HC Deb 26 January 1943 vol 386 cc417-66

Order for Second Reading read.

The Minister without Portfolio (Sir William Jowitt)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill, as its long Title states, consists of three parts. In the first place, it appoints a Minister of Town and Country Planning in England and Wales—it does not apply to Scotland—and makes certain provisions in connection with that appointment. Secondly, it transfers to the Minister certain existing statutory powers, namely, those powers which are now exercisable by the Minister of Works and Planning and such other functions as exist under particular Acts of Parliament, mainly private Acts of Parliament. Thirdly, it provides for the establishment of certain statutory Commissions to assist the Minister in his work.

The House will recall that as recently as last year we transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Minister of Works and Buildings, whom we constituted for this purpose Minister of Works and Planning, certain powers existing under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. The marriage, therefore, between Works and Planning has been of such short duration that the House may fairly wonder why it is that the young married couple are already contemplating a divorce. Of course, we are dealing here with a very difficult and, in the main, a novel subject, for although we have known of town and country planning ever since the late Mr. John Burns, whose recent death we all deplore, introduced his Bill of 1908, yet we have never hitherto tried to bring about a national policy in regard to that planning. We have had from time to time a series of Ministerial pronouncements to the effect that we had decided to embark upon such a national policy, but I think this is the first time we have inserted in a Bill words which show that the duty of the new Minister is to secure consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with regard to the use and development of land throughout England and Wales.

The problem of bringing about that national policy was not only novel but beset with difficulties, and I feel we need not apologise to the House for the fact that we have profited by our experience and that we are in a position, as we believe, to improve upon our original idea. The working of planning since the fusion of the Minister of Works and the Minister of Planning has satisfied us on two points. The first is that if town and country planning is to be a reality, it will require the whole-time services of a front-rank Minister. It is, we are satisfied, physically impossible for any Minister already busily engaged in other directions to devote the necessary time and attention which, it is obvious to us from experience, this subject demands. There is a second reason. We think it is of importance that the new Minister should not only be, but should also appear to be, entirely impartial in his judgment as to the right use of any particular piece of land. If he can be regarded as a Minister already predisposed by reason of his other Ministerial duties to lean to a particular type of land use, he will for that very reason be less able to exercise his influence. For instance, if a question were to arise as to whether a particular piece of land should be utilised for building or utilised for agriculture, the fact that the Minister of Planning is also Minister of Works might make it appear that he would lean rather to a building use than to an agricultural use. For both those reasons, we have come to the conclusion, on reconsideration, that it is better to appoint someone whose sole Ministerial function is in connection with town and country planning.

Perhaps I may say a few words as to the reason we have selected that title for the Minister. It is to be observed that we do not call him a Minister of Planning. We propose to call him Minister of Town and Country Planning for this reason. Having myself recently given much thought to this question of planning, and having heard many arguments about it, I have come to the conclusion that the ambiguity of that word "planning" is at the root of the trouble. We frequently use the word "planning" in two wholly different senses and frequently fail to realise that we are passing from one sense to the other sense. Sometimes we talk about Planning with a big P as opposed to planning with a little p. Sometimes we talk about national planning as opposed to physical planning. When we used to talk, in the old days, about, for instance, the Russian Five-Year Plan, we meant something much wider merely than the right use of land: and when we talk about the planning which is involved in our endeavour to build up what I may term as the "Better Britain" policy, we obviously include, and must include, such topics as the location of industry, the prevention of cyclical depressions, education, public health, social services, agricultural policy, the development of roads, harbours and ports, and last, but by no means least, financial policy. All those matters must obviously come into Planning, and it is quite obvious that it is impossible to appoint any one Minister of Planning to deal with what I have described as the "Better Britain" Policy.

That planning is the task, and I should suppose the main task, of the Government themselves in the post-war period, a task which may be described as the task of national organisation, responsibility for which, of course, must lie with the Cabinet itself. It may, of course, be found convenient, when the war is successfully over, that the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister, or some Minister of that rank and status, should preside over a Committee of the Cabinet to consider matters of national organisation, just as at the present time I am presiding over the Committee of Ministers whose task it is to think out the broad approach to reconstruction matters leading to better national organisation. We feel, and I think the House will agree, it seems obvious, that one of the members of any such Ministerial Committee should be the Minister who is charged with the duties relating to town and country planning. It is for that reason that we have adopted the title of Minister of Town and Country Planning, to indicate that the function of the Minister is to concern himself with the administration of the Town and Country Planning Act, or any Amendment of it that may be hereafter contemplated, and show that we do not mean him to be responsible, save as a member of the whole Ministerial Committee, for dealing with matters of national organisation which obviously are beyond the powers or capacity of any one individual.

I hope that in due course the new Minister will bring in a Bill to amend the Act of 1932 dealing with town and country planning. There are certain respects in which that Act needs amendment. For instance, the giving of very much enlarged powers to local authorities in order that they may buy large areas and plan them as a whole is obviously necessary. The recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee, in so far as we accept them, may, of course, involve further substantial amendments and modifications of that Act. But I conceive that if I were to say more about that matter I should bring myself within the rules of Order because this is not the time nor the occasion, as I conceive it, to discuss powers. The powers will be the subject of some future Bill which I hope will be introduced shortly. This is a Bill dealing only with essential machinery and all that we are purporting to do is to transfer existing powers, whatever they may be, from the Minister of Works and Planning to the new Minister of Town and Country Planning in order that he may devote his whole time and attention to this task. For the last few weeks I have deliberately not pressed forward the consideration of any amendments of powers. I thought it right to keep that back in order that we might have the sage advice and wisdom of the Minister-designate and just at the moment when we are hoisting him into the saddle to start his triumphant gallop it would be unfortunate, if, before he was there, we were to come to definite conclusions as to precise modifications or alterations of existing powers. This obviously is a matter which will be a first charge on his time and attention.

Now I want to say something about Clause 8. The other Clauses are really formal and consequential. Under Clause 8 (2) before we utilise the powers of the Clause we require to have an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, but none the less, local authorities have written to me and expressed some anxiety because they have felt—and I sympathise with them—that they do not want to be deprived of their right of approach to a Minister of the Crown, on whom they can exert proper Parliamentary pressure and to be told that they are to deal with a Commission. I have pointed out to them that that is not the intention and I do not think it is the effect of the language used, but in order to make the position quite plain I have agreed with their representatives on a form of amendment which I think satisfies them completely. I do not want to discuss this as a mere lawyer. It is so long since I ceased to be a lawyer that my law has become very rusty. But I should suppose it cannot be doubted that you cannot, by executive action, interfere with an Act of Parliament, unless, of course, you are given express power so to do.

For instance, in Clause 6 (2) we are transferring to the Minister certain powers arising under private Acts. Under Subsection (3) we provide that incidental, consequential or supplemental provisions may be made. Otherwise you cannot interfere with an existing act. But in Clause 8 there is no corresponding power at all. It is clear that you cannot by an Order in Council interfere with or alter or modify in any way powers existing under Acts of Parliament, and the powers of local authorities under Acts of Parliament exist, of course, by virtue of the Statute. If it is decided to alter or modify the powers of local authorities it must be done in a subsequent Bill. It cannot be done by appointing a Commission. You cannot deprive local authorities of their powers by appointing a Commission. All that I pointed out to the Associations of local authorities, but they were anxious about the matter, and although I think it really unnecessary I have suggested and they have agreed, that we should alter the Clause in this way—in the second line to leave out the words: exercising under the direction of the Minister and to substitute: assisting the Minister in the exercise of his functions. The opening three lines of the Clause will then read: If it appears to His Majesty to be expedient to establish any Commission for the purpose of assisting the Minister in the exercise of his functions. That, I am glad to say, has satisfied the very experienced representatives of the local authorities that we are dealing only with the functions of the Minister and are in no way diminishing the functions, rights and duties of local authorities. I have been informed by one of them, who I think speaks for all, that he is satisfied and that the misgiving that he had previously felt had now been overcome and I am very glad that that should be so.

Sir Harold Webbe (Westminster, Abbey)

Will it still be possible for the Minister to transfer to this Commission executive authority which is conferred on him by Statute?

Sir W. Jowitt

No. The functions that we have in mind for the Commission will be either advisory functions—advising the Minister—or else if it is considered convenient to adopt the Uthwatt scheme, managerial functions. That is to say if it is decided that when land is to be developed the land should be bought by or on behalf of the Crown, and thereafter leased to an individual, then the managerial functions which would be involved in that would be carried out by the Commission. It is those advisory and managerial functions only with which we propose to deal.

Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)

If a local authority wanted to purchase some of the land for development would they deal with the Commission as such or would they deal direct with the Minister?

Sir W. Jowitt

As the law stands to-day they would have to deal with the Minister, and the Minister could not shuffle off his responsibility to local, authorities by setting up a Commission of this sort. The Commission might advise the Minister how to deal with the local authority, but the local authority has a right to go to the Minister and the Minister, on application, would consider the demands of the local authority. I think that position will remain, but the whole subject of powers will be dealt with in the Powers Bill hereafter. We are now merely transferring existing powers and under the Bill the Minister cannot escape his obligations and local authorities cannot be in any way deprived of their rights. That is the Bill and I hope we shall get it through at the earliest possible moment, for we shall need in this very difficult matter the advice and guidance of my right hon. Friend who has already been indicated as Minister-designate.

Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)

The right hon. Gentleman said, I believe, that Commissioners would assist—I am not quite certain of the actual word he used—in, say, recommendations in regard to undeveloped land and so on in the Uthwatt Report. Is that not anticipating too far, as the Uthwatt Report and its machinery has not yet become the law of the land; indeed, it has not even been considered by this House?

