HC Deb 21 July 1943 vol 391 cc1019-42

Order for Second Reading read.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)

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

There have been three planning Acts applicable to Scotland. The first was passed in 1909. It provided that local authorities might plan if they were authorised to do so by the Local Government Board. The land that they might be asked to plan was land on the fringes of towns but there was no compulsion on local authorities to prepare schemes, and their powers of dealing with built-up areas and rural areas were very limited. The 1919 Act provided that the, council of every burgh with a population of over 20,000 and any other local authority which was required to do so by the Local Government Board must submit a planning scheme before 1st January, 1926. That period was later extended to the year 1929 but little effective planning was done under these Acts. Then we had the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1932. It repealed previous legislation—all the Acts that I have referred to—and, subject to certain conditions, it enabled schemes to be made for built-up land and rural areas. Curiously enough, however, the Act was permissive and there was no obligation on local authorities to prepare schemes. As the result of this rather confused and difficult situation only seven out of 57 planning committees have schemes or resolutions covering all their areas. In other words, only a ninth of Scotland in area is to-day subject to planning resolutions. The legislation which has hitherto appeared on the Statute Book has, therefore, been largely abortive.

The Bill now before us is the Scottish equivalent of the English Act which has just been passed. It incorporates all the Amendments made in the English Bill since it was introduced and it contains one additional Clause—Clause 13—which corresponds to Section 6 of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning Act. It provides that any functions relating to the use and development of land which is exercisable by any other Minister of the Crown may be transferred by Order in Council to the Secretary of State, who is the planning Minister. I have been asked if there are many of these functions at present exercised by other Ministers of the Crown. I believe there are not many. Attention, however, has been drawn, particularly in the Scottish Press, to the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, where the powers are at present exercised by the Ministry of Transport. There is, however, nothing but the greatest cooperation between the Health Department and the Ministry of Transport on the problems arising from building lines and road development. This is the first of a series of planning Bills which, it is hoped, will provide the basis for the future planning of Scotland. By Clause 1 all land which is not at present the subject of a planning scheme or resolution will, three months after the passing of the Measure, be deemed to have been the subject of a planning resolution. Therefore, for the first time, planning becomes universal.

The phrase "central planning authority" is much used in planning circles. In Scotland we have little difficulty on that point. The Scottish Office is there. We have under one umbrella agriculture, health, education and home affairs and I am fortunate in having advice and assistance from the Council of Ex-Secretaries of State for Scotland. We already have, or have had, a committee of inquiry into hydro-electricity. Their Report has been presented, and a Bill drafted on the basis of that Report is well on its way to becoming an Act of Parliament. We have committees on hill sheep, hospitals, herring, land settlement, coalfields and on certain limited aspects of our rating system. The need for planning and prevision so far as the best use of land is concerned is, I think, common ground, and we must see, whatever our views about ultimate land ownership may be, that our road system is so fashioned as to provide adequate, speedy and safe means of communication from place to place. It is just too bad that one local authority may plan its roads to the limit of its boundaries and not meet there a similar road system in the neighbouring area. We must see that houses are provided conveniently near places of work. Public open spaces should be created, and the best agricultural land—and this is vital, in my judgment—should not be used for building purposes if less valuable land is available and equally suitable for this purpose.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

Did the right hon. Gentleman say "less valuable land"?

Mr. Johnston

Less valuable for agriculture. It is desirable that industries should be persuaded, where possible, to go to the right locations. We in Scotland have suffered tremendously in past years because of the undue proportion of industries which were located in the English Home Counties. It is desirable also that congested and obsolescent town areas should be redeveloped on sound planning lines. There are to-day blitzed areas which it is highly desirable that we should develop on some kind of sensible plan. It is also desirable that green belts should be provided where possible between towns, so that towns should not sprawl all over the countryside. Wherever possible we should see that amenities are preserved, that beauty spots are protected and that buildings are designed with an eye to the best architectural effect. If all this is to be achieved the closest collaboration will be necessary between the central departments and local planning authorities. The problems that we are faced with are many and intricate and we will do no service to future planning if we do not recognise the difficulties. These problems have been dealt with at considerable length in the reports of the Barlow Commission, the Uthwatt Committee and the Scott Committee. The report of the Scott Committee did not apply to Scotland, but I set up a committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Normand to consider whether such of the Scott recommendations as were applicable to Scottish conditions and Scottish law were being adequately arranged for and investigated.

