§ Order for Second Reading, read.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Last year, the House of Commons spent 12 days on the English Planning Bill. The Bill which I now bring before the House, is the Scottish counterpart of the English Act, adapted to meet Scottish law, history and conditions of land tenure. The general lay-out and provisions of our Bill are the same as those in the English Act. There are, however, one or two differences to which I propose to refer in a moment. When, in July, 1943, I moved the Second Reading of the Interim Development Bill, I took occasion to review the history of Planning Acts in Scotland. Previous Acts were all permissive. Local authorities were not under any obligation to prepare schemes. As a result, only seven out of 57 planning authorities had schemes covering their areas, and only about one-ninth of the area of Scotland was subject to planning 250 resolutions. But, as I then indicated, we were endeavouring, by voluntary co-operation between the authorities, to co-ordinate planning, not only as to the use of land in their regions but as to the green belts, water supplies, hospitals, and, in some instances, houses. We have got 18 local planning authorities on the West of Scotland Committee, planning the Clyde Valley arrangements; 17 authorities on the Central and South-Eastern Scotland Committee, and we have another group now, with the counties of Angus and Kinross, part of the county of Perth, and the burghs of Dundee, Perth and Arbroath. In totality, 38 out of 57 of our planning authorities are now carrying out planning work through regional advisory committees formed on a voluntary basis.
There is, I think, general agreement that we must have good planning. We cannot afford any more of that irresponsible and haphazard development which has spoiled so many of our towns and indeed, parts of our countryside too. Planning indeed is a vital necessity. Somebody must decide whether or not, for example, a milk farm here or a milk farm there, should be taken for housing or for factories. Evidences of haphazard, inconsiderate and indeed, foolish planning in the past are, alas, in abundance all around us in nearly every city and town in our land.
If I may, I will give one or two examples. Take, for example, the burgh of Kilmarnock. A new by-pass road was constructed to take traffic away from the burgh, but before the road was completed, it had already been built up with new houses, and accordingly ceased to perform the function of a by-pass road. In Salsburgh, Lanarkshire, a trunk road was constructed to by-pass the existing village. The local authority then built new houses on the other side of the road from the village, and away from the shops, schools, etc., thus making it necessary for children to cross the trunk road, and run the risk of being knocked down by fast-moving traffic. At Coat-bridge, there are actually eight or nine railway stations in the burgh. There are two railway lines running North and South and two running East and West with innumerable routes and sidings. The whole town is criss-crossed by railways, and housing, industry and railways are all inextricably mixed up together.
251 I could also give an example from the city of Edinburgh. It has a very busy shopping centre in Earl Grey Street. This forms a very bad bottle-neck; it is invariably crowded with road traffic and pedestrians at busy hours. I gave instances in this House during the passage of the recent Water Bill showing where parallel mains had been laid along the same road. For example, in Lanarkshire, the town councils of Motherwell and Wishaw, and the Airdrie and Coatbridge water board, each laid down parallel lines along the road from Symington to Carluke, for a distance of 14 miles. The Hamilton town council and the Lanarkshire county council have each laid down mains along the same route from Strathaven to Hamilton for seven miles. There are other instances which are within the knowledge of other hon. Members. There are actually cases where trunk mains are carried through villages without giving off supplies to those villages.
The present Bill deals chiefly with the special problems of the blitzed areas—"blitzed" being German for wardamaged—and with the blighted areas, these being areas where decay, decrepitude and poverty have set their seals.
§ Mr. Johnston
No, not the whole of Scotland. The Bill also confers upon local planning authorities, for the first time, power to carry out positive planning, and in certain cases enables the local authorities to do the work themselves. The Bill also provides for the acquisition and development of derelict or unused land. The Bill is a formidable and complex Measure, but that is because the problems with which it deals are, themselves, formidable and complex. It has four main objects. The first is, to enable local planning authorities to acquire, by a simplified and expeditious procedure, land both in war-damaged and blighted areas, together with the land needed for the "overspill" of population and industry from those areas. [Interruption.] I tried to find another word to cover that. Obviously, if a local authority is going to develop a war-damaged area, it can only do so by providing accommodation for persons outside the area in which they previously lived.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
My right hon. Friend should not use fancy words, and his Bill would look better.
§ Mr. Johnston
I will do my best to explain a very difficult and complex method of procedure, and I am sure I shall have the support of hon. Members. Secondly, the Bill provides assistance from the Exchequer to the local planning authorities of these war-damaged areas. Thirdly, it regulates the compensation payable for land acquired for public services within the next five years. Fourthly, it enables local planning authorities to engage in developing their areas, either by themselves, or by disposing of the land they have acquired to private individuals to develop in accordance with the plans laid down by the local authority. The procedure for acquisition is being expedited and simplified, and I am assured that the saving in time might be in the neighbourhood of three months.
To assist the local planning authorities in the acquisition and clearance of land in war-damaged areas and overspill land, the Bill provides for grants being made to the authorities by the Exchequer. The local authorities will borrow to meet the expenditure which they incur. The Exchequer grants will be equal to the loan charges payable by the authorities for the first two years on the money which they borrow to meet the cost of acquiring and clearing the war-damaged land. The grants will also cover the loan charges payable by the authorities in respect of the acquisition and clearance of overspill land for the first two years, and half of the loan charges which they are liable to pay for the following two years. These grants will not be repayable to the Exchequer. If the local authority can show that it has not been possible to bring any of the war-damaged land into use for any substantial purpose, additional grants may be made, in respect of the loan charges on money borrowed by the authority for the acquisition and clearance of that land, for a further period of eight years, or, in special circumstances, up to 13 years.
These additional grants and these only, will be repayable only to the extent to which the local authority makes a profit out of redevelopment operations. It is difficult to estimate the cost of acquiring and clearing land in the war-damaged areas in Scotland, and the land needed for 253 overspill purposes, but the amount may be of the order of £1,000,000, and the cost to the Exchequer £100,000. Exchequer grants may also be paid to local planning authorities equal to the loan charges for two years on any moneys borrowed by them to enable them to make contributions to highway authorities towards the cost of acquiring and clearing land for highways in connection with the redevelopment of war-damaged and overspill land.
As hon. Members are aware, the blighted areas, described in the Bill as areas of "bad layout and obsolete development" represent the main planning problem in Scotland. These are the slum and congested areas where the houses are huddled together, where the streets are narrow and dangerous, and where there is an almost complete absence of open space. In Scotland we have some of the worst blighted areas in the whole of Great Britain. There is appalling overcrowding; many of the houses are totally unfit for human habitation; and many more fall deplorably short of modern housing standards, or are too small for family life.
§ Mr. Johnston
I have said that I will explain before I sit down. I cannot deal with everything at once.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am saying to the hon. Member, and to any other hon. Member, that I propose to answer that question before I sit down.
The overcrowding survey before the war showed that 34.5 per cent. of the houses in Greenock, 39.4 per cent. of the houses in Motherwell, and 39.7 per cent. of the houses in Clydebank, were overcrowded. The 1931 census showed that in Coatbridge 23 per cent. of the houses had only one room, and about 50 per cent. had only two rooms. In some of these areas the densities are simply astounding. For example, in Glasgow and in some of the other industrial towns, they are as 254 high as 127 houses, or more than 700 persons per acre. That is in the Tradeston division of Glasgow. I understand that the densities in the large English cities are only about half as high as that. The Bill will give the local planning authorities comprehensive powers—leaving out the question of finance for the moment—for dealing with these conditions. They will be able to apply to the Secretary of State for orders authorising the compulsory purchase of land in these blighted areas, which require to be redeveloped as a whole, and of the necessary land for accommodating the overspill of population and industry from those areas, and for replacing open spaces in these areas.
Briefly, the procedure under the Bill is that the local planning authority make a compulsory purchase order in respect of the land which is to be redeveloped, and submit the order to the Secretary of State. The authority must publish a notice in the Press stating that an order has been submitted to the Secretary of State, naming a place where copies of the order and of the maps accompanying it may be seen, and specifying the time within which objections to the order may be made to the Secretary of State. The authority must also serve notice on persons who appear from the valuation roll to have an interest in any land which will be affected by the order, and on such other persons as the Secretary of State may, on occasion, specify. After considering the order, and any objections thereto, and after holding a hearing or public local inquiry, if this is necessary, the Secretary of State may confirm the compulsory purchase order with or without modifications. These same expeditious powers of entry and vesting as apply in relation to the blitzed areas may also be made available to the local authorities for dealing with the blighted areas.
The Bill does not provide for financial assistance to local planning authorities in respect of the acquisition of land in the blighted areas. It will be some time before the authorities can undertake any large-scale destructive operations in those areas, partly because the pulling-down of houses and other buildings immediately after the war would simply add to the already acute housing problem, and partly because the authorities will be extremely busy building new houses on undeveloped land. The problem of dealing with 255 blighted areas, however urgent in itself, is not so urgent as the problem of dealing with the smashed or the blitzed areas. There are, I think, three ways in which the local authorities May receive assistance when they come to deal with the problem of their blighted areas. First there is, of course, the housing subsidy. Substantial parts of these blighted areas may be appropriated for the building of new houses, for schools, or community centres, and grants will be earned in respect of these new buildings. As hon. Members will see from Clause 47 of the Bill, local authorities will, in appropriate cases, be able to earn, not only the normal subsidy paid under the Housing Acts, but there is also, it will be observed, a special additional subsidy available to authorities who incur specially heavy expenditure in building houses.
§ Mr. Johnston
That is so. I am trying to explain it. The normal housing subsidy for a five-apartment house is at present £13 per annum for 40 years, and the special additional subsidy may amount to as high as £15 per house extra for the same period. These subsidies, will, of course, be reviewed in clue time, say, within two years, and they will be related to the general level at which building costs settle.
In addition, the local authority with the blighted area, will have an opportunity, at the time of the next revision of the block grant, to put forward any exceptional claims which they may have. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the other day, adjustments in the block grant will certainly be needed in the light of post-war developments, and these should take into account, on the one hand, increases in the over-all cost of services, and, on the other hand, any transfer of liabilities. Negotiations for the revision of the block grant and housing subsidies also will be undertaken in consultation with the local authority. While therefore I have considerable sympathy—
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
The right hon. Gentleman indicated that such a revision might take place. His words were "Say, within two years." I know he cannot be regarded as making a 256 promise, but how much importance are we to attach to that statement? Is it a guess, or is that the Government's intention?
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
On the same point, would my right hon. Friend tell us what he meant by "where transfer of liabilities takes place" in connection with this Bill?
§ Mr. Johnston
On the point about the two years I am advised that, after consultation with the local authorities, it is the intention of the Treasury and the Department of Health to revise the subsidies in two years. As for the point about the transfer of liabilities, if it be the case that poor law is transferred from local authority expenditure, that ought to be included in any revision of the block grant arrangement. Therefore, I have considerable sympathy with the apprehensions of many of the local authorities possessing the largest areas of blighted land, that they will not be able, financially, to do very much in the way of clearance and renovation. The fact remains that by these indirect methods of housing, and additional subsidies for housing, there will be, when the time comes for large-scale renovations in our towns, some financial aid, and it will be not inconsiderable. Not only so, but when the time comes for review, in consultation with the local authority associations, of the amounts of housing subsidies generally, and the amount and distribution of the block grant, the position of authorities with large blighted areas can be specially considered.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I am not clear about what the right hon. Gentleman is now saying. Is he saying that though the Bill does not confer any financial advantage in blighted areas, that financial advantage can possibly be conferred in other measures taken by the Government?
§ Mr. Johnston
I would prefer my right hon. Friend to take it as I have put it. Under the existing law there are provisions whereby, if there were any urgent need for the redevelopment of a blighted area, exceptional subsidies, up to £15 per house, I think, could be granted, plus the ordinary housing subsidies. I am saying that when these subsidies come up for revision the whole problem of the blighted areas and the cost of redevelopment will 257 come up for consultation and consideration in conjunction with the local authorities.