Sir W. Jowitt

The object of the Bill is to set up a central machinery. The way in which it will be used will depend on the powers which the House confers on the Minister hereafter.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)

I am not quite sure that in all respects I see eye to eye with my right hon. and learned Friend, for reasons which I will try to explain. There is a background to this discussion and, clearly, the importance of the Bill does not depend upon the Bill itself but on the purpose which it is designed to serve. There, is some history behind this. I will not go back earlier than the beginning of 1941 when I assumed certain responsibilities for the study and consideration of post-war problems. At that time Lord Reith had become Minister of Works and Buildings and had had assigned to him quite definite duties, to assist in preparing for physical reconstruction and town and country planning after the war. On 26th February, 1941, Lord Reith made a statement which expressed the policy of the Government at that time. It assumed that a central planning authority would be required. It was accepted that planning must subserve Government policy on a wide range of questions including the place of agriculture in the national economy, the distribution of industry and the organisation of transport. There was at least two years ago a vision of planning which is far outside the scope of the physical aspect of planning. The Uthwatt Committee had already been appointed to press on with the exploration of certain very urgent and particular aspects of the problem of planning for post-war purposes.

Some five months later, on 17th July, 1941, Lord Reith, following upon the publication of the first report of the Uthwatt Committee, used these words, The Government accept the Committee's view that all necessary steps towards the working out of a national plan should be taken as soon as possible to secure that local development and re-development may proceed in conformity with national requirements, with the least possible delay after the war; and that as to works or developments sought to be carried out meantime clear guidance should be available whether or not they will be in accord with national interests. A committee was appointed consisting of Lord Reith as Chairman, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Health, who were both vitally involved. They were appointed to ensure that the administration of the Town and Country Planning Acts and any legislation implementing the recommendations made in the First Report of Uthwatt Committee shall proceed in conformity with long-term planning policy as it is progressively developed. Almost a year ago, on 11th February last year, I announced to the House the further step to be taken by His Majesty's Government. I said that the town and country planning powers exercised by the Minister of Health in England and Wales were to be transferred to the Minister of Works and Buildings, who was to blossom under a new title of Minister of Works and Planning. He was to be assisted by a committee of senior officials of the various departments concerned, and there were several of them. Obviously, as I pointed out at the time, there would be large questions of major policy which would require ministerial consideration and decision. It was, therefore, decided to set up a committee, under my chairmanship because of my special responsibilities with regard to reconstruction matters, composed of the principal Ministers concerned with one or more aspects of this complicated business of planning. I conceived of that ministerial body, subject, of course, to the War Cabinet when appeal to them was necessary, as a national development authority. I will not repeat what I said then. When I made this statement on behalf of the Government nearly a year ago I said that the Government's intention had been to secure the most appropriate development and use of the land of this country—uses of many different kinds. I went on to explain that the Government believed that by a procedure of this kind the various activities of the Departments concerned in post-war reconstruction, including the speedy provision of houses for those who need them, the re-development of devastated areas, the clearance of slums, the relief of overcrowding, the provision of all the necessary public services, and the general promotion of rural development in the light of a positive policy for the maintenance of a healthy and well-balanced agriculture can be welded into a single and consistent policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1942; col. 1532, Vol. 377.] Moreover, I went on to say that the Government undertook to review and consider the objects which have been set out in paragraph 4 of Section 428 of the Barlow Report, namely:

  1. "(a) Continued and further re-development of congested urban areas, where necessary.
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  3. (b) Decentralisation or dispersal, both of industries and industrial population, from congested areas.
  4. (c) Encouragement of a seasonable balance of industrial developments, so far as possible, throughout the various divisions or regions of Great Britain, coupled with the appropriate diversification of industry in each division or region throughout the country."
Since the publication of the Barlow Report in January, 1940, we have had two important footnotes in the reports of the Uthwatt and Scott Committees which, of course, must be taken seriously into account. Although they may to some extent traverse different territory they do tread much common territory, although in their conclusion they do not see eye to eye on all matters. No two or three committees ever could. At least these committees were agreed on the need for the national development and organisation of our resources in the national interest. Before either the Uthwatt or the Scott Committees were appointed, and, therefore, long before they reported, I had come to the broad conclusion that we must have a national development authority, as I have already explained. Indeed, as I have shown, the Government were committed to that in principle less than a year ago. The final report of the Uthwatt Committee, published in September last year, realised this problem of organisation. I do not agree with them in all their details, but I would like to quote their general views because in broad principle I accept them: We have stated our assumptions that planning is intended to be a reality and a permanent feature of the administration of the internal affairs of the country, and that the system of planning assumed is one of national planning with a high degree of initiation and control by the Central Planning Authority, which will have national as well as local considerations in mind, and that such control will be based on organised research into the social and economic life of the country and be directed to securing the use and development of land to the best advantage. We have further stated that the Central Planning Authorities we have in mind is an organisation which does not yet exist and that 'planning' has a meaning not attached to it in any legislation nor, until recently, in the minds of the public. Put shortly, National Development is added to planning. We propose in this chapter to use the term National Development —which is what I had in my mind for over two years. The report continues: In our view it would be a mistake if there were created a Government department concerned with national development which would rank with existing Government departments. What is wanted is thought at the centre and informed vision, unified control of land, use and co-ordination between the existing departments. We think that this can only be secured if there is set up a minister—we call him the Minister for National Development—who should be specially charged with national development. He should have no departmental cares but he should have the advantage of a highly qualified staff informed as to the economic conditions and needs of the country, competent to put forward proposals for consideration and to advise on economic and other questions…arising out of schemes for development. In other words, this technical committee, the Uthwatt Committee, was set up for a particular technical purpose, and having considered the ramifications of the subject came down to the view which the Government held more than a year ago.

The point I wish to stress is that comprehensive and orderly planning and development travels far beyond the range of any single Department. It would, indeed, in normal times had this been undertaken before the war, have been a primary responsibility of the Cabinet, using perhaps weeks and months of Cabinet time. In present conditions what I call the national development authority—which, as I have tried to prove, is what in fact a central planning authority really is, must be the responsibility of some kind of Home Front Cabinet composed of the senior Ministers whose Departments are concerned, because those Departments will in one way or another have heavy responsibilities to bear. They must take a hand according to their functions in caring for the development of our native resources with all that that implies—docks, harbours, transport facilities, all the varied activities of our industrial life and the development of new industries and the satisfaction of human needs. These include water, gas, electricity supply, roads and other forms of transport, houses and community life, and all that community life involves in the way of schools, clinics, hospitals, cinemas, theatres, and shopping centres. We must face the hard task that if the human problems which I have outlined are to be faced boldly and with a single eye to the national well-being, many awkward stiles will have to be negotiated. Even Ministers have not been known to disagree on questions, and a large group of Ministers responsible for the administration of a number of Departments concerned in one way or another with the development and the proper use of land and natural resources might well be expected to suffer from a number of bad headaches.

I think the House will agree that this enormous task cannot rest primarily with one Minister, however gifted he may be and however experienced in the wide range of questions involved. This is a matter for team work by a body of Ministers in shaping the general policy, and then for team work by a group of responsible civil servants, representatives of the Ministers concerned, in applying the general principles and policies and clothing them with the necessary administrative action. This is where I think that my right hon. Friend and I perhaps do not march altogether along the same road. Although he has, in a sense, implied what is my view, I think other functions require to be fulfilled by the new Minister. A single Minister might well supervise the operational plans which should flow from the Government. That is a task of considerable magnitude. I always envisaged—I say this without wishing to be in any way derogatory—that there would be a sort of super-Clerk of Works, who would see that the Government's policy was carried into effect. If that is to be the duty of my right hon. Friend, well and good; but he must be a little more than that. I gather from my right hon. and learned Friend that he would be associated with what I call the team of Ministers, with the sort of committee over which I would have presided had I been so unlucky as to continue in office—that he would have been a member of that team. His duties would have been partly constructive, in the sense that he could make his contributions, and then would fall upon him the heavy task of carrying out the policies and plans which were accepted.

The main burden of my speech is this. I cannot over-emphasise what I think Government inquiries and enlightened public opinion, as expressed through many different channels, have undoubtedly proved, namely the complexity of the issues involved, and the paramount importance of collective responsibility for policy by the Ministers whose Departments will have to take a hand in carrying the plans into effect. You cannot make a super-Department which will take the life-blood of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Health, and so on. The major tasks of administration must rest with those Departments, although there may be minor changes. I will make a further point of considerable substance. It is vital that plans for national development shall be completed without delay. I am not saying that they must be carried into operation, but the back of the job of national development for a quarter, or a half, or three-quarters of a century must be broken quickly; otherwise old and un-desired things will set like concrete, and the new ideas which are surging through almost every industry in this country, through those interested in transport and through those interested in housing, will be strangled before they have any opportunity for adequate expression.

Early in 1941 I thought that the task in its main features was a five years' task. One has to put a target on a programme, and that seemed to me to be the time which would be required if we were to have the many, complex plans agreed for early operation after the armistice. Two years have passed; three years remain. Early in 1940 the tempo of reconstruction was inevitably slow. People were not much interested; and I am not blaming them. But now, in 1943, when we are well into the fourth year of the war, that tempo, as everybody now recognises on all sides of the House, has increased; and we are two years nearer the end of the war than we were in 1941. But I do not believe we can begin to count the five years from now. It will not satisfy people in this country, in all professions, in all avocations of life, in all classes of society, who have set their hopes on seeing a better use of Britain's land and natural resources and the preservation of amenities, to be told one day, "Alas, the end of the war has come too soon, and adequate steps have not been taken." There are those who say that many of our problems cannot, by their very nature, be tackled until the five years end. I do not necessarily agree with that view, though in the case of many problems it is at least an arguable thing. But, however that may be, plans for our own internal development lie chiefly with us; though I would add that if we failed to secure that measure of international economic co-operation which is essential our hopes might be hampered and the complete fulfilment of the scheme delayed. This Bill, I hope, may be taken as an earnest that those considerations are fully in the mind of the Government. Otherwise, the Bill is valueless. It was described to me last Thursday by the Leader of the House as being a machinery Bill. I am not against machinery Bills, but everything depends on the kind and the strength of the motive force behind the machine.

