§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The splendid news we have just had of the great events which have been described to us must make it a little difficult for me and for the House to turn our minds so abruptly from those events to a topic so different from that to which I am about to propose. I am sure that throughout our discussions which concern the land of England and Wales many hon. Members' minds will be turning to that distant scene where, as we have just heard, our men have won such a splendid victory and have covered themselves with such great distinction. My joy at the news is so great that I feel almost a sense of irrelevancy at introducing this topic, but I comfort myself with the hope that the course of legislation, of which this Bill is the first step, may under Providence play its part to make this land of ours a better one for these lads when they return. I hope the House will not think me presumptuous in introducing a Bill so short a time after it has constituted my Ministry, but although I am a comparative new-corner in this matter I have been there long enough to be satisfied that I can recommend to the House that the Bill be now read a Second time.
The field of town and country planning is a very wide one, and I must say straight away that this Bill is but the forerunner of several Bills that must inevitably follow if the real new structure of town and country planning is to be erected. The object of this body of legislation which is here initiated is, I think, 501 common ground. Our object is to secure that the land of this country shall be put to the best use in the public interest, that it shall be used to the best interests of all the people in the towns and the countryside. This object is an extremely practical one. In the past the planning of town and country has inevitably been regarded chiefly from the amenity point of view. Various admirable voluntary associations have raised their voices in effective protest against the spoliation of our land from that angle of vision and have by their protests educated public opinion to deplore the senseless waste of land and of beauty in our own island. While beauty and amenity should be, as it were, a first charge upon our activities, it should not exhaust them. It is not merely a question of what our towns and countryside are like to look at—it is a question of what they are like to live in, to be born in (which is very important)—to grow up in, to work in and to play in. I do not say that all these great questions can be settled by town and country planning alone. Other agencies must, of course, play their part. I do say, however, that the answer to these questions will be profoundly affected by the use that is made of the land of this country.
Let me give two examples of this practical aspect. Town planning can determine for the majority of workpeople how far a man is to live from his work, whether or not he is to have on top of the fatigue of his daily toil two long, tiring journeys which eat into both his pocket and his leisure. That is eminently a practical consideration. Again, I believe that a wiser lay-out of our housing estates and a better organisation of our fast traffic routes, keeping the two separate from each other, could save the lives of hundreds of children a year and save countless more from mutilation and disfigurement. It is not my view that there is any necessary conflict between beauty on the one hand and utility on the other. Indeed, beauty, health and convenience should be sought together. They do not hinder each other but they powerfully reinforce each other. Nor do I find any antagonism between the interests of town and country in this task. When the House passed the Bill setting up this Ministry, "Punch" was good enough to notice the occasion by a cartoon of myself mounted on a horse which was of the pantomime variety, with fore and 502 hind legs of the human kind. One pair of legs was depicted as being those of a countryman and the other pair as those of a townsman. The fact was made evident that the two pairs of legs pointed in different directions, and I was depicted with the appropriately lugubrious expression which a rider would wear who was mounted on a horse whose sense of direction was so equivocal. I would say that the kindly jest was so far from my own conception of the matter that I was rather relieved to find that the picture was given the title of my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison).
I think the war has done a good deal to educate those of us who required education in this respect. The experiences of the evacuation must have made many countrymen feel that we are not making the best use of the land in the cities and towns, and I think they would rejoice at an improvement in the conditions of their new friends. I think, on the other hand, that the achievements of our farmers and farm workers in feeding us from the land still left in their possession for agricultural use should make us all, whether townsmen or countrymen, very resentful of any further waste of agricultural land. Though this Bill is not the place in which to do it, I should like to get away from the nomenclature and the ideas which inspire it and which are current in planning. When we talk about "development" in town planning we mean taking land away from agriculture, and when we dedicate land to agricultural use we describe it as "sterilising" the land. In any exact view of the first functions of land those words have precisely the opposite meaning of the truth. I hope in the meantime that interim development authorities will bear this matter in mind, and that if permission is sought to build on land of high agricultural value, they will consider whether there is not other land of lower fertility available. In this task they can avail themselves of the advice of my Regional Planning Officers, who in this regard will work in concert with the Rural Land Utilisation Officers set up by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. It is not only a national interest, but it is a good thing for dwellers in cities that they should have, for example, vegetables and dairy produce which have been produced near their 503 homes, and so have a chance of getting those commodities cheap and fresh.
I need not rehearse the various considerations which have compelled those who have considered the subject to adopt the idea of a national central planning authority. The House accepted the fact in the Bill passed last February which set up this Ministry and which is the cause of my being here to-day. The matter was put in this way in the Uthwatt Report, paragraph 17:The system which we regard as necessary for an effective reconstruction, and which we have therefore assumed, is one of national planning with a high degree of initiation and control by the central planning authority, which will have national as well as local considerations in mind, will base its action on organised research into the social and economic aspects of the use and development of land, and will have the backing of national financial resources, when necessary, for a proper execution of policy.That summary shows that the task of the new Ministry is a vast one. It must be based on organised research into the social and economic aspects of the development and use of land. That research in itself is a formidable undertaking, and how many are the problems involved in this matter will be evident to anyone who has read those three admirable documents, the Report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population, which was presided over by Sir Montague Barlow, and the Reports of the Committees presided over respectively by Lord Justice Scott and Mr. Justice Uthwatt.
Quite apart from the purely planning questions on which I have touched, these Reports and, indeed, the facts of the case raise certain legal, financial and administrative questions of great complexity and importance which require very careful and prolonged consideration. A great deal of work in this direction has, I am happy to say, been done, and this part of the work is being pressed on continuously, but much more study and research into these matters is needed before a durable structure of legislation can be erected. The Government fully realise the importance to local authorities of decisions on these matters, but while they are being arrived at there is no need for time to be lost. There is a tremendous amount of work in research and planning which can and must be done, whatever the outcome of 504 Parliament's decisions on these other matters. By many planning authorities that work is being done and done very well indeed. Some admirable work has already been accomplished.
I suppose that no planning authority is more concerned with or more anxious for a solution of these financial problems than is the central planning authority. But while we are pursuing those solutions as hard as we can, we are at the same time hard at work upon the necessary research into the facts, and in devising the principles of the science or art—and I think it is a bit of both—of national planning which must necessarily be accomplished if I am to fulfil the functions which the House has laid upon me. It is clear that the task before us involves a complete overhaul of the law and practice of planning, as well as research, and the study of those financial and administrative questions to which I have alluded. In tackling an undertaking of this size I think the first thing to do after you have surveyed the ground is to determine your order of priority of action. Work must go on simultaneously over the whole field, but legislation must put first things first. This Bill is, in my view, clearly the first step that must be taken. The alterations in the law which it makes will be required whatever decision is come to on these other matters, and I therefore ask the House to bear with me while I try to explain provisions which are necessarily couched in technical language. I will try to put the gist of the matter as clearly as I can.
The first thing I would refer to is the Title of the Bill—the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Bill. I have found in comments which have reached my ears that the use of those words "interim development" has given to those whose duty it has not been to make a close study of the technicalities of planning quite a wrong impression of the functions of the Bill. The word "interim" has about it a somewhat temporary, stopgap sound; but that is not its meaning in connection with the Title of this Bill. Interim development is an inevitable stage in any planning machinery. It is that development which takes place between the time when the planning authority passes a resolution to plan and the final conferring of statutory force upon the planning scheme. At 505 present about five per cent. of the area of England and Wales is subject to statutory schemes which are in force. The remainder is either not subject to a planning resolution at all or is in the stage of interim development. When this Bill is passed interim development will cover 95 per cent. of the land of England and Wales, the other five per cent. Being already subject to statutory schemes. Therefore, the words "interim development" far from being a limitation of the Bill, is that term which is appropriate to express that stage of development at which control will be exercised over 95 per cent. of England and Wales.
The objects of the Bill are twofold. The first is to extend planning control throughout England and Wales, and the second is to strengthen control over development in the interim period, that is to say, while schemes are being prepared. The first object is attained by Clause 1. There are many areas, including some which have been very badly damaged by bombs in our urban centres, which are not subject to any planning resolution at all and therefore are under no form of planning control. There are rural areas similarly situated. The effect of Clause i will be to bring under planning control some additional 10,000,000 acres of land. It is clearly right that this should be done. It is high time that such authorities as have not hitherto thought fit to pass planning resolutions should enter upon this duty, and begin as soon as they can if we are not to lose this opportunity of reconstruction which the war, with all its evils, has conferred upon us. The period of three months allowed in the Clause is thought reasonable to enable those authorities which have not hitherto undertaken the task to make the necessary arrangements for their new duties. As this inauguration of planning obligation and liability is now made universal by Statute instead of being left to the choice of authorities, it is thought that the elaborate provisions contained in the law as it stands for notices and registers can and should be dispensed with, and this is done by Subsection (2).
Clause 2 deals with two matters in the existing law which I ask the House to agree with me in thinking are out of place in the conception of national planning and post-war reconstruction. The first matter is existing buildings, and the second matter 506 is the peace-time procedure and time limits for dealing with applications for interim development. Let me take first existing buildings, dealt with in Sub-secttion (1) In that Sub-section there is a reference to a proviso to Sub-section (3) of Sectionn 10 of the principal Act. That proviso in the older Act secured certain rights to owners of buildings which are destroyed or demolished which enable them to replace those buildings on those sites with similar buildings. In our present circumstances, this cuts right across planned reconstruction, and is therefore abolished by this Sub-section. It was appropriate enough perhaps—although I will not argue it now—in peacetime, when the demolition of buildings was rarely accidental but was done with a view to subsequent rebuilding. A provision of this sort, when the bombs of the enemy have destroyed and demolished so many buildings, would clearly cut across the conception of reconstruction if every pre-existing building retained its right of replacement.
Sub-sections (2) and (3) deal with the procedure and the time-table, and make changes on which local authorities set great store. Under the present law, that is, the Act of 1932, a man can make application in the interim period to develop land which may cover a large area. Whether he is able to carry out that development or not is irrelevant. The local authority has to deal with such an application within two months. Otherwise, the application is deemed to have been granted. If the subsequent scheme interferes with the building, certain rights of compensation arise. Such applications, which I may describe as being of a claim-staking nature, are now being made, even though the work cannot be done in our present circumstances, and the local authority is placed in a very awkward and, in my view, undesirable position, with regard to them, particularly in war-time. Not only are those authorities burdened with many duties and with very short staffs, but the penalties for failure to deal with the matter in two months are very severe on the local authority. The damage done falls upon the community.
Sub-section (2) enables the authority, if faced with such an application, to serve a notice of postponement upon the applicant unless he can show that the work would be done immediately if the application were granted. The House knows how 507 difficult it is, while the war lasts, to get any building done. That means that, in order to show that he could proceed with the work, he would need, in most cases, to produce a licence from some Government Department to show that the building was needed in the general interests of the prosecution of the war. Sub-section (3) in effect makes the two months period work the other way round. An application is deemed to have been refused if it is not granted or otherwise dealt with in that period, instead of being deemed to have been granted, if not refused.
The object of Clause 3 is to enable an interim development authority to permit development for a limited period and then to remove the buildings at the end of that period without paying any additional compensation. Our old friend the existing building crops up again here. Owing to the destruction in our cities, it may be vital to the community that buildings of a temporary character should be provided in advance of the permanent reconstruction, such as the creation of a temporary shopping centre in a blitzed-out locality in a town. It would be in the public interest if such buildings were erected for a set period, whose duration was known in advance, while the permanent reconstruction went on, even if, in the meantime, they were placed on sites which are finally destined for a road, or an open space or used for some other purpose.
Under the law as it stands there is some doubt whether works erected under temporary permission may not legally be "existing buildings," with all the rights of replacement or of compensation in default which arise therefrom. If that is so, it would defeat the object of erecting temporary buildings for a set period. The common sense course seems to be to allow the owner to put up a building for a limited period without this burden of extra compensation falling upon the interim development authority, but the owner should retain in this respect such rights of compensation as he would otherwise have in respect of a restriction placed upon the use of the site for purposes of a scheme. I confess that the Clause looks complicated and obscure, but that is because the principal Measure to which it refers is both these things, when it deals with this topic. I have given the House 508 the general effect of the Clause, and I will be glad to answer in Committee about the details of it.
Clause 4 gives power to the interim development authority, with the Minister's consent, to revoke or vary permission for interim development which has already been given. There are two main reasons for this. One brings us back again to the existing building, a creature of peace-time so difficult to fit into the post-war reconstruction period. The effect is that until the Bill becomes law the rights of owners to replacement of existing buildings remain. As Clause 2 is not retrospective, the interim development authorities would be compelled to grant permission to replace existing buildings, however bad that might be from the public point of view. I would remind the House that until Clause 2 is law, permissions for bad use of land may have been, or may be, given by default. It is clear that, with the vast problems of reconstruction facing local authorities and the chance of writing not on a clean slate, but on a cleaner slate than in peacetime, power to revoke or vary these permissions should exist. The problems of reconstruction which now face planning authorities are so vast as to be insoluble under that rigid peace-time procedure. A plan which is good to-day may be very bad to-morrow, because war damage may entirely alter the situation and involve the formulation of an altogether new plan. Safeguards against the abuse of the power to vary or revoke are provided by Subsections (2) and (3). Sub-section (4) deals with compensation, which is also later referred to in Clause 7.
I now come to Clause 5. In my view this Clause takes a much-needed step to make control over interim development real instead of illusory, as it now is in many cases. At present the developer, if he applies for interim development permission and is refused, can go ahead in defiance of the interim development authority and can use his land as he pleases. A certain penalty and ultimate sanction may await him, when the scheme comes into statutory operation; though that may be years ahead, because there are appeals against provisions and much procedure to be got through but the only penalty which falls upon this contumacious developer is that when the scheme comes into operation at the dis- 509 tant date, his building may be removed without compensation. I can imagine that where the building is expensive in relation to the expense of the land, that is a very real sanction, but the boot is on the other leg when it comes to buildings which are trifling in comparison to the cost of the land.
Take the case of a petrol station. Permission to erect has been refused by the interim development authority. While the planning scheme is passing through the various stages towards completion, the petrol station, even though it offends against every principle of decent planning and may be an eyesore to the whole neighbourhood, may, in that period, recoup itself with sufficient profits. The man can view with equanimity the removal of his pumps because he will still have the land, which is much more valuable than the pumps. There are other illustrations more extreme than that of the petrol station. There is the greyhound racing track, which may be objected to by everyone in the neighbourhood. The cost of the buildings is trifling. The prospect of their distant removal without compensation is no deterrent to a man who can recoup himself with high profits in the meantime. We must give power of effective control during the interim period without waiting for an ultimate sanction at some distant date. That is what the Clause does.
Clause 6 is very important. It gives the Minister of Town and Country Planning new powers of control over decisions of the interim development authorities in regard to interim development. The present position is, that if an interim development authority refuses an application, there is an appeal to the Minister against the refusal. If the interim development authority decides to grant a permission, there is no power on earth to prevent it. It is obvious that such a position is inconsistent with national planning, because damage can be done by wrongfully giving permission just as by refusing it. If you refuse, you do at least maintain the status quo, whereas if permission is given for something that is contrary to national reconstruction damage is done which may be irretrievable for a generation. In the past, some local authorities have permitted development which has been the cause of bitter complaint locally. I think hon. Members would agree that it is time we altered the law in this respect.
510 I should like to say a word or two about national reconstruction which may be jeopardised or damnified by wrongfully giving permission for interim development. I need not give the House a list of them, but there are matters like Defence, or the location of industry or national roads. Coming nearer home to my own Department, there are such desirable projects as national parks, and the preservation of our coastline. These things may be jeopardised for a generation by permission given by an interim development authority for interim development inconsistent with the maintenance of the amenities and beauties of those two areas of our country. We have had some damage already by ill-considered building on the coast, and that ought to be enough to convince the House that this power of control by the central planning authority is overdue.
I earlier mentioned Clause 7. It gives the right of compensation for abortive expenditure in two cases where the Bill confers power to prevent development which was properly begun or contracted for—in the first place, where permission is refused to complete work done before there was any need to obtain permission, that is to say, in the case of existing buildings and so on; and, secondly, where permission already granted is revoked under the powers sought under Clause 4. In this case compensation can be paid for abortive expenditure. Clause 8 makes important provisions with regard to joint committees. There are large numbers of these bodies in the country, and they are doing, on the whole, excellent work in planning up and down the country under the powers they have got. Under. Section 3 of the 1932 Act, these joint committees can prepare and adopt schemes, but it is held that this does not enable them to act as interim development authorities for the purpose of controlling interim development as we seek to do it in this Bill. Sub-section (1) of Clause 8 enables them to be appointed in this capacity. Subsection (3) introduces another change of substance with regard to these joint committees. At present a joint committee can only be appointed at the request of one of the authorities which is to be a constituent of it. Under Sub-section (3) the Minister can appoint a joint committee if he thinks it appropriate without any such request from one of the constituent bodies.
