HC Deb 03 June 1932 vol 266 cc1516-27

I beg to move, in page 11, line 18, at the beginning, to insert the words: In any case where any person has duly objected to the approval of a scheme by the Minister, and within twenty-one days after the date of the Minister's decision on such objections has intimated to the Minister that the objections to the scheme are not withdrawn, the scheme as proposed to be approved by the Minister shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and shall not become operative unless both Houses by resolution approve the scheme, either without modification or addition, or with modifications or additions, to which both Houses agree, and subject as aforesaid. The scheme is the Bill is that, first of all, a resolution has to be passed by the local authority, then that a preliminary statement is issued by the local authority of what is proposed to be done, then a draft scheme has to be made, and ultimately the final scheme has to be made and approved. Throughout all these various stages the Minister is the sole person in control and his word is law. I do not object to that so far as the first three stages are concerned, but practically all the built up areas in the country are included, and practically all the rural areas except a very few in a few small portions of the country. The Bill covers the whole of the City of London. Questions of immense importance and of very large value are involved. It is too great a responsibility to put on one man, whoever he may be. The Minister has on the Paper a new first Schedule which carries out, as far as I can see, exactly what he promised to do in Committee. So far as is relevant for my purpose, the Bill provides that the Minister has to approve the scheme, on its merits as it were, and that there shall be power to put into it provisions suspending any Act of Parliament. Under the new First Schedule the Minister has set out that in any scheme involving the suspension of a Statute an affirmative resolution shall be obtained. He has realised the principle which has been very strongly emphasised, that an Act of Parliament passed by the House of Commons should only be repealed by legislation or by an act of the House of Commons itself.

He has further provided in the First Schedule that in all cases the scheme shall be laid upon the Table of the House and then, unless a Resolution is passed rejecting or annulling the scheme, it shall become law. The Amendment raises, therefore, the question of the difference between what is called the affirmative Resolution of the House and the negative Resolution. It is undoubtedly true that the negative Resolution of this House, as our Rules are at present constituted, is futile. A scheme is laid upon the Table of the House which means that a copy is put somewhere in the Library. It has to come on at Eleven o'clock at night. At that late hour a private Member who may be interested has to get a Resolution passed in order to annul the scheme. He has no means of informing the Members of the House of what the question really is however important it may be, and he has no means of getting Members to attend. He is talked out at half-past Eleven o'clock, and the whole thing is practically a farce as far as any protection of members of the public are concerned.

If, on the other hand, the Minister has to obtain an affirmative Resolution he has to get the House to agree to the scheme, and he has all the means at his disposal of securing the attendance of Members and of keeping the House together. The sole question really is to decide whether the matters involved are of sufficient importance that an affirmative Resolution ought to be secured for the protection of the individual. If hon. Members will carry back their minds to the days of Magna Charta they will remember that it was there provided that no man should be deprived of his liberty or dispossessed of his property except according to law.

Clause 47 of the Bill provides that every local authority of 20,000 inhabitants shall within two years set in motion the procedure of the Act and design and bring into operation a town planning scheme under the Act. The time may be extended at the option of the Minister. As I have already pointed out, the Minister is the sole person to decide all those schemes. The matter is decided in his office without hearing it argued. The Bill confers upon the Minister the powers which have hitherto only been granted by this House under private Bill procedure after investigations by Members of the House when all parties have been heard. After the Bill is passed no private Bills will be necessary for any town planning scheme of whatever magnitude it may be, as the procedure will rest entirely upon the provisions contained in the Act. The objector ought to have the right to have his case brought before Parliament if he so desired. I do not suggest that the procedure would be resorted to in a great many cases, but the advantage of such procedure would make the local authority more careful in the preparation and design of the scheme. It would make the Minister and his office more careful. It does not need a lawyer to say that the mere effect of an appeal makes the courts more careful in their action, and thereby the mere provision of the power of appeal makes, in numerous cases, an appeal absolutely unnecessary.

