HC Deb 06 October 1944 vol 403 cc1340-59

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

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown (Newbury)

I think that this Clause is unnecessary for the country districts. It imposes control on the design of farm buildings. They are already controlled so far as their type is concerned under the Ribbon Development Act, and the actual building of anything on a farm is controlled under the Ministry of Health by the local district council. I agree that the Bill should be applicable to factories or public buildings in towns, but it should not be applicable to such things as a silo, which is necessary but not a work of art, or a Dutch barn, which has a tin roof. Neither of these things would be suitable in towns and would be rightfully objected to. In the country, however, they are necessary for agricultural production. I do not see that there is any necessity to subject buildings on farms, as this Clause does, to the same rules that are applicable to buildings in the towns. The farmer is already overwhelmed by the number of forms he has to fill in, and this Clause will accentuate that burden. It is not realised that small farmers have no clerical staff. I have in the last two months had to deal with six different county and Government Departments over one particular question and there have been innumerable forms to fill in. Recently the Pay-as-you-earn scheme for Income Tax has added to the small farmers' difficulties. All these things hinder business.

I. cannot see the object of having another authority on top of those that already exist to send out forms about buildings on farms. It is becoming absolutely oppressive in the countryside and it is all so needless. Farms are often eight or nine miles from a town; they are covered by trees and hedges and are off the main road, so that the ugly buildings which are a necessity to the farm are not very apparent. Farmers have to spend their money to keep up-to-date on mechanised farming, alternative husbandry and so on, and these things necessitate different instruments and new buildings. Such buildings would, rightly be objected to in the town, but they are essential in the country and are not a blot on the landscape. Some authority often comes down and points out what he calls an ugly building and says that no concrete or asbestos should be used. That sort of thing tends to put a burden on agricultural production which is unnecessary and unfair to the industry. While we have an Act to control the siting of buildings and an authority to see that there are proper sanitary conditions, the farmers must be allowed to put up mechanically designed buildings which are suitable for their purpose in order to keep up-to-date and to increase production. They should not have to put up with people interfering and saying, "This and that must not be like that." It all means extra expense because of some aesthetic town planning consideration which pays no regard to the business of farming. We have to look at these things from the aspect of production and not from the aesthetic aspect.

Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)

I support what my hon. and gallant Friend has said. I cannot see why the Clause should be in this Bill at all. The Bill deals with blitzed and blighted areas, but the Clause goes far beyond that and brings all farm buildings under the control of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. What is the situation with regard to farm buildings to-day? It is broadly true that so long as local materials were used, local stone, local tiles and timber, farm buildings, whatever their shape, seemed to harmonise very well with the surroundings. As soon as new materials came along, ordered out of a Birmingham catalogue and not dug up from the soil, buildings began to be run up which offended that natural conservatism which, I am glad to say, everyone has who is brought up in the fresh air of the countryside. Sooner or later we shall have to control the design and appearance of farm buildings. Anyone who knows villages like Lacock and Castlecombe in Wiltshire, would not wish to have concrete cement and corrugated iron structures alongside their beautiful architecture. This Bill, however, is not the place to take powers to control such development.

In the country, I agree there are dilapidated and damaged buildings on farms but that dilapidation and the damage were not due to enemy action and flying bombs. They were due to unregulated imports of foreign food. The war has made our agricultural industry prosperous, and as soon as an industry begins to earn money we get a lot of new ideas, and enterprising men come along and say, "It is worth while putting our brains into this industry." Experiments in farm building are going on today, and why should we put all this development under the control of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning unless we know a good deal more about the ability of that Ministry to understand modern farming, and how this control will work? How many more forms will the farmer have to fill up if this Clause goes through? What appeal will a practical man have from the predilections of an urban-minded planner who disagrees with the kind of buildings the farmer wants? Sooner or later we must find a form of collaboration between those who have to work inside the buildings, producing the nation's food, and those whose chief concern is the appearance of the buildings from outside. When that is properly thought out I will vote for it, but it is wrong to throw the whole thing into the hands of a Ministry which may have little or no experience of what our modern agriculture means.

