HC Deb 06 June 1932 vol 266 cc1710-35

I beg to move, in page 60, line 15, to leave out the word "thirty-three," and to insert instead thereof the words: thirty-six, or such other date as may be fixed by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. It is proposed that the Bill shall come into operation on 1st April next, and the object of my Amendment is to defer its coming into operation until 1st April, 1936, or such other date as may be fixed by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. I invite every Member except those who are fanatical town planners to support me in this Amendment, on the sole ground of economy, because this is the very last time at which we ought to harass ratepayers, put an expenditure on every occupier of houses or land and introduce a system which can only bring about a big accession of work to lawyers. Under Clause 47 every local authority in a district with 20,000 inhabitants is required to bring in and pass within the next two years a scheme under this Bill. I am not aware of the number of such local authorities in England and Scotland, but I should say at a rough guess there would be about 1,000 or 1,500, and I ask the House to consider the labour and expense in which they will be involved in the preparation and passing of these schemes. The Minister has told us that he does not expect that there will be a great increase of expenditure in his Department. I do not know on what he bases that opinion. Though I have not counted the number of times his name is mentioned in the Bill, yet every matter in dispute—and they will be innumerable—is to be referred to him for decision; numbers of local inquiries have to be held; and I cannot but think there will have to be a big accession of strength to his Department, and that it will cause a great increase of expenditure. When I consider the work entailed on local autho- rities, and the expenditure to which every occupier of land or houses will be put to ascertain his rights under a Bill which is absolutely unintelligible even to the most skilled lawyers, I shudder to think of the irritation and hardship which will be created, and this at a time when the country is crying out for economy. Only the other night we saw hon. Members, on a question of saving a mere bagatelle of £200,000, led away into voting against their own Government in the interests of what they professed was economy.

The trouble which I have experienced in great measure in connection with this Bill, both in Committee and in the House, is that very few hon. Members know what it contains. The propaganda in its favour has been extraordinarily well done. It has been represented outside, because I hear it all over my own division, that this is a Bill to prevent the dotting of the countryside with little bungalows with red roofs, and to prevent ribbon development along the main roads out of cur big towns. If those had been its only two objects the Bill would have met with universal approval, but, as a matter of fact, not one in 100 persons has the slightest idea of the terms of this Measure. I would point out that if my Amendment were accepted the 1925 Act would still remain in operation, and under that Act there are still ample powers to town plan the whole of the undeveloped areas in the country. What the insatiable fanatics who are urging the passing of this Measure insist upon is that the whole of the built-up areas should also become subject to town planning, as they do under the terms of this Bill

What are the first matters which strike those who do know what will happen when a town planning scheme is suggested in a locality? There is a prospect of every occupier and every owner being subjected to a betterment tax. The local authorities will have to get some of their expenditure back, and a tax is to be put on owners and occupiers—or is likely to be. That will happen in our biggest cities—London and all our other big towns, with all the valuable buildings they contain. Next we have to consider the powers which are given under the Bill. I am not going to trouble the House with too long a recital of them, but the, misfortune, as I say again, is that I dare venture to assert that there are 400 Members of this House who have never read this Bill at all. They come in from the Smoking Boom and from outside, and, without having heard a word of the discussion and without even having read the Bill, and not knowing what has been happening, they give their votes in Divisions. Although the Minister smiles I challenge him to deny that. The main work to be done under the Bill is laid down in Clauses 11 and 12. One Sub-section of Clause 11 says a scheme shall contain, such provisions as are necessary or expedient for prohibiting or regulating the development of land in the area to which the scheme applies. It can stop building, it can stop development, or it can regulate building or regulate development. It goes on— and in particular for dealing with any of the matters mentioned in the Second Schedule to this Act. When we look at the Second Schedule we find that it deals with every form of use to which land, buildings, or woods can be put. Paragraph 1 deals with streets, roads and other ways: 2 deals with buildings, structures and erections; 3 deals with open spaces, private and public; 4 deals with the reservation of land as sites for aerodromes; 5 deals with preservation of trees and woodlands; 6 deals with prohibition, regulation and control of the deposit of waste material and refuse; 7 deals with sewerage, drainage, sewage disposal; 8 deals with lighting; 9 deals with water supply; 10 deals with ancillary or consequential works. I am not going to read them all. There is the disposal of land to the responsible authority; power of entry and inspection; extension or variation of rights of way and other easements. Then under Clause 12, so far as buildings are concerned, there is a provision prescribing a space about buildings, limiting the number of buildings, regulating or enabling the responsible authority to regulate the size, height, design and elevation of buildings, and the materials to be used in their construction. Then it proceeds to impose restrictions upon the manner in which buildings may be used including, in the case of dwelling-houses, the letting thereof in separate tenements. There are other matters to which I will not refer. I think that I am right in what I have put before the House. The Clause deals not only with buildings to be erected, but with built-up areas as they are now, and it regulates the use of existing buildings. You can go down to the City of London and find that it regulates the streets in the City in such a way that industries there can no longer be carried on.