§ Mr. Johnston
I will try again, but I repudiate the idea that I had any irritation at all: that is a matter of opinion. On the question whether any additional power is given by the Bill to local authorities in blighted areas—not war-damaged areas—I say the answer is, "Yes." To start with, it affords greater expedition in acquisition. It absolves them from personal notifications and allows them to give block notifications of an intention to acquire. All the local authorities, so far as I know, have come to the conclusion that this more expeditious procedure will save them some three months—I am not pinning myself down to an exact period—in the compulsory acquisition of areas for redevelopment in their blighted territory. That is the first point. The second point is that for the period of two years—I assume that two years is the time when the re-examination of the subsidies will take place—there is already provision in the Housing Acts whereby authorities who have exceptional costs for redevelopment may get those exceptional costs made up to the extent of about £15 per house. Thirdly, I intimated that the Chancellor had announced that when the block grant came up for revision account would be taken of all the necessities of the case.
The third object of the Bill is to regulate the compensation payable in respect of land or property acquired for public purposes. In effect the Bill provides that where land is compulsorily acquired for public purposes under any enactment within a period of five years from November, 1944, the compensation will be assessed by reference to prices current at 31st March, 1939. The general conception is that the land is projected back into a March, 1939, setting, and the effect will be that any changes in the land or buildings since 1939 will be taken into account in fixing the March, 1939, price. For example, if there had been improvements to a property since March, 1939, 258 they would be taken into account. Owner-occupiers of buildings and agricultural land will be able to qualify for supplementary payments up to a maximum of 30 per cent. over the 1939 value of the buildings or land which are compulsorily acquired from them. The need for this 30 per cent. increase in the case of the owner-occupier is due to the cost of replacement. The owner-occupier must find himself another house in which to live, and the Government, as a result of the compromise last year, fixed upon 30 per cent. as an addition to March, 1939, prices. Again, where improvements have been carried out since March, 1939, to buildings or agricultural land at prices greater than March, 1939, prices the owner is entitled in certain circumstances to a reasonable addition for the cost of these improvements, and should there be any disagreement about the supplementary compensation the dispute goes to arbitration.
§ Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
In the case of agricultural land which had been in a derelict condition but on which improvements have been effected owing to the war cultivation programme, do I take it that if it is acquired under this Measure all the money expended upon it in order to bring it up to the standard required will be taken into account in assessing the value of it?
§ Mr. Johnston
I hesitate to give legal interpretations. If my hon. Friend will look at Clause 55 he will see how we estimate the amount. Possibly my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will answer that and any other technical points.
The fourth object of the Bill is to enable local authorities to carry out positive planning, that is, to secure that the land acquired by them is developed and used to the best possible advantage. As already indicated some of the land acquired by the local authorities may be appropriated for existing statutory purposes, schools, for example, but the authorities must have wider powers than are conferred by any existing Acts to carry out in appropriate circumstances whatever works are needed for the proper development of their areas. Broadly speaking, the Bill enables them to carry out such works on land acquired under the Bill provided they get the Secretary of State's consent and provided that 259 private enterprise fails to do the job or fails to do it sufficiently quickly. Thus a local planning authority might start a new shopping centre by erecting the first shops themselves. Again, they might acquire derelict or waste land and develop it so that it will serve some useful purpose. In the industrial areas of Scotland there are many disused sites, spoil heaps and tracts of waste or flooded land. Not only do these disfigure the landscape and destroy amenities, but the land is often land that could usefully be developed. The Bill will enable the local planning authorities for the first time to tackle the problem.
The Bill further enables the statutory undertakers of railways, gas, electricity and so on to play their part in the work of development and at the same time brings them under closer planning control. Wherever a statutory undertaking is affected by the planning Bill the Secretary of State and the Minister whose Department is responsible for the undertaking will bring the matter before Parliament in the form of an Order, which will be provisional only until it is finally confirmed by Parliament.
I turn now to one or two of the main points of difference between this Bill and the corresponding English Act. These differences have emerged as a result of discussions I have had with Scottish local authorities.
The English Act imposes a general obligation on all local planning authorities, which may be modified by regulations made under the Act, to obtain the consent of the Minister to their own development works, if these works are of a kind for which private developers would have had otherwise to obtain planning consent. The present Scots Bill adopts a slightly different approach. Instead of imposing such a general obligation on the local planning authorities, it merely gives the Secretary of State a reserve power to require them to submit to him for decision any particular developments which raise specially important planning issues. In short, it imposes the minimum control on the local planning authorities in the carrying on of their work. I have the fullest possible confidence in the ability and competence of the Scottish local authorities to plan their areas on the best possible lines, and 260 I do not at all anticipate that the Secretary of State's powers of intervention will frequently required to be exercised.
May I refer to a comment upon this aspect of the Bill which I have seen in certain Press quarters? It is that the Bill gives the Secretary of State rather frequent powers of interference and intervention in planning business. I recollect, however, that when the Act of 1943 was being promoted, the local authority associations urged strongly that appeals against a decision of the local authority should not go to the sheriff as we had proposed, but should go to the Secretary of State, and an Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for East Renfrew-shire (Major Lloyd) during the Committee stage of the Bill, making the Secretary of State and not the sheriff the appeal authority. The Secretary of State can be challenged in this House: the last court of appeal is this House; and I am assured that local authority associations, with one voice and one accord, do not desire that their planning operations shall be delayed by legal process, or shall be made more costly by legal process, but that appeals should come to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who will certainly build up a considerable experience in these matters. Someone, somebody, or some tribunal, must arbitrate as between a local authority and a dissatisfied citizen in planning matters. I believe the general wish of local authorities in Scotland is, that where appeals are required they should, as a normal rule, go, not to the law courts, but to the planning Minister. I think, myself, that this course will be helpful both to appellants and to respondents.
The English Act also enables the Minister in appropriate cases to direct a local planning authority to dispose of land or property acquired under the Bill to some particular individual on specified terms and conditions. This power was included in the Act largely with the view to the protection of minorities—Church and other. The Scottish Bill recognises that some power of direction may, upon special occasion, be necessary, but as a result of the views which have been expressed by the Scottish local authority associations and my own inclinations, I have preferred to limit the Secretary of State's power to intervene in cases in which representations are made to him that the refusal of a local authority to 261 dispose of land to a particular person constitutes unfair discrimination against that person or is otherwise oppressive. Where any such representations are made to him, the Secretary of State will arrange for a public local inquiry, so that he may be fully informed of all the facts of the case, and will then decide whether any direction about the disposal of the land should, in fact, be issued.
Another difference between the Bill and the English Act relates to the method of disposal of land acquired under the Bill. Under both the English Act and our Bill the consent of planning Ministers will be necessary to the disposal of land. The English Act, however, specifically provides that local planning authorities may not dispose of the freehold of land or lease land for more than 99 years, unless the Minister is satisfied that the circumstances are exceptional. In Scotland public opinion is very much against the long leasehold system, and we greatly prefer the system of feuing land. There are, of course, instances where the leasehold system is operated in Scotland. I had an instance of it a little over a year ago, when a deputation arrived from the village of Stonehouse, in the county of Lanark, to explain to me that most of the land in their village had been held on long lease. Buildings had been erected under the leasehold system. They reported about 250 of these small cottage owners' leases are due to expire within the next five to seventeen years, and when the leases expire, the properties fall to the land owner. Included in this Stonehouse story is the story of the Hamilton Memorial church manse which had been held on a long lease and was just about to expire. The rent payable under the lease was £4 per annum, and, as a condition of granting a feu now of the property, which presumably had been entirely erected by the tenants themselves, the land proprietors were insisting upon an annual feu duty of £10 plus a capital payment of £600.
§ Mr. Johnston
Perhaps I may finish what I was saying. In this case the owners of the land were trustees who took the view that they must make the best possible bargain in granting a feu of their property, and no doubt legally that was so, but the hardship to the tenants, or the leaseholders, was undesirable. The 262 tenant of a house in Stonehouse, under a lease of 99 years, which was due to expire, paid an annual rent of £1 1s. 10d., but the owner of the land now wanted to charge him a valuation fee of £2 and an annual feu duty of £6. In another case a tenant who had been charged 8s. 10d. per annum was told that he would now have to pay £10 a year, as a condition of his getting a feu. I think it would be generally agreed among all parties that we are better without this leasehold system in Scotland, and, while the Scottish Bill leaves the local planning authorities free to decide whether, in any particular case, they sell land outright or feu it or lease it, I very much hope that they will not resort to the leasehold system.
I do not claim that this Bill will bring the new Jerusalem to our Scottish towns, but it does four things. First, it vastly increases the expedition with which local authorities may acquire land and property for public purposes, a most desirable achievement; secondly, it provides Exchequer assistance to local authorities in war-damaged areas; thirdly, it regulates for five years the rates of compensation to be paid for compulsorily-acquired property; and, fourthly, it gives power to local authorities, either at their own hands or through the agency of private individuals, to develop their land upon planned lines. For these reasons, I commend this Measure to the House.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
After listening to such an excellent and fair statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland, it may appear ungracious of me to start on a critical note, but I would like to make this point clear. The problem which the Secretary of State is facing in Scotland is quite different from that which the Minister of Town and Country Planning is facing in England. The basis of our trouble in Scotland was not the blitz. In England, unfortunately, there are many widely-blitzed areas which call for special treatment. In Scotland the trouble is the blighted areas. I hoped that when the Secretary of State for Scotland was dealing with this matter, it would be possible for him to produce a purely Scottish Bill, which would not follow slavishly the lines of the English Bill but that changes would be made so as to fit this Bill into the problems which we have to face in Scotland. The right hon. 263 Gentleman may have had excellent reasons for taking the decision he did take, but I should like very much for him to reply to that point. I think we all feel that, in those matters affecting our particular national questions, we are entitled to our own remedies, and that those remedies would be very much better; all the more so because I think that the changes which have been made on the English Bill have improved this Bill.
I was impressed by the instances which the Secretary of State himself gave, but there are two particular changes to which I should like to draw attention. One was referred to by the Secretary of State, and the other he did not happen to mention. The first arises on that Clause which deals with the disposal, or appropriation by a local planning authority of land held by them for the purposes of Part I of the Bill. The Secretary of State, I think rightly, says, "I am not going to interfere with the local planning authority unless the refusal to disposal of land amounts to unfair discrimination, or is otherwise oppressive." I congratulate the Secretary of State on that change, which I think is a sound one. The other change arises on Clause 1. Here, I may be quite wrong—it is a matter of pure conjecture on my part—but I am inclined to praise my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. It seems to me to be in his style. Clause 1, (7), says:If the Secretary of State is satisfied that the particulars appearing from the application and the statement are adequate for enabling the expediency of the making of. an order to be properly considered he shallnot only authorise the local authorities topublish by Gazette and local advertisement a noticeof what he proposes to do, but, under paragraph (b), he shall so far as he can, from the valuation roll, notify any person particularly interested, so that that person is sure to know what is going on. In the Debate on the English Bill a great point was made of the failure to give adequate notice, and I think that is an addition to the Bill for which the Government are entitled to take credit.
When I emphasised the important distinction between blitz damage and that particular damage to which we are accustomed in Scotland, where so many areas have got totally out of repair, and 264 almost uninhabitable, I did not emphasise one point which seems to make the consideration of compensation in Scotland different from what it is in England. The law for many centuries and until comparatively recent times, has always said that if a man has had the misfortune to have his house damaged by the King's enemies, the damage falls upon whoever is stricken down by the act of the King's enemies. It is only in modern times that the State has said, "We are going to give you recompense for what the King's enemies have done."