I had hoped that my right hon. and learned Friend would have said rather more than he has done about what I think is the essential background to a judgment on the purposes and the wisdom of this Bill. I am not against the appointment of a Minister of Town and Country Planning—by no means—but whether this appointment is to be effective or not, depends really on major Government decisions as to policy. My right hon. and learned Friend talked about improvement on original ideas. I cannot be expected to go into all that, but I will express my own attitude on these questions. We are told that if this planning is to be a reality it will require the whole time of a front-rank Minister. It depends upon the functions we are thinking of. If we are thinking in terms of a Minister actively associated with the shaping of policy, and at the same time being a taskmaster who sees that the policy is carried out, that is one thing; but if it means somebody who is going to take supreme charge of all these questions, I fear this plan is doomed to failure. Government Departments are kittle cattle. They do not like new Departments. The older the Department, the greater is its pride in its history. I should tremble to think what my right hon. Friend's life would be like if he were to take this magnificent sweep of duties and responsibilities into his own hands, and to fight, one by one—which is the worst way—or altogether, the Minister of Agriculture, the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for Scotland—I have no doubt he would have ideas about the matter—and a number of other Ministers.

It has been said that the new Minister must be, and must appear to be, entirely impartial as to the use of land. It seems to me that we are falling into confusion. This question of the use of land is a complicated problem, which would involve a large number of Departments. With all respect to my right hon. Friend, I do not see that he is going to be the arbiter as to the use of any particular land in a given area. This has to be settled on lines of general policy by agreement between the Departments. I know from my own experience, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows from his, that a Minister of Health has to deal with town and country planning schemes of various kinds, in which half a dozen Departments may be involved. They do not have a lot of rows. The Minister rarely hears about the difficulties; he hears about them only if some Minister has got on his hind legs and said that he is not going to have it at any price. But co-operation in such cases between Ministers and civil servants will be vital to the future of the State. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be charged with this terrible responsibility of being entirely impartial as to the use of land. His right hon. Friend who is now sitting next to him is not in the least bit impartial.

An explanation of what the Bill is was given to us by the Minister Without Portfolio. He used the language of divorce, with which I am not familiar. To put the matter in simple and Biblical language, what has happened is that the Ministry of Works and Planning has been cut in two. What was the Ministry of Works and Buildings and then the Ministry of Works and Planning now becomes the Ministry of Works. Planning becomes the primary function of the new Department, which takes over the existing town and country planning powers of the Minister of Health in regard to England and Wales. A new power is given in Clause 8 of the Bill, and it has created a certain consternation in the minds of hon. Members, and certainly in the minds of representative people who can speak for local government authorities. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained what he proposes for meeting their case. I would like to know a little more about Clause 8. I am not opposed in principle to the proposal, but I can see a rather sticky time coming for the Government unless they watch their step on this matter.

It is impossible in two days' Debate to give these things adequate consideration, but I hope, before the first draft Order in Council is submitted to Parliament, that the Government will give an opportunity for the House to express itself on the principles lying behind Clause 8. It is all very well for the Government to say that we get only a draft Order in Council which can be debated and voted upon, but the first draft Order in Council will be carried by this House and will set a precedent and establish a policy which hereafter will never be successfully challenged. Therefore I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman puts it to the Leader of the House that when the Government contemplate their first draft Order in Council the House, unshackled by what the Government are going to do, should have an opportunity for a full and free discussion.

That brings me to one or two other aspects of the use of Orders in Council proposed in the Bill. There are some quite necessary amendments set out in Clause 6 (1). Then Clause 6 (2) says: If it appears to His Majesty to be expedient that any other functions relating to the use and development of land in England and Wales exercisable by any Minister of the Crown under any enactment should be exercised by the Minister, His Majesty may by Order in Council transfer those functions to the Minister. This illustrates my plea for far fuller knowledge. There should not be postponement of the discussion until we have the powers Bill suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend, but it is important that we should understand the major organisation for national development and its purpose. The major functions to be transferred ought by this time to have been brought out and included in the Bill. Clause 6 (3) gives power to modify or adapt any enactment, order, regulation and so on. I realise that much of the Bill is common form, but I have a suspicion that I have been guilty, as far as regards modifying and adapting enactments, of asking for such powers myself in the past, so I naturally would not wish to make very heavy weather about it, especially in war-time. It may well be, in this altering of enactments, that the Government may find themselves facing a spot of bother at some later date. I hope so, because the more we thresh out these problems and understand all the underlying implications of policy on which we are embarking, the better it will be for the House and the country.

The Minister-Designate, who is sitting opposite me, has my good wishes in his work in this vast and largely uncharted sea. I hope what I believe large numbers of Members of this House will hope, and what I am certain very large numbers of people in the country hope, that this ancient land—because this is really what is behind the policy—shall be worthy of its people, its soil, its science, its organisation, its administrative ability and its skill. If we can rid Britain of the cancers and eyesores of the past, if we can obliterate the scars of the war in our blitzed towns and villages and replace those losses with symbols of dignity, efficiency and human service, and if we can make the best use of that with which Providence has blessed us, the people of our land will be proud indeed of the sacrifices they have made and are making for it. That is the solemn duty of my right hon. Friends, and I hope they will pursue it with an acute sense of urgency and determination.

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, North)

The right hon. Gentleman has just made a very fair case for a larger conception of planning, and I largely agree with it. As to the establishment of a Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and his suggestion that the Government should have a larger planning approach, the Minister without Portfolio said in introducing the Bill that the business of the Deputy Prime Minister in peace-time is to take responsibility for the larger aspects of reconstruction and planning.

I therefore think it is exceedingly difficult to ask for any more than a general approval to the setting-up of a Minister of Town and Country Planning when we do not know what is the intention of the Government with regard to the powers he is to be given. We may give the Bill a general blessing, and we do. It is a better arrangement, I think, than the previous planning, but there are, as in Clause 8, difficulties which arise simply because we do not know what the Government's intentions are in the policy which the Minister is to adopt. The Minister without Portfolio tells us that Clause 8 is there because it is likely that the main recommendation of the Uthwatt Report is to be accepted. It is awfully difficult—well, the Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but that was the only explanation the Minister gave to somebody who asked him a question as to the object of the Clause. (Hon. Members: "No.") Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary or some other Minister will explain later. The Uthwatt Report made a recommendation with regard to the taking-over of the betterment value, nationalising betterment value, if you like. If that is not the intention, then why a Commission? Ministers are ordinarily supplied by the Civil Service with a staff. Why call it a Commission? What is the difference between what it is proposed the Minister of Town and Country Planning is to have and his ordinary staff? Is this to some extent a compromise with the proposal that the planning authority should be a Commission without a Minister? I should like to have guidance on that point.

Apart from that, it seems to me that there is real urgency for the Government to make up their mind on recommendations that have been made in the Uthwatt and Scott Reports, and on the powers which the Minister shall have. Everyone agrees that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, needs very greatly, strengthening, or, to take another example, that the Ribbon Development Act has been of very little value at all. There are at any rate similar problems of that sort, and I do not understand how the Minister is to do useful work until his powers have been defined, and it appears to me that we are only giving authority now to consider what he should do. I hope it will not take him so very long, with the rest of the Government, to make up their minds as to what powers they want and, at any rate, to give us in the House of Commons an opportunity of debating the matter with something concrete before us.

There will be, apart from the general question of planning, tremendous pressure, directly the war comes to an end, to build houses. There is great pressure at the present time for houses, and unless general principles of planning are decided, unless it is decided that the recommendations of the Uthwatt Report on land nationalisation is the right policy, or some other scheme which may be suggested, I do not see how the Minister can prepare against the time when there will be this enormous pressure from public opinion to put up houses urgently. It may be desirable to build a good many temporary houses, but they must be temporary. I know of houses in my constituency which are still occupied, which were "temporary" after the last war, and which are slums and a disgrace to the whole district. On the other hand, it may not be possible immediately after the war to build the sort of houses that we want to see, or not sufficient of them. I hope that we shall aim pretty high in the type of house we build, and that we shall not be content with an indifferent house.

I think there is a case for making use of temporary housing, provided it is made abundantly clear that it is only to be temporary. I hope we shall aim high, and if I might suggest the sort of general principles which I feel are of importance, I would say that in rebuilding our towns we should definitely aim at a very much higher standard than in the past, a higher standard of actual housing, a higher standard of beauty and amenities. Everybody seems to take it for granted that a town must be a hideous place, though actually most people prefer to live there. I do not see why the towns of England should be dreary wastes of bricks and mortar, which so many of the North of England towns, at any rate, are. That reflects also on our attitude to the countryside, because, as a town is regarded as an ill-looking erection, we try to preserve the countryside in a very negative way.

Our planning seems to me to involve a negative side and a positive side. I am all for giving the new Minister all the powers he needs for the necessary side of planning which is negative—the power of stopping people doing what they might do in an ill-considered way. Both our towns and countryside might be very much better than they are from the point of view of building. I want to stop ribbon development and bungaloid growth in the countryside. I want to stop the acres of council-housing type of development round the outskirts of the big towns, and to replace that with satellite towns with more varied building, and so on. I wish people did not dislike living in flats, which it appears that they do. On the positive side, especially as it affects country districts, I do not very much welcome the tone of the part of the Scott Report which suggests what is needed to preserve agriculture and the rural atmosphere of the countryside. It is not that I do not hate the spoliation of the country which has gone on. If we are negative and try to separate the country and keep it static, we shall fail. The thing which really matters about the countryside is the well-being of the people who live there. I am one who believes that the future of the agricultural industry will not be a static future, but that it will have great possibilities. Are we to plan on the basis that agricultural work and living in the country are going to be as well paid as work in town? That is a point upon which undoubtedly the new Minister will have to be in contact with the Minister of Agriculture. I hope it will be so. I do not believe we shall get satisfactory planning in rural and semi-rural districts unless it is possible for the agricultural workers and those who live by agriculture to pay the same rate for houses that the town workers pay. I want the country to have as good amenities, as good housing and as good services as the towns, and I want industries in the country too.

