§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [11th July], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Silkin (Peckham)
In the course of the Debate yesterday a number of hon. Members expressed the view that only by public ownership of land could we get effective and comprehensive national planning. Those hon. Members were not confined to these Benches, and with their views I wholeheartedly agree. I venture to say that any hon. Member concerned with town planning and sincerely desirous of carrying out effective planning, must, eventually, come to the same conclusion, no matter to which party he may belong. I still have hopes that my right hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill may eventually arrive at that conclusion. I hold this view, not necessarily because of political predilections, although I am bound to say that nationalisation of the land is an important part of Labour policy. I believe that if one approaches this question afresh, purely from the point of view of planning, one must come to the conclusion that only by public ownership of land can we get really effective planning.
The Government appear to have gone some little way in this direction, because the Bill does provide for an increase in the power of local authorities to acquire land. However, I quite realise that one does not expect a Measure for the nationalisation of the land to be forthcoming from a Coalition Government. This Bill is the least common measure of agreement between the different parties in the Coalition. With possibly two exceptions, every hon. Member would adhere to the view that it is urgently necessary to secure a Measure for the purpose of replanning and redeveloping our blitzed owns, and for the purpose of redevelop-mg obsolescent areas and the areas of oad lay-out. One of the hon. Members who does not agree has already spoken in this Debate. Apart from those two I imagine that every Member will agree that some sort of Measure has to be produced.
1748 Moreover, it must be said that the only existing bodies capable of carrying out the replanning and redevelopment of our blitzed towns are the local authorities. They represent a very essential factor in the solution of the problem. It is, therefore, to be regretted that the Minister of Town and Country Planning, did not treat the local authorities with his usual tact and discretion. I admit that on one occasion when he met us to discuss the provisions of the Bill, he treated us with the utmost courtesy, as one would expect from him, but the fact remains that the representatives of local authorities, when seen on one occasion by my right hon. Friend, with the provisions of the Bill—or some of them—in front of them, were not so treated. I happened to be a member of the group of representatives which saw my right hon. Friend. We met him under considerable difficulty. Even on that occasion, we did not have the whole Bill in front of us, but only portions of it. Some parts were actually handed to us when we were seeing my right hon. Friend. Anyone who has read the Bill and noted its complexity, will realise that it must have been extremely difficult for us to grasp the bits of the Bill as presented to us on that occasion.
The Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday that it did not matter about seeing local authorities. In fact, according to him, it was more important that the House should see the Bill before the local authorities. That is quite an intelligible point of view, but in that case why did my right hon. Friend take the trouble to invite the local authorities to see him at all? If there was to have been consultation with the local authorities before the Bill came to the House, that consultation should have been adequate, and the local authorities ought to have had an opportunity of making representations to my right hon. Friend, which would have had some influence on the Bill as presented to the House. In fact—and I think this is within the recollection of my right hon. Friend—he explained that he was in some difficulty; that here was the Bill which had been agreed to by the War Cabinet and that it was not possible, at that late stage, to make any important alterations to it. As a matter of fact, some alterations were made, but not at the instance of the interested local authorities. The local authorities can make or mar town planning, and it is essential that their 1749 opinions should be considered. Some suggestion was made yesterday in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest) to the effect that the local authorities were run by, I think he said, one or two Socialists. If that were the case, I would be one of them.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I did not make that statement. It was Conservative Members opposite who made that extraordinary suggestion.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
Does the hon. Member think that the local authorities, at this moment, thoroughly represent the people? I believe in the local authorities.
§ Mr. Silkin
I would like to assure the House that I have no desire nor have I the power to run the associations of local authorities, and even if I wished it, I have not the slightest doubt that they would not take very much dictation from me. The question that the Noble Lady has just raised was also raised, of whether the associations of local authorities represented the local authorities. They are the persons who are elected by the local authorities themselves, to speak on their behalf, and I would say that they are as much representative of the local authorities themselves as we in this House are representative of the people of this country. We can only hope, having been sent here, that we do, in fact, express the views of those who have sent us. That is the position of the local authorities. Some of them actually had meetings and got confirmation of the statement that was presented to hon. Members in this House. In other cases it was not possible to get meetings in time, but I have every belief that the views expressed would, in fact, be approved by the constituent bodies.
Ever since the blitz of 1940-41, the people living in the blitzed towns have been led to believe that after this war their towns would be replanned and redeveloped in such a way as to make them better and more beautiful and healthier places to live in. All sorts of hon. Members and right hon. Members have expressed themselves on those lines, no one more eloquently than my right hon. Friend himself. The Prime Minister has taken a hand, and in his usual picturesque language has talked about the new towns rising phoenix-like from the ruins of the 1750 old, and giving a promise of the kind to which my hon. Friend the Senior Burgess for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Pickthorn) objects. But promises have been held out to the people in these towns that every power would be given to the local authorities to enable their towns to be replanned, and redeveloped, in the way in which they would wish. These towns have been encouraged, indeed exhorted, to prepare ambitious long-term plans, showing a vision of how they would like their towns to be redeveloped. London has prepared such a plan, as have Plymouth, Hull, Southampton, Bristol and many other towns. All these authorities have been encouraged to believe that it would be made possible for their towns to be redeveloped along those lines. In London we held an exhibition of the County of London Plan and my right hon. Friend was good enough to open it. I will not quote what he said on that occasion, but they were very charming words, and he gave us very great encouragement. He led us to believe that we should be given the powers necessary to develop London along the lines of the County of London Plan. Later, when he was called upon to make observations upon that plan, his only comment was that perhaps it did not go quite far enough in certain respects and that we ought to have gone further, particularly in the question of open spaces.
That is the atmosphere which was created in the country—expectancy of measures to enable those towns to carry out redevelopment, along the lines promised. Then we get the Town and Country Planning Bill, and I must say to this House that the Bill created consternation in those circles, which were capable of understanding and appreciating its defects—among persons of good will, who are keen on the replanning and redevelopment of our towns which need it, either as a result of blitz or otherwise, and particularly among the local authorities who will be called upon to work the Bill. I studied this Bill, possibly as carefully as any hon. Member in this House, and I am bound to say that judged by the one test, namely whether it will enable the replanning and redevelopment of our towns to take place in the manner promised and in the manner in which they ought to be redeveloped, this Bill fails.
§ Mr. Silkin
I submit that this Bill fails on three main grounds. First, the Bill does not give local authorities the necessary powers to acquire land for the purpose of carrying out their redevelopment plans. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday that those of us who talked in this way, confused the acquisition of land with planning. Really I must say that the shoe is on the other foot. It is my hon. Friend who is guilty of that confusion, because if we could redevelop our towns merely as a result of planning, this Bill would be quite unnecessary. We had a Town and Country Planning Act in 1932 and another in 1943, but those two Measures together do not permit the necessary redevelopment to be carried out. My right hon. Friend has recognised that it is necessary to acquire land on a large scale to carry out planning adequately, and it is for that reason that this Measure has been introduced. I say that the powers are not adequate to enable adequate planning to take place. I say that the approach to replanning is wrong, and inadequate.
This Measure contemplates that towns shall be redeveloped piecemeal. Other hon. Members have used that expression already. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary does not like it, but it is perfectly true. It contemplates that in a town like Plymouth or Hull, there will be certain areas, which have suffered extensive war damage and which are capable of redevelopment as a whole. They can be acquired by the local authorities, together with the additional land necessary to make a good scheme. Then, somewhere else, there is another bit of land, the subject of bad lay-out and obsolete development, and local authorities will be empowered, with the approval of the Minister, to acquire that land. There may be other places where it is necessary to acquire land to secure balanced development for other purposes laid down in Clause To of the Bill, and local authorities will be permitted to acquire that land. But that is not planning; that is merely permitting piecemeal, patchwork development.
This Bill has, of course, abandoned altogether any possibility of national planning. There is no question of national 1752 planning. Each authority is to be encouraged to go its own way as before, and carry out such pieces of redevelopment as it thinks necessary. The Bill has even abandoned regional or local planning. This is not a planning Bill, but a Bill which permits pieces of redevelopment in different parts of a town. I want to be quite fair to my right hon. Friend. It may work in certain towns, by using the procedures under Clauses I, 9 and 10. Those procedures together, if there is a generous interpretation of them, may allow of some sort of comprehensive planning, but there is no guarantee that that will be the case. I will give two instances within the knowledge of every hon. Member. In the County of London Plan there is a proposal to create precincts. One of the precincts is this House. It is desired to redevelop the area round the Houses of Parliament, so as to avoid the necessity of through traffic running past the House, and thus to make it a quiet area. I think everyone would agree that that is a desirable aim, but for that purpose it will be necessary to redevelop this part, and to acquire bits of Abingdon Street, and I suggest that this Bill does not give the powers to acquire that land. There is no existing power, and therefore such a measure of redevelopment would not be possible under this Bill.
The Bill uses terms like "extensive war damage" and "areas of bad layout and obsolete development," and I should like to know what my right hon. Friend understands by those terms. How does the Bill interpret them? There is no definition of them. Would he say that Plymouth is an area of bad lay-out and obsolete development, or that Hull is, or the East End of London? I could take my right hon. Friend to parts of the East End of London which have not, so far, been badly blitzed—whole areas—but everyone would agree that the East End of London ought to be redeveloped as a whole, that it is not a fit subject for patchwork development. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what my right hon. Friend means by an area of extensive war damage. But even when he has explained his 'conception of it he does not necessarily bind his successor—and there may be a successor one day. I would prefer that there should be some definition of an area of extensive war damage and that it should not be left to the discretion of any Minis- 1753 ter, however enthusiastic he may be. But this is not merely a matter for the Minister of Town and Country Planning. After all, it is the local authorities who have to take the initiative, and if they do not get more guidance than is contained in this Bill as to what is to be regarded as an area of extensive war damage or an area of bad lay-out and obsolete development—matters upon which there can be all sorts of different opinions—on that point alone I feel that the Bill will be found to be unworkable.
I want at this stage to make a special plea for one area in this country which has suffered, is suffering and probably is going to suffer, extensive damage. I refer to that part of the South of England which, until recently, we have not been allowed to mention, and that is London. In view of the fact that London is probably the greatest victim of enemy action in this country, and in view of its large size, and therefore of the importance of special powers for planning such an area, I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would not be possible to give London special powers such as it has in so many other Measures of this sort.
§ Mr. Silkin
I am not particular. I ask that the powers should be given to the planning authority, whatever it is. I would not create new planning authorities. Indeed, one of my criticisms of this Bill is that it perpetuates the existing system of planning authorities. I would draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to this point: Everyone would agree that Greater London, for instance, the whole of the built-up area of London, should be redeveloped as a whole, but there are, at present, 77 separate planning authorities and what sort of plan one is likely to get from 77 planning authorities, in an area which ought to be redeveloped as a whole, can well be imagined. I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether the existing planning authorities are, necessarily, the best to carry out the task. Next, I should like to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the point that, although he is asking local authorities to carry out comprehensive planning, he is not giving them power to acquire, by compulsory purchase, open spaces for 1754 hospitals. I recognise that when they acquire a large area, the authorities will be permitted to redevelop it in such a way as to provide open spaces, but they may want to acquire a piece of land for the specific purpose of an open space, and this Bill confers no power to acquire such land compulsorily. It does not even give the powers for compulsory purchase which have been recommended by the Uthwatt Committee, and I should have thought the recommendations of that Committee were a bare minimum, as regards the powers of local authorities to acquire land.
I would next say a few words upon what the Bill does not provide. I think most hon. Members will agree that ribbon development has been one of the greatest evils in the inter-war years, but nothing is done about ribbon development in this Bill. No additional powers for dealing with it are conferred by the Bill, although my right hon. Friend will be aware that the Scott Committee has stated, in terms, that the existing powers are inadequate. What is my right hon. Friend going to do about this admitted evil of ribbon development? Then we have the problem, prevalent throughout the country, of buildings which do not conform to any reasonable plan. The Uthwatt Committee recommended that it should be open to local authorities, with the consent of the Minister, to give a life to such buildings, and that any compensation payable in respect of their acquisition should be based upon such life. This is one of the important recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee, but it has been completely ignored.
There is another omission which is very important in respect of areas of bad layout and obsolete development. The Uthwatt Committee recommended that where in such an area—"any reconstruction area" as they called it, and they made no distinction between an area of extensive war damage and an area of bad lay-out and Obsolete development—there was property which was coming to the end of its useful life, and which the local authority acquired because it could not be made to conform to any reasonable standard, or for any other reason, the local authority should assume that it had a life of not more than to years. That is a very important provision. As the Bill stands, local authorities will be 1755 required to pay compensation based upon what the property was worth in 1939, even though then, and the premises are five or six years older now, they were probably coming to the end of their life.
Then there is general recognition of the fact that the existing town and country planning procedure is quite inadequate, and too slow, complex, and cumbersome for the purpose of carrying out adequate town planning. There is no provision in this Bill for the amendment of the Town and Country Planning Act. My right hon. Friend has said that he hopes in some future Measure to deal with the amendment of the Town and Country Planning Act, but if local authorities are expected, when the war is over, to carry out comprehensive planning, and if this Bill is so urgent that my right hon. Friend refuses to take it back even for one week, surely it is equally urgent to amend the Town and Country Planning Act. I do not want to disguise the fact that this Bill does confer new powers on local authorities, and fairly important powers. Clause 16 confers upon local authorities a power to carry out development of a kind for which they formerly did not possess powers—to build offices, factories, workshops and so on; but my right hon. Friend has so carefully circumscribed that power that I doubt whether any authority will ever, in fact, exercise that power. First, they can only act with his consent. Secondly, that consent will be withheld he can find anybody who is willing to carry out this redevelopment at the time and in the manner requested.
What does that mean? He will always find somebody to carry out this redevelopment if there is profit in it. He will only fail to get it carried out if it cannot be done except at a loss. I am not arguing the case of private enterprise against public enterprise, but replanning will be a costly matter and the burden will fall on the local inhabitants. They will bear all losses and all deficiencies. Let us admit that by a certain redevelopment scheme a local authority, who, after all, are only the ratepayers, can make a profit. Why should they have to give that profit to some private person rather than keep it for the benefit of their own ratepayers? The Minister could give way ton this point without prejudice to the 1756 general question of private enterprise or public enterprise. Why should local authorities always incur the losses and have to hand profits to private enterprise? They are allowed, for instance, to build working-class houses, but not to build middle-class houses, although that might be necessary in order to get a really effective scheme of mixed development. They have to hand over the better-class housing to private enterprise to make a profit out of it while they make a loss on the working-class houses. I do ask my right hon. Friend to be a little more practical and a little more generous.
I turn to another provision which I admit can be dealt with on the Committee stage but it is important and one of the various matters which, taken together, do make this a really bad Bill. Under Clause 15 the Minister is empowered to direct a local authority which has acquired land compulsorily, to dispose of it to somebody. He does not say on what terms. He does not say to whom, and there is no appeal against my right hon. Friend. I am sure he would never act unreasonably, but his successor might, and, moreover, his idea of what is unreasonable may differ very widely from the conception of the local authority which has acquired this land, and there is no appeal against it. He allows an appeal in every other way, but never an appeal in this. So much for the powers.
Now I want to say a word about the machinery, and I do not apologise to the House for speaking about it, because it is very important. If the machinery is unsatisfactory, or inadequate, it must have its repercussions on the speed and the manner in which re-planning will take place. It will be conceded that if these powers are to be given to local authorities, then they ought to be given in such a way as to enable the authorities to acquire land simply and speedily. If you do not believe that, why give them powers at all? I listened to my right hon. Friend's explanation yesterday as to why there were different powers conferred in this Bill, and I rather gathered from what he said that he regarded it as a virtue, on some occasions, to make the procedure slow and to put difficulties in the way of local authorities. This Bill provides at least three different methods of acquiring land. I understood the Minister to say that, sometimes, it was a good thing to 1757 put obstacles in the way of local authorities and make them proceed slowly, and sometimes it was necessary to make them proceed quickly. But if they are to have these powers at all, surely it is necessary that they should carry them out in an effective way? The very fact that there are diffeent methods under this Bill is bound to make the procedure complicated and slow. Sometimes there are two different ways in which a local authority can proceed. They can proceed either under one power or another, and if they proceed under the wrong power, there is the High Court available to quash the proceedings and make them start over again.
I wonder why all these difficulties are put in the way? Does my right hon. Friend deliberately provide for different methods of acquiring land because he believes it is not a good thing that land should be acquired under a speedy procedure? I would like him to explain whether he really means that, because that is how I understood his speech of yesterday. Even so-called "speedy procedure" is not so very speedy. It requires local authorities, first to prepare particulars of the way in which they want to redevelop the area and that, in itself, is a fairly lengthy procedure. A local authority may know perfectly well that it ought to acquire an area because it is one which ought to be redeveloped as a whole, though it may not be necessary, at once, to say exactly how it is to be developed. But it is a condition of the application for an Order that the local authority should say exactly how the area is to be made up, and that they should give detailed particulars. This, in a way, might even stultify them, because they would necessarily have to do these things in a hurry. They are allowed only five years to do the whole thing, and if they advertise to the world that they are going to carry out their development in a certain way, it makes it very difficult for them to change their minds, as they might well want to do. That is a stumbling block to the acquisition of land, even under the scheme of procedure.
Then my right hon. Friend insists upon an inquiry even if there is only one objector to the acquisition of the land—one objector out of hundreds or thousands, as the case may be—and that objection may be frivolous because the objector is not 1758 bound to give his reasons for objecting. All he has to do is to say, "I object," and there is bound to be a public inquiry. I listened very carefully to the reason given by my right hon. Friend for having a public inquiry. He proved that an inquiry was such a good thing, that I wonder he does not have scores of them. Why does he not make provision for them all over the Bill if they are so good? They educate the public, they let the public know exactly what is going on, and so on. But let us come down to practical questions. I, probably, have attended as many public inquiries as any Member of this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "As a lawyer?"] No, not as a lawyer, in a political capacity, as Chairman of the Housing Committee of the London County Council, and I have seen the kind of objections that are put forward to any scheme. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary seems to imagine that the Council for the Preservation of Rural England is always putting up objections. Nothing of the kind. The only people who put up objections are the owners of property. My hon. Friend may shake his head; his experience may differ from mine, and I would concede that there may, occasionally, be something in it, but I should say that in 999 cases out of 1,000—and then I have under-stated it—the objectors are interested in the property.
I would like my right hon. Friend to look at the area of extensive war damage which needs to be re-developed as a whole and to consider what kind of objection an owner of property can possibly have to it. What is the owner actually going to say? Is he going to say, "This area need not be developed as a whole, because I own some property in it"? My right hon. Friend has, after all, powers of restraint over the excitable local authorities who rush to acquire land as soon as possible. He can stop them if he wants to. But what is a person going to say at such an inquiry? As far as I can see, all he can say is, "I own land in this area, and I do not want you to acquire that land." That is not a valid objection. I do not remember any single case in which a local authority has set up a scheme and there has been an inquiry, and in which the local authority has not got the order. If my right hon. Friend were generous in giving the order, what would be the public reaction to an in- 1759 quiry? The public would only think, "What is the use of a public inquiry? The local authority always gets its way," and so it does. Is the holding of an inquiry one more method of slowing up procedure? There is a very recent instance, of which my right hon. Friend is aware—the case of the acquisition of Oxhey by the London County Council. They first decided to acquire Oxhey compulsorily in October last year, and it took two months to do the references. Under Clause I, the Minister is abolishing the references. Objections were made and in February my right hon. Friend or the Minister of Health—I am not certain which——
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
It was the Minister of Health in that case.
§ Mr. Silkin
I have no reason to think that my right hon. Friend will move any faster than the Minister of Health. The public inquiry was held in February, and a decision has not yet been given. We are now in July, which means that six months have elapsed. This is a relatively simple case. The Minister of Health is not very busy with inquiries at the present time, but when you get hundreds, perhaps thousands, of inquiries throughout the country, what sort of delay is there going to be? I do submit to my right hon. Friend that he ought to think again. The Uthwatt Committee recommended that the inquiry should be the exception, but the Minister said yesterday that it would be a difficult burden to place on him to decide which was an exceptional case and that, in actual practice, he would decide that there should be an inquiry in every case. I have a feeling that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are quite capable of judging what is an exceptional case. I doubt whether there are any exceptional cases.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Henry Strauss)
I am sure my hon. Friend does not want to misrepresent what I said. I made my view clear that the Minister, whoever he might be and to whatever party he might belong, if he had a discretion to hold a public inquiry, would always do so in a hotly contested case, of which, incidentally, Oxhey is an admirable example.
