§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, at the end, to insert:including any land adjacent to the camp site and playing fields for the preservation of the amenities of the site.In the Clause it is laid down that the company have power by compulsory purchase to acquire land for the purposes of their functions in connection with the construction, maintenance and management of camps. I suppose that in the ordinary way that would be the land for the actual site of the camp and for playing fields. For this purpose probably some 10 or 20 acres would be required for the camp itself, and another 10 acres for the purposes of playing fields. But there might also be land lying alongside, perhaps some fields in a valley or a mountain-side, that the company felt it was essential to preserve from the point of view of the amenities of the district, and if that land were not purchased by the company, it might be bought by some independent organisation that, attracted there by the camp, would set up a fair ground or buildings of a type which would be wholly out of keeping with the spirit and scheme of the camp, and quite contrary to its purpose. It may be that the company would have the power under the Bill to purchase additional land in this way, but I want to make sure. I suggest to the Government that it would be fatal if they got their town-planning expert, whether 570 on the board or otherwise, and got the whole thing beautifully arranged, and if then some enterprising individual bought the land around or alongside and spoilt it all. That might easily be possible if the company had not power to look ahead and buy land adjacent to the camp and playing fields themselves.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Colville
The Bill, as the hon. Member says, provides for the compulsory purchase of land for the purposes of the construction, maintenance and management of camps, and in Clause 5 "management" is denned as follows:'management,' in relation to a camp, includes the arrangement and supervision of all matters connected with the use of the camp, and the provision of facilities for recreation for the persons using itWhat we have in mind is that there is power to purchase ample land, not only for the erection of the camp, but also to allow of extensions to the camp. In the Debate on Clause 1 it was made clear that the Government have it in mind that these camps in certain circumstances might be considerably extended. Accordingly, the company will have power to purchase land for camp buildings, bearing in mind the possibility of considerable extensions for playing fields and for recreation, not necessarily within the narrow limits of the playing fields, but a useful area of land to cover in this wide sense the recreation of the people for whom the camp is required. The purchase of land by the company would take the form of what we call in Scotland a mansion house 571 and policies, the policies being the land near the house which would normally be used by the owner. In this case the policies would be the land for the playing fields, for purposes of recreation, and for future extensions. I think the Amendment goes a little far, and I could not agree to include powers for the purchase of a mountainside which might overlook the camp, or a wide area of ground for the purpose of preserving the amenities of the camp. The Amendment would really provide power to acquire compulsorily large tracts of land, which would be sterilised for industrial or other uses, for the purpose of preserving the amenities of the camp itself, and that is further than we could recommend going. It is, however, our intention that the powers under the Bill should be applied widely enough to give all reasonable facilities to the camp, and not simply to draw narrow limits around the camp buildings and one or two football grounds.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If we could be assured that in all these camps there will be, to use the right hon. Gentleman's expression, a mansion house and policies, we should be delighted, and many of our present anxieties would be removed, but the definition of "management" given in Clause 5 specifically excludes the purposes which the Amendment has in view. I would urge upon the Government that there is a real danger that, after these camps have been established and such land as the Government want has been taken, enterprising people will come and put up amusement parks and so on of a most undesirable nature. If the company had the power which the Amendment seeks to give them, they might be able to avoid that kind of thing at no great expense to the State and with considerable benefit to the country as a whole. The provision is not a compulsory provision. It does not compel the company to do this, but only authorises them to do it. I hope the Government will reconsider the matter and accept the Amendment.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey
I too hope that the Government will be willing to reconsider this matter, especially as there is no need to use this suggested addition to the Clause except in specific cases where 572 the danger that has been alluded to arises. No one would wish to see these camp sites exploited in an undesirable way or for commercial purposes.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Poole
Surely, the main object of these camps will be destroyed if there is any possibility of industrialisation in their vicinity. We are seeking to provide that these camps shall be surrounded by a maximum of open country, in order that they may be safe places to which children from industrial areas may be evacuated, but if we are only to take the ground provided for in Clause 5, for the camp and playing fields, it is quite possible that in a few years' time the camp would find itself in a semi-industrial area, or there might be large-scale building accommodations in the vicinity of the camp, so that eventually the purpose of the camp might be destroyed owing to failure to make the provision which this Amendment seeks to make in order to preserve the amenities of the site.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I have no doubt that a good many hon. Members know the neighbourhood of Deepcut Camp, near Aldershot, which is one of the military camps which the War Office took some trouble to lay out. On the opposite side of the road there is now a series of miserable shacks, in which refreshments of a very dubious character are sold, and where, I understand, late at night, private entertainments of a very reprehensible character are occasionally carried on. Surely there will be a great temptation near these camps for the same kind of thing to happen unless the company is armed with powers to acquire any land that could be put to such uses if they have reason to fear that it will be so used. From the point of view of school camps, it would be very desirable that that kind of development adjacent to a camp should be prevented. Anyone who has been responsible for the running and for the discipline of a camp, whether for adults or for juveniles, knows that these are very important points. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman in his answer fully appreciated all the things that may arise in the neighbourhood of these camps once they get going. I sincerely hope he will find it possible to give more sympathetic consideration to the Amendment.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I think that, although the Minister of Health is not here, the Secretary of State for Scotland is in a position to act and I hope he will respond to the obvious desire of the Committee that these companies should be given power, when they think fit, to act in the direct interests of the camps. I think he was exaggerating somewhat when he alluded to the idea of a mountain-side—
§ Mr. Mander
You can have very small mountains. The right hon. Gentleman need not be alarmed by that phrase; I was thinking only of some reasonable accommodation land essential to the preservation of the amenities of the camp. I hope the right hon. Gentleman may be able to see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Colville
I am sorry I cannot accept the Amendment as it stands, but I assure the hon. Member that I am not unsympathetic. Compulsory powers are strong powers, and, while I agree that they should be applied in such a way that the value of the camp from the point of view of the recreation of the people using the living accommodation and playing fields is taken fully into account, and while I would like to see that principle borne in mind and acted upon so as to prevent some of the developments which the hon. Member has mentioned, yet to accept the Amendment would make it possible for very large tracts of land to be acquired compulsorily, and possibly unreasonably. We must bear in mind the primary purpose of the Bill, which is to establish in peace-time camps in carefully selected parts of the country. I know my own end of this work best, of course—the Scottish end. I know the nine sites that have been selected in Scotland, and I do not think there is much prospect of undesirable development near those camps; but I can imagine that a camp situated near the main road might attract buildings or shacks of the type which the hon. Member mentioned, and, in my own view, in purchasing ground for camps, that should be borne in mind. But I think the Amendment is too wide.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer
It seems to have escaped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman that it would be impossible for compulsory acquisition to take place without the consent of the Minister, and that, therefore, he would have power to prevent the undesirable acquisition of land. I see nothing in what the Minister has said that is an argument against the Amendment. It is not a case of putting into the hands of a company a weapon that they can use indiscriminately, but of providing power to prevent these abuses to which reference has been made.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman probably are stronger in support of the Amendment than against it. The order for the compulsory acquisition of land, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer), must of necessity be confirmed by the Minister. Is it not just that land which is being acquired compulsorily, because there is an unwilling seller, that is likely to be used for an undesirable purpose? If there is likely to be any possibility of using this land for the exploitation of the camp, and if there is an unwilling seller of the land for the purposes of the camp, the people acquiring the camp should have the power which is proposed in the Amendment. I could have understood an objection being raised if the hon. Member had been seeking to restrict the amount of land which should be acquired, but when he is seeking to extend the power of acquisition I cannot see any objection.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
The Minister seemed to suggest that these companies have power to acquire land of this kind. They have compulsory powers, under Clause 2, to acquire landfor the purposes of their functions in connection with the construction, maintenance and management of camps,and their functions are defined in Clause 5, which says that "construction"includes the making of any alterations and additions to any building to adapt it for use in connection with the camp,and managementincludes the arrangement and supervision of all matters connected with the use of the 575 camp, and the provision of facilities for recreation for the persons using it.
