HC Deb 18 April 1944 vol 399 cc98-123

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward (Kingston-upon-Hull, North-West)

I beg to support the Second Reading of the Kingston upon Hull Corporation (Development, etc.) Bill which has just been moved by the Chairman of Ways and Means. A very considerable amount of opposition has developed towards this Bill and, as a Motion for the rejection of this Bill is down on the Paper to-day, perhaps a few words as to the position in which the City of Hull finds itself to-day may not be altogether out of place.

Hull, as a great many people are aware, is the primary port on the North-East coast of England. In fact, it is more. Up to the war it was the third largest port in the United Kingdom, facing, as it does, straight at the enemy country, and it has, not unnaturally, been a favourite target for the Luftwaffe, and now, as it has become customary lately for every city and town which has been subject to enemy air attack to consider itself the worst bombed city in the whole of the country, I shall not indulge in any comparison, but I should merely like to state a few facts with regard to what has happened in Hull during the past 4½ years.

During that period Hull has had just under 100 air raids. By air raids, I mean when enemy aircraft have actually dropped bombs of a high explosive or an incendiary character on the City. In addition to that there have been more than 800 alerts, but in those cases the enemy aircraft have either not flown in the direction of Hull or, what has more frequently happened, have been driven off by our fighter aircraft or our antiaircraft defences. Had it not been for the very effective and comprehensive system of surface shelters, casualties would have been multiplied three or four times.

I may say that Hull is not a city which has been carefully planned. Like so many other old cities, it has just grown up on the site it has occupied, and I do not think any enthusiastic planner would con- sider that the lay-out is such as might be considered necessary or advisable in a modern city. As a result of enemy action we have now an unrivalled opportunity for replanning as well as rebuilding the city. It can now be replanned, redeveloped and rebuilt on the most modern lines. An opportunity such as this is not likely to recur, and I think most of us sincerely hope that a similar opportunity will never occur again.

With regard to the actual Bill itself, it is divided into three Parts. Part I and Part III are, I think, largely non-controversial. The whole gist of the controversy lies in Part II, and, as I do not wish to take up more of the time of the House than is absolutely necessary, I will confine my remarks to that particular portion of the Bill.

We see under Paragraph 5 that The Corporation may, by agreement, purchase or acquire or take on lease and hold, any lands within and without the City which in their opinion it is desirable that the Corporation should acquire for the development, disposal or utilisation by the Corporation, …. Those are powers which are already held by corporations of municipalities such as Burnley, Bury, Salford, Sunderland, Wakefield and many others. The reason why Hull is applying for powers to purchase land outside the City is due to the fact that there are many most eligible sites just outside the boundaries of the City, sites where, thanks to the sub-soil, it is possible or easy to construct big works without the necessity of having to pile the foundations which it is necessary to do in most parts of the City of Hull. That is the reason why powers are being sought to purchase this land outside the City. As you will notice, this is done by agreement and, therefore, is not any form of requisitioning whatsoever.

In Paragraph 6 we find: The Minister may by means of a Provisional Order, made by him and confirmed by Parliament, authorise the Corporation to purchase land compulsorily for industrial development purposes. That is a case in which difficulty has arisen in coming to an agreement and the Corporation wish to have the power to come to the Minister and ask him to authorise the compulsory purchase of that land. In addition to having to come to the Minister for authority to do so, it is also necessary to have the authority confirmed by this House and also in another place, which also gives sufficient protection for anybody whose interests may be affected, I may say in parenthesis that this power is already held by Jarrow, West Ham, Salford, Liverpool, Manchester, Burnley, Grimsby, Rotherham and many other places.

Under Clause 7 we find that The Corporation may lay out and develop (a) any lands acquired by the Corporation under this Part of this Act for industrial development purposes; (b) any corporate lands belonging to the Corporation; and (c) any other lands belonging to the Corporation and not required for the purposes for which they were acquired or are held. There, again, this power is already held by Jarrow, Stockton, Liverpool, Manchester, Burnley, Dewsbury, Rotherham, Sheffield, and other cities and municipalities.

In 1936 a Committee of this House sat under the late Captain Bourne and recommended that a Clause on these lines could normally be inserted in Private Bills and, according to the standard Clause issued, the House of Commons gave effect to the recommendation of Captain Bourne's Committee, which contained the following Clause: The Corporation may, with the consent of the Minister, lay out and develop any lands at any time belonging to the Corporation and not required for the purposes for which they were acquired and may erect and maintain houses, shops, offices, warehouses and other buildings and construct sewers, drains, streets, road and ways on any such land. Therefore, the power which is being applied for under Paragraph 7 of this Bill is nothing new in any way. It has been recognised already as a common form Clause in this House, and, as such, I suggest that it is not going very far to ask that powers similar to those already granted to the cities and municipalities which I have just enumerated could also be granted to the City of Hull.

Under Clause 8 it says: The Corporation may advance money to the owner or lessee of any lands for the purpose of enabling or assisting him to erect buildings for industrial development purposes, houses, shops, offices, factory-buildings, warehouses, or other buildings on such lands … That is the power of the corporation to advance money to individual undertakings to enable them to construct the necessary buildings for carrying on their work, and that power has already been granted to the following municipalities and corporations: Coventry, Grimsby, Jarrow, Liverpool, Manchester, Rotherham, Salford, Sheffield, Stockton, Sunderland, Wakefield, Wallsall and West Ham, so, there again, the Corporation of the City of Hull is only asking for powers which have already been granted, and freely granted, to quite a large number of corporations or municipalities in the country.

