§ Order for Second Reading read.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is a very grateful and lively pleasure to me to have the privilege to introduce for the second time into this House a Bill which has the consent of supporters of all three parties, and which, I may claim, has awakened in the lives and the hearts of the whole country a measure of real enthusiasm. It is not too much to say that when in the last Session of Parliament the House of Commons, for the first time, paid its attention to the preservation of rural amenities, it was felt through the length and breadth of the country that the House was attending to a matter about which the country cared, and as to the abuses, the evils, concerned in which the whole country was determined to secure a remedy. There is a sense of real elation that something can be done by this House for a cause which is so much at the hearts of our fellow-countrymen and country-women.
538 Let me say one word about the history of this Bill. It is identically the same Bill as that which was introduced into this House last February, and was given a unanimous Second Reading without any opposition at all. Unfortunately, owing to the period of the Session at which the Bill passed its Second Reading, although it was actually appointed to a Committee, the chances of it ever getting time for Third Reading were absolutely gone, and since, undoubtedly, the work upon the Bill in Committee would have occupied very much time, attention and labour from the experts of the Ministry of Health, the promoters of the Bill did not think it right to call upon them to give that time and attention, which were certain to be wasted in the circumstances.
I should like, however, to refer to one or two encouraging incidents in the Debate on the Second Reading of the previous Bill. In the first place, it will be within the memory of the House that an Amendment was set down by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and seconded by the Noble Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Lady Mosley). That Amendment was put down, as I understand, for the purpose of advancing two Amendments to the Bill. The first was to claim wider powers in respect of the control of ribbon development, and the second was in order to secure better control of the elevations of buildings. Upon that occasion I was able to give to the hon. Members an assurance that the promoters of the Bill would be prepared to accept those Amendments in Committee, and that assurance, I think, was found satisfactory, and the Amendment was withdrawn. I mention the matter this afternoon because I feel that the hon. Members who were given the assurance on that occasion may say, "Why do you not now incorporate these Amendments in the Bill?" The reason is that the House gave the Bill a unanimous Second Reading, and I do not think it would be quite seemly for the promoters, upon their own authority, to alter the Bill, which the House then unanimously approved, in presenting the Bill again to the House this afternoon. I ought to be able to say, "This is precisely the same Bill which you passed on the previous occasion." But on this occasion, 539 as on that, I should like to assure the hon. Members that we would be prepared to renew the same assurance to accept those Amendments which they are anxious to see inserted in the Bill.
As to the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards this Bill, I would say that this Measure has proceeded throughout as one which has got no party aspect at all. It is a refreshing thing that the conscience, as it were, of the whole country having been awakened on this subject this question, in contrast to so many other questions, should have been raised entirely above the atmosphere of party strife. Therefore, it was a very great pleasure to the promoters of the Bill, when it was first introduced into the House, to find that it received a very sympathetic reception from the Minister of Health, who, in outlining the encouraging and sympathetic attitude of the Government towards the Bill, was good enough to say that it would be his duty to do what he could to make the Bill what the Committee would regard as a workable scheme, and that the co-operation of his Department would, of course, he forthcoming. That assurance we received with much gratitude on that occasion, and on this occasion we should welcome the same co-operation, which, I am confident, we shall receive from the Department.
One word about the relation of this Bill to a wider Measure, which, I understand, is proposed by the Government. We heard in the King's Speech of a Town Planning Bill which is proposed by the Government, and though I am completely ignorant of what the contents of that Bill may be, because they are not yet announced to the public, I understand, from some observations made by the Minister in the Debate upon the Second Reading of this Bill last Session, that it is not improbable that some of the provisions of the Government Bill may cover the same ground as the provisions of this private Bill. In the intervening period we have waited with very much interest and eager anticipation for the introduction of the Government Bill, and I am sure that all of us who take a warm interest, as so many Members of this House do take in the subject, will welcome the Government proposals for dealing with this matter, and are very 540 anxious to know what they are. It only remains to say upon the relation between, the two Bills that it is not, of course, the intention of the private promoters of this Bill in any way to impede, embarrass or interfere with whatever proposals the Government may make, and if, when the Government Bill is produced, it appears that the Government are proposing to deal with some of the matters contained in this Bill, then, on behalf of the promoters of this Bill, I can give the Minister the assurance that it will be our immediate intention to withdraw any of the proposals in this Bill which cover the same ground as the Government Measure, and with which the Government have dealt as adequately in their own Measure. This Bill is intended to assist the cause, to act as a leader, as an outrider to the Government Measure, and in no way to compete with the intentions of the Government. So much has to be said on this occasion as regards the actual history of the Bill.
As regards the Bill itself, I ventured to detain the House with so very full an explanation on the previous Bill, that it would be superfluous for me to attempt to do so again on this occasion. It is all recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 21st February, 1930, volume 235. The explanation given on that occasion resulted in a most illuminating and encouraging Debate, in which speeches were made by Members of the House, many of whom I see here to-day. The speeches of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Muggeridge), the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), the hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle), and the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown), greatly encouraged the promoters, very much elucidated the provisions of the Bill, and suggested certain alterations and emendations of the Bill which the promoters would be most willing to accept and incorporate in the Measure. So fully, indeed, was the Bill thrashed out as regards its main provisions upon that occasion, that it would suffice on this occasion, if I, in order not to show any disrespect to the House, or treat the matter at all cavalierly, were merely to give an indication of the main purposes of the Bill by way of sample of its contents rather than a full description of them.
541 The general purposes of the Bill, if I may borrow a very brilliant phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), is "the rationalisation of development" of the urban areas of the country. Its primary purpose, of course, is to protect the beauty of the countryside, and to maintain the solitudes and the characteristic lovelinesses of the countryside which we all know and think of as one of the dearest and most sacred treasures of the country. It desires to achieve this purpose by no hostility towards the essential economic development of the country; it desires to achieve it, while at the same time assisting the economic development of the cities by guiding it and directing it into channels of reasonable order, rather than allowing that higgledy-piggledy unthought-out development which is responsible both for making the countryside ugly and for so much wastage of efficiency in industry itself.
For that purpose the principal object of the Bill is that of a country planning Bill; it is to extend the idea of forethought in the lay-out of the country from the towns to the countryside. Formerly, it was not necessary to do this. Formerly, growth was going on so rapidly only in the towns that only in the towns was it necessary to have forethought and development. Now, however, that we have the improvement of the road system of the country, we have the breaking up of great estates, we have the distribution of power by electrical cables, which are spreading urban conditions throughout the countryside, and it becomes essential, if we are to keep anything of the amenity, beauty and form of the countryside, that there should be forethought and power to enforce the results of forethought given to the proper authorities in a proper scheme of country planning. That is the main purpose of the Bill.
