HC Deb 04 October 1944 vol 403 cc1056-74
Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I beg to move, in page 12, line 16, to leave out from "satisfied," to "should," in line 21, and to insert: on an application made to him by the local planning authority that for the purpose of making an adequate improvement in the conditions prevailing in a part or parts of their area by reason of the arrangement of the existing buildings and their character, design, age or condition it is requisite that the land in the said part of parts. The object of this Amendment is to give some definition of what is obsolete, because it is obviously not of such vital, pressing and urgent importance to acquire land which some planners may think is badly laid out but which others may think is well laid out. Therefore, I suggest that the words "good lay-out" or "bad lay-out" are not a close enough definition. We want to see what the Minister is after in asking for these special powers. This Bill will unquestionably affect thousands of people. I heard an hon. Member, who, I am sure, is very well informed, say they would run into five figures or more so far as houses are concerned—in London, I presume. We need to be very careful to make sure what cases these powers are to be given to deal with. A lot of people will want to know whether, once the war is over, they can get settled down again, they will want to be left in peace to restore their businesses, build up their goodwill, and re-make their homes, which have been shattered by five years or more of war. Therefore I think that we need to make clear at the earliest possible moment who are likely to be affected by the provisions of this Bill. I am sure my right hon. Friend will be the first to admit that planners differ more than anybody one knows, almost more than Members of Parliament.

Viscountess Astor

How many planners does the hon. and gallant Member know?

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I would reply to the Noble Lady that we are all doing our best to plan, perhaps with the exception of the Noble Lady when she is in her most destructive mood. I do not think it can quite be left to the planners to say what is good or what is bad, and I suggest that the words in this Amendment do give us a better definition of what my right hon. Friend is after when he is asking for these powers over what he calls bad lay-out areas.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Silkin

I should like to support this Amendment. I certainly want to enlarge the purposes for which local authorities can acquire land. This Amendment does it very effectively. I hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to accept it and make both my hon. and gallant Friend and myself happy.

Mr. H. Strauss

In spite of the formidable new coalition I cannot advise the Committee to accept this Amendment. A very serious objection to it is that it would enable re-development to be carried out only over the precise area in which the conditions are bad in the way defined. It would give a wholly inadequate new unit of re-development, and I am a little astonished that the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), temporarily swept off his feet by the eloquence of my hon. and gallant Friend, should have given his support to an Amendment which I am afraid may result in his being attacked in the technical Press. I hope they may pay a tribute to his sense of humour. The narrowness of the test to be applied becomes obvious when we consider some of the matters not mentioned for which it may be desirable to lay-out an area afresh, for instance, lack of adequate open space, congestion, inadequate road width and many other things. I think I have said sufficient to show there are technical faults in the Amendment proposed and I suggest that the words in the Bill are altogether more satisfactory for those who are eager to deal with these areas.

Mr. H. Lawson

The Minister is now wanting to widen this Clause, which has been criticised as being drawn too narrowly. Conditions have to be bad in the way of lay-out and obsolete development, and my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and I would very much like to see the Clause widened. The Parliamentary Secretary is now holding out hopes that he is prepared to do that. I hope he will carry that into effect.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

There is a deplorable state of affairs in a mushroom town in my own constituency, where people are without any sewerage and have no water supply. I think my hon. Friend would have been able to deal with a situation of that kind under the words of the Amendment, better than he will under the words of this Clause.

Mr. H. Strauss

If I remember accurately the particulars of the area to which my hon. Friend refers, I think that almost any definition of an area of bad lay-out would cover his land. [Interruption.] I am sorry, I meant the land within his constituency. I was not suggesting that he was responsible. I can assure the Committee that there is no doubt whatever that the words of the Amendment, notwithstanding the support that my hon. and gallant Friend has obtained, will not enable the redevelopment to take place which I believe is desired in every quarter of the Committee, and I advise the Committee unhesitatingly to reject the Amendment, unless indeed my hon. and gallant Friend, terrified by the support he has now received, thinks fit to withdraw it.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I am bitterly disappointed to think of all the work entailed in putting forward an Amendment of this description being swept aside by the Minister so cursorily. I think the Government have missed the golden opportunity which was presented of wedding the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and myself. To show my hon. Friend that I have no umbrage in regard to this matter, I do not intend to press it to a division. I do not intend that it shall be negatived and, with permission, I will merely withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

I beg to move, in page 12, line 20, to leave out "of."