The specific reason which is given for the rejection of this Bill in the Motion for the rejection which is on the Paper is that it would be better for this to be done by some central authority rather than by the Corporation of Hull itself, We all know, or, rather, we all think we know, that a Bill on those lines is already on the stocks at the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, but, on the other hand, we, so far, have very little idea of what the contents of that Bill are going to be. Furthermore, we do not yet know how long it will be before. there is any chance of that Bill becoming an Act. As regards the re-development of Hull, time is of the essence of the contract. Rome was not built in a day, and a city can certainly not be planned in one day. With all this open space which is now advisable considerable time must elapse after the plan is finished, before the actual building can take place. These sites where demolished buildings stood, which are required by the corporation for widening or straightening the streets, or for erecting the buildings which they think are necessary or advisable, cannot be purchased in a short time.

Other corporations are circularising firms in Hull, asking them to transfer their businesses. They say, "Hull is a danger area. You see what has happened to you through having your business in Hull. You have been blown to pieces. What has happened to you once may happen again. You had better start business in our city. We can provide you with land, which Hull cannot do. We can, if you like, build your factory for you, which Hull cannot do; or if. you prefer to build it yourself, we can advance you the money." That, again, is a power which Hull, without this Bill, cannot possess. It is hopeless to expect Hull to compete with other cities and towns possessing advantages which Hull does not possess. There is a grave danger at present of the wholesale transfer of industry from Hull to other places, simply because Hull has had to bear the brunt of enemy attack during these past four and a half years. We, therefore, ask that Hull should be given powers to enable us to rebuild the city and to reorganise and reestablish our industries, so that when the men come back from the war there may be work waiting for them. Unless those industries are reconstructed and rebuilt, there will certainly not be work for them. Unless we get such powers, Hull may easily become one of the distressed areas from which this country suffered so or 15 years ago. We want those buildings to be ready so that, when the men come back from the war, there will be work and wages waiting for them, so that they may live in comfort and share in the advantages of that new world for which we are all waiting.

Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, believing that reconstruction after bombing damage is essentially a matter for public legislation, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which will enable a local authority to frame its own code for this purpose. I find myself in the rather peculiar position of agreeing with almost everything that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward) said, when he very ably supported the Motion for the Second Reading, which was by my hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means, in accordance with the precedents al this House. I agree with practically everything that my hon. and gallant Friend said except his conclusion, namely, that the Bill should be now proceeded with. Our opposition to this Bill arises from no party issue whatever, because it seems that no party issue is involved. I understand that in the City of Hull the two main parties are united in wishing this Bill to be proceeded with. Those of us who are apposing it can very well understand that. We are actuated by no unfriendly motives towards the corporation and the people of Hull. Indeed, we have watched with admiration the attitude of Hull, which is one of the worst-bombed cities in the Kingdom; all the way through the perpetual bombings which have been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend, the people of Hull have shown patience, heroism, and gallantry, without any desire for self-dramatisation of any kind. Therefore, all one's predisposition would be to help, rather than to hinder. But we do not think that this Bill, in its present form, would be conducive to the best interests of the City of Hull, and certainly it would not be to the general interests of the country.

Why have we put clown this Amendment? The whole gravamen of our case is contained in the Amendment. We do not believe that it is right to proceed with a Bill which gives a special code for reconstruction after bomb damage to any one city or corporation in the Kingdom. This Bill, as its name implies, will apply to the City of Hull alone; it is obviously no part of the general legislation of the country. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-West Hull pointed out that various other municipalities have had similar powers, but when he read out the list of municipalities which have obtained part of the powers which are sought for the City of Hull, I noticed that, as he took the Bill; Clause by Clause, different sets of municipalities had the different rights which were set out in those particular Clauses. There is enough divergence between those authorities which already have such rights, without our increasing the divergences by this Bill. The City of Liverpool has very extensive powers; and I think that we are to be blamed for not taking exception to that Bill when it was presented, as we are doing to this Bill.

These divergences between the various powers which corporations already possess have so far not done very much damage, but I would ask the House to consider what would happen if the process were continued further. Suppose the Hull Bill were given a Second Reading, and became an Act, it seems to me that, first, the heavily-bombed cities, such as Plymouth, Coventry, and Bristol, of which there are too many in the Kingdom, would ask for similar powers, and would add Clauses different to those which Hull has already got. Encouraged by their examples, there would be a rush of cities all over the country, and of county boroughs and even of urban districts, asking for Parliamentary sanction to be given to their own special codes for dealing with bomb damage. That would make the whole position impossible. If you had, all over the country, different codes between one borough and another, or even between a borough and an urban district just outside it, think of the difficulties into which everyone would get, through not knowing exactly what powers there were. I can see disputes arising between the local authorities themselves in border-line cases. That is our main reason for opposing the Bill. I believe that the only people likely to benefit, in the long run, would be the lawyers. Judging from the peculiar legislation which we have been passing in the last few years, and observing the activities of planners, who' are pushing His Majesty's lieges through the labyrinthine lay-outs which they favour, I do not believe that those lawyers need fear having to rattle tin cups on the Embankment when the war is over: they will 'have plenty to do.