511 This seems to me to be an appropriate place to say a few words briefly about planning authorities in general. It is quite clear that the administrative boundaries of local authorities are rarely, except by accident, ideal for planning purposes. I take an ordinary case where an administrative boundary between two authorities is a river. If you are to plan a river, you must plan both banks at the same time, as is now being done on Merseyside, where the local authorities, realising that the river must be treated as one unit for planning purposes, have come together to plan it jointly. They have the assistance of an expert from my Department to advise them, who goes there at their own request. Planning boundaries are never, and can never, be the same as administrative boundaries. For the purposes of this Bill I have adopted the lay-out of local authorities contained in the principal Act. That is not to say that I think them in all cases to be the best authorities for planning purposes. There would clearly, for example, be frustration of planning if every county district were to narrow its view to its own boundaries. To plan effectively, you must have regard to the widest area you can and take it as a whole. I hope by the aid of this Clause, and by the cooperation of local authorities, to make the best use of the existing authorities to secure this end. But if, as a result of the various proposals put forward by associations of local government bodies, there is to be a review of the functions of local authorities, then their functions as planners of town and country must also be re-considered in any such general review.
There is this further point. This Bill greatly eases the problems of local authorities with regard to planning, and eases them for all time, I hope. It asserts for the first time a measure of control by the central planning authority over their activities. Later legislation will need to be introduced to state the will of Parliament with regard to more positive action to secure reconstruction, and it may well be that, in connection with powers of this positive character, we may require to consider afresh the authorities who are to exercise them. In the meantime I think we can do good work with this Bill as it is drafted, and we shall go ahead and see what we can do.
512 The remaining Clauses and the Schedules to this Bill are in the main formal and consequential, and there is nothing in them to which I need at this stage draw the attention of the House. All I have to say is to thank the House for having borne with me throughout the exposition of very technical legislation. I was able to indicate to the House at the opening of my speech a few of those hopes and aspirations which I cherish for the people through the agency of this new Ministry whose first day in the House of Commons this is. But indeed the contrast between these hopes which we all feel, and to which I feel confident we all respond, and the dry technique in the Bill is itself symbolic of the nature of this great endeavour of which this is the first step. In an old settled country like this there can be no easy road to effective planning. To reach our goal we shall have technicalities and controversies enough and to spare, now and in the future. But I hope that in arguing how these and future proposals affect private and local interests, we shall always bear in mind the object which we have in view, and that we shall also remember the duty we all of us owe to our own people as a whole, and to the incomparable land where they live, and for which they are fighting in the three elements of land, sea and air.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I do not think that my right hon. Friend need apologise for his exposition, because, as one having had in the past some little experience of town and country planning legislation, I realise how difficult it is for anybody to understand it, even those of us who have submitted legislation. Of course, with my right hon. Friend's opening words, and with his unexceptionable statement and emotions, I think we can all say we are agreed, but we are witnessing to-day another stage in the very leisurely unfolding of a slow-motion picture. There is something to be said for each step that has been taken in the past, but the sum total of progress so far can properly be described, I think, as being microscopic at times when the pace ought to be accelerated. I realise that town and country planning raises difficult and complicated and highly controversial issues.
I was responsible in 1931, as Minister of Health in a minority Labour Government, for the introduction of the first 513 Town and Country Planning Bill. That Government came to grief before the Measure was placed on the statute Book. I am bound to say that that Bill was hardly a Bill after my own heart, but it was the most I could reasonably expect to get out of a House of Commons composed as it was at that time. After the 1931 General Election I have to confess that that the composition of the House of Commons was even less to my liking. I was one of those who was swept for the time being into an undeserved oblivion. Early in 1932, however, to herald my return to Parliament as a result of a by-election, the Coalition Government introduced something they called a Town and Country Planning Bill, rather more attenuated than it was when I had left it unfinished, and subjected to Amendments which I suggest to my right hon. Friend are partly the cause of some of the obscurities of our present legislation.
Our town and country planning legislation, although it has been cumbersome, although it has been slow in operation and execution, has achievements to its credit, and those achievements ought not to be despised, but few people who care about the objects of town and country planning legislation can be satisfied with the progress that has been made. The real reason—and I think we have got to face it, and I am not doing so in any narrow sort of controversial spirit—is that we have not yet faced up to what is a fundamental question, the actual ownership of land and the form of control of land, if any. Legislation such as there has been, has been, so to speak, tentative from the time of the first Act in 1909 onwards, and largely because we have burked this major issue. I am not going deeply into past history. Indeed, I have not time to recount even the history of the last six years, but I think that there are certain points which ought to be made.
Reference has been made by my right hon. Friend to certain reports. Their terms of reference were different, but they had certain objectives which opened out, and they must, I submit, be treated together. It was on 8th July, 1937, that the Barlow Commission was appointed to deal with the distribution of industrial population. Its Report was completed in August, 1939, just prior to the outbreak of war, and because of that new situation the Report was not published until January, 1940. 514 That Commission was primarily concerned with the distribution of industrial population and, because of that, the question of the location of industry. After this Report was published the peace-time situation visualised by the Commission had, of course, been transformed, first by large-scale evacuation, and secondly, by severe damage in certain areas due to enemy action in the air. It was these considerations which led the Government to set up the Uthwatt Committee. Its interim Report—I want the House to watch the march of time—was published in March, 1941. Its final Report, a much larger and important document, was published in September, 1942. During the war Lord Justice Scott's Committee was appointed in October, 1941, and proceeded fairly rapidly, because its Report was published in August, 1942. Eight months have elapsed since the final documents of these various investigations were put into the hands of the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "A very busy eight months."] It may have been, but I am just pointing to the fact, which I think is undeniable. I might call it nine months, but I will not quarrel about a month. The Barlow Commission regarded the problem as being primarily industrial, not agricultural. They said that agricultural matters were outside their terms of reference. The value of the Scott Committee is that it rounded off the Barlow Report by bringing into the general sweep for consideration the agricultural problems of the future, the use of land, and life and amenities in the countryside. The Uthwatt Committee arose purely out of war damage and the problems which resulted. It was a more specialised job—a job which, given its restrictive terms of reference, was, I think, very well done.
Now, a word as to how those problems have been handled from the point of view of administration. There has been a series of metamorphoses. We started with a First Commissioner of Works. He blossomed into a Minister of Works and Buildings. The word "Buildings" was dropped, and he was glorified with the title of Minister of Works and Planning. At a later stage there came a new Minister of Town and Country Planning, whom we welcome to the House on his making his first statement to-day. Out of this giddy whirl of changes which have swept through the House in recent months, we have now a Town and Country Plan- 515 ning (Interim Development) Bill, about the middle of May, 1943. Let us admit that in 1940, when we were fighting alone and fighting for our lives, there was no time for spinning dreams about the future. No one would pretend that there was. But the Government's confidence in ultimate victory was such that early in 1941 the Prime Minister thought fit to put me in charge of the exploration and study of post-war problems. Two and a quarter years have elapsed. Reports have been issued; not merely reports dealing with this matter, but other documents, like the Beveridge Report, Mr. Tomlinson's Report on Industrial Rehabilitation, and so on. But very little action has been taken. The Barlow Commission, the Uthwatt Committee, and the Scott Committee all came to the conclusion, with certain differences, that there ought to be a national planning authority; and on 11th February last year, shortly before my services were dispensed with, I made a statement in the House of Commons on the question of a central planning authority. I will not trouble the House with that, except to say that this was an agreed War Cabinet statement, and represented the views of His Majesty's Government, at any rate on 11th February, 1942. In the last sentences I dealt with the wider problems which were raised by the Barlow Commission, and went on to say that we intended to do everything we could to deal with that problem. Then I said:The necessary legislation to give effect to these decisions—about industrial location—will be introduced at an early date."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1942; col. 1533, Vol. 377.]That was in February, 1942. When the Minister of Works and Planning Bill was before the House, on Second Reading, towards the end of April, I referred again to the national planning authority; and one got the impression that we had one of sorts, although it is to me a little ill-defined, anyhow, and how far its authority goes I do not know, but I have my doubts. Statements have been made on several occasions since, in January this year, the right hon. Gentleman was brought into being officially. I spoke then, and I will not repeat the argument I used.
516 As regards the present Bill, I regard it as a useful Bill; I think it is a necessary Bill. It is an advance; it stretches the existing laws and the powers of the Minister. It makes certain improvements in the law which would have been difficult to effect under ordinary peace-time conditions. Therefore, the Bill is to be welcomed. I hope, and I am certain, that my right hon. Friend will exercise his powers to the full when the Bill is on the Statute Book. But the country is really awaiting decisions on the major issues. I do not agree that we can carry on the war merely by banning all controversy in this House. A little healthy controversy does this House no harm; often, it does it good. These issues must be faced sooner or later. We have been talking about them for two and a quarter years, and we have reached no decision on any big question.
There are four questions crying out for solution. The first is the future of land ownership and control. On that I can conceive that a Government composed of all the political parties is not likely to reach any agreement, other than a compromise agreement, on a question which is highly controversial; but for Heaven's sake let us know how we are going to march into the new world after the war. Where are we going to stand on this question of land ownership and control? Unless we know that, the whole outlook is quite hopeless. Secondly, people want to know about the Uthwatt Reports. They have been in the hands of the Government for some time. I fully appreciate that they raise difficulties, but the public want to know, particularly in the blitzed areas. All those local authorities are, naturally, gravely concerned. Thirdly, there is the question of how we are to achieve, leaving aside the question of ownership and control, the best use of our land and natural resources; and coupled with that is the question of the proper location of industry. I undertook in February, 1942, to have those two problems dealt with at a fairly early date.
I have tried to show that I do not under-estimate the wide range and the vital importance of the issues involved. I realise the difficulty of concentrating attention on issues which are not directly connected with the prosecution of the war. I felt that peculiarly myself during the whole of 1941. I appreciate that, with a 517 National Government, established to bring the war to a victorious end, the primary job is winning the war—an ambition which.all of us passionately share. I realise also the difficulty of representatives of different political parties, with different outlooks, reaching the greatest common measure of agreement unless they exercise infinite patience. For active politicians the path of coalition is a very hard and a very stony one. On the other hand, I must put this point of view, because I do not agree about ruling all controversy off the Floor of this House. I must put this point of view, as one who has given considerable thought to post-war problems. Unless, long before the end of hostilities, the broad lines of policy on the issues which are bound to arise in this Debate have been laid down and agreed, and the necessary legislation passed in the years after the war, the future efficiency of these little Islands will be greatly imperilled, and what beauty and amenities are still left to us seriously threatened, or even in large measure destroyed. These little Islands are all that we have on which we can tread. We live on the land, by the land, by the ships that we build in our shipyards, and so on. If before the war is over we have not made our plans for long-term economic recovery, and made very stringent regulations to prevent the defilement of what is left of the British, countryside, the outlook will be serious.
While I accept the Billalthough we may talk about it on the Committee stage—I ask the Government to accept the implications of their past declarations and actions, without delay. My plea is a simple one. I want bold measures, and I want them early—for two reasons. I ask for the salvation of Britain from the despoilers. I ask for the best use of our lands, our harbours, our natural resources, for the prosperity and welfare of our people. This, I think, our people are entitled to expect.
§ Mr. Bossom (Maidstone)
In the first place, I want to congratulate the Minister upon being active in bringing in his first Measure. But planning is not only legislation. Planning is a physical thing; it is some work which has got to be done. It does not matter what legislation we pass in this House: it will not make any difference to the town or country unless the architects are informed and allowed to get to work. The nation's architects 518 are available. There are thousands of them ready, willing, and able to go right on with this work, without in any way interfering with our war effort. They are standing by, anxious to go ahead. And due to this, frankly, I am worried by the Bill which indicates how the mind of the Ministry is working. I would like for a few minutes to look at the background of this Bill, It comes from a new Ministry. This is that Ministry's first effort, and it has yet to make its departmental tradition. This Bill is the lineal descendant of the 1932 Town and Country Planning Act. Its parents are members of the same Department that produced that Act and, as we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), it comes from a Ministry that has passed along through several Departments. It has moved so often you could hardly find out where it was for a time.
This Bill in substance is almost a reproduction of the earlier Act, with a little more added to it. The principal Act did not create a record of glory. It has been adversely criticised by many men from both large and small local authorities who have had the task of trying to administer it. The Scott Report sets aside a special chapter to criticise the 1932 Act, and justly so, for after 10 years, seven of them during peace-time, only 5 per cent. of our country is under complete control, and but 70 per cent. is under an interim development Order. It will not be very impressive for the Minister to try and paint a pretty picture of its results, for anyone who journeys around the perimeter of any large town or built-up area throughout the country can see for himself the dreary suburbia which universally exists. That has really to be stopped. The former countryside has been steadily defaced, and though it is prejudging the issue, I do not believe the present Bill will do very much to stop it, due to certain overriding conditions brought about by the war, and we have to look at this as purely a war-time Measure, for the Minister has told us it is but the first of many.
I believe that although the Minister is particularly anxious to get ahead in this matter, he has to a certain extent lost sight of certain of the vitals of this national planning situation. The principal Act was 519 ineffectual for several reasons, and even if these are now all removed, the Bill will still not do much to meet the present wartime realities. It states, for example, "that areas not already under Resolution shall (now) be deemed to have been duly passed by the local authority" and "to have been approved by the Minister." This, I fear, is but little more than a pious hope and will continue so until we can get the Government's lead on many points of planning policy, so that men can get ahead and do the actual planning. It is no use saying that they are going to make their plans, if they do not know the governing conditions for which they are to plan. It is no use asking a man to design a house if you do not tell him the use and kind of house you desire. Local authorities will not be able actually to make progress until the Government have announced their general overriding principles which are the root that will control the trunk of our post-war planning. Ten regional advisers have been appointed, we were told by the Minister, and these advisers may be very good planners, but I believe that their knowledge of architecture is strictly limited. I understand—and I think I am justified in calling attention to this—that the Minister has received complaints about these advisers having little if any architectural knowledge, and as the Parliamentary Secretary is here, I do not think I can do better than quote from one of his own speeches on the point:The principal reason for the failure of planning hitherto has been the failure to recognise the importance of architecture.Thus we have 10 advisers appointed to work with the local authorities I know of, and none famous for his architectural record, and I do not know that we can really look to them with any great hope that they are going to help our local authorities with the building side of their planning problems. In such circumstances these appointments are a little disturbing. The 1932 Act, which we all admit has pot completed what it set out to do, is now being turned out again with additional variations, and aided by a few official advisers who we know are really not unduly capable of giving advice on architectural matters, and yet the major planning work of our towns in future should certainly be of a good architectural character. We all remember the wide and indiscriminate destruction of beauty 520 spots after the last war, and that good agricultural land that was destroyed because there was no legal machinery to stop it for no preventative measures existed. It is clearly desirable now that by placing all the land under interim development Orders this Bill sets out to do that it will stop this sort of thing being repeated this time and that it will prevent private persons or local authorities again perpetrating such acts of vandalism and equally that it will stop them staking claims that might put them in line to collecting compensation later. But, really, is not this Bill something like using a sledge hammer to crack a monkey nut? Why take up the precious time of Parliament at this period of the war with a matter of this kind? Are we not being asked to do something which really could be accomplished in a much simpler way. Why not follow the example of the Minister of Works? It is impossible during the war to build without getting a permit from him, and why not introduce, purely as a war Measure, a short Order in Council, a standstill Order, on the existing 32 town and country planning Act? That would easily provide for anything that we can do under this Bill. The Ministry could then get on with the work needed for the actual planning itself.
I suppose that when my hon. Friend winds up the Debate he will attempt to justify taking up time by bringing in this Bill, but anyone who had had practical planning experience knows that what is so sorely needed is a statement of the main items of the policy of the Government. Without such a statement, practically nothing can be done. There are a few vital and indispensable matters which must be explained to the nation and debated in this House, such as the stabilisation or not or some alteration of land treatment, its control and cost. There should be some definite information as to the policy of the Government as to what is proposed with regard to the financial aid that will be given to local authorities; without that it is literally impossible to make much progress. The poorest parts of our country are the ones which invariably need the greatest amount of financial help in their town planning work. What is the position going to be as regards the location of our industrial population? What is going to be done about that very important part of our post-war planning? We must know something about the policy concern- 521 ing green belts, arterial roads, national parks and coastlines. These are the things for which the country is awaiting a lead. It is not waiting for interim development Orders but for real considered guidance on these essential fundamental matters. All the interim development Orders in the world will not make it possible for any practical planner to make a plan without these. You cannot lay out a new housing estate, large factory groups or even playing fields without that information, for, without, they might be placed within a green belt or on an arterial road. That information needs to be forthcoming and a lead and guidance from the Government are anxiously looked for, and this Bill does not help us much in any of these matters. Again local authorities will not know how much they can spend until they receive some idea from the Government as to the money which is to be given to them as an aid. Without all this, real planning will be at a standstill. Until we know about the settled policy on fundamental matters, such as the control of land and the Government's financial contributions, the work on the map itself, so to speak, cannot be started.