§ Mr. Colville
I referred to Clause 5. I argued that the powers given were sufficiently wide to enable the company to purchase a sufficient area of land to give reasonable protection. To go beyond that, and acquire, for the sake of the community, large tracts of land, is going beyond the purposes of the Bill. These powers, if reasonably used, are sufficient to give protection to the camp.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman misses the point. The courts are going to decide this matter, not the Minister. The Minister may prohibit a scheme, but he cannot give powers. In my reading of the Sub-section, there is nothing to authorise the company to prevent land being used for setting up shops or shacks.
§ Mr. Colville
The camps will obviously vary considerably in size. There is no standard size laid down. In buying an area of land, the company will be entitled to acquire sufficient to give them protection round about.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
A company may have to deal with an owner who does not desire to sell, and who will contest the right of the companies to buy a given area of land. When that comes before the courts, the courts will have to interpret Clause 2 in relation to Clause 5. Unless the company can show, to the satisfaction of the court, that the land is required for recreation, and for no other purpose, they will not be able to buy it. We want them to have the ability, in cases where they want to do so, to acquire such land. And I would remind the Minister that such acquisition will be subject to the Minister's approval.
§ 6.23 p.m.576
§ Mr. Ede
A ring fence. That may be an Anglicism which the right hon. Gentleman does not understand. As far as possible, there should be no highways, usable by the public at large, running across. Let us assume that the site is of a very substantial acreage. Just opposite the main entrance gate of what has previously been a baronial mansion, or the estate of some person of property, there may be no shops at all now, because the owner of the property deals with the London stores. There will be brought down a number of persons who desire to shop locally. What is to prevent the person on the other side of the road, opposite the main entrance gate, selling the land? There is nothing in Clause 5 to enable the company to obtain an order for the compulsory acquisition of this land. Unless the Minister addresses himself to that, the case for this Amendment is proved. We are not concerned with the original purchase, but with later purchases that may have to be made afterwards to preserve the original purchase.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I understand that the Minister has made no concession of any kind, in spite of the evident desire of the Committee that some concession should be made. I think the attitude of the Government is extremely serious and may have a most disastrous effect on the aspect of these camps in various parts of the country. If the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, after all, is not concerned with the major part of this Bill, is not prepared to do anything to meet the feelings of the Committee, we ought to be able to ask the Minister of Health himself to hear the arguments.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 112; Noes, 206.577
|Division No. 79.]||AYES.||[6.27 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Cape, T.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Bellenger, F. J.||Charleton, H. C.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Chater, D.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Bevan, A.||Cluse, W. S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Buchanan, G.||Cocks, F. S.|
|Batty, J.||Burke, W. A.||Collindridge, F.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Daggar, G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Dalton, H.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dobbie, W.||Lathan, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Ede, J. C.||Leonard, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Leslie, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Fool, D. M.||Lunn, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Frankel, D.||Macdonald, G. Ince)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Gallacher, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Gardner, B. W.||McGhee, H. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Mander, G. le M.||Tinker, J. J.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Marshall, F.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Mathers, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Messer, F.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Milner, Major J.||Walker, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Watson, W. Mel.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Groves, T. E.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||White, H. Graham|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parker, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Hardie, Agnes||Parkinson, J. A.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Pearson, A.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Poole, C. C.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Richards, R. (Wroxham)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Hicks, E. G.||Sexton, T. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Shinwell, E.||Sir Percy Harris and Sir Hugh|
|Jagger, J.||Silverman, S. S.||Seely.|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Donner, P. W.||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Apsley, Lord||Duncan, J. A. L.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Dunglass, Lord||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Assheton, R.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Ellis, Sir G.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Emery, J. F.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Leech, Sir J. W.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Levy, T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Fildes, Sir H.||Lewis, O.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Findlay, Sir E.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Bracken, B.||Fleming, E. L.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon.' E. (Leith)||Furness, S. N.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Bull, B. B.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||McKie, J. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cary, R. A.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Macnamara, Lt.-Col. J, R. J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Granville, E. L.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Channon, H.||Grimston, R. V.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Markham, S. F.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Medlicott, F.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Courthops, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Critchley, A.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hepworth, J.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Higgs, W. F.||Munro, P.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Nail, Sir J.|
|Cross, R. H.||Holdsworth, H.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Crossley, A C.||Hopkinson, A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Howitt, Dr. A. B||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Patrick, C. M.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Peake, O.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hunloke, H. P.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Denville, Alfred||Hunter, T.||Radford, E. A.|
|Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Shakespeare, G. H||Train, Sir J.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Turton, R. H.|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Smithers, Sir W.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Snadden, W. McN.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Reid, W. Allan (Darby)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Rosbotham, Sir T.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Sutcliffe, H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wragg, H.|
|Russell, Sir Alexander||Tate, Mavis C.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Salmon, Sir I.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||York, C.|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Thomas, J. P. L|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Schuster, Sir G. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Captain Waterhouse and Lieut.-|
|Scott, Lord William||Touche, G. C.||Colonel Herbert.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question again proposed, "That the proposed words be there inserted."