It is essential that a general code for dealing with bomb damage should be brought in by His Majesty' Government. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Town and Country Planning will definitely state that, within a very sort time, such a Bill will be brought forward. Those of us who advocate the rejection of this Bill feel that Hull had every right to ask for such a Bill. The borough council and their servants were, I think, acting out of the best motives, a trifle in advance of their time. They foresaw with alarm other cities, such as Liverpool, dragging from the City of Hull the industries which have been bombed out—or, rather, preventing them from going back and starting again in Hull. It was a very reasonable alarm, and I can understand the motives of those who brought in the Bill. In the Bill itself, I see very little to which we could object; indeed, we could have very well dealt with it, had it not been for the general issue involved by moving to leave out certain Clauses, One Clause, in particular, which is contrary to constitutional usage, is Clause 12, which authorises the corporation to borrow without previousy obtaining sanction. There are other Clauses, too, to which we take exception, but the Bill itself may have been on the right lines. It may be a help to the Government, in framing its own legislation, which we hope shortly to see introduced. Indeed, I hope that the Government Bill will bring forward improved delegated powers for the boroughs, and, indeed, other authorities, very similar to the powers contained in this Bill. But, if I may repeat myself, the reason we are moving the rejection is that we maintain that reconstruction after bomb damage should be dealt with; not by piecemeal legislation, but, at the earliest possible moment, by a general code of legislation, produced by His Majesty's Government, and passed into law.

Mr. Levy (Elland)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. and ballant Member for North-West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward), who represents that constituency with such distinction. It was only right and proper for the hon. Member to advocate what he thinks is in the interests of his own constituency, but, with regard to this Bill, we are now bordering on the question of reconstruction. The Government have created a Minister of Reconstruction, and the general reconstruction of bombed areas obviously must be done under a comprehensive plan which will be created by the Government. Not only are we concerned with buildings and the extension of buildings, and the layout and schemes for those buildings, but there are other things which have to be considered in relation to them. I hope I shall not create any hilarity when I say that water supply is essential, and I hope I am not out of Order—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member cannot raise the general principles covered by the Ministry of Reconstruction, but must confine himself to the Bill.

Mr. Levy

What I am endeavouring to say is that it is quite impossible for Hull, or for any local authority, to create a scheme for reconstruction, which ought properly to be dealt with by the Government. I think there are 1,700 local authorities in the country. Try to imagine the chaos that would result if every local authority put forward its own scheme for the reconstruction of its area. Where would Government policy come in? It would really make it absurd, and therefore I say, without any disrespect, that we ought to reject this Bill, and all parties ought to see to it that the Government bring in a proper reconstruction policy of a universal character of benefit to the country as a whole and not only to the city of Hull.

That being so, if we allow this Bill to go through we handicap the very policy which nearly every hon. Member has endeavoured to adumbrate. It is no use the Government trying to side-step and put the burden on local authorities; neither is it any use for the local authorities themselves to undertake a burden that really belongs to the Government. Therefore, I am opposing this Bill because I think there is a principle involved which is far-reaching. Hull, whatever the city's borrowing powers may be, would be utterly incapable of undertaking proper reconstruction without the assistance of the Government and the Treasury. It is important that we should say, once and for all, that all these Bills that may be promoted by local authorities are in advance of the time, are in anticipation of Government plans, and should await the Government plans, because it is a Government job and not a local authorities' job. Therefore we, as Members of the House of Commons, if I may say so with great respect and humility, should say to Hull that we are not going to reject this Bill out of any disrespect for Hull, but because we believe that the Government will bring in, and ought to bring in, a general policy applicable to all these areas. A number of areas which have never been bombed require further town planning and further amenities in the way of housing and the like. We shall be cramping our own style if we allow the local authority to have this Bill. I beg to second this Amendment, and I sincerely hope, without any disrespect to Hull, that this Bill will be rejected in view of the necessity for a national policy to be created.

Mr. Windsor (Kingston-upon-Hull, Central)

I have listened to some peculiar arguments from time to this in this House, but never to anything more peculiar than those of the hon. Members who moved and seconded the rejection of this Bill. If the position was so simple, that the Minister of Town and Country Planning was putting before the House a scheme for the rehabilitation of the blitzed cities, it would be a different proposition, but the fact is that all the various local authorities have been before the Minister, being desirous of knowing what he is going to do about it. Why all this delay? Again, I cannot understand the hon. Member for Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) putting before the House an Amendment along these lines. We are not appealing for support for this Bill purely because Hull is a bombed city. That merely adds to the desire for the Bill, that is all. What we are asking for is something that we needed in peace time. Hull is one of the distressed areas in peace time and had a large proportion of unemployment. There are other cities, too. I regret this as much as any hon. Member, but it is nauseating to find local authorities having a race with each other to see which is going to get in first to secure some economic advantage. That is why I am one of those who believe that this job ought to be done centrally, but, unless the Government are willing to act on some central lines, it leaves the local authorities no alternative but to submit a Bill to this House.

What is the purpose of the Bill? All we are asking for is what one district, as one of the opponents of the Bill has said, has already got—the right to develop economically outside its own boundaries. I mean the Corporation of Grimsby. They have almost identical powers to those for which we are asking. If there is any logic in it at all, if it is not a good thing for authorities to have power to develop, it is especially bad that some have already got them. It is a policy of going backwards rather than forwards. Hull is a badly blitzed city right on the edge of the Yorkshire coast. It has a go-ahead municipal administration, and all we desire is to see that some opportunity of earning a livelihood is given, not only to those who previously lived in the City of Hull, but also to those who will come back. We think, as the local authority, that we can assist in that direction by providing the means, if this House gives us the power to pursue a policy along those lines.