The recommendations of these three reports raise legal, financial and administrative problems of the gravest complexity. Some of the recommendations have already been accepted. For example, this Bill gives effect to the recommendation of the Uthwatt Committee that planning control should be extended over the whole country, and the Government have already announced that they accept in principle the Uthwatt Committee's recommendation that local authorities should be given wide powers for dealing with reconstruction areas, which is the technical term including bomb-damaged areas, and other areas requiring comprehensive development, and that compensation payable in respect of the public acquisition or control of land should, so far as ascertainable, not exceed sums based on the standard of values as at March, 1939. Those standards are not always readily ascertainable, but, so far as they are ascertainable, they should be the guiding principle in the purchase of land, certainly by public authorities.

The Scottish advisory committees on health and housing have been reconstituted and there has been set up the Scottish Council of Industry composed of representatives of the three local authority associations—the Convention of Burghs, the Association of Counties of Cities and the County Councils Association—chambers of commerce, the Scottish Development Council and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and a representative of the Scottish banks is in attendance. The majority of Scottish planning authorities are carrying out fact-finding inquiries on a uniform basis under the general guidance of the Department of Health's district planning officers. We are working in the closest co-operation with the English Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The result of our joint researches will become available to local authorities in Scotland in due course in the form of planning manuals.

There are two or three ways of facing this problem. In Scotland we are trying the method of voluntary co-operation between the local authorities. I was told that it would be impossible to secure it. I have tried it, and up to now I think it is not only possible to secure it but that the local authorities concerned welcome the effort. The need for collaboration between planning authorities is obvious. I asked the local authorities in the great West of Scotland area, county councils and city councils together, to join in the formation of a regional planning committee on a voluntary basis and not to wait for compulsion with all the attendant difficulties. This committee, which originally dealt primarily with roads, has now been reconstituted on a broad basis to deal with all the major planning problems in the Clyde Valley area.

I particularly asked that it should consider not only roads but whether there might not be co-operation upon water supplies—I think that is very obvious—and co-operation in hospital arrangements, surely equally obvious; and there are other subjects and amenities which will come into view the more these local authorities get together and the more this Committee works. The State will pay part of the expenses of the planning experts that this Joint Committee appoints. So successful was this first experiment that I have ventured to ask the authorities in the East and centre of Scotland now to form a joint planning committee among themselves. This they have done, and the areas covered by these two regional planning committees, all planning without compulsion, all planning together without, if you like, legislative sanction, but on the basis of mutual co-operation and good will—which I venture to say will last longer than any compulsory system might last—comprise an area covering 75 per cent. of Scotland's industries. The population of the areas concerned represents considerably more than three-fifths of the total population of Scotland, and 33 out of the 57 Scottish planning authorities are represented on these two Committees.

There are possibly two other areas where it might be advisable to get voluntary co-operation among these authorities, the Highland area for one and the North-East area for another, but I do not wish to rush this situation at the moment. I am content if I can get this great industrial belt in Scotland voluntarily planned by the local authorities themselves. If I can get them to co-operate in the best use of the land so far as water supplies, roads, hospitals, green belts and, in some instances, houses are concerned, I think we shall have done a good year's work. We propose that each committee should employ a planning consultant of experience and standing to prepare an outline plan of their areas into which the plans of the individual local authorities will dovetail. We have promised to make a substantial contribution towards the cost of preparing these outline plans.

The Bill before us is a short one, containing 15 Clauses and two Schedules, and has four main objectives. The first is to extend planning control to cover all Scotland. The second is to strengthen the powers of planning authorities while their schemes are being prepared, so that no individual or groups of individuals can rush them off their feet, can purchase selected plots of land, pick the "eyes" out of them and leave us ultimately with a considerable bill for compensation. Thirdly, by this Bill we give the Secretary of State, as Planning Minister, power to intervene in planning questions. Fourthly, we facilitate the combination of local authorities for planning purposes. The technical aspects of this Bill are pretty similar to those of the Measure which has just passed through this House and the other place dealing with England and Wales, and I do not propose, therefore, to ask the attention of this House to an analysis of them in detail. If there are any points which hon. Members wish to raise on any of the Clauses, my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will gladly give information, and on the Committee stage, if there are still any points upon which hon. Members wish information, we will gladly make it forthcoming. The Bill is a small one. It is the first of the Measures which will be necessary if we are ever to plan Scotland upon a comprehensive basis, but I again give my view, for what it is worth, that the best kind of planning, with the most far-reaching permanent results, will be the planning that local authorities will themselves engage in in co-operation with neighbouring local authorities and without compulsion.

Mr. Hunter (Perth)

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether Perth and the County of Perth are embraced in the East division?