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I am very glad that we have now the advantage of the presence of the Minister of Health, as I am sure that the matter we are debating is worthy of his consideration. No doubt representations have been made to him as to the force of the arguments. The Government are giving power to purchase land compulsorily for the purpose of camps and playing fields. It may well be that in certain places vacant land will be lying around in the immediate neighbourhood, in a valley or on a hillside or something of that sort, and some enterprising builder or individual may come along and set up a fair ground or put up glaring advertisements and completely spoil the whole idea and purpose of camping sites. This is not a party matter at all, but it is a vital question affecting national amenities that the companies should have the power, when they think fit in special circumstances—alter the Amendment if you like, but it seems to be perfectly watertight—to purchase such land compulsorily. It may be said that they would buy up large areas of land which would be quite unnecessary, but the answer to that is absolute and complete, namely, that the Minister himself must approve of it, and nothing of the kind could result. I earnestly urge the Minister to consider whether he cannot make a concession in the spirit in which he met proposals put forward in the earlier part of the Debate and so give great satisfaction to Members in all parts of the Committee. If this is not done, there will be a very serious danger of a number of eyesores being erected not in the camps, but as blots on the landscape around the camps by people 580 whose only interest will be to make money out of them. We are simply asking, in a carefully safeguarded Clause, that opportunity should be given to prevent this kind of thing.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I should like to put to the Minister one possible point in support of some Amendment of this kind. The Minister may reply that any such addition is unnecessary in cases where the land is already subject to a town planning scheme, but it is possible that these camps will be placed in rural areas where there is no town planning scheme at present in operation. In those circumstances, something on these lines might be necessary to protect amenities. It is only necessary, as has already been pointed out, that the power should exist in case the right to acquire the land has to come before the court. It would still remain completely under the control of the Minister whether such powers should in fact be exercised, and it would not be necessary for the purpose of the preservation of amenities in many places where town and country planning schemes are in operation. There are likely, however, to be some cases in which some such power would be necessary. In any event, I appeal to the Minister to consider that point, and there is this additional argument, that, if there were this power, it might give the Minister an additional inducement to bring town planning schemes into operation at the earliest possible moment.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I hope that the Minister will adopt a reasonable attitude in response to this proposal. A great number of these camps will be situated upon inexpensive land. The land will be 581 inexpensive when the camp is first established, but it will gradually appreciate in value. Every kind of undesirable enterprise will be attempted in order to take advantage of the assembly of large numbers of persons in these camps periodically, if not permanently, at certain seasons of the year. Efforts will be made to carry out land speculation and to erect almost every kind of undesirable enterprise, not only of the type which has been mentioned by my hon. Friend but of a type even more undesirable. I know of a number of holiday camps which have been erected, and the first thing that subsequently happened was that an enterprising individual purchased land and secured permission to erect a public-house. Whereas a licence was quite unobtainable in the case of the holiday camp, when the public-house was erected just outside the holiday camp, a licence was easily obtained. I do not want to suggest that in these circumstances no licence should ever be given for a rural public-house, but we should not have that sort of enterprise around holiday camps which, erected, first of all for wartime purposes, undoubtedly will develop into centres of physical fitness and physical training. I can see that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) is eager to tell us that there should be perfect freedom in this matter.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Then I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman is going to support me. If I felt that he was going to do so, I should certainly bring my remarks to a close, because his advocacy would be far more effective than mine. If the Government refuse to adopt the Amendment or something like it, only one conclusion can be drawn, namely, that the Government wish to protect one of the most fruitful sources of private profit which exists in the present competitive capitalist world, and that is, the unearned increment in land. Only a few days ago I had occasion to comment upon a sale of land by the present First Commissioner of Works, who owned a farm near Cockfosters which after the War was worth £5,000. It was put up at auction after certain developments had occurred at the expense of the community, and it fetched £116,000, which, even 582 judged by the most optimistic profits of the present day in reference to armaments or anything else, must be admitted to be a handsome profit.
There can be no valid reason why the Government should refuse to adopt some provision of this kind. It is only right that these camps, originally intended to accommodate, say 1,000 people, should have amenities. Perhaps they may not have anything more than a putting green, but may desire further land for tennis courts or even for a golf course—golf is becoming an increasingly democratic game—and it would be lamentable if they were to be confined to the original land. I am appealing to the Minister, without any partisan spirit at all, to do something to strengthen the provisions in this Bill in the direction now desired.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
The Amendment seems to be wholly unnecessary. If the areas in which these camps are to be situated are protected by a town-planning scheme, the town-planning authority has abundant power to prevent the type of enterprise which the hon. Member fears. It may be, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), that these areas may already have been zoned for shopping areas, and if they are so zoned it does not appear that much harm would be done. If it is proposed to carry out developments of the kind which the hon. Member has in mind then the town-planning authority have control, if they like to exercise it, and they can prevent any development of the undesirable shack type. If the camp is situated in an area where there is no town-planning scheme it could be a simple matter for the local authority to secure control. The alternative of hon. Members is that a camp company should acquire such an area as would protect the camp from this type of development. That means that they might have to acquire a great deal more land than is necessary for the purposes of the camp, and even then it would not protect the camp from this undesirable type of development. It would only mean that this development would be pushed a little further away; you would get a sort of green belt round the camp, but outside the green belt you would get just exactly the kind of development which hon. Members opposite want to avoid. The only effective way of dealing 583 with this matter is by a proper exercise of town-planning powers by local authorities, and I apprehend that before the Minister confirms any one of these proposals this is one of the matters which naturally he will bear in mind.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Major Milner
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) has not read the Bill. If he will look at Clause 3 he will see there that:No provision contained in a scheme made under the Town Planning Act, 1925, or the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, … shall apply to any land acquired or appropriated with the approval of the Minister by a recognised company.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I was dealing with land which has not to be acquired and which will, of course, remain subject to the existing town-planning laws. The Clause to which the hon. and gallant Member refers deals with land which has been acquired.