I implore the House not to reject this Bill. If, indeed, they do, it seems to me that they will act in a reactionary way, subject always to a decision that the Government themselves are willing to take up this responsibility of dealing with the economic, financial and other distress, not only in Hull but to all other blitzed cities.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)

The House listened with great respect to the extremely able speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North-West Hull (Sir Lambert Ward). This Bill comes before the House bearing the names of the hon. Members for Hull, with the exception of one who is a Minister of the Crown, and, as my hon. Friend said in introducing the Bill, it has the support of the city council, irrespective of party. I am quite certain that the tone of the Debate has shown that the House itself is anxious to do its best for Hull, just as it is to do its best for other blitzed areas, but it is my duty to point out to hon. Members that it is not true to say that there is local unanimity in this matter. There may be unanimity in the city council of Hull. There is no such unanimity in the local authorities which border upon the city and which are going to be primarily affected by the passage of this Bill. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hull (Mr. Windsor) made a speech which, in many ways, afforded the strongest possible argument for the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) when he said that this was not a matter of wartime urgency but was a long-term matter.

Mr. Windsor

I did not say that. I said we needed such powers before the war.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

The OFFICIAL REPORT Will show which is correct. I think it is in the recollection of the House that the hon. Member said that Hull was one of the distressed areas which looked forward to this Bill as a Measure of great value in time of peace, which is a very powerful argument from one point of view, and I should be the last to quarrel with it. I am bound to point out, however, that the East Riding County Council is opposed to this Measure, and so is the Haltemprice Urban District Council, bordering upon Hull. The views of the county council are, quite briefly these. While doubting the expediency of granting any such powers in special circumstances to county boroughs, they strongly resent the exercise of these powers by the corporation in the area of the administrative county, which would be the case if the Bill was passed in its present form, and which could be exercised, not merely in Yorkshire, but anywhere where the corporation is so minded. I think that is perhaps stretching it a little bit, but it does show the importance of Members of this House representing county constituencies being extremely vigilant upon this issue, because, undoubtedly, this Bill, if it goes through, would be used as a precedent for other applications of a similar type from other municipalities. Congestion of the time of the House is always an important matter, but, even if it were not so, we are likely to have a considerable number of Debates like this.

In a way, I stand betwixt and between. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) may laugh, but he is used to standing betwixt and between. Hon. Members need only read his speeches on the Education Bill. My constituency includes one of the Hull city housing estates, where the electors vote municipally in the City of Hull, and, for Parliamentary purposes, in my Division. Therefore, I am able to take a reasonably detached attitude on this subject. My view, briefly, is, that the Corporation of the City of Hull have rendered a public service in tabling this Bill. They have drawn attention, without any doubt whatever, to the extreme urgency of this matter, and for that the House is indebted to them, and I hope that this Debate will have an immediate result, and that while we take the view—what the Government view is, I do not know, and we shall doubtless hear in a few minutes from the Minister—that this House feels the sense of urgency on the matter of the planning of a blitzed area, this Kingston-upon-Hull Bill is entirely the wrong vehicle for the purpose. My hon. and gallant Friend need not make any apology at all for the speech he made, not the hon. Member opposite. They have raised the issue in a concrete form, and I hope that it will act as a spur to the Government. It is high time that we had before us these plans for the reconstruction of blitzed areas. I feel the sense of urgency in the matter, but as I have no desire to see other local authorities in that area overridden through a sudden and perhaps sentimental decision on the part of the House, I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that the whole issue is going to be dealt with immediately as a matter of national policy.

Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

I think the House will not sympathise with the argument used against this Bill that it asks for unusual powers to be conferred upon the Hull Corporation. That very often happens. One of the ways in which good legislation is built up in this country is that local authorities are sometimes given powers in advance of general powers. When they have been tried out locally they are found then to be so beneficial that a Bill is passed making the same powers available throughout 'the whole country. It is no argument against the Bill at all that the Hull Corporation is coming forward for something which is not possessed by anybody else. The Hull Corporation deserves the sympathy of the House in having actually incurred the expense of bringing before the House a number of matters which the House itself should long ago have insisted on the Government doing. It is really a most extraordinary situation that a city which has been so badly blitzed as has Hull, and which suffers from lack of amenities through the age of the city and the way it has grown up should be put to the added disadvantage of having to spend the money of the ratepayers in order to make the Government face up to their responsibility.

If there were any argument against the Bill, it would be that the Government are now going to give to the country generally what the Hull Corporation is asking for in 'particular. If, therefore, the Minister rises in his place to-day and says that he proposes to bring in Bills dealing with these matters at once I shall support the Amendment. If, on the other hand, he does not offer to give such an assurance to the House, I shall support the Bill. The Bill is only wrong if it is untimely; and it is not that Hull is ahead of time, but that the Government are behind time. I would call attention to Clause 6. If the House decides that the Bill is to be proceeded with, I hope that those responsible for examining it will consider that Clause. I have never known such a Clause in a Private Bill. My memory may be at fault, but it says that the Minister may, by means of a Provisional Order made by him and confirmed by Parliament, authorise the Corporation to purchase land compulsorily for industrial development purposes.

I suspect that some of my hon. Friends opposing the Bill have Teally been concerned about the use of those words "to purchase land compulsorily for industrial development purposes." These are powers which some of us on this side of the House would like to see conferred upon all local authorities. I hope that will not be done by Provisional Orders placed before Parliament. Consider the situation that will exist if that happens. We are enabling a local authority to bring a scheme before the Minister for the compulsory purchase of pieces of land either inside or adjoining the city. The city then receives the approval of the Minister, who makes a Provisional Order, and Parliament has to debate and confirm it before the Corporation can proceed to purchase the land. The business of the House will be hopelessly cluttered up if local authorities, who ought to have powers of compulsory purchase, exercise those powers under an instrument of that sort. Therefore, I most sincerely hope that we are either going to have powers of compulsory purchase conferred upon all local authorities, with such general restrictions as Parliament may lay down, or, if local authorities in particular are going to have powers of compulsory purchase, that the House will on each occasion examine the way those powers are exercised by those authorities.