Mr. Johnston

I am afraid that offhand I cannot answer that question, but I will get the information for my hon. Friend. I think part of Perth is in the Eastern division, but I will find out.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

With the objectives described by the right hon. Gentleman and the general purpose of this Bill I am sure the House is in agreement. The right hon. Gentleman has given a very clear exposition of what is the purpose of the Bill. Reading over the Bill, it might be thought by some that almost dictatorial powers are being placed in his hand, but he has disarmed us or anyone who might have such an idea by what he has told us about the way in which he intends to proceed in carrying out the powers given to him under this Bill. He will not be a dictator; he obviously does not aspire to that position. He is going to work through committees, and he has stressed his belief in the desirability of carrying into effect what is set out here by voluntary co-operation between the authorities concerned in the planning that is necessary. I am sure all of us agree that it is necessary to have these powers of planning against the days of reconstruction after the war; I am sure we are confident that in the hands of the Secretary of State these powers of planning will be wisely used; and I am sure that it would be the desire of this House to put you, Mr. Speaker, very quickly in a position to say with regard to the Second Reading of this Bill, "The Ayes have it."

Major McCallum (Argyll)

I want to intervene only for a few minutes, first to thank my right hon. Friend for the very detailed explanation he gave of the necessity for bringing in this Bill at all. I was particularly interested in the four objectives which he said this Bill was to achieve. If I understood him rightly the first objective was universal planning for Scotland and the second that it should be within his power to prevent private individuals or organisations being able to acquire land which might be necessary for him or for the Government in the more general planning of Scotland.

Mr. MacLaren

We had better get that point clear. I do not think the Bill will prevent private individuals from getting land. Public authorities will be able to get land without having to pay inflated prices to the holders, but, at the moment, private individuals can get land and the Bill does not interfere with them.

Mr. Johnston

The hon. Member is quite right.

Major McCallum

I am sorry. I must have misunderstood the Minister. Two committees have already been set up as planning authorities, one for the West and one for the East and centre of Scotland. I understand that in two more areas, the Minister hopes to be able to arrange for planning authorities, one for the Highlands and the other for the North-East of Scotland. I would suggest that the Highlands alone is rather a big area for one planning authority and that the right hon. Gentleman might divide it into two, and have one authority for the Western Highlands and Islands, and one for the Central and Northern Highlands. The problems of the Islands and the Western Highlands are, in many cases, entirely different from those of the rest of the Highlands and difficulty might arise by combining those areas under one planning authority.

I particularly want to ask for some elucidation of a mystery which I think the Bill will create when it becomes law. I gathered that the Secretary of State is to be in control of universal planning for the whole of Scotland but I see that the Title of the Bill includes the phrase "interim development." The other day the Hydro-Electric Bill passed through this House. It has not yet become law but we hope that it shortly will. We presumed that that Bill was not for interim planning but for long-term planning. We are glad to know that under the Hydro-Electric Bill the Secretary of State for Scotland has the ultimate control. In the matter of road development, particularly in the rural areas of the Highlands and the development of roads and piers, planning will come under the eventual control of my right hon. Friend. What perplexes me in this matter is that, only a few days ago when we discussed the Forestry Commission's Report in this House some of us gathered that the Commission was to plan entirely on its own authority. Although it may collaborate with the Scottish Office and with the Secretary of State for Scotland, it is not obliged to do so. Therefore, I cannot see how this Bill can give control of the universal planning of Scotland to the Secretary of State. If it does, forestry must, obviously, be under the control of the planning authority, and the Forestry Commission must be brought under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I would mention particularly the industry which was spoken about so often during the Debate on the Forestry Commission, the hill sheep industry. We can imagine a time when the Forestry Commission will step in and say that they want certain areas which they propose to buy, for the planting out of trees. They will say that they do not have to ask the Secretary of State. The acquisition by a foreign organisation of such land will wreck a great deal of the strength of the Bill and I would ask the Lord Advocate to give us some idea of the position in that respect. I hope the Bill will also give the Secretary of State powers in another matter which is causing great anxiety, particularly in the Highlands. We find cropping up in the Highlands, to-day, foreign financial organisations acquiring large tracts of land in the Highlands for purely speculative purposes. I could mention two or three vast areas which have been acquired. The tenants—not agricultural labourers who cannot be turned out, but pensioners and cottagers—have been given notice to get out of their cottages. Many of them have written to me asking what can be done about it. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to stop what I might call—I cannot call it a financial ramp, because I suppose these organisations are legally entitled to come and buy this land—

Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and Stirling, Eastern)

Call it a new form of Highland clearance.

Major McCallum

That is quite true. The organisations acquiring this land have no intention of living on it or of becoming responsible and respectable landowners. They turn out inconvenient occupiers and put the land into the market again, selling it perhaps at double the price which they paid for it. Then they come back and start again. They emanate from London and have no sympathy with the people of the country which they acquire. I hope it will be possible for my right hon. Friend to have powers to prevent this very insidious development.

