HC Deb 24 May 1939 vol 347 cc2455-9

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 10, after "that" insert: (a) before giving his approval under this Sub-section, the Minister shall notify the planning authority, if any, for the area in which the land is situate, of the application for his approval and take into consideration any representations which may be made to him by that authority, within fourteen days after the receipt by them of such notification; and (b)".

10.51 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

These Amendments are the result of strong pressure in another place, where it was pointed out that the planning authorities had taken a good deal of pride in carrying out their task and that it was undesirable that they should even appear to be overridden or by-passed by the Corporation.

Mr. Benn

On a point of Order. Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is quoting from the Debates in another place?

Mr. Elliot

Certainly not.

An Hon. Member

What is he doing?

Mr. Elliot

I am giving the gist of the arguments put forward in another place where it was suggested that the Corporation, which is after all a private company, should not be used to override democratically elected institutions. I had an idea that that was the sort of argument which would appeal to my right hon. Friend, if I may call him so on this occasion. I have certainly heard him advance arguments of that kind himself.

Mr. Benn

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that it is not the practice to make quotations from the Debates in another place.

Mr. Elliot

I am so well aware of that that I was not quoting them. I think the House will be aware, too, that I have taken steps to safeguard the position, because we had arranged for informal consultations and for the appointment of a highly qualified architect, and even town-planners, to the corporation. But it was felt in another place that that did not completely satisfy their opinion. In deference to expressions of opinions here, the corporation has appointed a very distinguished planner to its board, and that has met with general approval throughout the country, especially among those who thought, perhaps, that we were likely to short-circuit the proceedings in regard to town-planning.

I do not think that we can resist the strongly expressed views of those who see danger in this matter. We shall take steps immediately the Bill is passed to submit particulars of the sites which have been provisionally selected to the town-planning authorities, who will be allowed 14 days in which to make any representations they may desire. In view of the strong interest which this House has in planning generally, I think I can reasonably ask that it should agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am sure that the House will have listened with interest to the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman of the reasons why we should accept the Amendment, but I would ask what is the exact significance of the words, "if any," after the words "planning authority"? As I understood the situation I thought that every part of the country was covered by some planning authority responsible for the planning of the area. No one can object to taking the views of those authorities most of which will be rural district councils. I do not know whether any rural district council in the country meets as frequently as every 14 days. My experience of rural councils is that they rarely meet more frequently than once a month and I should be surprised if, in the type of area in which these camps will be situated, rural councils will meet within the 14 days to make up their minds, and let the Minister know their observations on the matter. If the Minister is going to consult them, the consultation should enable the authority itself and not merely the chairman, or possibly the clerk, of the council to send his views back to the Minister representing them as the views of the local authority.

When the Bill was before the House, Members on all sides were exceedingly anxious that nothing should be done by the provision of these camps which would in any way destroy the amenities of the countryside or interfere with the activities of the planning authorities. Therefore, on this side, we do not object to any safeguard which the Minister proposes to introduce, provided it is reasonable. I am exceedingly anxious that if the view of the local planning authority is required we should be certain that we get that view and not some mere formal note that will be sent in the majority of cases only by the chairman of the town planning authority. In many parts of the country the Minister's proposal may mean calling people from very considerable distances to a meeting, and I am sure they will not view with favour the idea of meeting merely to give consideration to one letter from the Minister on one point. It is not as it was in the old days when rural councils and guardians were one and the same people, generally meeting on the same day and with sufficient business to bring them together. Now they are not in that position, and I hope that the Minister will not impose upon them the duty of holding a meeting merely for the purpose of discussing one communication.

Mr. Elliot

If I may speak again by the leave of the House, I should like to say that in fact there are places where there is no town planning authority, and that this provision will apply to a certain number of small areas in England and to a larger number in Scotland, and also to certain areas in Wales; but it is unlikely that many camps will be placed on Welsh sites where there is no planning authority.

As to the position of the small local authorities, and whether they would be likely to meet and make representations within the 14 days allowed for laying those representations officially before me, the authorities in all these cases will be well aware that it is proposed to establish a camp in their area, and, if they feel strongly on the subject, it would be possible to hold a special meeting. The House will remember that in the Edale case, where there was a good deal of public interest, the rural district council did meet again. I think these authorities will appreciate having a period of 14 days in which to make official representations. I do not think the provision is entirely otiose, because they will know that camps are being planned in their areas. Their planning officer will already have been consulted informally, but a body which feels strongly on the subject will not merely allow its views to go forward from its planning officer. It will call a meeting and forward its representations to me, which I shall certainly be very ready to receive and to consider.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Remaining Lords Amendment agreed to.