That, for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to make fresh provision for planning the development and use of land, and for purposes connected therewith (in this resolution referred to as 'the Act'), it is expedient to authorise—
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 11.1 p.m.
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
I must renew my protest against the terms of this Resolution. In particular, I must protest against the insertion in the Resolution of the figure of £300 million as the ceiling of compensation for depreciation of land value in consequence of the Bill. The Government have taken the course of inserting this figure of £300 million in the Bill. They have also inserted it as a maximum in the Money Resolution, and this renders it impossible for the amount put in the. Bill to be amended upwards. Hon. Members will be able to move Amendments in Standing Committee to reduce the figure below £300 million, but if the terms of this Resolution stand, it will be impossible for any Amendments to be moved to revise the figure upward. It seems to me that the proceedings of the Standing Committee in this respect will be very one-sided.
Last Thursday evening, when I raised this matter, the Minister of Town and Country Planning said, on the Committee Stage of the Resolution:The House having voted, I think it can now be taken that the House, by a large majority, is satisfied that £300 million is the right figure, and therefore, I submit, quite properly, that it goes into the Financial Resolution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 1248.].I think that that statement of the Minister's was a very inadequate review of the situation. The Bill covers a very wide field. This question of compensation is one very important element, but the Debate in the House ranged over a very much wider field. Therefore, I think it is hardly fair for the Minister to say that the House had obviously decided that £300 million was the right figure; that there should be no other figure, but that the amount should stand as in the terms of the Money Resolution. In the course of discussion of this figure, the Minister went into considerable detail in calculation. It was evident that in his view it had not been easy to arrive at this figure. But he had arrived at it, and expressed the view that it was the right figure Other people, however, are 1921 entitled to take a different view. In Committee the Opposition should have the opportunity of putting forward Amendments and to argue what in their view the figure should be. The Minister described this as one of the most controversial parts of the Bill but if the whole matter is to be considered as concluded, because the House gave a Second Reading to the Bill containing this figure of £300 million, then the later stages of the proceedings will be rendered very largely abortive. Last night the Minister of Fuel and Power pleaded for elbow room in regard to the figure to be adopted in the Money Resolution on the Electricity Bill. All I am asking is that the Standing Committee should have elbow room in considering the figure of £300 million in relation to this Bill.
I think that it is perfectly right that the House should require some limit of compensation to be inserted in the terms of the Money Resolution. But, I submit, that figure should be something greater than the figure inserted in the Bill, if only to permit adequate discussion in Standing Committee. I am going to read a very important statement which was made in 1937, by the present Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition. It is a statement which, if I may respectfully say so, does him great credit as a Parliamentarian. I quoted this on the Money Resolution of the Bank of England Bill, but it is not unreasonable to quote it again on this occasion. This is what the present Prime Minister said. on 8th March, 1937:I deem it to be my duty as Leader of the Opposition, to call attention to what I consider to be the danger of Members losing their privileges in this House. There is no party issue raised. It is entirely a matter for this House as a whole. I hold that it is vital that we should preserve this House as the greatest democratic assembly in the world and that we should not allow its former rights to be taken away by the growth of usages contrary to its tradition.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March. 1937; Vol. 321, c. 815–820.]That is a view which should be given very respectful and serious consideration by the House in relation to the Financial Resolution, now under discussion. In my submission, either that view should be taken and the Financial Resolution drafted sufficiently widely to enable Amendments to be moved in Committee, or else if the whole thing is to be decided at this stage, and if a ceiling has to be put on, it ought not to be treated as a matter for 1922 debate at this time of night, but should be brought on as one of the really important Orders of the Day and taken at a reasonable hour. I feel that these Money Resolutions are treated too much as a sideshow by the Government. If they are going to draft them widely, they will not meet with opposition, but if these Resolutions are to be as narrow and restricted as this one is, so that they bind the Standing Committee, and tie up subsequent consideration of the Bill, they ought to be threshed out in a full day's debate. We cannot, of course, amend these Money Resolutions by increasing the charge, therefore, the only way in which this matter can be put right, is either to have the Resolution be withdrawn, or to have it rejected by the House. I would propose that it should be rejected.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
My hon. Friend has given some reasons for objecting to the ceiling, in this Financial Resolution, of £300 million. I do not know whether that limit is a correct estimate or not. It is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's Second Reading speech that he formed his figures in relation to development of land for building only. He sought to justify the figure by pointing out the greater development of land outside towns in the prewar years, 45,000 acres a year. Valuing that land at £200 an acre, he arrived at the sum of £9 million. At 16 or 17 years' purchase, he arrived at £150 million. He then estimated that another £150 million would be required for development or redevelopment in urban areas. I think he will agree that in making those estimates he was only counting development values in relation to land for building. If that be so, I would put a question to him. Clause 76 (1) provides:In relation to development consisting of the winning and working of minerals, the provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed by regulations.Therefore it must be contemplated—because we do not see the Regulations and do not know the scheme in relation to minerals—that the Bill will apply to the building of houses on land and to the extraction of minerals from land in precisely the same fashion. If that be so, the Minister ought to give us a specific answer to the question: Is it the case that out of 1923 this £300 million no compensation will be given in any case of hardship in respect of the loss of mineral rights? If the answer is "No," it means that all those who own agricultural land under which there are minerals, will lose those rights of development. If the answer is "Yes," does it not follow that the Minister's ceiling of £300 million is inadequate to provide compensation? The right hon. Gentleman made his estimate for building development, and provided nothing for mineral development, so that any sum given for hardship for loss of mineral rights will have to be added to the £300 million. In that respect, the limit fixed in the Money Resolution is wrong. I do not know what the answer is to the question I have put and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should tell the House the answer before we pass this Resolution, having regard to the fact that the £300 million is only his own guess. We should have a higher limit than this and should be enabled to thresh out the matter properly in Committee.