§ Major Milner
That may be so in part but the hon. Member went on to point out that it may be within the province of the local authority or the town-planning committee to make provision for an application to the Minister whereby this matter might be dealt with. There is no provision in the Bill for direct notice to be given to local authorities. Indeed, the Bill is a striking instance of what is frequently the practice of this Government of ignoring democratic organisations, like local authorities, wherever they can possibly do so. Hence it became necessary for the Association of Municipal Corporations and other local authorities to suggest to the Government amendments providing for notice to be given to local authorities. In this case the power suggested is merely permissive and I cannot understand why the Government should not take advantage of it and in appropriate cases, and only in appropriate cases, see that the safeguards are provided. Unless they accept the Amendment I hope the matter will be taken to a Division.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I have always been of the opinion that a man ought to be allowed to get his own unearned increment. If people bring an enterprise to a district they ought to be able to buy as much land as they require in order 584 to obtain the unearned increment. It is no good coming years after and taxing this unearned increment, because you are taxing the wrong people. If these camps are going to increase the value of land why should they not be able to buy a good lump of the land and so reap the benefit? Suppose we had done that when our railways were being constructed. If we had paid double the price at which the land was valued before the railways came we should now all be able to travel for nothing and no injustice would have been done to anyone. I was once connected with a golf course with house-building sites all round it because of the amenities provided. We sold the ground rents and got our golf course for nothing, and some years afterwards we sold more and got our club house for nothing. I think it is an Amendment which the Government should accept and I cannot understand why there should be any opposition to it.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
Like the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) I am completely at a loss to understand why the Government should resist the Amendment so obstinately. There can only be two reasons, one that it is not desirable, and the other that the object of it is already achieved in the Bill. I take it that the Government do not take the first of these two positions. I should have thought it was impossible for the Government to say that the object of the Amendment is not desirable, and we are therefore driven back to the other possibility, that the object of the Amendment is already served. Looking at the wording of the Bill I do not think that is so. It may not be so, at least there is some doubt about it. In Clause 2 we have the words:A recognised company may be authorised … to purchase land compulsorily for the … construction, maintenance and management of camps.That may be thought to be sufficient, but in order to know what those words mean you have to look at the definition in Clause 5, and the word "management" is there defined in this way:'Management' in relation to a camp includes the arrangement and supervision of all matters connected with the use of the camp, and the provision of facilities for recreation for the persons using it.That is the only "management" which can be included within the meaning 585 of the word "management" in Clause 2. You do not acquire land in order to supervise all matters connected with the use of a camp or to provide facilities for recreation for the persons using the camp. It is obvious that the definition of "management" in Clause 5 makes it impossible to purchase, under Clause 2, land for management, and, therefore, if the object of the Amendment is desirable some amendment of this kind is necessary in order that it shall be achieved. When one finds the Government resisting so obstinately and persistently a case put forward by Members in all parts of the Committee, one is compelled to ask whether there may not be some other reason for it. Might it not be that some of the things referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire are things which the Government desire? Is it that they are so anxious to protect the interest of landowners, even when they are illegitimate interests, that even this reasonable Amendment must be resisted? Unless the Government want to rest under that suspicion their opposition to the Amendment should be withdrawn or modified. It is not a party point; there are no party interests in the matter at all. Unless there is some sinister reason why the Government cannot accept the Amendment I think it should be accepted.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not want to delay the proceedings of the Committee, but I am anxious that the Government's position should not be misunderstood. The Government's position is very much that which was put by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). We think the powers are already in the Bill.
§ Mr. Mander
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State of Scotland a moment ago made it perfectly clear that the powers were not in the Bill?
§ Mr. Elliot
I think it is necessary to get the point clear. We do not think the Amendment is necessary because the powers in the Bill are sufficient. The difficulty arises in this way. It is a question what amount of land adjacent to the site is necessary for the preservation of the amenities of the site. We all agree that the site should not be unreasonably large, for the reason that the House has provided us with a limited sum of money which we must layout to the best advan- 586 tage. Fundamentally, we all want to lay out this sum of money in the provision of camps, we do not want an undue proportion to be laid out in the acquisition of an undue quantity of land. We are bound by the Financial Resolution, and it may be possible to spread that money out in the mere acquisition of land and not in the construction of camps. I hope the Committee will bear that point in mind.
There is fundamentally only one way in which these matters can be safeguarded and that is by the use of the Town and Country Planning Acts. The hon. and learned Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) took a point which, I think, is important. In fact, land outside the camps is governed by the Planning Acts. The question arises whether the land adjacent to these camps for the most part is covered by town and country planning schemes, and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) raised that point. Two-thirds of England and Wales is under planning already and, as these camps are by hypothesis to be between 20 and 40 miles from large towns, I think I can give the Committee the assurance that there is practically no land adjacent to them which is not covered by town and country planning control. Does not that go far to meet the point which the Committee wish to have safeguarded? [An HON. MEMBER: "The sites are not selected."] We have often told the House that the radii within which the sites lie have been to a large extent selected, and those radii cover areas which in practically every case are subject to country planning control now.
§ Mr. Elliot
The purpose of continuing the Debate was to elucidate points and, if we do not fully succeed in convincing hon. Members by certain arguments, we go further. Surely, it is undesirable that we should prolong debate unnecessarily by employing every argument which is relevant to the subject before the Committee. In the first place, the ground is covered by the Town and Country Planning Acts. Secondly, we are agreed that in the Bill the companies have all the necessary power to purchase sites of ade- 587 quate size and to go further and purchase sites necessary for recreational purposes. Is there anything further that the Committee would desire of the Government? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, resign."] That would not tend to facilitate the progress of the Bill. It seems to partake of the use of the steam hammer to crack a nut.
Most of the ground round the camps is covered now, and there is no limitation in the Bill whereby sites of adequate size cannot be purchased for the camps. The Committee could not reasonably go beyond that without enunciating a principle which would need to be stretched to cover a great many more miles of land than is required for the particular camps that we have under consideration now. It might be held by certain people that an aerodrome makes land more desirable around it and that the Air Ministry should have power to extend its purchases far out into the realms of rural England to avoid an undesirable thing like a public house or any other kind of construction on any land adjacent to the aerodrome, and then on land adjacent to the land adjacent to the aerodrome, and then land adjacent to the land adjacent to the land adjacent to the aerodrome. One must be guided by common sense, and in this we shall do our best to be guided by common sense. We have no intention of allowing unreasonable development to take place. We desire to use this power of compulsory purchase, but I am sure the Committee will realise that, if we extend this power too far, we shall bring to an end the very essence of the Bill, which is rapidity in progress. The further you push the power of compulsory purchase the further you push opposition. I beg the Committee very seriously to consider that point.
I wonder if I might appeal to the Committee to come to a decision now. I have twice tried to get down to Wales to investigate rural conditions, and I had hoped to go there to-night. I do not wish to use that as an argument to press the Committee, but I am anxious that, if possible, we should come to a conclusion on this matter without undue delay. Perhaps with this explanation the hon. Member will not feel it necessary to press the Amendment to a Division.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
The right hon. Gentleman told us that we are very much in Committee, and I think we are likely to be 588 very much in Committee for a very long time if the attitude taken up by the Government is that represented by him. The Minister of Health has treated the Committee in a much more sympathetic way than has the Secretary of State for Scotland, who completely and out of hand rejected the Amendment in toto by arguments quite different from those of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Colville
That is hardly fair to me, nor was it a paraphrase of my speech that he quoted. I adduced the argument that my right hon. Friend has used that the powers in existence are sufficient to acquire a sufficient area of land adequately to safeguard the camps, and my right hon. Friend has further raised the point about the Town and Country Planning Act, which has been used more in England than in Scotland.