It would be, I think, to the advantage of the Committee, if we could consider this Amendment and the next Amendment in my name together.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. McLean Watson)

Very well, if the Committee agrees to that course.

Mr. Hughes

I move these two serious Amendments in the interests of purity of grammar and syntax as well as on the ground of principle. I find that, as the line now stands, it contains the phrase: where such conditions exist of or such land … I suggest to the Committee—without reading the whole Sub-section in full—that if this were made to read: where such conditions exist or of such land … that would be good grammar, good syntax, good sense, and sound principle.

The Attorney-General

The Government gladly accept this and the following Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 12, line 20, after "or" insert "of."—[Mr. Moelwyn Hughes.]

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 12, line 21, after the second "land," to insert "contiguous or."

This is a drafting Amendment.

Sir J. Lamb

This is a matter which I have argued before. I have another Amendment down on this point, although I am not sure that it will be called. If the right hon. Gentleman will give an undertaking that this covers the point, I will not move my Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 12, line 21, after "thereto," insert: or such a part or parts of their area together with land outside their area contiguous or adjacent thereto. In line 23, after "area," insert: and any such land outside their area as aforesaid."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

Mr. H. Strauss

I beg to move, in page 12, line 26, to leave out from "Act," to the end of the Sub-section.

This is one of the series of Amendments that the Committee were good enough to agree we should take formally, leaving the discussion to the Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 12, line 27, at end, insert: References in the following provisions of this section to a part of the area of an authority as to which the Minister is so satisfied include references to land as to which he is so satisfied consisting of a part of the area of the authority together with land outside their area but contiguous or adjacent thereto. In line 30, leave out "replacements," and insert: re-location of population or industry or for replacement of open space."—(Mr. H. Strauss.)

6.0 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 12, line 35, to leave out from "the," to end of Sub-section, and insert: expressions 're-location of population or industry,' and 'replacement of open space,' have, in relation to a part of the area of a local planning authority as to which the Minister is satisfied as aforesaid, the like meanings as are assigned to those expressions respectively by Section one of this Act in relation to an area of extensive war damage. I can assure the Committee that this is a purely drafting Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 13, line 10, leave out "in other respects."

In line 11, leave out from "Act," to end of line 12.

In line 26, after "that," insert "part of that."

In line 28, leave out "replacements," and insert: for re-location of population or industry or for replacement of open space. In line 28, at end, insert "part of that."

In line 43, leave out Sub-section (5).

In page 14, line 28, leave out "replacements," and insert: re-location of population or industry or for replacement of open space. In line 33, leave out "replacements," and insert "such re-location or replacement."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Earl Winterton

I am sorry that I have to detain the Committee for a few moments to raise a matter which I think is of some importance. It was referred to in one Amendment which has not been called. I am in thorough agreement with the Clause, and especially with the preliminary intention, but, if I may say so, this is a thoroughly urban Clause. It takes no account whatever of this situation, which might very easily arise. For the purpose of this Clause it might be necessary, or be considered by the appropriate authority to be necessary, to take most valuable agricultural land. It is a matter of indifference to me, from the point of view of my submission to the Committee, whether the land is owned by a private individual, a public corporation or some other body not being a local authority. Let me give an instance in point. There is a certain borough in Sussex—I do not think the hon. Members who represent it here would mind my saying that it is the Borough of Brighton—where, as a result of war-time requirements for food production, and as a result, above everything else, of the patriotic conduct of the local authority, within the boundaries of that borough no less than 1,800 acres are being devoted to food production. I happen to know the chairman of the appropriate Committee who deals with it, and the figures are impressive. He has done it without instigation from anybody. There are thousands of authorities in this country who could have done the same thing had they chosen, but they have not done so.