The war is marching on, and I believe that it will take not less than 18 months from the time that these principles are laid before this House and when actual building could be started. We are going to require our building industry to help materially with re-employment, and there is little doubt that there is 18 months' intensive work of many varieties between the time Parliament get these principles and the time when they can be translated into practical use. May I hope that the Minister, now that he has introduced this Bill, will be able to get it through all its stages as quickly as possible and that he will then concentrate on the real measures of planning which require to be decided and for which both the country as a whole and practically all the local authorities are most anxiously waiting?
§ Mr. Jewson (Great Yarmouth)
I listened with considerable pleasure and encouragement to the speech with which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill to the House, and, in a sense, introduced himself. I felt after listening to what he said that, at any rate, the root of the matter was in him. If our town and country planning during the past quarter of a century does us little or no 522 credit—and I am afraid that is only too true—it is at least not because we are without good models. The charm of our old towns and cities is only surpassed by the varied and satisfying beauty of our countryside. Both these are assets of the greatest value in our national life; the destruction by war and the devastation caused by ill-advised development are alike deplorable. We are not to blame for the former, but we shall certainly be very much to blame if we allow the latter to continue.
During the last 20 years or so miles of ugly ribbon development have been created. I suffer from this every time I go back to my home, but I notice particularly, that as soon as this ugliness lies behind one, the countryside at once asserts its claim to beauty. I notice furthermore that this beauty has been increased by the intensified farming of the past few years. The preservation of such national assets as these is worth a considerable sacrifice, and any Measure designed to prevent their destruction deserves our warm support. But prevention is not enough. The often quoted saying that "God made the country, and man made the town," to which has been added the conjecture that "the devil made the suburbs," is perhaps a statement without much thought. The last conjecture, one cannot help suspecting, has some truth in it. But the distinction between town and country which is made in the original saying is not really true. For in our small Island, at any rate, man has made the country as well as the town, and neither town nor country is a static museum piece. When we say that we want to preserve our town and our country, we do not mean that we want to keep it just as it is, for it is the living expression of our national life, and life involves continual growth and continual change.
As we all know only too well, much rebuilding is needed now in our towns, and especially in coastal towns like my own constituency and coastal towns of the. East and South-East. I noted with great pleasure what the Minister of Labour had to say on that subject on 31st March in this House, and I hope his words will be taken to heart. But the problem is nearly as urgent in the country. We all say that we want our rural population to be preserved and to grow and our young. 523 people want new houses in which to create new homes. These two problems are problems of very great urgency. As was pointed out by the last speaker, preparation must precede building. At least six months or in some cases as much as 18 months are needed from the word, "Go" to the laying of the first brick. These plans ought to be made now, for we need to get off the mark as soon as the pistol fires, or perhaps I should say, in this instance, as soon as the pistol ceases fire. It is most urgent that we should get on with our plans and preparations, and I ask for an assurance that this Bill, which in many respects is admirable, will not mean delay in that respect. There was some indication in my right hon. Friend's speech that this was the beginning of simplification of methods for builders, so that they will no longer have to deal with half-a-dozen Ministries in addition to local authorities. I hope that is true and that we shall be able to speed up matters.
Now may I say a few words about the provisions of the Bill itself? In the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill it is said that it is intended to control all areas in England and Wales. I would like to know whether that means that the Minister has to take cognisance of the whole of our country from shore to shore so that he will have to deal with coast erosion and land reclamation. I would like to be quite clear on that point and I would also like to ask, if it does not actually mean "shore to shore" in that sense, what is meant by the words, "all areas"? The first Clause of the Bill gives me some misgivings, because it says all these areas are to be deemed to be subject to a resolution to prepare a scheme. If so and if schemes do not in fact exist, it is difficult to see how delay is to be avoided under that Clause. In Clause 2 (3B) there is a question apparently of automatic refusal of applications without consideration. It seems a little hard to justify automatic refusal without consideration and if I have rightly interpreted the meaning of this Clause I would like to ask whether applications which are automatically refused without consideration, can be remade later.
In Clause 7 power of recovery is given against the interim development authority. Does that mean that the authority has to face this repayment, or can authorities have recourse to the Government in cases 524 where they have to make the payment? I must mention again my old enemy which reappears in Clause 10. I think it is said to be "common form" but that is no justification if it is not common sense. It ought not to be necessary to take action under a Rule which has to wait 40 days for confirmation or otherwise. No action ought to be taken until 40 days have elapsed, and I would like to hear something about that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies. I welcome the idea which lies behind this Bill and I hope the Minister will succeed in realising it. I also hope for assurances that the urgency of preparing plans for building is fully recognised and that delay will be avoided.
Mr. Moelwyn Huǵhes (Carmarthen)
This is, in one sense, a pleasant occasion for me. I was glad to be here to listen to my right hon. Friend bringing before this House, for the first time, consideration of matters arising out of the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning the creation of which we all welcome and the continuance of which, like other Ministries created in war-time, is guaranteed through the peace. I was also very glad to hear the first part of the Minister's speech when he pronounced so definitely on the need for planning and some of the methods by which planning may be brought about. Having said that, however, I have to confess that it is rather dismal to see this House devoting its first serious attention to post-war town and country planning upon a miserable sprat of a Bill like this, and to say, as a comparatively junior Member, I deplore the fact that so little interest in this vital matter is being taken by hon. and right hon. Members of this House.
In the first place, this Bill is out at heel. When the Uthwatt Committee was established in 1941 it was given terms of reference, which included an immediate investigation into, among other things, steps to be taken to prevent post-war development being prejudiced in the meantime. When that Committee published their Interim Report in April, 1941, they recommended that certain steps should be taken in the direction of preventing prejudicial work and those steps were considered by the Government. The Government, however, did not see fit to follow the method suggested by the Uthwatt Committee and announced, through, the then Minister of 525 Works and Planning in July, 1941, that any further safeguards required for the time being could be provided by strengthening the provisions of the Planning Acts. Presumably a Bill of the kind we are considering to-day, was then drafted and, having been drafted two years ago, it has since been drifting from one Minister to another and from one Ministry to another. Now, after two years, we get this tattered and out-at-heel Measure, which might have been acceptable if it had been put forward two years ago.
Not only is the Bill out at heel but it is also out of time. The Minister in introducing it described it as the forerunner of other measures. I would draw the attention of the House to the proper order of dealing with post-war planning. The Uthwatt Committee, when they advised on this matter, said:In the legislation which we assume would be introduced at an early date on the subject by a central planning authority, provision should be made for vesting in that authority power to control building and other developments throughout the whole country by reference to national planning considerations and with a view to work being undertaken which might be prejudicial to reconstruction.That is the procession as outlined by the Committee. First of all, an effective planning central authority; secondly, a master plan, giving the main considerations on national grounds that are to be applied to this country and, finally, a method of closing up the gaps, by powers lo prevent wrongful development. Obviously, a master plan could not be created in a day. That is the procession —the Lord Mayor's coach; the panoply of uniforms and, bringing up the rear, the corporation dust-cart. Here we have turned the procession the wrong way round. This Bill, designed to fill up the gaps, has put the Corporation dust-cart in front of the procession. This Bill is completely out of time and, I suggest, is also out of date. It is, in its own terms, to be understood by this House only with reference to the Act of 1932. It is in the whole of its format, tied to legislation which has been proved deficient and defective and, in fact, a lamentable failure.
The state of planning at present has been mentioned by the Minister and others. We know that only 5 per cent. of the land of England and Wales is subject to statutory planning considerations and, if we bring in Scotland as well—they are a 526 bit behindhand—it comes down to 3 per cent. That represents the areas covered by authorities which are financially capable and energetic and desirous of getting on with town and country planning. In fact you may describe them as the cream. Then, in England, something under three-quarters, and in Wales something over a third of the land is covered by resolutions to plan, producing this interim stage. They represent the authorities which either had not the means or lacked the desire to go ahead with effective planning. Let us not forget that, before the war started, they had all had 64½ years in which to put the Town and County Planning Act into operation. This Bill does nothing but put the Minister of Town and Country Planning in the same position as the laggard and poor authorities. Therefore, I submit that it is out of date. I suggest also that it is out of step with the needs of to-day. Preceding speakers have emphasised that the needs of to-day are to plan ahead and to start doing it now. Building cannot start without local plans and local plans cannot be effective, from a point of view which receives acceptance throughout the whole House, unless they are dependent upon a general national plan. As the Minister said, such a national over-riding plan, bearing in mind considerations of the location of industry, the extent to which the blitzed towns are to be rebuilt, the movement of population and the needs of transport and services is a formidable task.
Is not that all the more reason why it should be grasped now? The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom) said that, once you have your plans completed, it will be 18 months before the building begins to go up. Other news these days is very good. One might even reasonably hope that that period might see the end of hostilities. What a terrible position we would find ourselves in if we had to end the war without being ready to meet the situation. Whether we plan or not, whether the Ministry shows more energy than it has done, whether the House legislates for it properly, as soon as hostilities are over the buildings will go up. We have plans ready for the labour—we are planning already for 1,250,000 to be employed in the building industry at the 'end of hostilities—and there are also, I believe, plans afoot to provide the materials for them. There is money available. The War Damage Commis- 527 sion will have some hundreds of millions. The savings of the people are mounting week by week. The men will come back from the Forces and they will have the resources. The labour will be there, and the demand will come which no Government can resist. We must have homes and we are going to have them. Unless we have the plans ready for that moment, we will have at the end of the war the same, perhaps even more chaotic conditions than we had after the last war—more chaotic because the needs of our blitzed towns have complicated the position.
I have suggested that this miserable Bill is out at heel, out of time, out of date and out of step, and for those reasons and many others I suggest that it ought to be out of court. After all, the Government have had nine months in which to consider the major problems, such as those dealt with in the Uthwatt Report, and the Minister has had three months, and yet all we get is this miserable little effort. The House will grant it its passage but only, I feel sure, upon the implied term that the Minister, having relieved his desk of this ancient draft, will then be able to get down to the real job and will come to the House very quickly to say what the Government's proposals are with regard to the matters that we all want o see prepared and planned now.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I dissent entirely from the last speaker's remarks in our common desire to get ahead with proper planning. This is a small Bill. The Minister has pointed out that it is an interim Bill dealing with interim planning, but it does not therefore deserve the name of "miserable." When you are dealing with a particular plan and have decided to work it out by stages, you must have room for the measures which are necessary to fill in and to stop gaps. I take it that this is a stop-gap Measure which is necessary before we proceed to the later stages of planning. The history of the movement is quite clear. Many of us have been concerned with it from the very first, and one notices two things about the first Act in which the term "town planning" was introduced on to the Statute Book by John Burns' Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909. It was only town planning until the principal Act of 1932, which used the words "town and country planning." The 528 second was that it had been mainly negative and not positive planning. But the first Measure necessary in planning, the use of the land, must be negative to prevent further mischief being done against the public interest before we can decide what can positively be done. Right mention has been made by two or three speakers of the fact that the question of the land lies at the basis of it. Several of our colleagues hold the doctrine that land ought not to be private property but should belong entirely to the State. But, whatever happens, let us recognise that land is private property and is rightfully owned, however it has been acquired.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
The interim development Orders deal with the actual coercion of the use of private property in land, and, as has been wisely said, private property is the essence of a free people, and, if planning measures interfere with property, which is the essence of a free people, let us recognise that we have to be extremely tender towards the owners of land of one kind or another, and such speeches as the last do not show any tenderness whatever. The slowness of this procedure is really due to the fact that the development which is being interfered with and controlled has hitherto been considered the right use by owners, and we have to consider these interim measures in that sense. Therefore I do not share the criticisms made of successive Governments in the slow development of this process of planning. It seems to me that, if we are to get sound planning, we must go pari passu with sound public opinion. We have our eyes fixed on the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven, which we want to see promoted in our generation. At the same time that is not the opinion of the great mass of the people. They take particular interest in their own objects and desires, but have no idea of general planning, and there is a severe danger from all this planning legislation if it goes ahead of public opinion too quickly.
The Bill depends largely upon the work of local authorities, and that is the proper way of trying to bridge over the gap between the enthusiasts in and out of the House, among whom I number myself, 529 and the common people, who have the decision to make through their representatives in Parliament and otherwise. We have, therefore, to see to what extent the local authorities are really fit people to carry out these measures. The 1919 Act first of all gave power to have joint town planning committees, and it is largely, I take it, on those joint committees that the Minister really rested his case for the Bill. As an old medical officer of health, I have considerable experience of joint committees of various kinds, and I have not been impressed with their value. They bring us up against the old difficulty of serving two masters. To get a common policy and keen action from a joint committee as a whole is very much like the difficulty of getting the co-ordination of the Fighting Services in actual warfare, to which we have rightly heard such tribute to-day. It can be done and is done in the Fighting Services, and it is done in several joint committees where there are two or three strong commanding personalities who join them together. I therefore hope that we may possibly see a solution of our planning difficulties through joint town planning committees.
Of the 1,465 local authorities which are at present responsible for preparing planning schemes, 1,195 have prepared or are preparing schemes, but many of them are unable to take the larger view. That only reinforces the general view of how important it is for us in the post-war years to try and promote the credit of service in local government. Not nearly enough is done in that way. If we want to improve the service of local government, we want to educate the rising generation in its value and public opinion generally to the great credit that is due to those who serve in local government and give up their time to it. If we can stress the great possibilities of doing national service in establishing peace after the war in several ways through local government, we shall do a great deal towards getting more efficient planning not only in this but in other directions.
I have always tried to suggest to the different bodies of which I have been a member that there are really three separate phases in planning. The difficulty arises largely from the fact that we mix up these three phases. The first is a national phase. That includes such things as national parks and coastlines, com- 530 munications, highways and railways, and different aspects of national service. That is the first phase of planning, which must be laid down from the centre. The second phase can only be planned after the first phase has been established. That phase deals with the region or the area. For that we want the county councils, the county borough councils and joint committees lo Lake part. There is great objection from local authorities to regionalisation, but it is essential for this purpose, We must not forget the third phase, because a large amount of criticism arises from our forgetting it; it is concerned with the people living on the spot who are concerned with the actual planning of their neighbourhood— houses, parks, shops and so on. That is the matter that can and should be entrusted largely to the local councils. We cannot expect them to do it on the right lines until they have had edicts on the central phase and the regional phase. These three phases are not only definite in idea but definite in time, and I hope we shall be able to improve our planning by establishing our procedure on those three lines.
Another point I should like to urge upon the House is that although one is keen on planning in the direction that one believes one should plan, let us beware of too much standardisation and of too much detailed planning for eternity. Not only do ideas change but architecture changes. An hon. Member suggested that we should commit everything to the architect, but architects change remarkably in their ideas of what is right, proper, expedient and beautiful, even in our own lifetime. They are changing now, and if we are going to fix the ideas of our plans now—and many of them will last for centuries—we must beware of making them too fixed and not sufficiently mobile. What would have happened, for instance, if we had had a plan for London definitely fixed up before the days of the railways? Towns had grown up with the idea of foot and horse traffic, foot traffic for the local needs and horse traffic for communications. Then the railways came, and they could only establish themselves at different points round what was then London. Mr. Gladstone proposed that even then there should be undertaken the big job of getting one central station for the whole of London, but it was found impracticable to do it. We are very glad that that idea did not come to fruition, 531 because I am sure that it is more suitable to have what we now have, not only the nine railway stations in different parts of London, but the communications between them which have only become possible during the last two or three decades.
Viscount Hinchinǵbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
On that showing it would surely be better to have a single station in the heart of London.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
These interim plans deal very much with the future lay-out of towns. What would happen if we planned now, and in 10, 20 or 30 years' time most of our communications were carried on by air? Our present plans will be liable to be upset very much, especially when we live in an era when auto-gyros might drop down on this House and elsewhere. It is a question of going slow. In laying out the future towns we have the great examples of actual diagrams of future development, where they started from a clean slate, in the garden cities of Letch-worth and Welwyn, where there are all the requirements for a complete life for the whole community. There are a few lessons to be drawn from them. First, there is the requirement for ideal development of the single freehold. That need not necessarily be in the hands of the local authority, because in these two cases it was in the hands of private enterprise—philanthropic private enterprise, it is true, but it was private enterprise. Then there is the question whether industries should follow residents or residents follow industries. In the end what we want is that the residents for the most part will follow industries. We have to fix up industry, but unfortunately when dealing with development in the early stage we have first to get industry there by showing that there are enough people to work the industry, or we have to begin with a few residents and after that the proper siting of industry must begin. These things are dealt with in the Barlow Report.