Mr. Windsor

Is there anything unusual in that?

Mr. Bevan

It is unusual in that a Provisional Order on each occasion comes before Parliament. My hon. Friend must visualise the circumstances. If each local authority in Great Britain could exercise those powers of compulsory purchase only by an order confirmed by Parliament, our business would be hopelessly cluttered up.

Mr. Windsor

I agree, but our general political machinery is built in that way. It is the only way in which we have powers to do it.

Mr. Bevan

On the contrary. I would just ask for powers of compulsory purchase outright and in accordance with the normal sanction of the Ministry of Health. There is no reason at all for Clause 6. Local authorities have powers of compulsory purchase now without considering the House of Commons. You do not need a provisional order to be placed before Parliament and confirmed by Parliament before the order is exercised. But here is a proposal that is both bold and timid—bold in asking what we on this side know they want, and timid in still wanting to erect a barrier against the exercise of it, that barrier being a form of control in each case where the powers are exercised. All the reactionary interests would block each order each time and we would have a whole series of Debates. Therefore, I hope that an instrument of this sort will not be repeated in any other Bills or in the wider legislation which the Minister proposes to bring before this House. My view, and probably that of many of_ my hon. Friends here, will depend entirely on the answer of the Minister. If he gives a firm assurance that all matters dealt with in the Bill are to be the subject of early legislation, then probably the Bill is unnecessary, and, if he does not, we shall vote for the Bill.

Mr. Reakes (Wallasey)

I feel that I must intervene in this discussion because I represent a very badly blitzed area, my own constituency of Wallasey, which, incidentally, is part of Merseyside, which has been very badly blitzed. I have taken great interest in the matter, and I am convinced that the authorities of the Merseyside blitzed areas and of many other blitzed towns throughout the country with not appreciate the action of the City of Hull in bringing forward this Bill as a method of approach to the problem. It is entirely wrong as a method of approach to this great problem. This is a national problem, requiring a national policy, and such a policy should be brought in immediately. I am not against Hull being premature; I am surprised that Hull and other blitzed areas have been so patient; but I feel convinced that if this Bill is proceeded with, it will do Hull more damage than good. We of the blitzed areas want a national policy.

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Mary-hill)

Surely the hon. Member does not intend that local authorities should sit still and do practically nothing until the national assembly does something?

Mr. Reakes

I do not say that at all. All I say is that we want a national policy, with priority for the labour available for reconstruction and priority as far as building and other materials are concerned, and the cost to be a national charge. This Bill asks for borrowing powers. It is an entirely wrong proceeding. We do not want Hull, Wallasey, Liverpool, Coventry or any other blitzed city or town to possess borrowing powers for this particular purpose. We ought to approach the matter in a way that will not make it necessary to borrow money for this sort of thing. I speak for myself, and I would never agree to a penny-piece being borrowed in order to make good enemy damage to our big cities and towns such as those enumerated in this discussion. I appeal to the promoters of the Bill to withdraw it. I would hate to go into the Division Lobby against it, not that I care twopence about my vote being misunderstood. I have voted a few times in this House, and I do not think that one of my votes has been understood outside. I am not much worried about that as long as my conscience is clear and we carry on good work. As I have said, I would hate to vote against the Bill, and I do not want to be forced to have to do it. The wisest possible thing is for the promoters to withdraw it after an assurance from the Government that the problems of bombed areas are going to be faced up to immediately on national lines. I cannot conceive of the Government failing to give us that assurance.

The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

I would not normally have intervened at this stage in a Private Bill. The normal course in these matters is for the Bill to go to a Committee, and it is at that stage that Departmental observations upon its contents are heard and considered by the Committee. I would have followed that course in this case had it not been for the fact that the Amendment standing on the Paper brings the matter before the House on the Second Reading of the Bill as an issue that we have to decide now. As it has been brought before us, I think it is only right that I should at this stage, give the purport of the evidence which my Department, on behalf of the Government, would give before the Committee, so that the House can make up its own mind on the matter. Quite briefly, the view of the Government is that this problem of the bombed cities is so vast, so complex and so general over the whole country, that it ought to be covered by a national code of legislation designed for that particular purpose. The code ought to be potent enough to enable the work to go ahead as soon as we can build again, and elastic enough to suit the wide variety of circumstances which exist, both comparing the damage which different localities have suffered and their native resources, which vary very considerably. The task of framing this legislation has not proved easy. Much research into the actual position of the local authorities in our towns and cities which have been affected has been necessary. The financial transaction itself is on a vast scale, and it has been necessary to go into these matters with great care, but a great deal of this work is accomplished, and I hope the House will have before it shortly a Bill embodying the Government's views on this particular—

Mr. A. Bevan

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "shortly"?

Mr. Morrison

In a short time.

Mr. Bevan

As that definition has been elastically used to cover years and weeks, will the right hon. Gentleman give us a more definite idea of what he means?

Mr. Morrison

I do not want the House to pin me to a date. There are one or two outstanding matters which have yet to be fixed up but I would hope myself that the House would have the Bill in a very short time—sufficient for it to pass the Bill before the end of the Session with ample time for consideration.