§ Mr. Mander
I cannot help feeling that a good deal of what lies at the back of the Government's opposition to the Amendment is their fear of offending the landlord interest. They fear that, if they extend their power too far, they will arouse opposition, particularly in another place, which may delay the Bill. I am sorry, but I am driven to that conclusion. The Minister of Health said that the purpose of discussion was to elucidate points and to come to a conclusion. I am going to take him up on the lines of what he has said himself. He said that practically all the land where these camps are to be built is planned. He used the words "practically all," and he could not give any assurance that it is all the land. I am urging that the Amendment should be adopted for those cases which are not planned. There is a very strong case there. It will mean that the powers given under the Amendment will be used to a very small extent only, but they will be there in reserve for cases where there is no other legal provision. In the background you still have the power of the Minister to refuse if he thinks the powers have been improperly used. It is not fair for the Minister to blame the House of Commons for not getting on with the Bill and to suggest that he is prevented from going to Wales because we are debating it. That, surely, is not an attitude for the Government to take up. The reason why we cannot get on with the Bill—I say it in no unkind way—is the obstinate, 589 unreasonable attitude taken up by the Government of flat opposition to the Amendment.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves for Wales I think it is necessary to repudiate his suggestion that the purpose of going into Committee is not to employ arguments. The object of going into Committee is to secure Amendments in the Bill, and that is the object to which we are directing our attention. However much benefit the right hon. Gentleman's presence in Wales might confer on the scheme, I think he would be doing a better service if he stayed here and helped us to improve it. If he is prepared to accept the Amendment we shall be able to put him in a position to confer a benefit on the scheme in Wales, and thereafter he can carry out his visit. The issue between us has been narrowed by the discussion. The issue now is whether land shall be able to be acquired for the provision of facilities for recreation within the camps, or whether the powers should go further and enable the Minister to sanction the acquisition of land adjacent to the camp site and playing fields.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
If the Minister already has the power, why is he objecting to an Amendment which has no other purpose than to give him such power? Because the Amendment only provides that there shall be added to the Clause power to authorise the acquisition of landincluding any land adjacent to the camp site and playing fields for the preservation of the amenities of the site.Knowing the Minister's fertility and resource in argument, I can see very well that if a company came to him and said, "We wish to acquire additional land," he would say, "You already have a football field. That is sufficient facility for recreation and I decline to authorise the acquisition of land for any other purpose." Has he power to acquire land, for example a wood—
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly, and, furthermore, the very Amendment does nothing more than leave it still in the discretion of the Minister. If the hon. Member asks whether I have power to acquire a wood, I say, Certainly, but it must be part of the camp site.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The object of the Amendment is to enlarge the powers of the Minister to authorise the acquisition of land not only for the purpose of the camp and for recreation but also to preserve amenities, and the preservation of amenities is a much larger power than the provision of facilities for recreation. It is that third advance that we wish the Minister to make. He has given us no satisfying argument why it should not be adopted. The Committee would be willing to facilitate his departure for Wales if he showed a more reasonable spirit. If he could convince the Committee that the Amendment is undesirable, or alternatively accept it, neither of which he has done, he would be able to advance the progress of the Measure.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We all want to reach a decision on this Amendment as quickly as possible, and if only the Minister would accept the Amendment, we should reach a conclusion at once. The right hon. Gentleman made an important point when he said that the real remedy is effective town and country planning. If he were confident that in every area where camps were to be put, there were now town and country planning arrangements which were going to be carried out effectively, our anxiety on this point would be less than it is. This Bill is only the forerunner of other developments. There will be many more camps than the 50 for which provision is now made, and town and country planning in our land at the present time is not really effective. It is not saving the amenities of the English countryside. I am sorry to say that I do not believe there are plans now in existence for a great many places where camps are going to be put, but even if they do exist, I am not confident the powers will be used as they ought to be used. Therefore, for this immediate matter which we are trying to carry through with all dispatch, I think it is a necessary and right power which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) wants to give to the statutory companies.
I am still unable to find where there are powers under this Bill as it now stands. The right hon. Gentleman says that under Clause 2, as interpreted by Clause 5, he can purchase a wood. He can do so only if he can show to the courts, against a recalcitrant owner who 591 does not desire to sell, that those woods are going to be used for recreational purposes. Is he quite sure that the courts will accept his interpretation? I am not sure that they will do so. It may well be that the Government, in choosing a site for a camp, do so because the woods are there, and as soon as the owner has won his case in the courts and the woods are free to be sold, they may be cut down, and no one knows what may be put in their place. I hope the Minister will consider this matter again. The power certainly is not there, and none of the three Ministers who have spoken has been able to show that the power is there. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health told us that the money factor might be very important. The Government claim that under this Bill they are going to prevent profiteering in land, and that they are going to put the camps right out in the countryside, as far as possible from centres of population. I cannot believe that the additional money would be an important factor. I urge the Minister that it is we who want to trust to the dictates of common sense, and indeed we want to trust to the common sense of the Minister himself, but unless he accepts the Amendment we shall not be able to trust to his common sense, because he will not have the necessary powers, and many important amenities in the countryside, which would be protected if only the right hon. Gentleman would give way, may be lost.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Minister of Health said that he did not think it would be possible to get agreement with me. I do not suppose it will be possible, because I want these camps to be centres of health, culture and safety, and not centres for exploitation. I want to call attention to the fact that it was hon. Members on this side—and I was among them—who forced the question of evacuation and camps upon the Home Secretary when he introduced the first Defence Bill. We forced him to put a Clause in the Bill dealing with this question, so that the matter is one which we have had under consideration always, whereas it has been forced upon the Government stage by stage to consider and understand what the problem means. This Bill represents a first experimental effort in the laying out of 592 great camps. Is it feasible to think that the sites for the camps will be in positions where it will be possible to develop the camps to the best advantage of the children or adults who will use them? Obviously, the Government, once having established the camp, must be in a position to acquire all sorts of land for cultural and recreational developments and for all sorts of amenities. To say that they will simply purchase the site, and that there the matter will end, is nonsense. As this is a great experiment that is being entered into, the Minister should have the most complete powers to acquire all kinds of land.
There is one point which I will mention in passing, as it may have a bearing on the question. This afternoon I have had a visitor who is a very keen research worker. He advised me that the sharepushers who have been squeezed out of the Stock Exchange and out of share-pushing as a result of the recent Bill have now found that, through the Property Acts, there is a loop-hole which enables them to form property companies, and they are speculating in land. One may find these share-pushers entering this field, now that 50 camps are to be established throughout the country—camps which are bound to develop later into great camps. What an opportunity there is here for exploitation of the grossest character, unless greater powers are taken by the Minister. I will say one last word, with all the best feelings that I can muster towards the Minister. Frankly, I do not think he should go to Wales. If he asks me, I will tell him where he should go.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I apologise for intervening again in the Debate. The whole matter now boils down to the question whether or not the Minister has the powers without the Amendment being accepted. If he could show that he has those powers, I should agree that there is no point in pressing the Amendment. But has he the powers? Suppose that somebody came to him with a scheme for a camp, and he asked, "What land are you going to purchase?" and the person replied by indicating the land. Suppose that the Minister then asked, "What are you going to do with it?" and the reply was, "We are going to use this part of it as a camp site, and that part for other 593 purposes within Clause 2." Suppose that the Minister asked, "Why do you propose to buy the remainder of it?" and the reply was, "Because we want to preserve the amenities surrounding it," or "Because we want to prevent the exploitation of the unearned increment in the value of the land." The Minister would then be bound to say, "I have no power under Clause2 to sanction the purchase of land for that purpose." I should have thought that was plain. If the Minister has the power, I think he would be the first to say that there must be no doubt about it. If there is any doubt about it, why does he not either accept the Amendment or undertake, at a later stage, to introduce some Amendment which will put beyond all possible doubt the powers which he thinks he has already, but which many of us are satisfied that he has not?