I think it is apparent that steps such as the Secretary of State proposed should be taken to deal with property which requires overhauling, and I am entirely in favour of it. But it seems to me that in this Bill the Secretary of State should consider what the Uthwatt Report recommended the State to do, and that was that in all cases where recompense was to be made it should be based on the 1939 values, as opposed to the 1939 prices. That would get over a great many of the difficulties that may arise from the complicated compensation form which is in the Bill as it stands. It may well be that the Secretary of State takes the view that the House has decided the matter in the English Bill, and that we are committed to it—I shall listen with very great interest to what he says on that point—but, if so, it only deepens my regret that this Bill is not an entirely different Bill. There are many people concerned. I know a lot of mining villages, and the Secretary of State probably knows many more than I do, where a small owner may have bought, as a method of investment, a number of small houses. Where these houses are taken, that owner is not going to get anything that will enable him to build such houses again. To me, that is a matter of regret. In the English Bill, my hon. Friends and I exerted all the pressure we could on the Government, to induce them to deal with the case of the owner-occupier and the small shopkeeper and even of the larger shopkeeper, because, in these matters, you must measure all with the same rod. It will be a matter of regret to me if we cannot do something to relate the compensation to the value of the house that is being taken, and I think this would be a better Bill if, following on the Uthwatt Report, which we all read with so much interest, the compensation were based on the values rather than the prices of 1939.
265 There is one other thing. I hope, on the one hand, that the local planning authorities will not be too meagre in some of their schemes. There are many places which must be rooted out at all costs, but, on the other hand, I hope that the authorities will have an eye to the expense which may well have the effect of putting up the rates to a remarkable extent. In other words, I recommend not grandiose schemes so much as a consideration of all the necessary schemes that are going to make more people able to live in reasonable comfort and in proper surroundings, and rather less consideration to the type of grandiose scheme which one has seen in the past. I wish this Bill well. I do not think it is a perfect Bill, for the reasons I have stated, but I, for one, intend to support the Second Reading.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
I am authorised by those who sit with me on these benches to say that we give general support to this Bill. It is, in our view, a necessary Bill. It is a useful Bill, and the sooner it gets on the Statute Book, with, possibly, some Amendments, the better we shall be pleased. At the same time, I think it would be unfortunate if in Scotland higher hopes were pinned on the results of this Bill than its actual terms justify. In fact, in spite of its somewhat grandiose Title, it is really a very modest Measure. Its English counterpart, which we had before us during the autumn of last year, was, in itself, a modest proposal, as I shall show in a moment. But, for the reason that the hon. and learned Member who preceded me has already pointed out, in Scotland the same provisions constitute a still more modest reform than they do in England, because the English Bill was designed primarily to deal with war damaged areas, and this Bill, which follows along the same lines, follows in the main those provisions. We all know that in Scotland war damaged areas are few and far between, and, as my hon. and learned Friend has pointed out, our concern in Scotland is much more with those areas of bad development, or what in common parlance are called slums, which are such a regrettable feature of some of the towns and other parts of Scotland.
My right hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill sketched out at the beginning of his speech a number 266 of muddles, overlaps and troubles in the unplanned condition of Scotland at the present time. I think all of us in the House would go with him in his regret that there were these blots on what should be an ordered system of the lay-out of the land of Scotland, but, when the right hon. Gentleman came to describe the Bill, he did not relate the actual terms of the Bill to that general criticism to which he devoted himself in the early part of his speech. I am not going to deny that there may be in this Bill certain Clauses which may have some influence on the matter to which he was then referring, but I should be glad if the Lord Advocate, if it is he who will reply at the end of the Debate, would be a little more specific in the matter. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend was referring to Clause 10 or to Clauses 30 to 45, but I personally do not find very much in the Bill which, in itself, would remedy the defects to which my right hon. Friend referred.
Let us just see how limited is the scope of this Measure. Town and country planning suggests something fairly comprehensive, but, in fact, as I see it, like its English counterpart, this Bill really only provides for piecemeal planning of local authorities on rather a small scale. So far as financial assistance provided in this Bill is concerned, it only relates to piecemeal planning with regard to these very few areas which have actually suffered war damage or are adjacent to areas which have suffered damage in the course of the war. I am not blaming my right hon. Friend, because it is a larger matter, naturally, than he could have dealt with, but we have no national planning, either in this Bill or in its English counterpart. There is no settlement of the fundamental questions of compensation and betterment. The hon. and learned Member who preceded me spoke of the Uthwatt Report, but there is not only no acceptance by the Government of the particular phrase my hon. and learned Friend referred to, there is no acceptance of the larger principles which were the main feature of the Uthwatt Report. Therefore, instead of having a planning of Scotland, we are thrown back on individual plans by individual local authorities which may involve, to some extent, at any rate, the very conflict between one and another to which my right hon. Friend referred in the earlier part of his speech.
267 This, of course, is a permissive Bill in the main, but, before these local authorities can utilise the Bill and lay-out their plans to any effective purpose, they want to know a little more of what is going to be the lay-out of Scotland from a national point of view. For instance, are there going to be new national roads? If so, where are these roads going to be? My right hon. Friend gave a most unhappy case of where a great road was planted down between the dwellings of the people and the shops and the schools to which the children had to go. That is just what we want to avoid. Is that going to happen again? If it is not, surely the local authorities, before they start planning their residential areas, ought to know where the national roads are going to be? Again, the Government have come to no decision with regard to the location of industry. It does not seem to me that the local authorities can properly plan their residential schemes until they have more information than they have at the present time with regard to the location of industry, because it is no good their building houses for workpeople to live in if there are no works to which these workpeople are going, and it is no good the local authority planning open spaces in the very areas which will be required for housing the population that may come to some big factory or other works which, in the process of time, the Government may decide it will be necessary to set up in a particular area. Therefore, though I welcome this Bill, and regard it as a necessary and useful Measure, I would like to re-inforce the remarks, made with regard to the English Bill when it came before this House, that the situation requires that the Government shall be up and doing and make some comprehensive national plans, without which the local plans which the local authority will be called upon to make will not be efficient and may even be misguided and misplaced.
A word about the compensation Clauses. We had a number of very strenuous Debates last autumn on the compensation Clauses of the English Bill. I was privileged to be the spokesman of my party in putting forward a proposal which did succeed in breaking the deadlock that appeared at one time to threaten the passage of the Bill in a complete form, and we were parties to a compromise in 268 the matter of compensation to which reference has already been made. I had hoped that, in the Scottish Bill, where that compromise is repeated, we should be spared a re-opening of that very intricate and debatable issue. I rather gathered from the speech of my hon. and learned Friend that he was not of that opinion, though I think he did say—and I take this in good part from him—that if the Secretary of State said that the matter has been decided, though he might protest, he would bow to that decision. I hope that that will be the case. We do not want a discussion on this matter all over again. The compromise that was reached was a compromise. It was a giving way on both sides on this issue, and if it is to be re-opened on one side it will be re-opened on the other, and that would be unfortunate. Therefore, I hope that the words which fell from the lips of the hon. and learned Gentleman, as I gathered, implied that, if the Secretary of State stood pat on the English Bill, though he might protest, he would fall into line.
There is only one point more that I want to make. This Bill not a great aid to the finances of local authorities in such planning as is carried out under its provisions. The only financial aid that is really given in this Measure is that for war damaged and adjacent areas. In England that is a very important part of the scheme, but in Scotland, as I have already pointed out, it is a very small part. So far as the blighted areas are concerned, this Bill in itself does not confer any financial assistance on local authorities. My right hon. Friend told us that local authorities would get benefit under the existing law and, even if changes were made in the existing law, I gather that he implied that he had Some sort of assurance that all the special difficulties would be taken into account, though what he said did not quite amount to as much as that. That is all very well and it may be very good, but that really has nothing to do with this Bill.
All that this Bill does is to facilitate the local authorities getting on with the job and it may be that, owing to provisions already on the Statute Book and to the good sense of the Treasury in this matter of Scotland, such financial advantages as already are able to accrue will come in under that term to help local 269 authorities to utilise the proposals of this Bill which expedites procedure. But do not let us lead the public of Scotland up the garden in the matter. This Bill in itself does not provide any financial assistance for local authorities as far as I understand it, except in so far as those particular areas are concerned where war damage has occurred.
I am afraid that it may be said that I have been damning the Bill with faint praise. I have done that, or perhaps the reverse, as I believe the Lord Advocate says I have been praising it with faint damns, because it is necessary that the people of Scotland should know the limit to which this Bill goes. It is, as I said at the beginning, a useful Bill; it is a necessary Bill. I do not think that the local authorities could get on without it, but at the same time it is not a Bill for planning the country of Scotland. It is a Bill for enabling local authorities, without very much guidance from the national Government, to develop their local areas rather more easily than they could have done without it and to develop them as best they can, with the best indication that they can get of the way in which the whole life and industry of Scotland will come into being.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I was interested when the Minister introduced his Bill and very interested also in the two speeches that have preceded mine. It is evident that the Bill is nothing like what one might expect from its Title. When I was going through it I wondered whether I would raise with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the contents of the Bill were in Order in view of the Title, because as far as town and country planning is concerned there is very little Bill at all. Another point I would like to put in connection with the Bill is the size of it. This is one of the biggest Bills that we have ever had in connection with Scottish affairs since I came to this House, and when I think of the 100 pages of this Bill and the little that the people in Scotland can hope from it, I am appalled. The Secretary of State for Scotland certainly tried to give it some sort of appearance of importance with regard to our immediate and greatest problem in Scotland, that of housing. He told us about the terrible overcrowding in particular towns—in Greenock, Coatbridge and other towns— 270 and the suggestion was that the Bill was going to provide the local authority with opportunities for dealing with that overcrowding. In spite of what he said afterwards, I think he was a little peeved with the interruptions from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) in this connection. I listened to him very carefully and I do not think that he really made good his statement that he was going to show us how the Bill would really help in dealing with the question of overcrowding.
I am in agreement with the hon. and learned Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me on the fact that the Scottish Bill would have been better if it was not simply the counterpart of the English Bill. We are getting into a very wretched position in this House in that, when an English Bill is introduced, we are practically excluded from consideration of it, and when a Scottish Bill follows we find that all the principles have already been decided in connection with the English Bill. It is practically impossible for us to have the particular Scottish position represented and dealt with in the way it should be dealt with, because we are always told that, the English Bill having settled all these questions of principle, it would not do to depart from them now. I hope that the Lord Advocate will realise that this is not simply a protest that I generally make, because I believe it is very necessary that we in Scotland should get a measure of Home Rule as soon as possible. It is certainly a practice which has grown up in more recent years of making a Scottish Measure comply practically and completely with the English Measure without giving adequate attention to the particular problems that we in Scotland have to face.
If the present Government were to come to a speedier termination than we might suppose possible at present, if some sort of crisis developed, and this Bill did not pass, it would affect Scotland very little, with the exception of one or two districts which have been badly blitzed. The amount of money that is coming from the National Exchequer in connection with the Bill is also so limited that even they would not suffer very much if the Bill were not put upon the Statute Book. And yet never was there a time in our history when there was more need of a real town and country planning Bill and when our 271 people were so buoyed up with hope that we were going to embark upon great new schemes which would introduce a much more tolerable social order. Never was there a time when there was more expectation and yet the Government are proving themselves quite inadequate to deal with the expectations of the people.
The Secretary of State for Scotland also dealt with some instances of bad planning in connection with roads in the past. The right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) said that he did not just see the point of the Secretary of State dealing with this, because he did not see how this Bill would avoid those things in the future. I take it that what the Secretary of State for Scotland had in mind was that the local authority, with its planning scheme for re-development, would, in respect of roads, not come into conflict with the neighbouring authority, that there would be agreement and that steps would be taken to see that things of this sort could not happen in the future. I think that the fears of the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh are more likely to be realised than the belief of the Secretary of State for Scotland. This is something which I hope will not raise expectations in Scotland. There is really no town and country planning in this Bill at all.