No doubt the special areas before the war and those areas which may be special areas after this war ought to have the first call upon industries, but I cannot agree with the recommendation of the Scott Committee that industry should be excluded from country districts. I have lived in the country, as country people do, as much as and more perhaps than any Member of this House, and I do not think that a small town with a few thousand inhabitants is really a very cheerful place. It consists very often, in the North of England, of 2,000 or 3,000 people, with a considerable proportion of the population unemployed for large parts of the year, and it is really cut off from the country districts surrounding it. I hope that these country towns will have industries and that the Minister of Planning will plan on the assumption that they will have small industries made possible by electrification or other means of power.

My last word would be to welcome the new Minister—we all wish him well—and to urge him to hurry on and get the Government to decide what their powers are to be and to give the House an opportunity of a full discussion. The matter is urgent from every point of view. The country is expecting something to be done, and people are thinking about these problems now. There is not any too much time, and greater clarity should be given to the position.

Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)

Like my right hon. hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), I find no substantial grounds for criticising what is in this Bill. As far as it goes, I am happy to support it, but it does not go very far. Unless I misunderstood the Minister without Portfolio, and unless I misunderstand the Bill, it is difficult to find anything of substance on anything beyond machinery. The House will recall that all that we have had over a series of Bills and indeed, a series of years, is a succession of machinery Bills, changing the names of Departments, cutting them in two and so forth. I hope that before this Debate is over we may have something more in the nature of an assurance as to future procedure in matters of substance.

There are two points I would raise on the Bill, and the first of them arises under Clause 1, the language of which I find obscure and somewhat unsatisfactory. In this Clause—and I would like to congratulate my right hon. and learned friend on the introduction of a Bill which enables his appointment to become effective—one finds the duty of the new Minister described as securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy. Consistency and continuity are two great qualities, but in this setting the words are somewhat chilly. Are they intended to imply that purposeful, positive action which appears to most of us to be essential in this matter of town and country planning, or do they connote the continuance of a Governmental policy which is merely regulating and restrictive? We are told that those quantities are to be secured in the framing of a national policy. Who will frame this policy? If it is to be the Cabinet as a whole, is my right hon. and learned Friend really undertaking the duty of securing that all his colleagues attain consistency? If so, he is taking on a heavy task. If not, may we at least be told who is to frame the policy? I do not believe it is the new Minister. He has only to secure consistency in the framing of the policy. What is much more important is this: Is the national policy to which reference is made in this Clause being framed at all? That is a matter on which there is extraordinarily little evidence. May I remind my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio of one or two things he said about six weeks ago. He said: If we are to get right down to it and to avoid delays, much preparatory work must be done before the war ends, such as the acquisition and surveying of sites and the preparation of lay-out plans. These lay-out plans are being prepared by the planning authorities. Are they being prepared on the higher level on the scale of national policy? That is what some of us feel bound to doubt. I would remind him too that six weeks ago he could only say that he would not be prepared to say anything at this stage which might bind this Government or future Governments to final acceptance of the Committee's view that this correlation could best be carried out by a Committee of Ministers presided over by a senior Minister. When is the right hon. and learned Gentleman going to be in a position to give the information as to the instrument which, I assume, is to frame this national policy, the consistency and continuity of which is to be the function of the new Minister of Town and Country Planning? There is a third passage in that speech. The new Minister was referred to as having as his main function in association with the Departments concerned, to ensure that the translation of the agreed national policy into terms of land use and physical development is conceived as a single and consistent whole. The whole of this structure depends upon one essential condition—the framing of a national policy. One must emphasise that the time is overdue for a clearer pronouncement about the plans it has been decided to make, and on many of the main matters which must be decided in relation to such plans.

I am not one of those who believe that planning is a panacea. There is a lot of very queer stuff written about it. When I read in one of the many publications of the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) that once emergency jobs are over he hopes that we shall choose the complete re-siting of our towns, I wonder whether he thinks before he writes. When I hear an apostle of planning saying at the Royal Institute of British Architects that the population of London cannot live decently until it has been reduced by more than 50 per cent. and that nobody can live decently unless his windows are at least 70 feet away from those of his neighbours, I become frightened of the professional planner. When I see an exhibition at the Royal Academy at which it is thought worth while to represent Broadcasting House as having been destroyed and a square building substituted in its place, I feel that I am living in a world of fantasy.

But in spite of this there are certain basic facts upon which I think we are all agreed and which we agree are relevant. We must remember that our country is the most densely populated country in the world and that the destruction of its beauty in the years between the wars was quite appalling. With modern methods of production and under the pressure of the problems of re-settlement there is grave risk of even greater misuse of our land than occurred after the last war.

I would urge upon my right hon. Friend that the framing of a national policy is urgent. It must be decided by this Coalition Government. There must of course be compromise. But there are political problems of the most fundamental nature. I will mention only two. There is the extent to which our countryside and our agricultural land is to be preserved—and this must be most controversial and difficult—and there are the basis and density of the planning of the destroyed and obsolete parts of our cities. It is no use local authorities planning until matters of this kind have been decided by the Government. I hope that when the Minister without Portfolio replies to this Debate he will be able to give clearer assurances with regard to the spirit of urgency in which the Government are approaching these main problems.

My second point is one on which I feel strongly and which I hope will appeal to Members of all parties. It is related to Clause 1 and Clause 8, and I may say with regard to Clause 8 that I entirely agree with the view put forward that even in its original form it would not have enabled or allowed the withdrawal of any existing statutory powers. Following the suggestion to the effect that Commissions were unnecessary, I feel strongly that in this matter of planning the Minister may well desire the assistance of persons with qualifications other than the excellent qualifications of civil servants. It is a matter upon which the advice of technical people and architects, those outside the Civil Service world, may be most desirable. But does this Bill even hint at the problems which arise in the case of such areas as Tyneside or Merseyside, with their multiplicity of planning authorities in an area which is quite obviously one for unified and harmonious planning, or in the supremely more important area of Greater London? I can see nothing in the Commission Clause which is related to this question. Are the Government undertaking to deal with this question at an early date?

Let me consider for a moment the position of this great Metropolitan area, with which I have been closely associated during the last two or three years. One out of every five of our people lives in it. It contains within its borders at least 10 planning authorities and at least go other local authorities, all closely concerned and deeply interested. Who is framing the policy for the capital of the British Commonwealth of Nations? What do we know about it? All we know is that the London County Council, as the planning authority for the administrative county of London, less the City of London, has employed Mr. Patrick Abercrombie, for whose gifts I have every respect, to advise them on an outline plan. That outline plan is expected to be ready by September of this year, but it will have no status or force when it is received. Other authorities in the London area, I believe, have been induced to employ Mr. Abercrombie, but for whom is Mr. Abercrombie making his report? Is it for the Government, or is it for the planning authorities? If it is for the planning authorities, one cannot be honest if one does not say one knows that in many cases they are mutually suspicious and antagonistic.

What have we been told by the Parliamentary Secretary? He was asked on 16th December whether it was the intention of the Government to make the observance of Mr. Abercrombie's plan obligatory upon local authorities. He answered that he would rather not deal with such a question before his Noble Friend received the report and that as soon as it was received it would be communicated to all the authorities concerned. So we have to wait until September, 1943, before we have any indication as to the effect of Mr. Abercrombie's report, if, indeed, it is made by then. It may take longer. The planning of London is not a matter of which either the first or last word ought to be with any local authority or group of local authorities, however ancient and however responsible. It is a matter of national, even Imperial, concern, and I make so bold as to say that I cannot see how it can be done effectively and expeditiously unless agreement is reached among the local authorities in the Metropolitan area and unless the Minister himself undertakes, with the assistance of whatever organs Parliament decides, that the planning of Greater London shall be a national matter.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)

Does not my hon. and learned Friend think that the local authorities should be associated with the area for which they are responsible in any planning? Does my hon. and learned Friend suggest that the planning should be done entirely by a national authority?

Mr. Willink

The right hon. Baronet will have noticed I said that neither the first nor the last word should be with any local authority or group of local authorities. The general outline of the capital city of the Empire should be a matter for the national Government. The working out of that outline should be entrusted to the local authorities, but the final control should be also with the national Government in case difficulties arise in working out the plan, difficulties concerning consistency or lack of consistency, continuity or lack of continuity, to use the phrases of the Bill. It is, to my mind, fantastic that this great area should be the sport of local antagonisms and prejudices, and we know that has been the position with regard to planning in the Metropolitan area up to now. In saying what I have said, I am making no attack upon the London County Council. I say exactly the same thing with regard to the Corporation of the City of London. The City of London is not the private property of the City Corporation. It is a matter of supreme concern to the whole nation. I am told that at the moment the City Corporation is developing a plan for the City without the assistance of any consultant of any kind, and nobody can find out the direction in which that plan is going. But when one turns to the London County Council, surely it cannot be appropriate that the London County Council should have the final word with regard to the lay-out of the City of Westminster or the lay-out of the devastated East End boroughs, one of which the hon. Baronet opposite represents. The problems are political in the highest degree. The same sort of problems arise with regard to Greater London as arise with regard to the country as a whole. How much country around London is to be engulfed? Is the London County Council to decide what is to be the future population of the administrative county, or is the Government to decide? In my submission, major matters of that sort are matters of national policy. So far as I can make out, at the moment the London County Council and Mr. Patrick Abercrombie are deciding on these questions with no lead from the Government.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I agree with practically everything the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, but may I ask him a question? I hope he does not suggest that the Government or any other authority shall adopt the appalling totalitarian principle of saying that there shall not be more than a certain population in a certain area. That is Fascism in excelsis.

Mr. Willink

I entirely agree with the Noble Lord. The sort of thing I have in mind is this. Obviously, there will be very difficult questions as to the density at which the East End boroughs are to be rebuilt. Obviously, there will be very difficult questions as to the extent of the good agricultural land which the London County Council, the West Ham Borough Council or the East Ham Borough Council will acquire in Essex or other surrounding counties. My submission is that those are not matters which should be left to local authorities. They are matters on which central direction should be given. I would ask my right hon and learned Friend, in his reply, to indicate, and to give the House an assurance, that decisions are to be taken upon those matters at an early date.