§ Mr. Silkin
I was really paying a compliment to my hon. Friend. That is not all. When the local authority has got over its inquiry, and has at last got its order, and is going to enter into possession, it has to wait 21 days. There may be an appeal to the High Court against the validity of the order, and the owner may go to the King's Bench Division. He may even go to the Court of Appeal, and, with the consent of that court, he may go to the House of Lords. This sort of procedure is by no means fanciful. We have had such cases in connection with the redevelopment powers under the Housing Act of 1936 and, in fact, there are certain actions pending which have been held up because of the war, and which will go to the House of Lords, challenging the validity of such orders.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? Are we to understand that the purpose of his present argument is to prevent an aggrieved subject going to the courts, and contending before the courts that an order made was ultra viros? That seems to be the only point in his argument.
§ Mr. Silkin
I was pointing out the cumulative effect of all these delays in a case where it is recognised that urgent procedure is necessary, and the House can draw its own inference. I was pointing out that this is the so-called "speedy procedure." It may well be that the five years will run out before a local authority gets its order at all. Even less satisfactory is the procedure in the case of the acquisition of land required for certain planning purposes under Clause 10, and in the case of land required for replacement under Clause 3. In these cases the reference which my right hon. Friend denounced yesterday still has to operate. He has not done away with referencing, and I imagine these must be cases in which the Minister thinks it desirable that local authorities should go slow. Clause 10 provides that local authorities may acquire land for such things as balanced development, and so on, all very necessary for the purpose of development, but 1761 there they have got to go slow, by order of my right hon. Friend.
Moreover, my right hon. Friend himself pointed out that in many cases there will be a large number of separate ownerships. I think he referred to 500 in Portsmouth. I can beat that, because there are over 1,000 ownerships in the central area of Coventry. If you take London, an area of extensive war damage, depending on the Minister's definition of such an area, the figure may well run into thousands of separate ownerships. It makes the procedure extremely complicated, though I admit that in such an area it will not be necessary to give individual notices. But in an area required for development, which may be an equally large area, there may be as many separate ownerships, and each owner, each mortgagee, each occupier and each lessee would have to receive a separate notice. As my right hon. Friend knows, three, four, or five notices may have to be served in respect of each separate property. That is not done away with.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask my right hon. Friend a question, which I hope he will regard as a friendly one? He knows, and I know, that many of these separate owners are not large landowners, but people who have invested their whole life's capital in a single house. Does he suggest that they should be at the mercy of the local authorities?
§ Mr. Silkin
My right hon. Friend's questions are always friendly. I am not aware that, whenever a person owns a house he has, therefore, invested all his capital in it. It may happen, and it may not. But in any case they are not at the mercy of the local authorities. I was referring to the tremendous opportunities there are for holding up the local authorities under this Bill. Some of this machinery is available for five years only, and some of it for two years only, from the commencement of this Act. It may happen that some of that two years will be in war-time, when it will not be possible to do anything. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend intends that some of the powers shall be exercised in war-time, but that is the effect of some of the Clauses. I submit that the financial assistance which is given to the local authorities under this Bill is inadequate 1762 in scope and inadequate in amount. It is limited to areas of extensive war damage.
It may be that my right hon. Friend intends that planning shall be confined to such areas—certainly that will be the effect of these proposals. Local authorities will be very reluctant to carry out comprehensive planning, affecting areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development, when they will get no contribution from the Exchequer, in respect of such development, Some of the contributions are limited to two years. I would refer my right hon. Friend to Section 5, Sub-section (2), under which, even in an area of extensive war damage, where land is required for redevelopment, the contribution on such land is limited to two years. There is no possibility of an extension in that case, as there is in certain other cases. I would like my right hon. Friend to explain why no financial assistance is being given to local authorities, to carry out these additional powers for the redevelopment of areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development. Obviously, they cannot carry out this redevelopment al a profit; there is bound to be a loss. A great many local authorities simply cannot afford, in view of the heavy burdens already placed upon them by the Education Act, and the comprehensive local services which they will inevitably have to undertake, to carry out any redevelopment which they are not absolutely obliged to carry out. There is no provision at all for the acquisition of open spaces, and all our towns are notoriously short of open spaces. Probably the first item in regard to the redevelopment of any land will be the acquisition of open spaces. Moreover, the contribution is limited to the cost of acquisition of land, but in the process of redevelopment, local authorities are bound to lose a considerable amount of rateable value, which they can ill afford. Some of that loss may well be permanent.
I want to say a word about the 1939 values on which land will be acquired. I have no particular quarrel with the method by which local authorities will acquire land at the 1939 price. But may I remind my right hon. Friend that, on one occasion, when he addressed the Housing and Town Planning Conference, he gave a specific pledge that local authorities would be permitted to acquire land at a price not exceeding the 1939 1763 price? I had the privilege on that occasion of proposing a vote of thanks to him, and I told him then that I would hold him to that promise. Nevertheless, I do not object to the Government thinking again on that point. It is probable that enabling local authorities to acquire land at the 1939 price is rough justice, but there are two exceptions which ought to be made. One is where land is no longer in the condition in which it was in in 1939. It would be grossly unfair that local authorities should still be required to pay the 1939 price. Another is that a good deal of land has changed hands since 1939, and has been bought up by speculators at less than the 1939 price. In those cases it would be grossly wrong for the local authorities to be required to pay a price beyond what the land is worth, merely to put profits into the pockets of speculators. In due course I shall ask my right hon. Friend to incorporate those exceptions in the Clause.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
Why does the hon. Member say that it is to put profits into the pockets of the speculators?
§ Mr. Silkin
I thought I had made that clear. I believe that the objections which I have made to the Bill are formidable and fundamental, and that they go to the root of it. In other circumstances, nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to move to reject the Bill, but I shall not do so, for reasons which the House can guess, particularly because my right hon. Friend has undertaken not to take the Money Resolution—which was drawn in terms that would have prevented any Amendment to the Bill at all—and also because my right hon. Friend has given an undertaking that he will see the local authorities and discuss this Bill with them, and that he will accept Amendments, even though they are drastic, and I submit that only drastic Amendments will make this Bill at all workable. While I cannot vote for the Bill, I propose not to vote against it. But I shall watch, with anxiety and care, what my right hon. Friend does on the Committee stage. He has it in his power to make this Bill reasonably workable, reasonably satisfactory to the local autho- 1764 rities. If he does that, well and good; but if he fails to amend this Bill, fundamentally and drastically, his troubles will not be over. There may be more opposition at a later stage. I felt it my duty to give the House a full statement of the objections to the Bill, and although, naturally, the House would have expected me, in view of those objections, to vote against the Bill, for the reasons I have given I shall not do so.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I think the House has shown, by its close attention to the careful arguments of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), that it has listened to his views with profound interest and great respect. His exhaustive analysis of the subject clearly casts upon anyone who follows him a very great responsibility. His marked sincerity, his moderation of speech—which, if I may say so without presumption, is all the more persuasive because it is unadorned with meretricious phrases—carry a great deal of conviction upon many of the subjects that he has mentioned. I, for one, am very grateful to him for giving us such a masterly analysis of his view. If I do not follow him in all the details of his argument, it is because I want to present to the House what I believe to be the ultimate question which it has to decide to-day. That is a political decision—a political decision about this present Bill. I do not defend this Bill as an ideal Measure. I am aware that there is a considerable body of opinion that would like it to contain a very great deal which it does not contain. I am also aware that there is another body of opinion, less vocal, perhaps, but none the less powerful—represented so far by only one speech in the Debate—which regards the Bill as a serious invasion of the rights of private property. I have a great deal of sympathy, oddly enough, with both points of view, because, although they are thought to be inconsistent, they are not entirely inconsistent—they might be cumulative. I defend this Bill because I regard it as a practical working plan to deal with an emergency, justified, with all its faults, by the emergency, necessarily limited by the requirements of the emergency. Otherwise, I believe it would stand no chance of progress in this House, composed as it is at present of Members who are deeply divided on matters of principle.
1765 During the midnight hours of last night I tried to imagine what would happen if this Bill were rejected. My prescience did not go so far as to guess whether it was rejected on Second Reading or because of the rather subtler tactics of people who tried to get it withdrawn in Committee, by protracting the Committee stage to undue length. But I went so far as to assume that this Bill was rejected, and I tried to imagine myself trying to explain to a rather cynical, bored, but extremely worldly wise young member of the Services, who was back from service, and wanted a house, and who asked me, "Did you not know in July, 1944, that one or two decisions of some kind were absolutely necessary, that it was not vital to get the ideal decision, and that it takes 18 months, at the very least, to get a plan from the drawing board on to the ground, and put into houses? Did you not know then that something needed to be done, and at once?" That seems to me to be a very pertinent question. My reply to him was, "The Bill having been rejected, the size of it was this. The Socialist party, or some of them, thought that this Bill, which runs into 70 pages and seven Schedules, was very much too modest a Measure. Some Conservatives thought it was too violent a Measure, because it involved a certain degree of expropriation. So they all combined together to reject the Bill." Then he said to me: "But was there not something about finance?" "Yes," I said, "it came to this—that the local authorities did not want to pay the value at 31st March, 1939, unless they were absolutely sure that what they were acquiring was worth a great deal more, and those who were to receive the money did not want to receive the value at 31st March, 1939, unless they were previously certain that the true value of the land for which they were being compensated was a very great deal less. So they all combined together to reject the Bill."
§ Mr. Hogg
It did. These moments, when young men see visions and old men dream dreams, are those at which a certain measure of truth comes out. I want to ask, in all seriousness, on what principle hon. Members opposite, or, indeed, on 1766 any side of the House, can conscientiously vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, or even abstain from voting. Is it because it does not contain the principle of nationalisation? The hon. Member for Peckham says "No"; he does not ask for the principle of nationalisation. An hon. Member below the Gangway yesterday said "Yes, it ought to be rejected, because it does not contain the principle of nationalisation." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) yesterday was, I think, a little vacillating and hesitating and did not say one way or the other. In all humility I think that he was, perhaps, rather misrepresenting the nature of the case. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Uthwatt Report in this connection. I make no complaint that he did not mention that the Uthwatt Report, in fact, rejects nationalisation on its merits. What I do complain of is this. We are living in a Parliamentary democracy. Whether or not you agree with the principle of the nationalisation of land, and some people do and some people do not, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, it involves a radical and revolutionary change in the whole of the social structure of society. That, I think, would be generally admitted on both sides. If there is one fact which is certain about Parliamentary democracy it is that no Government has a right to introduce a permanent and revolutionary change without consulting the electorate, and, therefore, it appears to me that nobody can reasonably claim to reject this Bill on Second Reading on that ground unless he is prepared to abandon one of the cardinal features of the Constitution of this country.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)
The hon. Member will probably agree that those hon. Memebrs who were returned to this House with a mandate to vote for the nationalisation of the land are perfectly justified in voting against the Bill?
§ Mr. Hogg
I was not seeking to acquire the suffrages of the Common Wealth Party, but to apply myself to the much greater party opposite, who do, no less than the hon. Member below the Gangway, accept the principle of nationalisation, but of whom, I understand, a great number were not prepared to say that this Bill ought to contain that principle.
Would the hon. Member allow me to say that it is not for that reason that we are unable to support this Bill?
§ Mr Gallacher (Fife, Wegt)
The hon. Member says that there is a great principle at stake in the nationalisation of the land, and that we will have to consult the electors. Will he tell us where the difference in principle is between the Government taking over one part of the land from one group of landowners and taking over the rest from another group of landowners?
§ Mr. Hogg
I should have thought that there was every difference in the world, and that every honest Socialist would have been the first to assert it. Between the nationalisation of land as a whole and the acquisition of land from certain landowners for public purposes there is a great difference, but I do not propose to pursue that interruption any further. If the principle of the rejection of this Bill, or failure to support it, is not to be—and I gather from hon. Members opposite that that is not their view—the absence of any nationalisation in this Bill, wherein lies the principle on which they propose to reject this Bill on Second Reading?
We can tell the hon. Member that.
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not think it will be necessary for the hon. Member for Sea-ham (Mr. Shinwell) to supply me with the information, because the hon. Member for Peckham has courteously provided it in the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill which he has put down on the Order Paper, and in the very careful speech to which we have listened. His Amendment says:That this House declines to proceed with the Second Reading of a Bill which fails to provide adequately for the redevelopment of all towns in need thereof; fails to provide satisfactory machinery for the speedy acquisition of land required for public purposes; and fails to make proper financial provision for acquisition and redevelopment.1768 That is a fair summary of the speech to which we have listened. What does that mean? It means that the inference presented by this reasoned Amendment for the rejection of the Bill is that it ought to have contained a totally new code for land acquisition, a totally new basis for land acquisition, and that it ought to have provided a totally new machinery whereby land might be acquired.
I pose this question to the hon. Gentleman opposite. The hon. Member for Peckham is wholly cognisant of his subject. He knows that, behind this Bill of 70 pages and seven Schedules, there lie the Act of 1943, the whole series of Housing Acts up to 1936, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919, the Land Acquisition Act, 1845, and numerous other statutory enactments amounting, I dare say, to no less than 1,000 pages of public statutes, with schedules attached, and that, behind these statutory enactments, there lies the vast mass of case law, running into many volumes, for which I have a certain affection, because I was once simple enough to write a book containing a chapter or two on this complex subject. We are now towards the latter end of what may be the last Session of this long Parliament. We are asked to come to some rapid decision in order to secure that men who may be left on our hands in under a year and are wanting homes should get homes. What possible chance is there of introducing a totally new code of land acquisition in place of that mass of legislation?
§ Mr. Silkin
Does my hon. Friend not realise that there is a new code of acquisition in this Bill—two new methods of acquiring land?
§ Mr. Hogg
I fully appreciate that, but the essence of the Bill is that it provides two new and more expeditious methods of acquiring land for urgent cases, and does not go into the whole question of land tenure for all purposes. The complexity of this question Alone is demonstrated beyond all doubt, and, if we got the Second Reading of such a Bill, which I greatly doubt, we should not have the smallest chance of getting it through the Committee stage before the end of the Session, and it is our duty, as Members of Parliament, to leave aside the grandiose schemes with which, I hope, all of us are 1769 in sympathy, and try to get something done in the time in Which God has given us to do it.
We are now asked to introduce totally new machinery for land acquisition, and, at this point, I find myself in disagreement with the hon. Member for Peckham. It is laudable and wise that local authorities, and those who speak for them, should seek more and more powers to carry out public-spirited schemes. I agree with that. I rejoice to hear the sentiments which inspired the hon. Member for Peckham, but we have to remember that it is idle to speak as if local authorities were the only parties in the matter. It is superficial to talk about property owners as some hon. Members opposite have done, though not, I am glad to say, the hon. Gentleman whom I follow, as if all were millionaires owning vast blocks of property easily capable of expropriation. That is not the case. We have heard of the 1,000 interests in the part of London to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and of the 500 interests in 30 acres of Coventry. I am not going into the vexed question whether it is their life savings or not. The fact of the matter is that to every little person with a single room, or a single shop with a single apartment, on a term of years, or under a share in a will, and with a value of, perhaps,£50—to that single person with the smallest interest, these things are just as important as, say, miners' wages or agricultural labourers' cottages. They are to them the very bread and butter of life, and they are vitally affected by the public-spirited proposals of the hon. Member for Peckham, who, with the best intentions, desires to walk into the property, pull it down and put up something very much better. It is absolute humbug to talk as if the people who have that kind of interest in these affairs are actuated by mean and mercenary motives. That is not the case. I am not ashamed to accept the slogan "God gave the land to the people," but He did not intend it to be taken away from the people, without any inquiries and given to the local authorities and the politicians.
§ Earl Winterton
May I support my hon. Friend's argument, because I have among my electorate at least 30,000 of such people, and I hope he will encourage hon. Members on this side, because it will 1770 greatly increase my majority at the next Election.
§ Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)
Why should the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) be the Noble Lord's canvasser?
§ Mr. Hogg
Because the Noble Lord is such a good Member. Once we get into the realms of asking for a complete, simplified procedure which is to sweep away all delays in the acquisition of land, we are asking for the moon. I was much struck by the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that a great deal of the complexity of the Bill arose not from complexity in the minds of the Government but from the extraordinary difficulty and complexity of the subject. I am prepared to concede at once that, if the principle of nationalisation without compensation were accepted, you could achieve everything you wanted. But hon. Members opposite have already accepted the view that with the present composition of Parliament that is not a reason for rejecting this Bill. Without nationalisation speaker after speaker from that party has accepted the view that extreme complexity is the inevitable result. Lest I should have been thought to make any concession, I should like to say that although I concede that nationalisation would be a great simplification, so are all forms of dictatorship, and that is why I personally would not accept it.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson
The hon. Member was trying to make out that those of us who advocate public ownership of land were advocating that there should be no compensation at all.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
The hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. H. Lawson) has already made one very long speech and he should now listen to the Debate.
§ Mr. Hogg
In case I may have been misunderstood, I did not intend to impute to anybody the principle that nationalisation should be without compensation, but 1771 I only say that, if you want simplification, it has got to be without compensation. The moment you introduce compensation all the complications of this vast series of enactments are immediately brought back into the law. That is the point that I was making, and I was not interested in the rather different scheme, which seemed wholly impracticable, of which we heard yesterday.
Now I turn to the financial provision, the 1939 ceiling. If it is said, as hon. Members opposite have clearly admitted, that the absence of the principle of nationalisation is no ground for rejecting the Bill on Second reading, I really do not see what other practical procedure the Government could have adopted than to pay something like the real value of the land at a particular date to those whom they were expropriating. I do not see in what other way it could be done. Whether nationalisation is a good thing or a bad thing is not in dispute. What is certain is that, so long as we retain the principle of private property in this country, we have to deal fairly as between the different classes of property owners. It is absolutely unjust to single out one class of property owner—owners of railway shares, or owners of agricultural properties, or the owners of dividends in a co-operative society—and to say, "You shall not be compensated for what we propose to take." We must deal fairly between them. Therefore, we have to give fair compensation for the value of this land. This proposal is based on the pledge given by the Government to accept the proposals of the Uthwatt Report. The proposal is an authoritative version of the pledge, because I understand that a certain number of apocryphal versions have been set out for which the hon. Member is partly responsible.
The Report of the Uthwatt Committee, which was adopted by Lord Reith, stated that the compensation payable should not exceed a sum based on the standard values at 31st March, 1939. These pledges are often difficult to interpret, but in my innocence I had always read this document, until the terms of the Bill came out and I heard the various reasons put forward by the Minister yesterday, as meaning that the basis would be, as it says, the standard of values on 31st March, 1939, and 1772 that there would be some addition thereto representing the fall in the value of money. I can see at once that that was a fond delusion on my part. It appears to be impossible to accept the two arguments we heard from the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) yesterday. The Government cannot be expected to admit in a public Statute that their currency is to be depreciated in the future, and if they did that would impose more anomalies than it would resolve. The War Loan owner would immediately expect an increase in interest based on the depreciation of money, and there would be an immediate demand from every pensioner in the country to have his pension increased because of the fall in the value of money.
The claim put forward by the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University is quixotic and absurd, but what may not be used as a spear to destroy the Bill may surely be used as a shield to defend it. Taken by and large the whole history of mankind goes to prove, and all the evidence available to us in the present war goes to confirm, that after a gigantic struggle of this kind the value of a nation's currency goes down. To compensate, therefore, a class of property owners on the basis of values immediately prior to the struggle inevitably involves a considerable measure of expropriation. I support that measure of expropriation. I support it because of the people's need, and because of the urgency of the problem, but to suggest that they ought to be expropriated still further up to some fantastic level suggested by the hon. Member for Peckham, seems to be going a bit too far.
§ Mr. Silkin
I was speaking of the Government's proposals on the 1939 value. Perhaps I did not make myself clear. There are two exceptions and I stated them; I think they were reasonable exceptions.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am very glad that the hon. Member has now publicly dissociated himself from Lord Latham. I am glad to know that the wild and irresponsible statements put out by Lord Latham through the "Daily Herald" have no support from the hon. Member for Peckham. I am delighted to hear him say so and I have the greatest respect for his judgment. The hon. Gentleman wants more financial support for 1773 the local authorities. I am prepared to concede that from time to time further financial support may be necessary. But we have to get the Bill through. There will be opportunities for asking for more support from time to time and, after all, even the zeal of the hon. Member for Peckham must have its limits. I am prepared to concede at once that war damage is something for which the whole nation should pay. That is an absolutely sound proposition, but at what stage are we to stop? I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield that a good lay-out is ultimately a good investment, and that therefore the rateable value of the local authorities may be expected to increase. But there must be some limit to the extent to which the crofter in the Shetlands is to be expected to pay for the cost of a new town hall for the hon. Member for Peckham out of his Income Tax and so to increase the rates' revenue to which the hon. Member for Peckham can reasonably look in order to improve London. There must be some limit to this process, and I suggest the limit is to be found by the long process of trial and error. To ask for great new sums from those parts of the country which will not benefit from these schemes may involve local authorities in more difficulties than gain.