I suggest in my Amendment that an affirmative Resolution should be passed. A scheme would then come before the House, and, unless cause were shown for further investigation, it would be passed by the House as it stood, whereas the usual course which follows an Order under the Electricity or other Acts of Parliament when a prima facie case for further investigation has been made out, is for the case to be sent from the House to a Select Committee at a minimum of expense as far as Party procedure is concerned. I commend the matter to the Minister for further consideration. As a matter of constitutional practice, it is very desirable. I suggest to him and to the House that it would give much greater confidence to the public at large if there was this procedure in reserve to see that the Act was properly administered in the interests of the general public.


In supporting the Amendment, I appreciate that Ministers as a whole always possess a degree of perfection far greater than that of any ordinary private individual, but however great that perfection may be, even Ministers may be fallible. If even in one case out of 100 Ministers came down from their perfection to the common failures of humanity, then indeed some unfortunate objector might not receive justice. I suggest, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) has pointed out, that the affirmative Resolution is an easy and simple matter of dealing with this question. It will not mean a great deal of extra work upon Parliament. The whole experiments in regard to Special Orders under the gas and electricity Acts have shown that only upon a very few occasions has the procedure been necessary, but it does and will give a certain degree of public confidence and at; the same time vindicate to some degree also the sovereignty of Parliament over any departmental legislation whatever. So long as objectors can come before Parliament and so long as, under the affirmative Resolution, they are in a position once again to come before a Select Committee of the House to put their case when there is a substantial objection, so long will you have even greater confidence in the work of the Ministry in regard to Acts such the Town and the Country Planning Act. The whole thing boils down to the very marrow limits dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead, and I sincerely ask the Minister, in the interests of the public and of Parliament, to consider favourably the Amendment which has been moved.


This Amendment would certainly provide means of securing or protecting the rights of the individual as against that which the Minister earlier in the debate referred to as the complex of town planning authorities. That complex of town planning authorities is the partnership of the Minister of Health and the local authorities. Against that combination those individual interests are likely to be rather brusquely pushed no one side. In this Clause hon. Members will observe how differently the interests of the individuals are dealt with compared with the interests of one of the parties to the partnership. The Minister has complete and, if I may use the term, arbitrary powers under this Clause to approve of any scheme which the other party to the partnership may submit to him. The local authority will submit a scheme to him and the Minister will pass it or approve it, with or without modifications. Let hon. Members observe what follows. The Minister may approve it with modifications, but before he makes any modifications it is provided that he shall inform the local authority, the other partner, but no information whatever with regard to his modifications is to be given to the individual owners concerned. They are treated with very scant courtesy and little consideration.

The Clause further provides that the Minister shall cause a local inquiry to be held into the matter if the local authority requests him to do so. That is, if the other partnership to the complex of town planning authorities so requests him. It does not matter what request may come from the individual, the owners. To them is turned a deaf ear. They have no power of appeal. They have no rights. They receive no information. They cannot request a public inquiry or anything of the kind. That is left entirely to the local authority. Therefore, the dice is loaded very heavily against the individual landowner and in favour of the complex of planning authorities between the Minister of Health and the local authorities. The only possibility of securing a measure of justice to the individual and the owner is to secure a very much greater degree of publicity than is at present provided for. These hole and corner methods are most undesirable and will have unfortunate reflex actions in due course. The best that could possibly be done in the public interest would be to secure the fullest measure of publicity and the fullest opportunity for the representations of the individuals to be considered. By such means as the Amendment proposes some measure of that kind could be adopted.


I confess to a twinge of disappointment that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) has found it necessary to move this Amendment on the Report stage, because this matter was very fully discussed in Committee and the proposals that were then made by me were, I think, considered by nearly all the members of the Committee fully to meet the criticisms that were made. My hon. and learned Friend has, however, great historic knowledge and I know he feels very deeply on these matters. Therefore, he adheres to his individual opinion. The Amendment proposes that every scheme to which objection is taken—we know that in any scheme one always find objectors—shall be submitted to the procedure of an affirmative Resolution of the House of Commons. That would mean practically the introduction of a special legislative, step.


If notice is given.

1.30 p.m.