Mr. Richards (Wrexham)

I think the general opinion of the House is that the Bill is, perhaps, disappointing. As was suggested by the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink), it is disappointing not because of what it includes, but because of its very serious omissions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has done a very useful service in recalling to us the basis upon which the Bill has been built up. It has been pointed out that the Bill is a simple piece of machinery. I think the House is getting rather tired of successive pieces of machinery, concerning, at one moment, the Minister of Works and Planning and now the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and does not feel that any really hard work is being done in this respect. I think that all hon. Members will welcome the fact that the Ministry of Works and Planning is being bisected in this way. I entirely agree with the Minister without Portfolio that the conglomerate that was known as the Ministry of Works and Planning made any effective planning almost an impossibility. Consequently, we welcome the Bill in so far as it cuts off those extraneous duties of the Ministry of Works and Planning, so that in future the Minister of Town and Country Planning will be able to concentrate his attention exclusively upon the very difficult question of planning.

But I think we all feel, as the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon said, that there is an extraordinarily difficult fence which the Minister must attempt to negotiate in some way. It applies not merely to the Greater London area, but perhaps more to some of the smaller rural authorities. We may plan as much as we like and in as detailed a manner as we like, but who is to carry out the work when it comes to executive action? In the country districts, much more than in the rich London area, they are up against this difficulty. There are, for instance, on the Statute Book Acts concerning housing. I know of a comparatively wealthy rural district in an English county where not a single house of any sort has been put up by the authority. These rural authorities are very apprehensive about any possible changes that may take place in future. Naturally they are very proud, just as the London Metropolitan boroughs are, of the authority which they enjoy. Before there can be applied to the whole country a system of planning, something quite definite will have to be decided about the future of local government. I know I should be out of Order if I entered upon that very difficult territory, but it seems to me that the first question that will face the new Minister will be that of who is to carry out this kind of work.

As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield, there have been at any rate three most valuable Reports dealing with certain aspects of these questions. There is, first, the Report of the Barlow Commission, which I think is fundamental. We may have very different views about the future of this country, whether it is to keep up its industrial traditions and possibly expand in that direction, or whether it is to concentrate more on agriculture; but at any rate, the question of the location of industry, which has been allowed to develop very much in its own way, is a fundamental one with regard to planning. Secondly, there is the Report of the Uthwatt Committee, which dealt with a highly technical question. Even in that Report I find that the suggestion is made that the decision as to what constitutes the difference between the town and the country will have to be settled by a National Planning Commission. There is no reference in the Bill, except for a vague one towards the end, to the setting up of what I regard as a fundamental Commission. I take it that the Commissions referred to in the body of the Bill will enable the Minister to set up subsidiary Commissions which will be carrying out the work on which he is intent. But I take it the suggestion of the Uthwatt Committee is that there should be a national planning authority which should decide primary questions of policy. That, of course, would be in consultation with the Minister himself.

Then there is the question of the Scott Report, which is very interesting from this point of view. I do not know of any other case in the history of reports which have been issued for the benefit of the House where a minority Report written by a single individual faces the problem in a much more fundamental fashion than do the majority. In this case I think the Scott Committee has been merely content to say it requires a certain kind of agriculture, and, if you analyse it, it simply means the perpetuation to a great extent of the present system of agriculture. These are fundamental questions. I should be very interested to hear the Minister, when he replies, say that behind this very simple piece of machinery some real work is being done on these fundamental questions, because, if we cannot get over these difficulties, we may in a very short time have another Bill dealing with planning. I think the House is tired of the machinery of planning and wants to get to grips with the difficult questions that lie behind it. I am sure they will thwart the activity of the new Minister, just as they thwarted the activity of the old Minister, and consequently I hope that no time will be lost in proceeding with the more fundamental issues which this simple Bill really postpones.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare (Norwich)

I agree with the hon. Member that the House is getting a little tired of these machinery Bills. One hoped that much greater progress had been made. I remember my colleague in the representation of Norwich last spring stating that the Ministry contemplated in the then Planning Bill was to be a permanent institution. Permanence in politics is a relative term, but it shows how careful one must be, even one so meticulous in his choice of English as my hon. Friend. I give this Bill a qualified and tentative approval. Perhaps approval is too strong a word. I would rather say reluctant acquiescence.

Just as I thought it wrong to take away the planning powers of the Ministry of Health, I think it duplicating machinery to take the planning powers away from the Minister of Works and Planning and give them to a new Minister. My conception is that the Parliamentary Secretary, who has such great knowledge of these matters, should be made an Under-Secretary under the Minister of Health and should be in charge of the planning department of the Ministry of Health. It is going to complicate procedure and slow down development if local authorities for their planning powers have to go to one Minister and for their housing and development powers have to go to another. I am exceedingly doubtful about setting up new Government Departments, The trouble about setting up a new Ministry of Planning is that, if you have a new Minister and a new body of officers, questions of doctrine get elevated into dogmas and, by means of regulations, become static, and, so far from speeding up development, there are further delays and obstacles in the process of development. That is just what we want to avoid. Therefore I am a little apprehensive as to what will happen. Although the questions which will fall to the new Minister to determine are all important, I am sure that in the post-war Britain a primary consideration will be the creation of conditions under which an end can be put to bad housing conditions and every citizen can find a home in a good modern house at a reasonable rent with as little delay as possible, and no other consideration, architectural or aesthetic, will count at all against that primary necessity. It should not be necessary to set up a new Ministry to see that beautiful houses are built.

Earl Winterton

Has the hon. Baronet seen the hideous buildings that have been put up by some local authorities? They have no more sense of beauty than the man in the moon.

Sir G. Shakespeare

The point I am making is that it should not be necessary to set up a new Ministry and that it should be possible by the exercise of common sense to frame a Bill which can deal with this matter. It was not necessary to set up a new Ministry to deal with jerry building. The procedure by which certificates can be issued by the National Housebuilders Registration Council could be made compulsory. If local authorities are the offenders more pressure could be brought to bear on them by the compulsory use of a panel of architects in each county or district. You could thus do a lot to improve the standard of houses.

Sir P. Harris

The local authorities will still be responsible to the Ministry of Health and not to the Ministry of Planning in the matter of the building and the design of houses. There will not be any change in that respect.

Sir G. Shakespeare

The old conception of planning is not considered good enough for the future. There must be some point in setting up this Ministry. Surely the point must be that negative planning is wrong and that a more positive method of direction is wanted from Whitehall, showing local authorities what they could do. That I take to be the purpose of this new machinery. Otherwise it has no purpose at all.

Sir W. Jowitt

The purpose of the new machinery is no such thing. It is to transfer from the Ministry of Works and Planning the existing powers in relation to planning that are now in his possession to a new Minister.

Sir G. Shakespeare

But what for? These powers are not being transferred to the new Minister so that he can go away for the rest of his life and do nothing. They are being given to him so that he can carry out further measures for the physical control of planning. He will have the assistance of a Commission. I am apprehensive about the appointment of that Commission. I was glad to hear that announcement by my right hon. and learned Friend, and I am satisfied that with the Amendment he has accepted the local authorities have everything they want. The Commission is to be an advisory body, but it can also, should the need arise, act as a sort of agency to manage the national estate, although I agree with Lord Latham in another place, who pointed out that this estate depended entirely on whether private landholders wanted to develop here, there or anywhere else, and it will be difficult to administer such a piecemeal, higgledy piggledy estate. Why do the Government want power to appoint more than one Commission? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will answer that.

May I ask whether Sub-section (2) of Clause 6 will enable the new Minister to take over the powers under the Ribbon Development Act? If we are to appoint a new Minister, let us do it properly and give him all the powers now exercised by the Minister of Transport in respect of ribbon development. We are to have a Minister in charge of housing and a new Minister in charge of planning. Who is to control material and labour in future? It seems to me that if we leave the control of labour and material in the hands of a committee or committees in the Office of Works and Buildings, we shall allow them completely to frustrate any plans that either the new Minister or the Minister of Health may have in regard to planning or development. After the war each Department which will be a user of labour and materials ought to make out its case to some Minister who would co-ordinate the indents of various Departments and then get the highest Cabinet sanction for the priorities. During the war the biggest users are the Service Departments. There is no user by the Ministry of Health or the Board of Education, and it is proper that in wartime the Office of Works and Planning should be the appropriate Government Department to allocate priorities.

After the war everything will be changed. I hope that the great bulk of building will be done by private enterprise. The second largest user will be the local authorities. Neither of these classes is connected with the Government, and after the war the control now vested in a committee of the Ministry of Works and Buildings should pass elsewhere. It should pass to the Minister without Portfolio because he has not a Department. He should be charged with the duty of getting Departments to state what they want in the way of labour and material and of getting Cabinet authority for the priorities and for stating the relative value of housing as against educational premises and so forth. I am sure that the new Minister will be stultified if the Ministry of Works and Buildings is allowed to have a vested interest in any future development.

There is only one thing that eases my apprehension and mitigates my reluctance to accept this Bill. That is the fact that my right hon. Friend the new Minister, the late Postmaster-General, is to be in charge of it. I have always had a high opinion of his qualities. I have always thought that he never had a fair deal in politics. There are at least two Ministers to-day—the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food—who with ample money are building on the foundations laid by my right hon. Friend. I am sure that these Ministers will acknowledge that to a large extent they are building on the foundations that he laid. Before the war anyone who was Minister of Agriculture took his life in his hands and there was never any insurance against funeral expenses.

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)

That was because of the policy of his Government.