Everybody, occupier, trader, ratepayer, owner are going to be troubled in this way to see what they have to do. No sooner does a town planning scheme start, and a voice is heard that a resolution is to be passed, than every single person concerned has to consult his solicitor to see how he stands under this Bill. I defy anybody in this House, except one who has followed the whole Measure through the Committee stage, to understand what the rights of any individual are under the Bill. Therefore, for the safety o:: his own position and to avoid the risk of this tax on betterment which may run the owner into an enormous sum, to avoid the risk of being turned out from the use and occupation of property which he has held for years, he has to decide whether his land is to be described as an open space and kept as an open space, or as agricultural land, or is to be allotted for trade or other buildings, and on all these questions he has to consult his legal adviser which means cost and expense for everybody.

I have carefully avoided saying one word about the merits of this Bill, or its desirability. What I do say is that at this time it is a shocking thing to put it into operation. It is not for me to exaggerate the state in which the country finds itself. Taxation has never been higher and rates have never been higher. Both by national and local authorities people are being ground down at a time when their income and their employment are being diminished, and we are in process of decay. I do not want to be an alarmist, but who will say that we are not likely to be called back again next October to devise some scheme for raising further money and further taxation to meet our current expenses? It is quite likely. Will anybody say that there are any real signs of the improvement of trade? Would anybody be bold enough to say that he believes in his heart that the Budget Estimates will be realised? This is the time that a National Government, pledged to economy and to keep trade and industry going, and pledged to pay our way, has chosen to bring into operation this Bill, with its extended expenditure and its extended annoyance and trouble. I have said shortly what I feel deeply. I have not opposed this Measure. I do oppose its coming into operation at this inopportune time. I hope I am wrong in my views, but we have still a long way to go to get out of the financial morass in which we find ourselves. The words of my Amendment give ample opportunity, in a very short time, to bring this Bill into operation, because the words that I would insert are the 1st April, 1936, or such other date as may be fixed by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. That practically means that the Government may choose to say, when there is a brighter prospect that trade is improving, that a resolution shall be passed by the House of Commons and in the other place in a very short time. In putting this Amendment before the House, I am doing so as a matter of common business and common-sense.


I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so, I desire to add my plea to that which was so ably put by my hon. and learned Friend in proposing the Amendment. Such Amendments sometimes appear on the Order Paper as purely wrecking Amendments, but I wish to assure the Minister that there is no such intention as far as this Amendment is concerned. I am not one of those people who preface their speeches by saying that "I like the principle of the Bill." I do not. I hate it. This Amendment is not put forward in any sense as attacking the principle of the Bill. It might be the best Bill in the world, but I should still support this Amendment in view of the fact that the Bill imposes at the present time a charge upon local authorities. There is no getting away from that fact whatever. The Minister says that it is not going to impose very big charges on his Department. That may be so. I do not want to seem to think I doubt it, but there is no question whatever that it is going to impose a considerable charge upon local authorities. I know of a town-planning scheme under the 1925 Act that has just gone through at a cost of £3,000. Some are more expensive and some are less expensive, but so far as I have been able to ascertain the average is about £1000 a time. There are 1,700 local authorities in the country. How many more will be urged or compelled under this Measure to prepare schemes? I have not been able to ascertain. There is no question about it that the direct expenditure imposed upon local authorities by this Measure will be at the very lowest computation £100,000, and I believe that it will be very much nearer ten times that sum. That is to say nothing of the personal expenditure entailed, as has been pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend, upon those who have to contest these matters upon one side or the other, or to deal with local authorities, to consult maps and reports, to consult legal advisers, and go into the whole question; and it is well for the House to remember that, under this very complicated Measure, there will be many cases which will have to be fought through various stages in the courts before the final interpretation of the meaning of the Act can be ascertained.

That is a charge which we are imposing on the country at a time when, in every speech made by every responsible Minister, we are told that we are tottering on the verge of financial instability, that public and private economy is essential, that the balancing of the Budget is a question that is trembling from day to day. When on every side we are warned that we have been overspending our income, that our income is dropping, and that we must drop our expenditure to meet it; when we have cut the social services, teachers, police, civil servants, and the unemployed—as I believe, rightly—how can we look these people in the face if we impose now an expenditure the extent of which we do not know for town planning? I do not want to put the case too strongly, but however strongly I put it I could not put it as strongly as I feel. It is flying in the face of every pledge that we gave when we were elected, of everything that we stood for in the eyes of the country. We are here to reduce our expenditure; we are here as a Government of economy—


Hear, hear!


The Minister says "Hear, hear!" and yet he proceeds with this Bill, which must impose expenditure upon the local authorities; I defy anyone to prove that that is not so. I do not want to keep the House any longer, but I put forward this plea. Let us assume for the purposes of this Amendment what I do not believe to be the case, namely, that this is a good Bill. Let us assume that the expenditure under it will be money well spent, and that it is in the interest of the country that this work shall be done in this particular way by these particular people. On that assumption I ask the House to say that, as this is no time for imposing further expenditure on local authorities, it will pass this Amendment now, and that, when the prosperity for which we all hope dawns, when the time comes when it is possible for us to increase our expenditure, the Bill shall be put into force. We do not want to impose upon Parliament the task of going through all these matters again. Some of us, like my Noble Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) and myself, have been through two Second Readings and two Committee stages. Let us say that we will put the Bill on the Statute Book, but that, in exactly the same way as the Land Value Tax is under suspension, we will put it under suspension, as a hope, and in some cases a wish, to be produced when better times come. I appeal to the House to say perfectly, definitely that we cannot at this time impose more expenditure on local authorities, to say that it will postpone this Measure to happier days and support the Amendment.