Let us consider what would be the effect in a borough like this. There is this land, admirably developed for agricultural purposes, and the urban authority says, "We are not concerned with anything like that; food supply does not matter to us; we are planning and thinking of making this a more beautiful place, where people can live happily and get the blessing of the authorities—like Plymouth and elsewhere." I want to know what reservation of power there is in this Clause to see that the Ministry of Agriculture, which should be the appropriate authority, has some power of submission to the Ministry.

It does not matter whether it is private land or public land. I maintain, and I am sure hon. Members on the opposite side of the House representing agricultural constituencies will agree, that it is a crime before God and man to build houses on land suitable for food production when there is equally good land available for the purpose. [Interruption.] Let the Noble Lady for once hold her tongue and listen to somebody else. She may know something about a great many other things, but she does not know anything about agriculture. I should like to go on and say that I very much hope that the Minister, who throughout has been most fair in consideration of the points put to him, will be able to give an assurance on this point. I, personally, would like to have seen in the Clause some provision that, where agricultural land of a certain value was comprised in the area, the consent of the Ministry of Agriculture should be obtained.

I have spoken strongly, but I feel strongly. From one end of the country to the other we are told that the one thing necessary is the preservation of our agriculture. From one end of the country to the other we are told by the town planners that the only thing that matters is town planning. Surely, even in this illogical and inconsistent country, there must be some point of contact between the two, and I should suggest that it is perfectly possible and reasonable to put houses on land not required for agricultural purposes. The Clause applies to the replanning of land, and I would strongly press upon the Minister that he should consider this point and give us an assurance that, if he cannot do it here, he will, in another place, devise some form of words by which the importance of agriculture shall be recognised. There have been many Royal Commissions and everyone has pressed the need for watching the interests of agricultural land.

Captain Duncan

Under the 1936 Housing Act there is a provision for the development of land, but it has the limiting effect that, although the area must be of bad lay-out and obsolete development, it must also be overcrowded. To what extent is this provision going to supersede the 1936 Act, and what is to be the real difference in procedure here in obtaining a better lay-out for the clearance of our slums than is contained in the procedure under the 1936 Act, which before the war was working exceedingly satisfactorily?

Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)

The fears expressed by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) are wholly justified and I hope the Minister will give some comfort not only to the Noble Lord but to all Members of Parliament who represent coastal areas. I know the districts to which he has referred and the crime that has been committed in the name of planning. There is a particular area in my division which is, through no fault whatever of any inhabi- tant in the area, literally a blot upon the fair face of Sussex and England. I welcome Clause 9 very much indeed, because I think it will bring an end to that sort of real estate roguery which has been perpetrated in the division of my hon. Friend and certainly in my division. I particularly hope, as the Noble Lord has said, that the local authority will not get areas adjacent or contiguous to the blot on the face of Nature without doing everything they can to see that the land they take is not agricultural land. The particular area about which I speak is known throughout the world as agricultural land, but hundreds of acres have been completely spoilt. I ask the Minister to give some assurance that agricultural land will not be utilised in these re-development schemes.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

I should like to support the Noble Lord, because recently in my part of the world, this new authority, whoever they may be, have decided, I am certain without any reference to the Minister of Agriculture, to build hostels for Bevin boys on a very excellent piece of agricultural land. They were told that there were many pieces of land available for the purpose, and I am told by the agricultural committee of the county that nothing would compel them to take the obvious land. They must have the best agricultural land because for some reason or other it suited them. The Minister of Agriculture should be given some chance of defending agriculture.

Lieut. - Commander Joynson - Hicks (Chichester)

I want to reinforce the appeal which my Noble Friend made to the Minister. I could confirm, if it were necessary, everything he has said, particularly on the South coast, where continuously and contiguously, agricultural land has been encroached upon fitting by any town planner at all. This right hon. Gentleman has given a very satisfactory assurance on the point with regard to an earlier Clause, but this case is stronger, and I appeal for at least some assurance to be given, because it has a long-term aspect.