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

I wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman before he sat down whether local authorities were to have any protection in the interval. We could not see it in the Bill. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was, perhaps, holding out hope to local authorities that they would have that protection. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill would prevent interests from acquiring land, putting something on it and leaving the developing authority to hold the baby afterwards. I cannot for the life of me understand how the Government can boggle at giving local authorities the right to acquire land now for their future needs. The Secretary of State has said that there has been a re-development committee set up in the West of Scotland on a voluntary basis. I want to suggest that if you do not alter your attitude towards the question of reserving or giving power to such bodies to preserve buildable land and land that must be part and parcel of the development, it is poor consolation to tell the local authority that in accordance with the Uthwatt Report, the principle of which the Government accept, the price to be paid for that will be no more than the price ruling in 1939. That is something which may be very difficult to determine, but it is poor consolation to a local authority if a speculative builder, for instance, acquires land in anticipation—and they have ways and means of anticipating what local authorities and development authorities are going to do—to build some of the abortions for sale that they built after the last war.

The Lord Advocate will correct me if I am wrong in saying that if any person who has acquired land can show that he is going to use it for house building purposes, the compulsory powers of the local authority to acquire it have disappeared. As I understand the compulsory powers of the local authority at the moment, I speak with feeling on this, because speculative builders have simply paralysed the whole of the West of Scotland with some of the most appalling abortions for sale, and the decent working-class people were compelled to buy, and have been saddled with a financial responsibility for the next 25 years with a property rapidly deteriorating and their outgoings almost doubled as the years have gone on. The Secretary of State says that you do not require to secure that land against development at all, and it is said that people will not walk away with any profit; they will only get the 1939 value. That may be. I say that proper control of development must rest with the local authority, because the question of housing is so closely linked up with the question of public health, which in turn is controlled by the local authority, that we cannot afford to take any risks. I have every sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) in his hope; it is only a hope, as there is nothing in this Bill which will give a development authority any power to prevent what is taking place in the Highlands.

It may be conceded that Rosneath Peninsula is to be a development area, and the peninsula has been bought by a firm of English agents. Two resales have already taken place at a substantial profit. The existing feuars are to have all the trouble, and the agricultural holders are already invited, not because there was anything in the conditions of sale by the trustees of the Argyll estate to the original purchaser that the agricultural holders should have an option, but as a gesture of friendliness they would give them the first option. The only thing preventing a wholesale purchase or compulsion being placed upon the agricultural holders in Rosneath at the moment is the war emergency conditions. It is no protection to a farmer to put the best into his land during a period of intensive production to have this thing hanging over his head when the war is over. Apparently the Government's attitude is that there is nothing they can do that can prevent the sale of land from one landholder to a purchaser. I have made my protest. I had hoped that when the Secretary of State made his statement a rather long-drawn-out correspondence between the local authority of which I am a member and the Scottish Office would disappear, that we would get that protection and that power.

The Secretary of State has drawn our attention to the fact that there is an additional Clause in this Bill in addition to what was contained in the English Bill. It would not be a Scottish Bill unless we asked for something more. Clause 13 explains that if it appears expedient that any functions relating to the use and development on land in Scotland exercisable by any Minister of the Crown under any enactment should be exercised by the Secretary of State, His Majesty may by Order in Council transfer those functions to the Secretary of State. Does this apply to a rather unwelcome guest in Scotland, the Ministry of Works? Are the powers exercised by the Ministry of Works in Scotland to be transferred to the Scottish Office? The Clause enables any functions relating to the use and development of land in Scotland exercisable by any Minister of the Crown to be transferred to the Secretary of State. You cannot redevelop anything in Scotland if a Department of State over which the Secretary of State has no control has control over the materials essential to that development. I hope—I would not ask just now—that we shall get a reply on this; the position will have to be clarified during the Committee stage. The Minister of Works is a Minister of the Crown, and, quite frankly, he has functions which can stand in the way of the use and development of land in Scotland as a con- I want an answer to that, just as I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll wants an answer on the functions of the Forestry Commission as to how this thing will operate.

In one development in Glasgow for which I was responsible, it was decided in the plan, in agreement with the proprietor and in conjunction with the Department of Health, that all the hill tops would be retained and all the plantations fronting the river would be retained, and that it would be a permanent amenity, part and parcel of the development. The Scottish Office ought to have power to determine in any development area which portion is to be planted for future use. If of course the Forestry Commission are the persons to determine that, I am satisfied that you are defeating the purpose of Clause 13, and this concession from the Government as something more than they have in England is just illusive; you have been "had." Perhaps the Lord Advocate when he replies will give me a little enlightenment on Clause 9, which enables the Secretary of State to constitute a joint committee without the request of any of the constituent authorities, and give it control over interim development. What is the constitution of these committees? Does it authorise the Secretary of State to supersede the local authority? Is this a question of appointing a committee who will have power to spend local authorities' money but will be responsible to nobody but the Secretary of State? I may be under a delusion, but there is nothing in the Clause at all which gives anyone any guidance as to what sort of constitution this committee is to have. It is to be composed of members of contiguous authorities in an area. It is important that we should have information.