Secondly, the Bill embodies a recognition on the part of the promoters that you can have no efficiency in the preservation of rural amenities, you can do nothing effective, unless you are prepared to frame a scheme of compensation to those whose rights are affected in the interests of the community. I venture to emphasise that to the hon. Member who represents the Government, and to say that no Bill which the Govern- 542 meat introduces for the efficient conduct of country planning can really achieve its purpose unless it faces this difficult question of the adequate provision of compensation. The provision in this Bill is admittedly a sketch, but it is a sketch which it is proposed to work out in Committee
I would like to make special mention of only the following three provisions of the Bill in order to repeat the assurances that were given upon them on the first occasion. The Bill has for one of its purposes, which I am sure will command the warm sympathy of those whose attention is attracted by the Bill, the preservation of the trees and woodlands of this country. It is not unnatural that the Bill should be introduced by a Member whose constituency bears the name of one of the most celebrated groups of trees in the country. Some criticism has been excited by the severity of what is considered the rather extreme nature of the provisions contained in the Bill for the preservation of trees. I can only say that nothing has ever been done before for the sake of the preservation of the woodlands. It is high time that something was done. Admittedly, it is very difficult to find a scheme that will work, but we offer the suggestions in the Bill as something to raise discussion, and if in Committee it is thought that they go too far, or some more efficient provision can be proposed, recognising that this is an entirely new departure, we shall be ready to meet the matter in that spirit and to accommodate the legislation to what public opinion of the country, as expressed through this House, feels is right.
One of the purposes of the Bill is the preservation of ancient bridges. I am sure that that also will excite sympathetic assent from Members of the House, but I am asked to say a word as regards bridges over canals. It is pointed out that, in our eagerness to save bridges, we may be paralysing the canal system of the country, and the promoters are asked to accept an Amendment which will preserve the liberty of canal proprietors to carry on the amendment and development of their transport system without hindrance.
We were asked on the first occasion as to the wideness of some of our provisions for the preservation of village greens. I 543 can repeat the assurance which I gave on the first occasion, that it is not the intention of the Bill to exercise even the most remotely confiscatory effect, or to alter the status of any existing rights of property of the sort at all, and, if any Amendments are found to be necessary in order to secure that, we are prepared to accept them in Committee. These are the principal matters which I think have to be brought up again upon the second appearance of the Bill. If there is any other point on which assurances are needed, I will, with the consent of the House, deal with them in the discussion, or some other supporter of the Bill may be able to do so.
Let me remind the House of the very remarkable wave of public opinion which has run in favour of a measure of this sort, and the keen desire expressed on behalf of all thinking men and women in the country that this House should give the country a lead in the direction of the preservation of the countryside from the new dangers that beset it. The House felt that it really achieved a very undoubted and harmonious expression of national opinion on the first occasion when it gave this Bill a unanimous Second Reading, and I feel that I am privileged to be in the position to give the House to-day an opportunity, at a more favourable time of the Session, of repeating that remarkable expression of opinion by doing what I hope it will do, give this Bill a unanimous Second Reading.
§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER
I should like to support very strongly the speech that has been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young). It has been the subject of very serious concern to those of us who are interested in natural beauty and in ancient buildings, and in those things which remind us of the beauty and romance of the past, that such inroads have been made upon these things in recent years. The "Times" in a leader last year stated what was going on throughout the country so effectively and so well that I am going to take the liberty of reading it to the House. That leader said:The English scene is being changed very rapidly, and being changed for the worse. Scarcely a week passes but our attention is urgently called to a new road that is to 544 ruin an old village, a valley, a stretch of woodland; to an electric cable that is to be swung on huge steel towers across a country sacred from its beauty and its associations; to the ill-considered, ill-designed, ill-placed building of anything from a factory or a housing estate to a shoddy shack; to advertisements that are like electric motor horns screeching through a Mozart quartet; to old houses pulled down and fine trees cut down; to ravages and defilement by trippers; to offences of many kinds against the form, the colour, the peace, the health, the decency, the dignity, the spirit of the English country.To those who feel concern over that state of things the introduction of this Bill gives enormous relief, and I am sure it is the earnest hope of all who are here that it may early find a place upon the Statute Book. It would be wrong to assume that the uglification of the countryside is a modern phenomenon. For more than a century and a-half one has found in the memoirs and biographies of famous men and women protests against the destruction of the beauties of the countryside and of our ancient cities. We find protests as far back as the 18th century. May I mention one man, whose name at once arouses a feeling of reverence, who was constantly struggling for the preservation of worthy and beautiful buildings? A little over 100 years ago Sir Walter Scott said of the City of Edinburgh:Betwixt building and burning every ancient monument of the Scottish capital is now likely to be utterly demolished.He in those days had to complain of what we have to complain of nowadays, but in his time the destruction of natural beauty and rural amenities was not proceeding with the rapidity and the intensity with which it goes on now.
My right hon. Friend who introduced this Bill referred to the Clause relating to bridges, and I was extremely glad to hear what he said. During part of my holiday last August I was in the Isle of Skye, and one of the things that pained me there, among other things, was the number of perfectly and unutterably horrible concrete bridges being erected all over that island. One saw the most beautiful heather-clad moorland dotted about with these hideous white bridges. The first thing I did when I came south was to approach my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, and I got from him a promise that at least these bridges should be painted a colour which would 545 make them less offensive to the sightseer. I have not been in Skye since, and I do not know whether that promise has been carried out.
I rather wish there had been some provision in the Bill for the protection of wild flowers. One of the dangers to the beauty of our countryside arises from the disappearance of wild flowers. I am sorry to say that some of the large char-a-banc companies are suggesting, as an inducement to people to take trips into the country, that they can gather wild flowers. There is an Eastbourne company which has been advertising "Wild flower drives—Stop for half-an-hour to pick wild flowers." A Brighton company has been advertising "Bring your baskets." I do not know whether any hon. Member has seen a piece of country rich in wild flowers after it has been visited by two or three chars-a-banc filled with excursionists. I have seen such a sight, and I can only say it was one of painful desolation. In Cape Colony there is a law providing that the flowers which are regarded as best worth preserving are to be scheduled, and the law forbids the gathering, uprooting, selling or exporting of them without an approved licence. What South Africa does we may very well do, and I should like to see a provision in the Bill to preserve our wild flowers.