Sir J. Lamb

Stress has been laid on the interests of agriculture and this is not only in the interests of agriculture but in the national interest.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

I wish to ask whether the Minister will give some help to those local authorities who have very little agricultural land in their district but who have land which may be made available to enable them to undertake town and country planning.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I will consider what my hon. Friend opposite has said and see if I can do anything to help. On the larger question raised by the Noble Lord and spoken to with eloquence by hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, I can only repeat what I said at an earlier stage when the same point came up on an Amendment. I then informed the Committee that the preservation of good agricultural land, and the discrimination which does not waste one of our most precious and lasting assets, must henceforward form a part of the national policy for the use of land. I informed the Committee at that stage—and I repeat it briefly for the benefit of those who have come in since—that a kind of new machinery has been established to try and give effect to this laudable purpose. I described how in my Department we had a survey of all the land in the country, showing its agricultural quality and value. I described how my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and I collaborated with regard to this matter; and there is not only collaboration between us in a general sense, but at the regional level of our respective regional offices. The land utilisation officer and my regional planning officer are in close and daily contact, and in respect of all the sites passed by my Department for new housing the agricultural aspect has in every case been considered. Much damage has been done in the past by the erection of ramshackle places in Sussex; they are an abomination which should not be committed.

There has been much want and waste of agricultural land in the past, and as far as it lies within me—and I am sure that I speak for the whole Committee—it should not be permitted to continue. In this matter there is really no divergence of interest between town and country at all. It is in the interests of the town and the English countryside that agriculture should be maintained, and equally it is in the interests of the countryside that the towns should be cleaned up and bad and obsolete development wiped away and the town be made a fit and proper place in which to live. It is one of the long-term policies along with the preserving of the countryside. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) asked how this fitted in with earlier development powers, slum clearance and so on. The general position is that the different powers which already existed are maintained. Whereas the standard in a slum clearance case is a sanitary one arising purely from sanitary considerations, the standards in this Clause are wide and enable more general considerations tending to the wellbeing of the people to be taken into account.

Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)

The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me raising a new issue, for I have not followed this Bill very closely; but while we are on Clause 9, I would like him to explain one point in the words "obsolete development." Let me refer to the district which I represent and the contiguous areas where the issue is not a problem of agricultural land at all: it is not in fact the ordinary problem of town planning which we have been discussing. In that area you have large patches of territory covered with huge rubbish heaps from coal mines and lakes called "flashes" made artificially by these tips. The result is that there is not much agricultural land left in some of those parts that would attract new industries. Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether a local authority has power to clean up such an area? So far as I understand the law, if a firm builds a factory or sinks a coal mine in any spot in this country and works it for 50 or 100 years, the owner can then leave the whole place derelict and there is no power on earth to compel him to clear the rubbish he has caused to accumulate. Could one, two or more authorities covering an area like that clean the place up under this Bill, or would an amendment be required?

A number of the authorities in the Wigan area have met together and discussed this problem, and I should imagine that some Government Department has already received representations on this point. It is no use talking about attracting new industries to such a district for, although all the services are there, gas, electricity, railways, schools, roads and so on, they will not come; but they might be attracted if the place were made tidy. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore be good enough to say, either now or later, that the local authorities shall have any power under this Bill to clean up an area in order to attract the industries that are very necessary to maintain the population. Between the two wars the Wigan district was one of the most depressed in the land.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I hope the Minister wilt reconsider further this question of agricultural land. He has really been repeating the remarks he made on Clause 1 and there is a very wide difference between Clause 1 and Clause 9. Clause 1 deals with a temporary emergency question of the blitzed areas; Clause 9 relates to land improvement and it seems to me that a statutory body for consultation between two Ministers will be the only safeguard we have far agricultural land in the future. Indeed, the case given by the hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle (Sir C. Headlam) is in itself an indication that the present situation does not work. In many areas, although there is consultation between the Regional Officer of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the Regional Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, bad sites are being chosen. The hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle cited the hostel for Bevin boys. Elsewhere in the country there will be mistakes made until we get into a Bill a provision that when deciding planned lay-outs the lay-out of agriculture will be considered as well as the lay-out of buildings. May I ask my right hon. Friend to consider before the Report stage whether in this Clause, or in some other Clause, he would make a statutory authority for consultation with the agricultural interest, if it does not offend the constitutional problem between the two Ministers themselves?

