HC Deb 27 September 1944 vol 403 cc326-44

Considered in Committee, under Standing Order No. 69.

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the acquisition and development of land for planning purposes, for amending the law relating to town and country planning, and for other purposes, it is expedient to authorise the following payments, that is to say: A. (1 Payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of grants to local planning authorities in respect of loan charges on moneys borrowed by them for defraying, or contributing towards, the cost of acquiring or clearing—

  1. (a) areas of extensive war damage, of amounts equal to such loan charges for two years, together with a proportion of the charges for further years up to eight, or in certain cases thirteen, being a proportion fixed by reference to the extent to which land in an area of extensive war damage remains by reason of war damage incapable of being brought into use for a substantial purpose and so as to provide a substantial return;
  2. (b) land to be used for the re-location of population or industry from areas of extensive war damage or to be used as an open space or otherwise in an undeveloped state in substitution for land in such areas which is so used, of amounts equal to such loan charges for two years, together with half the charges for a further two years;
  3. (c) land for highway purposes relating to such areas or to land to be used as aforesaid, of amounts equal to such loan charges for two years.
(2) Payment into the Exchequer of any sums received in pursuance of the said Act of the present Session in repayment of any such grants. For the purposes of this paragraph—
  1. (i) local planning authorities shall be deemed to have incurred loan charges on moneys belonging to them which are applied by them for defraying, or contributing towards, such cost as aforesaid as if the moneys had been borrowed on terms to be fixed by the Treasury;
  2. (ii) land appropriated by local planning authorities for any purpose of the said Act of the present Session shall be treated as having been acquired for that purpose out of moneys belonging to them at a cost determined as mentioned in the said Act;
  3. (iii) payments by local planning authorities in respect of restrictions on the development or use of land acquired by them subject to the restrictions shall be treated as a part of the cost of acquiring the land defrayed out of moneys belonging to them;
  4. (iv) contributions towards the compensation payable on the refusal of the renewal of justices' licences in respect of land to be acquired by local planning authorities shall be treated as part of the cost of acquiring the land.
B. (1) Payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such sums as may be required to be paid into the Road Fund for the purpose of meeting the cost incurred by the Minister of War Transport of acquiring land for purposes relating to trunk roads as mentioned in the said Act of the present Session. (2) Payment into the Exchequer of any contributions received by the said Minister from local planning authorities in respect of such cost. C. Payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of expenses incurred by any government department under the said Act of the present Session in paying compensation to persons (including statutory undertakers) in respect of the extinguishment or vesting of or interference with rights over land or apparatus on land, in complying with conditions imposed in connection with the use of burial grounds, or in making payments to persons displaced in the carrying out of redevelopment. D. Payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase in the sums payable out of such moneys under section four of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1938, which is attributable to provisions of the said Act of the present Session extending contributions under the said Act of 5938 to housing accommodation rendered necessary by displacements, occurring in the carrying out of redevelopment of land acquired under the said Act of the present Session, from houses unfit for human habitation. E. Payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of remuneration and allowances to members of any tribunal constituted under the said Act of the present Session for the assessment of compensation under that Act to statutory undertakers."—King's Recommendation Signified.)[Mr W. S. Morrison.

3.37 P.m.

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

The Committee will remember that when we had the Second Reading of this Bill I undertook to have further consultations with associations of local authorities. I carried out that promise, and as a result I had a series of very helpful, co-operative conversations. As a result of these I shall propose certain Amendments to the Bill when we get to the Committee stage as regards the powers of local authorities, procedure to be followed for the acquisition of land and the finance. The Amendments on finance necessitate certain Amendments in the Money Resolution, and in this respect the Resolution on the Paper contains variations from the form of the Resolution which has haunted the Order Paper for the last few weeks. I am sorry it was not possible for me, under the Rules of the House, to put the varied form on the Paper until yesterday, so that it could not appear in its amended form until to-day. In this I ask for the indulgence of the Committee, and I hope I may receive it, seeing that the changes from the old form are all in the direction of widening the terms of the Resolution and enabling more financial assistance to be made available for the task of reconstruction in the bombed areas.

