on which we have to build is the Town Planning Act.
Let me turn to the actual provisions of this Measure. The House will expect to have a careful description of their contents. The first Clause contains a definition couched in terms which may appear to the House to be introducing into an Act of Parliament an unwonted lyric strain, but that is the great pleasure of our subject. It does introduce something higher than the merely material into our deliberations and into the work we do for our nation in the future. If this Measure becomes an Act of Parliament, it will be a recognition that there are reforms to be served by the preservation of the beauty of the countryside. The second Clause is an important provision in regard to town planning schemes. Town planning has hitherto been confined to land which is already suitable for development or building; that is no use when you are trying to plan the preservation of the countryside. You must get rid of that reservation, and, by doing that, as this Clause proposes, you extend the capacity of town planning so as to make it include country planning as well. Clause 3 is also a practical proposal. There is nothing more hopeful or more salutary in planning development than an endeavour to make every use of voluntary effort.
In parenthesis I may say here that one must not attempt to throw too much upon the local authority. To all those who have been concerned with the promotion of legislation of this kind, it is obvious that in the long run you have to rely, not upon legislation, but more upon educated public opinion. We do something 1752 in that direction by such a discussion as this. We must not depend too much upon legislation. Administration is more important than legislation. We have to recognise that it is the local authorities who can actively intervene and do the work which we want them to do. There is nobody else, and so we trust to the belief that, since the local authorities are popular representatives, they will, as time goes on, represent more closely the desires of the nation for the preservation of the countryside.
In this Clause, it is proposed to take the fullest advantage of voluntary effort for planning development. In order to do so there is in this Clause something which is at present lacking, namely, a provision, which I think is very reasonable, that a voluntary effort which represents the majority of opinion of the landowners of a certain area shall not be held up by the opposition of a minority, subject of course to a reasonable assurance that the opinion of that minority is not sustain-able on reasonable grounds.
§ Clause 4 really goes to the root of practical administration in dealing with the chief difficulty that stands in our way in regard to the protection of local amenities. That is the question of compensation. All authorities and all persons who have been concerned to press forward with town planning have always found themselves hampered by this difficulty of compensation. It is contrary to the sense of equity of all of us that, when something has to be done for the benefit of the whole community, the loss or detriment which results from that should fall upon a single individual. It is recognised that we cannot really press forward vigorously on the lines which we desire until we have devised some method by which the burden of pecuniary or material loss which is imposed for the benefit of the whole community in matters of preservation of amenities shall be spread in a fair way. We cannot get forward very fast as long as we expect single particular individuals to bear the burden.
§ The Town Planning Acts make some provision for that. They provide that there shall be compensation for those who suffer detriment from a town planning scheme, and that one-half of betterment can be recovered by the responsible authority, as some return for the compensation that has to be paid. But it is 1753 also the case that those provisions are not found to be effective, and they would, in fact, be quite inapplicable to rural areas. The Bill, therefore, proposes for the consideration of the House an idea which is a new one in our legislation, though not in that of other countries. It is known in the legislation of Germany and of some of our own Colonies. The idea is that, when you take a certain area as to which you are going to make a scheme for its reasonable development, you put some of the land in that area under the condition that it is never to be built on. By doing that you destroy its building value, but at the same time you increase the value of the remaining land, because, owing to the reduction of the supply of building and in the market in that area, the value of the land which can be built upon is increased in proportion as the land which cannot be built upon is diminished. This Clause says that, that being so, you shall compensate the man whose land cannot be built upon by taking from the man whose land is bettered by the restriction the amount of the betterment which is received, and so you spread the increment and decrement over the whole area for the equitable adjustment of claims. If there were one owner for the whole area, he would suffer neither gain nor loss by the restriction, but, since you cannot count upon there being only one, you spread the gain and loss between those who have property in the area in which the restriction obtains.
§ I may be asked, how is this going to be worked out? The full working out of the scheme will not be found in the Bill, but it is proposed in Committee to move Clauses to work out the scheme of compensation in the following manner. It is a method which has already been adopted in connection with the saving of Wimbledon Common. The general idea is that compensation to the man who suffers detriment goes in the form of a rent-charge, which rent-charge is raised from those who enjoy betterment, in the form of a rate in proportion to the betterment which they enjoy.
§ Leaving this important Clause dealing with compensation, we come to another, namely, Clause 5, which is aimed at ribbon development. The remedies proposed there are to extend to county councils the powers at present enjoyed by the Ministry of Transport for acquiring a strip 1754 along the sides of new roads, and, by control of that strip, preventing development from taking place merely in ribbon form. The effect of this extension of the powers of county councils will be practically to extend the powers of controlling ribbon development to all new roads, and not only to main roads. Clause 6 is a most important and, I think, far-seeing Clause. Town planning schemes will be greatly facilitated and improved if they can be based on a general preliminary survey of the whole possibilities, the whole capacity, the whole nature of the general area to which they apply. Such surveys of a most interesting and illuminating nature have already been made by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England in connection with the Thames Valley, and, although it is not suggested that all surveys need be on such an elaborate scale, it is thought that the power to make a survey will be of the greatest possible assistance in pressing forward with the work of town planning.
§ With Clauses 7 and 8 I will not detain the House for long. They are minor Clauses which have been shown to be required by experience of the practical administration of town planning. Their general purpose is somewhat to grease the wheels of the present cumbrous and creaking machinery by enabling a town planning scheme to be carried out bit by bit, and to prevent the ill-intentioned from committing acts directly contrary to the purpose of the scheme, and thus wasting rural amenities, while the plan is actually being carried through. With Clause 9 we come to another most important Clause. It brings the county council on to the scene as a rural or regional planning authority. It is, frankly, a "ginger" Clause. Where the county district authority is not being as active as it ought to be in saving its countryside from the invasion from which we desire to save it, the county council is given power to come in and do the work for it. That, again, will, I think, be hailed by practical administrators as one of the most important Clauses for promoting real activity in this work. Clause 10 is a small Clause which is necessary because in this respect the law is Certainly what Mr. Bumble called "a hass." The law says that an authority cannot acquire an ancient monument, to save an ancient monument from being used as a housing 1755 site. That is an accident in the law. This Clause will enable the sites of ancient monuments to be acquired for the purpose of preservation.
§ In Part II of the Bill, we leave the region of town planning and come to Clauses dealing more particularly with actual and special abuses and needs of the day. The House would hardly believe, if they had not studied the subject, how many are the county districts which have not adopted reasonable by-laws for the control of building. I am told that the number is no less than 110. That certainly is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. The first Clause of Part II is another "ginger" Clause, namely, Clause 11, which enables the Ministry of Health to administer the spur to too lethargical county districts in this respect, and to get enacted the necessary by-laws for the control of building. Let me mention, however, that the promoters of the Bill are fully confident that this enactment for promoting the making of by-laws will not be sufficient by itself, unless there is a general revision of the building by-laws of the country. In many cases the by-laws which have been adopted, even model by-laws, leave very much to be desired as regards conformity with modern needs. Clause 12 deals with another special need—the need for control of temporary buildings. There is no one who does not know that much of what is most ugly and to be deprecated in the hideous excrescences that we see around our great towns is due to the erection of temporary buildings, which cannot be controlled by the present authorities. This Clause gives reasonable powers to control these temporary buildings also, under the general rule as to sightliness, seemliness, order and decency to which other buildings are subject.
§ Clause 13 is a Clause which I cannot but think will be near to the heart of every Member of the House. It is a Clause to prevent that horrible trade, the export of our ancient buildings. That is a feature of recent history, to which it is really difficult to refer in those terms of moderation and patience which should be used always in our Debates.
§ This is an outrage to the strongest and most intimate feeling of every man and woman who loves his country, that these treasures of our tradition and history and 1756 the beauty of our land should be thus exploited for base gain. I am told the Clause is an offence against the laws of private property. I do not think so. I think it is generally recognised by the common good sense and decent opinion of the whole country that in the case of these treasures of natural history and beauty, ou ancient buildings, there is some duty on the private owner which transcends the mere right to his own property. There is the right of his fellow countrymen, that is as freely recognised on this as on any side of the House. I do not think we shall be going a step in advance of public opinion, even amongst those who are most careful in the protection of the rights of public property, if we say this outrage upon our feelings shall not be committed. This, like any other Statute, is not cast iron. There is an opportunity, by means of the Commissioner of Works and the Ancient Monuments Board, to consider whether or not it is to the public interest that the buildings shall be preserved.
§ Clause 14 is a little Clause dealing with advertisements. It does not attempt to rival or in any way go over the same ground as the gallant attack made upon the advertising question by my hon. and gallant Friend behind me in a Bill which will come up at another time. This only refers to particular cases, to the cases which really amounts to a common law nuisance; and in that case the matter can be brought to trial before a county court. I do not think anyone who is anxious for the legitimate and reasonable freedom of the advertising profession and the services it performs to the industry of the country need be at all afraid that the foot of so temperate a tribunal as a county court judge will be planted in any harsh way upon the neck of the industry. The Clause applies to hoardings as well as to particular advertisements. A particular advertisement or a particular hoarding can be brought to trial, as it were, before a county court as an outrage on rural amenities. A rural amenity has specifically to be outraged. There is no general power, but only the power of trying a particular case.
Sir H. YOUNG
The phrase in the Bill is "rural district" and "rural amenities." That refers to all county districts. For the next clause, again, I invite the ardent sympathy of the House as representing really the tenderest feelings of the nation. I am sure all members, perhaps most keenly and bitterly those who represent south country districts, realise the alarming rate at which there is in progress the disappearance from the countryside of the greatest and most glorious of England's natural beauties, its woods and hedgerow trees. It is a tragedy that, if things continue at the pace at which they are continuing now, in two generations, according to the computations of the statisticians, the hardwood tree will practically have disappeared from the South of England and our children's children will never see the sunlight through the young yellow leaves of an oak in an English wood. Is it not worth while to pause even in our difficult struggle with greater national evils to do something to save for our descendants the remains of the homes of Herne the Hunter and Robin Hood? It is admittedly difficult to do anything when there are such strong forces against us. Nothing can be done without real goodwill and without a certain amount of self restraint, and even sacrifice, for the public good on the part of many, but I think it is possible to point the way for them. There are countries in which they have attempted to legislate that no-one shall cut down a tree without planting two more. The promoters of the Bill have sought, but alas, sought in vain, for some form of legislation to make such an enactment as that, but we have done our best and we present this to the House as the most practical proposal that can be made at present for the preservation of our woods.
There is nothing in this Clause to alarm anyone who is anxious for the rights of private property. In the first place, there is a provision making of general application a model clause by which a local authority can protect particular trees and particular groups of trees, subject to reasonable consideration and appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction as to whether certain trees, for instance, are dangerous. We propose to take one step further and to say that it has become a matter of national interest that wood- 1758 lands shall not be further diminished. We propose to throw upon the owners of woodlands of more than 50 acres, if they propose to wipe those woodlands out of existence, the onus of showing that they are not wanted. A woodland of more than 50 acres is not to be used in future for any other purpose except woodlands unless the owner can show before the proper tribunal that it is no longer required as woodland. I do not think it need be considered that that inflicts any undue restriction upon the rights of private property. The Clause requires of the owners of woodlands as a whole no more than would be voluntarily and by their own accord done by all prudent and good owners of woodlands. It only, as it were, standardises the best standard of conduct in regard to woodlands. This again is not a cast-iron clause. It is subject to reasonable relaxation by the proper tribunal.
Sir H. YOUNG
There is nothing in the Clause to prevent woodlands being cut. What it does is to prevent them being used for any other purpose except the replanting of fresh woods, so it will be understood that there is no confiscation of the value of any trees. It is only to perpetuate, subject to provision for extension, the use of the land for the purpose of woodlands. Clause 16 deals with the preservation of old bridges, and Clauses 17 and 18 extend the number of authorities which can actively intervene to save open spaces and village greens. I understand there is a certain amount of agitation on the part of critics of the Bill as to the wideness of the definition given to village greens. The promoters would be perfectly willing to accept any reasonable provision to make sure that there shall be no undue interference with private rights in connection with the Clause. It is a Committee point on which we shall be prepared to meet the objection.
§ Clause 19 is an important one. It prevents refuse being dumped upon unwilling local authorities. It says that a local authority must consume its refuse at home. Admittedly, this would result in local authorities having in some cases to erect proper destructor plant, and a very 1759 good thing too. Modern science is quite capable now of dealing with refuse without making it a nuisance to your innocent country neighbours.
§ Clauses 20 and 21 relate to machinery. I think I can best explain Clause 20 by saying that it is a Clause to construct machinery which will be ginger to the Government. So far, we have been thinking of ginger from one council to another. Now we want to give actual ginger to the whole administration. The readers of the works of Swift will remember that the learned men of Laputa were so lethargic that they were in the habit of going to sleep over their meals and that the nobles of that country retained special servants known as Flappers who stood behind with blown bladders tied upon string with which they hit them on the mouth in order to wake them up and remind them to get on with the business. The purpose of Clause 20 is to create Flappers for the Government by the establishment of consultative councils for England and Wales—that is the hope that the councils in question shall practically be identical in composition with the existing Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales.
§ Clause 21 is an offering laid at the shrine of the Government. It is said by many who are intimately acquainted with this administration that there is difficulty owing to the distribution of powers among the various offices in relation to the preservation of rural amenities. The Home Office does one thing and the Ministry of Health does another, and another office does another thing. Certainly those who are acquainted with central administration will know that in order to get real steam behind a movement you have to get it all into the hands of a single Minister. I hasten to say that there is no desire in anyone's mind to create a new Ministry. The day for that, fortunately, has passed. This Clause is not designed to create any new powers. Its effect will be to put into the hands of the Government the authority required to concentrate under a single command all existing powers.
§ I see that there is a motion for the rejection of the Bill; it does not seem to me very reasonable at first sight. It 1760 looks as if one who was offered a plum bun said "Reject this loathsome and disgusting bun; it has only 21 plums in it, and it ought to have 23." Fortunately, in this case the matter, I think, may end happily, because the particular plums which the opponents of the Bill desire to see in the Bill can easily be introduced. It is the intention of the promoters of the Bill to introduce them in Committee. The first is a more stringent Clause giving wider powers to restrain ribbon development, on the lines of that proposed by the Surrey County Council, that proposal the promoters would be willing to include in the Bill. Secondly, a Clause to enable local authorities to control elevation. There, again, is a most necessary provision. It has only been excluded from the first draft in order to avoid overloading the Bill. The promoters will be willing to introduce that also in Committee on the Bill. That being so, I trust that there may be but a single opinion upon this Bill in this House.
§ We have on this occasion a great opportunity such as has not come to us very often in recent years, to do something practical to assist those needs of the country which are not purely material but which are rather spiritual and to raise up the future life of the country in a manner in which it cannot often be raised directly by legislation. The beauty of our countryside has been given to us as a great inheritance, it is the best nurture of our youth, our best treasure in manhood, and our best consolation in old age. If we do something to-day to preserve that treasure for our children as well as for ourselves we shall indeed not have laboured in vain.
§ Mr. EDE
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House, while declining to proceed further with this measure which does nothing to stimulate the building of houses appropriate to their surroundings, to give any control over the elevations of buildings proposed to be erected in places of natural beauty and historic interest, or adequately to prevent ribbon development, would welcome an opportunity to pass a comprehensive and effective town-planning measure giving local authorities full power to preserve and develop the amenities of the countryside for both dwelling and recreative enjoyment.1761 I am quite sure that the House without exception has listened with delight to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Second Heading of this Bill. It has been a speech thoroughly consistent with the subject which we have under discussion. My only regret is, that, when those of us who are members of local authorities come to administer this Bill in practice, if it should become an Act, we shall not be able to quote a Second Reading speech to recalcitrant landowners and to Judges in the High Court. Our difficulty is that we shall be bound by the words of the Act. We are dealing here with a subject which is very controversial indeed. The interruptions which came to the right hon. Gentleman in the form of questions while he was making his speech show that in this particular Measure we are dealing with a subject which arouses very deep feelings and occasionally very bitter resentment.