If it is true that there is really no reasonable principle on which the Second Reading of this Bill should be rejected—as I believe to be true—if it is true that we have to choose between having this Bill and no Bill at all within a reasonable time, and that protracted discussions on the Committee stage would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the Bill just as surely as the rejection of its Second Reading, I make an appeal to the public spirit of hon. Gentlemen opposite and hon. Gentlemen on my own side to let us have the Second Reading and as expeditious a Committee stage as possible. When Sir Kingsley Wood died, the Prime Minister defined a good party man as a man who put his party above himself, and his country above his party. I believe that it is in that spirit that we should approach this Measure.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has made an interesting and, as usual, a very revealing speech, with which I will deal in a moment. I submit, in the first 1774 place, that this Bill is an illusion. It is not a town planning Bill. It does not profess to town plan; and it is more than an illusion, it is a piece of deception. Why has it been introduced? From the point of view of the Tory Party opposite, it has been introduced simply in order to make the British people think that they intend to plan the country. Let us come to the point of view of the Labour Ministers who are backing it, because I shall be told that it has the backing of Labour Ministers. I agree that it has, but I submit that the only reason why it has their backing is that the Conservative Members of the Government said to the Labour Ministers, "Either back this Bill or you get nothing at all. If you refuse to back it you will get nothing." Faced with that alternative, they thought that the only course open to them was to back it. There are some people who support it, but not, I think, the vast majority of Members of this House. Its strongest supporters, it would appear, are the Tory Reform Committee. I was very interested indeed in the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He made a most interesting observation. He said:I regard this Bill as a test of the capacity of the nation to turn from the defeat of an external enemy to cope with the giant evils in our midst—the evils of squalor, disease and want."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 11th July 1944; Vol. 401, C. 1622.]If the Tory Reform Group hope to combat these evils by introducing Bills of this kind——
§ Mr. Dugdale
One is given to understand that they would have liked to introduce it if they were in power.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I return to the hon. Member for Oxford, who gave a history of his private life at night-time which might be very interesting to a student of Freud. I was interested in particular in the conversation he had with "this wise young soldier"—the wise young soldier for whom something needs to be done at once. The whole argument of this party against the Bill—an argument very bril- 1775 liantly expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin)—was that it will do nothing, that it is cumbersome, that it will delay action and that the wise young soldier, when he comes back, will find there are not any houses for him. The Tory Reform Group have-proved once again that what they stand for is compromise, always compromise, at the expense of any principle whatever. They said that it is not an ideal Measure and that they have great sympathy with the people's point of view. The Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset said that he saw a little more difficulty about it, and that it wasa provocative, enterprising, adventurous and satisfying Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July. 1944; Vol. 401, c. 1627.]It may be provocative, but it does not seem to satisfy any people. It does not satisfy any local authorities. In fact; it satisfies very few people except the Tory Reform Committee.
§ Lieutenant-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
Is there any evidence at all that it does not satisfy the local authorities?
§ Mr. Dugdale
The local authorities choose certain people to represent them on great organisations which meet together to discuss these matters. These great organisations, including such a Socialist body as the City of London, have all stated that they are against this Bill, so that it can hardly he said that I am taking a strictly party attitude. I am taking the attitude adopted by all local authorities, regardless of party.
§ Viscountess Astor
Most of the local authorities may be against it because it does not go far enough and one may be against it because it goes too far. They vary, do they not?
§ Mr. Dugdale
The Noble Lady, I have no doubt, read the objections, and the sum total of these objections is that it does not go far enough, not that it goes too far. I submit, therefore, that all the local authorities are against it. We are told that we have to accept an alternative, that we cannot have nationalisation suddenly in the middle of a war. We have not expected that this Government would produce a Bill to nationalise the land. We are not so foolish as to expect that, with a large Conservative majority, but we do ask that it might at least agree to a 1776 genuine compromise, the compromise recommended by the Uthwatt Committee. That was a compromise which was, shall I say, half-way between our views and the views of the party opposite. But that was not good enough. We may only go a quarter, an eighth, a tenth of the way in our direction; and that is what is called compromise under this National Government.
This Bill is limited to the ravages of war. I think it should deal also with the ravages created by years of neglect; by years of Conservative rule in the past which have resulted in the growth of slums, in the growth of what we now call, though I hate the term, blighted areas. Take my own constituency as an example. We have been fortunate in being spared from mass aerial bombardment, but that does not mean we are not in need of development. My own local authority has planned to build something in the neighbourhood of 7,000 houses in the seven years after the war, if it can, and they are vitally necessary in order to house the people of West Bromwich. But just because Hitler has, fortunately, refrained from destroying large sections of my constituency, the people there are not to be allowed the advantages which are being given to other towns, and every difficulty will be put in their way if they want to set about development.
I would refer only to two points. They are to be given none of the financial help that is being given to the blitzed areas, and I would ask why they are not being given that help. It may be said that the blitzed areas are suffering from the war, but these areas, too, are suffering from the war, and have been for five years, and I do not know how many years it will be after the war ends before rebuilding can start. There have been five years during which there has been no building and, as a result, in districts such as my own there is gross overcrowding and there are slums which are in need of clearance. But they are not to be helped by this Bill, or only to a very small extent. The procedure is cumbersome, the financial help is negligible and, as the hon. Member for Peckham said, there is to be this terrible, long-drawn-out, slow business of a public inquiry.
I would support him to the full in his objections to the public inquiry. I myself have served for some six years on the 1777 Town Planning Committee of the London County Council and I saw the difficulties that such an inquiry involves. In the heat of an argument on this subject of the public inquiry the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) said that to ask for the abolition of the public inquiry was Fascism. The public inquiry, if properly used, would obviously be an excellent piece of democratic machinery, but it is abused. It is just because it has been abused time and again by landowners, who, as the hon. Member for Peckham said, have only one object in view, namely, their own personal interest, and one aim——
Mr.Picthorn (Cambridge University)
If the hon. Member will permit me to intervene, I would remind him that the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) went on to instance the Oxhey inquiry the other day. Does the hon. Gentleman suppose that in an inquiry of this sort the only person to appear was the landowner, or that the landowner had any personal axe to grind in the matter?
§ Mr. Dugdale
The hon. Member for Peckham said there were certain exceptions but, in 999 cases out of 1,000—he said more, in fact—the public inquiry was simply a means by which one or two landowners could come forward and hold up the entire scheme. It is another form of what the Americans call filibustering, and the landowners know very successfully how to do it.
§ Viscountess Astor
And so do the Socialists. I have not sat here all these years without knowing that.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am glad, anyhow, that the Noble Lady pays some tribute to my party, even if it is only a small tribute. I would like to support the hon. Member for Peckham in his plea for putting a term to the life of a building. A building is put up at a certain date, it may be just before 1939, and we are to assume that that building is still just 'as valuable—that is, the actual structure quite apart from changes in prices—as it was in 1939. I would submit that we should realise that buildings depreciate very considerably in value and that just as the owner sets aside a fund for depreciation of his own buildings each year, so the Government should allow that there is, in fact, rapid depreciation in the value of buildings. Instead of suggesting, as they do at present 1778 that full compensation should be paid on the 1939 values, they should agree that the value should be that of 1939 less the depreciation which has occurred during those years.
I would like to ask two questions which have not been asked before. In my experience on the Town Planning Committee in London I found that the local authority is forced at every moment to compensate somebody for something. If a man owned a beautiful builditig which was a national monument and was perhaps one in a long street or in a very beautiful crescent—the Nash Terraces, for example—and he decided to pull it down, nobody could stop him unless the local authority was willing to pay compensation. That puts the local authority in an impossible position, and I would suggest that something ought to be introduced into this Bill to prevent people from destroying buildings which are of value not only to them personally but to the British people as well. Again, if the owner of a factory placed in a residential area said that he wished to increase the size of his factory, while I admit that he could not increase it indefinitely, yet he could increase it up to one-eighth over and above the existing size of the factory. I submit that that is entirely wrong. If the factory is in the wrong place, why should that man be allowed to increase its size, and thereby increase the wrong that is already there? Why should he be allowed to make the situation even worse than it is now by increasing the size of the factory in the middle of a residential area? There is nothing in this Bill that would prevent him from doing that——
§ Mr. H. Strauss
The hon. Member is overlooking the Act which we passed last year under which it will no longer be necessary for the Interim Development Authority to give its consent in any case. I think the hon. Member is overlooking that when he says there is nothing in this Bill.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Do I understand, then, that if a factory owner wishes to increase the size of his factory by the permitted one-eighth it will not be possible for him to do that now?
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I will confirm that, but I think I am quite right in saying that he will no longer be able to do it as a right and the Interim Development Authority may refuse consent.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I pass to the question of statutory undertakings. There may possibly be a case for exempting undertakings actually owned and run by the Government though personally I think they should be subject to planning as much as any other organisation. But when it comes to organisations such as the railway companies, it is a monstrous injustice that they should be placed outside planning altogether and that they should be allowed to say, "We will not sell this land. The local authorities may want to buy it, but we will refuse to sell it unless the local authority will give an exorbitant price." We shall find after the war many cases where local authorities will want to buy land owned by the railway companies and other big statutory undertakings for houses or other purposes, and they will be held up to ransom by those undertakings because they quite rightly consider the interests of their shareholders. That is what they are there for. Their directors are elected by the shareholders whose interests they consider, and they will refuse to let the local authorities purchase this land unless they get an exorbitant sum. I would suggest—
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I am not clear whether the hon. Member is criticising this Bill or the previous state of the law. He will find the most elaborate provisions regarding statutory undertakers in this Bill, and I would refer him on the point with which he is now dealing, to Clause 11, and to Clauses 21 to 23, and Clauses 28 to 31. I should be surprised to hear that the criticism which he is now advancing could be made after reading those provisions of the present Bill.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I still submit that statutory undertakings are placed in a very much better position than non-statutory undertakings even under this Bill, and I suggest that they should be placed in exactly the same category as any ordinary private undertaking. But I think the most serious omission of all is the omission of adequate powers to acquire land for open spaces. Now the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill represents a rural constituency—I happen to be a constituent of his, so I know—and tit is one almost entirely composed of green fields, although there are a few people scattered about somewhere. He has no conception whatever of the hunger for green spaces that exists in great built- 1780 up areas. Let me cite the borough of Islington, which has approximately a quarter of a million people in it. There are only 23 acres of open space in that borough. What provision is being made in this Bill? I hope when the hon. Gentleman replies he will be able to say that plenty of provision is being made, but I can see no adequate provision for enabling an authority such as Islington to acquire additional land for open spaces. I merely refer to Islington because at one time I represented it on the London County Council.
I submit that this Bill has a very large number of faults, so many that it would be impossible to amend it satisfactorily. And what hope have we that the Government will amend it? We are told, "Agree to the Second Reading and all will be well in the Committee stage; this, that and the other will be amended in Committee." Why, if the interests against this Bill have been so strong up to now, are we to suppose that they will suddenly alter their whole line of conduct and be ready to submit to Amendments drastically, altering the whole form of this Bill?
I do not expect any such thing will happen. If they would not agree before, to a more expeditious and more efficient Bill, why are they likely to agree on the Committee stage? If the Bill is given its Second Reading the Minister will say that the Government will accept a few minor Amendments here and there, but the sum total of the Bill will remain very much as it is now. I hope I am wrong, but I see no reason to suppose that any drastic alteration will be made during the Committee stage. This Bill is called a measure of reconstruction. Now we and, indeed, everyone in the country know what the party opposite mean when they talk about reconstruction. This is the kind of reconstruction they have in mind. The Government are unwilling that the landlords of this country should suffer the slightest inconvenience——
§ Viscountess Astor
Does the hon. Member opposite really believe that landlords, who have given their sons' lives to the 1781 country and have suffered as much as anybody, are going to stop people getting homes, because of their vested interests?
§ Mr. Dugdale
Of course I agree that landlords have given their sons, but the remarkable fact is that people are more willing to give their sons and their own lives than their property.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I say that the Government, rather than ask landlords to suffer even the smallest inconvenience, are willing to let members of the Forces come home after the war and find, as they found after the last war, slums to greet them.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I am glad that the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) referred to what happened after the last war. Members have, been reminiscent, and I hope that I shall be permitted to be reminiscent too. As one of those who lost nearly every one of the friends of my own age in the last war, and who served in a hospital for more than five years, I know what feelings were when the war ended, and I had strong feelings myself. I saw men fight the war and lose their lives, and I also saw those who did not fight, those who said it was a capitalist war and that when it was over they would have a class war. But I saw that the ordinary British working man was no more capable of fighting the class war than I was. It was only the class-conscious political profiteers of the last war who wanted a class war. Some people were political pacifists and some were Christian conscientious objectors, but most of those who did not fight in the last war were political conscientious objectors. That has a lot to do with this, because I see the same sort of thing coming up now.
I have not a word to say about the "coupon election"; it was a dreadful thing. The House was filled with war profiteers. I fought, voted and worked against them. Some of my best friends in Parliament in 1919 happened to be Labour Members. What did I see? After we had got rid of the war profiteers, the people who had made money out of the war, we had the political profiteers, the people who had not fought in the war. They got in in 1927. I remember at the 1782 time that I said to my husband "This is the first time I have been frightened for England." What we have in the House now are people with theories and no practical experience. Their theories are based on nothing except class prejudices. They did not fight during the war. All they did was to talk, and to say that they were going to save civilisation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
The Noble Lady is going too far back into old Parliamentary history. A short illustration is all right, but I hope her speech will come to the actual Bill.
§ Viscountess Astor
I was speaking about what happened after the last war. The hon. Member for West Bromwich seemed to think that landowners would rather give their sons than their money and were not out for a better England. That is a repellant point of view. I fought it for years after the last war. I was told that I was grinding the faces of the poor, and that I did not care. But if one does not care one does not stay for 25 years in public life. I care too much to sit still and let that statement pass unchallenged. It is a point of view which does not represent anybody in the National Government. I am not happy about this Bill. I am not happy about the National Government. Who is? Nobody wants it, but we have to have it in war. If we had not a National Government we would not have the Prime Minister, and then whom should we have? Is there anybody who could do better? I am not such an admirer of the Prime Minister but there is nobody who could do better. [Laughter.] It is not so foolish as it sounds, young man. You listen.
§ Viscountess Astor
I was not referring to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am one of the people who have always been against the Government because of their complete lack of vision in home policy. I do not pretend to know this Bill thoroughly; I do not believe there are five Members in the House who do. I am certain that the hon. Member for West Bromwich does not. It is a most complex and difficult Bill. But I do understand one thing—that the National Government have not shown a national outlook in their replanning policy. If they did not mean to do something about the work of 1783 the Uthwatt, Barlow and Scott Committees why did they take up the time of those busy men to make investigations? I think it is very disappointing. I believe that in 1942 we could have got the Uthwatt Report through. We have "missed the bus." This is a compromise Bill which we must accept as the best we can get under the circumstances. I agree with the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin): we must bring forward Amendments and press them on the Government. The Government would not have had this Bill if the authorities in the blitzed areas had not got together and forced it on them. The Government had to be prodded and pressed, and kept up to the mark. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). It would be madness for us to reject this Bill. We who represent blitzed areas know that perfectly well. We in Plymouth cannot begin to replan without this Bill. We cannot finish our replanning without the White Paper, and so I am here to support the Bill.
When hon. Members opposite say that this is a Tory Party Measure let them remember that it is not. The Tory Party is very like the Labour Party—it has two sides. The Labour Party has its extreme Left and its extreme Right and the Government and the Front Bench are in the middle. The Tory Party has its extreme Left and its extreme Right. Personally, I would rather be dead than be seen with either of the extremes. I want to go the middle way. But I think the Government are a little too much in the middle; I do not think they have enough vision. I do not think the Prime Minister is always wise in choosing his Ministers. If the Government had wanted to get on with proper planning they would have kept Lord Reith, who is an able man, far too able for a good many people. The vested interests are not only the landowners; they can be found in the different Ministries. We need someone strong enough to say to the different Ministries, "We are going to get these Reports through and have a big national plan."
People talk about what our fighting men want when they come home. Well, they want houses and work. They wanted them last time, but what they want and what they will get are different things. 1784 If they want a national plan when they come home I hope they will have a chance to vote for it. There is one thing I am certain they will not want, and that is nationalisation of everything. They have had to be under a dictatorship during the war. They want freedom. That is what they are fighting for, and when I hear hon. Members opposite say that our fighting men want to be under Government control when they come home I do not believe it. We all know that a woman would rather have two rooms of her own than four rooms belonging to someone else. That is inherent in us. We Tory Reformers—[An HON. MEMBER; "Is the Noble Lady a Tory Reformer?"] You all know what I am by this time. When I am interrupted, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, nobody ever seems to call other people to Order.
§ Viscountess Astor
You know perfectly well what I mean, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What the country wants to see is private enterprise and national control linked together. The Minister of Labour made an extraordinarily good speech the other day. That is the sort of thing we want. We do not want extremists. The Labour Party always talk as though there were two classes—one all good and the other all bad. The variety of talent on the Front Bench opposite is just as great as it is on this side. I hope hon. Members opposite, particularly the young ones, will not talk "too big" about what the country wants. They do not yet know what it wants. One thing the country does not want is class warfare. You are all barking up the wrong tree. You cannot make an Englishman hate. That is his very great strength. To have class warfare you must have hate and you will not get that, thank God.
Although we are backing this Bill we do not think it is a very good Bill. Neither does the Lord Mayor of Plymouth think it a very good Bill. The Lord Mayor of Plymouth is a man of great vision. I hope the Government will bear in mind that this Bill is only the first step. I believe the Prime Minister yesterday used the word "gigantic." We will wait for these gigantic reforms but, if you really want gigantic reforms, the National Government cannot go on playing the 1785 party game. This is the disappointment of the whole thing. When forming the National Government, instead of thinking about their own parties, and who had served the party well and who had not, they ought to have looked round and said, "We will get the best people, whether good party men or not." If we are to have these gigantic reforms they cannot be given over to the best party men. They have to be given to men like the planners, who have seen ahead, the men who want to implement all these reforms and are prepared to cut red tape and to explain them to the country, and not leave it to the rather timorous men who have served their party well.
§ Viscountess Astor
The hon. Member did once. Really it is so serious, representing a blitzed town and seeing the absolute misery of people who have been blitzed three, four and five times, living in a hospital as I do most of the time, and seeing what the war has done in the last five years, that I make this appeal. Do not let us go back to the times before the war when we did nothing. Do not stop to recriminate about what the Tory Party did. When it comes to that, it did a sight more than the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think we must stop the idea that this is a Debate on which party did best. It is really a Debate on the Bill.
§ Viscountess Astor
Surely a country which has done as well as this country in the last five years need not look back. Let us look forward together. There are not enough good people in any party for the good people of any party to fight one another. Very good intelligence is rare in any party. Take the pattern of the speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and compare it with the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). One was constructive, knowledgeable and helpful. The other added nothing to the Debate. People think nothing of those who get up and promise Paradise. They know perfectly well that those who promise most have done least. Do not run away with the idea that all the men who are coming back are going to vote for the Common Wealth Party. I do not mind going back to party controversy.
§ Viscountess Astor
I am answering the hon. Member who said that landowners were trying to hold up this reform and would rather give up their sons than their property. That is dreadful. I was trying to show that it is not fair and not worthy of men who put the welfare of England above everything else. It is not true, and the hon. Member knows it is not. I hope that, for the sake of the country, we can stay together and pass the Bill, and make it a very much better Bill. I do not think it is a Bill that the Government have much reason to be proud of, but we ought to accept it, if only for the sake of the blitzed areas. Hitler knows no class. He hits all, high and low. He has no class consciousness. We have all suffered alike. Some have suffered more than others, but we are all suffering and shall suffer. Let the country know that, though we may have our little fights, we are willing to compromise and that first things come first. Houses and homes for the people come first.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)
I want to address my remarks to the most earnest speech with which the Debate to-day opened, and with which I entirely disagree. But I pay the hon. Member the compliment that he kept directly to the point and, to the Measure that is before us. Where I join issue with him, is that it seems to me that he wants to pull down everything and then raise an entirely new order. That may be the very admirable intention of the party above the Gangway, but I differ from it. If a quarter of a town lies in destruction, and three-quarters of it was built when workmanship was infinitely better than it is to-day, and with a charm of antiquity and architecture which we no longer have in modern buildings, I do not see why the new should not conform to the pattern of what already exists. Therefore I want to ask enthusiastic town planners, not to be carried away too much with their enthusiasm, until they get the point of view that everything that exists is hopeless and rotten, and everything that is new is bound to be all right. There will be a great many arguments among the planners themselves as to what kind of plans are to be put forward. So do not let us destroy houses which are in good condition—when there is going to be a very 1787 grave shortage of houses—in order to carry out a scheme which may not in fact result in anything much better than what exists at present.