1.30 p.m.

Major Studholme

I support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend. The Scott Committee said in their Report: The present exemption granted to agricultural buildings is unsatisfactory. All buildings should come under review. But they made a proviso, which was: It is recognised that special criteria will need to be adopted in considering the suitability or otherwise of agricultural buildings from the amenity point of view. The Bill takes no notice of that proviso. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England, which I most heartily support in the work it does, took the credit for having persuaded the Scott Committee to make that recommendation, but I would point out that there are no representatives of the N.F.U. on the C.P.R.E. Farm buildings are particularly vulnerable from the point of view of aesthetics, because of their surroundings, but a few trees planted round them will effectively screen them, although it takes some time to produce the desired effect. The high capital cost of farm buildings in relation to turnover necessitates every possible saving being made in their construction.

A planning authority, except where there are farmers upon it, may have an out-of-date conception of what a farm ought to look like, and may not recognise that the Dutch barn and the silo are taking the place of the older farm buildings. Nobody laying out buildings to-day would think of constructing the older types of building, involving much labour in construction; these have given place to buildings made of cement, asbestos, and other materials which are not so picturesque but are practical and suitable for their purpose. If Clause 35 is left in, it will cause considerable trouble to the small farmer. While there must be some safeguard against the existence of unnecessary eyesores, the Minister could devise some such safeguard without the very sweeping provisions of this Clause.

Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thorn-bury)

I have been a very great supporter of the Bill, but there is no necessity to include farm buildings in it. The farmer already has many difficulties to face and the Bill will add another burden for him to bear. He may think that it does not make it worth while to go on with his job. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that planning authorities in the countryside are reasonable people and will know that the farmers have to have Dutch barns and such modern accessories, but let me give him as an illustration a case which actually happened. In the area of Chipping Sod-bury in my constituency there was an escarpment on which no house could be built. A farmer wanted to build a house, but he was not allowed to do so, because he was told that it would spoil the beauty of the escarpment. So ignorant were the local committee that they did not even examine the contours of the escarpment, when they would have found out that the house was beyond the escarpment and could not be seen. Only after very great pressure did they give way, and allow the farmer to build a cottage of beautiful Cotswold stone. We are running great danger if we bring farm buildings into the Bill. Usually they blend with the countryside. Motoring through England, one can see ugly petrol signs and other such things, but surely no one ever complained about the ugliness of farm build- ings. Town planners may not realise that modern accessories, such as Dutch barns, are necessary to farm buildings nowadays.

We must guard against another thing. We all want to help the small man in agriculture, and to make a ladder by which the farm labourer can become a smallholder and go on further to improve his position. The rich man may not be affected so much by the Bill, because he can afford to put up costly buildings, but the smallholder who started in a small way by putting up corrugated iron buildings and improved his buildings when he made good will be more severely affected. Such a man might not be allowed even to start, in future, if he is confronted with a town planning authority who do not agree with him. We all regard the countryside as beautiful, and we all want to preserve it. Can anyone really say that our countryside is made ugly by our farm buildings? On the whole, I should say that our glorious farm buildings beautify our countryside. Nobody is keener on the beauty of the countryside than the farmer and the agricultural worker; why put more difficulties in their way in the shape of some authority who do not realise their difficulties and may say to them: "You can't put up this or that building"? I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to recognise that it is not necessary to include farm buildings in the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte (Tiverton)

I support what has been said by the hon. Members who have spoken against the Clause. It is extraordinary that a Minister who was once Minister of Agriculture should have put something into the Bill which has really nothing to do with agriculture. There is no reason why this Clause should be there, and it ought to be removed. It is bound to create difficulties when new buildings required by agriculture are being put up. Farmers wish to keep the countryside as beautiful as it now is and they will not put up 'buildings which are not necessary. The Clause may prevent people from starting in a small way. The siting of farm buildings is already controlled by the Ribbon Development Act; surely that is quite sufficient. No case has been made out for the Clause, so far as I know, and I hope it will be removed from the Bill.

