HC Deb 27 January 1943 vol 386 cc530-51
Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, to leave out "of", and to insert "for".

This is the first of a series of Amendments the object of which is to change the title of the Ministry. I do not wish to weary the Committee by repeating the reasons for my objection to the inclusion of the word "Planning" which I brought forward yesterday, but I would like to make one or two additions to what I said then. I do hot know who originated the title "Planning" or why it was used in the 1941 Act, but I fear that the inclusion of this word in the name of a Ministry, as opposed to the Title of an Act, where it has some specific and ad hoc meaning, may be that it will become more or less a part of the constitution and may seem to commit this country to planning not for ad hoc measures but planning in general. I do not think that could be claimed by the Government as a mandate granted to them by the country as a whole. Therefore, I feel that it would be safer and more advisable to remove the word "Planning" from the title of the Ministry.

The difficulty, of course, is to find a suitable alternative title, as was pointed out yesterday by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Planning. I have searched my mind, and I daresay some Members of the Government have searched their minds, to find a suitable title, and I suggest in these Amendments that the title should be "Ministry of Town and Country" omitting the word "Planning." I admit that this is not a very desirable title, because it appears to infringe upon the duties of the Ministry of Agriculture and possibly also those of the Ministry of Health, but I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend in charge of the Bill will see, between now and the Report stage, whether he cannot think of a better title. I should possibly be out of Order if I went on to discuss another possible alternative which was suggested to me late yesterday evening, which is "Ministry of Building Control." That is a perfectly honest title, because that is exactly what the Ministry is to do, whereas the name "Ministry of Town and Country Planning" is to my mind a dishonest and rather vague title.

Commander Bower (Cleveland)

I beg to support the Amendment. I do not wish to recapitulate the very sound arguments, put forward in the Second Reading Debate yesterday by my hon. and gallant Friend the mover of this Amendment, but it does seem to me that if we include the word "Planning" in the title of the Ministry, it will give the general impression throughout the Ministry that it is there for the purpose of planning for the sake of planning. That is something to which my hon. Friends and I object very strongly. We are all for ad hoc planning, but we do not want this new Ministry to sit down and say, "Now, boys, we have all to start planning. We must produce plans at all costs." If they are prepared to produce plans where plans are needed, I am sure they deserve all the encouragement they can get, but my hon. Friends and I fear that there will be a great deal of unnecessary interference if this idea of planning for the sake of planning is allowed to get a hold. I do not think that the Government themselves are very happy about this title. I think the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend is worthy of consideration, and I venture to hope that between now and the Report stage it will receive consideration.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

I oppose this Amendment, not because I think the wording proposed by the Amendments has great significance, but because the idea underlying the Amendments is the same as that put forward yesterday by some hon. Members, namely, that planning is abhorrent and that the new Ministry should do no planning at all. I hope that this Ministry will carry out a number of plans, that it will be a positive Ministry and not a purely negative one, and for that reason I oppose any proposal designed to limit its planning capacity or suggesting that it is not designed to be a Ministry of Planning.

Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)

I do not feel altogether happy about the use of the word "Planning" as a description of the Ministry, though not for the reasons given by my hon. and gallant Friends opposite. There are various types of planning, and this particular planning is only in a very limited sphere. Many people feel that it will be necessary in the world of to-morrow to have a certain amount of conscious economic planning of the life of the nation if we are to avoid unemployment. That appears to be inevitable, but I feel that if we describe this Ministry as a Ministry of Planning, there will be confusion in the public mind as to what is meant, and if it is possible to find some other word, I think the proposal would be worth consideration.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

I hope the speech to which the Committee has just listened will be noted, because it indicates the hon. Member's mentality. Although he sits on the Liberal benches, the whole trend of his thought is towards hamstringing democracy. Had he been present yesterday, he would have heard the Minister in charge of the Bill clearly explaining to the House the difficulty of particularising the word "Planning" as against the general use of the word "planning" in reference to post-war conditions. But I think the raising of this Amendment serves a rather useful purpose. I speak now with considerable experience in this matter. This country—England in particular—has a peculiar makeup, in this sense, that in Scotland we can hide ugliness behind mountains, but in England, when you put some horrible erection on the countryside, it can be seen for miles around. If there is anything in this country calling out to heaven, it is the need that something should be done by a responsible Minister in the Government to put an end to this perpetuation of ugliness in this lovely country of ours.

