HC Deb 18 October 1944 vol 403 cc2410-8

12.40 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 2, line 30, at end, insert: (3) Where it appears to the Minister that, having regard to all the circumstances, a local planning authority will, at some future date falling not earlier than two years after the date appointed under Sub-section (1) of this Section, have had sufficient time for the submission of applications for Orders under Sub-section (1) of this Section, he may notify the local planning authority accordingly, and if he so notifies them he shall not be required to consider any such application made by them after that date: Provided that before the Minister gives a notification under this Sub-section he shall inform the local planning authority of his intention so to do and afford them an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by him for the purpose. This Amendment arises out of a discussion which we had in Committee on the maximum period which should be allowed a local authority in which to submit its application for a Clause I order. Fears were expressed that the period of five years was too long, and that this period, though only a maximum, would induce local authorities to be dilatory. I replied to that discussion that, certainly for some of the reconstruction projects which I envisaged in the future, five years would by no means be too long, and might, indeed, be too short. But I promised the Committee that I would look into the case in which a local authority might be dilatory in getting on with a relatively simple proposition of reconstruction. The words I propose to insert here give me the power to truncate the period of five years, if I am satisfied that that would have the effect of expediting a very necessary public work. I hope the House will regard this as a satisfactory issue of the very considerable and serious discussion we had in Committee.

12.42 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

While I welcome the fact that the Minister has by this Amendment gone some way to meet one of the objections raised in the Committee stage, I would ask him to consider again whether, if this problem were dealt with the other way round, it would not be more satisfactory. Under this Amendment, as I understand it, he can, after two years, come down on a local authority and say "Unless you have your application in within a specific time you will not be able to get an order under Clause 1." I would like him seriously to consider whether the period within which orders could be applied for should not, in every case, be limited to three years, with power to the Minister to extend that period in a particular case if circumstances existed which warranted doing so. If it were done that way, it would be a spur to all local authorities to get on with the job, and that is what we want to see. Most of them, we know, would be as expeditious as they could, but those who have difficulties which they do not anticipate would know, if that procedure were adopted, that they could get further time in which to apply. It would have the further advantage that people in the surrounding areas would know that their land would not, for an indefinite period, be subject to the threat of compulsory acquisition.

12.43 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I should very much like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) and at the same time to thank my right hon. Friend for meeting, in the spirit, the promise he made on the Committee stage with regard to this question. The two objects are the dealing with dilatory local authorities and the getting rid, as soon as possible, with efficiency, of uncertainties so that people will know whether they are to be interfered with or not. Suppose a person wants to know whether he can really feel secure and get on with his peace-time job and thinks that the local authorities are being dilatory and that they really could have made up their minds sooner. How is such a person to bring that point to the knowledge of the Minister? I want to make sure that this concession is really what it is meant to be—a valuable concession. I want to know how these two evils are to be overcome because, if a Minister cannot know whether an authority is dilatory or not, then I think the point of the hon. Member for Daventry is obviously a good one.

12.45 P.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

With the leave of the House, I will say a few words about this Amendment. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham Buller), I must answer that I think this way of dealing with the difficulty is the better one. I fear that if we were to legislate for three years, we might be legislating for something unreal, when one envisages the problem ahead. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith. (Lieut.-Colonel Dower), who asks me how a man could acquaint the Minister of his particular difficulties or criticism of the local authority's rate of progress, I have never found that the ordinary British citizen has any difficulty, either directly or through his Member of Parliament, in bringing facts which affect him to the notice of the responsible Minister. I think there should be no difficulty on that score.

Amendment agreed to.

12.46 p.m.