General Sir George Jeffreys (Peters-field)

I support the deletion of the Clause, which is entirely unnecessary and outside the scope of the Bill. The principal object of the Bill is to control new buildings in destroyed areas in the towns, but to try to control at the same time agricultural buildings, which are usually very far from any damaged area, is to go outside the scope of the Bill. I cannot see that it is necessary to add yet one more control to those under which the agricultural industry already labours. We all agree that county war agricultural executive committees were a war-time necessity, but I do not think they are a very popular feature of our present day agriculture. Still more control imposed upon necessary farm buildings will be a heavy strain on the industry. It is difficult enough in all conscience to get materials to construct new buildings which are necessary to bring farms up to the standard which is required. It is necessary to introduce modern machinery, such as the combined harvester, with its accompanying drier. It is very difficult to get the materials and the labour, and permission from the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Labour, to carry nut any necessary construction. If to those controls is to be added the control of planning, the difficulty of adding necessary buildings to farms will be very greatly increased.

In that connection I venture to say that although planning committees are generally composed of practical men, yet a great deal of the routine work necessarily falls on their officials, and however good those officials are they try to make everything conform to certain rules of construction, dimension and situation. Those rules are very inapplicable to farm buildings. I suggest that the Clause is an unnecessary encumbrance on agriculture, and I hope very much that it will not be pressed.

Mr. H. Strauss

I do not know whether it will be convenient for me to intervene at this stage. Needless to say I do not intervene for the purpose of discouraging any other contributions, but in courtesy to those who have already spoken. I am put in a rather difficult position not in defending the Clause, which I am convinced is absolutely right, but because of the work which I have tried to do, inside this House and outside, during the last 20 years, to preserve our extraordinarily beautiful countryside, represented by many of those who have spoken. I agree entirely with those who say that it is not the farms that have damaged our countryside; of course it is not. Nor is it likely. Let me put this to my hon. Friends: One of the main objects behind our present conception of planning is to prevent the sort of destruction of the countryside, and the ignoring of the problems of agriculture that have gone on for so long. That is one of the main objects of our planning legislation. Again and again we have been asked to give full consideration to agriculture, and I agree that we will have to defend agricultural interests against interests which very often have no particular sympathy with it. What would be the effect if the very people whose interests we wish to protect in the countryside say, "We and we alone ought to be absolutely free from any control"? I am absolutely convinced that resistance to this Clause is not in the interests of agriculture.

1.45 p.m.

Let me endeavour to relieve the anxiety of some of my hon. and gallant Friends. First they say that some local planning authority may be extremely foolish and reject the design of the building and they seem to think that would end the matter. Of course it would not. The farmer, the applicant, would appeal to the Minister of Town and Country Planning. [Interruption.] I recognise the sincerity of those who are opposing this Clause, but I am sure they will have the courtesy to hear what I have to say in its defence. He will have a right of appeal, the same right of appeal as a factory owner in an urban district would have in comparable circumstances. Let me assume for a moment that it was found generally that there was some class of building which it was desirable that farmers should put up freely, and that some local planning authorities were not very wise or up to date in the administration of this Clause, or in their understanding of farming. There would be nothing to stop my Minister, in a proper case, in the exercise of his powers under the Act of 1943, from taking such applications over himself, so that he could consider them direct. Needless to say he would always be in the closest touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

My hon. and gallant Friend who made the first speech in opposition to this Clause talked about a silo not being a work of art. Of course it is not, and thank heavens, it does not try to be a work of art. Let us get away from the appalling falsity of the view that leads some people to think that any building which is useful and functional is bad and ought not to be permitted. A silo ought only to be stopped if someone tried to make an early English silo. There are idiots who might try, and unless we are given this Clause they could not be stopped.