I hope that we are not going to have a very heated controversy over compensation, though possibly there will have to be a certain amount of discussion; but there is one point I should like to put to the Secretary of State. In the past he has enunciated the great importance of seeing that if people were to get compensation for land they should have a good title to that land. I wonder if we could not have a Clause put into this Bill on the lines suggested by the present Minister in his more regenerate days, a Clause that would set up an organisation to insist upon landowners proving their right to the lands they claim to own. A proposal for the examination of titles was raised previously in this Parliament by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), but it did not meet with anything like the same enthusiasm from the Secretary of State for Scotland as he was wont to display in this connection in bygone days. I put it to the Lord Advocate that he might perhaps consult with his right hon. Friend to see whether it would not be possible to 272 put a little good planning into the Bill by inserting some Clause of this kind.
The problem of Scotland, as I see it, is that there is a need for planning with regard to a great rehousing policy and in connection with that, a plan for a great agricultural and industrial development. Naturally the housing proposals and the industrial and agricultural development would have to go together, and I hope we shall have some indication that something may yet be done. I have a letter which I would like to read from a family of if in a single-apartment house, but I do not wish to take up too much time, as I know my fellow Members for Scotland are anxious to take part in the Debate. What is described in that letter is the sort of thing for which we can get no remedy under present conditions.
The other day I had sent to me a document by three Scottish Members who felt that their fellow Members might be interested to read of a plan they had in mind for the development of Scotland. I daresay all the other Scottish Members also received this document from the hon. Members for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) and West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). It was not a very big document—it could be contained in two pages of this Bill—but in those two pages there was much more promise for development in Scotland than in the whole of this bulky Bill. I do hope that the Scottish Members in the Government will face up to the situation. We in Scotland have had a raw deal. Our association with England has not given us the opportunity for the development of housing and of our industries there ought to have been, and I do hope, in view of the urgent need of the present and future, we shall at an early date get a real Bill for planning in Scotland such as will offer some hope to the Scottish people.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)
I must say that having read this Bill through once or twice, and without understanding it, I have a great deal of sympathy with the arguments which have fallen from the. lips of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). In his more regenerate days he and I used to agree much more often, but in any case, from what I have been able to gather from the Bill, the Title is all wrong. It 273 should have been entitled "The Secretary of State for Scotland (Enabling) Bill" because almost every Clause and Sub-section is plastered with "The Secretary of State shall," "the Secretary of State might," and "the Secretary of State may." Having tried to count the number of times the Secretary of State is mentioned, and having lost count and given up, I said to myself, "Seeing the Secretary of State puts his finger into this pie so often there must be something in it." And, like a typical Scot, who has had some local government experience, I delved in to see how much would be in the "'kitty" arising out of this Bill. The only definite thing I could find was that the Treasury were restricted to a payment of £100,000, and that only applies to bomb-damaged areas. If this Bill is designed to put the bomb-damaged areas right I suggest that all the Clauses dealing with anything else ought to be dropped, for reasons which I hope to show.
Part of my constituency runs through one of the badly bomb-damaged areas, and this is how it will operate. I shall refer to Clydebank, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). With regard to the overspill—I am surprised that a teetotaler like the Secretary of State for Scotland has given a blessing to a word which appears to me to have emanated from a "pub" counter, and in any case we are dealing with humans—from the redevelopment of the bomb-damaged area in Clydebank it will go into the county area. The promoting authority is Clydebank, the receiving authority is the Dumbarton County Council. How will Clydebank ever recover all the expenditure to which they are committed if the rateable value is in another rating area? That system runs right through the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) will be confronted with the same position in his constituency. To get away from the bomb-damaged areas far the moment, Glasgow will be confronted with the same position, with the difference that Clydebank will get same compensation under bomb damage but Glasgow, which has more damaged areas by reason of obsolescence, will get nothing under this Bill.
I suppose my right hon. Friend knows that we have two or three highbrows re-planning the West of Scotland at the 274 moment. Let me give an illustration of how this will operate. Take the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie, which is obsolete. To redevelop the Camlachie portion of Glasgow will cost the Glasgow ratepayers approximately £5 per square yard. That is a modest estimate. There is nothing in this Bill, but the Secretary of State says, "Under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act there is a special subsidy." For what? He quoted Clause 47—provided the houses "are unfit for human habitation"; but there may be 30 per cent. of the houses which could not be described as unfit. In the redevelopment of an area you may cut out 40 per cent. perfectly habitable houses and more than that and, if I may say so, the subsidy contribution under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act is useless for that purpose
What do the highbrows say who are replanning the West of Scotland? What they have been successful in doing so far is sterilising redevelopment within the ownership of the Corporation, within the City boundary, sterilising redevelopment where 7,000 houses were provided and where, if the scheme ultimately goes on, there will be 47 miles of roads and sewers. And the casual visitor from London who is planning the area says, "We can overspill." To where? Into East Kilbride. Where is that? In Lanarkshire. Glasgow is the promoting authority. We shall fill the densely and obsoletely developed part of Glasgow, and we have to overspill into another authority's area and, after having permitted the Secretary of State to interfere on at least 287 occasions according to this Bill, Glasgow is supposed to provide for the re-development of Glasgow. Worse than that, my right hon. Friend referred to 127 persons per acre. I would not deal in terms of persons per acre at all, I would rather deal with the number of houses per acre. By redeveloping Camlachie—I am suggesting Camlachie because the hon. Member is here—the density would be cut by more than one-half, and, let it be noted, this would cost an average of anything from £3 to £4 or £5 a square yard. One cannot possibly do other than leave considerable portions of that as open spaces from which there is no financial return so far as rateable value is concerned.
275 I hope this Bill will go to the Scottish Grand Committee. It is asserted that local authorities have said nothing, but I say: "You wait until the Parliamentary committees of the local authorities get their teeth into this." It is an illusion. There is absolutely nothing in it at all, and if the only reason for producing the Bill was that it speeded up the acquisition of land, let me say quite frankly—and no one could ever say that I have any kind words for the owners of land—that I was able in Glasgow to be responsible for the purchase of 3,000 acres of land without any bother at all. The difficulty is not getting the land, for the moment the threat of compulsory purchase is put to the landlord he will cave in. Neither is it a question of giving the local authorities powers to acquire.
There is one thing in this Bill which is a gem, and I must not let it go without taking the opportunity of reminding my right hon. Friend of the position in which we were placed in 1930. Clause 18 (5) gives any person who has been living there the right to claim to go back to the newly developed area. I remember on the Committee stage of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1930, that we were faced one morning, in Westminster Hall, with a rather difficult problem. The Government of the day had a majority, on the Scottish Grand Committee, of two, at the best of times, but on this particular morning my job was to try to find another two Members to give us a majority in resisting an Amendment which was moved by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). I reported faithfully that there was not another person in the building. At that Committee the Secretary of State for Scotland posed this question to the then hon. Member for Dundee, the late Mr. Scrymgeour: "Does my hon. Friend want to give to a publican who has a public house and a dwelling in an area to be cleared of slums, the right to go back into that area, after it has been cleared, and be provided with a public house?" Mr. Scrymgeour replied: "I am not supporting that, but the implication of the Amendment is that that could happen, and in those circumstances I am voting against it." We took a vote and the Government of the day gained a majority of one, This Clause makes provision, if 276 I read it correctly, for the same thing. People will have the power to demand that they should be reinstalled in the area from which they were removed. Suppose we clean out the dirty spots in the West of Scotland, in which the liquour trade might be involved. Is not this complicating the position of the licensing magistrates, who are supposed to deal with the application for a certificate according to the merits of the case, and not because of anything which is laid down in a Town and Country Planning Act?
I want to give one more illustration as to planning, even under existing conditions. Everybody knows of planners and pamphleteers whose only practical knowledge of housing problems is what they have read in pamphlets. They have never lived near, or been in, a slum, and they lie at night and dream of beautiful green fields and daisies. The recommendations of the planning authority will, without doubt, be accepted by the Secretary of State. They will say with regard to an area lying to the north-west of Glasgow that although it is overlooked by the Kilpatrick hills those hills will be a buffer space. Where are we going to put the population that should have been housed there? They will say: "We are going to build a new town." If I were selfish I would say: "Flood all these people into the county of Dumbartonshire. It is a pretty 'dicky' place for a Labour Member at any time." I want to know whether the Glasgow authority are to be the promoting authority to hand over to the Dumbartonshire County Council the rateable value of something that should go to Glasgow. These are real difficulties. Unless I am "screwy" I suggest, from my reading of the Bill, that this is not a planning Bill at all.
I do not object to the Secretary of State being consulted, but I do not think he should be able to intervene on so many occasions. There are a number of ghosts of Secretaries of State who have been in Edinburgh, and goodness knows how they would fare if they were reinstated. I hope the Government will give Scottish Members an opportunity to do some real planning. The Government have failed to produce a planning Bill. Will they give Scottish Members of Parliament an opportunity to make their contributions, so that Scotsmen here, who are more or less united on everything, can at least make a workable Bill out of this Measure? 277 The way to do that is to send this Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee, where we can agree to differ among ourselves. If it is taken in Committee of the Whole House we shall have the same experience that we had when the administration of health insurance was taken from Edinburgh and transferred to the new Minister of National Insurance. Scottish opinion will be overwhelmingly defeated by the big battalions who do not know the problem. Do not let the Secretary of State, the Lord Advocate, the Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland, or the people at St. Andrew's House, imagine that local authorities will have nothing to say on this Bill. I make the prophecy that when the local authorities get their teeth into this Measure many Amendments will be put forward. Without being offensive, so far as I can see the only Ministry which has not had a finger in this pie is the Ministry of Works. Many thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for managing to keep them out of this Bill.
If the Government want the local authorities to welcome this Bill with open arms let them extend the functions of the Special Housing Association, and name it "The Special Housing and Planning Association." Then they will be able to say to the local authorities, "The Exchequer will pay for everything." I do not see why that could not be done. I submit that the local authorities will be ham-strung in planning by having to take first-class return fares to Edinburgh two or three times a week. The simplest way would be to alter the articles of the Association. There would soon be a big enough staff to cope with the work, because I see that the experts are making a bee line for it. The simplest way out would be to cut out the interests of the local authorities and transfer the responsibility to the Special Housing Association and rename it "The Special Housing and Planning Association." Let the Exchequer accept 100 per cent. responsibility for the financial arrangements. That is about the only way in which the Government will get this Bill through without a struggle. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not been here to hear me say all these things. I hope he will not think I am making a dead set at his Department, but even my friendship for Ministers will not permit me to remain silent about what is an obvious fraud on 278 the local authorities of Scotland as regards planning.
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
If ever there was an argument or case made for Scottish Members of Parliament meeting and discussing matters affecting Scotland before legislation is introduced this Bill provides a splendid example. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) expressed the hope that the Bill will go to the Scottish Grand Committee, where Scotsmen can make something out of it. I am certain that if it goes to that Committee we shall not be able to make anything out of it. We are in an unfortunate position of being subject to effete Sassenachs, who are incapable of dealing with the problems that confront them in England, and, as a consequence, sturdy Scotsmen are bound hand and foot and dragged behind them, as can be seen from the miserable production which we are discussing here to-day. There is no Scotsman in this House who would dare to put obstacles in the way of those who wanted to deal with Scottish problems. If we could get a chance of facing up to the problems confronting us in Scotland, we could deal with them. Instead of that, through this Bill, limits are imposed upon us, a terrible thing for us and for the Scottish people as a whole. There is need for all the land in Scotland being taken over and planned.