My hon. and learned Friend who moved this Amendment based part of his argument upon the circumstance, which he assumed, that there were some 400 Members of the House of Commons who took no interest in this Bill—


And have never read it.

10.0 p.m.


Let me assure him that that is not my impression. On the contrary, the impression that I have received has been that there has hardly ever been a Bill in which so many Members of the House of Commons took such a lively and active interest. [Interruption.] I hear something in the nature of what I might call a humorous appreciation from some of my hon. Friends behind me. Let me say that the hon. Members who laugh have no such information as I have, from the number of private communications which I have received on the subject of this Bill and the number of private difficulties that I have removed. The speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment were very powerful Second Reading speeches against the Bill. They proceeded from Members who have never concealed the fact that they were opposed to the Bill, but who will, perhaps, forgive me if, on this occasion and on this Amendment, I do not detain the House with a general reestablishment of the principles of the Bill, which, after all, were established by the House of Commons when it gave the Bill an unopposed Second Reading. One argument has however, emerged on this occasion with which, no doubt, I ought to deal. Let me concede to my hon. and learned Friend who moved the Amendment that there might be some Measure which it was right to pass, but which was of a luxury nature, and which it would only be right to pass if there were a superfluous sum of money available for the purpose. In that case it might be proper to adopt the course which he recommends to-day—to accept the principle and to suspend the operation of the Measure until that sum of money was available. I will concede to my hon. and learned Friend that it is possible that there might be such circumstances, but I suggest to the House today that the conditions in which we are dealing with this Bill have no resemblance of any sort or kind to those conditions, and the House showed its appreciation of that fact when it adopted the Bill on Second Reading. This is not a piece of luxury expenditure; it is a piece of essential economy for making the best of the assets of the county. [Interruption.] That is a fact which has never been adequately apprehended by those Members who, taking a short-sighted, limited view, have opposed this Bill.

What are the conditions of our country to-day? Here is a great nation, far down the course of the history of its development, with a population crowded upon a small area. Does it not suggest itself as obvious to my hon. Friends that in these conditions, with the rapid growth of the density of population, we must, as the density of population increases, take more and more care and forethought to plan ahead, to think out how we are going to adapt our areas to the necessities of the population? It is not as though we were living in a prairie country, where everyone could go his own way as he pleased. As the density of population increases, we must increase our forethought and design in. order to make the best of the assets which are at the disposal of the population. I believe most sincerely that there is no lesson that we must more earnestly take to heart at the present time than the lesson that, in order to maintain our place in competition with the bitter and intense rivalry of foreign nations, we must exercise to its utmost every capacity of intelligence that we possess to think out what we are going to do ahead, and make the best of the assets of the country for the purpose of the productivity of wealth in the country.

That is the general design of the Bill; that is the principle which underlies it. We shall waste our assets if we do not plan ahead, if we allow residential areas and industrial areas to be chucked down higgledy-piggledy without the slightest attention to their position. We shall waste our assets, and we shall not make the best of the total wealth of the country, not as a kind of general abstraction, but for each individual in the country, whether he be a capitalist, a wage-earner, a landowner, a tenant, or a mere workman who rents his house on a weekly wage. That is what we desire to do. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment asked how we should look them in the face if we called upon them to impose unnecessary charges. I would rather say this. How will the National Government dare to look the nation in the face if it refrains from taking every possible measure that it can take to get the greatest possible value out of the country by planning and by increasing the capital assets of the country to their greatest possible extent, and obtaining for the benefit and enjoyment of the country the greatest possible increment. That is the general purpose of the Bill. It is a direct and urgent necessity in the interests of economy. The cost of planning will be repaid, as they have been in the past over and over again, by actual and definite increase in value. So far from this being a matter for postponement, it is a matter which, in view of the urgent financial necessities of the country, we shall have no lack of sense of proportion in putting quite high up in the programme of national economy.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

I should like to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) on having extracted from the Minister his Third Reading speech. I hope he and I will be able to concoct new ones by to-morrow. I had an Amendment at an earlier stage to change the date of the operation of the Bill, and I believe, if my right hon. Friend had been able to accept it, it would have done one thing that he wants to do and which he has in his mind, the restoration of something of the old England of the past. He hates your modern motor cars, big arterial roads and motor omnibuses. He hankers for the old England of some hundreds of years ago. I wished to insert the old-fashioned English phrase All Fools Day instead of 1st April, but that has gone by the board. I believe that the postponement of the operation of the Bill for three years would do two things. It would avoid, at a period of acute crisis, inflicting a fresh burden on over-burdened taxpayers and ratepayers, and it would give those local authorities who are charged with the responsibility of carrying out the Bill if and when it becomes an Act a chance of carrying out their duties properly and efficiently. During the whole of the six and a-half hours that we have been debating the Bill to-day only two Members have spoken in support of it. They have been the Socialist ex-Solicitor-General and the Socialist ex-Minister of Health.