One has to try to avoid political issues and on the question of land it seems to me there is a cleavage between the two principal parties. I believe in squirearchy, and I am proud to say so, but there is a world of difference between squirearchy and speculators. You will not find speculators in the houses of the squires. Equally, if you go into the houses of squires, you never hear the word "profit." It is a question of what is best for the estate. In my own county I do not think there is a big squire who looks on his estate from the point of view of money-making. His heart is wrapped up in his land.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
What does the hon. and gallant Member say is wrapped up in his land?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
I want to bring forward a criticism of my right hon. Friend which is entirely different from those we have heard, and which I do not think is political. Why does he not encourage home ownership? I should like to see every person own his own house. I should like to see every working man own his own house. He would have a stake in the country that he is fighting for, and he would have a feeling of a certain amount of independence, of pride and of joy. Why will not my right hon. Friend be gracious enough to sell the houses to the people who are to occupy them? I do not want to be a tenant of the State, I would rather own my own house, than be the tenant of a landlord. I am not at all sure that you are going to get any better treatment from the State than from a good landlord. It may be worse from a bad one, but from a good landlord it will be infinitely better than being a tenant of the State. Therefore I should like to see the houses sold, perhaps with the restriction that they shall be sold only to the occupier, and that he cannot let it to someone else. But I should like to see little freeholds being owned by separate individuals, because I think it would lead to happiness.
1788 I join issue with my hon. Friend again, because I do not like to see too many arbitrary powers being given to the Executive. I think the majority of Members feel that sufficient power is being given to the Executive, but not more than is absolutely necessary for the carrying out of the job. There are one or two cases which, it seems to me, will have to be carefully looked into in Committee. If a person's house has been destroyed by the blitz, and he is prevented from rebuilding, there is a provision that the land may be acquired, but I see there is also a provision that the Minister can say that conditions have not been fulfilled and, as far as I can see, he is the sole arbiter on whether they have been fulfilled or not.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
It is in Clause 27. The next point I should like to mention is this. I am in agreement with the acquisition of overspill areas, but we must remember that those areas will be the homes of somebody, or the shops of somebody, or the business premises of somebody; and, if possible, we want to give some kind of guidance as to what those areas should really be. It is left rather vague in the Bill, and we want to give a kind of leader as to how much overspill area should be taken. So far as I can see, a great area can be taken and I cannot find any kind of safeguard.
I turn to the compensation Clauses. If we are to pay compensation it ought to be fair. My hon. Friends above the gangway made the point that it ought to be the lowest value of one and two years. That is a bit like "Heads I win, tails you lose." On the other hand, I am sympathetic when they ask whether a person should be paid out of the public purse more than the property is worth at the time it is acquired. One is rather between the devil and the deep sea. When, however, we take into consideration the decline in the value of the pound, which the Chancellor has told us is down to 71 per cent. of its pre-war domestic value, that will probably more than write off any increased value of any particular property since 1939. I cannot help feeling that, so long as we do not believe in confiscation, we ought to be prepared to pay fair compensation. The person whose house has been blitzed has not had a good 1789 time. He has not occupied it probably for four or five years; he has had no income from it for that time; and when the War Damage Commission say, "We will let you build a new house," he is to be told that it will be acquired because it does not agree with the local authorities' plan and that he will not get what he thinks is fair compensation.
I do not think that that is playing square by him. If a man is to be told that his house is to be acquired, the average Britisher would like to feel that he will get a fair price, and no more than a fair price, for what is to be taken away from him. In spite of the fact that we have Members who believe in certain principles on one side of the House and Members who believe in almost diametrically opposed principles on the other side, I think that my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on producing a Measure of this peculiarly mixed kind. Nobody likes it, but I feel that it will somehow or other become the law of the land.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
The House admired my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken for his forthright declaration of faith. Even those on the other side who utterly disagree with him, recognised that here was a man speaking of the things he knew and believed in. That is what this House is for. Undoubtedly, the system of land ownership to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, was in its day, the best system of landlordism that it was possible to conceive. My own view has always been that had landlordism been allowed, by taxation and other things, to function to-day as it did in the past, we could not have sought a better system. The pity is that that admirable, traditional and centuries-old system has been largely or, at any rate, partly ruined by the advance of mankind, by taxation, by Death Duties and other things, so that we are confronted with a situation which demands some kind of new action. It is that new action to meet a new situation that we must examine now.
My right hon. Friend the Minister, as we naturally expected from him, introduced this Measure lucidly, briefly and with great accommodation. I have known and admired the qualities of expression of my right hon. Friend, since the days when he and I were at Edinburgh University together—a very long time ago—when as 1790 a young student sitting under his direction on the Students' Representative Council, I thought, "What a remarkable man this is who has come to us from the Western Isles." He was marked out then for advancement. He earned yesterday all the congratulations he got for his manner in introducing this Measure. I would add that he deserved our commiseration, because he is faced with the most difficult, complex and controversial topic that ever presented itself for our attention. I took some part in framing the land policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) 20 years or so ago, and I know that there is no topic that has more unexpected and dangerous implications and results than this business of the land. You cannot touch it without raising a hornet's nest and prejudices of the most violent kind in every direction. My right hon. Friend deserves this much to be said for him, that, whether we like it or not, he has brought this matter from the arena of the clouds down to ground level. We have here practical proposals, and for that he deserves our congratulations. I do not like the proposals very much, but I recognise that at least we now have something to get our teeth into. There is no subject really comparable to the land for scope for hot air and loose talk, but here we have something practical.
I have heard my right hon. Friend many times, and I thought that yesterday he was more on the defensive than I have ever heard him before. He seemed to be moved by the thought that this was not so good a Bill as he would have liked it to be. I do not think he likes this Bill very much. I noticed the eargerness with which he invited criticisms, amendments and helpful suggestions from all parts of the House. I was impressed with his readiness to confer with the local authorities, and his exhortations to the. House to make in Committee what he called a better Bill. So that my right hon. Friend is not, I think, altogether satisfied with it. Some speakers complained that the Minister swept aside the objections raised by the local authorities. On the contrary, he treated them with the greatest possible respect, and well he might, because the criticisms in the paper which has been circulated to us, are fundamental criticisms affecting the very pillars of this Measure. It is important that the House should observe that the 1791 Minister treated these criticisms, and treats them now, with the greatest possible respect. He said that he is ready, anxious and willing to meet the local authorities, and to spend whatever time is necessary, however long, in their company, in order to get the thing right.
Therefore, it is pretty clear to me, in view of the Minister's undertakings, and knowing his character as we do, that the Bill which will eventually emerge from these consultations will be an utterly different Measure from this. It is therefore unfortunate that the Government, recognising as they did what were the weaknesses and defects of this Bill, did not postpone the Second Reading discussion. It seems rather absurd, in these busy anxious times, and on this important topic that we should waste these two days discussing something which may be utterly different when it comes back to us for detailed examination. But that is not the view of the Tory Reform Committee.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
Does the hon. Gentleman prefer that the local authorities should shape the legislation of this country, rather than the House of Commons?
It is pretty evident that the Minister is going to give the local authorities every opportunity to alter, or suggest alterations, to the framework of this Bill. He exhorted the House to make whatever alterations they thought necessary. I am glad that the Noble Lord has interrupted because I was proposing to refer to his speech of yesterday. It is apparent that the view of the Tory Reform Committee is very different from mine. Their argument, as I understood from the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) and that of the Noble Lord yesterday, is something like this: We are in times of great emergency, there is a great task in front of us, and something must be done at once; here is something; therefore, it must be accepted. That is the most absurd argument I ever heard. "Quixotic," said the hon. Member for Oxford. This is Quixotry such as I have never seen equalled in this House. What is the value of this discussion if, as we are asked and exhorted to do by the Tory Reform Committee, we are to accept without criticism anything the Government presents.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I never suggested that. I suggested that we should give the Bill a Second Reading, and then launch it forth on its career, and amend it in the Committee stage.
That was not the argument of the hon. Member for Oxford, who spent his whole time, in an interesting and eloquent speech, attacking those who had criticised the Bill for daring to criticise it. In the present emergency, apparently, we are to pass this Measure because something has to be done. I cannot accept an argument of that kind.
That was the impression made upon me, and I cannot accept such an argument. We must examine this Measure, like every other Measure, on its merits. What is the sense of rushing through the Second Reading of a Bill which will not do those things which it is intended to do? We all agree about the objects of a Measure of this kind. We all desire to see our towns improved and beautified as quickly as possible, but if hon. Members believe, as I do, that this is not the right way of achieving that end, what right have they to insist that I shall vote for the Second Reading? There are fundamental defects in this Measure, and I am not to be lectured by hon. Members about my duty.
§ Earl Winterton
Why does the hon. Member protest against being lectured if he has already said that he will not take any notice of it?
The Noble Lord is expert in being taken no notice of. When he talks on that topic I listen to him with great respect. As I understood the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset yesterday, he suggested that unless we pass this Measure the returning soldiers would feel we had let them down. I would merely reply that I do not need to be told by the Noble Lord what the soldiers require on their return.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The young Tories take two lines. The Noble Lord said it would be a bad thing to give the soldiers security when they return and that it was desirable when they came back that they should fight for their homes. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said to-day, as the result of a dream he had last night, 1793 that the soldiers will expect to have the homes ready for their return. Therefore, the young Tory Party takes two specific lines.
I will try to outline them. I cannot read the representations of that unique group of local authorities, I cannot listen seriously to the hon. Member for Peckham, I cannot hear the views of those knowledgeable people who give us advice on this matter, without being convinced that, on a number of points, the Bill will not achieve the purpose which it has in view. It will not do for this House to pretend that that statement from the local authorities comes only from a few cranks. One knows something about those local authorities and their organisation, and one knows that the men who drew up this do6ument are men of great experience in these matters, very much more experienced than most hon. Members of this House, if I may say so. I cannot set those recommendations aside. I am impressed by them and I take them seriously. When a body of that kind tell me—and what they say was supported by the hon. Member for Peckham—that the existing variety of methods of procedure, added to by the Bill, will only delay progress, I am bound to be impressed. Like the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) I want to see things done quickly, but I do not believe that the Bill will have that effect. We should not give a Second Reading to a Bill containing such features.
Take the second point, about the powers of local authorities. I speak here as a Member for a Scottish Division and it may he that I ought to offer an apology to hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I will tell hon. Members why, with great respect, I do not offer an apology. As soon as the Bill has been shaped, I have no doubt that a Scottish Bill on similar lines will be offered. The character of that Bill will depend upon the character of the Bill we are now discussing, and so I am most anxious to put this Bill right.
It is incredible that the Bill does not give local authorities power to acquire land for open spaces. Why not? Nothing 1794 that was said on behalf of the Government yesterday has answered that question. It is not only open spaces; if the replanning of our new towns is to be any good at all, many things which we need, as well as open spaces, must be provided.
Take the problem of financing local authorities. For how many years did some of us in this House labour under the cloud of the Depressed Areas? Those who were in the House at that time know what an appalling problem that was. Here are local authorities without any funds at all, yet the provision under the Bill of funds for that sort of local authority seems utterly inadequate. Fife County Council is the one with which I am most concerned. It is a progressive body, but it acts like any other local authority. It cannot run its people into debt, and it will not do these things which it is asked to do unless they obviously pay for themselves. If the Government do not adequately finance the local authorities these great schemes will not proceed. The hon. Member for Oxford will not get the things which he so properly desires. Here, again, I feel that the Bill is fundamentally weak in an essential principle. Having those views—and they are shared by my hon. Friends—how am I to act at this time?
And I suppose nobody knows it better than the party opposite and the hon. Member. One understands from the Press that hon. Members opposite have had three meetings in order to make up their minds. [HON. MEMBERS: "Four."] I beg pardon, four, and only to-day we have heard their decision, which is that they are going to do neither one thing nor the other. That is no doubt the right thing to do.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
As the hon. Member has said so much about this party, will he finish the story and say that all its spokesmen in this Debate have made no secret of their profound dislike and distrust of this Measure?
I will not say that I distrust it, but I certainly do not like it very much. I was trying to address myself to the problem of what one ought to do. This is the difficulty in which we are placed. Clearly, we must have a Measure of this kind. We must make a 1795 beginning somewhere, something must be done. On the other hand, feeling as I do that the Bill does not contain adequate provision, I find it exceedingly difficult—I speak only for myself—to vote positively for it. I regret that, particularly in view of my association with the right hon. Gentleman. I honestly and sincerely regret it. I recognise that this is a compromise Measure, showing how much my right hon. Friend must have done in order to get agreement. I should like to make more tangible recognition of his work, but I feel it would be a little dishonest on my part to give my vote to this Measure. Therefore, while I am glad that my right hon. Friend is undertaking these negotiations in the future, and while I hope they will go forward and that we may quickly get a renewed Bill, I regret very much that the Government have forced this Second Reading upon us now and I regret that I am not able to give my vote for the Measure.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I will try to confine my observations within six minutes, and in that time I shall answer one or two of the points put to us by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart). I only hope that in anything I shall say I shall not incur the criticism of administering to my hon. Friend a lecture. I would rather say that when he asks why we are supporting the Bill we have some plain reasons to give. It is not simply that something has to be done and that a Bill, however bad, has to be supported. Here are concrete proposals, broadly based upon the proposals of the Uthwatt Report, which provide a more expeditious procedure for acquiring land.
§ Mr. C. F. White (Derby, Western)
May I ask the hon. Member one question? How can he make his last statement that this is a concrete and permanent proposal when a speaker sitting on his right said less than two hours ago that this was definitely an emergency Measure?
§ Mr. Molson
I do not see why we should not take practical and concrete steps to deal with an emergency. That is what a reasonable Government would be disposed to do. The first, and immediate problem, is to rebuild our blitzed areas. The hon. Members for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale), who have been talking 1796 about the blighted areas, have rather forgotten that when the men come back at the end of the war there will be, in towns like Plymouth, great, complete areas in. which reconstruction has to take place at once. The Bill puts first things first. Before we begin the demolition of blighted areas and the improvement of the layout of the great Victorian areas in our towns, the first thing to be undertaken is the extensive acquisition by local authorities of the blitzed areas. So far as concerns land which is adjacent to those blitzed areas, other land also which is blighted, and property which is a slum area, the whole of it should be included under Clause 1, in a designated area. Therefore powers are given to local authorities in blitzed towns who are prepared to take bold and imaginative action to buy up large areas of land, primarily the blitzed area, but also blighted and slum areas which may be around it. With the concurrence of the Minister, they are able, under Clause 1, to obtain, by an expedited machinery, possession of that land.
Secondly, although the Bill is obviously intended to deal primarily with blitzed areas, it also gives power, under a slightly different procedure, for the blighted areas to be dealt with in other towns, as soon as it can be done. I hope that this House will not hold out extravagant expectations at a time when there is an acute problem—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, and indeed hon. Members opposite are those who have been most frequently inclined to criticise hon. Members on this side when we have said we hoped it would be possible to carry out great reforms in this country. We have never said it would be possible, immediately the war was over, to overtake the shortage of housing over the last five years as well as to rebuild everything that has been destroyed by the malice of the enemy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nor has anybody on the Labour side."] If that is so, I do not understand why I was asked when the blighted areas were going to be rebuilt When the blitzed areas, towns like Coventry and Plymouth, have received the materials and labour required to meet their pressing necessities, then the blighted areas in other parts of the country will have an opportunity, under the Bill, of carrying out great reconstruction.
Running through the speeches of hon. Members opposite has been a suggestion 1797 —and I am sorry to say that I noticed the same thing in the more constructive and moderate speech of the hon. Member for Peckham—that it was possible for local authorities to attempt to deal with all these problems, the accumulated problems of 80 or 100 years, in a moment of time. I suggest that the reason why the Bill is entitled to have a Second Reading is that it attempts to provide expeditious machinery for dealing with first things first. The hon. Member for East Fife said that there were many things lacking in the powers proposed for local authorities under the Bill, but he only specified one, which was that there was no power to acquire open spaces. He went on to say that nothing which had been said from the Treasury bench indicated that it was intended to do anything about the matter. I can only assume that he was not present last night when the Parliamentary Secretary replied to my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He said:But there may be, in our opinion, something in the technical point that, apart altogether from blitz and blight, there may be a lacuna in the powers to acquire an open space as such. If that proves to be the case, it can be dealt with by an appropriate Amendment to Clause 10, and such an Amendment will be consiclerecl.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1944; Vol. 401, c. 1693–4.]Before the hon. Gentleman chooses to rebuke us because we say the Bill is justified in going to a Second Reading, he might take the trouble to notice that when constructive and useful proposals are made to Ministers they do indicate their willingness to consider these Amendments.
It was certainly a gross misrepresentation of the speeches of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary when he suggested that, as a result of the disoussions likely to take place with the local authorities, this Bill will be entirely redrafted. I hope and believe that when this House has given a Second Reading to the Bill, and has accepted those principles, the Government, while accepting any desirable Amendments on the Committee stage, will stand to their guns, and will see that the Bill which has been accepted by the House of Commons is put upon the Statute Book. There has been running through some of the speeches made in criticism of this Bill to-day the suggestion that no Bill can be a good Bill if it incurs the criticism of the local authori- 1798 ties. There are two Houses in this Legislature; I should be very sorry to think there was a third House, and that it was necessary for every Bill to obtain the concurrence of the local authorities. We believe that in general principle this is a practical Bill, that it is the kind of Bill that any Government in power at the present time, even a party Government, whether Conservative or Socialist, would introduce within a very few weeks of coming into power. We believe this is a Bill which is a practical Bill to deal with an immediate problem. I am glad the Government have shown that they are willing to consider, on their merits, constructive suggestions when they are put forward, but I hope that on the broad principle of this Bill there will be no weakening on the part of the Government.
§ Mr. Douglas (Battersea, North)
The problem of the blitzed areas is certainly one of extreme urgency and high priority, but that must have been obvious to the Government for more than three years past. That problem is, indeed, part of the problem of planning. Unless the plan is made a comprehensive one, looking at the whole area of the city which is being dealt with, it cannot possibly be an adequate one. Therefore, I am going to suggest, with all respect to the Minister, that this Bill does not approach the problem from the right aspect. What is required first is a more simple, expeditious and comprehensive machinery of planning, and that is not provided at all in the Bill, which deals for the most part with the acquisition of blitzed areas and of blighted areas, and the way in which the Bill is framed will make the procedure with regard to all these matters even more diverse and complicated than it is at the present moment.
The 1939 ceiling, which has now, under the Bill, become a standard price, will not solve the difficulties of the local authorities. Prices in 1939 were in very many cases at an extremely high level and were speculative prices. That applied not merely to undeveloped areas, but to a great many others which were approaching the stage at which they required to be redeveloped because the buildings were becoming obsolescent. I am not at all certain that the limitation of price to the 1939 value will be advantageous to local authorities generally. In some cases it will probably be extremely detrimental. If, for example, a plan is finally adopted 1799 for London which results in a diminution of population to the extent of 500,000 or 600,000 persons, as is contemplated in the draft plan prepared by Professor Abercrombie and Mr. Forshaw, the result of that, other things being equal, will be a considerable reduction of land values in London, and the planning authority, so far as it requires to purchase land, will be obliged to purchase it at values fixed by reference to the population of 1939.
The problem of compensation is the one which goes to the root of this whole matter of planning. It is the obstacle which has prevented planning from being operated successfully ever since the first Town Planning Act was introduced in 1909 or 1910. It is a difficulty which is not met by this Bill at all, nor, may I say, is it really met by the White Paper either. It applies whether the planning takes the form of simply laying down a plan and imposing restrictions to which the private or the public developer must conform, or whether it takes the form of the acquisition of land by public authorities, which is the main purpose towards which this Bill is directed.
Let me give the House an illustration which will be familiar to every hon. Member. One of the best and most imaginative planning schemes which has ever been carried out in this country was the Kingsway-Aldwych improvement, carried out by the London County Council between the years 1895 and 1905. It took 10 years in order to get that scheme completed, and even then not fully completed, because the land was not all let by that time. Some was not actually let until after the last war was over, and the L.C.C. in respect of that land had the advantage of being able to let it at a post-war price, although the price they had paid originally was a pre-war price. In spite of that advantage, at the present day that scheme is costing the ratepayers of London£60,000 a year, and the accumulated deficit which has been charged upon the rates is£2,800,000.
§ Sir Robert Tasker (Holborn)
The hon. Member's figures are entirely wrong. Kingsway has been one of the most disastrous things ever undertaken by the L.C.C. If I could I would give the details.
§ Mr. Douglas
I do not think the hon. Member is contradicting what I say. I 1800 am pointing out that planning carried out by means of public purchase of land under existing conditions, or under the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has placed before the House, is very likely to result in burdens of an extremely heavy character being imposed upon the ratepayers. When I was interrupted I was going to say that as far as we can estimate it at the present time, the deficit to be charged upon the rates will rise to a maximum of£3,500,000. After that, we hope that in course of time the process will begin to be reversed, but that will only be after a period of some 60 years or so. If that is the basis upon which the local authorities of this country are expected to carry out large-scale, comprehensive, imaginative planning schemes, I say to the Minister that the burden which will be imposed upon them will be an intolerable one.
