I beg to move, in page 13, line 12, after the word "conditions," to insert the words:(not being conditions requiring any monetary payment to be made)".We have now come to the interim development orders. Sub-section (3) of the Clause says:Where an application for permission to develop land is made to the specified authority in manner provided by the order, the authority may, subject to the terms of the order, grant the application unconditionally or subject to such conditions as they think proper to impose.I seek to insert the words "(not being conditions requiring any monetary payment to be made)."
This matter was discussed shortly in Standing Committee. There is no doubt that in the case of interim orders local authorities are already charging fees to cover the expenses to which they are put. On the Bill of 1931 the late Captain Henderson raised this question and the then Minister of Health, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) said that he thought a real point had been raised, though he was not clear that words proposed by Captain Henderson carried out the purpose intended. He promised that if that Amendment were withdrawn a proviso would be in- 1528 serted in the Bill on the Report stage. On Report there was no proviso inserted. On the present Bill I raised the matter again in Committee, and the learned Attorney-General said he would look into it. He said that he did not know whether it would be necessary to insert the words I had proposed, but he assured me that if words were necessary to make it plainer that there was no power to extract a charge, the proper words would be inserted. I am moving this Amendment in order to get the fulfilment of that promise. I hope that my luck will continue. My first Amendment was accepted, and this, I hope, will be accepted too.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
My hon. and gallant Friend is right in saying that I promised to look into this matter, and I am glad to find that, in Committee, I expressed doubt as to whether the insertion of these words would be necessary, because on further examination my doubt has been confirmed. It is my emphatic opinion now that it is not necessary to insert these words, not because I do not agree with the object of my hon. and gallant Friend, but because the insertion of the words would, I am certain, add nothing to the Clause as it stands. Further, the insertion of these words in this place would throw doubt upon the effect of the absence of similar words from similar sections of other Acts. I hope that that is a sufficient reason against any insistence upon the Amendment.
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that an authority ought not to be empowered to exact money payments as one of the conditions which it may impose, but there are plenty of provisions in Acts of Parliament which require a local authority, for instance, to examine proposals submitted to them, and it has been held by the House of Lords in the clearest possible way that a public body charged with the performance of a duty has no right to exact, either by way of tax or by penalty or by reimbursement of costs, any sum of money as a condition of performing their statutory duty. If we put into this Clause the words proposed by the Amendment that fact would be 1529 used as an argument in the interpretation of other Acts of Parliament, and it would be pointed out that the words inserted in this Measure were not to be found in those other Acts. I am satisfied that it will not be possible for an authority to exact money payments as one of their conditions, and, while I am in agreement with the intention of my hon. and gallant Friend, I am not prepared to insert these words.
In view of the Attorney-General's statement that a public authority is not entitled to exact fees in these eases, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sir H. YOUNG
I beg to move in page 13, line 19, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that—2.0 p.m.
- (a) an application for permission to erect a new building on the site of an existing building, or on the site of a building which was standing within two years before the date on which a resolution takes effect, if made before or within two years after the destruction or demolition of that previous building, or within twelve months after the date on which the resolution takes effect, whichever period last expires, shall not be refused and conditions shall not be imposed, if the effect of the refusal or imposition of conditions would be to render it impossible for the applicant to erect a building having a cubic content above the level of the ground as great as that of the previous building or, in the case of a previous building used for business or industry, to erect a building having as great a cubic content above the level of the ground and as great a superficial area on the ground floor as those of the previous building, except where either—
- (i) the new building would not conform with a provision proposed to be inserted in the scheme for fixing in relation to any street or proposed street a line beyond which no building in that street or proposed street may project; or
- (ii) it is proposed to include the site of the new building or part thereof in an area to be reserved by the scheme for a purpose the carrying out of which in the future would necessitate the removal or the alteration of the new building;
- (b) an application for permission to use any building which is erected in substitution for an existing building, or other such previous building as aforesaid, and is commenced within two years after the destruction or demolition of the previous
1530 building, for any purpose of the same or similar character as that for which the previous building was last used before its destruction or demolition shall not be refused unless such a use would be seriously detrimental to the neighbourhood."