Another section of the Bill deals with a matter in regard to which I have asked several questions of the First Commissioner of Works, and that is the removal of ancient buildings to America. That matter certainly needed attention. Not very long ago an American millionaire went to the Cotswolds and was very much interested in what he saw. Some little time afterwards we read this paragraph in the "Times";Another piece of 14th century England, a cottage, has been shipped to America. Recently the Great Western Railway ran a special train of 67 wagons, conveying in carefully packed boxes and bags, weighing 475 tons, what had been a Cotswold cottage in the village of Chedworth, famous as the site of a Roman villa. The dwelling was Originally two cottages of true Cotswold type converted in recent years into one. After purchase by its present owner it was restored to its original form, even to the reconstruction of a protruding oven. Afterwards it was taken down, stone by stone, and packed for the journey.Now, that hurts me—I do not know whether it hurts other Members of the 546 House—and I want to see it stopped. This transference of ancient buildings has been taking place without attracting more than comparatively little notice. There was the case of the Priory at Warwick, which some hon. Members may remember; and then there is Age croft Hall in Lancashire, which has been exported to America. I do not complain of parts of buildings, of the panelling from the interior of buildings, going to America. That kind of thing one cannot hope to stop; but when it comes to special trains of 67 wagons carrying our ancient monuments to America it is time something was done.
May I say a word on what has been done by another country for the preservation of its memorials? You yourself, Mr. Speaker, and, no doubt, many other Members of this House, are familiar with Italy. Some time ago Italy suffered very seriously from the removal of her treasures to other countries. Italy took in hand the task of preventing the exportation of her artistic and historical treasures. In Italy all buildings of artistic beauty or historic interest—churches, convents, palaces—have to be scheduled, and no alteration—not alone destruction, but no alteration—of them can be undertaken without the consent of the provincial commission of ancient buildings. If the parties are dissatisfied with the decision of the commission there is an appeal to the Government. Even private houses may be declared to be national monuments and be carefully preserved. Not very long ago there was a proposal to erect a palace with an arcade running through it in that beautiful square, with which no doubt you, Mr. Speaker, are familiar, in front of the Cathedral at Florence. That would have had a serious effect on the beauty of that square. The municipality of Florence promptly intervened to forbid the erection of the palace.
All statues, pictures and objects of artistic beauty which are the creation of artists no longer alive have been listed, and they may not be sold or removed from the country without permission. A certain number of them are sold with the permission of the Government; but no picture or statue may be removed from Italy without the sanction of the Government; and if any listed statue disappears without reason given the owner is 547 punishable. Not long ago a very fine mosaic was discovered in the city of Assisi, and the owner sold it to an American, with the result that he was fined, the amount of his fine being just about equal to the price which had been paid by the American. There is also another provision that woods and forests and trees, the removal of which would interfere with the beauty of the landscape, may not be cut down. Some time ago in another instance orders had been given to cut down a fine avenue of trees on a large estate, but the owner was prevented from carrying out these orders because it would interfere with the natural beauty of the landscape. I mention these instances as showing what is being done in this direction by another great country to preserve its treasures. On behalf of the preservation of rural amenities, I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill.
§ Captain RONALD HENDERSON
I would like, in the first place, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) upon bringing forward this Bill, which I am sure is supported by a very wide circle of educational opinion, and which if adopted, will have a great influence in educating public opinion on this question. The right hon. Gentleman has already indicated the lines upon which this Measure will tend to focus public opinion, and he has also described the Measure as an attempt at the rationalisation of urban development. The land does not consist merely of various areas to be cut up at anybody's wish for urban development.
I should like to refer, very briefly, to the extremely interesting speech which has been delivered by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser). The hon. Member referred to the preservation of flowers in Cape Colony. Of course, there is nothing very extraordinary about that, and I should like to remind the House that we have a scheduled list of birds which are not allowed to be destroyed, and this is now regarded as being quite an ordinary thing. I should like to ask why we should not have a scheduled list of plants and flowers which are not to be destroyed. Many are being rapidly destroyed at the present time. Those flowers and plants can be admired just as much when they are 548 growing, and, if they are not destroyed, they will remain there for other people to admire.
I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks will understand me rightly if I venture to criticise some provisions in this Bill. I do so in the hope that I may be able to indicate a line on which the Measure might become rather more workable. Some of my points may be considered to be Committee points, but there are various respects in which this Bill may find itself clashing with other legislation. Clause 4 seems to me to be simply a sketch. This Bill runs counter to the wider and fuller policy which is embodied in another Bill which we know is in hand, and which is the result of a conference which sat for nearly two years and has made some suggestions. Consequently, some of its Clauses will prob 1.0 p.m. ably be found to be redundant when compared with the Clauses in the other Bill. Judging from the very thorough inquiries which were made by that conference, many of the things which have been omitted from this Bill will probably be dealt with, while possibly some of the things now in this Bill will be found to be redundant when the two sets of Clauses are compared. In these circumstances, this Bill is bound to be of a somewhat scanty nature. The inquiry to which I have referred was instituted by the last Government, and I understand that it is now being carried on by the present Government.
This Measure shows some over enthusiasm on the part of the draftsman in asking the county councils to purchase up to a furlong on each side of the road behind the building line. That would certainly burden the county councils with an expense wholly incompatible with the length of the road, and I am sure that it would be found to work out somewhere about 440 acres per mile as the minimum. On the question of balancing the compensation for increment value as against decrement value, the county councils in the. country would be taking land alongside the road, and the land behind it would be agricultural land having no increment value out of which the county council could compensate itself for the sterilisation of building on the stretch alongside the road. As hon. Members of this House know quite well, there are 549 many cases where a road has been widened involving the cutting down of a strip of trees. That is not a proper way to widen a road. The widening ought to be carried out as it is done in America by constructing a surface road outside the belt of trees, and then you would get what are called in America "park avenues," with a central road and a service road up and down each side. In that case, you can frequently utilise the existing road by making it the main road for heavy traffic, while the service roads outside can be used for the purposes of the houses and for leading into subsidiary roads. Unfortunately, this knowledge has come rather too late, and we all know of cases where, if we had known this 10, 20 or 30 years ago, immense strips of beauty might have been saved to the country.
With regard to the general question of trees, no Member of this House is keener on forestry than I am, and I confess that I was startled when I came to work out what would happen if trees of the dimensions mentioned in the Bill were scheduled, that is to say, trees 2 feet 6 inches in girth, or, roughly, 10 inches in diameter—the same size as a telegraph pole. If every tree of that diameter is to be scheduled, there might be a possibility that the Bill would, so to speak, over-reach itself. It would come down to scheduling even strips of young plantations which had reached a diameter of 10 inches, and I would venture to enter a caveat, from the forestry point of view, that that might tend to check the long delayed efforts at little bits of genuine forestry which we are getting done by private owners up and down the country.