The Financial Memorandum to the Bill estimates that the cost of dealing with blitzed areas will be of the order of£575,000,000. That, I presume, is intended to represent the initial cost. If it results in deficiencies year by year of the order I have indicated just now the ultimate cost involved may well be double that figure. The difficulty which the Minister and the Government have to face, sooner or later, if planning is to be put upon a sound financial basis, is to overcome the difficulty with regard to the price of land or the cost of compensation, whichever form it may take. That difficulty will not be overcome by means of devices such as the 1939 ceiling. It will only be overcome when we realise the necessity of having for every piece of land in this country a valuation which is fixed, not only as a basis upon which compensation or purchase price is decided, but also as a basis upon which the owner of the land will have to pay tax or rates.
Universal experience, all over the world, and particularly in the British Dominions, which have made many experiments with regard to this problem, has shown that that is the only way in which a satisfactory solution can ever be attained. Therefore I say to the Minister that it does not matter how much this Bill is amended. I welcome his willingness to consider representations made to him by the local authorities and by other people who are concerned in a practical way with this question, but at 1801 the same time it is impossible for him so to amend this Bill as to make it a really sound, workable proposition which will not throw upon the ratepayers or the taxpayers a burden entirely disproportionate to the results which would be achieved.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Everyone is agreed that we have had a remarkable Debate. It has been healthy in tone, but there have been controversy and fundamental differences of opinion. I do not know when we shall all begin to persuade each other to modify our views, but there is one thing I can say: Nobody has been very enthusiastic about this particular Bill, except perhaps the Tory Reformers. Even the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill, whom I would like to congratulate on his accustomed eloquence—this Bill could not have had a better advocate; he always puts his case logically and well—cannot be called an unqualified supporter of every word in the Bill because he was very ready to receive criticism and, as I understand, to modify, alter, change and add to his Bill as the result of our reasonable criticism. His was a very eloquent speech, but he will forgive me if I say that the most remarkable speech was that by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin). He makes no pretence to oratory: he indulges in none of the tricks of the trade, and he does not attempt to clarify his argument by adjectives or invectives. I thought—and I speak with some knowledge and experience—that he put up an almost unanswerable case in favour of fundamentally altering this Bill. I say I speak with some knowledge because I had the privilege of serving for 28 years on the body of which he is so distinguished a member. No one can be chairman of the Housing and Health Committee without having an intimate knowledge. He gave practical experience to this problem and I think the right hon. Gentleman would do well to consider seriously the points he put forward.
I am glad to say that I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart). We have a united Liberal Party far the first time for many years. I happen to know that my hon. Friend has given very long study to this problem. The only Clause we are in common agreement on, is Clause 50. We all approve of the fact that Scot- 1802 land is omitted from the Bill. I think nobody will find fault with that. Perhaps the Scots are too shrewd and canny and want something better, although my hon. Friend, as a Scottish Member, seemed alarmed at the idea that if this Bill got through in its present form, these principles might be applied to Scotland.
The great case for the Bill—the case of my right hon. Friend—is that it is an urgent problem, a very urgent problem and long overdue. The delay is not the fault of the House of Commons. All parts of the House have impressed upon the Government, first, to form a Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and, secondly, to get on with the job and give the local authorities the necessary powers. Nor can the Government say that they have had any lack of advice or lack of knowledge. The usual excuse for not tackling a difficult problem is that there must be a public inquiry, a Select Committee, a Royal Commission and the advice of experts, and that the Ministers do not feel confident that the knowledge at their disposal is sufficient to tackle the job. But the Uthwatt Committee was appointed for this very purpose as long ago as January, 1941. It was a very distinguished Committee and my right hon. Friend, who will, I assume, wind up the Debate, will bear me out that you could not have had a more distinguished one. Mr. Uthwatt himself is a High Court judge who has the general respect of his profession. The Committee also included a past president of the Chartered Surveyors Institute, not a revolutionary body, but a very learned one on the problem of land, Not only was this member a past president; he is a present vice-president. Then there is Mr. Raymond Evershed, K.C., who, I believe, is now a judge, and, I assume, also extremely qualified, and, lastly, my late friend, Mr. Wiley, a very capable lawyer.
One of the quarrels with the Government is that they are always postponing problems for inquiries, Cabinet Committees, Select Committees, Departmental Committees and Royal Commissions. We are now accustomed to regard these committees merely as show committees. I think we are entitled to say that when the Government appoint a Committee of this kind they ought to be guided by its advice. The Uthwatt Committee was appointed by this Government who have 1803 no right to waste the time of the learned, capable and competent people who comprise it if they are just going to ignore and brush aside their findings. I was rather surprised at the discouraging remarks of my hon. Friend who wound up this Debate.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I referred to the Uthwatt Committee with the greatest respect. I pointed out innumerable Clauses which we had based on their recommendations. The one matter on which I suggested they were wrong was their recommendation to do away with the public inquiry except in exceptional cases, and I said, on that point, that I thought the Committee, however distinguished, knew less than the House of Commons.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am quite ready to accept the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what he said, but the tone of his speech certainly made that impression on my mind. It may have been the inflection of his voice that gave me that impression, but there it is. If this question is urgent and long overdue for settlement, the responsibility for the delay must rest with the Ministers themselves. I forget how long this Ministry has been in existence—something like eighteen months, I believe—but it had nothing else to do, nothing visible to the eye, and after all this time——
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
May I remind my right hon. Friend that I occupied a good deal of the time of the House of Commons this time last year with the Bill which is now an Act? That was a contribution.
§ Sir P. Harris
A very small contribution. I think that after this very long time they might have hatched out a better egg than this which is under the suspicion of being addled. Certainly, with very few exceptions, nobody understands the Bill. I have had a good deal of experience of reading Bills. It was mainly my job for nine years to look through Bills and try to understand their terms. This Bill is in marked contrast to the Education Bill, which was well drafted, which everybody could understand and which was easy of amendment. Hon. Members will agree that the average Member of Parliament could understand the Clauses of the Education Bill. It requires a very learned Mem- 1804 ber, a student of law, to understand the meaning of every one of the Clauses in this Bill. I think one of the industries which is likely to be depressed after the war, and which will be in need of assistance to get back to full employment, will be the industry of lawyers. It may be that the two learned Gentlemen presiding over this Department could not resist the temptation of making this Bill as technical and legal as possible in the best sense of the word. This Bill will be very difficult to understand. One of the main criticisms is the number of forms of procedure. If we are to have a complete scheme of national planning, to replan our towns in the light of modern ideas, we must have it so simple that everybody—the local authorities and the public, whom my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is so anxious to safeguard—can understand it. We want the general public to understand and share the responsibilities of planning. What hope is there of getting a member of the public to understand the implications of this Bill?
The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary and, I think, the right hon. Gentleman were not too impressed by the memorandum of the local authorities. I speak with very long knowledge of local authorities, and I do not remember any other case, in all the long history of local government, when all these local organisations have combined and signed one statement. The City of London and the London County Council have become bedfellows—they had almost become regarded as arch-enemies. The municipal corporations and the county council associations—which are probably the most conservative organisation in the country—are agreeing to collaborate with the London County Council, which has been suspected of Socialistic tendencies. The urban district councils are very jealous of their position—they are independent. I am rather surprised that in this family there are even the rural district councils. All these organisations have got together and have agreed. [Interruption.] I know that it has been spread about the Lobby that it is all the work of one man. If one man can do that, the sooner he is brought on to the Treasury Bench the better. I do not know the gentleman in question, but I do not for a moment think that he has been skilful enough to bounce all these organisations into signing this document.
1805 These are the elected representatives of the people. If it is said that they have no right to speak, it would be much more justifiable to say to Conservative Members of the House of Commons that they have no right to speak for the people of this country, because they were elected nine years ago, on entirely different issues. I know that that applies to myself. But we are the elected representatives of the people, and we have a claim to speak for them. We are the instruments of democracy, though we may be out of touch. The same thing applies to these local authorities. It is true that they were all elected before the war, and that they have not been subject to re-election, but they are the properly-elected representatives of the people. My right hon. Friend made great play with the point that we have much more right than the local authorities to speak on these issues. I doubt that. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) was elected on such issues as sanctions: on world issues, national problems, peace, and so on. These local authorities are elected to deal with local problems: housing, town planning, public health and so on. They have more right, I think, to speak for the public on a problem such as that contained in the Bill even than Members of the House of Commons. I do not say that we should not exercise our judgment and independence.
If the memorandum had been a bad paper, badly drafted, not logical, not convincing, not backed by chapter and verse, I should say that this particular organisation was not competent, and that we should ignore it; but I challenge anybody, reading this document paragraph by paragraph, page by page, to say that, on the whole, it is not a good document. They have made their case, and if we are to do justice to the responsibilities which were put on them many of these proposals will have to be accepted. I take the view that we cannot deal with town planning in watertight compartments. You cannot divorce blitzed areas from slum areas, or divorce blitzed and slum areas from transport, roads, general planning out of the towns, and such things as public parks, the location of schools, the location of hospitals, and general development.
I was one of those who took a great interest in the great plan for London.
1806 No doubt, many Members visited the Royal Academy, the National Gallery, and the L.C.C., and saw those models. They were bold plans, which were generally welcomed by the nation. Everybody said, "Here at last we have a vision and understanding; here at last after all these years of bad design and bad development, there is to be a new London. Here is some consolation for the damage done by enemy bombs, that at last London, and great cities like Coventry and Bristol, are going to be re-planned." Now it is proposed just to develop the destroyed areas; to have one procedure for dealing with public parks, another for dealing with slum areas, another for dealing with blitzed areas. There must be one sound basis for dealing with compensation and valuation. There is no reason why a man who has lost his building should get less than a man with another site, built over, which has escaped the bombing. But you give a greater price to a man who has retained his site undamaged than to one who has suffered loss through enemy bombing.
§ Captain Prescott (Darwen)
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) dealt with that point, and his only remedy was nationalisation.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am saying what I think about compensation. In view of the urgency of the problem, I am prepared to accept the Uthwatt proposal. We have to be realists. I agree with the implication of my hon. and gallant Friend's interruption, that we cannot bring in nationalisation. We have not been pledged to nationalisation.
§ Sir P. Harris
We have always advocated taxation of land values, but we are not single-taxers. We wanted the valuation of the sites to be separate from that of the buildings, and we wanted both taxation and rating on the site value, so as to prevent the development of the town being held up to ransom. We have been advocating that for 20 years. We brought in a Bill, but it was thrown out. I must not go further on this point. I did not intend to refer to it until my Noble Friend challenged me.
§ Viscountess Astor
I have the Liberal Party in my constituency. I only want to know whether they are united or divided on nationalisation.
§ Sir P. Harris
I hope I have satisfied the Noble Lady and that she is completely converted. I want to see that reform. I believe that, if that valuation had been carried out, and that policy had been allowed to go on, instead of being thrown out, I think, in the 1931 Parliament, we would have been in a very different position to deal with this problem than we are at the present time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who did it?"] As a matter of fact, it was done by a Conservative Government, in spite of the protest by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs.
I have rather got away from my main argument. There are the Scott Report and the Barlow Report, all inter-connected. In fact, the location of industry has a direct relation to the development of our cities. If it is seriously suggested that London is not going to be permitted to have any new industries, then it is going to modify town development, but, on the other hand, when we come to towns like Portsmouth and Plymouth, the national problem of the location of industry must have a direct bearing on the whole town planning policy of the country.
I think this Bill is in danger of prejudicing the proper national plan which, sooner or later, the Minister will have to produce. I understand that my right hon. Friend is shortly to meet the local authorities, and is to have a discussion with them, and that he is to modify his Financial Resolution so that the Bill can be very much amended. I am going to prophesy—it is a very dangerous thing to do—that, however large the majority by which the Second Reading of this Bill is carried, it will not get through to the Statute Book in this Session. I do not see how it can. We have the Education Bill to handle on its return from another place; there are many other issues, and we are to rise in the summer and not meet again for some time. This Bill will go to Committee and will be subjected to a very great deal of amendment.
I think the wisest course for the Minister to take—let him have his Second Reading if he likes—is to take the Bill back, and produce a new Bill in a new Session which takes account of all the 1808 criticism on a national basis and does not deal with the problem on this narrow issue, but covers all the problems in the White Paper. I think that would be far the best thing to do. So far as I am concerned, and I will be quite frank with the House, if it were peace time, I should vote against the Bill, but, under war conditions, I see no harm in letting the Minister have his Second Reading. [Interruption.] It is much more courageous than the part most hon. Members are taking—running away. I think the most cowardly thing to do with the Bill to-day is to abstain.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not for a moment want to embarrass anybody, but is there not something more important than the point the right hon. Gentleman is making? Has he any right to go into the Lobby in support, and actively vote in favour, of a Measure which he so profoundly condemns?
§ Sir P. Harris
There is no harm in voting for the Second Reading on the clear understanding that, if the Bill is not amended drastically in the way I like, I shall have a complete right to vote against the Third Reading.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am very fond of my hon. Friend, but he did challenge me. Perhaps I was a little rough on him. [Interruption.] I think that it is serious, on a Bill of this kind, except in the last resort, to vote against the Government on Second Reading, but we reserve the right, if we do not get the kind of amendments which we require, to vote against it on Third Reading.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not recollect that there was an occasion when his party moved an Amendment, and then ran away and refused to vote for fear of defeating the Government?
§ Sir P. Harris
We can go back into all sorts of things. I am talking now as a Member of long experience, and I see no harm in having the Second Reading on the understanding that the right hon. Gentleman is to make contact at once with 1809 the local authorities and consult with them, and agree to widen the financial resolution and be prepared to consider drastic amendments. Then, I say, we can see if we can lick this Bill into shape and make it into a good piece of work and give it our support. If, on the other hand, bad counsels prevail and the weaknesses of the Bill persist, we reserve our complete right to vote against it on Third Reading.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
As one who has always, throughout his political life, endeavoured to take the role of conciliator, it pleases me to have the opportunity of following my right hon. Friend, whose present popularity in the House is only rivalled by the amazement which he invariably causes when he attempts to make a statement on behalf of the Liberal Party, or one of the units of the Liberal Party. As I understand the aphorism in which he has just indulged, as the result of his contact with the Labour Party, the most courageous thing you can do in Parliament—and this should be blazoned on the banners of the Liberal Party, and I must call the attention of the Secretary of State for Air to it—is to damn a Bill with all your power in your speech and then vote for it.
§ Sir P. Harris
If it is a rule of good manners to be as abusive as possible—[Interruption.] It is true that you can say that the Bill is full of faults and vote for it on Second Reading, reserving the right to vote against it on Third Reading, and that is not inconsistent at all.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not wish to enter into a controversy with my right hon. Friend. I am making a statement. I would like to deal with one or two points which the right hon. Gentleman made in the course of, what I was about to say, his muddled statement, but, in view of what he has said, I would say his somewhat inconclusive speech. He said, as far as I can gather, that the thing most important for us to do in this House—and he will correct me if I am wrong—was not to exercise our independent judgment as Members of Parliament representing constituencies—and I have received thousands of letters on that subject—but to have regard solely and simply to the views of the local authorities. That is the whole purport of the right hon. Gentleman's argument.
§ Earl Winterton
I would say to my right hon. Friend that he really must not complain of an old-fashioned attack on his speech. He has made a fierce attack upon the Labour Party, but I would remind him that the Liberal Party are not the only people who reflect the views of the people. They do not reflect the views of the country, as shown by their miserable numbers in this House. He made two charges against the Minister. One of those charges was that the Minister constantly appoints committees and then, when he has appointed them, does not accept their advice. I think that both those charges fall to the ground. This question of land ownership, as the House knows, is one of the most complicated in the country and we could not deal with it in this Bill on the scale that would be required without previous investigation. With regard to the second charge, that the Minister has not taken their advice, I would have thought that the speech made by the Minister yesterday showed conclusively that the most careful attention had been given to all the items in the Report of the Uthwatt Committee, and he gave the reason, I think conclusively, why on the whole the Government could not accept them in their entirety. Both charges fall to the ground.
My right hon. Friend constantly used the phrase "The memorandum of the local authorities." I have the honour to represent a number of local authorities and there is not a single one that has been consulted. This memorandum of the local authorities is the memorandum of a very distinguished body or trade union representing local authorities who have not consulted their constituents in the matter. I will give facts in a moment which apply to the South of England, which will show that no local authority in any part of the country from which I come would dare to subscribe to the views expressed in the memorandum, because every member would lose his seat at the next election. In case my right hon. Friend thinks I do it for a dishonest reason I can assure him that I am in agreement with my constituents themselves in this matter.
To come to the Bill as a whole, I would like to say, and I think the House would agree, that the Bill has been illumined and distinguished by some fine speeches, 1811 including the Minister's introductory speech, and, if I may single out another and pay a genuine compliment to it, that of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin). The hon. Member is one of the most dangerous opponents in this House, because he puts his case so carefully and fairly that it is not easy to get under his guard, though I am going to try very hard to do that in the course of my observations. I suggest that he ought to view the landscape as a whole in this matter and consider not only the Bill itself but what is important.
Two fundamental facts stand out. My hon. Friend who sits beside me may care to deal with these points, which I put forward in no provocative spirit, because I think he will agree with me. The first of these facts is the public demand for action to deal with the interruption in house-building and in slum clearance caused by the war, and the war damage, which, incidentally, is not finished yet and which, if I may say something without doing anything contrary to public interest, may be of a much more drastic kind than many people realise before it is over. I do not think it can be solved by any one process. This has not been recognised in many speeches, except by friends of the organisation to which I am proud to belong—the Tory Reform Committee. I do not think anyone can deny it. Ministers did not enter the Government, and Members as a whole did not support it, on the one hand, to make plans for a paradise or to bring about the national ownership of the land in our own time. Ministers did not enter it, on the other hand, to support the unrestricted private ownership of land with regard to public needs as they existed 50 years ago.
That is the answer to the sort of speech made by the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and one or two Tory criticisms outside the House. They were imbued with the spirit of what occurred 50 years ago. Therefore, how can anyone or either side blame the Government for producing a Bill which carefully avoids, as far as it can, raising either issue in an acute form? Anyone who holds the opposite view and says that the Government would be right in carrying out the plan on such a scale because they believe in national planning or the House has no right to ignore 1812 private ownership in its most complete form, should not merely vote against the Bill, but should say, "I refuse to support any longer this Coalition Government." It is a Coalition Government and though there may have been cases where many of us have criticised the Government there is no reason why we should not on this occasion try to make amends.
As to the conditions in the South of England, the position is no longer as it was at the time when I took a prominent part in the discussion of the land Clauses arising out of the famous Lloyd George Budget. I was not an expert but I took a great part in it. In those days the weakness of those advocating the cause of the landed interests was that land was owned by a relatively small number of landlords, as the Liberal Party never ceased to remind us. To-day it is divided into the individual ownership of hundreds of thousands of small houses. I have as constituents somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 of those who own their own houses. The majority are salary or wage earners. A number of the higher wage earners, such as engine-drivers, have bought their houses through a building society or by way of a mortgage, and many of them have had their houses blitzed.
Are you going to tell these people, as is apparently the intention of the opponents of the Bill, that the views of the Association of Municipal Corporations or the County Councils Association are to prevail against theirs? I say nobody could afford to do that—it would not be right—and we have to remember that we are dealing to-day with a huge number of small owners. It may interest the House to know that after the last war the great Clemenceau—"The Tiger"—was asked by a distinguished statesman of this country at the Peace Conference, "Are you not very frightened of the spirit of Bolshevism in France?" He said, "I am frightened of many things"—and he was prophetic of what might happen in 20 years—"but one thing I am not frightened of is the spread of Bolshevism. My anti-Soviet Army is the 4,000,000 peasant owners." The anti-Leftist——
§ Mr. Gallacher
On that point, is the Noble Lord not aware that that was the moth-eaten bureaucratic argument used about the peasants of Russia, but the 1813 Russians were intelligent enough to understand that the Socialist method was a better method than the individual one?
§ Earl Winterton
My hon. Friend is obviously so individualistic that he should not quarrel with me over this matter. I am not talking of 20 years ago but of the situation to-day. I should be out of Order if I pursued that point. I am much more in agreement with my hon. Friend on conditions in Russia to-day than then.
§ Earl Winterton
I would say that the safeguard against any violent disturbance in the tenure of land and houses is the fact that all these people exist in such numbers, and we must have regard to that fact. I think my hon. Friends on this side of the House, with great wisdom—if I may say so without seeming effusive or patronising—have deliberately made it clear in their speeches that, though they are in favour of nationalisation in general, they do not want to interfere with the small people.
§ Earl Winterton
Then I would go a step further and beg them to be careful, in attacking this Bill, in taking too much the side of the local authorities or the associations of local authorities against the Bill.
There are only two other points I want to make, in reply to something said by the hon. Member for Peckham. He said that he did not think the Bill gave local authorities sufficient power to acquire land. My answer is that I think it does, but I want to say this to him, because it follows on the argument I have just been trying to use. I do not know whether he will agree or not, because I do not know the views of the party on this side of the House on this question. I would lay down as a general axiom that municipal ownership should not be regarded as an end in itself, but merely as a means to serve the public well-being. If we are in agreement, then surely it is perfectly possible, during the course of this Debate, to find the mean between two extremes, so that both public and private ownership will be given their chance of rebuilding this country. That is surely the essence of the whole thing, and that by 1814 itself should make anyone holding those views be willing to support the Bill.