Before this war I, and a very few other people in this country—not that I am claiming any virtue because of it—used to wonder whether Englishmen had lost all sense of the beauty of England. England was being torn to shreds and the countryside blotted with these horrible things which we have seen menacing not merely the beauty of England but the safety of England for miles around this octopus which is called London. It is clear, I am afraid, that whatever one may say in this House or outside it regarding belief in liberty, we are as yet so far removed from civilisation that liberty can be spoken of only as an ideal for a long time to come, so long anyhow as there are powerful vested interests using this land to make money out of it, with an utter disregard of the consequences. Therefore, it is necessary that a Minister should be empowered to deal with this matter and to have an overruling hand in regard to the erection of buildings throughout the country and the planning of towns and villages.

I do not want it to go out that the Minister will be a hard and fast bureaucrat. I take it that he will have something like regional representation or administrative officers who will have due regard to the aesthetic considerations in each area so far as building is concerned. I hope he will not sit in an office in Whitehall, a drawing office from which drawings will be issued so that every building in the State will take that form. I hope that this will be an elastic kind of administration and that due regard shall be paid to localities and local people be able to have some influence, while the Ministry has an oversight and right of criticism to check irregularity and ugliness from prevailing. I thank those who have put forward this Amendment, as it has given one an opening to make a point in support of the Government for not accepting it.

Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)

I think the Committee feels objection to the word "Planning". It is absolutely confusing to have a word which has a different sense according to whether or not you spell it with a capital letter. I suggest that a simpler title would be "Minister of Land Use". That is what I believe to be our real wish. We wish to have a Ministry that shall exercise a simple control such as Parliament may give it over the use of British land. I think that is the simplest and most expressive title that can be found.

Mr. Jewson (Great Yarmouth)

Names are sometimes quite important, in spite of the words which are often quoted from our national poet. If we are to judge the appropriateness of the name of our Minister, we need to know clearly what powers the Minister is to exercise. I should like to know whether it is intended that the powers of the Minister shall extend from shore to shore or from sea to sea, so that he will take under his wing such very important questions as the protection and reclamation of land from the sea, more commonly referred to as coast erosion.

The Chairman

That point ought to be raised on the question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Mr. David Adams (Consett)

It is clear that the promoters of this Amendment cannot have been present yesterday when the Minister spoke, or the terrible fear they had that we are about to intervene in an attempt to make a better Britain would not have assailed them, as it evidently has. The Minister made it clear that 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1943; col. 419, Vol. 386.] are expressly excluded from the powers of the new Minister. Whether we like it or not, we are in for an era of National economic planning. It appears to my judgment that we ought to have been preparing long since for widespread planning for the nation. No one who looks round the country can deny that lack of town and country planning has been one of the gravest misfortunes to this country. Local authorities have been compelled to pay fabulous prices to rectify lack of planning on the part of their forbears. There was a recent case in Newcastle where a corner site was purchased at a figure approaching £200 per square yard. No one in the city council could justify such a figure, but as the owner demanded that figure it had to be paid. That kind of thing ought to belong to the past, and fair prices ought to be guaranteed. A town and country planning Minister is one of the most urgently required at the present time, and nothing should be done to stultify his powers.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

It is easy to dispose of the Amendment by saying that if it were carried the Minister would become the Minister for Town and Country, an expression which is meaningless. The mover recognised in his speech that the term is much wider than "Minister for Town and Country Planning." I submit that the amended Title would have no meaning at all. The purpose of the Bill is to take over powers and duties under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, and it is appropriate that the Minister should be described as the Minister for Town and Country Planning. Some criticism might have been levelled at the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, at the time when it was passed because of its somewhat cumbersome title, but the term has assumed a clear connotation since that time, and anyone who uses it recognises its significance. I realise that the Title is somewhat long and cumbersome, and the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday suggested it would be welcome if anyone could find a shorter title which would give the correct connotation, but it would have to be a Title that described the duties which the Minister is taking over. "Minister for Town and Country" does nothing of that kind. In the absence of any better suggestion I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

The Minister Without Portfolio (Sir William Jowitt)