Mr. Colegate

If the Clause were omitted then it would be impossible under town planning schemes to convert a silo or farm into an ancient Tudor shop or something of that sort. That is what we want.

Mr. Strauss

My hon. Friend speaks with great passion, but he is completely wrong. The silo may not yet be in existence. It is perfectly proper to erect a silo, and, if we are forbidden this Clause, anybody could put up a silo which my hon. Friend would feel most indignant about, and we could not stop him. If we are given this Clause it will enable us to stop him. What is being asked for is an exemption fox agricultural buildings such as is not enjoyed by any other class. I say that is not wise in the interest of agriculture. After all here we are adopting a recommendation of the Scott Committee. Whatever may be thought of the Scott Report no one will accuse it of being hostile to country interests or agriculture. Agriculturists will be asking us again and again to do this, that and the other thing which is recommended in the Scott Report, in the interests of agriculture. Are they now to say that the one recommendation which might slightly inconvenience them should be disregarded and that they should be given exemption. I do beg my hon. Friends to think again about this exemption. Why, it may be asked, do this in this Bill? One of the reasons is because we are making in this part of the Bill certain technical improvements in the general planning law. If hon. and gallant Gentlemen fear an administration of this Clause which is oppressive to farmers I can promise them it is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Minister, and of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. to see that no such oppressive administration takes place. But do not deny us the power we seek.

The Chairman

Will the hon. Gentleman kindly address the Chair?

Mr. Strauss

I apologise to the Committee. It is a natural tendency sometimes to face those to whom one has been speaking. It should be resisted. I must remain in ignorance of what their reactions are. I dare say that will be made clear at a later stage. I would say that it is in the interests of agriculture itself and of my hon. and gallant Friends who have spoken to preserve the countryside. The countryside we wish to preserve is not some museum piece but a countryside in which agriculture flourishes. If agriculture is to flourish it must, of course, be modern, and may, of course, have to produce buildings that are utterly different from the traditional buildings there have hitherto been in the countryside. That is true.

Mr. Messer

Let us hope so.

Mr. Strauss

Let the buildings that are to be produced be as worthy of the 20th century as the existing farmhouses are of the 18th century, and the great centuries of our tradition. It does not mean that we desire in the least that farm buildings should be such as are feared by some hon. Members who have spoken against this Clause. This Clause does nothing but remove a disability of the planning authorities by removing an exemption, the removal of which has been recommended by a Committee extremely friendly to farmers. It does not mean that any farm buildings proposed to be erected could be finally stopped by any planning authority. My right hon. Friend might give a direction, or he can take over the application himself under his statutory powers, but if in some part of the country loved by the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, some farmer proposed to do something that was thought to be outrageous, we could not stop him unless we have this Clause. I beg those who imagine they are opposing this Clause in the interests of agriculture to think again before they claim an exemption for their property alone. It is the intention to use the planning law to preserve the countryside they love. It may be threatened by dangers which, without this Clause, we could not stop. But we are determined to see that the legitimate interests of the farmers and agriculture are given proper consideration.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

I am very sorry, especially upon this point, to appear to disagree with my hon. Friends here, because I live and farm in the beautiful countryside of Surrey. I have grown to love it with great intensity, and I would be the very last to wish that pettifogging town planning committees should venture to interfere with the age-long beauty that has been handed down to us there. Still more would I resent any additional burden being put upon my fellow farmers' shoulders, but I hope my hon. Friends will think again about this. The industry for which we are all speaking here, agriculture, will not win after the war that security and stability which we all desire unless it retains throughout the sympathy and active support of the great urban populations of this land. That is a plain statement which everyone accepts. What is to be the reaction of the great 70 per cent. of the population if agriculture is to ask, as we seem to be asking this afternoon, for exemption from a law which all of us agree is needed for the country as a whole? What sort of case have we to put up against townspeople if we seek exemption for something we would impose upon them? I am sure it is not in the interests of agriculture to press this case to-day.