I beg the Noble Lord's pardon. I supported an Amendment that he supported himself.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. He did not support an Amendment that I supported. He supported an Amendment which one of my friends supported. He did not support any Amendment in favour of which I spoke or to which my name appears on the Paper. Not one Member on this side of the House has said a single word during the Debate in favour of the Bill.


We are so satisfied with the Minister.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

My recently ennobled Friend has not been here during very much of our discussions to-day. He says he is satisfied with town planning.


I said we are.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

He speaks for himself and other town planners. I would most urgently commend to his attention a letter in the "Times" from the President of an Association of which he is a member—the Town Planning Association. The letter enjoins upon Members of the House to support the Bill. It was couched in language which I cannot too strongly condemn, language which I can only describe as impudent and contumacious. He enjoined hon. Members to cease their clamour, and I would urgently recommend my hon. Friend to obey the advice of the President of that Association. The question we are discussing is whether the Bill should come into operation in 1933 or 1936.

I would ask hon. Members to consider the new duties that are imposed on local authorities by the Bill. It imposes on local authorities, or, to use my right hon. Friend's phrase, on complexes of local authorities, various new duties. It will impose on them the duty of having the care of every building possessing features of artistic, historical or architectural interest in their area. It will impose on them the duty of seeing that all forestry operations within their area are carried out efficiently and properly and with due regard to the principles of good forestry. Those two duties alone will entail upon each authority, or complex of authorities, the employment of new officials. It is clearly impossible for the ordinary rural or urban district council to decide what improvements should or should not be carried out to houses possessing features of artistic or historical interest. It is clear that some further authority will have to be sought, some further advice will have to be taken, as to whether repairs should or should not be carried out. It is clear that local authorities cannot carry out these duties without employing or having the advice of a new staff. The same applies with regard to forestry operations.

Again, it will be the duty of local authorities to prescribe every detail about every house that is built in England. It will prescribe the site, the size, the height, she design, the external appearance and the material of which such houses are to be built. No one can maintain that that duty can be carried out without the employment of considerable additional staff. The Bill goes on to provide that in every detail of these new duties the local authority, or the complexes of local authorities, shall consult the Minister of Health, who again can hardly avoid employing considerable additional staff to deal with his new duties. It goes further than that. It provides that, where forestry is concerned, the local authorities shall correspond with the Forestry Commissioners. Where buildings possessing historical, architectural or artistic features are concerned the local authority shall correspond, through the Minister, with the Commissioners of Works, and in other cases the local authorities shall correspond with the Minister of Transport.

There is provision in the Bill for an enormous increase of the work of the bureaucracy which, by common consent, always weights so heavily upon the taxpayers and ratepayers. If there is one subject upon which, I believe, there is common agreement, it is that we are, on the whole, over-governed rather than under-governed at the present time. The Bill provides for an enormous extension of the principle of government, through the local authorities, from Whitehall. There is no need for me to deal with the merits of the Bill. The Bill may be good or it may be bad, but the fact that only private Members and hon. Members opposite have spoken in its favour may go some way to show that it is not such a good Bill as all that.


May I ask my hon. Friend to remember that in regard to the application of the Bill to Scotland, no fewer than three hon. Members from Scotland spoke in favour of the Bill?

Marquess of HARTINGTON

My hon. Friend may be correct, but I was dealing with the Bill as it applied to England. In regard to England, not one English Member, with the exception of two hon. Members who piloted the Bill through Committee last year, has spoken in favour of it. The House ought to consider very carefully indeed whether it is prepared, at a time when economy, by common consent, is most urgent, when it is agreed that the machinery of government weights unduly heavily upon the productive trades, and when rates and taxes are taking too large a share of the national income, to impose what must be a heavy additional charge and duty upon every local authority, upon the Ministry of Health, and upon centralised government in Whitehall. I believe that if we pass the Bill we shall regret it very bitterly. My right hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill was interested primarily in one aspect of it, namely, in preserving the amenities of rural England. No doubt we all remember the Bill which he, as a private Member, introduced one Friday afternoon. That is his interest in the Bill.


The Noble Lord's remarks are really an argument against the whole Bill and the Amendment only deals with the postponement of the coming into operation of the Act.

Marquess of HARTINGTON

My argument is directed towards showing that the Bill will impose a heavy charge upon the taxpayers and the ratepayers. It will impose heavy new duties upon them which they will hardly be able to assume, and for that reason—that they will require additional finance, and more than one year in order to assume those new duties adequately—I think that four years' notice is the least period in which they can really be prepared to take on the very heavy duties which are to be imposed upon them by the Bill. I do not argue that the interests of my right hon. Friend in the Bill is largely directed towards the aspect of the preservation of amenities. That is a Third Reading point which I will not develop. I believe that in the long run neither individual local authorities, nor even the "complex of local authorities" will be found very competent in preserving England. Be that as it may, a heavy new charge will be imposed, and heavy additional duties, which cannot adequately be assumed within the period mentioned. I support the Amendment.


