HC Deb 02 July 1935 vol 303 cc1735-43

Where under the Act of 1925, the Act of 1930 or this Act, the Department are required to cause a public local enquiry to be held, any objector who has appeared at any such enquiry shall be furnished by the Department with a copy of the report made by the person appointed to hold the enquiry.—[Sir R. Horne.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.36 p.m.


I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time."

It will be recollected that under the redevelopment Clauses of the Bill it is provided that a scheme may be drawn up and published and thereafter objection may be taken to it. If such objection be taken it is within the power of the Department to order a public inquiry, and the person who holds the inquiry reports to the Department. No provision is made as to what is then to happen. This report passes into the hands of the Department and the Department forms its own judgment. Personally, I should like to see an appeal from the decision of the Department. I am not over-impressed by the judgments formed by the bureaucrats in Government Departments. They live too much outside the light of day to be entirely trusted in these matters. I am not saying that in any censorious sense. I only suggest that they are inclined to become too autocratic and to form their own judgments without sufficient regard to other matters.

It may well be that in this case the Department will form a judgment contrary to that of the commissioner who reports to them. If that be so, the parties concerned ought to know about it. While I am not now urging that there should be an appeal to some independent authority against the judgment of the Department, I submit that there ought to be at least this check upon the Department's action, that what they have decided ought to become known to the objectors and not only what they have decided but why they have decided it. In cases where their decision is contrary to the opinion of the commissioner the objector is entitled to know that fact. The purpose of the new Clause is obvious and I cannot imagine any reasonable objection to it.

4.38 p.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)

In moving this new Clause, my right hon. Friend has indicated that he would also desire an appeal from the decision on this inquiry, and he made certain references to the Department making the decision. It is true that the word "Department" appears in the Bill, but the responsible authority in this matter is not the Department but the Minister who is responsible to this House. He will have to give the decision and to stand criticism in this House on any judgment he may give. Let me also remind my right hon. Friend of the past history of this matter. He will recollect that in Committee we were pressed to appoint independent commissioners. We agreed and we took away the powers enabling the Department to appointment the commissioners and we provided in Clause 77 that the persons holding these inquiries should be selected not by the Department only but by the Lord President of the Court of Session, the Lord Justice Clerk and the Chairman of the Scottish branch of the Chartered Surveyors' Institution in consultation with the Department.

I think that shows a readiness on the part of the Government to meet what I know is a very deep feeling in the minds of certain interested parties that their interests in this matter might not have been amply safeguarded if an official or someone solely appointed by the Department had been entrusted with these inquiries. But if the reports of these independent commissioners appointed by these three responsible authorities in Scotland are to be published I can visualise that a commissioner will give the barest outline in his report of what he saw and what evidence he heard. He would do that to avoid criticism. On the other hand, I realise that a subject of the realm is entitled to have reasons given to him for a decision of these commissioners affecting him, and I propose that in another place an Amendment should be introduced to the effect that it will be an obligation on the Minister to state the reasons for deciding that a building is unfit for human habitation. I know that that does not go the whole way desired my my right hon. Friend, but it shows a real desire on the part of the Government that the decision of the Minister in each one of these cases should be stated in writing, with the reasons for deciding that a particular building is unfit. I am unable to accept the new Clause, but I undertake that in another place words will be proposed to carry out the spirit of the proposition which I have just indicated. Perhaps, on that assurance, my right hon. Friend will see his way to withdraw the new Clause.


Would my right hon. Friend agree that the Minister should give not merely the reason for finding that certain buildings are unfit, but also the reason why, under a redevelopment scheme, certain houses which are perfectly fit are taken? Obviously, that will form a ground of offence to persons who own such property. If such person is left without any reason At all why his property has been taken, he will feel a sense of injustice, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will stretch his clemency a little further to meet such cases.


It is not unusual when one offers a concession that one should be pressed immediately, on the spur of the moment, to extend it. Throughout this controversy—at any rate on this part of the Bill—I think I have shown a readiness to meet the case put forward by those whom the right hon. Gentleman represents, but I am afraid I cannot give the undertaking which the right hon. Gentleman desires. I would have to see the full effect of it first. I will look into the matter further, but I cannot undertake here and now to go beyond what I have already indicated.


If my right hon. Friend assures me that he will look into the matter with a mind not entirely shut to the possibility of extending his concession, I will gladly withdraw the new Clause.