One more question I should like answered is, What sort of fellow is the town planning consultant? Where have all these town planning experts been in the period since the last war and this one? The architects will say that the architect is the only possible planner, the civil engineers will say that it is really a civil engineer's job, and I have no doubt that the Surveyors' Institute will say that this is a matter for a surveyor. What sort of person has the Minister in mind when he offers to make a substantial contribution —in fact, to pay the whole cost—of a town-planning consultant, an expert? When the Secretary of State gets the power to appoint the committees, does he propose that the persons forming the committees are to be drawn from the elected authorities to work in the areas for the development of which their authorities are responsible, and what powers will the town-planning consultants have? Is the consultant engaged in a purely advisory capacity, or has he power to veto any plans prepared by a development authority? A little enlightenment now may save trouble on the Committee stage and make for an easier passage for the Bill.

Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)

In addition to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay), my main difficulty is to understand why this Measure is being introduced now, apart from the fact that a similar Bill has been introduced in England. I think that the Secretary of State is giving his proposed joint committees a severe task in asking them to plan for the Scotland of the future. Before these committees can do any effective planning, they need to understand what sort of a Scotland they are going to plan for, what sort of industries we are going to have, and where they are to be. How many industries are to be left in Scotland after the war? Will the new factories be retained? Will the joint committees have to take these matters into consideration? How are you going to plan the mining areas? We are told that Lanarkshire is a dying coal area. Are they going to plan Lanarkshire as a developing area for coalmining, or are they going to plan it along the line that as a coalmining area it is not going to be important? On the other hand, Fife is a developing coalfield. Is this East and South-East committee going to take into consideration the new mining development in Fife? I understand that as soon as possible after the war one or two big collieries will be starting in that county. Are the planning authorities to plan new mining towns in Fife, or is there to be an extension of the towns that are already there and conveyances for people to travel to and from work? We should have some idea of what industries are to be left in Scotland, and whether new industries will take the place of the Govern- ment factories that are now producing war materials in Scotland. Is there any hope of these factories continuing after the war?

We should have had some idea of what Government policy is with regard to industry before this. Bill was introduced. Then the local authorities could have surveyed their areas, and planned accordingly. I have no objection to plans being drawn up for the control of land, either for building or for industrial concerns—in fact, I am all in favour of it. The mistake in the past has been that cities and towns and villages have been built, and industries have been allowed to spread out, without any real planning. But, while I want the best possible planning after the war, I think it would have been much better if we had had some indication of the sort of Scotland that is to be planned by these committees. If we had some assurance that we are going to have industries to keep our people occupied, the local authorities could go ahead in drawing up their plans for the extension of present towns or for the creation of new towns to take the place of towns and villages—especially villages—that ought to have disappeared long ago. Many of these villages were built anything up to nearly 200 years ago. Their builders builded better than they knew. They built far too substantially. If they had put up contraptions like some of the present-day council houses, we should have had no problem in connection with them. We can get rid of these old buildings now. I hope that the planning authority will give us something good to go on with. In the first place, I would like to know whether the industries which have been given to us during this war will be continued after the war is over.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

We have had a Debate dealing with Scottish education, and the point has been made that in recent years Scottish education was entirely different from English education. Here we have a Bill dealing with Scottish town planning, which is really a reprint of the English Bill. Scotland again loses her identity, and follows in the track of English reactionary ideas. Whichever way England may make up its mind to deal with the problem, Scotland should, at least, have had a different idea. The Secretary of State for Scotland knows that in the past the Scots had very different ideas of how to tackle this problem and how to put the land to its best use. But, for good or for ill, the Secretary of State, driven by the tidal wind and the bureaucratic powers of London, has been swept out of his Scottish independence into this new world of planning. In England they have a Town and Country Planning Bill. It is not planning at all. It is a Bill to stop any planning. Why has the Minister of Town and Country Planning introduced the Bill? It is in order to stop flagrant and brutal disfigurement of the countryside at the hands of a crowd of gangsters and speculators who might take advantage of the situation arising when there is a tendency for the war to end. I can understand it. I would impress on hon. Members who have already spoken that that is really all there is in this Bill. We ought to stop bad development. But this is a sort of paralysing game; it is called a planning interim development Bill, but it is to stop development in any form subject to the discrimination of the Minister in England and the Secretary of State in Scotland.