My hon. Friends have said rightly that, when one goes through the countryside it is on the whole the wayside advertisements to which one objects, not the farms. That is true, but surely my hon. Friends do not say that there are not in each of their districts farm buildings being put up now that are a real disgrace to this day and generation? Next to my own home in Surrey I could take the Committee to the most appalling scene, the result of a local farmer being bereft of any sense of the beauty and culture of his countryside, concerned only with getting something up cheaply, getting a quick profit and running away. That kind of thing should not be allowed, and it is abundantly right that some authority should have the power to prevent it. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is right in asking for this Clause, but it all depends how it is worked. I think the promise made, and reiterated in such very strong language, by the Parliamentary Secretary that this Clause would be operated with the greatest possible discretion is a promise of considerable value. I would have liked him to develop his statement that nothing silly would be done. I would like to have seen, if not machinery, some provision in this Clause to make us satisfied that these silly things will not be done by silly town planning committees. I sympathise with my hon. Friend, but it is up to him to give us the confidence we want.

Mr. Eccles

Supposing a war agricultural executive committee say to me "You have got to plough up a good deal more land" and I require to buy another tractor, and that means I must put up a building to house it, have I now to go to. the Minister of Town and Country Planning before I can put up that building, because I very much fear, if that is the case, the cultivation will not take place?

2.0 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson - Hicks (Chichester)

I rise to add to the appeals that have been made to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw this Clause, or, at least, to help us in some way if he can. I feel that we have a special case here, because the matter has already been under consideration in past legislation, and Parliament has exempted agricultural buildings from the scheme of these town and country planning arrangements. Further, the scope of the Bill is not, to my mind, intended to deal with this particular matter. The primary objects of the Bill are to deal with devastated areas and slum clearance; not to deal with individual isolated buildings, which can only be seen by, and can only affect, the owner or the tenant of the land. These buildings do not impinge upon the general harmony of the countryside or upon the convenience or inconvenience of the public. This is a case in which it would be most inappropriate for the terms of this very wide piece of legislation to be applied.

I heartily agree with my hon. Friend who has just asked a question with regard to such a matter as housing, or covering, for agricultural tractors. But that is not an isolated case. The same thing is continually occurring on farms, as my right hon. Friend the Minister knows only too well. A tenant may say, "Do you mind if I put up a covering or some sort or other"—it happened to me last week—"to house paraffin containers, or some sort of shed which is urgently wanted because my supply of pig styes is exhausted, and I have another sow farrowing?" When that happens, you cannot tell the sow to wait until you have applied to the local authority for permission to erect a shed. I beg the Government to reconsider this matter, to see if they cannot limit it to apply to buildings, either adjacent—or I believe the appropriate word now is "contiguous"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Both."]—yes, adjacent or contiguous to a high road, or not in excess of a certain value. I beg the Minister to allow farmers to carry on their industry without the restriction that would be placed upon them by this Clause.

Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)

So much has already been said that I do not want to say much more, but I would like, on behalf of the farmers, to see this Clause withdrawn. Do not let it be thought that the farmers generally want to see a lot of undesirable buildings erected. They are as anxious to see the countryside preserved as anybody is. But we want to see that the interests of the country and of the nation are not impeded. The town-planning authorities in many cases do not know the type of buildings that are required. As a result of decisions of the agricultural executive committee, the type of farming in a district may change, and that may necessitate a change in the type of buildings. I add my plea that the Minister should withdraw this provision, and not unnecessarily hamper the farming industry.