What is the idea behind the planning in this Bill? It is to get the maximum number of houses in the minimum area of land. There is no conception here of a new method of planning, with not only houses but playing fields, sports centres, for music, art, drama, centres, and cinemas. If you take the financial Clauses, you can see that the desire is to limit it as far as possible to houses, and to the maximum number of houses. Why should Scotsmen be solemnly discussing a trashy, trivial thing of this description? Clause I begins:Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that it is requisite for the purpose of dealing satisfactorily with extensive war damage in the area of a local planning authority.In England there has been very considerable war damage, and you can see some excuse, although it is only an excuse. Parliament ought to have dealt with this question of planning on a big, broad scale. In England some excuse can be shown 279 for special legislation for bomb damage, but where is there any excuse for coming in with a Bill for bomb damage in Scotland? Of course, there are a couple of limited areas which have had bombing, but what applies to England is automatically applied to Scotland. The Secretary of State knows—perhaps the Lord Advocate does not, because he has never been in the Socialist movement—that in Scotland a thousand times more damage has been done by the class war, than by World War II. Does this war damage mean class-war damage or is it limited to the world war? We should get a very interesting answer from the Under-Secretary if he were here about the damage caused by the class war. That is the thing that we should be facing up to. There is not a part of Scotland, town, city or rural area, which has not had war damage in this respect.
If we were tackling the business seriously, we should be taking over the whole of the land and utilising it to ensure a complete clean-out of the terrible housing conditions, and some real consideration for the health of the people. We hear of Scottish regiments fighting for their country, but it is not their country when they come back. Someone says, "This is not your land. It is my land." It is a case of "Get off the earth" for all that they care.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
We are really getting rather wide. I have given a good deal of latitude, but we must keep to the Bill itself.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am very thankful for your guidance, Sir, but I put a question to the Scottish Secretary. I want to know whether this refers to war damage or to class-war damage.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was trying to convey to the hon. Member that that could not possibly come in under the Bill, and the Under-Secretary or anyone else would not be in Order in answering it. The hon. Member had better leave that part alone.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Secretary of State should be more specific when he deals with war damage. He should say which war it refers to. It is in everyone's mind that there is only one war. In my mind there are two going on at present, the 280 world war and the war that the Secretary of State and I have been participating in for 35 years—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We must not discuss that war, nor the rebellion of 200 years ago. Let us get back to the Bill.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I think in a case of this kind, which so much affects every town and city, and the whole of the people, there should be some definition of this question of the war. The Secretary of State should see to that before the Bill comes up for further consideration.
I want to draw attention to a situation that ought to be considered by every Scottish Member. Clause 31 starts off:Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that the construction or improvement of a road is needed.Sub-section (2) says:Where the Minister of War Transport is satisfied that the construction or improvement of a road is needed.How is it that we tolerate anything of that kind? How is it possible to get efficiency when you have such a situation? The Secretary of State, with a huge administration, is capable of attending to all the needs of Scotland. Why should we drag in the Minister of War Transport from London? Is it not clear that, if we were dealing with Scotland from the point of view of the best interests of its people, we should deal with it in an entirely different manner? Clause 4 begins:Where the purchase of any of the land as to which an order under Section one of this Act is in force appears to the Minister of Works and the Secretary of State.That is only playing with the Scottish problem. There are so many problems affecting Scotland arising out of the war. You have had the importance of Rosyth demonstrated arising out of the war, and the importance of the road bridge across the Forth arising out of the war. You have had innumerable associated problems. You cannot take one away from the various others. You have to take them all as pieces in one great pattern and work it out. I wish I could feel that it was possible to throw the Bill out, and for Scottish Members to gather together to work out the lines on which legislation should be prepared which would not only repair and replace the bombed areas but would cover the needs of the whole country in connection with housing and the health of the people. 281 That is the job that Scottish Members have to do, to see that the people get every opportunity for developing to the fullest stature of manhood and womanhood with the fullest and freest life and the highest culture. This Bill is not going to help with that responsible task. I hope that Scottish Members will realise the futility of this sort of thing, and that the Secretary of State will see the need for bringing Scottish Members together periodically, to discuss Scottish problems and prepare the way for effective Scottish legislation.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross Taylor (Woodbridge)
Perhaps I ought to begin with an apology for intruding in a Debate on a purely Scottish Measure, but I can at least claim the qualification of being a Scot and not an effete Sassenach. I want to mention a matter of detail. I have risen at the request of those interested to ask the Secretary of State if, at a later stage, he will consider according to non-statutory gas undertakers either in whole or part the protection and reliefs which the Bill accords to statutory undertakers. In Scotland gas is supplied by some 65 local authorities and 135 companies, and of the companies only four are statutory. The non-statutory companies, although very numerous, are small and on the passing of the Gas Undertakings Act, 1934, it was recognised that it would be impossible to compel them to acquire statutory status, and Section 35 of the Act provides that the provisions requiring English companies supplying more than 30,000,000 cubic feet a year to become statutory should not apply in Scotland. That was one recognition of the somewhat peculiar position of these statutory undertakings. We had a further recognition in the Housing (Scotland) Acts. Section 64 of the Act of 1935, which amended the Act of 1925, confers limited exemption from compulsory purchase of their land both on statutory and non-statutory undertakings, and Section 84 also provides protection for the apparatus of both classes of undertaking.
The fact that special recognition has been accorded to these non-statutory companies is mainly due to the fact that the interests of consumers is amply safeguarded by Sections 20 to 26 of the Burghs (Gas Supply) Scotland Act, 1826, which confers upon local authorities the 282 right compulsorily to acquire gas companies in their areas if the gas supply is unsatisfactory. The fact that none of these small undertakings has ever, as far as I know, been acquired by a local authority shows pretty clearly that they have carried out their work satisfactorily, and earned the gratitude of the communities that they serve. They have, therefore, earned the right to be treated in the same way as statutory undertakings. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether for these reasons the concessions, protections and reliefs accorded to statutory undertakings can be extended to those which are non-statutory.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy)
I rise with mixed feelings to speak on this Bill. We all agree that the time is opportune to pass a Bill to deal with the blitzed areas. We agree also that now is the time when local authorities ought to know what they are able to do in regard to planning. So far as this Bill deals with the blitzed areas, however, sufficient thought has not, in my opinion, been given to methods of dealing with the financial commitments over the period suggested in the Secretary of State's speech. So far as the blighted areas are concerned, the Bill gives the local authorities power to plan. That is essential. It also gives them powers to requisition land for the purpose of planning. It does, however, not go so far as to tell the local authorities how they are to meet their commitments. There are far too many "ifs" and "ands" in this Bill for it to be a good Bill on planning. A real planning Bill should be almost devoid of "ifs" and "ands," Already the local authorities in Scotland have had to meet severe increases in their rates. I have some statistics showing that since 1936 some of the local authorities have had increases in rates as high as 63 per cent., but almost every large or small burgh has had to meet increases in rates. The Minister stated that where there is any financial outlay in dealing with blighted areas there are some means by which local authorities can recover some of the money they have laid out. One of them is by way of housing subsidies. I want to suggest that the effect of housing subsidies is not felt immediately by local authorities. It is felt only over a long period of years, and that is a poor substitute for financial assistance in planning.
283 Although this Bill may pass, it will be of little or no use unless the local authorities and the area planning committees give effect to it: We are dependent on the planning committees to carry the Bill into effect. I can see endless difficulties facing planning committees in deciding how far they can go with their plans in the absence of any definite information from the Government of what the national plans are. For instance, they are expected to plan trunk roads, but it is important that planning committees should know where those roads are to lead. Unless the Government indicate what their plans are in regard, for instance, to the Forth Bridge, how can they expect planning committees in the Forth area to go ahead with planning? The right hon. Gentleman ought to bring pressure to bear on his colleagues in the Government to declare what their plans are nationally on such questions as the Forth Bridge. It is essential that local planning committees or area planning committees should know that before they can go ahead and make their plans, in which, after all, the local authorities are expected to meet the initial costs. The same applies to the future of industry. In the Forth area some good work has been done during the war particularly in regard to shipbuilding. Nobody knows, however, what the intentions of the Government are for the future of that industry on the Forth.
Again, how can regional planning committees go ahead with planning until they have some information from the Government of their intentions on such subjects? Their intentions ought to have been announced long ago. Several attempts have been made to find out what the Government are doing, but they are simply shoved aside, and to-day we are asked to pass a Bill which calls upon local authorities and others to put themselves in a position to carry out plans when the major and national plans of the country have not been declared. These things ought to be attended to as soon as possible so as to give the local authorities a chance to get ahead with their plans. In regard to the question of special subsidies in difficult areas, nothing has been said on how we are to determine what are called exceptional or special difficulties. Again, it is a 284 matter of speculation as to what the intentions are for the future.
It is all very well for the Secretary of State to tell us that this or that may happen. We do not know what the actions of a future Secretary of State may be, and it is difficult to ask local authorities to trust to something that may happen in the future. I specially ask whoever is replying for the Government to say whether there is any chance of telling the local authorities and regional planning bodies what the plans of the Government are in regard to the location of industry, with regard to the road bridge across the Forth, and with regard to other questions that have a real bearing on what the future of Scotland is to be.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I should like to begin by making a modest complaint to my right hon. Friend.
I will explain. This Bill was available in the Vote Office little less than a fortnight ago. With a Bill like this, I immediately consult with the local authorities in my constituency in order to get their views, because clearly the working of such a Bill depends upon them. I endeavoured, as usual, to do that, but in the short time that was available it was impossible for the local authorities properly to study the Measure. I come to this Debate, therefore, without the benefit of the advice of any local authority in my area. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that we ought to adopt a better proceeding. It is true, as he said, that a considerable time ago he consulted with the Scottish local authorities on the application of the English Act to Scottish conditions. I understand that the meeting took place last August. I think I am right in saying, however, that the local authorities in Scotland have not had time to consider the Measure as it is presented to us.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The Scottish authorities have had the English Act before them for over six months. What difference is there between the two?
The Secretary of State showed the difference in his speech. The actual text of the Scottish Bill was presented to the House only a fortnight ago, and my plea is that that is not sufficient 285 time to enable us to consider it properly. The situation is aggravated because we have had a spate of Measures falling on the local authorities in the last year, and where they are not Bills they are schemes. There has, for instance, been the great new health scheme, the Education Act, and, following on that came this Bill, the Nurses Bill and the projected Water Bill. We are putting a strain on local authorities which they simply cannot hear at this time, and I resent the rush tactics which seem to have been employed in this case. I do not see any need for considering this Bill now. Had we been invited to do so a month hence it would have been in good time. As it is, we shall have to go back to our local authorities, and a string of Amendments will come along which could have been largely avoided if a little more time had been given before the Bill was introduced. I know that my right hon. Friend is as rushed as anybody else, and one wonders how he does all he gets through, but he must take it from me that the strain on local authorities can be so great that there will be a danger of collapse. I hope that between now and the Committee stage we shall be able to have a thorough examination of this Measure.
I have only two things to say, because I spoke on the similar Measure for England. The defect of this Bill is the same as the defect of the English Act, namely, that while it deals reasonably adequately with the blitzed areas, it makes no proper provision for the other areas. As the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said in a passage with which I warmly agree, there was something to be said for a special blitz Bill in England, because of London, Coventry, Hull, Plymouth and a large number of other cities which were blitzed. Scotland, however, is fortunately not in that position. I, therefore, wonder whether this type of Measure was the right way to tackle the problem in Scotland. I should have thought it would have been more appropriate to add to the English Measure a provision or two making it applicable to Scotland so far as the blitzed areas are concerned. Here, however, we have an exceedingly complex Measure to deal with a relatively small problem in Scotland. The real problem in Scotland is the blighted areas. Like every other county, Fife has its shockingly blighted areas, but the local 286 authorities will get very little special assistance from this Measure. I could take my right hon. Friend to old, almost decaying villages, where for a generation or two there has been a gradual decline, with buildings falling into disrepair. If it is the purpose of the Government to help such areas, let the purpose be supported by real financial assistance. There is very little of it here. A grant of housing subsidies would help. It would, however, help without this Bill, which makes very little difference in that respect. I feel that if the Government want to introduce such a monumental Bill as this it ought to be accompanied by something more substantial to hurry on the work.
