HC Deb 30 January 1947 vol 432 cc1249-52

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, under any Act of the present Session to make fresh provision for planning the development and US of land, and for purposes connected therewith—

  1. (1) There shall be charged, in respect of the carrying out on land of operations for the carrying out of which planning permission is required under the said Act, and in respect of uses of land for the institution of which such permission is so required, and in respect of the retention on land of buildings or works, or the continuance of uses of land, in accordance with planning permission granted under the said Act such development charges (or in the case of land acquired or appropriated by local authorities for the development or re-development of any area as a whole, or land acquired by development corporations 1250 under the New Towns Act, 1946, such sums in lieu of development charges) as may be determined in accordance with the provisions of the said Act;
  2. (2) There shall be paid into the Exchequer any sums received by the Central Land Board to be established under the said Act in respect of such development changes or other sums as aforesaid."—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]

10.42 p.m.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

On the Financial Resolution which we discussed previously the Minister remarked, in reply to what I said, that he thought the Committee would lay itself open to criticism, if it did not insist upon a maximum limit of compensation being placed in the terms of the Resolution. When I look at this Motion in Committee of Ways and Means I find there is no limit provided whatsoever. The Motion, if I may cut it down to the essential words, provides that there shall be charged such development charges as may be determined in accordance with the provisions of the said Act. In other words, this Motion proposes to enable a capital levy of unlimited extent. Having regard especially to the perfectly proper observations which the Minister made on the last Motion, we should consider whether there should not be some maximum limit placed in this Motion. In the last Motion a sum was to be provided not exceeding £300 million. Why should not a similar limit be inserted in this Motion? This Motion will enable taxation of an unprecedented character to be imposed upon a very large number of people in this country. It is a most extraordinary thing if this Committee allows this to go out, without any limit whatever being placed upon it.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

An important matter of this kind ought not to go through without every appearance of decorum and dignity. A good deal of uncertainty has been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor). I am not accustomed in business or in public life to the blank cheque, and this seems to be a blank cheque. The essential thing is absent. There are important considerations here which are in no way limited. It has been said that the global sum under the Act is £300 million. I quite understand that. But there must be some figure in the mind of the Minister in connection with this Motion. I think the Committee is entitled to have such explanation as will clear their minds of ambiguity. There is a tendency on the part of the Government to assume that the uninitiated have as much knowledge of their proposals as they themselves possess. I am one of those who are often mystified by the drift and direction of these Ways and Means Resolutions, and I am entitled to have these matters explained to me, however mean my intelligence may appear to be. This is public money and public time, and I am here as a public representative. I venture to make the challenge to the Committee that not one in ten understands the full content and purport of this Motion. We have taken a great deal of time on this subject and the Minister, with great patience, devoted two and a quarter hours to an explanation of this Bill. Are we not entitled to equal consideration on this Motion? I, for one, have many important public engagements; but I am prepared to abandon all of them in order to have this important matter discussed. The Minister, I am sure, does not want support in the Lobby from "dumb-driven cattle" who are quite ignorant about the proposal before us. I am very hopeful that, having confessed—and I admit it is very humiliating to confess—my ignorance of this matter, we shall have a statement which will elucidate to the fullest extent, all these matters on which we on the back benches of this Committee are not informed.

The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Silkin)

I will do my best to make myself understood even by the meanest intelligence, and I will try not to take two hours and ten minutes—it was not two and a quarter hours—in explaining this Ways and Means Resolution. It is the counterpart of the Financial Resolution which has just been passed. The Financial Resolution dealt with compensation. This Ways and Means Resolution deals with development charges. Whereas it was relatively simple for the House to decide upon a maximum figure which it would allocate in respect of compensation, it is obviously not possible to say how much will come in by way of development charges That must depend on the amount of development which is approved by the local planning authorities from time to time, and the amount which the Central Land Board will grant in respect of developments. That is, obviously, an unascertainable figure. This Resolution provides that such sum as is obtained by the Central Land Board out of development charges shall be paid into the Exchequer. That is all that the Resolution says.

Sir W. Darling

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether this will be paid in annually or as it accrues, and has he formed any estimate whatever of the sum involved?

Mr. Silkin

There will be reports to the House annually, and amounts will be paid in to the Exchequer from time to time as may be directed by the Central Land Board.

Resolution to be reported Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.