The main scheme of financial assistance embodied in the Bill remains. Local planning authorities will meet the cost of acquiring and clearing the land in the bomb damaged areas, mostly by way of loans. As the Committee will recollect, the Bill provides for assistance from the Exchequer to be given in respect of the loan charges incurred by local planning authorities in carrying out this task. Roughly speaking, may I remind the Committee, the idea is that the loan charges incurred shall be discharged for the first two years, a grant equal to them shall be paid from the Exchequer, and thereafter the grants can continue for a further period of eight, or, in exceptional cases, 13 years, the grants being made proportionately to the extent to which the process of reconstruction has made the land available for substantial use and capable of making a return to the authority which owns it. These main lines of assistance still stand. I would invite the Committee to look at the changes from the Resolution as it previously appeared. In paragraph A (1) (a) they will see that, in addition to the words, brought into use for a substantial purpose, there are the words and so as to provide a substantial return. It was put to me by many local authorities that during the work of reconstruction they might find it very much in the public interest to let some of the land which was required for development at a very low or nominal rental for the present period of the occupation, in order to stimulate or to start development. It is true that that may happen. They were afraid that if they did so let it for a nominal rent they would be considered as bringing it into substantial use, and that, therefore, their grant for it would cease. The additional words in the Resolution foreshadow an Amendment to the Bill to provide that the grant, in a proper case, will not cease in such circumstances. The next change is in A (1) (b), where the Committee will notice that we have altered the definition of what we have called, for lack of a more beautiful term, overspill. The old definition was: land to be used for providing accommodation for persons in the bombed areas. It was felt that this was a bit too narrow, and that that definition might be interpreted as envisaging these overspill areas as mere housing estates. That is not the intention. It is intended that when these overspill areas are to be developed they shall be developed on the basis of a neighbourhood unit, not only of houses, but of all the things, such as open spaces, that a community requires for its daily life. It is felt that the words that we now have give a better picture of what it is intended to attain. There is also in this sub-paragraph a further grant in aid of the acquisition of land in overspill areas in case of bomb damage. Under the previous Financial Resolution and under the Bill, the grant for acquiring land in overspill areas was limited to the first two years. The idea was that this land will, in the main, be cheap land, it is outside the cities, and does not carry the tremendous values that urban land generally does. But we feel that something more is necessary. Now the grant does not cease after two years, but is continued at half the rate of the loan charges for the next two years.

The following paragraph indicates a certain widening of the scope of the expenditure which may rank for grant. Sub-paragraph (i) widens the scope to this extent, that it includes any money expended by the local planning authority out of their own funds. It makes it perfectly clear that if they expend their own money it is deemed to be a loan under the provisions of the Act, and ranks for grant just as though they had borrowed. That is perfectly just, and they are entitled, in our view, to have the grant extended to that. Sub-paragraph (ii) brings in any land bought by the authority before the Bill for a purpose which is included in the purposes of the Bill. The local authorities have in many cases already acquired land for purposes of reconstruction and for overspill. In so far as they have done so, and the land is appropriated for the purposes of the Bill, that expenditure, even though it was incurred before the Bill, will rank for grant. Sub-paragraph (iii) brings in the cost of planning restrictions on land which is subsequently acquired. This point was brought to my notice by many local authorities, that they may have made restrictions and then have bought the land with the restrictions on it. We think that, in these circumstances, the money paid for the restriction should really be treated as an instalment of the purchase price and the two things put together to rank for grant as if they had been done at one time. Sub-paragraph (iv) is a small matter of compensation for justices' licences, the renewal of which is refused in the course of the project for redevelopment.

3.45 P.m.

Another thing about which I would like to say a word is a matter which did call for a lot of comment on the Second Reading, the question of open spaces. I would like to make it perfectly clear that it is the view of my Department that the proper provision of an adequate standard of open spaces is a vital object that we all ought to strive to secure in this task of reconstruction. I would only mention—not that I exclude the larger open spaces, such as parks and playing fields, which are very important—that there are also opportunities arising during the course of reconstruction in these damaged areas where even a small open space can be provided here and there, a space where children can run in to play out of the streets and traffic, and where older persons can retreat to sun themselves and take a little rest in the middle of the city's traffic and bustle. All these things are highly desirable, and we ought to do our best to secure them.