If the hon. Member is referring to me, I should like to say that I did not ask a controversial question at all, but simply asked for information. I am in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. EDE
The Clause on which the hon. and gallant Gentleman questioned the right hon. Gentleman is one which very well falls within the category which I have just mentioned. The trouble is that on the question of rural amenities we are all of us very much convinced that something ought to be done. My experience is that it is a very dangerous frame of mind for the Legislature to get into, because if we say that something must be done the particular thing which is proposed is often regarded as a sort of easy way out for the House and for the country. While we denounce wrong in the abstract we are all on very safe ground. There is a famous remark of Increase D. O'Phace reported by Mr. Hosea Biglow:I'm willin' a man should go tollable strongAgin wrong in the abstract, for that kind o' wrongIs ollers unpop'lar an' never gits pitied,Because it's a crime no one never committed;But he musn't be hard on partickler sins,Coz, then he'll be kickin' the people's own shins.I venture to say that what was true in the sixties in America is still true today. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to 1762 the exhibition which now disfigures Westminster Hall. This Bill, we understand, is an effort to deal with the evils which are there typified, evils which this House without exception would like to see ended. He did not tell us, when he came to a review of the Clauses, under which particular Clause any one of those particular evils would be ended. Not one thing which is there portrayed would be altered or ended by the Bill as it is being introduced.
In the February Number of "My Magazine," there is an article entitled "The Crime at the Gate of Heaven." The gate of Heaven apparently is Kent. As an administrator in Surrey with my constituent the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), we know very well that the only use of Kent is as a gateway to Surrey and the crime at the gate of Heaven in Kent will be even worse when it is perpetrated in Surrey. There are illustrations in this article very much on the lines of those in Westminster Hall and not one of these could be stopped by this Bill as it has been introduced. The difficulty is that in the town planning Clauses of this Bill there is an attempt to deal with rural England without considering the technical difficulties which are involved. The word "rural" in local government law has a very distinct and technical meaning, and nothing like the meaning with which we have been associating it in connection with this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman himself represents one of the most beautiful constituencies in England, a constituency as beautiful as its name, that of the Sevenoaks Division, which consists of two urban districts and two rural districts—the urban districts of Sevenoaks and Wrotham, and the rural districts of Sevenoaks and Mailing. I am sure that he will agree with me that parts of the urban district of Wrotham are the most rural parts of his constituency. I know one civil parish included in that urban district, called Plaxtol, a place as beautiful as its name, and included in that civil parish is a particular part which I think anyone would agree is most charming, called Roughways. That is an urban district as rural as anything one can find in England. Even in the Metropolitan 1763 Borough of Wandsworth there is the district of Roehampton, more rural than many of the mining villages in the north of England that are technically administered by rural district councils. [An HON. MEMBER: "Barnes Common!"] Yes, Barnes Common. I am advised, by those who are competent to advise me, that this Bill, as drafted, would be confined to the areas of rural district councils, unless some very careful redrafting of the definition Clause of the Bill is undertaken.
I come to another point. Town planning has always hitherto been associated with buildings. The problem that now faces us is the problem of trying to get schemes for buildings which will not offend the reasonable artistic requirements of the community. Last year there was a case in Surrey, to which a great deal of attention was directed. I refer to the proposed selling of the woods that make Friday Street one of the most beautiful spots in this country. Friday Street is a typical example of what an English countryside is at its best. You have there a wood, not a very large wood; you have a pond, not a very large pond, and you have a collection of cottages that are in absolute keeping with those surroundings.
§ 12 n.
§ Mr. EDE
And a local inn at which the hon. Member for Romford often calls—he has told me so—and where I have called, although I am a teetotaller. It is rather astonishing that my hon. Friend should call my attention to the least interesting feature of the landscape. These things, taken together, constitute a perfect picture. Any hon. Member who knows this particular spot will, I think, agree with me that if you took away the houses you would destroy a good deal of the beauty of that scheme. When this matter was before the public, Mr. J. C. Squire wrote a very choice and discriminating article in the "Observer." It was the first article that. I have seen by a person of artistic temperament which recognised the tremendous problem that faces local authorities when they are urged to deal with these matters. The local authorities do not wish to see the countryside despoiled simply because they like to see it uglified; they are powerless 1764 in the matter. Here is what Mr. Squire wrote:Building there must be, the population is expanding, and, family for family, it is demanding more space and more fresh air. The developments of the motor-car has made it possible for multitudes of people to 'live in the country' who never thought of doing so before. The business of those who desire to preserve our inheritance of landscape beauty as nearly as possible intact, and to guard themselves against the anguish of seeing sanctuary after sanctuary invaded, is to reconcile themselves to these facts and to think about how expansion should best be governed, in what directions it should set, and under what conditions. If Friday Street should not be overrun by small houses, where can the small houses be built and, when we have decided where they can most suitably be built, how are they to be arranged in such a manner as to interfere as little as possible with existing amenities and even (unorthodox though this may be)"—although it may be unorthodox it goes to the very root of the matter—to produce new amenities.What one desires in this matter is not purely a restrictive or repressive Bill but a constructive Bill that shall give to the increasing appetite of the people of this country for more fresh air and beauty, opportunities of finding it i a the places where they live their daily lives. I am not satisfied that this Bill is what ought to be done on these lines, and it is on that account that I and those who are acting with me have thought it necessary to put down the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to get to the point of telling us how this Bill will do the definite things that we all desire to do. I desire to assert, quite emphatically, that the rural beauty of the English countryside is its combination of human life with natural beauty. If you take the opinion of the man who, so far as I know, was the greatest recorder of English natural beauty, William Cobbett, we find that he always associates the English countryside with the people who live there.
§ Mr. EDE
My difficulty in quoting Burns is that his best lines are written in the vernacular, and I should offend the hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) if I attempted to give my pronunciation of it. I would like to make two quotations from Cobbett: 1765It is very true that I could have gone to Uphusband by travelling only about 66 miles, and in the space of about eight hours.He was troubled very much by the speed limit, but not the speed limit of the motor propelled vehicleBut my object was, not to see inns and turnpike-roads.In that respect he differed from the hon. Member for Romford.but to see the country; to see the farmers at home, and to see the labourers in the fields, and to do this you must go either on foot or on horseback. In a gig you cannot get about amongst bye-lanes and across fields, through bridleways and hunting gates; and to tramp it is too slow, leaving the labour out of the question, and that is not a trifle.Then there is his description, which I suppose is a classic, of the village of Coombe:The houses of the village are in great part scattered about, and are amongst very lofty and very fine trees, and from many many points round about, from the hilly fields, now covered with the young wheat, or with scarcely less beautiful sainfoin, the village is a sight worth going many miles to see. The lands, too, are pretty beyond description.In his description of Hawkley Hanger he attempts to confirm his view by turning to his serving man to find out whether he feels the same exaltation as he was experiencing himself. We desire that the traditional association of the English people with the countryside, which was so seriously disturbed by the awful housing conditions created by the industrial revolution, should be restored. On the question of trees, the right hon. Member has given us a reasonably good Clause, but it does not provide that land which is now woodland shall be cultivated and preserved as woodland. There is nothing uglier than neglected woodland, and the suggestion I am going to make will assist the right hon. Gentleman in his desire. Clause 4 of the Bill provides that land that has once been woodland shall never be used for anything else; if the timber is felled the land shall be left with the stumps of the trees standing. I know nothing worse, nothing uglier, than felled woodland. When I had my six days leave before leaving for Prance I did what any Surrey-born man would do, I took a trip around the beautiful woodlands of the south-west of Surrey. When I came back I found that owing to the exigencies of the war this 1766 wonderful woodland had been felled, and it remains to-day a scene of extreme devastation. There is on the Statute Book to-day an Act which gives to the London County Council, of all people in the world, power to deal with this matter. In 1902 the London County Council were very seriously perturbed about the maintenance of the view from Richmond Hill, and they were given powers, which I should like to see incorporated in a general law, to assist landowners who had woodlands that were required for the purpose of preserving natural beauty in cultivating and maintaining them, or, where it was necesary, to make arrangements for an exchange of land so that the woodlands could be preserved.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Lady Cynthia Mosley.) and myself have come to an arrangement with regard to this Amendment. It will not be necessary to inflict two speeches on the House on the same subject. We are sincerely desirous of doing all we can to assist those who are concerned with the business now before Parliament. I desire to deal with the powers given in the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has told us will cover ribbon developments. The experience of a similar Clause is exceedingly disappointing. The power given by Clause 5 is already possessed by the Middlesex County Council, of which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. A. Smith) is a member, and I have no doubt he will tell us that this Clause, fine as it appears to be on paper, is absolutely impossible of application. It provides that a local authority, when making a new road, shall have power to acquire 220 yards on either side of a road. Two hundred and twenty yards on either side means a quarter of a mile in depth, plus the width of the road, and therefore every 11 linear yards along the road you acquire an acre of land. New roads are now being constructed to avoid the big towns, and in the case of the by-pass road round Guildford and Godalming, which is 11 miles long, the burden which would be placed on local authorities, if they were to exercise this particular power, will be realised. The acquisition of a strip of a quarter of a mile deep over a distance of 11 miles would mean the acquisition of 2¾ square miles along that one particular road, and that is only one of the 88 schemes which the Surrey County Council 1767 have under consideration at the moment. I am in favour of the nationalisation of land, and if I cannot get nationalisation I should be in favour of municipalisation but only of a set purpose, and in taking a particular piece of land. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that there should be alternatives if this Clause is to be administered by local authorities. It is no good our passing an Act and thinking we have settled the matter if, in fact, the Act is one which you cannot expect local authorities to administer.
I suggest three alternatives, and they should apply not merely to new roads but to all roads which come up for treatment. Many of these improvements will consist of the widening of existing roads. I am not at all enamoured of the craze for long, straight unending roads like those we marched over in France. I know nothing more dispiriting than to walk along the long straight roads in France, and when you reach the top of an incline you see the same kind of road stretching out before you which you have just left behind. Sometimes it was very gratifying to think that the front line was all that distance away, but when you were coming back it was by no means gratifying to think that the rest billet was such a long way ahead. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the incorporation in his Bill of these three alternatives. First, power to prohibit for 20 years any building, except with the permission of a local authority responsible for the road, on the 220 yards strip. Secondly, power to acquire by agreement any land to which the order relates, and thirdly, the most important, power to prohibit the bringing into the road any number of side roads at any point which some local developer thinks will suit his purpose. I understand the right hon. Gentleman is not averse to accepting suggestions on these lines in Committee, and I can only regret that as they were placed in the hands of the promoters of the Bill as long ago as last November they have not been incorporated in the Measure now before the House. I hope that we shall be able to get these in, because I am sure that they deal with that particular matter a great deal better. I want to refer next to the question of rural amenities. I want to be quite sure that the definition Clause covers the technically urban district. The constituency that I represent, 1768 South Shields, has grown enormously in the last 60 or 70 years, and is an appalling example of the cruelty of the Victorian idea of how the working classes of the country should be housed.
§ Mr. EDE
Clause 1. There is one small spot called Westoe to South Shields which still represents, the old-world charm of 100 years ago—a charm that has been absolutely destroyed elsewhere. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) will agree with me in this statement. The rest of the borough has been completely spoiled. Economic pressure has now resulted, in that part of the borough which has the old world charm, in most of the big estates and nearly all the big houses being either for sale or in the market for letting, and if we are not careful they will probably be broken up to make way for a series of tenements. I desire to be quite certain that the priceless boon of rural remnants in the great industrial centres shall be preserved.
The House will agree that on Clause 4, we had the financial considerations expounded by one of the greatest masters of financial statement in this House—by one whose reputation for clarity extends far beyond the borders of this House and of this country; but I venture to say that he did not make it very clear to many of us exactly what the Clause contemplates. The Clause would be comparatively easy to work if one could imagine that when one comes to the question of compensation and betterment five or six landowners would meet together, and in a spirit of perfect amity prepare to share out the losses and gains of a scheme. Of course that is the frame of mind in which people ought to deal with such a thing. But one knows very well that when one gets down to the actual detail of the thing, it is very complicated indeed. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Wimbledon Common Act, which represented an arbitrary decision after months and months of more or less hostile bargaining between the various parties concerned.
§ Clause 4 is a Clause that can be dealt with properly only in a Government Bill. I doubt very much whether the House 1769 would, through a private Member's Bill, impose on local authorities the tremendous financial implications and the amount of negotiation involved in Clause 4. If we are to assume that this compensation is to be paid at all, Clause 4 is essential to the working of the Bill. I do not see my hon Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) in his place. He and I could have devised a Clause which would have been infinitely better than Clause 4, although it might not have met with much acceptance on the other side of the House. One has to realise that in most cases the Bill will have to be worked by rural district councils. We are told that 110 of them have no bylaws at all. Many of them have only part-time clerks. One is, therefore, up against most tremendous difficulties.
§ Mr. EDE
Those 110 are the authorities with the most rural areas under their control. I have had the experience of knowing the County Engineer going to the office of a part-time clerk with a plan for an arterial road, and the clerk has said "Really, you cannot go through there, because that land belongs to a client for whom I act"; and the local surveyor, trying to help us out of the difficulty, said, "Here is an alternative route. I do not think you represent anyone along that line, do you"?
§ Mr. EDE
The part-time clerk of the local authority said that when the negotiations were going on. I was at a conference the other day with regard to the preservation of a piece of natural scenery, and the clerk of one council said, "I can promise you that my council will give the most careful and sympathetic consideration to this particular proposal, because I happen to own the land that faces it." Those who are concerned with the details of local government are very seriously concerned at the way in which ill-considered general duties are placed upon them without their being given sufficient power to carry out those duties in detail. We all desire that the countryside of England should be saved, but I have received only one 1770 letter from a local authority urging me to support this Bill, and that was from the County Councils Association, who desired to get the Clause relating to refuse dumps. Even the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading would be very disappointed if he thought that that was the only thing which the local authorities desired in his Bill.
I believe that the local authorities desire from this House clear, emphatic and well-cut powers that will enable them to deal with this evil, and deal with it effectively. I am afraid that they will not get those powers under this Bill. Their position reminds me of an incident that occurred when I was sitting as a magistrate. Two ladies were brought before us, one of whom charged the other with insulting words and behaviour. The prosecutrix gave us a long account of a dispute which she had had with the defendant during which she had accused the defendant of being a dirty woman because she did her washing on a Wednesday. We heard much about the respective merits of washing on Monday and on Wednesday, and very little about anything else. But at last the prosecutrix said that at the end of the dispute the defendant spat at her. The defendant then went into the box, and on oath affirmed that she did her washing on Wednesdays for reasons that were good and sufficient to herself.
The Chairman of the Bench said to me, "Do you know this woman?" I replied, "Yes, I went to school with both of them." Well," said he, "will you see if you can get us down to the kernel of the case and shut this woman up?" So I said to her: "Will you just listen to me? You are not charged with doing your washing on Wednesday. You are charged with spitting at this other woman. The question that the Court wants answered is, did you spit or did you not?' Probably thinking of the time when I sat behind her in the village school she replied, "As God's my judge, Jimmy …" Then, seeing that she had committed a faux pas, she started again, "As God's my judge, my lord." That did not satisfy her, and she started a third time, leaving out all forms of address, and said, "As God's my judge, I went to spit and the spit would not come." Local authorities are too often in that position. They desire to use effectively 1771 the proposals which are submitted to them, but owing to the weakness in detail of the law as arranged in this House they frequently find themselves unable to take effective action. I move this Amendment because I desire in this case to be sure that we shall have effective legislation. The Epsom and Guildford rural councils have introduced this year Measures which are far in advance of this Bill, and I should be sorry to hear it said, on the Second Reading of their Measures, that they went so far in advance of the Bill which we are now considering that we ought not to give them consideration.
§ Lady CYNTHIA MOSLEY
I beg to second the Amendment.
I wish to make it absolutely clear as the last speaker did that those who support this Amendment are not out against one single thing in the Bill presented to the House. Our quarrel with the Bill is that it is totally inadequate to meet the needs of the day, that the matters which are included in its scope are not dealt with efficiently, and that there are other vital points in connection with rural amenities which are not touched upon at all in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seven-oaks (Sir H. Young) made a speech with every word of which I agreed, but a great many of the wishes which he expressed are not going to be fulfilled by the Bill as it stands. I was very glad to hear the conciliatory remarks which he made about our Amendment at the end of his speech, and, if the Bill receives a Second Reading, I hope the points raised by the supporters of the Amendment will be seriously considered in Committee and that the Bill will be drastically amended, both as regards some of the provisions which it at present contains and also as regards the incorporation of other points which are not embodied in the Bill as it stands. I hope that as the result of such amendment the Bill, in the final result, will be more effective for its purpose than it is at the present time.