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I want to make a final appeal to the Minister who, I know, is a most reasonable person, and who, I am sure, desires to act in accordance with the views expressed by the Committee. There has been a long Debate on this Amendment, and practically everybody—there was one exception—who has spoken has been in favour of accepting the Amendment. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not give a promise that between now and the Report stage he will seriously consider whether some provision ought not to be included, in view of the discussion that has taken place. It might be more limited than the words of the Amendment, but surely the right hon. Gentleman could include something which would go a long way towards removing the real anxieties felt by many hon. Members in all parts of the Committee. If he were able to give such an assurance and to say that he would give close and sympathetic attention to what has been said, I should be glad to withdraw the Amendment.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am anxious to meet the views of hon. Members as far as possible. Certainly, it does not seem to me, from the discussion which has taken place, that the words of the Amendment would anything like safeguard what all of us have in mind. I have been turning over in my mind some such wording as: 594Reasonably required for the purposes of their functions in connection with the construction, maintenance and management of camps.I think that perhaps such a wording would go a long way towards meeting the point of view of the hon. Member. Take, for instance, the purchase of a 20-acre field. It has been said that it the camp got everything it wanted from that field, there would be no power to go beyond that. Obviously, that is not the point of view of the Government. Therefore, the hon. Member may take it that I will examine the matter from the point of view of what would be reasonably required. That is as far as I can go. I think the words to which I have referred indicate what I have in mind.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested the addition of the words "reasonably required." May I suggest a further addition at the end of the definition—Reasonably required for the purposes of their functions in connection with the construction, maintenance and management of camps, and for the preservation of their amenities.If the right hon. Gentleman would introduce those additional words, it would go a considerable way towards meeting our point.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think the hon. Member will realise that it is exactly for that purpose that I am not moving anything in the nature of a manuscript Amendment now, but merely undertaking to consider some points which can be considered and which might form the subject of an Amendment later on. I do not think I can go any further than that.
§ Mr. Mander
In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and as I am sure that he will be willing to consult me and other hon. Members interested in this matter as regards the wording of the Amendment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Sir Adam Maitland
I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, after "shall," to insert:subject to the provisions of the next succeeding Sub-section.This Amendment, which is introductory to my Amendment in page 2, line 41, is 595 a simple one, and I hope that the Minister will regard it as being very reasonable. Its purpose is to secure that when the recognised companies seek to purchase compulsorily land in an area in which local authorities are also responsible for performing public services, those local authorities shall have the right to express their views before compulsory powers are granted. I think that probably that is a principle which will be accepted by the Minister, and if he does not favour the precise wording which I have proposed, I shall be happy to move the Amendment in an amended form.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Colville
We propose to accept this Amendment. As my hon. Friend said, the Amendment is introductory to an Amendment in his name in page 2, line 41. Its purpose is to provide that a local authority in whose area it is proposed to acquire a site by means of the compulsory-purchase machinery shall be given notice of that intention. That notice would contain a description of the site, the name of the place, a copy of the order, and a map showing the situation of the land. We think that is reasonable and that local authorities are entitled to have that notice.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 29, leave out from "if," to the end of line 30, and insert:
§ "the recognised company were a local authority."—[Mr. Bernays.]
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Donner
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 35 to 41.
The object of the Amendment is to delete the privilege of the Minister to dispense with a local inquiry should a case of a compulsory purchase order be Submitted to him for confirmation within two years of the passing of the Act. The object I have in mind is to ensure that in all cases a local inquiry will take place, believing as I do that the power to withhold an inquiry removes the only public opportunity for a man to voice his protest if he believes he is the subject of an injustice. I believe that he should not be deprived of that opportunity, and I think 596 that that right should be maintained if he suffers from a sense of grievance and particularly if it happens to be a bonâ fide landowner or a tenant. I mention that because I am concerned, not with the speculator, but with the bonâfide landowner, who is in this position, that if a compulsory order is made, he will be informed that his land will be purchased compulsorily, and the figure of compensation will be arrived at by "a Government valuer." The figure of compensation is arrived at, not by the seller nor even by an impartial valuer, but by the purchaser, and this procedure seems to me to savour so much of autocracy that a public protest should not be denied to him.
In that connection I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would define rather more precisely than he did on the Second Reading what is intended by "a Government valuer." That was the phrase employed by him, and I think there might be some advantage if the Government attempted a closer definition of that phrase. Is a Government valuer a man appointed by the Government, is he a local man, or is he a civil servant? It seems to me to be a point of some substance, inasmuch as if he is a local man, with local experience and local knowledge, he will be at a greater advantage when trying to estimate what is in fact a fair price, whereas if he is merely a civil servant, he will have none of those advantages.
It may be argued against my Amendment that a man who does not wish to sell or who has any protest to make will have ample opportunity, after he has been notified that a compulsory purchase will take place, to approach the Minister direct; and naturally my right hon. Friend would extend the same consideration to a man who sent a direct protest as he would to the report of one of his own inspectors. Nevertheless, I think there is a distinction which must be made between the private approach of an individual to the appropriate Minister and the holding of a public inquiry. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to consider this Amendment sympathetically, because no assurance that equal treatment will be extended can possibly in my view, allay the apprehension in the mind of a man so affected. There is a differentiation which cannot be denied between private approach and public inquiry. There 597 seems to me to be no adequate redress for such a man if a public inquiry is refused. It may also be argued in favour of maintaining the Bill as it standś that a similar provision to this was included in the Housing Act of 1919, and in point of fact that argument was employed by my right hon. Friend during the Second Reading of this Bill, but that is not an argument in favour of abolishing an inquiry. I do not know whether the powers under that particular Act were ever employed and, if so, to what extent they were employed, but even aśsuming that they were employed, I think my right hon. Friend will agree that it is desirable that an inquiry should be the rule and not the exception, and indeed the holding of a local inquiry in similar circumstances has so far always been customary.