Earl Winterton

I think that on the whole the Minister's reply was satisfactory, if it were not for the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle (Sir C. Headlam)—I would like to thank him and the other hon. Gentleman for their support—in which he described the disgraceful case of a Government Department taking a piece of excellent agricultural land when other land was available. If this arrangement to which my right hon. Friend referred is in existence, how did it come about that the Ministry of Labour was able to do this work to which reference was made?

Captain Strickland

They did it at Coventry.

Earl Winterton

As my hon. and gallant Friend has reminded us, they have done it at Coventry. What is the objection to making it a statutory obligaion on the Minister? What is the abjection to having this Clause worded—" the Minister shall after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture"? No one would ever accuse my right hon. Friend of being in the least subtle or of attempting to conceal something, and it does seem rather difficult to understand why the matter should not be put in black and white. My hon. Friends, not on one but on all sides of the Committee, attach importance to this matter, and I would therefore ask the Minister to promise that he will give further consideration to it.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)

Before my right hon. Friend answers, may I add to the point made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies)? He spoke about the difficulty in many parts of the country, particularly in the older industrialised areas, which has arisen as a result of the unsightly tips, the derelict buildings, and so on. We in South Wales have suffered very considerably from the effects of the industrial life of this country, going back some generations. Will the right hon. Gentleman, in implementing this Bill when it becomes law, have powers to take over the excellent work carried out by the Commissioner for the Special Areas? The Commissioner and his Department have devoted themselves to clearing up some of these unsightly relics of the past, and these communities still have a great deal of industrial possibility—in fact, they have proved that during this war. But when the war industries come to an end those districts will still suffer from the manner in which they have for years now repelled prospective employers who would, were the districts more attractive, in all probability have established some industries there. If the Department of the Commissioner for Special Areas comes to an end, will the right hon. Gentleman through his Department assume some of those responsibilities?

I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman will not get the full benefit out of this Bill when it becomes law unless he assumes some responsibility, either under this Bill or in some other way, to make a contribution to many of the Special Areas—now called Development Areas—which have great potential industrial possibilities. They cannot be planned out successfully unless these unsightly tips and derelict buildings are removed. My own constituency presents the most unsightly and most unattractive evidences of the past industry of this country. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he can hold out some hope, in view of the fact that local authorities have not the resources to try to remove the evidence of a great industrial contribution to this country.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Foster (Wigan)

I would like to support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). This Bill is designed for the special purpose of dealing with blitzed areas, and this Clause, of course, does give some measure of relief to what are described as "blighted" areas. Speeches have been made which have assumed that blitzed areas in all cases are in a worse position than blighted areas, but in my view there are some blighted areas which are much worse than some of the blitzed areas. The constituency I represent, and the surrounding area, might be described as a "super blighted area." There are hundreds of acres of land which are under water, there are huge dirt heaps and derelict industrial sites. There is hardly any land that can be acquired by the local authority either for housing purposes or for converting into industrial sites except land that is derelict, and which would be suitable for industry provided it could be cleared.