While not wishing to cover again the ground which has already been covered I would emphasise how vitally important it is from our point of view that Clause 1 should be strengthened so as to include land which is at present 1772 under urban district councils and which might not be considered to come under the terms of this part of the Bill. It is quite possible, I suggest, to amend the wording so as to include land which is under urban district councils, as well as land which is under rural district councils. The Bill in this respect is absolutely good as far as it goes, but we consider that it does not go far enough. The Mover of the Amendment has dealt very fully with Clause 4 and the question of compensation and I say nothing further about Clause 4, but, as regards Clause 5, which deals with ribbon development, I would like to make this suggestion. We must face the fact that we cannot merely provide one method and one method alone for the local authorities to acquire land on each side of the road: there must be alternative methods. We also deem it to be absolutely essential that the limiting words "a new road" should not be the only ones included in this Clause. Goodness knows, one needs to do something to the roads already in existence. I admit that many of them are irretrievably ruined, but many are not yet irretrievably ruined, and it is necessary that we should get busy on them, as well as on the roads which are being constructed or about to be constructed. There are no further powers in Clause 5 for dealing with the problem of the existing roads. We would like to see such a power given in the Bill and it is also desirable that alternative methods of acquiring this land should be provided.
In our opinion some form of compulsion ought to be introduced so that reluctant and backward local authorities, the timid and the unseeing local authorities, should be forced to act. If the only method of acquiring land provided under the Bill is by buying the land, then, as shown by the instances which the last speaker gave, a great many local authorities will regard it as utterly outside their powers to buy land. The three instances quoted by the hon. Member who spoke last were excellent instances showing the necessity for some alternative in this respect, so that land might be sterilised or dealt with in one way or another, and this menace met in such a way that the whole cost would not fall on the local authority. Clause 6 dealing with the making of a survey, is an excellent one, in all cases where there are efficient and lively 1773 councils to act, but I cannot help thinking that the laggard councils, the stick-in-the-mud councils, may regard it as a good excuse for interminably holding up schemes. I can foresee months and years passing, while some of these bodies, apparently busy in carrying out paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Clause, and seeming to do a good deal in the making of the survey, are really holding up schemes quite unwarrantably and delaying work that could be gone ahead with while they are compiling a new sort of Domesday Book. Would it not be possible to devise some formula or to put some time limit into this Clause to provide for the utmost acceleration possible, so that there would be no waste of time in the compilation of this very necessary survey. We agree that it is an excellent plan to have a survey, but we do not wish the work to occupy too long a time.
§ On Clause 15 a small point arises which may be regarded as a Committee point, but which I think it desirable to mention at this stage. Clause 15 deals with trees and Sub-section (4) specifies "any tract of woodland not less than 50 acres." I think that limit is rather too much, and that we should have a smaller figure of 25 or 30 acres. In general, the Clause provides that woodlands must be scheduled and registered by the council, but again it depends on the particular council concerned whether they act immediately and do their job in an efficient manner. It seems to us that even before the operation of the provision as to woodlands being scheduled and registered, that even if certain large tracts of woodland have not been registered—I refer only to large tracts—the owner ought not to have power to cut down any considerable area without having recourse to some authority. In many countries to-day such a law exists. In Greece, for instance, one is not allowed to cut down trees on one's own property outside one's own immediate private demesne, without the permission of some authority.
§ I think everybody will agree that the protection of trees is a very important national interest, especially where woods are of great natural beauty and do form a national asset. Everybody in this House knows that you have many such beautiful woodlands in this country, which are appreciated by thousands of people, and those woodlands should not 1774 be liable to be destroyed just at the will or whim of a single individual. I can think of a case that I know of in the South of England, on the South Downs, where there is a glorious stretch of woodland down the side of a hill, with many avenues converging into a central glade, which has been completely ruined. Not only in the last few months or years, but more than three years ago—some four years ago—the cutting down commenced, and hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut down, and scores of acres of woodland destroyed, and no effort has been made to replant or to see in any way that the damage that has been caused to our generation and the generation coming afterwards is not going to be irreparable. That case could be multiplied again and again, but I do not want to keep the House listening to things they already know, and that hon. Members opposite know perhaps better than any of us on this Bide.
§ Clause 17, which deals with open spaces, is a good Clause, but we think the time has come when powers should be definitely given to acquire tracts of land compulsorily. The open spaces that are needed nowadays are needed on such a much larger scale that bodies such as rural district councils simply cannot afford to cope with them, we say it has become a county or a national matter when we talk about open spaces, we do not mean just recreation grounds or playing fields, but the preservation of beautiful and very large tracts of countryside for all time, so that the people can enjoy them.
§ Now I pass to the most important point of all, to my mind, which has hardly been touched at all in this Bill, and that is that there really should be some control over the erection of buildings. The only Clause that even touches on that matter is the Clause about temporary buildings, but it is not temporary buildings that are the worst menace; it is the buildings that are put down and remain for good and all until they tumble down that we refer to, and there is not one word in this Bill to deal with that most crying need of all.
Sir H. YOUNG
I offered, on behalf of the promoters, to accept a Clause dealing with elevations, a model Clause.
§ Lady C. MOSLEY
Thanks very much indeed, but we would have wished that 1775 that Clause could have got into the Bill as it is now, so that the House could have seen it, because we think that power should be given without delay to control what houses should go up and where. After all, the kind of houses and their elevation are matters of much importance, and the principle that there should be some form of control has already been accepted by Parliament. In 1929, the Hendon Urban District Council brought in a Bill, which became law, and Section 67 of that Act empowers a local authority to make bye-laws requiring their approval to the elevation and materials of new buildings, additions or alterations to buildings, and chimneys more than 45 feet high; and provides for an appeal to a committee of four members, to consist of two architects, one surveyor, and one justice of the peace, none of these members to be a member of the local authority.
That principle was adopted and passed by this House in 1929, and so we would deem it essential that it should be incorporated in this Bill if the Bill is to be effective. It is not only a matter of whether the actual house is a nice or an ugly house, though heaven knows that is important enough, but whether it is suitable to its surroundings, whether it is discreetly, wisely, and properly placed, its assimilation to its background and surroundings, the atmosphere of the locality, the right colouring, every one of these things ought to be taken into account. They are not taken into account to-day, but with the proper use of local materials and with any reasonable design, it would be perfectly possible to get decent and appropriate houses put up, so that they do not spoil the landscape, and these decent and appropriate houses need not necessarily be any more expensive than the vulgar, monstrous, hideous houses that are going up now. There are villages and there are districts that have made a real effort in this direction and have put up houses that go in well with the district and with the type of house that is already in the district, and those houses have not cost any more than these other dreadful houses that are going up in such multitudes.
1776 I hope that every Member of this House has gone to see that remarkable exhibition in Westminster Hall. I think they got together there a really amazing number of instances of the wanton and wholesale destruction that is going on in this country at the present time, and if I may be allowed to rub in my point, I would say that nearly all the horrors on view in Westminster Hall are being perpetrated in connection with the erection of ghastly buildings of one sort or another—houses, villas, cafés, petrol pumps, garages, and buildings of that description. It does not seem the least bit unreasonable therefore that we should demand, and demand again and again, that control over the erection of these buildings should be incorporated in the Bill, so that further horrors should not be perpetrated. The Bill will not be at all effective unless the worst of all the crimes which are being committed over the countryside to-day is coped with by some sort of control.
There arises further the question of sporadic development, and there is nothing in the Bill to cope with that. I think it spoils rural amenities more than anything else. Think of the prodigal waste of a lovely tract of countryside that is utterly ruined by one glaring red roof, a whole hillside spoilt for good and all by some hideous bungalow put down at the wrong place. The last speaker alluded to local councils that are introducing measures at the present time going far beyond the scope of this Bill. There are two local councils promoting Bills to deal with this evil, and, if I may, I would like to quote, for instance, two or three of the points that they are raising in their memorandum, on the subject of sporadic development. They say:Land is being purchased by speculators and is sold on payment of a small sum down and weekly or monthly payments spread over a period of time. In many cases no attempt is made to construct roads, and the result is that in the winter months it is almost impossible to obtain access to the houses which are erected on the land.The persons who purchase the land erect the houses on borrowed money, and in many cases find it extremely difficult to pay the instalments on their mortgages, and have no money at all to spend on road works.The type of development is bad, and the country side is being utterly spoilt.1777 It is proposed by these Bills to prohibit a building until means of approach are laid out. Then there is another Clause, which has already passed, and that is the Clause that the Poole Corporation brought in in 1928. In Section 45 of that Act it is required that upon the deposit of the plans of any new building the local authority may, by notice in writing, require the provision, before the building is erected, of sufficient means of communication between the building and a street. It seems to us of the utmost importance that some such Clause should be incorporated in this Bill, in order to deal with the menace of sporadic development.
There are two other points about which I feel very strongly, but I am not sure whether they could come within the scope of this Bill, and I hope I may be forgiven if I mention them now. I think the first point at any rate could come in the Bill, and that is in regard to petrol pumps. The promoter of the Bill spoke most strongly about the horrible petrol pumps which are a disgrace to many fine roadsides, but there is nothing in the Bill to touch the petrol pumps at which the right hon. Gentleman is so appalled and which he thinks are so hideous.
Sir H. YOUNG
There ha" been recent legislation on the subject of petrol tanks, and the reason why the subject has not been dealt with in this Bill is that it is much too soon to know whether the legislation is effective or not.
§ Lady C. MOSLEY
I do not think that it is much too soon. Something ought to be done in this Bill. I would like to read out a passage in a book dealing with this whole subject. It seems to me to apply very much to the case, which was not in any way touched in recent legislation. Talking about petrol pumps it says:Spirits in the liquor sense cannot be "old except by those holding a licence, which can only be obtained on the payment of fees after good cause has been shown for its granting and a public demand has been proved. Is there any good reason why the retailing of motor spirit should not be similarly limited before the country is so overburdened with a plethora of pumps that petrol-selling ceases to be remunerative resulting in the disfiguring of our highways by derelict stations even more unsightly in their dilapidated abandonment than in their flaunting youth?There really seems to me to be room for some further effort in the present Measure 1778 as regards these petrol pumps. The next point I want to raise is one which is of peculiar interest to me, and, again, I must confess I am not quite sure whether it would come within the scope of this Bill. The point is one which, I think, would meet with universal popularity. It is that all lands or buildings bequeathed to the National Trust or the State should be exempted from Death Duties. Why I say that it is of particular interest to me is because of the fact that two castles were left by my father to the country—Bodiam and Tattershall, and the National Trust is still in the process of paying very heavy Death Duties on those two castles. It seems to me that it might be a very good thing, and might well be done, to exempt any ancient lands or buildings left to the National Trust or the State for preservation.
§ Lady C. MOSLEY
I was afraid that it might not be covered, but I thought I might not have another chance of saying it. I am sure the whole House will agree with me that it is unforgiveable to continue to allow the beauty of the countryside to be disregarded in the way it is being disregarded, and to allow the amenities of this country to be wantonly destroyed through negligence, for that is what it amounts to at the present time—negligence, and nothing but negligence. It is positively heart-breaking, and I repeat that the time has come when we must definitely choose between the end of lainsez faire or the end of rural England. The Mover of the Bill to-day said it was only the first effort. We ought to have had an effort like this a long time ago. One welcomes the first effort when it comes along, but one wants it to be as good and effective as possible. It should be possible to get some co-ordinated and comprehensive plan governing the use and treatment of this land of ours—this land which was our fathers', and will be our childrens', and for which, therefore, we ought to look upon ourselves as trustees.
There are Members on these benches who would say, quite rightly, that in the real sense of the word this land is not all ours at the present time, but we on this side want to make it more truly belong to the people of the country, though I fear before that end is achieved, 1779 much of it will have been spoilt, and will not be the precious thing it was, unless something is done as soon as possible. Rural England is disappearing bit by bit one way and another, by the destruction of the woodlands and the creeping growth of the great towns, and in effect is disappearing just as much by the litter of houses, bungalows, cafés and the rest. We all know how this sort of thing is occurring. The venturesome bungalow goes further and further out, the reckless advertisement is put up, violating the most peaceful and serene landscapes in the most unexpected places. So far nothing has been done, and we want this Measure to be as adequate as possible. Something more than administration and legislation however is needed. We must get down to the roots of the whole matter. It struck me during the opening remarks of the mover of the Bill how strange it was that the evolution of civilisation, as he said, has brought uglification to the countryside. Does it not seem an anomaly that civilisation should do that? Yet it is undoubtedly true.
Does it not show that the citizens of this country should be prepared more intelligently to deal with the whole art of living? We need a wisely-devised scheme of education to see that our children are given not only a knowledge of history, mathematics and that sort of thing, but some form of knowledge of housing and economics, and not only that, but subjects like culture, architecture, tidiness, neighbourliness—the whole art of how to live one with another should be inculcated. These things are highly essential to good citizenship, and yet nothing is done about them to-day. A course of citizenship might do well at the present time. The effect of such a course would have an immediate result on the amenities of the country. We need not only education and a better sort of education, but discipline and co-operation, a real effort at the conservation of the nation's assets and their protection, so that a spendthrift squandering is avoided. Surely such a conservation of the nation's assets is the proper function not only of good government in general but of good citizenship in particular. I would like to see very much more of that spirit in the country. I read a perfect line in a book last night: 1780To go as you please is not always to arrive at something pleasant.I think that is amply justified when we see the very unpleasant things that have been achieved up and down our countryside. We seem to be losing the inheritance of beauty in this country. I do not think it is through deliberate malice, but that it is nearly all through insensitiveness and ignorance. The reason does not matter; the fact is that we are losing it, and something has got to be done now. We are all to blame. It is not only the people who litter the woodlands and parks with bits of paper and orange peel or clutter up the landscape with advertisements, and all the ugly and monstrous buildings. What about the derelict works, the dumps, the refuse heaps, the coal-pits and all the terrible litter of industrialism. In one way or another we are all to blame, and we must all do something, ginger up our local government, and the national Government, do whatever we can. By this Amendment we are trying to do what we can to ginger up this Bill. We welcome the generous way in which the Mover of the Bill said that the points which have been left out, and which we wish to see in, will be incorporated. We want the Bill to be as effective a measure as it can be in this precious and pressing question, so that this land of ours, which is one of the loveliest in the world, will remain one of the loveliest, and be not spoiled for all time.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
In rising to address the House for the first time, I ask hon. Members for their usual consideration. When I told a friend of mine that I hoped to make a few maiden remarks on this Bill, he said to me with a curl of his lips, "Rural amenities are all very well, but after all, it is only a hobby." I mention that rather trivial personal incident, not from any importance of its own, but because it is characteristic of the way in which the question of rural amenities is regarded by a considerable section of the public. People who, per haps, have been subjected to a rather intense propaganda at the hands of those who are very often slightingly described as amenity merchants, or who are the victims of some misdirected efforts, have come to a frame of mind in which such a phrase as "beauty spot" is regarded by them almost with horror. That the 1781 question of rural amenities should in no way be considered as a hobby and nothing more, is very unfortunate.
It is essential that rural amenities should come to be related in general public opinion with far wider issues. I dare say that throughout the country a large number of people have been surprised at the composition of this Bill, and have probably been particularly surprised because several of the leading Clauses deal specifically with the question of town planning, which many people regard as a rather dry and unsentimental subject. It is on account of that feature mainly that this Bill most merits support, and it is a feature of the Bill which I should like to emphasise. In saying that, I am enabled at the same time to support both the Bill and the Amendment. My own fear about the Amendment is that, in pressing the need for something more comprehensive and effective, it may in the public mind obscure the fact that this Bill makes a tremendous advance in comprehensiveness and effectiveness over the present way of going on. It is solely on that account that I join issue in any way with the Amendment. The extension of the Town Planning Act throughout England has been an undoubted feature of the last few years. I, and I think many others as well, rather regret at the present moment the Title of the Town Planning Act. We would like to see for psychological reasons a different Title. If I had to invent a different Title, I would not bring in the word "country," because it immediately sets up a sort of contradistinction between country and town. I would like the Title to be "regional planning." The difficulty is that, although there has been this extension of the Town Planning Act throughout the country, its operation has been definitely limited by the fact that it can only be put into operation where a certain amount of development has already taken place, or where that development is imminent. Between, on the one hand, being too early to start, and, on the other hand, being too late, and preventing a maximum amount of good being done by the Act, a very exact calculation on the part of the local authority is required. The result has been that in a great many districts—largely districts where the town runs into the country—the late application of the Town 1782 Planning Act has unfortunately allowed much damage to be done; when I say damage, I do not mean destructive damage always, I very often mean constructive damage.