Mr. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 2, line 30, at end, insert: (4) Where a local planning authority have taken into consideration for the purposes of this Section the question of the laying out afresh and redevelopment as a whole of a part of their area, or the question of providing in any locality for relocation of population or industry or for replacement of open space, they shall publish in one or more newspapers circulating in their area a notice stating that they are considering the said question and describing in general terms the situation of the part of their area or the locality, and shall not make an application for an order under this Section as respects that part of their area or that locality, as the case may be, before the expiration of two months from the date on which a notice has been published or first published in relation thereto in pursuance of this Sub-section. In Committee an Amendment was proposed to secure advertisement by the authorities of their intention to apply for a Clause 1 order. I said at the time that I thought the idea was reasonable, but that I did not like the form in which it was couched. My desire, and the desire of the House, will be that local authorities should co-operate at the earliest possible moment with all important interests in their locality, so that their project for reconstruction will bear some close and real resemblance to the needs and wishes of their constituents. From that point of view, it is of importance that the people who are, necessarily, important cooperators in the whole project, should be informed at the earliest possible moment. At the same time, both I and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made it abundantly clear that, in accepting this intention about advertisements, we could not agree to anything burdensome or onerous on the local authority concerned, or to anything that would invalidate subsequent proceedings under the Bill. These words are drafted to achieve that purpose and I hope the House will agree to them.

12.48 p.m.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

I hope the Minister will look at this proposed Sub-section again. We have just had a discussion in which it has been urged that local authorities should act promptly, and there has been a desire that they should be penalised if they do not act promptly. Now we have an Amendment which is going to delay the proceedings. It is now proposed that, not less than two months after submitting an application to the Minister, there should be an advertisement. True, it is to be in general terms, describing the situation of the part of the locality which it is proposed to develop, but this advertisement will be of no use to the citizen unless it informs him whether his particular property is proposed to be dealt with. it is no good talking about general terms, and saying that it is proposed to deal with an area in the borough of Camberwell. People reading the advertisement want to know whether their street or house is to be affected; otherwise, I see no point in the advertisement at all. The local authority must be ready with its plans, and must have made up its mind what particular area it proposes to deal with, before any advertisement can be inserted, but, if it is all ready to proceed, then the obligation to wait two months is an obligation which will have the effect of delaying.

It is idle for my hon. Friends to complain of dilatory procedure of local authorities, when, in fact, they are being encouraged to delay by this obligation, which imposes too much delay on them. I never imagined that the Minister would give two months. Surely, one month is adequate for the purpose, and I want to make my protest against this continual whittling away of the arrangements made in the discussions with the local authorities, all of which were directed to speeding up procedure. Now, one after another, these concessions and improvements in the procedure are being whittled away The Minister has quite properly amended the procedure with regard to public inquiries and cut down the time. He is now giving away a good deal of that time by this obligation to advertise before application is made, because it has to be at least two months. Actually, a good deal of that concession has been thrown away by this Amendment, and I beg of the Minister to look at it again. I cannot hope that, having committed himself to the principle of the Amendment, he will withdraw it, but I ask him to look at it again, with a view to reducing the two months to one.

Amendment agreed to.

12.50 p.m.

Mr. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, leave out "as appears to the authority to be," and insert: illustrated by such map or maps, as the authority consider. The point was raised, I think, by the hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley) that, in this case, a map would be necessary, and, indeed, I cannot conceive an application being made without a map, so I accept the spirit of the Amendment.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

I raised this point on the Committee stage, and pointed out that the wording of Sub-section (3) already provides that a map should be attached to the application. The Minister has just said that he cannot conceive of maps not having to be attached, and, therefore, has provided in the present Amendment that it should be inserted in Sub-section (4). As I read it, this is already provided for in Sub-section (3).

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: "In page 3, line 15, after "statement," insert "and map or maps illustrating it."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

12.52 p.m.

Mr. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 3, line 16, after "time," insert: (not being less than twenty-eight days from the first local advertisement). The object of this Amendment is to ensure that the time given for objections to a Clause I order is not less than 28 days after the first date of publication in a local newspaper. We had a discussion on this in Committee, and I gathered that the sense of the Committee was, generally, in favour of this time-limit for objections.

12.53 p.m.