Sir G. Shakespeare

If my right hon. Friend then had one-tenth part of the money that has gone to the present Minister of Agriculture, he would have been there still. I give tentative approval to the new Minister and the new Department, largely because we shall have an experienced administrator in charge of it, a man of common sense who will reconcile all the difficult problems and, I hope, introduce a sense of urgency into them. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) that after the war it will be a matter of tremendous urgency when ex-Service men come back. It will be worse than that, because to London alone 1,000,000 evacuees will come back. There will be also the return of the transferred war workers, and we shall have up to 2,000,000 people coming back to London. The public after the war will be very patient because they will realise the difficulties, provided they see re-development swinging ahead at the maximum speed. They will not be patient if they feel that their local authorities or the Government are not doing all that can be done. I am quite sure that the point I made earlier is fundamental—that a man will accept no excuses that stand between himself and the satisfaction of having a good home. That must be the fundamental aim. Having said that, I offer the new Minister all good wishes.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

I doubt whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman can be altogether pleased with the reception which the Bill has had. That reception is natural, because, as in April of last year, the House is being asked to take a good deal on trust. In April we had a Bill for the purpose of transferring the functions of the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Works and Planning, which was described as a first step to something which, in fact, has never happened; and we are being asked to treat this Bill as another first step. It is natural that, having been, if I may say so, cheated once, we should be rather suspicious on this occasion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman described this Bill as being merely for the purpose of transferring the functions of the Ministry of Works and Planning to the new Minister of Town and Country Planning. He realises that, if that had been all, it would have been better to have left these functions with the Minister of Health, who understands the business, who has the right kind of personnel available, and who has been doing the work by Statute as well as it can be done. I gather that the purpose of the Bill is not merely to transfer the functions of the Ministry of Works and Planning, but to carry out new functions of planning on a more positive basis, and on a more widespread and national basis. On that assumption, and only on that assumption, I support the Bill. I agree that unless a new Ministry is set up, unless we have a Minister who will give the whole of his time, his thought, and his energy to the problem of town and country planning, we shall get no further than we did before. This presupposes legislation in the near future, and I hope the House will not be disappointed.

I am sorry that the Minister-Designate is not here, because I proposed to give him a little advice and to tell him some of the problems that he will be faced with. One of his duties is to secure consistency and continuity in policy and in administration. He will have a very difficult task to secure consistency with 750 different planning authorities in England and Wales, each concerned merely to plan its own area in the way which suits its rateable value best. In the Metropolitan traffic area alone there are 133 separate planning authorities, not 10 as has been said. The problem, therefore, is very much greater even than the right hon. and learned Gentleman contemplates. At present a number of these planning authorities are actually preparing plans for their areas; some have been published, and others will be published in the near future. I hope that the plan for London will be published long before September of this year—I hope it will be published in the spring. Each of these plans has been prepared without any guidance from whichever Ministry was concerned, and many on the assumption that there will be no change in the condition of their areas. If there were no change, planning would hardly be possible. I do not want to say too much about the London plan, which will be made public in the near future, but that plan was prepared at the request of the then Minister of Works and Buildings, Lord Reith, to enable him to ascertain what problems would be faced in carrying out a far-sighted and fairly ambitious scheme. The main purpose will be to give the new Minister an opportunity of judging whether the legislation which he contemplates will enable him to carry out some such plan as is being prepared by Professor Abercrombie. Professor Abercrombie has prepared one plan for us, and another for the outside authorities in the area, in order that both schemes may be linked together, to give the kind of assistance to the new Minister which was intended.

Mr. Willink

Is the hon. Member telling us that Professor Abercrombie had instructions from each planning authority to consider that authority separately, with a view to its own rating position?

Mr. Silkin

No, he has drawn up an abstract plan for the whole area; but if that plan is to be carried into effect, it will have to be approved and carried out by 133 different authorities. I doubt whether, under existing conditions, that plan will be carried out, because obviously it has to suit the rateable value of every authority in that area. That is the first difficulty that my right hon. Friend will have to face. The second is one which local authorities have been faced with ever since the first Town Planning Act was introduced. That is the liability for compensation. This liability to compensate every owner of property who is injuriously affected is the bugbear of local authorities who have an eye on their rates and rateable values. It requires a very courageous local authority to prepare a planning scheme which will be the best for its area when such a scheme would involve a considerable amount of compensation. My right hon. Friend will have to consider how far he can replan these islands and deal at the same time with this very difficult problem of compensation. I leave that matter there, in case I get into difficulties on questions of Order.

Under existing legislation, local authorities are not in a position, even negatively, to restrict various kinds of undesirable building. I do not want to enlarge on this matter, because it is a technical one, but my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary knows that the control over new developments by local authorities is far from adequate to enable them to restrict undesirable development. In many cases where the local authority has taken its courage in its hands and has forbidden development of which it did not approve, the Minister of Health on appeal has reversed the decision of the local authority, and the buildings have gone up.

Another difficulty which stands right in the way of any real and positive development is the high cost of land in central areas. An effect of this is to require that development should take place in the most congested way, regardless of what is proper in that area. Where the cost of land is high, development is always of a very high density without any provision for open spaces. Even though it is not necessary to develop at that density, local authorities feel impelled, because of the high cost of land and the enormous loss involved in the building of working-class houses, to build at a far greater density than is necessary or proper. While it is not entirely for my right hon. Friend to deal with the high cost of land, but is a matter of Government policy, I would enter the caveat that satisfactory town planning will not be achieved unless the problem of the high cost of land is dealt with.

The other point I want to make is that the existing powers of local authorities merely restrict undesirable development. They cannot ensure that desirable development takes place. I would cite as an example of the disability under which local authorities are suffering one which I cited before but is worth repeating. Some years ago the London County Council obtained Parliamentary powers to acquire a large area on the South bank of the Thames for the purpose of redevelopment. The council were not given any powers to develop that land but merely to purchase the land. The whole of that land has now been purchased, and, but for the war, a good many of the buildings would have been abolished by now. The L.C.C. have no power to put up a single building, but they have to wait until somebody comes who can make a profit out of development and is prepared to comply with the town planning conditions laid down by the council. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. It discourages re-development of the very desirable kind undertaken by the L.C.C.

The only way to develop large areas is for the local authority to undertake the acquisition of the land, but unless they are given positive powers of development and empowered to incur the cost involved and to develop at a profit, development will inevitably suffer. I realise that some such power is proposed to be conferred upon local authorities by the Uthwatt Committee, I submit that even that power does hot go far enough. Under the proposals of that Committee, a local authority will be enabled to carry out development while it involves a loss, but the moment development becomes profitable they cannot carry on, because private enterprise would step in. I hope that the Minister without Portfolio will look at that point because unless the powers are increased there will be a very great handicap to planning.

I understand that the new Minister proposes to consult the various planning authorities with a view to ascertaining from them what amendments of the Town and County Planning Act are required. I think you will find that those amendments are very drastic and numerous and that it will be better to prepare a new Bill. I hope that he will receive those representations in a receptive frame of mind and that we shall get the necessary legislation in the near future, if only to prevent local authorities preparing plans without knowing the intentions of the Government. In the absence of the Minister-Designate I wish him every success in his task. It is a very great task, but I am sure a most interesting and increasing one. To a very large extent the future of this country will depend upon him. I hope that he will have a very successful term of office.

Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

I do not think that my right hon. and learned Friend who introduced this Measure can be at all disturbed at the way in which it has been received. I would like to add a note of caution of a rather more general nature than those which have been expressed. Hardly anybody would not agree that a certain measure of control is necessary, provided it is properly exercised, to prevent the vandalism which has destroyed vast stretches of the countryside during the last 20 years and, indeed, for a great part of the last century, but I hope the measures proposed will be interpreted wisely and well. I was brought up to believe that an Englishman's home is his castle, but there seems to be many people who would like us to believe that an Englishman's home is a Government hostel and that there must be as much interference with the liberty of the subject as the unfortunate subject can swallow without revolution. I wish the Minister-Designate every success in his new job, and the Parliamentary Secretary also. A better choice could hardly have been made, as they are sensible, wise, and cultivated men of the world, but if a couple of planners had been appointed, they would turn the place into a Ministry of Social Enlightment before you can say Israel Moses Sieff.

There is always the danger of a Ministry of this kind falling into the hands of the kind of people who get up in the morning and say, "What can we interfere with next?" I view with considerable alarm the perpetuation of the word "Planning" in the Title of the Bill. The fact that the present two Members have been chosen as the responsible Ministers does not necessarily mean that the Ministry itself will be a thoroughly sound one, and it certainly does not to my mind justify the creation of a new Department. There is always a tendency, when there is nothing else to do for the Government to set up a new Department to deal with a very narrow aspect of public life. The clamour very often comes from the public, who say, "We must have a new Ministry of Construction," or some other Ministry, and very often the Government rather weakly give in to them. Largely as a result of the war there are already six new Departments. I sincerely hope they will disappear after the war, but when the times comes and the dissolution of these Ministries is being advocated by the public and in Parliament they will fight to the death, many of them, in order to avoid that dissolution. There are few more dangerous animals than a British bureaucrat at bay, particularly a temporary one.

One excuse which is being held out with regard to this Ministry is that the expense will be extremely small, that in fact the existing staff dealing with town and country planning will be taken over, and that it practically amounts to no more than the cost of the salaries of a new Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, and perhaps a number of Commissions. Why is it necessary to have a new Minister at all? Is this journey really necessary? Why does the existing Ministry of Works not have a section entirely devoted to dealing with town and country planning, instead of having a new Ministry? It may be considered that what I am saying is very reactionary, but I remember that only a year ago—unfortunately I was not here at the time, or I should have had some comment to make—this new Ministry of Works and Planning was set up, and the planners blew their trumpets and hailed it as a step in the right direction. A year later that very same Ministry has been found to be obsolete and rather reactionary, and is to be wiped out and a new Ministry appointed to deal with the same thing. There are in the world—I think they have been the curse of it—a certain type of people who simply love change for its own sake. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was probably the first of them. Unfortunately, they still exist in large numbers. In extreme cases these unfortunate people put their heads under railway engines because they want to see what the better world is like. In milder cases it takes the form of always asking for a change of some kind, even if that change has not been proved likely to be for the better. It is that type of mind behind this present move.