In nine-tenths of Scotland the local authorities will be concerned primarily with the blighted area problem, but for that great problem the Bill does not seem to afford a great deal of help. I do not regard it as justice to offer a man whose property is taken compulsorily nothing more than the 1939 price when, as everybody knows, he will not be able to replace what has been taken except by paying a greatly increased sum of money. I represent a very large proportion of humble people. They are not wealthy. The great bulk of my constituents are decent working folk who may have saved a little money. A large number of them own their own houses. It is that kind of person of whom I am speaking. There are hundreds of them. If the Bill becomes operative it will be utterly unfair to take their property because of some planning scheme and to pay them in such a mean way. This is obviously a retrograde Measure and it certainly is not just. I join with some of my hon. Friends opposite in saying that, on the Committee Stage, we should have the fullest opportunity of making our constructive contributions to its improvement.
§ 2.48 p.m.
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
I agree very much with the grounds around which the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) has skated. Here is a Measure of 40,000 words. It often happens that where there is much to be done there are very few words, and where there is little to be done we have something like this huge manuscript. It may be argued that it is no worse than the English Bill, but that is not true. As has been pointed out, England has had a great deal of blitz 287 damage, and a comprehensive Measure was needed to deal with the situation. In Scotland we have had little; but we have an unmeasured amount of damage from the years and from neglect. Yet here, where we needed a bulldozer to tackle the problem, we are handed something very much like a teaspoon. The right hon. Gentleman used a figure from my own division, where rather more than 35 per cent. of the homes are overcrowded. That was the figure some eight years ago; it has since risen. The right hon. Gentleman used another and a scarifying figure, which was that there is a density of 700 persons per acre. That is the problem in Scotland, not because of what bombs have done but because of unplanned, haphazard industrial advance. We need a bulldozer, yet we have an ineffective, teaspoon Measure.
There have been frequent references in the Debate to the regenerate days of my right hon. Friend when he wrote a lucid and vigorous English style which was of great propaganda value to us. I am sorry and ashamed that he, with his pen and his imagination, has to come here and accept responsibility for the alleged English in the Bill. I could give dozens of examples from the Bill, but I really must draw his attention to page 48 and to Clause 31 (3) which reads:In relation to any development by an interim development authority who carry on a statutory undertaking, being development carried out upon land to which Section thirty-three of this Act applies, references in this Section to the Secretary of State"—one would think that was plain enough, but it goes on:shall be construed as references to the Secretary of State and the appropriate Minister; and paragraph (b) of Subsection (1) of Section twenty-five of this Act, and Sub-sections (2), (3), (6) and (7) of Section thirty-four of this Act shall apply in relation to a decision under this Section in respect of any such development with the substitution in the said Sub-section (7) for the reference to Section three of the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) (Scotland) Act, 1943, of a reference to Subsection (1) of this Section.I know the difficulty, but I suggest that the Clause can, perhaps at the cost of some slight nervousness to a lawyer, be substantially reduced with great ease, even by humble politicians like myself, and with advantage to local authorities who will have to read it, if and when they ever operate the Measure.
288 The Bill does three things. About the first I disagree completely with my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife. The first thing it does is to stabilise values, with minor modifications, at the 1939 price level. It would be iniquitous if local authorities were asked to juggle with any other figure, and it would be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to treat Scotland in this respect worse than the rest of the country. Secondly, the Bill does in some measure expedite the procedure of acquisition. That is likely to prove true, and the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to such praise as should be given on this point. Thirdly, it gives some slight financial assistance to blitzed areas. I felt even here that, in displaying the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman was aware that he was on shaky ground. Imagine this huge Measure brought before this House to justify the Exchequer in handing over, during a period of five years, the sum of £100,000. That sum is signed across scores of Civil Service desks every afternoon, yet the right hon. Gentleman comes here and says: "Look at this beneficent far-seeing Administration, of which I am a member. We are prepared to give these Scottish local authorities £100,000." Think of the gratitude of Glasgow which, by putting 1d. on its rates, raises £42,000. Are Glasgow people supposed to be impressed by this present of £100,000 from the Government?
I want to point to one condition with which my right hon. Friend dealt at some length. He spoke of the value which would accrue to a local authority from Clause 47. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) referred to this and said it was not necessarily true that in the contemplated area all the houses would be unfit for habitation and that, of course, the additional subsidy refers only to such houses. It is even worse than that. For once, we have a little piece of plain English. It is not sufficient that the houses shall be unfit for human habitation before the local authority can qualify for the extra subsidy. We have a piece of precise English which says:as to which the Department are satisfied that they are unfit for human habitation and not capable of being rendered fit for human habitation.289 There is not a great deal of generosity in those words, and I cannot see that they will mean an additional concession to the local authority. As my hon. Friend says, there are a bewildering number of references to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I agree, but he is also a very busy man, and rather more has been thrust upon his shoulders here than should have been. Is it necessary that the Secretary of State shall decide what is an obsolescent or bad lay-out? Could not the technicians, by a fairly simple definition—or an involved definition, if we are to take the Bill as a guide—lay down standards of obsolescence? Moreover, and this is a principle to which this House has frequently held Governments, if the Treasury are to give so little to the local authorities and the local authorities themselves are to find so much for the development which must take place, it is surely offensive that so much should be referred to the Government's representative, in this case the Secretary of State for Scotland. If the Treasury were financing these developments we could appreciate why matters should be referred to the Secretary of State, but local authorities are asked to accept the burden of decision, and their plans have to be authorised by the Secretary of State before they can proceed with them. There are several minor Amendments with which I, like my hon. Friend, hope the Scottish Grand Committee will be asked to deal. As I have said before, I cannot imagine that we can satisfactorily proceed with planning for Scotland and with even the most satisfactory lay-outs until we know what are the Government's intentions for redevelopment in Scotland. Naturally, I do not here blame the right hon. Gentleman. I am not suggesting that he should carry this burden.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am sick to death of this sort of thing. There is a Cabinet Minister in this House of Commons, the 290 Secretary of State, and the hon. Member says he is not to blame, and then he will not tell me who is to blame, We must blame somebody. For goodness' sake let us get away from this sort of thing.
My hon. Friend cannot and must not accuse me of being afraid to lay blame on the shoulders of the Secretary of State for Scotland when I think that blame should rest there.
I will deal with that also. On occasions I join issue with my right hon. Friend, and I think that he is sometimes offended in consequence. But in this matter of the development of Scotland, the Scottish Office does not possess the power. That power rests between the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the Supply Departments.
Thank you. [Interruption.] And the Ministry of War Transport. I am left in a somewhat delicate position. Perhaps my hon. Friend opposite—
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the fact that if the Secretary of State for Scotland would make a demand for those powers to be transferred from these Departments to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the Scottish Department, he would have the support of all Scottish Members in that fight? It is about time this matter was taken up. Until the right hon. Gentleman does take it up, he is responsible.
I would not dissociate, myself from that, except that, I repeat, we must keep to the facts. There are-certain procedures laid down for us here by your guidance, Mr. Speaker, and by usage, and in this matter of industrial development in Scotland it is to these other Ministers that we must direct our attention. But here we must have support from the Secretary of State for Scotland. There is no use in having even a satisfactory Measure, which I repeat this is not, for housing development unless we also know what are the Government's intentions towards Scotland in all these other matters, which happily are being discussed now, but which must be much more discussed. I return here, as I have before, to the Barlow Report, which has 291 great significance for Scotland and from which the Government have run away for six years. All the town planning and the best efforts of the Secretary of State are unreal, meaningless and ineffectual Measures until we know what are the Government's intentions in relation to the industrial and commercial development of Scotland.
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
Almost all the Scottish Members have been on common ground in one thing, that is, the need for amending this Measure in Committee. I do not look on that as offering a great deal of value, because the underlying need of this Measure, if it is to be effective, is financial assistance to the local authority. The Bill can be amended or changed as you like, but unless the question of financial assistance is tackled the Amendments do not matter. This Bill cannot be amended in that respect. I say frankly that if this House had been engaged in real political fighting there would have been every reason for this Bill to have been rejected on Second Reading, because it is a Bill which cannot really be amended during the Committee stage to carry out its functions.
My second point is, What are we doing to-day? We are really discussing an English Bill again. We are merely having this Bill for the sake of giving Scotland a kind of nominal sop. Instead of special sections having been put into the English Bill, we are given this Bill to show that we are not like the Welsh, and other people, and that we have the right to say a few words on the Measure. But as to fundamental principle, this Measure is not one whit different from the English one, and from many angles, it would have been much better if the English Bill and the Scottish Bill had been combined. One of the things usually argued in favour of a separate Scottish Measure, when its provisions may be similar to an English Bill, is that the Scottish Bill makes matters clearer in relation to Scottish law. No one can say that this Bill fulfils that function. I have read this Bill, and only a solicitor trained in the law of conveyance and land legislation could really follow it properly. In my view, unless the problem of national assistance is solved, local government authorities will be hamstrung.
292 I wish to mention a matter which comes up on the second Measure to be considered to-day, but which to some extent obtrudes here—the whole effect of rating. The Secretary of State has had a Committee sitting in Scotland which, I understand, reported to him months ago. Why he has not published the report is a mystery to me.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The report with which I am dealing is that of the Committee on which the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) and the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. F. Beattie) sit. Is it published?
§ Mr. Johnston
The hon. Member says it was sent to me before Christmas. I understand it is in the hands of the printers. The first report has been published.
§ Mr. Buchanan
As far as I know, the second report is not yet published. Rating is at the heart of these matters, and I think we ought to have had the report on rating first, so as to see its effect. Bad as the position of local authorities in Scotland has been, they are going to have an impossible task in regard to the developments set out in this Bill, if the whole cost has to come entirely from the occupier of the house, and nothing from the owner. It will make the problem of the local authorities impossible. These new developments make this matter of rating all the more important.
As regards blitzed and blighted areas, we have been fortunate in Scotland in the first respect. Only two or three places, which are well known, have been affected to any great extent. But the position is different when one turns to the position of blighted areas. The reason why we should have had a different Measure from the English one was touched upon by the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil). At one time I sat on a Committee upstairs, in charge of which was the Lord President of the Court of Session. There we were discussing housing, and an astounding fact emerged. The most densely populated part of England was Shoreditch in the East End of London. The best area in Scotland was the Edinburgh belt, and it was little better in figures than the very worst in England. 293 That is the position, that the worst in England was very nearly equal to the best in Scotland. That means that blighted populations constitute a much greater question to solve, and a much more urgent one. Our local authorities ought to have been given greater and more adequate power to deal with it.
We hear discussed every day the question of Prestwick aerodrome and the development of Scotland from the point of view of industry. I say, frankly, that unless alongside the development of Prestwick and the Forth Bridge, we have the other things the local authorities and the National Government can do to solve the hideous housing and overcrowding problem, there is little hope for the development of Scotland. I have said before that the present Secretary of State for Scotland has enjoyed a wider measure of popularity than any man I have ever known, so much so that hardly anyone in this House will ever say a word against him. Every time the hon. Member fox East Fife (Mr. Stewart) speaks, he qualifies what he says about the Secretary for Scotland, by bringing in some other Cabinet Minister or Government Department.