Not being, as far as I know, one of the gallant 400 expressing any great enthusiasm for the Bill, may I press the Front Government Bench to give some reply to questions which have been put by the seconder of the Amendment in regard to the cost of the Bill? I heard the admirable homily of the Minister of Health, punctuated so loyally and dutifully by the "Hear, hears!"of the Parliamentary Secretary. He completely ignored the questions which were addressed to him. I am sorry if I have offended the Parliamentary Secretary.


I am not offended; I am amused. It is. certainly up to me to support my Minister, just as it is up to those who support the National Government to support the National Government.


All I can say is that that observation ought to be addressed to some hon. Members who are nearer to the hon. Member than I am. For my part, we are not amused. I was trying to direct the attention of the House to the very vital question of cost. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment threw out some figures. I do not know whether he is right, but, knowing him, I expect that he is right. I have no idea from my personal knowledge whether the figures he gave are anything like a correct estimate, but before we definitely agree that this Bill is to come into effect next year I should like to know whether the estimate is anything like correct. The Minister of Health made a very nice, charming speech, a sort of five-year plan; the kind of thing I have no doubt that was said when the Soviet Government introduced their measure in Russia. There was no estimate of cost. I do not suppose that there was any estimate of cost in the Russian case. There are still people in this country, they may be old-fashioned, who agree that the less this House legislates the better, and that if we could only direct our attention to administrative economies we should be fulfilling our duties to the National Government, which the Parliamentary Secretary has so much at heart, just as I have, better than by passing so much legislation.

The principal merit of this Amendment, which the Mover and Seconder did not stress, lies in the second part of it. I do not suppose they care about 1936 any more than I do, except that I suppose it is a sort of general principle in politics that if you are going to do the electorate a good turn it is a good thing to do it just before the election. If, therefore, this Bill is really a marvellous effort on the part of the Government, let us keep it until just before the election and go to the electorate and say: "This is what we have done for you." If that is not the case I wash out 1936 and I call attention to the second part of the Amendment, which says: or such other date as may be fixed by a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. That seems to me the point of the Amendment. I do not care about 1936, but I do think that, in the critical times through which we are going, if this Bill is going to cost money we should scrutinise it very carefully. Every Measure that comes before this Parliament, however long it may last, should be judged primarily by that criterion. I think I have said that before this Session, and I suppose I shall have occasion to say it again if I am lucky enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. The Minister did not answer that point. Let us accept the Amendment that the Bill should become an Act of Parliament by Resolution of both Houses. No one knows what the coming months hold in store for us. No one would be so rash as to make any prophecy about that. There is a great deal to be said for the idea, after the Committee and the House have gone through this large Measure and have come to some sort of agreement about the details, that as soon as it is suitable, as soon as the Chancellor of the Exchequer can say, "Go ahead, everything is clear along the line; the money is there, carry on with the good work," the House should have one last opportunity of passing a Resolution saying: "The moment has come." Everybody knows that there are many points in the Bill which are highly desirable and some people—not everybody—know that there are points in it which are not so good, like the curate's egg. Therefore, let us hold on to the Bill as long as we can. If local authorities will have to find money to put it into effect let us hold our hands and accept the Amendment which says that it shall not come into force until a Resolution has been passed approving it when the appropriate moment comes.


I do not propose to interfere in the painful altercation between the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health and the hon. and gallant Member whose remark suggests that the is a successor to Queen Victoria, nor to participate in the fateful scene between a member of the new nobility and a member of the old nobility, the representative of the ancient monuments of West Derbyshire, but to confine myself to the Amendment. May I give the House two specific instances to show that the Bill is justified purely on the ground of expense? There is within my own knowledge at least two cases where local authorities are at this moment in the almost incredible position of having to find powers and money for slum clearances upon areas upon which every building has been erected since the War. The first is the case of an area which has been allowed to be developed in a way BO incredibly bad that the sanitary conditions are now intolerable, and although there is not a single House there which was in existence before the War, slum clearance has had to be invoked in order to clear the site. It is not an unfair extension of the idea of economy to say that if that is the condition under which a good deal of England is now being developed, the sooner it is stopped the better, purely on the grounds of economy.

The other case is of a rather different nature, but in some ways even more striking. I refer to recent events which have occurred near the town of Doncaster. It will hardly be believed that that unfortunate authority is actually, so I am informed, in this difficult situation. A local building contractor was endeavouring to build houses upon certain land in the neighbourhood. The authority told the man that the land was subject to flooding, and endeavoured to prevent him from building. He objected, and tried to discover whether there were any existing bylaws which would enable him to build. He got into correspondence with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry had to inform him that the by-laws of the authority were not sufficient to prevent that development. If it were not the lucky case that that particular piece of land is now under water there is probably no way, without town planning powers of Borne sort or another, in which that authority could have prevented that development. I do not know the precise cost upon the particular locality, but it is sufficient for me to know that that kind of situation can and does arise.