A fear was expressed by local authorities that in the formula for loan charges this object was to a certain extent frustrated, the argument being, "If we acquire an area of bomb damage and dedicate part of that to the proper provision of open spaces, we are putting it to a substantial purpose, and the grant in aid of that ceases, and we are the losers thereby." That is not how it will work, but no Amendment is necessary for it. If the Committee will look at the Bill—I do not ask them to take it from me—they will see that the matter of defining what land has been put to substantial use is left to regulations made by the Minister and the Treasury, after consultations with certain local authorities. The intention is to administer the formula for grant in aid in this way, that if land is dedicated for the purposes of an open space in one of these bombed areas the grant in respect of it does not cease, but the grants in subsequent years will take into account the rate at which the surrounding property is being developed, and only in so far as it is thought proper to taper down the extent to which the surrounding property is being developed will it be thought proper to taper down the grant which is to be given for an open space. That will be of material assistance in the acquisition of open spaces, which is such a desirable object. That can be done without any Resolution; it can be done by regulation.

The only other thing I would like to say is that I can well imagine it being said that this assistance towards open spaces, although helpful, does not really meet the case of those local authorities, and, alas, there are some of them, whose resources are so small in relation to their needs that they cannot do much for the provision of open spaces. It is very often the very poorest of them that have the most crying need for some aeration in the texture of their bricks and mortar. Some people say that local authorities, as a whole, cannot afford to make adequate provision of this kind out of their own own resources. The Government are not prepared to accept that as a general proposition. As already stated, Exchequer assistance, accordińng to the circumstances of the authorities, is already forthcoming for school playing fields, and the Government do not intend to supplement this by a general subsidy towards the cost of acquiring land for such purposes, but, in order to meet this case in built-up areas where it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Government that a local planning authority could not, without undue financial hardship, conform to the requisite standard, Parliamentary authority will be sought to provide Exchequer assistance. Grants from the Minister of Education will, of course, continue to be paid under the provisions of Section 3 of the Physical Training and Recreation Act, as amended by the Education Act of this year.

A general overhaul of the financial relations between the Exchequer and local authorities will have to be undertaken as soon as the data upon which it can be based become available, and this is a matter much larger than the purpose of the present Bill. The Government White Paper on Social Insurance has already pointed out a number of changes which will have to be considered, and there are others. This overhaul will, in the Government's view, have to be carried out with a definite bias in favour of the poorer authorities. It cannot be undertaken in the near future, and, meantime, as an interim measure and in anticipation of it, this assistance will be given in hard cases. It will be necessary to work out conditions under which it will be made available, and account will have to be taken of such matters as the extent of public open spaces and the cost of the proposed acquisition in relation to the financial resources of the authority, but as soon as these matters have been further explored and the necessary consultations concluded, an early opportunity will be sought of giving legislative effect to them. That is all I have to say about this Resolution. I hope the Committee will agree to pass it so that we may proceed to the Committee stage of this most urgent and most important Bill.

Mr. Silkin (Peckham)

I am sure that the Committee will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for the very clear explanation he has given of the difficulties of this technical matter, and that we will readily give him the indulgence for which he asks in view of the special circumstances. I believe that my right hon. Friend is to-day a wiser man than he was some three months ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "We all are."]He has discovered that, when you are about to enter into partnership or other relations with other persons or bodies, it is not a bad idea to discuss terms fully with them and carry them with you before you reduce the matter to the stage of writing. The Minister would have saved himself a great deal of trouble if he had learned that in good time. It was necessary for me and others to indulge in some words of criticism on the Second Reading, but I am very glad indeed to say to-day that my right hon. Friend has completely redeemed himself. In the consultations that took place with the associations of local authorities the local authorities were treated with that courtesy, ability and charm which we in the House know and admire so much and which they, perhaps, experienced for the first time. I must say that, while the local authorities are not entirely satisfied with the result of the discussions, they are definitely satisfied that the representations which they made were fully appreciated, understood and considered by my right hon. Friend, and perhaps I might say that some of the representations which the Minister made to the local authorities were equally appreciated by them.

As a result of these friendly discussions—and they were quite friendly—a number of very useful concessions have been made in the Bill which make it much more acceptable, and which are incorporated, so far as may be necessary, in the Financial Resolution before the Committee to-day. At this stage. I am bound to say, Mr. Williams, that I feel that there is an unfortunate tendency to draw Financial Resolutions so tightly that no Amendment of any consequence succeeds in passing your vigilant eye. My right hon. Friend has asked the Committee to make up its mind in advance as to how much money will be spent on this Measure, and a great many Amendments which might have been moved for the purpose of improving the Measure no doubt, find themselves out of Order. I wish it had been possible to deal with this Bill in the same way as the Educa- tion Bill, where there was a certain amount of elasticity in the Financial Resolution which permitted of very valuable improvements being made in the Bill.