I do not think the idea put forward in the Amendment is good. I said yesterday that I was not happy about the title because of the ambiguity of the word "Planning," and it seemed that the best course was to put in an adjective before "Planning," namely, "Town and Country." We have the support of the Act of 1909, called the "Housing and Town Planning Act," of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, and of the names of many institutions, such as town planning institutions and so on. I think they make the matter quite plain. As to the Amendment to leave out "of" and put in "for;" I am surprised at its coming from the source it does, as I have always looked upon the mover as a pillar of orthodoxy and traditionalism. For years we have talked about the Minister "of"—Secretary of State for the Colonies, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but Minister of Health, Minister of Labour and Minister of Food. I do not like the suggestion of leaving out "of" and putting in "for." Secondly, I do not like the idea of leaving out the word "Planning." To call the new Minister the Minister for Town and Country is surely to escape from a vague phrase to something much more vague. I do not know whether that would embrace suburbs. You might as well call him the Minister for England and Wales. As to the other suggestion, that he should be called the Minister for Building Control, a very important part of his duty is to say that certain areas of land shall not have any building on them at all. To take another suggestion, "the Minister of Land Use." That seems to go back to the old fallacy of confusing two forms of planning, because in considering land use one may have to consider both aspects of planning. Let me give an illustration. The question arises whether a particular piece of land shall or shall not be used for, say, a new steel works. Obviously strategical questions may arise as to whether the right location has been chosen, and the question of economics as to whether a new steel works is needed or not might also arise. These questions entirely transcend local considerations and aesthetic considerations and the like. Therefore, the term "Minister of Land Use" is too vague a title. Having lived with this subject a good many months, and having been advised on the difficulty by all sorts of people, I have failed to get any suggestions for a Title better than the one we have used in this Bill, namely, "Town and Country Planning," which at least is a phrase now hallowed by some considerable period of time. In these circumstances I do not think I can accept the Amendment.

Mr. Lewis (Colchester)

Do I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to take the view that part of the Minister's functions will be to decide such questions as whether we require further steel works or not?

Sir W. Jowitt

No, Sir, it certainly would not be. That is the point I tried to make, that if you called the Minister the "Minister of Land Use" it might lead people erroneously to suppose that that would be part of his functions.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

The Minister now seems to me to be disclaiming too much. He now seems to be suggesting that it would be no business of the new Minister whether there should be a steel works on a particular piece of land or not; but it is surely expected that he should see that whoever make the decision do take the land factor into account in considering the steel works location. I do not really care a hoot whether this Amendment is passed or not, but I am bound to say the whole of my right hon. and learned Friend's argument against the phrase "Land utilisation" seems to me to fall to the ground.

Sir W. Jowitt

Of course, it would be for the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, once you had made- up your mind that the steel works should be built there, to consider the question of construction and so on, but behind that, before it is decided whether it is to be put there or not, there lie other questions with which he is not directly concerned. If he were described as the "Minister of Land Use" it would give the impression that he was in charge of the whole of these questions, and he is not.

Mr. Pickthorn

My understanding both of language and of logic is still different from that of the Minister; I do not want to provoke him into talking out his own Bill, but after trying to explain this several times, he still leaves us where we were. I understood, and I think we understood from the Second Reading discussion, that the business of the Ministry now to be established was to see that land is properly utilised. Of course there are all sorts of other connections which come into his consideration, every sort of policy is connected with every, other sort of policy; but if a steel works is to be put up, the business of this Minister, we thought, must be to ensure consideration whether the particular land proposed can be spared from agriculture, or railway development or whatever else. If that is not the business of this Ministry, I have been misled, and I honestly think the whole House has been misled throughout the discussion. If that is his business, I really think that the Front Bench ought to be able to put up a better argument against this Amendment, about which, in itself, I repeat I do not care a hoot.

Now that the Minister has provoked me to my feet, I would like to say a word about the last speech but one from the opposite side. We were told that whether we like it or not, we are now in for an era of planning. That raises the largest possible philosophical questions. I am not quite sure whether all of them would be in Order on this narrow ground of "for" instead of "of"; I think most of them would be. I do ask the hon. Gentlemen opposite who have this passion for this particular word "planning" at the moment to be a little careful not to press it too far; because the whole philosophy of progress and democracy, two things for neither of which I care over-much—but I do care and they care more—that philosophy has been on the assumption that you must find out the wills of individuals and that after finding out their wills and whether there are more or fewer of them this way or that, accordingly you can control the future. If we are now to be told that whether we like it or not this or that will happen, hon. gentlemen who use that argument are likely to find that they excite more opposition than co-operation and that they may get things they want much more slowly than by inviting us to want them too.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)