In a country of the comparatively small size of England, where development springs up and proceeds at the pace that development is apt to do nowadays, this limitation is altogether out of date. One of the most satisfactory features of this Bill is the fact that Clause 2 rules out that limitation. That alone gives the whole problem vastly greater comprehensiveness and effectiveness than was ever possessed under the old Town Planning Act. This may seem perhaps an academic point, but it is essential and almost fundamental to this question, that we should get the question of rural amenities definitely linked up with, and part and parcel of the wider question of regional planning. It is essential to get it out of the hobby category, and to get it recognised as a definite component part of a far larger problem. The Poet Laureate wrote recently:Our stability is but balance, and wisdom liesin masterful administration of the unforeseen.The poet was writing about life in general. Whether he had the question of town planning specifically in his mind, I would not like to say, but it is perhaps more than accidental that, when he wrote these lines, he looked down upon a scene where industrial development in its most modern form was jostling side by side with the architectural beauties of a university town. So I think these lines are particularly applicable to the question we are considering. After all, the stability of development in England—and I use the word "development" in its wider sense—lies in a balance of the component parts, It is our duty, in furthering planning schemes, to foresee as far as possible. That is the essence of it, but if the unforeseen comes along, it is of advantage if we have what may be termed masterful administration waiting ready for it in the form of planning machinery, and, at all events, a skeleton outline of a planning scheme.
After all, rural amenities are no longer the close preserve of people who happen to live in country districts. Modern transport has seen to that. It is as easy, 1783 and it is becoming increasingly easy, for large numbers of town dwellers to get into the heart of the country on a Sunday afternoon as it was in the old days for a man living in a town to set out with his wife and perambulator to go for a walk to the local park. People may say that we are making a lot of fuss about not very much. They say we kick up a disturbance about a few odd petrol pumps and a few odd bungalows, whereas the vast area of the country is unspoiled. It is not merely a question of small beginnings, the trouble is that the small beginnings lead on gradually, and very often imperceptibly, to problems of far greater intensity and importance. One has only to look at the development of the big towns of this country to realise the truth of that. They are far from satisfactory. We realise it now, and only wish that people had realised it a century ago. In London itself, and within a very short distance of this place, an ancient Lord Berkeley, in times gone by, kept his hounds at what was known as the little village of Charing, and I believe that a practising farmer had to be dispossessed in order that Waterloo Station could be built. I am not suggesting that hounds ought to be kept at Charing Cross now. If that had been the case, an evening or two ago we might have been dividing on a Measure to decide whether the kennels should be moved to the south side of the river.
I merely quote those instances to show that the development of London from kennels and farms to what it is at present was undertaken step by step, perhaps in many cases almost imperceptibly; and if people thought about it at all they may have said, "It is not worth troubling about; it is only a small expansion." But from small beginnings we have led on until we have come to the vast mass of present day London, presenting many problems which we wish very much had been foreseen at an earlier stage. The hobby of to-day may, before we know it, become the very grievous problem of the future, and a problem which future generations may certainly, and I think will, unless we tackle it now, regret very bitterly, and for which they will very rightly hold us to blame. I do not in any way wish to support a Measure which is likely to minimise the 1784 importance or the value of voluntary effort. In the matter of preserving rural amenities, voluntary effort is of the utmost importance; it is recognised, when the statutory powers under town planning legislation are put into force, that the co-operation of voluntary effort is really the basis of any decent scheme of development, and I should be the last to support this Bill if I thought it aimed a blow at the importance of voluntary effort.
In the plains of America there is, I believe, an animal known as the jackass rabbit, and I have been told by people who know it that one of its characteristics is that when pursued by dogs it always gives the impression that if only the dogs were a little bit faster they would catch it. A well-known sportsman had tried relays of faster and ever faster dogs, but always with no result, and when he was twitted on his failure he remarked thoughtfully that the only thing left was next time to start the dogs ahead of the rabbit. At the present moment we are, so to speak, struggling behind the rabbit of the development which has taken place in the past few generations, struggling almost hopelessly behind problems which have got the start of us, and which seem, try how we may, constantly to be outstripping us. If we can help it we must not let that be the case in regard to rural development. Let us take this opportunity, and there is plenty of time if we do it now, of establishing ourselves in a position where we can start ahead of the problem. I am certain that if we do not do that the next generation, and we ourselves, in many cases, will stand absolutely amazed at the opportunity we have missed.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am sure I shall be expressing the views of everybody in the House when I congratulate the hon. Member for Wells (Major Muirhead) on a most successful maiden speech, which has interested us all very much. I think he has added very much to this debate. While supporting the Bill, I do not intend myself to go into its contents in any great detail, because they were very well explained by the Mover of the Bill; but I would like to deal with one or two points which were raised by the Amendment and those who spoke on it. The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke (Lady Cynthia Mosley) said she welcomed the Bill as a 1785 beginning, but I must say it was rather a frigid welcome. I thought she seemed to dissemble her love in a desire to kick it downstairs. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) did not seem to show any case for rejecting the Bill. The points he brought forward were, as far as I could see, of two sorts. First, there were Committee points, little points where greater strength is needed in the Bill; and, secondly, points tending to show that the authorities to whom the operation of the Bill would be entrusted were unfit to do their job. Whenever a Bill comes up which will put new duties on local authorities, it is always possible to say "Oh, but the local authorities will not do it." I gather from him that the local authorities in Surrey are not very far advanced. The hon. Member talked about a part-time solicitor with various other interests, and gave us rather a deplorable picture of incompetent rural authorities rather incompetently served. If he will look at the Bill and the principal Acts referred to he will find that there is power for joint action on the part of authorities. One of the advantages of the Bill that it enables a county council to come more actively into the work of town planning. I should have agreed with him if his criticism had been that the first Town Planning Act was too restricted in giving powers only to smaller local authorities.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Wells that what we need to-day is planning on a larger scale—real foresight—regional planning, but it is no good objecting to every Bill dealing with local administration by saying "Let us wait first until we can overhaul the whole machinery of local administration." I know the temptations in that direction. I have several beautiful schemes for the reorganisation of local authorities in London and outside London, but almost always I am met by bits of piece-meal legislation and am told that if only we had a huge authority, if we had a regional authority, if we had an adequate rural authority instead of two small rural authorities, how nice it would be. But that means delay, and I think the speeches of those who moved and seconded the Amendment showed that, if one thing is clearer than another, it is that this problem will not wait. Everybody knows how any change in local government takes years and years to bring about. We 1786 are only just arriving at the carrying out of a reorganisation with regard to boards of guardians, and the campaign with that object in view started quite twenty years ago. Are we to wait for another twenty years until our incompetent rural authorities decide to do something in regard to this question.
The Bill gives larger powers to local authorities and county councils, but after all, when it comes to a matter of operating Acts of Parliament, you cannot insert a Clause saying "the provisions of this Act shall be put into force by zealous and well-intentioned councils ". Therefore, when you look at this Bill, you must brush aside the idea that you must wait for a new heaven in your administration or a new angelic kind of council, and you must take the local authorities as they are to-day. I am not so sure that the exact provisions suggested with regard to the designing of houses are very adequate. There was a suggestion of a tribunal upon which there was to be local J.P.'s. I have seen the houses of local J.P.'s. There are to be two architects but a large proportion of the worst and ugliest buildings in this country were designed by architects in good practice and making money. You cannot escape from one difficulty by saying "Let us put these powers into public hands" and afterwards declaring that those public hands are incompetent. You have to do the best you can with the material at your disposal. I find that you often get a much broader outlook when you bring in the county council, because they always seem to take a larger view than that taken by a local authority. Again, your rural and district councils are likely to be influenced very easily, and to make a success of this question you have to have public opinion behind you. I support this Bill very warmly, but I think some amendments will be necessary in Committee. The fact of the matter is that we are trying at a rather late stage to preserve our social amenities. There is a large part of our rural activities which ought to be removed from mere profiteering. I think everybody agrees that this measure has come too late. Do not let us do anything to delay these reforms.
§ Mr. E. D. SIMON
I should like to commence by congratulating the right hon. 1787 Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) upon the very comprehensive and lucid speech which he made in introducing this Measure. The right hon. Gentleman made out the case for this Measure so fully that I shall not take up more than a few minutes in saying what I wish to say about this Measure. I represent an area in Manchester which certainly cannot be called rural, but Manchester happens to be provided with excellent facilities for the people getting out to spend their holidays in unspoiled English country like the Lake District and the Peak district of Derbyshire. In Manchester for the last ten or fifteen years there has been a regular exodus every Sunday morning and afternoon of people going to those districts and you see literally thousands of young men and women, the men dressed in shorts and the women in walking costumes, going down to enjoy the pleasures of the Peak district. Therefore it is very essential to those who live in industrial areas that all these surrounding rural amenities should be preserved for their enjoyment.
In Manchester a town planning scheme was introduced, and we got on very happily for a certain time, and we had a scheme covering a very large area of Cheshire. We got on very well until we had to decide where we wanted to preserve open spaces, and then we found that to achieve this object we should have to pay compensation to the landowners. On the other hand, we found that by leaving out these open spaces in our scheme the landlords would benefit, and that constituted a difficulty which has not yet been overcome, and, roughly, it means that the whole scheme is now being held up. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks said there would be neither gain nor loss to the landlords whole by town planning in the way in which it was proposed under this Bill. Town planners hold the opinion that by developing a region of this sort by forethought there will be an actual gain in the end by levying some sort of tax on those who are going to gain in order to compensate those who are going to lose. I do not know whether this Clause is practical as it stands; the right hon. Gentleman said that Amendments are to be made in Committee, and details laid down as 1788 to how it is to be done. It is obviously going to be an exceedingly difficult matter, but the principle is one of the utmost importance. In fact, I believe it is vital that there should be some Clause of this sort if regional planning is to be made possible. It is not only the Manchester area that needs consideration; I believe that the whole question is very acute in London, and that the London Regional Planning Scheme is in danger of being held up on the question of compensation and beneficial improvements.
I congratulate the promoters of the Bill, therefore, on including this Clause. I hope that it will be very thoroughly worked out in Committee, and that something practical and fair to all classes of landlords will be evolved. I think that the right hon. Gentleman made out a very good case. In fact, I have been a member of the Committee which has been considering this Bill, and I know that it has been prepared, as the right hon. Gentleman, said by people in the country who have had great experience and who have taken the greatest interest in this matter; and they believe that it represents practically the greatest common measure of agreement that can be achieved at the present time as to how to work towards the object which we all have in view.
One cheering thing is that even the Opposition to the Bill is not because those hon. Members who are opposing it do not want the same kind of thing as the promoters of the Bill. Judged by their speeches, they want the same kind of thing, but they want a great many other things as well, and, because they cannot get all these things into this Bill—because, as the Noble Lady says, it does not raise the whole art of living to another plane—we have the Amendment. I was very much astonished at the speeches of the hon. Members who moved this Amendment Almost every word they said was in favour of the Bill, not exactly as it stands, but they made Committee points for strengthening the Bill and making it rather more effective. I do not remember a single argument being used by either of them which would justify the putting down of a formal Amendment against the Bill, and I hope that, if a Division should be taken, they will join the rest of us in giving this Bill, which I consider to be a very important 1789 step towards the preservation of the amenities of our country, a Second Reading.
§ Mr. BUCHAN
I think that the promoters of this Measure have every reason to congratulate themselves on the remarkable unanimity with which it has been received in all parts of the House. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment proclaimed himself an admirer of William Cobbett. So also am I, and I should like to think that the spirit behind this Measure is the spirit of that great Englishman. There are various points in this Bill on which I think Amendments during the Committee stage will be desirable, but I find myself whole-heartedly in agreement with most of its provisions and with its whole central principle. I speak as a Scotsman who is a devout convert to the beauty of rural England, and I think that, perhaps, one who is not an Englishman comes to that with fresher eyes. I was talking the other day to a distinguished American, who said to me, "You have the most beautiful country here in the world, and you do not know it. If the world knew what I know now, you would not be able to handle your tourist traffic."
The beauty of rural England requires some effort for its continuance; it cannot be taken for granted, because it is essentially a subtle and a delicate thing. It has none of the obvious and dominant picturesqueness of, for example, parts of the Scottish Highlands, or the Lakes, or Wales, or parts of Switzerland. You can build a power-house in a Swiss gorge without really detracting from the majesty of the mountains, and you can plant an ugly new hotel at the foot of a Highland glen without, perhaps, wholly spoiling that glen. But you cannot do that with the woods and meadows of rural England. The charm of that landscape is a subtle thing. It is the charm of a long-settled land, full of history and of evidences of history. In our now highly industrialised country, where modern means of transport allow the people access to what a generation ago were the most retired corners in the land, in a society like this, some conscious expenditure of effort is required to preserve our rural beauty. I believe that our countrymen are at last awake to their heritage, and desire to preserve it; but they have awakened only just in time. Another 1790 generation or two of apathy, and rural England would have been no more.
I think we ought to approach this question with a reasonable standard of common sense. It is essential, it is inevitable, that there should be some disfigurement. You cannot have safe and comfortable motor roads and at the same time preserve the charm of the rolling English road, which, according to Mr. Chesterton, was originally made by the rolling English drunkard. Motorists must have petrol, and petrol pumps must be reasonably conspicuous. New houses must be built, and new houses, however good, are apt to do some violence to the amenities of an old-fashioned town or village. Rural England is not an antiquarian museum; it is the home of people, and the interests of the people must come first. There is a text in the Bible which seems to me to be very pertinent to this question:Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; but much increase is by the strength of the ox.We cannot be like Old Mortality in Sir Walter Scott's novel, and spend our time merely in deepening the inscriptions on tombstones. Change must come. But I think we are all agreed that it must be made as little offensive as is possible—that, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading, forethought must accompany development.
I regard this Measure as only a first instalment of a great and continuing policy. It seems to me that that policy should have three parts. In the first place, we want to keep existing beauty inviolate as far as possible. That is the direct purpose of this Bill. In the second place, I think that certain localities should be publicly acquired for the public enjoyment. That is a work which has been done now for many years with great success by the National Trust. But I think it may be also desirable that we should go further, and that the State itself should acquire, in certain places, large tracts of country and dedicate them as national parks, partly for the public enjoyment, for holiday camps and such things, and partly also as sanctuaries for wild life. In the third place, I should like to see, in order to provide for access to rural beauty, the strictest precautions taken to safeguard 1791 those rights of way which exist in every English parish. England would be a dull place and a poor place without those footpaths which wander about in woods and meadows. I would like to see this whole question taken up seriously. I would like to see an Act of Parliament passed to schedule existing footpaths and perpetuate them, to create a new Domesday Book, because I believe that that would give people a sense of responsibility for rural beauty, since they would feel that they were partly the owners of it.
I think the situation in which rural beauty is placed to-day has really a certain amount of hope in it. The easy access given to it by modern means of transport may be a kind of blessing in disguise. I cannot imagine anything more dangerous in any society than that you should have a fixed and arbitrary division between town dwellers and country dwellers, neither of whom knew anything about the life of the other. We want every Englishman to discover England. Half the trouble with English agriculture in the past has teen that the townsman, who being many times more numerous called the tune in politics, knew nothing about rural needs. I hope this new discovery of England may lead the townsman to realise that rural needs, the needs of agriculture, are his own needs. After all remember the English village is not a museum piece. It means nothing unless it is a prosperous home for people. If you had villages dispeopled, if you had tillage returned to prairie, where would be the traditional charm of the English countryside? I believe further—and here I am in most cordial agreement with the noble Lady—that this preservation of rural beauty depends upon the acceleration of social progress. The more you truly educate people, the more you make them desirous of preserving things of beauty and historic interest. The better the housing conditions you give them and the higher the standard of life, the less are they likely to disfigure places of beauty, because they themselves will have a far higher standard of decency and order. And the more you put English farming upon a sound economic basis, the more firmly you establish rural society, the more you are going to preserve the 1792 traditional charm and beauty of the English countryside. It seems to me that the success of this Measure depends on its affiliation with every rational type of social progress.