It would mean the adoption of a special legislative step. I am fully in agreement with the arguments advanced as to the necessity for obtaining the right of appeal and publicity for the aggrieved person, the objector, but that must be done without imposing upon the procedure and the time of the House of Commons an unnecessary burden. The effect of the Amendment could only be to encumber the procedure of the House of Commons with a large call upon its time which is not neecssary for the purpose which the hon. and learned Member has in view. What is my counter proposal, which I think commended itself to the general opinion of the Committee upstairs? It is that there is one set of conditions under which you ought to have an affirmative Resolution of the House of Commons, and that is where you are in any way affecting existing legislation. That which owes its authority to the House of Commons should only be affected by the authority of the House of Commons, and in recognition of that principle I have provided for an affirmative Resolution of the House of Commons where there is a question affecting the existing statutory law. Where there is no such question I propose to revert to the annulment procedure. The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) misconceives the situation. By the annulment procedure an opportunity is given to the objector to make his grievance known to the House of Commons, the single condition being that he thinks it worth while to come down to the House and make it known. That gives him ample opportunity and it is the businesslike way of dealing with the situation.

The annulment procedure under which an objector can, by having a Resolution moved, hold up a scheme is most useful. There was an annulment procedure in the old days, but it has slipped out of Acts of Parliament. In recognition of the strength of the case that has been made I am proposing to restore that procedure in an Act of Parliament. Let me point out that the annulment procedure is of a good deal more practical use at the present time than it was in the old days when it was abandoned, in the first place because, for good or for ill, people are so much better acquainted with the procedure, and in the second place there is a much higher degree of organisation of the interests concerned. By making use of the services of those organisations the individual objector in a practical way can use the annulment procedure to make good his rights and obtain a hearing for his case. For these reasons I hope the House will agree to what was the general opinion of the Committee and will not support the Amendment.


I regret the reply of the Minister of Health, which does not come as a great surprise, and I think the House would be well advised to consider carefully before adopting the course which the right hon. Gentleman suggests. We desire to increase a concession which was given by the Minister in Committee. We divided on the question then, and the right hon. Gentleman does himself less than justice in saying that this procedure recommended itself to the majority of the Committee because many hon. Members who are not well versed in the procedure of Parliament were swayed by the ingenuous and conciliatory manner in which he made the concession; which in our submission amounts to very little. There are two points of substance in connection with this Amendment. The first, and the more important, is whether it is advisable to proceed by affirmative or negative Resolution. The Minister of Health says that the negative procedure is becoming more and more useful and effective, but the fact remains that it is extremely difficult to get anything done under that procedure.

The hon. Member has not only to make himself acquainted with all the facts of the case and the circumstances of the locality and the intricate procedure involved, but he has also to get and keep a House after eleven o'clock, and then press his arguments on the Government in this sure and certain knowledge that when the Division bell rings the Government Whips will say the Government are Ayes or Noes and his protest will be entirely ineffective. Under the affirmative Resolution procedure it is true that he may not get very much farther, but it is for the Government to find time for the Resolution and to keep a House. We feel that the onus of opposing these schemes should not be upon the individual and that if Parliamentary sanction is to be given it should be given by the Government.

The second point of substance is this. Under the procedure we propose the question of Parliamentary sanction will only come up in the case of opposed schemes. The Minister of Health when he granted the concession made a great point of the fact that not only opposed schemes but all schemes would come before Parliament. That is directly contrary to our wishes. We feel strongly that it is eminently desirable to put a premium on agreed schemes, that is to say, that we do

not want opposed and unopposed schemes to be treated in the same way. We want it made more difficult for opposed schemes to take effect than unopposed schemes, and we want the procedure of affirmative Resolution to apply only to those schemes to which objection is taken.

If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept the affirmative Resolution procedure will he consider in another place applying this annulment procedure, which he believes is an adequate safeguard for people who object to a scheme, to opposed schemes only, so that if a local authority presents an agreed scheme it will not have to bring it before Parliament. This Bill can only work effectively if it is worked with the general sanction of all concerned, and every effort must be made to get local authorities to do everything in their power to get schemes through with the minimum of friction. I hope the House will accept this Amendment. If not, then I hope the right hon. Gentleman will by a manuscript amendment or by an amendment in another place take unopposed schemes out of this procedure Resolution in order that the greatest incentive may be given to local authorities to produce schemes which are unopposed.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided. Ayes, 25; Noes, 216.