I am not here to anticipate the contents of that Bill and still less do I feel able to anticipate the shape in which it will emerge when it has been through this House of Commons. But I would say that the powers proposed to be conferred in it arc, in the view of the Government, powerful enough for the purposes which they have to achieve. These powers should enable Hull, and every other bombed city, to set about the task of reconstruction as soon as the day happily dawns when we can build again.

Mr. Reakes

Does that mean that preferential priority rights would be given to these particularly bombed areas?

Mr. Morrison

I am sure the House will agree with me that one of the first tasks which awaits our building energies will be the reconstruction of some of those cities which have suffered.

I would also point out that the general code to which I have referred will deal with two matters with which this Bill now before us does not and cannot deal. One is the restriction of the price of land to a standard comparable with pre-war values. The other is—and this will be necessary—a very greatly accelerated process in the acquisition of land for reconstruction purposes. These things I hope the Bill will contain, and I hope that the House will agree that they are necessary. These powers ought to be conferred upon Hull, not only upon Hull, but upon every city which has suffered resolutely in the cause of the country so that everyone can start fair when we can build again. The citizens of Hull have suffered great hardships, and they have suffered them with undaunted resolution and fortitude. The Corporation of Hull have shown the most praiseworthy zeal in preparing for peace. This Bill is an example of their zeal, but I am bound to say that if this Bill does go to a Committee, I shall be bound to offer there observations of the kind I have made to the House. With that, which is the best advice I can give to the House, I must leave it.

Mr. Muff (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)

The Minister has been disappointing in what he has had to say in regard to this particular Bill. With regard to his general policy—I should not be in Order in discussing it at length—he will soon become known as the Minister for Procrastination. I want to bring back the House to this Bill, which is really in two sections. There are the financial sections, to bring the funding of debt and the transferring of funds up to date, and to repeal a Bill which is now 63 years old. With regard to some of the other Clauses, dealing with the acquisition of land, I would remind the House that three of them are model Clauses which were drafted by the late Captain Bourne in 1936 with the help of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), because I noticed that his name is on the back of the Report. With regard to Clause 6, which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said was somewhat unusual, I am instructed that so far as municipal Bills are concerned, Clause 6 is quite ordinary in many Bills.

Now what is so extraordinary about this particular Bill? It is the Clause to enable the Corporation to lend money for the rehabilitation of shops, businesses, and, in some cases, houses. The reason why we ask for that Clause, which I believe is possessed by the Corporation of Liverpool and there are certainly other 13 corporations which have these powers or similar powers, is that we wish to put it in black and white that where a business has been bombed, and has improvised premises inside or outside the city, we are asking for powers because the credit of Hull is good. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Reakes) in a Sunday paper that Hull was bankrupt. We shall repay to the Treasury half a million of money which has been lent to us during our time of stress. We have only been able to do it at a terrible price, and that is because we kept the rates at 20S. 6d. in the That is the price we have had to pay financially in order to repay our debts, and we shall repay the last of the money in the course of the next few days, if not this week. So the credit of Hull stands high, and if a business has to be rebuilt, recasted, rehabilitated, we say, "Do not go into the dilapidated state of premises you were in before, we will help you to build something better." That is the reason for this unusual Clause asking for powers to lend money in order to rehabilitate and rebuild to the extent of 66-i per cent., to help these people to put 'their 'businesses in an efficient state. Not only that, but the shops and the houses as well. We come to this House and we ask it to do the normal thing and send the Bill upstairs to be examined in the proper and usual way.

The hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) very properly referred to the fact that the East Riding County Council is objecting—a proper thing to do; that Haltemprice Urban District Council is objecting—quite right; that the Holderness Rural District Council have a petition. The proper place to listen to those petitions is upstairs. I want to remind the House that there were 320,000 inhabitants in the city of Hull in, a congested area. A corresponding city Of the same size would have an acreage twice the amount of the acreage of the city of Hull. Therefore, within the Parliamentary area we had to acquire land and build upon it, and some of the finest housing estates—a credit to any municipal authority—have been built in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's constituency. We have had to do it, and we shall have to do more of it. We are not going to rob Bridlington of a petition. We do not want to rob Bridlington, 40 miles away, I believe, of their Naboth's Vineyard. We do not want to rob the hon. and gallant Member of any of his land; we want to rob him of some of his electors, and we shall do it. But that is another story.

The reason why we wish to do all this is owing to the dire need of Kingstonupon-Hull. Our industries were damaged within five days of the war breaking out. We lost many trawlers. I grant that instead of being under the Red Ensign, they were under the White Ensign—St. George's cross—and proud of it. Sometimes when I think of Hull, I think another cross ought to be given to symbolise such a place as Hull for the way it has borne up against its travail and tribulation and its 810 alerts. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a human problem. That is why I want the Bill to go upstairs. When the Prime Minister came to the dockside in East Hull, for the first time almost in his life, he could not make a speech. All he could say was, "The best that can be given should be given to such a place as this." We started in 1938 to build those surface shelters which were talked about and, as a result, a very small percentage of the population of Hull has been killed. That is bad enough, but if it had not been for the foresight of that municipal corporation it would have been much more. Night after night they went into their shelters, and the psychology of these resolute people was really epitomised in a little girl at the dockside.