Sir J. Mellor

I cannot see anything dreadful in wanting a continuance of a policy which has existed for some time without any dreadful consequences. It seemed to me that the first reason why the Parliamentary Secretary desired to have this Clause was for the sake of administrative tidiness, in order that the Government might say that everything upon every acre of the whole country was planned, from John o' Groats to Land's End, and in much the same way as our lives are shortly to be planned, from the cradle to the grave. That argument does not appeal to me. I do not think that the farmer should be put to the great amount of trouble and expense that will be involved for the sake of administrative tidiness. The other reason was an aesthetic one. I do not think we ought to allow the planning authorities to indulge their taste, fancy, and desire at considerable expense to the agricultural community. The planning authority may, for instance, dislike the look of Dutch barns. Personally, I like the look of Dutch barns; but I can imagine that some people may not. Suppose that, because of a prejudice of that kind, they make difficulties. It is all very well to say that the farmer can appeal. That would result in delay and worry—I would stress the word "worry." The farmers have enough anxiety already, and I do not think we ought to do anything to increase it. I do not think that this Clause ought to be passed.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I listened with great care to the strong appeal made by the Parliamentary Secretary. As he himself observed, it is possible to feel strongly and yet to be wrong. I feel strongly that he himself is wrong, for reasons which I will adduce, and which I hope will convince him of his error. He spun a pretty web for the agricultural fly, but I hope that the Committee will destroy it before the end of the day. Let us see what the proposition is. First, to complete the planning picture, we must bring in a little bit that was left out in 1932, so that planning can be applied to every single building in the whole of the British Isles. That would make a perfect planner's picture. One asks oneself, Has any damage been sustained by this omission from the 1932 Act? Is it not the case that people who live in the towns go out to look at the beauties of the country and the beauties of the villages, and that some of our farm buildings are, indeed, admirable? If the farming industry is prosperous, the buildings will be all right, and if it is not prosperous, no planning will cause proper buildings to be put up. The real point is this. Can we trust those who know the country, and who love the country, not to abuse it? In this country we have done so for many years, without sustaining any injury. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) makes one of his normal interjections, without carrying the argument one way or the other.

Mr. Gallacher

The hon. Member has never lived in Scotland.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

That remark is not relevant, and I do not propose to deal with it. One of the consequences of applying this planning to agriculture must be that farmers will have to apply to yet more people before they can do anything on their farms. We had a discussion not long ago about what the farmer would have to do before he put up a dairy. I do not want to remind the Committee—I do not suppose I should be in Order—of what was said in the Debate on the Milk and Dairies Bill. We are making it more difficult for the farmer to carry on his industry. It seems to me that, before we place this additional burden on farmers and on those who live in the country, we ought to be satisfied that this omission from the 1932 Act indeed endangers the beauty of the countryside. I do not think that the case has been made out by anyone. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary, whose lave of the country is as great as mine, can safely leave it to agriculturists to do their best for what has been passed down from generation to generation.

Captain Cobb

I find myself in the distressing position of being completely convinced by the Parliamentary Secretary's answer. I have listened to the greater part of the arguments that have been used in the discussion on this Amendment, and I do not think that any good case has been made out for the exclusion of just one industry among all the industries of this country. I represent an industrial town, but I live in the country, and I do not think that other parts of the country are any different from mine, where we have seen buildings put up by small farmers who are not able to afford to put up anything better. That is largely the result of the policy of past Governments in respect of agriculture, but one hopes that post-war Governments will be a great deal wiser than their predecessors. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks) used a very convincing argument when he told us of the difficulties a farmer would be in when his sow suddenly began to farrow and he had no accommodation for her, because one knows enough about the laws of nature to realise that sows do not do these things unexpectedly; and a wise farmer will make provision for a lady in that interesting condition.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks

My hon. and gallant Friend will realise that the gestation period of a sow is con- siderably less than that of a local authority.

Captain Cobb

I think that farmers have taken steps in the past to deal with such a situation before the gestation period commenced. The effect of bringing agriculture into line with every other industry may be to make manufacturers mass produce cheap buildings which come within town-planning regulations—and the fact that they would be cheap does not necessarily imply unpleasantness—so that these cheap buildings could be made available to farmers. I do, therefore, with very great regret, inform the Committee that I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary.

2.15 p.m.