If the hon. Member speaks the Motion cannot be withdrawn.

4.44 p.m.


I only intervene to say that I hope the Secretary of State will give serious consideration to the point put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). This is not merely a question of representing property owners. The Secretary of State referred to the interests represented by my right hon. Friend—


I hope the House will not take it that I am here representing the property-owners. I am here as a Member of Parliament like other Members of Parliament. I am not here on behalf of the property-owners, but on behalf of all the interests and all the considerations which any hon. Member must take into account. I have been sent to this House as the representative of a constituency.


I wish to point out, too, that I referred distinctly to subjects of the realm, and not to any special class.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me. I was not making any case against him, or his position in the House, or anything he has said on the Bill. That implication seemed to be contained in a sentence used by the Secretary of State, and I am sorry if I misunderstood his meaning. The concession that has been promised does not meet the point that was raised. It is true that the aggrieved person, if this concession is carried out, will have a statement of the reason why the Department acts, but he will not know whether the action of the Department is in accordance with the report that has been made by the inspector or whoever holds the inquiry. The decision which is reached by the Department, although it may be on grounds that seem good to them, may be entirely against the weight of evidence and against the general sense of the report which has been made by the person holding the inquiry. I would like to refer the House to a passage in the report of the Committee on Ministers' Powers. The committee considered the publication of reports at considerable length, and they gave the argument for and against. This is their general conclusion: To these various arguments for and against publication we have given prolonged consideration, and, on balance, have come to the conclusion that publication is right. By that we do not mean that the expense of printing a long report should in every case be incurred, but that in all cases the report of the inspector should be made available to the parties concerned and to the Press, and, in important cases, should be officially published by the Department responsible for the inquiry. I put a question some months ago to the then Prime Minister, and he assured me that, while the Government could not find time to carry out all the recommendations of the Committee on Minister's Powers, they were bearing these recommendations in mind and giving effect to them from time to time. On the occasion of this Bill, just as on the occasion of the English Housing Bill, they entirely ignore the recommendations of that committee. It only shows that this Government, like many other Governments that have gone before, is less concerned for the rights of the subject than it is for the convenience of bureaucracy at Whitehall.

Duchess of ATHOLL

A similar type of inquiry is held in regard to the marketing of food, and I have found great anxiety and dissatisfaction among agricultural producers because neither the reports of those inquiries nor the evidence are made public. I think, therefore, that the more publicity there is in this matter the better.

4.48 p.m.


It has been the subject of comment in this country since the War that the bureaucratic powers given to the Departments of State are being increasingly bestowed by Parliament without sufficient safeguards. Will the right hon. Gentleman say in what way it is in the public interest, that a Department when it gives a decision following upon an inquiry by an indedendent arbiter, should do so without disclosing the report of the arbiter? The Department gives its decision without disclosing any reasons why it has decided affirmatively or negatively. When interests are involved—matrimonial interests, interests of title and any kind of interest—and when the lieges have gone forward to an inquiry with a case to state—it may be a bad case or a good case; it does not matter what type of case it is—surely it is one of the essential principles of justice and equity in our country that the person placed in the position of a tribunal to give a decision upon an issue should give the reasons for his decision. It is a commonplace in our law courts that when litigation takes place and a decision is given, the disappointed litigant knows at least what reason the judges had for deciding against the submissions put forward. Why should we in this House allow a Department in a matter like this to give a decision without giving the reasons? It may be a small thing, but surely a fundamental principle is involved. I wish to protest most strongly against this procedure, and before we part from this proposed Clause, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House and the country why it is against the public interest, when a Department of State gives a decision in a matter like this, for it to give any reason for reaching that decision.

4.51 p.m.


There was one remark of the Secretary of State which was very disturbing. He said that if the report had to be published the reporter would say practically nothing. What kind of reporter is he going to have to make these inquiries? The sooner we make these gentlemen state their reasons the better. To adopt Star Chamber methods of this kind is contrary to all the things for which we have struggled. We ought really to have the reasons why the Department comes to its decisions, and I hope that this question will be put to the vote.

4.52 p.m.