§ Mr. Buchanan
The hon. Member refers to everybody else, but not the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Let me say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that he cannot allow our housing conditions to go on so little touched, and he cannot introduce many more Bills like this, and retain popularity. This Bill has little to commend it. It is a long series of words, but it has little to say, either from the local authorities' point of view or from that of the task which it sets out to do. The Secretary of State should give us Scottish Measures, materially different from those of our English friends. If he will not do that, let us give up this farce of having separate discussions for the same Bill—let us give up all that pretence. I hope that in future Measures dealing with vital problems in Scotland will, at least, attempt to tackle problems with something like courage. The right hon. Gentleman in his early days built up a reputation for courage, which was very useful 294 to us when we were fighting the Lord Advocate and his friends. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to translate some of that early courage into the Bills which he is now introducing, and give us much more realism for Scotland than we are getting to-day.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)
The Secretary of State will have some difficulty in recalling any Measure on which he has got fewer congratulations than he has had to-day. Despite all the respect, and even affection, that I have for him, I am afraid I cannot say much, if anything, in favour of this Measure. So far as I can see, it will not affect my constituency at all. I do not see that any particular advantage is going to be reaped by the electors of the Dunfermline Burghs. The small burghs are not planning authorities: they are looked after by the county council, under the arrangement made in the 1929 Act, by which the smaller authorities were robbed of many of their powers. The larger burgh of my constituency has had a planning scheme for many years. Other local authorities which have not planned their areas may get some benefit from the Measure, by having their schemes approved by the Secretary of State much more speedily than will the principal burgh in my constituency. When Dunfermline Burgh decided to have a town planning scheme, many years ago, they drafted their plan, and sent it to the Department of Health in Edinburgh. How long it was there I do not know, but I think it lay there for some years before it was approved. [Interruption.] Yes, they may have discovered that there were some old things there that they wanted to yet rid of, and the Dunfermline scheme may have been one of them. So far as they can, the Dunfermline authority have adhered to that planning scheme; so this Measure will not affect my constituency—or very little, at any rate.
We are not one of the blitzed areas—we are very grateful for that, and I hope that we shall go through the rest of the war without experiencing any blitz. Therefore, we do not come within the blitz provisions. But in practically all our burghs, including the large burgh to which I have referred, there are blighted areas. I agree with the criticism that has been made by many of my colleagues, 295 that this Measure will not give the blighted areas any advantage. Unless adequate financial provision is made, there is no possibility of the smaller burghs in the county replanning and rebuilding their blighted areas. Although this Bill deals partly with the blighted areas, I believe that the original intention was that it should deal with the blitzed areas. It would have been better to have had two Measures, one dealing with blitzed areas, and the other with town and country planning. Then we might have got more from the Exchequer—I am very glad to see the Chancellor here.
§ Mr. Watson
The Chancellor of the Exchequer may surprise us some day. He comes along from time to time and announces grants for this, that, and the other, running into hundreds of millions, and it does not seem to upset him—in fact, he seems to enjoy it. There is a possibility of a scheme for repairing blitzed areas, and we might have got substantial grants from that. If ever there is a scheme for replanning the blighted areas, we might have got additional grants out of that. The Chancellor might as well know that the burden of complaint against this Measure is the want of adequate financial provision. If he will provide the money, the local authorities will willingly plan their blighted and blitzed areas. But the Chancellor should remember that the local authorities before this war had sufficient difficulty in working the various housing Acts that were passed by this House. I daresay that a number of them regret that they did not build more than they did, when they had those housing Acts, but a great many local authorities were building, getting rid of their overcrowded areas, and putting the population into new houses. It was going on increasingly before the war, and had the war not come, we undoubtedly would have been in a different position so far as the blighted areas are concerned.
This planning is for the future. We expect new, or at any rate improved, areas in our cities, towns, and countryside, in the years to come. In the county of Fife we are going to have very big developments. This is a matter that I have raised before, and I raise it again, 296 because it is of some importance. We are assured that in the county of Fife there will be a big mining development. We are told that several large new pits are to be sunk in the county; and houses will have to be provided, because in almost all cases the pits will be some distance from the present centres of population. I wonder what will happen when these new colliery towns are planned. Are they to be planned in the immediate neighbourhood of the new collieries? The Scottish Office exercise some sort of supervision over the new houses that are to be built in connection with these new collieries, and I understand that as soon as the war is over, and the labour and materials are available, the new collieries are to be sunk. Will the planning authorities give attention to the possibility of undermining? In at least one of the burghs that I represent there is not a single street that has not been affected by undermining. Are the planners going to be discouraged by the Scottish Office from setting down new houses where they are likely to be wrecked by underground workings? So far as I can see, in connection with the new collieries, there will be no protection against surface damage, and any buildings erected near these collieries will undoubtedly be wrecked sooner or later. It has gone on in Cowdenbeath year after year. The result has been broken drains, broken water-mains and gas-mains—everything broken by these underground workings. I hope that when plans are submitted to the Scottish Office by the Fife County Council for new houses in connection with these collieries, the Scottish Office will keep a close eye on that matter at any rate, and make sure that houses erected with public money are not wrecked by the private enterprise that will be taking the coal out of the county of Fife.
I am sorry we cannot give the Secretary of State the congratulations that we usually give him on a Scottish Measure. I agree with those who have said that we are slavishly following the English example. I do not think that there would have been any complaint from a Scottish Member if this Bill had not been introduced.
§ Mr. Watson
I do not agree that it should be withdrawn yet. If we can get 297 £100,000 out of the Treasury, it is worth having. At any rate, the Scottish Office came to the conclusion that, after the English Bill had been passed, we had to get something out of the Exchequer—and this is what we have got. The blitzed areas may get something out of it, but, unless some additional financial provision is made in regard to the blighted areas to make it possible for these local authorities to face this matter of planning, the Measure is not going to be of very great advantage to Scotland.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
It is some time since I had the temerity to address the House of Commons, particularly in a Scottish Debate, and I trust that my right hon. Friend will recognise that I am very definitely imbued with the idea of giving any assistance I can, however meagre it may be, to get the Scottish Office to recognise how ill this Bill has been received, not only by Members of o this House, but by local authorities throughout Scotland. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the name of this Bill is very misleading. It will not be understood by the people of Scotland, who have, for many years, in their great distress, been looking forward to a very definite, comprehensive Measure that would better the conditions of life in that country. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) has suggested that the Bill could be withdrawn. It does not matter whether this Bill is withdrawn or not. I do not believe that any local authority will be inspired by the wording of this Bill, or by the restrictions placed on local authorities, to try to operate one paragraph of the Bill. They want something different. I have, on various occasions, visited local authorities, and I have seen the plans of Glasgow with regard to post-war development. These local authorities throughout Scotland have put all they could into making definite, comprehensive plans to clear away the distressing conditions that now exist there.
I would, particularly, appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe the Secretary of State for Scotland has great difficulty, almost insurmountable difficulty, in moving the Treasury, or his Cabinet colleagues, on matters appertaining to Scotland. If my right hon. Friend has that difficulty, he ought to stand at 298 that Box and inform every Scottish Member of that fact, so that we can deal with the people on the spot. I want to put this to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no use in taking much time in going over the conditions of the people in Scotland. There is no use referring to the small areas of actual war damage, but I say that the great deterioration of houses in Scotland can be definitely described as war damage. Those slums which we had before the war have now become slummier. Those terrible districts of rotten houses, badly-built areas and bad sanitary conditions have steadily worsened during the war because of war conditions, because of the lack of labour and materials. Because of war circumstances, these conditions have greatly deteriorated. The Secretary of State for Scotland, even before this war, could tell the House of conditions in Scotland that did not appertain to any other part of Europe—and that in "Bonnie Scotland." He could describe those conditions with his pen, and by word of mouth so ably that he must know perfectly well that general conditions in Scotland have grown worse and worse until to-day the position is intolerable.
People are trying to get housing of any description, and are even travelling from slum to slum, to gain a small modicum more of comfort than they had in their previous houses. Local authorities, as the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire knows from bitter experience, are absolutely swamped with applications, nine-tenths of them deserving cases, coming from people whose fathers or sons are serving in the Army and whose girls are in the Services, and who are clamouring for ordinary, decent housing conditions, never mind for luxury. I put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is himself a Scotsman, that he must know of these conditions in the Highlands, Lowlands and Midlands of Scotland, and, remembering this fact, I am not cynical when I say that, after watching the retreat of the Government, as victory draws nearer, from all their promises and pledges of a happy land, and a social insurance scheme, I am not surprised to see the Secretary of State for Scotland joining in that retreat. I regret very much to have to say it. Remembering the condition, in which Scotland is now, with this chronic demand for the most ordinary conditions of life, with people asking for 299 ordinary lavatory and washing accommodation—remembering all these evils that existed before and have grown steadily worse during this war, while our people are playing their part in winning the war and the manhood of Scotland is fighting this war, it is regrettable when the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes forward and agrees to let the Secretary of State for Scotland have £100,000 out of the National Exchequer in order to try to remedy these conditions.
I want to say, quite frankly, that this is not what we expected. This Bill will not, in any way, assist the Scottish people. Local authorities are restricted. Why restrict them, when they are asking for loans, to the Treasury rate of interest? Why restrict the people, who have drawn up these post-war planning schemes, who have gone to great expense and whose engineers have made important decisions, to the Treasury rate of interest? Why restrict the Secretary of State, in almost every important decision he must make with regard to this Bill, to consultations with the Treasury? We do not need £100,000 for Scotland; we need £100,000,000. If we can spend money in warfare, we can spend it in building up a new country. Millions and millions of pounds are required to rehabilitate Scotland, not £100,000.
With the mining industry in Scotland practically extinct, with war industries now established that will be cut off by the English heads in London—as the Minister knows from bitter experience—with industry being destroyed in Scotland, and with very few new industries remaining there, despite the promises of Cabinet Ministers, the position will generally become worse. I say that the provision of £100,000 and the restrictions on the Secretary of State make this Bill look as if it never existed. This Bill is looked upon with suspicion by local authorities. They will not have any spirit of enterprise to co-operate with the Government in regard to it, and I ask the Secretary of State to take into consideration the advice of the best friends he ever had—his own colleagues in this House, who stood by him in this war as no party has ever stood by a Secretary of State before. The right hon. Gentleman has received consideration and an absence of criticism, because we have recognised his difficulties throughout the 300 war years, in a way such as no Secretary of State for Scotland ever experienced before. When the right hon. Gentleman hears, to-day, his own friends and colleagues and hon. Members in all parts of the House condemning this Bill as entirely inadequate and unsatisfactory, I ask him to take heed of their advice, and to see to it that something is done in the near future to bring forward another Bill, if it is necessary, dealing with the clamant needs of the country to which we belong.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. J. S. C. Reid)
There has been a considerable amount of criticism about the form of this Bill.
§ The Lord Advocate
Quite frankly, I am not surprised, because when I first saw the Bill, I must say I thought it one of the least lovable Bills I had ever seen and I am still not particularly enamoured of it. But I would like to explain to the House how the Bill comes to have the form in which it is presented. There is no question of any blind following of the English Bill. I think I was largely responsible for the attempt, when the time came, to draft the Scottish Bill, and I tried to see whether we could not start again with a clean sheet and get together, in as intelligible a form as possible, these provisions which were required for Scotland. But, as I got on with the task, I found that, even a new draft was going to look astonishingly like the English Bill, and for this reason. This Bill is a machinery Bill. Reference was made by one hon. Member to bulldozers. This is the bulldozer, but it is not the fuel. This produces the tools, but it does not produce motive power, and the tools have to be rather elaborate. All the criticism, and there has been a lot, about the absence of financial assistance, the impossibility of carrying on under present financial arrangements and of making this Bill effective, may be perfectly well-founded, but it has nothing to do with this Bill or its purpose.
The purpose of the Bill is to complete the machinery which it is necessary to put in the hands of the local authorities in Scotland, in order that they may do their job, generally, with regard to planning operations, and particularly with 301 regard to the eradication of blighted areas. Of course, in addition to machinery powers you must have motive power, but we do not deal with that in this Bill, for a very simple reason. It has already been made public, and the Secretary of State referred to it this morning, that, in two respects at least, there is to be a re-examination of the present financial position of local authorities. There is to be a re-examination of the subsidies and of the block grant, and it did seem quite unnecessary and useless to start on financial considerations in this Bill when the whole thing would have to be put back in the melting-pot in a comparatively short time. There is to be financial provision for the blitzed area type of operations, because that type of operation may well be, indeed, probably will be, carried out before this re-examination of the general financial position can be concluded. But, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, you cannot begin to pull down houses in the immediate future in Scotland, until you have achieved a very considerable increase in the existing number of houses, by means of new building.