Mr. Silkin

This is another Amendment for the purpose of slowing up the procedure of the local authorities. I raised what I thought was a substantial point on another Amendment, but I got no reply. I do not know whether the Minister is going to deal with it, but I do not think that 28 days ought to be given to people who have had a preliminary intimation. As it now stands, they have had at least two months since the scheme was about to be put forward, so they should already know whether they are go- ing to object or not. They now have a local advertisement. Surely they do not need 28 days to make up their minds whether to object or not? Within the two months which they have already had, from the notice that a scheme has been submitted to the Minister, local objectors will, surely, have already made up their minds whether to object, and 14 days would be quite enough. I should not have quarrelled with 28 days in this particular case, but I do quarrel with the cumulative effect of all these delays, which makes the Bill a very different one from that originally submitted to the House. I hope the Minister will cease slowing down the procedure at every stage, and making it difficult for local authorities to carry out the duties imposed upon them.

Major Lloyd (Renfrew East)

I am quite unconvinced by the argument of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) when he suggested that the object of the Amendments is to increase delay. I suggest that the real object is in order to be fair to those affected by this Clause.

12.55 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

I am afraid the estrangement between the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and myself is getting wider and wider. What we want is as speedy planning as possible, but at the same time we want to remove injustices where they can be avoided, and to take a little time to enable that to be done is surely wise. This is an instance where, I think, hon. Members opposite, who have been called the "pale pinks," feel sure that those who wish to object should have a reasonable time in which to object.

12.56 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I want to say something which I think it is fair should be said on behalf of the Minister. I would agree with my hon. Friend, in general, that it is most undesirable to have anything which would delay the procedure under the Bill. I think everybody, except the opponents of the Bill, would agreed with that, but in the Committee stage, when this Amendment was discussed, the Minister promised to give attention to the points made. He has now put in the Bill something which he believes is fair to all concerned. I think the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), although a strong supporter of the Bill, will not suggest that the Minister is a party to anything that looks like delaying tactics.

12.57 p.m.

Mr. Morrison

I would like to say a word or two in reply, in case there should be a sense of grievance in the House. I beg the House to believe that this is not a delaying procedure. The Bill is giving substantial time in which objections have to be lodged. Does the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) think that 28 days is an unreasonable time to allow an objector to put in his objections; and, if he were drafting the advertisement himself, for his own council, would be give a shorter period to allow people to object? I think not. It is only to ensure that a proper sequence of events takes place—that the local authority makes up its mind in proper time, applies at the proper time and allows a decent period for objections. and I do not think 28 days is at all excessive. Far from this being a means of delaying the Bill, it will, in my judgment, by increasing the fairness of the proposals, lubricate the whole machinery and make it much more expeditious to work.

Mr. Silkin

They have already had two months.

Mr. Morrison

I hope that local authorities, in forming these projects, will acquaint their constituents of the general nature of their proposals long before two months. I hope they will take them into co-operation long before that. Two months, I think, is the minimum time in which local authorities should receive the views and advice of the many interests involved, and this Amendment, far from slowing up the procedure, will help forward the work.

Amendment agreed to.

12.59 p.m.

Mr. H. Strauss

I beg to move, in page 4, line 8, leave out "made an application," and insert: published a notice under Subsection (4) of this Section as a preliminary to an application made by them. With the permission of the House, perhaps it will be convenient to take this and the next two Amendments together. We have now amended the first Clause to provide for an advertisement by the local authority of their intention to apply for an Order under Sub-section (1). It is, therefore, desirable to have this Amendment so as to enable owners to register names and addresses for service of future notices as from the date of the preliminary advertisement, and not, as the Bill at present stands, from the date of application for the Order. It is really consequential on the Amendments that we have recently adopted.

Amendment agreed to.

1.0 p.m.

Further Amendments made: In page 4, line 9, leave out "(7) or (9)," and insert "(7), (9) or (11)."

In line 12, leave out "of the application," and insert "under sub-section (4) of this section."—[Mr. H. Strauss.]