Woodlands, instead of being allowed to look after themselves, as they have been far too much in the past, are now being worked on a proper rotation basis. There are several very good examples of that in Scotland, in the North of England, and in Lincolnshire, where one can see hardwood timbers, from the sapling stage up to the marketing age of 100 years, being worked on a steady rotation. Widespread enlightenment is coming into the country on this subject of forestry as regards the handling of woodlands, and I am afraid that the scheduling of trees down to the very small 550 size mentioned in the Bill will seriously check what I might describe as the initial stages of proper forestry work in our woods. I would remind the House that the beauty of our woodlands is not the beauty of the jungle; it lies in the fact that they have been cared for, especially the great beech woods, which are about the best examples of true forestry that we have. They are worked on, roughly, an 80-year rotation, and are regularly cut, and they are just as beautiful to-day as they were 100 years ago, because they have been kept in working, representing, as they do, the last big bit of genuine forestry work in this country.
I feel sure that, in indicating, not in any critical spirit, the points on which I hope the Bill will be amended, the House will not misunderstand me as being in any way critical of the Bill or its objects. I have merely endeavoured to indicate the lines on which, if the attention of the House is properly focused, it might be amended in order that it may further achieve the purposes that we all want to achieve. With regard to the question of the export of buildings, perhaps I can console the hon. Member for Lichfield in regard to the particularly tragic case to which he referred. I believe it was not quite so bad as it appears to be. It seems that an enterprising person had built a most charming Cotswold cottage, which really had in it some 14th Century stones. It was largely reconstructed about 1810, and in recent years it was most beautifully and picturesquely brought up to complete period conditions. Owing to the completeness with which this had been done, it was subsequently bought, as the hon. Member has stated. Its going at all is a tragedy, because it was very beautiful, whether it was a genuine antique or not; but I am sure that the hon. Member, like myself, will feel that it is some slight consolation that it did not consist wholly of genuine old stone.
We are all in sympathy with the objects of the Bill, but I think that, as it is drafted, it will probably go rather further than it is intended to go. It sneaks of "any part of a house." That would include everything in the nature of panelling, statuary on fixed bases, all wood carving, and, I am credibly informed, all pictures that are on fixed wood panel frames or sunk moulded frames, such as 551 one frequently sees in larger rooms. That, I believe, is the legal opinion on the point, and it is probably rather further than the original intention of the Bill. If it should be said that this does not go too far, then I think it ought to be brought to the notice of the House that it would mean that no antique could ever be imported into this country, because, if it were, it would at once lose its world value, and would sink to the value it would fetch in the market of this country only. The market in this country only is an extremely depressed one to-day; we are all very hard up; and in most cases, if an antique were brought into this country and could only be sold here, its value would fall to somewhere about 35 or 40 per cent. of the world value. In fact, the market would be narrowed down, for practical purposes, to about eight or 10 well-known dealers. Therefore, a repercussion would be caused in that way.
We hear a great deal about antiques leaving this country, but, owing to what I might call the psychological outlook of the British collector, we hear very little about the magnificent collections which are being made and carried on in this country to-day. It so happens that an American collector takes peculiar care to see that his purchases are referred to in the papers, but, on the other hand, the British collector, if he brings anything into this country, is equally careful that it shall not get into the papers. That is the difference in his way of looking at things, and so magnificent collections are being built up in this country to-day of which the public hear very little. I understand—and I have consulted legal authority on this matter—that, as the Bill is drafted, it would have the effect of debarring any more antiques from coming into this country, and, on balance, the opinion was that up to quite recently this country was gaining, and not losing, on this question of the collection of antiques. I fully sympathise with the provisions of the Bill in regard to buildings, but there are parts of the Bill as drafted upon which a very wide interpretation would necessarily have to be put. I point out these things, as I have said before, not in any critical spirit, but with a view to showing on what lines we may hope to see 552 the Bill amended in order that it may achieve the objects with which we are all in agreement.
Finally, I might point out, although this again is a Committee point, that there will be a considerable clash of authorities under the Bill as it is drafted. Under one of its Clauses the county council can override what probably will be, and certainly are to-day, the biggest town-planning authorities in the country, namely, the great municipalities. Quite the best town-planning work to-day is being done by our big municipalities in their rapidly growing suburbs. It is based upon well-conceived plans, prepared with great thought, and extraordinarily good work is being done; but, under the Bill as drafted, we should have the anomalous situation that the county council would override the municipality. Some municipalities have set an example to the whole country in the way in which they have taken care of town-planning. [Interruption.] Clause [...] says:Where the council of any county are satisfied that the rural amenities of any area are likely to he prejudiced and that the council or councils of the county district or districts in which the area is situated are not proposing to make or adopt a town planning scheme for that area, or are proposing a scheme which in the opinion of the county council is inadequate, the county council shall make such a scheme for that area at the expense of the district council or councils.That, as drafted, is practically making the county council an overriding authority over the municipalities. The case that I want the House to visualise is where a county borough is extending its boundary and coming out into the county. They would have to work their town-planning plans from the centre outwards. I could give a case of that kind in which a big municipality, having a very wide farsighted point of view, had town-planned, in the privacy of its own council chamber, a belt of country lying beyond its immediate surroundings, anticipating a Bill extending its boundaries. A rural district council with local enthusiasm also had town-planning ideas, and it proceeded to build cottages which ran exactly counter to the proposed arterial road which the big municipality was proposing in the future to make. It was a case of watertight compartments. That, of course, will be largely obviated when the Bill which deals with the whole 553 country comes into force and different authorities know what the others are doing, and it is more than likely that we shall see one authority handling town-planning over a very much larger area than that covered by the smaller local authorities, but it is a point that I ought to bring to the notice of the House, because, as drawn at present, there is a great risk that there might be overlapping between different authorities. Finally, Clause 20 says:It shall be lawful for His Majesty by Order in Council to establish consultative councils in England and Wales for giving, in accordance with the provisions of the Order, advice and assistance to the Minister of Health.I feel sure the Minister of Health will be glad of all the advice and assistance possible, but here you will have an advisory council, which apparently will be over the county councils and municipalities, and will be advising the Minister of Health. There will be a grave risk of too many cooks spoiling the broth, and the Minister will probably find himself suffering from a plethora of councils which he will be glad to dispense with. But there is a step beyond that. Clause 21 says:His Majesty may, by Order-in-Council, transfer to, and vest in such person.So here we get a single person who will give advice to the Minister, and he, apparently, would also become a kind of dictator.
Sir H. YOUNG
There is a misapprehension in my hon. and gallant Friend's criticism which I must remove. The purpose of the Clause to which he is referring is to enable the Government, if they choose, to concentrate the various scattered powers for dealing with the preservation of rural amenities in a single existing Minister rather than to leave them distributed among various Ministers as at present. There is no power to appoint any new person at all.