Division No. 210.] AYES. [1.42 p.m.
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Hartington, Marquess of Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Kimball, Lawrence Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y) Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Moreing, Adrian C. Train, John
Chalmers, John Rutherford Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Craven-Ellis, William Perkins, Walter R. D. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Reid, David D. (County Down)
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Remer, John R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sir Henry Cautley and Mr. Raikes.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Cooke, Douglas
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Broadbent, Colonel John Copeland, Ida
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Brockiebank, C. E. R. Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.) Brown, Ernest (Leith) Cove, William G.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Buchan, John Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry
Aske, Sir Robert William Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Cranborne, Viscount
Atholl, Duchess of Burnett, John George Cripps, Sir Stafford
Attlee, Clement Richard Butler, Richard Austen Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cadogan, Hon. Edward Crossley, A. C.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard
Balniel, Lord Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley) Daggar, George
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.(Birm., W) Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Chotzner, Alfred James Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Clayton, Dr. George C. Dickie, John P.
Boulton, W. W. Cocks, Frederick Seymour Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Conant, R. J. E. Eden, Robert Anthony
Edwards, Charles Leech, Dr. J. W. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Runge, Norah Cecil
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Liddall, Walter S. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Lindsay, Noel Ker Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Rutherford, Sir John Hugo
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Fool, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Loder, Captain J. de Vere Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Fox, Sir Clifford Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Fraser, Captain Ian Lymington, Viscount Savery, Samuel Servington
Fremantle, Sir Francis Mabane, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Fuller, Captain A. G. McCorquodale, M. S. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Ganzoni, Sir John McEntee, Valentine L. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John McKie, John Hamilton Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Gluckstein, Louis Halle McLean, Major Alan Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Goff, Sir Park Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Corn'll N.) Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Skelton, Archibald Noel
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Magnay, Thomas Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Maitland, Adam Smithers, Waldron
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Somervell, Donald Bradley
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Grimston, R. V. Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Steel-Maitland. Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Groves, Thomas E. Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Stones, James
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Strickland, Captain W. F.
Hail, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Ztl'nd) Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw- Summersby, Charles H.
Hanley, Dennis A. Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Sutcliffe, Harold
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale Tate, Mavis Constance
Harris, Sir Percy Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Hartland, George A. Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Muirhead, Major A. J. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Munro, Patrick Thorne, William James
Hirst, George Henry Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Tinker, John Joseph
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Hornby, Frank Nunn, William Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Horobin, Ian M. Palmer, Francis Noel Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Horsbrugh, Florence Penny, Sir George Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Howard, Tom Forrest Patherick, M. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Pickering, Ernest H. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Potter, John Warrenoer, Sir Victor A. G.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Procter, Major Henry Adam Wells, Sydney Richard
Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Weymouth, Viscount
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Jenkins, Sir William Ramsbotham, Herwald Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
John, William Ramsden, E. Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)
Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Rankin, Robert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Ratcliffe, Arthur Wills, Wilfrid D.
Ker, J. Campbell Rathbone, Eleanor Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Kerr, Hamilton W. Rea, Walter Russell Worthington, Dr. John V.
Kirkpatrick, William M. Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Knebworth, Viscount Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Robinson, John Roland Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Ropner Colonel L. Sir Murdoch McKenzie Wood.
Lawson, John James Rosbotham, S. T.

I beg to move, in page 11, line 19, after the word "to", to insert the words: the laying of schemes before Parliament. This Amendment prepares the way for the new Schedule which the Minister proposes to move in lieu of Schedule I. The issue concerned is the laying of schemes before Parliament in particular cases, and the cases referred to are those where Acts are suspended.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 11, line 22, to leave out the words "or revoked", and to insert instead thereof the words: otherwise than by way of extension of the area to which the scheme applies, or may be revoked. This is an Amendment whereby it is proposed to make clear that a varying scheme cannot extend the area of the scheme which it varies.


Are we to understand that the effect of the Amendment is to make it impossible to vary by a subsequent scheme the area included in a scheme? I do not think that that can really be the intention, for that would be a very serious matter indeed.


I have been misunderstood. The point is that the principle has been introduced into the Bill that the preparation of a supplementary scheme, that is a scheme for any land comprised in the area of a regional scheme, does not give rise to this procedure.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 11, line 25, to leave out the word "and," and to insert "(4)".

This is merely a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.