This Amendment is moved in order to deal at this stage with a suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Northampton (Sir M. Manningham-Buller) during the Committee stage in the manner in which I then proposed to deal with it. This relates to the interim period between the resolution and the scheme. The owner of an existing building secures under the Bill the right to replace his existing building with another building of the same size and sort or to receive compensation if he is denied that right. The wider question is not, however, involved in this Amendment. What is desired is to make it quite clear that the right so enjoyed by the owner of the existing building, during the interim period between the resolution being passed that there should be a scheme, and the scheme being passed which fulfils the resolution, includes both an existing building and a building which was standing within two years before the material date. It is considered fair to include a case in which there has been a building there quite lately.
The Amendment gives, with two exceptions, the right to erect a building of at. least equal size to be used for the same purpose as the former building or a similar purpose. As to the exceptions, it is desired to meet cases where the land has to be kept free from building if the purposes of the scheme are to be fulfilled, or where the purposes of the scheme would not be fulfilled if a fresh building were erected. The two exceptions are intended, first, to prevent a building being brought beyond the building line proposed, and, secondly, to prevent the erection of a new building on land which is to be reserved for an open space under the scheme. An owner injuriously affected, in the case of either of these two exceptions, by having observed the proposed conditions, will be able to gain a reasonable compensation when the scheme comes into operation. I think the Amendment fulfils the purpose which was practically agreed upon in Committee.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
It is a little difficult to follow the Amendment on the Paper but I would ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the form of words proposed here might not possibly let in cases of applications not made under this section—for instance where a building line has been laid down and an application is made for permission to erect a building, not specifically under this Section but under the ordinary building provisions. The words here are very wide:An application for permisson to erect a new building.… shall not be refused.Unless some limiting words are inserted, that provision might lead hereafter to disputes as to whether any application of the kind can be refused. Take the case of a corner site where a building has been pulled down and a new building line is laid down. It would be unfortunate if, under the ordinary building line regulations, it were to be held that an application made in pursuance of this Clause could not be refused. The Minister might consider whether he ought not to limit this to applications "made hereunder" or put in some words of that sort.
Sir H. YOUNG
I speak with diffidence upon what is a purely legal question, but I imagine that very probably the Clause as it stands with the proviso will secure the point which the hon. and learned Member has in mind. I certainly will see that attention is paid to this matter and make sure that the danger which he apprehends is avoided.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I beg to move, in page 13, line 20, after the word "application," to insert the words:after appeal to the Minister as is hereinafter provided.This Amendment is preliminary to a further Amendment, in line 23, to leave out the words "shows to their satisfaction," and insert instead thereof the word "proves." The original word in the Bill was "proves," and the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown), I think it was, moved an Amendment to insert the words, "shows to their satisfaction," which was accepted by the Minister very quickly, before, I think, either he or the Members of the Committee realised what had been done. The effect of the Clause as it now stands, with 1532 those words in, is to leave the person whose ground has been damaged as the deciding authority as to whether or not damage has been done, and I do not think that is at all desirable.
§ Mr. CAPORN
I beg to second the Amendment.
It provides that there shall be no right to compensation on the refusal of an application unless the person making the application first makes an appeal to the Minister of Health under Sub-section (5). As the Clause now stands, he would be entitled to such compensation as he shows to the satisfaction of the local authority that he is likely to suffer, even without first appealing to the Minister.