§ Captain HENDERSON
In that case, I agree that it would be far better to have them all grouped together. I should like to add that the House and the whole country owe a debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend for having focussed opinion on this Bill. It is the first time we have had an attempt made to carry the education of the public forward on these lines, and, although there are, no 554 doubt, many points that one could criticise, if one takes it in the spirit in which the Bill is produced, it is a sketch than can be filled in in Committee, and, at the same time, we shall have accomplished something in making a definite move in a direction which has been so badly wanted for such a long time.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I should like to intervene to make one or two remarks. My first point is a small one. It is in regard to the appeal provided in Clause 15 to the Forestry Commission in respect of woodlands. That is a proposal that is very commonly made, but it seems to me to show a complete confusion of thought. The picturesqueness of a woodland has nothing to do with its value for growing timber, and an appeal to the Forestry Commission is really absurd for the purpose of determining whether a woodland should or should not remain woodland. But that is merely a point of detail. I think we should have an even more unanimous public opinion in favour of a Bill of this kind if we did not always in the House of Commons tell the country that it is only the private citizen who goes wrong in these matters and that public authorities are impeccable. The fact of the matter is that the most serious damage that has been done to certain outstanding rural amenities in the last few years has been done by public authorities. Take one of the most beautiful spots in England, the mouth of the Tweed at Berwick, and see how that has been ruined by the new bridge. I am sure the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) would agree that in the county in which we both live it is particularly necessary for the local authorities to exercise very great care about public development.
Again, I feel that we ought to examine our minds as to the extent to which existing Acts of Government are destroying rural amenities. I am going to say something to hon. Members opposite which is always suspect when it comes from this side of the House. Is it not peculiar that, where you are dealing with works of art, you carefully refrain from taxing them when they pass at death in order that you may discourage their sale? When it comes to woodlands again, you carefully refrain from taxing the value of the timber at death in order that it may not be felled, but, when 555 you are dealing with land with a high amenity value and also a high building value, however leniently valuation authorities may act, by the law you tax the potential value of that land and almost force it into the market instead of, as in the other case, reserving taxation until the land is actually sold. We should recognise that we have at the present moment, to that extent, a system of taxation of land value. Whether that may be an important influence or not, it does tend to threaten the preservation of rural amenities. When we are passing a Bill of this kind, which I warmly support, we ought not only to consider how we may by positive action restrict private persons who may be wrong, but also examine how far the Government themselves in their own policy are tending to destroy the very rural amenity with which they profess actually to be concerned.
§ Mr. EDE
I seem to be rather fated to follow the Noble Lord in the discussions of this House. As he has brought in one King Charles's head, I might point out, perhaps, that, if we could only keep children at school a year longer, we might have some opportunity of teaching them not to pick the flowers which my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) desires to be preserved. I am not so sure that the char-a-banc user is the only person who despoils the countryside. I use the char-a-banc as much as I can during the vacations of this House in order to get to various beauty spots, and I am rather inclined to think as I go about that there was a great deal of truth in the sentiment in the cartoon in "Punch" which showed a party of the newly rich, with a Rolls Royce, as having gone to New-lands Corner and consumed great quantities of champagne, and, regarding the empty bottles which they had left behind, saying, "Well, thank goodness people will know that we were not common trippers." With regard to the last few sentences in the speech of the Noble Lord, I would say that, while the agitation for an alteration of the system of Death Duties is being pursued and apart from what he may hope may be its final success, it is very necessary to realise that the public policy of this country since 1894 has been having the effect of break- 556 ing up the big estates. I desire to see the breaking up of big estates. The Noble Lord may desire to see them preserved provided they are preserved in certain hands.
§ Mr. EDE
I notice that the "Hear, hear" came at the end of the sentence. I do not think that this country is likely to go back on that policy, but with the breaking up of big estates there is undoubtedly a necessity for legislation of the kind promoted by the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young). I agree with what the Noble Lord said about the necessity of local authorities, in the planning of their new arterial roads, considering the route of the road and the colour of the road. Some of these roads are very objectionable from the point of view of colour. We think that they owe a debt to the community in seeing that the high state of public achievement in this matter is preserved. The county to which he alluded and in which both he and I live has been very seriously disfigured during the post-War period by a system of sporadic development.
My primary objection to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman last year was that it did not give a satisfactory definition of the word "rural" During the past few weeks during my absence from the House I have been engaged in reorganising the local government district of Surrey and in arranging that some areas under the rural district council shall in future be placed under the urban district council. That limited group of people who can get for their correspondence large type in the "Times" have said that we are urbanising some rural districts. The problem which confronts me in dealing with the Bill is that a good many truly rural areas come under urban government.
There is no more outrageously urban district in the worst sense of the term in regard to this amenity question than my own constituency. Within it there is one of the most delightful rural spots that one could hope to find anywhere in the country. A few yards from what, I believe, are the most overcrowded slums in Great Britain, one comes across a delightful old world village which it is highly necessary should be preserved, not 557 merely for the sake of its value, but for the sake of its beauty in close relationship and proximity to a dense population. I have been advised that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman would not apply to the preservation of such an amenity, which in the Courts would not be held to be a rural amenity. Last year I also urged upon the House the desirability of having more effective powers to deal with ribbon development. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Captain R. Henderson) in thinking that the proposal in the Bill would be so expensive in operation that no county council would be able to contemplate proceeding under it. Ribbon development needs very serious attention. The suggestion which the hon. and gallant Member made is a very sensible one, namely, that we should rely more and more upon the provision of service roads to enable us to deal with the purely local traffic, leaving the main road for the through traffic. It is ridiculous that we should spend large sums of money upon constructing arterial roads and by-pass roads for the benefit of through traffic and allow milkmen's carts and bakers' carts and all sorts of daily services of that kind to impede the main artery of traffic. The suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member is one well worthy of consideration.
I also go with him a very long way with regard to the preservation of woodlands. The woodland which one desires to see preserved is best preserved when the arrangements for the ordinary course of forestry to he followed are continued. Nothing becomes a greater eyesore than a good woodland which is allowed to look after itself. I think that the Clause will certainly have to be amended in order to be effective and will have to include a provision whereby the ordinary objects of good forestry shall be continued. But their continuance must have some relation to the amenity value of a woodland. It is true as has been said, that the amenity value of a woodland has no real relation to its forestry value. Some of the most beautiful woodlands have very little forestry value at all. That might well increase if good forestry could be applied and the amenity value was recognised at the same time.
There is the difficulty to which the hon. and gallant Member for South Oxford- 558 shire referred, namely, that of overlapping in town planning schemes. I am not at all sure that the difficulty will not become more acute if we pass the Bill in its present form. The Surrey County Council have promoted a Bill, which I understand is down for Second Reading next Tuesday, in which they try to deal with this matter. They desire to acquire powers whereby they can have town planning schemes for the whole of a very beautiful country directed mainly towards the proper development of the county, and the preservation of its natural amenities. Their proposal is that there shall be set up a joint committee, consisting of six members of the county council and one member from each town planning authority, that that committee shall act in an advisory capacity, that all the schemes for town planning in the county shall come there for consideration and receive the widest possible consideration, and the possibility of overlapping can be eliminated as far as possible. There is no attempt on the part of the county council to secure anything other than an advisory voice in the matter. There is a genuine desire on the part of the local authorities in the county, with, I believe, two exceptions, that such an authority shall be set up, in order that the difficulties of overlapping in town planning can be avoided.