We also have to recognise that if we are to have a complete town for the life 532 of the people, we want not only the factories for industry, but factories for the wives and daughters. There is a great deal to be considered in the laying-out of the factories for the single city. It is essential that wherever we are planning, interim development should require that ribbon building should be avoided and that the buildings should be arranged in such a way as to make a unit for all the life of the town. Otherwise we shall lay up endless trouble not only for the people who may build haphazard now but for the next generation. We have, therefore, a whole posse of problems to deal with. I am delighted that we have this useful little Measure to deal with the difficulties, so that we can undertake the bigger Measures. I congratulate my right hon. Friend in undertaking this office and wish him, as I fully expect he will have, the greatest possible success in carrying through the further measures that are required for carrying out our planning.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in his interesting remarks made reference to a Measure which he introduced in 1931 and drew a picture of the situation then which I could not quite recognise. He led us to believe that there was then in power a revolutionary Labour Government, with that well known "Red" Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, at its head which was ready to press for the most extreme measures for town and country planning and that they were only restrained by the timidity of the Liberal Party. Those of us who were in the House at the time know how far from the truth that was. Our one anxiety, our one task throughout most of that period was to get the Government to do anything at all radical, and so far from there being any danger of their running away with extreme measures, they were remarkably conservative in the ideas they put forward. We should have liked something much more advanced.
We all agree that this Bill is one that must pass. It is an excellent Measure so far as it goes, but it goes a disappointingly small way. There is no reason why it should not have been introduced one and a half years ago or why at the present time it should not include a number of other desirable projects. I suppose that it has really been introduced now in its diminutive form as a sop to public opin- 533 ion, which is anxious to see the Government producing something on this subject. The real difficulty, as I see it, is that the Government have not yet succeeded in making up their minds on various major problems of planning which are essential if any progress is to be made. We have the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt Reports, containing proposals of the utmost importance to planning. The Government, who possess such powers of decision and action in the field of war, must really apply those powers to the field of peace and reconstruction. We have heard proposals for a four-year plan during the post-war period, and I think that there is a great deal to be said for it on a national basis, provided the plan is all right and is sufficiently progressive and attractive. The main proposals of these three Reports must certainly be included.
I hope, therefore, that it will not be long before we get Government decisions on these matters. That is really the acid test, whether we are to make real progress in future or are to go timidly forward by one little step like this to another little step. I do not believe that that will satisfy the country. There is agreement among Members of all parties on the lines that I have indicated, there are vested interests. Against them the Government will have to stand, and they will do so successfully if they act with courage and resolution, as recent examples have shown in this House.
I am sorry that this Measure does not include, as I think it ought to, some reference to the following matters: The first is the giving of power to local authorities to buy land. That was promised a year and a half ago, and I cannot see why it should not have been included in this Bill. Then there is the question of the location of industry—the Barlow Report—which affects everything in relation to planning. Whether that is to be under the Board of Trade or not is a matter which will have to be decided. Its main objects are to reduce density in the large towns, to build more round the small towns, to create a certain number of new towns and to avoid so far as practicable putting any buildings upon fertile land. Then there are the two problems dealt with in the Uthwatt Report, the leasing of development rights and the periodic levy in respect of increase in value. Those are absolutely vital to any progress in planning. I notice that only to-day in "The 534 Times "the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Mr. Ansell, made reference to these Very points and stressed the urgency of a decision on these matters. We shall not be able to do anything effective in the way of planning, in the way of preventing ribbon development or the preservation of national parks unless we take steps to deal with compensation. Compensation is at the root of the whole problem, and you cannot deal with compensation without adopting, as I think, the proposals in particular of the Uthwatt Report.
Planning amounts to a redistribution, as the result of State action, of the values of land in different parts of the country. In some cases it raises the value considerably and in other cases reduces it, and to my mind the right thing would be that where the State, by its own action, increases the value of land it should take part of that increase and use it for compensating cases where the State, by similar action, has reduced the value of land. The sooner we come to that the better it will he. It has been calculated that the cost of all the roads and all the railways built in this country between the two wars could have been paid for several times over if the increased value given to the land as the result of the making of those roads and railways had been taken by the State, and there would have been something left over. That is one example of where money is available for compensation if only suitable steps are taken to seize it in the interests of the State. It is true that at present there is no legal right to compensation for what is done under planning, but it would be none the less equitable to grant it. I think that is generally recognised, and the sooner it is put into force the better.
Clause 4 of the Bill makes reference to the fact that existing agreements may have to be altered in accordance with experience and with what has happened during the war. That may be required at the desire of the local authority or of the individual. Either side may find that certain things that were contemplated before are no longer necessary, and I should like to know whether it is absolutely clear that the Minister will have power to act in those cases and to see that the necessary alterations are made in equity, from whatever side the application may come. For instance, I think it is generally agreed that 535 the green belt round London should be substantially increased. In that case adjustments will certainly be necessary. What a difference it would have made if many years ago we had had powers of this kind and ideas on these lines had been in existence. I am thinking in particular of the Black Country, at the extreme end of which lies my constituency. All the area between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, a distance of about 20 miles, is now one long area of buildings. If only there had been forethought at the time the area might have been divided by a number of green belts, which would have made all the difference in the world. It so happens that my constituency, the queen of the Midlands, is at the very western edge of this area and has its own green belt of many miles stretching out through Staffordshire and Shropshire towards the Welsh coast, but other constituencies in the area are in the main not so fortunate.
With regard to Clause 6, I imagine that the Minister is intending to make use of his regional planning officers where the particular authority concerned has no planning department. There are certain areas in which planning could not be done because there is no planning department and there are no planning officers. I imagine the Minister intends to use his own regional officers for the purpose of seeing that the work is carried out, and shall be glad to know whether that is what is contemplated. In Sub-section (3) of Clause 8 an important new power is taken to set up joint planning authorities on the initiative of the Minister. That is an important and valuable point. I should like to know whether the Minister also possesses the power, of his own volition, to divide up some of the existing joint planning authorities, because in certain cases they are too large and really need to be divided into smaller areas. Can he himself do that if in any instance the local planning authorities do not seem to realise the importance of it?
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I think that is provided for in Sub-section (4), which says:A joint committee constituted by order of the Minister under the said section four or under any enactment repealed by the principal Act may be dissolved by a subsequent order 536 of the Minister whether or not that order provides for the constitution of any other joint committee.
§ Mr. Mander
Thank you, very much. I am very glad to know that that is so. My final word is that small as this step is, it is one that ought to be taken. It is the first step in giving strong and positive direction from the centre to replace the restrictive planning of the past. To use words which are well worn but are admirably descriptive, this Measure, we hope, will really do something to make this country, when the war is over, a land fit for heroes to live in.
§ Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)
I cannot intervene in the discussion without first congratulating the Minister upon his coming to an office which is more actively associated with public welfare than the office which he previously held. The whole of this question opens up such a wide vista that one is inclined to forget the clock and the patience of the House, as has been evidenced by some speeches already delivered. I hope I shall not impose the same punishment upon other hon. Members. The whole of my life, I might almost say in due humility, has been one fight to liberate this land of ours from exploitation and the horrors of ugliness. I therefore make no apology for intervening to-day, and with a certain amount of satisfaction, although it has taken the impact of war to bring into the minds of Members of this House the importance of the land question.
We have treated this land as if it had been something to be hacked about, sold at market prices, and to get the best price you could, without due regard to what the land really means. Out of the land, the souls of men grow. From the land, people derive the spirit which makes them what they are. Man's liberty is itself determined by the land he has and the amount of access to it and freedom of use of it he has. Here is this land of ours—we always say it is ours, and I am saying it at the moment. Look at this country. Go past Dudley and Birmingham or see the squalid places that surround Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and the Potteries, and then think that that is the England which Shakespeare sang about. Those deadly horrors were imposed upon this country in the mad rush of those who hoped to amass fortunes. England is one of the fairest islands on 537 the face of the earth, but it has the disadvantage that if you put something ugly on it the ugliness is to be seen for miles. If we had any instinct or sense of beauty we should feel like the Greeks of old, that we could burst into rebellion at the sight of something ugly; but no. For the last 100 years, this country has been desecrated. As the result of the last war and as a remit of talking about the country being fit for heroes to live in, one might have hoped that something would have touched the spirits and the souls of men to make them try to beautify the land to which the soldiers were to come back; but no. All we got was the Kingston by-pass and the horror of snakelike tendrils reaching miles out beyond London, lined with houses, and every house the same, in deadly monotony. It was as if the soul of England had died during the last war.
Now we come to this new venture. We are in the deadly grip of war again. May hon. Members forgive me for reminding them that on two occasions in this House I have said that when the soldiers come back from the war we must resolve that the land becomes the property of the State, and do so without compunction. What does the new plan mean? New roads, new towns, new transport and new aerodromes. Can we do one tithe of all this if the land is held in the bondage of private ownership? I deny it. It is false for us to talk about replanning if our efforts are to be blocked step by step in our attempts to replan this asset of ours. Therefore I welcome the Bill, humble as it is, because it is at least the beginning of an acknowledgment of the principle, which men should never have forgotten, that the land of the community is the property of the community and that how it is used and planned is the business of those who represent the community as the executive Government of the day. That principle is now being recognised, although, God knows, it is miles away yet. If I had the power, I would pass an Order in Council to say that any man who attempted to put anything ugly on this country would be dealt with in the way we deal with men who sell filthy milk. The Leader of the Opposition, who has been responsible for more reactionary nonsense in this House than any other person, said to-day that the Act of 1932 is a complicated Measure. I never read such jargon in my life as in the Act of 1932, and I do not know how the 538 present Minister was able to draft an amending Bill upon it. There is nothing more simple in politics and economics than to cut straight through all the hypocrisy built up in one way or another, and to declare by Order in Council that the first ugly thing that appears on the land will result in the man who is responsible for it—
Major Sir Edward Cadoǵan (Bolton)
Who will decide whether the thing is ugly or not?
§ Mr. MacLaren
I should think the hon. and gallant Gentleman and I would be able to do that for a start. I should have thought that we all know what ugliness is, more or less. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] If we do not—well, that is how I would regard the matter. I was dealing with the complicated Act of 1932, which now necessitates another complicated Bill, small though it is, in which the Minister proposes to take power to control future development. He will prohibit any attempt at development which does not conform to certain standards and concepts of beauty. I welcome such a Bill, and I hope the Minister will have courage to drive it home. I would remind him that a lot of local authorities are represented here. There is a word I want to say to local authorities generally. I am all for democracy, but when I see the town planning committees of local authorities, I am forced to the conclusion that they have as much idea of beauty and of planning architecture as has a child unborn. Those pork butchers, grocers, and the rest of them, we shall find, if we are not careful, with pieces of land that they are packing on to the council anyhow. I would have taken that power out of the hands of those gentlemen long ago.
§ Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)
On a point of Order. As a Member who has been chairman of a town planning committee, I want to resent those remarks, as a gratuitous insult.
§ Mr. MacLaren
I am not specifiying. The hon. Member's committee may have been a perfect one. Was it in Sheffield?
§ Mr. MacLaren
Perhaps it is, but I am dealing with the principle of the thing. Local authorities have shown their utter incompetence to deal with these problems, and I am glad that the Minister has taken a hand. Despite all that the local authority may say in regard to planning, the Minister will have it in his hands to overrule any planning or building that they may suggest. Surely it is not deniable, when you look at England to-day, that the corporations of this country have neglected their duty, so far as building is concerned. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] I am talking of the evidence as I can see it. I am glad that the Minister is taking this power to disapprove of schemes advanced by local authorities. If there are local authorities who show that they have an appreciation of what is meant by proper town planning, good luck to them. Let us not discourage them by placing more liabilities on them. Let us remove the impediments that hinder them in regard to these developments. So therefore, as far as this Bill is concerned, while it is a good step, I hope the Government will not think that the passage of this Bill is all that is required.
Before I sit down let me say this: We are in this House treading the path in the usual pre-war tempo, but in the battlefields of Europe things are not going at that tempo. There are millions of people who will return to this country from the battlefields and the factories to which they have been sent. They will come back here and will want a better country than the one they left behind. Therefore, it will necessitate a speedier tempo, greater action, speedier adaptation of Parliamentary action to the necessities and circumstances of the country outside. It will necessitate that, if we are going to meet the immediate demands of these people coming back from this enterprise of war. I am glad also that this Bill contains powers to examine retrospectively schemes that have already been passed. While I am approving of it in the main, I am not for a moment suggesting that it meets all that a person like myself would desire, but at least it is the beginning of something. Let us hope that when the Minister sterilises this chaotic attempt at building all over the country he will be fully seized of the responsibility which is now his and that of his Department for a prepared and comprehensive and more expeditious development of the country in terms, if 540 you like, of beauty, of utility. In a word, it is his responsibility now to try and make England more beautiful, more worthy of the name of England, and a country not that we shall be ashamed of it because we have slums and outrages in it, but a country which we shall be proud to claim as ours.
§ Major York (Ripon)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr MacLaren), because although I must disagree with his conclusions and the method he uses, he and I feel very much the same on the actual physical use to which the land has been put in the past. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) also referred to the problem, which he said must be settled, as to the ownership of land, but surely the failure or partial failure of the principal Act of 1932 was due mainly to the permissive nature of the law; but it was also due, so far at any rate as the keen authorities were concerned, to the cumbersome regulations and multitudinous stages through which any scheme had to go; and also, as important as any other, the difficulties of compensation. The hon. Member for Burslem wishes to have all the land taken right away from the private owner, but could we not use this Bill to take a different but equally large step forward, and to state the belief of a large number, at any rate a growing number, of the more progressive landowners, that to hold land is one of the greatest privileges that a citizen of this country can have, and that it must be used—and this covers my hon. Friend's point—with careful regard to the welfare of the community? Could we not make this Bill a new chapter in British history by incorporating into the Bill the progressive thought of these our best landowners that the ownership of land can never be regarded as an investment from which an income can be derived without hard work, care and responsibility?
My right hon. Friend introduced this Bill extremely well. His speech started off in a very praiseworthy manner, but by the time he had finished I was still doubtful as to his real intentions as to the manner in which he was going to use the provisions of the Bill. As far as I see it, there are two possible interpretations. The first is—and he did not sufficiently dispel this—that he would use the provisions to prevent any development 541 whatsoever in the near future. If this is so, then I cannot support the Bill. But the other interpretation—and I see my right hon. Friend shaking his head, so I hope he will agree with this—is that he is going to use the Bill as the detonating charge with which he can lift town and country planning out of the permissive morass into which the principal Act put it, and blow it into country-wide activity. I believe he is more favourably inclined to that second suggestion I mentioned, although when the 1932 Act was passed through this House it was admitted that that Act was not to get anything done. It was said, in fact, that it was simply a Bill to perfect the existing powers of local authorities and to make them efficient. If, as I hope, it is the intention of the Minister to use this Bill to abrogate the permissive aspect of the principal Act, then I can promise him my full support, and if that is his intention then we must all face up to the colossal task which he, his very small staff, and the already overworked local authorities must commence forthwith. But as far as I understand the Bill—and I cannot say that I disagree with my right hon. Friend in his interpretation of the difficulties—I can see nothing in the Measure as it now stands to administer the jumping powder to an idle or dull local authority. If all areas not yet covered by resolutions are presumed to be so covered, I cannot see that any advance has been made. It is not resolutions, whether they be imaginary or otherwise, that will forward town and country planning; it is action by the new Department and by the local authorities that will see this through. This weakness of the Bill is one which the Minister must surmount if his Department is to succeed; and I wish him a personal success in this matter.
Is there somewhere a kind of go-slow policy? Arguments are advanced by certain people that no plans should be published while our serving men are absent and that they would consider it unfair if they returned to find the country organised for peace and ready to advance. Even if that were true—and I beg leave to doubt it—there is nothing in this Bill that gives it a revolutionary character. Even if the Minister intends to follow the lines which I have indicated, he would not be doing anything in the absence of the younger generation that he could not 542 do if they were here. But suppose that the broad outline is ready, and that the Minister has given their copies to the local authorities and the other planning authorities and has told them to prepare and to fit into the main outline their main schemes. With the general control which I understand the Minister is taking under this Bill, he would ensure three main things. First, that there would he no delay—and this has been mentioned by an hon. Gentleman above the Gangway—in the organising of the supplies and labour for the complete programme. Secondly, he would ensure that those areas required for immediate development, to put a cover over our people, were decided upon and set aside now. Thirdly, he would ensure that there is an organised development programme for our fighting men when they return, and not the utterly miserable, barren chaos into which the country was landed after the last war. When these objects have been achieved, the door will still be left open for the discussion of final plans in which our serving men must and will play their full part. I believe that the Services generally wish to return to a country sensibly planned and ready to go forward with that drive which the moral and scientific progress of war produces.