Sir H. YOUNG
The moving of this Amendment leaves me in some little doubt as to whether the situation is quite clear to the. House. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) will remember that in Committee I explained the circumstances under which I was about to move the Amendment which is now the following Amendment to this, namely, to omit the words:shall be liable in payment of any damageand to substitute for them the words:may, if they think fit, make a contribution towards any damage or expense.That was part of a recasting of these provisions as to interim compensation, on which there was a certain measure of accommodation and understanding at the time. If that Amendment of mine is accepted, it will be clear that the provision here for an appeal to the Minister would really not be appropriate, because an appeal would not be appropriate with regard to a voluntary power to make a contribution. On the other hand, I rather gather, from what my hon. and learned Friend now says in explanation of his Amendment, that what he really values in the matter is the substitution of the words "shows to their satisfaction" by the word "proves". If that is his specific purpose, while I do not think there is any very great substance in that substitution, I should be prepared to meet him in that respect. But the present Amendment, in view of the Amendment that I am about to propose, would not really be relevant or appropriate, and I suggest that my hon. 1533 and learned Friend should withdraw the present Amendment on my undertaking to give favourable consideration to his subsequent Amendment.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
If I may say a word with permission, I should not like any confusion to arise, but I understood the Minister—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must remind the hon. and learned Member that we are not in Committee. I thought he rose merely to ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I said that I rose with permission, your permission and that of the House, in order to prevent any confusion in this matter. I really want that there should be a right to this damage if it is proved, and not that the local authority should be put in the position, in which no local authority ought to be put, of having to make an eleemosynary gift. I do not think that ought to be in an Act of Parliament. Either the applicant ought to have the right to damage or he ought not.
§ Amendment negatived.
Sir H. YOUNG
I beg to move, in page 13, line 21, to leave out the words:shall be liable in payment of any damage,and to insert instead thereof the words:may, if they think fit, make a contribution towards any damage or expense.This Amendment, if carried, will enable us to clear up the matter. It is important that the House should understand the situation exactly, as there is apparently some doubt in the mind of my hon. and learned Friend opposite. In Committee, an Amendment to this Clause was passed which had the effect of saying that where any detriment had been suffered by the owner owing to the control during the interim period, the authority was to be liable for the payment of damages for that detriment at the time. That is the whole point. I explained to the Committee that it was impossible in practical affairs to assess the damage at the time, or even to know whether there was any legal damage such as ought to be compensated at the time, that those things could not be known until the scheme was actually adopted. Nevertheless the Amendment was carried, 1534 and it left the Bill, in my view, unworkable.
That led to discussions. The result of those discussions was that we found a way out which, I think I am not going too far in saying, was acceptable to those who moved the Amendment to Sub-section (4). The way out—and it will appeal to any man of common sense—was to recognise that it was impossible to assess and pay the damage at the time of the interim development, but to recognise also that if any detriment had been suffered, the sufferer ought not to lose simply because there was a lapse of time before his rights could be ascertained. That was recognised, and so this expedient, which was the obvious thing to do, was adopted of inserting in the Bill a provision that when the scheme was finally adopted, all rights to compensation which had accrued during the interim period should be considered, although they could not be assessed at the time.
That was the solution which, I believe, commended itself to those who had been labouring with me to find a way out of the difficulty. I, therefore, inserted Subsection (2) of Clause 18, which was the beginning of the fulfilment of my undertaking. The effect of Clause 18 (2) is that when a man claims compensation under the scheme, he can also claim additional compensation for any injurious affection suffered by interim decisions, and Sub-section (6) of Clause 6 provides for the case where the scheme is not proceeded with. It may be said, "It is all very well to give compensation at the time when the scheme is completed, but if a scheme is never completed, he may be done in," and Sub-section (6) provides that if a scheme is not completed, nevertheless he is to receive compensation for the damage actually accrued. That makes a complete, alternative method of dealing with the matter in this Bill, and the acceptance of that alternative method involves the elimination of the original shot at dealing with the matter, in view of our having dealt with the interim rights of compensation by the alternative I have described under Clauses 18 (2) and 6 (6). In view of the fact that I have dealt with the matter in that way, it may be possible very much to smooth the wheels of town planning by giving to the local authority this voluntary power to anticipate compensation, because when the compensation 1535 comes to be paid, any voluntary contribution will be taken into account, and set off against the final compensation. I ask the assistance of the House on the Report stage to carry out the scheme of compensation in the terms which, I think, substantially meet the case.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
The explanation of the Minister entirely removes any doubts I had about this Clause, except that I should like to see the word "proves" substituted for the words "shows to their satisfaction."