Sir D. Gunston

If an unreasonable authority will not allow the buildings this will mean an enormous amount of work for the farmer. I do not think the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) shows very great knowledge of how agriculture is carried on. If it is a wet day, and if a good farmer is using his men to the best purpose, he will probably tell them that he wants a new shed built for tools or some other purpose, and his men will put up the shed. Under this Clause he cannot do that. He scratches his head and says "No, I have got to go to the town planning authority." He cannot even begin the work, because it might be turned down. I think we ought to take into consideration, in discussing this Clause, the day-to-day work on the farm.

Mr. H. Strauss

I want to respond to one question. First, may I thank the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) for supporting me? In what we desire for the countryside I have no difference whatever with the various hon. Members who want to delete this Clause. I simply want, and I am determined, that my Ministry shall not be denied the power of preventing what it will want to prevent. One hon. Member said that farm buildings would only concern the tenant of the farm. Cannot he conceive a farm on the South Downs which if of really horrible design might affect some of the most beautiful country in England? It is not true that, if there is such an evil, its effect will be so limited. The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham- Buller) asks if there had been any deplorable results of the exemption enjoyed by these buildings since 1932. The Scott Committee thought there had been, and I could probably take my hon. Friend round a good many parts of the country where I could find at least one example which might convince him. Having said that, let me try to relieve him of one source of anxiety.

I think it was the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) who put the case of some necessary sheds and asked if that would involve an application either to the local planning authority or the Minister. Perhaps I should have mentioned before, and I mention it now, that there is what is called a General Interim Development Order, which authorises certain classes of buildings for which no application need be made. I have little doubt that it would be possible for my right hon. Friend, in consultation with the Minister of Agriculture, to find a standard design for many kinds of agricultural buildings in common use which can be scheduled to the Interim Development Order and which can then be put up without application to anybody. The design of these buildings would be carefully considered.

This is provided for under the general powers we already possess under the law, and that is what I had in mind when I spoke of the reasonable administration of this matter in the interests of agriculture. I give the most clear undertaking that this Clause will be so administered. Exemption would not change the position of the ordinary farmer from what it will be under this Clause, if properly administered, but the Clause will meet the case where somebody acquires a farm who has not been brought up in the traditions of the countryside, who may not share many of the ideas represented in the speeches made, and who wants to do something that every hon. Member who has spoken would want to stop. If that should happen, if an outrage occurs, then, if we have this Clause, hon. Members can rightly come and blame the Minister of Town and Country Planning. If they demand the exemption of agricultural buildings altogether, then it will be impossible for us to stop such an outrage, however much hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee would desire it. I hope I have relieved some of the anxieties which have been expressed.

Sir D. Gunston

Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman is speaking for the Minister— [Interruption.]

Mr. Strauss

I spoke of the General Interim Development Order. The Order is revised from time to time and a new one is substituted. Of course, I give the assurance that the Minister will consult with the Minister of Agriculture. Indeed, this Clause would not have been brought in without consultation with the Minister of Agriculture, and it is certainly the intention, just as much in the interests of the Minister of Town and Country Planning as of the farmer himself, that we should not demand that application for permission should be made when it is perfectly obvious that such permission should be granted and everybody will be treated accordingly. It will be possible to draw up standard designs for many kinds of agricultural buildings in common use and schedule them in the Order, thus relieving farmers of their really misplaced anxiety if this Clause comes into operation.

Brigadier - General Clifton Brown

Will my hon. Friend have a provision inserted in the Bill on Report stage that, before a planning authority can carry out these things, the Minister of Agriculture must be consulted on these buildings?

Mr. Strauss

That really would not be a proper Amendment, but I am only saying the obvious when I say that no Minister, of whatever persuasion, could possibly draw up a list of permitted agricultural buildings without consulting the Minister of Agriculture. I give the assurance, but I hope no hon. Members will ask that it should be inserted in the Bill. With what I have said I ask hon. Members to realise that we have the interests of agriculture at heart and that they should give us this Clause without further delay.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

The hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. What does he mean by a right of appeal to the Minister? I do not know what he means by that.