The situation that faces us now in both these Bills is that the great problem, if it is a problem, is that before you can plan anything, you must have the thing you are going to plan. The Government, both in England and Scotland, are without the control of the basic thing they are going to plan, and they are afraid to raise the issues with the present owners of the land, so they are edging round the problem and preventing others from making messes of the countryside. Sooner or later there will be a complete revulsion in the country against this kind of building. It is no use saying to the people of Scotland and England, "It is all right, we have taken powers in England and in Scotland to check the so-called improvements, and we are doing this so that we can have an area of land which we can plan." That is the idea. I would commend any hon. Members of the House to go to the National Gallery. There they will see a vast city planned on the floor. I would ask the question, who are to be the planners in the replanning of London? I suppose you will say there will be replanning in Edinburgh, and the same sort of thing in Glasgow. You will probably have Cathcart blown to blazes on the map and a great blob running up to the Salt Market. You will see all this laid before the planners. That is what I saw the other day on the floor at the National Gallery. Half a dozen people are competing in the replanning of London.

There is nothing easier than to take a map of Glasgow, London or Edinburgh and put it in an architect's office before a man with a strange look in his eye who can put his tee and set squares on it and say, "Have something here and something else there." That is what the Government can do. They are telling the country that they are going to re-plan, and it is all on paper. I was about to leave the National Gallery, having looked at this "Alice in Wonderland," when I met the fellow responsible for it coming through the door, and I said, "Is this your idea?" He replied, "Yes; what do you think of it?" I said, "It is very fine on paper; how do you propose it shall be done? "This was the reply," This is our side of the job; your job is to get into the House of Commons and give us the control of the land." That is the crux of the trouble here. We have thousands of planners running through this city, and Scotland will have a sort of locust attack sooner or later made by people wishing to plan Scotland.

We are going to have a Minister to obtain voluntary co-operation between local authorities. I am very glad to hear that. I am afraid that in England we shall have to use the whip on some of those who will not co-operate at all. But a number of local authorities in Scotland will sit down and say, "We are going to co-operate and have a replanned Scotland running from South to North." These gentlemen will come from the A.R.I.B.A., the most respectable people on earth. The civil engineers will come in through the back door, and they will re-plan Scotland on paper. They will say, "What next?" and the Minister will say, "I will not allow anybody to steal the plans." He gets his committee and his maps and appoints his planners to make transformations on the plan of Scotland, and then, what happens? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State who is sitting there knows it; he cannot translate one of these plans into practice.

Mr. Johnston

We have just translated the first one.

Mr. MacLaren


Mr. Johnston

In the Hydro-electric Bill. That is Plan No. 1.

Mr. MacLaren

At a cost of £33,000,000.

Mr. Johnston

The hon. Member has not even got that right.

Mr. MacLaren

I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to say what it would cost to widen the streets of Glasgow. He has not an acre of land under control in Glasgow. As Lord Astor rightly pointed out in a most telling letter in "The Times" the other day, what is going on is the promise of a new heaven on this miserable earth when the war is over by plans, committees and Ministries. In London we have the building across the street; that is the contractor's department. Then we have the Ministry of Town and Country Planning; that is the drawing office. And then we have the gentleman who knocks about this House more like Hamlet's father than a human being, called the Minister without Portfolio. It will depend upon how much animation he puts into these Ministries. We have the same sort of thing in Scotland. I have no objection to giving the Secretary of State for Scotland full power to stop any attempt to continue what has gone on in Scotland for the past 200 or 300 years since Scottish lords lost all sense of romance and turned their accursed halls into money-making and created the slums in Scottish towns. I look to the new Minister to stop anything along that line. But that is all the distance that this Bill takes you.

With regard to the 1939 valuation, I have seen many contradictions produced in this country, and here is one. Nobody can hope to receive land above the 1939 valuation when it is wanted by the State or the local authority. There is no valuation in existence. I defy the Treasury or anybody else to produce one.

Mr. Quibell (Brigg)

There is not one.

Mr. MacLaren

I know that my hon. Friend among others has asked Questions about the sale of land in Scotland and its enhanced value. There are times when, looking at the situation, one really wonders whether the Government, in order to avoid tackling the core of this problem, will create for itself utter destruction. As Lord Astor said in "The Times," when the public become alive to the fact that they have been given promises and Acts have been passed in the House of Commons ostensibly to give them assurance that this land of ours will be made a worthy home for the heroes who will return from the war and that it is all a mere smoke-screen, then the term of office of the Ministers who passed such Bills will be quickly terminated.