§ Mr. RHYS
I think that we all listened to what the Minister said with very great interest. In Committee I took, possibly, a less strong line on the question of compensation than some hon. Members, because I have always recognised that all payments of compensation are not justifiable, and it would not be fair to put local authorities, particularly in rural districts, in the position of having to pay compensation which was not justifiable. Therefore, I think it is possible, perhaps, to take out the absolute right to compensation during the interim period. But I rose particularly to enter a caveat. I have always taken the line that where a local authority under an interim development order has compelled an individual to spend money before the scheme may be finally aproved, it may be 20 years ahead, then that individual should have the right to compensation for the amount of money that he has been ordered to spend by the local authority. I say that because I hope that, during the passage of this Bill on Report or in another place, something may be done in order to meet that point.
It is said that it is not possible to assess compensation during an interim period, because the scheme may be varied in its passage through its various stages, but when we started our proceedings we passed a Clause to enable betterment to be set off against compensation. Betterment must be paid within 12 months, and as you are allowed to set compensation against it, surely it must be possible to assess compensation. That seems to me a point very worthy of consideration, and I was very interested to know whether the right hon. Gentleman—I am not a lawyer—agreed with the assertion that it is not possible to assess interim compensation.
§ Mr. CAPORN
The Minister of Health approached this question rather from one side. Some of us see a side which shows that under the present law, and, I am afraid, under this Bill as he proposes to amend it, there is a very gross injustice. I should like to put a typical case, that of a poor person owning a piece of land which to-day is ripe for building purposes. The local authority comes along and town plans that piece of land as an open space. The owner asks for a development order to enable him or her to build upon the land. It is refused, and on appeal to the Minister it is refused. That person who has suffered may be a poor person, a widow or an orphan; in fact, there are cases in which the land in question is the only land left in the estate for the widow and orphans, and the only land to which they can look to getting anything out of the estate. At the present time they cannot get a penny piece of compensation, although, in fact, deprived of the use of their land. Moreover, they may be deprived of their right to compensation for 20 or 30 years, because there is no provision anywhere, as far as I can see, which would meet them from the period in which the local authority can town plan by means of interim development orders.
As I understand the Minister's proposal, it is to give the local authority power in cases of that sort voluntarily to make compensation, and I should like to know whether the Minister contemplates that, if they refuse to make a voluntary payment of compensation, and there is an appeal to him under Sub-section (5), it would be within the power of the Minister on such appeal to insist upon compensation being paid as a condition of the interim development order. That, at any rate, would give some guarantee that these cases would be dealt with in an equitable manner.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I am enormously obliged to the Minister for the explanation that he has given us. Clause 6 (6) and Clause 18 (2) make the position clear, but why not make it as clear in Clause 10? Anyone who has had experience in local government believes in sane and sensible town planning, and all that is wanted to give this Bill a good send-off when it gets on the Statute Book is to have words in it that will give confidence to local authorities and to proprietors who are developing the land. We have every 1537 confidence in the right hon. Gentleman who is Minister of Health at the moment. If he were asked about this Clause and these words, he would say, "Go to Clause 6 or Clause 18, and you will find it provided for"; but Ministers are not immortal and another Minister would stand by what is actually in the Bill. It seems to me that these words in Clause 10 as suggested by the Minister are rather contradictory to Clause 6 and Clause 18. I would like the Minister further to consider the words and even to say "shall be liable to the payment of ascertained damage." Nobody wants the payment of damage where it is not ascertained. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that there is a difficulty in ascertaining damage, but if there is a doubt about it, let it not be paid; the local authorities need not be liable until the damage is proved. If the right hon. Gentleman would make it "ascertained damage," it would satisfy everybody and give some confidence in the Bill. It would be an earnest desire of his to get a Bill which will appeal to local authorities and to people developing land. I would like the Minister to reconcile the words which he has substituted here for the words that we put in in Committee. An owner should either get damages or not get damages. Why leave it to the benevolence of the local authorities? I would like the Minister to say something further in explanation of what he has already told us, and as to how he reconciles these three Clauses.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I am sorry that the Minister has not seen fit to accept the Amendment passed by the Committee after careful and lengthy consideration. The Committee came to the definite conclusion that, in spite of this alteration, the Bill would still be workable, and although the Minister does not agree with that, there is no doubt that the substitution of the word "shall" for "may" could not make the Bill unworkable. It should not be left to the discretion of local authorities whether they pay compensation. Compensation is either due or not due, and it should not be a matter of voluntary arrangement. The Minister has gone a long way towards meeting us in other portions of the Bill, but he has now taken the course so common in Government Departments of putting the language of the Clause in the most com- 1538 plicated way possible instead of leaving in the words as we put them in in Committee. There are now two Subsections in two different Clauses so that everybody except lawyers will be fogged. However, he has satisfied me that it is his intention to make compensation compulsory, and therefore I accept his alteration.