The argument employed by the Government in favour of the Bill as it stands is, of course, that speed is the overriding consideration, and my right hon. Friend very courteously informed me that for this reason he would find it very difficult to accept the Amendment. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the problem of speed could be overcome if my right hon. Friend were willing to divide the inquiry into two parts. Quite clearly there is the question of an inquiry as to the site, should there be a protest in regard to the choice of site, and there is the possibility of an inquiry as regards the nature of the price. If it is argued that the overriding consideration of speed prevents the holding of a local inquiry as regards the site, because that would delay the whole matter, surely there is no reason why there should not be an inquiry, after the transaction had been completed, as regards the fairness of the compensation suggested. In the Second Reading Debate my right hon. Friend said:The whole purpose of this procedure is to secure expedition, and I can assure the House that we shall proceed forthwith to acquire the land and to construct the camps, and if necessary arguments will be carried on at greater leisure at a later date."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1939; col. 2085; Vol. 345.]What, therefore, I am asking my right hon. Friend to consider is whether he will be willing to accept his own words and, between now and the Report stage, to consider inserting an Amendment which would allow the holding of a local inquiry as regards the question of price and the fairness of the compensation proposed, 598 because if the price is to be fixed by a Government valuer, the fact does remain that the owner of the land is at the mercy of one man's judgment and one man's discretion. I hope, therefore, that between now and the Report stage my right hon. Friend will be so good as to consider whether he could insert an Amendment which would secure that justice is done.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
No doubt, as my hon. Friend has said, this proviso was inserted in the Bill with the object of expediting the acquisition of these sites, but the point that I desire to put to the Minister is that the effect of this Amendment will not be to compel him to hold a local inquiry into every compulsory purchase plan, because, under Section 161 of the Local Government Act, which this proviso proposes should be suspended, it is provided that if the Minister is satisfied that the objection can be met by payment of compensation, he may confirm the compulsory purchase order without holding any local inquiry at all. This Amendment, therefore, relates only to those cases where the objection—and I would remind the Committee that it is not only the objection of the landowner; it is the objection of the tenant or occupier as well—of the landowner or the tenant or occupier cannot be met by the payment of compensation. I submit to my right hon. Friend that it is reasonable to ask that in what may be an exceptional case, where the injury which is done to the landowner or the occupier is not one which can be met subsequently by the payment of compensation, there should be a local inquiry before the compulsory purchase order is confirmed. I hope my right hon. Friend will see the reasonableness of what we are asking in this Amendment, which is that a local inquiry should be held, not in every case, but only in that exceptional case where the objections of the owner or occupier cannot be met by payment of compensation.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have listened with interest to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson). My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke said he could realise the desirability of speed and the possibilities of delay involved in a local inquiry, but he said, 599 very truly, "We do not like leaving anybody solely to the mercy of the Department as to what the Department will pay for a piece of land." That was, I think, the gravamen of his charge, and he said, "If you could show me some way by which, even although a local inquiry were cut out, the person in question should not be left to the mercy of the Department, and still more to the mercy of an official of the Department, I should be satisfied." I think I can meet him on that point. He asked who would be the valuer. The person who would conduct the negotiations would be an officer of the Valuation Department of the Inland Revenue, but the last word would not be with him. The procedure which I have in mind—and if there is any doubt about it, I will see that words are inserted between now and the Report stage to make it clear—is a procedure whereby, if the individual was not satisfied with the price offered, he could go to arbitration, and then the matter would come under the official arbitrator who would be an independent arbitrator appointed under the Acquisition of Land Act. I think that would meet the point that my hon. Friend has in view, and I shall be glad to look into it before the Report stage and to discuss it with him in order to make sure that we are at one on the point.
§ Mr. Donner
I thank my right hon. Friend for his promise to consider the inclusion of the words, "a Government valuer." Would it be possible for him to consider granting a local inquiry should an interested owner desire it? There is a certain apprehension in the minds of a number of people on this point. Perhaps between now and the Report stage my right hon. Friend will see his way to reconsider the matter.
§ Mr. Elliot
I will look into the matter. I do not want to be unreasonable, but in the discussion of a case a matter of considerable urgency might arise. I will consider the point between now and the Report stage and discuss it further with my hon. Friend.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I am always suspicious when the landlords, the owners of our native land, are looking after their interests here. I always find that the Government of the day are very anxious to placate the landlords. We find the landlords in force to-day and I am suspicious. They grudge the land to be acquired in this fashion, whether they want it or not, land that is absolutely necessary, the Government say, for the defence of our native land, to save children who have to be evacuated out of danger zones. We have the representatives of the landlords here stating their case in order to safeguard their interests. You never find the landlords coming along and telling us that because of the development of industry, etc., their land has been made more valuable, and they do not intend to make any extra charge. On the contrary, they are always scooping in all they possibly can.
§ Mr. Elliot
I would appeal to my hon. Friend. I do not want to cut short the discussion in any way, but I was merely giving an explanation to my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner). My hon. Friend merely raised a point as to whether this matter might be dealt with by some independent person, and not merely by a Government Department. I gave him that assurance. I do hope that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) will not think it is necessary to continue the discussion unduly.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will not detain the Committee unduly on this matter, but I know the conditions that prevail in the rural districts, not only of Scotland but of England, where the influence of the landlord is still felt. They do not want some independent individual to come along to settle things. They want it to be some local individual, so that the landlord can bring pressure to bear upon him in order that his decision will be in favour of the landlord for the time being. I hope the Minister of Health will watch that side 601 of the question and see that the landlords of this country do not get away by pinching too much, especially when they are asking the working classes to make sacrifices. My own trade union to-day has decided that men out on strike for their rights have to go back to their work. The Union Executive think that the country should be considered first. Therefore, they say: "Back to your work, and we will consider what is to be done." The same thing ought to be done with the landlords.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is not the purpose of the Clause. I sympathise with my hon. Friend, but I do assure him that that is not the purpose of the Clause.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The Government have to surrender every time to the landlords, and that is what we of my class are being asked to do to-day. The landlords will sacrifice nothing. They ask my class to make sacrifice, to give up all they have—to give up their labour power, the only thing they have to sell in order to live, and to sacrifice all their rights. I want the Minister of Health to see to it that the landlords toe the line, the same as everybody else, and to see to it that he does not surrender, and that the power of the landlords of this country must not be brought to bear.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
I know the desire of the Minister of Health to get to a far better place than this as speedily as possible. He made a special reference to an independent arbiter. The right hon. Gentleman, with his experience as Secretary of State for Scotland, knows the difficulty that is facing the local authorities and will face this Housing Association in getting an independent arbiter. It will mean that they will require to take the arbiter from a panel of men who are engaged in private business. You cannot get an independent arbiter to deal with a problem of this kind unless in the case of this Bill you take the advice which has been repeatedly refused by the right hon. Gentleman himself as Secretary of State for Scotland and by his successors in office to set up an independent panel of officials connected with the Ministry of Health in England and the Department of Health in Scotland, who will be free, without any influence of any kind from private individuals, to give an independent decision in a matter of this kind.
602 The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that in acquiring land for housing purposes, time and again in Scotland we have been fleeced, because we have had to accept from the panel an alleged independent individual who was on the panel and would give a decision in favour of a local authority one week, and on the panel to give a decision in favour of a private landlord the next week. You cannot get independence in those conditions. This is a war-time Measure for a war which I hope will never come, and if the war never comes it will be a glorious opportunity for giving really health opportunities for our people. We must get the land at the cheapest and most reasonable prices possible, but you cannot get it unless you have a case of this kind decided either by the sheriff in Scotland, or a county court judge in England, or by setting up a panel of individuals not serving in private practice, and who have no private interest to serve in giving a decision. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give a further explanation of what is meant by the independent arbiter to which he referred.