It is in the truest sense of the word a democratic measure, for rural England is essentially the heritage of the poor man. I remember some years ago talking to a great industrial magnate, and I found his view of the future of his country was that it should be highly industrialised, covered with a network of factories and the dwelling places of factory workers, with immense roads and immense electric cables, the whole of the country one hive of industry. He was prepared to allow a few watering places, under strict supervision, for the holidays of the workers, but he said that for the rest one must go abroad. That was certainly a point of view, and there is this justification for it, that it is not the rich man who is going to suffer by the loss of rural amenities. The rich man can find abroad what he can no longer get at home, or he can have his parks and gardens and, inside them, create the beauty which no longer exists outside his walls. But if you destroy rural England you destroy the poor man's only heritage and only holiday ground. The old Victorian reformers believed that if you gave a working man a water-tight house and a living wage you had done all you possibly could do for him. To-day I think we are wiser. We know that man does not live by bread alone and, just as in education we desire to give everyone access not merely to vocational and utilitarian instruction but to the treasures of art and letters, so we believe it is the right of every citizen to have access to the refreshment and peace which is given by the most beautiful countryside in the world.
§ Mr. NOEL BAKER
This debate, if it has proved anything, has proved the scale and the urgency of the problem with which the country is face to face. It is only a few months since a great historian, one of the most distinguished men of letters in the country, wrote an appeal on this matter to the nation, and the title which he gave to his appeal was this: "Must England's beauty perish?" It is surely a tragic thing that a leader of national thought should even be able to put the question. It is still more tragio that, if we try to answer it, we have to 1793 admit that a great deal of England's beauty has already perished, that month by month and year by year it is perishing at an appalling rate, and that unless something drastic and immediate is done, future generations will be without the heritage that we have had. I welcome the Bill and I think I welcome every Clause which it contains.
I do not go so far as those who have moved the Amendment. I desire indeed to criticise it at a later stage, but I think that what it contains will be of great value, and, that if it could be put immediately upon the Statute Book, much would be gained. I believe Clause 2, with regard to town planning, means a very important reform. Clause 5, about ribbon development, may do something; I am sure Clauses 6 to 8 concerning compulsory surveys and concerning interim measures to preserve amenities, will be of great value, and the more so if, as proposed by the Noble Lady, a time limit clause can be inserted. I am sure Clause 13 about Ancient Monuments will be of value. The hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Maequisten) asked us to quote from Burns. I remember a poem by Burns, which I fear I cannot quote, but which begins, "My bonnie Jean." It was to Jean Armour, Burns' sweetheart. It is only a few years ago since the grave of Jean Armour was removed to make way for a distillery. If I remember rightly, that caused a wave of indignation throughout Scotland. It is that kind of thing that would be prevented by this Measure. Certainly Clause 15, about woodlands, Clause 19, about refuse dumps, and the Clause about village greens would be of great and immediate value. For these reasons I wish to join in thanking those who have brought the Bill forward and those who have helped them outside to prepare it, for the service they have rendered.
But when we come to what the Bill does not contain, I think I go quite as far as, perhaps further, than the hon. Members, the movers of the Amendment. I hope the promoters of the Bill will accept in their entirety the proposals with regard to ribbon development which were made by the mover of the Amendment. I hope they will even work out in detail, including if necessary a financial Clause, but in any case a general machinery, by which these provisions can be made effective. I think we have not 1794 yet begun to realise how dangerous a social evil ribbon development is. It is a mistake to think in terms of aesthetic values only. We are discussing it today from the point of view of amenities, but it is in reality a question of more than that. Ribbon development is a serious social evil. I have had occasion in the last few weeks to study one or two particular cases, one connected with a by-pass which it is proposed to build, and I am satisfied that on economic grounds the ribbon development which it was proposed to promote is absolutely and fundamentally unsound. The case for allowing ribbon development is that you save the cost of building subsidiary roads at the side of the main roads upon which houses can be placed. It is also said that you can make a saving with regard to the provision of gas and drains and water. On the second point, I believe that it is wholly untrue. I do not believe that there is any saving to be made. With regard to the first, I believe that it is a very "short-period" point of view to say that you are going to make a saving. You might for the moment save something on the rates or on the National Exchequer, but the time will come when, if you allow buildings to be erected upon these main roads—upon any road which acts as an artery of traffic—you will have to build a road round them.
There is nothing more certain than that the traffic of this country on the roads is going to increase in a measure which we cannot now foresee. I would say that in 10 or 15 years from now there will be five, and it may be ten times, as many vehicles on the road as there are to-day. Those who use by-pass roads or any artery of traffic in and out of even moderately large towns know how much already the building on the edges of those roads reduces their value as arteries of traffic. One has only to look at the Croydon by-pass road, or the new by-pass out to Watford and Barnet, to know how profoundly true that is, and that with each year which goes by the value of these roads as traffic arteries will be reduced. Therefore, on those grounds, and because of the social waste involved in building a long line of houses and separating people by great distances from the shopping centres which they wish to use, and because of the discomfort and danger to people living on these roads by reason of 1795 the continuous stream of traffic going past their doors—I hope that for all these reasons we are going to have legislation which will impose upon us a system of parkways such as has been adopted in some parts of the United States and has been proved there by experience to be, not only of great aesthetic value, but an extraordinarily good economic proposition also for those who have the wisdom to adopt it.
I am sorry to see that there is nothing in the Bill with regard to litter. When I asked a question about that, I was told that there was nothing more which it was possible to do for the prevention of litter in the country. I am sorry to hear that. But, if it be true, I would suggest that we should at least try to put a compulsory power in the Bill to compel local authorities who do not pass adequate by-laws, and who do not administer those by-laws with adequate severity, to do so. If we could do that, it would be a great improvement. Again, I think we need more than is given us by this Bill with regard to open spaces. An hon. Gentleman on the other side has said—and I agree—that this is an urgent national matter. It is so in respect of national parks, in respect of playing fields, in respect of ordinary town parks, and in respect of open spaces near the houses in which the people live. I should like to see a stipulation in some Bill by which no houses should be built without compulsory provision being made for a certain amount of open space for each thousand of the new inhabitants who live in those houses.
The same is true with regard to town planning. Here, again, I agree with the hon. Member opposite, that what we need is regional planning. "We need comprehensive and compulsory provision for the whole country. I do not think that anybody should be allowed to put up any building in any part of our country without permission from a public authority. I do not believe that this would be an infringement of the liberty of the subject, because I think that the liberty of the majority to enjoy the countryside or to enjoy the amenities of whatever place they may be in, is greater than the liberty of the single individual to destroy those amenities for the community at large. That argument applies with particular emphasis to the point raised 1796 by the Noble Lady the Member for Stoke (Lady C. Mosley) concerning the control of elevations. I hope that the Clauses which the promoters are so generously accepting, will be made compulsory. I hope that they will be universal in their scope or if they cannot be mad" universal in the Bill, that this rule will by early legislation be made universal and that no one will be allowed to put up a house, the design of which has not been approved by some public authority. It has been said by an hon. Member here that the houses put up by architects and by Justices of the Peace are eyesores, That may be so. I do not consort much with Justices of the Peace and I am not aware of the kind of houses in which they live. I am certain that the schemes of housing carried through by public authorities in the last ten years are infinitely superior in every way, and particularly in respect of architectural design, to the schemes carried through by private enterprise. I say therefore that that point which was made is not a good one.
It was my good fortune or otherwise to have to attend The Hague Conference last August. When I was there I was housed with the rest of the delegation in an hotel by the sea at Scheveningen—an hotel of almost incomparable ugliness. Anyone who knows that seaside resort, knows that along the beach you have a series of buildings which, as architectural atrocities, it is almost impossible to parallel in any part of the world. I was assured by my Dutch friends that that piece of private enterprise development, which was carried out at the end of the 19th century, led the Dutch nation to pass legislation to provide that no person should build a house of any description without public approval. That legislation has been applied ever since. In consequence the towns of Holland in every way, in their town planning, and above all, in the architectural design of their individual houses, are probably superior to any towns in any country in the world. Anybody who lives for any time in Holland must realise what a profound influence that has had on the whole social life of the nation.
We are told that this would be restricting the liberty of the Englishman, and that the Englishman's home is his castle. I believe that that argument is absolutely hollow. There is not one Englishman in 1797 10,000 who has any say about the kind of house in which he lives. All that we allow now is not liberty to the individual to have the house he wants, but liberty to the jerry builder to destroy the country in which we live. I hope, therefore, that this provision will be inserted either in this Bill, or, if that may not be in some other early Bill in the months to come. That brings me to something which I would have liked to address to the Minister if he were here. I am not certain that all that should be done can be done in this Bill. I hope that as much can he will be.
I hope that the Government will help us to get this Bill through and put it on to the Statute Book. But if that should be impossible I hope that they will give us an undertaking that they will themselves introduce a Bill at a very early date and indeed I hope in any case, that without delay they will introduce a further Bill to codify, co-ordinate and bring up to date existing provisions in regard to town-planning, control of elevations and the extraordinarily difficult financial arrangements and other machinery which will be required. I hope that the Government will be able to give us that undertaking here and now before this Debate comes to an end. I would like to say another word to the Government. I hope that in the meantime they will try to give us a lead to public opinion. Let them not only follow; let them create. There is a great body of opinion in this country ready to be led in this matter at the present time. If they could only take some administrative measure which would give a lead to this public opinion, I believe the effect would be remarkable.
A proposal has been made by a distinguished authority: Mr. Glough Williams-Ellis, that there should be a National Board of Amenities. I should like to see such a National Board and the appointment of a Director of Amenities to serve that National Board so that they could stimulate the national conscience and make proposals which the Government could carry out. It has been said before and I would like to say it again, that the education of public opinion is a vital thing. I believe that in this question of amenities we are coming very close to one of the real tests of what we mean by civilisation. We sometimes consider that we are higher in the scale 1798 of civilisation than other countries, shall we say, than the Balkan Republics. I happen to know some of the Balkan Republics rather intimately well, and I cannot conceive that the peoples of the Balkan Republics would tolerate the atrocities that have been committed by Government Departments in this country. Let hon. Members visit the exhibition in Westminster Hall, and see what our Government departments have done at Stonehenge. I could not imagine the people of Greece treating the Plain of Marathon or the approaches to the Acropolis in such a way. I am not sure that in this respect we stand very high in the scale of civilisation. This is a question which affects us very much more deeply than appears at first sight. Let us not assume that the spiritual power of natural and architectural beauty do not affect the minds of men, of women and of even little children. I started by quoting a great historian. Let me con-elude by quoting him again:—Without vision, he says, the people perish: without natural beauty the English people will perish in the spiritual sense. In old days the English people lived in the midst of nature, subject to its influence at every hour. Thus inspired, our ancestors produced their great creations in religion, in song, and in the arts and crafts—common products of a whole people spiritually alive.I believe that is the fundamental truth about the subject of our debate to-day, and I hope that the House and that the Government will recognise that it is part of our spiritual heritage that is at stake.
I wish to say a few words particularly in relation to Clause 14, which deals with the advertisement side of the question. I am not speaking in a spirit of antipathy to the Bill, because many of the Clauses are of the utmost value. The preservation of the beauties of this country are an obligation on every section of the community, whatever their specific interests may be. At the same time, I feel that there has been a certain tendency in this debate to overrate the menace to the beauties of this country. We have to maintain some kind of balance between the amenities of life and the necessities of life, and in a highly developed industrial civilisation such as ours it is impossible to attempt to maintain the whole country as a sort of deer park. Hon. Members who have travelled 1799 by aeroplane get a better sense of proportion than those who travel along the essential commercial routes, such as the railways and big arterial roads. Looking at the country from an aeroplane, one gets some idea of what remains of the woods, and there are vast pastures and fields everywhere. We see that the roads are simple lines across the country. Even the towns occupy very small areas.
With regard to Clause 14, I suggest that it is duplicating legislation which already exists and which is quite adequate to deal with the abuses which undoubtedly exist. It is, in a way, entirely out of place in the present Bill, particularly as next Friday we shall be considering the Advertisements (Regulation) Bill, which proposes to deal with the same subject, covering urban and rural areas. Furthermore, this Clause overlaps legislation which exists in the form of the Advertisements (Regulation) Act 1907, and the Amending Act of 1925. These two Acts were passed after consultation with the representatives of the commercial and industrial intereste affected. They were carefully drafted on be-half of the promoters by individuals who were well informed on the industrial and technical questions involved. In the present case the promotors have made no attempt to consult the representatives of the employers' associations concerned, or the representatives of the trades unions whose members would be affected by legislation dealing with the advertising sites, such as the Printers' Union and the General Workers' Union, who have large numbers of members employed as billposters. No attempt of any kind has been made by the promoters in drafting this Clause to consult with the representatives of the employers and workers, or to meet their views in any way. Those who have drafted the Bill do not seem to have taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the previous legislation which governs out-door advertising. In the Advertisements (Regulation) Acts of 1907 and 1925 jurisdiction is vested in the Home Secretary and in the local justices, whereas under Clause 14 of this Bill it is to be vested in the Ministry of Health and the County Court.
One can imagine the sort of confusion which arises from a plethora of unneces- 1800 sary legislation. As a practical man who has considerable knowledge of the business on which it is proposed to legislate, I can imagine circumstances in which a hoarding might be half-inside and half-outside an area under the Town Planning Act of 1925, in which case the half within the town planning area would be under the control of the Minister of Health and the County Court, and the half outside would be under the control of the Home Office and the local bench of magistrates. I only bring up this point to emphasise the necessity of reasonable consultation with the employers' and workers' organisations who spend their lives in the business of outdoor advertising, a business which spreads all over the country and gives employment to large numbers of skilled men in the bill-posting industry, and a much greater number of printers' operatives, carpenters, joiners, etc. I will not occupy further time on this Clause, because the whole subject will be adequately thrashed out next Friday.
I maintain that there are adequate powers in existence to deal with outdoor advertising in urban and rural areas in the two Acts which I have mentioned. The fact that these powers have not been put into force in all areas is because of the lack of public opinion on the subject. That serves to demonstrate that further legislation is unnecessary. There is no public demand. If there was public objection to these advertising sites, we should find the working people collecting and pulling down the hoardings in the same way that they pull down obstructions when rights of way are being interfered with. They are quick to act when they resent anything, but the great mass of working people who manufacture the goods which are advertised on the hoardings are not so much interested in this legislation as in practical economics. They are the people who not only make the things that are advertised, but who consume them, and they are concerned with the practical economics of the country. If further legislation were required in respect of outdoor advertising this Bill is not the place in which to embody it. Next week we shall be discussing a Bill which will cover exactly the same ground as Clause 14, and even the most enthusiastic advocates of the abolition or the reform of outdoor advertising could scarcely hope to pass two Bills on the 1801 same subject within 168 hours. If we pass the Second Reading of the Bill to-day, I suggest that Clause 14 should be eliminated or that consultation should take place with the people who know something about the industrial side of the question, and that the Clause should be radically amended. In due course, I shall submit Amendments which may commend themselves to the promoters of the Bill.
§ Mr. DENMAN
If the only question before the House was the Second Reading of the Bill I do not think even the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast West (Mr. Allen) would have induced one to intervene, although I am bound to say that he was definitely provocative. If he expects us to go on tolerating advertisements until the angry mob tears them down he is asking a good deal. We believe in orderly government, and our object is to stop the evil before the angry mob collects and expresses itself in the way he suggests. The people I represent have not the opportunity of seeing the glories of the British landscape from an aeroplane. They have to approach them in other ways, and what may offend them may not be visible to those up in the air who see them from a different angle. If the possibility which the hon. Member suggests eventuates then the provisions of this Bill will become unnecessary. I intervene because of the Amendment which has been moved. The case for the Bill was stated with perfection by the right hon. Member and the spirit underlying it was indicated by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan). Those two speeches represent the common feeling in the House. But the Amendment makes it necessary for hon. Members on this side to indicate that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment were not speaking for the mass of the party. Their argument was the familiar one that the Bill does not go far enough.