I am disappointed that the Minister could not accept the following Amendment in my name—in line 22, to leave out from the word "liable" to the word "by" in line 23, and to insert instead thereof the words:to pay to the applicant compensation to be determined under this Act in respect of any loss, damages, or expenses suffered by the applicant.That would have helped him out of his difficulty. If there is damage, the local authority ought to be liable to pay. The Minister's difficulty is that they cannot access the damage. If the Amendment -I have mentioned, and the consequential Amendments in Clause 18 were accepted, it would be a fair way out of the difficulty and would meet the right hon. Gentleman's point. It is not fair that the authority should only pay towards any damage if they think fit. They ought to be made liable where they are really liable.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The right hon. Gentleman's supporters seem to be very ungrateful to him for what seems to us to be a very great concession. I am not going into the merits of the question of the payment of compensation, but as I understand it, not only has the owner the right to compensation if he can satisfy the tribunal at the proper time, but, under this Sub-section, the widow and orphans can get a payment in advance if it be a hard case.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
It is impossible to put in a provision that, in the case of widows and orphans, the local authority shall make a payment in advance, and that in other eases they need not. You cannot do anything but leave it to the local authority to exercise that sort of power as they think fit. This Amendment gives hon. Members opposite not only the right to compensation for which they are ask- 1539 ing, but it gives them the additional advantage that in cases of hardship the local authority can make a payment in advance of the damage being ascertained. With regard to leaving out the words "shows to their satisfaction" and inserting "proves", if the local authority can insist upon a rigid proof at this stage, I should say that it is perfectly clear that no owner will get anything. If, on the other hand, he need merely "show to the satisfaction", which is a wider phrase, it gives him a greater latitude. Although we do not approve of the extension of compensation, we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on a fair compromise between two warring elements.
§ Sir M. MANNINGHAM-BULLER
The Minister's speech has removed many of my doubts, but I should like to be perfectly clear and to have a correct aspect of these Clauses. As I understand it, the result of Clause 6 with regard to compensation for damage done under an interim development order or damage done during the period of the order is that where the schema is revoked the person affected is unable to attach his claim for damages due to that order to any claim for damages under a scheme which it is necessary for him to make under Clause 18 (2). I should have thought we could have stated it more simply by saying that any person who suffers damage owing to the interim development period would be entitled to damages. As I understand it, Clause 6 gives the right to damages where a scheme is revoked or altered before it comes into operation, and Clause 18 subsection (2) gives the right to damages under interim development orders, but the owner can only obtain them when the scheme comes into operation. He has to add that claim for damages to his claim for damages done by the operation of the scheme itself. This particular Amendment, if passed, would give the authority power to make an advance of payment on account of damages to those who suffer damage during this interim period; otherwise the owner would be unable to recover them until he was in a position to send in his claim for damages due to the actual operation of the scheme. If I have expressed the position clearly, 1540 I feel that the Minister's Amendment has removed all my doubts, and I thank him for the alteration.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I beg to move, in page 13, line 23, to leave out the words "shows to their satisfaction," and to insert instead thereof the word "proves."