Before I make any general observations I ask the Minister to consider, and to give me an answer to, the question why certain words which were in the original Resolution do not appear in the present one. The Minister did say that it was the intention of this Bill to provide grants retrospectively to local authorities who had already acquired land which they were going to prepare for the purposes of this Bill. In the original Resolution there were the words, under A. (1) whether before or after the passing of the said Act. These words are omitted from the present Financial Resolution and I would be glad to have an explanation of that. While the concessions are appreciated, and it would be wrong to deny that they are, in many cases, substantial, it would be equally wrong to give the impression that the Bill is now a satisfactory Measure. On the occasion of the Second Reading, a number of fundamental objections were raised and two of them still remain. The first is that the Bill does not provide for comprehensive planning. Planning, under the Bill, will still be piecemeal. The Bill is still almost entirely a Measure for the reinstatement of war damaged areas, and that, many of us contended, was not real planning. It is just reinstatement, and that objection to the Bill still prevails. I know That my right hon. Friend will say, and has said, that the reinstatement of war damaged areas is a first priority, but, while that may be the case, nevertheless, that reinstatement ought to be carried out in pursuit of a comprehensive plan. I regret that the Bill, even to-day, as it was proposed to amend it subject to the Committee of this House, will still not permit of this comprehensive plan.

4.0 p.m.

The second fundamental objection to the Bill was that the financial provisions were inadequate. They are less inadequate wider the terms of the Financial Resolution than they were before. A little more grant is being given in the case of overspill areas and I readily appreciate that the definition of the overspill area has been widened, which is a tremendous boon to planning. But, generally, even the grants that are proposed to be paid in respect of war damaged areas are still regarded, certainly by the local authorities, as inadequate, and even more complaint is made that no grant is being made in respect of blighted areas. That grievance and criticism still remains. If we are really going to re-plan our towns and the countryside and to rebuild Britain in the manner of which so many people have talked so eloquently in the past, there is no fundamental disfinction between an area which, for one reason or another, is unfit to live in according to modern standards, a blighted area, and an area which has suffered extensive war damage. While it my be necessary to make some distinction in the Bill between the two, comprehensive and proper planning would deal with the two areas, and a grant is equally necessary for the one as for the other. The right hon. Gentleman has said that in the case of overspill areas, the cost of land may be less than in the case of war damaged areas, but he will be the first to recognise that, in the case of the blighted areas, the cost of land may well be higher. It is unfortunate that many of the areas most in need of re-development are also areas where the cost of land is higher. It is in these areas that no contribution is being made by the Exchequer towards their re-development, and that is the serious blemish on the Bill.

I was glad that my right hon. Friend recognised that the case for some kind of reorganisation of local government and a re-orientation of the incidence of local and national finance has become overwhelming. The burdens which Parliament is increasingly placing upon local authorities is making their task almost impossible. We have just been discussing housing. An immense burden has been placed upon local authorities in respect of housing. We have to face up to large expenditure on highways, public health, education and on social services, and if in addition to that local authorities are really to carry out what is the intention of my right hon. Friend and to deal with their blighted areas, then clearly the cost will become prohibitive. I hope that the examination to which my right hon. Friend has referred will take place as quickly as possible. The matter really is urgent. What is probably involved under present conditions may be nothing less than the breakdown of local govern- ment and this Committee would regard that as a tragedy. Local government is, after all, the home and kernel of democracy, and nobody would wish that it should run that danger.

There is one further criticism of the Bill which has not been met. There cannot be proper re-development without dealing with compensation and betterment and we are a long way from solving that problem. The Government have published a White Paper on the subject, but apparently they have so little confidence in it that they have not invited any discussion of it, although it has been published a very long time. A good many other White Papers published long afterwards have had discussion in this House. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that, without a solution of this problem of compensation and betterment, we cannot get proper planning in the blighted areas.