This point requires clearing up. It is rather an important matter, requiring clear thinking. The trouble is the limitation of the English language. The word "planning" is undoubtedly used to cover a lot of sins of omission and commission, and we might be led to assume that this Bill is going to do too much or, on the other hand, that it is going to do nothing at all. Actually this new Ministry is only to be a part contributor to the development of our country after the war. We want to prevent haphazard development of the countryside and the kind of towns that sprang into existence during the last hundred years. As I understand it, all this Ministry is to do is to take the planning powers that were originally in the Ministry of Health and then transferred to the Ministry of Works and Buildings, and are now transferred for the third time to a new Department to have the undivided attention of one Minister who is to co-ordinate the work of the various Departments concerned in the economic development of the country. The instance of a steel works has been given by the Minister in charge of the Bill. What I understand is to happen in the future, if it is found necessary to have a steel works, will be to decide whether it is desirable to dump that steel works along Lake Winder-mere or in a rural area or in a crowded area of London. There the Minister will come in and exercise his judgment and decide wherever it is in the general interest of the country to take that particular steel works.

Mr. Lewis

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who will decide whether we are to have a new steel works?

Sir P. Harris

It is not for the new Minister to decide whether we shall have a new steel works. I presume that will be decided upon by some particular industry. It will be the job of the Minister to consider the whole of the development of an area and prevent the destruction of a housing district, of a suburb, by putting down a steel works in the area or in the countryside, as the case may be. Really what we are setting up is a Ministry of Development. I think "Ministry of Planning." is probably the right term. Generally local authorities understand what is meant by that. Really what we are setting up is a Ministry of Development.

Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend in his Amendment; but I think his real difficulty will arise when he comes to bring his mind to a form of alternative title. What we are concerned with is not the name of the Ministry but what the Ministry is going to- do; and I should like to endorse the point raised by the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren). We have to make up our minds whether we are to have uncontrolled development, which has stricken some parts of our countryside beyond the possibility of repair for generations or to have controlled development with due regard for social and aesthetic considerations. When I go round the countryside I am reminded of a remark made by Mr. G. K. Chesterton, who said: The Hun destroyed what he hated. We are destroying what we love, and that is the beauty of our land. I want to see further prevention of the destruction of what we love, putting the name of the organisation which is to protect us in a secondary place. As the question of a steel works has been imported, when an industrialist is putting down works, what are his main considerations? Putting aesthetic considerations aside, solely the economic point of assembly of raw materials and the distribution of his manufactures. If a steel works should be wanted, that point might be the middle of Savernake, or the middle of the Forest of Dean or the middle of the most beautiful glen in the Highlands. It will, I hope, be one of the main functions of the new Minister to examine industrial schemes from the social and aesthetic points of view, and to advise where they are to be established and where not. In one of the most beautiful villages in Buckinghamshire a cement works was put down. That locality has been destroyed from an aesthetic point of view for all time.

Now take the question of housing. It is almost inconceivable, yet true, that in one of the most attractive and historic towns in England when a scheme for housing extension was under consideration—a proposal that an architect should be engaged at a small fee to do the designing was turned down on the ground that the surveyor was competent to do the work. Even if planning means more bureaucratic control, then I will accept it with the greatest pleasure and enthusiasm, because I know, and everybody knows who is moving about the country, that it is absolutely essential if we are to preserve our greatest heritage, the beauty of our land. The beauty of certain lands is the beauty of nature. The beauty of England is man-made. Much of the beauty of England came through the Enclosure Acts and the planting of our woodlands by the great landowners. That which is man-made can by man be destroyed—has been destroyed, is being destroyed. That destruction we want to prevent. I see my hon. and gallant Friend's point of view, though I do not envy him the task of framing a satisfactory alternative title. But it is the work of the Ministry which interests me, call it by whatever name we may, so long as that work is done.

Major Markham (Nottingham, South)

I agree with the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) that it is immaterial what the Minister is called, and that what is material is the question of what his duties are to be. I will invite the attention of the Committee to what may well become the most urgent and the most pressing problem at the conclusion of this war: the question of, not the development but the undevelopment of a great many military sites. We shall have to consider what is to be done to vast acreages which are now used for aerodromes, training camps, and so on. Will it be the responsibility of the Minister to see whether this aerodrome or that training camp should go, or is he to be subsidiary to the Air Minister or the War Minister?