A further point is that mineral owners may not always be landowners. They will be deprived of the development value, and will have to pay, under the Bill, development charges of an unfixed and unknown amount. This is a question of no small importance when one realises that leaving coal out of the question the amount of minerals extracted from our land in 1938, was something like 100,000,000 tons. I assume that the amount is now very much larger. If it be the case that the people who are extracting minerals are going to receive something from this £300 million, it might follow that very little of that £300 million would be left for division among the building developments to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in making his estimate. I do not want to take up any further time developing this point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a serious point, and a point worth developing, even by hon. Members opposite who made that interruption. I am not however going into it at any greater length because I want to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of dealing specifically with it.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Was it not a slip of the tongue when the hon. and learned Member said that the minerals were taken from "our land" last year?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Gentleman's views on this country are well-known. When I was speaking of "our land" I referred to Great Britain. The hon. Gentleman can speak for another country as often as he chooses.
§ 11.16 p.m.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Silkin)
The hon. Baronet the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) has returned to the attack, as I expected him to do, and has made very much the same speech as that which was heard from him on the Committee stage of the Money Resolution. May I say I am bound by the Rules of the House just as he is, and I am not in a position to do anything about the question of Order. It is a fact that Part IV of this Bill was very fully debated, and I accepted the assent of the House to the Second Reading of the Bill, as being an assent to the fixing of the amount to be paid by way of compensation, in the form of a global sum. The amount of that global sum is £300 million. If the House had chosen to express strong disagreement with the figure of £300 million, they could have done so, but I am bound to say that, in my view the assent of the House to the Bill included assent to Part IV of the Bill and the global sum of £300 million.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it desirable that we should be able to discuss the adequacy of the figure of £300 million, as a separate item, during the Committee stage?
§ Mr. Silkin
Surely that formed the subject of most of the speeches that were made during the two-day Debate, and there must come some finality. I do not want to repeat all the things I said on Second Reading. I will just point out that in fixing a global sum, we accepted the recommendation of the Uthwatt Committee. It is for the House to say whether £300 million is the right figure or not, and we are inviting the House to agree with that figure. If the House thinks it is hopelessly inadequate, it still has the remedy of rejecting this proposal on the Report stage. To the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) I would say that I gave the figures by way of illustration, and I made it quite clear that it was not intended to be a detailed estimate. So much so that I referred to 15 or 16 years 1925 purchase, at £9 million, although 13 years purchase would be £135 million, and not £150 million. I was talking in very round figures; indeed, I think I established that £300 million was a very generous figure. A good many hon. Members thought so themselves, and in their heart of hearts, a good many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House as well as this side, think it is generous. It is intended to include mineral rights, and the Bill says so in terms. The amount of these mineral rights—while not pretending to give an estimate—would be a relatively small amount. It can be taken out of the £300 million, and will not seriously affect the rights of owners of land. We will examine this matter and if it turns out that I am hopelessly wrong, we shall have to think again.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
That is one of the things I am seeking to preserve—the right to correct it if the Minister proves to be wrong. I do not know if the figure of £300 million is right or wrong, but I do ask the Minister to preserve the right to correct it, if it is wrong.
§ Mr. Silkin
I think the amount of the mineral rights is relatively small. It can be taken in our stride.
§ Sir J. Mellor
The Minister has indicated that if he is wrong he will take steps in Committee to put it right. Does that mean that he is prepared to change the Money Resolution?
§ Mr. Silkin
I would point out that I am speaking in very narrow terms. I am speaking of mineral rights, and not about the global sum, which must stand. The House has approved it. On this question of mineral rights, I follow the hon. and learned Gentleman's point. He is right in saying that in the calculation which I made, I did not, in terms, take account of mineral rights. The amount, as I have said, is small, but I allowed a considerable margin, and I think it will be found to be all right. If I am seriously wrong, as I say, the matter can be considered again.
§ Question put, and agreed to.