The wife of a member of the Government told me this story. This was the little girl's reaction after spending night after night in a shelter, sitting on a hard concrete seat. She simply stretched herself and said, "Oh mum, my burn is numb." That, I put it, reflects the psychology of the people we four Members have the honour to represent. I support the Senior Member for North-West Hull (Colonel Sir Lambert Ward) in his introduction of the Bill, and also the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. Windsor) in supporting it, and I say to the House that it would be a gracious act of the House to do the usual thing, not the unusual thing, and give this Bill a Second Reading and send it upstairs to be examined. I hope the House will give a Second Reading for the Bill without a Division.

Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)

It is often said that adversity makes strange bedfellows. My hon. Friend the Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) is, I think, the most fervent supporter of the Government in the House.

Mr. Muff

Of course I am.

Mr. Buchanan

I am usually the most fervent opponent of the Government but on this occasion he opposes the Government while I intend to support them. My hon. Friend made a great speech about the City of Hull, with which nobody would disagree. To defeat this Bill would make us feel that we had done something to that great city, which has passed through very difficult times. That is the issue. What are the facts? The Minister has just made a statement to the House. I have no patience with the view that Hull should have to wait, or that Hull should not get exceptional powers. I remember Liverpool once getting certain powers to deal with messengers and boys, powers that were granted to nobody else because we took the view that Liverpool, as a great port, should have the powers and that if they were desirable we could extend them. The Minister has now said that the Government intend to introduce a Bill to cover not only Hull but every bombed city in the country. What is wrong with that? That is a great victory for Hull. I am sure Hull would be the last city to think that only its problems were to be solved after the great bombing of our cities. Hull has succeeded in getting from the Minister the statement that not only is she to be saved, but that every other bombed city in the country is to be saved. That is a real step forward. A service has been rendered in bringing forward this Bill, because the Government have said they intend to proceed on certain lines and that they will pass their Measure before the end of the Session.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Hull asked the House to give this Bill a Second Reading and to send it upstairs. If that were to happen a Committee would have to consider purely a Hull Bill. But who could discuss a local Bill with a Bill such as that which the Government envisage in the offing? What we have been asked to do is to pass this Bill and give Hull the opportunity of engaging counsel and making preparations for rehabilitation. How can we do that when we know that at the end of it all the rejection of such a Bill is almost certain. Nevertheless, I welcome Hull's action; they have done a magnificent piece of work. I also welcome the Minister's statement and I hope that the Govern- ment's Measure will be introduced without delay and will be a real contribution to the benefit of those places which deserve well of us all.

Sir George Schuster (Walsall)

I do not want to make a speech on this Bill; I merely want to ask the Minister of Town and Country Planning a question. Many of us have been listening to this Debate with great interest because we may have constituencies that were most anxious to support Hull in getting these powers. There are many towns that would not necessarily be classed as badly blitzed towns yet which require schemes for rearrangement of their industries just as badly as if Hitler had destroyed them. The Minister has said to Hull, "You wait. Within a short time—and that means within a time which will give us a chance of getting a Bill through before the end of the Session—you will get an Act of Parliament which will not merely enable you to purchase land by agreement but will give you power to acquire land compulsorily at prices comparable to those prevailing in 1939." The question I want to ask is this: Am I, as a representative of a county borough, entitled to say to my people: "You are quite safe in going ahead in making all your plans. You will not be wasting your time. The Government intend to bring in a Measure and if they get through the House what they propose to do you will have ample latitude for the making of reasonable arrangements"?

Mr. Speaker

I must point out that the asking of this question has nothing to do with Hull, and I do not see how the Minister could answer it.

Sir G. Schuster

I was merely asking my right hon. Friend to elucidate a statement which he himself made, a statement which, I understand, might very much influence the way some of us vote if there is to be a Division.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Ayr and Bute, Northern)

My intention is to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill on this ground. The people who are opposing it have nothing very definite against the Bill; it is really more against the Government. If Hull wants the Bill—and we hear that there will be petitions against it—it seems that the most sensible thing the House can do is to give it a Second Reading and let it go upstairs and be considered by one of our Committees, which will hear evidence on oath from both sides. After that, the House can then throw the Bill out on the Third Reading if it likes.

Mr. A. Bevan

May I point out that the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion would be that Hull would be invited to spend a large amount of money on things which would be entirely abortive, because the same situation as arises now would arise again.

Sir C. MacAndrew

That is quite true, but I would be out of Order in going into all that now. When I was Chairman of the Private Bill Committees I did all I could to hurry them on, because there was a great deal of money wasted. Nevertheless, when a great Corporation like Hull asks for a Bill like this I would vote for the Second Reading anyhow.

Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)

There are two main points which speakers in support of this Bill made—first, that the Bill should go through now in order that Hull may be helped because of her severe blitzing, and, second, that the powers Hull now possesses are quite out of date and ought to be brought into line with those of other great cities. Every Member in the House wants to see Hull have every possible advantage because of the severe blitzing that city has undergone. But we have heard from the Minister of Town and Country Planning that legislation is coming before the House this Session which will satisfy that first point. Hull will not be able to get on with rehabilitation any quicker by having this Bill than by waiting for the main legislation of Parliament. That seems to be an essential point. Therefore, it will not help Hull at all to have the Bill through on that point. As to Hull's greater powers, I think it would be in the interest of that city to wait until this legislation has gone through so that Hull can reconsider her position in the light of the new legislation which will affect all local authorities in the country.