The Chairman

That might arise on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but it certainly does not arise on this Amendment.

Major Markham

I will keep my remarks, then, for that occasion. I will only say that I very much approve this principle of planning, and that I hope the House will reject the Amendment.

Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)

I have no fears at all about the word "Planning." It is perfectly well known; it has existed for a long time; and all depends on how the planning is carried out. At the head of this Ministry we have three lawyers. Lawyers at times, very rightly, incline to compromise. I trust that when it is a case of preserving the countryside they will not compromise, but will act and get things done. I represent a part of the country where the beauty of large areas is being destroyed because we have not had any planning; so I hope we shall not argue too much about the title of the Ministry but support the principle of the Ministry, and accept the present title as a very suitable one. I considered the possibility of such a title as Minister for the Control of Land and Buildings. One could think of a dozen other possibilities. But, on the whole, thinking of the future of this country and of the planning of our town and country, I could not possibly raise any good objection against calling the Minister a Minister for Town and Country Planning.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that we should keep the word "Planning." It would be a disaster if the impression went out from this Debate that we on these Benches were, as a whole, opposed to the word "Planning." The introductory speeches on this Amendment have been to that effect. While I recognise that the title of the Minister is rather cumbersome, and that it might be better if we could shorten it, I hope that we shall retain the word "Planning." The people of this country are only too anxious to see some degree of planning in future introduced into our affairs.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

The Minister threw out a challenge yesterday to anybody to suggest a better title than that which the Bill now has. I spent a more or less sleepless night trying to think of a better title, but I failed; and I think that all Members who have taken part in the discussion have failed also. The discussion reminds me of a boy in my constituency who, writing an essay on planning, said, "The theory of planning as I understand it is not quite well understood." The discussion to-day would lead one to believe that, the theory of-planning as most of us understand it is not quite well understood. The power of the new Minister is- defined very clearly in the Bill. Would anybody say that the word "Planning" is not better understood by the average person in the country than any other word we could find in substitution? It is understood in local authorities and in this House, and it is understood by ordinary persons, particularly when we have heard so much in recent years about five-year plans and other plans. It merely means that the land which all of us desire to preserve and use for the best possible purposes, in the best possible manner, shall be planned, instead of being used by any person for his or her profit irrespective of whether it is convenient or in the interests of other persons. The word "Planning" is, I think, the only word which will reasonably meet the wishes of everybody in the House, and I appeal to the hon. and gallant Member to withdraw the Amendment, and to let us retain a title which at least gives to the new Ministry some meaning, which otherwise it would not have. If you call it the Ministry of Town and Country, what possible meaning can that have? It might mean that the new Minister, if you called him the Minister of Town and Country, would be a much greater man than the Prime Minister, with greater powers than anybody else could have. He would apparently have power to do anything which he desired in town and country. That is not what is intended. His powers are strictly limited, and I think the word "Planning" should be left in the Bill, as it is the only word which can describe what his functions are.

Major Petherick

After the eloquent and, indeed, emotional, appeal of the hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), I must ask leave in a moment to withdraw the Amendment, particularly as the hon. Member has been awake all night thinking about it. I would not take away any of the powers of the Minister. I hope that he will see that the countryside is not spoilt, as it has been in the past. But the fact that since 1909 the word "planning" has been used in Acts of Parliament did not impress me very much. It is only when the matter becomes a constitutional one that I am relatively disturbed. I hope that, as there have been a number of appeals to my right hon. and learned Friend from hon. Members all over the House who have shown that they are not happy about this title and the word "Planning," he will between now and the Report stage reconsidered the rather stiff-necked attitude which, if I may say so, he has shown to-day. There is no doubt that it would be possible to find a title which would satisfy most Members and if we would only think about it a little before the next stage is reached, we might come to some agreement.

Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)

Does the hon. and gallant Member not think that if the word "planning" had been used after the last war it might have prevented some of the appalling tragedies which have occurred?

Major Petherick

It all depends what the planning is. If you had had a wise plan, things might have been different. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Chairman

I was not certain whether to call the next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), or not, because it seemed to have been covered by the previous Debate. If the Amendment raises a new point, perhaps the hon. Member will explain.