I think that in the main a case has been made out for the report being issued. I notice, however, that hon. Members opposite show great indignation on this question, but, if indignation is shown by other sections of the House when the rights of the unemployed are concerned, the machine mows them down in the Division Lobby. I do not know that it matters a great deal whether we agree or not to the concession made by the Secretary of State, for when it comes to a question of a vote of confidence in a Minister the machine always operates in his favour. Whatever the reasons may be for or against such a vote, the machine is with the Secretary of

State and nothing else matters. That is the weakness of the contention that the Minister is always responsible to Parliament. I have no objection to the publication of the report, for I often think that the publication of these things should be made much wider. The only thing I feel is that when other questions are concerned and when the regulations dealing with vast numbers of unemployed are put through the House without the House being able to amend them, the position becomes farcical. For that reason, I do not feel the same indignation on this matter as other Members opposite, but I support the principle that they raised.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 85; Noes, 187.

Division No. 259.] AYES. [4.55 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Moss, Captain H. J.
Adams Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Paling, Wilfred
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Parkinson, John Allen
Alexander, Sir William Gardner, Benjamin Walter Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Atholl, Duchess of Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Rea, Sir Walter
Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Banfield, John William Groves, Thomas E. Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Guy, J. C. Morrison Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thnese)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw vale) Harris, Sir Percy Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hartington, Marquess of Stevenson, James
Buchanan, George Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Thorne, William James
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Janner, Barnett Tinker, John Joseph
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Train, John
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Wallace, Sir John (Dunfermilne)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Kirkwood, David West, F. R.
Cleary, J. J. Knox, Sir Alfred Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lawson, John James Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Leonard, William Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don valley)
Daggar, George Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Wilmot, John
Dalkeith, Earl of McGovern, John Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Macquisten, Frederick Alexander
Dickie, John P. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Dobbie, William Mander, Geoffrey le M. Sir Robert Hamilton and Mr.
Eales, John Frederick Maxton, James Dingle Foot.
Edwards, Sir Charles Moreing, Adrian C.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Copeland, Ida
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Burnett, John George Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Butler, Richard Austen Cranborne, Viscount
Anderson, Sir Alan Garrett Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Aske, Sir Robert William Carver, Major William H. Davison, Sir William Henry
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Cautley, Sir Henry S. Dawson, Sir Philip
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Denman, Hon. R. D.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston) Donner, P. W.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Clarke, Frank Duckworth, George A. V.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Clayton, Sir Christopher Dunglass, Lord
Beit, Sir Alfred L. Cobb, Sir Cyril Eady, George H.
Blindell, James Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony
Bower, Commander Robert Tatton Conant, R. J. E. Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
Bracken, Brendan Cook, Thomas A. Elmley, Viscount
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Cooke, Douglas Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)
Broadbent, Colonel John Cooper, A. Duff Fermoy, Lord
Fox, Sir Gifford MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Fraser, Captain Sir Ian MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Bassetlaw) Salmon, Sir Isidore
Fuller, Captain A. G. Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Sandys, Duncan
Galbraith, James Francis Wallace McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Savery, Servington
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John McKie, John Hamilton Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Goff, Sir Park McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Macmillan, Maurice Harold Skelton, Archibald Noel
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Magnay, Thomas Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dlne, C.)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Smithers, Sir Waldron
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hales, Harold K. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Sir Cuthbert Milne, Charles Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Mitcheson, G. G. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Stones, James
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Strauss, Edward A.
Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Hornby, Frank Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Horsbrugh, Florence Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Summersby, Charles H.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Norie-Miller, Francis Sutcliffe, Harold
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Tate, Mavis Constance
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Orr Ewing, I. L. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Iveagh, Countess of Patrick, Colin M. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Peat, Charles U. Thomson, Sir James D. W.
Jamleson, Rt. Hon. Douglas Penny, Sir George Tree, Ronald
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Percy, Lord Eustace Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Kerr, Hamilton W. Petherick, M. Turton, Robert Hugh
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Pickthorn, K. W. M. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Law, Sir Alfred Procter, Major Henry Adam Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Leckle, J. A. Radford, E. A. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Lees-Jones, John Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles) Watt, Major George Steven H.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Ramsbotham, Herwald Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Ramsden, Sir Eugene Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Levy, Thomas Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Liddall, Walter S. Reid, David D. (County Down) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Liewellin, Major John J. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Lloyd, Geoffrey Rickards, George William Wise, Alfred R.
Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Womersley, Sir Walter
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th) Ross, Ronald D. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Mabane, William Runge, Norah Cecil TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. Sir Charles Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert
MacAndrew, Major J. O. (Ayr) Russell, R. J. (Eddlsbury) Ward and Mr. Stuart.
McCorquodale, M. S. Rutherford, John (Edmonton)

Question put, and agreed to.