This is a question which is exceedingly vital to the country. It will be a tremendous loss if we are deprived of many beauty spots which at the moment are threatened by development in regard to houses being built, without proper elevation, and without taking into consideration what the country has suffered in the past from allowing unrestrained development to take place. There are three parishes in the county of Surrey, Great Bookham, Little Bookham and Feteham, which have been irretrievably ruined by the work of the speculative builder. The adjoining parish of Mickleham was similarly threatened, but the county council was fortunate enough to have a member who could put his hand in his pocket, draw out a cheque book and write out a cheque for £86,000 in order to save that parish from spoliation until such time as the county council could consider the matter. The number of people who are in the happy position to be able to do that is strictly limited, 559 and the number of such people who happen to sit on county councils is still more limited. The danger is by no means confined to one parish. The county council have since relieved the gentleman of his liability. There is an adjoining estate, which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health knows well because I understand that certain relatives, who do not share her political opinions, used to live there. One of them has told me that he hopes she will take a more reasonable view on certain matters than I do with regard to that parish. The county council has spent £100,000 in preserving that parish from spoliation, because of the need of legislation of the kind proposed by my right hon. Friend.
I accept the Bill in the same spirit in which I withdrew my Amendment last year. I believe that it forms an adequate basis for discussion and that it points the way to better things, although it does not get us as far along the road as we might expect. I hope that the matter will receive the attention of the Government in a Bill to be introduced during the current Session, and that we shall have an adequate Measure enabling us to deal with town planning and the preservation of rural amenities, with all the authority and resources of the Government behind it. The conversations, to which the hon. and gallant Member for South Oxfordshire alluded, which have taken place during recent years have been a very good preparation for such a Bill, and I hope that if and when it is introduced we shall not merely support it by eloquent speeches on Second Reading, but that in the Committee stage there will be a sincere effort to see that the Measure shall be placed upon the Statute Book during the present Session.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Miss Lawrence)
I think the promoters of the Bill which was introduced last year served a very useful purpose. Interest in the movement for the preservation of the countryside had been growing, and the fact that a Measure was introduced with the object of preserving the amenities of the countryside, together with the discussion that took place on the Second Reading, gave an amount of publicity to the question which has done a great deal 560 of good. We hear of the harm which, unfortunately, is done. to the countryside even by those who love the country so much that they desire to build houses there and to go there on visits. One witty writer has said that the English people are distinguished above all things, for their love of the country, but that on account of that love very soon there will be no country to love. We all desire to preserve as far as possible the beauties and amenities of the countryside and I can assure the promoters of this Bill that its object is very near to the heart of the Government. The Bill, however, only goes half way. One of the most difficult and controversial points in the Bill, which is raised in Clause 4, is nothing more than a sketch. A sketch on a matter of such importance is not very much use. I have been paying some attention to this matter, not only in regard to housing and town planning but in regard to the proposals which the Government have in hand in connection with a Measure which they intend to introduce, and I can assure the House that there is no more difficult and complicated subject than filling up a sketch on a matter of such importance in the form of a Bill. Hon. Members have said that they heartily approve of the spirit and intention of the Bill but that there are certain difficulties which remain to be dealt with.
Last year the Minister of Health promised that whatever assistance and co-operation he could give would be given. He also uttered some words of warning. He pointed out that there was not the same perfect agreement in the localities on the subject as in the House, and that to take such a step as was contemplated it would be necessary to carry with them the local governing bodies that were primarily concerned. He emphasised the necessity for discussion and agreement. There has been a good deal of discussion in the meantime and matters have advanced to a very much more hopeful stage than they were when hon. Members blazed the trail last year. The Government announced in the Gracious Speech at the opening of this Session that it was their intention to introduce a Measure to extend the law relating to town planning and the preservation of rural amenities. Therefore, in the Government programme there is a Bill not only covering the main lines of the present Bill but a good deal more. It 561 would be somewhat inconvenient and lead to confusion if this Bill and the Government's Measure were running side by side in Committee, but as there is this measure of agreement I think it is possible to support the principle of the Bill on Second Reading and then ascertain how far the Government's proposals cover the main objects of the present Measure.
Sir H. YOUNG
As I said in my opening observations it is not the intention to cause any embarrassment at all to the Government's forthcoming Measure by the introduction of this Bill and I entirely consent to the course suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary that approval should be given to the principle of the Bill by passing the Second Reading to-day.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I should like to enter one caveat, which is obviously necessary. The Government has a great deal of business on hand at the present time. Many of us have been looking forward to the introduction of their town planning Measure. It has been promised again and again, and, while they may wish to introduce it, it is quite obvious that the chance of it being introduced is very slight and any chance of it being passed before the next General Election practically nil. In any case I hope this Bill will not be dropped, and that only in case the Government Bill being introduced and there is over-lapping that any Clauses in this Bill will be dropped. Surely, the great majority of the provisions of the present Measure will not appear in the Government Town Planning Bill. We must wait to see the Bill. At the same time I am certain that even if the Town Planning Bill is passed into law there will still be a necessity for this Measure. I should like to add my tribute to the informed speeches which have been made from both sides of the House on this question. It shows how much progress has been made by those who are keen on the subject, who have studied the matter and who have worked on voluntary or official bodies during the past few years. The criticisms have been informed, rather a contrast to the speeches which we used to hear a few years ago.
In regard to forestry, may I say that what we mean by "rural amenities" is not nature in its untrammelled state. 562 Many people, especially those who do not live in the country, think of the country as nature and the town as civilization. They think that the whole object of civilization is to advance urban development and at the same time keep the country in its natural state. Beech woods owe their beauty largely to the fact that they are kept, and the amenities which the town dweller unconsciously loves are due to the keeping, and expensive keeping, which is so essential for the retention of those amenities which people in the country and in the towns so much enjoy. Nature if allowed to run wild would have few attractions for the town dweller. It would be a different country to the country which we love. We love the fields. Are they not the product of careful cultivation? If they go out of cultivation they do not possess the main features which we love. The hedges; are they not the products of artistic cultivation? They require to be maintained; and cost a great deal of money. In the decline of agriculture they are being allowed to decay, and their place is being taken by barbed wire.