Mr. Strauss

I was assuming, perhaps wrongly, that hon. Members who have spoken were acquainted with the general planning law on this subject. [Interruption.]

Mr. Henderson Stewart

My hon. Friend should not be rude about it.

Mr. Strauss

I am sorry if in the thought of the Committee I was rude, but I can say it was the last thing which I intended. There are two possibilities. The first possibility is that the building which the farmer wishes to erect is a building which, under the Schedule of the General Interim Development Order, can be built without anybody's consent being obtained. In that case, no application to the local planning authority or interim development authority will be required. If the building is not exempt in that manner, then an application will be required. That application will have to come, unless other steps are taken, to the planning authority. If the planning authority tells the applicant, "No, you must not erect that building," then the farmer will have the right of appeal to the Minister, and that is the right of appeal to which I referred. But we can ourselves take over any class of application. Supposing there were some new development of agriculture which rendered desirable some particular development. It would be quite possible for the Minister to say that all such applications must go direct to him. I am not saying that we shall do that, but we have the power. I hope I have made the matter clear.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

Perhaps I may be permitted to say a word. I was unfortunately detained in another place while most of the discussion went on. I can appreciate the anxiety of hon. Members on all sides of the Committee.

Mr. Messer

Only one side.

Mr. Morrison

I think the anxiety is generally shared, but I assure the Committee that there is no intention to work this Clause to the detriment of agriculture. That is the point which everyone must have in mind, and, when one considers the immense contribution which the slow and steady growth of agriculture through the ages has made to the beauty of the English landscape, far from the interests of agriculture and the desire to rebuild our country beautifully being at variance, the agricultural industry has been one of the most powerful supports and props of all the forces making for the beauty of our land. The beauty of England is not entirely natural; a great deal of it is man-made, and it is our desire to support the activities of all those who carry on this industry and preserve the beauty of England.

The Committee have, no doubt, been reminded of the Report of Mr. Justice Scott's Committee, which has gone into this matter in considerable detail. No one, whatever his predilections, could accuse that Report of any lack of knowledge of, or sympathy with, the agricultural industry. Indeed, the whole Report, from the first to the last of its pages, breathes an intense love of the countryside and a desire that its beauty shall not be imperilled, realising, as it does, that a stable and prosperous agriculture is necessary for the attainment of that object. I should like to assure the House that, in the administration of this matter, we shall take care to avoid all pettifogging restrictions upon those operations which every farmer must undertake in order to carry on his great and ancient industry, while at the same time seeking to preserve for the great bulk of the agricultural community who desire to retain the beauty of their land powers which will enable them to invoke authority against occasional transgressors.

Viscountess Astor

Will the Minister not ask those hon. Members who are doubtful about planning to come and see the Plymouth plan and see how it works in with the Ministry of Agriculture? One of the best points of the plan is that the agricultural community is the basis of the plan.

Mr. Morrison

I think there is this in what the Noble Lady says—that, in so far as plans have been made, and Plymouth is a case in point, the planners have been sedulous to preserve the beauty of the countryside, recognising that that beauty is a pressing urban interest.

2.30 p.m.

I hope that the Committee will accept that assurance and the further assurance that the decision to ask the Committee to include agriculture within the provisions was not reached without any reference to agriculture. The Government thought that the time had come to proceed with this recommendation of the Scott Report. I have little else to say to the Committee on the subject and I hope, unless some hon. Member has a further question to ask, we may proceed to decide the matter.

Commander Bower (Cleveland)

Is the Minister aware that some of the local authorities and neighbouring bodies are not too keen on the Plymouth plan?

Mr. Morrison

I can see that, and the Committee must not take what I have said to be any prejudging of the matter. I am sure that, as far as the agricultural aspect is concerned, which is the only matter in Order at this moment, the plan itself shows—I do not say that I approve of it in its entirety—the germ of the situation and what is the essential spirit. Many of these local authorities are not proceeding with reconstruction, with an entire disregard for this consideration.

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