10.30 p.m.

I will not weary the House with instances of the same sort, but purely on the ground of saving money this Bill is abundantly justified. If it had been passed years ago we should have saved money, and every year it is put off we are wasting money. On these grounds alone, without bringing in all the disgracefully sentimental grounds of which Members have thought it necessary to talk, without giving way to any of those foolish, unnatural, and disgraceful emotions of sympathy with the beauty of the countryside, but on the pure ground of £ s. d., of saving money, I suggest that the Bill is urgently needed, and I sincerely hope that the Amendment, if pressed to a Division, will meet with the reception that it abundantly deserves.


I am rather surprised to hear my hon. Friend who has just spoken advancing as one of the reasons for the passage of the Bill a reference to recent flooding in certain areas. I ask, how comes it that in the Doncaster area a new housing estate happened to be constituted in a zone which has been under water for weeks, a zone which the authority ought to have known would be under water when the estate was developed? That is one of the instances of the kind of thing we get from the kind of authorities who will administer this Bill. It is one of the strongest possible reasons for objecting to this legislation coming into force now that the country is hard put to it to economise in every possible way. So far from the Bill being likely to lead to economies in flooded areas, or in any other areas, it is one of those Measures which will add one more burden on local authorities and make one more call on the national Exchequer, and I hope that the House will postpone it to a more propitious time.


I ask the Minister to give a reply to the questions that have been put to him. The hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin) as usual was helpful in this Debate. He referred to a slum area which had been developed since the War. I would like to know whether the plans for the houses on that estate were passed by any authority, whether the authority took the trouble to have a planning committee or took the trouble to enforce any of the model by-laws which they could perfectly well have adopted?


The difficulty in this case, as should be well known to the hon. and gallant Member, is that you are not allowed to plan until the development is right on top of you, which is the present law. The development takes place before your plan is there. The whole point about our attempt in this Bill, partly hamstrung by the Minister under pressure from those like the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, is that we want to get a plan done in time. If you have to wait until the development of an area is seriously compromised these things will happen.


This is not a question of general development or plan; it is a question of new houses being built by individual builders. If a local authority is so completely idle or incompetent that it is not prepared to pass the necessary by-laws to enforce necessary sanitary conditions, which it can do under the existing law, what hope have we if we hand the whole country over to their care at such a time as the present? The Minister spoke about the Second Reading Debate, and mentioned that the Bill passed unopposed. The Parliamentary Secretary gave him an apt reply by referring to party loyalty. Loyalty is real on this side, and we do support the Government on their main propositions. It was for that reason that the Second Reading went through without a Division, not because we were in any hurry to have a Bill enforced on 1st April next year.

In his remarks the Minister spoke about the rapid growth of industry, the proper disposal of our assets, the mobilisation of the whole of our intelligence. I ask him as a confirmed individualist, as I know he is, whether he thinks that the best industrial intelligence of this country is to be found among the industrialists or among the town planners. Within the last few months we have had a tremendous fiscal change in this country. We have reversed the policy which was in force for 80 years. Who is to say what repercussions that change is going to have on development in this country? In a few months the Minister, I hope, and other Ministers are going to Ottawa to discuss further great Imperial developments. Who is to say what repercussions those developments may have in this country? Are we now in this year of grace to tie ourselves to this town planning Measure, or are we going to put ourselves and our industries in the hands of the industrialists and allow them, on their own initiative, to decide where they are going to put their factories? The factories are sufficiently governed by Factory Acts—


Surely this has nothing to do with the Amendment?


The hon. and gallant Member's argument does not appear to be directed towards the issue raised in the Amendment but against the Bill as a whole.


With great respect, Sir, I think the argument that we have just reversed our fiscal policy and are about to have a conference which may result in tremendous Imperial changes is definitely relevant to the question of the postponement of this Bill. I am not speaking against the general principle of the Bill. What I am arguing is that at a time of industrial and commercial change it is far better to leave development, properly controlled as it is at present, in the hands of industrialists and commercial houses, rather than to hand it over to the town planners who may well mar all that progress which we hope the Government are going to make possible in this country.


I beg of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench to give an answer to the question which has been addressed to them, because those of us who are engaged in the work of local government are profoundly disturbed and are in a difficulty to know what we should do to-night. We believe that the town, planning of built-up areas is essential. I do not think we believe that it is so essential that it ought to be done all in a moment, but, if the Act which was so useful in regard to undeveloped areas was a success, we believe that town planning must at some time or other be extended to built-up areas. What I am afraid of is that lest in this time of great difficulty burdens should be added to the local authorities which they are unable to carry without disturbing existing services.