I do not propose to repeat what I have said before, I will only make one observation—if I may have the attention of the Minister. If this sub-section (4)— I ask the attention of the Attorney General to this. If sub-section (4) is the affirmative sub-section that confers the right of compensation I submit that my Amendment is absolutely necessary, firstly because the local authority ought not to pay unless damage is proved, and, secondly, because the words, "Shows to their satisfaction" leave the local authority as the judge of whether it has been proved or not. If, on the other hand, the right to damages during the interim period is conferred by one of the other provisions of the Bill to which the Minister referred, and Sub-section (4) only gives power to the authority to pay on account if it thinks fit, I am content to leave the words as they are. If this is the sub-section conferring the right to compensation, the words "show to their satisfaction," which leave the local authority to judge whether damage has been sustained or not, makes the Clause nugatory, because the authority are the judge in their own case, and the word, "proves" ought to be inserted, as then there would be a right of appeal from the decision of the local authority to the Minister.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Now that the Clause has been amended in the terms proposed by the Minister, and we have put back the words which empower the authority, if they think fit, to make a contribution, I am bound to say that I should have thought the words "show to their satisfaction" would be more favourable to the parties in whose interest my hon. Friends have been acting. The words "show to their satisfaction" were inserted upon the proposal of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Clifton Brown), but if my hon. and learned 1541 Friend thinks it better to put in the word "proves," and the House agrees with him, I see no particular reason why the Minister should not accept the word "proves." For my own part I think the words, "show to their satisfaction" probably give the authority which is to make the payment in advance a rather wider and more generous discretion than would the rather technical and legal word "proves." It is for my hon. and learned Friend to make up his mind whether he wishes to press his Amendment. If he presses it, and the House agrees to it, we will accept it.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
The learned Attorney-General did not answer the point I put forward. If this Sub-section is only giving a right to interim payments, I agree with what the Attorney-General said, but if this is the only Clause giving an affirmative right to compensation at all the words "shows to their satisfaction" leave them to decide whether any damage has been sustained or not, and in that case "proves" is the better word.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I should have thought it quite clear that the Clause as now amended does not make the authority the ultimate and final judge of whether damage has been suffered. It merely empowers the authority to make an advance payment when they have considered the merits and needs of the person who is applying, and on that understanding I regard the words "shows to their satisfaction" as being the preferable of the two.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
I agree with that if the learned Attorney-General shows me that there is another affirmative Clause giving the right to this compensation.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I thought the Minister had made that abundantly plain in his previous observations.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sir H. YOUNG
I beg to move, in page 14, line 3, to leave out from the word "made" to the word "development" in line 5, and to insert instead thereof the words:where it is expedient in order to promote the.1542 This Amendment and the subsequent one deal with cases where local Acts, bylaws and so on are suspended. The original Bill in Clause 10, Sub-section (6), which deals with interim developments, provided that local Acts might be suspended so far as they might interfere with any development permitted by the Order. It was suggested in Committee by, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) that that provision was too wide, and he proposed that the power to suspend should be given only if the suspension were necessary in order to promote or expedite development. An Amendment to that sub-section, moved by him, providing that provisions in local acts or bylaws might be suspended so far as such suspension might be necessary in order to promote or expedite development was accepted. Those are the important words—"so far as may be necessary"—and the corresponding Amendment was inserted at the beginning of Clause 11. On further consideration, I am advised by the draftsman that it is the practice now to suspend the provisions of the Public Health Acts in the case of offensive trades if those Acts require consent. It could be argued, and I think rightly, that it is not necessary to suspend the provisions of the Public Health Acts. On the other hand, there is no doubt whatever that it might be an enormous convenience to be able to suspend them. If you did not make it abundantly clear that it would be a convenience to the owner or occupier concerned that you could suspend some of those provisions you might have this unfortunate result, that the owner, in order to clear himself, and be able to carry out his work, would have to have two consents instead of one. The point therefore is to take sufficient power so that where you might not be able to say that such suspension was absolutely necessary, you could say that it was expedient in order to save trouble and bother to everybody concerned, and just a little alteration in the wording will be necessary to provide the elasticity and to cover the point more fully.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