It may well be that Hull will find some Clauses in the proposed Bill will not be necessary when the new legislation which the Minister has promised goes through. On the other hand, Hull may find that new Clauses will be required as additions to the new legislation. I think it would save the ratepayers' money and the time of Parliament, which is most important, if this Bill were dropped now until the legislation which the Minister of Town and Country Planning has promised has been passed. I came here intending to take the action which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) has taken. I want to see Hull have all the powers to develop quickly. Having heard the Minister I think Hull will have that opportunity

Divison No. 17. AYES.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown) Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Barnes, A. J. Hughes, R. Moelwyn Schuster, Sir G. E.
Barr, J. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C, (E'burgh) Sexton, T. M.
Barstow, P. G. Hynd, J. B. Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)
Beaumont, Hubert (Bailey) Key, C. W. Shinwell, E
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwall) Kirkwood, D. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Leslie, J. R. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Burden, T. W. Liddall, W. S. Sorensen, R. W.
Burke, W. A. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Spearman, A. C. M.
Cove, W. G. McKinlay, A. S. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Maitland, Sir A. Tinker, J. J.
Enlwistle, Sir C. F. Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E. Viant, S. P.
Errington, Squadron-Leader E. Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest) Walkden, E. (Doncaster)
Foster, W. Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury) Watson, W. McL.
Frankel, D. Naylor, T. E. Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh, Cen.)
Furness, S. N. Oldfield, W. H. Wayland, Sir W. A.
Gallacher, W. Oliver, G. H. Windsor, W.
Gibbins, J. Price, M. P. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Gledhill, G. Pritt, D. N. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Goldie, N. B. Quibell, D.J. K.
Groves, T. E. Riley, B. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—
Guy, W. H. Ritson, J. Colonel Sir Lambert Ward and
Mr. G Muff.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Daggar, G. Hopkinson, A.
Adamson, W. M. (Cannock) Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Howitt, Dr. A. B.
Albery, Sir Irving De Chair, Capt. S. S. Isaacs, G. A.
Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J (Sc'h Univ.) Denman, Hon. R. D. Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.
Apsley, Lady Debbie, W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Douglas, F. C. R. Jewson, P. W.
Bartlett, C. V. O. Drewe, C. John, W.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. Driberg, T. E. N. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)
Beaumont, Maj. Hon. R. E. D, (P'ts'h) Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.
Beech, Major F. W. Duckworth, W. R, (Moss Side) Keeling, E. H.
Beechman, N. A. Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich) Kendall, W. D.
Beit, Sir A. L. Edmondson, Major Sir J. Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Benson, G. Elliot, Li.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E. Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)
Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham) Elliston, Captain Sir G. S. King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.
Bevan, A, (Ebbw Vale) Emmott, C. E. G. C. Kirby, B. V.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. Fildes, Sir H. Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Bossom, A. C. Fleming, Squadron-Leader E. L. Lawson, J. J. (Cheiter-le Street)
Bowles, F. G. Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale) Leach, W.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Galbrailh, Comdr. T. D. Lindsay, K. M.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. J. G. (H'dern's) Gammans, Capt. L. D. Lipson, D. L.
Brass, Capt. Sir W. Gates, Major E. E. Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)
Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R. Gibson, Sir C. G. Loftus, P. C.
Brooke, H. (Lewisham) Glanville, J. E. Longhurst, Captain H. C.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R. Lucas, Major Sir J. M.
Buchanan, G. Green, W. H. (Deptford) Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard
Cadogan, Major Sir E. Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)
Campbell, Dermot (Antrim) Greenwell, Colonel T. G. McEntee, V. La T.
Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.
Carver, Colonel W. H. Gridley, Sir A. B. Mack, J. D.
Cary, R. A. Gunston, Major Sir D. W. McKie, J. H.
Castlereagh, Viscount Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H. Maclean, N. (Govan)
Challen, Flight-Lieut. C. Hambro, Capt. A. V. Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Hammersley, S. S. Mathers, G.
Cobb, Captain E. C. Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J,
Conant, Major R. J. E. Harvey, T. E. Mitchell, Colonel H. P.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Molson, A. H. E.
Crooke, Sir J. Smedley Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Montague, F.
Crowder, Capt. J. F. E. Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)
Culverwell, C. T. Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P. Mort, D. L.

and I suggest that in her own interests as well as in the interests of national planning this Bill should not have its Second Reading now.

Question put, "That the words pro-posed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 66; Noes, 177.

Murray, Sir D. K. (Midlothian, N.) Ross Taylor, W. Teeling, Flight-Lieut. W.
Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor) Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth) Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)
Nail, Sir J. Salt, E. W. Wakefield, W. W.
Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Savory, Professor D. L. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.) Scott, Donald (Wansbeck) Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Nield, Lt.-Col. B. E. Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k) Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Rithmond)
Nunn, W. Shephard, S. Webbe, Sir W. Harold
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Shepperson, Sir E. W. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Pearson, A Shuts, Col. Sir J. J. Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Smith, E. P. (Ashford) White, H, (Derby, N. E.)
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)
Plugge, Capt. L. F. Smith, T. (Normanton) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)
Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Snadden, W. McN. Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Prescott, Capt. W. R. S. Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J. Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.
Procter, Major H. A. Stokes, R. R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Raiket, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M. Storey, S. Wootton-Davies, J. H.
Rankin, Sir R. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.) York, Major C.
Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey) Strickland, Capt. W. F. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Robertson, D. (Streatham) Tasker, Sir R. I. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—
Ross, Sir R. O. (Londonderry) Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne) Major M. Pethcrick and
Mr. T. Levy.

Proposed words there added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That this House, believing that reconstruction after bomb damage is essentially a matter for public legislation, declines to give'a Second Reading to a Bill which will enable a local authority to frame its own code for this purpose.