Mr. Denman (Leeds Central)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "securing," to insert "vigour."

The arguments for this Amendment are very different from the arguments on the title of the Minister. Here we are concerned not merely with the title of the Minister, but with the duties the Minister is to discharge. Under my Amendment, the Minister would be charged with the duty of securing vigour, consistency, and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land… Are his duties to be as in the Bill, or do we want to have further duties? I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend opposite in what I understood his speech to convey yesterday, that the duties assigned to the Ministry are in themselves inadequate. Consistency and continuity are no doubt necessary, but a Minister charged with those objectives only will not get very far. I thank the Minister, by the way, for using the word "consistency" rather than "co-ordination." The word "co-ordination" arouses a certain feeling of nausea in this House. "Continuity," on the other hand, is a dangerous word. A policy may or may not be on right lines. If it is on wrong lines, to charge a Minister with the duty of continuing it, or of seeing that it is continued by other Departments, is exceedingly dangerous. If you want a specific example, consider the existing policy of the development and use of land laid down in Statutes. Clearly, a proposal such as was envisaged in the Uthwatt Report, for the State purchase of development rights, however meritorious, is not a continuation of that national policy: it is an exceedingly important and interesting change. Is this new Minister to be charged with the duty of preventing any such proposal as the purchase of development rights being introduced?

However that may be, and coming to the particular word I propose to introduce, I am raising the serious point of whether we are going to give the Minister the duty of providing a motive force in this national policy. The national policy must be worked out by a number of different Ministers. That is common ground. Is there to be no Minister to whom Parliament says, "It is your business to see that a policy for the use and development of our land is actively pursued"? I chose the word "vigour" after some thought. A great array of possible words passed before me, like "vitality," "speed," "energy," and "drive," or to use a phrase of the last war, "push and go," or, perhaps better than any, "leadership" in framing this policy. Are not such qualities to be exercised by this new Minister, or are they to reside in some other Department? I confess that the word I really wanted was "ginger." I refrained from putting that down only because we all know that if you attempt to place in an Act of Parliament a word which everyone understands, the lawyers will at once rise and tell you that in the eyes of the law the word does not mean what everybody else knows that it does mean. That being so, I did not put it down.

But if the Minister would prefer "ginger," and add a sentence that "in this section the word 'ginger' shall be deemed to include energy, speed and drive," and the other virtues I have mentioned, I shall be very charmed to accommodate him. But it is a real problem that is here dealt with. To whom does Parliament wish to entrust the duty of supplying this motive force? The answer is important, because the Government have a very bad record in this matter. I am not blaming the Minister or any other Department, but the Government as a whole have simply failed to provide any vigour and drive in the formulation of this policy. Unless we allocate to some one Minister the prime duty of securing a decision as to how our land is to be used and developed, I see no reason to suppose that we shall progress more rapidly in the future than we have hitherto. Just a year ago we were told by the Government that they had accepted some recommendations from the Barlow Report, such as the dispersal of industries from congested, areas and "the encouragement of a reasonable balance of industrial development," matters affecting other Departments but also concerning land use. Up to now, last year's Bill and the present Bill are the only fruits we have been allowed to gather from the many excellencies of the Barlow Report. With parallel exertions one can suppose that by 1947 we might be allowed a national park under the Scott Report, and perhaps a little later, the interim control of development from the Uthwatt Report, and so on. The thing can be endless. The legislation about this land use really does not brook this delay.

I would like, in conclusion, to read a letter I have received from a responsible local government official who is charged with the duties of developing his district. He says "we cannot even begin to deal with the problems in the replanning of large cities as these are all contingent on the initial questions as to the dispersal of industry and population and the limitation in the growth of large towns. Even after some pronouncement is made on these vital questions there will be such an enormous lot of work to do in replanning and in preparing the way to redevelopment that it is essential that this work should be commenced as soon as possible." The only criticism of that letter is in the use of the word "pronouncement." We want not merely Government pronouncements before we can get on with this job but proper legislation upon which the local authorities can begin a firm structure of redevelopment. That, therefore, is my case. As I say, I am not blaming the Minister the least bit that he has not himself been able to produce the legislation required. But we do not need a Minister capable of preparing and producing the necessary legislation for that development and we must give him authority to act with vigour and urgency in relation to the other Ministers with whom he has to work in common.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

It appears that the mover of the Amendment desires to drive the Government faster, but I think he has wasted a lot of time on a very small matter. He could surely have spoken on the Second Reading, and we could have got along with the work of the Committee. When we pass a Bill the intention of the House of Commons is that the Measure shall go forward with every expedition.