I want briefly to ask my right hon. Friend for a little more information about his intentions in interfering with local decisions. I agree that the case for a general national outline is unanswerable in a complex country such as this. But it is equally obvious that the central authority cannot fill in the details. It is on this point that we are a little uncertain. I am referring only to the slothful authorities, not to the keen and active authorities which have got on with the work. It seems to me that it will be necessary for the Minister to have the power to administer the stick, and I do not see that power given in this Bill. Secondly, he should be empowered to enforce conformity throughout the country and to supervise taste. My hon. Friend the Member for Burslem dealt with that point. But the Minister did not say that Clause b was sufficiently wide to enable him to include taste, general, aesthetic, and otherwise, among the subjects which he is to control. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply will be able to emphasise this point. I hope that he will hold out some prospect that the immediate development 543 of the outline and the local plans will be visible both in his own Department and in the offices of the local authorities. I am convinced that now is the time to make that national outline, so that when the war is over we can get on with our rebuilding programme, with a panzer-like force. I believe that if the arrangements which have been made in my own constituency and the agreement which has been made with the owners had been done as successfully throughout the country, we should now be able to go forward with a far greater and more comprehensive Measure than this. But all that aside, it is still the drive and the directing force of the Minister that will make town and country planning a nation-wide reality.
§ Mr. Silkin (Peckham)
I should like, first, to congratulate my right hon. Friend on having made his debut as the Minister of Town and Country Planning and on the very clear way he introduced the Bill. It was a most difficult and complicated task—indeed, so difficult and complicated that very few Members who have spoken in the Debate have ventured to talk about the Bill at all. The task was rendered even more difficult by the fact that this is largely an amending Bill to one of the worst-drawn Acts that I have ever had the misfortune to read. I think my right hon. Friend has acquitted himself very well. I believe that after his explanation there is very little room for doubt as to what this Bill really means. Having said that, I may say that I think it a pity that this Bill was introduced at all. It is a very puny child to what I hope would have been a very lusty parent. I think this Bill has been prematurely born. It would have been better if my right hon. Friend had waited until he could have introduced a Bill of considerably wider scope. A very large number of matters vital to town planning are not dealt with in the Bill. I have a long list of them, and I should be happy to hand it to my right hon. Friend. I would like to mention a few of them now.
There is no reference in this Bill to the very vital question of finance. My right hon. Friend is imposing upon local authorities considerably increased responsibilities. If those authorities are to carry out those responsibilities as my right hon. Friend wishes them to do, it will involve them in considerable liabili- 544 ties. Who is going to pay? Local authorities are going to askt him that question in no uncertain terms. Until they know the answer, it is natural that action should be rather slow. It is a pity that my right hon. Friend was not able in this Bill to supply the answer to that question. Secondly, many theories have been advanced in this Debate as to the reason for the failure of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. Here, may I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), who was most clamant in attacking the chairmen and members of town planning committees for their responsibility for the towns, that the 1932 Act was the first Measure which brought built up areas under control? Until then local authorities had no locus whatever as to the way their towns were built. It is a little unfortunate that poor, hard-working members of local authorities should be blamed for something for which they have no responsibility.
The real failure to implement the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act has been due to the question of compensation. Compensation for injurious affection is a very wide term and opens the door to very wide claims, and it is natural for local authorities to have been hesitant even when they had the power so to plan their area to open the door to numerous unspecified claims for compensation. That is a problem my right hon. Friend will have to face, otherwise he will get very little planning. Compensation in itself is anomalous. The Uthwatt Report gives one interesting example of the anomaly of compensation, that a building can be prohibited without compensation on the ground that it is likely to involve danger or injury to health, but compensation is payable if it merely involves risk to life. No one can defend that sort of anomaly, and it is a pity that my right hon. Friend did not give consideration to the question of compensation, particularly as he has opened the door in the Bill to still further possible claims.
I do not suggest that planning applies only to towns. Planning involves the romance and beauty of the countryside equally with towns, but towns are an important aspect of town planning. As far as towns are concerned, one of the biggest difficulties is the high cost of land. I have had occasion to say this before. It 545 may be that a working-class housing estate is necessary in Kensington or in Marylebone, but nobody will put it up because the cost of land is from £50,000 to £75,000 an acre. If your planning is determined by the high cost of land you are not planning at all. That is not the criterion my right hon. Friend would wish to impose, and it is a matter with which he has to deal. It cannot be left in the air. If it is left entirely to local authorities, you will not get planning and open spaces where they are needed. You will not get open spaces in the East End of London, because the cost of land is too high, and local authorities are not prepared to face up to high costs, because if they did they would have to put it on the rates, and run the risk of losing the support of the electorate.
My right hon. Friend referred to his desire, and the desire of all of us, to preserve agricultural land. Agricultural land is not preserved under the Town and Country Planning Act, and he has done nothing in this Bill to preserve agricultural land. I wonder why. The Crown and statutory undertakers are exempt from the provisions of town and country planning. I do not want to be disrespectful to the Crown, but the Crown has been one of the greatest sinners in recent years in destroying, in many cases unnecessarily, the beauty of the countryside by putting up factories where they should never have been put up. I visited a Royal ordnance factory in one of the most beautiful spots in the country. It was unnecessary to have it there; it could equally well have been placed somewhere else. Nobody of whom I inquired could justify that Royal ordnance factory being constructed at that place. It is essential that the Crown and statutory undertakers should be brought within the scope of town planning. They can only derive benefit by being excluded if they want to do something which is not right; if they want to do something which is right and appropriate, they would not suffer by coming within the provisions of town and country planning.
My right hon. Friend referred to the extreme complexity and cumbersomeness of getting a scheme through. If one follows the time-table, with the normal difficulties that arise, it would probably take four or five years to get a scheme through. It is possible to have five separate public inquiries 546 before a scheme goes through. Some half-dozen notices have to be served and any number of advertisements inserted. The difficulty of getting a scheme through is reflected by the number of schemes which have in fact become statutory schemes. My right hon. Friend is conscious of that, because he referred to it in his speech. Why has he not done something to simplify it? It could have been done in this Bill.
My right hon. Friend referred to the need for architectural beauty in development. I agree with him. Architectural beauty should not be the one criterion, but it is an important factor in planning. He has done nothing in the Bill to strengthen control in order to enable local authorities and himself to secure appropriate and comprehensive architectural treatment, particularly in regard to buildings which are in important centres. Suppose he was desirous of redeveloping Abingdon Street and Millbank, where houses are coming down at the present time. Neither the local authority nor the Minister himself has any power to secure the comprehensive architectural treatment of that land. It is open to each separate owner of land to come along with a scheme and as long as it complies with the town planning scheme, local authorities have no power to refuse, and they will have no power when this Bill Is through. It is a pity the right hon. Gentleman did not secure powers to enable the comprehensive treatment of such an area to be insisted upon. These are some of the matters which should have been included in the Bill. Most hon. Members who are interested in town planning will find themselves in some difficulty in dealing with the Bill. It is the first step, or so it is stated, but it is a step, and unless one sees the whole picture in its proper perspective, it is difficult to express an opinion on this Bill alone. I would have preferred the Minister to have presented to this House, even though some delay would have occurred, a complete picture of what he proposed to do.
I would now like to make one or two observations on the Bill itself. In Clause 1, would the Parliamentary Secretary say why the provision only comes into operation three months after the passing of the Bill? What is the need for waiting three months? It is an automatic thing that every area that is not now subject to a scheme becomes subject to it, and 547 why cannot it be done at the passing of the Bill? Secondly, could the Parliamentary Secretary explain what he hopes to get immediately out of the passing of Clause 1? After all, the local authorities which have not yet passed resolutions to plan are the somewhat laggard authorities which probably in most cases have no scheme prepared at all. When the resolution to make a scheme has been passed, they at once become subject to interim development procedure, and anyone who wishes to develop in this area will have to go to them for permission. What criterion can they apply in refusing or granting an application? They have no scheme and probably have no particular ideas of how their area is to be developed, and they will probably take the line of least resistance and grant applications because they are afraid of appeals to the Ministry. Does the Ministry intend to give them immediate help in preparing some kind of development scheme for their areas? This difficulty will face all authorities until the Minister can tell us a great deal more about the location of industry. They will not know exactly what kind of development will be appropriate, and that difficulty will be accentuated in the case of those authorities which have not yet passed resolutions to plan and which have no scheme in their own minds.
Under Clause 4 (2) and Clause 6 (1) the Minister may take matters into his own hands. He may give directions to local authorities requiring them to revoke or modify permissions which they have already given and may require interim development applications, or a particular class of them, to go before him for decision instead of being dealt with by the local authorities. In both these cases there is the possibility of the local authority being landed in the payment of compensation. The Minister will decide, and the local authority will pay compensation. I should like an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that that position will not automatically follow. There will be cases where the Minister will be merely doing something which the local authority itself ought to do, where the local authority has been backward or reluctant, and in such cases I would suggest no payment by the Minister to the local authority. But there will be cases where the Minister is taking a view which the local authority could not 548 be expected to take; they may have other reasons for taking their view, and in such cases I suggest that there is justification for the Minister being expected to pay the local authorities. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say something on that subject. Certainly, some financial arrangement ought to be secured.
Now I want to refer to Clause 8, under which the Minister takes to himself the right to set up joint planning authorities. I do not like joint planning authorities, and I hope the Minister will use his power sparingly. I was a member of a joint planning authority for a number of years. I came to the conclusion that the Greater London Regional Joint Planning Committee did not plan and that such planning as it did contemplate was based upon the particular views of members. The members of that joint planning committee were looking after the interests of their own locality. There was never any conception of comprehensive planning; indeed, how could you expect it? It was natural for a member to think first and foremost of his own local authority, what planning was going to cost them and what would be the consequences of such planning. So I hope the Minister will find some other way of dealing with the problem of the small authority which has planning powers but which is far too small to carry them out effectively and inevitably is compelled to think only of the small area over which it has responsibility. I am quite satisfied that the method of a joint planning authority is not the solution of the problem, and that some other solution will have to be found. There are three cases in the Bill where a Minister takes power to act over the heads of local authorities. I have referred to some of them in connection with finance, but in any event I feel it would be right that the Minister should not take these powers until he has first consulted with the local authorities. I hope we shall have an assurance that that consultation will take place.
So much for criticism of the Bill. Nevertheless, I admit with great pleasure that it does contain a number of provisions that will be of very great value to local authorities concerned with planning. It will enable local authorities to prevent undesirable building during the interim period, and I particularly welcome the provision which enables a local authority to require a developer to pull down a building which has been put up 549 in contravention of the scheme and without permission. I also welcome the provision which enables local authorities to postpone a decision where it is not easily open to them to make a decision under the existing circumstances. I think the Minister at the start will be inundated with appeals arising out of many of the new functions which local authorities are being given, and I hope he will have the necessary machinery to enable him to deal with these appeals expeditiously. For the reasons I have given, I know the Minister will not expect me to be enthusiastic about the Bill, which is quite inadequate as it stands and, incidentally, he has given no indication at all of when the further steps he spoke about will be introduced, if at all. I welcome this Bill without prejudice and on the understanding that it is only the beginning of a further Measure, or Measures, which will enable complete planning powers to be conferred upon local authorities and the Ministry, which I regard as essential and without which, in my view, all talk of post-war planning, reconstruction and re-development is pure mockery. I wish the Minister every success in the task he has undertaken, and I hope we shall hear from him again in the very near future.
§ Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)
I would like first of all to join with the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) in offering my congratulations to the Minister both upon the manner in which he presented this Bill to the House and upon the Bill itself. Indeed, I see no reason why my right hon. Friend should not feel fully satisfied with the reception which the Bill has received from the House so far. No great objection seems to be taken to anything which has been put into the Bill; the criticism which has been directed against my right hon. Friend has rather been in respect of matters which it is thought ought to have been included in the Bill but which have not been so included. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), and, I think, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), both complained that one of the major problems of planning had been overlooked by the omission of anything which could be regarded as a decision by the Government upon the recommendations which were made in the Uthwatt Report. But the two major problems of planning with which my right hon. Friend is at present 550 confronted seemed to me to be these. First, there is the problem of the acquisition of land for the urgent housing programmes which will have to be undertaken immediately the war is over; and, in the second place, there is the problem of the reconstruction of the areas which have been destroyed by enemy action.
Both those problems raise the question of the cost of the acquisition of land. They do not, as I understand them, raise the question of compensation. The Uthwatt Committee, throughout their Report, make no proposal for dealing with the cost of the acquisition of land. They concern themselves with the question of compensation only in relation to undeveloped areas. But my right hon. Friend's chief problems do not arise in undeveloped areas. His chief problems arise in those areas which are now in need of redevelopment. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, and the Uthwatt Committee, and others who have spoken and written on the subject of planning have hitherto presented no solution of this problem of the cost of the acquisition of urban land and the conditions under which such land is to be acquired, why should my right hon. Friend be blamed for not having come forward at an earlier stage of his career as Minister of Town and Country Planning with a solution of this question which has hitherto apparently baffled these expert persons?
I do not blame my right hon. Friend in the least for not having come forward with a decision on the subject of the Uthwatt Report. I think that he is quite right to put on one side for the time being questions which are not of immediate urgency and to concentrate his attention upon questions which are now, or will very soon become, of very great urgency indeed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield said that the urgent question was that of land ownership. I noticed that whenever he used the expression "land ownership" he coupled it with "land control." Land ownership does not give you planning. It is control of land which gives you planning, and it is planning that is wanted. If, at this moment, the ownership of every acre of land in the country was vested in the State, you would still be just as far away as you are at present from having a complete plan of development in the immediate future.
551 My right hon. Friend was quite right in reminding the House that planning in the past has tended to be regarded too much from the amenity point of view. We have now reached the stage when it is generally recognised that planning has emerged from the position in which it once was, merely a means of protecting amenities, and has become something of much greater and wider significance. It seems to me that the real omission, if there are omissions, in the case my right hon. Friend presented for his Bill, is that he was not able to say that he is to enjoy those powers of planning on a wider scale and in respect of other things which must be planned and which now call urgently for planning.
Let me draw attention to one or two matters which in my view ought to be entrusted to my right hon. Friend. It is quite impossible to carry out any comprehensive scheme of planning unless one has full powers to plan communications. Hitherto road policy has been a disappointing thing. It has consisted very largely of carrying out what are regarded as improvements of existing roads. We have now reached a point when that policy will not serve its purpose any longer. The time has come when what the country requires is a complete scheme of new trunk roads linking up the main centres of industry and population. I hope that, when the time comes for reconsidering road policy, the policy that was followed in the days before the war of straightening out corners and smoothing out slopes will be abandoned and that we shall settle down to formulating a proper policy of complete national highways, suited to the type of motor traffic which they will be called upon to bear. The Minister of Town and Country Planning is the right person to plan that aspect of the post-war world.
Again, one of the urgent questions in the planning of the countryside to-day is the provision of water supplies. Our existing arrangements for allocating water sources as between different authorities and areas is not suited to meet the growing demand for water supplies in all parts of the country. The time has come when the allocation of water sources as between different areas ought to form part of the planning of those areas. These powers ought to be entrusted to my right hon. 552 Friend, so that, when he comes to plan for the needs of a district, he can plan it as a whole—its roads, its water supplies and all that is required for the proper, healthy and harmonious development of the area.
Now let me come to the Clauses of the Bill. The hon. Member for Peckham was doubtful whether the proposal for the formation of joint planning committees by the Minister otherwise than at the request of one of the authorities is a proposal which is likely to be of much practical value. I understood that his experience had been drawn from his membership of the Greater London Regional Planning Committee. The Greater London Regional Planning Committee was an exceptional type of planning authority, and it by no means follows that because it failed, as it did fail, joint planning committees in areas outside Greater London will fail too. Indeed, I think experience has shown that in many parts of the country where planning would not otherwise have been possible it has been made possible and has been carried out with remarkable success by the machinery of joint planning committees.
One of the advantages of the joint planning committee is that it enables an authority which possesses the necessary financial resources to employ the technical staff which is essential for successful planning, and which possesses the drive and energy necessary to carry the scheme into effect, to combine with an authority which is not able to provide these things for itself. Another advantage of the joint regional committee is this. Planning is essentially a local service. Under the arrangement which my right hon. Friend contemplates plans formulated by the joint regional committees will be carried into effect by the joint committee, but it then falls to the constituent local authorities to administer the scheme and carry it out in its detailed application in their own district. That is a great advantage, and the proposal in the Bill that the Minister shall be able to form joint planning committees without a request from any of the authorities concerned represents a great step forward in constructional planning. It is unfortunately one of those provisions which is tucked away in rather technical language in one part of the Bill, and I think that many Members who have spoken have failed to appreciate the important results 553 which are likely to follow from it. My right hon. Friend was very well advised to include such a provision.