I appeal to the Minister to turn his attention to this valuation and to see that he has a valuation for that year, because he has not got it now. It is a sorry day for Scotland when Scottish politicians drop the old Scottish rule for solving this problem. We in Scotland did not say, "Let us pass a Bill empowering architects to make fancy plans." We said, No, the way to deal with it is to call upon every owner of land in Scotland to state his selling value and then bring the pressure of taxation to bear on that land, thereby throwing the land cheaply on to the market." We have ugliness in Scotland not because of architects or civil engineers. We have it because of the basic thing that drove people from the countryside and made them infest the cities. Whatever tune is composed in London, the Scots, in a docile manner, now follow it. I am saying this because I want to put it on record and to let the Scottish people know how far their representation in this House has declined from the old Scottish, Radical, virile days of straight attack.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. J. S. C. Reid)

This Bill gives a number of powers to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and its success will depend to a very large extent on the action taken, and the attitude adopted, by the local authorities. It is not the intention of the Secretary of State that he should act as a planner. He is only there in the background to support and, if necessary, control—and we hope control will not be necessary—the local authorities, who are to be the planning authorities, as they always have been. Recent developments have made it more and more obvious that certain aspects of planning, at least, ought to be on a wider basis than that of a single county in many parts of the country. Accordingly, the Secretary of State has endeavoured to get local authorities to come together and work out their plans on what one might call a regional basis. That attempt has met with complete success and I hope it will continue. It is intended that local authorities should have the fullest opportunity of coming together and consulting or, if they prefer it, of acting through an operative joint com- mittee, The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) objected to joint committees being imposed upon unwilling local authorities.

Mr. McKinlay

I asked what was to be the conception of these committees. Will they be appointed from membership of the continguous local authorities, or from outside them and be responsible to nobody?

The Lord Advocate

I was about to assure the hon. Member that the Secretary of State has no intention whatever of imposing upon local authorities something they do not want. Normally, a joint committee would be a committee set up by two or three authorities who joined together, and they would agree about the constitution, powers and membership of the joint committee. There is no intention whatever of forcing upon any group of authorities who do not want it the superstructure of a joint committee consisting of outsiders or members of the authorities. If there is apprehension on this question, if anybody fears that the Secretary of State is taking unduly large powers to force things upon local authorities we shall consider, before the Committee stage, whether it would be desirable to restrict this provision so as to make it quite clear that there is no intent of forcing any scheme upon unwilling authorities in that way. I think that meets the hon. Member's point.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) said, "Why have the Bill now? How do we know now what Scotland will be like in the future? "The reason we have the Bill now is because if we do not, it is open to anybody to undertake development which may be very difficult to undo when the time comes to settle a new and final scheme. Accordingly, the purpose of this Bill is to prevent developments of that kind which may prejudice the ultimate proper development of an area. What will happen, as I visualise it, will be this: Any person who wants to develop a particular part of a town or its outskirts, or wherever it may be, applies for permission. The local authority have then to apply their minds to the question of whether there is any reasonable likelihood that what they are being asked to permit will, in the future, conflict with the ultimate scheme. They may no: know what the ultimate scheme is, but they will have two or three possibilities in their minds. If they have not got that now, it is hoped that they soon will, because the Secretary of State is encouraging local authorities to make the necessary preliminary surveys in order to get information on which the ultimate scheme will be based. The local authority will say, "Are we right to let this go on or is it likely to get in the way of one or other of the alternative schemes we have in mind for the future?" If it does not appear to conflict with any scheme which is in the minds of the authority, permission will be given. If, on the other hand, it appears to prejudice the completion of one of the schemes which the local authority has in mind, permission will not be given, and and no one will be allowed to spoil that bit of land until the ultimate scheme is passed in its final form. If the ultimate scheme continues the prohibition, no one will ever be entitled to do so. If the scheme is on different lines from what was contemplated in the first instance, the land may be released from further prohibition, and the person who wanted to carry on with the development will be free to do it.

Mr. MacLaren

I rather gather from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the local authorities could release the land. They cannot. It is to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State.

The Lord Advocate

I said at the beginning of my remarks, and I meant it to qualify all that I am saying, that the Secretary of State hopes he will not have to exercise the power, that the local authorities will exercise their planning powers in an enlightened way and that he will not have to over-rule in any way the decision they reach. It is true that he has the power to do it, but he very much hopes it will not be necessary to use it. This is not a Bill in which a number of the points raised by the hon. Member for Dunfermline can be settled, but it is keeping the door open for the settlement of those points at the earliest date at which it can be done.