§ Mr. Elliot
My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke brought forward an Amendment to delete certain lines from the Bill. I am resisting that Amendment and do not propose to accept it. I was explaining to my hon. Friend the procedure under which this Clause would operate. Therefore, I think the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) can be reassured on that point. I am not acceding to the request that has been made. I was merely explaining the procedure under which this matter will be dealt with, first of all by a valuer of the Department of Inland Revenue, then if that is queried by an independent arbitrator under the existing Statutes relating to the acquisition of land. The procedure is somewhat different between Scotland and England, because in England the arbitrators are chosen by the Lord Chief Justice. I can assure the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk that the procedure which he desires is pretty carefully carried out in England, but I do not think it goes quite so far in Scotland. This would not, however, be the appropriate occasion on which to amend the law relating to land acquisition in Scotland and England. I can only say that the procedure such as my hon. Friend desires is in fact in practice and I pro- 603 pose to adhere to it. I was indicating to the hon. Member for Basingstoke that it was not necessarily a matter of agreement between buyer and seller.
§ Mr. Westwood
As this Bill also applies to Scotland, will the right hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of the Bill, try to assimilate the law of Scotland and England for the appointment of these really independent arbitrators? If he does that, I can assure him on behalf of my hon. Friends that we shall raise no objection.
§ Mr. Elliot
I obviously cannot undertake anything like that in the absence of the Secretary of State for Scotland. If I did so he would object very much. I do not think that the matter arises here. We shall, however, take note of what the hon. Member mentions.
§ Mr. Donner
On the assurance given by my right hon. Friend, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Sir A. Maitland
I beg to move, in page 2, line 41, at the end, to insert:(3) In its application to a recognised company who make under this Section a compulsory purchase order Sub-section (3) of Section one hundred and sixty-one of the Local Government Act, 1933, shall have effect as if it provided that the notice required by paragraph (a) of that Sub-section to be published in local newspaper shall also be served on the council of every borough, or urban or rural district, in which any land comprised in the order is situate.As the right hon. Gentleman has indicated his intention to accept the Amendment, I formally move it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Ammon
I want to give the Minister an opportunity to make clear in what he has already done in a letter to the Surrey County Council. Discussions have taken place with the Ministry with regard to the position due to the creation of the London Green Belt. The matter has been satisfactorily dealt with as regards the compulsory acquisition of Green Belt land. 604 Difficulty has arisen in regard to land which has been sterilised by the owner in consideration of money paid by a planning authority. The owner is entitled to live there until such time as he has finished with it, and then it falls into the control of the public authority. As the Bill is at present drafted there is just a possibility that compulsory purchase might be effected and we should be landed in difficulties. In a letter written yesterday to the Surrey County Council, I understand the Minister gave an assurance to the effect that he would not approve as a site any land included in the Green Belt except with the consent of the authority concerned. He also said as regards land sterilised by the owner that he would not confirm a compulsory purchase order, unless he was satisfied that the terms of the acquisition by a recognised company were such as would safeguard the financial position of the planning authority. Perhaps the Minister will say whether he is prepared to implement those assurances.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have great pleasure in doing so, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) for giving me the opportunity. I fully agree with his version of the correspondence which I had with the: Surrey County Council, namely, that I was prepared to give assurances that I would not approve as a site any land included in the Green Belt, except with the consent of the authority concerned. As regards land in general which has been sterilised by the owner in consideration of money paid by a planning authority, I said I would not be prepared to confirm a Compulsory Purchase Order unless I was satisfied, both in the special circumstances that the proposed acquisition would not be prejudicial from the point of view of planning, and that the terms of acquisition by a recognised company were such as would safeguard the financial position of the planning authority.
§ Mr. Donner
In the Second Reading Debate my right hon. Friend dealt with the question of utilising country houses and said:I should add that in speaking of sites I by no means exclude the possibility of obtaining country mansions, which may well form a valuable nucleus around which hutments may be placed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1939; col. 2083, Vol. 345.]605 I understand that a number of such houses are now in the market and that these might well be purchased for the objects of the Bill, and I would like to have an assurance that houses which are occupied will not be compulsorily purchased when unoccupied houses are available for this purpose.
§ Mr. Elliot
My hon. Friend is pressing me rather far. We all desire to be reasonable in the matter, and nobody wants to be expropriated from the house in which he is living. But to give an assurance that no house which is occupied can be compulsorily acquired would be going unreasonably far. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has a large and noble house, the hospitality of which I have enjoyed, yet I would not undertake, even now, to say that if the national interest demanded it I would not acquire that house and property compulsorily for national purposes. It would be reasonable, if national necessity arose, that the Secretary of State for Scotland should turn me out of my house or turn anybody else out of his house. While we shall do our best to be reasonable, I think the assurance for which I am asked would go too far.
I think that happened during the War, and there was no difficulty about it. They just said that they needed your house and they turned you out of it and they did not pay you either. But I do not think the hon. Gentleman need worry because most of these large houses are so expensive to run that the trouble is to get them used. Already, I may say, my house is requisitioned for 90 children inside and 90 children outside.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
That may be, but I have refused to give such an assurance and I am sure the hon. Member will not desire to press the matter further. There is no question of weakening upon it.
§ Mr. Ede
That is the characteristic attitude of Ministers. When they have spoken the matter is finished. I do not 606 intend to prevent the right hon. Gentleman getting to Wales if he wants to go. Indeed I would have been better pleased if he had gone earlier. But it is essential that the hon. Member for Basingstoke should realise that the claim which he has made, in connection with a matter of this kind, concerned with the possibility of war, is a claim which is bound to be resisted not merely by Ministers but by those people who would fill Ministerial positions far better than the present Ministers.
§ Mr. Donner
I have no intention of suggesting that houses which are now occupied should not be taken over by the Government in the event of a national emergency. But I was considering this as a peace-time Measure and I suggested that now, when so many houses are in the market, unoccupied premises should be considered first before we begin to consider taking over occupied houses.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am prepared to spend the whole evening here if necessary. I am not asking the Committee to release me to go to Wales. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to press any argument of that kind. I am here as the servant of the House of Commons, and my duty is to stay here as long as this Committee desires my presence here.
§ Mr. Benn
I meant nothing to the discredit of the right hon. Gentleman, but here is a Bill which has on it the names of two Secretaries of State and three Under-Secretaries and yet it is necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to stay here because none of his colleagues appear, in his judgment, to be competent to conduct the proceedings on the Bill. I enter my protest on that ground. No one desires to prevent the right hon. Gentleman discharging his public duties in the way that he can discharge them. But we do object to having a Debate which is kept constantly "on the run" so to speak, by the feeling that if we debate matters such as the proposal of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) we may in some way hinder the right hon. Gentleman's public work. It is an extraordinary position that with the names of two Secretaries of State and three Under- 607 Secretaries on the Bill we have to conduct this Debate under a sense of duress and haste. That is a protest which ought to be entered in the interests of free debate in Committee of the whole House.