I cannot see why the Office of Works, as I still prefer to call it, in spite of the fact that its name has been changed, should not continue to carry on its responsibilities for town and country planning which it was given a year ago under a different section, and all the buildings for which it is responsible could be administered under another section. I have considerable sympathy with the hon. baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) in his remarks in which he rather deplored the taking away from the Ministry of Health of its responsibilities for town planning. I am inclined to wonder whether the whole of the housing and planning of town and country should not come under one Ministry, and whether it would not have been better, if it had been intended to take some step of this kind, to put housing as well as town and country planning in the same hands.

I come to my last point, which is the question of the Title, to which I take very strong exception. There is much more substance in my objection to the Title. I have a deep and, I think, justified loathing for the word "planning." Everybody makes plans. You do not go from this Chamber aimlessly into the Smoking Room. You have to plan your journey whether you go this way or that way, and you also plan your object when you get there. It might be a cup of tea or a talk about some important legislation or even a whisky and soda. Everybody makes a plan, unless you float about at the mercy of wind and tide like a cork. In the last 20 years there has been a move to give to the word "planning" a special connotation and to' my mind a specially dangerous one. Where it came from I do not know, but I suspect that the origin of this ultra-modern system of government to which we are all supposed to bow the knee may very well have come from abroad. A small group called "P.E.P." used to deluge us with a great deal of literature before the war. Now words such as "planning," or "arranging" or "designing" which are of no force in themselves invite, the question, "Thinking, arranging or designing what?" Planning in itself might mean nothing. Stripped of all its verbiage, you see it exposed in all its stark nakedness as bureaucratic control at the centre. It is an extremely dangerous thing, and it behoves all of us to watch carefully lest it spread and become part of the general and established policy of this country. Town and country planning was first introduced in 1909, and we had the Act of 1932, but it was dangerous and wrong to include the name "Planning" in the Title of the 1932 Act, and in the Title of this Bill. It seems to imply that that general system of planning, that is to say, bureaucratic control, has now become an ancient and venerable part of the Constitution of this country. Therefore I ask the House to exercise very great caution when giving any fresh powers to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to order the daily lives and plan the whole of this country, and to remember that, while they are watching, there is a risk that innocent people of these islands may see with their own eyes the chains which are being forged with which to enslave them.

Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)

I would like to say that I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick) that when the new houses in this country are built we shall have regard to their beauty. There is nothing so beautiful as the old houses and cottages built many generations ago and whose red and mellow bricks and tiles blend with the autumn foliage. They are, indeed, a part of the English countryside itself. But that is not what I got up to speak about. The Minister has assured us that he is transferring the existing powers, whatever they may be, from the Ministry of Works and Planning. But I cannot understand why the Minister does not go further than that and put the Ordnance Survey and Land Registry under the same roof as the Town Planning Department, It seems to me that he cannot plan the countryside in any way unless he has control of those two Departments. The economic planning of the country must be related to the geography of the regions concerned. Primary importance should be given to map making and plans which only the Ordnance Survey can produce and I understand that such maps and plans are already in great arrear.

There is another point in regard to that. It would also be more economic. The Land Registry which is now under the control of the Lord Chancellor is largely bolstered up by the efforts of the Ordnance Survey. If they were under the same aegis I think it would lead to considerable economy. If they were amalgamated it would not only save money but it would save time. In trying to co-ordinate Departments it would save an enormous amount of time if these offices were under the control of the new Minister. The curious thing is that the Land Registry has provided a profit for the Crown. The foundation of this Registry has always rested upon the Ordnance Survey and if the Minister could envelop these two Departments he would not only be spending money, as he must do, but also earning a considerable amount by the efforts of the Ordnance Survey, which might offset to some extent the spending part of his Department.

As a result of the war, town planning and land registration have shown a considerable decline. Work is, however, still carried on by the Ordnance Survey for both these Departments, as a "repayment service." It is not difficult to adduce plenty of evidence that "repayment services" are not economical and certainly, in the case of town planning and land registration, the services rendered by the Ordnance Survey Office represent a substantial debt, and effectually prevent a close appraisal of the financing of town planning and land registration. A not inconsiderable part of the favourable balances shown by the Land Registry have been obtained at the expense of the Ordnance Survey. This has been made clear by the Davidson Report. Proper advertisement of the excellencies of the maps and plans, produced by the Ordnance survey, well known to us all, would result in a very substantial demand with a consequent increase in revenue.

If the amalgamation of the three Departments were approved by Parliament, the fees obtainable for the compulsory registration of ownership, plus the revenue from the sale of Government maps and plans, would probably balance the civil cost of the survey, now appearing as a debit of the Ministry of Agriculture, leaving only the cost of "planning" to be met by a Vote of Credit. A system of "rights of occupancy" of publicly-owned land at suitable fees would logically result in a self-balancing Department, and in the passage of time, to a revenue-producing agency of ever-increasing value to the State.

We all know that a sine qua non of the new Ministry would be to set up registration, new plans and so on. I therefore trust the Minister will consider carefully the question of taking over the Ordnance Survey and Land Registry from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Lord Chancellor. We all know the working of the Ordnance Survey to be excellent. Whenever there are disputes about land we look at their maps and we are satisfied. There is not much time between the Second Reading of this Bill and the Committee stage, otherwise I should be inclined to move a new Clause suggesting that the Ordnance Survey and the Land Registry should be so transferred. I will, however, consider the matter. I am glad the Minister has given way on a point with regard to Clause 8, as far as the local authorities are concerned. The local authorities were immensely perturbed by suggestions about the creation of Commissioners. At the present time, they are suffering from a surfeit of Regional Commissioners and centralisation. Many of their powers have gone already. They feared the appointment of local commissioners under this Bill, and they felt perhaps that the commissioners the Minister might appoint would have extensive powers and would take away from them the planning powers they originally had. I am glad that matter has been cleared up, because the wide reference in the Bill to, functions in relation to the use and development, of land undoubtedly caused alarm to the local authorities. If Clause 8 had gone forward as it was originally framed, it might always have been said that, in spite of the assurances of the Minister, the Bill had laid down the principle of establishing commissioners to exercise wide functions in various parts of the country, and that whatever might be the intention of the Minister, there would still be the Act of Parliament. I think that the local authorities should not, indeed, be the complete controllers of post-war planning, but nevertheless, it is right that they should have a share in it. With regard to post-war planning, I feel that the younger architects of the new age should also be consulted. In my own constituency of Southampton, a professor of town planning, who has been at the job for many years, has already made plans for the new town. Those plans are not, by any means accepted; but there is the danger of one man going from one town to another and setting his stamp and seal on every town, which would be very un-desirable. Let us remember the young architects who are coming along—perhaps they are now on active Service—let us remember that they represent the spirit of the age in which we live, and that architecture and building should always represent that spirit. I trust the Minister will bear in mind those few simple points.

Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)

I welcome this Bill, because I think it is the proper thing. I was always a little suspicious of the marriage between works and planning at the Ministry of Works and Planning. It seemed to me that if what the Ministry did with its right hand was wrong, it could always condone it with its left hand. I do not think the functions of development and planning go too well together. Although my opinions may be different from the opinions held by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), it appears to me that the best interests of physical planning will be served if we keep the two things entirely separate. I want to refer to the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick), who seems to have a very great dislike of expert planners. He had some very scathing things to say about them. There was, however, a curious contradiction in his speech. He began by bewailing the vandalism that had taken place over the countryside during the last 20 years, and then went on to make a scathing indictment of planners in particular and in general. But if the hon. and gallant Member does not want the countryside to be absolutely ruined beyond recovery, he must accept some kind of planning, ordering or restriction. Of course, the whole of it comes under the term "planning." It seems to me that the only thing the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not planned when he came into the House was his own speech.

Major Petherick

I did not make myself clear. What I was trying to convey was that ad hoc plans for certain things should be examined on their merits, including what the Government are going to do under this Bill.

Mr. Marshall

I wish the Minister luck in his new venture. He has a very difficult thing to do. He has to wipe out the mistakes of pretty well 50 years, and it will not be an easy task. He will be in no need of advice. He has three great Reports to consider, all making very far-reaching recommendations. I am rather sorry that the Minister without Portfolio did not enlarge a little upon what the Minister's functions were to be. There is the great recommendation in the Barlow Report about the distribution of the industrial population, and this is linked up with the questions of housing and planning. You cannot escape it. If we try to deal with the question where an industrial population shall be induced to go, we inevitably come on to the question of planning, with the creation of new towns, or the development of old ones, and how they are to be laid out. I am sorry the Minister has not made a pronouncement that ribbon development is to be taken completely out of the hands of the Transport Ministry. It is an anomaly that it is dealt with by that Ministry. It is a matter for planning and should certainly be placed in the hands of the planning Minister. For the last 20 years housing estates have been developed on the borders of old towns in an ever expanding circle. Many town planners think that is wrong. I am not called upon to express an opinion on it now, but it appears to me that the Minister has to look at it very closely. He has to decide whether it is in the national interest that towns should be developed in this ever expanding circle, with the eating-up of green belts and the abolition of amenities of all descriptions, or whether he is going boldly to face the proposition how new satellite towns should be created. It is a decision of vital importance, and any planning Minister has to apply his mind to it quickly. I know he cannot decide the matter himself. It has to be decided in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, but it appears to me to be a matter of intimate concern to him where those houses are built. It may be that the matter of the great decision will rest with a committee of Ministers over which the Minister without Portfolio presides; I believe that he called it a committee of national organisation. I am sorry that some pronouncements have not been made on these important matters.

This Bill and the whole question of planning are becoming urgent. We have been losing time. The powers were first given to the Minister of Health. We transferred them to the Minister of Works and Planning, and now they are being transferred to the Minister of Town and Country Planning. We have lost some precious and valuable time, and if the war came to an end very quickly, as I hope it will do, nothing but chaos and confusion would result as a consequence of the fact that we have not our plans ready for post-war reconstruction. It has been emphasised that this Bill is purely machinery. Here again, if I have a complaint, it is that we have not been told what that machinery is intended to do. I am not opposing the appointment of a Commission, but if it were to be used for certain purposes, I would have to make my protest. I do not want this great human function of planning to be placed in the hands of a Commission. I am sure that the local authorities will demand access to the Ministry. I agree with the Minister without Portfolio on that score. They will not want to be fobbed off by the chairman of a Commission. For many years they have been in the habit of going to Whitehall, getting in touch with the Minister or his chief secretary and discussing their problems with him. They will want to continue to do that. This is such an important matter and there is so much interest in it that it would not be proper for Parliament to delegate the functions of planning, and especially the relations with the local authorities, to a Commission.