Mr. Denman

I do not think that my hon. Friend could suggest to me any other Measure in which we have instructed a Minister to frame a policy in connection with some specific work. It is a completely new principle. We are asking a Minister to assist in framing a policy and are not indicating what power he has in relation to the whole business.

Mr. Tinker

When the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament it is the intention that it should be put into effect as soon as possible. I really think that it has been a waste of time in putting down this Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, at the end, to add: and other functions with respect to the allocation of material and labour. The purpose which my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) and I have in putting down this Amendment is to seek information and, if possible, an assurance. One of the purposes of this new Ministry will be so to plan the country that houses may be built in the proper place and in the proper way, but the assumption underlying all that is, that houses shall be built in extraordinarily large numbers. I do not know what the numbers are now, but I have heard estimates ranging up to and above 2,000,000 new houses. That is said to be the need of the country at least after the war, and clearly, this new Ministry is going to display the greatest possible interest in that new development. The first Clause of the Bill proposes to transfer to the new Ministry certain powers now exercised by the Ministry of Works and Planning. One of the powers at present exercised by that Ministry, in association with the Ministry of Labour, is to allocate the use of housing material and the labour needed for that purpose.

My hon. Friend and I would like to know something more about the joint committee which allocates these two essentials to the building of houses. It is plain at the moment, when the Government, as my hon. Friend said yesterday, are practically the only users of these materials and labour, that that power should rest with the Minister of Works and Planning, and it is not very difficult for the Ministry to exercise these powers properly. After the war there will be a great number of different demands for labour and material for building houses. Local authorities will be potential users to a great extent, private enterprise will be a user, and Government Departments will be users. The situation with which we are faced is—and this is the doubt in the mind of hon. Friends and myself—that a local authority, say, the L.C.C. or any other, acquires land for a great new housing estate, and it needs also labour and material. In peace-time the local authority goes to the Ministry of Health, and all these questions are settled there and then, and they decide whether a particular plan shall be carried out here or there, and the questions of labour and material are easily solved. Now, when the local authority comes along after the war, it will have to obtain from the Ministry of Health centres for building, and presumably obtain from the new Ministry sanction to build the new buildings at that place in accordance with the new plan, and, in addition to all that, will have to go to some other Department, to the Ministry of Works and Planning in associa- tion with the Ministry of Labour and say, "Please, having satisfied all other plans, will you give us permission (a) to use labour, and (b) to obtain materials?"

Would it not be wise for that great power, now resting jointly with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Works and Planning, not to be transferred somewhere else? In any case, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell us what has happened concerning that committee. What does it do? What are the function and purpose of the committee when this Act is in operation, and when after the war we apply ourselves to the problem of building 2,600,000 new houses? In the Debate yesterday a warning was given that if this new Bill, when it becomes an Act, places further obstacles in the way of building these hundreds of thousands of new houses, the Government will be doomed. If my hon. Friend can assure us that under the system now in operation, and apparently to be continued after the war, that allocation of material and labour will not be used in a sense against the development of houses, I shall be satisfied. When the question was put yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary rather rolled off by saying that labour would be left to the Ministry of Labour. That is not the point at all. This committee now sitting will be able to say whether building labour is to be used for building houses or for building cinemas, new railways, or new steel works. That is a great authority in the hands of the Ministry of Labour in association with the Ministry of Works and Planning. I should have thought that the Department best qualified to make that allocation is the Department directly responsible for building houses, namely, the Ministry of Health, but apparently it is to rest with the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry of Labour naturally has an interest in labour but I claim that it does not know, and cannot possibly know whether building labour is better used on that kind of building or on some other kind of building. These are the very serious doubts in our minds and if the right hon. Gentleman can reassure us we shall be very happy.

Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare (Norwich)

I second the Amendment. It appears to us to be idle to start off a new Bill with a great opportunity and at the same time leave behind, in the Department from which it comes, certain powers which might frustrate the work of planning. Anyone who has had experience knows that it is difficult to get things done with one Department, and where you get two Departments, you experience more delay, but where you get three Departments in conflict nothing is ever done.