I want to give an example of what I mean, and add to the appeal which has been made for some financial assistance to be granted to local authorities. In my constituency is a site on which there was once one of the biggest iron-works in this country. In the last war these works were bombed by Zeppelins and they were closed because of a merger which took place with the Lancashire Steel Corporation. The site was left derelict. Recently the Corporation has been trying to attract industries to that area because of the serious unemployment which existed before the war, when there were between 5,000 and 6,000 people out of work. In the neighbouring constituency of Westhoughton practically all the works were closed and there, too, there was a big unemployment problem. Recently an industrial firm was prepared to take the site provided it could be made suitable for the erection of the buildings they required. The site is convenient, it has an adjacent railway, canal and good road, there is a good supply of electricity and gas and all the conveniences that are required. But sunk in the site are concrete foundations going down to a depth of 20 feet. Further, the land slopes and a huge heap of dirt has been piled up near the site. This firm was not prepared to spend money on clearing the site, but said that if the local authority or any other interests concerned would clear it they would take it. The Corporation is in a difficulty in that they have no power, neither has the Treasury, to give financial assistance for the clearing of the site. This Bill will not do much for the blighted areas and constituencies like mine unless some financial assistance can be given to local authorities to help them to clear away these ugly heaps of dirt and recover land which, owing to mining subsidence, is covered by water. I therefore hope the Minister will do something which will give some hope to local authorities which are placed in that position.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

Perhaps I might reply now to the observations of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) and the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster), who have drawn attention to blighted areas in their own constituencies and areas of which they have knowledge. It is no use pretending to them that this Bill or Clause carries with it any financial assistance. I must be frank; it does nothing of the kind. We have discussed the pros and cons of that before, but if there are districts such as they have described to me, as there are, I think they might be areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development which could be acquired under this Clause. When the hon. Member opposite raised the question of development areas as a whole, as we now call them, the policy, steps and action which will be required to be undertaken to deal with that problem, although involving the proper use of land and, therefore, my Department, also transcend very greatly my particular Departmental responsibility. Questions of unemployment, trade and industry are involved, but so far as the problem can be helped by the proper use of land I shall endeavour to do my best to contribute towards a solution.

We have had a long discussion on the question of agricultural land. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) will do me the honour of reading what I said earlier on a Clause which dealt wih bomb damaged areas and the overspill from them. That was the short-term problem; this is the long-term problem, and what I said about agricultural land, having regard to the short-term programme, applies a fortion and all the more to the long-term programme. Cases were mentioned where development has already taken place. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) mentioned one, and all I can say is that the machinery is functioning as far as it can and is being improved and that Members of the Committee will assist me if they let me know of any case which warrants investigation of that kind. I cannot express—my Noble Friend would not expect me to express—an opinion on the merits of the case.

Earl Winterton

I asked what was the objection to making this a statutory part of my right hon. Friend's obligations.

Mr. Morrison

We went into that. It is really a constitutional point, and that is all there is to it. Perhaps hon. Members will let me know of any case of that sort so that I can have it investigated and find out how it arose and prevent it happening again.

Mr. Tinker

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman's attention has been drawn to this matter, because all over Lancashire we are affected by this trouble, and we are taking this opportunity of impressing on the Committee the needs of our particular localities. This is a case where planners could make a good name for themselves. I think the right hon. Gentleman might examine the provisions of the Bill before it finally passes and see if anything could be altered which would give some hope to the mining areas, because this will have to be tackled at some time or other. Whole areas have been made practically derelict through subsidence, and one expects at a time like this some hope from the Minister. We cannot allow the occasion to pass without impressing on the Committee what is happening in many parts of the country. Compare Brighton with places like Leigh, Ince and Wigan. Imagine one part enjoying all the amenities of nature and others having to suffer the indignity of commercialism. We want to impress on the Minister the urgent need to do his best to make some improvement in the places where we live.

The Deputy-Chairman

This discussion has gone on rather a long time. I have been doubtful at times whether it was strictly in Order. I would ask the Committee whether it is not time to settle the Clause.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. G. Griffiths

I want to ask the Minister whether he will have power to prevent subsidence. There are thousands of acres in Yorkshire under water which were good agricultural land not many years ago, and the colliery companies have robbed the country of hundreds of acres of good agricultural land by putting muck heaps on top. Surely to Heaven some Government Department is going to prevent that kind of thing going on all through the ages. The Minister has a lot of power, and if he asked for more he would get it. If you go along the Midland Railway, on both sides it is almost like the sea. You might think you were at Blackpool. Only a few years ago the land that is now under water was growing corn and feeding cattle. We do not like to imitate Germany, but if the colliery companies would let the muck stop in the pits—

The Deputy-Chairman

We cannot go at great length into the question of colliery companies and muck. I ask the Committee if they will not come to a decision.