For years, under the guidance of this House, we have been developing public health and education and other services of that kind which everyone regards as essential. In order to meet the difficulties with which the House has been faced during the last year, we have had to make extraordinary departures in the administration of those services, and I am convinced that in the next year the House will ask us to deal still further with those services. Is it right that established services should be diminished in value, while at the same time we should be asked to add to our administrative expenditure by a new Measure? If those in charge of the Bill can assure us that the increase of expenditure involved is to be infinitesimal, one will not mind; but I recognise that we have already cut services to a considerable extent, and I believe that we shall be asked to cut them still further. I put it to the House that it will be difficult to justify a diminution in the efficiency—if you like to put it that way—of certain services already established if at the same time we are to be asked to add to our administrative expenditure. That is why I beg that we can get some assurance from those in charge of the Bill in that direction.


By permission of the House. The hon. Member who spoke behind me appealed to me to answer the questions that have arisen in the Debate on this Amendment. It is apparent that the only question that has arisen which needs a specific answer is that of economy. Some hon. Members I think did not hear what I had to say on the general aspect of economy when I first replied. Then I dealt with the general aspect, pointing out that this is not a Bill to incur luxury expenditure. It is a Bill for a profitable investment, by which, by a very small charge for administrative expenditure, a very great work can be done to conserve the assets of the country. I must not repeat that argument, but let me deal rather with that aspect of the question to which attention has been called by the hon. Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray), who speaks with so much authority on all matters that concern the government of the county of London, and who speaks, I may add, on behalf of an authority which has been in the forefront in pressing for the extension of the powers contained in this Bill.

If I understand the hon. Member and he has expressed the general feeling of the House, apprehension is felt lest, by any action on the part of the Ministry or any automatic action resulting from this Measure, unnecessary expenditure should be enforced upon local authorities. Let me make it as clear as I possibly can that, in the first place, it would be totally contrary to the policy of the Government to enforce any policy of the sort which was not economic and which was not almost certain of earning a return. On the contrary, at the present time our effort, our policy, is directly pointed towards economy of local expenditure, as of national expenditure.

Is there anything in this Bill which will entail the expenditure of unnecessary sums by local authorities in the nature of luxury expenditure? No, it is quite clear that there is not. In the first place, it is difficult, of course, to convince the House of this by definite figures, because it is so much a matter of administrative experience and not actually of positive statistics that can be given. But, as a matter of administrative experience, the cost involved in planning schemes is very small indeed in comparison with the positive gains and the increase in value which follow from such schemes. I could quote numerous cases in which the actual few hundred pounds that a planning scheme costs has been repaid 10 times over by definite, positive increase, realised increase, in capital value as a result of the scheme.

Now I come finally to the definite point put by the hon. Member who spoke last and who seeks an assurance that no expenditure will be forced on local authorities, including his own powerful and important local authority, in advance, as I understand, of what may be considered as their own policy in the matter. He may be assured that that is not possible, and that the initiative in such matters must rest with the greater authorities and can hardly be forced from the outside. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] As regards the larger authorities it must be so. So much is in accordance with the policy of the times and of the Govern- ment. I have no hesitation in stating to the House that it is not part of the policy of the Government or of the Ministry of Health, in so far as I am responsible for the administration, recklessly to enforce artificial activity in town planning upon the town planning authorities of the country. On the contrary, it is the policy, and will be while I am responsible for it, to look upon this as a matter of local initiative. The function of the central authority is not the function of enforcing artificial activity, but of fostering and encouraging the spontaneous efforts in the direction of useful planning that will come from the authorities themselves. I should have thought that there would have been no misapprehension of the attitude with which I have approached this Bill, but as there is a mistaken atmosphere with regard to the general lines of policy, I feel it my duty to put the matter right. This is a matter in which the function of the central government and the Ministry is to foster and encourage the local initiative of the authorities themselves.


How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that with Sections 33 and 47?


I cannot help thinking that the Minister's answer is one of the most unsatisfactory that he has given. In the present condition of the country we cannot afford to invest for posterity. We have to save all the money we can to keep the country going and not provide for something that may or may not be to the future benefit of the country. With regard to the Minister's statement that only the larger authorities can initiate schemes, Clause 33 states definitely: If the Minister is satisfied after the holding of a local inquiry that a scheme ought to be prepared by any authority as respects any land, he may by order require the authority to prepare a scheme. Clause 47 is even stronger: The council of every county borough or urban district containing a population according to the census taken in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-one of more than twenty thousand shall before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-four, etc. It seems that any ordinary urban or rural district council can, if they wish, lay down a definite scheme of development for any part of their area. As the whole of the south of England looks as if it will be industrialised, what will be the position if some foreign manufacturer or coalowner from the north of England wants to come down and start a new industry? Any large farmer, or any landowner who owns land which is used entirely for his pleasure or as a health, resort can go to the council and protest. The new industry will be held up. It is important to the country to-day that industrialists should be able to start fresh industries and employ some of the millions who are unemployed, yet a local council, who knows nothing about industry as a rule, can say, "No, this is not to be done; this land is to be planned out in accordance with our local engineer's requirements."