There is one major problem to which my right hon. Friend will have to apply himself before long, that is the problem of planning Greater. London. The urgency for a plan for Greater London is very great and is growing greater day by day. Local authorities are concerned with their plans for immediate post-war housing. Recently the Minister of Health has been calling upon them to prepare their schemes for the first year of house building. Until they are provided with some plan which will tell them whether their areas are to be planned as residential or industrial or commercial areas, it is difficult for them to make much progress with schemes for immediate post-war housing. Therefore, the urgency of the need for a plan for Greater London is very great.
We still seem almost as far as we were when all this began from the prospect of some effective plan being put into operation. Professor Abercrombie is at work for the London County Council and for the authorities of Greater London but when his plan is completed there will be no guarantee that it will ever be adopted by any one of the authorities. The Royal Academy and the Institute of British Architects have been at work on the same problem. The Corporation of the City of London is planning the re-building of the City. When redevelopment becomes possible again people are not going to wait until these plans are discussed and adopted. People who wish to carry on business in the City of London or to establish industries in the outer regions of Greater London are not going to wait until Professor Abercrombie has made his plan and the authorities have decided to adopt it. The demand for building will become-urgent and insistent and it will have to be met. The result may be that London will go on growing without a plan in future as it has grown in the past. In the end my right hon. Friend will have to adopt a more direct responsibility for the planning of Greater London.
Experience has shown that the system of regional planning, which is succeeding in provisional areas like Merseyside and, I believe, East Lancashire and elsewhere, will not succeed in London. The history of the Greater London Regional Planning Committee and the Greater London Plan- 554 ning Conference which followed it, does not encourage the hope of a regional planning authority for Greater London. I commend to my right hon. Friend the course which was followed more than 200 years ago when the City of London was destroyed by the Great Fire. The question of rebuilding then arose, with much the same problems that we have to encounter to-day. Then the Crown intervened. Commissioners were appointed—my right hon. Friend has power to establish commissions to assist him in his work—who co-operated with, and directed and guided, the municipal authorities. My right hon. Friend may think that that affords some precedent for the course of action which may have to be taken in order to secure a regional plan for Greater London. But such a plan must certainly be adopted before long.
This Bill is a most useful and valuable contribution to our town-planning law. I am not one of those who believe that town-planning in the past has been a failure. It has achieved much. In my view this Bill will make a most useful contribution, not of course a final contribution, but in some ways a major contribution, to the planning of the future.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
For some time now the need has been felt for industrial and agricultural planning under the control of some central public authority. I submit that the three reports which the country has now had before it for some months, the Barlow, the Scott and the Uthwatt Reports, should inspire all legislation in this connection. What do we see in this Bill before us to-day? I am reminded of the words in Virgil: Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. "The mountains were in labour and have produced a ridiculous mouse." I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his first appearance as Minister in charge of a Bill, but I suggest to him that he will have to produce something in the future more comprehensive than the Bill before us to-day. I admit that he has his difficulties. He has to work on difficult material, the material of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. That Bill itself was the product of a compromise, a compromise between those interested in planning and those interested in holding land for speculative purposes. In consequence that Bill was a jumble of Clauses which, to any layman, were 555 almost incomprehensible. The present Bill really continues that process of compromise without going clown to the roots of the matter.
Before any effective plan can be put forward, it is clear that the problems set out in the Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt Reports—particularly in the latter—will have to be dealt with first. My right hon. Friend is really putting the cart before the horse when he comes to the House with an easy Measure like this because it is the line of least resistance. He will have to get over more difficult questions if he is to tackle the real problem, which surely is the question of betterment and compensation. Local authorities may be willing and prepared to bring forward most excellent plans for zoning the country or the districts for which they are responsible, saying that there shall be industrial development, and there the land shall be reserved for agriculture or for amenities, but they are always faced with the fear that they may have presented to them, at any moment, by those interested in holding land, a heavy bill for compensation.
The Uthwatt Report does point in the right direction. As the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) said, some local authorities may have faults but I really think the chief trouble comes from those interested in land speculation and that local authorities are afraid of the rates. The State must assume responsibility for acquiring the public development value of land as from a certain date. When that has been done it will not be difficult, I think, to get local authorities to go ahead wholeheartedly with planning schemes. Therefore, all legislation which is brought before the House should be considered with that in mind—first, how can we get over the problem of betterment and compensation, and, secondly, what is to be done with regard to the planning and location of industry? The situation has been very unsatisfactory for a very long time, owing to the fact that industry has been allowed to go its own way, so that we have had enormous congestion in the South-Eastern part of the country and in the London and Midland areas, with derelict areas which industry has left in the North and in South Wales, and potential derelict areas in other parts of the country. My own constituency is an example. There, owing to local industrial conditions, the gradual working out of coal 556 mines and so on, we are faced with the possibility of surplus industrial population in the future. All this indicates the most urgent need for some control in the location of industry.
The Gloucestershire County Council has prepared a very fine plan for zoning the county and securing that in those districts where industry is most needed there shall be development in the future, and that those areas where the best agricultural land is situated shall be sterilised for industrial purposes. All that has been worked out, and other county councils are doing the same thing, but it will be of no effect unless we can remove from the local authorities the fear that they will be landed with a burden on the rates which they are not in a position to stand. Therefore, I suggest that all legislation must include these points. There must be, firstly, a national planning authority which shall supervise the work of the local authorities, and secondly there must be some means of financing compensation. The way to do that is pointed out, I think, by the Uthwatt Report—that is by acquiring the development rights in land.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Will my hon. Friend allow me to ask him to explain how the question is dealt with by the Uthwatt Report in relation to urban land?
§ Mr. Price
I cannot agree with that. The type of land I am referring to is agricultural land and potential development land. I agree that there are problems connected with urban land and no doubt the Uthwatt Report is not the last word of wisdom. There may be other Measures for dealing with that. I am not so well-informed about urban land, but I can speak with some knowledge of the other problem. If this burden is shouldered, as I suggest it can be, it will be possible for legislation to come before this House—I hope at an early date, because time is important. Time must be taken by the forelock in order to prevent a chaotic development 557 such as we had after the last war. That, I am sure, would be resented bitterly by our men when they return from abroad, after their strenuous labours in this war. Let us hope that this time they will return to a land which is really fit for them to live in.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I agree that this is a Bill which must be brought in, but I wish to ask the Government what exactly it is they want to do by planning. This Bill sets up important methods of control, which are essential, but when you come down to detailed criticisms—of which we have had some excellent examples from the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), who is familiar with the subject—you discover there are a good many holes to be picked in this procedure. One cannot help feeling that there are people who are hypnotised by the word "planning," and who think it has some special meaning of its own. Some people almost want to plan for planning's sake and nothing else. I really believe that just as some people of a certain political faith have Lenin corners in their rooms, these people have planning corners in their rooms, with the word "planning" in large capital letters. They do not know what it means, and I certainly do not know what it means in their minds. What is the policy? We have had a lot of talk about the architectural side of the business. I am in favour of well-designed houses, streets and cities, and it is quite clear that when you are rebuilding, you want to rebuild well, but that is not enough. The life of this country does not depend upon beautiful buildings; it will not depend in the future on beautiful buildings. It will depend on the work of its industries, on agriculture, on the life of the country, and the planning of the life of the country—I use the word without a capital "P"—must depend upon the organisation of its industries and the organisation of work on the land.
It is no use trying to plan your country with the assistance of a large number of architects while leaving economics as a secondary consideration. The life of this country depends upon urban industry, upon agriculture and, of course, upon international trade, by which our ports and our international trade organisations in the City of London and other parts of the country have been developed. I asked at 558 the beginning, what it is the Government want to do, because there are two fundamentals with regard to the future life of this country, one being the location of industry, which is dealt with in the Barlow Report, and the other the future status of agriculture. I believe myself that it will be essential for us in the post-war world to develop types of industry different from those which we have had up to the present, and I believe it will also be essential for our agricultural production to be in a different relationship to our national life from that in which it was before the war. We do not want a cosmetic plan of the future; we want an economic plan.
The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Labour Party said we must get the land question settled, and although I hold that the only reasonable and completely satisfactory solution is for the Government to take over the ownership of the whole of the land, yet a definite decision on what their policy is to be would be better than the indefinite position in which we are now, even if the decision were not the one which I happen to like. Up to the present the history of this Ministry of Works—or Ministry of Town and Country Planning; it is difficult to remember, it changes its name so often—has been a very unfortunate history. There was a time when Lord Reith had very great plans but had a staff of, I think, about one Secretary and one typist, with some advisers. I know that the advisers had nothing to do, because some of them complained to me about it and had to find work for themselves. They had no Treasury backing. They could not employ people because the Treasury would not sanction it. I think it is not unfair to say that that Ministry, which functioned in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry functions to-day, was at that time a pretence and a façade I will not use harder words, although I think I might do so. It was not intended to function and under the conditions under which it was set up, it could not possibly function. The right hon. Gentleman now has a staff, I presume, but he appears to be looking into a tangle of administrative and legislative technicalities in order to find a policy, which he cannot find except in a survey of economic and social conditions.
In the matter of the main industries of the country, take the example of coal. You cannot plan the future of this country on any large scale unless you know 559 what is to happen to the coal industry. In the last few days there has been published a report by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee recommending a great increase of research work in connection with the coal industry. Is anything like that to be implemented? Are we to develop great new industries on top of the ordinary coal industry by the help, as is suggested, of scientific research? If we are it will revolutionise the condition of whole areas. It might revolutionise conditions in South Wales if we create new industries—and on that way create a whole lot of new problems for the planners. I will refer to it only in passing, but the same considerations apply to the cotton and the other textile industries, and to the great new plastics industry which we all hope will develop in this country. With regard to agriculture, is anyone prepared to go back to a policy of major importation of agricultural products, supplemented by minor production of agricultural products at home; or are we to continue having the larger part of our agricultural produce produced in this country, supplementing that by a minor quantity of imports?
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Will the hon. Member be prepared to follow that to its logical conclusion, if necessary, in the post-war world?
It cannot be done in this Debate, but if the hon. Member will do me the kindness to look up earlier Debates in this House, among them a much earlier Debate on the beet sugar subsidies, he will find—
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I do not wish to go any further on that line. I would ask the Minister some questions. The right hon. Gentleman seeks new powers, in a. Bill which is one of the most perfect examples I remember of legislation by reference. I think the Minister ought to have the powers, but if he gets them will he use them? When the Parliamentary 560 Secretary replies to the Debate, I hope he will tell us whether the powers the Minister now has, are being used, and whether the powers in the hands of the Ministry of Health in regard to building are being used. On inquiry, I think he will find that they are not being used. This is a very important matter, when planning is so much in the air. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will also tell us whether planners are trained, what schools there are for planners and what the qualifications of planners are. I believe that some people appointed as planners have had extremely little training, if any at all, and that they would benefit very much from a course in elementary economics and some business experience. What arrangements are being made to ensure that plans made in any part of a region—take any region of the country, for instance, the Midlands—are properly co-ordinated with the industrial development of the region?
I will give the Minister an example, although I do not wish to quote names, as it would be better if the facts of which I am going to tell him came to the council concerned gently, from the Minister, rather than in newspaper reports. In respect of one area at the present time, the Minister of Fuel and Power has given notice that under a certain large and important town, the mining of coal is to be begun or resumed—I do not know whether it ever existed before. In all the area around, where coal is mined, the ground has subsided many feet over a period of years. The fact does not seem to be known to the town council concerned. They are proceeding very merrily and actively with their plans, and all kinds of discussion and considerations are going on about the replanning of this urban area, oblivious of the fact that coal-mining will cause that town to sink in a few years' time. The sewers and waterpipes will break. The foundations of the town will have to be repaired or shored up, and all the rest of it. That is an actual case at the moment. It seems very serious that that can happen, and it suggests that there is not enough exchange of information between different Departments or effective means of securing co-ordination between one area and another.
He has not been informed of these facts. They have an excellent 561 surveyor in the town, which is very well-known. If there cannot be that elementary kind of exchange of information, how will the Ministry get on with its planning? What is to be the balance of industry and agriculture in this country? At what are the Government aiming? Until they have decided that question, it is secondary to decide what is to be the exact kind of architecture in a town or the elevation of public buildings. I confess that I should like to get rid of the word "planning," which has become an obsession with many people. I should like to get down to considerations of policy in economic and social organisation. What is the policy of the Minister and the Government in regard to future economic and social development in this country? Upon the answer depend all questions of what is called planning and the relationship of industry and towns with agriculture and the countryside. I hope that the Minister will not lend himself to putting the question of agriculture into second place, where it has been for much too long.
In regard to the beauty, romance and poetry of the countryside, many good words are spoken but there is also a good deal of what one might call "poppycock" talked about that kind of thing. Real beauty is the beauty of use. There is no reason why a factory should be a horribly ugly place. There is a great deal more beauty in England at present, because so much of the country is under cultivation, than there was when England was a wilderness of uncultivated fields and neglected pastures, which some unfortunate town-dwellers in the past regarded as so picturesque. It really looked untidy and diseased to the countryman. I hope we are to have a country whose rural areas are being used for agricultural production and in whose cities the labour of man and the buildings in which he can labour, are properly used and, because they are properly used, are beautiful in themselves. I do not particularly ask the Government to consider architectural designs for this and that street. That is a secondary consideration. If the economic and social foundations are right, all those considerations as to beauty will follow. Beauty follows utility, if the utility is directed to human and social ends, and not to the ends of profiteering.
§ Mr. Muff (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)
The Bill is disappointing. I admit that it is an interim Bill, in which there are 10 Clauses, of which 8 Clauses are described in the Explanatory Memorandum as interim Clauses. I have not taken the trouble to count the number of times the word "interim" occurs in the Bill, but the Minister will be proved to be an interim Minister, I venture to say with an interim Department, unless there is a more definite and bolder handling of this problem. I have not looked up the word "interim" in the dictionary but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is an interim Minister trying to grasp a very hazy problem, in much the same way as he would try to catch a black cat in a dark room. Even one who is not a betting man might wager that the Bill will be very little heard of in the very near future. If that occurs, there will be profound disappointment in England and Wales. I notice that the Bill does not apply to Scotland. In the Bill the right hon. Gentleman actually refers to the authorities who are to carry out the Bill as interim authorities, likely to be sacked and superseded, as he himself will most assuredly be superseded if a much bolder way is not found of tackling this problem. I want to re-emphasise that it is a very human problem.
I have the right to bring before this House the plight of my own constituency. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do to a city with an enormous number of houses damaged or destroyed in the past? I would invite 'him to come in a human way and see the problem, which is insurmountable unless we have more real energy put into this problem of building decent houses. I would like him to come round with me. I would like him to go into the shelters where 30,000 people have to go every night—into communal shelters—because they have no windows in their half-ruined houses. I would like him to see the 40,000 to 50,000 houses that have been totally destroyed.
Before he took office a predecessor allowed my authority to commission Sir Edward Lutyens and Professor Abercrombie not to make an improvised interim survey of the problem, but to present to his Ministry the results of their labours. Now we have the right hon. Gentleman as interim Minister superseding the Minister who allowed those two 563 eminent authorities on town planning to be appointed. They will present their report. It will not be an interim report. It will be a report of which I would say that its very foundations will rest upon the rebuilding of a ruined city so far as the cottage houses are concerned. Then comes along the right hon. Gentleman with his 13 Clauses and his interim improvisations, and I suppose the effect of his cogitations will be to turn down the fundamental recommendations of Sir Edward Lutyens and Professor Abercrombie. This is a very human problem, and I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman that he is a past master in appeasement, but that those people, especially those who are fighting, and the thousands evacuated, and the 30,000 who have to go into shelters every night, are not going to be satisfied with interims. [Laughter.] This is no cause for merriment or even laughter, whether it be cynical or sardonic, because these people, bereft of decent housing, will not take the interim improvisations of the Minister lying down. They will want something more concrete and more definite.
Therefore, I am glad to have had the privilege of intervening in this Debate on this abortion of a Bill and rather prematurely born child of the Minister of Town and Country Planning, because a city which was scheduled before 4th September, 1939, as a depressed area, with a rate of 20s. 6d. in the £ at the present juncture, wants something more than improvisations from the right hon. Gentleman. It wants a definite pledge that it is not going to be fobbed off with interims but that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department—if it is in existence in six months' time from now—will give a definite pledge that he will not turn down the finished findings of experts but that he will implement the findings of these experts; and that at any rate in that corner of England, the plight of which is not realised by far too many people, the right hon. Gentleman will put his back into this and see to it that we are not fobbed off with interim improvisations and half-matured, ill-fledged—I do not know what to call it; words fail me—but we want something definite so far as Yorkshire is concerned.