The maintenance of rural amenities means a great deal of expense. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) seemed to deride the idea that the beauties we see around us are necessarily dependent on private ownership, and private ownership in special hands, but it is only private people who can and will at the present moment spend money in maintaining rural amenities as they are at present. The local authority will not spend money in keeping up hedges between fields and arable cultivation, or upon woodlands. They will take a particular spot for a little time, and maintain or develop it, but the idea of spending money on such unproductive expenditure as is required for the maintenance of the countryside would not pass any local authority in the world, least of all an urban authority. Therefore, the maintenance of these rural amenities depends to a large extent on individual ownership. Many of the large estates have recently passed into other hands, sometimes in fragments, sometimes as a whole.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
I have allowed the hon. and gallant Member a certain amount of latitude, but he is now pursuing a line of which I cannot see the end.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I will show you the end, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, more rapidly than I had intended. This leads up to Clause 4 of the Bill which deals with the question of compensation. The county for which I speak is a very special one, apropos this Bill, because it is one of the Home Counties that has been least spoiled by urban development, though it is obviously just awaiting urban development. I refer to Hertfordshire. There we have the possibility of saving most of the rural amenities, and the question is, how shall we save them? The rural amenities have been already to a large extent spoiled in certain ways by the arterial roads. Alongside them there is the ribbon development that we all deplore. Behind are the rural amenities, and they are exceptionally protected. Why? Because they are in the hands of those private owners of whom I have been speaking. I hope that these private owners will be able to maintain them as amenities which the people can enjoy. These owners have the tradition that is largely associated with certain great families known in this House—the tradition of allowing the public the utmost access to their lands.
How are we going to retain those amenities, or to what extent are we going to retain them? The hon. Member for South Shields spoke of the difficulty, not of ribbon development, but of sporadic development. It is sporadic rather than ribbon development which has spoiled the main countryside between London and the English Channel, because most of the beauty spots in the landscape have been allocated to a, single house or some small scattered development. How are the remaining amenities to be preserved? Here there comes in the question of compensation. It is a matter of the utmost difficulty. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, Clause 4 of the Bill is only a sketchy outline of the rough justice that must be done. But that rough justice must define clearly the rights on either side if the rural amenities are to be retained. It is the crux of the whole movement.
The hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Captain R. Henderson) said that Clause 4 is obviously difficult to work because the betterment is supposed to fall upon the hinterland behind the roads; the funds 564 are to be found from the owners of the countryside behind the roads. Yet if those lands are not to be used for building development they will provide no funds. Is building development to be forced on these people? Obviously it cannot be. There are other ways of meeting the difficulty. As a matter of fact building development is to go on close to the arterial roads, and there are various ways in which it can go on without spoiling the arterial roads themselves. I hope that out of Clause 4 and the Bill proposed by the Government there will be devised some arrangement by which people who block the high roads will pay for that blocking. If they are to have a separate entrance on to a main road they should pay heavily for the privilege. I hope still more that use will be made of the powers already existing for setting the frontages of houses well back from the roads. That power will generally give what is required in preventing the frontage lines being abused.
Clause 19 refers to refuse dumps. Neighbouring towns send their harbingers of warfare in front of them in the shape of refuse which is dumped in the countryside. Yesterday I put a question to the Minister of Health on the subject of the report of the Departmental Committee on London Cleansing, and I asked what action was to be taken. Action is being taken or is being prepared very slowly, and I hope that the Minister will speed it up. We heard to our dismay yesterday that already two Metropolitan borough councils have signed fresh contracts for the depositing of their refuse outside London, instead of waiting for a common decision to he reached, as proposed by the Departmental Committee. We must have some control over this question.
This Bill definitely allows local authorities what seems to be their plain right, that is to be first of all consulted before the London refuse is dumped upon them, and, secondly, to declare their acquiescence in the dumping and to license any site that is to be used for the purpose. At present the matter rests merely between the borough council and the owner of land, who in many cases will be only too glad to get increased rent from this source. Only after the contract has been signed and the dumping has been done and has become a nuisance is it possible for the local authority to take action. In 565 most cases the local authority is a rural district council which has very small resources with which to take action. We all know that this is an outstanding problem. It is not enough for the central authorities in London that are producing the refuse to be dealt with as is proposed by the Departmental Committee. It is also necessary to have some such course as is indicated in Clause 19 of the Bill, so that we in the rural areas may be able to deal with this menace at the earliest possible stage before it has become a nuisance.
Clause 20 refers to the consultative council. We all desire that those who are most concerned with this subject shall be in direct touch with the Ministry, and that the Minister shall be in a position to consult them. But I am not very keen on official consultative councils. When the Ministry of Health was first established consultative councils were set up in connection with it but I believe these have practically all proved ineffective. One or two functioned for a short time and one produced a valuable report, but that report has never been acted upon. I think that matters which are primarily concerned with private ownership and private interests are best kept in private hands and not given over too much to official sanction, and official regulation and limitation. I believe that it would be best for the voluntary bodies themselves to form some kind of central consultative council with which the Minister would naturally be closely associated and which would have the authority derived from the voluntary constitution of those bodies instead of deriving its authority from official sources. I am doubtful about this proposal in the Bill, though it may prove an incentive to the voluntary bodies to get together. I thought that the Council for the Preservation of Rural England already fulfilled that kind of purpose and that it was sufficiently consulted by the Minister—it ought to be—for this purpose.
There is, however, one extra piece of official machinery which might be valuable in dealing with the subjects brought forward by voluntary bodies. Just as you have an old-established institution in the case of the Registrar of Friendly Societies dealing with essentially voluntary and unofficial bodies—an official acting as a liaison between the Govern- 566 ment and those voluntary bodies—so I have long urged that it would be an admirable thing if some official in the Ministry were set aside with the special duty of keeping in touch with these voluntary bodies. These bodies could have the right of recourse to such an official, and in that way the Ministry would be kept in touch with the activities of the voluntary bodies. Thus you would introduce the useful element of advice if not of control, and it would also have a humanising influence on the Ministry concerned. That kind of idea already exists in the Ministry. Already they set aside certain officials for certain purposes, and I think this subject is large enough to engage the attention of one special official with a special designation. That is one of the minor criticisms of the Measure which I wish to add to the useful and informative criticisms already offered, but, speaking in reference to the health of the community, I find myself intensely in favour of the general principles and purposes of the Bill.
§ Mr. W. BENNETT
I feel that in rising I am preventing Members of the House from getting away when everybody is anxious to leave, but, as I have only troubled the House once in the last 12 months and as there is something whichI really wish to say regarding this Bill, perhaps I am justified in taking up a few minutes. I feel inclined to oppose this Bill on two grounds. I yield to no one in my admiration of and delight in the countryside, but this Bill shows a certain tenderness for private property and rights as distinguished from its regard for local authorities in connection with the preservation of these amenities. The second Clause contains the following:A town planning scheme may … be made … as respects any land which is not in the course of development or does not appear likely to be used for building purposes.One continually sees announcements of property sales and reports of ancient buildings of historical interest being sold by auction to be ruthlessly pulled clown to make way for new buildings. There are no powers in this Bill as far as I can see in reference to the preservation of such ancient buildings. It is true that there is a Clause precluding the export of such buildings, but I see no power for preventing the sale and destruction of old 567 houses if they come into the market as private property, whereas, if a public authority acquires land or buildings for a re-housing scheme for the working classes, the law as it stands gives the Ministry the power to make an Order compelling the preservation of old buildings. Why is not a similar Clause put into this Bill as a short and simple method of dealing with the matter?
