HC Deb 03 June 1932 vol 266 cc1547-52

I beg to move, in page 15, line 22, to leave out the word "elevation", and to insert instead thereof the words "external appearance".

This Amendment is little more than a drafting Amendment. It is put down to fulfil an undertaking given in Committee to make it quite clear that the powers at this point of the Bill are to apply only to the outsides of houses. Some doubt was expressed as to whether the word "elevation" would make that clear. It is, of course, the intention that the powers shall only apply to the external appearance, which, after all, is all that the general public has any right to be concerned with, and the term "external appearance" is, perhaps, less open to doubt than "elevation".

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 15, line 24, leave out the word "elevation" and insert instead thereof the words "external appearance". — [Sir H. Young.]


I beg to move, in page 15, line 32, at the end, to insert the words: (f) limiting or enabling the responsible authority to limit the number of years during which buildings of a specified class or classes erected after the coming into operation of the scheme may be allowed to remain before being pulled down or reconstructed and enabling the responsible authority to specify different periods for different classes of buildings. I move this Amendment because, if there is one thing under this Bill which we are desirous of achieving, it is that our countryside should be made more appealing to the people; and particularly we should endeavour to avoid in the future the accumulation of slums. At the present time a local authority controlling plans does so for an indefinite period. The purpose of the Amendment is to give to local authorities the power to certify plans for a definite period, and the certification would be for different periods of years in the case of different types of properties. I am thinking particularly of slum property. As regards dwelling houses, I would say that a local authority should be given power to license such properties for a period of say, 80 years. If at the end of that time the property is in a sanitary and habitable condition, the owner may apply to the local authority for an extension, and I would suggest that such extensions might be for a period of 10 years.

Am I asking for anything different from the customary procedure under the leasehold system? One great advantage is that at a definite period people owning property would know that the life of the property was coming to an end. In parts of a town where the leasehold system prevails, it will be found that rebuilding is taking place every 80 or 90 years, but, on the other hand, where the freehold system prevails, properties will be found standing which were built 150 and 200 years ago. The power to remove these slum areas is given to local authorities under the Housing Act of 1930.

It is not intended that existing property shall be affected. There is no intention of making any variations in existing contracts. It is only intended that it should apply to property which is built and which comes within an approved scheme under the Bill. Some may suggest that I want to give local authorities greater power, while all the time in Committee I have been opposing local authorities having greater power. I do not want to take a foolish view as to what powers I would give to a local authority, but I consider that it so essential that a local authority should have power to say whether a property is insanitary or otherwise. I put the Amendment forward, not in the interests of this generation, but in the interests of generations to come. We are faced at every turn in our cities with slum conditions. Let us see if we cannot, through the Bill, make it possible that the generations that are coming along will be able to have proper control and so prevent slum conditions arising within their generation.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I appreciate the motive which has inspired my hon. Friend, but I think on consideration it will be found, however much we may sympathise with the object of obtaining a better standard of housing in some areas, that this is hardly a practical way of furthering the object nor a very appropriate extension of the purposes of a Town Planning Bill. Since the Amendment is limited to houses built after the coming into force of the Act, it would be very much in the nature of a dead letter, as so much water would have run under the bridges before there could be any possible action.


Existing houses would be dealt with under the Housing Act, 1930.


That is the second point, which I was coming to, which is that we have a mass of specific legislation dealing with the improvement of slum areas, and further legislation on that subject ought to be considered in definite relation to existing legislation on slum areas. I do not think it would be appropriate, however much sympathy we may feel with my hon. Friend's purpose, to deal with the matter in a Town and Country Planning Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, an page 15, line 32, to leave out from the word "Sub-section" to the end of line 4, page 16.

In the Bill of last year there was no proviso to Clause 12, which is a very important Clause. This proviso was imposed by the Minister during Committee. It is a crippling Amendment, because it will undo the good which the Clause without the proviso ought to do. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will go back to the original draft.


The second thoughts which the right hon. Gentleman has invoked upon this matter do not lead me to doubt that the decision of the Committee to admit a right of appeal in this particular matter was a sensible decision. This is a matter of very intimate personal and private concern as it were. The interference with design or elevation of buildings is not a question of what I call general administrative policy of a sort which naturally comes for decision to the Minister of Health, or indeed to any executive officer. It would be more appropriate that the question affecting the external appearance of buildings, their relation to the neighbourhood and their effect upon the eyes of the public and the value of surrounding properties, that this difficult and entirely practical issue in relation to the neighbourhood, should be referred to another tribunal. And in accordance with the recent history of administration it has been found convenient and helpful to submit those issues for decision to a court of summary jurisdiction, that is, to local magistrates with an intimate knowledge of the district in question, or, where it is preferred, the tribunal fixed upon as the best tribunal to decide the question of the design and external nature of the building is to be something more in the nature of a committee of specialists, of architects and people of that sort with special knowledge on the subject. I think that further consideration confirms the view that on the matter of allowing the right of appeal upon an issue which is concerned with the liberty of the subject and is not a question of administrative policy but of purely local amenities, it is common sense, to allow it to be settled by special tribunals of the sort provided in the Bill. I cannot accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that the House will agree that there is a very strong case for the arrangement decided upon by the Committee.


I should not so much mind the tribunal constituted under the Clause, but does the right hon. Gentleman really think that a court of summary jurisdiction has any kind of standard of taste?


I confess that I have some of the Englishman's natural suspicion of tribunals of taste, that is, tribunals which are appointed with a single eye to considering questions of taste. I am rather inclined to think that magis- trates, with their deep insight into the conditions of the locality and their knowledge of the locality, whether they may be experts upon this matter or not, are the sort of persons to decide from the point of view of common sense what is good for the neighbourhood. At any rate, I confess that I have been very much influenced in this matter by finding that in many parts of the country there has been a voluntary and spontaneous turn in the direction of magistrates for decisions upon these questions. It is in answer to the popular demand to have these things decided by magistrates that we have made this provision.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 15, line 35, leave out the word "elevation" and insert instead thereof the words "external appearance."—[Mr. E. Brown.]


I beg to move, in page 16, line 21, to leave out the word "or."

Sub-section (3) to which the Amendment relates exempts certain classes of agricultural holdings unless the site of the building is reserved by the scheme for any purpose, the carrying out of which in the future would necessitate the removal or the alteration of the building.

The effect of this Amendment, which must be taken in conjunction with the other Amendments which will follow, is to add to the classes of exempted buildings buildings which are occupied in connection with an orchard, or for the purposes of a plantation or a wood, or for the growth of saleable underwood. The addition of some other classes of land to the Clause was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) and it is in consequence of an understanding reached in the Committee upon his suggestion that I move the insertion of the proposed words.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 16, line 22, after the word "ground," insert the words: or orchard, or for the purposes of a plantation or of a wood, or for the growth of saleable underwood."—[Mr. E. Brown.]

In page 16, line 22, leave out the word "agriculture," and insert instead there- of the words "any of those purposes." — [The Attorney-General.]