It looks quite beyond practical possibility to begin to remedy the state of affairs in blighted areas before the time comes for this re-examination of the financial position. Therefore, I say to those critics—and there are many—who have mentioned finance that the Government have deliberately omitted finance from this Bill, except on the small points I have mentioned. Another Bill will be necessary very soon, in any event, and it does not seem useful to put something into this Bill which will have to be reopened.
§ Mr. McKinlay
Is the Lord Advocate suggesting that the planning authorities should prepare plans not knowing how far they are going to need national and local funds? How can they plan ahead if they do not know what the position is going to be if the promoting authority overspills into another authority's area? We cannot make plans unless we know where we stand financially.
§ The Lord Advocate
I do not always accept the view of the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay). There are a number of marginal cases where the 302 way in which the local authority will tackle the job will depend very largely on the precise details of the financial aid available, but there are a great number of other cases where the local authority can make and proceed with its plans and deal with the question whatever the accession to the present financial grants may happen to be. These plans take a long time to prepare and we think that the machinery for dealing with the land when acquired is perhaps more important. Acquiring land in Scotland is not so difficult, I agree with the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire. A great deal has to be done with land when it is obtained, and it is for that purpose that this Bill is really valuable and important. Coming back to the point I began on, I would say that, in trying to elaborate this Bill and to get it together, every Clause really had to come in on its merits. The Clauses were practically all in the English Bill, but if the Clauses are examined to see whether they are necessary for Scottish conditions or not, I do not think there is one which does not have some relevance to Scottish conditions. I am asked—the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. McNeil) raised this—whether we could not write out the Clauses in rather more intelligible phraseology. That is not easy. When dealing with very complicated questions and a very complicated background, such as here, it is not easy to produce a draft in good English so that "he who runs may read." I do not think that we have been very guilty of the sin of legislating by reference here. It is only done in a few cases. But there was another reason why we found it difficult to bring these Clauses into shape.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Lord Advocate said every Clause relates to Scotland. Why should it be necessary for all these other Ministers to be brought in on questions affecting Scottish administration when we have a Secretary of State and a Department and our own local authorities who can deal with the job?
§ The Lord Advocate
That is rather a different point, but I will answer it. There are many other Ministers who have jurisdiction in Scotland. The Minister of Transport is responsible for trunk roads, the President of the Board of Trade with regard to statutory authorities, and the Minister of Fuel and Power with regard to electricity authorities and, therefore, 303 we must bring in these Ministers. There is another reason why some of these Clauses are rather more complicated than one would have liked. It has been a generally recognised principle of draughts-manship that, if we want to do the same thing as has been done in another Act of Parliament previously, we should not alter the words, otherwise the court, or whoever has to consider it, will say, "The first Act says this and the second Act puts it differently and, therefore, Parliament must have meant something different." Therefore, we are tied to forms of wording which have been previously accepted and adopted by this House and by Parliament, and if we depart from those forms, even with the laudable object of simplicity, we are liable to get into very severe trouble. This fully explains the natural, unlovable form of this Bill. I dislike it very much but, frankly, I have tried and cannot find anything better which would achieve the object we have in view.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson
The Lord Advocate has referred to the unlovable nature of the Bill and has assured us, to a certain extent, that something will be coming along soon with regard to financial provisions which will enable us to expend more on social welfare. Can he indicate exactly what form this new legislation will take?
§ The Lord Advocate
I can add nothing to what my right hon. Friend said in his opening speech. He was asked several questions about that and he repeated in great detail what the position was, and I do not think that I can add anything useful to what he said then. So much for the form of the Bill and the explanation of why it is in its present form.
§ The Lord Advocate
I do not mean "apology." I have tried to explain that, with the best will in the world and starting by trying to do it differently, we found that it could not be done. If the hon. Member can suggest a better way of achieving these objects within the limits we have set ourselves, we shall be very glad of his advice and assistance.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Lord Advocate says "If the hon. Member can suggest a better way." There are a number of proposals. If the Secretary of State will call in Scottish Members to discuss and prepare Scottish legislation I will make very good proposals.
§ The Lord Advocate
I am not making any apology for this Bill, but explaining how it comes about that it is so bulky and so difficult to read, and I am explaining also why it does not deal with topics, the omission of which has been criticised by many hon. Members, and I cannot add usefully to what I have said, and must leave it there. I will come to one point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill) and several other hon. Members. Are we accepting the compromise solution on the compensation proposals or are we not? I think that the consensus of opinion in this House is that we should. We have decided to accept the compromise and, accordingly, Part II of the Bill is the same as the English Part II, with the necessary adaptations to meet the different terminology of our land laws. The hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) raised the question of improvements to land. He will find, if he looks at Clause 53 and Clause 55, that we value at 1939 prices land in the state in which it is to-day. I am not sure whether the example he has in mind would allow of the application of Clause 55 or not, but conceivably it might.
The right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) put very valuable constructive suggestions as to how this matter might be dealt with but I ought to explain one or two points raised by his remarks. He rather took the view that we are not doing enough for national, as distinct from local, planning. That view seems to be completely contradicted by other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire, who takes the view that the Secretary of State appears far too much in the picture. They cannot have it both ways. If there is to be national planning, there must be a national authority, which is the Secretary of State, who is given an over-riding jurisdiction, or there must be some other body in his place. With regard to local autonomy and national planning, we think we have reached a reasonable compromise between these two, each of them 305 desirable ideals. We have reserved local autonomy to an even greater extent than in the English Act, and if there is any instance in the present Bill where hon. Members think the Secretary of State appears and ought to be left out, there is the Committee stage. Let me say, in order to meet the points put by one or two hon. Members, there is not to be a Motion that this Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House and the Committee stage can, therefore, be run by Scottish Members, and, in order to meet the point that it has been rather rushed—I do not accept it—there will be an adequate interval between the Second Reading and the Committee stage to enable hon. Members to decide upon the line of action they wish to take.
§ The Lord Advocate
I must deal with those points when I come to them. I am at present dealing with the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh, and I am pointing out that his views seemed to conflict somewhat with the views of some of the hon. Members who sit behind him, and we think that we have taken a middle course. There is a particular reason why we do not require these wide powers here so much. Blighted areas are, generally speaking, not spread over the areas of several planning authorities. They are generally right in the middle of the area of one authority and that one area, subject to the points my hon. Friend has in mind, will have complete charge of the whole of the re-development, as it should.
Now comes the question, What about the spill-over, rating and so on? That raises, at once, the most vexed question about rating. The main apprehension of the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire here was with regard to rating. It is impossible, in this Bill, to reform the Scottish rating system. I am not going to stand at this Box and say that I like all the aspects of the Scottish rating system. I do not, and I have no doubt that this is one matter which, ultimately, will have to be dealt with, but we cannot, in this Bill, deal with matters which go to the root of Scottish rating law.
§ Mr. McKinlay
It is not as complicated as that, but I do not want to embark 306 on a discussion on the rights or wrongs of the Scottish rating system. All I am pointing out is that if a blighted area in, say, Glasgow is over spilled, according to the proposals of Professor Abercrombie, into East Kilbride, the promoting authority is Glasgow. Do I take it that the Lanarkshire county council collect the value that Glasgow has paid for the work in East Kilbride?
§ The Lord Advocate
As I say, we cannot alter the fundamental rules of the rating system in this Bill. I know there has been an age-long quarrel between town and landward areas over this question of who is to get the rating benefit of new, built-up areas but we cannot possibly put that matter right in this Bill. I agree that that, and many other aspects of the rating system, require to be examined but I cannot say more than that the present law must prevail until there is an opportunity to alter it. I hope that when we do, as I think we must, examine, at least some parts of the rating system, in the immediate future, that this can be done by common agreement without any political difference between the parties. It seems to me that all parties are interested in reform and I hope that these and other matters of the kind can be approached in a non-party spirit, with a view to getting a fair solution, in circumstances where, at present, I agree there is a great deal of difficulty.
The other point my right hon. Friend raised was about roads and location of industry. Plainly, the Scottish Office not being responsible for the location of industry, I cannot speak for my right hon. Friend in this matter.
§ The Lord Advocate
Certainly, but I cannot make a public pronouncement on the location of industry here. On roads, that matter is dealt with by Clause 9 (3) and Clause 3, which make it clear that approach roads to these reconstruction areas, are to be properly planned, and I think my right hon. Friend's point is met there. I think the only other point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumbartonshire which I have not mentioned is that under Clause 18 (5). The hon. Member questioned the desirability of giving a preference to former inhabi- 307 tants of the area when it is rebuilt. I should have thought it was plain justice that, if you turn a man out because the area in which he lives needs to be re-planned and rebuilt, you let him come back again into that area in preference to somebody who had never been there before. I am bound to say that, in principle, I think this Sub-section is very much justified, and I hope that, on reflection, my hon. Friend will see that it really is not as bad as he thinks it is.
§ Mr. McKinlay
Let me make this clear. I am objecting to insistence being made that they get back again. There may be rag-and-bone merchants in the area who are not wanted back again, just as there may be "pubs" in the area which you do not want. As I understand the Bill, there is no option and they cannot be kept out.
§ The Lord Advocate
Nobody has a vested right in that sense, but even a rag-and-bone merchant must live. It is quite true, if you have by-laws and restrictions that certain trades are not to be carried on in an area, then those by-laws must be observed. If you propose a by-law which turns people out, that may be done in the proper way. But you should not discriminate, unless there is some very good health reason or something of that sort. You really should not refuse a man who belongs to that area the right to go back to it except on some very important ground that it is undesirable in the public interest.
Would my right hon. and learned Friend permit me to develop the point I made? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay). If a local authority has to carry the cost of redeveloping the area, why should the Secretary of State have the right to say to that local authority, "You must reinstate that man"? The Secretary of State carries no responsibility in the matter at all; it is completely on the local authority, and yet in this Clause the Secretary can obtrude himself and say, "Replace that man."
§ The Lord Advocate
I thought my right hon. Friend had gone a very long way to meeting that line of objection, which I agree is a formidable one, because unlike England we have limited the power of the Secretary of State to interfere to cases where there is either unfair dis- 308 crimination or oppression. I do think that is a considerable improvement on the English Act and that it meets wholly or, at any rate, to a great extent, the points which have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) raised the question of non-satutory gas undertakings. Those bodies have been recognised, I agree, in the past. They are not, I think, recognised in the Bill as it stands, but I can give the assurance that their position will be carefully examined between now and the Committee stage and we shall see whether we think it appropriate to bring them into the Clauses which deal with statutory undertakings. I would not like to go further than that just now.
I think I have dealt now with all the specific points that were raised, and with the general criticisms. In conclusion I commend this Bill to the House as a useful, and indeed, an indispensable Measure; not a Measure which covers the whole ground, not a Measure which can be worked by itself without relation to other powers and facilities, but a Measure without which there can be no real progress. You cannot really progress with the elimination of blighted areas, unless you have powers, given in this Bill for the first time, for the proper redevelopment of those areas. There are powers already, in plenty, although not so expeditious as under this Bill, for getting rid of the obsolete property. Those powers are tightened up and expedited by the Bill, but there are no proper powers yet, to enable the local authority to carry out and control the redevelopment of the area, once the old property is removed. We give those powers here. Nobody has questioned their adequacy or their efficacy, and accordingly I say that the Bill as it stands has not been criticised in the House. The sole criticism has been that it does not go far enough. We agree it does not. It does not touch finance but, so far as the Bill goes, I do claim that there has been no criticism—apart from the form of the Bill, on which I have explained the position—of the substance of the proposals, and that they are essential to the proper conduct of the affairs of local authorities.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.