There are certain things that a Commission could do admirably. The Minister made no comment on national parks. There is a great volume of public support for the establishment of national parks. I could go on at considerable length describing the beauties of Derbyshire, their existence in the heart of a great industrial community of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 people, and how precious they are to that community. And there are other areas in the country. This question is urgent, and if we allow a decision to be delayed until the war is ended, I am afraid that in this matter we shall be sunk. The Commission is a proper instrument to administer the special planning arrangements that would be contingent upon the creation of national parks. Again, I notice that Lord Justice Scott in his Report suggested a Commission for the administration of the footpaths of the country. Here is valuable work upon which the Minister could embark. I am sure that he would give universal satisfaction if he appointed a Commission to schedule all the footpaths of the country and see that they were properly preserved and kept in repair by local authorities.

If it is for these things that the Minister without Portfolio feels that this Commission Clause is necessary, I should certainly agree. The local authorities have been anxious about Clause 8. They are also anxious that they should not have foisted upon them a regional organisation comparable to the Civil Defence regions. One might almost say that the word "regional" stinks in the nostrils of the local authorities. We all agree that some modification of local government boundaries is necessary for planning purposes. I have no time to develop that point, but I should like to hear what the right hon. and learned Gentleman considers the appropriate local planning authority. If planning is to be effective the country must be absolutely covered. The present set of local authorities, some of which cannot face the heavy claims of compensation and have margins which are not effectively covered, will never bring about a system of planning worthy of Britain and its people.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Planning (Mr. Henry Strauss)

I want to thank the House for its very friendly reception of this Bill, and for allowing it an unopposed Second Reading. If the House gave the Bill a friendly reception, it also gave it, on the whole, an unenthusiastic reception. At that I express neither complaint nor surprise. After all, this Bill admittedly states nothing, except that a new Department is being set up. I think my hon. Friends on all sides of the House will realise that that, in itself, may be a great advantage if it enables us to begin in a hopeful way a task which will command, if it is done well, the enthusiasm of the whole House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) gave us a history of the various forms that ideas on the building of a central planning authority have taken in the last two years or so. As a result of that, he said, he supported this Bill. With a great deal of his speech I was in complete agreement.

He is right in assuming that the new Minister will not be a sort of super-Minister, with powers to direct other Ministers, or other Departments. But that does not mean that there is not a well-defined field that demands the creation of a separate Ministry. In deciding certain questions of policy, obviously, other Ministers must be consulted, and for some purposes a Cabinet decision is clearly necessary. Again the Government's policy having been decided, there are a great many Ministries which themselves use and develop land and will be engaged in carrying it out. These Ministries are not being deprived of their functions, which again depend on Statute. That does not mean that there is not a function, both in the formulation and in the execution of policy, for which the new Ministry is required. The council of Ministers that will decide policy, in many cases, will surely need the advice of a Minister who can speak with authority and knowledge of the various factors governing both development and conservation in different parts of the country, including the particular part of the country immediately concerned. He will gather all the information that a good research division can give him. The research division has the task, among other things, of recording the classification of the land of this country.

I would remind the House of two facts which make work of this kind more important in this country than anywhere else in the world. The first is that this country is more crowded than any other. It will be noted that the Bill applies only to England and Wales, the most crowded community, certainly in Europe, and I think in the world. The second fact is that although we have the most beautiful scenery in the world, that scenery is of all beautiful scenery the most vulnerable. If we indulge in the fatal and wicked blunders in which we indulged in the generation between the two wars, we shall do irreparable damage. Therefore, a wise knowledge of the desirable use of land, and good planning are more necessary here than elsewhere. The new Ministry will be able to give the Government the considered advice of a Minister who will have become expert in the existing and desirable use of the land of this country. If I take the speech of the right hon. Member for Wakefield as a whole, there was a good deal of it with which I agreed. I welcomed his support of the Bill. I do not think he need fear that the creation of the new Ministry means that the Government are under any illusion that all questions of policy can be decided by this Minister alone and that other Ministers can be over-ridden.

I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts). He asked the Government's intentions regarding Clause 8. Let me tell him at once that the Government have no immediate intentions in regard to Clause 8. I cannot think it likely that any immediate use will be made of that Clause. We think it very useful because there are things in which a Commission may be a desirable form of advisory body to help the Minister, if the House approves an Affirmative Resolution. It is desirable that we should be able to use such machinery without the necessity of new legislation. National parks is one subject in which use might possibly be made of the Clause, as was mentioned in the speech of the horn Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall).

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

Will the Minister deal with the other matter which was raised by my hon. Friend? If this is to be an advisory body, need it be mentioned at all? Cannot a Ministry appoint an advisory body in any case?

Mr. Strauss

In the limited time at my disposal I was going to say something about that speech. The Clause has a very limited use at present but, in the light of further legislation, it might have a greater use. A remark was made by the Minister without Portfolio from which the hon. Member for North Cumberland thought that a decision had been made by the Government to adopt the development-rights scheme of the Uthwatt Report. I would make it clear that no such decision has been come to, nor has there been any decision to the contrary. If any such decision is reached, further legislation will obviously be necessary.

The purpose of this Clause is to make the new Ministry which we are setting up more flexible than it would otherwise be. The hon. Member for North Cumberland made a remark which I have often made in a slightly different form, and with which I most profoundly agree. He said there was no need for a town to be a blot on the landscape. I think it was Dean Inge who pointed out how modern and absurd such a notion was. What would our ancestors of the 18th Century have thought if it had been suggested that a town must be a blot on the landscape? What would the people of Athens have thought? It is obviously desirable that we should cease to make our towns blots on the landscape. I agree entirely with the point that has been made in many quarters of the House that if we are to preserve the beauties of town and country we must preserve both; they hang together. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do not mix them."] I quite agree; each has its characteristic virtue, and the distinction between the two must not be blurred. You will never save the countryside so long as people regard the town as a place from which to flee, and people will never be happy in the towns unless they have access to a glorious countryside. With good planning there is no reason why these two objects should not be satisfied.

The hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) was a little frightened by the language of Clause 1. He thought that the Minister might be unduly limited, I think by the words: .…to be charged with the duty of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land throughout England and Wales.… I share his lack of enthusiasm for the words I have just recited; they are not exciting and they do not warm the blood. I think, however, that they are correct and right. We are not depriving other Ministries of their statutory duty to develop. I think that the words give as correct a statement as can be made, but if my hon. and learned Friend has any fear that these words mean that the new Ministry will be unduly cramped I advise him to await further legislation, in fact to wait and see. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) spoke of the importance of deciding the future of local government. Let me say on that point, that the reorganisation of local government is a very complicated, and possibly controversial, thing. I believe that, the House will be unanimous in this: it does not want the cause of good planning postponed until we have decided on the whole future of local government in this country.

The hon. Baronet who is my colleague in the representation of Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) gave this Bill, in his own phrase, a reluctant acquiescence. He said that after the war the one thing would be to speed up development. That is my only quarrel with him; that will not be the only thing. It will be equally important to see that the development is good, and in that I believe this new Ministry has a vital part to play. In the course of an interruption of his speech I think it was suggested that local authorities knew very little about the design of houses and have produced some horrible houses. Perhaps they have in some places, but I want to express my own view that although there are some bad council houses there are also some good council houses, and anyone who ignores the destruction of the beauty and dignity of town and country caused not by municipal houses but by the houses of the speculative builders is ignoring what is perhaps as big a part of the question as any. The hon. Member pointed out rightly that the new Ministry would not be responsible for labour. That is quite correct. There is no intention to take that from the Ministry of Labour and National Service. The fact that this Ministry cannot do everything does not mean that it will not do anything.

To take another point, the hon. Baronet drew attention quite wisely and rightly to the very important question of materials. The question of materials will be one of importance both for the Ministry of Health and the new Ministry to take into consideration. But it is not illogical that materials should be controlled by a different Ministry and not by the new Ministry staffed by the important and highly specialised staff which will deal with town and country planning. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), who speaks with considerable knowledge of these questions, as the Chairman of the town planning committee of the London County Council, welcomed the Bill and drew attention to some of the great problems that the Ministry will have to face. I do not think he will expect me to discuss those problems, and indeed it would not be in Order if I attempted to do so. He is right in thinking that before this Ministry introduces any Bill amending the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, it intends to consult all the associations of local government authorities and the London County Council.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick), who made a characteristically amusing speech, objected to the name of the new Ministry. It is rather a long name, and I like short titles. I felt a sympathetic chord struck by his comment, but I was a little disappointed that he had himself no alternative name to suggest. Possibly on the Committee stage we may have the result of his thought on the matter. Then we shall be able to consider it on its merits. All I would say about the title is that it is admittedly a great nuisance in dealing with these very practical questions of physical planning that the planning of town and country should get mixed up with far vaguer and more remote questions of planning in general, about which there is at the present moment such an enormous amount of muddled thinking. But Town and Country Planning is a title with a fairly respectable history. Its meaning is well established and at the moment I am not aware of a better title, but I shall await with interest what my hon. Friend says on the Committee Stage. The hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. Russell Thomas) wanted us at once to take over the Ordnance Survey department and the Land Registry. I do not want to say anything final on that topic or to predict the future, but I would remind the hon. Member that the Ordnance Survey department is at work for a great number of Departments, including the War Departments, and this would not be the time to take it over, even if it were otherwise desirable to do so. I am sorry that I have no time to deal with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside, but I indicated earlier in my speech with what sympathy I listened to several of his points.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for the next Sitting Day.—(Major Sir James Edmondson.)