With regard to expenditure, only last week the House threw out a Bill for a bridge over the Thames. It was thrown out entirely on the question of expenditure, because this House would not allow that money to be spent, and, whether it was required or not, it was put off for the moment. The House is being asked to pass a Bill which means increased expense even on the Minister's statement that it will be only a few hundred pounds. It is utterly ridiculous to say that any local authority, limited to its own borough engineer or architect, can possibly carry out the duties detailed in this Bill. More officials will have to be employed and more salaries paid, and in the net result it is very doubtful whether it will really form an investment for this country. The real investment for the country to-day is to stop all expenditure and cut down all legislation to the very minimum. I shall certainy vote for this Amendment if it be carried to a Division.


I should not have intervened but for the remarks made by the hon. Member who has just sat down. This Bill is urgent for these reasons: If you are to have, as we hope will be the ease, industrial development under the new Import Duties and so on, we want to-see that development on right lines. Property, and especially house property, in residential districts is very cheap to-day, and I can easily conceive of many areas where new industries would buy a house or property in a residential district and im- mediately the value of that district would depreciate. The result would be loss to the rates of the local authority, loss of taxation and a general depreciation of amenities. That can be stopped by this Bill. I should like also to point out that if the Bill does not start in April, 1933, then the 1925 Act will carry on and the expenses of that will also carry on. The

Minister has assured us that the expenses of this Bill will be negligible, and for these reasons I hope that the House will not accept the Amendment.

Question put, "That the word 'thirty-three' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 202; Noes, 66.

Division No. 213. AYES. [10.52 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Petherick, M.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n. Bilst'n)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.) Hicks, Ernest George Potter, John
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Hirst, George Henry Price, Gabriel
Aske, Sir Robert William Holdsworth, Herbert Procter, Major Henry Adam
Attlee, Clement Richard Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western isles)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Ramsbotham, Herwald
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Hornby, Frank Ramsden, E.
Balniel, Lord Horobin, Ian M. Rankin, Robert
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Howard, Tom Forrest Rathbone, Eleanor
Batey, Joseph Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Rea, Walter Russell
Becauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Beaumont, Hn. R. E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Bossom, A. C. Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Boulton, W. W. Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Robinson, John Roland
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) John, William Rosbotham, S. T.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Rothschild, James A. de
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Ker, J. Campbell Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Burnett, John George Kerr, Hamilton W. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley) Kirkpatrick, William M. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Skelton, Archibald Noel
Clarry, Reginald George Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Slater, John
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Somervell, Donald Bradley
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Somerveille, Annesley A (Windsor)
Conant, R. J. E. Leckie, J. A. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Cooke, Douglas Leonard, William Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Copeland, Ida Levy, Thomas Spears, Brigadler-General Edward L.
Cranborne, Viscount Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Liewellyn-Jones, Frederick Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Crossley, A. C. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Loder, Captain J. de Vere Stevenson, James
Daggar, George Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Stones, James
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lunn, William Storey, Samuel
Denman, Hon. R D. Mabane, William Stourton, Hon. John J.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Strauss, Edward A.
Dunglass, Lord MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Edwards, Charles McKie, John Hamilton Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Elliston, Captain George Sampson McLean, Major Alan Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)
Elmley, Viscount Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Emrys-Evans, p. V. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Macmillan, Maurice Harold Tinker, John Joseph
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Magnay, Thomas Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Fox, Sir Gifford Marsden, Commander Arthur Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Fraser, Captain Ian Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Fremantle, Sir Francis Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Milne, Charles Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Milner, Major James White, Henry Graham
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Goff, Sir Park Morrison, William Shepherd Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Goldie, Noel B. Muirhead, Major A. J. Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Munro, Patrick Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. wills, Wilfrid D.
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) North, Captain Edward T. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Grimston, R. V. Nunn, William Worthington, Dr. John V.
Groves, Thomas E. O'Connor, Terence James Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'V'noaks)
Grundy, Thomas W. O' Donovan, Dr. William James
Gunston, Captain D. W. Palmer, Francis Noel TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hales, Harold K. Parkinson, John Allen Mr. Womersley and Major George
Hall, F. (York. W.R., Normanton) Patrick, Colin M. Davies.
Hanbury, Cecil Pearson, William G.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gluckstein, Louis Halle Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Albery, Irving James Gower, Sir Robert Ray, Sir William
Apsley, Lord Greene, William P. C. Remer, John R.
Astbury, Lieut.-Con. Frederick Wolfe Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Hanley, Dennis A. Runge, Norah Cecil
Broadbent, Colonel John Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd) Salmon, Major Isidore
Brockiebank, C. E. R. Horsbrugh, Florence Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y) Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Savery, Samuel Servington
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Jesson, Major Thomas E. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Carver, Major William H. Kimball, Lawrence Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)
Chalmers, John Rutherford Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Leech, Dr. J. W. Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Clayton, Dr. George C. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Sutcliffe, Harold
Cobb, Sir Cyril Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Courtauld, Major John Sewell McCorquodale, M. S. Train, John
Craven-Ellis, William Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Wells, Sydney Richard
Dawson, Sir Philip Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Drewe, Cedric Moreing, Adrian C. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Nail, Sir Joseph
Ganzoni, Sir John O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Glossop, C. W. H. Pike, Cecil F. Sir Henry Cautley and Marquess of Hartington.