Incidentally, a most interesting situation has arisen in a Southern town owing to the damage that has been done. I know a housing estate owned by a certain public authority, not perhaps one of their best—some of the L.C.C. estates are the best public ownership estates in the world. I think—which has been most grievously damaged. It may well be when the county council comes to rebuild it that it may be more convenient for them to enter into an arrangement, which they could do under this Bill, with private enterprise on some part of the estate. So there is really not that conflict of interest which I would humbly suggest to the hon. Member for Peckham appeared to be in his mind. I have a great admiration for the county council, and I feel bound to Observe, and it is fair that it should be said, that in regard to its treatment of private enterprise there is literally no bias on the part of the Socialist majority. They have treated private enterprise fairly.
The other point made by my hon. Friend was his objection to the public inquiry. I really beg him to think again. Here is a point of great importance. I thought the argument he used was the only weak point in his well-argued speech. He said there would be a thousand individual owners, but that is all the more reason for having a public inquiry. You cannot, like a thief in the night, suddenly sign an Order taking away the houses of these thousand individual owners. You must have a public inquiry. If anybody on this side of the House or anywhere else is going to take the view that these things have to be done in the dark without inquiry, they are on the slippery slope of the putative Fascist——
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. and learned Gentleman says "Nonsense" but I will tell him what happened, because I was in Italy at the time and I saw it. I have always had a great dislike of the Fascists, but one of the good things they did was the improvement they made on the outskirts of certain towns. But they did it in the most brutal way; they took away land—mostly belonging to small peasants 1815 —without a word of inquiry. I say you have to be extremely careful. I am a party politician and I warn my friends on this side of the House that they had better look out, because, if we are fighting each other at the next Election, nothing would be better than to say, "What do they want? They want you to adopt public ownership, which is really Fascism under another name." That is an argument that may be used against them. I say this—and no one can deny it, least of all my hon. Friends themselves who, in many cases, by their own meritorious actions have raised themselves to a very proper position of authority in the State—if there is one thing the Englishman sticks to, it is what he has made by his own toil and by his own savings. If you say to those people, when they are private owners of houses like these hundreds and thousands are, "We do not care a bit about you. All we think of, under the persuasion of the Liberal Party, is what the Association of Municipal Corporations think. Planning is the only thing that matters, never mind about the individual"—if you do that, you are not only doing great mischief to the country as a whole, but raising an issue of potential fury such as has seldom been seen at General Elections in this country.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
It will be a matter of great joy to my colleagues and myself to know at last from the most reforming and the most Tory Member of the Tory Reformers exactly what argument is going to be put forward at the next Election against those of us who believe in organising the country we live in for the good of the people in that country, and not for the good of those who may happen to own some of that country. Not to have an inquiry, says the Noble Lord, is of the breed of Fascism. Does he realise that the very Bill which he supports has a noggin of Fascism in it, that there is procedure under Clause 2 (2)—on which the right hon. Gentleman prided himself yesterday—by which land can be acquired without any local inquiry at all? The power is there. The Subsection reads:If—(a) the Minister is satisfied that its acquisition by the authority will be required for the purpose of dealing satisfactorily with the damage.…
§ Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)
In the case the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to, has not the local inquiry already taken place?
§ Mr. Hughes
My hon. and learned Friend for once has fallen into the same trap as the Noble Lord; he has not read the Bill. It says:if—(a) the Minister is satisfied that its acquisition by the authority will be required for the purpose of dealing satisfactorily with the damage whatever may be decided as to the manner in which the land is to be laid out and used, and that the postponement of the acquisition thereof would be prejudicial to the public interest"—then the authority may be authorised to purchase the land compulsorily—notwithstanding that no Order under Section one of this Act is in force in relation thereto.In other words, Section 1 of the Act goes out and by reference to the Schedule, as being that which brings in the provisions of the public inquiry, there is no inquiry there. I would also like to draw the attention of the Noble Lord to some further Fascist tendencies on the part of his own friends and the Government.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The hon. and learned Member does not mean to say, does he, that he has any friends in the Government?
§ Mr. Hughes
Well, he is doing his best to support them to-day. I want to draw the attention of the House to two Bills which have been in our hands during the last few days. One is the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Bill to enable local authorities to provide houses quickly and to obtain land for that purpose. This Bill was presented by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Health. When I look at the imposing list of names of those who back the Bill we are now considering I find the name of the same right hon. and learned Gentleman. This Bill, as we heard from the Minister yesterday, does not contain any exceptional provisions for local inquiries because it is fundamental that there should be local inquiries, that the rules should permit people to state their objections, that this was a form of preservation of democracy. This is backed by the Minister of Health.
Now turn to the other Bill—the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Bill—and it 1817 will be found that provision is made for an Order without causing a public inquiry to be held. Another Fascist has come to life—the Minister of Health. Let us go a stage further. The Housing (Scotland) Bill contains similar provisions for Scotland, although rather differently expressed. This Bill was presented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, who, with his usual caution, has taken care not to have his name on the back of the Bill we are now considering. In the Housing (Scotland) Bill we find exactly the same provision—that the Minister may make an Order without any public inquiry. I have not attended as many of these inquiries as my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), the reason being that I did not attend unless I was paid for doing it. I have appeared both for local authorities and objectors, and I have never yet heard an objector put forward any case at all except that of his own personal objection to interference with his own property. The whole object of an inquiry, if it has any object at all, is to go into the merits of the scheme.
§ Mr. Bartle Bull (Enfield)
Why then did the hen. and learned Member not appear without being paid for it, if it was only a question of going into the merits of the scheme?
§ Mr. Hughes
I was always prepared to argue the merits of the scheme, but neither myself nor any other advocate was ever instructed to argue the merits of the scheme. All the objectors said was, "Take anything you like but do not take mine." Let us face it. We cannot plan for the benefit of the community without interfering with private rights, and the Tory Reformers, the bright boys on the third Bench opposite, know that. They can trail across the Floor of the House the skirts of the widow who has every penny in her own house, but behind those skirts——
§ Mr. Hughes
—lurk the big property owners and the great landowners. We believe that people should be properly compensated when their property is taken away, but we do not believe that the rights of property, be it a right in one house, one cottage or an enormous estate, should stand in the way of plans which 1818 are to be put forward, not for the sake of planning, or for the aggrandisement of a local authority——
§ Mr. Hughes
—but for the good of the community. I want for a moment to examine, so far as one may discover them, the alleged merits of this Bill. It is said that it will do something for the areas of extensive war damage. Well, where do we get to in that magnificent phrase? I want to put this to the Minister: Look at the centres of some of our great towns. The centre of Liverpool can claim to be an extensive area of war damage. Go across the Mersey. Can the same be said for Birkenhead? Go to Coventry. There is no argument. Walk down the main streets of Birmingham. Is it an area of extensive war damage? Go to Swansea. The centre of the town has been wiped out-20 acres. Is the centre of Cardiff an area of extensive war damage? The towns of the country do not know yet what an area of extensive war damage means, and this Bill asks them to prepare a plan on the basis of extensive war damage, without knowing whether, in the first place, the Minister will agree that it is an area of extensive war damage or not, and without knowing to what extent he will extend the area to bring in the surrounding parts. This kind of uncertainty will not encourage local authorities to proceed, even on the basis of what is put forward as the best thing in the world.
Go a stage further and accept that a town has areas of extensive war damage. Take the area of the London County Council. I consulted with the best authority I could find, the person with the best knowledge of an extensive war damage area, and I asked him, "Can you give me a rough idea of what you would regard as the number of areas of extensive war damage in London? Is it five, to, 20 or 30?" He said, "I have studied the Bill and I have not the foggiest idea what an area of extensive war damage can be." This leaves local authorities hazy, uncertain, without knowledge of what their rights and duties are. When one goes from the blitz areas to the blight areas one finds oneself in the realm of imagination. The provisions for blight areas, particularly when there are blitz areas as well, mean nothing to local authorities. There is no direct quick procedure provided. There is no finance.
1819 Local authorities are going to carry enormously increased burdens. When they have blitzed areas they will have burdens to carry in respect of them, apart from the assistance that the State is going to give them towards the interest, and it will be impossible for them to take in hand the planning of the blight areas. What is the result of that? More into the pockets of the landowners. If we cannot plan the blight areas, if we cannot deal with them as part of a comprehensive plan, rehabilitation will go on, war damage money will be paid, reserves which have been heaped up for the purpose of bringing machinery, buildings and houses up to date, money laid by for repairs and maintenance, will pour into these blighted areas. The very areas which it is said have to be pulled down will have more and more money poured into them, until the 1939 figure becomes meaningless and it becomes too expensive for local authorities to deal with them at all.
I do not want to quarrel with the idea that the Minister put forward of giving fine centres to our cities. What they will be we know in the cities which have been badly blitzed. They are the business and shopping centres. But, after all, it is a question whether the House is willing that the establishment of the business centre, the shopping area, the civic centre, should be the first claim on our resources after the war. Is not the personal claim the higher one? The personal claim, the claim for houses, can only be satisfied with something different from what is in the Bill. It can only be satisfied by the procedure in the Housing Bill which I have read. That is the thing to which precedence should be given.
The Noble Lord seemed to accuse us of wanting planning for its own sake. I do not believe that the planned use of our land is the most economic business use of it—the best way to get the limit out of this limited commodity. Apart from that, in this planning, if we could get it wholesale, over the city as a whole, we should find that the human values would be satisfied. It is only the properly planned town which can give safety for the child to go to school without crossing dangerous lanes of traffic, which will give the housewife convenience to do her shopping close to the home, without having to tramp all over the place, and give the breadwinner 1820 the convenience and comfort of going to his work without giving up two or three hours a day to the process. Above all, if we believe in this country, we should wish to see the hall-mark of the best civilisation of the world established here—that is, beautiful cities. We have not got them yet. Let us see that in our time we shall get them by something better than this Bill. I cannot support it. It nearly breaks my heart not to go into the Lobby against it. But I live in hope that, in the course of time, in its subsequent stages it may be improved into something which will help our civilisation forward.
§ Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)
I have listened to the Debate for two days and, like most people who have to wait for a long period, have heard one argument after another being used which was my own original idea. So that, having been almost stripped, I shall not inflict myself for long on the House. But I am sure I shall be forgiven if I say, having fought this question for more years than I care to count, that listening to this Debate brings back many memories, and one feels an oscillation between feelings of sad despondency and faint-heartedness. We on this side are in a very difficult position in this Debate. We have not only to contend with the Government Ministerial bench, but we have an angelic choir, or Greek chorus, two benches behind, who take up the defence of the Government when it thinks the Ministerial bench weak; then, as if to beat the band to full forte, we have the Noble Lord, with the agility of mind and body which we identify with him, springing to the defence, or the castigation, of the Government, as he feels inclined.
Watching the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary piloting a Bill through the House one gets the impression of a sort of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza performance. But yesterday my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary reminded me of Don Giovanni and faithful Leperello, and as I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary having a rollicking good half-hour in defence of his chief, it reminded me of the good Leperello in similar circumstances. There is a figure in the opera—the Ghost of the Commander. I would liken him to the Law of Rent. I beg the Minister to look out. He may be very gallant in defending the Bill but there is the law of rent— 1821 "the ghost." When it invites him to dinner in the working out of this Bill I ask him not to shake hands with it. It has a deadening grip.
With all this talk that has gone on about this Bill yesterday and to-day, and with every Bill that has been brought to this House dealing with the land question has been wide of a basic fact in the problem. May I be forgiven for stressing this point with all the vehemence that I can? Until men understand the law of rent and its operation in economic law you will continue to baffle yourselves with Bills such as this. I would ask the Minister and any Member of the Government not to take into the Department civil servants who cannot write clearly the meaning of the law of rent in economics. If I were a Minister I would not tolerate civil servants who could not write and explain it. It is this elusive element in economics called the law of rent that is unbalancing the relationships of society, and because Ministers and Governments will not face it we have to resort to these devices which lead us into complicated Bills. I am known to most Members, and I am not apologising for myself or painting a portrait of myself when I say that I have no enmity against anyone in this House. What I am an enemy of is that ignorance that presumes to lead men in matters economic when the self-evident law which should have been mastered by all of us who come into this House seems to be quite absent from their minds.
What do I mean by all this? In 1909 we fought the land question here, and it was sold by the man whose name was mostly identified with it. In 1931 we fought the land question again, and I had the great honour of practically being behind the Chancellor of the day, advising him step by step on each Clause of the Bill of that year. That Bill called upon the owners of the land to state the selling value of their land, and then he would be taxed on that value. What happened in 1909? We were thwarted by the House of Lords. In 1931 I remember saying to the Chancellor, "I cannot understand why there is not the same critical faculty being used against us now as there was in 1909." Little did we expect that the City of London was waiting to overthrow the Government. I am bound to remind the House, because I 1822 have heard a lot about democratic institutions and their working, that twice we brought to the Statute Book this principle of calling on the owners of land to pay taxation on the selling value of their sites, and despite that fact, the powerful interests controlling the land values unsaddled us when we tried to carry it into law. We all say we are democrats, but if we think we will remember that, although this country was roused by the land question in 1909 and again in 1931, we were thwarted by the powerful vested interests who know that, once we touch the land question, we touch the very basis of their power.
Now we find a new interest on the land question aroused in the junior section of the Tory Party. I congratulate them. I wish they were as old as I am with my experience in this House of this fight. What are we faced with now? It is only because of the exigencies of the war that we are driven to face this issue now. How are we proposing to do it? The Parliamentary Secretary yesterday, in his vivacious speech, told us that this was not a Conservative Bill. He rebutted the suggestion that it was drafted by landowners. He went a little further, and said that because this is a Coalition Government we cannot expect a Bill on very definite and defined lines. That is another difficulty we have in this House. Whenever there is a coalition of political parties, that illicit union is bound in the nature of things to produce a child the parentage of which they both try to deny. The child usually embodies in it all the bad qualities of the combination. Therefore, we are told that this Bill is not a Tory Bill and is not a Labour Bill. Then what is it? It is a conglomeration of both. When you read it you can always tell where the Labour Party had a hand in it—that is, on the poetic idealistic side. You can tell where the other hand comes—so much is to be paid for every bit of land that is to be taken under a war emergency.
The most notable speech in the Debate, apart from that of the Minister, was the speech of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Douglas). I know the Minister. I enjoy his friendship and admire his ability. No better man could have been given the arduous and almost impossible task of moving the Second Reading of this Bill. I admired the 1823 speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), as the whole House did. But if the Minister conceded to him everything he sought—more power to local authorities and more money—it would not touch the fringe of the problem. What are the cold facts? I would ask my right hon. Friend, or the Parliamentary Secretary, or the Minister without Portfolio, who has sweated many hours on this task, to answer two questions. When you pass round St. Paul's Cathedral you see the blitzed ground. It is the first time for hundreds of years that the people of Great Britain have ever been able to gaze on Wren's creation with some advantage. Thank God for that.
What do I feel when I am passing round there? My aesthetic emotions are rather damped because I almost hear from the ground, "So much an acre for this." I want to ask the Minister if he will try to find out what that land is going to cost us, because in a proper planning scheme that ground should never be built on again. It should be a vast piazza in the very heart of the British Empire, instead of being what it has been, buried by the huddled, idiotic buildings that were there before. Under Clause 27 of this Bill what will be the price that we will have to pay for that land? I remember inquiring into the valuation of land contiguous to it of a valuer who was one of the most astute valuers in the world, and he told us, shortly after the last war, that he considered that the site values of the land at the Bank and round St. Paul's were, on the average, anything from£3,000,000 to£4,000,000 per acre—bare, naked land.
In regard to Clause 27, I want to ask, when the owners of this land come to the Minister to buy out their interests, what are we to pay for this blitzed land? I am a realist, or at least I try to be. I know that, given the circumstances that are facing us, we must do something immediately to rebuild certain cities that have been badly blitzed. I know that it would be impossible for me to hope to persuade this House to hold its hand in paying anything until there is a broad national scheme launched with a deeper and more profound conception behind it than the Bill. I agree, and therefore I have to submit; but let us be realists also about what we are to do. It has been rightly said by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham—and this is some- 1824 thing that the House seems to forget very often—that the local authorities are going to be made practically bankrupt, if the rates are levied for the Education, National Health Service and all the other Bills we are passing through this House and which mean an increase in local rates. On the face of the facts, I say that our rating system in this country is bankrupt now. What is the Bill proposing to do? It proposes to put the owners of site values on a perpetual pension at the expense of the rating authorities, who are now bankrupt.
Let me face another point—but before I come to it I will give another instance. We hear a lot about the 1939 values. Really, with the best will in the world to be friendly to those who are promoting the Bill, I say that that is sheer hypocrisy. No valuation was made in 1939. I ask those who are taking the 1939 datum line to answer this question: Suppose I have a site in the heart of any great city and, as not infrequently happens, I find that there are subsisting on that site half a dozen or more interests; how are you to disintegrate those interests and allocate to them the various compensations? It cannot be done, because we are dating back to 1939, for which we have no datum line fixed, because there was no valuation. The whole thing is hypothetical. We shall have to resort to what have been called the mysterious conjuring performances of people called land valuers or assessors.
Let me clinch this point with a definite illustration from my own experience in this House. Long before 1939—and I am taking this occasion to remind the House of this matter so that it will get on to the official records—a new bridge was wanted over the Thames where the Hungerford Railway Bridge is now. The London County Council wanted that improvement. It had promoted Bill after Bill. It came forward to this House with a Bill, and I was one of four Members of this House on the Committee. By an act of Providence I found myself on that Committee. I have never been on one since. What happened? To cut the whole thing short, it was that we learned that in order to get a bridge over the Thames and to make the bridgehead improvements that would be commendable to the dignity of this City, the Bill would cost£16,000,000. I asked the London valuer: "What have you to pay for easements, for the right to occupy sites on each 1825 side of the bridge out of that£16,000,000 to the owners of the land?" Listen to this answer, ye planners with the 1939 datum line. Take note of this. Out of the£16,000,000, the London County Council, who were to receive from the Government 75 per cent, of the money, were being asked to pay£11,200,000, before a bridge could go over the Thames. What do hon. Members think is going to happen in London, round the St. Paul's blitzed area, at those prices? How far shall we get with the Bill?
§ Sir R. Tasker
Will the hon. Member allow me to ask him a question? I am sure he wants to be fair. Of that£11,200,000, how much was taken into account for the surplus land, the value of which would have come back out of the£16,000,000?
§ Mr. MacLaren
I am speaking of the bridgeheads on either side of the Hunger-ford Bridge. There was no vacant land in question.
§ Mr. MacLaren
In order to strengthen my case I would point out that if the money had been paid for that land—as I found out upon pressing an inquiry into the matter, when I asked what would happen to the contiguous sites after the improvement had been affected—not merely were the landowners to receive£11,000,000 and more for the right to build a bridge, but the contiguous sites would have increased in value by the net amount we had already paid, namely,£22,000,000. Really, it is childishness—
§ Mr. MacLaren
—that we should be playing about with the matter in this piecemeal form. When the Ministry was established and got working, one felt that sooner or later these points were bound to happen. On the very last occasion when I had the honour to address this House I said that we were being littered with investigations, reports and architectural designs by the acre, as if drawing structures upon paper was reconstructing London. It was self-evident that sooner or later this dreamland of architects, of designers, would pass into thin air, when the hard facts came home of what you would have to pay for the land in order to do anything at all.
1826 I would ask the Ministry to hold their hand on these valuations and to wait until there is a broader conception about to be launched. Do something now and immediately, but do not commit yourselves to valuations which will be entirely upset in many cases when your new building has been effected. Take the case of a man who says: "I am enjoying the goodwill of a certain shop in a certain position." What happens when that man, with what he calls his goodwill, is removed? It is an old trick of the lawyers to talk about something called "goodwill." We who understand economics know that it is really something called "site values." The man who says: "I am enjoying goodwill on this site, and if you are going to remove me from the site I want compensation," bases himself upon what he calls his goodwill. You will have to pay him an inordinate price in the blighted areas. Under the Bill, he is to have prime consideration in the event of re-development of such an area. It has been a constant experience, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea very rightly said, in the British Empire and in the United States, that when you change a person of that kind to a new, replanned and reconditioned street, he is more than compensated by the improvements he then enjoys.
I beg the Minister and his Department to take note of what I say. If they are going to pay compensation, let them hold their hands until they see what has happened with the reshuffling of contiguous relationships in the new re-planned townships. If they do not, they will be mulcted in the first instance and they will regret it afterwards.
In regard to public inquiries, it has been said that they will hold up the progress of the Measure and that is true, but that is no reason why the inquiry itself should not be expedited. It does not matter whether a man owns one room or only half a room; he is a British citizen and he has the right to justice against a whole barrage of powerful interests. Therefore, he has the right to have his case heard. I will go further, and say, knowing that there have not been local authority elections for a number of years, it is for us to keep our eyes very much on the alert in dealing with land in some of these cities, especially when we see who are sitting on the local councils.