The Minister has given a completely accurate account of what happened in Committee on this particular point. The matter came up, 1543 first of all, upon an Amendment at an earlier stage. The Minister said:If hon. Members who are interested in the Amendment will consult with me about the actual wording of it after I have accepted it, I shall be glad to discuss it with them to 6ee whether we cannot improve it for the purpose that we and the Committee desire. If we do not hit out any improvement in the wording together we will leave it as the Amendment leaves it.".—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 15th March, 1932; col. 398.]He said that we might collaborate, and that he was willing to collaborate with those of us who are interested in order to see whether mutually agreeable words could be discovered. Unfortunately, I am afraid that that collaboration did not take place, because other matters of greater importance arose, and this was overlooked. We placed very great importance on the words as we at present have them. The Minister says with some truth that it is possible that no suspension might be "necessary", but with equal truth it can be said that all suspensions might be "expedient". Therefore, if you change the word "necessary" which might possibly be too strong, and insert the word "expedient" that might be so weak as to be actually meaningless. We place the greatest importance upon sound drastic restrictions of the power to suspend enactments of this House.
These powers are not even being exercised in a scheme; they are being exercised in an interim development Order. A scheme, after all, does come before this House now. That is unsatisfactory, perhaps, but it does come before the House. Interim development orders are not brought before the House. They are a Ministerial order, and the Minister is taking, in our view, far too wide powers in this direction. I ask my right hon. Friend to remember in this connection that, after having said that he would insert the Amendment, and that he would consider it in another place, he stated that if we do not hit on any improvement in the wording together we will leave it as the Amendment leaves it. I appeal to him, therefore, to implement that pledge—I hope I am not using too high a term—which he gave in Committee.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
I feel bound to add a word of protest in regard 1544 to the words which appear on the Order Paper. This is a question of some constitutional importance which has aroused considerable interest and attenton in legal circles outside this House. The provision that we are discussing deals with powers given to local authorities, town planning authorities, and the Minister of Health between them—those organisations so admirably described by the Minister as a "complex of local authorities". I should like to congratulate him upon having coined that phrase. I think it is a great deal better and an even finer term than "a gaggle of geese".
We attach very great importance to these powers of a complex of local authorities to ride roughshod over the law of the land, and it should be limited as far as possible. It was pointed out during the Committee stage that it was important that power to suspend local enactments should exist in order that, in certain cases, unnecessary expense might be avoided. It was put forward that in some cases local enactments provided for wider streets, or streets made up to a standard which might be unnecessary under the town planning scheme. There is a well known case in Bradford where I think £27 per house was involved in some local enactment. It was pointed out that unnecessary expense might be avoided by suspending in this way. These cases are met by the words in the Bill as it stands without the Amendment. The words of the Amendmentwhere it is expedient in order to promote developmentmight mean anything. So far as I can understand, they would leave the matter at the sole discretion of the local authorities and of the Ministry to override what Acts they thought fit. The words in the Bill are sufficiently wide to leave all reasonable power to suspend local enactments, and the House ought not to go beyond them in giving permission to local authorities to suspend existing orders.
Sir H. YOUNG
The hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) has confronted me with an undertaking that I made in Committee to consult him before I altered the words of this Amendment. He has put up the charge that I have not consulted him. I must admit that it is true. There have been a good many hours of consultation, 1545 but on this particular matter there was not any consultation before I put this Amendment down. In the circumstances, therefore, there is only one course for me to pursue, and that is to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment so as to allow me to engage in those conversations in accordance with my promise on a previous occasion, and then to insert this Amendment in another place. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.