I regret that neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Amendment are in their place at the moment, but the House will recollect that they both expressed the greatest anxiety lest Clause 1 should apply merely to rural districts and not to urban districts. That is, surely, extremely illogical. If the Bill is so bad as not to deserve a Second Reading they ought cheerfully to welcome the fact that it does not apply to urban districts. Their Teal anxiety was that its provisions 1802 should apply to beauty spots in urban district areas as well as in rural district areas, and if they were in the House at the moment I would assure them that the Clause does not merely apply to rural district areas but to rural amenities wherever they occur. I agree that the Bill does not go quite far enough. I should like it to go much farther. I am interested in the Lake district, and in that countryside the feeling in favour of preserving the amenities is growing stronger and demanding more effective expression. This Bill would not satisfy that demand completely, but it does something which is very real. It enables town planning schemes to be applied to purely rural areas. That is fundamental to the Lake district.
There is a hint also that the new kind of joint authority which is foreshadowed in Clause 21 should act for Government departments. I should like the new joint authority to act in specified regions for a variety of local authorities, plus other bodies. That is what we in the Lake district are trying to attain. We want a regional authority which is not a collection of representatives from different councils, but a body appointed and imposed by the Ministry of Health of representatives not only of local authorities but, perhaps, of owners and societies especially interested in the preservation of amenities. Clause I inserts the word "streams" as one of the items that may possess rural amenities which ought to be preserved. Many streams in all parts of the country are being polluted and damaged and I lament the fact that the Bill does not give wider powers to prevent pollution. But because these things are not in the Bill it really is foolish to vote against the Second Reading. I am glad to have what can be obtained in the way of progress, so long as it does not debar a more perfect measure later on.
It has no been alleged, and there is no evidence, that this Bill in any way prevents later legislation or is proceeding on wrong lines which would divert the course of proper development. But it is clearly unwise merely on the ground of inadequacy, to turn down this Bill this afternoon. Many of the problems of government now arise from the maladjustment of powers to authorities. Throughout existing Acts there are a 1803 great variety of admirable powers which are not administered. One hon. Member complained that he had not been able to get any compensation for betterment. There is a provision in the existing Town Planning Act which makes that possible, and his authority might have administered the provision in order to obtain it. On the other hand, there are many excellent authorities which lack powers they might usefully employ. This Bill does something to adjust powers to authorities. It gives a certain number of new authorities and it certainly gives existing authorities powers which we all want to see them obtain. Because it does these two things I hope it will receive a Second Reading.
§ Sir JOHN WITHERS
I desire heartily to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I wish I could use the eloquent and beautiful words of the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) but I identify myself with the sentiments so well expressed in his speech. I cannot understand the attitude of those who say that because they do not get all they want they will have nothing. In the present position of legislation in this country that attitude is really ridiculous. We must all be content with an instalment, if it is on the right lines and does not pledge us to any wrong course of conduct hereafter. In that regard I fully identify myself with the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). If we are going to wait for a Bill dealing completely with these matters we shall have to wait a very long time indeed in the present congested state of Parliament. Meantime the country will foe spoiled, and once it is spoiled it will be much more difficult to put matters right than it is to make proper provision beforehand. It is impossible to leave the matter to private arrangement. Lots of good people have tried to town plan and a great many most interesting experiments have been made, but they cannot possibly continue their good work without statutory help. I do not quite agree with the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Noel Baker) who rather despised the stylo of town planning and elevation which is adopted by voluntary developers. If he went to the Hampstead Garden Suburb and got to know it as well as I do, he would see that the development there is 1804 extraordinarily good, and that the type of building and elevation has been carried out very well.
I have been particularly asked to support this Bill by the authorities of Cambridge University. They are very anxious about the surroundings of Cambridge, and an important Society has been formed for the preservation of the surrounding country. There, again, it is almost impossible to act without statutory powers. Directly people hear that there is a proposal to town plan prices are put up and it is necessary to buy at exorbitant figures. That is very wrong. It is most important that we should have statutory powers. I am very proud to think that some of the first town planning experiments which were ever made were made by Cambridge University, when King's College developed its Ruislip estate. A lot of Clauses which are now standards in Acts are known as Ruislip Clauses.
I beg the House most earnestly, on behalf of a University which possesses some of the finest buildings in England and has some of the finest country around it, to pass this Bill. In Committee a large number of points will have to be considered very carefully. I particularly appreciate the suggestion that there should be some provision with regard to litter. It is very unfortunate that the present provisions for some reason do not seem to be enforceable. In parts of Kent which I pass through from time to time I come across places which are absolutely littered over with paper. People have gone to those spots in motor cars and have left the litter all over the place. Then there is Runnymede. If one goes there after a weekend its condition is dreadful. I cannot understand why the local authorities cannot do something. I most heartily support the Bill, and I trust that the opposition will not be pressed.
§ Captain W. G. HALL
I rise to support the Bill. It contains Clauses which should have support from every quarter of the House. I listened with very close attention to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and I must confess that, except for the personal references which the speech contained, there was nothing in it to make me change my mind. The statement which has been issued by a large 1805 number of societies should in itself commend the Bill to the attention of the House. There are 11 or 12 different societies which have come into existence largely to do what this House should have done many years ago through a Bill of this kind. As has been repeatedly said by previous speakers, we are acting, if not too late, at any rate rather late in the day.
We British take much too little interest in our national monuments and in our beauty spots, and it is only when visitors, particularly those from the United States, come over here and talk to us about the wonderful things that we have, that we begin to realise what a great heritage we have entered into. Most of us, perhaps, are familar with the story of the American who asked the curator at a college how they got the grass so green. He told her that they planted it and rolled it and tended it, and planted it and rolled it and tended it again, and went on doing that generation after generation for about a thousand years, and that that was how the grass was made so green in certain places in England. People who come from abroad realise that many of the things that we enjoy have come down to us because those who have preceded us have seen that the things have been preserved. We should be lacking in our duty to those who follow us if we did not preserve as far as possible what has come to us from those who have gone before.
This Bill is much overdue. I join with those who have expressed the hope that the Government will give every possible facility for its progress so that it may reach the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment. A great Sunday newspaper last Sunday gave us an illustration of what has been happening in one of the Home counties with which I am very familiar—Buckinghamshire. There, near Wycombe, a part of one of the valleys has been almost completely spoiled by the erection of workmen's houses which, so far as the workmen are concerned, are about as far from their work as they could be. The houses have been put there by a jerry builder, who found apparently that he could get the land, and as the men wanted houses they had to go there. If this Bill will help to stop that kind of thing it will not be passed 1806 in vain. Moreover, all over that area you will find refuse dumps which various local authorities have either failed to stop or have pleaded that they could not prevent.
I remember that a late member of this House who used to sit on the Liberal benches and was known to many still here, Charles Masterman, took an interest in the Children's Country Holiday Fund. He once told the story of a small boy who was taken out to the country in one of the Holiday Fund parties. The boy suddenly shouted to a friend of his, "Hi, Jimmy, come here; I have found a cow's nest." His small friend dashed up and there all that they had got was a small dump of Nestle's milk tins. Cows' nests of that kind are all too frequent in our villages and countryside. I hope that this Bill will help to prevent that sort of thing. We have been told by the Mover of the Second Reading that when the Bill reaches Committee many of its provisions will be open to alteration and improvement.
I would like to call attention to one or two things which might usefully be done to improve the Bill. Naturally we on this side agree with the underlying principle of Clause 4. As I read that Clause, it means that we shall feed the dog with portions of his own tail and those of us who watch with concern rising land values going into the pockets of people who have done little or nothing to produce them can in matters of this kind approve most heartily of that principle. Clause 13, Sub-sections (2) and (3) are not quite clear to me. It seems to me that if application is being made to restrain an individual or group of individuals from exporting an ancient monument, the costs in the county court will have to come out of the pockets of the person or persons who bring the action. Provision ought to be made for the costs to fall on the delinquent, who is attempting without the consent of the Commissioner of Works to export an ancient monument.
I hope the House will realise the enormous damage which may be done even in a few years. The Bill refers to an Act of 1925 passed only four years ago, yet in those few short years, an enormous change has taken place in the countryside. Great arterial roads have been cut and the hedges which were 1807 formerly found along the lanes in many rural localities have disappeared and as far as one can see no attempt is being made to replant them. Admittedly, in modern times, with mechanical transport and heavy traffic of various kinds, it is essential that the roads should be wider and in many cases straighter, but I would plead that in a Bill dealing with rural amenities we ought to try, as far as possible, to secure the replanting of hedges and trees so that if our children have to live in a world of straight roads, those roads shall, at any rate, have hedges instead of fences on either side.
I wish to make some remarks upon this Bill from the point of view of an agricultural landowner. This Bill is being viewed from the urban rather than from the rural standpoint, and it is well that something should be said from the point of view of those who are so directly concerned with rural districts. I know it is said by hon. Members opposite that they would like to do away with all agricultural landowners but they would also like to make use of us until the time comes when we are looked upon as being no longer any good. My right hon. Friend who brought in this Bill gave the true reasons why the countryside now needs legislation to preserve its beauty. The first reason is the coming of the motor car, and the second is the breaking up of the large landed estates. Had it not been for those two factors the amenities of the countryside would be to-day just as they were some years ago and that is something to the credit of the old agricultural landowner. The advice and help of the landowner should be taken in a matter of this kind which affects him and also the agricultural labourer just as much as it does the people who come from the towns to spoil our beautiful countryside.
In my own case, I have given employment for the last ten years in connection with the growing of timber, but I have found it necessary to fence round certain woodlands because of parties of motorists and others who come there and have picnic parties and light fires. Formerly no fences were required but now it is necessary to put up fences to protect these places where employment is being given to many extra hands in the growing 1808 of timber, which ought to be one of our staple industries. I would also like to say a word on the subject of Death Duties. It is a very serious matter if we are going to allow Clause 15 of this Bill to penalise an owner who finds it necessary to sell timber in order to pay death duties. The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke (Lady C. Mosley) suggested that the beautiful places which her father has given to the nation such as Tatters-all ought not to be subject to Death Duties and for the same reason I suggest that if it is desired to preserve the beauty of the country the Death Duties ought to be taken off agricultural land and woods and forests. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, what is fair for one is fair for another. But I know that hon. Members opposite want to "do in" the landowner by degrees and it is a case on the landowners part of:Ave Caesar morituri te salutantbut I think we ought still to be considered in these matters. The local authorities are apparently supposed to be the best judges of what is necessary in order to keep our countryside as it ought to be, but I very much doubt the wisdom of that idea. I know that in Sussex we have a great deal of quarrelling and overlapping in connection with plans of this kind; on one side of the Downs you will find plans laid out for residential areas and other developments, and on the other side of the Downs there are no plans at all. I do not think that these town planning schemes, or as they should properly be called in this case regional planning schemes, should be left to any local authorities other than the county councils and I am very glad that legislation was brought in by the last Government giving the county councils supervision over such schemes. We ought to have these plans made in large areas and I am glad that the Bill gives some help in that respect, to prevent local authorities treading on each others toes. I submit that if it is desired to preserve the rural amenities of the countryside the best plans to follow are those which have already been carried out on big estates like Arundel and Goodwood and others. Those estates of that kind are found very difficult to maintain nowadays on account of Death Duties, but the plans which were followed out there were very admirable and gave everybody a freedom 1809 to wander which could not be expected under a local authority without payment of some kind.
There are other ways in which help can be given in this respect. There is the Central Landowners Association and there is the Council for the Preservation of Rural England which has local branches in practically every county. I think that consulting the representatives of those two bodies, who are more interested in the country than most others in regard to these planning schemes in each county is one of the ways of getting the best results, from the point of view of the county as a whole and the people. One of the constituent bodies of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England had an interview on this subject the other day with the Minister of Transport. Incidentally I am glad that the Bill is trying to put these matters under one Minister, instead of having it in two or three different Departments. I notice that the Minister of Health is here to-day, but the body to which I refer and of which I am a member, went to see the Minister of Transport on the question of the erection of electric poles. I know we all impressed on him that he should let the bodies of which I have spoken, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the Central Landowners' Association, which have representatives on these various Committees in the counties, know about these schemes before he has already got them out. The whole object of this Bill is the spread of education, and if we had more chance of knowing what schemes were proposed before they were actually carried out, it would make for far less objections and for the good of everyone concerned. Anyone whose toes are trodden on is bound to have some objection.
§ Clause 4, as the hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Simon), from quite a different point of view, truly said, is the most important Clause in the whole Bill, and if the united wisdom of those who will use that Clause is brought to bear, I believe it will solve the question of rural amenities. Professor Unwin has various plans on these lines for Greater London, and in America they have tried something of this sort outside Chicago and many other places, but what suits the towns does not necessarily suit the country. It may suit London and other big towns, and the 1810 suburbs of Chicago, but the value of land being problematical, we never know what it really is until the land is sold, and I suggest that if we could have something in that Clause to the effect that the compensation should be paid on the actual value of the land when it is sold, we should know we were paying the actual value and not the problematical value, as provided so far in the Clause.
§ Mr. VAUGHAN
What does the hon. and gallant Member mean by "actual value"—the value before such regional planning is marked out, or the value ascertained in the public market hereafter?
I was meaning the value which it fetched in the public market. I do not see in Clause 4 that any value is given for water supplies, and there may be much damage done by using the water supply of an estate, nor is there any provision for individual notice to owners, but these are Committee points. This Clause is a bone of contention between us, but there is, I think, one thing common to us all, and that is that hon. Members opposite do not believe, in their policy as outlined in "Labour and the Nation," in taking land for nothing, and we only want fair value for land. What the Socialist policy on nationalisation is, I do not know. I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question the other day about all this selling of various Government properties. I asked why he wanted to sell Government land which he has already got. Does he expect private enterprise to develop it? That is the policy pursued now, and what they want I should like to know. If I am right, I think they are finding that if the Government owned all the land of the country, they would get no duties or taxes on it, and as they cannot afford that, they want to hand it back to private enterprise, having first taken it from them, as that will be the only way they can get any money out of it. But that is rather a diversion. When we discuss Clause 4, there is a great deal of sacrifice that will be required on both sides to get a Clause that will be really fair to the majority of people, which we want to secure. I do not despair of doing it, and I shall support the Bill and do my best to help get it through on fair lines.
§ Mr. OLDFIELD
It seems to me that the point at issue is as to whether we are to support the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), or whether we are to give this Bill a Second Reading, and I am in a difficulty, for whereas I really agree with everything which my hon. Friend the mover of the Amendment has put forward, nevertheless I hope that he and his supporters will not think it necessary to press their Amendment, because I feel that the Bill is worth something. In pleading for this Bill, I feel, I confess, something like the patriarch Abraham must have felt when he pleaded for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. If there is one Clause in this Bill which is a really useful Clause, I am not sure that it does not justify us in giving the Bill a Second Reading, and if it were only for the admirable Clause dealing with the question of refuse disposal, I should be prepared to support the Bill and to give it a Second Reading.
I think there is very little difference of opinion among hon. Members present as to the need for some Measure of this kind and as to the great extent of the evil. There is a ring around London, as indeed around the other great cities of our country, and outside the ring of publicly owned and controlled development, outside, for example, the ring of the Dagen-ham and Becontree housing estates of the London County Council, there is an outer ring of wholly sporadic and wholly uncontrolled development, which is growing at an alarming pace, in spite of the Act of 1925, and which is creating a housing problem of the first magnitude in these districts. Indeed, so bad is it that it is creating a problem to which I personally can see no kind of solution. It feels a terrible thing that there is, in the beginning of a movement of population and of development, a time in which you go through a wholly uncontrolled stage and a stage of exploitation and speculation pure and unadulterated.
Some of the districts around London to-day, in spite of the Act of 1925, are built on no form or plan whatever. They are so sporadic that it is a matter of practical impossibility to devise even a sewerage scheme which can reasonably serve the inhabitants. It seems even to be beyond the bounds of reasonable finance to provide private streets, to 1812 join house to house, and to make some method of ingress into and egress out of the dwellings, particularly in bad weather, so uncontrolled and sporadic has been this development. And it all happens in the first stage. Later on, after you have perpetrated all these atrocities, the respectable local authority comes along and regulations are passed, but those regulations, alas, are far too late.