1827 For which it is necessary we should know how far the town clerks are purely town clerks and not landowners. I am very keen, from my own experience in Stoke-on-Trent, that there should be an inquiry wherever land is to be taken, but I would still defend the right of an inquiry when land is to be taken on the grounds of the right of a citizen of the State to have protection against superior or inferior ruling.
I have spoken longer than I meant to. I have kept clear of technicalities. One hon. Member after another in this House has complained that this Bill is highly technical. With this I will sit down: I began by referring to what is called in economics the law of rent. If the law of rent was properly understood and appreciated it would solve those problems which seem to be complicated. But when men have allowed this basic site value, which is not the creation of the landowner but the creation of the whole community—once you allow that to become private property—then by the very necessity of the case you must have complicated laws to circumvent the results. There is not a lawyer in this House who does not know that the most haunting part of his studies is the law of real property. It is not a law at all; it is an aggression of fiction devised by lawyers to circumvent truth. There is not a lawyer—I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Minister without Portfolio is not in his place—who does not know why what they call real property law is highly complicated and that the task of the poor student who has to pass it in his examinations is not so much to remember law as to remember what trick was resorted to on such and such a date to circumvent the basic fact, namely, that the land belongs to the people, but how can he keep it back from them by tricks of the law? So in a Bill of this kind you find these complications.
I declare to this House to-day that there is nothing simpler than the law regarding land. It is the easiest thing to understand, but when, as I say, you allow private appropriation of the communal element in it—rent—then, of necessity, when Parliaments come to deal with it and refuse to challenge the basic wrong in it they must have Clauses of doubtful meaning. As an instance, I commend 1828 Clause 46. Much as I enjoyed the happiness of the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday I was wishing he would explain Clause 46.
The House has been kind in listening to me flying more widely from the Bill than most speakers, but probably we are within the shadow of strange things happening in this country. It may be that peace is nearer to us than we know, and this may be the last occasion on which some of us will address this Parliament. I hope to God that is true. But—and with this I conclude—we are facing a new period when men will come back from the most titanic struggle that has ever faced human society, and they will want to know if this House is still going to go on in the old way of accommodating itself to historic vested interests, or whether it will take wing and fly in conformity with God's eternal law. These soldiers are coming back—I make no apology for mentioning this fact. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) rather twitted us that we should not speak about the soldiers. I say it now and I challenge anyone to deny that I have the right to say it; these soldiers are coming back and their hope is that those of us in this House will have a courage commensurate with their courage on the battlefield to make a better world for them on their return.
§ Sir Robert Tasker (Holborn)
May I point out with regard to the Charing Cross Bridge that it is a little unfortunate that people who get a little knowledge of a subject should express that small particle of knowledge in the House of Commons. It is unfortunate when it is done in the presence of men who have served on Committees dealing with the subject. With regard to figures, there was a very large area of surplus land in this scheme to which reference has been done. The House will realise that must be so when they are informed that the approach of this bridge started at the Elephant and Castle, and that it finished at Oxford Street. This is not a Debate on the Charing Cross Bridge. We have had that three or four times.
There is a disposition on the part of many enthusiastic planners to imagine that if a municipality only enjoys the right to buy land, acquire land, exploit land, and plan it, it will be a very profitable 1829 transaction, the assumption being based on the theory that because landowners are alleged to make huge profits the community can do the same. My hon. Friend the Member far North Battersea (Mr. Douglas), who has served with me on the London County Council, cited Kingsway and Aldwych. Had he taken the trouble to ascertain what it cost the ratepayers of London and then traced the history of Kingsway and Aldwych he would have found, as I said when addressing the County Council some ten years ago, that it would have paid the ratepayers of London if they had given the surplus land away, on the condition that it was covered in three years. In point of fact, the whole of the surplus land was not covered and built upon for 3o years. That was rather a financial disaster. I say nothing about the scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) referred to the statement of the Minister that in Portsmouth 500 owners were discovered on 20 acres of land. You need not travel so far as Portsmouth. When Lloyds was rebuilt on less than three acres of land more than 600 owners were found. It was dealt with by the Committee, over which at the time I was chairman, and the whole of these 600 owners were dealt with in less than three months. That was done under the powers conferred by the London Building Act. If similar powers were enjoyed by local authorities all this trouble would be avoided by doing what the Council authorised the owners of Lloyds to do to insert advertisements in various papers, of which "The Times" was one. Let me now confine my remarks to the speech of the Minister. He said:The Bill now before the House deals with a separate and limited, but a novel and formidable, problem.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1944; Vol. 401, c. 1592.]No one can deny that. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who said that he regretted that we could not discuss the White Paper separately from the Bill. The White Paper was a synopsis of the views of the Government, and, considering the enormity of this problem, even for discussing the White Paper alone, two days would be totally inadequate. It is unfair to take the White Paper and the Bill together, and to say to the House, "It will not be in Order to discuss the White Paper; you must confine your at- 1830 tention to the Bill." There is another aspect on which I think there is a little unfairness. The Government ask for the Second Reading of the Bill, telling us that we can move Amendments on the Committee stage. If this House grants the Second Reading of the Bill, we are committed to the passing of it, in some form. I do not believe it is possible for this House to deal with more than a small percentage of the Amendments which must be put on the Paper, and the Chairman must say that he cannot call some of them. Otherwise, we should still be debating this Measure if we met every day from now until Christmas.
The land problem, to my mind, is the greatest problem in the country. It is stirring up rivalry, it is stirring up discussions among all those who hold opposite views. There are certain Members who believe in the abolition of private enterprise, private ownership, private production, working for profit. They dispute amongst themselves about the means, but they do not dispute about the end. I will refer again to the Minister's speech. He said:It is necessary that the land which has suffered very extensive war damage should be acquired by the local planning authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 944; Vol. 401, C. 1592.]Why should it all be acquired? If the plan of Professor Abercrombie and Mr. Forshaw, showing where new streets are to be made out, is carried out by the London County Council, there is no earthly reason why the ratepayers of London should be charged with the acquisition of that land. I have another objection. The Minister has said, more than once, that these matters are largely conjectural; they are guesswork. In my submission, this House ought not to pass any legislation which is conjectural, or which is going to be based on guesswork. He said that these powers looked well enough on paper. So they do. But on my experience of building I base my belief that they will be very bad in practice. The Minister made the remark:It is better, in the long run, to carry the people with you in the open."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1944; Vol. 401, C. 1596.]I agree. I wonder if hon. Members realise the number of people who will be affected by this Bill. Nobody knows; but we do know that there are more than 13,000,000 contributors under the War 1831 Damage Act. Of course, they are not 13,000,000 separate people, but there are millions of people who are owners of land and property in this country. We know that there are 3,400,000 people seeking to buy their property through building societies—those statistics are available. We do not know the total number of people affected, but there are very few people in this country who are not likely to be affected, in some way or other, by this Bill. There is one objection that I have to this Bill which I think no one has mentioned. That is, that it gives ultimate power to the Minister. The Minister is to be added to the list of dictators whom we have established in this country. With him lies the final word. That is the theory. In practice, it is the Ministry, not the Minister, which has the final word. Those of us who have had the misfortune, in representing either a municipal authority or a private individual or company, to deal with the Ministry, know perfectly well that it is a most time-wasting operation. It is very courteously conducted, so far as the Ministry are concerned, but when they get fogged up a bit, you get a sentence beginning like this, "I am to add that—," and so on. It is no exaggeration to say that you can conduct negotiations with the Ministry for a year, two years, or more, with unsatisfactory results.
This is a Bill which threatens the rights of individuals and deprives people of their freedom. What is wanted is intelligent and sympathetic assistance. What we are offered is another army of officials, but no one can conduct business on those lines. My further objection is that this Bill I regard quite frankly as another step in the direction of National Socialism.
§ Sir R. Tasker
I know there are some Members who think like that, but I am not responsible for such a demented idea. We are constantly telling one another that we are fighting National Socialism, that we are fighting Nazism and Fascism, but we are adopting their principles one by one. The man who denies it cannot have understood what this country and this House of Parliament are doing.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson
When my hon. Friend says "we," is he speaking for 1832 the Conservative Party or for whom is he speaking?
§ Sir R. Tasker
I was not speaking for the obscure Common Wealth Party, certainly. In saying "we," I was referring to the majority of the House of Commons and that is what we understand when we say "we."
§ Sir R. Tasker
It is neither a Tory Bill, a Labour Bill, nor any other party's Bill. It is a rather silly Bill. We are attempting to do something which is really impossible, and it is only going to make confusion worse confounded. We attempt to distinguish between a blitzed area and a slum area, or something which has, by the march of time, become due to go to the house knacker's, that is, to be destroyed. In distinguishing between the two, I think we should show some discrimination. Surely, when the whole of a structure has been demolished, we can see how we can rebuild it. But worn-out property has already been dealt with, and it can be dealt with by every municipal authority, which can schedule such property as a slum clearance area.
I could not face my constituents without letting them know that, in my view, this Bill has been brought on far too hurriedly, that there has not been sufficient negotiation with the people who have to carry it out, and that there has not been sufficient consideration of the cost. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the ratepayer is going to be relieved because of an Exchequer grant. In my view, the man who has to pay, does not care whether you call it rates or taxes. He knows that he will have to find the money, and it does not matter to him how you designate it. It will never make the slightest difference to me whether you call it rates or taxes, Income Tax, Super-tax or Surtax—it has to be paid. I deplore all this hurried legislation upon matters of such great and vital importance to the whole of the community, and I hope, perhaps in vain, that the Committee stage of this Bill will take so long that it will never be placed on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. John Wilmot (Kennington)
I think the House can congratulate itself on a first-class Debate on this Bill, so ably and eloquently opened by the Minister himself. It seems to me that to-day 1833 we have had a Debate, the quality of which we have not matched for some time, and that is very fitting, because it is a subject than which there is none greater or more far-reaching in its importance. What is at stake in this legislation is nothing less than the future face of Britain, and there could be no greater responsibility, after the defence of our country, than its reconditioning and refashioning for those who have saved it for us and for themselves. This Debate has some of the characteristics of the old Parliamentary days, with good plain speaking, honest exchange of opinion—not too mealy-mouthed as in the modern fashion—with some light relief and "noises off" provided by the Liberal Party in the traditional manner. Out of all this has come, in my judgment, a most peculiar result, which the right hon. Gentleman must find, I feel, somewhat discomforting, in that so few hon. Members have been found in any part of the House, who could, without qualification, say that this Bill was a good Bill. It seems to me that, amid the chorus of many voices of condemnation, there were a few who extolled it, in my humble judgment, for virtues which the Bill does not contain, and I very much fear that, if the Bill should go in its present form on the Statute Book, they will be terribly disappointed.
This Debate has produced a number of very interesting expert contributions, outstanding among which was that of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin). It seemed to me, as I listened to him—and I have listened to him many times in another place, where we serve on a great public authority—that he had, more than any other hon. Member, or even the Minister himself, mastered the content of this Bill, which is a very difficult thing to do. I feel at a disadvantage as a layman, and not a lawyer, in speaking to it at all. I think it is rather regrettable that we are drifting more and more into the habit and practice of writing our Bills in language which ordinary people cannot understand—and not only Bills, but the Orders made by Ministers under the comprehensive Defence Regulations. That is a practice which is a very insidious one. Special phrases and nomenclature pass into legal currency and attract to themselves, in the course of cases, special meanings which are known only to lawyers and then, as the Parliamentary 1834 Secretary and the Minister point out, when the time comes for further legislation on these subjects, they are almost forced to adopt that form of words because it has been encrusted with legal meanings which go beyond the words themselves.
At any rate, they have a special meaning for lawyers. It is a very serious matter, and perhaps on another occasion the House may feel it right to discuss it on its merits. The law, and particularly this Bill, will affect the future life of millions of individuals and thousands of corporate bodies, laymen, ordinary citizens, the shape of their towns, the nature of their houses, the sort of life they are going to lead. All this will be determined very largely, in the long run, by this Bill and what follows it, and it is necessary that it should be written in language that ordinary people can understand, so that any man going to the Bill when it becomes an Act can find out what his rights and duties are, what the powers of his town council are and what is the relation of the Government to it. He cannot find out by reading this Bill. Those of us who have been trying to read it have had to go to experts and ask their opinion; they have had to call in solicitors; the solicitors have had to demur while they take counsel's opinion; and counsel says, "We must wait for the Second Reading Debate, and perhaps that will throw a little light upon it."
There was a great deal to be said for the suggestions of my hon. Friend the Member for Twiokenham (Mr. Keeling), who begged the Minister to produce the valuable chart which is said to exist in his Ministry, and which was prepared by able civil servants for his guidance to show what the Bill meant. They found it necessary to put it in chart form, so that he could have some visible representation of what this monstrosity meant. It would be a great help if we could have these adventitious aids, and I hope that before the Committee stage there will be much change and we may have the use of this chart, suitably amended, so that we may know the real meaning of the Bill. I have done my best, in the absence of the chart, to find something which would serve its purpose and this has been supplied by an eminent expert. It runs into five closely typed pages merely to describe the various forms of procedure the local authority will 1835 have to take in varying circumstances, and the circumstances of the land and the purposes for which the land is required, and, over and above all, the nature of the Statute, whether this one or a previous one, under which the local authority is operating.
I was interested in a great many of the speeches delivered on this Bill not only by the experts but by laymen like myself who wish to see the rebuilding of England as something which will be a monument to the glory of the time. I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), but I am really afraid that he is supporting this Bill under a misapprehension. He said that this is a practical Bill, that it is no good crying for the impossible, and that we should adopt this practical Measure of dealing with the blitzed areas. If we reject it, he says, how could we explain, as he was, no doubt, seeking to explain to his imaginary soldier in his midnight reverie, why we rejected the Measure? I will tell him how we would explain it. We would explain it by saying that it is a Measure which will not do what it has to do; that it does not contain within itself the power to do the very thing which the hon. Member for Oxford said it was most essential to do. It does not enable us to deal properly, immediately and expeditiously with the blitzed areas. The hon. Member far South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), in his interesting speech, the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom) and also the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) all stressed the importance of seeing the landscape as a whole. If we think of the cities which have been destroyed, of London as it was before the blitz, and of the opportunity which has come to us by these tragedies, surely it is most essential that two considerations shall be given equal importance—the first, that we shall rebuild the ruins rapidly and well, and the second, that the short-term shall not be the enemy of the long-term policy.
I was sure that there would be almost universal agreement on that point, and upon that is based my objection to the Bill. First of all, the Bill does not give the ability to proceed rapidly with the most urgent job, and secondly, it makes 1836 it so difficult to do that job that those who have to do it, the planning authorities, upon whom this terribly difficult task is devolved, will be so enmeshed in procedure that they cannot, with people clamouring for somewhere to live and to work, find the time in the period of this Bill to see the picture as a whole and prepare the pieces to fit into the whole. It is for that reason that I think this Bill is so bad.
§ Mr. Wilmot
I am coming to that, but I feel with the utmost respect that the right hon. Gentleman has a most unenviable task. When I saw some long time ago that he and his Parliamentary Secretary had been chosen to fill these two vitally important posts I was glad. I felt that they were men well equipped for their task, and I believe they are. Probably they have fallen into this unhappy position because this Bill has been so long astewing that they have lost the savour for it. That is why I feel that it would be so much better had the Government yielded to the very reasonable request from all quarters of the House to take this Bill away, and let us find the currency of opinion by a general discussion of the whole thing, and then go to the local authorities and seek practical measures by which the problem can be met. In answer to the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham, we do not believe that local authorities should usurp the prerogatives of Parliament, not at all. It is for Parliament to determine the nature of the law, but Parliament and Ministers are well advised if they consult in advance with those who have to carry it out. It was because that was not done that I think this very awkward position has arisen. The Minister, I am sure, will not go back upon the undertaking he gave—that nothing should be excluded from the discussions with the local authorities.
It is because this Bill makes it so difficult for a local authority to proceed that I find myself quite unable to support it. May I say one or two words in summary of the difficulties which confront the local authority? Under the Bill there are four or five different procedures, and each one of these procedures has to be run concurrently in adjoining areas, because practically every authority involved has areas in every class acquired for every purpose. Now I hope the right hon. Gentleman the 1837 Minister, when he replies, will tell us more precisely what he means by an area. There is a blitzed area, there is a blighted area. What is an area? How does he see it?
Let me refer to my own constituency of Kennington. Other hon. Members with divisions which have suffered will be able to fill in different names, but the picture will be much the same. There are areas of three or four streets which have been completely obliterated by the enemy. Adjacent to them are other areas in which a house here and a shop there have been knocked by a small bomb or burned out by an incendiary; and then scattered about in this part of London as in so many others there are dreary deserts of rotten, worn-out, mid-Victorian houses, badly built, badly laid out. We know the inner suburbs of London and their muddle, mess and squalor, houses which were poor things when they were built to contain one family, houses which are in many ways the most squalid of slums when they are housing three or four families sharing one sink, one tap, one W.C. and one kitchen, where people carry up water in buckets to the top floors of four-storey houses.
That is the squalor of London which I am hoping will be designated a blighted area, but we do not know, and we shall not know if the Bill is passed in this form. The local authority has less than five years from the end of the war, because the five years is to run from the moment this Bill has had its Royal Assent. Then the five years begin to run. The actual period in which the local authority has to do this immense and overwhelming task may well be four years or even less, and I would invite hon. Members to consider the magnitude of the task this Bill puts upon us. The local authority has first of all to declare all its blitzed areas. It cannot start now, because it does not know whether the Minister is going to regard the Parliamentary division of Kennington as having a dozen blitzed areas or whether all of them are to be coagulated into one. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to tell me that, it will be very important, because the fate of the Bill may depend upon a clear conception of how the local authority is to proceed.
If it has to follow the advice of the hon. Member who sits for Maidstone and plan this thing as a whole, then the 1838 first requisite is to know what area it has to plan. If it has to know what area it has to plan, it must know what is the conception of a blitzed area, what is the conception of a blighted area, and it must know something else that it does not know about, the financial obligation which this plan will involve. This Bill does not state that. It is only for the first category of areas that it will get any financial assistance at all; for the other areas which it is bound to bring in if it is to rehouse its population in anything like reasonable surroundings, the financial provisions are such that practically every local authority which has an extensive area of blitz and blight will be quite unable to meet the cost. That is really a fundamental and not just a machinery trouble. It really arises, as someone said earlier in the Debate, from a mistaken conception of the function of a planning authority in these days. All through this Bill there seems to run a doctrine that, while it is right for the citizen as an individual to own his own property and to develop it, it is somehow wrong for the citizens in their corporate capacity to own property and develop it. Every possible difficulty and obstacle is put between the corporate body of citizens and the property that it is necessary for them to own and to develop, and every possible reason is found for hampering and limiting that development.
It is impossible to justify Clause 16, which says to a planning authority, "You may only do anything in that area if the Minister is unable to find any private person to do it." How completely unjustified is that limitation. Just look at it in concrete shape. Here is the East End of London, here is an odd piece of land which cannot be used really profitably for anything. The local authority are left with that. They can make it into a garden, but they must do so at their own expense. Although the Minister tells them in his capacity as Minister for Town and Country Planning that the London plan with its four acres per 1,000 of open space is not ambitious enough, he leaves it to the local authorities in the poorest districts with vast crowded populations, to find the whole cost of developing and maintaining the open spaces out of their own pockets. But when it comes to a piece of land which, owing to the new lay-out, has a good value, where the local authority, 1839 hard-pressed to find money to meet its bills, might have developed some municipal enterprise which would have made some revenue contribution to its rate fund, the Minister forbids them to do it and says, "No, if there is anybody willing to make a profit, they are to have the opportunity and the local authority is to be denied it." These, it, seems to me, are evidences of a conception of public enterprise which do not accord with the necessities and the aspirations of this time.
The hon. and gallant Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) spoke of the virtues of squiredom. There were virtues in squiredom. It led very often to good planning. Woburn is a case. Holkham is a case of far-sighted, wealthy landowners who in centuries past have employed good advice and laid out their estates and maintained them in good order. I suggest that those days have gone. The only possible lineal descendants of those planners are the public authorities, the municipal authorities, the national trusts—the people who, with corporate money, can do what in centuries gone by the wealthy landowners were able to do. If they cannot do it to-day, nobody can do it, and this fair land will become a place of patchwork, mean streets and smallholdings. We do not want it like that, but we shall get it if we do not realise that this Bill limits, by pettifogging lawyers' quibbles, the proper development of a public conscience in the development of our land. It will lead to the making of a land which is not the kind of land which those who are now fighting to save it from destruction want to see.