In spite of its faults and defects, I feel that the Committee should be invited today to accept the Financial Resolution in its amended form. The concessions which have been made will be of value to local authorities and particularly to those who have suffered through extensive war damage. We on this side of the Committee will therefore accept the Financial Resolution, without prejudice, looking on it entirely as an instalment of what we hope will be a more satisfactory and comprehensive Measure in the very near future.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) has paid tribute to the right hon. Gentleman's charm of manner, with which I entirely agree, but he has also paid tribute to his conciliatory ability. He has certainly conciliated those people who live in bombed areas, but I would like to say a word or two about those who do not happen to live in bombed areas but live in what are now termed—I think it rather an unfortunate word—blighted areas. I myself happen to represent an area which has not been bombed but which is a blighted area. We have suffered war damage of a different character. We have been able to put up no buildings for five years. We have, further, incurred extra expenditure in connection with the war regarding air raid precautions, Civil Defence and a great many other things, all of which make it more difficult for us to spend money on housing after the war. As the Government are not giving financial assistance to blighted areas in the same way as they are to blitzed areas, it will be impossible for blighted areas to go ahead with housing schemes which are needed just as badly in many cases as they are in the bombed areas. It would be impossible for them to go on with these schemes for five years may be, or it may be until the period of years is greater than that allowed in the Bill. I agree entirely that bombed cities come first. Everybody will agree with that, but are we to assume that if labour is not available for bombed cities, it will therefore not be available for blighted cities? Take, for instance, the North-West which has suffered comparatively little from bombing but a great deal from blight. It may be that while it is not available in London, labour may be available in the North-West which cannot be transferred to London. I cannot see why, even if London is to be rebuilt first, it is not possible to use labour in the North-West which cannot be brought down to London. Not only have these blighted areas suffered as a result of the war but everybody will agree that their contribution to the war has been just as great as that of the blitzed areas. I do not think that they can be left out simply because they have not, one would almost say, had the good fortune to be bombed. As a representative of a blighted area, I would like to make what plea I can that those areas may be considered, and that the Government will even now reconsider its decision to leave them out altogether, and bring them more into line with what it is already going to give to the bombed areas.

Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)

I would like to associate myself with the plea that has just been made, and I do hope that the Minister, who is so sympathetic and who has been so willing in the past to hear points that have been put before him, will be able to reconsider that very important point. I hope also that he may see his way to hold out the possibility of wider powers than seem to be implied in the wording of the Resolution. Paragraph (b) of A (1) limits the use of the grant of money for land an open space by the words to be used as an open space or otherwise in an undeveloped state in substitution for land in such areas which is so used. That would seem to preclude the use of this grant of money to purchase an open space unless it is absolutely in substitution for a previous open space. There might be a densely populated area of working-class houses that has been bombed which every one agrees ought to have had an open space if it had been originally planned on sound lines. Yet under the terms of this Resolution it seems as if the Minister will be precluded from giving a grant to a local authority for making an open space for the buildings which are built in substitution for this bombed area because the original area had no open space. I do hope, therefore, that the Minister may be able to assure the Committee that he does not wish to bind himself and the Ministry in that way. If so I hope he may be willing, on Report stage, to omit the words from "state" in line 17 to the word "used" in line 18.

Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) I was very critical of this Bill on the Second Reading, but I am afraid I do not share my hon. Friend's change of attitude towards it. It seems to me that the Amendments which have been made in this Financial Resolution still leave the main objection, that a planner will not be able to consider, when drawing up a plan, only the suitability of any particular piece of land; he will still have to weigh the cost of that land and will still be bound by the fact that the local authority is not given power to purchase any land which is required for planning purposes in the area of that local authority. That fundamental objection still remains. The other fundamental objection to this Bill which will make it quite ineffective for real town planning is the fact that it does not touch the matter of compensation and betterment at all. I still think this Bill is extremely unsatisfactory, and it will not result in our using this tremendous opportunity which we now have to build cities, which are going to be worthy of the 21st century.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. S. 0. Davies (Merthyr)

I must emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale). I have the misfortune, if I may put it that way, of representing an area that has been regarded for many years as a blighted one. I want to appeal to the Minister to maintain some sense of proportion as between the long-standing needs of some of these blighted areas and those of the bombed areas for which the Minister has shown, and rightly so, so much consideration. The hon. Member for West Bromwich referred to the fact that development in these blighted areas has been held up by five years of war, as has been the case in most parts of the country, but perhaps my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that most of the blighted areas were largely areas that suffered most from mass unemployment in the inter-war period. Perhaps I may be permitted to make reference to the area I know best, my own constituency. In addition to five years of war, we had between 15 and 16 years of mass unemployment, during which period very little development could be carried on. I do not want to over-stress the blighted areas at the expense of the bombed areas—we are all most sympathetically disposed towards the bombed areas—but many of these blighted areas are the oldest industrialised parts of this country and have been blighted, in a sense, for half a century. That blight was horribly accentuated by the long years of mass unemployment in the inter-war period. My right hon. Friend has a very serious problem to consider, and I hope that the local authorities in those blighted areas will have his full sympathy and his practical co-operation.

Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)

I would like to ask the Minister one thing in reference to a case which cropped up a fortnight ago in the Liverpool Housing Committee. We know very well that small gardens or restful spots, to which the Minister referred a few moments ago, are very necessary, but is it possible for us to erect houses on a particular site, which is now an open space but which is not being used for that particular purpose at the present time to any great extent, for the temporary period mentioned in the Financial Resolution if it would relieve us of our housing disadvantages? And would it be possible for a grant to be given in such a case? We feel that such a grant ought to be given, because it would be-beneficial to the city and because it would better our housing situation. As we say in Liverpool, we want the "dough."

Mr. E. J. Williams (Ogmore)

If I were a representative of a bombed area I would welcome this Bill. Whenever I look at Bills of this kind I endeavour to visualise what must be taking place in London, Plymouth, Coventry and other parts of the country, and I should welcome the opportunity of not only telling my constituents but welcoming them back to their old homes as quickly as possible. But I represent a constituency in Wales to which a large number of people were brought for production purposes at the beginning of the war. Such areas are very overcrowded. The population in my home town has gone up by over 50 per cent. during the last three or four years. Throughout the country we have had no development whatever, and in that respect my constituency is comparable with all others. But this is putting a heavy strain on local authorities. I welcomed the Minister's statement that the time has come when there should, be an overhaul of local government grants. Who is going to do it? Does it come under the purview of the present Minister, is it a matter for the Minister of Health or the Treasury? If so, when is it to commence and when shall we have a report? Is a survey to take place? Is it to be done immediately? We realise from the White Paper on Social Security and the Education Act and many others things, the enormous burden that is to be placed on local authorities. They cannot bear it either equitably or properly. I should like the State to have acquired land and allow the local authorities to use it, but it would be out of Order to discuss that now. The point I would like the Minister to reply to is how this revision of local government finance is to take place and when we are likely to have a report in order that relief may come to the heavily burdened local authorities as soon as possible.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

>: I would like to refer briefly to the speech made by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) and join with him in asking the Minister whether he is quite satisfied that local authorities will be enabled by this Financial Resolution to plan their areas with due regard to the position of open spaces and, to use the modern term, civic centres. According to line 17 land to be used as an open space is one of the conditions of the grant. That would seem to apply to the point made by the hon. Member opposite, but I am not clear that the local authorities will be enabled by this Resolution to plan their areas on the lines of a properly developed modern town or city. For example, may I cite the case of Cardiff? Those of us who have visited Cardiff must be fully aware of the magnificent statute that Cardiff City has reached as the result of the grand planning of open spaces and public buildings. We want to encourage local authorities everywhere, not only in the blitzed cities but in the new overspill areas, to plan something, not so pretentious and noble perhaps as Cardiff has been able to achieve, but something approaching the style. They will not be able to do so unless financial encouragement is given to them by the Government for that purpose. The simple question I wanted to ask the Minister is whether he is quite satisfied that local authorities will be enabled to secure land not only for open spaces but also for civic buildings yielding little financial return.

Mr. John Wilmot (Kennington)

The Noble Lord opposite has certainly put his finger on the spot and I am afraid that the Minister can only reply that this Resolution, and the Bill with which it is connected, do not enable a local authority to do just the very thing which the Noble Lord rightly points out would be a possibility under the Bill if it were to justify its Title, "Town and Country Planning Bill." As the Money Resolution is drawn—much better than it was the last time—it does so limit the operation of the Bill that it is not really a Town and Country Planning Bill at all; it is a Bill for the rehabilitation of the bombed areas. Although it gives new powers to local authorities in respect of the acquisition of land for the replanning of areas of bad development, slums, and the like, it gives them powers which are quite illusory, because with their many other burdens they have no money with which to exercise them, and it is very regrettable that the Minister has not used the opportunity which has come to him at this formative time to produce a real Town and Country Planning Bill which would have enabled our towns to be re-developed along the lines which we all desire.