As I take it, the intention of Clause 2 of this Bill is to advance matters and to deal with this question. We are not now going to wait until a district either is developed or until there is an immediate threat of development in a district, but we are going to anticipate matters, and we are going, broadly speaking, to confer the same powers as are now exercised by authorities under the 1925 Act in advance, to forestall the sporadic development which we see all around us now. I confess I consider that a wholly good proposition, but I feel, with many hon. Members of this House, that it does not go far enough, for the Act of 1935 has proved in many cases quite inoperative and quite ineffective in dealing with the evils of the situation. In many districts it has not checked that kind of undesirable development at all. Many urban and rural district councils have not adopted it. I can think of a place perfectly shocking in that respect—Lain-don, in my constituency. The rural district council, which is supposed to look after Laindon, has not adopted the Town Planning Act, and has taken no steps whatever to control the development of that town.
The Minister of Health. I think, will agree that he has now very inadequate powers to make recalcitrant district councils exercise the permissive powers which they already have. There should be an initiative to the Minister of Health and an initiative to the county council for preparing schemes. After all, we must face the problem that it is no good giving the rural district council, for example, powers, if in the very nature of things, and, I am afraid, often on account of the vested interest of the council, you are going to get nothing done. The curse of these rapidly-developing districts is, surely, that the most important people are the people who are interested in the preliminary speculation of the land, and 1813 they are the people who first get on the rural district councils in these small places, and play into each other's hand. It is a serious thing to say, but in a great many cases it is true, and we shall not get very much done until we give a greater compelling power to the Minister and administrative power to the county council, which, after all, is more distant, and not so open to the kind of jobbery which, I am afraid, plays a considerable part in the development of our growing districts.
This Bill is, of course, rather a mix-up. It deals with a great many things which are only vaguely connected. It deals with the question of advertisements. I very much disagree with the rather specious argument, as I thought, put forward by the hon. Member for Belfast West (Mr. Allen)—I wish he were here now—but I do agree with him that, perhaps, it is rather unnecessary to put in a Clause much more effective when we propose to deal with the question more fundamentally in the near future. I am thinking of some of the hoardings on the arterial road from Dagenham. I very much question whether there are any rural amenities to spoil on that road. Bungalows, cafés and the rest, I fear, have already destroyed the amenities, and I very much question whether in these unfortunate cases you can argue on the ground of amenities at all. The promoter of this Bill admitted as much himself, that this was not the occasion to deal with the very great evil of advertising.
When it comes to the question of refuse dumps, the slightest measure which holds out any kind of hope at all of dealing with this monstrous evil, I most heartily support. I am not going into the question of dumps, mainly because my hon. Friend the Member for the Romford Division (Mr. Muggeridge) is even more afflicted in his district with refuse dumps than I am in mine, but I am very glad, again, that in this Bill the county council are going to be called in, and that their sanction and advice have got to be asked before refuse can be disposed anywhere within the county area. Here, again, there is, in the case of Pitsea, in my constituency, a threatened refuse dump. That refuse dump has been sanctioned by the rural district council, and when I ask the Minister of Health if he can do anything 1814 about it, he cannot, because it rests in the discretion of the rural district council. I maintain that these small bodies are perfectly unsuitable to deal with great questions like that of refuse disposal, and I am very glad to see this added safeguard, that it should be left in the hands of the county council. I do not associate myself with the hon. Member who said that the best way of getting rid of refuse was to incinerate it in the district. I have other views on that matter which are irrelevant to this Debate.
If one takes this Bill Clause by Clause I am in complete agreement with practically ever hon. Gentleman who has spoken to-day that there is much good in this Bill, and certainly it ought to be supported. My only fear is that when it is put into practice, if it becomes law in anything like its present form, it will not be quite so effective in operation as it looks upon paper. But that is essentially a matter for discussion in Committee, and I should like to congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Mover of this Bill on putting before the House such a Motion. We have been told that the Government use Fridays for bringing about Socialism by the back-door, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman for continuing on that very salutary principle, for although, possibly, in Clause 4 the hon. Gentleman has had a lapse from the true faith, nevertheless there is a great deal of practical and sensible Socialism in this Measure, and there is quite sufficient of that element for the essential curtailment of the rights of private owners over their own property, to make me give it a very hearty support on Second Reading.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I do not want to speak for long, because what I would say has been said by most of those who have already spoken, and, as representing one of the bodies in support of this Bill, one delights to feel that there has been such unanimous support for the Bill as a whole, although the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment seemed to be in the surprising position that they prefer no bread rather than half-a-loaf. They admit that there is a quarter of a loaf, and yet they prefer to have none at all, and oppose the Second Reading, which I take to be the meaning of the Amendment. I, like them, would say that it is 1815 easy to criticise a good many of the suggested powers in the Bill, but certainly, as regards the general policy, it is one that goes to the heart of everyone in the community who welcomes and loves country live. Therefore, in itself it is a very great advantage to have a discussion, and, if possible, to put a Measure like this on the Statute Book. I do not agree with those who say that unless there are clear-cut powers it is no good at all. There are hundreds of Acts on the Statute Book that are practically useless in working, but the fact of passing them has meant that they have been stepping-stones to others that are useful, and this is a useful stepping-stone, I hope, to higher things.
Those who are supporting this Measure are supporting it above all, not as a hindrance to development, but as an encouragement to development. That is the line which we in the Town Planning Association constantly have to emphasise with great difficulty against enthusiasts who pick out one thing which is unpleasant to their eyes or inconvenient. If we were to pass an Act which was a series of obstructions, simply to do away with certain supposed or real hindrances, we might be putting such a burden on the community that we would only increase the difficulty of building and of decentralisation, on which we are so keen in our Association, and therefore would defeat the end at which we are aiming. We must be a practical people. One of my colleagues met me in the Lobby just now and he was so emphatic in his denunciation of the Bill, that he said he proposed to put up an iron foundry in the most beautiful spot he could find on the Thames in order to give employment and to defeat this movement which is a drag on industry. We have to meet an objection like that, and we must work the two movements in together.
Whatever we do, we must see that we encourage the movement which is decentralising industry and residences. I quite agree, therefore, with the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, when he suggested that this Measure was of very little practical value from that point of view. If, however, we can bring in Measures that are not going to hinder development, we can bring them in to guide development. I look upon 1816 this Measure as one of innumerable efforts by which we can guide development. We are past the stage when we thought that it was the business of government, national or local, actually to do the development. Certain things they can do, but the actual development must be done by the nation, and all that government can do is to guide it into the right channels. That is the real procedure of town planning on which several Clauses of this Measure hang.
It has been said that the town planning Clauses of this Bill will not get us much further. It is rather difficult to compare these Clauses with those which have been passed in other Measures in recent years, but I am inclined to think that these Clauses take us a little further. Certainly we want the particular powers which are incorporated in one of these Clauses by which, whenever a rural district council does not undertake town planning duties, they can be undertaken by the county council. That is the proper way of governing in this country. We have it in essence in sanitary matters in the Public Health Act of 1875, under which, if a district council does not do its duty, the county council can complain to the Minister of Health. It is right that, where a district council is unable or unwilling to carry out its duties, the county council should do the work in order to complete the work of the county. That is the only way in which the structure of local government can be completed in a county. In the Memorandum that has come round, it is stated that two surveys have been carried out in the Thames Valley and, I think, in Kent. The first complete regional survey of this kind was done in my county of Hertfordshire as a result of the recommendation of the late Minister of Health. A regional planning committee, co-terminus with Hertfordshire, was formed of the different authorities in the county, and their Report came out in a handsome volume two years ago. Such surveys are extremely useful as giving a guide to future development. Now we want to go further. There is no question that town planning powers want enlarging, and we want to be able to make them effective. The greatest difficulty in making them effective is this question of the value of land. The hon. 1817 Member who moved the Amendment put his finger on the spot when he suggested that the Clause, which proposed to make it compulsory on the authority to buy strips of land a quarter of a mile wide along a new road, would be prohibitive in cost. Clause 4 treats the matter much move scientifically than it has been treated before. The present stage is the culmination of the contention that has been made by town planners for a long time, that you want to work in betterment with compensation.
Here is a really valuable constructive proposal on which we can work, and for which we could make the machinery more perfect in Committee. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading said that he proposed in Committee to establish the machinery which will be more effective in giving effect to Clause 4. If we can do that, it will be valuable from many points of view for many purposes. It is only fair that betterment should have to be paid as well as compensation given. There was an instance not long ago when Gunnersbury Park was acquired by local authorities. Land close by, which was worth before that only£150 an acre, was disposed of after that at the rate of£2,000 per acre. That enhancement of value was due to the local authority having acquired an open space—[Interruption]. That gives the case of one side, but those who jeer would be the first, if they had anything in their possession, and were able to get double its value by fair means, to take advantage of the opportunity. It is human nature. As long as you can get a high price for anything that you possess, properly under the law and by playing fair, you have a right to it.
Our business in Parliament is to introduce a Bill that is fair in order that value should be given for value that is received. In the particular case which I have cited, the value was given by the local authority, and therefore the public, as represented by the local authority, should have it in return. What is the alternative to compensation? It has been suggested by many people, who are associated with hon. Members on the other side of the House, that there should be expropriation without compensation. The idea of expropriation is not held by any party or section of sane individuals, and there is no halting place between 1818 that and a proper system of compensation on professional lines. That being so, I hope that we may be able to create some machinery that will be useful for the purpose under Clause 4, but it is difficult to arrange the machinery.
I would give as an instance a particular point that comes home to myself in regard to one of the many landed properties of so many hundred acres, running up to a thousand acres, which constitute the charm of my own hitherto unspoiled county of Hertfordshire. That particular estate is free from any chance of being spoiled by ribbon development, because the arterial roads run, fortunately, two or three miles on either side-of it, and there is no chance of another arterial road running through it. On the other hand, there is an orbital road in prospect that will come at one end of it and will enable it to profit considerably by development. What will be the public interests The public interest will be that the property shall be kept open as a lung for London—I do not say that particular one, but, anyhow, a great many of those which are marked in the regional plan for Hertfordshire as desirable for retention as public spaces. That is desirable, but if that is going to be done the owners of those parks are debarred from their development and from getting what otherwise would be a very considerable value for their property. On the other hand, the development of the orbital road will give increased values, and therefore I think it will be possible both to pay compensation and get betterment for the different parts of those estates. It is suggested that one can be balanced against the other.
We have a very useful precedent in the case of the drink trade. By the Act for compensation, introduced in 1902, I think, public houses which retain their licences contribute to a compensation fund out of which compensation is paid for licences which are extinguished. That has worked perfectly fairly and without any hardship and, as far as I know, most effectually. In the same way, you may be able to get some fund established through betterment which will enable compensation to be paid, but if we are to get that to work fairly the State must take a hand in arranging it, because it is 1819 only by having a strong central power overhead that we can make these combinations, this rationalisation of the landed industry, really effective.
I would like to say a word on Clause 17, which deals with open spaces. The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke (Lady C. Mosley) spoke warmly of the value of open spaces and I think we all agree about that, but what are we looking forward to as regards open spaces? In recent years we have seen Ken Wood acquired by a combination of authorities at an enormous expense—several hundred times as much as if it had been acquired 50 years ago. It surely would be perfectly feasible, if you could acquire rights over land in advance, to acquire those rights now, which would not prevent the present land owners and their immediate descendants from enjoying their property, but would enable local authorities 50 years hence to buy those open spaces at very much reduced cost. There may be land to be purchased by offering to pay£200 an acre, but, if you wait for another 50 years, you probably would have to pay£2,000 for the same land.
Open spaces are very light to talk about, but they are very costly outside the ring of a congested population. Really, the people of congested districts do not require open spaces like Hyde Park in a ring 25 miles outside of London. It seems to be the popular idea that people want open spaces like Hyde Park over which they require complete control, but that is not what is wanted in the distant parts of the country. The people want the country kept up, and they require rights of way and partial rights of usage. Those rights of way have existed from time immemorial, but unfortunately the people do not always care enough about this question to preserve those rights of way, although much has been done to preserve bridle paths and footpaths by the Footpaths Preservation Society. We want to preserve access to all these open lungs without the local authorities having to go to the enormous expense of providing paths. We want the landowners to keep them up and the public to have a right of way and certain rights of usage. We want a transitional condition in which the landlord gives 1820 certain rights, and, in return, he gets a certain amount of compensation. I hope hon. Members will not be prevented from supporting this Bill because they feel that it only touches the fringe of the problem, although I agree that the large number of further powers will have to be obtained in order to preserve the countryside.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I think it will be generally agreed that this Bill is one of much greater importance than the proposals which usually come before us on a Friday afternoon. It breaks much new ground and contains many new principles. As was said by the hon. Member for Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan), in a very eloquent and impressive speech, this Bill may prove to be the first instalment of a large and important new code of legislation. The whole country is now alive to the momentous changes which are proceeding in the countryside. Great Britain is the most densely-populated country in the world except Belgium, and it is highly probable that it will become more so in the future, because I believe our population is far indeed from reaching is maximum. Mr. H. G. Wells, in one of his early prophetic books, forecasted the time when the City of London would stretch from Harwich to Southampton and the whole of that area would be urbanised, with great broad motor roads and the population coming in swift motor cars to and from their daily work. These conditions, whether they obtain that dimension or not, raise many new problems.
The hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) mentioned the fact that the old estates are being broken up. In the old days, a large part of the country was in the hands of a comparatively small number of landlords who had a very high sense of their duty in this respect, and they did their very best to preserve the amenities of the countryside. Now those estates are being broken up. Further, the vast industrial population amounting to millions of people is mobilised and is able quite easily and quite rightly to have access to the whole of the countryside. Those are the conditions which now face us. We have established this great industrial democracy, and it should be, and I think it will be, the purpose of that democracy 1821 to endeavour to adapt the conditions of its own life so as to retain as much as possible of the grace and dignity which belong to an older order that is being superseded. It was said by a great English writer—speaking from memory, I think it was Matthew Arnold—All should share in well-being, true. But let not your ideal of well-being on that account be lowered or coarsened.The purpose which we ought to have in view now, and which I think we all have in view, is that, while the access to well-being is being opened to the whole of the population, we ought not on that account to allow our standard of well-being to be in any degree lowered.
The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) has said that there is a danger that movements such as that out of which this Bill has now come may be regarded in some quarters as hampering industry and putting a check on the proper development of the housing of the population, and it is true that there is a danger of that kind. The nineteenth century was a period of liberation and of great and rapid industrial development. This was achieved under the auspices of the principle of laissez faire, which, however, brought in its train very great evils. Now, I think, the nation is all at one in realising that merely to leave things alone will simply perpetuate the evils that we have inherited from an earlier generation. Our task is to try to obviate and remedy such evils, while at the same time not imposing undue restraints upon liberty, and not putting obstacles in the way of the maintenance and continuance of the industrial development which proceeded in the Nineteenth Century under the principle of laissez faire.
I think that all of us who sit on these benches realise as fully as hon. Members opposite how necessary it is to introduce the power of government in order to prevent the perpetuation of these evils. Many of us spent some months in preparing a statement of our political creed, which was published a couple of years ago in a volume, with which some hon. Members may be familiar, entitled "Britain's Industrial Future." In that volume we made proposals dealing with the countryside which are precisely on the lines of the Bill which is now before 1822 the House, and for that reason we on these benches will whole-heartedly support this Bill. What is needed in these days is planning. To quote Mr. H. G. Wells again, he speaks of this as being "an age of confusion." On the other hand, the catchword of the day is "rationalisation," and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) is proposing in his Bill the rationalisation of development. What seems to me to be needed, above all, is to introduce the idea of the Plan, the conscious action of society to get rid of evils and to rationalise its own development. It began 20 years ago in the Town Planning Act, which was introduced by my predecessor at the Local Government Board, Mr. John Burns, with great vision and carried through his energy. That is the foundation of all that is being done now in developing the town districts, and it is the foundation for the Bill which is now before us. To town planning is now being added country planning.
It is a remarkable feature of the Debate to-day that, with very few exceptions, such criticisms as have been addressed to this Measure have been complaints that the Bill does not go far enough. It is most satisfactory to find that there are hardly any Members of the House who object to the Bill itself or to the main proposals that it makes. There are, it is true, some omissions from the Bill, and some are for good reasons. For instance, nothing is said with regard to national parks. Those of us who have had an opportunity of seeing the national parks in the United States or Canada cannot fail to be deeply impressed with the value which they are to any country where they can be created.