I was interested in what the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing told the House about owner-occupiers and his 100,000 constituents, including engine-drivers, who own their own houses. I imagine that the engine-drivers would not vote for the Noble Lord, but that is by the way. Nobody on this side of the House wants to rob owner-occupiers or make it unattractive for people to own their own houses. Many Members on these benches have spent a great part of their lives in promoting societies which enable people to own their own property. The Labour Party is not against private property; it wants 1840 private property properly distributed, and of the right kind. One of the things which is desirable is that people should own their own houses and live in them.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Member is making a political pronouncement of the greatest importance. I understand he is in favour of the private ownership of land, unless it is held in too large quantities. Is that the policy of the Labour Party?
§ Mr. Wilmot
I think that is a somewhat inexact paraphrase. Speaking for myself, I am in favour of people owning their own houses. What I am not in favour of is people owning vast tracts of land and holding the public up to ransom [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] I am glad to find so much agreement. It is difficult to find much defence for a Clause which benefits the land speculator who went round after the blitz buying up blitzed properties from people who had been bombed out, who had to get money from somewhere, people who sold their houses and sites at rubbish prices. The Minister is going to give them 1939 value, and no questions asked. Nobody will defend that; I am sure the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing will not. This is a special sort of attraction to the private land-owner and a hampering of public development. The little man with the house into which he has sunk his life's capital knows that its value is largely conditioned by the surroundings of his house. We all know the tragedies which have occurred when a man has saved up enough money to buy a little house on the edge of a town in order that his children may enjoy rural amenities. In a year or two he has been engulfed in filthy ribbon development. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that going on. The spoliation of England will go on just the same, because there is no prevention of ribbon development. Planning authorities are so enmeshed in this mass of procedure and inquiry that during the five years or less which is allowed to them they will be so preoccupied with dealing with the urgent, necessary job of finding houses for their people that they will not have the time—or the expert personnel—to conduct all the tremendous operations that are necessary in order to do a decent job of planning.
I find it very difficult indeed to resist the conclusion that this Bill ought, at 1841 this stage, to be withdrawn. No one, so far, has made out a case for it, and those who have defended it have done so not for what it is but for what they hoped it would be. I hope the Minister will put the most generous interpretation upon his undertaking to consult with those who have to do this job, and will come back to the House after the Recess with something better than this. The Financial Resolution which was on the Order Paper would have made it quite impossible to get that done, and if it were not for the fact that the Minister was wise in not proceeding with the Financial Resolution to-day, but left it to await the fate of the Bill after the Recess, then I, for one, would not have been very reluctant to go into the Lobby against the Bill. As it is, I feel content to await the result of his consultations with the local authorities. Let him get down to the job of trying to make a new London and Plymouth with this Bill and he will see that all he will get is a few pockets of new houses, which will make it impossible to carry out the plan. When he has discussed the problems involved with the local authorities close up to the problems as some of them have been forced to be, I hope he will come back with a new and better Bill which will enable us to do a job worthy of our opportunity.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I ask leave of the House to speak for a second time in this Debate.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
Surely it is not in Order, if hon. Members object, for the Minister to address the House twice in the same Debate. It has happened often recently and I would like to know your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
If any objection is made, but I have not heard one hon. Member object.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
This practice has established itself in the course of the last few years, and is becoming too bad. There is no reason why Ministers should have to speak twice on an occasion of this sort, because nine Ministers are backing this Bill. A Second Reading Debate involves principles of great consequence, and I should have thought that 1842 we ought to have had another Minister, preferably a member of the War Cabinet.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We cannot discuss this matter now. Anyone can formally object if he wishes to do so, but we cannot discuss the matter.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In view of the fact that the Minister is about to give the undertakings for which hon. Members on this side have asked, is it not desirable that we should hear him?
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
If I have the leave of the House I shall try to answer some of the points which have arisen in the course of this discussion. There is much in the speech of the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Wilmot) with which I disagree, and with which I think he, himself, will disagree, when time and opportunity have familiarised him more with the provisions of this Bill. I do agree, however, that we have had an excellent Debate. I always had the feeling, while handling this most difficult question, that if I could get it before my fellow Members of this House I should receive enlightenment and matters would proceed. We have discussed many topics, not all of them confined to what is in the Bill, although that is perfectly proper.
We have had the question of the nationalisation of the land, and so on, and other conundrums which have puzzled the electorate for many generations. We had from the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) yesterday an admirable speech about the single tax, and about money. He himself said he was very sorry that he could not see any way of bringing tanks into discussion. In this particular case I think he was using less than his customary ingenuity, because the generous grants-in-aid in this business of bombed cities provide for clearances, clearances would have led easily to a discussion of the bull-dozer, and so on, and from that it would have been a natural transition to the inferiority of the British bulldozer and the superiority of the German. The hon. Member for Kennington said that there were very few in favour of the Bill. I did not form that impression of the Debate, and many of those who did speak in its favour, I found, had 1843 the great distinction that they had studied the Bill.
I should like to express my appreciation of my hon. Friends behind me, who are not ashamed of the title of the Tory Reform Committee. There is no reason why they should be. They show that they mean business because they read the Bill. They study it and work it out, and their contributions to our Debate encourage me because it shows that they have both zeal and a sense of progress. Those who have studied the Bill do not make the great confusion, which I wish I could clear up, but which will probably get gradually clearer and clearer as we go on, the confusion between planning on the one hand and land acquisition by compulsion on the other. They are two quite different activities. There seems to be in the minds of some Members the idea that you cannot plan unless you acquire. That is generally not true. Planning now exists over the whole country, and I have not heard it suggested that planning authorities cannot succeed because the land is not all publicly owned. It is only where you get a problem of planning presented to you which cannot be solved as a planning problem without the acquisition of land that acquisition comes in, and that is the case with these bombed cities and with obsolete areas as well. There is no way of tackling that problem except by land acquisition. But there are many other planning problems which can be dealt with under the present code, or an improved or enlarged code, leaving the land in the ownership in which it is at present but controlling its use. If that is clear, the real purpose of the Bill comes out. The bomb is a novel thing. It is not provided for in the planning code. It has presented a new problem to the planners, and they cannot solve it unless they have power to acquire the land, and they cannot get the power to acquire the land unless this Bill is passed. That is the relationship and that is why the Bill is introduced by the Minister of Town and Country Planning, because it is one particular aspect of the great planning problem which cannot be solved except in this way.
I hope the House will allow me to pass to some of the points that have been raised in the course of the Debate. One hon. Member who, if I may say so, 1844 praised the Bill with faint damns, was the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin). I should not include him in the category of those who have not read the Bill. He has studied it closely and he is well informed on the subject, and his speech was an excellent one. I feel that it is due to him and to the House, since he has given so much attention to the matter, that I should start by answering some of the concrete points that he put before us. The first point with which I should like to deal is the vexed question of the local authorities. He said, in courteous terms, that I had acted with less than my usual tact and discretion in not consulting them, and he mentioned an occasion when he had himself attended as a member of a deputation to me. In a sense it may be said that I have not consulted local authorities enough. If I have not been able to, I plead guilty, but I will tell the House exactly what I have done, because it has not been from any lack of sense of the importance of these bodies but for other reasons. Whom do we mean by local authorities? In the first place there are the local authorities of the bombed cities themselves, who are the main subject matter of the Bill, and with them I have had close and very continuous contact throughout the past year, trying to get a factual impression of their problems of building and of finance and of personnel so as to get a foundation of facts on which to proceed with the Measure.
With this body which has issued a circular about the Bill I have had these consultations. The first time that I met them was when I received a deputation on 1st December last, and they asked for early legislation on the matter giving them the powers that we propose to give them in the Bill. Then I said, "We will start discussing as soon as possible." They were seen on 30th December by the permanent head of the Ministry and the outlines of a Bill of this character were discussed. They were seen again on 19th January, and on the basis of that discussion we had a certain number of discussions among our colleagues, and on 3rd May I saw them myself. With them I discussed at length these matters—the procedure that we proposed to adopt, the 1939 standard instead of the ceiling, the financial proposals and also proposals regarding statutory undertakers' land.
1845 They were seen again in my Department on 17th May, when they gave me some very useful advice and when I had to tell them that this was getting an urgent matter. There are many causes of delay in preparing legislation of this sort and I had to tell them that it might be necessary for me to introduce the Bill and get the Second Reading before we could finish our discussions, because you cannot tell at the start of negotiations how long they may go on. I told them before the Bill was introduced that I was so anxious to handle this as an urgent problem that I hoped to discuss it with them as soon as we got the Second Reading and that I did not shut out good Amendments. That is the plain story of what transpired. I wish I could have spent more time with them but I have had to negotiate with other people besides local authorities. There are more issues at stake in the matter. I hope the House will acquit me of any discourtesy. I had to consult my own colleagues on the matter. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that.
§ Mr. Morrison
And I shall certainly consult them again. The hon. Member for Peckham warned me that, if I ran counter to the local authorities, I should be in for trouble. Anyone occupying this position is in trouble any way.
§ Mr. Silkin
I said the right hon. Gentleman had better come to terms with the local authorities on matters which are necessary to make it a workable Bill.
§ Mr. Morrison
I thought the hon. Member told me that I had better say what I was told by the local authorities. Though I am anxious and ready to co-operate, I have to remember that the people to whom I am responsible are hon. Members of this House, and through them the people of the country. Though I am prepared to do the best I can to suit the convenience of everybody, that is the attitude in which I shall approach this matter.
Let me take the points of the hon. Member apart from this matter, on which I hope I have cleared myself. He said that this Bill does not give the local authorities the power to acquire the land they want, and that I recognise the need for acquisition in some cases and why did I not do so more generally? He made the 1846 general point that they could not get on with the plans because the powers of acquisition were not wide enough. He drew attention to one admirable feature, as I conceive it to be, of the London plan, to preserve the surroundings of this House, diverting the fast traffic from it and making it a centre worthy of this great capital. I would ask him whether he would be doing this during the first five or ten years after the war while the houses in Stepney and the East End were lying in ruin and people were short of homes. Are we to have the building resources of this country diverted to improve our own surroundings? The fact that this Bill does not give powers of acquisition for that purpose is a sign of the sense of urgency which the Government feel that, in the immediate period for which we as a Coalition Government have to prepare after the war, the immediate urgency is housing the people and restoring the damaged homes and civic centres of our cities.
§ Mr. Morrison
That will come in, but it must be a question of first things first. As time and opportunity serve and we complete our first and urgent task, the greater and nobler projects, if the plan is made providing for them, can be realised, but first of all our bombed cities must be repaired.
The hon. Member asked what I mean by the words "extensive war damage and obsolete lay-out" which I use in the Bill. The same question was asked by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Moelwyn Hughes), who suggested that I ought to define them in the Bill. I am willing to look at any Amendment to that effect, but my advice will be to leave them as they are. If we define these things too strictly and leave no discretion to the Minister, it will increase the possibility of litigation as to whether this is or is not an extensively war damaged area. The hon. Member mentioned a matter that raises a special aspect of this problem. What about giving some special powers for London? That is a matter which I shall consider. London presents a unique problem——its vast size, its capital importance, the sporadic nature of the damage that has occurred in it. Now that all pretence of aiming at military targets is abandoned, and this device is entirely pro- 1847 miscuous where it lands, much more pressing problems of planning arise of which we have not seen the end yet. I shall closely consider that, because I am sure that, though there is always a danger in giving different powers to different local authorities, London, which stands so high in people's hearts and imaginations to-day, which is adding to its glory and renown with every day that passes, is deserving of every treatment that can be properly afforded to it. The hon. Member asked whether Greater London could be planned. We have a plan and I have a report from Professor Abercrombie on the matter. The present planning powers enable the numerous local planning authorities to combine in a joint committee if they so desire.
The hon. Member and other Members complain that there are no particular powers in the Bill to acquire land for open spaces. The law about open spaces is complicated. Clause 10, giving as it does power to make planned development, might be looked at again, and if an Amendment is moved to it we might consider it on its merits. That, however, is no reason for not giving a Second Reading to the Bill. The framework of the Bill is wide enough to allow it to be discussed in Committee. The hon. Member is in error in saying that the Bill does not provide against ribbon development. The hon. Member who preceded me was of the same opinion. There is good reason for that, because ribbon development is already provided for in the Acts of 1932 and 1943, under which any undesirable development of that sort can be stopped. In so far as the problem arises under this Bill, it is provided for. In all the highway provisions it is provided that where a highway runs through open country, not only the soil of the highway itself shall be acquired, but also a sufficiently wide strip on each side to enable the planning authority to control the development, and to prohibit it unless the owner of the land gives a covenant that he will not develop the land on the side of the road.
§ Mr. Morrison
All roads that are affected by the Bill.
The other point with which I would deal is the 1939 price. The hon. Mem- 1848 ber seemed to think we had not dealt with the matter of an interest in land which had deteriorated since 1939. He asked why a local authority should pay a 1939 price for an interest which had deteriorated. If he will look at the words of the Clause, he will find that the state of the interest at the time of the notice to treat is what is to be taken into consideration, and if the interest has deteriorated it can be looked at by the valuer in the deteriorated condition. There has been some complaint about Clause 16 being over circumscribed. The matter is dealt with in the Uthwatt Report in paragraph 149, in these words:In some areas where development or redevelopment in accordance with a planning scheme will not be carried out by owners in the near future, or at all, the planning authority should be authorised to acquire such land with a view to its disposition in favour of some person who will undertake the work. We therefore recommend that, where land is held up from development or redevelopment in accordance with the scheme, the authority should have power to acquire the land compulsorily with a view to enabling developers to carry out the desired work.Again, in the following paragraph:We therefore recommend that the authority should have compulsory powers to purchase land for positive development or redevelopment by the authority themselves, but only where this is essential to accelerate the carrying out of the planning scheme,and that is the provision which is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Morrison
My function as Minister is not to direct the local authority as to the disposal of their land. There is a purpose behind that. It is that all local authorities are anxious to do the fair thing by their people, but you may get, human nature being what it is, certain small areas where sectarian or religious feelings run very high. This is put in for the protection of minorities against a local authority which might want to use its power tyrannously by refusing land where it is required. Under this provision we, can deal with that situation.
We have heard a good deal about the public inquiry. The hon. Member mentioned the case of Oxhey and he said that the inquiry there had on the whole been unnecessary. As far as I can follow him he said, in the earlier part of his speech, that in 999 cases out of Low it was the 1849 owner of the property who was the objector. In the case of Oxhey, which was a housing inquiry conducted under the Minister of Health, in which the London County Council desired a site for housing, the objectors had among them the Watford Urban District Council, the Rickmansworth Urban District Council and the Hertfordshire County Council. When you get strife between the local authorities, does the hon. Member think for a moment that a public inquiry was unjustified? It was justified up to the hilt. Let me tell him that in many cases when it comes to the local authorities it is very important to the man who is overruled that he has been overruled having had his say and then he does not feel the same bitterness as if he has been overruled by some procedure with which he does not agree.
The other point was that here we are allowing 21 days after the proceedings, for access to the courts. You cannot deny access to the courts, in a country where the rule of law is what counts. All you can do, in a proper case, is to limit it and that is what we have done here. Does the hon. Member suggest that we should take away a right which is immemorial? I hope not. The limitation is 21 days in which a man can make his application. I do not think that is an unreasonably short time but again, it is purely a Committee point.
We have heard a great deal about finance. I do not think there is anything in it. I think my right hon. Friend may want to say a few words in addition to what has been said before about it. The truth is that we have this system of finance embodied in the Bill. Where you have land lying fallow necessarily for some years during the period which elapses before it returns revenue to its owner, you have these grants regarding the loan charges. I think that is generous, in a system to be used for 15 years and possibly for 15 years. I said yesterday that for long-term schemes which after that period, fail to show a profit, under the quinquennial review, which is applicable to gains as well as to losses, our successors may wish to do something about it.
The last point I wish to make on this matter is to ask the House to have regard to the circumstances in which we are living at the moment. I do not merely mean the fact that there is a war on 1850 or that our cities are lying there before us. We have as practical men, to produce measures out of this Parliament which do not offend the deeper susceptibilities of those who are joined in support of the Government. What we have to do is to keep in mind a sense of political as well as of factual realism and in that spirit I ask the House to allow me to proceed with the Bill. Some hon. Members said that I have an unenviable task; if I can make it possible now, or as soon as I can, for our cities to start and rise again, I shall count myself a very happy man, and all the trouble and difficulty involved will be gladly borne by me. It is easy to say what one thinks about the taxation of land values, nationalisation of the land and all those problems. It is very easy to lose oneself in them, but what confronts us now is not those things. It is what are we to do with Hull, Bristol, and London?
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, and Clydebank, as well as Portsmouth and all those places. That is the problem before us. We must get on and do the best we can. Some hon. Members seem to think that I am going to proceed by small areas and therefore we shall get a patchwork arrangement. I will indicate that in the Bill it is the local planning authorities themselves who set out their proposals as to what these areas should be. It is not for me to tell them. If they put forward proposals they map out their areas, and say what they are going to do on them. The criticism is invalid. I see before me very often the difficulties of this task. It rises very clearly to my mind's eye when I remember those damaged cities which I have seen. I remember them before they were damaged, in peace time, when there were lighted shops and dwelling houses and the life of the people going on, the whole current of urban circulation in those towns. Go and see them now—heaps of rubble, girders twisted by fire. Knowing how once a busy and populous centre of home life looks in its present condition, the Biblical words come back to me:The abomination of desolationThat is what it is, and that is our problem. We are not here to argue the rights and wrongs of nationalisation or anything of that sort, but to make as good 1851 a Measure as we can. With that object in view, I ask the House to give us the Second Reading so that at the first available moment, we can go on, and our cities can rise again.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
May I, by leave of the House, make a very short statement? I am not going to enter into the merits of the Bill. This week, two proposals have been made by the Government, one for the postponement of the discussion on the Money Resolution which in my view was right, and secondly the undertakings given by my right hon. Friend about the resumption of the discussions with representatives of local authorities. Therefore, I myself propose to suspend my judgment, and ask my hon. Friends to do the same, and to stand aside. If
|Division No. 30.||AYES.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hulbert, Wing Commander N. J.|
|Agnew, Comdr. P. G.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Eccles, D. M.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||James, Wing-Corn. A. (Well'borough)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Jennings, R.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Elliston, Captain Sir G. S.||Jewson, P. W.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||John, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Johnstone, Rt. Hon. H. (Mid'sbro W.)|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Evans, Col. Sir A. (Cardiff, S.)||Jones, Sir L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hon. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fermoy, Lord||Keeling, E. H.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Fleming, Squadron-Leader E. L.||Keir, Mrs. Cazalet|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Foot, D. M.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Furness, S. N.||Kimball, Maj. L.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Lakin, C. H. A.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Gates, Major E. E.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gibson, Sir C. G.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Gledhill, G.||Llewellin, Col. Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Goldie, N. B.||Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Longhurst, Captain H. C.|
|Brocklenank, Sir C. E. R.||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Gretton, J. F.||Mabane, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Bull, B. B.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||McCallum, Major D.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Guest, Lt.-Col. H. (Drake)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Campbell, Dermot (Antrim)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Magnay, T.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Making, Brig,-Gen. Sir E.|
|Cary, R. A.||Harvey, T. E.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.|
|Channon, H.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan-||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Hicks, E. G.||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)|
|Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T. R. A. M. (N'flk, N.)||Higgs, W. F.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Crooks, Sir J. Smedley||Hopkinson, A.||Nail, Sir J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Owen, Major Sir G.|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Hudson, Sir A. (Hackney, N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W.|
|De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.|
§ they were to vote to-night, I feel I should have to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. We must have a Bill of this kind and therefore I will ask my hon. Friends and many hon. Members who might be disposed to vote against the Bill, to suspend their judgment until after the Recess, when discussions have taken place with local authorities in order to see what comes out of them. I am not opposing in any way a Bill of this kind, because it is essential, but I must reserve my judgment and that of my hon. Friends to see what comes out of the bag after the discussions have taken place with the local authorities.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 227; Noes, 14.
|Peat, C. U.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Petherick, Major M.||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Pete, Major B. A. J.||Spearman, A. C, M.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.||Storey, S.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Pym, L. R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Weston, W. Garfield|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Studholme, Major H. C.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Roberts, W.||Sutcliffe, H.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Ross Taylor, W.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Tate, Mrs. Mavis C.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Den Valley)|
|Rowlands, G.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'd'ton, S.)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Teeling, Flight-Lieut. W.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Salter, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Oxford U.)||Thomas, I. (Keighley)||Woolley, Major W. E.|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)||Wright Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Thorneycroft, Mai. G. E. P. (Stafford)||Wright, Group Capt. J. (Erdington)|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Thurtle, E||York, Major C.|
|Shephard, S.||Touche, G. C.|
|Shuts, Col. Sir J. J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Turton, R. H.||Mr. A. S. L. Young and Mr. Drewe.|
|Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, H. M. (Skipton)||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, Clamant (Montgomery)||McGhee, H. G.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||MacLaren, A.|
|Gallacher, W.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Kendall, W. D.||Pritt, D. N.||Sir R. Acland and Mr. Sloan.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tuesday next.—[Captain McEwen.]