Mr. Tom Brown

I should like to ask the Minister whether he will reinforce the promise that he made in June last year, to the effect that he would incorporate something in the Bill which would assist us in the mining areas to do away with pit heaps.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)

I think we have reason to express profound disappointment at the reply the Minister has given to the earnest pleas which have been made from this side. There is a case being made out which we want him to understand. Town and country planning means very little to us folk in the industrial North. We have been living among ugliness, sordidness, and the effects of industrialism. Where I live in Surrey we are most earnestly interested in town and country planning. I was born and bred in Lancashire. I should like to have power given me under this Bill to take a fleet of bulldozers, scrapers, and 10-ton shovels to clean up those areas and present them as things of "beauty and a joy for ever." It can be done. We have mobilised bulldozers, scrapers and shovels for open-cast mining. The Earl of Fitzwilliam complained to me a few days ago of the ugliness that was being created by excavations almost on his own door. Some of us were taken to another part where reinstatement work had taken place. The land had been levelled and you could play cricket on it as well as you could at Lords or the Oval.

Never mind to whom the land belongs, why cannot we have the power under this Bill to reinstate some of the industrial areas which have surrounded us all our lives? Outside the window of the house where I was born, in the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince, there can be seen 184 chimneys, miles of them, and there are pit heaps and ugliness everywhere. No one has the power to straighten out these heaps. Our folk are very concerned about them, and I want the Minister to realise that they really mean business in regard to town and country planning in the industrial North. Let me make a further contrast. Within two hours of taking my seat in this House I put down a question about flooding in my division. People's homes were being flooded with three or four feet of water. It is true that the catchment board have been engaged in some sort of work trying to prevent it occurring, and the unfortunate citizens are paying coppers and shillings each week to pay for it. I would like the Minister to recognise that he has a responsibility in this matter. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) has suggested that there should be negotiations between the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Town and Country Planning. I believe that that would help my division. We have not had flooding for two or three years, but it keeps coming back, and we should be able to say to our local councils, "There will be power for you to take action, and there will be assistance if you take action so that the land can be brought into use." Side by side with it, ugliness is being created in the new industrial areas which will repeat what has happened in places like Wigan, Westhoughton and South Wales. If I have appeared vigorous and enthusiastic in what I have said it is because I feel vigorous and enthusiastic for the folk among whom I have lived. It is because I enjoy God's fresh air in a lovely town in Surrey, and can go into the country lanes and enjoy the beauty of the countryside. We have not a pit chimney in Sutton or anything which blots the landscape, but in the North there is ugliness. If the Minister will mobilise his forces to deal with these things we will support him, but we want straightforward answers and not generalities and half-baked promises.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I want to draw attention to one thing, and I hope that the Minister will be able to do something about it between now and the Report stage. Reference has been made to areas in the North, but further South acres of agricultural land are being laid waste every year by iron-ore mining, without any restoration of the surface. This may be a difficult problem to solve, but it should be realised that there are many hundreds of thousands of acres where ore has been extracted and the land has been left lying waste. I would like the Minister to consider whether he cannot insert something in the Clause which will enable him or the authorities to acquire such land and convert it so that it will be fit for agricultural purposes.

Sir D. Gunston

I would like to reinforce the plea that has been made from both sides of the Committee. I was especially moved by the speeches that have been made by hon. Members opposite, who have painted such a terrible picture of the conditions in the North. In this Bill we have a great opportunity of doing something to remedy those conditions. If we do not take it now it may never occur again. The whole Committee will agree with what has been said, and I should have thought the Minister could act in the way that Members have suggested. I hope that he will agree to something being inserted on the Report stage that will meet the desires of the whole Committee in this matter.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.