Nothing is said in the Bill about that, because there is a Commission sitting on the subject which, I trust, will report before long and on whose advice Parliament may be ready to take action, but it is desirable, in the view of some of us, not only to create parks which will be retained entirely for the preservation of wild nature, but also to schedule certain areas which are to some extent used for building and even for industrial purposes, the future development of which ought to be carefully safeguarded in the interests of rural amenities; for example, the stretches of country that surround the Surrey Commons, the South Downs, 1823 Salisbury Plain, Dartmoor, Exmoor and parts of the Peak District and the Lake District. Some of these, or parts of them, might be made into national parks. [Interruption.] I was not attempting to make a complete list of all the places. I was only suggesting that there are many districts which could not be wholly preserved as national parks—it might be too expensive or unnecessary—but which nevertheless ought to be safeguarded by special measures. I do not know whether it would be possible in this, or perhaps in a later Bill, to give powers specially to preserve the beauties of those particular districts, even more drastic and complete powers than it is proposed to extend to rural districts generally.
With regard to ribbon development, it would be exceedingly hard to take any effective steps to prevent it so long as the law remains as it is with regard to roads and drainage, a matter referred to by some of my hon. Friends a week or two ago. Anyone who builds a house on one of the new main roads is provided with a highway and with main drainage free. If development has to take place away from a road, a very heavy expense is imposed upon those responsible for opening up the estate in respect of roads and drainage. It is a matter that will have to be considered on its own merits, and the law probably will have to be considerably changed in that regard, but, having in mind what was said by the hon. Member who has just spoken with regard to land values, unquestionably the whole matter cannot be effectively dealt with until there is a proper betterment duty on the increased value of the land which adjoins these new roads.
There are in the Bill two provisions with regard to trees. One aims at preserving individual trees, or groups of trees which may have particular historic associations or aesthetic value. How suitable it is that this provision should be proposed by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, and how suitable also it is that the Minister who is to reply is one whose patronymic ought to give him a special and benevolent interest in the matter. That Clause is one which I thing is generally approved, but another Clause seems to me somewhat more doubtful. It is the Clause which provides for the retention of any woodland of more 1824 than 50 acres in extent unless special permission is given by the Forestry Commissioners for its diversion to any other purpose. That might possibly have unexpected results, as so often happens with well meaning legislation.
I speak in the interests of afforestation, of which I am a strong partisan, when I point out that the effect of this might be to discourage landowners from planting any fresh woodlands. If they feel that any land which is at any moment allocated to woodland is for all time to be devoted to that purpose, the effect may be to hamper the afforestation of our country; in addition to which there is no provision to prevent a woodland being felled, and, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), it is therefore possible that an impecunious landowner may fell his timber and leave the land neglected and that the cleared woodland may be much more unsightly than if the land were put to some other purpose. Nor can we be quite sure that any particular land which is now under woodland ought to be so for all time and that 500 years hence or 100 years hence it is precisely the land which ought to be preserved for that purpose. It might possibly be better, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields mentioned, to insert a provision giving special protection to particular areas of woodland as had been done in the case of Richmond.
§ Clause 4, which is a very important Clause, is little more than a sketch. It does not provide real machinery for its own enforcement, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks mentioned that he was proposing to move new Clauses in Committee to give the Clause a real validity, I would express the hope that the Government will give full assistance in Committee to improving the drafting of the Bill and completing its Clauses. I hope that the Minister of Health to-day will not merely give a general, and possibly a perfunctory blessing to the Bill as a whole, but will hold out the hope that the Government will co-operate with the House—for it is the whole House which desires a Measure of this kind to pass—in shaping the Bill and making it as perfect as it can be made, and, if conditions allow, later in the Session to give facilities for its later stages. It behoves particularly a Labour Government to take up a Measure of 1825 this character which is wholly democratic in its tendency and which desires to preserve for the democracy as a whole the beauties and the amenities of our land.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Does the right hon. Gentleman approve of the principle of Clause 4, and can he suggest any form of machinery which would make that an operative Clause.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I think that it could, possibly, be made a workable Clause. It would have to be very much more elaborate than it is at present. I do not want to go into the matter because it is a Committee point. The principle of the Clause, I think, is sound. My last points are these: Every Member of this House will be conscious at all times that this country is far from being self contained, but we must always remember that it is the centre of the most vast and, most of us think, the most illustrious Empire that the world has ever known. Continually visitors come from all parts of the Empire to this, the Motherland, the centre of the British Commonwealth, and they will do so increasingly. If they find here a country which is sordid, ugly, degraded they will go back with one kind of sentiment in their minds, but, if they find here a country which is seemly and beautiful, and, in its appearance, worthy to be the home and the centre of a great civilisation, then they are likely to go back with stronger feelings of affection, respect and loyalty. From the Imperial point of view, this Bill and the ideas which it embodies are therefore of real essential importance. The other point is that we have here to take into account and to protect the interests of uncounted millions of those whom we may call our fellow countrymen, who have not voted for us and who will not vote against us—the British people of the future generations. It is their interest that is principally at stake to-day. We who are Members of Parliament at any one time are only fleeting, but the laws that we make may endure, and it is in the hope that a law such as this will endure for good into later times that the House will be ready to give it support.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
The discussion which the House has enjoyed to-day reflects the new opinion of a very large number of people of all political parties 1826 and no political parties. There has developed since the War, very largely, a consciousness on this problem. The process of uglification has proceeded more rapidly during the years since the War than at any period within living memory, and we are now practically drifting into a state of affairs where almost all that ought to be preserved is going to be completely or partially destroyed. In a situation like that, nobody who has any pride in this country and nobody who has any feeling for the rural beauty of this country, can look at the situation and remain unperturbed. Clearly, steps must be taken to deal with this problem, but behind the process of ragged, sporadic development and deliberate spoliation, is a very big problem. It is my duty to look at it from the point of view of practical politics in a way perhaps differently from excellent bodies like the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, who are interested, more from the point of view of the preservation of amenities.
The problem is this, that, whether we will it or not, whether we want to stop it or not, there is a process of extension going on from the urban areas into the more rural areas, and it is because that process will go on and is going on that it is necessary to take deliberate steps to protect amenities. The major problem is, as the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has said, the problem of rationalising future development. That is a problem which raises very large considerations, some of which are dealt with in this Bill and some of which form no part of this Bill. It is clear that, if we are to organise our resources most effectively, it means much vision and it means looking at larger areas than we have looked at before. Even London cannot live to itself alone, there must be some area, which I will not pretend to define, which we may call London and its hinterland, and the whole of the future development in that enormous area ought to be looked at as a whole. That will mean, I think, more power for large authorities and, indeed, combinations of authorties and perhaps further legislative powers for these bodies. It is not easy, as the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) must have discovered in connection with Clause 4, to work out in practical details' how that 1827 development is to be controlled, and how justice is to be done to the various interests.
Private Members when they introduce Bills are in the fortunate position of having the support of enthusiasts. They do not have to argue with the many interests which are involved. Whilst I have had a certain amount of moral support from these excellent bodies it happens that I have to see the people who have to work measures of this kind, the people who will be directly affected, and as a result of some months of discussion I find that universal agreement is not as near as one would imagine from the Debate in the House this afternoon. It is clear that in taking a step of this kind we must carry with us the local governing bodies who are to be primarily responsible. No one can occupy my position without realising that it is quite impossible to compel local authorities to do things they do not want to do, and we have to proceed by the method of discussion and agreement. To make this effective there will have to be a good deal more discussion of the question.
Let me say one or two words about the Bill. I do not intend to deal with all the provisions in the Measure. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading will realise that Clause 4 ought to have been much more elaborate and detailed than it is at the moment. Indeed, I am not quite clear as to its precise legal effect, and should the House give the Bill a Second Reading it is obvious that the Standing Committee, as the right hon. Member for Darwen has said, will have to work hard to make this mere sketch of a plan into something which will operate in a practical and reasonable way. It is fortunate that the general objects of the Bill have met with approval in all quarters of the House. I tremble when I think of the powers which the Bill is conferring upon the Minister of Health, and I tremble when I think what would have happened to me if I had dared to do it myself. Hon. Members who have supported the Bill with such enthusiasm would have been hurling epithets across the Floor of the House at the new despotism. The House will have to consider carefully as to the wisdom of conferring upon a Minister the powers which are conferred in various Clauses of this Bill. The Measure will need a 1828 good deal of alteration in Committee. Its drafting is not quite as good as its general sentiments; and it will have to be put right at a later stage.
The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me asked for the co-operation of the Department, and, if the Bill gets a Second Reading and goes to Standing Committee, it will be my duty to do what I can to make it what the Committee would regard as a workable scheme. That co-operation will, of course, be forthcoming. I cannot pretend to say that special facilities will be given for the later stages of the Bill. One cannot see quite as far forward as that. Obviously, that is a matter for later consideration and depends on the state of Parliamentary business at the time. I am very glad, having in contemplation myself a large measure which would have been in many respects more far-reaching than this—I do take a great interest in this problem—I am glad to think that to-day the House has combined in a common statement of its desire to protect England against the forces which are destroying it, against the advertisers and jerry builders, and the purblind people who do not know what they are doing, but who are destroying England for all time. It is a matter for congratulation that we have been able to indicate the common will of the House of Commons on this matter to-day, and I hope that one effect of that will be that local authorities and other bodies will see that they use their present powers to the utmost and will be prepared in future to use such powers as Parliament may confer upon them.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. MUGGERIDGE
To me this Debate has been a very pleasant feature, because I have seen on the other side an effort on the part of hon. Members to live up to their higher instincts. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading was good proof that hon. Members opposite do 1829 want not merely to maintain but to enhance the beauties of our country. That I call their higher side. That is the side which to us offers a ready approach. We can shake hands with each other and indeed treat each other as brothers. But hon. Members opposite having risen to their higher selves in that way, I should have thought that my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) would have liked to have left them there trying their best to do some of the higher things against a property system which completely destroys the ground for them or raises obstacles against them. I have been amused and interested and in some respects overjoyed to find the struggles of quite disinterested believers in a beautiful England against the snags of a property system which on the other side of their minds they still want to believe in. Their struggles have been delightful to witness, and I only hope that we may live to see them again trying to rise to their higher selves, and again finding themselves involved in these difficulties and struggling against these limitations. I have been struck by the fact, however, that when they get rid of their bias hon. Members on the other side can rise to higher levels than we sometimes think possible.
In this Debate we have heard a great deal which suggests that a beautiful England is only calculated to appeal to one sense, namely the sense of sight, but we have also to consider the sense of smell, and it is because I conceive that a beautiful England must to some extent meet the requirements of our olfactory faculties that I wish to draw attention to Clause 19. That Clause is one reason, if there were no other, why I should give ungrudging support to the Bill. Clause 19 reminds me of what Dr. Johnson once said. He said he did not mind a man being poor, or having old clothes—old trousers for instance—but he did object to a man who came before him with patched trousers, because, he said, in his portentious way—" Patched trousers are premeditated poverty." What has been going on in my constituency is premeditated uglification. There have been deliberate attempts not merely to do away with its beauties—if Southern Essex has any beauties—but deliberately to put up the worst monuments of ugliness that could possibly be conceived. Who are the 1830 sinners? Here, I am going to comfort the other Bide [HON. MEMBKES: "The jerrybuilders"] No, they are not the jerrybuilders, and that is why I say I am going to comfort the other side. They are not the property owners. This is a matter in which we on this side have to wrap ourselves in white sheets. Unfortunately the sinners are very largely municipal bodies. I allude to the question of refuse removal and disposal.
We have in South Hornchurch a couple of ranges of mountains, one of which is at least three quarters of a mile long, and another half a mile broad, and though the heights are not always covered with snow I am told that they reach at least 90 feet at the highest point. Those places are putrescent. They occasionally catch fire, and the smoke spreads over the surrounding country until it even reaches one of the London County Council's latest efforts to bring about a garden city, namely the Becontree Estate. Becontree is a credit to the London County Council for its lay-out, and it has a large population. It has sprung up in 10 years, and if it does not show what England could do in the mediaeval period, it is an attempt to show what England can do in the twentieth century in creating a mass of homes for the people. But that place every now and again is inflicted by the most pungent possible smells. When the wind is in the South West—as it is in this country more often than in any other quarter—it brings over to these would-be model cottages of the working classes an odour so insufferable that it drives people into their cellars—if they have any. I want to suggest that an atrocity of that kind is an injury to the beauty of England, and it is because Clause 19 gives us some slight attempt to remove it that I am heartily in favour of this Bill.
Let me tell the House one other feature which is very interesting to those who are fond of natural history. I am told that the existence of these great dumps, running to the extent that I have named, has encouraged or, shall I say, has seduced away the harmless domestic cat from the homesteads where it is fed on milk and such innocuous sustenance to these places, because there is such a plentiful promise of a rodent diet for these animals, and the result is that you have produced in that part of Essex, so 1831 near to the very centre of civilisation, a reversion to the wild of a domestic animal. You have got a wild cat which, I am told, is a positive danger in ferocity, even to those rough men who go out to deal with this horrible pile of malodorous filth. There is a wild cat produced, and if it is only to get rid of the wild cat, this Bill is worth it.
I do not wish to take up too much time, but I have been eight months trying to get this grievance across to the hearts and consciences of Members of this House, and have only succeeded at this late hour on a Friday afternoon. Let me come to the cause of the mischief. As I have already indicated, it is not the landlord, it is not even the jerry builder, though the land is very much cheaper, the nearer you get to my range of mountains, with Vesuvius in the middle of it, for obvious reasons, but the municipalities are to blame, and let me tell the House that 20 of the 29 borough councils of London, having collected from the houses and trades of that area the fœtid stuff that is the refuse from those quarters, actually put it out to competition amongst contractors, which for the lowest sum per ton will remove this stuff from our midst. The result is that the contractor who will take it for the lowest price gets it.
The contractors, unfortunately, have formed themselves into a ring, and the price always comes out the same, namely, something like 7s. 6d. a ton, before they will lift any part whatsoever of the fœtid mass. But at last these 20 borough councils do succeed in getting it taken away by the contractor, and as the contractor takes it away by barge, by cart, or by railway truck, they say, "Thank God that has gone!" and the subsequent proceedings interest them no more. That is your public health authorities. As long as they can get rid of it, and have it taken away from their pits and their nostrils, they say, "That is an end of that"; but what do the soulless contractors do? They deposit it in my constituency, they put it down very near where a large number of my most fervent supporters dwell. It is an affront for which I cannot forgive those contractors, and I am very pleased to be standing here getting a little of my own back. I want now to go into the question of who 1832 are the evil people. You will say at once—I can see it leaping into the minds of hon. Members on the Conservative Benches and even on the Liberal Benches—" Why, of course, it is Poplar that does it, it is Poplar that thus disposes of this stuff." But that is not so. Poplar is the one borough council that incinerates the total product of the refuse of its trade and domestic quarters.
§ Mr. MUGGERIDGE
I will throw Woolwich in. The worst, offenders are the City of Westminster, the City of London and Kensington. The very places which look with horror upon Poplar are the places that offend, and rather than spend money on finding some means of getting rid innocuously of this stuff which is a danger to health, not in their own neighbourhood but in the neighbourhood of my constituents, they will barter to get rid of it in this way. It may be asked, why do the local authorities allow it? There is the story in the Old Testament of David and Goliath. Can one imagine the Hornchurch Urban Council bringing an action against the City of Westminster to get them to desist from this evil practice? It cannot be done. A penny in the£ on the rates of Hornchurch would not be sufficient to pay the leading counsel, and until the Ministry of Health can appropriate the services of their own Solicitor-General for this purpose and get them for nothing, little local bodies cannot possibly resist the means taken by other bodies to get rid of their own rubbish at the expense of a great populous area like that which I represent. Legislation is needed, and the legislation, as far as I can see, in this Bill. It is not perfect, but I am not going to follow the foolish lead of my hon. Friend. I have got my constituents to think of. I support this Bill, and in Committee, if I get a chance, I shall move an Amendment to this Bill in the direction of putting a heavy penalty upon anybody who deposits an evil-smelling mess upon other people's property, of at least£50 a day while they do it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.