The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Hunter) raised a question about how much of Perthshire was included in the present group. I am informed that only a part is included but that, if the local authorities concerned desire that the scheme should be spread further and include the whole country, or a further part of it, that should be susceptible of arrangement. I would say the same to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) on that point. It may well be that there are two groups of authorities in the Highlands. Again, primarily, at least, it is for the authorities in the areas to decide among themselves what they think the best grouping and to agree. My right hon. Friend certainly hopes that the arrangements which they seek to make among themselves will be such that they can be confirmed without difficulty. I think the point has already been cleared up that this is not a Bill which prevents people from acquiring land. It is a Bill which prevents people from misusing land, and I think that is as far as we can go at the moment. I think that answers the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyll about speculative buying. The deterrent which the Bill puts upon it is that, if that buying is for the purpose of developing the land, the person who buys has no certainty that he will be allowed to develop in the way he wants and, if he is an undesirable speculator who wants to develop in the wrong way, he will not be allowed to do so.

My hon. and gallant Friend also raised a point about the Forestry Commission, and I think the answer is this. The Report recently issued and debated is not a statement of Government policy and has not been adopted as Government policy either in principle or in detail. Accordingly, it still remains to be settled how the planning of forestry areas is to be carried out. I cannot say any more than that at the moment.

Major McCallum

If I am not mistaken, the Minister without Portfolio in his winding-up speech in the Debate on the Forestry Report, I will not say approved the policy of the Forestry Commission in Scotland overriding the Scottish Office but seemed to acquiesce in it. That is important and we in Scotland are rather frightened at what that may lead to.

Mr. Mathers

May I add that, in reply to a Question, the Minister without Portfolio has indicated to me that legislation will not be required to carry out extra planting by the Forestry Commission? I looked upon this Bill as giving the Secretary of State his rightful place in dealing with any development of that kind, in any part of Scotland, in respect of undeveloped land.

The Lord Advocate

That is quite true. It is right that I should point out the difficulty which arises from that line of approach. Under Section 52 of the principal Act, development does not include the use of land for agriculture or planting trees. Accordingly, that is not the line of approach that we can adopt in dealing with conversion from agriculture to forestry. It does not come within the scope of the principal Act. Therefore, some other method of control will have to be adopted if that is decided. I am not in a position to say more than that nothing has been decided as Government policy, on the question of who is to control the dedication of land for planting.

Mr. McKinlay

Can we put down an Amendment on the next stage to clarify the position?

The Lord Advocate

If the Amendment does clarify the position and is in Order, I have no doubt that it can be looked at with great interest, but it would mean the extension—if I understand the hon. Member's purpose rightly—of the scope of the principal Act, and I am not at all sure whether we could face that in this Bill. I would ask the House to leave the matter of the Forestry Commission to be settled, as it must be ultimately, by a declaration of Government policy followed by any legislation that may be necessary. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire made one or two further points. As I have said, this is not a Bill that deals with the acquisition of land. Therefore, I do not think that his first point about local authorities acquiring land is really germane to this discussion. [Interruption.] Surely that is the whole essence of this matter—that you do plan without acquiring land, by telling the man who owns land what he may or may not do with it. That is the essence of the whole scheme.

The hon. Member also raised the question of the transfer of the powers of the Ministry of Works. That can be competently done under Clause 13 of the Bill. Of course, it remains for the Government to decide, once the Bill becomes law, to what extent any of these transfers shall take place, but it is lawful and competent under Clause 13 to make a transfer wholly or partially of the functions of the Ministry of Works which come within the scope of that Clause. I think I have dealt with at least the important points raised in the discussion.

Mr. MacLaren

What about the question of the 1939 values of land?

The Lord Advocate

That hardly comes into the scope of this Bill, which has nothing to do with the acquisition of land or the amounts you pay for it.

Mr. MacLaren

I thought I had made that clear myself.

The Lord Advocate

Then I am not clear what it is the hon. Member wants me to add. If I understood what I was asked to do, I would try to comply with the request.

Mr. MacLaren

The Secretary of State repeated a statement made by his English colleague that those who take land hoping to make a profit out of it and are holding their hand are to be instructed that they will get nothing more for their land than its 1939 value, and that is a material statement as regards this Bill. The question is whether the local authorities or the planning authorities are to face a state of affairs in which values have gone up enormously and where that fact is stopping them from planning, and the Secretary of State for Scotland said, which is I believe an accepted principle "Let the price paid for that land when wanted by a public authority be the 1939 valuation."

Mr. Speaker

An hon. Member is not allowed to speak twice on the Second Reading.

Mr. MacLaren

I was asked to make clear what it was I had asked, and I am sorry that I have had to take so long in doing it.

The Lord Advocate

I thought that was made clear when the Government stated that their intention is that when land is to be acquired for public purposes in future no more is to be paid than its 1939 value. The hon. Member has his views about the possibility of ascertaining that value. Those views are not held by His Majesty's Government, and that is all I can say about it. Accordingly, I would ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

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. —[Mr. Boulton.]

Committee upon the next Sitting Day.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after the hour appointed for the Adjournment of the House, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.