This Bill is in regard to the preservation of the amenities of the countryside, but I am far more interested in the creation of amenities in the countryside. It seems to me that this is a gesture of despair; that, by it, we are, in effect, saving that we cannot hope to create anything beautiful out of our lives in the countryside of to day, and we are therefore prepared to spend money and to pass Acts of Parliament in preserving the things of a bygone age. Why is it? It is because the people in those bygone days had some sort of common life, and we have no such thing at the present time. I hope that when the schemes of the Minister in connection with town-planning and smallholdings are brought in, they will include not only some scheme for the planning of villages and towns, but also some scheme in regard to the beauty of the buildings to be erected, although I am sadly afraid that it is impossible for us to compel beauty by Act of Parliament, if there is nothing in the lives or desires of the people which will come out in that way. I resent the fact that when a Bill for slum clearance or housing of the working classes is brought in a Clause is always forced into it giving the Minister the power and the duty to interfere with the local authority and compelling the local authority to preserve ancient buildings even in cases where it means the loss of 20 or 30 tenements, whereas in the case of private property no such Clause is inserted.
§ Captain BOURNE
I think that the hon. Member is taking too gloomy a view. I have little doubt that many of the things which we now treasure as beautiful in our countryside were regarded in the days when they were erected as horrible innovations. But I think there is a great deal to be said for preserving historically old things in this country, merely as an object lesson, if nothing 568 more, of what has happened and what our past has been, for, after all, our past goes back in this country a very long way.
The point, however, that I really rose to bring to the attention of the House is one to be found in Clause 4 of the Bill, to the effect that where there is betterment under a town planning scheme, as there must be in certain cases, if land is prohibited from being built over, those who obtain the betterment shall have to pay compensation. I do nut believe that any scheme of town planning, or of regional planning, which I think we require more, can possibly work without some such provision, otherwise you are going to get up against the great difficulty as to why one man should benefit by a scheme and another man lose, and against the further difficulty, which has already affected certain classes of town planning schemes, that people who say they will not have their land built on may find themselves valued to Death Duties on the building value of that land, as if it was not an open space, and unless some provision is put in to compensate those who are prohibited from using their land as building land, I do not believe that any scheme of regional planning will work.
I think, however, that this subject is too large for a private Member's Bill. It is a complicated subject and one which is comparatively new in this country, although I believe that similar provisions are to be found in the United States, and have worked well, with a view to regional planning. It also goes contrary to one of the express articles of policy of the present Government, namely, the taxation of site values. If you are going to say that certain sites are to be dealt with under a planning scheme, and that, although they are potentially valuable for building or other purposes, they must not be so used, it is obvious that the whole idea of the site value as hitherto understood goes by the board; and you will have to reconsider the whole matter.
I feel that this is really a matter which should be dealt with in the prospective Bill dealing with regional planning which we understand the Minister of Health will introduce, and which is the subject of consultation, I understand, between the Ministry and many interested parties rather than in a private Member's Bill on a Friday afternoon. I believe that 569 this subject will have to be tackled and that the suggestions of my right hon. Friend, if perhaps not nearly detailed enough as put forward in this Bill, at any rate offer some solution on the lines on which progress should be made. This is a matter of great importance, affecting the interests of many hundreds of thousands of people in this country, and it is not a matter which should be allowed to pass here without some comment.
There is one other Clause in the Bill to which I wish to draw attention, and that is Clause 5, which states that a county council may acquire land on either side and within 220 yards from the middle of a proposed new road. My right hon. Friend, in proposing that Clause, desires to stop ribbon development, and he has my hearty sympathy. It is perfectly easy to spend a vast sum of public money in making a new road and then to have that road wasted because there are tradesmen's carts standing at the kerb on each side, delivering goods to houses which have been built along the load. The whole object of widening the road has been to speed up traffic, and if you permit houses to be built on each side, with all the coming and going that there is, with motor cars and tradesmen's vans left standing, in front of them, you spoil the entire object with which the country's money has been spent, and both the taxpayers and the ratepayers have contributed large sums of money without any advantage.
I am thoroughly against ribbon development, but I am not quite clear that the provision of my right hon. Friend is the best way of meeting it. I have a very great fear that if the local authorities acquire land with a potential building value, and pay a rather high price for it, they will in many cases say, "We can develop this property and so save the rates," and the last state of those roads will be far worse than it is now. That is a real danger. Many land owners do not desire to have houses built, and they do not regard the presence of a new road as necessary, and I fear very mach that if this particular provision remains in the Bill, the local authorities may build a mass of houses where they are not wanted, which will not preserve the rural amenities and which will aggravate rather than diminish the traffic problem. I 570 admit that this is a committee rather than a Second Reading point, but it is of sufficient importance for my calling attention to it, and I hope these matters will be considered very carefully when this Bill reaches a Committee.
§ Major LLEWELLIN
I rise to welcome Clause 19 of this Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) has already made some remarks upon this Clause, but I wish also to advert to it partly because, unfortunately, at that moment the hon. Lady representing the Ministry of Health had left the House for the very short time that she was absent, and secondly because I hoped that in any legislation which the Government may produce, a Clause similar to this will finds its place.
There are constituencies, especially near London, one of which I represent in this House, in which at the present time London boroughs are able to dump their refuse at places where such refuse certainly should not be dumped. In those cases they merely have to get the sanction of some private owner—I am referring to the Uxbridge constituency—to come and dump refuse down there, near to houses and buildings which are occupied by men, women, and children; and the flies in summer on those refuse dumps are perfectly appalling to the inhabitants of those houses. There should be some power such as is contained in this Clause whereby a local authority can prohibit an alien authority from dumping refuse in its area, although it may be that there should be some overriding power vested in the Ministry of Health, so that there may still be places left in the country where London boroughs may dump their refuse. Otherwise, they may be refused any other area throughout the country; but certainly in parts of Middlesex, such as the constituency which I represent, the powers in this Clause are very much needed, and I urge upon the hon. Lady to see that some such powers as these, even if there is an overriding power given to the Ministry of Health, are given to local authorities to protect the people living in these houses from the smells of the fire and of the rubbish itself, and from the flies which come from these refuse dumps. There were some other matters 571 to which I wanted to refer, but at this late hour I only wish to refer to this one Clause.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.