§ Colonel Sir Georǵe Courthope (Rye)
I cannot help thinking that the hon. Mem- 564 ber who has just spoken has misconceived the meaning of the Bill and the meaning of the word "interim." I shall not argue with him at length but I should like just to say that I believe that we all, and certainly the Minister who introduced this Bill, are extremely anxious to get to the end of the business, but we cannot get from the beginning of A to the end of Z if we ignore the interim 24 letters of the alphabet, all of which require attention. As I understand, not only the wording of the Bill but the speech of my right hon. Friend, the word "interim" merely deals with the very necessary processes which lie between the beginning, the initiation, and the end.
What I particularly wish to say a word about is the position of agriculture. I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for the prominence which he gave to agriculture. There is far too great a tendency—there always has been in the past—to treat agriculture as an industry which is of very little general importance. It is indicated, as he said, by the fact that when land is to be devoted to agriculture people accustomed to talk in terms of planning speak of it as being sterilised. As a matter of fact, as the Minister said, the proper planning for land which is capable of fertile cultivation and food production is that it should be devoted to that purpose and developed to the full for that purpose, and that housing and other matters of that kind should, so far as is humanly possible, and so far as the planners can organise their work, be delegated to land which is less suitable for the production of the people's food. I have no fault to find, and nothing but gratitude to express, at the way in which the Minister has dealt with this, but I wanted to say something on behalf of the many agricultural Members in this House who were a little anxious, because there was no apparent mention of this industry in the Bill, to see that it was going to be properly looked after and that the Minister and his staff would devote themselves to seeing that agricultural land was developed as agricultural land and for the production of food rather than houses.
§ Mr. Sexton: (Barnard Castle)
I have a few remarks to make, especially on questions which have led up to this Bill. Certain hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) and the Parliamentary Secre- 565 tary, have taken a lively interest in the development and planning of the countryside. This land of ours is one of so many diversities that it has not been planned or developed in the best interests of the people, in the best interests of its natural beauty, or even in the best interests of utility. Perhaps this haphazard arrangement formed one of its major charms in centuries gone by, when the population was small, when industry was almost entirely agricultural, and when one did not find a great congestion of people to defile the natural charms of the country. But now that this country has become one of the great workshops of the world, some of the untidiness associated with workshops has been allowed to spoil the fair face of the country. In my own district, in the North of England, industry has defiled the fair face of the country. Anyone who travels in any of the coalmining districts of this country will find permanent records of the untidiness of industry in those great pit heaps which are a source of dust and dirt, and anything but beauty. To preserve as much as possible this beauty and utility, to preserve the comeliness of this country, town and country planning is of vital importance.
The work that has been done by individuals concerned with preserving the loveliness of our heritage has to be implemented by Parliamentary powers. Individuals have done much, and I pay my tribute to them, but they cannot do enough. Therefore, Parliamentary powers have been sought. They were obtained in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. Some results have accrued from that Act, but they were very meagre in proportion to the whole problem. Many causes have prevented the full result being obtained from this legislation. There were, first, the outbreak of war; secondly, a lack of enthusiasm on the part of local authorities; and thirdly, the inertia of the Government. Of course, at the outbreak of hostilities development was brought almost to a standstill. All our energy, some of which might have been spent on bringing about the improvement of this land, was rightly directed to preserving this land from falling into the hands of an enemy. Bat in spite of the danger of invasion it was felt that the Government should do something by beginning inquiries, so that at the end of the war we would be to some extent ready to put into 566 execution some well-considered, definite plans for the improvement of this land. These inquiries were conducted by three bodies. I am not going to talk about them very much. They have been discussed by most other speakers in this Debate. There were the Barlow Report, the Uthwatt Report, and the Scott Report. On the Barlow Report, all I have to say is that something must be done about the location of industry in the future planning of this country. We want no more distressed areas such as we had between the last war and this. We want no more congestion of industry in one place, making a fine target for the enemy. So we want the Barlow Report implemented as far as possible. The Uthwatt Report dealt very largely with urban land, with compensation and betterment. Then there was the Scott Report, which referred mainly to agricultural land, with its housing—or lack of housing—and with its water supply, its very inadequate water supply.
Speaking as a man of the country, and representing an area which is very largely agricultural, I say to the Government that many of those people, modest and retiring and quiet, are asking how much longer they have to stand all this: these poor houses, this lack of sanitation, this lack of water supply. When I tell them it is part of the great planning of town and countryside, they say, "Get on with the job." These three Reports deal with fundamentals. The country wants to know as early as possible the Government's attitude towards the findings of these bodies. People are beginning to suggest that this Government is one of reports, and that the results of the reports are the noises of blank shot. We want no blank shot; we want something definite. We want, first, planning, and then, as early as possible after the war, doing. No real planning and no real doing can be undertaken, by local authorities or others, until the fundamentals of the land question can be laid. I am not going to advocate land nationalisation, because I know the Government, with its present constitution, would not give it. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) that with a coalition Government a compromise is the only thing we could get on the question of the land. The country wants to know what that compromise is.
567 Let the Government decide upon that compromise and tell the country what they mean to do. Let them make up their mind early, so that the local authorities may have some definite information. The local authorities want information about sites and about finance. They are not prepared to commit themselves until they know what the Government are going to do. I re-emphasise that some prompt declaration by the Government as to their attitude towards these three great major Reports should be given as early as possible. Personally, I am of the opinion that if that declaration by the Government had been made, there would have been little need for this present Bill. This Bill will appeal to the countryside as a continuation of the policy of evading the tackling of this most important problem. The Bill may be of some value, but that value will be infinitesimal compared with the whole problem. If the heroes of Tunis had gone on with such dilly-dally steps, they would not have secured that victory which we are all applauding.
§ Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)
I should like to say a few words on the Bill and incidentally to congratulate the Minister on his first effort in piloting a Bill through the House. Personally, I think it is a very good Bill. It has been characterised as an abortion, a miserable little Bill and as something not to be desired, and all sorts of adjectives have been expressed about it, but I think it is a necessary step towards the evolution of the Planning Ministry. It is curious how one can hear the different conceptions of the duties of a planning Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) sought to invest the Minister with all the functions appertaining to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture, the President of the Board of Trade, and wanted him to express his decisions about plastics, textiles, agriculture and various other things. If we invest the new Town and Country Planning Minister with powers of that kind, he will become a sort of super-Prime Minister. As I conceive his functions, they are to deal with matters of physical planning. I sincerely hope his influence in planning will be expressed and felt in all the other Ministries and in the House of Commons in the siting of factories, in the limitation and preservation of national parks and all that kind of thing. But to seek to give 568 him absolutely arbitrary powers over all these great industrial activities which are now appropriate to the other Government Departments is something which simply cannot be done. It is evident that my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington had altogether misconceived really what physical planning is.
If I were to indulge in a word of criticism, it would be of the speech delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren). He was very unfair in his reference to the planning committees of local authorities. They have done good work, and with that I think everybody would agree. If we consider the legacy left to these planning authorities, the legacy of 19th century chaos and ugliness, the almost insuperable problem which has faced these committees, we shall agree that they have done exceedingly well in many parts of the country in tackling the job. Not only had they the legacy of the ugliness of the 19th century with which to deal, but they had also the spate of building which was absolutely necessary after the last war. If ribbon development has taken place—and a great mass of badly sited building has taken place—we would be very unwise to put the responsibility absolutely on the planning authorities of the country. The Government themselves must take some share of the blame. They have not invested local planning authorities with the necessary powers, and to imply that planning committees have no sense of beauty or of public duty is a very harsh judgment upon men who have seriously tackled a very difficult job. It only shows how an hon. Member who has been for many years a consistent advocate or obsessed with one idea can take a very jaundiced view about other problems.
I want to say a few words about the Bill itself. It proposes to do nothing else except to deal with that period in planning which elapses between the passing of a resolution and the coming into operation of the scheme. We have to get that fact firmly in our minds. All the talk about the recommendations of the Uthwatt, the Scott and the Barlow Reports are to some extent beside the point. We would all like to see a full-blooded Bill which would invest the Minister with power to deal with the questions of compensation and betterment, the acquisition of development rights, and the best utili- 569 sation of country areas, but he could not very well do that in what is really an interim development Bill, Even so, it is an exceedingly important Bill, and there are some very important provisions in it. Most of the speakers have missed the importance of this Bill. Take Clause 2. Under the 1932 Act the local planning authority was compelled to agree to certain applications for interim development unconditionally. I, as one who has spent a considerable number of years on a local authority and have had to deal with that kind of thing, know how difficult it was for them. If application to develop a site on which the building already existed was sent to the local authority, and that was in a town planning area, the plan had to be granted unconditionally.
I want the House to put itself into the position of the local authority for a few moments and see how that particular thing has affected local authorities. There are in the city from which I come 25 acres of industrial development in an area which would be quite suitable as a residential area, and, vice versa, there are 25 acres of houses in an area which certainly ought to he zoned for industrial purposes. The restrictions of the old Act made it impossible to get these two things cleared up. It could not be done. If you had to give a factory which was situated among a number of houses the right to develop again on its own site, it was impossible for it ever to be moved. The consequence is that you have this higgledy-piggledy development where you have working-class dwellings practically up against belching chimneys, smoke, dirt and such things. It is impossible to have decent planning in conditions of that character. The powers which the Minister has conferred on local authorities under Clause 2 do not give local authorities more power in that respect. My grievance about Clause 2 is that while it gives local authorities the particular right to postpone an application—and if it has been postponed for two months, it is deemed to be refused automatically—it also retains the right of the applicant to build unconditionally if he is going to build immediately.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am sorry I did not hear the Minister's speech. If he says that it is not the case, I will accept his 570 word straight away, but it seemed to read like that. I am very pleased that he has taken that power. I have already explained that to invest local authorities with that power is a very valuable thing and will help them in their work.
I now come to the most important Clause of the Bill. That is Clause 6. I think the House must agree that the Minister is taking unto himself exceedingly large powers. It is peculiar that most speakers seem to have missed this, that under these powers the Minister will virtually become an interim development authority. Under this Clause he can take that power away from local authorities for a temporary period, probably for a permanent period. In short, he can stop building of all descriptions and can say that he is doing it in the public interest. We must not be under any illusions about this Clause., It vests the Minister with great powers in regard to planning, but I want to say boldly and straight that I think the Minister ought to have these powers. It is right for him to have them. Anyone who goes about the country and sees evidence of bad development and bad siting will jump to the conclusion that if there had been an overriding central authority which could have brought its word to bear on these matters, such development could not have taken place. I am glad that there is to be an overriding authority to give a decision in these matters, because such an authority will not be swayed particularly by questions of rateable value that affect, quite rightly, planning authorities.
Again, the powers under this Clause—and I do not think anybody has mentioned it—can be used, whether it is the Minister's intention or not, for the distribution of industry and population to some extent. If the Minister says that a certain interim application is to be submitted to him and that application deals with the siting and building of a huge factory he can say, "No, I think the factory ought to go elsewhere." That is an instrument that can be used for distribution of the industrial population and the location of industry. I do not know whether it is the Minister's intention that that power should be used in that way, but at any rate it is a very powerful instrument. Even if the Minister does not intend to use the powers for that purpose, I think the House will agree that he should 571 have those powers. An hon. Member has just drawn a graphic picture of the distressed areas. If there had been an overriding authority while that process of devolution was taking place, some of the worst features of those distressed areas might have been prevented. Of course, these powers will need supplementation, but the Minister has an instrument by means of which he can approach the vital question of the location of industry. It would have been impossible to do that with the present powers.
I want, however, to put this qualification. There is no consideration of finance in the Bill, and local authorities will have a point of view upon this. I have already heard it whispered that they object to investing the Minister with power that will take a certain function out of their hands, that will make certain decisions and leave them liable for heavy compensation. I do not think it is the Minister's intention to use the power in that way, but certain local authorities have been backward in their planning duties, and I think it would be as well if they felt the power of the Minister in this way. But there are good local authorities, and they are rather apprehensive about it. If the Minister is to make a decision which may have the effect of taking rateable value from their areas, I think he ought to give some financial help to those areas. Otherwise, they would be suffering at both ends; they would not get their rateable value, and they would have to pay compensation for losing it.
I would like to refer to Clause 8. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) with regard to joint committees. I know this is not the time to introduce a far-reaching Measure of local government reform in which a well-balanced system of planning authorities would be arranged throughout the country. The question is fraught with immense difficulties and may plunge us into a controversy that may last many years. Therefore, the Minister has to come forward with the instrument to his hand, with some modifications. I cannot see any other way out than an expansion or amplification of the joint committee system. If the Minister uses that instrument well, he can effectively cover the country.
572 One of the difficulties in planning today has been that one local authority may have been doing quite well while the next local authority, probably poor and quite unable to face up to the possibilities of compensation claims, has done very little. Indeed, there have been cases where poor local authorities have considerably damaged the work another local authority has done. If the Minister combined the two together, I think much of the difficulty would be avoided. I imagine that it is his idea to establish joint committees, well-balanced so far as urban and regional interests are concerned. Will the Minister aim at a balanced mixture of urban and rural areas and ensure that they have the necessary background for good planning? He cannot expect a poor local authority to face up to the numerous claims for compensation. The provisions of this Bill, which do not look impressive but which are very important, will ease the work of local authorities very considerably if they are wisely administered, and will lead to something bigger. Many of us have dreamt of a great city with its centre of architecture, its industrial commercial and shopping zones, its residential zones, its houses in which tenants can be happy and develop a pride in their own neighbourhood. We have dreamt of a city with wide traffic arteries and a green belt stretching into the country beyond. All our efforts should be directed towards the ideal of making our cities places of beauty rather than, as some have been in the past, places of ugliness.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Henry Strauss)
I have a difficult task in winding up a Debate which has covered so wide a range and to which so many important contributions have been made, especially by three Members who have exceptional experience of the problems with which we are dealing. I refer to the hon. Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. Marshall), who has just spoken, to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) and the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), all of whom have made important contributions to the Debate. I apologise if I do not deal fully with all the points that have been made, but, after all, this will not be the last opportunity on the Bill, and my right hon. Friend and I are also approachable at other times. May 573 say a personal word at the outset? From June, 1937, onwards I have made speeches year after year, in the House and outside, advocating as an urgent matter important changes in the law of town and country planning. It has often been my pleasure, since this has always cut across party lines, to speak on very much the same lines as the hon. Member who has just spoken. Some of the reforms that I have long advocated are embodied in this Bill.
There are two possible criticisms of any Bill. You may criticise it because you say the provisions it contains are bad, or because, though the provisions are good, you say that it ought to contain additional provisions, which it does not. I am not saying for a moment that anyone may not criticise this Bill on one or other of those grounds, but I submit with some confidence that they do not run very well in double harness. Numerous speakers have asked why we are not forthwith adopting the recommendations of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports. Perhaps the simple and short answer is that in several important respects that is precisely what we are doing. The fundamental proposal in the first Clause is an emphatic recommendation both of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports; so are the provisions of Clause 6, and so are the most important provisions of Clause 2 (1). I think, therefore, our critics who say that we are not dealing with those Reports might take the trouble to read them, and also the Bill, before they make that comment. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes), who said many unkind things about the Bill with even more than his usual emphasis—we always listen with interest and are even attracted by his comments—said the whole thing was in the wrong order, was out of step and out of time and ought to put out of court. He suggested that in the view of Mr. Justice Uthwatt we were doing quite the wrong thing. Nothing could be further from the fact. I should have thought it was obvious that there were two points in Mr. Justice Uthwatt's view which should have clear priority. The first is the setting-up of a central planning authority, and the second is to make planning immediately applicable to the whole country.
As regards the central planning authority, the Minister without Portfolio announced in December that the Govern- 574 ment did not adopt the precise suggestion of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports but proposed to set up a Ministry of Town and Country Planning instead. That was subsequently done by legislation, to which the House assented without a division. So on the first point, though we have not adopted the precise proposals of the Reports, the Government have given the reasons why they did not. They have produced their alternative scheme, and that scheme has received the unanimous approval of the House. As for the next point, hon. Members have only to read paragraph 136 of the Uthwatt Report, on which Clause 1 of the Bill is substantially founded. The Bill does not do a whole number of things on some of which the Government have already indicated their attitude and said they will legislate, while on others the Government admittedly have not yet made up their mind. For this last I am not going to make the slightest apology. The modern idea that it is best to decide first and to think afterwards is not one that the Government propose to adopt. Nine months is not at all too long to consider all the proposals of the Uthwatt Report. I submit with some confidence that, if you forget for a moment your criticisms of the Bill for what it does not contain, you should, if you approve of the establishment of a central planning authority at all, commend every Clause that is actually in the Bill, and, if you find yourself in general agreement with every Clause that is in the Bill, it is quite illogical to criticise it and its introduction now, unless you take the extraordinary view that the Bill is not long enough. I take the view that the most businesslike way of legislating on this subject—and I think there is no Member of the House who for a greater number of years has been eager to legislate than myself—is to deal with one topic at a time, and we are logically dealing with the first one first.