Mr. Tinker

Is this inside information?

Sir G. Shakespeare

It is absolutely inside information.

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

That was pre-war: I have not heard it since.

Sir G. Shakespeare

It could be confirmed in an unofficial manner by any member of the Government sitting on that bench. Therefore, we want an assurance that the Minister should be given a fair chance, and whether I represented a local authority or wished to build a hospital or anything else, I ought not to have to go through this extraordinary procedure of going to three different Departments, and finally find the Office of Works and Planning, which has nothing whatever to do with it, saying, "The labour shall be allocated to a hospital, but it shall not be allocated to a certain school." The matter of priorities after this war will be of the utmost importance, and I suggest that the Prime Minister and an inner circle of the Cabinet should lay down what are to be the priorities—hospitals, schools, Government Departments, houses and the like. It would put the Minister and his very knowledgeable Parliamentary Secretary on matters of housing in a totally invidious position if they had to decide the rival merits of various priorities, all of which may be urgent. I would like an assurance that this point will be considered. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss), in replying to the Debate, fried to ride away with the frivolous remark that the Ministry of Labour was responsible for labour. Of course it is, but that is not the point we are making.

Mr. Bossom (Maidstone)

I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will not accept this Amendment. I have great sympathy with the mover and seconder in the point of view they have raised. I wonder whether hon. Members realise that for many buildings in London no less than seven different permits are necessary before they can be built. But it is not appropriate that an Amendment like this should be used to interfere, for a deep principle is involved. The number of permits required to get a building built, should be considered as a whole and be looked into, and one application made to cover all essential requirements for permits, and I do not think this is the appropriate time to do it.

Mr. McEntee

I also hope the Government will not accept this Amendment, although I agree with what has been said by the mover and seconder. I have had considerable experience of going to various Ministries for sanction for housing, but this Amendment is far too wide. It would appear to give control to the new Ministry over the whole functions of the allocation of material and labour. If the new Minister had such functions allocated to him, he could not give time to the actual job for which the Ministry is being created—the planning and determination of how our land should be used. After all, the allocation of labour obviously must be left, in some respects at any rate, under the control of the Ministry of Labour. That is its function and what it was set up for. As to material, who can say now what will be available after the war? It would be unwise until we know what material will be available to say how it shall be allocated. I imagine it will not be allocated for small orders such as six houses, one cinema or one shop, but will be allocated to the Ministry of Health in regard to a programme of 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 houses, or whatever number is required. Then, consideration will have to be given to the amount of material and the quantity of sufficiently skilled labour available at the time.

I happen to know more about timber than any other building material, and it must be apparent to everybody that there is a tremendous waste of timber in Russia by the Germans, who have obtained temporary control of territory and who have been using timber for making roads, etc. Millions of tons have been destroyed, and there is bound to be a shortage of timber for a long time. In addition to that, Sweden has practically been cleared of timber by the Germans for their own use, and probably Norway and Finland as well. As a result such timber as we have after the war will have to be brought long distances, from Canada or from tropical countries such as India, if new hard woods come into use. If that is to be done, I do not think the staff of the Ministry or the Ministry itself is the proper authority. However, I think some step will have to be taken, as indicated by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, to simplify the method of getting sanction for the building of houses, although what they are suggesting now is far too wide.

Sir W. Jowitt

I cannot possibly accept this Amendment, and I do not suppose the Mover or Seconder expected that I could. It would be quite impossible to transfer to this poor little Department, which will have a staff of only some 120 people, the immense task which would be here imposed, a task which, under the terms of this Amendment, is left completely vague. On the other hand, I have here a long essay which enables me to describe exactly what the system is to-day in relation to other Departments, but it does not really bear on this Bill at all, and probably the Mover and Seconder will be content if I say that the forceful observations they have made will be duly noted. Although we cannot possibly contemplate interfering with the powers and functions of those other Departments, we realise that everything that can be done should be done in order to make the necessity of applying for all permits and licences as simple and as expeditious as possible.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

In view of that assurance, I would like to withdraw the Amendment, although I should explain that this was the only way, within the ruling of the Chair, that we could get this matter raised. We did not desire that these powers should be transferred to the new Minister, but we were anxious to bring the point to his notice.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.