Even in the matter of open spaces—a most fundamental thing, as the Minister pointed out—for a badly developed, sprawling slum area, unless it is a war damaged area, there is no contribution, and even for a war damaged area there is a sort of means test. The Minister ought to have seen to it that, at any rate at the very beginning, there was provision to employ open spaces, so that the short-term policy would not be the enemy of the long. I regret that the Resolution has not been so drawn as to permit the meeting of all loan charges in respect of all the purposes that this Bill sets out to achieve. To that extent the Bill will be inoperative for a very long time to come, and when the money is available no doubt it will be too late, because places will have been rebuilt in the old patchwork and piece-meal way, and our hopes of replanning will have gone for a long time. Some of the things which I thought we should have found in the new draft are lamentably absent. I had thought that at any rate Vie Minister would have taken power to deal with the question of the 1939 value where there is clear evidence that someone has bought up the land since the war and is going to make a profit out of the public. I am sorry that that has not been provided for here.

4.30 p.m.

We also feel very strongly that nothing has been done to remove those two objectionable aspects, the power to order a local authority to dispose of its land. [Interruption.] Yes, it has to do with it. If we do not look at it now we shall be too late, because of the nature of the financial provisions. We think it is quite wrong that the Minister should be able to direct authorities to dispose of land and that he should be able to estop them from using part of the land to bring in revenues which will ease the burden in other directions. Would it not have been very much better if he had taken a bigger view of the problem and really created a Town and Country Planning Bill which would have made for proper planning as and when the development takes place, and that he himself had acquired the land that was necessary and leased it to the local authorities at a rental which had regard to the nature of the purposes for which it was to be used?

He would have suffered no financial loss over it, because under the principles so well set out in the Uthwatt Report development would have taken place in the areas not used for housing purposes and the rise in value would have been subject to the levy, which would have balanced it. I make this point now because it is obvious that the Minister has fallen short of what he might have done to make this a really great Measure. I hope it will be possible, in looking at it again and considering, as he said, the fundamental necessity of recasting the financial arrangements between central and local finance, to do something to offset the very marked objections that there are to the Bill even in its present form.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

Though there is nothing in the Resolution about the 1939 standard of values nor about the power of the Minister to direct the disposal of land, there is nothing in it which prevents the fullest and freest debate on both matters in Committee. The hon. Member can bring them up for full discussion at a later stage. I thank the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) for the kindly words that he used. He asked why certain words in the older Resolution had been omitted. They were not thought to be adequate for the purpose, but they have been substantially re-enacted in better words. There was no loss but some gain. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) feared that the use of the words to be used as an open space or otherwise in an undeveloped state in substitution for land in such areas which is so used would limit the power to provide a proper open space in a spillover area unless, in fact, there was one in the area. That is not the position. The whole of the paragraph is covered by the words land to be used for the relocation of population or industry. That means relocating it in accordance with the best planning we can devise to provide the community with all the open space required. The words in substitution for land in such areas which is so used are put in to meet a case which has occurred from time to time. Where it is necessary for the best reconstruction of a bombed site to absorb an open space, power is wanted to put another open space, if need be, outside the area being redeveloped to meet the needs of the population. I am grateful to the Committee for having received the Resolution as they have. The point made by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) seems to me more a matter for housing grants than grants for the acquisition of land, because the case put was where a corporation already possessed the land and wanted to put houses on it. These grants are for getting the land and not for putting up houses. [Interruption.] I should like to consult the Minister of Health about that. The main criticism that has been made is that the Resolution does not provide money for blight. The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) was in error in thinking that shortage of labour might militate against a speedy attack on the problem of blight. The real problem is the shortage of houses. We shall be very short of dwelling accommodation, even of an indifferent type, for some years after the war. All our energies will be devoted not to pulling houses down but to building them up. I think it is a reasonable attitude for the Government to take in the lifetime of this Parliament not to pledge public money in advance for a matter of this kind when it will be necessary for the whole question to be looked at again. What the Bill does is to give new powers for the acquisition of land and to remove disabilities under which local authorities have been in the past. There is nothing to prevent the formulation of good planning on that basis, using the powers in the Bill as and when opportunity serves.

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

Is there anything in the suggestion of a re-examination of local government finance?

Mr. Morrison

I have stated that it will be necessary to examine the whole question of the relations between local and central finance. I was asked which Ministry would undertake it. It is so far-reaching that it is obviously a matter for the whole Government, not excluding the Treasury and the Ministry of Health who have always dealt with local authorities. It is a large question and it goes far outside the boundaries of the Bill. I am not in a position to say when it will take place, but it is clear that it will be necessary to have a considerable examination of the problem, and there will need to be very close consultation with local authorities before the matter can be dealt with, but the task must be taken in hand.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.