Let me deal with some of the points raised in the Debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), after reviewing some of the history of this matter as he saw it, described this Bill as a useful and necessary Measure. I accept his decision, which presumably also represents the view of his party. He went on to say that he required further Measures later. Again I agree with him. He is going to have them.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not know how soon. I am not going to give any dates. That is one of the reasons for introducing first the Bill which embodies those provisions which are urgently needed to-day, on the representation of every association of local authorities, in order that we may hold the position and prevent adverse development from taking place or being authorised and so compromising the, future, whatever the decisions may be on some of the undecided points. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom) confused me by his attitude, which I did not fully understand. He seemed to think it a very bad Bill and, as a rather paradoxical corollary, hoped that it would be put on the Statute Book as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Bossom
I am afraid that my hon. Friend did not listen very effectively. I suggested that the Bill should be got through as quickly as possible, so that he and his Minister might go ahead and do the things that are vitally needed.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am sorry if I misunderstood my hon. Friend, but when he says that it should be got through as soon as possible, I presumed he meant putting it on the Statute Book. I cannot believe that he would advocate a Bill which is bad being put on the Statute Book in order to get later something else which is better. If he really believes that bad Bills should be put on the Statute Book, I have no further comment to make. He complained that this Bill was a descendant of the 1932 Statute. Of course it is. That Statute embodies the law on the subject. If we are to improve that law and do it without an unreasonable expenditure of Parliamentary time, of course the way to do it is by an amending Act. My hon. Friend thought that the only thing that was good in the Bill ought to have been achieved by Order in Council. I wonder what would have been said by the House had we tried to embody this Bill in an Order in Council.
§ Mr. Bossom
I dislike interrupting my hon. Friend when he is making such an important statement, but I think that if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, he will see that all I suggested was that it should be a standstill Order in Council so as to give his Ministry time to carry out important matters that are essential right away instead of keeping us waiting.
§ Mr. Strauss
I always yield to my hon. Friend whenever he thinks he can improve his position. The standstill Order, in the opinion of the Government and their advisers, if it embodied all the necessary provisions, would have been illegal under the Act under which it purported to be made. Leaving that aside, I wonder whether there is a Member who would like so controversial and debatable a matter needing so much explanation to have been achieved by Order in Council. My hon. Friend asked me two Questions a week at one period imploring me to do nothing by Order in Council. I am, therefore, surprised at his rather curious attitude to-day.
§ Mr. Bossom
I really must protest. I would like my hon. Friend to produce one Question in which I have asked him not to do anything by Order in Council. I have never asked such a Question.
§ Mr. Strauss
My hon. Friend has a very short memory. I shall be delighted to send him a list, but if I find I am wrong, I shall take an early opportunity of making a public withdrawal. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Jewson), whose speech welcoming the Bill I was glad to hear, asked me for answers to various questions, many of which I think will be more appropriately given and with more consideration of detail when we come to the Clauses of the Bill in Committee. I can, however, give him an answer on the subject of coast erosion which I fear he will not welcome very much. The Minister responsible under the Measure of 1939 dealing with coast protection is the Minister of War Transport. "All areas" in the Explanatory Memorandum means every area in England and Wales, but we do not guarantee the maintenance of the existing size of England and Wales. I would not have the hon. Member go away with the idea that after consultation with the Minister of War Transport there may not be works which we might be able to facilitate under our powers, but I would rather not enter now into that question, which is one of considerable complication. The hon. Member, in dealing with Clause to, did not wish these matters to be subject to a merely negative Resolution of the House. That can be more properly debated when we come to the Committee stage, but this is, from the point of view of the House of Commons, an improvement in the existing law, as it gives the House greater con- 577 trol, because an interim development Order under the existing Act does not have to be made subject to a negative Resolution of the House.
I must apologise for having been out of the House when my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) was making his speech. I have had a word with him since, and I do not think he raised any matters on which he wished a specific answer, but I promise him I will study his speech.
§ Mr. Strauss
My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) welcomed the Bill as an excellent Bill but said that it should have been brought in before. That is a more plausible argument than that put forward by the hon. Member for Peckham and others, that we ought to have delayed it still longer. The Government have, I think, been more attacked for bringing the Bill forward early than for bringing it forward late. I suggest that whichever view is correct, it affords no argument for not passing it as quickly as possible. The hon. Member thought it would have been well to include in the Bill the powers of public acquisition of land in accordance with the policy already announced by the Government. I think that he is probably wrong, even as a matter of Parliamentary drafting. Even as a matter of Parliamentary drafting, there is a convenience in having one Bill to deal with interim development and another to deal with public acquisition of land. There must be a Bill to deal with that subject, and it may be the next Bill which my right hon. Friend will introduce.
The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) made a passionate speech complaining of the defacement of the beauty of our country with which complaint I found myself as always in agreement. He welcomed the Bill and I am glad he welcomed it. As regards his point about land ownership, we all know that he has views on this subject which are not universally shared and which he holds with great sincerity. The fact that some people share his views is indicated by a certain Amendment on the Order Paper, but I think all Members who study the matter of town and country planning will be driven to the conclusion that, what- 578 ever view is held on the question of the ownership of land, that does not really solve the problem of planning. If the whole land of the country were in the ownership of the State to-morrow morning, the actual problem of what use should be made of any particular parcel of land would still remain. I am not going to argue the merits of ownership on this occasion, but I hope that Members who are sincerely interested in this great problem of planning will not think that any decision on the question of ownership would solve the very difficult and urgent problems with which we have to deal.
§ Mr. MacLaren
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me, for the sake of accuracy and form, to say that I think I made it quite clear that I welcomed the Bill, although holding strong views as to ownership. I welcomed the Bill because it gives control over development.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend and I should regret it, if I gave any erroneous impression. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York) wanted an assurance that my right hon. Friend did not mean to exercise the powers given by the Bill to prevent all development. I unhesitatingly give that assurance. I think he, as well as others, dealt with the point of interfering with the decisions of local authorities. Let me say at once that this Bill does three main things. It extends planning to the whole country, it gives increased powers to local authorities which they are very eager to have, and finally, and not least important, it gives immensely increased powers of control to the central planning authority. There is no sense in disguising that. It was recognised by the hon. Member for the Brightside Division, who has a fine record of service on his own local authority, and I am glad that notwithstanding the fact that local authorities are made subject to overriding powers to which they were not subject before, he welcomes this fact. Unless the central planning authority has these increased powers, my right hon. Friend cannot possibly exercise the functions which have been conferred on him by the Act to which his Department owes its existence.
To come to the comprehensive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Peck- 579 ham, he expressed the view at the beginning of his speech that we ought to have postponed this Bill. I disagree with that view. The valuable powers which this Bill confers on local authorities, have been pressed for by very many local authorities, including one of which he has a great deal of inside knowledge. He raised an important question—quite legitimately—about compensation, which a local authority might be obliged to pay, although the decision in fact had been made by the Minister, possibly on national grounds. The same point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Brightside Division.
The powers for the control of interim development by the Minister of Town and Country Planning contained in Clause 6 of the Bill are, in the opinion of the Government, essential to the discharge of the responsibilities of the Minister under Section I of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning Act, 1943. It has been represented that the exercise of powers under the Clause might involve local authorities in the payment of compensation, and that where the reason for their exercise is substantially national and not local, the whole cost ought not to fall on the local authorities. The exercise of powers under the Clause would not, however, necessarily involve compensation. Moreover, it seems likely that in a great majority of such cases involving compensation 'it will be proper that that compensation should be borne as a local charge.
The Government have already undertaken, as regards the acquisition of land, to enter into discussions with the local authorities regarding the question of financial assistance towards specific purposes forming part of the new plans. That was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio on the 1st December last. The Government further agree that, in those discussions, regard would be had to any cost falling on local authorities by reason of the exercise of powers under the Clause in so far as it would otherwise fall on the Exchequer in connection with any general restriction on the use of land which may be imposed by subsequent legislation. Many of the purposes, moreover, for which land will be reserved will be purposes which attract a Government grant 580 or subsidy, and any cost incurred in respect of an interim decision made in connection with such a purpose can more conveniently be considered in relation to such a grant; and to the special case where the purpose is to enable a Government Department ultimately to purchase the land special consideration will be given.
§ Mr. Silkin
The statement the hon. Gentleman has made is obviously a clearly prepared statement, but it seems to me that after all the points he has mentioned have been met there will still be a residue of cases in which it would be proper for the Exchequer to make a contribution. Will it still be open for local authorities to make out their case for contributions?
§ Mr. Strauss
My hon. Friend rightly appreciates that the statement that I have made has been carefully considered, and I think that, without notice, it would be unadvisable for me to qualify it. Further points can be raised in Debate on this Bill, and any representations will be borne in mind, but I think I had better not qualify the statement extemporaneously.
§ Mr. MacLaren
On a point of Order. A statement has been quoted as having been made by the Minister without Portfolio regarding a certain policy which, so far as I know, the House has not pledged itself to support. As a matter of fact, I think the point just raised was, if I may say so with great respect, out of Order and not within the confines of the Bill we are now discussing. I want to make quite sure that the Minister is not committing the House in the eyes of the country to a policy to which the House has not assented.
§ Mr. Speaker
The statement was entirely in Order. The statement, I gather, was made on the authority of the Minister and commits no one except the Minister.
§ Mr. Silkin
Shall we able to raise points relevant to this matter on the Committee stage of the Bill?
§ Mr. Strauss
I can promise the hon. Member that he can discuss it. I cannot, without authority, promise any amendment of what I have just read out, as I am certain the hon. Member appreciates.
581 The hon. Member also raised a question about architecture. I think the House is aware that the question of architecture is one which I have always had very much at heart. I agree with everything that has been said, during the Debate, about the great importance of that matter. Perhaps the House will therefore allow me to read one paragraph of the first circular issued by the Minister of Works and Planning, with which my right hon. Friend has since expressed his complete agreement. It is:It is necessary in all planning schemes to consider not only health and convenience, but the future appearance of town or village. Architectural advice is therefore essential. From an early stage thought must be given to such matters as the practicable size and shape of building blocks, the relation between streets, buildings and open spaces in respect of height and scale, and the appearance of new development seen in association with, or as a contrast to, the old.The value of architectural advice taken at an early stage Will amply prove itself when rebuilding takes place, and no planning scheme can be regarded as satisfactory, which does not provide opportunities for good building in every area in which building is contemplated.
§ Sir Percy Hurd (Devizes)
Does that statement visualise the creation of panels of architects of local standing?
§ Mr. Strauss
Provision is certainly made enabling the Minister, before deciding upon any interim development application, to require consultation with such authorities as he thinks fit, and no doubt that will include panels of architects. Upon some important occasions it may be the Royal Fine Art Commission. Hon. Members can, no doubt, imagine other possible controls. The position under the existing law is not as bad as it would appear from some passages in my hon. Friend's speech. Planning authorities and the Minister have powers to require harmony with surrounding buildings. My hon. Friend raised the question of the power to secure comprehensive architectural treatment in rather wider areas. I attach the same importance to that question as he does, and I feel certain that he has had the benefit of the views and experience of the distinguished architect of the authority on which he serves. I can assure him that the possible strengthening of the law, if it needs strengthening, to meet the point to which he gave expression, will certainly be considered by my right hon. Friend.
582 The hon. Member expressed his doubt about the provision for joint committees, under Clause 8. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division on the other hand expressed his agreement with our proposal. On the whole, the discussion of that matter had better wait for the Committee stage, but I will, if I may, make one short statement. My right hon. Friend in his opening speech inadvertently gave a slightly erroneous impression about the position of Merseyside. Merseyside was a perfect example for my right hon. Friend to quote, in the connection in which he quoted it, namely, of a river which separates local authorities, in fact uniting a district, and therefore making combined planning essential. I would riot, however, have the House believe that the local authorities on Merseyside have formed a joint committee in the statutory sense. What they have done is to concur in the excellent proposal of inviting the Minister to send experts to prepare a provisional outline plan for the whole area. I make that correction to avoid any possible misunderstanding.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford, who made a most valuable contribution to our Debate, welcomed the Bill as an essential contribution to immediate problems. With his remarks on the planning of Greater London it would be wrong for me to deal to-day. In fact, I do not know how far they arise on the Bill, though I shall study what he said most carefully. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) expressed the view that we should deal with both the Scott and Uthwatt Reports first, before bringing in this Bill. That I have already dealt with. We are dealing in this Bill with the most urgent and immediate recommendations of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest), apart from a very puzzling reference to the effect that planning ought to be cosmetic, which I did not understand—
§ Mr. Strauss
That is only a little less obscure to me. No doubt the hon. Member will have that question out with the hon. and gallant Member the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty Officer A. Herbert). It may be that he will find that what he meant was cosmetic; it may 583 be that, on reconsideration, he will find that it was not. The greater part of his speech has already been answered by the hon. Member for the Brightside Division. With many of his individual statements I may agree, but the general purport of his speech appeared to be that you should not plan anything until you can plan everything. That seems to me to be bad doctrine. If we cannot do anything about town and country planning until we are all agreed on what is to be the balance of industry and agriculture after the war, then I am afraid that some very unfortunate things will happen to town and country planning in the meantime. Although I quite agree with him on the importance of the questions, he adumbrated, I assure him that they are not a ground for the postponement of the Bill. The Bill gives the Government powers which they most urgently need.
I did not suggest the postponement of the Bill. I said it gave the Minister powers which he needed.
§ Mr. Strauss
I must not quarrel with an hon. Member who is agreeing with me. I must have misunderstood the hon. Member. On the particular question as to what is to happen when some local authority has planned its district, ignoring the fact that the area is subsiding, I think the answer is that the plan does not acquire the force of law until it is approved by the Minister, and I can assure him that my right hon. Friend will not ignore so vital and relevant a consideration. I wholly agree with the hon. Member on what he said to the effect that a factory could have excellent architecture. I could not agree with him more. Nothing could be further from the truth than what I call the snobbish view about architecture. I am less optimistic than he is in thinking that architecture will take care of itself. The experience we have had between two wars shows that that is far from being the case.
The hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) made a vigorous and indeed violent speech under a complete misapprehension of what the Bill is about. In fact, I am under the impression that he accidentally stepped into the wrong Debate. He seemed to think that this was an interim Bill and that there were a lot of interim things about it. If he had read the Bill, he 584 would have found that what it referred to was interim development, which is a term of art under the chief Statute, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. My right hon. Friend fully explained in his opening speech the underlying fallacy of everything the hon. Member said. He has also been answered by subsequent speakers, so that I need not bother with his speech further, except to point out that while the hon. Member said this was an abortion of a Bill, his leader—the right hon. Gentleman who is the Leader of his Party not in the Government—described it as a useful and necessary Bill. I will leave a decision between them to the inner circles of the Labour Party. The hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton) said that we should, as soon as practicable, define our attitude to the three major Reports dealing with this subject. I agree with him. As I said before, that is no reason for not proceeding on certain urgent and necessary steps now. With the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Brightside Division I have already dealt, but there is one point on which I should like to reassure him once again—I have done so already by intervention. I think he feared that the repeal of the proviso to Sub-section (3) of Section 10 of the principal Act did not apply, if the application was one which could be carried out immediately. His fear has no ground whatever. We are doing away with the proviso in every case. There will be nothing to prevent an interim development authority considering every application on its merits, without being bound by Statute to grant any.
I must apologise for the length of the time I have kept the House. I would say, in conclusion, that I cannot hope that the ordinary layman will find this Bill exhilarating reading. It is too difficult to follow and to understand. What is he to make of the legal verbiage? These references to Sections, Sub-sections and Schedules seem to him remote from his vision of the place he loves, and of the English countryside, and of the outrages by which they are threatened or destroyed.
What, he asks, has it all to do with the Berkshire Downs or Sussex; with the magic of the Northumbrian and Norfolk coasts; with Pembroke or the glory of the Yorkshire Dales? How does it concern Ludlow and Farnham and York and Salisbury, and scores of villages and towns, 585 whose compact and intimate beauty makes them the crown jewels of England? How will it help the vigorous North, and those very different cities whose mean and overcrowded streets provide unworthy shelter for their people? Will it prevent the repetition of Peacehaven and the foul ribbons of the by-pass? Are we inexorably determined to stop such follies, and to prepare a worthy reconstruction? Mr. Speaker, we are so determined, if the House will arm us for our task. This is a first urgent and necessary Measure. I commend it to the House.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for the next Sitting Day.—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]